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Danny O'Neil covers the Seahawks for The Seattle Times.

January 28, 2010 at 3:12 PM

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Alabama: The exit

Posted by Danny O'Neil

The Senior Bowl is still two days away, but taking a cue from the NFL evaluators, I'm headed back to Seattle. Most of the scouts were gone before today's workouts even began, leaving a much thinner crowd.

The draft evaluation is now underway in earnest, and a good chunk of the next three months will be sent scrutinizing exactly what Seattle will do with three of the first 40 picks.

Those will be critical questions.

Offering a review of where things stand for Seattle is premature considering the talent that wasn't here in Mobile, Al.

None of the 53 underclassmen who entered the draft were present, a roll call that includes both Derrick Morgan of Georgia Tech and Carlos Bowman of Florida.

Top offensive tackle prospect Russell Okung of Oklahoma State was absent while Bryan Bulaga of Iowa and Anthony Davis of Rutgers are underclassmen.

I could offer my best-guess assessment of who Seattle likes at this point -- which really is a ton of guesswork since the GM has been on the job less than two weeks and is still getting to know the scouting department. Instead, I thought I'd offer up the questions, queries and opinions I've heard from people around the league about the Seahawks.

  • Is Justin Forsett going to get a chance to win the starting running back job? Alex Gibbs is going to coordinate the Seahawks' running game, and he has a long history of getting 1,000-yard seasons out of the overlooked and underestimated backs from the draft. Guys like Terrell Davis, Mike Anderson, Olandis Gary.

    C.J. Spiller of Clemson was not at the Senior Bowl, and he's someone who's got that explosive speed, but one of the questions that came up repeatedly is whether Seattle will see what they've got in Forsett, who was more productive than the coaches expected after Seattle switched to the zone-blocking scheme last season. What happens now that the master of the zone-blocking scheme is in place?

  • How will Aaron Curry be used? Curry was a force the first month of the season, but tailed off, struggling especially with coverage responsibilities after Lofa Tatupu went down with a torn pectoral injury. Will he become more of a pass rusher in Seattle's scheme, deployed along with Darryl Tapp as a roving-type blitzer? Seattle drafted Curry higher than any linebacker in eight years, and the returns last season didn't measure up to that investment.

  • Whither Walter Jones? At this point, people around the league would be surprised if Jones came back. Now, that's not a commentary on his recovery, but more the outside observation that it has now been 20 regular-season games and two knee surgeries since Jones played, and Seattle will be changing offenses for the second time in about 15 months.

    Jones may very well end up coming back, as he has said his hope is, but that would be a surprise to others around the league at this point. Again, to reiterate, that is not based on people with inside information on the progress of his recovery, but just the general sense of his age, injury and the team's current rebuilding situation.

  • Where does Seattle start with it's rebuilding project? Some will say the Seahawks need to start by getting some playmakers.

    Whether it's a pass rusher, a wide receiver or a running back, Seattle needs to find someone that keeps opposing coaches awake at night, game planning ways to stop them. Think fast-twitch guys. Explosive athletes.

    There's another school of thought that says Seattle needs to start heavy lifting with the pieces up front, but this idea chafes in the face of how Alex Gibbs has assembled offensive lines in the past. He gets the most out of a very specific type of athletic, mobile lineman. It doesn't take using a pair of first-round picks on a tackle and center like the Jets did several years ago with Nick Mangold and D'Brickashaw Ferguson.

    All right, they're calling my flight number so I better get going. Salutations from the Senior Bowl, and "see" you in Seattle.

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