BY Doug Farrar 11:03PM 01/24/2011

Hawks can start correction course at Senior Bowl

Team has the chance to transcend years of iffy personnel decisions with the 2011 draft

Washington Huskies linebacker Mason Foster would be a longshot to stay in Seattle at the NFL level, but you just never know / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Since their Super Bowl season of 2005, the Seattle Seahawks have run down an icy hill of personnel inefficiency, and paid for it with several losing seasons. Even the playoff season of 2010 saw the team with several major holes despite the franchise’s best draft in half a decade.

With former Team President Tim Ruskell out of the picture and a new regime in place, season two of the Pete Carroll/John Schneider rebuilding plan starts now, with the 2011 Senior Bowl. Looking at specific talent gaps in the current roster, here’s where the Seahawks’ current personnel evaluation team may find solutions in Mobile, AL.

Cornerback

The Seahawks need more options at cornerback. Marcus Trufant is a serviceable defender when healthy, but the loss to Tampa Bay showed – as did most of the 2009 season – that when his back is acting up, Trufant is a liability when dealing with receivers. Kelly Jennings possesses decent trail and recovery speed, but he isn’t physical enough to take on the play-by-play rigors of the position. There aren’t any clear star cornerbacks in this Senior Bowl, but a few sleepers: Colorado’s Jalil Brown, Louisville’s Johnny Patrick, and Texas’ Curtis Brown, could rise up and become points of interest to the Seahawks.

Quarterback

Tim Ruskell’s longstanding neglect of the quarterback position left the Seahawks between the proverbial rock and hard place – in 2011, they could be dependent on an aging Matt Hasselbeck, or a nowhere-near-ready Charlie Whitehurst. Unless Carroll and Schneider decide that free agency is the path for the team’s next franchise quarterback, the answer will come in this year’s draft. Andrew Luck’s decision to stay at Stanford leaves a hodgepodge of less-than-perfect quarterback prospects, but there are a few options that could provide a quarterback solution, especially with new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell in place.

Florida State’s Christian Ponder possesses the understanding of short-to-intermediate routes required of any West Coast Offense quarterback, but injuries he’s suffered the last two seasons have affected his accuracy and leave him as a question. Local boy Jake Locker is an even bigger question – should the Seahawks take a flier on Locker’s raw ability with the knowledge that he’s further away from running an NFL offense than most anyone in his draft class? Or, will Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick (who impressed everybody who saw him practice Monday) raise his stock enough as he transitions from the Pistol offense to more pro-style?

Guard

The Seahawks haven’t had a dominant running game since 2005, which was just before Tim Ruskell lost Steve Hutchinson to the Minnesota Vikings and the vagaries of the transition tag. Then Mike Holmgren declared that Pork Chop Womack would be an able replacement. Going in to the 2011 season, the need is obvious. New assistant head coach Tom Cable may look to fill one of two guard needs with Robert Gallery from his Oakland days. Still, and unless the decision is made to retain Chris Spencer and put either Spencer or Max Unger at right guard (and Unger seems like a better center choice in a Cable blocking scheme), there will be a need at one guard position, and perhaps both.

One player who is impressing at tackle and guard is Baylor’s Danny Watkins. Though he replaced current St. Louis Rams star Jason Smith as Baylor’s left tackle, you may see more of Watkins inside at guard through Senior Bowl practice week. A former small-college star and firefighter, the Vancouver, BC, native turned down a chance to go into the 2010 Canadian Football League draft to get a better shot at the NFL. He has the kind of nasty streak and excellent technique that would look nice in Seattle’s refurbished offensive line.

Offensive tackle

Like Earl Thomas, left tackle Russell Okung proved the value of Seattle’s 2010 draft by providing key option that could be in place for years. But between Sean Locklear and Stacy Andrews, the right tackle spot is anything but defined, and Okung’s repeated ankle issues show an increased need for depth.

There are several tackles in this senior draft class. So far, Wisconsin’s Game Carimi has been the most impressive. Carimi occasionally played too upright to be an effective pass blocker during his collegiate career, but work in that area has been evident. Colorado’s Nate Solder must transcend many technique issues, but there’s potential there. Derek Sherrod of Mississippi State and Anthony Constanzo of Boston College are also worth watching this week.

