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Ten Questions Heading into Seahawks Training Camp

matt-hasselbeck
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?

DEFINITELY.
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.

5. Will Deion Branch ever be worth the first round pick the Seahawks sent to the Patriots?

No.

Branch is a great receiver, but he’s a number two receiver, not the kind of player a team spends a first round pick on. I don’t view him as a threat to really stretch the field all that much. He’s a solid possession receiver with some stand-out abilities, but not much.

Also, he’s coming off of surgery and has said that his knee will never be back to what it used to be. With TJ Houshmandzadeh coming in to fill the number one wideout role, I could see Branch having a productive season this year since he won’t be double teamed nowhere nearly as much as he has been as the number one guy. Plus, Branch was starting to get into the flow of the offense as the season was ending. I hope he can carry that over into this season in a new, lessened role.

Eventually though, look for him to fall into a lesser role with the team as rookie Deon Butler and veteran Nate Burleson grow in the Seahawks’ offense.

6. Will Houshmandzadeh produce like a number one receiving option that the Seahawks paid him to be?

You HAVE to be kidding me with a question like that.

I mean, I understand being scared because he wasn’t the real number one option in Cincinnati, but, in reality, he was. Chad Whateveryouwanttocallhim was great at times, but he was nonexistent at others for a myriad of reasons. So was Chris Henry. Houshmandzadeh proved to be a constant source of production for the Bengals with and without his two troubled teammates. He was a possession receiver, always turning third downs into first and 10’s as well as a threat to put six points up on the scoreboard at any time.

Will he get over 90 receptions and over 10 TDs? I honestly don’t know. I think he’ll have over 80 catches though and 10 TDs really isn’t too crazy of a scoring total, especially when you read what he told The Sporting News.

7. How will the receiving corps turn out?

The Seahawks went through wideouts at an unheard of pace last season. Ten different receivers recorded receiving stats. Don’t look for that to happen again any time soon.

I like Houshmandzadeh as the number one option, for the reasons that I wrote about above. Branch will make a great second receiver, also for the reasons that I wrote about above. It’ll be interesting to see how Butler and Burleson will be used in the passing game. Both are phenomenal receivers in their own ways. Could Seattle use some four-wide sets? I hope so. Just imagine how defenses would have to try and figure out how to stop four wide receivers and possibly even tight end John Carlson all at the same time. In three-wide sets though, look for Houshmandzadeh, Branch and then Butler and Burleson to split time depending on match ups and/or whoever has the hot hand at the time.

8. What is going on with Mare and Coutu?

Hopefully the team will only carry one of the two place kickers that they carried last year. Mare won the job, and Coutu was deactivated each week. Mare had a great season last year, don’t get me wrong, but I really liked Coutu coming out of college. It was wise for the Seahawks to not have released him because he would have been picked up right away by another team.

This offseason, Coutu has worked out with NFL kicking legend, Mortem Andersen. If Coutu has been able to add some extra leg into his kickoffs thanks to those workouts, he should be the opening day starter and Mare will be kicking elsewhere.

9. Can the offensive line get any better or will they be marginal at best?

This is the scariest question of them all for both fans and the team. Last year, the line was aging and riddled with injuries. This year the unit consists of the same people as it did last year, save rookie Max Unger out of Oregon.

Walter Jones, despite his age and injuries, is still a top-10 lineman. Mike Wahle should be good, key word here is SHOULD. The rest of the returners though, worry me. Unger will be a beast, and could be the best pickup the Seahawks had over the past few offseasons not named Houshmandzadeh or Curry.

All anybody can do at this point regarding the line is cross their fingers and hope for the best. If one piece of the puzzle breaks down, look for Hasselbeck to get hurt and the running game to never take off.

10. How well will the Broncos do this season?

The Seahawks should have a top-10 pick waiting for them no matter how well they do this year thanks to the Broncos.

The Broncos traded away their top-five quarterback in Jake Cutler; they have a rookie head coach, a rookie starting running back and a rather tough regular season schedule ahead of them. I don’t see more than six wins coming from Denver this year, meaning Seattle will have an excellent shot at nabbing Hasselbeck’s replacement. (Here’s a name I’ll be writing about later on and that you’ll want to keep an eye on throughout the college season this year: Jevan Snead.)


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6 Responses to “Ten Questions Heading into Seahawks Training Camp”

  1. […] of the 10 questions about this year’s Seahawks team that I wrote about over the weekend regarded the team’s […]

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