ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 06: Quarterback Tavaris Jackson #7 of the Seattle Seahawks gestures as he drops back to pass against the Dallas Cowboys in the first half at Cowboys Stadium on November 6, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Taking a look at this Seahawks team as they head into the second half of the season.
The Seahawks reached the halfway point of their season after the loss to Dallas on Sunday and now sit at 2-6. I broke down the Hawks' first half and took at their second half with respect to opponents and expectations here, but I thought I'd take a minute to look at the team as a whole after one half, single tear, of the season has passed. God, what am I going to do when the season is over? So depressing to think about. But I digress.
The Hawks have been inconsistent. Their two wins have been exciting, particularly beating the Giants on the road in a 2nd half comeback, and their six losses have been equally frustrating. Save for the Browns debacle though, the games have been pretty fun (even exciting!) to watch for the most part and as I said over at Field Gulls, the Hawks have managed to stay in games thus far.
The offense took a few weeks to get clicking. I mean, I don't know if you can say they're 'clicking' yet, but compared to what we saw in weeks one and two, it's night and day. The line, as expected, took a little while to learn to play together and protect the quarterback. It took a while to learn the schemes and it took a while to look like a unit. They're not out of the woods yet in that regard, but they are now looking like a real-live NFL offensive line with some potential for growth. Tom Cable has stressed patience from day one - "I keep saying, if you hear me, the system has to kind of start in infancy and grow just like we all do as humans" - as he put it back in August.
Despite a historically young and inexperienced offensive line, people expect results. Immediately. That didn't happen, but things are on the uptick in that area.
"The talent that we drafted is now showing up," Cable said a few weeks back. "You had to get it prepared and trained and all that. And there was a process to go through, but like I told you before, I wasn't too worried about that. It was just a matter of when, and it's finally happening, so it's pretty cool."
As a result, Tarvaris Jackson has picked up his game and has had a few very nice appearances, and Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks run game has looked closer to waking up from its several-year hibernation. On Sunday, the Hawks rushed for 162 yards on 5.6 yards per carry against a good Dallas team. That's progress. In one area.
The Hawks have yet to string together a good rushing performance with a good passing game. One will show up and the other will be completely absent. The consistency isn't there. That's what you'd expect from a team that is in the midst of a rebuild though I guess.
The defense has looked pretty solid, and could be considered a 'middle-of-the-pack' unit by some standards. Beats being nearly dead last, as it was last year. The run defense has been good, the pass defense has... well, improved a bit, and the personnel development has been intriguing. I am choosing my words rather carefully here to not overstate what is decidedly NOT a great defense, but there are reasons to believe this side of the ball is headed in the right direction.
Depth has improved with the additions of Alan Branch, Anthony Hargrove, and Clinton McDonald on the interior and K.J. Wright, Richard Sherman, and Brandon Browner are starting in their 'first' year in the NFL. Kam Chancellor has emerged as a talented and promising young safety alongside Earl Thomas, and Leroy Hill is having a career renaissance after some trouble with injuries and the law.
The Hawks haven't escaped the injury bug this season. Starters John Carlson and Marcus Trufant are on the injured reserve and would-be 'key' players in Walter Thurmond, Matt McCoy, Jimmy Wilkerson, and Dexter Davis have been lost for the season.
Mike Williams has missed several games. Sidney Rice has missed several as well. Tarvaris Jackson is fighting through a pectoral injury that will likely bother him for the remainder of the season. Robert Gallery had groin surgery and missed several games. Zach Miller has missed some time due to a head/neck injury.
Cameron Morrah, Roy Lewis, and to a lesser extent Deon Butler have been missed for their key roles on the team. Morrah and Butler are back now but fighting to catch up and get into playing shape and mentality.
I wouldn't say that injuries have devastated this team but they certainly haven't helped.
The obvious need would be at quarterback but we've talked that one to death so I'm not going to go there. Apart from that, I see several positional needs/concerns for the Seahawks with one overarching theme - getting pressure on the quarterback. Tony Romo was sacked exactly zero times on Sunday and on the year the Seahawks have only 13 sacks. Only the Buccaneers and Chiefs have fewer. You can have the best secondary in the league but if you give the elite (or even just 'good') QBs time to throw the ball, they're going to find an open receiver. That's the bottom line.
