Football fans, these truly are the long days of summer. After what was a loooooooong season last year and an even LONGER offseason, training camp is days away. Rookies report to the VMAC in Renton on Thursday, July 30 and veterans report the following day.
With Seahawks coaches, players and fans alike all itching to get the sour taste out of their mouths from the injury plagued 4-12 season from last year, here are 10 questions, many of which I’ll write about in greater detail throughout the preseason, that need to be answered in order for the Seahawks to reclaim the NFC West crown:
1. Can the ‘Hawks stay healthy?
Injuries absolutely decimated the Seahawks’ roster last year. With an aging roster, injuries tend to be more prevalent, but last year was just downright crazy. Matt Hasselbeck told Clare Farnsworth of Seahawks.com that his back is fine and reports about the other injured Seahawks are positive. I think the Seahawks should be okay in the injury department this year…the key word here is SHOULD. The most important player to the team is Hasselbeck. If for any reason he misses time, get ready for another NFC West- dwelling season.
2. Is Hasselbeck past his prime?
A lot of Seahawks fans have already given up on the 33-year-old gunslinger. Mark Sanchez was the talk of Seahawks Nation for an extended period of time leading up to April’s draft. Although I really think that the team needs to draft Hasselbeck’s successor after this season, I truly believe that #8 still has a lot left in him, which would provide just enough time for him to mentor his eventual replacement. Expect Hasselbeck to surprise many locally as well as nationally this season thanks to a revitalized wide receiver corps and what could be an improved ground game. About 3500 passing yards and 20-25 passing TDs is not farfetched.
3. Do the Seahawks have a running back that can emerge from out of the pack?
I loved the idea of Julius Jones coming into last season and boy did the Notre Dame product have a good two-week span of play in weeks two and three. I thought he was the answer. Mike Holmgren didn’t though. Jones lost carries and the running game never became productive.
Enter Gregg Knapp
Knapp is known for his zone blocking and one-cut running game schemes. He dominated defenses for years with his ground attacks in Atlanta. Last year he made the Oakland Raiders, yes…those Oakland Raiders, actually relevant offensively by coaching the team to a 10TH place ranking in the league for rushing.
Both Jones and T.J. Duckett are one-cut backs and I really think they can be a “Thunder and Lightning” style combo. I really do still love Jones as a feature back. If given enough carries to get a feel for opposing defenses, I really don’t see why Jones can’t be a 1000-yard rusher. He’s fast, he has good ball handling abilities and he fits Knapp’s scheme. Plus, factor in an improved passing attack and one finds himself asking, “Why can’t he succeed?” If you’re looking for TDs out of him, you’ll probably be disappointed. I see those going to Duckett.
4. Will the defense bounce back?
Ready for a one word answer?
A lot of factors played into why the Seahawks’ defense stunk up the joint last season. Injuries on both side of the ball were the main factors.
Defensively, when you lose a physical presence like Patrick Kearney, you lose a lot of your ability to disrupt the passing game and alter an offense’s rushing game plan. Because of this, you get others trying to play outside of their usual defensive roles. This causes more confusion, blown assignments and way too many big plays given up.
Injuries on the offensive side of the ball also hurt the team’s defense. Crazy? Not at all. If an offense can’t sustain series, the defensive unit will wear down quickly from constantly having to take the field. This is what happened last year. A healthier offense will mean a more productive offense, thus giving their defensive teammates time to rest and make any adjustments to their game plan.
New players will also be integral to shoring up the defensive unit. Look for Aaron Curry and the return of Ken Lucas to provide a lot of help in turning things around.
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