Team MVP: Matthew Hasselbeck. I pondered this question for awhile in an attempt to get creative with this answer, but at the end of the day Matt Hasselbeck is the General of this team. When the running game went all David Copperfield on us last year, The Walrus announced to the media, and the league as a whole, that they were abandoning the run game. It was the best move Holmgren made all year. Hasselbeck was forced to shoulder a larger portion of the offense, and what did he do? He ranked in the NFC's top five in yards (3,966), TDs (28), and passer rating (91.4). He also garnered his third trip to the Pro Bowl. Long story short, their may not be an I in team, but you can't spell success without Hasselbeck.
Break-Out Player: Julius Jones. It should come as a surprise to nobody that the Seahawks running game performed a vanishing act all of last season (see above Copperfield reference). The one dimensionality of the offense was exposed when it counted the most last season. And when compounded by the fact that the Hawks were a mere two years removed from having the MVP of the league in the backfield, the 12th man was dumbfounded by the lack of production. In comes Julius Jones, a back that fits Holmgren's blueprint of the West Coast Offense far better than Shaun Alexander ever did. I don't expect Jones to roll up 1500 yards on the ground, but 1100 seems within reach. Throw in anywhere between 300-350 yards in the air, and Jones will help to keep defenses honest, and bring the backfield back to relevance.
Biggest Disappointment: Instead of one player I wanted, no needed, to state what will certainly be the biggest disappointment of this seas...the Seahawks kicking game. Boasting a career 80% average with the leg, Josh Brown was that assassin Holmgren sent out to put the opponent's fans out of their misery. In 2007, Josh Brown was arguably the difference between the Seahawks making the playoffs, or watching them with us fans. That year he kicked an NFL record four game winning field goals, two against the division rival St. Louis Rams. The first time we have a meaningful kick go wide right, left, or anyplace other than through the uprights, will seal the biggest disappointment distinction on their kicking game.
Fantasy Stud: Not sure if anybody the Hawks line up on offense would be considered a stud, but I would consider Nate Burleson the fantasy sleeper of the Seahawks. We know that Hasselbeck will put up numbers regardless of who the team runs out there, and Burleson is an above average receiver who has the athletic ability to get separation, and chunk off those YAC yards. He was already a commodity in TD leagues coming into the year, and this season he will have an opportunity to prove that he can roll up the yards like an odometer.
Offensive Outlook: Let's start from the top and work our way down.
Quarterbacks: The Seahawks boast the deepest QB corps in the NFC. Matt Hasselbeck is the most underrated QB in football. Over the last five seasons, it would be hard to find a QB that has been more consistent and reliable not named Manning or Brady. The team and the fans love Seneca Wallace. Maybe it's the nostalgia of seeing your back-up QB snag a huge fade route in an NFC Championship game, but Wallace has always performed when asked, and has been a serviceable back-up for the last three seasons. Charlie Fry is more of an unknown, but it's always nice when your third QB has seen some significant, meaningful, playing time.
Running Backs: I won't get to in-depth on this position because it would be a little redundant from the earlier "Breakout Player" section. Bottom line, nobody knows for sure how this backfield will perform until they line up against the Buffalo Bills. Between Julius Jones, Maurice Morris, TJ Duckett, and Leonard Weaver the Seahawks have the legs to keep the backs fresh, which will be huge during the final stretch of the season. Holmgren has always exhibited an ability to put players in the best position for them to succeed, and during this training camp I haven't seen or heard anything that would lead me to think otherwise. Expect the backfield to be used interchangeably with Jones expected to shoulder 70% of the workload.
Wide Receivers: Let's make this clear right now. Bobby Engram and Nate Burleson will be productive. Both of these guys know the system and have the trust of the QB to get the balls thrown their way. The third receiver is more of a mystery. Courtney Taylor and Ben Obomanu (both out of Auburn) appear to have slight leads, but Logan Payne (Minnesota) and Jordan Kent (Oregon) still have an opportunity to leap frog depending on their preseason campaigns.
Tight Ends: All we can say about this position is that we hope that the cream rises to the top. With rookie John Carlson (Notre Dame), former Denver Bronco Jeb Putzier, and Will Heller all competing for the starting job, it is safe to say that this position battle will come down to the wire. With TE being the largest hole on the offensive side of the ball, we can rest assured that the coaching staff will select the TE that provides us with the best flexibility when it comes to play calling.
The O-Line: The Seahawks are rolling out pretty much the same offense line as last year with one notable exception. Former Pro Bowler Mike Wahle will be taking over at left guard. The Seahawks snagged Wahle out of Carolina to hopefully fill the gap left my Steve Hutchinson's departure two years ago. If Wahle can help anchor that left side, coupled with the cohesiveness that comes with a second year together as a unit, there is no reason to believe that offensive line will be anything but an advantage against any opponent this season.
Overall we should see the gap between the offensive and defensive side of the balls narrow considerably. Offense has always been the strength of the Seahawks, but last year the running game and offensive line both performed well below expectations. Watch for the Seahawks to place in the top five in the NFC in total offense, and the top eight in the entire league.
