The Seattle Seahawks have arguably been the best and most consistent team in the NFL over the past four years. With a playoff win in every season since 2012, you can count on the Northwest heavyweights to contend every January.
The 2015 season was tough to watch from a fan perspective. The Seahawks blew late leads in their first five losses. At one point, there was even doubt that the team would even make the postseason. But the Seahawks have faced adversity before and have become better for it. I am more confident in Seattle’s chances to contend in 2016 than I have ever been.
1. They still have the most talented defense in the NFL
Sorry Brandon Mebane. It’s true. With nine returning starters, at least six of which are All-Pro caliber players, the Seattle defense is stacked. The team has finished 2nd, 1st, 1st and 4th in defensive DVOA since 2012, retaining their core players throughout.
While 2015 was a relative down year, there is no reason to doubt that a unit consisting of Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Cliff Avril, and Michael Bennett. Expect them to regain their dominant form in 2016.
2. It’s Kris Richard’s second year as defensive coordinator
Despite being one of the best secondary coaches in the league, Richard had a tough transition to the helm of Seattle’s defense last season. In what was an unfortunate combination of secondary communication miscues, contract disputes, and Cary Williams being Cary Williams, the feared defense of the Seahawks wasn’t playing at the level expected of them. Over the course of the season, the unit rounded into form and seemed to mesh well, finishing third in the NFL in weighted defensive DVOA.
Entering his second year as the Seahawks’ defensive guru, Richard won’t waste any time getting used to his role and can focus on revamping Seattle’s scheme in a simple yet elegant way.
3. Legion of Boom members aren’t coming off of any major injuries
The end of the 2014 season saw Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor all go through severe injuries that hindered their abilities in Super Bowl XLIX. When playing the Packers in the NFC Championship Game, Sherman suffered significant ligament injury that, for all intents and purposes, left him one-armed for a good portion of the contest. Earl Thomas, on a brutal tackle of Eddie Lacy, tore his shoulder labrum, which clearly affected his play in 2015. Kam Chancellor partially tore his MCL in practices leading up to the big game. Jeremy Lane broke his forearm and tore his ACL on a first quarter interception of Tom Brady in that contest.
It is easy to daydream about how the Super Bowl would’ve turned out had Seattle’s elite secondary been healthy, but it was obvious that the unit wasn’t playing up to snuff in the beginning of the 2015 season. With a full offseason of practicing, the unit should gel together better than it ever has.
4. There shouldn’t be any holdouts
It was no secret that Kam Chancellor’s contract dispute before the 2015 season led to plenty of problems. Dion Bailey’s suspect balance blew a late fourth quarter lead in Week 1 against the Rams. Seattle couldn’t hold a lead against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in Week 2. The numerous lapses in communication can be deemed a combination of Chancellor’s offseason absence and Cary Williams’ ineptitude.
Whatever the case, Chancellor is in Seattle and will have a full offseason of work. Michael Bennett, who has also expressed displeasure with his contract, also doesn’t look to be holding out at all. With their full roster at offseason workouts, there should be no question of Seattle’s cohesion moving forward.
5. Jimmy Graham and Thomas Rawls look to be on track
While the defense doesn’t have anybody returning from major injuries, the offense is a different story. Within a three-game span, all-world talents Jimmy Graham (torn patellar tendon) and Thomas Rawls (fractured ankle) went down with brutal season ending injuries. The Seahawks could have, without a doubt, utilized contributions in the playoffs from the two stars. But that is the nature of season-ending injuries. Every team deals with them.
The good news is that both players seem to be on pace for a speedy recovery. Thomas Rawls announced that he should be full speed by the beginning of training camp, a surprising announcement. Jimmy Graham was said, in June, to be ahead of Rawls in terms of recovery, which is surprising when looking at the history of patellar tendon injuries. In any case, both should be ready for Week 1.
Another full training camp immersed in Darrell Bevell’s offense will do wonders for both, adding two more elite weapons to Seattle’s offensive arsenal.
6. The 2015 draftees will make big jumps
Seattle’s draft haul in 2015 was an immense success, bringing in huge contributors in all three phases of the game. Thomas Rawls’ talent cannot be overstated. He ran like a man possessed whenever he got the ball in his hands. His health will be huge for the team moving forward, as he has the potential to be a bell cow for the Seahawks.
Thomas Rawls is just punishing defenders left and right, ripping off 30-yard runs with authority.— NFL (@NFL) November 22, 2015
Mercy. #SFvsSEA https://t.co/DtHqhaxpmA
Frank Clark showed his incredible talent throughout the course of the year. Showing flashes against both the run and the pass, expect to see a significant uptick in numbers and talent from Clark, who looks to see an increased role with Bruce Irvin exiting in free agency.
There’s not much to say about Tyler Lockett. He is turning into one of the most dangerous receivers in the league. His routes are crispier than Keebler cereal treats. His hands are softer than the marshmallows inside said Keebler cereal treats. No-E has a knack for getting open and his insane straight-line speed and quickness don’t hurt in the least. After minor contribution through the first couple months of the season, Lockett ended the year with 664 yards at a clip of 13.0 YPC and 6 TDs. As Lockett continues to develop alongside Russell Wilson, expect him to become one of the best all-round receivers in the NFL this season.
