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2011 Team Report: Seattle Seahawks

Quarterbacks

Starter: Tarvaris Jackson
Backup(s): Charlie Whitehurst, Josh Portis, Mike Reilly

Starting QB: Tarvaris Jackson signed with the Seahawks this offseason after having spent his first five NFL seasons with the Vikings. Rather than allowing a full-fledged quarterback competition during the preseason between Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst, the Seahawks named Jackson the starter before camp commenced. Jackson has good arm strength and the mobility to leave the pocket if it collapses. He can throw on the run and sometimes shows good touch, but was inconsistent during his stint in Minnesota. Jackson will have to limit turnovers and to remain the starter, but as long as he's under center, he has sleeper potential as a fantasy QB because of his running ability and strong arm.

Backup QB: Charlie Whitehurst was brought over in a trade with San Diego last year, and some still view him, potentially, as the Seahawks' quarterback of the future. He still needs a bit of grooming, however, before the Seahawks will put their trust in him. Whitehurst throws a good ball, but he doesn't always make timely reads or decisions, and occasionally forces the ball into coverage. Josh Portis has been a bit inconsistent early in camp, but has made enough impressive throws to get the coaching staff's attention. He has a strong arm, good pocket presence, and the confidence you want in a QB.

Running Backs

Starter: Marshawn Lynch
Backup(s): Justin Forsett, Leon Washington, Thomas Clayton
Fullback(s): Michael Robinson

Starting RB: Marshawn Lynch, who came over from Buffalo last season, is the team's most talented RB. His best performance last season came in the playoffs in a surprise win over the Saints. When he's in shape, he brings a strong combination of power and speed, and is tough to bring down one-on-one. The Seahawks are installing a zone blocking scheme this year, which may be well suited to Lynch's running style. He can make sharp cuts and accelerate, and should be the lead back in Seattle's three-headed attack.

Backup RBs: Justin Forsett lacks terrific measurables, but he is a well-rounded RB who reads his blocks well as a runner, has good hands as a receiver, and is easily the best pass-blocking RB on the team. Expect Forsett to be used as a change-of-pace back, and to get a decent amount of playing time in passing situations. Leon Washington is a small, quick back who is a dangerous open-field runner, but not a great between-the-tackles runner. His primary contribution this season may come on special teams as kick-returner.

Fullback: Michael Robinson is a powerful, probably underrated, run-blocker, as well as a decent pass-blocker. He is a poor receiver, however, and only an average runner for a fullback. He will not get enough touches to be a fantasy factor.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Sidney Rice, Mike Williams
Backups: Ben Obomanu, Golden Tate, Deon Butler, Kris Durham, Ricardo Lockette, Isaiah Stanback

Starting WRs: The Seahawks made a huge upgrade by signing free agent Sidney Rice to pair with fellow bookend Mike Williams. Rice has extraordinary body control and hands, and will make the spectacular catch even in traffic. He also has good footwork and route-running ability. Although he will have to adjust to his new team, he's helped by being already familiar with offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell's playbook from their time together in Minnesota. Mike Williams was originally a first-round pick by the Lions, but lasted only two seasons in Detroit before short stints in Oakland and Tennessee preceding his departure from the NFL for a few seasons. He had been a complete bust up until last year, when he returned to the league and caught on with the Seahawks, impressed during training camp, won a starting job, and became the team's leading receiver. Williams has excellent size and strength, and is an ideal red-zone target.

Backup WRs: Golden Tate failed to make much of an impact as a rookie last season. He is a stellar athlete, but was not dependable in his route-running and thus received limited playing time. A full off-season would have been a big benefit for Tate heading into 2011, but he'll have to make do with the lockout-shortened work. With two big receivers on the outside, Tate will make his niche in the slot, using his quickness to spread the field horizontally. Ben Obomanu generally played well for the Seahawks last season, and was rewarded with a new contract. He is a solid route-runner with reliable hands. He is not a true burner, but has enough speed to threaten to secondary deep. Deon Butler is an exceptional athlete, has not yet lived up to his potential and is coming off of a serious leg injury, so it's uncertain what his role will be. Rookie Kris Durham has the speed to stretch the field vertically, but is viewed as a project who may take a few seasons before he's ready to contribute in earnest. There will be plenty of competition behind the starters with Golden Tate looking to make a move in his second season while Ben Obomanu returns along with Deon Butler and rookies Kris Durham and Ricardo Lockette.

Tight Ends

Starters: Zach Miller
Backups: John Carlson, Cameron Morrah, Chris Baker

The Seahawks signed free agent Zach Miller away from the Raiders this offseason, giving the team another big target in the passing game. Miller is a better receiver than John Carlson and will get the starting nod, although the Seahawks could end up using two-TE formations a fair amount of the time. After a strong rookie seasons, Carlson regressed the past two seasons as a pass-catcher, and never was a strong blocker. The competition with Miller could bring out the best in him. If so, there will be little playing time left over for Chris Baker or Cameron Morrah.

