2012 NFL Season Preview

CBSSports.com Staff

By Pete Prisco | Senior NFL Columnist


It's all about the quarterback for the Seahawks on this side of the ball. But they first have to pick one. Coach Pete Carroll said it will be a camp battle, but it appears free-agent signee Matt Flynn might get the first crack, even with reports saying otherwise. He showed well in two starts with the Packers, but it's a different story when you are the guy on a regular basis. The question is whether he has the arm strength to drive the football. Tarvaris Jackson, the starter for much of 2011, will push him for the starting job. Jackson has had moments where he looked like a solid starter, but he's been way too inconsistent. Rookie Russell Wilson is also in the mix, but that would seem like a long shot. Seattle was 29th in passing yards last season. That has to be better.

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Whoever is doing the throwing has to hope that a healthy Sidney Rice will be on the other end. He was a disappointment last season after signing as a free agent as injuries limited him. Doug Baldwin took that opportunity and ran with it as he flashed as a surprise rookie starter. They also traded to get tight end Kellen Winslow to pair with Zack Miller.

The offensive line is coached by one of the best in Tom Cable and he did a remarkable job keeping that unit together after it was hit hard by injuries. If they can get most of the injured back on the field, the line could be a good one. Left tackle Russell Okung has a chance to be a Pro Bowl player.

Running back Marshawn Lynch keyed the offense last season and was rewarded with a new contract. Now comes the hard part: Living up to it. Lynch has to watch his weight because he has a tendency to get heavy and slow down.


This is a unit that has the making of something special after finishing ninth in total defense last season. There is talent all over the defense, much of it young, rising talent. The strongest part of the defense is the secondary. It features a pair of aggressive cover corners in Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman, who thrive in the Seahawks man-cover style of defense. Both improved greatly as 2011 moved along and should be even better in 2012. They are backed by arguably the best pair of safeties in the game in Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. Thomas is a ball-hawking, rangy player while Chancellor is a big thumper, who can struggle in coverage at times.

The key up front is the pass rush. Chris Clemons had 11 sacks to lead the team last season, but he needs help. That's why the Seahawks surprised a lot of people and took West Virginia pass rusher Bruce Irvin in the first round. He has explosive speed, but he is raw and some scouts think he was over-drafted. Time will tell. The other end is underrated Red Bryant, who is more of a run stuffer than pass rusher. The addition of Jason Jones, a free agent from Tennessee, will help.

The biggest concern on the defense is the linebacker group. K.J. Wright is the best of the group. They did sign Barrett Ruud and drafted Bobby Wagner to help fortify the weak part of the defense.

Key Changes

Roster Additions: QB Matt Flynn, TE Kellen Winslow, MLB Barrett Ruud, DT Jason Jones, DE Bruce Irvin and LB Bobby Wagner.

Roster Departures: TE John Carlson, G Robert Gallery and LB David Hawthorne.

Staff: None. Pete Carroll has his staff back intact and it's a good thing. He has some good coaches on the staff. Having a former head coach like Tom Cable on the staff really helps.

The front office is led by a good personnel man in John Schneider, but you get the feeling that Carroll calls just as many shots. This team looks to be built in the way Carroll wants it built. The drafting of Irvin in the first round smelled of being a Carroll pick, an edge rusher with an edge. The boldest move the team made in the offseason was signing Flynn. They obviously think he can be a guy who can get them to the playoffs and beyond. But then they said it was an open competition, which was strange. Is that Carroll's way of motivation? One thing is certain, the Seahawks have a lot of good, young talent.

X-Factor: Sidney Rice

The Seahawks signed him last year to a big contract with the idea he would become their go-to guy in the passing game. He played in only nine games last season and caught just 32 passes because of shoulder issues. He had screws inserted into both shoulders during the offseason and said the doctors told him it was like having two new shoulders. We'll see. Rice has to become more of a threat in the passing game and if he stays on the field, I think he can.

Who wins the quarterback job?

Carroll loves to say it's an open competition, but singing Flynn means he's the leader heading to camp. He is a smart, accurate passer, but he doesn't have the arm strength to drive the football. That showed up on tape. Jackson has the big arm, but he's inconsistent. Wilson is small at 5-11, but he did a nice job at both North Carolina State and Wisconsin in college. He is mobile and can move around to make plays. In the end, if Flynn isn't the starter the Seahawks could be in big trouble.

Who starts at linebacker?

Ruud was a disappointment in his one season with the Titans last year, so he has to show he can play better if he is to be the middle linebacker. Wright will be one linebacker, but the other two spots are up in the air. Wagner has great athletic ability but he is raw.

Is Marshawn for real?

Lynch was impressive last season when he rushed for 1,204 yards and a 4.2 per-carry average. He also has 28 catches. But the per-carry average is a concern and he seemed to disappear at times. He runs hard, but he isn't an explosive player. The most he's averaged in any season is 4.4. He's also 28 now, which means he's closing in on the dreaded 30 for running backs.

Insider's take

"I'll be surprised if they win six games. I don't see what others see. They've made a lot of bad decisions under Pete Carroll and John Schneider. Look at the quarterback position. They gave away a third-round pick for Charlie Whitehurst. Bad move. And they still don't have one. Can Matt Flynn play? We'll see, but I don't think so. The way I see it, they have three backups on their depth chart at quarterback. They do have a good runner in Marshawn Lynch, but the line is average. They don't have any explosive players on offense, which means they will have to rely too much on Lynch. I really see them struggling on offense. They have one real star on defense and that is Earl Thomas. The corners played well last year, but they are big guys who don't run that well. That could show. The linebackers aren't very good. I know they made some moves on the defensive line, but how much better are they? Bruce Irvin could be good, but he has some issues. Like I said, this has the look of a six-victory team. They've made a lot of bad decisions."

