On Saturday, the Seattle Seahawks got back to football with the start of training camp. The beginning of camp marks the time of the year where fan optimism for the team is at its apex. The focus tends to be placed on rookies and new free agent signings that can finally be examined extensively, but when returning players improve from the previous season, the potential of a team can be exponential.
Last season, Seattle was hit with various setbacks to their roster. Players that many thought would contribute highly to the team either became injured or underperformed. With each new season comes the opportunity to bounce back from the lows of the previous year. The performance of these players could make the difference between what the 2015 Seahawks were and what the 2016 Seahawks could be.
Graham is the obvious case of someone who seemed to underperform with Seattle in 2015. National and local media built Graham up last season with speculation of the compliment he could provide alongside the Seahawks dominant running game. Expectations didn't necessarily meet reality as through the first 10 games of the season Graham had only logged 530 receiving yards on 44 catches with two touchdowns. In the 11th game of the season at home against Pittsburgh Graham went down with a torn patellar tendon, he was subsequently placed on injured reserve, ending his season. Graham now has to overcome a tough injury while also demonstrating that last season was just a "down year."
Graham's first season in Seattle has given some reason to believe he'll bounce back from his injury and excel. Had Graham finished his season on pace, he would've recorded 880 yards receiving on roughly 69 catches, both of which would've been the most by a Seahawks tight end. Graham also seemed to be coming into his own with the offense during the week 12 game against the Steelers, before he was hurt. In that game, he grabbed 75 yards on 4 catches. If Graham can come back fully healthy from his injury and continue to improve upon the pace he left off at last year, he will make Seattle have one of the deadliest offenses in the NFL.
Simon's three years in Seattle have been a roller coaster. He missed the entirety of his rookie season due to foot injuries. Simon was healthy for the 2014 season where he spent time backing up Byron Maxwell at the right cornerback position. He finished the year with 10 tackles and one interception. After Jeremy Lane’s injury in Super Bowl 49, Simon was thrown into the slot in nickel packages and had the task of covering Patriots receiver Julian Edelman, who would end up catching the game winning touchdown. With Byron Maxwell’s departure in the 2015 offseason, the starting right cornerback job looked to be secured for Simon, however, injuries derailed his season yet again and he was placed on injured reserve.
This training camp Simon looks set to take over the right cornerback job. With Jeremy Lane entrenched as the slot corner, Simon’s biggest competition will come from DeShawn Shead, along with second year player Tye Smith. Simon may not have much experience on the field, but he is entering his fourth year in the Seahawks system and his 6-2, 202 lb frame would be a great compliment across from Richard Sherman. Simon’s success is predicated on his health. If he stays healthy, he should be able to lockdown the right cornerback spot and produce throughout the season, but if he doesn’t, his days in a Seattle uniform will be numbered.
Hill’s career has been sporadic. He didn’t get much action in 2013 due to the incredible depth of the defensive line that year. In 2015, he played only 10 games and logging no sacks. The latter half of the 2014 season Hill’s performance was outstanding. He consistently provided pressure through the interior and recorded 5.5 sacks, three fumble recoveries, and an interception over a 6 game stretch that spanned from Week 8 to Week 13. Unfortunately for Hill, injuries would put an early end to his 2014 campaign.
The pieces are in place for Hill to have a successful 2016 season. The additions of Sealver Siliga and rookie Jarran Reed this offseason should provide enough depth on the defensive line this season so that Hill can play exclusively in passing situations, therefore maximizing his skill set. Although a short stint, Hill’s 6 week stretch in 2014 proved that he can be a disruptive interior pass rusher. Hill has the ability to be a key figure on Seattle’s defensive line, as long as his health doesn’t deter he’ll create memorable plays.
Getting these three back alone could be like a whole new wave of free agency for the Seahawks.