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The Ten Seasons of the 2009 Seattle Seahawks

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I hate long goodbyes. Better to offer the offseason a hand and then walk away. The season starts tomorrow. As a fan, you work so hard and care so much, but have no control over how the team plays. This season could be epic. It could be The Season. The Season. It could be just another season. It could be the second straight season the Seahawks fall apart. On the eve of the regular season, and with too much to say, here is ten season projections, from miserable to awesome.

Seattle Seahawks 3-13

While Matt Hasselbeck is healthy today, any number of things could end that in a flash. He misses most of the season. Seneca Wallace regresses. The line is further thinned by injuries and caves. The running game exhibits its star power. One or more wide receivers is injured.

The special teams is miserable.

The pass rush is insufficient and the secondary collapses. Colin Cole is pushed around and opponents begin breaking long runs. Tackles are a mirage. Brandon Mebane doesn't develop. Curry plays like a rookie. Patrick Kerney plays like a 32 year old.

The Broncos make a surprise playoff run.

Seattle Seahawks 4-12

Matt Hasselbeck is injured and ineffective. He misses significant time. Seneca Wallace plays to form. The line is a mix of injured and plain ineffective. The running game is insufficient and teams key on the pass. The wide receivers suffer nagging and debilitating injuries.

The special teams sucks.

The pass rush is sporadic and the secondary unreliable. Colin Cole is pushed around and opponents begin breaking long runs. Tackles are one part impressive, three parts unreliable. Brandon Mebane is stout against the run but does not develop as a pass rusher. Blitz attempts expose the secondary and Seattle allows long touchdown passes.

The Broncos are respectable.

Seattle Seahawks 5-11

Matt Hasselbeck is injured and ineffective. He plays through injury but is very limited. Seneca Wallace plays to form. The line is mildly effective at full strength, but injuries disrupt continuity and leave the line weakened and disorganized. The running game creates bad down and distance and forces three and outs. The wide receivers and John Carlson play up to the level of their quarterback.

The special teams is a weakness, but forgettable.

The Seahawks depend on four man rushes and are picked apart underneath. Seattle can't stop third down, and eventually allow big plays. Colin Cole buys time in the middle but does not clog. Seattle mixes in dominant run defense with bad tackles, interspersing stops for loss with long gains allowed. Brandon Mebane excels against bad guards, but is shut down by better offensive lines. The starting defensive ends are injured, thrusting role players into regular action. Teams attack the edges and the Seahawks consistently let close games become lopsided in the second half.

The Broncos are okay.

Seattle Seahawks 6-10

Matt Hasselbeck is ineffective. He starts all season, but proves he is at his end. The line is weak, and brings out the worst in Hasselbeck and the run game. Edgerrin James and Julius Jones mix runs of four yards with runs of two yards. The wide receivers play well, but Hasselbeck double clutches them into doom.

The special teams is a weakness, but forgettable.

The defense smothers weaker teams, but can't win close games. The defense is good, but exposed against stronger offenses. Turnovers are infrequent, bunching in big wins, but disappearing against better opponents. The run defense is able, but not dominating. The pass defense is mediocre and suffers spurts of complete ineffectiveness. Marcus Trufant never fully recovers, and Seattle is forced into a zones-only scheme that allows big yards and long drives. Sacks are interspersed with long conversions.

A frustrating team that looks like it's improving, but needs an offensive overhaul.

The Broncos are below average.

Seattle Seahawks 7-9

Matt Hasselbeck is effective, but sometimes injured. He starts most of the season and has some good games. The line is weak, but only occasionally dismantled. It buys Hasselbeck time, but blows assignments and allows ugly and untimely sacks. The running game is mediocre, but relied on to a fault. Edgerrin James, Julius Jones and Justin Forsett amass big total yards, but poor yards per attempt. The wide receivers are deep and strong and match well against most opponents.

The special teams is forgettable.

The defense smothers weaker teams, and occasionally stars. It mixes dominant, high turnover games with sloppy, high yardage and points allowed games. It looks good against good teams and good against bad teams, but is liable to collapse against good or bad alike. The secondary is disorganized and touchdowns appear out of successful looking defensive stands. The pass rush is sporadic and significantly better at home. The run defense is very good, but too often it forces good passing teams to abandon the run and prey on the Seahawks secondary. Marcus Trufant returns but isn't a difference maker.

