Maiocco: NFC West co-op -- Scouting the Seahawks


Maiocco: NFC West co-op -- Scouting the Seahawks

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Editor's Note: The NFL lockout appears to be drawing to a close, and teams will have limited time to enact their offseason plans. This week, experts from around the NFC West will provide status reports on the teams they cover. This is the final part in a four-day cooperative series looking at the NFC West. Beat reporters Kent Somers (The Arizona Republic), Danny O'Neil (The Seattle Times) and Jim Thomas (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) share their NFC West thoughts on their respective blogs.Today, a look at the Seattle Seahawks. First, my thoughts . . ."What's your deal?""What's your deal?"Those were the words spoken between Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll at midfield following a Stanford-USC game a couple years ago. But that dialogue might also take place between Carroll and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck when the lockout lifts.Hasselbeck has been the Seahawks's starting quarterback since 2001, during which time he was the trigger man while leading Seattle to six playoff appearances. But he turns 36 in September, and his past three seasons have not been good. He's a pending free agent, and the Seahawks must make a decision on what to do at the all-important position.So are the Seahawks determined to offer Hasselbeck a deal to retain him? And will Hasselbeck look for a better opportunity elsewhere in the league?The 49ers have even been mentioned as a possible landing spot for Hasselbeck, who is well-versed in the West Coast system. But that doesn't seem likely to happen, as Harbaugh seems committed to Alex Smith as his starter, while grooming rookie Colin Kaepernick.If the Seahawks go with Charlie Whitehurst, it's difficult to envision them improving in Carroll's second season. Seattle compiled a 7-9 record, becaming the first team in the history of the NFL to win a division with a losing record.The 49ers opened last season with a 31-6 loss in Seattle, and bounced back later in the season with a 40-21 victory at Candlestick. Now, let's check in with O'Neil for a look at the Seahawks:Seahawks offseason storyline
Who's going to be the QB? Matt Hasselbeck, the starter the past 10 years in Seattle, is unsigned and struggled so badly in December that he was actually booed at home. Then in January, he had the signature performance of his career in a playoff upset of the defending-champion Saints. Are the Seahawks really ready to turn the team over to Charlie Whitehurst, who was acquired from San Diego last season despite never attempting a regular-season pass in the NFL? Whitehurst started two games last season, and while he won the Seahawks' division-clinching finale over the Rams, his season was sufficiently spotty that there are questions whether he's ready to be a starting quarterback on a winning NFL team. Throw in the fact that should Hasselbeck leave as a free agent, San Francisco and Arizona are both considered potential destinations and what Seattle decides to do at quarterback may end up shaping the division.To-do list for when lockout lifts:
1. Flesh out the quarterback competition. The big question is whether Matt Hasselbeck will be re-signed or Seattle will attempt to acquire Philadelphia's Kevin Kolb in a trade. Expect Seattle to sign Josh Portis, an undrafted free agent, and perhaps a second rookie in addition to a veteran like Matt Leinart, a free agent who would make a great deal of sense.2. Re-sign Brandon Mebane. Seattle has nearly two dozen of its own free agents prepared to hit the market. Brandon Mebane will draw the most interest around the league, and he is the most important for Seattle. He's a four-year starter on a defensive line that needs to get deeper.3. Improve the offensive line. Tom Cable will be Seattle's fourth different offensive line coach in four seasons, and with rookies James Carpenter and John Moffitt added to left tackle Russell Okung - last year's first-round pick - the Seahawks have set about rebuilding the line instead of just patching it up.
REWIND: Seahawks add Tom Cable to coaching staff
4. Get Golden Tate involved in the offense. There was no bigger disappointment for Seattle last season than the fact Golden Tate never emerged as a consistent receiving threat. Coaches pointed to consistency and precision of his routes. He caught 21 passes, only two gained more than 15 yards. Placing him in a more prominent role will be an emphasis.5. Sort out the secondary. Seattle has ranked in the bottom six teams in pass yards allowed for three successive seasons. The Seahawks drafted two cornerbacks and a safety, but all were chosen in the latter half of the draft. Does Seattle have the personnel to effectively implement the bump-and-run coverage Carroll wants to play? For O'Neil's full report on the Seahawks, click here to visit his blog.

