Sometimes, knowing what’s going on in Pete Carroll’s head is a bit like trying to see his eyes through his sunglasses. In the reflection here, you can see folks lined up to ask questions about the obvious challenges the Seahawks face as they enter the 2011 season.
Carroll and John Schneider have turned to a much younger group of players this year. Seattle will face an uphill battle to maintain their grasp on the NFC West title; much of this will be decided by a number of rookies who are sure to make the roster—and a few that are certainly on the bubble.
Let’s take a look at some of the possibilities, while I make a few predictions.
We’ll get to the offense in a moment. Let’s start with the rookies on defense that will contribute to the success of the Seahawks as the season progresses.
Seattle is much deeper at DB this year than in the last three seasons. With the import of Pinkard and Browner, and the development of Chancellor, Thomas and Thurmond, there is not a lot of room for any of the rookies trying to make an impact on the 53-man roster.
LeGree came in with terrific stats from a smaller college, but is not standing out as the playmaker he proved to be in college. A year of experience on the practice squad might give him the opportunity to develop into the ball hawk he showed in college.
I can see Sherman and Maxwell making the team on special teams, but I predict only one of them will make it on the 46-man game-day roster. My prediction? Maxwell, because of his big-hitting play. He has shown on special teams that he is fast and covers punts and kickoffs with abandon. He needs some experience to learn not to over-run coverage, but he will be a standout on special teams while he learns coverages at CB in the NFL.
As much as Pete Carroll likes Richard Sherman, his jump to the NFL has been more of a struggle than expected.nWhile he has shown good mobility, missed tackles and blown assignments in coverage have been glaring during the three games played to date. He does make the 53-man roster and will be available in case of injury. Pete Carroll won't give up an opportunity to keep Sherman on the team. He has wanted to coach him since high school.
As for Thenarse and Parker, I suspect they were brought in to give the Seahawks bodies during camp. Living in Hawaii does have its disadvantages and I have not heard or seen anything about either of these players. They will not make the 53-man roster.
Linebacker is another position for the Seahawks that has depth, but with Tatupu and Herring moving on, there is room for two of the rookies to make the 53-man roster.
Malcolm Smith and K.J. Wright are the front-runners for making the team, but with effort and an ability to fly to the ball, Mike Morgan is making it difficult to keep off the roster. Unfortunately for Morgan, the Seahawks will not keep more than six linebackers and that leaves him on the practice squad at the start of the season.
I don’t see him staying there long as he is another player that will be signed by a team in need of active linebackers.
This could be one of the spots I get wrong; I am predicting that Carroll will keep more experienced players, such as David Vobora and Matt McCoy, for their place on special teams and ability to play multiple positions at linebacker.
There is a strong possibility that Morgan will make the roster at the expense of one of these veterans though, and I would be pleased to see that happen. If that does turn out to be the case, keep an eye on Morgan on special teams—he will develop into another linebacker like Leroy Hill.
This is one of the areas in the offseason that was a focus outside of the organization. Most fans were looking forward to the Seahawks picking up a high-ranking rookie defensive lineman and, quite frankly, all were disappointed.
Pep Livingston will develop into a good DE this year (I know he is listed as a DT, but look for the Seahawks to move him to to DE), but he is behind enough players on the roster that he will have to make the most of his opportunities in the rotation or when called upon after injury. He will make the 53-man roster, mainly because the team needs large, high-motor ends to develop and play if and when one of the starters goes down.
Based on what I have seen of Livingston, he is aggressive and good at wrapping up while tackling, which is a must in the NFL with bigger, stronger running backs than at the college level. At the end of the season he will turn out to have been the Seahawks' biggest steal in the draft, since they picked him up in the seventh round. Look for him to put on a little weight and get to about 310 in the next year.
Pierre Allen has a chance to make the practice squad and has made an impact while playing in the exhibition games, but he has too much developing to do to make the roster. The Seahawks will develop him as a Leo-type pass rushing DE. He could see the 53-man roster by midseason to cover for injuries.
The defensive line has been one of the most injury-riddled positions on this team—something I see as directly related to past administrations signing smaller D-line players for their mobility and versatility.