Place Kicker

Steven Hauschka : Clint Gresham is back for a second season as the long snapper. Back for a fourth year is punter is Jon Ryan, who also serves as the holder. He won't be holding for Olindo Mare, whom the Panthers signed via free agency. The kicking job appeared to go to the winner of a competition between Jeff Reed and Brandon Coutu. Reed finished last year with the 49ers after being released midway through the season by the Steelers. Coutu was drafted by the Seahawks back in 2008, but spent the year on the bench behind Mare. Coutu was released on 8/20. Then on 9/4 the team claimed Hauschka off waivers and dumped Reed. The Seahawks have ranked in the bottom third of the league in attempted kicking points the past three years.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Leon Washington, Golden Tate, Justin Forsett

Punt Returners: Leon Washington, Golden Tate, Justin Forsett

The Seahawks' returns distribution could very well look the same in 2011 as they did in 2010. RB Leon Washington sits atop the depth chart for both kickoff and punt returns and should again see the majority of the work. Although he finished as the top fantasy returner last year, he could be even better this year, "I worked my tail off this offseason to get in better shape. Obviously, coming off the injury last year, I as a little slow at the start." WR Golden Tate, who had a couple returns in the preseason opener, is the primary backup for both roles and could see a moderate number of punt returns during the regular season. RB Justin Forsett is third on the depth chart for both kickoffs and punts. Rookie CB Richard Sherman returned a punt against the Chargers.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Russell Okung, LG Robert Gallery, C Max Unger, RG John Moffitt [R], RT James Carpenter [R]
Key Backups: Mike Gibson, Tyler Polumbus, Sean Locklear

Team Defense

Defensive Line

Starters: Chris Clemons DE, Red Bryant DE, Colin Cole DT, Brandon Mebane DT
Backups: Kentwan Balmer DE, Alan Branch DE, Ryan Sims DE, Raheem Brock DE, Lazarius Levingston DE (R), Dexter Davis DE, Junior Siavii DT

Starting DL: The Seahawks have been eerily consistent if ineffective, improbably ranking eighth worst in scoring defense three years in a row (24.5, 24.4 & 25.4 PPG from 2008-2010), after a seventh best finish (18.2) in 2007. Of course, second year HC Pete Carroll only gets the onus for last season, and he inherited a lot of the same players that ultimately led to the prior defensive collapses in 2008 and 2009. The Seattle offense and defense contributed about equally to a nearly -100 point differential over the season, stumbling to the NFC West finish line as the first playoff team since at least the merger (in a non-strike shortened year) to qualify for the playoffs with a losing record at 7-9. Only 12 teams had more than their 37 sacks, one positive which might be built on. The scheme is an interesting hybrid base alignment which incorporates elements of both 4-3 and 3-4 fronts. While technically showing a 4-3 look, Clemons eclipsed his career 2007 campaign in OAK with 33 solo tackles and 10.5 sacks deployed from the Leo position (positional legacy of 49er Elephant pass rushers Fred Dean and Charles Haley) as a stand up DE, similar to a 3-4 OLB. Former NT Bryant was converted from 4-3 DT to 4-3 DE, but is used in a classic 3-4 DE two gap role. He was playing well before a season-ending knee injury near the mid-point. Cole and Mebane fill more conventional run stuffing, pocket collapsing and interior penetration responsibilities. The front office breathed a collective sigh of relief when the up and coming Mebane returned for a five year contract (worth up to $25 million). The presence of failed former Chiefs second rounder Siavii on the roster is an example of high pedigree DL hoarding (he came back from the brink, out of football from 2006-2008).

Backup DL: Balmer is a former SF first rounder reclamation project that may not have an ideal NFL position, lacking quickness at DE and power at DT. Seattle pilfered another divisional rival's high pedigree (2.1 - 2007) DL in ex-Card Branch. His Deuce Lutui-like, haphazard conditioning got him in hot water in the desert, but he has some talent when motivated and benefiting from a more structured, disciplined nutritional environment, and a less free form diet. Branch was a former Gatorade state player of the year from NM, as well as an All-state hoops player, an indication of dancing Grizzly potential. He is a massive human at 6'5" and (a conservatively listed) 330 lbs. Ex-Chief/Buc Sims is an example of wider spread high pedigree (1.6 - 2002) DL dumpster diving by the franchise. Long time Colt Brock enjoyed a resurgence at 32 with a career high 10 sacks in 2010, more than his previous three years in Indy COMBINED.

