The Seattle Seahawks’ collective brain trust uses no crutches to help explain the pitiful four months that made up the 2008 NFL season.
Yes, injuries were a huge part of the equation. But Tim Ruskell and Co. can admit now that the Seahawks have plenty of needs heading into this weekend’s draft.
As Ruskell, the team president since 2005, said last week: “We have needs, but not priorities.”
The only two positions that seem to be somewhat settled are kicker and tight end.
Veteran Olindo Mare held off prized rookie Brandon Coutu with a strong 2008 season, and both kickers are back.
Tight end John Carlson set all kinds of franchise records as a rookie last fall, so that position seems to be in good hands for the near and distant future.
As for every other position on the field … well, an infusion of youth wouldn’t hurt.
Here is a position-by-position breakdown of where the Seahawks may be looking for help this weekend:
Quarterback: Starter Matt Hasselbeck seems to be fully recovered from back problems, and Ruskell summed up the 33-year-old quarterback last week by saying: “I still think he’s in his prime.”
So why the need? It’s because Hasselbeck can’t play forever, and there are only so many opportunities to find a franchise quarterback.
With the No. 4 overall pick, Seattle could grab USC’s Mark Sanchez or, if he’s still on the board, Georgia’s Matthew Stafford.
Running back: Seattle could use help at both halfback and fullback.
Right now, the leading candidate to start at halfback is Julius Jones, who didn’t exactly win over the fan base in his first season as a Seahawk last fall. Jones and T.J. Duckett are expected to carry the load at that position, but it’s a near certainty that Seattle will add a young runner to the mix at some point this weekend.
At fullback, starter Leonard Weaver moved on in free agency to leave second-year player Owen Schmitt as the most likely incumbent.
Wide receiver: Yes, the Seahawks addressed this position with the addition of free agent T.J. Houshmandzadeh. But the Seahawks are likely to add some young bodies to the mix, especially after the way Courtney Taylor and Jordan Kent flopped last season.
Texas Tech’s Michael Crabtree is a possibility at No. 4.
Offensive line: Not only could the Seahawks be looking for an eventual replacement for Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones, but they’re also in the market for upgrades at several other positions along the line.
The shift to a zone blocking scheme only underscores the likelihood that Seattle will revamp this unit in the near future.
Defensive line: The Seahawks might be OK at tackle, where veteran additions Cory Redding and Colin Cole add some needed size.
At end, Seattle has plenty of candidates but just as many question marks.
Veteran Patrick Kerney is the only defensive end who has shown consistent pass-rush ability, but he’s coming off shoulder surgery.
Rookie first-round pick Lawrence Jackson was virtually non-existent last fall. And despite numerous chances, Darryl Tapp looks more like a situational player than an every-down end.
Ends and tackles are hard to find, so Seattle would grab one of each if they’re available.
Linebacker: After trading Pro Bowler Julian Peterson to Detroit, the Seahawks have a need there. One option is to move veteran D.D. Lewis into the starting lineup, but that creates a void behind middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu.
Cornerback: Marcus Trufant has developed into a shut-down corner, and Josh Wilson makes too many plays to ignore. But Wilson and nickel back Kelly Jennings lose too many battles because of a lack of size, so the Seahawks would love to get a big body in the mix.
Safety: Deon Grant has been a steady leader, but he’s banged up and getting older. Brian Russell seemed to get beat more often last season than he did in 2007.
Seattle might not be looking for an immediate starter, but the Seahawks are certainly in the market for safety help.
Punter: Yes, even this position is in a state of flux. Jon Ryan had a solid season after stepping in for Ryan Plackemeier early last season, but with four seventh-round picks, the Seahawks might look for a younger, fresher leg.