I'll start out with the draft. The Seahawks have been drawing a boat load of criticism for their first two picks in the draft. Lets see if we can communicate what Pete Carrol and John Schneider were thinking when they made these picks.
First, lets go back to what their needs were before the draft ever happened. Hasselbeck is a free agent as is J.P. Lossman, that leaves Charlie Whitehurst as the only QB on the roster. Second, the defensive back field was a mess last year. Kelly Jennings continues to under achieve, Marcus Trufant has continued his downward spiral, and Lawyer Milloy is hardly worthy of being a starting safety. Tied for their 2nd biggest need was the O line. Lets face the truth here, it was absolutely abysmal most of the year. There was no consistency, 11 starting configurations through out the entire season, and sole lineman to start every game of the year was Chris Spencer. Just so happens that he is probably the worst starting center in the league.
Stat wise, you can say they did okay, but I really don't care about stats. I only use stats when I don't have the game film to judge a player by. Just so happens I watched every Seahawk game so I've seen plenty of their performance. Run blocking was literally a train wreck. Running lanes were rare, and only started to manifest late in the season. Check out this video of Marshawn Lynch's game winning TD against the Saints, pay attention to the blocking by the O line.
Another one showing many more highlights throughout the season.
Now compare it with two teams that are above average in run blocking, particularly the Saints, they are the best run blocking team IMO.
See the MASSIVE difference? The Seahawks O line rarely got any push, and most of the time you'll see them all just glob up into one big group. No running lanes. Thank God we got Forsett as he is shifty enough to cutback and go around the edge of the mob. Its a fact that 26% of Seattle's running plays last year, either lost yardage or gained none. That is an UNREAL number. So 1 out of every 4 runs, they would not gain a single yard out of it.
Pass blocking wasn't far behind. It didn't truly start to solidify until the last couple games of the season. Most of the time, Hasselbeck would be lucky if he had 2 seconds in the pocket before he had someone breathing down his neck or slipping right through the front to get up in his face.
So either way, O line was a huge need for the team going in to the draft. PC recognized that and publicly stated that his #1 goal was to get more physical up front. Well, ladies & gentlemen, he kept his word and drafted accordingly.
Upgrading the O line will upgrade every other aspect of the offense, and even the defense, by helping Seattle to sustain drives, protect its quarterback, put points on the board, etc. Keeping the TEs back in pass coverage also set the odds against them. The LBs didn't have to cover them, so they were constantly stacking the line, adding to the pressure. Establishing a running game will have a huge impact on how teams defense us. If we can get a running game going it will force defenses to respect the run. After a couple times of the RB's squirting past the LB's and into the secondary, teams will be forced to play in position. That means less defenders on the line and better pass protection, it also allows you to get your TE's out for pass's and opens up your play book, which in turn will also draw the LB's farther off the LOS and assist both the running game and in pass protection.
Here's a little tid bit from a recent interview with John Schneider as he explained what their picks in the draft.
In that regard, Seattle keeps a very narrow perspective. The Seahawks don't grade a prospect based on where he will go in the draft, but where he fits with the team.
"Some teams grade for the league and how they think players are going to come off the board," Schneider said. "It's a different philosophy."
James Carpenter, John Moffit. Both guys fit into their scheme the best and that's why they picked them. They are far from the sexy picks that they had a year ago, and magazine writers are heavily influenced by them when they are handing out their draft grades. But I think the root cause of the poor reception of their 2011 draft class lies in the fact that they blew up almost everyone's draft board. Don't worry, your ego will recover.
Overall, I think that draft grade will rise, year after year as these guys get more playing time, but as it is setup right now, we can look forward to an improved 2011 campaign.
I'm assuming that Hasselbeck will end up being resigned by the Hawks and that Seattle will end up signing another O lineman to fill the vacant guard spot. The biggest name floating around lately is Robert Gallery, so I'll just use him for now.
This is how I see the starting line up for the offensive line come September.
Okung - Gallery - Unger - Moffit - Carpenter
Far far, different that what it looked like just a year ago, and I have to say on paper, I like it 10 times better. Coupled with a staggering 1-2 punch in the bruising Marshawn Lynch, and the shifty Justin Forsett, the running game should see a noticeable increase in productions starting week 1.
Folks, prepare for another division championship. Yeah most people will just assume that I'm being a homer, but they thought they last year too. Its a fact that the Seahawks have the best team in the division, and I see them improving over PC's "rookie" year with the Seahawks. Expect 8-9 wins in 2011.