I’ve been introducing a lot of features new features to the blog this week, and I hope you like them. Here is another one that I hope will become a regular addition to our lineup. I call it the weekly 6-pack. Each week, as we prepare for this weekend’s game against the 49ers, I’ll be inviting a writer from the team the Seahawks are player to swap 6 questions with me. We answer them an send back the results.
This week I’m joined by by Eric Melendez of Niner Noise. Check it out. We’ll start with my questions to Eric about the 49ers.
Note: The beer in the pic doesn’t exist. It’s just a mock up I did so this feature would have logo, so there’s no need to stalk your local sports bars looking for it.
1) Alex Smith? Again? really? Is this just a transitional thing, or does Harbaugh really think he can lead this team?
Harbaugh is a genius when it comes to quarterbacks but he looks like he does not know what he is doing making Alex Smith the starter. The lockout was a big reason why Smith is back with the 49ers although I would have liked a veteran QB competing with Smith and Kaepernick. Because of the lockout Smith at quarterback is a transitional thing.
2) Is there any concern amongst 49er fans that, now that Gore has finally gotten paid, that he’ll pull a Shaun Alexander and stop running hard like he used to?
With Gore you always know he is the one player on the roster that will give 110% each game, on every play. His dedication to the 49ers is unquestionable. The concern for Niner fans with Gore is that he is injury prone and missed the last five games last season with a broken hip. Gore is healthy but with Alex Smith at quarterback Gore will be the workhorse of the offense once again which could lead to another injury.
3) For all his physical skills, Crabtree is starting to look like he’s never going to produce the monster numbers that have been expected of him. Is this finally a breakout year for him, or just more frustration for San Francisco?
More frustration for San Francisco. Crabtree does have the talent but the dedication is not there. Crabtree has anointed himself a number one receiver before he has proven anything on the field. A big issue for Crabtree, and one of the reasons for his lack of production, is he has never played in a preseason game in his three-year career. Crabtree may not think preseason games are important but that is the time a QB and WR gel with each other on the field. Instead of gaining this experience in the preseason Crabtree is doing during the regular season. With a whole new offense to learn under Harbaugh I don’t expect huge numbers from Crabtree this season.
4) How good do you expect the 49er defense to be? There’s a few special players on that side of the ball, but from this outsider’s perspective it would seem the talent level drops off steeply from there.
The 49ers have always had a good run defense with Patrick Willis and Justin Smith clogging up the running lanes but their big issue is pass defense. The 49ers upgraded their secondary by signing Carlos Rogers, Donte Whitner and Madieu Williams so that will help the lack of a good 49ers pass rush. Watch out for rookie outside linebacker Aldon Smith. He will be saying hello to Travis Jackson during the game.
5) Jim Harbaugh seems like an awesome hire, but i think everyone is expecting the niners struggle a bit this year. Will he be given a long enough leash to turn things around, or will fans start to right right him off if the team only wins 5 or 6 games this year?
Harbaugh was a great hire and I do think he is the man to turn the franchise around. Niner fans want winners now but we are realistic when it comes to this season that the 49ers will compete in games but won’t end up winning them. If the 49ers only get 5 or 6 wins Harbaugh will get criticism but we know he will not turn the team around in just one season.
6) How many games until the Colin Kaepernick era beings? Is he really as raw and unpolished as the national media would have us believe?
There are many reasons I have come up with as to why Harbaugh went with the Alex Smith. One of those reasons is for Smith to lead the team in the first five or six games while Kaepernick continues to learn the offense and how to play in the NFL from Harbaugh. I would guess in week five or six the Kaepernick era will being. At that point Alex Smith will have shown he is the same Alex Smith as last season, ineffective at quarterback. Kaepernick was raw at the beginning of training camp but he developed a lot skills learned from Harbaugh and seeing about 5 or 6 regular season games will help him be ready to start at quarterback when his number is called.
And just to keep things even, here are my answers to Eric’s questions about the Seahawks:
1. Since the end of last season the Seahawks added 24 new players to the roster and have eight starters who are in their first, second or third years in the league. Will the Seahawks be able to compete with such a young roster?
Believe it or not but the Super Bowl champion Packers are significantly younger than the Seahawks. So is Tampa for that matter. I don’t think age really matters. Pete Carroll and company have worked really hard to make this team bigger, stronger and faster, and in order to do so the team has gotten a lot younger. If the coaching staff can put all that extra athleticism to use than this team can actually be much better than people think.
2. Quarterback Travis Jackson was one of the new additions to the roster and he has yet to prove himself in the NFL. How are Seahawks fans feeling about Jackson starting at quarterback?
In all honesty, most of them are hating the idea. There’s a very loud group of fans who are actively campaigning to get Charlie Whitehurst installed at the starter.
Jackson is really athletic and has a big arm. People forget he was a 2nd round pick and the skills that made him so are still there. The problem is that he tends to lock on to receivers and doesn’t go through his progressions. If he can make improvements in this area he has a chance to be successful, but I don’t think many fans have hope of him doing so.
Ultimately, the next franchise QB in Seattle isn’t on the roster yet.
3. The offensive line was a big issue for the Seahawks last season. With the Seahawks selecting two offensive linemen with their first two draft picks, does the team now have a line that will protect the quarterback.
In the long run, yes. But probably not right away. Rookie linemen are prone to mistakes, and the Seahawks have 2 of them to go with 2 other linemen who each only have 1 year experience. That’s 2 total years of experience among 4 of the starting linemen. Expect the growing pains to be really tough early in the year.
On the other hand, the group is made up of players who individually are known for being very good run blockers. There’s nothing like a solid running game and a stead diet of play action to make pass protecting easier.
4. After losing two of the teams leaders to free agency, Matt Hasselbeck and Lofa Tatupu, who will be the leaders this season for the Seahawks on offense and defense.
This is a really good question, and you forgot Lawyer Milloy in your list. Replacing all that leadership isn’t going to happen in one season. One Defense Earl Thomas and Marcus Trufant will be looked to as leaders, but both are in the secondary. The front 7 will have to find a leader, but i’m not sure there is someone ready to take on that roll. If I had to guess, I’d say Brandon Mebane ends up as the defacto leader of that group.
On offense, Robert Gallery and Marshawn Lynch seem to be the guys everyone looks to. Tarvaris Jackson was elected captain, but i’m not sure how long his reign as the starting QB lasts. He’s prone to injury as well. In the end the someone has to step up, or it’ll be a long season.
5. The Seahawks won the NFC West last season with a 7-9 record. What will their record be this season? Will they win the division again?
A lot of people are picking him to finish with 4-6 wins. I think 7-8 wins is more likely. The defense is improved, as is the running game. It’ll be the QB play that holds this team back. My prediction is that the Rams will win the division with 9 wins. That’s the AFC west for ya.
6. Who is one player on the Seahawks that is flying under the radar right now but will have a big season?
Rookie WR Doug Baldwin. It might take him a couple games to work himself in as a large part of the game plan, but I bet he replaced Ben Obomanu as the team’s 3rd WR sooner rather than later.