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Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Midseason Stock Watch: Seahawks

By Mike Sando

Power Rankings: Preseason 25. This week: 24.

Leon Washington
Leon Washington has done his part to give the offense good starting field position.
2010 schedule/results

Where they stand: The Seahawks are tied with St. Louis atop the NFC West with a 4-4 record. The Rams own the head-to-head tiebreaker pending their rematch in Week 17. Seattle was an ascending team until injuries wiped out five starters on the offensive and defensive lines, plus quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and a few others. The Seahawks still have a chance to steady themselves once Hasselbeck and left tackle Russell Okung return. Both could be back against Arizona this week. But the defense will have a hard time recapturing top form against the run without defensive end Red Bryant (injured reserve) and nose tackle Colin Cole (out indefinitely with a high-ankle sprain). The Seahawks are on shaky ground after getting outscored 74-10 over their past two games.

Falling: The offensive line was supposed to develop a strong identity under highly regarded coach Alex Gibbs. It never happened. Gibbs quit shortly before the season. By then, the Seahawks had already begun remaking their line with the smaller guards Gibbs preferred. Trading away incumbent starter Rob Sims seemed like a mistake once Gibbs departed and the Seahawks sought more size at the position. Losing starting right guard Max Unger in the opener and starting left guard Ben Hamilton more recently exacerbated the problem. Take away Okung and the line has struggled enough to prevent the offense from functioning. The Seahawks are having trouble sustaining drives and clearing holes for their running backs. That puts more pressure on the defense, which has issues of its own.

Rising: General manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll have done a good job patching holes with castoffs. Adding first-round choices Mike Williams (2005, Detroit Lions) and Marshawn Lynch (2007, Buffalo Bills) has given Seattle two talented building blocks on offense. Williams had 21 receptions over a two-game period before falling off over the past couple of games. Lynch has found very little room to run, but his hard-charging style has impressed. The 6-yard run Lynch had against the New York Giants -- one in which he disappeared into a pile, moved the pile and then emerged from the other side -- summed up what Seattle is getting from him. Leon Washington, acquired in a low-cost trade on draft day, leads the NFL in kickoff-return average. Chris Clemons, another acquisition by trade, has produced as a pass-rusher. Raheem Brock, Brandon Stokley, Kentwan Balmer and Michael Robinson have also added value.

Midseason MVP: Washington gets my vote for his consistently game-changing production in the return game. He's the most dynamic player on the team and a consistent source of favorable field position. Clemons and strong safety Lawyer Milloy also deserve consideration. Both players have brought an edge to the defense at times.

Outlook: Getting Okung back into the lineup and developing continuity on the offensive line stands as the top priority heading into the second half of the season. The game against Chicago in Week 6 proved the Seahawks had a good thing going up front when Okung was in the lineup. It's just tough to bank on anything coming together from an injury standpoint amid so much bad news on that front. The defensive line might be in worse shape, a significant concern with Reggie Bush, Jamaal Charles, Thomas Jones, DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Frank Gore, Michael Turner, LeGarrette Blount and Steven Jackson still on the schedule. Seattle can get to 8-8 by winning its remaining home games, however. That's more than the Rams or San Francisco 49ers can say.