Last season was one to forget for the Seattle Seahawks. The team finished 4-12, the injury bug hit the receiving and quarterback positions extremely hard and longtime coach Mike Holmgren ended his Seahawk career on a major down note.
As such, there’s a sense of determination in Seattle to exorcise the demons this year. New head coach Jim Mora and offensive coordinator Greg Knapp will most certainly have the ‘Hawks looking far different from recent years. Gone are the days of the pass-happy, West Coast offense; what’s in is a zone-blocking scheme for the run and a renewed focus on the defensive side of the ball. That being said, sports book betting reveals uncertainty as to how improved the Seahawks will be – Seattle is an 18/1 longshot to win the NFC championship outright.
Key Departures: DT Rocky Bernard, WR Bobby Engram, DT Howard Green, TE Will Heller, RB Maurice Morris, OLB Julian Peterson, LS Tyler Schmitt, FB Leonard Weaver, OG Floyd Womack.
Key Acquisitions: Free Agents – DT Colin Cole, FB Justin Griffith, WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh, CB Ken Lucas, TE John Owens, LS Bryan Pittman, DL Cory Redding. Draft – Aaron Curry.
The most notable changes in Seattle came along the defensive line, where the Rocky Bernard and Howard Green were replaced with former Packer Colin Cole and former Lion Cory Redding (who was, at one time, the highest-paid DT in the NFL) – along with a healthy Patrick Kerney, this unit should be more adept at rushing the passer than the one the Seahawks fielded a season ago. In the secondary, veteran cornerback Ken Lucas rejoined the team after a three-year hiatus in Carolina. Lucas will shore up a unit that had major troubles stopping the pass a season ago – look for him and the recently-added Travis Fisher to push Kelly Jennings and Marcus Trufant for first-team snaps. At linebacker, former Wake Forest standout Aaron Curry joins two-time Pro Bowler Lofa Tatupu to form one of the best pursuing, sound-tackling duos in the division. When it’s time to bet on NFL football, remember this improved defense – especially when it comes to low point totals.
Offensively, the Seahawks made a big move by nabbing a receiver with a big name – former Cincinnati Bengal T.J. Houshmandzadeh. The signing was a real coup for Seattle, giving them a dynamic, sure-handed receiver who caught at least 90 passes in each of the last three seasons. Along with Deion Branch, Nate Burleson and promising rookie Deon Butler, Houshmandzadeh gives the ‘Hawks one of the NFC’s best receiver corps. If QB Matt Hasselbeck can stay healthy, the short-to-intermediate passing attack could be a tough one to stop – this is assuming that RBs Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett can produce in Knapp’s offensive scheme. Both have been somewhat disappointing thus far, although Duckett does have history with Knapp from their time in Atlanta together.
Notable 2009 Games: Unfortunately, Seattle has one of the least-exciting schedules in the National Football League. There are no Sunday or Monday night games, meaning no prime time for the Seahawk faithful. Still, a few games on the ledger stand out – a Week 4 visit to Lucas Oil Stadium to face the Indianapolis Colts; a Week 8 visit to Dallas and the new Cowboys Stadium and an intriguing end-of-the-year game at Qwest Field against the Tennessee Titans.
2009 Outlook: Barring a similar slew of injuries as last season, Seattle should be a much improved team in 2009. The first six weeks of the season will ultimately make or break the season – the ‘Hawks have four very winnable home games in that stretch, then get a bye in Week 7, then have a tough slew of games to close out the season. If Seattle can go 4-2 or better after the first six weeks, they’ll be in line for a playoff spot and, quite possibly, the NFC West crown. A 9-7 overall record seems like a safe bet.