A realistic projection for the Seahawks

Last week USA Today’s Nate Davis wound everyone up by projecting the Seahawks to finish 4-12 (link deliberately not included). As far as predictions go, it was akin to the big dinosaur from Jurassic World 1.

It was noisy, left a great big foot print and didn’t make any sense.

It was also easily defeated and this time didn’t require the aid of a strangely helpful velociraptor.

When Pete Carroll arrived in Seattle, he inherited a mess. The Seahawks had no building blocks and had to rely on countless roster moves to find retreads willing to scrap and fight. They were a bad team and still, somehow, won seven games and qualified for the playoffs (before beating the Saints in the wildcard).

The following year they were still pretty bad. Some green shoots emerged due to quality drafting. Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman and K.J Wright were starting for the first time. The running game was much improved. Yet they still started badly and had Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback.

Another 7-9 season.

If the Seahawks were ever going to be a 4-12 team under Carroll, that’s when it was going to happen.

Now the Seahawks have a legit franchise quarterback playing the peak years of his career. Only today ESPN ranked Russell Wilson the sixth best passer in the league. That’s a rise of four spots from a year ago.

Wilson proved, emphatically, that he could carry the team in 2017. The defense suffered numerous injuries, the run game was non-existent and Blair Walsh.

They were a missed field goal in week 17 away from a 10-win season. Largely due to Wilson.

The quarterback alone makes a mockery of a four-win prediction.

This doesn’t mean the Seahawks will amount to anything special in 2018. They’re going through a major transition. Big names have moved on. Another (Earl Thomas) could join them. There’s a new dependency on youth on defense. They’re hoping coaching changes on offense will lead to improved results.

There’s something to prove for a change, after years of assumed contention behind a long list of seasoned pro’s.

Questioning Seattle’s ability to make the playoffs isn’t unfair. A four-win season, however, suggests a complete and utter meltdown. Especially when you retain the likes of Wilson, Bobby Wagner, Doug Baldwin, Duane Brown and others. It would be a catastrophe.

Think how bad the Seahawks had to be in Mike Holmgren’s final season in 2008. That’s what a four-win season looks like.

To think Carroll, Wilson, Wagner and co are capable of that level of hopelessness is, as Aaron Levine quite rightly put it, ‘idiotic’.

So what constitutes a realistic projection for the Seahawks?

Perhaps an outsider can only see a burning barn? The Earl Thomas saga, numerous Richard Sherman quotes, multiple big names gone, 42-7.

There are actually areas the Seahawks can improve without too much difficulty (and remember, 2017 was a nine-win season).

1. The running game

Seattle’s identity is based on being able to run the ball. The Seahawks emphatically could not run the ball last season. You don’t need me to repeat all the horrific stats. The run game was an abomination. A mess.

Repairing the run has been the off-season focus. The two new coaching appointments, the first round pick, the addition of two run-blocking tight ends. Everything has been geared to fixing the run. If they achieve this — and they rapidly improved the run game between 2010 and 2011 — the Seahawks will reconnect their offense and defense and provide the kind of help Russell Wilson deserves.

They might not have the LOB but Wilson + a running game = a very competitive opponent.

2. The need to be quicker on defense

The Seahawks have moved on from a number of key veterans. It’s true there’s no longer an ‘all-star’ look to the unit. Yet it was clear one ingredient from ‘bigger, faster, stronger’ was missing last season.

The speed.

Seattle suddenly looked like an ageing team. This was punctuated when the Rams looked significantly quicker in the Century Link beat down. The various changes to the defense aren’t just about moving on disillusioned characters. It was surely about regaining some of the quickness that made Seattle so dangerous from 2011 onwards.

Speed doesn’t just come in the form of numerous 4.3 runners either. Youth, fresh legs, new energy. That willingness to fly around and chase that second contract rather than expecting the third. Seattle’s defense won’t be as good as the 2013 unit in 2018. Nowhere near. Can they be competitive? Not a liability? Sure. Carroll hasn’t put a bad defense on the field in eight seasons so far.

