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Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Seahawks regular-season wrap-up

By Mike Sando

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Final Power Ranking: 21
Preseason Power Ranking: 25

Marshawn Lynch
Marshawn Lynch carried Seattle's offense and rushed for 1,204 yards on 285 carries.
Biggest surprise: Seattle's ground game continued building momentum after the Seahawks lost three starting offensive linemen to season-ending injuries. Losing rookies James Carpenter and John Moffitt from the line's right side threatened depth and continuity. Losing left tackle Russell Okung for the final four games should have been disastrous heading into games against Julius Peppers, Justin Smith and Calais Campbell. Instead, Seattle charged forward with Paul McQuistan at left tackle. Marshawn Lynch led the NFL in rushing yards over the final nine weeks of the season. He was fourth over the final four weeks, when McQuistan was in the lineup. Lynch needed only 15 games to top 1,200 yards rushing even though Seattle never started the same offensive line more than three games in a row. Line coach Tom Cable proved his worth.

Biggest disappointment: The Seahawks invested millions in free-agent weapons Sidney Rice and Zach Miller without getting much receiving production from either. Miller was a mainstay as a blocker, but Seattle did not maximize his talent as a receiver. Both Rice and Miller missed games to injury. They combined for 57 receptions, 717 yards and two touchdowns. Miller had 60-685-5 by himself with Oakland in 2010. Seattle went all season without getting a touchdown reception from a tight end. Rice underwent shoulder surgery this week and expects to require 3-4 months rehabilitation.

Biggest need: Quarterback and pass-rusher head the list. Those are arguably the two most important positions on any team. The Seahawks have done an admirable job building up their roster with emerging young talent, but they appear unlikely to take a big step forward without addressing those two key areas. The draft will be pivotal; a coin flip with Kansas City will determine whether Seattle drafts 11th or 12th overall.

Team MVP: Lynch, in a landslide. The adage about running backs being relatively replaceable did not apply to Seattle in this case. No back in the league ran as violently as Lynch this season. He ran through and over opponents, breaking free from packs of defenders. The Seahawks expect to add another big back through the draft or free agency, but there is only one Lynch. Re-signing him is a top priority.

In with the new: A strong rookie class made immediate contributions while offering promise for the future. Carpenter, Moffitt, linebacker K.J. Wright, cornerback Richard Sherman, receiver Doug Baldwin and receiver Ricardo Lockette showed enough to factor next season. All but Lockette project as starters. Another rookie receiver, Kris Durham, is returning from injury and has the size to become a Mike Williams type. Carpenter's future could be at guard if the team decides to stick with Giacomini at right tackle.