Mark Helfrich provides insight into Chip Kelly's line of thinking

Mark Helfrich provides insight into Chip Kelly's line of thinking

Mark Helfrich had a strong indication he would be fired as Oregon’s head coach. And he said he told Chip Kelly recently he would have no hard feelings if Kelly left the 49ers to return to coach the Ducks.

Kelly this week said he is not interested in abandoning his job with the 49ers to coach in the college ranks. Helfrich suggested during a radio interview on Friday that Kelly told him the same thing privately.

When it was suggested that Kelly hated to recruit, Helfrich did not disagree.

"That's a fact," Helfrich said in an interview on ESPN Radio's Russillo and Kanell. "I don't know hated recruiting. . . a dislike. A strong dislike. But I think Chip has that challenge in his mind right now to make it right in the NFL.

"I had some of those conversations with him a couple weeks ago when it looked like this was going south. That was a very awkward converation, but (I) just wanted to let him know that to take our personal relationship out of it in every way, shape or form if he wanted to consider this.

"But, me, reading between the lines, I think he wants to make it right in the NFL. I think he wants to win at that level. He's had a rough go of it this year, but he'll get it right."

Kelly compiled a 46-7 record in four seasons in Eugene, Ore. He left after the 2012 season to accept the head-coaching job with the Philadelphia Eagles. Kelly was fired late last season and took the 49ers job two weeks later.

In Kelly’s first season with the 49ers, the club is 1-10. The 49ers are on a franchise-long 10-game losing streak entering Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears.

Helfrich was 37-16 in his four seasons at Oregon after his promotion from offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Kelly said he spoke with Helfrich the morning after he was fired.

“I just felt bad for Mark. I love him like a brother,” Kelly said. “He’s a tremendous person. He’s a hell of a football coach, but he’s an even better person. Just felt for him and the rest of the guys on that staff. It’s an unfortunate thing that goes on in this profession. We all know about it when we sign up, but when it happens you’re still taken aback by it.”

Kelly said he hoped his denial of any interest in the Oregon job would end all speculation about his future. When asked if intends to remain with the 49ers, Kelly said on Wednesday, “Yep. So we're all done with that, I hope."

Injury report: Dial set to return for 49ers; Patton, Lynch questionable

Injury report: Dial set to return for 49ers; Patton, Lynch questionable

Defensive lineman Quinton Dial, who sat out last week’s game with knee and neck issues, will return to action Sunday for the 49ers at Soldier Field against the Chicago Bears.

Dial was not listed on the team’s injury report after going through two limited practices this week. The 49ers had only a walk-through Friday in Orlando, Fla., but Dial was cleared to return to full activity, the team announced.

Wide receiver Quinton Patton (concussion) and outside linebacker Aaron Lynch (ankle) were both listed as questionable for Sunday’s game.

Patton appears to be on pace to be cleared in the NFL’s return-to-play concussion protocol. He has returned to non-contact football activity after sustaining a head injury last week against the Miami Dolphins.

Lynch has already missed four consecutive games with a high-ankle sprain. Lynch has appeared in only three games this season. He sat out the first four games of the year while serving a four-game suspension for violating the leageu’s policy of substances of abuse.

The Bears listed six players as questionable for the game, including outside linebackers Willie Young and rookie Leonard Floyd. Young leads Chicago with 6.5 sacks, while Floyd is second with five sacks.

Quarterback Jay Cutler has been ruled out for the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury. Matt Barkley will make his second career start.

LB Aaron Lynch (ankle)
WR Quinton Patton (concussion)

QB Jay Cutler (right shoulder)
LB Willie Young (knee)
S Adrian Amos (foot)
WR Eddie Royal (toe)
LB Leonard Floyd (concussion)
CB Deiondre' Hall (ankle)
G Josh Sitton (ankle)