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Answers for my Field Gulls brethren - a brief reflection of the 2012 Season

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Field Guller jwilde29 recently posted a fanpost that I thought was a good guide in reflection upon the year that was 2012. I thought I should post my answers separately, because there is definitely a lot to say about the Seahawks' season.

1) Taking your preseason expectations of this team, and I know you all had your schedules marked, how much of a success was the season?

I will admit that I was not optimistic about this team, only putting them at the 7-to-10 win range and only making the playoffs due to luck (i.e. a weak conference or division). You have to remember that even though the team was particularly dominant during the second half, they were still very vulnerable in defending and attacking with the passing game - and being one dimensional can get you nowhere in the NFL.

Add to a quite difficult schedule (Packers, Panthers, Patriots, Lions, Bears) and I was pretty much set on another 2011-esque year of development. So, I would regard this year as successful - not because they made the playoffs, but because they had two years worth of growth packed into one year. Russell Wilson definitely solidified the passing game, Marshawn and the O-Line continued in their excellence from last year, Richard Sherman and the secondary justified/confirmed their glimpses of promise from the year prior. A good way to put it is to say that this team looked like the 2002 Seahawks in preseason, but played like the 2003 team.

2) Rhetorical, but how fucking awesome is Russell Wilson? I mean seriously you guys, I have never been this stoked about a QB. I love that man. I love him like I like it when my woman wakes me up with fresh brewed, french pressed coffee (actually way more than that, but she'll probably read this).

He's pretty good, but I wouldn't make such bold statements about him just yet. As good as his year may have been, it's still just one year - and history has shown us plenty of one-year wonders, especially with QBs. Russell may not have hit a rookie wall just yet, but the sophomore slump can still happen - especially if the FO stalls on upgrading his weapons or protection. Still, his work ethic combined with his natural ability gives him great odds to succeed next year.

3) Did the Falcons game show you how much fight and power we have in our team, or was it as big a let down as possible?

I definitely think it's the latter. The 2011 season was pretty much finding that 'never give up' mentality and resetting it into the team philosophy, so I wasn't surprised that the Seahawks could comeback 20-0 (ironically, they had a similar situation last year at Qwest against the Falcons). The letdown part definitely revolves more around the defense and their inability to stop the game-winning drive. Keep in mind that Atlanta was not the first to exploit this - Detroit, Miami and to an extent, Chicago all came around for the game-winner after Russell and Co. had executed the go ahead score. It isn't as frustrating to be beaten late, but to be beaten late many, many times by the same thing.

4) Who do we now think are some of our "primetime" players? Zach Miller with his huge game? Earl with his two interceptions in the two playoff games? Anyone else who you think stepped it up? (Obviously Russell but that's like saying 1+1 =2. We all know it's true without checking):

For the season in general, there were definitely players that developed into "primetime." Miller, as you mentioned ~ particularly because the run blocking is solidified and he's the target for many of Russell's hot routes. Golden Tate finally broke through and secured himself as a "excitement" player, or somebody you want the ball given to on a first or second down, just to see what he does in the open field.

Defensively, I think Earl definitely stepped up as a result of a game-clincher, and his late INTs weren't exactly new this year (see: SD, 2010). If I had to choose a darkhorse for this category, it would be Jason Jones, who definitely provided support for both Chris Clemons and Bruce Irvin for pass rush and a huge factor in our stellar play.

5) Is our slow start to many games this season due to being unprepared or other teams scripting well against us before we can adjust? Or any other reason we might have for starting out so many games so slow?

A lot of this might be Pete's coaching mindset in general. I think being as a defensive coach people may label as conservative, but his philosophy was pretty much been bend but don't break. This might be going off on a tagent here, but Pete might be willing to not show his hand in the early quarters. An earlier post I wrote earlier showed how the most complex and inventive schemes are played late, when the game counts. By trying not to show too much, Pete can also have a lot more evidence to make correct adjustments in the 2nd half.

6) How much fun did you guys have this season? I could write tons about this, but I'll leave it up to you guys.

A lot of fun. Definitely my most memorable season since the 2005 Super Bowl run.

7) Did the loss of Chris Clemons have a big impact of the Falcons game? How integral is he to our defensive success?

He does have a lot to do with it, as Irvin wasn't fully ready to play full-time LEO just yet. Running game wise, a lot of people don't give enough credit for Clemons on the outside. He sets the edge very effectively which forces the backs to bounce in and out. This is why there isn't much stagnation between the run defense in defending the strong side (where Red usually plays) and the weak one.

Now, his involvement in the passing game is a different question. Obviously the pass rush has been lacking since Jones went down, so I wouldn't say he's the only reason why it was a non-factor. But Clemons is one of the best at rushing the passer, and it was the combination of him, Irvin, Jones and Mebane/Scruggs that makes the unit looked formidable.

8) How did Bruce Irvin fit into your expectations? Just looking at this one season.

He did about as well as expected. Keep in mind that while he may be misjudged in terms of potential, the draft concerns regarding his raw ability and lack of technical knowledge were real. Just looking from a glance at the film, Irvin has now utilized more pass rushing techniques instead of only having a bullrush like he did in college. I still believe that he's a liability in terms of the running game, however.