The two big question marks will be pass rush and the changes to the secondary. Firstly, Seattle coped fairly well when they had to rely on Chris Clemons for a pass rush between 2010-12. Secondly, Carroll and John Schneider were the guys that drafted and developed Sherman, Chancellor, Thomas, Maxwell, Griffin, Thurmond etc.

They can develop DB’s, even ones you haven’t heard of.

3. Improved special teams

Blair Walsh missing field goals, bad punts and coverage, lost field position, ineffective returns. 2017 was a bad year for special teams in Seattle.

They drafted a new punter and signed two new kickers. It doesn’t guarantee improved results but certainly they’ve been pro-active in trying to address this issue. If they can deliver even an average performance on special teams in 2018, that would be a major boon.

The offensive line should also benefit from an extra year of experience and the coaching change to Mike Solari. Duane Brown, brought in mid-way through the 2017 season, has now had a proper off-season in Seattle. There’s potential for growth here even if it falls into the ‘have to see it to believe it’ category for now. Change might be harder to achieve after years of toil but it’s neither impossible or improbable.

All of these things are basic aspects for a functioning football team. It highlights how rudderless the 2017 Seahawks were at times. Yet they still won nine games — because of Wilson, the coach and the likes of Wagner and Baldwin.

It’s easy to forget the Seahawks — minus Avril, Sherman, Chancellor and others — handily beat the eventual Super Bowl Champions Philadelphia. On a day when the running game and special teams clicked, they were extremely competitive.

The Seahawks aren’t what they once were. Nobody would dispute that. Talk of 4-12 seasons and a chronic demise seem overstated though.

They won nine games a year ago and they can do the same this year. If not more. A prediction of 8-10 wins seems fair considering a somewhat difficult schedule. They’re capable of more but it might be a year too early for a refreshed group.

Expect a competitive Seahawks team trying to work it’s way back into contention. Not a hopeless bunch of has-been’s drifting towards a top-five pick.

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  1. Austin D Hall

    It’s ridiculous that most everyone agrees that this is a QB driven league and then they have the Seahawks listed as a losing team. RW is the best QB in the division and should give the Hawks a shot at the playoffs and a Superbowl every season until the day he retires.

  2. Austin D Hall

    RW is one of the top QB’s in the league but the Hawks are one of the worst teams in the league in a universally accepted QB driven league? it makes no sense. The Hawks will be contenders as long as RW is QB.

  3. Ashish

    Excellent article each point with reasoning. I will not surprise if hawks wins 10 games. People forget that Sherman Arvil Chancellor missed lots of games last year so it will be not first time. Preseason will give a sneak peek on what’s cooking and I bet it’s all good. GO HAWKS!!!

    • cha

      This is what I keep coming back to as well. The national press seems to only pay attention to star players. An exodus of popular names is treated as some kind of serious talent drain. But in truth, half the star guys that won’t be Hawks in 2018 missed significant time in 2017. And the Hawks still came within a couple field goals of making the playoffs.

  4. JimQ

    Another player (Oakland Raiders) in the ET sweepstakes?
    “Newy Scruggs of NBC DFW reports that Seahawks S Earl Thomas went up to Raiders owner Mark Davis while in Las Vegas and told him to “come get him.”

    • joel

      According to Over the Cap, the Raiders only have $2.7m in cap space right now. Even if Earl really did this (Dallas media have a lot of Earl “scoops” that may be BS), Oakland would need to move on from at least one expensive veteran to sign Earl and Oakland probably won’t trade anyone we’d actually want off that roster.

      Earl has friends in Oakland, I guess that’s the appeal, but I don’t understand why anyone in their right mind would want to be traded to a team coached by Jon Gruden.

      • Ghost Mutt

        It’s interesting if true though, insofar as it shows Earl wants to get paid first and the Cowboys are just a preference.

      • TatupuTime

        Earl’s agent basically called this report BS – https://twitter.com/DavidMulugheta/status/1021915216853037056

        I can’t see Oakland making sense – despite Chucky’s seeming love for older players.