Defensive end

Chris Clemons was the sackmaster the Seahawks needed, but there’s always room for more when it comes to quarterback pressure. Raheem Brock enjoyed a career year in Carroll’s multiple fronts, but he’s a free agent, and age 32 is past ancient for most speed rushers. The real problem is at the five-technique position, occupied by the player on Clemons’ opposite side. When Red Bryant was healthy, Seattle had one of the league’s best run defenses. But when Bryant was felled for the season in a Week 8 loss to Oakland, Seattle was gashed the rest of the year. Neither Bryant nor Junior Siavii could provide reliable run defense, though Siavii did add some penetration and pass rush.

Two players who unfortunately dropped out of Senior Bowl week could be interesting five-tech prospects. Ohio State’s Cameron Heyward and Iowa’s Adrian Clayborn both possess the kind of length, pursuit ability, and inside toughness to add depth to Seattle’s run-stopping concerns, as well as the ability to play other positions along the line.

Linebacker

With all the money Ruskell spent at this position, you’d think it would be locked up. But the linebacker threesome imagined by the former Seahawks’ GM never appeared. By the time Aaron Curry had been drafted, Leroy Hill was dealing with injuries and off-field issues, and Lofa Tatupu was looking a bit lost in pass coverage. Curry is still learning, Hill is a free agent and may not be back, and for the last two seasons, the undrafted David Hawthorne has probably been the team’s best linebacker.

It would be a slight longshot to imagine this team adding a versatile linebacker like Boston College’s Mark Herzlich or Washington’s Mason Foster in the early rounds, but stranger things have happened.


YourThoughts

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  • dave crockett

    This year Seattle will *really* need to hit on some mid- and late-round players, like it did with Walter Thurmond and Kam Chancellor (and not so much EJ Wilson).

    Seattle drafts late in every round except the 4th iirc.

  • Zeeshan

    If a new CBA is reached I can see the Hawks ridding themselves of Curry and his absurd contract for a bag of salted pretzels and then drafting Foster in the mid-rounds somewhere.

  • p1u1n1x1

    would love to see Mason Foster replace Hill, but Hawthorne needs to start somewhere, and we only have 3 spots.

  • Tigerfan

    Where do you get this “nowhere-near-ready Charlie Whitehurst” stuff from? He quarterbacked the Seahawks to the division championship over the Rams. Some people have seriously short memories.

  • rylewa

    Saying that Locker is further away from running an NFL offense than most anyone in this draft class is just absurd. He is one of the few QB’s that has actually ran an NFL offense in college. Most everyone else ran gimmicky college offenses where they had very few, if any, reads and need to learn center snaps and proper drops. Locker’s biggest question marks are his accuracy and his decision making. Both of which can be at least partially explained by dropped passes and Locker trying to force things that just aren’t there. Locker will not be ready to start day one but none of these QB’s will.

  • Cmon Pete draft Jake

    Jake Locker is the perfect fit for the Hawks. He is the playmaker the Hawks have been lacking. Alot of people forget he had nothing at tightend this year @ the Dub .Just let Jake have the ball last that is where he will make his name in the N.F.L.

  • Texas Seahawk

    Ryan mallet from Arkansas woudl be a great fit at QB. He is big, has a great arm, is accurate, and can run. Everything you want in a QB!!

  • Show Me The Beef!

    The Hawks need some bruisers. I want to see some grit. Lets swing the best player available thats lineman on either side of the ball. Take a QB in the second… C Ponder. Mason won’t be available for the Hawks to pick. Mallet is a head case.

  • http://bayviews.blogspot.com Herb Huseland

    OK, so Locker isn’t ready to start in the NFL. Neither are any other rookies at that postion. Bottom line is that since the NFL teams started to pay exhorbitant salaries to unproven QB’s, they have forced them onto the field before they were ready. Given a couple of years under Matt, he will have learned these things that make a difference. If Locker is available in the second round, jump all over him.

  • Dave

    Colin Kaepernick outplayed Jack Locker in the senior bowl, and I’m a Jake fan. I’d pick Colin before Jake, but can Jake put on 40 pounds and be like Big Ben? Remember Tom Brady was a 6th round draft pick, maybe Jake will fall that far. Throw the dice, and pick Mason Foster, but Bob Rondo could sell me time shares, (big homer here). I would shore up the offensive line. If Okung’s butt can get as big as Steve Hutchinson, and we find Walter Jone’s replacement, and if Matt can perform two more years, (I think he can if he can protect his butt), I’m liking our chances for another playoff game.