On one hand, a look at the Seattle Seahawks roster suggests they have an uphill climb in 2011.
On the other, this team won the NFC West with just seven wins last season, reminding us that anything can happen in that wacky division.
What’s in store for Seattle this year?
The focus as the season approaches is, clearly, offense. Matt Hasselbeck was arguably the best quarterback in Seahawks history but his time is up.
Seattle made some aggressive moves this offseason, signing dual-threat quarterback Tarvaris Jackson and big-play wideout Sidney Rice away from the Minnesota Vikings.
The Seahawks signed Zach Miller, one of the league’s top pass-catching tight ends. They also grabbed two offensive linemen in the early rounds of the draft.
So, factoring in the midseason acquisition of hard runner Marshawn Lynch, it’s clear that the Seahawks are committed to scoring more points this season.
But do we know they will? The overall personnel is greatly improved; it’s hard to argue that. But everything still starts and finishes with the quarterback position. So far in the preseason, Jackson hasn’t looked at all like a guy ready to lead this team. In fact, backup Charlie Whitehurst has outplayed him.
If the Seahawks don’t get adequate quarterbacking, Rice and Miller’s contributions will be limited and Lynch will face those same eight-man fronts he saw so often in Buffalo.
Believe it or not, the defense may be on even shakier ground than the offense. These guys ranked 27th overall last season and it seemed like they only lost instead of gained over the offseason. The team released stalwart middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu; cornerback Marcus Trufant is getting long in the tooth as well.
The pressure is on Earl Thomas to continue his development after a decent rookie season at safety and for Chris Clemens to follow up his 11-sack season with a similar effort.
Looking up and down the roster, there’s plenty of reason to feel nervous about Seattle’s chances in 2011. However, further exploring the Seahawks competition shows that there’s still plenty of hope in the NFC West.
The San Francisco 49ers’ quarterbacking situation is unsettled and Frank Gore may be demanding a trade. The Arizona Cardinals have a new and still unproven starting signalcaller in Kevin Kolb, a weak running game and a suspect defense.
The St. Louis Rams, led by Sam Bradford, may again be Seattle’s toughest competition, but they haven’t improved significantly either.
In short, it pays to play in the NFC West. Seattle would look much worse in another division.
In this division, however, they still have a ton to play for in 2011.