Through six games of the 2010 season, some trends are emerging. Some warm my heart. Others give me chest pains. And some have been downright surprising.
As an example, I didn’t have high hopes for the Seahawks Defensive Line once announced an undersized, situational end (Chris Clemons) and a former defensive tackle (Red Bryant) would start at defensive end. Sandwiched in between these two were players that couldn’t be anymore opposite: the bulldog (Brandon Mebane) and the brick wall (Colin Cole).
Well, the defensive line has played quite well, and with the addition of creative pressure scheme featuring linebackers, safeties or even corner backs, the defense has done a fair job of creating pressure: notching 19 sacks, an adjusted sack rate of 6.4% and a overall defensive EPA of -17.7, good for 9th, 11th and 7th in the league, respectively.
So what positions will the Seattle Seahawks look to bolster next off season? Here are my thoughts:
Offensive Guard. This position is a complete mess. Where do I begin? Ben Hamilton is 33 years old and struggling. Chester Pitts, who’s yet to step onto the playing field after off-season microfracture knee surgery, is in a eerily similar situation to Walter Jones circa 2008. Max Unger, although having one of the cooler names on the Seahawks, is woefully underpowered and has struggled with NFL tackles. He’s now on Injured Reserve. Stacey Andrews is a natural tackle, being tall and lanky; he struggled with 4-3 defensive tackles while playing guard for the Eagles, and nothing has changed as a Seahawk with the exception of his jersey. Mike Gibson and Alan Barbre are late round, practice squad guys unlikely to succeed at the NFL level. According to Football Outsiders Offensive Line statistics, the Seahawks are 28th in the league in Adjusted Line Yards when rushing between guards. The Seahawks must pursue an elite guard during the draft to pair with Russell Okung, at the very least.
Quarterback. Matt is aging, and his performance is declining rapidly, even with an improved offensive line and firepower at running back. I truly hope I don’t have to quote statistics from the past three seasons to prove it. He was a monumental QB for the Seahawks, and I love the guy, but his time is up. It’s time to move forward and build around someone young and exciting. Is that guy Charlie Whitehurst? Who knows. We’ve seen not one snap of meaningful football from this guy, yet the front office is paying him big bucks for two seasons. I’m firm in my belief that Carroll will stick with Hasselbeck this season until either A. the Seahawks are no longer in the playoff race, B. Hasselbeck is injured/unable to play. With as woefully bad as the NFC West really is, it’s unlikely we see Whitehurst trot his sexy Jesus-esque ass onto the field unless the latter happens. As much as I want to see what Whitehurst has got, not under those circumstances. Whitehurst be damned; if an elite QB falls to Seattle in the draft, they’ve got to pull the trigger.
Defensive End. Thus far, it’s been a relative strength for the Seahawks this year. Chris Clemons has thus far proved he can be an every down end, and not the liability against the run as previously assumed. However, he’s nearing the backend of his hay day as he’s turning 29 in just a few days. Can he squeeze out of a few productive years? Yeah, probably. And how about that Raheem Brock, guy? Guy has been a monster for the Seahawks at the ripe ‘ol age of 32. But again, age. He’s got even less time than Clemons. And lastly, Red Bryant is a run-stuffing end that’ll likely never been a legitimate threat to the quarterback. Now is the perfect time to draft a young, talented end that fits the “Leo” profile, while our current ends are still effective albeit likely to decline.
Cornerback. I bet you’re wondering why it took me so long to get to cornerback. Well, Trufant has proven that post-injury, he continues an above average NFL cornerback, and if the last two games have showed us anything, it’s that Walter Thurmond is likely the real deal. Kid has talent. BUT: Trufant isn’t getting any younger (turns 30 at the end of this year) and Kelly Jennings is likely gone after 2010. Roy Lewis has shown flashes, but I wouldn’t wait on him. The modern NFL is a passing-driven game, and the Seahawks need more talented cornerbacks. Insert obligatory Josh Wilson complaint.
Wide Receiver. This has been one controversial Seahawks position over the years, hasn’t it? Hell, even in 2010 it seemed like we were set, come training camp: Housh, Branch, Williams, Tate and some role players. Well, didn’t quite work out that way, did it? The Seahawks are thin at wide receiver. The Arizona game showed us that. Brandon Stokley went down in the 3rd quarter and Mike Williams got nearly all of the targets. Golden Tate has been disappointing, but the kid is a very young and very raw, and likely has some years to go until he’s effective. Stokley is a great short term solution at possession receiver, but he’s 34. The Seahawks must target a high profile receiver next off season to pair with Mike Williams.
Defensive Tackle. Two games without Brandon Mebane (calf injury) and it’s starting to go downhill. The Seahawks gave up over 110 yards to two Arizona running backs that barely crack the top fifty in Expected Points Added. Who cares what their names are. The defense only notched two sacks on Max Hall. They should have ate the guy alive. Brandon not only demands double teams each play, but he often forces them into the pocket. Without him, Colin Cole is easily handled (thus typically neutralizing interior rush defense) or an additional offensive lineman can be assigned to either Seahawks defensive end (thus often neutralizing the pass rush). We saw exactly these effects against Arizona. Brandon Mebane is a free agent at the end of 2010. We can only pray the Seahawks extend his contract, because bad things will happen without him. Seriously: pray very hard.