I will probably take this in multiple parts, but I will be using my season preview (Part I and Part II) as a guide of where I thought things were going to be versus where they ended up.
Perhaps the biggest, and most welcome, surprise of this season was that I saw reason to believe we have at least one, and possible 2-3 more years where we could compete for a Super Bowl. Coming into the season, it really felt like we were on the tail end of our window. The things really gating this are Walter Jones eventual retirement, Matt’s durability, and coaching stability. I would count Shaun in that list, but I think it’s clear we need to upgrade there, and plenty of teams have proven you can compete at the top level with rookie running backs. Replacing Matt, Walter and Holmgren will be much tougher.
The high water mark for most hometown prognosticators had the Hawks finishing 9-7. Many people saw more downhill potential than up. I am proud to say my feel for the team heading into the season is very similar to the one I have heading out of it, including which team in our division is our toughest competition. It seemed like everybody was jumping on the 49ers bandwagon, and those that weren’t were talking about the Rams. I have always been most wary of the Cardinals. My early prediction for next year is that everyone in the media will now go back to assuming no team in the NFC West is really good outside of Seattle, and that next year will be the season when the NFC West sends two teams to the playoffs.
Running Game The level at which this part of our offense fell off was shocking. Rob Sims came into the season as an up-and-comer and left as a down-and-outer. I have no feel for why he struggled so mightily this year, but we need about triple his production at that position next year. Chris Gray also fell off and just should not be back. If we do not add at least one premium guard next season, we can’t be considered real contenders. Chris Spencer also had a middling year. I’d expect him to get off-season shoulder surgery to correct the problem that prevented him from lifting weights last year. He also needs to start learning enough to make the line calls and take that off Matt’s shoulders.
Everyone loves to talk about how Shaun has dropped off. He certainly has, but it’s one of the last reasons our running game struggled. If we correct our line woes, Shaun will come back for one last hurrah next year. If he is the featured back, he could go for 1300+ yards and 10+ TDs. I challenge you to find another person willing to make that prediction right now.
Passing Game Matt was back to the great QB we knew in 2005 and before. His accuracy was there, his attitude was there and so were the results. The key here is his health. He was able to play in every game. Any season he does that puts us in position to make the playoffs.
The receivers were outstanding. This was perhaps the best season for a stable of wideouts in Seahawks history. Burleson became the scoring threat I thought he could be. Engram was steady and made some memorable clutch plays. Branch showed flashes of #1 stuff, although his contributions were too uneven to really count on. Hackett proved he may be the most valuable WR on the team, but his constant injuries make it questionable whether he’ll be worth the money required to bring him back. Even Obamanu and Taylor showed a little. I though Obamanu’s season was disappointing. Coming out of the pre-season, I expected him to sneak up on the league as a deep threat. It never happened. Thankfully, he can still sneak up on folks next year because he did nothing of note. I really like Taylor. That kid show’s Nate’s willingness to fight for yardage, Obamanu’s ability to get deep and some good size. If Hackett goes, Taylor may play a significant role next year.
Tight ends were who we thought they were. Pollard was a solid, but not spectacular, player. He was probably an overall improvement to Stevens just due to blocking and dependability. We need a longer-term answer here.
Perhaps the biggest plus on offense this year was the emergence of Leonard Weaver. He will be a difference maker for years to come.