Hawks should nest atop West for two more years

By Chris Cluff  |   Thursday, July 12, 2007  |  Comments( 9 )

Seattle Seahawks
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Some think the Seattle Seahawks' time is at an end - that the Hawks are now a descending team that can no longer challenge for the NFC West division title, let alone a Super Bowl. Some think the Arizona Cardinals (sound familiar?) or San Francisco 49ers are ready to rise up and take away the division crown the Seahawks have held for three years.

But how can a team that came three overtime points away from appearing in its second straight NFC title game be on the slide? Especially when it advanced as far as it did despite being one of the league's most injured squads in 2006?

No, the Seahawks are not done yet. In fact, the health-handicapped '06 season was merely injurus-interruptus in the team's quest to win its first Super Bowl, and the Seahawks have at least two more years to try to do it with the current crew.

Among the prospective starters on offense, only receiver D.J. Hackett, right tackle Sean Locklear and fill-in tight end Marcus Pollard are scheduled to be free agents next offseason. On defense, only two starters - cornerback Marcus Trufant and defensive tackle Chuck Darby - are up after the 2007 campaign. Assuming the Seahawks make decisions on long-term deals or replacements for those players, the team will contend in 2008 as well as 2007.

Although the offensive line is not nearly as good as it was in the Super Bowl season of 2005, it should be much improved over the 2006 version. Center Chris Spencer and left guard Rob Sims both got valuable on-the-job training in '06 and had improved markedly by the time the playoffs arrived. Receivers Deion Branch and Nate Burleson now have a full season in the complicated West Coast scheme, and Hackett should emerge as a 1,000-yard receiver in 2007.

Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and running back Shaun Alexander, who played in only nine games together last season, are both healthy again and ready to pick up where they left off in 2005, when both went to the Pro Bowl. If the starting offense actually takes the field together for one game this year, it will be one more game than it played as a unit in 2006. And that spells trouble for opponents.

On defense, the Seahawks heavily upgraded the secondary, adding safeties Deon Grant and Brian Russell and cornerback Josh Wilson, and brought in end Patrick Kerney to provide more pass-rush push. Those moves were made in an effort to improve a unit that ranked 19th in 2006 and had major problems giving up long pass plays in crucial situations as Seattle surrendered five more points per game than it did in '05.

Assuming Hasselbeck, Alexander and left tackle Walter Jones remain healthy and the defense can keep foes out of the end zone like it did in 2005 (16.9 points per game), the Seahawks will challenge for the Super Bowl again during the next two seasons.

There will be a lot of decisions to be made after that as just 15 players are signed beyond '08, but the Seahawks certainly don't look like they are poised to take a plunge over the next two years.

On the contrary, they look strong enough to rattle off two more division titles.

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About Chris Cluff

Chris Cluff spent 10 years as an editor and sportswriter for The Seattle Times. He was a key figure in the newspaper's coverage of the Seahawks, particularly during their Super Bowl run in 2005. He also has written two books on the Seahawks: "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Heart-Pounding,...
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