2006 Draft Preview: Seahawks offense

After four preseason games, 16 regular season games and the best postseason in franchise history, it's time to reflect on the 2005 season and where the team stands depth-wise at each position on the team. Today, .NET's Scott Eklund kicks off our Draft Coverage by reviewing the offense.

The Seahawks outperformed the expectations of the so-called "experts" (including yours truly) and came together as the year progressed. Rookies, free agents and stars melded together into the most cohesive team Seattle football fans have seen and now that the offseason is upon us, they will have some work to do to keep the team together for another run at a Super Bowl ring.

The following is a position-by-position look at who performed well, who needs to pick things up and who may not be wearing a Seahawks jersey come August.

Quarterback: He didn't bring home the Lombardi Trophy, but no quarterback in the league was better down the stretch than Matt Hasselbeck. The seventh-year pro had arguably the best season of his career. He completed 65.5% of his passes for 3,459 yards, 24 touchdowns and nine interceptions. His 98.2 passer rating was the best of his career and led the NFC in 2005. He ran the offense like a true professional, willing his team to wins whether it was with his arm or with his leadership. There is no question who the leader of this team is now and into the foreseeable future. Hasselbeck is also the starting quarterback for the NFC squad at the Pro Bowl.

Because the Seahawks were able to win several games by comfortable margins, backup Seneca Wallace saw a good number of snaps during the season. He threw the first touchdown pass of his career and even caught one pass thrown by Hasselbeck in the NFC Championship game against Carolina. Wallace is a tremendous athlete and he will be entering his fourth-year in the Seahawks' offensive system in 2006. Things appeared to click for him this past August, giving head coach Mike Holmgren enough faith to pass on signing a veteran backup. His status as a free agent could mean the Seahawks will be looking for a quarterback this offseason.

Rookie David Greene never attempted a pass during the regular season, but Holmgren was high enough on him to keep him as the third quarterback. He has a good arm and his leadership ability is excellent, but he is still learning a complex offense and the hope is he puts in the time this summer in order to get more familiar with the system.

Running Back: What else can you say? Three letters should do it – M V P. Shaun Alexander had the best season by a running back in team history with 1,880 yards and set the NFL-record for touchdowns scored in a season with 28. He ran harder than he ever has before and it showed in the way he was able to run up yardage sometimes very quietly. Gone were the days when Alexander would lose yardage hoping to bust a big-gainer. Holmgren and running backs coach Stump Mitchell were pleased all season with his ability to make quicker decisions and accept a one-yard gain instead of hesitating and getting tackled for a two or three-yard loss.

Alexander also improved, albeit slightly, in his pass-blocking and at times he was left in the game in obvious passing situations. His ability to keep teams honest helped the Seahawks' offense to finish second in the league at 369.7 yards per game and they finished third in rushing yards per game at 153.6.

Maurice Morris is Alexander's backup and he saw more time this season that any other season in his career. He had 71 rushing attempts and put up 288 yards and a touchdown, but was also used at times in multiple back sets with Alexander. The team likes to send him in motion to get mismatches with linebackers where Morris can out-quick and out-run the defender. When Alexander went down with a concussion against the Washington Redskins in the divisional playoff game, Morris showed why he is so important to the team, rushing for 48 tough yards, allowing the Seahawks to move the chains and retain possession of the ball.

At fullback, Mack Strong received a long-overdue Pro Bowl bid this season and it couldn't have gone to a more deserving player. The last active link to the old Seahawks, the 12-year veteran only seems to be getting better. His 32-yard run on third-and-long helped Seattle clinch the game versus the Redskins in the divisional playoff game. He is a devastating lead-blocker on running plays and solid in pass-protection as well. His leadership is very important to the Hawks' consistency on offense.

Leonard Weaver is Strong's backup. He showed in the preseason he can carry the ball when needed, but he isn't the blocker that Strong is. Look for the Hawks to possibly bring in another blocking back this offseason to, at the very least, push Weaver.

Receivers: Is there a deeper group in the NFL than the Seahawks wide receiver corps? If there is, I haven't seen it.

When Darrell Jackson (knee) and Bobby Engram (ribs) went down with injuries in week four, the Seahawks turned to a wiley veteran (Joe Jurevicius) and an unproven second-year player (D.J. Hackett) for several weeks in the hopes of keeping their heads above water – they did much more than that.

