Year 2 of Carroll brings plenty of Seattle changes
They became the faces everyone in Seattle recognized, the spokesmen for the franchise and the two players fans connected with quickest.
Matt Hasselbeck and Lofa Tatupu were the heartbeat of the Seahawks - one the quarterback for the last decade, the other the fiery defensive captain, both linked to Seattle's only Super Bowl appearance a half-dozen seasons ago.
They were two successful, proven veterans and among the few constants in a wave of change.
And now the 2011 season begins and both are gone.
''You get those relationships with guys and you've been playing with them for a number of years and they're not here, it's tough,'' said Marcus Trufant, the longest standing Seahawk left on the roster.
Pete Carroll's second season back in the NFL features a team that is a younger, larger and possibly more talented team than the 7-9 squad that won the NFC West a year ago and pulled one of the biggest upsets in playoff history. Yet there are bigger questions looming than last season.
Carroll's quarterback situation is a big question with unproven Tarvaris Jackson handed the starting nod because of familiarity. His offensive line features three starters with a combined 10 games of NFL experience. And there were no fixes to a secondary that was gouged throughout last season.
Also, there's little veteran presence.
''The experienced players do carry something with their value, I totally see it, but in our time in what we've done here to make the moves that we've had to make, that's just the situation we're in right now,'' Carroll said. ''One of those is that maybe we're a little bit younger and a little bit newer.''
When the decision was made that Hasselbeck wouldn't return, Seattle did so with Jackson at the top of its agenda. His attraction came from Jackson knowing the system offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell would be implementing from his time playing for Bevell in Minnesota, and his athleticism to get out of the pocket and run.
But Jackson's rocky career has been based around inconsistency. His most telling stat is a 10-11 career record. Bevell says Jackson just needs a chance to play regularly, and while he'll be the starter against San Francisco on Sept. 11, there's no guarantee it's Jackson's job in the long term.
''Those guys,'' Jackson said about Carroll and Seattle GM John Schneider, ''seemed very excited about me and that was important to me. I was trying to be somewhere where I was wanted and it seemed like they really wanted me here so it was a no-brainer for me to come here.''
If there is reason to believe Jackson can succeed, it's due to the stable of skill players around him. His favorite target from Minnesota, Sidney Rice, joined Jackson in Seattle, along with a second-year of a renewed Mike Williams. Seattle added a second pass catching tight end in Pro Bowler Zach Miller.
Marshawn Lynch, whose memorable playoff run capped Seattle's 41-36 upset of New Orleans, is with the Seahawks from the start. He hopes to find solutions for an anemic running game from last season, along with backfield mates Leon Washington and Justin Forsett.
A successful ground game will be the biggest reason Jackson succeeds, and that also depends on a remodeled offensive line with rookies James Carpenter and John Moffitt, and free agent guard Robert Gallery learning the schemes of line coach Tom Cable.
But the line is already an issue, struggling to give Jackson adequate protection during the preseason and yet another ankle injury landing left tackle Russell Okung on the bench.
''We're learning together and we're growing together. It's a big growing process, but it's good,'' Moffitt said. ''James has so much talent. I really like playing with James, he's very gifted. But once we get on the same page and really learn each other it's going to make my job a lot easier.''
With Tatupu gone, David Hawthorne moves into the middle of Seattle's defense where he spent most of the 2009 season when Tatupu was injured. The return of a healthy Leroy Hill made it possible for Hawthorne to move inside.
The defensive line was a primary focus with Seattle bringing back Brandon Mebane, Raheem Brock and Junior Siavii, and added Alan Branch and Jimmy. Defensive end Red Bryant also is back from a serious knee injury.
The secondary remains a concern. Seattle ranked 27th in pass defense a year ago and made no moves to provide immediate help. The Seahawks are talented at safety with Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, but they are young. This is the group Carroll plans to move forward with. He says it won't be like last year when Seattle pulled off nearly 300 player transactions, all fueling his belief that competition is the best motivator.
''It's not going to be the 200 moves or whatever the heck it was. I can't imagine that would happen this year,'' Carroll said. ''We don't even want to be in that mentality now, but it took all of that to get here. It took two solid drafts and taking advantage of free agency and everything that's happened to get here. We've been as competitive as we could think to be at every one of those challenges and there are still more of those coming.''
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