9) How much consideration should Bobby Wagner get for Defensive Rookie of the Year? His stats are god darn impressive, but how big was his impact on the actual defense?

Tackles made is one of the most misleading stats for a linebacker, especially for a middle linebacker, so as impressive as it may be, there are more valid reasons as to why he should be a DROY candidate. For example, his speed is impeccable in stopping play-action and outside runs, which was something that the Seahawks missed with David Hawthorne or Lofa Tatupu. The other key thing is that Wagner rarely missed, which given his "small" stature, just showcases his fundamental skills as a tackler.

10) Did Earl Thomas show enough improvement for everyone to consider him elite now?

What, you didn't think Thomas was elite before?

11) How much of a concern is Marshawn's fumbles? I know he doesn't have much of a history with them since he's been a Seahawk, but it is worth bringing up.

Not much of a concern. For the Redskins one - a helmet to the ball would always force a fumble, no matter who is carrying it. And as crazy and whacky as Lynch runs, he only averages 1 fumble for every 76 carries.

12) Do you now trust Golden Tate and Sidney Rice to be our top two receivers? Also Mr. Baldwin, he was amazing last year but had a lot to get through this year. He just didn't seem to have that same "POP" he did last year.

Not really, actually. I think Tate and Rice have shown enough ability this season to warrant a discussion the top two receivers, but in my mind they haven't reach their full potential yet. Most of Tate's routes, for example, are quick slants inside or deep routes when he's best in the open space. Rice was also mainly the third down man and but I have yet to see him play like he did in Minnesota. Baldwin was hampered by injury throughout the season and you can definitely see some of the "pop" return late in the playoffs.

13) How do you feel about our offensive line? Have we finally gotten to where we want to be or should we replace someone? I know you can always improve but do you feel good about the players in there?

Run blocking wise this O-Line is dominant. Pass blocking wise it's still below par. Russell Okung and Max Unger solidified themselves as core pieces, but the other three spots could still benefit from competition. In his time at LG I thought James Carpenter showed some of the mean streak and toughness that made him a first round pick, but he has to get healthy. RG also has some depth between Moffitt and Sweezy, but none of them are really good pass blockers. Breno, on RT, is extremely inconsistent in holding up the right side - some plays he'll neutralize the rusher, other plays he's like a open door. I do think that as of now the line is working and don't mind replacements, but I would bring in another tackle or guard late in the draft to challenge the last two spots.

14) If we could replace any single position on our team, who would you replace, if they could be replaced with a quality player. I have a feeling many of us would point to Leroy Hill, but if that's your answer, give me another one in addition to him.

Marcus Trufant or whoever is playing in the slot. That position is, to me, the only weakness in our defense when we're healthy.

15) Is the team's amazing rebuilding process due to Schneider or Carroll? I know they're on the same page for the most part, but the question would be more of a, "is it good players or a good scheme?" type of question.

I think it's both. Naturally it's a collaborative relationship so both parties have to take credit, although Carroll does have to final say in the roster. A good analogy would be that Pete makes the schemes, Schneider finds the players for the schemes, and the players execute said scheme. When both parties (PC/JS) are doing well, then success will be there.

16) What happened to our undoubtedly elite D in the games where we lost in the final seconds because we couldn't stop the other team at the end of the game?

Two of the biggest factors in my opinion would be 1) a lack of pass rush and 2) inexperience. The pass rush we already covered with the absence of Clemons and Jones. The inexperience, however, was pretty evident since the late years. I thought Bobby Wagner hit the rookie wall and blew some coverages that led to the middle being wide open. Winston Guy was mainly in charge of guarding Tony Gonzalez. Whatever label that this team was "elite" - it definitely rebounded late in the season.

17) Who is your favorite Seahawk?

Big Walter Jones for all time. Currently though it's Russell Wilson. Because, of course he is.

18) What player do you most want us to draft this offseason? (within possibility)?

I'll explain more later, but a good 1-2-3-4-5 would be Zach Ertz, Markus Wheaton, Datone Jones, Tyrann Mathieu and Brandon Jenkins.

19) Why are you a Seahawks fan when there are 31 other teams to root for? This one I have particular interest in, I don't have a great answer, but I have been a diehard Seattle sports fan for longer then I can remember.

I wrote about this sometime last year, and my story could be read here.

20) Is Richard Sherman now the best shutdown corner in the NFL?

Definitely in consideration, but he hasn't been as consistent as Darrelle Revis just yet.

21) What are we lacking to become the best team in the NFC or all of football?

A slot corner, depth, pass rushers and experience. In that order.

22) What is expected of us next year, now that we have proven we are one of the best in our conference?

I can't say anything record-wise because neither the schedule or roster for next year is finalized yet, but the mentality is definitely Super Bowl or bust.

23) Seriously you guys, how fucking amazing is Russell Wilson? I wish I had a better vocabulary just so I could tell you guys how amazing he is.

Me too.

Go Hawks.