When you think about it, there aren’t that many holes in Seattle’s offense. Sure, it was a difficult start to the year. That had to be expected breaking in a rookie quarterback. But now? Things look a lot more positive. And while improvements clearly can be made, I just wonder if this is a better group than we thought a few weeks ago?
The Seahawks finally have a possible quarterback of the future. Russell Wilson is growing into the NFL and looked superb against the Vikings last week. He’s nine games into his career and there’s no reason why he won’t continue to develop. Finding a starting quarterback in round three has become virtually impossible in the NFL. Seattle’s front office maybe found that ‘once in a generation’ diamond that everyone is looking for. Wilson is poised, he’s making good decisions, he’s accurate, he has the arm strength and the mobility. The one thing people said would be an issue – his height – isn’t proving to be an issue at all. These are exciting times.
Perhaps the most talked about position in terms of pure need, but the Seahawks have pumped investment into this unit. One of the first moves the current regime made in 2010 was to draft Golden Tate in round two. They courted Brandon Marshall and Vincent Jackson before finally signing Sidney Rice to a $41m contract. They re-signed (then released) Mike Williams, and also re-signed Ben Obomanu. They pulled out all the stops to add Doug Baldwin in a competitive UDFA market. The signing of Rice and drafting of Tate both received favourable reviews by fans and media. Recently the pair have developed into key playmakers.
While it’s very easy to concentrate on the superstar quality of Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham, the truth is there aren’t many guys like that around. In a passing offense utilising a rookie quarterback and concentrating on the run, it shouldn’t be a big surprise that Zach Miller’s numbers aren’t up there with the leagues elite. Only four tight ends rank among the forty most productive receivers this year – Gronkowski (19), Jason Witten (23), Tony Gonzalez (32) and Owen Daniels (37). The quarterbacks throwing to that quartet? Brady, Romo, Ryan and Schaub. Miller’s reputation coming to Seattle is the catalyst for an underwhelming impression of his time here. It could be argued the front office did what they could to deliver a top-end player for the position with a $34m contract. It’s his misfortune that the signing coincided with integrating a rookie quarterback and a focus on the ground game. There’s no guarantee a first round pick or alternative free agent will upgrade this position. Miller’s lack of production is a system problem, not an individual problem. And maybe it’s blind faith, but I still believe Anthony McCoy has a bright future in the NFL.
Trading for Marshawn Lynch was a master-stroke by the front office. For minimal draft outlay, the Seahawks acquired one of the best running backs in the NFL. Lynch is vital to this team and Buffalo Bills fans will be wondering how such a useful asset was allowed to leave the team for such a bargain price. Consider that the Bills not only traded Lynch away, but spent a top-ten pick on another running back (C.J. Spiller) as part of the replacement plan. Drafting Robert Turbin was a necessary move this year to make sure the team isn’t caught out if Lynch misses time (see: Cleveland game last year). After re-signing Lynch to a big deal, this is an area of real long term strength for the Seahawks.
Not many teams can match the kind of investment Seattle is making in its offensive line. Since 2010 they’ve employed two big name coaches (Alex Gibbs and Tom Cable), spent two first round picks (Russell Okung, James Carpenter), added John Moffitt in round three and re-signed center Max Unger to a long extension. The rest of the line is made up of players familiar with the system or coaches. People continue to discuss the possibility of further investment here, but the best answer for further improvement is merely time on the field and consistency. The Seahawks have a better line than most people credit. The ground game continues to prosper and Wilson has barely been touched this year.
Overall,there’s no glaring weaknesses. Compare this to other teams in the NFC West – the Cardinals have major question marks at quarterback and have virtually no investment in their offensive line. Sure, they have a superstar at receiver and recently spent another first round pick on Michael Floyd. But the Cardinals lack a lot of key features needed for a consistent offense. St. Louis likewise needs to rebuild its offensive line and while they have a former #1 pick at quarterback, they’re scrambling around trying to find weapons for Sam Bradford. Seattle and San Francisco boast much healthier overall situations.
That’s not to say improvements cannot be made. You can always get better and the Seahawks should seriously consider ways to find another good receiver. Even so, there’s a lot to be positive about there. If Wilson continues to develop, you’ll see the numbers in the passing game increase – meaning better stats for Rice, Tate and Miller. By the end of the year, people may have a very different opinion of that trio. Miller is unlikely to see a projected salary of $11m in 2013 but there’s every possibility a compromise can be made. Don’t assume the Seahawks can suddenly find a better option at tight end.
And when you actually consider it, are the teams greatest remaining needs actually on the much talked-about defense? They lack a truly excellent three technique with the potential to play most downs. There’s room to upgrade the WILL linebacker position. You can never have too many good pass rushers or corner backs.
This is a team that’s going to be built on a tough defense that takes the ball away, a productive ground game and efficient play at quarterback. So what should the priority be if the offense continues its upward trend? Sidney Rice and co arrived in Seattle with the potential to be great. Russell Wilson oozes the potential to be great. Marshawn Lynch already is great. Maybe, just maybe, the biggest needs are on defense?