Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Seahawks regular-season wrap-up
By Mike Sando
Arrow indicates direction team is trending.
Final Power Ranking: 19
Preseason Power Ranking: 26
Chris Clemons had the best season of his career and led the team with 11 sacks.
Biggest surprise: The Seahawks jumped out to a 4-2 record with Leon Washington returning kickoffs for touchdowns and Mike Williams emerging as a sometimes-dominant receiving threat. Beating San Diego and winning at Chicago set Seattle apart early. I thought the Seahawks would struggle to win five games all season after entering Week 1 with fewer returning players than any team in the league. The coaching staff built a promising run defense around Red Bryant while manufacturing pressure with blitz packages featuring extra defensive backs. Blowing out NFC West favorite San Francisco in the opener set the tone.
Biggest disappointment: Alex Gibbs' sudden retirement as offensive line coach right before the regular season left the Seahawks without Pete Carroll's highest-profile assistant. It also left Seattle with another identity crisis of sorts along its offensive line. With Gibbs, the team appeared ready to commit fully to the zone-blocking principles that had worked in Denver and Houston. Without Gibbs, the Seahawks wavered in their approach. Their decision to trade incumbent starting guard Rob Sims appeared unfortunate in retrospect. He was a starting-caliber guard, but a bad fit for Gibbs' system. The team wound up running through multiple guards and playing most of the season with Stacy Andrews, who appeared even less suited than Sims for Gibbs' style of blocking. Losing first-round left tackle Russell Okung to repeated ankle injuries set back the line further.
Biggest need: Quarterback ranks No. 1 unless Matt Hasselbeck or Charlie Whitehurst improbably leads the team deep into the playoffs. The offensive line ranks a close second. Whitehurst has only recently received a chance to play. He hasn't had enough chances to show whether he can factor as the starter next season. He hasn't played well enough in limited reps to inspire confidence. Hasselbeck has suffered far too many interceptions, again. This is his fourth down season in the past five years. He'll be 36 in 2011 and has struggled making it through a full season healthy.
Team MVP: Chris Clemons. Bryant might have been the most important player based on how the run defense played when he was in the lineup, but Bryant didn't stay healthy long enough. Clemons quickly emerged as the Seahawks' top pass-rusher, collecting 11 sacks. He played with attitude while providing significant return in the Darryl Tapp trade.
About that trending arrow: I've got it pointing down for now because the Seahawks struggled so badly late in the season. Their victory over St. Louis for the NFC West title could help that arrow turn around. Let's see what kind of feeling surrounds the team after Saturday.