After two straight losing seasons, the National Football League’s schedule makers gave the Seattle Seahawks a present in 2010.
The 2010 slate features five teams that were below .500 compared to just three that made it to the playoffs. Collectively, Seattle’s opponents went 116-140 last year.
In this edition of SeahawksGab’s preseason preview, Editor Devon Heinen begins a four-part series looking at Seattle’s 2010 schedule.
WEEK ONE: San Francisco at Seahawks
(Last year’s record and finish for SF: 8-8, second place in NFC West)
Last year the 49ers had an identity crisis.
While knowing who they were defensively, a blue-collar, smash-mouth unit, it was the team’s offense that changed nearly by the week. The team went through two quarterbacks and multiple philosophies for when it had the ball. From time-to-time, running back Frank Gore was the focal point as San Francisco tried to run the ball down opposing defenses’ throats. Other times, the 49ers took the look of a college team by breaking out the shotgun spread offense.
The main problem with San Francisco was its offensive line. Not being able to hold up against pressure, the 49ers had to abandon the run and drop quarterback Alex Smith back with the shotgun just so the young signal caller could have enough time to get rid of the ball.
The team looks to have fixed their offensive line woes by spending two first-round picks on the position, getting tackle Anthony Davis from Rutgers and guard Mike Iupati.
With an improved offensive line, Smith should have more time to throw to big-play threats Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree. The bolstered line will also allow the team to run the ball more effectively, which, in turn, will also help the team’s passing game.
Look for San Francisco to be the frontrunner of the division.
**Result: San Francisco beats Seattle**
WEEK TWO: Seahawks at Denver
(Last year’s record and finish for DEN: 8-8, second place in AFC West)
For the first half of last season, Denver was America’s surprise team. For that matter, Denver was America’s surprise team for the second half as well. Going 6-2 to start the 2009 campaign, nobody could have foretold the apocalypse that was the Broncos’ final eight games.
In year two under head coach Josh McDaniels, the Broncos made the splash of the offseason by trading back into the first round of April’s NFL Draft to get quarterback Tim Tebow. Whether Tebow provides the 2010 Broncos with much on-field substance remains to be seen.
What’s already clear though is how injury-riddled the team already is. Twelve players, many of them being possible starters, are injured in Denver. The injuries have been so troublesome that the team has had to alter its training camp plans to accommodate for the lack of sheer players on the field.
Out of all the positions, the team’s running back corps has been hit the hardest by the injury bug. Currently sidelined for the next three, but possibly six, weeks is starter Knowshon Moreno with what is being called a ‘frayed’ right hamstring. Also out is Moreno’s backup, Correll Buckhalter. Buckhalter has a back injury that will reportedly require a specialist’s examination and that could force the 10-year veteran into missing the start of the season.
While many of the injuries should be cleared up by the time Seattle heads to Denver for the Week Two matchup, Denver’s offense could still very well be in flux. The Broncos have their immediate starter at quarterback in Kyle Orton, but there could a revolving door on the receiving end of his passes. Denver has two rookies at wide receiver in first-round choice Demetrius Thomas and third-round pick Eric Decker joining returning veteran Eddie Royal and incoming veteran Jabar Gaffney.
Keeping Denver in football games will be the responsibility of the team’s defense. Finishing seventh overall in total defense last season and third in passing yards per game allowed, the Broncos return All-Pro cornerback Champ Bailey and free safety Brian Dawkins to anchor the unit’s secondary.
**Result: Seattle beats Denver**
WEEK THREE: San Diego at Seahawks
(Last year’s record and finish for SD: 13-3, first place in AFC West)
With or without star wide receiver Vincent Jackson, the San Diego Chargers will be a playoff team in 2010.
Jackson will serve a three-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy and could miss additional games by holding out for a larger contract; however, San Diego’s cupboard is anything but empty.
Gone is the aging LaDainian Tomlinson and in his place is rookie running back Ryan Matthews. A big, physical back out of Fresno State, Matthews will adjust well to the NFL in the San Diego offense.
Helping Matthews’ acclimation is Pro Bowl quarterback Philip Rivers and Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates. Rivers accounted for 29 of the team’s 48 touchdowns while encompassing 4,254 yards through the air and 50 more on the ground. In 2009 Gates hauled in 79 catches, upping his total from 2008 by 19, while recording his second 1,100-yard season in his career.
While San Diego’s offense shined, its defense was porous at times, which placed the Chargers in several shoot outs.
**Result: San Diego beats Seattle**
WEEK FOUR: Seahawks at St. Louis
(Last year’s record and finish for STL: 1-15, fourth place in NFC West)
The team with 2009’s worst record and the most needs comes into 2010 with important questions that need to be addressed.
How soon will rookie quarterback Sam Bradford run the team’s offense is the biggest question mark. The April Draft’s first overall pick, Bradford was brought to St. Louis to help rebuild the team’s woeful offense, a unit that finished 28th in the league last year in passing yards per game, and return the Rams to their postseason days of yesteryear. The issue though with trotting him out from Day One as the team’s starter is the chance of him getting injured. He missed the majority of his final collegiate season at Oklahoma due to shoulder issues that stemmed from getting hi. What’s to say that won’t happen again in St. Louis behind an offensive line that allowed its quarterbacks to be sacked 44 times?
Injuries decimated the St. Louis roster in 2009 and how the Rams rebound from that is another particularly big issue. The team’s skill positions were impacted dramatically. St. Louis cycled through three quarterbacks, wide out Donnie Avery missed time as well and the Rams saw their only Pro Bowler – running back Steven Jackson – have back surgery.
Whether or not the Rams’ defense will be able to stop opposing offenses is also of concern. Nine games showcased the St. Louis giving up 28 points or more, with six of those contests resulting in final scores of over 30 points for opposing teams.
**Result: Seattle beats St. Louis**
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