      • Largent80

        Houston makes the most sense of ALL teams. They have cap and seemingly a need, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they get something done.

    • TatupuTime

      Earl’s agent basically tweeted that this was BS (https://twitter.com/DavidMulugheta/status/1021915216853037056).

      • Largent80

        And it’s a desperate plea by him and rather WEAK, because Earl…NOBODY wants you at your price, get over it. Sit your ass on the pine.

  5. Comfect

    I really love how the Rams are renewing all their offensive stars (including Cooks, who hasn’t played a down for them yet) and Donald is still sitting there unrenewed. Please let them piss him off more.

  6. Fairlawn

    The Seahawks were 10-6, 9-7, 13-3, 9-7, and 10-6 in the five years before Holmgren went 4-12. It’s unthinkable until it’s not.

    • Rob Staton

      Sure, but this team isn’t comparable to that 2008 team. This current group is much younger for a start. And let’s be right, better too.

  7. Saxon

    Great opening to the piece, Rob. I hope the people here appreciate what a gifted writer you are.

    • Kenny Sloth

      ‘A strangely helpful velociraptor’

      Hopefully someone adopts that as their screen name here

    • Kenny Sloth

      I wonder how a British play-by-play in American football would play. Especially with the long periods of non-action that have to be filled.

      I listen to the British call soccer “……. And Neymar on the ball……….. Has some space to work……”

      Americans call it “NEYMARS ON THE BALL HES LOOKING HES LOOKING CANT FIND THE PASS doingwelltokeeppossesion, Tim.”

  8. Sean-O

    The ’18 Hawks feel the way the Packers have felt a lot of Rodgers career. Elite QB play, good WR or two, hopefully a capable running game & a few key players on D.

    Like mentioned in the article & other posts, with RW the Hawks will be in the mix.

    Another great point above, the ’17 team w/out Sherm, Avril & BamBam took it to the ’18 SB Champs the Eagles with Wentz.

    Don’t sleep on this team. A huge key will be if the 2nd/3rd year players can take that next step. I think a lot of them can (and will).

  9. Kenny Sloth

    Would you trade Earl Thomas for LeVeon Bell.

    Penny and Bell’s inevitable 15 million dollar deal would make me hesitate.

    All things equal how great could that work haha

    • TatupuTime

      I think Bell would be a pretty big departure from what they’ve looked for in RBs previously. Bell relies on patience and vision and I’m not sure that’s what you want behind the Seahawks’ oline. You stand behind that line for a couple seconds and you’re liable to get buried. They seem to prefer guys with great yards after contact stats (both Penny/Carson and obvioussly Marshawn was amazing in YAC). The ability to be your own blocker for the first defender and go from there.

      The idea of taking back a veteran on a short term high money contract is sound, just doesn’t seem to happen much in NFL.

      • Rob Staton

        IMO, anyone who keeps Carson and Penny off the field isn’t worth having at any price. It’s especially exciting to see how these two fair in 2018.

      • Kenny Sloth

        I think your take on the schematics is absolutely right on.

        They want you to run with the scheme behind the line.

        The money, the rookie, and the fit are probably prohibitive in this case.

  10. LouieLouie

    Hey Rob: As always, a well thought out, thought provoking article. I think the offense will be BETTER than last year. The defense; not so much, but better than some people think. The O-line and the run game will be significantly improved from last year, which will make DangerRuss more effective. I can’t predict the wins and losses, but they will be competitive in EVERY game.

  11. Uncle Bob

    Old sayings become old sayings for a reason. I’m mindful of something a boss of mine was fond of saying some nearly 50 years ago to a group of us young guys short on experience but with talent.

    “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot.”

  12. Bill Bobaggins

    The defense suffered numerous injuries, the run game was non-existent and Blair Walsh.

    That got me good.

  13. David Robinson

    Yeah, I think Mr. Davis is dyslexic. He really meant to type 12-4 and just screwed it up. Which makes a lot more sense than the reverse.

