Seahawks burning questions: offense | Joel Willits

Part I of II

Part I of II

It’s that time of the year again - training camp time.

The Seattle Seahawks officially begin camp Friday morning at 9:15 a.m. from their Kirkland team headquarters with two-a-day sessions until Aug. 2. With the opening game against the Bills in Buffalo only 44 days away, it’s time to take a look at the burning questions facing the Seahawks’ offense in the 2008-09 season.

1 Will the running game get it done this season?

The Seahawks think their off-season acquisitions have addressed this question, which was a glaring weakness for the team last season, when Seattle averaged only 101.2 yards per game on the ground, 20th overall in the NFL.

The team jettisoned leading rusher and 2005 NFL MVP Shaun Alexander, who led the team with 716 yards rushing and four touchdowns, and signed former Cowboy Julius Jones, as well as the built-like-a-brickhouse TJ Duckett. Seattle also selected running back Justin Forsett in the seventh round of this year’s NFL Draft out of the University of California.

The Seahawks are banking that Jones, who rushed for 588 yards and two scores last year while splitting time with Marion Barber, can find explosiveness that helped him rush for 1,084 yards in 2006.

Finally, to shore up the offensive line, the ‘Hawks brought in veteran offensive guard Mike Wahle, who spent the last three seasons with the Carolina Panthers. Wahle is an old-school tough guy, who should remind fans of former guard Steve Hutchinson. New offensive line coach Mike Solari should help to get the line back to top-of-the-league standards.

2 OK, we might have a running game, but who will Matt Hasselbeck throw the ball to?

Wide receiver may be the biggest question mark for Seattle this season. Bobby Engram returns as the team’s top receiver, having hauled in 94 passes last season for 1,147 yards. But Engram’s age has to become a factor; the man is 35. Engram, who has stated his hopes for a contract extension with the Seahawks, will have to have a stellar season to earn that wish.

Nate Burleson had the most touchdown catches (nine) for Seattle last season, and will have to become a bigger part of the offense due to Deion Branch’s reconstructive knee surgery that makes his training-camp status a question mark. One of the team’s young receivers will have to step up. Maybe it will be Courtney Taylor? Or Logan Payne, or Ben Obomanu? The ‘Hawks four preseason games will give the young trio a chance to prove themselves.

3 Who is going to kick?

Josh Brown’s right foot won more games in Seattle than the Seahawks care to admit following Brown’s departure to arch-rival St. Louis. So while Brown is kicking in mop-up time for the hapless Rams, Seattle looks to replace the man with the golden leg.

The ‘Hawks thought rookie Brandon Coutu had enough potential to warrant a seventh-round pick out of Georgia, where the was 51-of-64 for field goals and did not miss an extra point. He’ll face off against Olindo Mare in training camp.

4 Where will tight end John Carlson fit into the Seahawks plans?

The Seahawks drafted Carlson in the second round, deciding he was the most NFL-ready of the tight ends in the draft. Seattle likely will run many offensive sets with two tight ends. Is Carlson ready to step up and be a big-time part of the Seattle offense? A dangerous tight end could give the Seahawks a valuable receiving option the ‘Hawks have lacked in recent years.

On Saturday we’ll take a look at the questions facing the Seahawks defense.

Joel Willits is the sports reporter for the Bellevue News. He can be reached at 425-453-5045 or at jwillits@reporternewspapers.com.