- Doug Kretz, Scouts Inc.
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As the NFL draft approaches, "SportsCenter" is putting every NFL team with a first-round pick "On the Clock," and Scouts Inc. will break down each team and look at what questions still need answering.
Despite coming off its fifth straight postseason appearance, Seattle went through a major change in the coaching staff this offseason. Jim Mora, who coaches the secondary, is also the assistant head coach and heir apparent to head coach Mike Holmgren. Jim Zorn, who coached the team's quarterbacks, left to become Washington Redskins head coach. Holmgren also lost his wide receivers, running backs and offensive line coaches. Despite the turnover among the offensive coaching staff, don't expect many changes. The Seahawks will still run the West Coast offense and Holmgren will still call the plays. Holmgren had to throw the ball way too often last year. His running game was stuck in the mud last season, and you can bet that Holmgren will put a major emphasis on improving ground game this offseason.
The Seahawks did not make a major splash in the free-agent market, but they did make some subtle moves that will drastically change the look of the team in 2008. The biggest were the additions of running backs T.J. Duckett (from Detroit) and Julius Jones (from Dallas). Shaun Alexander has not run the ball with authority for two years, and the Hawks are hoping that Duckett and Jones will give them a strong ground game once again. The addition of guard Mike Wahle, who was a salary-cap casualty in Carolina, can also improve their ground game -- providing his shoulders hold up and he can last through a full season. The team needed to find a top-flight tight end because Marcus Pollard never lived up to his billing. Signing Jeb Putzier will help at tight end, but he probably won't be a difference-maker. Defensively, giving CB Marcus Trufant the franchise tag was significant because the Seahawks could hardly afford to lose their best shutdown corner.
The biggest loss for the Seahawks will probably end up being kicker Josh Brown. Brown, who signed with division-rival St. Louis, has been dependable and clutch over the years. Now the Hawks must draft another kicker or sign several off the streets to try to find his replacement. WR D.J. Hackett was just coming into his own, but he missed 10 games due to injuries in 2007. Still, he ended up fifth on the team with 32 receptions and Seattle's loss could be a big gain for Carolina. Other than Brown and Hackett, the Seahawks really did not lose much more than role players. Pollard was their top tight end, but age seemed to be catching up with him. Linebackers Kevin Bentley and Niko Koutouvides were backups who couldn't challenge for much playing time, and right tackle Tom Ashworth never lived up to the big contract the Seahawks gave him to leave New England.
Tight end, a key position in the West Coast offense, has not been a strong suit since Holmgren arrived. And they still lack star power at that position. Although signing Wahle could help on the offensive line, the Seahawks really haven't recovered from losing guard Steve Hutchinson to the Vikings as a free agent two years ago. Jones and Duckett can help with their ground game, but Seattle still needs stronger and more aggressive drive blockers to run consistently. Maybe it's time to start thinking about left tackle; Walter Jones is 34 years old and does not have many years left. Defensively, the Seahawks played well in 2007, but the middle of their secondary doesn't scare many offensive coordinators; both the team's safeties lack range and ball-hawking skills.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.