1. What is the biggest change in team attitude from last year to this year with Pete Carroll in charge?
The single greatest change in attitude has been on the defense, where the team is infinitely more aggressive and confident than they have been in years. This team is "all about the ball," according to Carroll, and the defense reflects this perfectly: ball-hawking safeties, hard hitting LBs, and a fumble-recovery machine in DE Red Bryant (the largest 4-3 end in the game at 6'4" 330 lbs).Unfortunately, the offense has been poor in picking up this "all about the ball" philosophy, with Matt Hasselbeck nearly leading the league in embarassing interceptions.
2. Who is the biggest play maker on offense and on defense?
The offense is still lacking in playmakers. Reclamation project WR Mike Williams has big play ability going vertical, but Hasselbeck can't throw the ball with any accuracy beyond 20 yards. WR Golden Tate is a beast, but will take another year or two to develop into the route runner he needs to be to succeed in the NFL. Leon Washington could be special, but no more so than he was with the Jets, so he shows up much more in Special Teams than he ever will on the offense.
Defensively, it's another story. Rookie Earl Thomas leads the team with three interceptions, including one shoestrings catch with a 40-or-so yard return to the ten-yard line and a game-winning interception off Philip Rivers a few weeks back. In the pre-season, he took one back to the house with an 89 yard INT. His field speed is just unreal, as demonstrated on that play when he blazed past the opponent's WRs and RB like Secretariat.
3. The Seahawks are very consistent in their third down conversion percentage, yet aren't in the top half of the league in offensive yards either passing or running, what has stopped them from being a consistent offensive threat?
As I've already mentioned, the quarterback is a big part of the problem at this stage in the game. For whatever reason, Matt Hasselbeck is struggling in a big way this year. He's never had a great long ball, but it's markedly worse since last season. Anything outside the numbers -- corner routes, fades, outs -- are trouble. He thrives at going across the middle, so you'll see a lot of third-down conversions to new-target Brandon Stokley and TE John Carlson, but the WR numbers suffer largely because of the QB. It doesn't help that the Seahawks are #2 in the league for drops with 10 through four games.
As far as running the ball, the offensive line is a large culprit and a refusal to rely on the running backs is also at fault. The O-Line is still a work in progress, and entering the fifth game of the year the Seahawks will show off their fourth starting line-up. The good news (for us) is that they're getting healthier. The better news is that we added Lynch, who will hopefully be someone that Carroll and OC Jeremy Bates will feel more comfortable relying on.
4. How is Marshawn Lynch coming along within the offense since his arrival in Seattle?
He joined the team in the bye week, so his maiden voyage upon the USS Seahawk will take place in Soldier Field this Sunday. Still, all indications are that he is happy to be here and is expected to be a workhorse back. GM John Schneider comes from Green Bay, who has had a long love affair with Marshawn Lynch and planned to draft him in 2007 if the opportunity presented itself. Schneider has been "harassing" the Bills since February about a potential trade, and he finally made it happen. They've got faith in "Beast Mode," but the jury's still out amongst the fans.
5. With the trade for Charlie Whitehurst it was expected he was going to be the starting QB, what has prevented Whitehurst from being the guy?
It was a bit of a misperception by the national media that Whitehurst was brought in to be the starter. While people felt that the Seahawks gave up a ton for him, it was basically equivalent to a second round pick (see: Jimmy Clausen). They swapped down twenty places in the 2nd and gave away next year's 3rd rounder. That trade only happened because Tim Ruskell traded away our 2010 3rd rounder for Deon Butler. Ahem, but on to the question.
Whitehurst struggles on short passes. He has the mobility and pocket presence you would want from a QB, and has a beautiful and accurate deep throw. He is smart enough to make it in this league as a starter, but without any real life game reps, he hasn't had an opportunity to. The 2010 Seahawks offense is lacking in talent in a major way. The game plan, almost by necessity, will rely heavily on screen passes and outlets. Clip Board Jesus (as he's affectionately called here) is almost comical on his screen pass attempts. His short passing is not much better. Anything 10-50 yards he is an upgrade over Matt Hasselbeck, but at this point in time, we're not there yet.
Basically: Hasselbeck gives this team the best chance to win today. His starting job is in jeopardy in this last year of his contract. Practically no one anticipates seeing #8 under center for the entire year.
6. What are the biggest changes in the play book that Pete Carroll has installed from last year to this year?
Defensively, we've seen the Seahawks move to a 4-3 Under base defense, which basically mocks a 3-4 look. Big Red Bryant (330 lbs) anchors the line with Colin Cole (333 lbs) at nose and Brandon Mebane (a svelt 320 lbs) at the 3-technique tackle / quasi-end position. Chris Clemons is the de-facto defensive end, but he is often standing and roving a bit as though he is a linebacker. With Clemons, we're seeing more pressure on the QB than we did in 2009, but adding Aaron Curry (who isn't getting home, but is affecting plays) and Lawyer Milloy to increasingly extravagant blitz packages, and the Seahawks are getting more pressure than any of us expected.
Offensively, the play calling has been suspect. We're trying screens but no one is blocking. Our run game has stunk. Hasselbeck and TE John Carlson are out of sync (though Carlson leads the team in receptions). It's been so sloppy that it's hard to say what the play calls even are from time to time. We're hoping the Bye week can clear those things up, but historically we've been mediocre coming off the brief vacation.