Memorably, Marshawn Lynch caused the earth around Qwest Field to shake on January 8, 2011, after his 67 yard touchdown run broke the back of the New Orleans Saints (no Bountygate pun intended) in an unforgettable NFC wildcard encounter. Upsets like this are nothing new in the NFL, but the hope this offered to us Seahawk fans couldn’t be measured in mere yards and inches. Yes, we lost heavily in Chicago the following weekend (the 35-24 outcome doesn’t reflect the Bears’ dominance), but, if we’re honest, we accepted that would be the case anyway. We were basking long and hard in wildcard sunshine after a 7-9 season had translated itself into a home playoff win over the world champions.
Here’s a curiosity: that game took place at the height of the Saints bounty program...when you look at Lynch’s run, what was the price on him? Was it literally a packet of Skittles?! The Bears succumbed to Green Bay in the NFC Championship and Pittsburgh followed suit in Arlington, Texas, but what was there to look forward to? Dark days were predicted as the spectre of a lockout loomed large and even if the doom merchants were proved correct, there was to be one saving grace in the shambles that was to be the offseason, something that not even a lockout could, er...lock out. The 2011 NFL Draft. Thank you, Draft weekend, for being so omnipotent.
Reading through endless column inches after March 11 made the heart heavy and the brow furrow. However, salvation could be had in poring over all the Draft material you could lay your hands on. I do anyway, when football times are good. When whispers of Indianapolis not being able to host the Super Bowl started circulating, it was time to bury your head in the sand and to only have ears for Mike Mayock. I live in London and with the Draft now starting later, I had to surface for 1:00 am to hear Cam Newton go first. Believe me, having to wake up at strange hours for the NFL is something I’m accustomed to and you know what? I don’t think I’d have it any other way. The body wouldn’t agree, but the mind’s there, sharp and ready, even when Seattle aren’t picking until the back end of the first round; the Draft is about more than just your own team.
With memories of wildcard weekend and the accompanying euphoria still fresh (YouTube is a wonderful tool), imagine my disappointment when, with the 25th pick in the first round, the Seahawks selected offensive tackle James Carpenter. As a non-event, this ranked right up there with Super Bowl XXVI. Yes, he offered a touch of versatility being able to also play guard, but he was drafted as the bookend opposite Russell Okung. Granted, offensive line was a need, particularly on the right side, but Carpenter just didn't feel right. How ridiculous does that look in print? A little perhaps, but you fans know exactly what I mean. We hold dreams for our team on Draft weekend and sometimes the front office does their utmost to push them back under the pillow. I had envisioned us taking Cameron Heyward or Jabaal Sheard (Cleveland, I tip my hat to you). Heck, Brooks Reed fell nicely to the Texans at 42.
Carpenter wasn't a sexy pick, but hey, most offensive linemen taken late in round one aren't. Without a pick in round two, our third round pick, at 75, had to be a belter. When the time came, after what had seemed an eternity, everything became clear and, all of a sudden, I was now enamoured with Carpenter. Step forward John Moffitt, a guard out of Wisconsin. Everyone knows the game is won and lost in the trenches and here were the Seahawks taking major steps towards creating a new identity for themselves. Okung was set at left tackle (when he’s not nursing high ankle sprains), Max Unger could take over at center and here was the right side of our line complete in one fell swoop. Moffitt’s reputation coming out was exactly what had been missing on Seattle’s offensive line since Steve Hutchinson chased the dollar to Minnesota.Marshawn, you’re going to be the workhorse on our offense and here are a couple of tools to be going on with. You may begin when ready, although Week 1 is preferable.
Looking back at what transpired in 2011, expectations weren’t necessarily surpassed, although a road victory against the Giants (which now seems astonishing) and impressive home wins over Baltimore and Philadelphia shows what can be achieved with a little belief. Pete Carroll is all over that word and the squad has bought into his philosophy. Having just got back from Seattle myself, the signing of Matt Flynn aside, what’s giving us fans belief is a young, talented and hungry secondary. *Snaring safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor in the same Draft class should fortify that position for at least the next four to five years. Chancellor’s fearlessness is reminiscent of Ronnie Lott and he’s quickly become one of us. Before any Niners out there jump all over me, hold your horses. Lott he isn’t, by some considerable margin, but his attitude and pure love for defense makes him special at CenturyLink right now. And it’s defense I want to pursue for a little longer here.
Popular opinion has it that Seattle needs to address the defensive line in the 2012 Draft, in particular at end. I’m having none of it, especially now that David Hawthorne has been lost to the Saints. On the current depth chart, K. J. Wright is the ‘Mike’ linebacker flanked either side by Adrian Moten and Heath Farwell. Through no fault of their own (although that is arguable, I guess), the latter two won’t strike fear into any offensive coordinator and if the Seahawks have any designs on competing with San Francisco next season, this needs addressing. By the way, if you’re wondering, no, I don’t want Leroy Hill back.
With linebacker Seattle’s biggest problem area on defense, I never understood the reticence with regards Hawthorne. He’s a gem as a run stuffer and plays with a similar motor to that of Chancellor. Mock drafts have us likely picking Melvin Ingram or Quinton Coples at #12 with the consensus being that Ingram brings less risk. If we’d have retained Hawthorne, yes, let’s get it done. However, now we haven’t, middle linebacker can actually be improved by drafting Luke Kuechly. Of course, the Washington State sized caveat is that Kuechly is still available at 12.
The Boston College standout had a Scouting Combine straight from the Gods and, while this may ultimately not count for much, he sure as heck looks the part. He wowed all who saw him and he possesses everything to make the smoothest of transitions to the pro level. Middle linebacker can be overlooked in the Draft, and probably with good reason, but every now and then a stellar ‘Mike’ prospect comes along who’s impossible to ignore and who shouldn’t fall below the 20th overall pick. Kuechly is exactly that and his sideline to sideline ability would spark further life into a group not lacking in vigour.
The overall unit is already good, but Kuechly would take it up a notch or two and immediately we’d have a defense that teams would genuinely fear, especially when coming up to the Pacific Northwest. I’d have been happy with Hawthorne, I’ll be even happier with Kuechly. To miss out on Hawthorne was, at best, careless. To miss out on both he and/or Kuechly would be, at worse, foolish. *This was written before the somewhat stunning revelation that the Seahawks are considering moving Chancellor to OLB.