Did you realize that the Seattle Seahawks have been to three Super Bowls in the last 10 years? I mean, you probably kind of did -- you know they went to the last two, and you know they went back like, oh geez, musta been 10 years now -- but how often is it phrased in that particular way?
Over the last 10 seasons, the Seahawks have been to three Super Bowls. Slightly better than their first 29 years of existence, when they went to ... *carry the one .... subtract the Stan Gelbaugh season ... add it back in because actually 1992 was not a Super Bowl year ... uhhh* oh yeah. Zero. Zero Super Bowls.
(Count Chocula voice) Hah Hah Hah.
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In fact, Seattle has been to the divisional round of the playoffs seven times in the last decade. It's not quite the best ever:
- The Patriots have been to the Super Bowl three times in the last eight seasons, six times in the last 14, and seven times in the last 19. They've been past the wild card round 11 times in the last 14 years.
- The Steelers went to three Super Bowls in a six-year period from 2005-2010. They won four Super Bowls in a six-year period from 1974-1979.
These are really the only examples I feel like giving at the moment. Mostly because Pittsburgh and New England have been relevant in the last decade. I mean, in the last 15 years, the Packers have been to as many Super Bowls as the Cardinals. The Titans have been to the Super Bowl more recently than the Cowboys. So in terms of teams that are relevantly-good over the last 10 years as well as today, you've got Patriots, Steelers, and Seahawks -- and then really it's just New England and Seattle.
(Pittsburgh hasn't won a playoff game since 2010.)
And yet, despite how good they've been, I can't help but wonder if this current Seahawks team is currently constructed to be the best in franchise history.
These are the types of articles that some fans actually hate more than they love. You won't have a hard time finding the lovefest fans because we love to love our teams, but for some people the act of overt love is some sort of curse on the entity which they love. This is usually based in superstition, bad luck, and other things that don't exist in the real world. But I did want to phrase my point in a very specific way:
The way they are "currently constructed."
Making sweeping claims that you "know" what's going to happen before it happens is a good way to find a hack sports writer. I once had a series on Field Gulls called "5 reasons to a perfect season" but I wasn't exactly claiming that Seattle would have a perfect record. It was a vehicle I used to explain why on a week-by-week basis, the Seahawks had advantages over every other team. I didn't do it because I pretended like I knew that Seattle was unbeatable. Of course, they are beatable. Every team is beatable. The Dolphins team that never got beat, was beatable.
The 2015 Seahawks? Absolutely beatable. Almost certainly will get beat. But what I really saw in Friday night's loss to the Denver Broncos in the preseason was a team that's finished first in points allowed for each of the last three seasons is actually adding more talent to the defense this year than they had last season.
Considerably more talent.
The score didn't matter to me. The stats didn't matter to me. Most of the guys that will play most of the reps this season -- Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Jimmy Graham, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, and so on -- were barely in the game, if at all.
Some of the guys that were in the game though that were not significant parts of the team last season, are going to be significant parts of the team this season, and look like they're better than the guys they're replacing.
- Tony McDaniel played 413 snaps, per ProFootballFocus. Compare that to the 366 snaps of Jordan Hill. Hill had six sacks, McDaniel had zero. Hill had five QB hits, McDaniel had zero. Hill had one penalty, McDaniel had four. Hill had 10 QB hurries, McDaniel had four. Hill had three batted passes, McDaniel had one. Hill had 14 stops, McDaniel had 12.
Hill played less, and was way more productive. Also, Kevin Williams had 445 snaps and had two sacks, one QB hit, 10 QB hurries, and 15 stops. Overall, Williams and McDaniel had 858 snaps between them last season.
So in an ideal world (how the roster is constructed today, knowing we can't predict injuries) Hill will get about 450 snaps, an uptick of 84 snaps. Brandon Mebane, who missed seven games last year and had 289 snaps, should get about 450 of his own. That's an increase of 161 snaps, which is 245 additional snaps between him and Hill, and leaves 613 DT snaps to be had.
Ahtyba Rubin had 457 snaps with the Browns last year. He had one penalty, one sack, two QB hits, five QB hurries, one batted pass, and 15 stops. It's not a good season, but Rubin was moved around constantly in Cleveland and seemed to play for a different defensive coordinator every year. Literally, he's played a different position from the previous year for each of the last five seasons. The worst case scenario would seem to be that he's about the same as McDaniel.
It's fair to say that Rubin could get 450 of those 613 snaps.
So if Mebane and Hill are healthier than they were last season, and assuming that those other 163 snaps (left over after Rubin took his share) are spread around to young players -- perhaps some snaps to Frank Clark or Cassius Marsh as they move around the d-line -- I would feel very confident in saying that the Seattle defensive line got better. Much better.
- O'Brien Schofield got 341 snaps at defensive end last season. Schofield, now with Dan Quinn in Atlanta, is an average-at-best defensive end.
What we've seen so far from Clark is that "average" will probably never be a word used to describe him. Either this is going to go terribly wrong or the Seahawks drafted the steal of the 2015 draft. Not just perhaps a "good value," but Clark has the talent to be the Defensive Rookie of the Year. While bigger names at DE fell for off-field reasons -- Shane Ray, Randy Gregory -- Clark was potentially the guy with more potential all along.
His performance on Friday night may have come against some low depth chart players who clearly don't have the same amount of natural talent, but Clark didn't play to their level. He didn't play above their level. He crushed their level. He went Boss on their level and was both Mario and Donkey Kong.
I don't think anyone should have any doubt that if he played 341 snaps at defensive end this year, they would be in total, better snaps than Schofield had.