Linebackers: I could write an entire article about our backers. Names like Lofa Tatupu, Julian Peterson, and Leroy Hill may not be household names, but these three combine to make up the best linebacking corps. in football. Some linebacking corps may be more aggressive against the run, and some may be better in coverage, but no team boast three starters as versatile as the Seahawk backers, case closed, next position.
Defensive Backs: What was once a liability has now become one of the strengths of the Seahawks. Marcus Trufant, Kelly Jennings, Deon Grant, and Brian Russell combined to hold defenses to the fewest amount of touchdown passes against last season. Jennings must improve to solidify himself as a quality compliment to Trufant. Trufant needs another stellar season to prove that not only was he worth the new contract, but that he is in fact one of the premier lock-down corners in football. All we need out of Grant and Russell is to perform as well as they did last year. If these three things happen, we'll have to start counting the pick sixes this unit tallies up.
Defensive Line: The defensive line comes into this season with a huge amount of expectations. With the addition of Patrick Kerney last season, the Seahawks showed that they can be a physical defense that can get after the quarterback. Kerney was one of the league leaders in sacks, and this year his counterpart Darryl Tapp is expected to be the bookend to Kerney that should keep QB's scrambling. Hopefully they run right into Brandon Mebane and Rocky Bernard, two behemoths that have the bodies to just bog things down. Mebane was a rookie last year, and Bernard failed to live up to the numbers he posted during the Seahawks Super Bowl run of 2005. If these two can fill those gaps, eliminating the running lanes, our defense will be one that turns heads throughout the league this season.
Overall: Of the three units on the "D" the defensive line is definitely the third most reliable, and that is no slight on the defensive line. Not to keep beating the consistency drum, but another year together will only benefit this unit. Kerney was a new addition, and both Mebane and Tapp were still wet behind the ears. As an overall side of the ball, expectations are justifiably high. Left with a bitter taste in their mouth after that debacle in the playoffs last season, the defense has had to live, and relive those moments throughout the off season. Look for them to cause havoc during the first few weeks of the season. For the first time the Seahawks are bringing back 11 starters from last season, the most in team history. This is a top ten defense and will show why week in and week out.
"Red Letter" Game: After the dust clears, the week four match up at the Giants should be the first real test of the Seahawks. It is no secret that the 12th Man has had their way with the Giants in Qwest Field, so I expect the fans in the Meadowlands to try and return the favor. The Hawks are notorious for playing poorly on the road, so if they can go on the road against the defending Super Bowl champs, facing a hostile crowd, and get a win, this would help the team and the fans get passed a few stigmas that have dogged the squad in recent seasons.
Projected Record/Outlook: After going over the schedule in my head over and over I see no reason why this team should not win between 11-12 games. We have a few tough teams coming into Qwest Field, i.e. Green Bay, Philadelphia, and Washington, but I fully expect to get two out of three of those. Like all teams we have some tough match-ups on the on the road that I'm not nearly as confident in, but when you pencil in five in-division victories (we'll probably have a let down game against either St. Louis or Arizona) I think 11 wins is a possibility with 10 wins being an almost certainty. If a couple of calls go our way, then 12 wins would be a very fortuitous number. Ambitious, perhaps, but that's what makes being a fan so fun.
Parting Smack: I'm not even going to waste any words on the division. They know who the King of the Hill is, and his name isn't Hank Hill. My beef is against the supposed "experts" that pick any team other than the Seahawks to win the NFC West. Listen, if you're just going to pick some team for the simple fact that you want to appear like a genius come the end of the season then you are wasting all of our times. You're job is to make educated decisions based on fact, and there is no way in hell that you can see the players the other three teams in the division plan on rolling out and say that they have a chance to dethrone the Seahawks. Open your eyes and do your job. If we wanted random guesses we'd ask our girlfriends.
San Francisco 49ers: How can I bad mouth a team that has so consistently made me laugh? The Alex Smith experiment would take third to the kid that has his gerbil run through a maze, and the gal who just realized the effects of baking soda and vinegar. I'd bag on their receivers but I don't know who they are. If it weren't for Frank Gore their offense would be a total loss. On the defensive side of the ball, I'd look like an idiot not to be impressed by the beast that is Patrick Willis. This team would have to find a genie to win three games, and that's because you can only wish for one win at a time.
Arizona Cardinals: Let me guess, the trendy pick this year? Like a wise man once said even a broken clock is right two times a day. Unfortunately the experts keep picking a digital clock that just keeps blinking 00:00. To say that this would be their win total would be too easy of a slight, almost as easy as knocking Kurt Warner out of a game. I have the utmost respect for their receiving corps, which I consider the best tandem in football. However, that's where the compliments end. They are a team on the rise, but not quite near the peak. I see them repeating last years record and end up at right about 500.
St. Louis Rams: Traditionally the one barrier to the Seahawks raising an NFC West banner they are fresh off of having the second pick in the draft, and we all know what that means. I know there is parody in football, but even a lottery winner knows that there is no chance St. Louis will compete for anything that even rhymes with playoffs. If Bulger and Pace stays healthy, Jackson reports quickly, and one of the rookie receivers pan out then maybe they get 8 wins. Oh wait, I forgot their defense. This is a 6-7 win team, and luckily for the Rams Scott Linehan will be out of their lives at the end of the season, if not sooner.
- David Sanders