Finishing things up in the NFC West, it’s time for a look at the Seattle Seahawks and their biggest needs this offseason. (You can find the rest of the division here: Arizona, San Francisco, St. Louis.)
2011 proved to be truly an up-and-down year for the Seattle Seahawks. Any high hopes of repeating as NFC champions were quickly put to bed when they got off to a 2-6 start, but Coach Carroll never allowed his team to waver. They stayed motivated by making a late season push that eventually ended with them winning five of their last eight games. Can the Seahawks recapture the NFC West crown and put together a full season of consistent play? Lets take a look at which positions need to be addressed this offseason if they’re going to have a shot.
Primary Need: Quarterback
Quarterback play for Seattle was much like their season in 2011, up and down. Many thought it was going to be Charlie Whitehurst’s time to shine once Matt Hasselbeck was gone, but Tarvaris Jackson was brought in after Darrell Bevell was hired as offensive coordinator; the thought here being he could run the offense better since he had more experience in it. In the end neither did that well, as Jackson graded out at -0.2 (almost bang on average) with Whitehurst logging a poor -5.0. Jackson showed the ability to make great plays at times–he had his two highest-graded games of his career this past year–but, when it comes right down to it, there was just not enough consistent play to go around and if Seattle wants to take that next step it appears they need that big time quarterback.
Looking at the class of free agent quarterbacks there is one name that jumps off the page, even if he doesn’t have that much playing time under his belt; Matt Flynn. Flynn holds the Packers’ record for passing yards and touchdowns, in a single game, so its no secret that he has been productive in limited action. The most important question will be how much money will they have to pay to get a guy who’s made two career starts? Flynn’s market seems to be hot, as there are plenty of quarterback-needy teams in the NFL. Seahawks General Manager John Schneider was Ted Thompsons’ right hand man in Green Bay when they drafted Flynn, so it should be interesting to see how things play out.
Secondary Need: Guard
Injuries and horrendous play plagued the guard position for the Seattle Seahawks. Robert Gallery came over from Oakland with newly appointed offensive line coach, Tom Cable, and it was supposed to be a match made in heaven. Instead, Gallery went out and laid an egg; he couldn’t run block, he couldn’t pass block, and he ended up being the third-most penalized guard in the NFL. All of these things equated to him being our 72nd-ranked guard with a grade of -21.5. Making things worse, the guard opposite Gallery, for most of the season, was rookie John Moffitt who was equally bad, finishing the season with an identical -21.5 grade.
It seems as if the Hawks will have a good chunk of change to throw around once free agency starts, so don’t be surprised if they were to make a splash and upgrade the offensive line in a big way. Seattle loves to run the ball and there is no better guard when it comes to run blocking than Evan Mathis. Mathis finished the season with a run block grade of +20.4; the next closest player in terms of run blocking was Carl Nicks at +6.5. Mathis didn’t have one game where he received a negative grade in run blocking. In case you were wondering, he can pass block too (+10.6); he didn’t allow a sack all season.
Tertiary Need: Defensive End
After a brilliantly productive season in 2010 (+35.5) the question was, could Chris Clemons put together another and make it back-to-back dominant campaigns? Well, he did, almost (+24.4), but it’s a shame that, outside of him, the Seahawks don’t have a significant pass rushing threat off the edge. Like Clemons, Raheem Brock had a monster year in 2010 registering 11 sacks and 67 quarterback disruptions overall. However, his high level of play didn’t carry over as his sack numbers dipped back into the single digits and his pass rush grade went from a +26.9 to a -0.1. What was to blame for the dramatic drop off? Not enough snaps? Old age? Hard to tell, but one thing is certain, there needs to be more depth and probably youth at the defensive end position.
With plenty of options at DE, Seattle could really go a number of ways in free agency. If they want to be able to draft a defensive end they could also target the Jaguars Jeremy Mincey (+19.9) and possibly get him relatively cheaply. Mincey played a whopping 973 snaps, which is almost unheard of as a 4-3 defensive end. By that you can tell he’s durable, and his play is consistent. He only graded out negatively three times while appearing in all 16 games. He recorded eight sacks, 11 hits, and 38 QB hurries.