Tuesday, August 3, 2010

10 Seahawks To Watch

If you ask the average Seahawks fan which players will define the 2010 season for the team,they will rattle off high-profile names like Matt Hasselbeck, Lofa Tatupu, Russell Okung, Earl Thomas, and likely the RB du jour. Those are all critical players, but it's a big yawn to reiterate what you already know. Who are the players that could explode or implode in 2010 that the media is not talking about? Which guys have the potential to change the team's makeup in the future?

One guy who won't make the list is 7th round draft choice Jameson Konz. The guy was an athletic freak of nature without a defined position who I was excited to see on the field. Unfortunately, he was released due to injury this week. Here are the players I will be paying special attention to:

- TE Anthony McCoy
There has been some quiet buzz building about McCoy since mini-camps and OTAs. He was a high-round talent out of USC that slid due to a failed drug test. He is said to have above average ability to block and catch the ball. If he can push Carlson and be a legitmate 2nd option at TE, the Seahawks offense gains some real flexibility. The chance to be a passing threat in 2 TE sets is not common in the NFL.

- DE Chris Clemons
Clemons has gotten some recent pub on the radio and newspapers as people try to get to know him. This was a guy that led the Raiders in sacks with 8 a couple years back while only playing 3rd downs. He is being penciled in as the starter opposite Red Bryant at RDE. He will be a roving pass rusher. It's unclear whether his sack totals declined in Philly because he is winding down or because they misused him as he stated on KJR (he said they asked him to drop into coverage a lot). What is clear is that if he can be a legitimate 8+ sack DE, it means Aaron Curry could have be a Pro Bowler. That combination alone could lift this defense 10 spots. On the other hand, Clemons has been a 3rd down end for a reason. He is undersized and may be a favorite target of massive lines like SF to run Frank Gore at all day long. It's hard to get sacks when you're on your back and the ball is in the RBs hands.

- DE Ricky Foley
A total unknown with only upside. The Hawks signed this guy out of the CFL. He is a sack machine up there. The likiliest scenario is that he will be overmatched and uninspiring against NFL competition. However, these are the kind of players to pay attention to when nobody else is. The guy has a proven track record of killing QBs. If he can be a worthy backup to Clemons and/or Bryant, that's a great value find, and would be a fun story to watch unfold.

- DE Nick Reed
If you watched the team last season, you know all about Reed. He made it impossible to keep him off the team in training camp. His in-season performance was not as noteworthy. Has he progressed? Can he translate the training camp flash into regular season plays? Nobody is talking about this guy right now. I would not be surprised if he forces people to remember him once the games begin. Then again, he may not even make the team. That's great stuff.

- S Kam Chancellor
Ooh! My new favorite player that I've never seen play! I like hitters with attitude on defense. Chancellor is a guy who will be challenged to cover anyone in the NFL, but hits like a truck (from what I hear). He shined in mini-camps, but I've read/heard nothing about him in training camp so far. I want to see if this guy can be the future partner for Earl Thomas in the defensive backfield and turn our sleepy DBs into a playmaking unit.

- WR Deon Butler
Butler was a well-documented speedster drafted last season who had a standout pre-season, only to fade into the background of a forgettable receiving corps in the regular season. It is hard to say whether Butler's disappearing act was more about him, or the pitiful offense and playcalling rolled out by Greg Knapp. Butler can play. That much, I am sure of. What is his ceiling? That's what I'm hoping to learn this season.

- RT Sean Locklear
All this talk about a new LT makes it easy to overlook the importance of the other tackle position. Locklear flopped at LT last season, and has not been the difference maker he was
before signing the large contract a few years back. He's gone from underrated to questionable starter in short order. Moving back to the right side will hopefully spark a return to glory. Ray Willis has the potential to push Locklear, and Okung is going to outlast him, so this could be a make or break year. Let's see how he responds.

- G Max Unger
Unger was everyone's favorite pick last season. The guy who would be a 10-year starter on the offensive line at either guard or center, and help solidify the middle. He knew zone blocking from Oregon, and was said to be quick to pick up the Hawks system. I'll be honest that I think some sterotyping goes on there when two black players in the middle of the line (Rob Sims and Chris Spencer) take over for two white players (Chris Gray/Hutch and Robbie Tobeck) and the media and fans start talking about their inability to "adjust" in game situations or make line
calls. The message was clear that people didn't (or still don't in Spencer's case) think he's smart enough to lead a line. Unger benefitted at least a little from being a white guy. Without knowing anything about him, people assume he's more capable of learning the system. I'll tell you that I make no such assumptions, and Unger did nothing to show me that he's going to be a fixture on this line for years to come. He's getting a pass that may not be earned here. I can't remember a single play where I saw him stand out (to the extent that lineman stand out). The line is paramount to the future of the Hawks, so I will be watching closely for reasons to project Unger as more than "JAG," just another guy.

- G Ben Hamilton
We all know he was brought over to tudor Russell Okung. Can he play? Mike Wahle was a bigger loss than people realize last season. Heaven knows LG is a rotating door since Hutch left. Chester Pitts is a potential fill-in for Hamilton if he's not ready to contribute as a starter, but let's hope he's also more than JAG.

- CB Marcus Trufant
What's this? How could our Pro Bowl CB be on this list? Everyone (including me) assumed Tru's struggles last season were due to the long time off and recovery from injury. We need to face the possibility that it was more than that. Whether due to injury or age, Tru may be on the decline. If he's not a reliable CB, we're seriously hurting at that position because nobody can convince me that Kelly Jennings and Josh Wilson can be a viable starting tandem, especially with a rookie safety. Tru needs to be a productive starter, if not a Pro Bowler for this secondary to have a snowball's chance in Arizona.

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