Xs and Os

By Pat Kirwan | NFL Insider

The Seahawks' offense has been the problem since Pete Carroll took over and they continue to experiment at quarterback until they get the right man on the field. In two seasons, Carroll has had three different starting quarterbacks and is getting close to a fourth. This season may see three different players get a chance to start in what Seattle likes to call competition at every position.

Seahawks' Rivals: NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
2012 Preview • Schedule
Cardinals @ Seahawks: 12/9 (4:15 p.m. ET)
Seahawks @ Cardinals: 9/9 (4:15 p.m. ET)
St. Louis Rams
2012 Preview • Schedule
Rams @ Seahawks: 12/30 (4:15 p.m. ET)
Seahawks @ Rams: 9/30 (1 p.m. ET)
San Francisco 49ers
2012 Preview • Schedule
49ers @ Seahawks: 12/23 (4:15 p.m. ET)
Seahawks @ 49ers: 10/18 (8:20 p.m. ET)

The offense subscribes to a run-first philosophy with an Alex Gibbs-influenced zone scheme. To become a great offense, they are going to have to be a more effective first-down run team. They call a run play 51 percent of the time on first down but at a 4.18 average, they are left with work to do, and that applies pressure to the QB. So far, the quarterbacks haven't been able to respond well enough, and before you know it, they are in third down situations they can't convert.

Seattle was 1-5 last year in games in which they couldn't rush for 100 yards. Even Cleveland was able to hold them to 68 yards rushing and lost 6-3. I believe Matt Flynn will win the QB job, and he should be able to get the offense in the right play at the line of scrimmage and take advantage of defenses overplaying the run. Expect the Seahawks to use a lot of 12 personnel (1RB, 2TE, 2WR) on early downs, especially since they grabbed Kellen Winslow in the offseason to go along with Zach Miller. Winslow gives them a very good receiving threat, especially when the linebackers are playing the run. Marshawn Lynch should have even a better season than his 1204 yard season last year, and if he has any medical issues, get ready to see rookie Robert Turbin step in and be effective.

As for the offensive line, they are a well-trained run blocking group that struggles to stay healthy and struggles in pass protection. They gave up 50 sacks last year, which is a sack every 11 pass attempts. Part of the problem was QB Tarvaris Jackson, who was sacked 14 times in the first three games last year. 30 of the 50 sacks came on the road where the noise, pressure and the youth in the offensive line exposed the problem.

The Seattle defense is an emerging unit that will give a lot of teams problems this year. They are listed as a 4-3 package, but because of the skills of DE Red Bryant to two gap, they really have some 3-4 principles. They boast the biggest secondary in the NFL and whether they are in cover two or playing man coverage, they have a nose for the ball (22 interceptions). The one area where Seattle's defense had to get help was in the pass rush.

Chris Clemons gives them a double-digit sack guy but no one else really emerged. The Seahawks shocked a lot of people when they took Bruce Irvin in the first round, but after talking with coach Carroll, I could see why he did it. He tried to sign Irvin when he was at USC and knew all about his unique rush skills. He likens him to Von Miller over in Denver, who had 11 ½ sacks as a rookie. Irvin can come off the ball under the tackle's pads and explode off a block. It should be a very interesting season watching the Irvin experiment.

Draft Recap

By Rob Rang | NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst

Head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider showed last year that they aren't concerned about their critics with the selection of offensive tackle James Carpenter in the first round. They pulled another stunner with West Virginia edge rusher Bruce Irvin this year.

Seahawks Draft Analysis

However, my sources indicated the Jets, Ravens and 49ers all were interested in Irvin, a potential fit for the "Leo" position that has been filled by the likes of Charles Haley, Chris Doleman and Clay Matthews III over the years. First, Irvin must prove his off-field issues won't follow him to the NFL.

The Seahawks' selection of quarterback Russell Wilson at No. 75 was also criticized by many, but not by me. While he has a major obstacle to overcome in being just 5-11, Wilson has the arm strength, accuracy, anticipation, mobility, intelligence and leadership skills that would warrant a top 10 pick if he were a few inches taller. He impressed enough during the offseason program to be put in the mix to fight for the starting job with Tarvaris Jackson and Matt Flynn.

The rest of the Seahawks' picks:

1st Round - No. 15 overall - Bruce Irvin, OLB/DE, West Virginia
2nd Round - No. 47 overall - Bobby Wagner, LB, Utah State
3rd Round - No. 75 overall - Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin
4th Round - No. 106 overall - Robert Turbin, RB, Utah State
4th Round - No. 114 overall - Jaye Howard, DT, Florida
5th Round - No. 154 overall - Korey Toomer, OLB, Idaho
6th Round - No. 172 overall - Jeremy Lane, CB, Northwestern State
6th Round - No. 181 overall - Winston Guy, SS, Kentucky
7th Round - No. 225 overall - J.R. Sweezy, DT/OG, North Carolina State
7th Round - No. 232 overall - Greg Scruggs, DL, Louisville

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