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Danny O'Neil covers the Seahawks for The Seattle Times.

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January 14, 2008 9:48 AM

Overhaul or adjustment

Posted by Danny O'Neil

The immediate reaction after a 22-point blowout loss that in fact could have been much more lopsided is to say that it clearly staked out the gap between the Seahawks and an elite team.

That may be true.

The result also could have been compounded by the circumstances of Saturday's game. Namely the snow. The Seahawks found themselves in a game in which they needed to run the ball and they absolutely couldn't. Now that's no surprise. This team struggled to run it all season. The surprise was Seattle's run defense. The Seahawks absolutely could not get off the field on third down. Seattle is a team that showed an ability to stiffen inside the red zone, to bend without breaking so to speak, and yet Green Bay scored six touchdowns its first eight possessions and the only two times it didn't score were the opening fumbles.

So what now? Our columnist Steve Kelley segues to that question in his column from Monday's paper. The link is right here. Here's an excerpt:

  • The Hawks find another running back.

    They have to hope against hope that Shaun Alexander will agree to a pay cut and accept a diminished role in the offense. They have to give Leonard Weaver (who was grossly underused on Saturday) more touches and find a running back in the draft, which will be deep at that position.

  • The offensive line also needs a tuneup.

    Center Chris Spencer, a first-round draft pick in 2005, has been a large disappointment. Maybe Ray Willis, a fourth-round pick that year, can return from injuries and replace Gray at guard.

    Of course the answer to all of the Seahawks' offensive prayers is Pittsburgh's Alan Faneca, generally considered the best guard in the game. It will, however, be difficult, maybe impossible, to fit Faneca under Seattle's salary cap.

  • The Seahawks absolutely have to address an inability to run the ball that was as persistent as it was pronounced. They stuck with Alexander throughout a season in which he averaged a career-low 3.5 yards per carry. Maurice Morris averaged 4.5 and Leonard Weaver averaged 4.4.

    The offensive line was better at pass protection than it was in the running game, and Seattle's struggle in short-yardage rushing situations falls directly at the feet of those men up front and an inability to get a push when both teams know what's coming and it's just a matter of who executes better.

    That's going to be the question. Over the next few weeks we'll go position by position through the team, looking at the resources that have been dedicated to that position over the past few years, the performance from last season and the personnel that is returning.

    Adjustment or overhaul? The Seahawks may not have the salary-cap resources for an overhaul. They made their big free-agent push last year, signing Patrick Kerney, Deon Grant and Brian Russell in that first week of free agency.

    But then again, this team may not need an overhaul. The Seahawks have a quarterback coming off the most prolific year of his career and a defense that appeared to be greatly improved until Saturday. It's reasonable to expect that guard Rob Sims and center Chris Spencer will only get better given their age and the Seahawks biggest question is at running back, a position where teams have been able to find fast and relatively inexpensive solutions. Just look at Green Bay. That Ryan Grant who gashed the Seahawks so badly Saturday was undrafted in 2006 and acquired for a sixth-round pick last year.

    The season is over, but the discussion about next year is just beginning so stay tuned to the blog.

    In the meantime, here's some national mentions of Seattle's performance. Sports Illustrated's Peter King was at the Seahawks-Packers game on Saturday. Now, he's going to rub some Seahawk fans the wrong way for ranking Seattle No. 9 in the league when the Seahawks were one of the last eight teams playing. In fact, punter Ryan Plackemeier mentioned that to ranking to me last week, but he has a pretty good point on Saturday's result:

    9. Seattle (11-7). The output for the starting defensive line of Patrick Kerney, Brandon Mebane, Rocky Bernard, Darryl Tapp that was supposed to control the game in Green Bay: nine tackles, two assists, no quarterback pressures. And you wonder why the Seahawks allowed six straight touchdown drives.

    Here's a link to the page right here. If you want to read the seven-page column from the beginning, it starts here.

    King unleashed a little chin music at Seattle's tailback, too:

    Shaun Alexander is not a good football player anymore. A running back has to be hungry to be good. Alexander plays like he just finished the hot-dog-eating contest at Coney Island.