Linebackers

Starters: Leroy Hill WLB, David Hawthorne MLB, Aaron Curry SLB
Backups: K.J. Wright LB (R), Malcolm Smith LB (R)

Starting LBs: Hawthorne is now firmly ensconced in the MIKE position, with the somewhat unexpected release of former heart and soul of the defense, Lofa Tatupu. It was that position, prompted by a Tatupu injury, that led to his discovery as a potential future star in 2009. The organization was willing to accept Tatupu back at the right price, but he passed on the salary haircut. The extremely soft market for Tatupu's services league-wide validates Seattle's stance, and confirms the sense that repeated injuries have slowed him to the point that even his acknowledged top drawer instincts are no longer able to overcome his rapidly eroding skills, leaving him a player in decline (for several years). This was likely for the best anyway, as even a cursory review of the state of the Seattle defense in the past two years clearly reveals Hawthorne as the best LB on the team ever since the breakout 2009 campaign (93 solo tackles, 3 sacks, 1 FF & 3 INTs). Deployed as a WLB in 2010, expect a serious uptick of IDP stats for the "Heater". Hill looked like he was nearly out the door in 2009 after a string of off field issues culminated in the front office removing the once promising Clemson third rounder's franchise tag designation. Playing musical LBs, Hill fills the void left when Hawthorne filled the Tatupu void, and has gained an opportunity for redemption and rehabilitation of his image. Despite being one of the highest drafted LBs in the past several decades (1.4 - 2009), Curry has not come remotely close to playing up to his monster six year contract ($34 million guaranteed). Ironically, scouts widely hailed the former Wake Forest great as one of the most pro ready and safest prospects in the class of 2009. Perhaps coaching is partly to blame, and he could be better positioned to succeed by thinking and covering less, and allowed be more instinctive and get after the passer.

Backup LBs: Wright is a fourth round rookie LB who could be the short term back up and possibly longer term heir apparent and eventual successor to the nearly 30 year old Clemons. He played WLB and SLB at Mississippi St., and some scouts graded him a top 10 LB from the class of 2011. Carroll was familiar with former Trojan seventh round rookie Smith from his old USC stomping grounds. He is athletic but undersized (6'0" and 225 lbs.). The hope is that he can pack on 10+ pounds at the next level. Smith is an interesting prospect with pro bloodlines (brother of former NYG and current PHI WR Steve) and is a gifted athlete with rare explosiveness measureables for his position (4.46 40 and 39" VJ at his pro day). He also has leadership intangibles, serving as a defensive captain in college.

Defensive Backs

Starters: Earl Thomas FS, Kam Chancellor SS, Marcus Trufant CB, Walter Thurmond CB
Backups: Mark LeGree FS (R), Jeron Johnson S, Kelly Jennings CB, Richard Sherman CB (R), Byron Maxwell CB (R)

Starting DBs: Thomas (64 solo tackles and 5 INTs) was described by Mike Mayock as the most instinctive safety he had ever scouted, and in retrospect that looks like a prescient call. Like fellow safety Eric Berry of the Chiefs, his bursting onto the NFL scene as a rookie was rewarded with a Pro Bowl alternate berth (which could be the first of many for both). The former Texas phenom's pre-cog instincts combined with smoking sub 4.4 speed confer uncommon range and playmaking ability. With no slight on Hawthorne, Thomas is already the best defensive player on the roster, and has the upside to eventually emerge as maybe the top free safety in the game. Chancellor is a second year fifth rounder from Virginia Tech that exceeded expectations as a rookie, and replaces Lawyer Milloy. A hulking 6'3" and 230 lbs., he flashed enough athleticism to be more than an in-the-box thumper, though he can look a bit stiff changing direction and in coverage (if not David Fulcher-like). Trufant was at one time a difference maker, but like Tatupu, injuries have conspired to reduce him to a shell of his former self. Even more alarming than severely curbed big play numbers in recent years, in coverage the former high first rounder routinely gets beat more often than Neil Peart's drum kit during a YYZ solo. Thurmond might have gone as high as the second instead of the fourth round in 2010 if not for an alphabet soup knee injury (ACL/MCL/PCL) suffered his final year at Oregon. He was still recovering as a rookie last year, but the knee injury is more than a year removed, and he has better size than Kelly Jennings.

Backup DBs: Jennings has underperformed his first round status in the 2006 draft. He does have great speed (one of fastest preps in state of Florida) but lacks ideal size for coverage at 5'11" 180 lbs., is not fearsome in run support and hasn't compensated with many big plays. Based on his body of work to date, he couldn't be called an indispensable nickle back or a cornerstone secondary player. LeGree, Sherman (both fifth round) and Maxwell (sixth) are all day three rookies. Legree isn't ideally battle-tested at the highest level of competition coming from Appalachian St., but has nice size for a safety at 6'0" and 210 lbs., as does Stanford product Sherman for CB at 6'2" 190. Former Clemson CB Maxwell is also a positional physical specimen at 6'1" and 207 lbs., so it seems the Seahawks war room made a concerted effort to get bigger in the secondary and upgrade talent and depth there late in the draft (if successful, a wise strategy based on chronic coverage lapses in recent years).

Last modified: 2011-09-04 16:38:44

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