The other one to watch of course is Marsh, who played the third-most snaps on defense last week (two snaps fewer than Tye Smith and one fewer than Clark) and seems like he's also ready to be a regular in the rotation. After getting only 71 snaps as a rookie, he has a ways to go to prove himself, but it's also nice when Pete Carroll says that he's basically been crushing it in camp as much as he was crushing it in the game.
Marsh and Clark could potentially be the starting defensive ends for a good number of NFL teams, but the luxury is that Seattle has Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril currently sitting ahead of them. That won't stop them from rotating in Marsh and Clark regularly, but also why Clark could be a regular on the inside of the d-line as well. (And potentially why Bennett is nervous about his contract situation after this season.)
- Zach Miller, Tony Moeaki, and Cooper Helfet combined for over 600 snaps last season. Basically all of those (and more) are scheduled to go to Jimmy Graham.
I can save some word count by not having to explain why that's a good thing.
- Bryan Walters had 27 punt returns for an average of 7.7 yards per return. There were three players who had at least 27 returns and a lower average than Walters: Ace Sanders at 7.1, Isaiah Burse at 7.3, and Andre Roberts at 7.4.
He may have not been the worst ... but wasn't Walters kind of the worst? From the perspective of a fan, punt returners are only as good as they appear to be to the home team's fans. So Walters did nothing to satisfy fan appetite as a punt returner last season, and compounding that negativity was the fact that he was only a necessary replacement for Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, and Doug Baldwin ...
Who all managed to somehow be worse than Walters. At least as far as punt returning goes.
I think my least favorite cliche in sports writing is "Enter (player name.)" It's not just overused, it's kinda gross. Instead, let's just say, "Here comes the Tyler Lockett." to the tune of "Here comes the bride" because after Friday I like it and wanna put a ring on it.
Lockett doesn't "appear" to possess the skills to be a Pro Bowl player in his first season, he does possess the skills to do it. Lockett is one of the best kick and punt returners in the NFL. I'm not afraid to say that simply because there are fewer contenders for that title than there are something like "Best QB" and fewer people would care if I was right or wrong. It's clear that Lockett should have at least one score on special teams this season, and should have no problem besting Walters as a punt returner.
The best returners over the last decade have been guys like Darren Sproles and Devin Hester. It seems like Lockett is there too. If he contributes on offense, great, but if he doesn't, I still think he at least gives Seattle a field position advantage that they didn't have last season.
- Chris Matthews had 19 snaps last season. Yes, 19. He had 17 in the Super Bowl alone, compared to 19 in the entire regular season. I do think that the receiver group will be better with Matthews increasing his snap count to over 400, and Lockett getting his share, as well as Paul Richardson returning by Week 10 (we hope) and taking in 100 snaps or more.
Replacing the snaps of Percy Harvin (190), Kevin Norwood (174), Ricardo Lockette (174), and Bryan Walters (104) to some extent.
There's always room for optimism when it's preseason, and that's especially true in regards to the receivers unit, but I think it's fair to feel a little bit better about the distribution of snaps this season as compared to last because they didn't lose anybody significant and they're only adding more talent to the group. Even when it's internally, like Matthews, Kevin Norwood, Richardson.
Where They're Worse
Okay, let's be fair and point out that not everything went right this offseason, or that they don't have some major holes to fill. Mainly the Mariana-sized trenches on the offensive line:
- Max Unger is a great center, so that's obviously an issue. The bright side of it is that Unger wasn't around for a good portion of last season and things still turned out fine. But is it a downgrade at that position? Yes.
Also, it's clear that while James Carpenter isn't a great player, he's a reliable left guard ... which is something that Seattle doesn't currently have. Even worse, it appears as though Justin Britt's incapabilities as a right tackle may suit him for the left guard position, which then just leaves open the door for right tackle. And trust me, that is an open door.
The offensive line sucks. There's no denying it.
- The loss of Byron Maxwell may or may not be as devastating as the loss of Brandon Browner. For awhile we thought, "Wow, what a steal in Browner. UDFA, CFL, Pro Bowl in 2011 with Carroll. We love this guy!" Then the PED stuff happened and the suspensions and the injuries, and pretty much everyone turned their backs on Browner, were ready for Maxwell, said "the system" made him good.
Then Maxwell came in, did better than Browner, and "the system" was reinforced even further.
But Maxwell wasn't signed to such a huge deal by the Philadelphia Eagles for no reason. They did their research and decided that his skills will translate to their defense as well. If you think that you know more than Chip Kelly about football, you should probably fill out an application to be an NFL head coach at any one of our kiosks at your local mall.
That being said ....
Part of me wonders if Maxwell will be back in Seattle by 2018 if only because we've seen it countless times: A player is perfect for a coach in a way that other players aren't, but isn't perfect for another coach and gets cut within a year or two of his big free agent deal.
Look at Browner himself, who seems to be on a path back to Seattle within a year or two from now when his price tag is at it's lowest.
That being said, Cary Williams is probably better than what we think, and his deficiencies will be masked by the fact that he's surrounded by three All-Pro defensive backs. That's something that any NFL player at any position can attest to: You're a better player when you're surrounded by better players.
Other than those two things -- one of the worst offensive lines in football and a potential downgrade in the secondary -- I don't see many things that make me believe the Seahawks should be worse in 2015 than they were in 2014. In fact, I think there is a good amount of evidence that point to them being better than they were in 2013. Which is impressive because the 2013 Seahawks were among the best teams of all-time.
Consider this the "hype video" of articles. Not every Seattle Seahawks fan wants to hear that right now, but prepare yourself.
These guys are prepped to be historically great.