As the Seahawks evaluate how they want to configure their 53-man roster later today, a few things seem pretty clear after an incredibly frustrating preseason:
The offense is a complete mess.
The top four receivers saw almost no action in the preseason, and $41 million man Sidney Rice (shoulder) is questionable for the opener against the San Francisco 49ers. Their best guy in the preseason was undrafted rookie Doug Baldwin, although Golden Tate staved off elimination with a great game against Oakland on Friday. The Hawks are going to have to keep six players at the position, due to the fragility of Rice, Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu.
Speaking of fragility, the left side of the line takes the cake. Russell Okung missed the final three preseason games after spraining his ankle in the first contest. Now the only veteran on the unit, Robert Gallery, is likely out of the opener with a sprained knee suffered against his old team Friday.
While Okung is expected to start next week against the 49ers, it looks like Tyler Polumbus and Mike Gibson, both average players, will see a lot of time on the left side this season. The Hawks still need a backup center and a veteran to push rookie right guard John Moffitt or step in at left guard. That’s why Andre Gurode would make sense if he is healthy.
Everyone talks about how Marshawn Lynch brings a physical presence to the running game. His monster run against the Saints in the playoff upset last season was one for the historical highlight reels, but he averaged only 3.6 yards per carry in the regular season. He has not played all preseason, and he won’t get to play much once the season starts either—because the Hawks will be backed up and throwing the ball.
The offense will go as far as Leon Washington and Justin Forsett take it.
The receiving corps figures to be banged up all season, and the line will have trouble giving the quarterbacks time to find receivers downfield, so Washington and Forsett will be invaluable. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them combine to lead the team in catches. Their quickness and good hands could help the Hawks move the ball a bit better, and there will definitely be games where they play a lot more than Lynch does.
John Carlson can’t catch a break.
It has been a tough year for the underrated tight end. Last year, he was rarely used as a receiver until the playoffs. Then he took an ugly header on the frozen turf in Chicago. Then he got demoted when the Hawks signed Zach Miller. And now he’s out for the season with a shoulder injury.
He will be a free agent in 2012, but all of the things mentioned above will keep his value low and his chances of re-signing high.
Meanwhile, with Cam Morrah (toe) on the PUP, the once super-deep TE spot will rely on Miller, Anthony McCoy and Dominique Byrd (the beneficiary of Carlson’s injury).
Aaron Curry and Marcus Trufant are on notice.
The restructuring of their contracts last month made that clear. They were among eight players we listed last year at this time as needing to step up their games. They didn’t, and it is clear they are on the hot seat this season.
Curry is an enigma, because neither Jim Mora nor Pete Carroll—both defensive coaches—have been able to figure out how to use the linebacker. Here’s why: He’s best suited to play inside in a 3-4 defense, where his responsibilities are more narrowly defined and he can simply focus on finding the ball. Mora and Carroll have had him doing too much, and it’s obvious he is not as versatile as everyone thinks he is. He’s a blow-em-up ‘backer, so let him blow-em up. Prediction: He will go to a 3-4 team next year and light it up.
Trufant, meanwhile, has had three straight bad seasons since signing his monster contract after his 2007 Pro Bowl year. He had a great camp last year, so it was surprising to see him play so poorly during the season. This is it for him: Either play great or get the boot in 2012.
The Hawks are going Y-O-U-N-G in the secondary.
With the trade of Kelly Jennings, Trufant is the only veteran in the secondary—unless Atari Bigby makes the team. The Hawks are going to rely on second-year safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, and their other corners—Walter Thurmond, Brandon Browner, Richard Sherman, et al.—are all raw.
Look for the Hawks to give up a lot of big pass plays this season. But that’s not really any different than the last five years anyway. Long term, this could be a great building year for that unit.
As for the Jennings trade, the Hawks basically paid $200,000 (Jennings’ signing bonus) to get DT Clinton McDonald from Cincinnati, so if he doesn’t make the team that money was simply insurance while the Hawks tested younger corners in the preseason.
The Hawks are better on the D-line.
Red Bryant is obviously the key to the defense. Before he was injured last season, the Seahawks had become a top-five run defense. As soon as he got hurt, they got gashed. And it continued all season.
To fix that potential problem, the Hawks brought in Alan Branch, who seems like a great signing. He will start at tackle with Colin Cole (ankle surgery) on PUP, but Branch also can play end.
The Hawks still could use another stout body for depth in the middle—Junior Siavii is not very good—until Cole comes back.
Injuries already are a factor.
At least a dozen players who would make the 53-man roster are injured and considered questionable or worse for the opener. This is a direct result of the lockout—missed rehab for guys like Cole, Deon Butler and Cam Morrah, and missed workouts for everyone else.
Injuries happen all the time in the NFL, but this year was destined to be worse because players were not prepared.
For the Hawks, that means a passing game that is completely out of sync, an offensive line that has not played together enough, a starting running back who has not been tackled yet and a defense that already is dinged up across the board.
It’s going to be a long season.
Go Outside the Press Box to see whether the Hawks are just setting the table on offense for Carson Palmer in 2012.