There's a LOT of football left.— NFL (@NFL) January 17, 2016
Tyler Lockett hauls in an incredible 33-yard TD pass.
We got a ballgame #SEAvsCAR https://t.co/M1AGdX2HuB
The sky is the limit for this kid.
7. The 2016 draft brings in some exciting prospects
John Schneider has had some pretty amazing success in the draft since 2010, but hit a bit of a slump in 2013 and 2014. Fortunately, 2015 yielded better results and the 2016 draft class looks to be just as deep if not deeper.
The offensive line was addressed early and often with first-rounder Germain Ifedi and third-rounder Rees Odhiambo. Brandon Mebane’s hole was filled with second-round steal Jarran Reed, who should start from day one. Nick Vannett looks to be the tight end of the future after a couple years of development. A trio of talented tailbacks add tremendous talent to the roster.
Schneider and company addressed most needs on Seattle’s roster, while hedging multiple positions in the process. With a reloaded roster, Seattle’s depth is off the charts in 2016.
8. The depth chart at running back is monstrous
Building off of previous points, the Seahawks look to have a tremendous amount of potential in the mix to replace Marshawn Lynch. Thomas Rawls is a monster. No need to double dip there.
C.J. Prosise looks to slot in at third down back immediately. A former receiver, Prosise provides home run ability in both the run and passing game.
Alex Collins is more of a traditional bruiser that Seattle has come to be known for. With surprisingly quick feet and great vision, Collins should stick around on Seattle’s roster as a draft steal in the fifth round.
Not a lot is known about Zac Brooks, but Seattle liked him enough to spend a draft pick on him. That tells you something, as Seattle hasn’t been afraid to plug late round and undrafted players into their game plans.
These players can’t possibly fill the void that Lynch leaves behind, but Seattle looks to be in great shape moving forward without their friendly neighborhood beast.
9. Russell Wilson has more weapons than ever before
Seriously. Just think about the targets Russ will be throwing to. I’ve described the wide held infatuation with Tyler Lockett. Doug Baldwin led the NFL in touchdowns in 2015, joining the NFL’s elite receivers in terms of production. Jermaine Kearse, as inconsistent as he is, makes spectacular plays on a regular basis. Jimmy Graham, at his peak, is one of the three best tight ends in the NFL. Paul Richardson looks to be healthier than ever and will provide another field stretcher to haunt defensive coordinators’ dreams. The running backs are adept at pass-catching.
I don’t doubt that Case Keenum could throw for 4,000 yards with that lot. Just imagine what Russell can do.
10. Russ is a top QB in the NFL
Having an MVP-caliber quarterback doesn’t hurt, does it? I don’t remember the last time that the NFL’s leader in passer rating didn’t generate MVP buzz, but Russell Wilson was certainly deserving in 2015. You can’t go wrong with Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady or Cam Newton, but at this stage of his career, I don’t think there’s another quarterback I’d take in the league than Russell. His playmaking ability, paired with his bottomless leadership, makes for an insanely successful season.
Only Russell Wilson could take a botched snap and sure-fire 20-yard loss..— NFL (@NFL) January 10, 2016
And turn it into a 35-yard pass. WOW. https://t.co/Xqlty0CGqp
I sure as hell am excited to sit back, relax, and enjoy Wilson’s progression in 2016.
11. They had the least devastating end to the season out of the NFC powerhouses
Mental toughness is an important part of navigating the NFL’s terrain. A devastating end to the 2014 season pushed the Seahawks into turmoil in the beginning of 2015. But if Seattle had to lose in the playoffs, they did it in truly an ideal fashion. After going down by an almost irreparable margin in the first half, a furious comeback fell just short. The mental toughness of the team was on full display and they gave the Panthers quite a scare, reminding everybody that they are still not a team to be trifled with.
The rest of the elite NFC teams didn’t get so lucky. The Packers, after two late hail mary heaves, tied the Cardinals and then lost in preposterously quick fashion during overtime. The Cardinals proceeded to get demolished by the Panthers in the NFC Championship. The Panthers, heavy favorites in the Super Bowl, were rendered helpless against a relentless Denver defense.
With definitely the least devastating loss of the bunch, the Seahawks head into 2016 in the best mental shape out of any team in the NFC. Expect the normally confident bunch to feel an extra bit of belief in themselves after arguably the least tumultuous offseason in the conference.
12. The last time their season ended in similar fashion they responded with a Super Bowl victory
I will never forget the devastating nature of Seattle’s 2012 playoff loss in Atlanta. Despite a roaring comeback attempt, the victory slipped out of their grasp. Feeling that they were the better team despite the loss, Seattle worked twice as hard and answered the critics with a win in Super Bowl XLVIII against the greatest offense in NFL history.
While they were very different games, both the 2012 and 2015 playoff losses to Atlanta and Carolina respectively are very similar. A road game against the number one seed out of the NFC South. An inability to slow the opposing offense and a propensity for turning the ball over early. A seemingly insurmountable score heading into the half. Russell Wilson willing his team back into contention.
While the Atlanta loss is more chilling to think about, I see Seattle rebounding from the loss to Carolina in similar fashion. They will rule the NFL like they did in 2013. Nobody will be able to slow their roll.
I am more confident in Seattle’s chances to contend in 2016 than I have ever been.
I think it's time to exact some revenge.