This is not a prediction. It's a broad projection on how this season might progress.
Seattle's offensive lines proves a total disaster. A bad unit from 2009 is in fact worse in 2010 without one of its best members: Rob Sims. Russell Okung struggles with injuries all season and is either absent or debilitated and either way, left tackle suffers. Matt Hasselbeck takes his knocks and that brings out the worst in him. Not only is he banged up but his does not have a pocket to consistently step into and between the two, Hasselbeck is every bit the fool-brave, noodle-armed, compulsive check down artist that the Green Bay Packers defense laughed at last season.
Justin Forsett and Leon Washington prove just as incapable of running through walls of defenders as Julius Jones, and rather than aid or overcome the terrible pass offense, the run games proves equally as liable and disastrous. Charlie Whitehurst steps in because of injury or ineffectiveness or a combination of the both and is overmatched by game speed, confused by regular season coverage schemes, sacked into oblivion and picked back into miserable reality.
The defense fails to generate rush and the secondary is always cleaning up, never preventing completions. Seattle forces an occasional third and long through the power of their run defense, but those thirds are converted and that run defense is deadly in spurts and like wet tissue paper off left end. Injuries to often-injured players mount and a few new names join the bunch. By season's end, Seattle is weeks into the process of figuring out what remaining young talent will contribute next season, sadly aware that there isn't a ton, and not sure whether to give Whitehurst snaps or save face with the no better, but less embarrassing Hasselbeck.
Olindo Mare is Olindo Mare plus a few complications. His field goal percentage wavers and some of his low, line-drive kick offs that teams formerly took for touchbacks are returned and for very good yardage. Jon Ryan has another solid season for punt length, but returners receive with a clear field and blocking and all that superficial distance is lost in a blink as long punts became longer returns.
Okung returns and shores up the left. He may not be All-Pro, but he's capable and capable is startlingly better than anything Seattle managed in 2009. The interior line is so-so. It generates room against inferior tackle combinations but is blown back and broken through by tougher defenses. Hasselbeck is hot and cold. He develops chemistry with Mike Williams and the two prove decent enough at moving the chains and converting red zone opportunities, but apart from Williams, Hasselbeck is frustratingly dependent on underneath threats like John Carlson, Chris Baker and the backs.
Alternately, Whitehurst starts because Hasselbeck is injured, ineffective or some combination of both and though he is not adept at reading coverages, he does hail the return of the deep ball and helm a more explosive offense with a better rushing attack.
Forsett and Washington benefit from some kind of passing offense, and both translate previous successes as part-time backs into more consistent success as dual workhorses. It isn't a run that forces eight in the box, but it keeps heat off Hasselbeck and keeps play-action viable.
The defense creates rush in fits and starts. Chris Clemons has huge games and games spent M.I.A. and though he is not the team's primary weakness, Leo is slotted for major upgrade. The lack of consistent rush and a dependence on interceptions and high-leverage stops, means Seattle allows a crap ton of passing yards but pulls off some fancy and decisive turnovers.
The run defense is solid. The strong side proves impossible to run against and that allows Seattle to scheme out the weak side. It doesn't always work, so though Seattle tallies a lot of stops for minimal or negative yardage, it also allows some long, jail-break runs when caught by misdirection.
Mare is Mare. Kicks offs remain a strength and Seattle's kick off unit is again very good. His field goal percentage wavers some but it's not crippling. Ryan punts the crap out of the ball. Sometimes Seattle covers and sometimes they can't and so sometimes field position is flipped and sometimes Ryan is running wild attempting to catch the returner.
8 to 9 Wins
One of two things happen in the passing game:
Okung is back in quick order and a mix of development from Max Unger, an improved run game, and better game situation allow Hasselbeck the kind of sturdy, capacious pockets he needs to be the mid-range rifleman we remember and love. Jeremy Bates builds the passing attack through high percentage short passes and lots of in-breaking, mid-range and deep passes.
The zone run game works and that proves huge. Not only can Seattle chip away at first and ten, not only can it punish weaker run defenses, but the viability of the run game allows for play-action, roll outs and a moving pocket, and largely prevents the exceptionally aggressive and irreverent play by linebackers and ends - dropping contain and siccing the ball carrier - that became standard game planning for opposing defenses in 2009. Seattle is balanced if not sensational in either facet, but its balanced attack leads to long drives, early leads and come from behind victories.
Okung is back in quick order and a mix of development from Max Unger, an improved run game, and better game situation and tools allow Whitehurst the time he needs to slowly tick off reads, complete an acceptably high rate of passes, mostly avoid disaster, and bombs-away like a Howitzer. Whitehurst buries opponents with rainbows to Golden Tate, Deon Butler and Deion Branch; keeps safeties honest with posts and crosses; and keeps drives alive with a resurgent short passing game that benefits from a suddenly viable deep attack.
The rush comes alive. It's not only good enough to keep running and run-based passing plays viable, it chews through defenses. Forsett flashes through holes and bullies defensive backs and like a younger Marion Baber with better hands and agility. Leon Washington is a home run threat that hits for average, mixing successful runs with streaks into the third level.
It's not a consistent offense, but like the Moon-era Seahawks, it can drop 30+ on any given opponent.
The pass rush exists in spurts. Sacks are there, but consistent pressure is not and the team allows a lot of total passing yards. The secondary plays well despite this and both Earl Thomas and Marcus Trufant prove outside contenders for the Pro Bowl. The linebackers shoot gaps and cripple runs, blitz, get blown back sometimes, but are, overall, the bunch of coordinated, stifling, pick producing, sack attacking, screen killing band of small, quick and vicious defenders we took for granted from 2005 to 2007.
The rush defense is excellent. Seattle's strong side proves impenetrable but teams attack it anyway, lest they become too predictable. Weak side concerns are allayed by Lawyer Milloy, who is roving, cognizant and on top of runs and passes underneath. Misdirection is a bugaboo, but containment is sound overall, and for the majority of runs, defenders swarm and destroy.
The offense is equal that of the 8 to 9 win Seahawks, but the defense and special teams stand out.
Clemons and Dexter Davis make the Leo package seem not only viable but an absolute stroke of genius. Teams struggle to contain Brandon Mebane and Red Bryant, and Clemons and Aaron Curry keep the rush unpredictable and deadly. The two combine for 10-20 sacks.
Paired with a top pass rush, the secondary is stingy and opportunistic. There's room underneath and towards the middle, but drives extend over numerous plays, big plays are cut out, and when some mix of penalties, run stuffs and incomplete passes puts the offense into passing downs, Seattle capitalizes in thrilling fashion.
Olindo Mare is equally as good as he was in 2008 and 2009. Jon Ryan punts a regulation sized spheroid of whoop-ass through my criticisms, kicking long and high and distractedly brushing his locks while Seattle's gunners corral and cluster bomb returners into the turf. Seahawks returners bring back the glory days of young Nate Burleson as first Leon Washington, and later Golden Tate, sprint for game-changing return touchdowns.