There is no hiding from it anymore: the 2009 Seattle Seahawks are not a very good football team. In fact, despite our best intentions and scapegoats, the 2008 Seattle Seahawks weren't a very good football team either. Why not? What is wrong with this team? The obvious answer is that it is a matter of talent. While I don't actually buy that (see later posts on why), the time is right to assess our team and start looking at where to upgrade.
CHAPTER I - The Offense
Matt Hasselbeck is no longer an elite talent, in large part because he is suffering from poor offensive line play and nagging injuries. Seneca Wallace is an above average backup QB and an excellent athlete. Mike Teel is a question mark, but one cannot assume at this point in time that he is the long-term answer at quarterback.
With Hasselbeck aging and entering a contract year in 2010, it is highly unlikely that the Seahawks will resign him. That likely means it is time to invest in a new quarterback, though the options are limited. Obviously we'll be providing a lot of scouting information on the big five that can be taken from the draft (Locker, Clausen, Bradford, McCoy, Tebow), but there are other options as well. The bottom line is that this is not a weak spot on the team yet, but it could become the biggest one with one rough landing.
Running Backs: C-
At best, the Seahawks appear to be okay at running back. No one looks at Julius Jones and sees another superstar -- he's not even another Thomas Jones. We are currently very excited about Justin Forsett and Louis Rankin, and combined the two appear to have the upside of a Maurice Jones-Drew... Unfortunately, you can't pair Rankin's speed with Forsett's size and elusiveness without a test tube and a couple of decades of waiting. I think those two might become something special, and we'll see them get a chance to do just that over the next few weeks at least. The timing for Jones' injury couldn't be worse for Forsett and Rankin though. They are going against the Williams Wall one week (who anchor a very unfavorable rush defense in MN) followed by the St. Louis Rams (where even Julius Jones managed to break 115 yards).
The popular notion remains that the Seahawks will grab a running back in their first three picks next year, but it seems unlikely that it is a high enough priority for the Hawks. That doesn't mean they can't grab someone later in the draft, say third (if we get another third pick) or fourth round. Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles are the only high profile under-28 year old running backs in free agency, and it seems unlikely either team will let them leave.
Wide Recievers: B+
In what might be our best position grouping, we still garner only a B+. There is a lot of money invested in the position. Burleson is having an excellent year and Houshmandzadeh is finally really getting started. Deion Branch has almost no purpose being on the team, and Greg Knapp hasn't shown that he has any idea how to use Deon Butler. Butler, to be fair, has not stepped up and stood out almost at all. Yes, we get it, you're really fast kid, but you need to SHOW that on the field. He hasn't gotten the separation you'd expect from someone who supposedly runs a sub-4.3 forty yard dash.
This isn't a position likely to get any real upgrade next year, and it probably isn't needed. Obamanu will likely stick around (he's a restricted free agent), and Branch will likely be gone. No big concerns here, provided that Houshmandzadeh can perform as promised.
Tight Ends: B
John Carlson is an A- (still needs to improve on his blocking a bit), but John Owens and Cameron Morrah leave something to be desired. Will there be any substantial upgrades? Nah, probably not, but Morrah needs to improve on all facets of his game if he's going to turn into the legitimate secondary TE threat the Hawks want -- the Martellus Bennett to Carlson's Jason Witten, if you will.
Chris Spencer is much better than people give him credit for; he is not a superstar at this point, may well never get there, but since when do you need a superstar center? You need a good center with strength and smarts. Spencer has improved in both categories this year and has been the best center on the team. He was getting bowled over this past week, but he also had a broken right thumb -- his snapping, however, was very good considering he was going left handed. Max Unger figures to be the longterm backup and, if the Hawks can't work something out with Spencer for the right price, Unger will probably take over next year. Steve Vallos remains a useful backup, but probably not a whole lot more.
Rob Sims has been quite good this year, and Unger has been okay. Unger, however, has played every snap of nine NFL games and is the only lineman on the team to be able to say that (hm, maybe Ray Willis too, but, y'know, it sounds better this way). Sims has been much better than some would like to be the case, but he's not elite or even great. Is he getting there? Boy howdy is it hard to tell. I'd like to think so, but as another likely UFA after this season, the price will have to be right for him to stick. Manny Wrotto has developed much slower than I think people were expecting, and while he's competent, he is not ready to start. Steve Vallos is another backup here along with his duties as backup center, but guard is his more natural position. Not much depth though, and even less quality depth. To say the least, there is no Steve Hutchinson on this team.
The Hawks targeted a Guard/Center in the second round last year, and I think Unger will pan out. I think, however, that he will likely pan out at center, not guard. The Seahawks need to improve one side of the line at least -- the left tackle that we will inevitably draft will be very nice, yes, but without an excellent left guard next to him, we become the Seahawks of 2007 rather than the Seahawks of 2005. It is risky to use a first round pick on a guard, but if you can use one on a center, you had better be willing to use one on a guard IF (and ONLY if) he warrants that selection. There may be one or two next year who do.
I am assuming that Walter Jones will not take another snap for the Seahawks. Sean Locklear is a good-to-very good right tackle. He has proven himself a mediocre left tackle, generally good in pass protection and fair to poor in the run game. He can't control his blocker and have his way with them the way the elite LTs do. Do we need an "elite" tackle? Well, maybe not, but if you look at the top teams in the game, they usually do. Ray Willis has been our most consistent offensive lineman this year, but I don't trust his knee. He plays in chronic pain and I feel it's always just a matter of time before it really affects him. He is a mauler and probably the only player on our whole team with the sort of nasty attitude I want to see more of, but is he the long-term, 7-year answer at right tackle? No. Is Sean Locklear? Maybe.
If the Seahawks don't draft their franchise left tackle in the first round 2010, it will only be because Barry Sanders and Lawrence Taylor re-entered the draft as 22 year olds in Bizarro-NFL. Whoever is picking in 2010, be it Ruskell or someone else, they really have no choice to but to take a tackle with one of those first round picks.