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Seahawks Season Preview: The Offense

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With the regular season about to get underway, every single NFL writer is doing his "So-and-So Team Preview" article, --beat reporters and bloggers alike. I thought I'd do something different. Just kidding. I couldn't think of anything different to do. So here's my version of a Seahawks Season Preview. It's all about your subjective point of view in the writing game, isn't it? 

The Seahawks have settled on a 53-man roster for the time being and right now the offense comprises 26 players. They are:

QB: Tarvaris Jackson, Charlie Whitehurst, Josh Portis
RB: Marshawn Lynch, Leon Washington, Justin Forsett
QB: Michael Robinson
WR: Sidney Rice, Mike Williams, Ben Obomanu, Golden Tate, Kris Durham, Doug Baldwin
TE: Zach Miller, Anthony McCoy, Dominique Byrd
LT: Russell Okung, Tyler Polumbus
LG: Robert Gallery, Paul McQuistan
C:   Max Unger, Lemuel Jeanpierre
RG: John Moffitt
RT: James Carpenter, Breno GiacominiJarriel King

Roster Surprises: 

First off, it's a surprise that four undrafted free agents made this team's initial roster. There were a lot of NFL clubs out there that kept zero undrafted free agents. Doug Baldwin, Jarriel King, and Josh Portis are the three represented on the offense.

Baldwin may be a guy that gets a lot of playing time this season. He's a sure-handed slot receiver that can return punts and kicks. He'll sit behind Ben Obomanu and Golden Tate until one or both of them start to play badly or face an injury but he runs crisp routes and seems to catch pretty much everything thrown his way. It's amazing how those two things can be so utterly elusive to some NFL receivers. Regardless, he's been solid, not spectacular, in the preseason, and could find himself getting snaps. Pete Carroll mentioned something yesterday on KJR along the lines that he'd be seeing action on some third down sets to start out. 

Portis is a long-term developmental project. He was a vagabond in high school and college so the Seahawks will try to give him some stability. Making the 53-man roster is a good start. He's fleet afoot and throws a pretty good-looking ball. He showed some promise in 4 preseason games and apparently it was enough to give him a highly valuable spot on the team.

Jarriel King is an undrafted free agent out of South Carolina that signed with the New York Giants once free agency started. He is a physical specimen that has had some off-field issues, but overall has a lot of potential. When you search the Field Gulls picture database for photos of King you get five photos and two of those five give you a glimpse of the 'nasty' that he might bring to the Seahawks organization (though perhaps picking fights with veteran leaders of your team (Justin Tuck, giving King a talking to) might be ill advised and a reason he was let go... I dunno).


Moving on. Dominique Byrd is somewhat a surprise. I doubt many would have guessed at the end of last year that Byrd would make the team, and after the Hawks went out and got Zach Miller in free agency, his chances looked even bleaker. But, alas, John Carlson and Cameron Morrah's injuries opened up an opportunity for The Byrdman to buy himself another chance in the NFL. He has looked excellent in the preseason, and showed in camp that he seems to have a nose for the endzone. Byrd caught 7 passes for 85 yards and a TD in three games of preseason action and could figure into the Seahawks tight end-heavy passing game. 

Past that, Paul McQuistan and Lemuel Jeanpierre are surprising a bit because they're both relatively obscure and have bounced around the NFL, but the line needs depth and these guys are apparently the best of the lower echelon. 

Key Additions (and my expectations for them):

The Seahawks key additions are, um, let's see... Of the probable starters for game one on Sunday, only two were around a year ago: Mike Williams and Max Unger. Two out of eleven were starting one year ago when the Seahawks opened against the 49ers and one of them went on IR a few days later. So more like one out of eleven. So who are the key additions... pretty much everybody? 

Really, Tarvaris Jackson is the main guy to watch because he plays the most important position. If he falters badly, the team will struggle (duh). If he plays middling, well, that's pretty much what they're expecting him to do, so that's what I'm hoping for. If he can limit turnovers and get the ball to other new additions Sidney Rice and Zach Miller, the Seahawks offense will hopefully improve from last year.

Glowing review huh? Well, the bottom line is that I have very tempered expectations for this offense. Obviously, on paper, the Seahawks got better (and I think will continue to get better and one day be very good... just not yet). Combining Russell Okung, Robert Gallery, Max Unger, John Moffitt, and James Carpenter on a line together makes a man feel good inside. Until that man sees them play together after a lockout shortened offseason and then a little while later he realizes that large men hitting each other with a great amount of physical force can often result in injuries. 

This inexperience playing together coupled with inescapable injuries means the Seahawks won't likely win the rushing title this year and will probably give up a lot of sacks. That means their passing game will not be as good as we're all hoping, even with the Twin Towers (Mike Williams and Sidney Rice) running routes with Zach Miller and Anthony McCoy. 

Here's the problem -- and this was pointed out by Greg Cosell in a fantasy football podcast that Beekers forwarded to me recently (and I'm paraphrasing): Tarvaris Jackson has a mandate, from Pete Carroll, to avoid turnovers. This means that he's a little more gun-shy about throwing the quick pass and chucking it up downfield (this also might be more in his nature anyway). Because the Seahawks will likely face a lot of pressure from the defense due to poor line protection, Tarvaris Jackson won't have a lot of time to throw the ball and because he's gun shy about letting it rip downfield he's going to get sacked a lot or hit his hot read in the flats constantly.

In addition to this, the Hawks top two receivers, Rice and Williams, aren't elite at getting separation and so require a quarterback to thread the needle a little more. This will further hinder Jackson's ability to make quick throws into tight coverage. All this means  that yards per attempt will be low. Sidney Rice and Mike Williams probably won't have huge years. I'm a huge Debbie Downer.