Jurevicius proved to be one of the best free agent signings in the league this past season and, along with linebacker Chad Brown, the best free agent signing in Seahawks history. He finished the year with 55 receptions for 694 yards and 10 touchdowns. He used his big-body to shield defenders on quick-slants and showed sure-hands by catching everything thrown his way. He and Hasselbeck developed a good chemistry and he was as reliable as anyone on the Seahawks' roster.

Even with Jurevicius' consistency, the best wideout on the roster was Jackson. He runs crisp routes and has showed much-improved hands this season. Even though he missed nine games, he still finished with 38 receptions for 482 yards and three touchdowns in the regular season. He also stepped up in the Redskins playoff game, catching nine passes for 143 yards and a touchdown.

Engram has the uncanny ability to find the open holes in zones. He's been a great outlet and a clutch third-down guy for Hasselbeck since he came to the team in 2001. He missed three games, but still managed to lead the team in receptions (67) and yards (778). He is sure-handed and an excellent receiver out of the slot. Even at the age of 33, he still seems to have some good football left in him.

Hackett, who missed most of his rookie season due to injury, is the fastest and most explosive wideout on the roster. He helped stretch the defense and showed sure-hands when he went up to fight for a ball. He also created great field position on at least two occasions, when his speed caused the defender to interfere with him drawing a penalty. Also, no one will forget Hackett's 38-yard reception against the New York Giants in overtime setting up Josh Brown's winning field goal.

At tight end, the Seahawks have two solid players in Jerramy Stevens and Ryan Hannam. Stevens is very athletic and really came into his own during his third season. Aside from his dismal performance in the Super Bowl, Stevens was sure-handed and made many difficult catches over the middle. He finished the season third on the team with 55 receptions and 554 yards and was second on the team with five touchdowns.

Hannam is the blocking tight end who also shows good hands when called upon. Itula Mili signed a big contract last year, but missed most of the season with a blockage in his colon. It's unknown whether he will return to the team in 2006.

Offensive line: The best offensive line in the NFL may look much the same in 2006 if the team is able to keep LG Steve Hutchinson in the fold.

Hutchinson combines with LT Walter Jones to form the best left side of any line in the league. The two Pro Bowlers man-handled defenders on every play and rarely allowed pressure on Hasselbeck from his blindside. Hutchinson has a touch of nasty in him and uses brute strength and incredible athleticism to keep defenders at bay. He is also on of the most technically-sound linemen in the league.

Jones has the best footwork of any tackle in the league and has given up an average of two sacks per season over the last four. He is also adept as a run-blocker, able to seal the edge, allowing Alexander to get to the perimeter and down the field.

C Robbie Tobeck and RG Chris Gray are winding down very productive careers. Tobeck was named a Pro Bowl alternate this season and Gray continues to fight off the challenge of much younger players. Both use mechanics and technique to defeat defensive lineman, but at times both were overmatched by quicker and more athletic players. Both will probably be on the roster next season, but with younger players coming up behind them, it's only a matter of time until they become valuable backups.

The surprise of the season along the line was RT Sean Locklear. The second-year player stepped in for Floyd "Porkchop" Womack when the veteran went down with a pulled triceps muscle in the preseason. Locklear is an outstanding athlete and even though the Hawks sport the best left side in the league, the Hawks actually gained more yards running to the right side of their offense.

Womack is a very good backup, but will battle with either Gray or Locklear during training camp. Look for him to be the starter inside in 2006.

Chris Spencer, last year's first round draft choice, will battle Tobeck for the starting spot in the pivot. He is a good athlete and super-strong. He's also very intelligent and was Tobeck's shadow during last year's training camp.

Ray Willis and Wayne Hunter round out the depth along the offensive line and while neither played much during the season, both are good athletes. Willis is almost guaranteed a spot next year, but Hunter will probably have to fight off a draft choice or two in the fall.

Possible offensive free agent losses: Alexander (UFA); Hutchinson (UFA); Jurevicius (UFA); Strong (UFA); WR Peter Warrick (UFA); Wallace (UFA); Hunter (RFA); Hannam (UFA)

Scott Eklund writes and reports for Seahawks.NET and Dawgman.com. Feel free to contact him at sctthawk@yahoo.com.


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