  14. no frickin' clue

    I think the biggest wildcard is what happens with Earl. He’s the centerfielder who allows the corners to focus on the outside of the field. He covers a lot of ground quickly and when he does reach a potential pass catcher, he arrives in extremely ill humor. Those are rare qualities. If he holds out or is traded, that’s a pretty big drop in talent level at FS.

    One thing worth noting: if our defense has a hard time getting off the field (either because the pass rush doesn’t show up enough, and/or because opponents keep converting 3rd and longs on a depleted secondary), then having an effective running game is critical to giving our D a rest. We need more 12-play, 75-yard drives for touchdowns than we got last year. If I have a choice of the RBs collecting 15 rushing TDs or Russ passing for 30 TDs, I’ll take the RBs.

    • icb12

      I would expect the scheme to morph a bit if/when Earl departs.

      Lets be real; You can’t accomplish the same things without Earl and Kam.
      The big question remaining is — Do you have to??

      Teams are in Nickel over half the time on average now. Indeed According to football outsiders, Seattle was in it’s base defense only 29% of the time last season, and in its nickel 68%.

      Yes Seattles initial defense was effective, and widely copied throughout the nfl. But they are ALREADY changing. I expect that trend to continue.

      Interesting read:

    • icb12

      If/When Earl Departs I would expect the defensive scheme to change.

      Lets be real; you simply cannot accomplish the same things without Earl and Kam.
      The question remaining is…. do you have to??

      According to football outsiders, seattle was only in their base D 29% of the time last year. And they aren’t the only ones. Nickel is the new base. Cleveland is the only team in the last 4 years to even be in their base D 60% of the time. NE made the past 2 super bowls going Nickel-Dime-Base.

      Seattles Defense was super effective, and widely copied- but It’s ALREADY changing from what it was. I expect that trend to continue.

      Interesting Read:

    • Eburgz

      Earl will be the difference in 2-4 games next year in the W-L column at least. Watch the first rams game and Dallas game before you disagree with me. Remember when Kam held out then won us a game single handledly against Detroit when he came back. Even tho I’m a bigger Kam fan I think earl is the greater talent and more important.

  15. Kenny Sloth

    Bigger bust: Aaron Curry or Malik McDowell

    • Rob Staton

      Hard one. Curry actually took the field but he was a top five vs early second.

      Probably Curry due to the high pick and cost.

      • All I see is 12s

        At face value, in Straight up comparison I agree. However, the McDowell pick had far reaching implications. He was counted on to be an interior rusher. When he went down the Seahawks felt obligated to get Sheldon Richardson because they thought they had a Super Bowl team. Obviously this cost them a second rd. Had they drafted one of the tackles or Lamp- that was available to them then they wouldn’t of had to make the Dwayne Brown move. All we would’ve been out was a second round pick assuming they make the move to get Sheldon. Curry was just a bad pic by a bad team, at the time. McDowells pick seems to hurt much worse .

        • 12thchuck

          I agree, not to mention we traded Curry and received draft picks

        • Kenny Sloth

          EXCEPT! The Duane Brown trade was a reactionary one after losing George Fant for the year. Less forseeable.

          • All I see is 12s

            I hear that, but quality tackles are rarely available at that point in the draft. That year and there were two available. Both became starters on winning football teams. Had we taken one of them then we would not have needed to pull off the brown trade. They will would’ve added competition and they could’ve put extra pieces at different parts of the o line, like say right guard.

            I don’t know, the news about releasing McDowell just dropped. The cost is his pic and a number of other pics and we still don’t have that interior presence that we were looking for. For my part, I remember vividly watching as the draft unfolded and when the Seahawks game to the podium damn near screaming at my TV “don’t let it be Malik McDowell” but I knew based on who had already been taken that that’s exactly who they were going to pick. I hoped for the best and I trusted my team. It’s just very unfortunate

    • j

      Curry went fifth overall, that clinches it for me.

      Both completely shit the bed but you expect more from the top of the first as opposed to the top of the second.

