About a month ago, I spoke with Danny Kelly from Field Gulls for a Q&A before the first Rams-Seahawks game (BTW, his post on Field Gulls was unusually kind and linked to some of my more meaningful stuff, though he didn't link to arguably my favorite post of the year...I hear a sequel is in the works.)
At the time, the Rams had won two of three, the only loss being the overtime loss to Arizona (aka the Petersoning, Vol I). Since then, the Rams are 0-3 and have been outscored 73-20 with 20 of those points coming against Arizona in the Petersoning, Vol. II. On the other hand, Seattle's 2-1 and clinging to a mathematically possible playoff berth.
So I linked up with Danny to assuage my curiosity. Because while curiosity killed the cat, not asking appropriate questions killed the dog. And then there were no pets. Except for guinea pigs and birds, and those are entirely unacceptable pets. And we don't want that, do we?
Realistically, the Seahawks aren't going to make the playoffs. What is the outlook for the rest of 2011? Is it just evaluating the roster before finding a QB in the 2012 draft? Is it winning a couple games going into 2012? Both? Neither?
Agreed, though there is a long-shot scenario that involves the Seahawks making the playoffs, this team hasn't demonstrated enough consistency to me to make me believe they're going to win out. So, the rest of the season is about developing some consistency and continuing to develop their identity on both sides of the ball - as a tough, physical defense and a ball-control, rush-heavy offense. With the amount of injuries the Seahawks have had, depth development is also a key goal. Obviously not to the extent that St. Louis has had and you're going to just laugh maniacally in my face for this, but Seattle has had two season-ending injuries to cornerbacks and rookie Richard Sherman has come on and played very well in relief. So well, in fact, that I highly doubt he'll relinquish his starting job next season.
To me, these final four games will be watching for more of this - will we have a 'Victor Cruz' moment where a depth player is forced into action and secures a starting job going forward? Will we find that we've got solid depth on the offensive line? Will a lesser known player make a case for himself?
I'd like to see the Seahawks get a few wins in their last four games but really the most important thing is to keep this train moving in the right direction, culture-wise and identity-wise.
The rest of the Q&A after the jump.
You guys made an unavoidable effort to upgrade the O-line with Max Unger in '09, Okung last year and Carpenter & Moffitt through the draft and Robert Gallery before this year (though the injuries are unavoidable). How would you qualify the O-line this year?
The O-line looked pretty much how I figured it would at the beginning of the season. Out of sorts, mistake prone, and, for lack of a better word, awful. They've really turned things around though under the tutelage of Tom Cable and now have helped the Seahawks rush for 100+ yards in 5 straight games, something they haven't done since the '05 season with LT Walter Jones, LG Steven Hutchinson, and then-MVP Shaun Alexander. Further, if the Hawks manage to rush for 100+ yards on Monday, it will be the first time they've done that six straight since the '96 season. In other words, the progress has been very encouraging.
Now, that said, three of our starters, including LT Russell Okung, the 6th pick in the 2010 draft, are now on IR. Three replacement players on the line means we can expect a little bit of a regression. Overall though, I'm pleased beyond measure with what Tom Cable has done over the season and I think with a full offseason to develop the depth guys, the Hawks' line could really improve.
Defensively, what are the problems plaguing the Seahawks? Obviously, the offense needs work, but where at?
The main issue on defense is a lack of pass rush. The Hawks essentially lean on DE Chris Clemons to get pressure on the QB and Brandon Mebane, Alan Branch, and Red Bryant are the run stuffing immovable objects on the rest of the line. Though this has helped the Seahawks to one of the better run defenses in the league, it also means opposing QBs are getting a lot of time to throw the ball and this has been frustrating at times. The secondary has done a pretty admirable job though despite this fact, and I'd say a lot of Seahawks fans are very hopeful for what this team can do on defense going forward.
On offense, the main issue people would point to is that there is no real solution at QB. Tarvaris Jackson has been better than pretty much anyone would have expected, even playing hurt for the past month or so, but he doesn't seem to be a long-term answer and isn't the type of dangerous QB you'd love to have on your offense. The O-line is young and has taken time to develop, and injuries to Sidney Rice and a lack of playmaking from Mike Williams has stunted the offensive abilities for this team at times.
Penalties have been a huge issue as well, and this self-destructive habit has been hard to watch. In last week's game the Hawks only had five penalties so that's growth, but don't be surprised to see 10+ from our side in this Monday's game.
Pete Carroll is in year 2. Steve Spagnuolo is in year 3, and plenty are calling for his head. What does Carroll have to do to avoid a similar reaction from the fan base in 2012?
Essentially he has to continue to prove to fans that the team is progressing. I don't think anyone around here would say that they'd rather have last year's team over this year's, and that's bought Pete Carroll some time, but for a stretch this season when the team was losing and getting penalized left and right, there were a few media members calling for Pete Carroll's job.
I think continued progress means better efficiency on offense, fewer mistakes penalty-wise, and further 'buy-in' from the players in this next season. I doubt he'll have a ton of leeway if the Hawks win less than 5 or 6 games in 2012, unfortunately, though I'd go on record saying I love what he and John Schneider have done with the roster. Year three will be about the emerging 'plan' for this team: with a lot of his pieces in place and his vision being brought to fruition, I can see people getting restless if there is no significant growth in the win-column.
Looking ahead to the draft, what would you say Seattle's needs are? Is it QB first and everything else after?
In a word, yes. Securing a QB is the number one priority in pretty much everyone's mind but that being said, I don't think they'll reach for a QB (they passed over Andy Dalton at 25, after all - as they didn't see that as a value pick). I don't know if they'll trade up. GM John Schneider has a 'trade-back' mentality gathered from his time in Green Bay under Ted Thompson and I'm not sure he'd be satisfied losing more picks unless they're absolutely sold on a player - someone like Matt Barkley or Robert Griffin. If they're picking somewhere in the teens it would be extremely expensive to trade all the way up to the top-5 and though part of me would like them to, I just don't know if they'd be willing to do that.
I could instead see them taking a pass rushing OLB or DE, a 3-tech defensive tackle, or even a WR. If a top-tier offensive lineman or running back is there when they pick, it wouldn't surprise me to see them go that route either. This year's Draft for the Seahawks will be especially compelling considering essentially everyone in the media has taken the "QB OR BUST" attitude for the first round. If the Hawks don't take one there, it could be mayhem.
Thanks again to Danny for being one cool dude and hooking me up with the inside info.