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    Posted by steven

    10:28 AM, Jan 14, 2008

    The Hawks need an overhaul. This team has proven they can't win on the road as a small, undersized unit that relies on speed and quickness. What we need is to get big up front on the D line. Is Tubbs done? I hope not, but they can't count on him. So find a way to get Haynesworth to come play tackle. We also need a physical, imposing safety (I know...we signed Russel and Grant last year) that will wreak havoc on any player who dares to come over the middle. See what happened to our guys after Bigby lowered the boom a few times? Saw the same thing in the Pats/Jags game. Playoff football is about physically intimidating the other guy with big safeties, mammoth D lineman and of course smash mouth O lineman. I'd love to Weaver converted into a Brabdon Jacobs-type back. Line him up deep, give him a lead back who can block (they are cheap) and pound away. The best teams ALWAYS can run stop the run. We were good in '05....when we could run. I also think we need to upgrade O line at guard. My priorities are: D tackle, Safety and O line.

    Posted by John

    10:30 AM, Jan 14, 2008

    I'll have to agree about Shaun Alexander not being hungry any more. I think that the Seahawks need to upgrade their running back. They need a tight end, a big D-tackle and a new Guard. How do you get them is the question. They always say don't draft for need, but there are a few need areas, not just one. Seattle should draft according to need, use free agency for need and re-sign players for need. I'm sad the Seahawks lost, but I'm looking forward to next season already.

    Posted by Any1418

    10:31 AM, Jan 14, 2008

    Danny,

    With Jones (maybe 1 or 2) and Gray (probably done) headed towards the end of the careers and Wrotto still somewhat of an unknown, are either Vallos or Williams a consideration to help the Hawks on the OL?

    Posted by ethan

    10:56 AM, Jan 14, 2008

    send Alexander to some CIA black site in Egypt.
    running backs are a dime a dozen. pick up some Mike Shanahan cast-off. or pick one up in the 100th round of the draft.
    address the O-line in the first two rounds of the draft. we need to get younger there.
    we need BIG guys up front on the D-Line. a strong wind blows Tapp off course.
    address the Defense in free agency.

    Posted by PapaHawk

    11:29 AM, Jan 14, 2008

    Okay, we win 11 games and the fourth consecutive division title, no overhaul is needed. There is still a good heart to this team. Ruskell and co need to continue to do what they have done each of the last three off-seasons. What is that?

    Keeping drafting well and adding players who can develop behind players who are performing well. Add a player or two who will make an impact. Take one area of the team, and overhaul that area only. Last year- the defensive secondary was overhauled. The year before? WR was overhauled. this year? The offensive line and TE will be fixed. Our defense is not broken. It will get better without doing anything except re-signing Trufant (franchise tag). Most of the players on the defense will improve in the off-season just based on where they are in their career. Jennings, Tapp, Josh Wilson, Mebane, Hill and Tatupu are still VERY YOUNG players in this league who grow tremendously from one year to the next. The only players old enough to decline naturally on defense? Peterson and Kerney maybe. Then you add through the draft a DT or DE to work on.

    The defense will mature, the offensive line needs the help it will get. I think we'll have at least two new starters on the o-line next year. Both of them will be upgrades over this year's starters. And I'm not talking about Ray Willis or Mansfield Wrotto. Ruskell doesn't mess around.

    The biggest question is, and should be, who will be the Head Coach? Hopefully its Holmgren.

    Posted by good ol' george

    12:29 PM, Jan 14, 2008

    If you're going to draft a running back, why not Jonathan Stewart of Oregon? He's available in the draft.

    Posted by Fish93

    12:38 PM, Jan 14, 2008

    If we do take a running back in the first round I would think it would be either Felix Jones of Arkansas of Mendenhall from Illinois. Stewert will be the second back off the board behind McFadden. I think that the best fit at TE will be Fred Davis from USC. I think that we can get him in the Second round maybe the 3rd. If Jones and Mendenhall are gone then you take the best O-lineman Left in the Draft.

    Posted by Lake Tapps

    1:16 PM, Jan 14, 2008

    The running back situation in the draft is
    McFadden
    Jones
    Stewart
    Mendenhall
    Rice
    Slaton

    So if we get a guy like Fred Jones in the first to fill in the need at tight end, or even better take a Tackle like Sam Baker that can help add depth at guard until he's needed to replace walt. and still get a guy like rice or slaton in the second our running game is instantly better. If you need more. Make a play on a guy like Lilja from Indi in free agency, because i doubt Faneca is going to fit under the cap. Combine all this with a year more experience for a couple of the young guys on both the O and D lines and this team is no longer completely lacking in physicality. No overhall just a little more power in the trenches and this team is where they want to be.

