The 2016 Seattle Seahawks very much had a feel of “second verse, same as the first”. In spite of huge wins against the Atlanta Falcons and at New England, Seattle managed to offset victories with losses to divisional rivals in the LA Rams and a last gasp field goal to the, then, faltering Arizona Cardinals. Seattle’s perceived inconsistency cost them a playoff bye, and the Seahawks saw their season ended at the hands of the aforementioned Atlanta Falcons.
Seattle find themselves in something of a sticky situation heading into 2017. For so long they’ve enjoyed one of the finest defences in modern history, and yet middling offensive play has held back a side that should be in the midst of a dynasty. A combination of poor offensive line play, a lack of consistent rushing yards, and the aging of the once great Legion of Boom, has left Seattle almost in a “win now” state. The window may not be closed fully, but there’s no question that there’s only a slight crack keeping it ajar.
In an offense somewhat bereft of consistency, the Seattle Seahawks are fortunate to have one of the better available options at quarterback. Entering his sixth year in the league, Russell Wilson is coming off a season in which he threw for the most yards of his career thus far. Likely as a result of the unreliable options in front of him, and a season hampered by injury, Wilson found himself picked off more times than ever. This number is still incredibly low in comparison to his peers, however. 11 interceptions for most Quarterbacks would be deemed good. The standards set by “The Hustle”, however, demands better.
It’s not unrealistic to think, then, that Wilson will be helped by an improved running game. While it’s difficult to imagine now, Eddie Lacy was a premiere running back only a few seasons previous. Weight issues and injury problems stunted the development of a once promising back, which led to his release by Green Bay. Lacy will hope that a new environment, one that allows Marshawn Lynch to thrive, will allow him refind the form that saw him achieve back to back 1000 yard seasons in his early years.
Lacy will likely share snaps with Thomas Rawls, a promising back with his share of injury issues. With Lacy and Rawls splitting time, with a sprinkling of C.J. Prosise, Seattle will hope injury in the backfield will be limited, and much of the weight on Wilson’s shoulders will be lifted in 2017.
2017 is a very back to basics approach to Offense for the Seahawks. Ground and pound, just like the glory days. The Seahawks have a few sizable weapons to call upon to take advantage of Wilson’s above average accuracy. Doug Baldwin has emerged as the favourite target of Seattle’s number 3, and hauled in a career high 94 catches for over 1100 yards in 2016. With Tyler Lockett, Jermaine Kearse, and Paul Richardson acting a supplements and decoys, the receiving game is as solid as it’s ever looked in the Emerald City.
At Tight End, a combination of Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson share the snaps for Seattle. Graham’s reputation as one of the great pass catching Tight Ends has begun to wane over the past few seasons, however a solid year in 2016 should set up a spectacular 2017. Luke Willson is a reliable check-down option, however the Canadian’s true value lies in his ability to block. You’ll come to see why that’s important…
Easily the weakest part of the Seattle Seahawks is the players hired to shield Wilson. Given the considerable talent of their Quarterback, and that of their running backs in previous years, the Seahawks have abjectly failed to provide suitable protection to capitalise on it. 2017 doesn’t even offer a light at the end of the tunnel. Added to the group of human turnstiles is Luke “Injured Reserve” Joeckel; as close to a first round bust as you can hope to find. Taken second overall in 2013, Joeckel has achieved a full 16 game season once in his career. The effects of a poor line will weigh heavily on Wilson’s body, and his ability to extend plays will ultimately be hindered. Wilson will require better protection if he wants to see a decrease on last seasons 41 sacks/live to 30.
Seattle’s dominant Cover 3 system has seen its influence spread in recent years. Its successes led to Head Coaching roles for previous Defensive Coordinators Gus Bradley and Dan Quinn, the former now defensing (ugh) for the Los Angeles Chargers. Accept no imitations, however. The Seahawks gave up a league low 1487 rushing yards in 2016, and an 8th best 3612 yards through the air. 2016s edition of the lauded Seattle defence was a top 5 unit.
Much of Seattle’s front seven remains from that initial breakthrough. Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett will act as bookends to a rotation of defensive tackles, including Ahtyba Rubin and Jarren Reed. Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright still make up two thirds of the linebacking corp; it’s a familiarity that will act as a warming positive to the Seattle faithful. Providing the front seven remain fit and healthy, there is no reason why they can’t remain one of the stoutest run defences in football.
Where the Seahawks struggled, if you can really say that, is with their secondary. The Legion of Boom is almost “in name only”. Injuries to Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor last season hurt their playoff standing, and run, respectively. Seattle went 4-4 in games where both Chancellor and Thomas didn’t start together during the regular season last year. It’s not unreasonable to think they’d have finished second in the NFC had both remained fit. One thing is for sure; if the key components remain fit, Seattle’s secondary is still one of the best in this league. Whether the likes of Thomas, Chancellor, and Richard Sherman can avoid the effects of aging will likely define how they defend the air game.
Players to Watch
Eddie Lacy – For Seattle to achieve success on offense, they absolutely require an average-to-good run game. Similarly, after two seasons that have damaged his reputation, Lacy needs to be sure he can make good on his one year “prove it” deal. This is an opportunity that both sides need to work out positively.
Jimmy Graham – Jimmy Graham was traded to the Seahawks in 2015 for a first round pick and Max Unger, and has failed to make particularly large waves since his move. Graham will need a pretty big year to justify his large salary, and secure his future in Seattle.
Earl Thomas – Seattle went 2-3 in games Thomas wasn’t involved in in 2016. They’ll require every bit of his talent if they’re to keep the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Matt Ryan, and Carson Palmer quiet.
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