COACHING: Mike Holmgren, 15th year, 8th with Seahawks (138-86).
REMEMBERING: 2005 record: 13-3 (1st in NFC West); lost in Super Bowl XL to Pittsburgh Steelers, 21-10.
PREDICTING: 2006 regular season record 10-6 (1st in NFC West); lose in NFC title game.
SEAHAWKS UNIT-BY-UNIT ANALYSIS
QUARTERBACK: Starter -- Matt Hasselbeck. Backups -- Seneca Wallace,
Hasselbeck is a three-time Pro Bowl choice in the prime of his career at age 31 (in September). His command of the offense allows coach Mike Holmgren to dive deep into the playbook. Seattle needs Hasselbeck to stay healthy because neither of his backups has the experience necessary to win over the course of a season. Wallace does have the athletic ability to get by in a pinch.
RUNNING BACKS: Starters -- RB Shaun Alexander, FB Mack Strong. Backups
-- RB Maurice Morris, FB Leonard Weaver, RB Josh Scobey.
Alexander appears ready for another productive season. He lives for the regular season, not the pretend games, and that will become apparent out of the gates this season. Strong has shown some life late in camp, while Weaver appears increasingly ready to start should age finally catch up to Strong this season. Scobey, a kick returner and top special-teams coverage guy, is a running back in name only.
TIGHT ENDS: Starter -- Jerramy Stevens (out first four games).
Backups: Itula Mili, Will Heller.
Stevens' athletic ability allows Seattle to stretch the field, opening up other facets of the offense. No other tight end on the roster presents comparable matchup problems. That's why Seattle will miss Stevens so much while he recovers from knee surgery for the first month of the season. Mili's age and health are increasingly a concern. Heller is a journeyman best suited for a backup role.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- FL Darrell Jackson, SE Nate Burleson.
Backups -- WR Bobby Engram, WR D.J. Hackett.
Engram is the most consistent receiver of the bunch. Don't be surprised if he leads the team in receiving again. Jackson's knee problems make him a bit of a wild card. If healthy, he'll lead the team in receiving and threaten 1,100 yards. Burleson should improve as he gets more comfortable in the system. He could be Hasselbeck's main man heading into next season.
OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LT Walter Jones, LG Floyd Womack, C Robbie
Tobeck, RG Chris Gray, RT Sean Locklear. Backups -- C/G Chris Spencer, G Rob
Sims, T Tom Ashworth, RT Ray Willis.
The Seahawks will miss LG Steve Hutchinson, who signed with the Vikings, but Jones automatically makes the left side one of the best in the league. Womack, Spencer or Sims will be more than serviceable in the left-guard spot. Tobeck and Gray are 36 but still holding onto their positions. Gray, in particular, appears ready to stay in there. Ashworth was a bit of a mystery signing, although he provides good depth. Locklear can provides insurance at guard, but he was a quality starting tackle last season.
DEFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LDE Bryce Fisher, LDT Chuck Darby, RDT
Rocky Bernard, RDE Grant Wistrom. Backups -- DT Craig Terrill, DT Marcus Tubbs,
DT Russell Davis, DE Darryl Tapp, DL Chris Cooper, DE Joe Tafoya.
Seattle lacks the depth at defensive end to weather an injury to Wistrom or Fisher. Tapp looks like a situational pass rusher at this early stage in his career. If one of the starters goes down, the Seahawks could regret not being able to acquire John Abraham from the Jets this offseason. Depth at tackle is much better. Darby, Bernard, Davis, Terrill and Tubbs are starting-caliber players. Cooper isn't far behind and he can swing to end if needed.
LINEBACKERS: Starters -- OLB Julian Peterson, MLB Lofa Tatupu, OLB
Leroy Hill. Backups -- LB D.D. Lewis, OLB Kevin Bentley, MLB Niko Koutouvides,
LB Isaiah Kacyvenski.
This is potentially the strongest position on the team. Tatupu is the heart and soul of the defense, an instinctive player with natural leadership traits. His presence last season almost single-handedly transformed the defense into a respectable unit. Now he gets to play alongside Peterson, a freakish athlete with great versatility. Don't forget about Hill, either. He had 7 1/2 sacks as a rookie despite starting only about half of the season.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- LCB Kelly Herndon, SS Michael Boulware,
FS Ken Hamlin, RCB Marcus Trufant. Backups -- FS/CB Jordan Babineaux, LCB Kelly
Jennings, CB Jimmy Williams, S Oliver Celestin.
Seattle considered adding a veteran corner in free agency, but Herndon appears more comfortable now that he's healthy and has a year in the system. Trufant should enjoy a breakout season given that this was his first offseason without a surgery. He's a top talent with the skills to challenge for the Pro Bowl. Hamlin's surprising return from a skull fracture is critical to the secondary, particularly after veteran Mike Green suffered a season-ending foot injury in the preseason. Babineaux can play corner or safety. He might have to play the latter if Boulware has trouble recovering from knee surgery. Boulware hasn't been very consistent this summer, largely because of the injury.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Starters -- K Josh Brown, P Ryan Plackemeier, LS J.P.
Brown is eligible for unrestricted free agency after this season. Seattle needs him to respond well to the pressure. Plackemeier looks like a keeper. The Ray Guy Award winner has all the leg he'll need, and then some. He's also extremely confident in his abilities. Darche continues to provide stability as a snapper. He has snapped in every game since arriving in Seattle for the 2000 season.
Receiver Darrell Jackson had a joke ready for reporters when asked about the importance of all the practice time he has missed while recuperating from knee surgery. "I'm like (Allen) Iverson," he said. "I don't need no practice. Practice?"
Jackson has undergone two knee surgeries in the past year. He expects to be ready for the season opener. As to how much the layoff will affect his game, Jackson can't be sure. "I don't know," he said. "We're going to find out. I've never missed a training camp before."
BY THE NUMBERS: 0 -- The number of NFC teams who can beat Seattle's
32-16 record over the past three seasons.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Seahawks remain a bit uneasy about their No. 3 quarterback situation. David Greene outlasted Gibran Hamdan, who was never given much of a chance. Seattle has sought to add a veteran to play the third role, but most established passers have the clout to hold out for No. 2 jobs. The Seahawks are going into this season with Seneca Wallace in that spot, making it harder to land an experienced third guy. As a result, Seattle could enter the season with very little experience behind starter Matt Hasselbeck.
PLAYER TO WATCH: DT Craig Terrill -- Terrill might look like a Big Sky Conference offensive lineman, but he's close to becoming a starting-caliber defensive tackle in the NFL. In fact, he might already be there. A former sixth-round pick from Purdue, Terrill is quick off the ball and relentless. He has the awareness to pick off batted passes. His enthusiasm is contagious (Terrill livened up the team's post-Super Bowl party by jamming on stage with team owner and fellow musician Paul Allen). Seattle should have good depth at the position, but Terrill will remain an important part of the rotation.