    Posted by Lake Tapps

    1:22 PM, Jan 14, 2008

    Fred Davis, because noone wants to see fred jones suiting up for the hawks

    Posted by Fish93

    2:49 PM, Jan 14, 2008

    Player School
    1 Darren McFadden* Arkansas
    2 Jonathan Stewart* Oregon
    3 Felix Jones* Arkansas
    4 Rashard Mendenhall* Illinois
    5 Jamaal Charles* Texas
    6 Kevin Smith* Central Florida
    7 Ray Rice* Rutgers
    8 Steve Slaton* West Virginia
    * Declared for draft

    Here is Kiper Jr's top eight running backs.

    Posted by Reduxdawg

    3:11 PM, Jan 14, 2008

    This comment is more general than just the Seahawks' woes. To put it bluntly, it pretty much sucks to be a Seattle sports fan right now.

    Hawks? Done for the year in a season much less sparkling than than the 10-6 record suggests.

    Husky Football? Oh, my lord . . . the horror, the horror of wondering if it can get any worse next year.

    Husky Basketball? What happened to this team? Brockman was supposed to come into his own and lead the team but here they are winless in the Pac-10 and hovering just above .500 overall.

    Sonics? Can you say, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma City, here I come?

    And the Mariners? Who will lead them and can we get enough pitching from this staff to even compete for the division this season?

    How do we stop the bleeding? Is there any relief in sight? Where is hope gone? Or is WSU basketball the only prayer we have left (or since when has Pullman been a suburb of the Queen City?)

    Posted by ethan

    3:40 PM, Jan 14, 2008

    10-6 is the new 9-7

    Posted by 12thmanforlife

    4:58 PM, Jan 14, 2008

    I think I mentioned this just last week that I would love to see us draft Fred Davis. I think he is going to be very, very good. Our most important needs are o-line and te. Then rb. Then dt. You can find a good running back in just about any round of the draft and this year is particularly deep. Our run d wasn't that bad despite what you saw on Saturday, but I think we do need some more depth with some big bodies. Not the undersized guys. Drafting a guard would be useless because we need somebody now and Alan Faneca would be perfect. So, for that 1st round I think we should take the te Fred Davis because he is the best in the draft and might not be there in round 2. Its too risky and you can find a capable rb in rounds 2-4.

    Posted by eatemandsmile

    5:21 PM, Jan 14, 2008

    So the Hawks got labasted by Green Bay. Hmm. I seem to remember Da Bears having no problem with them twice this year. Looks like the wrong team went to the playoffs...

    Posted by C-HawkFan

    6:01 PM, Jan 14, 2008

    Im sure that is a joke, the Bears were the biggest disappointment in all of football this year

    Posted by DB Money

    6:59 PM, Jan 14, 2008

    Whomever is selected to help upgrade the RB situation needs to hit holes hard, and block well. Most if not all of the backs on Mel Kiper's board can catch the ball out of the backfield. We don't need a bruising 260 lb back, or blazing speed. I don't see McFadden being the answers to the questions this team has. Mendenhall or Felix Jones are the best fits in the upper half of the list. The o-line lost some talent when we lost Hutch, but his intangible quality of being on the 'feisty' side are what this line misses most. They won't run over someone during a running play the way we saw our line do in 05. We won't ever have that team back, but I think our offense is closer than it showed, and the defense is much better (snowy conditions notwithstanding).

    Posted by hammtime

    9:42 PM, Jan 14, 2008

    "How do we stop the bleeding? Is there any relief in sight? Where is hope gone? Or is WSU basketball the only prayer we have left (or since when has Pullman been a suburb of the Queen City?)"

    You know its a bad sports year when your only hope is relying on the Coug basketball team. Well, it can't get any worse from here can it?

    Posted by ethan

    11:43 PM, Jan 14, 2008

    "But we did lose the game and then it's kind of an abrupt end to your season. Guys are going their separate ways now. And who knows, every year the team is different. I'm sure next year's team will look different because it always does."
    Hasselbeck added, "But it's gonna be fun - we still plan to break plenty of hearts in January '09."

