With the NFL lockout looming over the entire league, it leaves a lot of uncertainty for coaches who would rather be be signing players in free agency than wondering when football will start back up.
Fortunately for coaches and fans, the upcoming 2011 NFL Draft provides an opportunity to see the areas on which teams will focus try to improve. For the Seattle Seahawks, knocking off the defending champion New Orleans Saints in the opening round of the playoffs was a great accomplishment, but with only seven wins in the regular season, they have more than a few areas of concern.
With that in mind, here’s a position-by-position look on offense at where the Seahawks should be prioritizing their offseason efforts in the draft and free agency.
Seattle's number one quarterback currently under contract is Charlie Whitehurst. The week 17 win over the St. Louis Rams was crucial for Whitehurst to retain any chance of being in Seattle's future. If not for that effort, his miserable start against the New York Giants would be all he would be remembered from last year.
What should give fans cause for concern is coach Pete Carroll's unwillingness to even consider Whitehurst when Matt Hasselbeck was dealing with a broken wrist. If you can't get playing time when your team is down three touchdowns in the fourth quarter and the starter is struggling and injured, it shows a lack of confidence from the coach.
Even though the team wasn’t able to make a deal before the deadline, Hasselbeck is still the better option as next year’s starting quarterback. But with the potential for Hasselbeck to go elsewhere, Seattle may be forced to address the QB position in the draft. With Jake Locker potentially being chosen before Seattle's pick and the team's reported concerns over Ryan Mallett’s issues, there may not be a suitable quarterback to draft in the first round.
As a player who can have an immediate impact, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb may be the best option for the Seahawks, but the price tag might be too rich for the Seahawks.
Running Back: Low
Even though the Seahawks trio of running backs failed to eclipse 1,200 yards last year, the group has potential with a strong line in front of them. Marshawn Lynch, Justin Forsett, and Leon Washington offer the Seahawks a good mix of strength and speed as they enter the prime of their careers.
In Carroll’s final press conference of the season, he praised for Lynch for representing the toughness he wants the running game and offensive line to embody. It seems as though he feels the right pieces are in place here, but there is much improvement needed up front to allow this group to succeed.
Offensive Line: High
Once again injuries were a common theme on the offensive line all season. Despite the frequent changes to the lineup, the line handled pass protection fairly well but struggled to generate a push in the running game. Russell Okung showed flashes of being a future force at left tackle, but he may be the only player to return to play his same position in 2011.
Seahawks fans can expect to see Sean Locklear in another uniform. After restructuring his contract to drop the last two years from his deal and cut more than $2 million from his base salary, Schneider and Carroll already signaled they'll be looking for a change at right tackle.
With the Seahawks philosophy at offensive line shifting to “bigger is better,” Stacy Andrews has the potential to move back to his natural position. The hope is that he wouldn’t rack up as many penalties at that spot as he did at guard. Mike Gibson played well while at that spot, which could allow Max Unger to come off his injury-plagued season and shift to center with Chris Spencer potentially leaving in free agency.
The hiring of Tom Cable could lure Robert Gallery to Seattle to fill the left guard position next to Russell Okung. Even with the potential to shift players around or bring guys in via free agency, it should remain a high priority. Carroll made it clear that improving the offensive line was one of his top priorities in the offseason, and it would be reasonable to expect the Seahawks to use their first- or second-round pick to improve or add depth to the line.
Wide Receiver: Medium
Management showed just how important this area was by not wasting any time in resigning Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu in early January. If not for those moves, the Seahawks would be in a rough position here especially with free agency delayed.
After three years in the league, Obomanu showed the potential in the second half of the season to become very good receiver. For Williams, even after two years out of the NFL, he came back to prove why he was selected tenth overall back in 2005.
Beyond those two players, there are many question marks. Golden Tate enters his sophomore season after showing flashes of the big play ability we all expected to see. But it’s clear that he won’t be able to compete in the NFL if he doesn't couple his talents with an improved work ethic.
With Deon Butler suffering a broken leg late in the season, he may have a tough time reestablishing himself.
The Seahawks have been working out a lot of potential picks who would likely go in the second half of the draft. Hopefully the team finds a player there they can quickly develop or at least push Butler and Tate in competing for playing time.
Tight End: Low
John Carlson got off to a quick start early in the season and appeared to be well on the way to becoming the type of player fans expected to see. As the injuries on the offensive line began to stack up Carlson's productivity dropped off immensely, posting his worst numbers since entering the league in 2008. Despite the low numbers, most recognize he will continue to be a very capable tight end.
Cameron Morrah even caught some big passes coming down the stretch and may see more time in pass situations next season. The position is somewhat difficult to assess as the scheme relies on its tight ends more for pass protection than for running routes.
Drafting at picks No. 25 and 57 presents a much different position than fans have witnessed the past two seasons, when top 10 selections provided much more certainty as to who may still be on the board and the direction the team would take.
Quarterback and offensive line are the two primary areas on offense where the Seahawks are likely to focus with their first two picks. But considering the team’s needs on defense, those picks could just as easily be used on the opposite side of the ball.
If the Seahawks look to fill these two spots with their first picks, quarterbacks Jake Locker and Ryan Mallett would be the two most likely to be available at No. 25, although Locker could go much sooner and Mallet could slide down the board. That would leave likely second rounders Christian Ponder, Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick as potential suitors. Seattle would have to take any one of these three because they could all be off the board by the time Seattle picks again. Mallett may have the potential to slide to the Seahawks late in the second round if their willing to take a chance on him.
If the Hawks decide to focus on their line with the first pick, a couple names being thrown around have been guard Danny Watkins and center/guard Mike Pouncey.
With so many needs and the potential to trade away the first pick to get a Kolb, it’s very difficult to predict where the team may go early in the draft this year. By drafting this late, the Seahawks may simply have to settle for the best player available at any one of those high-priority positions.
Brandan Schulze is a Navy veteran and member of the military chapter of the Sea Hawkers, the official booster club for the Seattle Seahawks. For more information on the chapter, visit www.militaryseahawkers.com. Membership is free for all military service members and veterans.