2011 Seattle Seahawks preseason preview

by | Special to CBSSports.com
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Sidney Rice and Tavaris Jackson are on board in Seattle. But questions abound. (AP)  
Sidney Rice and Tavaris Jackson are on board in Seattle. But questions abound. (AP)  

2010 RECORD: 7-9 (first, NFC West)

LAST PLAYOFF APPEARANCE: 2010, lost to Chicago, 35-24, in divisional round

COACH: Pete Carroll (7-9 with Seahawks, 40-40 overall)

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Darrell Bevell

DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Gus Bradley

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OFFENSIVE TEAM RANKS, 2010 (NFL): 31st rushing, 19th passing, 23rd scoring

DEFENSIVE TEAM RANKS, 2010 (NFL): 21st rushing, 27th passion, 25th scoring

KEY ADDITIONS: QB Tarvaris Jackson (from Vikings), WR Sidney Rice (from Vikings), G Robert Gallery (from Raiders), TE Zach Miller (from Raiders), DT Alan Branch (from Cardinals), T James Carpenter (first round, Alabama), G John Moffitt (third round, Wisconsin)

KEY DEPARTURES: QB Matt Hasselbeck (to Titans), LB Lofa Tatupu (released), S Lawyer Milloy (not tendered), K Olindo Mare (to Panthers), C Chris Spencer (to Bears), T Sean Locklear (to Redskins), S Jordan Babineaux (to Titans)

BIG SHOES TO FILL: For 10 seasons, Matt Hasselbeck was Seattle's only starting quarterback. This season, that will change. Tarvaris Jackson has already been anointed the starting QB, but Charlie Whitehurst is waiting in the wings should Jackson struggle. Whoever runs the offense, the Seahawks are taking a gamble that a new face can get the job done after letting the best quarterback in franchise history walk in free agency. Assuming Jackson hangs onto the starting job, this will be his chance to prove he can be a quality starting QB after two seasons as Brett Favre's backup. Should Whitehurst win the job, this could be his last shot at showing he can be a starter after a career as a backup in San Diego and Seattle.

THE FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT. WHAT ABOUT THE PRESENT? It's easy to look at the Seahawks' offensive line and predict big things for the future. The more immediate question, however, is how a young line will come together in the short term. The Seahawks used their first two draft picks on players they expect to start this season -- RT James Carpenter and RG John Moffitt -- but even if that combo has a big future, it will be tough for them to jell right off the bat. Of Seattle's projected starting five -- LT Russell Okung, LG Robert Gallery, C Max Unger, RG Moffitt, RT Carpenter -- no two have ever played a regular-season down together, so growing pains seem inevitable. Gallery, 31, who played for OL coach Tom Cable in Oakland, will provide leadership to an otherwise very inexperienced group.

D-LINE DEPTH: For nearly half a season, the Seahawks owned the No. 2 run defense in the league, thanks in large part to the vision of Pete Carroll and D-line coach Dan Quinn who converted Red Bryant from a little-used backup DT to a run-stuffing DE. But after Bryant went down with a season-ending knee injury and DT Colin Cole hurt his ankle, it became abundantly clear that the Seahawks lacked the depth to maintain a high level of play following those injuries. Re-signing DT Brandon Mebane was a major coup for the Seahawks, and just as importantly they bolstered the depth of a group that proved to be too thin last year. Newly signed DT Alan Branch is expected to step into the starting lineup next to Mebane, while DE Jimmy Wilkerson, DT Ryan Sims and rookie DE Pep Levingston will provide depth so that, when injuries inevitably happen, the falloff won't be so pronounced this time around.

THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT: Of the 18 defensive backs currently on Seattle's roster, 14 are either rookies or second-year players. That youth movement could either be the beginning of a turnaround for a pass defense that has ranked amongst the league's worst over the past three seasons, or an indicator that the Seahawks still have a ways to go in the secondary. Nine-year veteran Marcus Trufant is expected to hold down one starting job at cornerback, while the other spot will be an open battle between veteran Kelly Jennings, second-year payer Walter Thurmond, rookie Richard Sherman and former CFL star Brandon Browner. The Seahawks will go young at safety with last year's first-round pick Earl Thomas at free safety and 2010 fifth-round pick Kam Chancellor at strong safety. Chancellor, 23, is the oldest safety on Seattle's roster, a big change for a secondary that last year leaned heavily on the leadership provided by four-time Pro Bowl S Lawyer Milloy.

FINAL WORD: The Seahawks made a number of moves that make them better in the short term -- in particular the signings of WR Sidney Rice and TE Zach Miller -- but the fact remains that Seattle is still in the process of rebuilding under Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider. Only 17 players remain from the 2009 roster Carroll and Schneider inherited, a clear reminder of just how thorough the overhaul has been. And if the numbers alone don't show how big of a rebuild is underway in Seattle, the departures of QB Matt Hasselbeck, LB Lofa Tatupu and S Lawyer Milloy provide a more tangible example. A younger more athletic roster should be competitive in 2011, but a difficult schedule early, combined with the fact that the Seahawks are adjusting to a new quarterback, will make it hard for Seattle to repeat as NFC West champs.

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