Seahawks' life after two superstars leave

AP Sports Writer
SEATTLE (AP) - 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
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
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."