Just for a second imagine you're a NFL defensive coordinator. Your next game is against the Seattle Seahawks and you're sitting down with the rest of the staff to think up a gameplan. You look at the roster and see T.J. Houshmandzadeh as the main threat at receiver, there's a couple of running backs in Julius Jones and Justin Forsett and there's Matt Hasselbeck starting at quarterback.
What do you make of that? Personally, I'd do what most teams did in 2009. Stick a guy to shadow Houshmandzadeh and make a heavy commitment to attack the offensive line. You're not really concerned you'll get beat deep because the quarterback hasn't got the big arm or the receivers to hurt you. You can stack up against the run knowing there isn't much chance Jones or Forsett will find the edge, hit top gear and break off the huge run. You're prepared to gamble a little having extra pass rushers off the edge knowing that this is a team that won't make you pay.
This puts a lot of pressure on the offensive line. The left tackle will sometimes have multiple guys to keep away from the quarterback. The interior will struggle creating the holes for the running game.
The point of this exercise is to determine what the Seahawks can do to stop this happening in future. Without doubt one of Seattle's greatest needs is to improve the offensive line. It's lost key starters since Super Bowl XL, a number of injury problems have hampered the replacements and a switch of philosophy to a zone blocking scheme might have complicated matters. Drafting a left tackle early in 2010 is considered a prime need and locking up the position long term would be beneficial to the Seahawks going forward.
However - you put Jason Smith, Eugene Monroe, Michael Oher or Andre Smith at left tackle on the 2009 Seahawks. Does anything change? They're still blocking two guys off the edge. They're still being attacked with a heavy blitz or having to take on eight in the box. A rookie drafted this year will face the same issues unless the Seahawks can demand greater respect from the opposition. They need to draw attention away from the line and force greater coverage in the passing game. There needs to be more balance and creativity to keep teams guessing. There needs to be more speed, power - execution.
As a case example, if the Seahawks acquired Brandon Marshall and C.J. Spiller - a defense now has to consider double coverage on Marshall, which ultimately creates more space for Houshmandzadeh. This will restrict a team being able to blitz too much - knowing there'll be more room in the secondary. That takes pressure away from the offensive line.
Adding a guy who can hit the edge and break off big runs, hit the home run from the running back position and offer pure speed and pass catching will stop teams being able to stack up through the middle and spread their coverage. Rather than Seattle not being able to move forward until they draft a left tackle, I actually think any offensive lineman will struggle until the Seahawks add playmakers.
Aside from finding a pass rush, all of Seattle's biggest needs are on offense. But it's a double edged sword and drafting an offensive lineman is only part of the solution. Playmakers will also need to be a priority. Relying on later round picks at the skill positions hasn't been good enough for Seattle in recent years. I think that could change, possibly starting on April 22nd.