The good news is that despite all this, I'm still very optimistic about where this team is going! Sidney Rice, Mike Williams, Golden Tate, Kris Durham, Doug Baldwin..., hell even Ben Obomanu isn't that old yet. Zach Miller, Anthony McCoy, Leon Washington, -- all these guys are young playmakers and all have tons of potential. There's some talent on the offensive line and by and large they're pretty young.

It's cliche to say that it all starts on the lines so I won't. I think in reality the Seahawks offensive issues are going to stem from a combination of bad offensive line play coupled with bad quarterback play (duh). It won't be all on Jackson and it won't be all because the line can't protect long enough.

I'm pretty certain that the offensive line play will improve throughout the year and exponentially over the next few years with the nucleus we've started assembling. The quarterback position, well, I'm not as optimistic about, but my opinion on this doesn't mean it's out of the realm of possibility for Tarvaris Jackson to thrive here. If he can find his groove in the offense and get comfortable making quick throws and quick decisions, he certainly has the weapons to succeed. My guess is that eventually, he'll settle in and start making some plays but I don't see this offense scoring a ton of points, at least not early in the season.

The Running Backs:

I like our backfield. Marshawn Lynch is a power-back in a mid-sized back's body. I'm interested to see how he fares this season with a new line. Lynch has his detractors but I'm not one of them -- he breaks tackles and is always moving forward. If he can cut down on fumbles this year he'll be a very solid option as a 'feature' back. 

Leon Washington -- I'll talk about him more in a little bit. Justin Forsett: I like this guy. He's extremely short. The linebackers can't see him when he gets the ball and all of a sudden he's four or five yards downfield. He's good at catching passes out of the backfield and he's sturdy. He's a good change-of-pace, third down back, and he's cheap. 

Michael Robinson: I like MikeRob. He provides something the Seahawks don't have a lot of and that's leadership. He's a college quarterback that converted to fullback. That's weird. But he's versatile, and the Seahawks love that trait. The jury is out on whether he's a very good lead blocker so I'll be watching this closely in 2011, but overall I think Robinson plays a key role on the team.

The Receivers: 

Like the running back group, I'm pretty optimistic about the Seahawks receivers. Injuries and injury concerns aside (because injuries happen to every team), the Seahawks depth at the position looks pretty good. When Mike Williams, Sidney Rice, and Ben Obomanu were hurt for pretty much the whole preseason, we got to see guys like Golden Tate, Kris Durham, and Doug Baldwin hold their own. Even if Williams, Rice and Obomanu stay hurt for an extended period of time, the group is young and talented, with a lot of future upside. I wouldn't have said the same about Brandon Stokley, Deion Branch, Ruvell Martin, TJ Houshmenzadeh, or even Deon Butler- players that seemed to be at the apex of their abilities (as for Deon Butler, his physical limitations made me think his upside wasn't very high).  

The Tight Ends:

I like all three of our tight ends a lot. They will all be used a lot. They will be used together as well. That's all I have to say about that.

The Offensive Line: 

I'm not really worried about our offensive line, though I probably should be based on their preseason performance. I think with a little more gameplanning and better execution, things won't look as dire.

It will be interesting to see if they decide to move James Carpenter to the left guard position. Backup right tackle Breno Giacomini would get his shot at a starting gig. If this move happened, it's unclear where Robert Gallery would play. John Moffitt has been pretty alright so far in the preseason. Max Unger has been mostly under the radar. Russell Okung needs to stop being hurt all the time. Tyler Polumbus is a good swing tackle but can also play guard.

If you're confused by my writing it's because the Seahawks offensive line is pretty up in the air right now and versatility is king. I feel like continuity is going to be elusive this season, but that's ultimately the goal. If they can sacrifice that continuity a little this year to get a read on where each player is best suited, then so be it.

The Quarterbacks:

I'm going to keep it short here: I'm willing to give Tarvaris Jackson the benefit of the doubt and hope he can find a groove in this offense. I am confident that if he can't, Charlie Whitehurt could step in and play that middling game-manager quarterback role for the Seahawks. We'll see, I guess. Neither is a game-changer but I have to think that they're both more of rentals than the long term solution.

Possible Breakout Players:

I love Anthony McCoy. Yeah yeah, he drops some passes once in a while. But he's also 6'5, 260, is solid in the passing game and can block well on the line (in the preseason, anyway). We haven't had a tight end like that in a while (naw, Chris Baker doesn't count). This kind of legitimate dual threat type of player has the potential to work really, really well with Zach Miller in two tight end sets. Imagine you're the defense. Imagine trying to figure out whether it will be Zach Miller or Anthony McCoy releasing off the line to catch passes or stay in to run-block. Then imagine yourself getting burned for a touchdown whilst you're still trying to figure out whether it's going to be a pass or a run. 

We've talked about Golden Tate a lot. He's very talented. Hasn't proven that on the field yet. That's where I'll leave it here. I'm rooting for him.

Leon Washington. I think Leon Washington is going to have a good year. And I'm not talking about a shitty Russell Crowe movie where he hangs out on a vineyard or something. I'm talking about Leon becoming the Seahawks most dynamic and explosive running back. I really hate to put numbers on anything, especially considering how poorly the first-team offense played in the preseason, but I think Washington has the potential to be the Seahawks most effective back. He's a three tool guy -- he can run between the tackles, he can bounce it outside, and he is good in the passing attack. Make it four, he's decent at returning kicks too. Mostly I'm excited to see him in the run game though. 

That's all I got on the offense. I'll follow up with the defense tomorrow y'all. Thoughts? Was I too harsh?