On the back of Russell Wilson and company's high flying end to the season in 2015, there is perhaps the biggest sense of optimism surrounding the offensive side of the ball heading into a season since Pete Carroll arrived in Seattle. While the loss of Marshawn Lynch goes beyond the field, the Seahawks offense is well equipped to keep growing even without its tone setter. With the exception of the ever-changing offensive line, the team has proven players at every spot. Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and Tyler Lockett should prove to be formidable once again in 2016, while the tight end group is buoyed by Luke Willson and rookie Nick Vannett in Jimmy Graham's absence. Even at running back, where a new player will start week one for the first time since Pete Carroll's first season in charge, there is depth. Thomas Rawls has proved to be a dependable starter, while incoming rookies Alex Collins and CJ Prosise give even more reason for excitement. No matter the team or the quarterback, however, there is always players stepping up in any given year.
Tyler Lockett burst onto the scene as a rookie, recording 51 catches for 664 yards and 6 touchdowns to go along with 1231 return yards and a pair of return touchdowns. The third round selection went from another short receiver to a nice return man to perhaps the most talented receiver on the Seahawks roster. Over the course of sixteen games, Lockett proved he was more then just a return man and more then just a slot receiver. While it's safe to assume he will continue to work mostly out of the slot in 2016, his 2015 numbers should improve in every category. Posting just twelve catches in the season's first six weeks last year, Lockett has a massive opportunity in front of him in his second season in the Seattle offense. An entrenched member of the passing game this time around, the second year receiver could take a massive step towards becoming a top receiver in 2016.
With knee and hamstring injuries in the rear view mirror, third year receiver Paul Richardson has a big season ahead of him. Coming on strong towards the end of his rookie year, the speedy receiver's first season came to an end in the divisional round against the Panthers when a 21-yard reception ended in a torn ACL. His return from injury in 2015 lasted just six snaps, when he pulled up after a 40-yard catch and was put on injured reserve to afford himself a longer time to fully recover. Declared 100% healthy this past February, the move seems to have paid off. Towards the end of his rookie year, Richardson genuinely felt like the most dangerous weapon in an increasingly stagnant Seahawks passing game. Fast forward to 2016 and a healthy Richardson sees himself as the fifth or sixth option in the Seahawks offense. He's been an Instagram star this offseason, posting videos of workouts with Russell Wilson and Tyler Lockett, and if that translates to a healthy 2016, the long, dynamic Richardson could be a terrific compliment to the bevy of options at Wilson's disposal this season.
The topic of so many Seahawks conversations this offseason is the converted tight end Gilliam. Scarcely used in his rookie season, Gilliam came back in 2015 and started all sixteen games at right tackle. With the departure of Russell Okung to the Broncos, Gilliam is once again on the move, this time to left tackle. Seahawks fans have found reasons for optimism and for scepticism surrounding this move. On one hand, he's entering just his third season playing on the offensive line and largely struggled last season. On the other hand, Gilliam seemingly has filled out his semi-new offensive line frame more so this offseason and is another year along in his development as an NFL lineman. The biggest factor for me in thinking Gilliam is bound for a successful 2016 at left tackle is something that NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah brought up in an early episode of his Move The Sticks podcast. Jeremiah speaks about, when building an NFL offensive line, you must keep your division in mind and draft accordingly. Is your interior offensive line going up against 3-4 personnel multiple times in a season? Do your tackles have to face off against exceptionally strong or quick edge rushers twice or four times a year? Gilliam's highs in pass protection in 2015 came for the most part against quick, finesse pass rushers, while the lows were at the hands of the big, strong defensive ends. Four games matched up against Calais Campbell and Chris Long have been replaced with Chandler Jones and Robert Quinn; more talented pass rushers, but both players that Gilliam is more equipped to handle. He'll still face Kony Ealy and DeForest Buckner a combined three times as well, but such is life. Gilliam doesn't need to come out of 2016 as a top-tier left tackle, but if the former tight end can take a step similar to the one he took in 2015, the season will have been a success.
Bonus Impact Rookie: CJ Prosise
Set to fill the third down role previously filled by Fred Jackson and Robert Turbin, Prosise should slide into the lineup and help the passing game not miss a beat. A quiet season for Fred Jackson in 2015 produced 32 catches, the most of any third down back during Russell Wilson's time in Seattle; a number the younger Prosise should have no problem besting. A physical runner as well as a gifted receiver, Prosise also has the ability to step into the starting role should anything happen to the second-year Rawls.
Any players you think could come out of the blue in 2016 and make an impact? Any established players ready to take the next step to stardom? Let us know in the comments and keep an eye out for the defensive players later this week.