Things the Seahawks have changed, want to change and may not be able to change.
Four things the Seahawks have changed
1. Quarterback: It has been 11 years since a quarterback other than Matt Hasselbeck started Week 1 for Seattle. That was Jon Kitna back in 2000, and the Seahawks were shutout 23-0 at Miami to begin that season. Is Tarvaris Jackson the heir to Hasselbeck’s spot as the franchise quarterback? That will depend on how well Jackson plays.
2. Offensive line: Overhaul is almost an understatement as Seattle hired a new line coach in Tom Cable, drafted two new starters in right tackle James Carpenter and right guard John Moffitt and then signed Robert Gallery to play left guard. All three starting additions weigh 319 pounds or more as Seattle made a concerted attempt to get stronger in the run game.
3. Leadership: Hasselbeck had been a Seahawks captain since 2003. He left as a free agent. Linebacker Lofa Tatupu was a captain since the Super Bowl run. He was released. Special-teams captain Roy Lewis will start the season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. Who’s going to emerge as Seattle’s leaders? That remains to be seen, but we know they’ll be different this year.
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4. Kicker: All Olindo Mare did in his three seasons as a Seahawk was make 88 percent of his field-goal attempts — highest percentage of any Seahawk kicker with a minimum of 25 attempts — including a franchise-record 30 in a row. He left for Carolina and a four-year, $12 million deal from the Panthers, and now Seattle turns to Steven Hauschka, who was claimed off waivers from the Broncos. Hauschka, 26, is the third different kicker Seattle signed since Mare’s departure. He is playing for his fourth team in four NFL seasons and has made 16 of the 22 field goals he has attempted.
Four things the Seahawks want to change
1. Running game: The Seahawks gained an average of 89 yards rushing last season, the fourth-lowest rate in franchise history. Marshawn Lynch will be Seattle’s fifth different opening-day starter at running back in five years, and the Seahawks have every expectation that he’ll break Seattle’s string of five consecutive years without a 1,000-yard rusher. Detroit is the only NFL team that’s gone longer than Seattle without a millennium man in the backfield.
2. D-line depth: The Seahawks were among the stoutest run defenses in the league after six games, but that all changed after defensive end Red Bryant suffered a season-ending knee injury in Game 7. Seattle allowed 82.6 yards rushing per game before Bryant’s injury compared to 130.1 after. The Seahawks signed Alan Branch not just to acquire a starting defensive tackle, but to have a viable replacement for Bryant should he be hurt. An NFL team can’t afford to be so singularly dependent upon one player staying healthy.
3. Catch a rising star: Steve Largent is the only Seahawk ever named to the Pro Bowl as a receiver, and the last of his six selections was 1986. Alex Bannister made the Pro Bowl in 2003, but that was on special teams. Sidney Rice was signed to give Seattle a top-shelf receiver, and while he was limited last season as he recovered from hip surgery, he looked great in training camp and Seattle could have itself a star.
4. INT-eresting trend: Seattle intercepted a total of 34 passes in the previous three seasons combined, the third-lowest total in the league. Only Detroit and Denver have fewer. Earl Thomas led the Seahawks with five interceptions last season, tying the franchise’s record for rookies. Four of those picks came in Seattle’s first five games. Expect him to be a season-long difference maker this season.
Four things the Seahawks may not be able to change
1. Pass protection: The Seahawks allowed eight sacks in the first three exhibition games, but that stat doesn’t give a true indication of the near constant pass pressure from opponents. Pass protection depends in large part on continuity and experience, and the Seahawks don’t have much of either on their offensive line where Robert Gallery is the only veteran. The other four starters have a combined total of 27 NFL regular-season starts and no two of the five have ever started on the same line in the same regular-season game.
2. More balanced pass rush: Chris Clemons led Seattle with 11 sacks last season, while Raheem Brock had a career-high nine. That was the seventh-best sack total of any two teammates in the league last season and the pair accounted for more than half of Seattle’s 37 sacks. It might not be realistic to expect those two veterans to replicate career years, and if their production sags, who steps up?
3. Secondary coverage: The Seahawks have ranked No. 27 or worse in pass defense for each of the past three years. Seattle drafted three defensive backs, but all in the fifth round or later, then added strong safety Atari Bigby. Seattle will be starting defensive backs in their second NFL season, and what they lack in experience, they hope to make up for in athleticism, but that many young players could leave the Seahawks vulnerable on the back end.
4. Road woes: Seattle is 8-24 on the road the past four seasons, a record that’s even worse when you consider the Seahawks have the benefit of playing in the league’s worst division in that time. The Seahawks have lost 18 of their last 20 road games against non-divisional opponents, and this season they play at both the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys, two teams that have steamrolled the Seahawks over the past three seasons.