The Seahawks are a reasonably balanced team that doesn't get breaks, and doesn't contend.

The Broncos are bad.

Seattle Seahawks 8-8

Matt Hasselbeck is effective, but sometimes injured. He starts most of the season and has some excellent games. The line is below average, but usually steady enough. It creates time and stops free blitzers. The running game is quietly effective. The rotation plays Seattle's back to their strengths, and each looks average at what they do. The wide receivers are deep and strong and blow out weak secondaries.

The return game is good, but the punt coverage is sloppy and sometimes painful. Olindo Mare hits a cold streak.

The defense smothers average and weak teams and keeps Seattle in every contest. It mixes dominant, high turnover games with decent, high yardage, moderate points allowed games. It gets blown out at least once. Colin Cole and Brandon Mebane make a pseudo-Williams Wall West and shut down runs up the middle. Poor health from the ends thrust role players into regular play, and they get pass rush, but turn the outside run defense into a high-risk crapshoot. The secondary allows yards, but forces turnovers and tightens in short yardage.

The team is average at pass defense, very good at run defense, below average on special teams, average rushing the ball and average passing the ball.

The Broncos lose to the Raiders.

Seattle Seahawks 9-7

Matt Hasselbeck is effective and mostly healthy. He starts 14+, but begins showing signs of age. Seneca Wallace is steady when he starts. The line is average to good pass blocking, but doesn't show mastery of run blocking until late in the season. The backs take what's given to them and nothing more. All three are quietly effective receivers, but don't total many yards. John Carlson emerges and teams struggles to stop Seattle's steady ability to convert first downs. The offensive is effectively station-to-station, but creates few big plays.

The return game is strong, the coverage units forgettable and Olindo Mare matches his career field goal percentage.

The defense is sporadically dominant. It humiliates better opponents, but keeps weak opponents in the game. The run defense is top ten, and opponents struggle to control the clock. The pass rush is present and picks are interspersed through the linebackers and secondary. Aaron Curry and Leroy Hill become upper-tier pass rushing linebackers, and the two create matchup problems for opponents. The secondary allows yards, but bends more than breaks.

The team is average defending the pass, good at defending the run, good at passing and average running the ball.

The Broncos lose to the Raiders, twice.

Seattle Seahawks 10-6

Matt Hasselbeck is effective and healthy. He begins showing signs of age, but also proves he will age gracefully. Chris Spencer returns and starts most of the season at center. The line steps up its pass blocking and Hasselbeck spreads the ball. The zone blocking rushing scheme is intermittent, but effective enough, often enough to be promising. The backs take what's given, and Julius Jones breaks out against weaker opponents. When Deion Branch is healthy, teams are overmatched against three wide receiver sets, and an efficiently station-to-station offensive explodes against weaker opponents.

The return game is strong to excellent. Jon Ryan punts well. Olindo Mare buries them at their twenty and is an average field goal kicker.

The defense is never bad. It holds its own against strong offenses and attacks and dismantles weak opponents. Its young core holds up its aging veterans. Lofa Tatupu regains forms and again is a run-stopping, pass defending and occasional blitzing force at middle linebacker. Aaron Curry and Leroy Hill attack the outside run game, wrack up sacks and take away the screen game. Patrick Kerney and Cory Redding become a balanced, steady and sometimes dominating presence on the ends. The depth is involved and Seattle gets contributions from Michael Bennett and Nick Reed. Colin Cole and Brandon Mebane turn into a somewhat-lopsided Williams Wall West, with Mebane breaking into the top ten of defensive tackles and Cole realizing a late peak to become steady and stout. The secondary allows yards, but forces turnovers and field goals.

A good pass offense, average rush offense, good pass defense and dominant run defense exploits a weak schedule into a playoff bid.

The Broncos get blown out by the Raiders.