Doug Baldwin's 105-yard kick return for a touchdown against the Broncos cemented his place on the roster. This might turn out to be the most controversial decision Pete Carroll makes to get to the 53-man roster.
I am seeing Baldwin over Golden Tate, and I predict that Seattle will cut Tate, admitting that they made a mistake in the draft last year. One of the qualities that I respect about Pete Carroll is his ability to make tough choices and cut players that are not working out. That has described Tate so far and is the main reason Baldwin will be his replacement.
Baldwin has shown that he is more capable of separation in the middle of the field, while still remaining within the framework of the play. He has reliable hands and is very quick in his change of direction.
Kris Durham could make this roster if he can overcome his inability to catch the ball when it really counts. He certainly can get open, and he provides a large target easily seen by scrambling QBs, but he needs to have better hands and become more reliable to make the roster.
He is headed for the practice squad and will stay there until later in the season when the Seahawks need him. I see him coming in after injury has depleted the wide receiver corps and becoming an integral part of the offense by the end of the season. He was another steal in the draft.
Ricardo Lockette has speed and more speed. He too will develop on the practice squad while he matures into a dependable WR. He won’t stay there long, however, as there are too many teams in this league that are overcome by the desire to have speed at WR.
I will admit that Seattle is not above that same desire and I can see the possibility of Lockette making the team on special teams. He is definitely a good candidate for special teams play and has a future sprinting downfield to get under and catch punts to down them inside the 10-yard line. It really is difficult to say no to a 4.28 40.
Brandon Smith has done nothing of note thus far, and I expect he will be cut and picked up by another team's practice squad because of his size.
This unit is giving the coaching staff one of its biggest challenges. There has been too much criticism of this unit so far. Yes they have shown their faults early on, but that is my point—it is early.
I will now make excuses for these young men and hold my opinion for six weeks. After the bye week, we will know if this unit is going to gel. The first five games will definitely take them to school and we will see how quickly they learn—period.
James Carpenter pulled no punches in admitting his need to improve his ability to pass protect while working against the speed rushers in the NFL. He is determined not to be embarrassed again and I am certain he will work hard to remedy any shortcomings.
John Moffit has had similar challenges. Fortunately he is in the middle and isn't on the island that Carpenter has been. He has made mistakes and been stuffed during run plays to his side of the line, but his mistakes have not been as glaring as his fellow rookie partner on the right side of the line.
Both of these young men will start for the Seahawks, and will be coming together as a cohesive unit with the rest of the line by Week 7 when they return from the bye week.
When I originally wrote this article, I predicted that Zach Hurd would make the practice squad. Since then, he was among the first players cut to get to 80 players by Tuesday evening. He still might make the practice squad, but the chances are slim.
As for Brent Osborne, I don't honestly know much about this young man, but he went to college at Harvard. Anyone want to keep a highly intelligent lineman? Remember Robbie Tobeck? Enough said.
Josh Portis has been one of the rookie highlights in the preseason. He has shown an ability to lead the offense against the backups of the Chargers and Vikings. He did not play in the Broncos game. He is definitely going to make the team as the third quarterback.
Carroll might decide that an additional special teams player/WR would come in handy on game days, so he might be inactive on most Sundays. Since the rule change does not count the third QB on the active roster, Isaiah Stanbeck might take over that role. This is a possibility as this team will need experienced players that can play multiple positions. Josh will still be on the 53-man roster, but he will be sitting out on game days.
Quite frankly, I can’t remember seeing John Gold since the first half of the San Diego game, but then again, I could have missed him trying to compete with Jon Ryan, one of the best punters in the league. Not much to be said here, except thanks for the help during camp. I actually mean that. These men who show up day after day and fill needed positions on teams during training have my respect. Sometimes it truly is a thankless job.
Well, that does it for this one. The Seattle Seahawks will definitely look different this year, but it's about time, isn't it? We all knew that change was coming. Not many of us thought it would be this much change this soon, but I am willing to go along for the ride. It certainly won't be boring. Stay tuned!