When the 2011 season started, I expected to hear a lot of talk about Seattle competing for the rights to draft Andrew Luck. As the season wore on, the Seahawks did get more and more media attention, but it was for the strong play of Marshawn Lynch and a resurgent second half of the season, not for a push toward futility.
There are a number of areas where the Seahawks still have room for significant improvement. But if they can add a few pieces this team could be a threat as soon as 2012, says Keith Myers, editor and lead writer of the Seahawks’ fan blog called 12th Man Rising. Myers recently shared his thoughts on where Seattle should be headed from here with Zoneblitz. Here’s what he had to say:
Zoneblitz: Is Tarvaris Jackson a long-term answer at quarterback or will the team have to address that position again?
Keith Myers: He isn’t a long term answer, but he never was meant to be. Jackson was brought in on a two-year contract to provide a bridge until the next franchise quarterback could be found. Everyone expects the Seahawks the address the position in some way this offseason.
Zoneblitz: Will Marshawn Lynch be back in 2012 and if so, will he repeat the season he had in 2011?
Myers: It’s hard to imagine that he won’t be back in 2012. Lynch is a perfect fit for the offense that the Seahawks are trying to run. Lynch is a free agent, and still young enough to demand a big contract, so anything is possible. But Lynch has talked about wanted to stay in Seattle, and that he doesn’t feel the need to the test free agency. Re-signing Lynch is clearly a priority for the Seahawks.
Zoneblitz: The Seahawks invested heavily in the offensive line with James Carpenter and John Moffitt at the draft in 2011. How have they developed?
Myers: They didn’t develop quite as much as the Seahawks had hoped. Not having a proper off-season really hurt them. Moffitt improved steadily throughout the season until his knee injury. He’ll clearly be back in the starting lineup in 2012.
Carpenter is another story though. He struggled early on, and it clearly affected his confidence. As a result, while he improved in some areas, he also regressed in others. The talent is there, but he needs time to develop before he’ll make the type of impact the Seahawks expected when they selected him in the first round. Compounding the problem was that he suffered a major knee injury that ended his season. He’ll miss the entire offseason program, and likely won’t be ready for the start of training camp. Carpenter might actually start the year on the PUP list, so the Seahawks will need to be prepared to have someone else start at right tackle in 2012
Zoneblitz: After a 2-6 start, Seattle won five of six and started playing much better. What happened to create the turnaround?
Myers: The Seahawks were an extremely young team in 2011, and with the limited off-season, they really struggled in many different aspects of the game. As the season went along different groups started playing together and improving. As far as wins and losses go, mostly it was that the young offensive line finally starting to gel, allowing the running game to get take off. It also allowed Tarvaris Jackson a little extra time, when meant more consistency in the passing game as well.
Zoneblitz: Seattle has Sidney Rice, who is good when healthy, but often isn’t, and a number of other on-again, off-again wide receivers. Are the passing weapons necessary to win on the roster or does the team have to go outside the organization to improve there?
Myers: There’s talent at the position, but it still needs some work. As you said, Rice is a major weapon when healthy. Doug Baldwin is one of the best slot receivers in the NFL even though he went undrafted. There’s also Ricardo Lockette and Kris Durham, who are young and but untested, seem to have the talent to play in this League.
The team does have tough decisions to make on Deon Butler, Golden Tate, Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu. This group is clearly talented and has shown the ability to be productive at times, but also are not consistent contributors even when given consistent playing time. I could see only one from this group returning next season.
Zoneblitz: Coach Pete Carroll talked after the season about needing more speed at linebacker. Do you agree? What other upgrades could enhance what appeared to be a fairly competitive defense?
Myers: Linebacker is definitely a need this offseason. The Seahawks really struggled covering backs out of the backfield on passing plays, and tight ends, and they also struggled with mobile quarterbacks like San Francisco’s Alex Smith. The linebackers were great against the run, but against the pass they were a major weakness. The Seahawks also need to upgrade their pass rush, though I should note that even with their inconsistent pass rush and poor linebacker play, the Seahawks defense ranked ninth in the league.
Ultimately, the one position that would make the most difference for this team is quarterback. With an upgrade there, the Seahawks easily could have won three or four more games this past season.
Zoneblitz: San Francisco emerged in the NFC West this year. How far away is Seattle from competing again for the division and the playoffs?
Myers: The Seahawks aren’t very far off at all. They were one to two plays away from beating the 49ers in both games in 2011. The Niners also were extremely lucky in 2011 with their turnovers and lack of injuries. This entire division is much closer than people realize.
Zoneblitz: What would you like to see the Seahawks do in the draft and free agency?
Myers: The Seahawks need to do something at quarterback. Jackson played well enough in 2011 to allow the Seahawks to draft a “project” QB (like Brock Osweiler or Ryan Tannehill) if need be. If they don’t, then they’ll need to find an upgrade at the position via free agency. Someone like Matt Flynn or Jason Campbell perhaps, while they wait another year before trying to draft a quarterback of the future. They also need to find depth at running back behind Lynch.
The Seahawks also need to upgrade linebacker, and improve their pass rush. That can come via either a new defensive end to play opposite Chris Clemons on passing downs, or a pass rush specialist at defensive tackle, or both.
Zoneblitz: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Myers: The Seahawks are much more talented than people think. The national media played them off as a team with expansion level talent and they couldn’t be more wrong. This is a team with a top three rush defense (in terms of yards per carry) and a top 10 pass defense despite not having a good pass rush. They’ve also got a top 10 rushing attack and decent talent at tight end and wide receiver. Don’t let the guys at EPSN fool you into thinking this team doesn’t have talent.