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Today: The Seattle Seahawks
Last Year: 13-3 (1st place in the NFL)
Five years ago, I was sitting in front of my television in my Seattle-area home, watching Jim Mora whine to the local and national media about his kicker’s habit of missing field goals. Jim Mora wasn’t very happy.
Back in 2009, the Seahawks were a sad shell of a franchise that enjoyed plenty of success from 2003 to 2007. But, after a 4-12 season in 2008, the team was forced to say goodbye to Mike Holmgren. In his place, the team appointed Jim Mora. Under Mora, the Seahawks floundered, going 5-11. Mora was quickly shoved out the door and replaced by everyone’s favorite cheater, Pete Carroll. (I’m kidding, I love you Pete.)
Success didn’t come immediately for Carroll in Seattle. Mainly due to an aging roster, the Hawks were in rebuilding mode. In Carroll’s first two seasons, the team went 7-9. Despite the poor records, the Hawks still made the postseason in one of those seasons, and proceeded to shock the world by beating the dominant New Orleans Saints.
But, Seattle’s ascension really wasn’t evident until halfway through the 2012 regular season. Prior to the season, the team had drafted Russell Wilson, an undersized quarterback, in the third round. The Seahawks kept the game simple for Wilson, before ultimately asking him to do more.
I’d say it wasn’t until December 2nd of the 2012 season when the Seahawks finally looked the part of a Super Bowl team. Despite hailing from the Seattle area, I’m not a fan of the Seahawks. But, because they were playing the Chicago Bears — my team — on December 2nd, I was able to witness the rise of Wilson and the Seahawks. The Hawks won that game in overtime, over a Bears team that seemed to be headed to the playoffs.
In the end, the Hawks’ season would come to an end in heartbreaking fashion down in Atlanta. But, heading into the 2013 regular season, Seattle was the NFC favorite to land in the Super Bowl. And, they didn’t disappoint. The Seahawks’ three regular season losses came against teams with a combined 33-15 record. They didn’t just win their division, they won the toughest division in the league.
In the postseason, the team handled the Saints, setting up a matchup with the 49ers. This game, basically the Super Bowl, would come down to a Colin Kaepernick fade to Michael Crabtree in the corner of the end zone in the final minute of the game, which gave us this moment.
Anyways, the Hawks would take the Super Bowl in convincing fashion and now the dynasty talk is starting. But, first let’s take a look at their team stats from a year ago:
- 26th in passing
- 4th in rushing
- 1st in defending the pass
- 7th in defending the run
This wasn’t just a dominant defense. This one of the most dominant defenses in NFL history. By signing pass rushers for cheap — players like Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril — the Seahawks were able to rotate in a plethora of guys on their defensive line that knew how to hunt quarterbacks. And, with defensive backs like Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas, the Seahawks often capitalized on bad quarterback play. If you want to read more about the intricacies of the Seattle defense, definitely read this Chris B. Brown piece.
Last Year’s Stud: Richard Sherman
Regardless of how you feel about his antics, there’s no denying Sherman’s talent at cornerback. Eight picks and 16 passes defended despite quarterbacks avoiding his side of the field.
Runner-up: Earl Thomas
Last Year’s Surprise: Michael Bennett
Bennett signed for cheap before the 2013 season, but, after exploding for 8.5 sacks in the regular season, Bennett was rewarded with a four-year, $28.5 million contract.
Runner-up: Cliff Avril
Last Year’s Disappointment: Percy Harvin
When the Seahawks invested in Harvin by trading away a first-round draft pick, they knew the injury risks associated with him. While Harvin offers plenty of speed and playmaking ability, he barely saw the field in 2013.
Runner-up: Offensive line
The team lost Golden Tate in free agency, so it selected Paul Richardson in the draft. In his final season at Colorado, Richardson racked up 83 receptions for 1,343 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Other notable pick: Kevin Norwood
This Year’s Stud: Russell Wilson
Runner-up: Bobby Wagner
This Year’s Surprise: Kevin Norwood
With Golden Tate gone, and with the very real chance that Percy Harvin is going to miss some game time due to some sort of injury, Norwood should have a chance to contribute in his rookie season. Despite being a fourth-round selection, Norwood is a good-sized target — something that is missing in Seattle’s offense.
Runner-up: Christine Michael
This Year’s Disappointment: Marshawn Lynch
Hear me out. Lynch is 29 now. He’s carried the ball over 1,700 times in his career. In the past three seasons, he’s averaged 300 carries per season. Last season, despite accumulating 1,257 yards, he only averaged 4.2 yards per carry — not a bad number, but nowhere near his 5.0 yards per carry in 2012. What I’m saying is that Lynch might be beginning to wear down.
Furthermore, I think it’s smart for Seattle to divide up some of the carries this season. Everyone seems to be high on Christine Michael, so why not let him take some of the load off of Marshawn’s legs? If the Seahawks want a chance at repeating, they’re going to need fresh legs in the postseason. Giving Marshawn less carries isn’t going to be good for his stats or fantasy value, but it should help in January. I’m not saying Lynch is going to have a bad season by any means. I’m just not expecting the same kind of production.
And, no, I’m not very concerned about his latest offseason incident. Mainly because the Seahawks don’t seem to be concerned about it….
Runner-up: Percy Harvin
Draft early: Percy Harvin (injury risk), Marshawn Lynch
Good value in the middle rounds: Russell Wilson, Defense, Paul Richardson
Don’t draft: N/A
What Vegas Is Saying (LVH Sports Book): 11 wins
What We’re Saying: 10-6 (1st place in NFC West)
I think the Hawks are the best team in the league, but I wouldn’t even be shocked if they missed the postseason. That’s how good the division is. Still, the Seahawks are the best team in the league, and should win the West, again.
The offensive line is still the weakest link, and you’ve got to worry about a defensive drop-off with some of the players that are no longer in Seattle, but the core is still there. Bobby Wagner is still the middle linebacker. Sherman is still the top corner in the league. Earl Thomas is still the best safety in the league. And Russell Wilson is still Russell Wilson.
Now, about that dynasty talk. Is it possible? Sure. But, because the team is forced to play in the NFC West, I’d hold off on that prediction for now. After all, Jim Mora’s kicker rant was only five years ago. Back then, did anyone imagine the Seahawks winning their first Super Bowl title in 2014? Who knows what’s in store for these next five seasons.
[genericon icon=twitter] Follow Sean Wagner-McGough on Twitter @seanjwagner