    Posted by HAWKSRULE2008

    5:43 AM, Jan 15, 2008

    "Sports Illustrated's Peter King was at the Seahawks-Packers game on Saturday."

    ============================

    And YEAH so what ? Is there some damn rule that we have to hear from King or in the case of KIRO radio Don Banks ? Why ... oh why do we have to hear or read the pure dribble from these unaccountable, usually wrong, ALWAYS biased, East Coast ALWAYS lovin' never having ANYTHING good to say EVER (alleged) writers ?

    Can the writers here not make their own cases and provide well thought out analysis and/or argument. Apparently not.

    Instead we CONSTANTLY EVERY SINGLE SEASON spread more falsehoods, biases, myths of every sort ("strength of schedule" argument) spread innuendo and rumor.

    I'd like some cold hard FACTUAL reporting.Let's give the CNNSI and ESPN some rest. Just because it is on the radio or it is on television DOES not mean it it truthful, factual, or in any way valid.Are you going to grill him on his incorrect predictions for the last five years ?


    Posted by BB44

    8:07 AM, Jan 15, 2008

    I'm sick and tired of all the people wanting to overhaul the team and replacing the head coach. This team needs minor tweaking here and there. So they didn't make it to the Super Bowl. They've been to the playoffs how many seasons and have won how many division titles under Holmgren? And who's the only coach to take them to the Super Bowl?

    It's mostly the bandwagon jumpers who are wanting major changes. They've only been fans of the team when they started winning. I've been a Hawks fan since 1983. I've suffered through the days of Flores & Erickson. If you want to know the definition of mediocrity, those were the days.

    This Hawks team is still one one of the better teams in the league. They just need to add pieces here and there. Their Super Bowl window closes when Hasselbeck starts declining.

    Posted by B-Dog

    10:46 AM, Jan 15, 2008

    I hate when I am walking around the city still wearing my hawks shirts and hats proudly and people say things like "tough loss, why are you still wearing that shirt."
    I just want to scream at them and say "I am wearing it because I am not an f-ing band wagon fan like you are."

    Posted by Husky Fan In New York

    10:49 AM, Jan 15, 2008

    Steven and BB44 have the best posts and I totally agree. I say we let Brown walk (or trade him for a low round pick), cut Alexander, and let Hackett go too.

    Our DTs are too small and we badly missed Tubbs. Mebane is 310 or so but doesn't truly play like it (more like 295 or 300) and Bernard is only a spot starter and not a full-time guy.

    I'd rather sign a OG or run-stuffing DT in free agency since they take a little while to develop. Rather draft a RB, TE, or even SS in the first round since they take less time to come along.

    Seems to me that we have two FS playing safety instead of one Free and one Strong.

    Posted by PhoenixHawk

    1:13 PM, Jan 17, 2008

    To all those silly people that think upgrading teh running back position is what is necessary. Check out the Cardinals, they did that for five years straight, still couldn't run a lick. Then the brought in a new line coach and new linemen and vioila, they can run. Talk about Shaun being hungry all you want King, what's he supposed to be hungry for? A mouth full of dirt, the people that should be challenged are up front, too little credit when things go well and too little criticism when they don't. Does anyone remember the size of wholes the line was creating in '05. And don't worry about the defense. I've played in crap like that. It's about the worst situation for a small athletic team. had the weather been better, it would've been closer to the first 10:00 minutes not the last 50.

    Posted by Mike

    11:15 AM, Jan 18, 2008

    Bingo to the last post, except the Hawks need youth at RB (SA's going into his ninth year and MoMo his seventh), so drafting a Jonathan Stewart--I'm not sold on Mendenhall, Rose Bowl or not--would make sense.

    O-Line? Why do teams win without Hutch or Faneca (no thank you btw) types at LG? Simple, better line play overall, and better coaching. See Packers for example. The Hawks are pretty much lined up the same way (except for Chris Gray, who apparently will never retire), but Sims was never allowed to grow, and Holmgren's dilly-dallied with Spencer from day one. So it's no shock that Colledge/Wells/Spitz are miles ahead of Sims/Spencer. Want a solution? Fire Laveroni for one, and bring in a Howard Mudd-type.

    Oh and I'd just love to see these stupid Peter King/know-it-all types out there doing what they rip SA for. Chances are *I'd* make them a permanent fixture to the turf much less an NFL LB.

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