As Seahawk fans begin to emerge from their caves and look forward to a season filled with hope and optimism, I thought this would be a good time to look at positions that the Seahawks (appear to) have improved this offseason.
1.) Safety - Let there be no doubt about it, Earl Thomas has the potential to be a superstar in this league. He hasn't taken a snap yet, obviously, but it would be hard to argue that this position, a grave weakness in 2009, won't be dramatically changed with the addition of the young Longhorn. Add to that a hard-hitting veteran in Lawyer Milloy who will be given a legitimate chance to compete this season (unlike last year), and you're on better footing still. Look for Milloy to mentor Thomas throughout the season. The depth at strong safety has also improved with the addition of Kam "Slow Taylor Mays" Chancellor, and Babineaux will likely make the team through his ability to play both safety positions as well as play the nickelback better than most in the NFC.
2.) Offensive Line - Another group that was at the very bottom of the NFL in 2009, the OL is going to be better this season almost by default. Russell Okung is an NFL-caliber starting left tackle. If he can be top 6 in the NFC, we can have a top 6 line in the NFC with average-to-decent folks around him. What does a top-6 line mean? Well, more often than not, a playoff berth. Add to Okung the veteran Ben Hamilton at LG, Chris Spencer resuming his role as center (with the full faith of Gibbs behind him, apparently), second year guard Max Unger on the right side, and veteran Sean Locklear returning to the only place he belongs (right tackle) and you have a reasonable line. I'm also looking forward to being reminded what a confident quarterback looks like.
3.) Linebacker - Has the LB corps gotten stronger in the offseason? No. But they remain one of the strongest units talent-wise in the NFL. Unfortunately, they have had no luck combining their individual talents into a cohesive whole the last couple of years, so who knows what will come of it. One thing we learned last year is that the Seahawks have five starting-caliber linebackers on this squad. Don't be shocked to see a Leroy Hill trade if he is still allowed to play following his trial.
4.) Tight End - John Carlson is incredible, we know that. Unfortunately for the 2009 Seahawks, John Owens and Cameron Morrah were not. At all. So the Seahawks prioritized the position early -- tight end is a key cog in Jeremy Bates' Broncos-style offense -- by bringing in the familiar (to Bates) Chris Baker and drafting the familiar and talent-rich (and friend of Mary Jane) Anthony McCoy from USC. McCoy never showed what he needed to at USC, so I remain skeptical on him, but Baker will fill in immediately and have an impact. Talent-wise, few young TEs can beat McCoy. He can catch, he can block, he can run, and he's got prototypical size.
5.) Special Teams - Locking up Mare for at least another year was smart (he's getting up there in years, so the team doesn't want to overcommit), and grabbing Jon Ryan for 6 years (with practically no guaranteed money after 2010) was smarter. I'm most excited about the additions of Leon Washington, Golden Tate, and Walter Thurmond to the return game. Coverage on kicks and punts should be better this year, but then again it couldn't be much worse than last year, barring injuries to the top two fellers I mentioned.