The 2011 NFL season for the Seattle Seahawks has come to a close. Although they ended up with the same 7-9 record as last season, progress has definitely been made in the Pete Carroll regime. Looking back, how did we fare this season and what’s next? Let’s take a brief position-by-position look.
An argument could be made that the quarterback position during 2011 was a mess. Tarvaris Jackson threw for 3,091 yards (20th among quarterbacks), along with 14 TD’s (22nd) and 13 INT’s (17th), hardly impressive numbers. Charlie Whitehurst started one game, and showed he’s clearly not the quarterback of the future.
I didn’t give the quarterback position an F because Tarvaris Jackson was never asked to put up Drew Brees-like numbers. Although his numbers were not impressive, Jackson was mainly asked to be a “game manager” to back the running of Marshawn Lynch, and he did that in most games this year.
Tarvaris Jackson has one year remaining on his contract 2-year, $8 million contract. Expect him to be back and competing for the starting gig next year; if anything, he would be an excellent back-up quarterback. Charlie Whitehurst is a free-agent and is likely gone. Josh Portis is a developmental player.
This April, the Seattle Seahawks hold either the 11th or 12th overall pick in the first round (pending a tie-breaker with Kansas City) and may decide to select a quarterback. Keep your eyes peeled this offseason for Seattle to possibly add a quarterback to compete with Tarvaris Jackson.
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Perhaps the most memorable part of the 2011 season was the violent “Beast Mode” running of Marshawn Lynch. At the start of the season, many thought that his time as an “elite” runningback was over; that changed during the game against Dallas. Since that week, he has been the leading rusher in the NFL. The identity of the offense has been built around Lynch, skittles and all. Justin Forsett and Leon Washington were good situational backs, and Michael Robinson made it as a pro-bowl alternate. If only they were able to run the ball like this for the entire season.
Marshawn Lynch is a free-agent, and he needs to be re-signed immediately. He has become the focal point of the offense, and has carried the team on his back multiple times this season. Michael Robinson and Justin Forsett are also free agents to consider re-signing.
Wide Receiver: B
The wide-receiving crew ran hot-and-cold this year, dominant one moment and then non-existent the next. This was probably due to inconsistencies at the quarterback position, and the youth/relative inexperience of the receivers. The wide receiver position, however, is loaded with talent, potential, and youth. The oldest wide-receivers are Ben Obomanu (28) and Mike Williams (27); all other receivers are 25 years of age or younger.
There are no free agents among these wide receivers. Over the course of an entire offseason, hopefully these young receivers can develop into the true weapons they can be. Hopefully Sidney Rice can live up to the lucrative contract he signed last offseason. With game-breakers in Rice and Golden Tate, speed-demons in Ricardo Lockette and Deon Butler, lengthy receivers in Williams and Kris Durham, and dependable receivers in Obomanu and Doug Baldwin, this could turn into a deadly receiving core.
Tight End: B
The tight ends, for the most part, did what they were assigned to do: block. With the amount of inexperience on the offensive line, Zach Miller and the other tight ends were often asked to chip and help block opposing defenders. When asked to catch the ball, they usually delivered. Hopefully next year, Zach Miller will be able to do more of what he was brought in to do: catch passes on third down and in the red zone.
Miller, Cameron Morrah, and Anthony McCoy look to be returning. John Carlson is a free agent. The most ideal plan would be to re-sign Carlson to pair him with Miller. Doing so would give the team a potent group of tight ends as well.
Offensive Line: C
For the fourth consecutive year, the injuries would not stop piling on for the offensive line. Robert Gallery, the only true veteran on the line, was the first to go down before later returning. The team would then go on to lose three starters in Russell Okung, John Moffit, and James Carpenter for the season. Their replacements did surprisingly well, as there was not much of a drop off in productivity in the run game. However, the pass protection this season was horrendous, allowing the 4th most sacks in the league (50).
