We used to be in there, now we’re out here
So much for that playoff idea. If the Seahawks had harbored any such hopes, they torpedoed them Sunday by blowing a 10-point lead over Washington in the fourth quarter in what was easily their most disappointing home game of the season.
The Seahawks still could make the playoffs if they win their final five, but if they can’t beat Washington at home, they certainly won’t win in Chicago or beat San Francisco.
This loss really has to make you wonder whether Pete Carroll and his staff are making any progress at all with this team – or whether it’s possible to make progress as this team is currently constituted.
The offense is a tattered bunch of youngsters, castoffs and rejects — made up of an injured stand-in quarterback, backups on the right side of the line and a mess of a receiving corps that simply cannot stay healthy. The entire focus on offense this year was getting the young linemen to jell, and now that James Carpenter and John Moffitt are out for the season, the offense can make little progress for 2012.
They finally are running the ball pretty well – Marshawn Lynch gained 111 yards on 24 carries and scored for the seventh straight game. But the passing game is such a mess that the offense can’t sustain any movement. And the running game will have to be reinvented next year anyway, when Carpenter and Moffitt return from their knee injuries.
The special teams have at least one major breakdown every game and have directly led to two blowout losses – they need a new coordinator. The defense, while mostly stout against the run, has been atrocious against the pass and had probably its worst all-around performance Sunday (100-yard rusher, 300-yard passer, blown fourth-quarter lead).
Some of these issues cannot be fixed in the final five games, but Carroll should use what now has become an extended preseason to make his team more disciplined and to see what Josh Portis can do. That’s right: The Hawks need to sit Tarvaris Jackson and let Portis get a taste of the NFL.
Jackson should not be starting. With a torn chest muscle, he is simply not healthy enough to be effective. With the Hawks all but out of the playoff hunt, it’s time to see what Portis can do. He showed some very raw ability in the preseason, and the Hawks should let him try out for the backup gig in 2012 while giving Jackson a rest for the remainder of the season. (We already know Charlie Whitehurst is not the answer, so no sense in starting him.)
If Portis shows real promise, it might lessen the pressure to draft a quarterback in the first round. If he doesn’t, the Hawks will know they have to draft or otherwise find a guy, because the unsavvy Jackson is not the long-term answer.
There’s not much else the Hawks can take from this season, other than becoming a more disciplined team. That has been a major failing of Carroll and every one of his coaches. If they don’t fix it for next year, Carroll will be paving his road out of town with many more losses.
The youthfulness of the players is no excuse for all of the penalties they make. That’s what coaches are for. Just look at the undefeated reigning champion Green Bay Packers, who also are among the five youngest teams in the league yet are so much more disciplined. Carroll and his coaches need to get their players to play right or else sit them.
Unfortunately, they can’t bench the main culprit, cornerback Brandon Browner.
The Browner experiment, as we have said previously, is an utter failure. All of the hype about the 6-4 cornerback amounted to a tall tale of unreasonably high expectations, as we said long ago. He leads the NFL in penalties, with three more called on him in the Washington game to give him 14 (not counting declined flags). He is simply not quick enough to cover receivers on the outside; he gets beat deep all the time and does not make enough plays on the ball.
Because of injuries to Marcus Trufant and Walter Thurmond, the Hawks are screwed at that spot for the rest of this season; they have to use Browner. But they must insert Thurmond as the starter next year. The team surely will not bring back Trufant at his current salary, but Richard Sherman has shown well on the other side, and Thurmond and Sherman should be a solid starting duo.
It also doesn’t help that Seattle’s young secondary usually gets no help from the pass rush. The Hawks have just 19 sacks, which ranks among the bottom eight teams. They absolutely must find a pass rusher – end or tackle – to help out Chris Clemons (eight sacks) next year.
In the meantime, there’s nothing to be gained from this season except to teach their guys how to play disciplined football and to see what Portis has to offer (the latter is not likely to happen, of course).
**The special teams have had their moments – Jon Ryan is having perhaps his best season yet, Red Bryant is a kick-blocking machine and Leon Washington is still a threat — but the units also have failed far too often. One of the most ridiculous moments came Sunday, when they iced their own kicker against Washington with a timeout because coordinator Brian Schneider failed to get the right guys on the field.
**Kam Chancellor needs to learn how to tackle. The second-year safety was fined $60,000 over the last two weeks for head-to-head hits, and he nearly had another one while blowing up Santana Moss. He also bounced off a ballcarrier on another play in which he went in for the blow-up rather than wrapping up the player. He’s come a long way this season, but he still has a lot to learn before anyone makes any comparisons to Kenny Easley. Chalk it up as yet another coaching point Carroll and his boys have failed to make.
**The season hasn’t been a total waste for everyone. On offense, Russell Okung, Max Unger, Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate have gotten valuable playing time. On defense, the line has been great, and the secondary and linebacker K.J. Wright have gotten important experience.
**Next year will be a huge year for Carroll. He basically gets a pass for his first two years as he has worked on rebuilding the roster to his liking. He got no offseason this year for his units to try to jell, so it’s hard to hold this season against him too much — although the team’s lack of discipline falls squarely on him, along with some bad coaching decisions and poor time management sprinkled throughout. But next year he will need to find a quarterback and a pass rusher and get the offense in a groove and the entire team playing with discipline. If the Hawks don’t have a winning record next year, Carroll should face a playoffs-or-else mandate in 2013 – no excuses.
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