We'll do a full tape breakdown this week excluding the irrelevant parts of the fourth quarter. I will focus on Seattle's inability to defend runs around end and defend passes on first down. It is frustrating how easy it is to decode the Seahawks defense. The Leo concept sounded ripe for attack, and though the Seahawks have posted some better sack totals, the defense on the whole is as bad or worse than it was under Mora in 2009 or Marshall in 2008. That burns.
It's allowing more points per game and more yards per game than under Mora or Marshall. And not by a small amount either. In 2008, when Seattle was the 30th ranked defense in football by average yards allowed, it gave up 378 yards per game. This season, it's again ranked 30th, but it's now allowing 399 yards per game. That's. really. bad. It certainly makes you wonder about scheme decisions.
The intention of starting a Leo end was not to tally more sacks. Sacks are a superficial stat -- an outcome associated with good defensive play. The goal is to field a better defense and Seattle hasn't. Under Mora, the Seahawks were 24th in yards allowed, giving up a somehow tolerable seeming 356 yards per game. So, from atop those lofty shoulders, Seattle has stood upon and taken a nosedive.
I dreamt last night and in my dream I asked Pete Carroll if this Leo thing was here to stay or if Seattle would move towards a more conventional 4-3 next season. I can't remember what he answered. That somewhat impacts which players Seattle will retain, but not a ton. Here's a look at who Seattle can, should and probably will not keep around. And where that leaves Seattle in 2011.
Young, good, irreplaceable.
Young, talented, cheap.
Young, already contributing, cheap.
Likely to stay
Curry is signed to a big contract. He's talented enough to stick and expensive enough and inconsistent enough to be a drain on the team. Seattle pretty much has to stick with him because the alternative is trading him for scraps.
I thought Seattle signed Cole to be a better Howard Green. Instead he became a starter. There's value in capable depth, because teams that like to rotate their defensive tackles as much as Seattle does really need four capable tackles. Which makes me wonder why Seattle has done so little to shore up the position. Colin Cole is fairly cheap, all in all. His guaranteed money is paid and his signing bonus was small, and so if Seattle wanted, it could drop him, but to what end? Seattle needs to upgrade eventually, but, well, I've been on that merry-go-round for awhile. Cole can stick around and younger players can contribute as part of a rotation.
Bryant is only "likely" to stay instead of a "sure thing" because if Seattle scraps the Leo 4-3 and decides it needs pass rush from more than 1 1/2 defensive linemen, Bryant is again a misfit without a position.
Heater's an RFA after this season, depending on the new CBA. He's good enough, young enough and cheap enough that I expect Seattle to stick with him. Could replace Tatupu.
Balmer is still signed to his rookie contract. He's versatile and talented and young if not particularly good yet.
Good special teams player, good situational linebacker and still signed to his rookie contract.
Davis is young and cheap, but hasn't contributed a ton. You never know with young players. They can appear in 15 games as a rookie and be replaced in the off-season.
In his first two seasons, over 32 games and 26 starts, Mebane had 7.5 sacks, 7 tackles for a loss and two forced fumbles. He was bulked up to 330 and playing Chuck Darby's one-tech position. Dan Quinn, Gus Bradley, Jim Mora -- whoever decided he should lose weight and play his "natural" position: 3-tech. He's actually an under tackle now, sort of splitting the difference.
What made Mebane so valuable in the first place is that he could hold up against a double team and still rush the passer. It meant Seattle could start a NFL-type three-tech beside him. Someone that was quicker, more agile and better able to track the ball carrier in space. Even someone like Balmer would make sense, should Balmer develop.
So now Mebane is approaching free agency and I am not sure if Seattle wants to retain him or if Seattle still values what he can do.
The Seahawks have stuck with him this far. Never know, but probably a goner. And to sign where?
Seattle will probably re-sign Clemons. I am ambivalent about Clemons. On the one hand, he generates pass rush and makes some plays against the run. I don't want to blame him for other players playing poorly. On the other hand, it's hard to fully qualify how much Seattle is hurt by starting an end that can't help but allow a short corner for opponents to exploit. If Seattle rushed seven pass rushers every down, it would lead the league in sacks but field the worst pass defense in football. Sacks without defense are irrelevant.
Brock is 32 and signed to a one-year contract. He's had a quality season, but given his age, it might not make sense to sign him to free agent dollars. Depends on what he wants. I wouldn't block anyone younger on behalf of Brock.
One-year contract. Seattle has a package called "nickel Babs" so you would think they value him or something about him, but Babineaux is textbook replacement talent. I like the guy, but let him go to a team that's looking for a veteran piece. Better that Seattle give those snaps to a young talent with potential.
My opinion has no impact on decisions made by the front office.
Can't argue his special teams contributions, but Terrill gives you little else to be excited about. Terrill isn't likely to get any better and so there isn't much use keeping him around and taking snaps away from developing talent.
See: Craig Terrill.
Pete talked Milloy out of retirement. This season might be the final straw. At best, he's a pretty good veteran without much of a future.
Pete and John will probably review Trufant's contract in the off-season and determine if he's still worth his cap number. If they determine no, it will be interesting to see if the Hawks can renegotiate. Tru is a local guy and has spent his entire career in Seattle. He is not a glaring problem per se, but turns 30 this Christmas. A lot of what can be said for Terrill can be said for Trufant. It's not that he's bad. It's only that he's not great and not getting better.
Same story, different position. Tatupu's the younger of the two and might have some hidden leadership value. Seattle isn't in a cap bind, and so I think Tatupu gets another shot, but eventually the discrepancy between his pay and his value will probably force a move or a restructure.
Special teams contributors
If you had to assemble a defense from the sure things and those likely to stay, it would probably look like this:
LEO: Dexter Davis
UT: Kentwan Balmer
OT: Colin Cole
SE: Red Bryant
WLB: Will Herring
MLB: David Hawthorne
SLB: Aaron Curry
RCB: Walter Thurmond
SS: Kam Chancellor
FS: Earl Thomas
Seattle needs talent at LEO, strongside end, defensive tackle, weakside linebacker, middle linebacker, cornerback and strong safety. So, adjust your draft board accordingly. There isn't a ton of talent to salvage and a lot of holes about to open up. Many of the players slotted to fill a hole won't make the grade. Every position needs depth and every position but free safety, strong side end and strong side linebacker need new talent that can push to start right away.