On the heels of a disappointing season I can only hope that the coaching change doesn't really screw up our general strategy for 2009.
We had injury issues that few teams could recover from. It seems the media is willing to forgive Cincinnati's season with Carson Palmer out; they are understanding that Green Bay has fallen while still maintaining that sending Brett Favre away was a smart move; they allow that the Patriots are tied in their division without Brady. But I've read many people who have quickly written off the Seahawks as finally being the old boxer who doesn't have any gas left instead of clearly being the most injury stricken team in the league this year. I read this in fantasy circles too, who have been cheering for Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, Steven Jackson and Frank Gore for long enough that they can't understand why the Seahawks won the division over and over.
This is strange to me.
The Seahawks are oddly in a prime position here to grab a really high end LT. Our 2008 draft left me wondering when we would find that replacement for Walter Jones (who is still one of the top 5 at his position, but is also clearly slowing down). This draft there will be three top shelf tackles that are expected to go in the top half of the draft. We might even need to trade up a little bit given that at least two of the teams ahead of us (Detroit and Cincinnati) have dire needs there as well. Oakland does too, but I don't see Al Davis actually acknowledging that fact either. As a bonus however, if Michael Oher, Jason Smith, and Andre Smith go before out pick there are great players we could use as well. The Seahawks are still a team that can take the best available player.
Personally though, I hope we don't take Crabtree with our pick. We are sometimes victims of overreacting to our last season and not focusing on the real issues. The Steve Hutchinson/Shaun Alexander issue comes to mind, as we should have kept Hutch around at the very least. We had WR problems, but only because of a rash of injury. Branch and Burleson can still be great players. We will probably lose Engram this off season, but we can pick up another FA, or maybe really go for the gold with a pure stud at the position (I'm not sure who's available this year though).A quick recap of our worries coming into this year:
- Left Guard
: This was an extremely concerning point. We brought in Mike Wahle to take that LG position and I haven't seen any reason why that was a good decision. It seems every time the Seahawks get called for a false start it's him. Granted, we haven't had a passing game this year, so it's tough to say we couldn't run the ball.
- Running back
: The Julius Jones experiment is still uncertain. Clearly he has shown some explosiveness, particularly when given the ball 20+ times. But the fact that he's been benched in favor of Maurice Morris isn't good. This could very well be considered a failed acquisition here.
- Short running game
: T.J. Duckett has surprised me in that he's taken a very painful point from 2007 and turned it around. I have no concerns on a 3rd and 1 anymore. Last year I was just hoping we could get that yard. Now I'm expecting him to go for 3. Putting all that meat in the backfield (Duckett, Weaver/Schmitt) has clearly fixed our short yardage game. Yay!
- Tight End
: John Carlson is a godsend. He's clearly going to be the guy we hoped for in Jerramy Stevens. He's able to get separation down the seam. He's blocking better than most would expect a rookie to do. He's also leading the team in yardage, which I'm sure nobody expected. Winner here too.
- Wide Receiver
: Well, my worst fears came true. With Deion Branch being hurt heading into the season and D.J. Hackett leaving we were fairly thin at WR. Then Bobby gets hurt in preseason. Then Nate Burleson gets IR'ed. Suddenly, we're really thin at WR with nobody to throw to. Grabbing all of those WRs in late rounds and hoping they would turn into gold failed us. Maybe Obomanu, Taylor and Kent just need more time, but they didn't get that time before they were needed and the only flash I saw was from Kent in the preseason. We wasted a 5th round pick acquiring Keary Colbert who I think caught 4 passes for us.What didn't work when we expected it to
- Our defense
: Granted we had injuries here too. I think there was a time when we had 3 starters with "clubs" on broken hands. Kerney re-injured himself, and Lofa had problems this year too. But that doesn't excuse Marcus Trufant for his poor play, or anyone else for that matter. I really thought we were going to have one of the better defenses in the league this year and that was clearly a mistake in judgment. To be fair, the offense hasn't been able to control the ball at all and I think that affects how we play too. I'm secretly hoping that all of our defensive woes magically go away in the off season with a healthy offense, but that might not happen.
- Seneca Wallace
: It's clear to me that Seneca needed a great WR coach. There seems to be a night and day difference between his play in previous years and this one. While you can't expect a backup QB to step right in and take the reigns, I think we need to think of Seneca as a stopgap until we get Charlie Frye on board completely, or find another backup QB. Wallace has massive talent and I think we need to convert him to WR. This is magnified by Engram's age and the fact that Branch may be a cap casualty this off season.What needs to improve
- Defensive Tackle:
Red Bryant was injured most of the season and I still have high hopes for him, but we still didn't get consistent play from our DTs. One more big body with good feet could transform this defense from a decent run stopping team into a nightmare for opponents. If we could stop up the middle teams would be forced to go outside, and with our lightning fast LBs they would get snuffed out after only a yard or two tops. It's the role we wanted Marcus Tubbs to fill, and the one we hope Bryant can fill once healthy. But I believe another huge guy in a 4-3 defense is crucial. But even if we were to stop the run we have other problems in the secondary, which leads to...
- Kelly Jennings and Josh Wilson
: Aside from the problems we had with just Trufant, we also seemed to completely lack any solid play from our other corner. In nickel defense it seemed as though Josh Wilson was consistently beat by the opposing team's WR3. That shouldn't happen. On top of that, while being a skilled kick returner, Wilson displayed poor ball handling skills. I was constantly worried about him fumbling the ball. They have to work on that this off season. It kind of looks like Jennings might be gaining that confidence, but I've yet to see the consistency.
- Lawrence Jackson
: It's quite possible he needed this year and even another year before he begins to really make an impact. It's also possible that with the problems we had at DT that both he and Patrick Kerney had to do more rush defense than they should have had to do. I'm not really ready to say he busted on us because it's far too early to do that. Hopefully things turn around for him, as I keep seeing flashes of it from time to time. But he certainly didn't have the impact I would have liked to see, especially since Kearney is on a timeline with age becoming a factor for him.What we should do with the 2009 draft
- Grab a left tackle in the first round
: We're in too good of a position to let this slide. I have a bad feeling we're going to trade down to try to compensate for that 5th round pick and that's a bad move. We could really use a strong LT waiting in the wings. Ideally this player could play both sides and then we slide Sean Locklear in, or if that's not possible allow them to move to LG and play alongside one of the best LTs of all time.
- Depending on what falls, a DT or CB in the second round
: There's some good talent at DT and CB this year. The problem is that all the guys I would like to see will likely be taken at the end of the 1st round. But if one of them falls into the second round we need to jump on them. Another option here is if, for some reason, Duke Robinson fell to us in the second round we should grab him as quick as possible. This allows us to move Wahle to the right side and heavily upgrades our O-line in two rounds.
The rest of the draft should be best available player, but we should focus on our secondary. Gaining depth and having some healthy competition back there should only help the situation.
Anyway, I'm going to the game tomorrow to see Holmgren's final home game. Even though it will totally muck with our draft spot, I'd like to see him win the last one at home. He's done so much for us that I hate to see him have a losing season but I think we had too much to overcome. Next year we'll rise back up to the top though.
I believe in the Seahawks still.