10 big questions facing the 2008 Hawks
Mike Holmgren's time as Seahawks coach is winding down. When the season ends, in late December in Arizona, early February 2009 in Tampa...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Mike Holmgren's time as Seahawks coach is winding down.
When the season ends, in late December in Arizona, early February 2009 in Tampa at Super Bowl XLIII, or sometime between, Holmgren will step down after 10 seasons.
But that's months away. Holmgren is primed for one more go-round at taking the Seahawks to the Super Bowl. The Seahawks have the talent to get there, but they must hope for good fortune. They must also strive to earn home-field advantage, because it has served them so well in the recent past.
It's a season of change and transition for the Seahawks.
The offense made major changes this offseason, and not even one-third of the 2008 roster was on the Super Bowl XL team from 2005.
Also, there are new coaches. A new team facility. And a new coach-in-waiting, defensive backs coach Jim Mora.
Questions? There are many.
Here are 10:
1. Are the Seahawks a better running team with Julius Jones replacing Shaun Alexander?
Exhibition season and training-camp observations indicate they are. No disrespect to Alexander, who has Hall of Fame credentials, but there has been a toughness missing from the running game the past couple of years. Jones and T.J. Duckett have brought that. And Maurice Morris, perhaps sensing the need to ramp up his game so that he doesn't get lost in the shuffle of a by-committee system, has shown he can still play a key role. Jones said two things "absolutely ruin his day:" Failing to pick up the blitz in pass protection and failure to gain a yard when it is needed to sustain a drive.
2. Is the receiver position a major concern?
Has to be, with Deion Branch missing the entire offseason (and not yet back from surgery for a torn knee ligament) and Bobby Engram out for at least the first two games. Those are the Seahawks' two most-experienced receivers. That leaves Nate Burleson, Courtney Taylor, Jordan Kent and Logan Payne, all who are expected to play Sunday.
Burleson has a lot of game experience, but Taylor, Kent and Payne have five career catches between them (all by Taylor). There is talent, but it is unproven.
3. How much of a difference will having all 11 defensive starters back make?
Players say this is huge. They know where each other is going to be on a given play. They know each other's tendencies, strengths and shortcomings. There are four Pro Bowlers — Patrick Kerney, Lofa Tatupu, Julian Peterson and Marcus Trufant — and plenty of experience among the other seven players. The Seahawks have a penchant for creating turnovers. The biggest needs for improvement are in run defense and pass-rush consistency.
4. Can the offensive line return to being a strength?
It probably won't match the 2005 line for dominance, but steps were taken to address a group that had problems last season. There are Pro Bowl credentials on the left side with Walter Jones and Mike Wahle, who looks like a solid addition. It remains to be seen how Rob Sims will fare after moving from left to right guard, but most eyes will be on center Chris Spencer, who has been injury prone. The Seahawks don't have a proven backup at the position. It seems imperative that the starting five remain injury-free, and both Spencer and right tackle Sean Locklear missed a lot of time in August.
5. How do the Seahawks replace standout kicker Josh Brown?
After a good competition for the job in exhibition games and training camp between Olindo Mare and rookie Brandon Coutu, Seattle chose neither. Both are on the team for at least the first week of the season, but Mare will handle the duties Sunday at Buffalo. Coutu could go to the practice squad.
6. Why so many changes on the coaching staff?
When a team establishes a track record for success, other teams try to take away components to that success, and that includes assistant coaches. Keith Gilbertson was promoted to become receivers coach after Nolan Cromwell returned to the college ranks. Bill Lazor replaces new Washington Redskins coach Jim Zorn, who was joined by former Seahawks running backs coach Stump Mitchell. Kasey Dunn replaces Mitchell. And Mike Solari will lead the offensive line after Holmgren parted ways with Bill Laveroni.
7. Will knowing that Mora is going to be the head coach next season affect anything?
It shouldn't. Winning this season and sending Holmgren out on a positive note trumps any thoughts of what things will be like when Mora takes over, and Mora himself has a pivotal role as an assistant.
8. How much of a difference will the team's new facility in Renton make?
It won't make a difference as far as wins and losses. But the gleaming new headquarters could indirectly be a positive. With everything bigger, better and more up-to-date than what the team had in Kirkland, that can only be a good thing and will help recruit free agents to Seattle.
The indoor facility will probably be the most noticeable difference, as the team no longer has to practice in that moldy, drafty practice bubble that was used in Kirkland on rainy and cold days.
9. Who are the core special teams players?
Besides the punter, kicker and long snapper, linebackers Lance Laury, David Hawthorne and D.D. Lewis, safety C.J, Wallace, cornerback Josh Wilson, fullback Owen Schmitt, tight end Will Heller, defensive back Jordan Babineaux and defensive tackle Craig Terrill will likely be counted on as members of the coverage and return teams, four units in all.
Also, long snapper Jeff Robinson, who was in that role at the end of last season, has to show he can be the answer to the Seahawks' problems at that position in 2007.
10. Who are the rookies to watch?
Obviously, first-round pick Lawrence Jackson is the biggest name. The team seeks a strong pass rush and Jackson has the ability to be effective in certain defensive packages. Tight end John Carlson has a spotlight on him, too, as does defensive tackle Red Bryant.
José Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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