Friday, September 10, 2004
"We want the ball and we're going to score."
Needless to say, we all know how that turned out.
Fast forward to September 2004.
It's a new season. People from all corners of America are touting the Seattle Seahawks as Super Bowl contenders. The Seattle Seahawks, Super Bowl contenders? Yes, it's true. But the hype surrounding a franchise that has not won a playoff game since 1984 is warranted.
For the first time since 1986, the Seahawks won 10 games in 2003. They were undefeated at Seahawks Stadium. However, they were only 2-6 on the road, which killed their chances of winning the NFC West.
So why are many people expecting the Seahawks to do big things in 2004?
It's the offense, stupid.
Matt Hasselbeck made a few fans eat their words in 2003, throwing for 3,841 yards and 26 touchdowns. He made his first Pro Bowl appearance as well in 2003. Clearly head coach Mike Holmgren was on to something when he acquired Hasselbeck from Green Bay in 2001.
Shaun Alexander doesn't get nearly enough credit from the national media. Hell, he doesn't even get enough credit from some of his own team's fans. But Alexander has been one of the most durable backs in all of football, never missing a game in his career. He ran for 1,435 yards and scored 14 touchdowns in 2003. Alexander is a free agent at the end of the 2004 season, so don't be surprised if he has his best season yet as a Seahawk. Look for Maurice Morris to get a few carries along the way as well, to spell Alexander.
The receiving corps were notorious for dropping way too many balls in 2003. But Koren Robinson, Darrell Jackson, and Bobby Engram have worked very hard in the offseason to eliminate that problem. They have no choice but to eliminate that problem, because if they don't, the Seahawks will not go very far.
Robinson is a very talented athlete who has shown flashes of brilliance at times, but he has to play well on a consistent basis to prove that the hype on him was justified coming out of North Carolina State.
Jackson has been compared to Jacksonville's Jimmy Smith on more than one occasion, and it's easy to see why that is the case. He scored 9 touchdowns in 2003, leading the 'Hawks receivers. It's hard to think that Jackson was only a third-round pick coming out of Florida in 2000.
I call Bobby Engram "Third Down". When it's third down and you need a big play, you throw to Engram. He's the best third receiver in football, bar none. Championship teams have players such as Engram. He's also returned punts for the Seahawks as well.
As far as the tight ends go, the Seahawks could very well have the best 1-2 punch in football this season. Itula Mili has been the starter for the past few seasons, but the coaching staff have named Jerramy Stevens the starting tight end. Stevens, who has had his fair share of trouble off-the-field, has a load of talent. If he can keep his head on straight, there's no reason why he can't have a big 2004 season. Mili is no hack, believe me. Look for him to get his share of touches as well.
The Seahawks may have their best offensive line in franchise history in 2004. Left tackle Walter Jones, left guard Steve Hutchinson, center Robbie Tobeck, right guard Chris Gray, and right tackle Chris Terry have proven to be one of the best units in all of football. The left side of Jones and Hutchinson just might be the best left side in the game today. However, the line must protect Hasselbeck better in 2004, as he was sacked 43 times. But one thing to keep in mind is that for the first 4 games of 2003, Terry was suspended by the NFL for violating the substance abuse and personal conduct policy. Terry is ready to play in 2004, however. There's no doubt in my mind that barring injury, this offensive line will be one of the best in the NFL. And they'll keep Hasselbeck upright as well.
The Seahawks defense was 19th overall in 2003. It was a big improvement over the pitiful 2002 season. But the funny thing is, defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes isn't happy at all. Did I mention how much I love Rhodes being in Seattle?
The defensive line should improve with the free-agent signing of Grant Wistrom. He's a proven winner at Nebraska and with the Rams. Can he carry some of that championship mojo to Seattle? We shall find out. Chike Okeafor was a nice pickup for the Seahawks in 2003, and should do more of the same in 2004. In the middle, the Seahawks drafted Marcus Tubbs in the first round out of Texas. Tubbs has played sparingly in the preseason due to injuries and his mother's health. But with the tutelage of Rhodes, I see big things for Tubbs. Along with Tubbs, the Seahawks are counting on Rashad Moore to not suffer the sophomore slump, as Rocky Bernard did last season. Cedric Woodard had 57 tackles last season, and should be able to improve on that in 2004.
Losing Chad Brown until late October hurts the linebacking corps. But the Seahawks are hoping that Isaiah Kaczyvenski can hold the fort until Brown comes back. Anthony Simmons needs to justify the hype that's been given to him througout his career. I believe he will do just that in 2004, earning his first Pro Bowl appearance. With Brown hurt, Simmons will have the opportunity to show the Seahawks that he can be the player that he has been hyped up to be. At middle linebacker, Orlando Huff will start the season. But I look for rookie Niko Koutouvides to take over as the starting MLB later in the season. He's going to be a good one.
The secondary is the Seahawks' defensive bright spot. Marcus Trufant and Ken Hamlin made a big splash on the scene in 2003 coming out of college. Fans were yelling at the 'Hawks for not selecting Penn State DT Jimmy Kennedy in the 2003 first round, but needless to say, those same fans are happy as hell that Trufant is in Seattle, not Kennedy. Hamlin is a hammer. Hammerin' Hamlin earned his way into Seattle fans' hearts early on in 2003 with a crushing hit to the Saints' Donte Stallworth. One great thing about being a Seahawks fan in Arkansas is that there are a few people that will want to give me the time of day simply because I'll be out and about wearing my Seahawks gear. They'll say, "how's Hamlin doing?", relating to the fact that Hamlin is a former Arkansas Razorback. I'll just say, "ask Donte Stallworth". It gets a big rise out of the locals, let me tell you.
Hamlin should improve in a big way thanks to Bobby Taylor, who signed with the Seahawks in the offseason from Philadelphia. Taylor and Hamlin trained together all offseason down in Houston. As with Wistrom, Taylor brings a winner's mentality to Seattle. He hasn't been 100 percent up to this point, but he should be as the season goes along. But if there's one guy who's primed for a big season, it's Ken Lucas. He's had a great training camp. It's time for Lucas to show up. I believe he can. If he can, the Seahawks defense will be much better off. Michael Boulware has been moved from his college position of linebacker to safety. He'll have to play well early, considering that Damien Robinson is on IR.
The Seahawks special teams should be solid once again in 2003. Josh Brown had a stellar rookie campaign coming out of Nebraska, but must improve on his kickoffs. I wasn't too hyped up about Tom Rouen for the majority of the 2003 season, but he's more than capable of doing the job one more time in 2004.
All and all, we're just like you. We like the Seahawks chances in 2004. YES, IT'S FINALLY NOW TIME.
I see 12 wins for the 2004 Seahawks. They should win the NFC West easily. The Seahawks will be playing at Seahawks Stadium/Qwest Field in January. In other words, they will have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. This team is good enough to be in the Super Bowl this season. Hell, they are good enough to win it all.
Do not be afraid of the hype, Seahawks fans. Embrace it. After all, it's much better than being picked to finish at the bottom of the league. Screw this whole "I'd rather be an underdog" bullcrap. The Seahawks are not underdogs. They are contenders.
Get used to it.