Every season, I start out with a handful of open questions that fuel my interest in how the team develops in the coming months. Only time will tell, but part of the fun of the NFL is in seeing the questions you think are so important find answers, some of which you won't like. Or, they end up taking a back seat to something totally unanticipated. Last season prior to week one I was all, "How will teams even begin to cope with Seattle's screen game, which will clearly be the best since the Greatest Show on Turf Era?" So, um. Yeah.
My questions for 2015:
1. Whither Kam? That is the most pressing question facing the entire team. Resisting the temptation in football talk to turn everything into a morality play of good guys and bad guys, it's hard to see Kam's play.
Field Gulls on Facebook
Field Gulls on Facebook
The notion that money = respect always has truth in it, but the notion obscures as much as it provides insight. I thought initially that Kam's play was as the new Walter Jones, a player who took time back (i.e., missing training camp) for money. But as Kam's holdout goes on into the first week, I fear something deeper is at play.
Two essentially benign actors are motivated by different forces that don't allow much room for compromise under these specific circumstances. Consequently, they seem locked in a kind of death spiral. I don't see how Kam doesn't lose, which means the Seahawks also lose.
2. How does Wilson develop the "little things"? Wilson has weapons now, the type to run Darrell Bevell's offense for real. Theoretically this team has answers for whatever the defense does. They can use the short passing game as an extension of the running game, like they sought to do with Percy Harvin. Exit Percy. Enter Jimmy. And, Lockett. But, Wilson may find himself with more on his plate. Some of it won't play to his current strengths, calling out line protections for instance. He was hardly bad in 2014, but I felt like he plateaued a bit. His room to grow is mostly in the "little things" area. Does he have another growth spurt, or is this the best of him?
3. Speaking of offense lines... The range of outcomes for this offensive line is enormous. What will it's "true" value end up being? Moving Britt off RT was probably good for everyone's nerves, and Gilliam has looked good in his stead. But, starting the season on the road at St. Louis is baptism in a vat of acid. (The goggles do nothing!)
So I won't overreact if/when things looks downright abysmal. The offensive line has traditionally been slow starting as a unit. It generally takes about five games before we have a good read. However, this group may be a boom-and-bust unit that takes a little longer to settle into consistency. Or, it may never reach consistency. Heaven forbid any serious injuries to this thin and inexperienced group.
That said, I'm with Hawkblogger on this one. I am a believer. The upside for this line is as high as we've seen. The improvement through the pre-season, though built from an admittedly low baseline performance, was real. And, this looks like it could easily be the best pass blocking group of the Cable era. We'll just have to see if/when it comes together.
4. What happens when Fred Jackson is the lead back? I have my concerns about the backfield. Admittedly, those concerns aren't really any different had the team retained Turbin and Michael. Lynch is a warrior from Mt. Olympus who cares not for the concerns of mere mortals, and all that.
Hyperbole aside though, he is at the stage of his career where a slight muscle strain can be a major problem. The team must be cautious about his touches. I love the Fred Jackson move, as long as everybody stays healthy. I get concerned if Lynch pulls up lame or rolls an ankle and needs to miss a few weeks. How does the gameplan change around Jackon and Rawls/Smith?
5. How well will this staff (the new position coaches) teach? This is a question I've not heard raised much by the media. I think most of us take for granted the very thing that makes this staff so special. My bias as a life long educator is showing, but teaching people isn't easy. This staff has been exceptional at it, especially Ken Norton, Jr. Kris Richard is not a concern for me.
Time will tell how well he works out, but he's not new to this. We have a lot of new faces among the position coaches, some whom have limited history with Carroll (iirc). That worked out well with Dan Quinn; not so well with Jed Fisch. All staffs transition, and we should expect more of it as long as Seattle is winning. But for a staff that places such heavy emphasis on teaching and skill-building--an emphasis I believe is an outlier in the NFL--I am anxious to see how well the new additions will perform. Of course, short of someone getting fired or having responsibilities shifted we likely will never really know.