A few days ago I wrote a piece calling for modest expectations in 2019.
The Seahawks have lost key, experienced players. They’re continuing to refresh the roster. This was never going to be a one-year fix.
With cap money to spend in 2020 plus a boat-load of draft picks to come — the next off-season really feels like a big opportunity to take the next step.
Hopefully the 2019 campaign will see young players developing into secure starters. If the likes of Tre Flower, Shaquill Griffin, one of the young safety’s and one or two of the receivers can take the next step and become core players — that will be a major positive.
In a Twitter exchange, friend of the blog Adam Nathan suggested Pete Carroll should be named coach of the year if the Seahawks make the playoffs.
It’s an extremely fair suggestion.
Since 2018 they’ve lost key pass rushers, their best receiver and an entire legendary secondary. The Seahawks have no business being in the post-season. It’s to Carroll’s credit that we’re even considering it a possibility. This is a roster in transition. Not a complete overhaul. Yet there’s enough to change to warrant perspective and realism. Simply having a good quarterback isn’t enough alone to guarantee playoff success (ask Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Philip Rivers and others).
Personally I think they have every chance to make the post-season because they’re sufficiently well coached, built, have enough remaining quality and most importantly — a clear vision on what they want to be with the personnel to match their aims on offense and defense.
If they don’t win another 10 games (or more) and reach the playoffs, it probably shouldn’t warrant much more than a shrug. 2020 is the decisive off-season. The opportunity to leap into contention.
There are two areas for pessimism when glancing at the depth chart.
The first is the secondary. There’s extreme competence, leadership and playmaking quality in Bradley McDougald. Apart from him there’s a lot of mystery. Is Shaquill Griffin finally going to develop into a quality starter? Is Tre Flowers the real deal after a solid rookie season? Who can provide a solution next to McDougald at safety? And who replaces Justin Coleman at nickel (and can they handle the gig?).
That said, if there’s one area of the team fans can trust it’s the secondary. Carroll’s track record of developing talent at corner and safety is unmatched. Despite how raw they were in 2018 — the defensive backs never felt like a striking liability.
The bigger issue is going to be the defensive line. Having traded Frank Clark — albeit for a satisfying haul — they lost their one, proven pass rusher.
Jarran Reed will miss the first six games due to suspension and yesterday L.J. Collier suffered a reported high-ankle sprain.
This is the last area the Seahawks could afford to lose bodies.
These issues really highlight how the line has been plundered in recent years. No longer can they rely on an army of pass rushers. There’s no Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, ably supported by one or two of Chris Clemons, Frank Clark or Bruce Irvin.
In 2013 they had a murderers’ row of talent on the D-line. Even in 2017 the Seahawks boasted a collection of star names (punctuated by the trade for Sheldon Richardson).
Now all of the names above have gone. Reed is out. Collier will be absent for some time.
Ziggy Ansah will hopefully play the Clark role and provide a dynamic edge rush. However, he’s been inconsistent in his career to date, has had injuries and is still recovering from a bad shoulder issue.
Jacob Martin had a decent rookie season but mainly as a complimentary rusher. Is he good enough to do more? He’ll no doubt be given the opportunity given the lack of depth.
Rasheem Green had a rotten rookie season and was ineffective. He’s young and has time on his side. We need to see some signs of improvement though. He has the physical talent. He needs to do more in 2019.
Quinton Jefferson created pressure last season and did a nice job in the rotation. Is he capable of playing more than the 56.31% of snaps he had in 2018 and taking on a more full-time role?
Apart from this quartet we’re talking about a collection of journeymen or run stuffers. It’s not a unit that screams ‘Championship’. And while the Rams D-line has taken some hits over the last couple of off-seasons — their ability to rely on the best defender in the league will always make them a dangerous opponent.
This is a problem for the Seahawks. Losing Reed and Collier for some time isn’t the difference between a good pass rush and a bad one. Seattle is simply lacking overall and couldn’t afford to lose any more depth.
They almost certainly possess the finest group of linebackers in the league. Perhaps that will help alleviate some of the problems? Especially if they can rotate their group and find some creative ways to create pressure. The numbers in the secondary also suggest they might try different ways to challenge teams like the Rams (and New England’s safety-dominant scheme in the Super Bowl could be the blueprint).
It won’t be a surprise though if Seattle’s defence struggles in the passing game early in the season. And it’ll be up to the offense to pick up some of the slack.
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