Author: Scoop Dougherty
While not as dominant as they were during their back-to-back Super Bowl appearances in 2014 and 2015, the Seattle Seahawks remain the team to beat in the NFC West.
Offensively, Russell Wilson remains the unquestioned leader of the team and the one whose arm and legs will play a critical role in any success the team will have in 2017. However, 2016 was an uneven year for him. While he had his best yardage year ever (4219 yards), he had a near career low 21 TD passes. Much of this could be attributed to multiple ankle injuries which severely impacted his usually dynamic mobility. Other factors were the handicap of working behind one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL and a knee injury to Ty Lockett, the team’s best deep threat.
There is barely anywhere to go but up for the Seattle running game. With no more Beast Mode (Marshawn Lynch) and the aforementioned woeful offensive line, the Seahawks finished 25th (out of 32) in league rushing with a meager 99.4 yards per game.
With all of that in mind, Seattle signed Eddie Lacy as a free agent from Green Bay. Lacy is a physical bruiser who underachieved in GB and has ongoing problems with his weight. However, if he can replicate the success of Lynch (who didn’t sparkle prior to his Seattle tenure), the Seahawk ground game may rebound. Backing up Lacy will be Thomas Rawls who, with a contrasting running style to Lacy, can contribute if he can avoid the injury bug which has plagued him in his first two seasons in the league.
Seattle’s receiving corps is a strength of the team. Doug Baldwin firmly established himself as one of the best receivers in the league last year with his 94 catch, 1128 yard season. Baldwin, a superb route runner, will be joined by Jimmy Graham, who has regained his aura as one of the league’s top tight ends. Graham seems fully recovered from a serious knee injury and pulled in 65 receptions in 2016.
While the defense is not as stellar as it was during the Super Bowl years, it still suffices as the foundation of the team. Earl Thomas returns from a broken leg and will join Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman to form the core of, arguably, the best secondary in the NFL. Sherman remains a lockdown corner that he has always been since entering the league from Stanford, but his inability to control his emotions led the team to consider trading him in the offseason. He will have to regain their trust.
Elsewhere on defense, the linebacking corps is solid being led by Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright. Wagner led the NFL in tackles last season with a career-best 167 and is in his prime. Wright also had a career-best 126 tackles and is being counted on to be as productive this year.
The defensive line is more than adequately manned, in part, by Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. Bennett is generally considered to be one of the league’s most dominant offensive lineman while Avril, usually getting less ink than his more publicized teammates, has a first step that is one of the best in the league.
So, summing up, expect the Seahawks to have a similar record to last year (10-5-1), win the NFC West, and secure a playoff berth. The key to that expected level of success will remain the performance of the offensive line in protecting Wilson and opening holes for Lacy and Rawls.
Next up: Preview of Arizona Cardinals