The Seattle Seahawks’ arguably greatest stretch in franchise history came between 2012 and 2015, when the Seahawks recorded two Super Bowl trips, and won Super Bowl XLVIII against the one of the greatest offences of all-time, a Peyton Manning-led Broncos, with the Legion of Boom defensive unit taking centre stage. Just four years later, the team is looking a whole lot different.
2018 was a breakout year for Seattle’s running game. The RB production, the lack of which had long held the passing game connection between Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett back, finally saw a spark as in a great season by Chris Carson, who was 5th in the league in yards on the ground and tied-9th in TDs with nine.
Despite that, the once-electric defence was tearing apart. But that was not the only trouble. The OL had another dissatisfying year, with only seven teams allowing more sacks than the Seahawks. Those protection struggles cost Seattle the early part of the 2018 campaign, with the MNF loss to Chicago pointing straight at both the problems in the Seattle pocket, as a result of which Wilson was sacked six times, and the talent of the Bears defensive front line, led by MVP candidate Khalil Mack.
After starting 0-2 with losses in Denver and at Soldier Field, they were 6-5 entering the decisive part of the season, with having not been more than one game over or under .500 at any point in the season.
And still, behind that same OL, Wilson had another productive year, leading Seattle to the playoffs – an accomplishment they hadn’t achieved the season before. With the 3rd best passer rating in the NFL, 110.9, he stepped up for the Seahawks, who won four of their last five games. This included a 38-31 win at home over the Kansas City Chiefs, where a 127.2 rating was just his 5th highest of the year. With a 35-7 TD/Int. ratio, the kickoff game against the Broncos was the only occasion where the former Wisconsin Badger threw more than 1 INT.
In spite of the loss of Doug Baldwin, the Seahawks offence is as good as it’s been in the last century, with the running game finally in effect to balance the play selection, but is the rebuildt defensive unit ready to do the same? Big question right there.
The big move of the offseason was the new contract the Seahawks gave their QB – 4 years, $140 million. It gives Seattle time to sync the quality of the defence with that of the solid offense, which is probably going to be where the team peaks and return to top contender shape in the course of the next 5-7 years.
Wilson had one of the best statistical years of his career, but one game shows his unique contribution and how the squad overall has improved enough to make him even more efficient. His win at Ford Field against the Lions, 28-14, saw him post a perfect rating of 158.3.
He was 14/17 for 248 yards and 3 TD.
He competed nearly 82% of his throws, which was a result of a 105-yard game by Chris Carson. Wilson, or any QB for that matter, is most valuable when accurate and having to make as few throws as possible, because it balances the play distribution. Thirty throws a game is too many and makes for a pretty predictable game – something the Hawks had to rely on because of the nearly-extinct running game in the previous few years.
Secondly, Rashaad Penny, who is expected to play more snaps, is going to provide an even bigger improvement to the RB position, which is going to make for a better overall defence due to the reasons mentioned above. As a rookie he only had 409 yards and 2 TD, but a 100-yard effort against the Rams provided a sign of his improvement. Penny is clearly and strongly a RB2, but can change in case Carson struggles behind the OL by being a faster and lighter runner.
Remember, in addition to everything I said in the Russell Wilson section, the running game can not only turn the QB game into being more accurate and effective, but due to being a gradual type of driving down the field, keeps the defence on the sidelines as much as possible.
The main concerns remain the OL and the defence. While the offensive line received only a minor upgrade by 4th round pick Phil Haynes, the D has a little more depth. However, holes remain mainly at the positions of left defensive end and strongside linebacker, where Ezekiel Ansah and Barkevious Mingo are not impressive options. The special teams will be one of the most underrated groups, with Jason Myers as a good enough kicker, Michael Dickson as one of the best punters in the league and a dynamic returner in Tyler Lockett.
The West is once again expected to be a tough division, with the only guarantee that the Cardinals will probably finish last. However, Seattle’s schedule is extra difficult, because they will have to face the AFC North and NFC South. I think they can start 4-2 with wins over Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Arizona, and I see them finishing anywhere between the 7-9 and 10-6 mark, with 8-8 probably not enough for an NFC Wild Card spot.
Likelihood of making the playoffs: Average