The Hawks have tried a few things to get pressure on the QB but with a line consisting of Red Bryant, Brandon Mebane, Alan Branch and Chris Clemons, stopping the run is the primary concern and getting to the passer is secondary. I don't know if this is a long-term goal or philosophy, or the Seahawks going with a scheme that best suited the personnel available to them, but that's been the result.
This means the Seahawks should be, and likely will be, looking to upgrade their pass rush in the coming seasons through the draft and free agency (and development of young players on their roster) by finding defensive tackles and defensive ends that excel in that part of the game.
Keep an eye on linebackers with pass rushing skills as well, as the Seahawks have been known to use their outside linebackers to get to the quarterback.
Speaking of that, depth at the linebacker position will need to be addressed. WIth Lofa Tatupu released, Aaron Curry traded, Will Herring not resigned, and Matt McCoy on the IR, the linebacker depth right now is pretty tenuous. Rookie Malcolm Smith has shown promise backing up Hill and Wright, but David Vobora and Heath Farwell are primarily special teamers and most likely not future starters.
With Marcus Trufant and Walter Thurmond on injured reserve, rookie Richard Sherman has been pushed into the action. Behind him, the Seahawks have Kennard Cox, Malcolm Smith, Ron Parker, and a mix of DBs in Roy Lewis, Chris Maragos, and Jeron Johnson. The overarching theme there is that you've never heard of any of them because they're all very young and inexperienced, save for maybe Cox and Lewis. This is a positional group that could suffer if confronted with any more injuries.
On the offensive side, the wide receiver group has proven to be deep and players like Ben Obomanu and Golden Tate have stepped up when the players in front of them have gone down. I am not particularly worried about this group. The running backs group is an interesting one. If Lynch goes down you're left with Leon Washington and Justin Forsett, and the Hawks may be forced to bring in someone else to play the 'power-back, feature-back' role and for goal-line duties.
The Hawks have stashed Allen Bradford and Vai Taua on the practice squad, both players that could conceivably play Lynch's role (though Bradford is listed on the official roster as a LB). I'm not super worried about that position at the moment but there are many out there that believe the Hawks will draft a running back, possibly in the early rounds, in the upcoming Draft. They could re-sign Lynch, who is in the final year of his contract, as well.
The offensive line has been up and down. The depth there is much better, I believe, than it was last season, but still ultimately unproven. At tackle they have Jerriel King and Breno Giacomini; at guard they have Paul McQuistan and Lemuel Jeanpierre. The common theme there is youth, but at some point the Seahawks will have to find the future at LG, because Robert Gallery is not it. Of note is that the Seahawks have apparently been playing King at guard on the scout team so perhaps they see him in that role. From what I've heard, he has a great deal of upside and promise and the Seahawks snatched him up off waivers the minute they could.
Frankly, it's way too early to tell. I'd say if anyone were on the hot seat it might be special teams coach Brian Schneider because of their numerous miscues there, but I don't know how much blame you can really lay at the feet of a coach when players are missing assignments and going off plan, as Earl Thomas indicated was happening on some special teams' flubs earlier in the year. Regardless, I'm definitely not advocating anything there, but think it's definitely one area that needs major improvement.
The Tom Cable/Darrell Bevell co-coordinatorship is still young. The results have been varied, and I doubt any change will come this season.
Gus Bradley's job is looking more secure as the Seahawks have improved on defense this season over last. Overall, though I have no inside information on the matter, I'd doubt many changes to significant positions will be made. I also didn't think that Jeremy Bates would be fired though.
I'm an optimist by nature, but I'd say the changes to the roster have really made the franchise trajectory for the Seahawks point upwards. The team has gotten younger at every position and a lot of those young players are seeing the field.
With this youth and inexperience, mistakes will be made and that's definitely been the case. The Hawks have been penalized a LOT this season (10 times on Sunday) and the substitution errors and special teams miscues can be attributed to this as well. Those aren't excuses, but as this team's core nucleus gains experience and savvy, you can expect those things to diminish.
The second half of the season will be dedicated to forming identity and getting stronger as a team, and as individual units. The Playoffs are out of the picture this year but overall the outlook is good from where I'm sitting.