SEATTLE - DECEMBER 24: Wide receiver Doug Baldwin #15 of the Seattle Seahawks rushes against Chris Culliver #29 of the San Francisco 49ers at CenturyLink Field on December 24, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Taking a look at the current state of the Seahawks' roster as we're well in to free-agency and approaching the Draft.
With the 2012 NFL Draft about a month away, I thought now would be a perfect time to dissect and discuss the current Seahawks roster on the offensive side of the ball. The big news here is that the Seahawks just recently inked former Green Bay back-up quarterback Matt Flynn to a 3-year contract worth $26 million dollars with only $10 million of that guaranteed. Bringing back "Beast Mode" running back Marshawn Lynch also bodes well for the Seahawks offense. Other question marks for the Seahawks offense lies with the tight ends, wide receivers, and the offensive line.
I've tried to analyze Matt Flynn as best I can. It's difficult to get a read on his talent level because he only has two starts on his NFL resume - and he played on a Green Bay Packers team that is absolutely loaded with talent at the skill positions with Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jermichael Finley, Jordy Nelson, and Randall Cobb. It's highly publicized that Matt Flynn threw for 480 yards in his Week 17 start last season versus the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field. While 480 yards is a Packers franchise record (impressive considering Bart Starr, Brett Favre, and Aaron Rodgers were/are Green Bay QB's), a majority of those 480 yards were short throws that turned into long gains.
For example, Green Bay running back Ryan Grant caught a 3-yard pass and then ran 80-plus yards for a touchdown. Wide receiver Jordy Nelson also caught a quick screen pass behind the line of scrimmage and turned it into a touchdown. Not to take away any credit from Matt Flynn for a 480 yard passing game, but it's difficult to see how responsible he really is for all those yards. The bottom-line here is that Matt Flynn has upside, but he also has to prove himself at the NFL level.
In addition to Flynn, having Tarvaris Jackson at the quarterback position should help the Seahawks. Tarvaris played much of last year with a torn pectoral muscle on his right throwing arm. I think the training camp battle in August will be something to keep an eye on. Tarvaris seems like the type of guy that could really elevate his game going into his second season with the Seahawks with the added competition from newcomer Flynn.
Presumably, Matt Flynn will end up being the starter - he has the higher salary -, but competition breeds success according to the Pete Carroll "Win Forever" mantra, so having a new, young quarterback to battle with returning starter Tarvaris Jackson should help elevate the quarterback position either way.
Having Marshawn Lynch returning in the ground game should make the Seahawks running game potent. Down the stretch last season, Marshawn scored a touchdown in 11 straight games and had six games of 100+ yards rushing. To help Lynch hit some of those benchmarks again this season, the Hawks re-signed fullback and special teams captain Michael Robinson. Lynch and Robinson have become a forceful tandem in the backfield and every Hawks fan should be optimistic for the rushing game in 2012. Since the Seahawks presumably will be starting a new, unexperienced quarterback in Matt Flynn, the ground game should be used as a reliable crutch for the offense to lean on until Flynn and the passing game become more adept and comfortable.
The Seahawks tight ends are a position group that I will definitely have my eyes on this season. Zach Miller could become a crucial component to this offense and I am really hoping that he can light a fire and spark the offense this year. Miller is an excellent receiving tight end. He has been a consistent producer in the passing game for most of his career (save for last season).
Much of his lack of success last season was was a byproduct of the system, as he was asked to stay in and block for a majority of the passing sets to help out a developing offensive line that was also hampered by injuries. At 6'5" and 255 pounds, Miller is the prototypical size of a game-changing tight end. He possesses size to win over the middle and the speed to make primetime plays with his run after the catch ability. In 2009, when Miller was still with the Oakland Raiders, he had an 86-yard touchdown catch in which he broke numerous tackles and outran the Philadelphia Eagles secondary. If Miller can bring that kind of playmaking ability to the Seahawks, and if he can develop chemistry with Matt Flynn, then Seahawks fans can see an energized offensive attack coming from the tight end position.
The offensive line is an area of concern, but could also be an area of optimism for the Seahawks. Injuries are a part of the game of football, and unfortunately, the Seahawks offensive line last year was seemingly cursed with injuries. Left tackle Russell Okung has shown promise throughout his young career but has battled chronic ankle injuries and he suffered a torn pectoral muscle in Week 14 last season that led to him missing the remainder of the season. At left guard, the Seahawks released last year's starter, Robert Gallery and instead re-signed Paul McQuistan to ostensibly take that spot, barring a surprise in the Draft. Last season, McQuistan was forced into action because of injury and he performed above expectation and showed some ability at both guard and tackle. At center, the Seahawks have Max Unger. Unger had also battled injuries throughout his career, but last season he was mostly healthy showed skill as a technician of the offensive line, and he uses his feet exceptionally well.
The right side of the offensive line is where the Seahawks have youth and health issues. Both of the Seahawks young studs at right guard and right tackle suffered severe knee injuries last season. Right guard John Moffitt, in Week 10, suffered a torn MCL and PCL in his right knee. James Carpenter, the 2011 first round pick and rookie right tackle, suffered a torn ACL in practice the same week that Moffitt suffered his knee injury. Hopefully, Moffitt and Carpenter can focus on their rehab and be ready to rock next season. Thankfully for the Hawks, Lemuel Jeanpierre and Breno Giacomini were both reliable and impressive backups last season for the injury torn offensive line. Jeanpierre and Giacomini gained valuable experience last season and it is comforting to know that if the two are needed, they can step in and perform adequately.
Like the tight end position, the wide receivers are another position group that could take a huge step forward in 2012. The big surprise last season was undrafted free agent Doug Baldwin, who led the team in receptions and yards. Mike Williams is a receiver that simply must improve. In 2010, Williams had a career year and then he massively regressed in 2011. Maybe it was the lockout, and maybe it was the loss of quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, but regardless, Williams has to step up in 2012 and earn the contract extension that he was given after his impressive 2010 campaign. Former Pro Bowl receiver Sidney Rice battled injuries and missed six games last season. Rice can be an elite playmaker when he is healthy. A "comeback" year for Rice, along with tight end Zach Miller, and fellow receiver Mike Williams, could seriously spark the passing attack.
With the addition of Matt Flynn, the return of Marshawn Lynch, getting healthy on the offensive line, and "comeback" years for Zach Miller, Mike Williams, and Sidney Rice, then the Seahawks offense should possess a much more potent attack in 2012. For Seahawks fans hoping for a more exciting and balanced attack, this should be an exciting year for the development of the Seahawks offense.