Highlights from the latest edition of "Hawk Talk":
IAmTheWalRuskell asked whether the Seahawks will ask quarterback Russell Wilson to do anything differently this season.
O'Neil: I think the Seahawks will be looking for more quick throws from Wilson, his timing improving. There used to be a saying that NBA coaches like Jerry Sloan would use: "Play early or play late." It meant get a shot off early in the shot clock (a fast break or early shot before the defense set up) or failing that, run through your offense and take a shot late in the possession after you have a chance to work the defense. I don't expect Seattle to give up on the emphasis placed upon scrambling last season. I think the Seahawks continue to see that as an asset for this quarterback in particular and the team in general. But I also think that there will be a push to get the ball out quick in some instances. Especially if Percy Harvin is healthy for a full season.
Miika asked whether second-year defensive tackle Jordan Hill could be in danger of not making Seattle's 53-man roster.
O'Neil: He would not be one of the prime candidates. You're looking at a defensive line that has lost three pretty key players in Red Bryant, Chris Clemons and Clinton McDonald. There's going to be competition at that spot, and by no means is he assured anything. But right off the top, I would think the Seahawks are looking at him as a leading candidate to replace McDonald as the interior pass rusher in the nickel defense.
John believes that offensive line is the biggest weakness on Seattle's roster.
O'Neil: It's possible the line will be better. After all, Russell Okung missed half a season, Max Unger battled injuries and while Michael Bowie/Justin Britt lack Breno Giacomini's experience, both have a better likelihood of improving over the course of the year. But there's no guarantee the line will be better.
Tory asked what contributed most to the Seahawks' issues with pass protection last year.
O'Neil: I think the biggest factor was injuries, but I don't want to discount the amount of starting time, and one reality that gets overlooked: Seattle errs on the side of aggressive run blocking over pass protection in terms of its selection. I don't want to make it sound like you draft either a road-grading run blocker or a more agile pass protector, but there's some truth in the fact that Seattle's offensive line is made up and coached with an emphasis on the run blocking. Look at right guard J.R. Sweezy. Offensive line coach Tom Cable believes he's one of the best run-blocking guards in the league, and there's some truth in that. He's also not as polished in pass protection. But if you ask me the biggest factor in the pass protection last year? It was the fact that you're most talented and highest-paid guy, left tackle Russell Okung, was out for half the season with an injury to his plant foot and he wasn't totally healthy even when he came back.
Evil Penguin asked how the Physically Unable to Perform list works.
O'Neil: Here's how PUP works: The players show up, and those guys who are deemed not ready to practice – in effect, who haven't passed a physical – can be placed on PUP. That player can't practice, but can remain on PUP until roster cut down – the week before the regular season – and can still be activated to play in the regular-season opener. However, at roster cut-down date, the team faces a question with regard to anyone on PUP: Activate the player and place him on the 53-man roster or keep him on PUP and have him miss at least the first six games. Once a player practices in training camp, he's no longer eligible for PUP.
John asked about wide receiver and CFL import Chris Matthews' chances of making the team.
O'Neil: I think he wasn't healthy enough to make a decision. I know everyone loves his size, and the fact that the last time Seattle signed a CFL player he went to the Pro Bowl, but the likelihood of him making this team – given the competition at receiver – is relatively small. Not impossible. But Ricardo Lockette is more likely to make the team than he is.
An anonymous guest asked what different skill sets separate backup tight ends Luke Willson and Anthony McCoy.
O'Neil: Good question. Luke Willson has better top-end speed, Anthony McCoy a bigger build. McCoy has the makeup to be that all-around tight end who can catch and block. He's also been pretty notoriously inconsistent.
Another anonymous guest asked if Seattle's increasingly expensive roster is a reason to be skeptical about the team's future, especially with Russell Wilson a year away from what should be a massive deal.
O'Neil: Am I skeptical? Not necessarily. You're certainly right about the quarterback salary serving as a governor of sorts, limiting what you can spend onto he rest of the team. However, anyone who declares that Seattle is certain to fall off might be underestimating the ability of the Seahawks to continue finding future All Pros in the draft (and consequently getting to pay them bargain basement contracts for the first four years). If you believe it's inevitable the Seahawks will fall off because of Russell Wilson's future contract, you're essentially stating the Seahawks will stop drafting as well as they have under the first four years under general manager John Schneider.