Seahawks: The good and the bad

According to the NFL calendar, the Seahawks are halfway done. Their play, however, shows that the Seahawks are much further than that from being a finished product.

So, eight games into year two under Pete Carroll, what are we to make of this team? Despite Carroll’s insistence otherwise before the season, this is a rebuilding project.

Yes, the Seahawks want to be better than their current record of 2-6, but this is a franchise building for the future, not 2011. So how do we judge a young team that, predictably, struggled through a brutal first half schedule?

In a lot of ways, we can’t make a ruling on this team. Not yet, anyway. The way Carroll and general manager John Schneider have overhauled the roster the past year and a half, the real judgment will come in a couple of years, not now.

Still, there are things this team has done, good and bad, that can be evaluated, and there is plenty to accomplish in the second half, even with the playoffs out of the picture.

“We need to gain some momentum,” Carroll said. “We need to feel like the improvements that we’ve made now turn into victories.”

So with the 2011 season halfway over, we take a look at some of the good and bad from the Seahawks in the first half.

Offense

The good: … (Crickets chirping) … OK, so maybe it hasn’t been a complete disaster, but the offense, except for a six-quarter stretch against Atlanta and New York, has been pretty darn bad. Even so, there are a few things that bode well for the future.

Receiver Sidney Rice, since missing the first two games, looks like the explosive playmaker the Seahawks have long been seeking and slot receiver Doug Baldwin, an undrafted rookie, has been one of the biggest surprises in the league.

Tarvaris Jackson has had his ups and downs, but when he’s had time to work, he has been better than expected, except—and this is a big exception—for his three-interception performance last week.

The bad: The Seahawks rank 29th in total offense and 28th in scoring, and have allowed more sacks than every team but one.

A young offensive line, as expected, has had its ups and downs, which has contributed heavily to the above stats. Penalties also have been a big concern for the line. Given a chance to prove he deserved a shot at the starting job, Charlie Whitehurst struggled badly against Cleveland, then again against Cincinnati, prompting Carroll to put in a still-hurting Jackson.

Receiver Mike Williams and tight end Zach Miller, two players who were expected to figure prominently in passing game, have both been non-factors for the most part, though a lot of that has had less to do with their play and more to do with a lack of passes being thrown their way.

What they need to do in the second half so it doesn’t get ugly: Considering that the Seahawks invested their top two draft picks in fixing the offensive line, progress there would bode very well for the team’s future. Last weekend in Dallas, despite the final score, was a good step in the right direction. Improved line play also would allow Miller more chances to run routes rather than block.

As for Williams, who has just 12 catches, Jackson is going to have to get more comfortable throwing to the big receiver, even when he isn’t wide open. Last year, Williams had 65 catches not because he was running away from defensive backs, but because Matt Hasselbeck trusted that Williams’ size and ball skills would allow him to win one-on-one battles.

Defense

The good: For the most part this unit has played very well. Even after getting gashed on the ground by the Cowboys, the Seahawks are holding opponents to just 3.4 yards per carry, which is tied for the second best total in the league.

The young safety tandem of Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor should have fans excited not just about their play now, but the potential for the future, and rookie cornerback Richard Sherman has looked very good since taking over following injuries to Marcus Trufant and Walter Thurmond.

The bad: Seattle ranks 29th in the league with 13 sacks. Chris Clemons has five, but is getting little help in the pass rush, and if that doesn’t change, teams will start paying more attention to him.

The Seahawks’ 11 takeaways isn’t a bad total, but those have come in bunches, and Seattle has three games without forcing a turnover and two more in which it only forced one.

Penalties also have been a concern, particularly for first-year cornerback Brandon Browner.

What they need to do in the second half so it doesn’t get ugly: More than anything, this group needs to sustain what its doing. It is tough for a defense to continue to play well when the offense isn’t sustaining drives or scoring points. So, holding steady could be a sign of progress.

Still, there is plenty of improvement to show. If the pass rush can get better in the second half, and some of the coverage busts can be fixed, this defense could go from solid to excellent in the very near future.

Special teams

The good: Punter Jon Ryan continues to be one of the team’s most consistent players. And yes, that’s probably not a good thing.

Kicker Steven Hauschka has been solid replacing the departed Olindo Mare. Well, unless you expect your kickers to make 61-yarders into the wind, then he hasn’t done his job.

CB Kennard Cox has turned into a star on coverage units.

The bad: Last season, special teams won games for Seattle, this year, that unit has contributed in a big way to losses. The Seahawks gave up two fourth-quarter return touchdowns to San Francisco in the season opener, and another one against Cincinnati.

On the flip side, Seattle has yet to score on a return, though Leon Washington has been close (and one could argue he should have one touchdown if not for a very questionable penalty in the loss to Cleveland). And like the offense and defense, special teams has committed too many penalties.

What they need to do in the second half so it doesn’t get ugly: A team with little margin for error, the Seahawks absolutely cannot keep giving up game-changing returns, and conversely, they need to spring Washington for a couple of big plays in the second half.

Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com. For more Seahawks coverage, check out the Seahawks blog at heraldnet.com/seahawksblog

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