The Mike Holmgren era has started and the coach in charge is making some decisions. Holmgren released aging veteran Warren Moon and No. 3 John Friesz early this off-season. These moves leave only young John Kitna, who stepped into the starting role at mid season, as the only quarterback on the roster. The Seahawks new boss stabilized this crucial position by trading a seventh-round pick to the Jets for veteran Glenn Foley.
Ricky Watters finished the season with over 1,200 rushing yards, 52 receptions and 11 touchdowns. Versatile Watters should flourish in the new offense, similar to the one he played in under offensive coordinator Mike Holmgren in San Francisco. FB Mack Strong will see more playing time and be more involved in the new system. The talented bench includes a future star in speedy Ahman Green. Veteran kick return man and backup RB Steve Broussard was released so this group could use an experienced veteran to backup Watters.
The top two tight ends, Christian Fauria and Carlester Crumpler, are both free agents. Fauria, who was re-signed by Holmgren, improved to the point of becoming the starter ahead of Crumpler. Fauria caught 37 balls last season and has shown improved blocking skills, especially hooking the edge. Holmgren loves to get production from his tight ends, so look to see him try to re-sign Crumpler and then develop reserves Deems May and Itula Mili.
Big play Joey Galloway remains the man in Seattle. A constant deep threat, Galloway brought in 65 catches amidst a variety of double coverages. Galloway should be getting 100+ balls but the Seahawks don't have any other legitimate receiving threats to challenge defenses-allowing teams to game plan to take Galloway out of the offense. Expect Holmgren to work to upgrade this position because Mike Pritchard, James McKnight and aging Brian Blades are not the complementary players that Holmgren is accustomed to having. Pritchard is showing signs of wear and tear, Blades has lost a step and his focus, and McKnight remains inconsistent. Impact help is needed to allow Galloway to shine in the new offense.
Seattle put together a solid group up front but there seems to be two different timelines regarding the starters. Protecting Kitna's backside are the young and developing LOT Walter Jones and LOG Pete Kendall, while front side protection is handled by a pair of veterans on their last legs with ROG Brian Habib and ROT Howard Ballard. In the middle is veteran center Kevin Glover who is a big question mark after undergoing back surgery. Jones and Kendall have bright futures but after examining the age and health of three of the starters expect the new coaching staff to look to bring in some players for depth and possibly to compete to start.
Probably the best unit on the team with an athletic and physical front four with only restricted free agent DE Phillip Daniels not under contract. Cortez Kennedy and Sam Adams provide a strong interior tandem and Dan Saleaumua was cut, so look for Holmgren's staff to address this position in the off season. All-Pro Michael Sinclair has been a force playing the rush end, both containing the run and especially pressuring the quarterback. Matt LaBounty and Mike Croel are good reserves to spell Sinclair and Daniels.
Another strong unit, especially on the outside with Chad Brown and Darrin Smith. Smith and Brown were a dominating pair of starters with the young athletic first-rounder Anthony Simmons in reserve after returning from a knee injury that slowed his rookie learning curve. MLB Dean Wells was solid but signed with the Carolina Panthers as a free agent. Rookie DeShone Myles excelled in relief and probably earned the starting spot going into next season.
This was a touchdown producing group with both corners each returning a pair of interceptions for touchdowns. Starters Shawn Springs and Willie Williams are confident cover guys who take chances and make big plays. Springs was selected to his first Pro Bowl after totaling seven aerial thefts and Williams was a Pro Bowler last season. The safeties, SS Jay Bellamy and FS Darryl Williams, played well. Bellamy was solid all season making the retirement of star Bennie Blades not so painful for Seahawks fans. Veteran reserves Mark Collins and Terry McDaniel are both aging players that have had stints in Green Bay with Holmgren and don't figure into plans for '99. Fritz Shurmur's new defensive backfield is in dire need of quality depth.
The star of this unit was retained by Mike Holmgren. Special teams coach Pete Rodriguez came in and transformed an awful group into a tremendously productive and consistent one. Punter Jeff Feagles has a good leg with outstanding control as a directional punter having 27 punts downed inside the opponents' 20 yard line. Placekicker Todd Peterson is an adequate kicker hitting 19-out-of-24 field goals but the youngster did handle the pressure hitting a game winner. The new Seattle front office achieved one of its off-season goals when they re-signed Peterson to a long-term deal. Galloway is a constant threat returning punts.