Every regular season leaves a lot of question marks for every team in the NFL, but this is an offseason that may be the most critical for the Seattle Seahawks. In just 17 weeks, we've seen a relatively green, young team transform from a raw, athletic core into a fully functional and capable football force.
The team has an insane amount of potential. A few versions of the Seahawks from recent years may have matched or even surpassed what this current incarnation of green-and-blue has in terms of talent, but the comparisons end there. Not even in the Holmgren golden age has a team been this downright hungry. These guys play like every down is their last (see Marshawn Lynch, Doug Baldwin) and hit like every opposing player outweighs them by 200 pounds (see Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, David Hawthorne.) The team is expertly coached on both sides of the ball, but it's that extra fire in their bellies that separates this 53-man roster from what it's been before.
All this positive thinking and forward momentum is precisely what an up-and-coming team needs going into the offseason. The road loss to Arizona to end the season may have stung a little bit, but it's a temporary wound. Like the San Francisco game, it was a hard-fought battle that ended with a loss by a field goal as time wound down. Given this squad's mindset and Pete Carroll's philosophy, those losses are going to serve as guides for how to get better.
So, that all being said -- now what? What happens in the offseason to strengthen what the Seahawks have in place already? What happens in the draft? Who are the building blocks already in place? Who is expendible? Will Kam Chancellor spend the offseason tackling freight trains in front of CenturyLink Field? Will Charlie Whitehurst take a vacation to Israel and be mistaken for someone else who really looks like him?!
I digress. Here are some thoughts buzzing around inside my head right now:
-Will Tavaris Jackson remain the starting quarterback in Seattle for 2012?
-Should the Seahawks pursue Matt Flynn? If not, what QB in the draft might be on the front office's radar?
-After a breakout season, is Marshawn Lynch the long-term solution at running back?
-Will the coaching staff be comfortable starting Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman at CB again, despite their frequently-penalized style of play?
-Is Marcus Trufant expendable? What about Mike Williams?
-How far should the team go to make sure Tom Cable doesn't get lured into a head coaching job somewhere else?
-Who will emerge next year as the "out-of-nowhere" guy on the current roster? My prediction: Ricardo Lockette.
Have at it, dear readers. It's time to play Offseason Speculation, 2012 edition.