The five original starters on the team all have great potential, but need a lot more time to create continuity. With time we could have a great offensive line on our hands, with a mean streak as well. The team has also found valuable backups in Paul McQuistan, Breno Giacomini, and Lemuel Jeanpierre. McQuistan and Giacomini are free agents this offseason.
The trio of David Hawthorne-Leroy Hill-K.J. Wright was what the 2009 trio of Lofa Tatupu-Leroy Hill-Aaron Curry were not: a group of elite starting linebackers. These three made plays all over the field. Hawthorne was a tremendous presence at middle linebacker. Leroy Hill’s bounce-back to his rookie form was a pleasant surprise, and K.J. Wright came out of nowhere to replace Aaron Curry.
David Hawthorne and Leroy Hill are both free agents this offseason; both should be off-season priorities for the front office. If Hawthorne does not return, Wright will likely take his spot at middle linebacker. Expect some quality depth to be added via the draft or free agency as well.
Defensive end: B-
Chris Clemons and Red Bryant were tremendous this season. Both were outstanding in stopping the run, and Clemons became the first Seahawks player in a long time to have back-to-back double-digit sack seasons. But aside from these two players, no other defensive ends were relevant; the team could never seem to get a consistent pass rush from their defensive ends.
Red Bryant is a free agent; it is imperative that the Seahawks get him re-signed. An extension for Chris Clemons could also be in the works. Beyond these two players, there is not much left at the position. Expect pass-rushing defensive ends to be added this offseason. Defensive end is another position (aside from quarterback) that the Seahawks could be considering with the 11th or 12th pick during April’s NFL draft.
Defensive Tackle: A
Brandon Mebane and Alan Branch were outstanding at stuffing the run, taking on double teams and allowing the linebackers to do their jobs. Anthony Hargrove was surprisingly productive in rushing the passer, and Clinton McDonald proved his worth after being traded from Cincinnati for Kelly Jennings.
The starters look set for next season in Mebane and Branch. Depth behind them will likely be added. It’s important to note that Anthony Hargrove is also a free agent.
Say hello to one of the most penalized NFL secondaries, due to big hits from Kam Chancellor or pass interference on Brandon Browner/Richard Sherman. At the same time, say hello to the youngest and one of the most talented secondaries in the NFL. As a group, they led the defense in finishing 4th in the NFL in interceptions (22).
In just one season, Brandon Browner made a name for himself. He led the league in pass deflections (29); for comparison, second and third in the league were All-Pro cornerbacks Tramon Williams (26) and Darrelle Revis (25), respectively. He was also second in interceptions (6), second in interception return yards (220), and tied for most defensive touchdowns (2). He has been voted as a pro-bowl alternate as a result of all these impressive accomplishments.
Despite only starting 10 games, Richard Sherman is 9th in the NFL in pass deflections and has 4 interceptions. Kam Chancellor’s hard hitting identity has spread to the entire defense. Earl Thomas’ overall play was good enough to warrant a starting pro-bowl spot. This is truly a talented secondary.
Marcus Trufant is a free agent; but his value has diminished with the outstanding play of Browner and Sherman. Don’t forget, Walter Thurmond III is another talented cornerback that will vie for a starting spot next year, so Trufant will likely be done in Seattle. At safety, our starters are set for many years to come in Thomas and Chancellor. Atari Bigby is a free agent, so expect some depth to be added at safety as well.
Special Teams: B+
Special teams play was solid but not spectacular this season. Leon Washington was given a lucrative deal as a primary kick/punt returner, but did not score a single TD this season on special teams. Special teams coverage was spotty from week to week. Steven Hauschka and Jon Ryan were impressive all season long. Ryan should have made it to the pro-bowl as a starter after leading the league in punts downed inside the 20-yard line (34), but will have to settle as a third alternate for the NFC.
Things to hope for next year are Jon Ryan and Steven Hauschka staying consistent, Leon Washington being able to break open a couple of TD’s next year, and for special teams coverage to improve.