    • Georgia Hawk

      Curry was widely panned as the “safest and most sure” pick in the entire draft that year; the no-braimer pick the Hawks had to make at the time. McDowell was seen as a gamble even at the spot he was taken.

      Curry was a far bigger bust, but McD might be the more costly mistake in terms of how much the domino effect ended up costing the Hawks.

  16. Rad_Man

    not a 4 win team. but I am curious to see how old man Duane Brown holds up, and I certainly wouldn’t pin much hope on him. He’s at the cliff. Toes hanging over.

    • Rob Staton

      What evidence is there he’s at the cliff?

      He’s 3.5 years younger than Jason Peters.

      • BleedBlueBrad

        I totally agree Rob, recent years have shown that Oline guys are lasting longer and playing at a high standard as they age. We need to lock down Brown for three more years and allow him to tutor either Jones or Fant if Fant doesn’t crack the line up at right tackle. Do you think Ifedi or Fant wins RT? and Great Article as usual. Not brown-nosing but after a lot of reading your articles are the best I’ve found.

        • Rob Staton

          Thanks man appreciate that! I think Ifedi will win the job.

    • Aaron

      I’d wait until late this season or even after the season to extend him. However, he’s not over the hill. I think this more man blocking ground and pound system will benefit a guy like him. He definetly needs to stay healthy to warrant a contract extension, but when healthy he’s a top 10 LT in this league, if not top 5-7. I’d rank him above Okung, Soldier, Fisher, Glenn, and company. I’d put him in the Whitworth, Staley, and Peters area right below the likes of Trent Williams, Tyron Smith, and Taylor Lewan.

  17. DC

    Any mumblings out there about a Frank Clark extension in the works? My early guess is that our 1st selection in the 2019 draft will be a pass rusher. Unless Seattle is keeping something from the general public about Frank it would seem standard Hawk policy to extend him in the relatively near future.

    • Shadow

      I’m guessing they want to see if he can take the next step forward and be a true #1 pass rusher this season first. If Clark gets off to a good start and shows that he’s worth the big bucks, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Seahawks extend him before the season is over.

      Little surprised that we haven’t worked something out with Duane Brown yet. Hopefully soon.

  18. Coleslaw

    Wow, Sam Beal is out for the year after NYG just spent a 3rd on him.

    • Hawktalker#1

      Yep saw that today. Serious bummer. Was really looking forward to see what Beal had at the NFL level. Scratching a 3rd next year hurts too.

  19. FresnoHawk

    If our offense is able to put up lots of points I think we’re gonna win lots of games, however if we are the typical Pete Carroll ball control I think we are vulnerable due to our kicker situation. Jan could be great or he could be horrible it depends how serious he is? I fear we could replicate the year when Chargers were a great football team but could not win due to the kicker!

    • McZ

      What makes you so sure, that Janikowski will carry the kicking job?

  20. Pedestrian

    Rob, with training camp on the mind I was thinking back to PC/JS draft press conference. Pete said the fact Penny didn’t have as much wear and tear was a big component to their new 1st round pick. Do you think that may have been the deciding factor between Penny and Ronald Jones or a Nick Chub? Not questioning whether Penny was a good pick, but was he the most talented? Both Ronald jones and Penny will be great and probably each have a good rookie season. It’ll be interesting to see what RB rookies become fast rising stars this year.

    • Rob Staton

      It’s probably one of the reasons. Also the production, physical profile.

  21. Largent80

    Without looking up stats or DVOA and the like, to me the Seahawk defense had a few good moments but a TON more bad ones. I’m not sure why people are making a big deal out of guys that weren’t even on the field for half a year being the demise of the team. Give up 3rd down conversions routinely…Check.

    They addressed the running game in a big way. They addressed coaching in a big way, and they cut bait with aging players with bloated mouths and contracts. I see it as a brilliant off-season. Especially considering the lack of a second rounder in a draft tailored for the 2nd round.

  22. McZ

    Make no mistake, if the defence cannot cut losses and Wilson retains his serious cold start problems, this will become a hard season. Everything depends, if they can prevail @Mile High.

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