Seattle Seahawks 11-5

Matt Hasselbeck is effective and healthy. He begins showing signs of age, but also proves he will age gracefully. Walter Jones and Chris Spencer return and start for most of the season. Max Unger develops quickly and the team is deep and talented at offensive line. The run game takes what is given and a little more, and weak run defenses crumble against high rush attempts. John Carlson develops into a matchup nightmare and teams scramble to defend him and Seattle's deep stable of wide receivers. The offense is station-to-station but almost unstoppably so. Not every drive scores, but few result in three and out. Deon Butler develops into a legitimate deep threat and has a few breakout games.

A healthy wide receiver corps allows Nate Burleson to return and he combined with Josh Wilson gives Seattle a top five kick and punt return team. Seattle's deep and young defense flashes its potential on return teams and what could be weakness turns into a strength. Olindo Mare buries opponents at their twenty and Jon Ryan defies odds and turns into a coffin corner undertaker.

Patrick Kerney bucks age and is reborn in a regular rotation. He nears or exceeds double digit sacks. Cory Redding becomes a force at left defensive end, making a handful of hustle sacks and shutting down rushes to the outside. Brandon Mebane makes the leap and opponents are forced to assign him extra blockers. Colin Cole thrives against single blocks and drives back guards and centers, making a few hustle sacks and disrupting multiple run plays. The linebackers are exceptional. Leroy Hill and Aaron Curry each notch five or more sacks, are seemingly everywhere, blow up screens, and turn outside runs into an impossibility. Curry and Lofa Tatupu are standout pass defenders and the underneath becomes a low-upside, high risk danger zone for opposing offenses. Tatupu slams interior rushes and thrives in Seattle's read-blitz defense. He gets sacks by picking his spots and clubbing down backs. Ken Lucas returns to form and Josh Wilson develops. Neither is great in coverage, but both can work a zone, limit yards after catch, tackle in the open field and grab interceptions. Deon Grant plays at exactly the level he's played his entire career. Jordan Babineaux proves potent by alternative, showing Seahawks fans the impact and usefulness of a league average safety.

A good pass offense, a good rush offense, a very good pass defense and a dominant rush defense.

Broncos are blown out by the Raiders, twice.

Seattle Seahawks 12-4 or Better

Matt Hasselbeck is effective and healthy. He defies age and joins the older but elite quarterbacks. Walter Jones and Chris Spencer return in week two, work into form and dominate after the bye. The offensive line is a happy surprise, and if rarely flashy, incredibly-steady pass blocking and able to cut and stretch opponents into dust. Julius Jones enjoys a late-career peak and becomes more and more a feature back as the season progresses. He executes as a rusher and turns tight-spot receptions into first downs and long gains. Deion Branch is healthy, Nate Burleson develops, John Carlson breaks out, Deon Butler flashes legitimate talent and T.J. Houshmandzadeh holds his ability. Seattle is five deep at wide receiver, Ben Obomanu is ignored by opponents and thus D.J.-Hackett valuable per target. The passing offense is top five.

A healthy wide receiver corps allows Nate Burleson to return and he combined with Josh Wilson gives Seattle a top five kick and punt return team. Seattle's deep and young defense flashes its potential on return teams and what could be weakness turns into a strength. Olindo Mare buries opponents at their twenty and Jon Ryan defies odds and turns into a coffin corner undertaker.

Aaron Curry is a monster. He nears double digit sacks, smothers rushers behind the line and proves to be a Lance Briggs-like pass defender. Leroy Hill and Lofa Tatupu show steady gains on their 2007 season and each make the Pro Bowl. Ken Lucas returns to form and Josh Wilson develops. Neither is great in coverage, but both can work a zone, limit yards after catch, tackle in the open field and grab interceptions. Marcus Trufant returns and Seattle has the best nickel defense in the NFL. Third downs become an exciting time for fans, as the mix of creative play calling, bad opponent down and distance, good pass rush and an exceptional nickel secondary combine to make Seattle one of the best third down defenses in the NFL.

A great pass offense, very good rush offense, dominant pass defense and dominant rush defense combine with an excellent special teams to make Seattle a Super Bowl contender.

Broncos fans envy Raiders fans. Kyle Orton craters. The locker room abandons Josh McDaniels. The defense, a minor strength to start the season, is first hit by injuries and then quits on the team. Losses pile up and the only story is: Will Denver become the second team in as many years to go winless? It will.