The Seattle Seahawks endured a frustrating 2016 season, coming up short against the Atlanta Falcons in the Divisional Round of the postseason. Injuries plagued the campaign from the start, with Russell Wilson succumbing to a trio of ailments that nagged at him constantly. Earl Thomas and Tyler Lockett broke bones in their lower legs that were likely quite necessary for participation in games of football. During the moment of truth in the Georgia Dome, Deshawn Shead tore his ACL, annihilating the Legion of Boom’s waning chances at containing a potent aerial attack.
But much of this is secondary (ha), as the 2017 season is right around the corner.
With the Seahawks suiting up for football in less than a week, it’s time to get the hype train rolling down the tracks, but in a rational way. The purpose of this piece isn’t to tell you that the Seahawks are going to go undefeated and win the Super Bowl with an average victory margin of 19 points, despite what I may foresee. It is to look at 12 facts – 12 teeny tiny little bits of information – that remind you why the Seahawks have as good of a chance as any* to reach the promised land on February 4th, 2018.
*This might be slightly inaccurate. Brandin Cooks is quite good.
1. It’s Kris Richard’s third year as defensive coordinator.
I utilized this argument in last year’s article of the same name, but I really think this is the year that Richard takes the next step as a coordinator. Yeah yeah yeah, it’s Pete Carroll’s defense. I get that. But there were many learning experiences in 2016, and Richard has certainly implemented new methods of countering the offensive innovation.
Earl Thomas’s injury ruined the Seattle defense last year. It’s as simple as that. Several new defensive backs have arrived to provide sufficient depth, dispelling the inevitability of throwing special teamers into the fire out of nowhere. After finishing fifth last year in DVOA, this defense has no excuse (excluding multiple major injuries) as to why it shouldn’t be a top three unit in the league. Richard’s experience should play a big role in that improvement.
2. Everybody seems to be happy with their contracts and, even if they aren’t, it doesn’t matter.
Kam Chancellor’s new contract is monumental in setting a precedent that Seahawks players cannot and will not hold out. After the 2015 season’s debacle, Seattle’s front office stood strong and, true to their word, rewarded the dominant safety with a lucrative deal a year before he is set to hit free agency.
Michael Bennett voiced constant displeasure with his contract for a long time, but the team gave him a new deal as well. John Schneider and Pete Carroll have consistently gone about contract negotiations for their guys in admirable fashion (Golden Tate, do not read this article please). The result is that there shouldn’t be any players holding out for money any time soon.
3. Earl Thomas and Tyler Lockett look to be on track.
Earl’s legs appear to be the stuff of legend:
The most important cog of Richard’s defense is practicing without limitation in training camp and looks to be in the best shape of his life.
Tyler Lockett is making considerable progress as well. Number 16 began practicing with the Seahawks again on Friday, after sustaining a broken leg in Week 16 of 2016. A while back, Pete Carroll said No-E should be ready to go by the start of the season, and it looks like, while he might be limited with a leg brace, our greying avatar did not lie to us.
4. The 2016 draftees will make large strides in their development.
Last year’s draft class contributed a surprising amount in its rookie season and looks to make another significant jump in its sophomore season.
Ifedi is a wild card and will hopefully look more like an NFL starting offensive lineman as a likely starter along the offensive line.
Jarran Reed had a good if unspectacular season at defensive tackle, but I expect him to become a dominant force in the trenches in 2017.
C.J. Prosise is a dynamic player. If he can figure out how to stay healthy, the sky is the limit for this kid (I write about a man who is older than me).
Pete Carroll has gushed about Nick Vannett this offseason, and since any positive number is greater than zero, Ben Baldwin’s favorite tight end will literally look infinitely better in year two.
Quinton Jefferson is coming off of an injury that held him out for most of last year, but his playing time will likely skyrocket after the McDowell injury.
Alex Collins has looked impressive in camp this year after progressively building up confidence and decisiveness throughout 2016.
George Fant made strides in the offseason and all indications point to him starting as a competent left tackle in Week 1.
Tanner McEvoy has developed into an elite talent.
DeAndre Elliott should provide depth at corner throughout the year, especially with Shead coming off of an ACL injury.
5. The 2017 draft brings in loads of needed depth.
What propelled Seattle’s defense to a Super Bowl in 2013 was a defense flush with defensive line depth and a dominant secondary. That seemed to be the theme in the 2017 draft, as the Seahawks drafted defensive linemen Malik McDowell and Nazair Jones, alongside defensive backs Shaquill Griffin, Tedric Thompson, Delano Hill and Mike Tyson. Amara Darboh will likely make the squad and Chris Carson has turned heads throughout training camp. This class, while not flashy, filled a plethora of holes on the team and should be reflected on as a success in several years.
6. The quarterback is healthy and leaner than ever.
After the aforementioned injuries to Russell Wilson in 2016, he has focused on being a leaner, meaner, and seventeener version of himself. Enduring the most intense diet ever conceived by a human being has catapulted Russ into the best shape of his life. A return to form as a dynamic rushing threat and an elite quarterback with solid fundamentals is almost inevitable in 2017.
7. Russ has a ton of exciting healthy weapons.
Doug Baldwin. Jimmy Graham. Paul Richardson. Tyler Lockett. Jermaine Kearse. Luke Willson. Tanner McEvoy. With Lockett being the only one of these players coming off of a major injury, Wilson should revert to being one of the league’s most efficient quarterbacks in the coming season. A healthy dose of play action and shot plays will lead to some insane numbers by way of this receiving corps.
8. The running back group looks monstrous.
Pete Carroll’s goal throughout every contest is simple: make the opposing team feel us. That mentality was in the forefront of his frontal lobe when the team picked up Eddie Lacy in free agency. On a one-year deal, the bruising back will do his best to run defenses into the ground, or at the bare minimum, into a state of pure exhaustion.
Thomas Rawls has put some awesome play on tape over the last two seasons, constantly showing a willingness to put his life on the line to pick up those extra few yards. Paired up with Lacy, this might be the most physically domineering duo of tailbacks in the league.
C.J. Prosise, who we discussed earlier, has been a dynamic talent when on the field. Unfortunately, that’s the problem with all three of these backs – they’ve dealt with injury concerns throughout their entire careers. If Russell’s mobility is back, these guys can stay healthy, and Alex Collins, Chris Carson, or (hopefully it doesn’t come to this) DuJuan Harris can provide sufficient depth, this might be the most complete stable of rushing weapons the Seahawks have ever had.
9. The offensive line might not be the worst thing we’ve ever seen.
It’s hard to imagine the unit being worse than last year. An undrafted rookie and Bradley Sowell platooning at left tackle. A right guard playing left guard. A different right guard playing on the ground. A tight end who played right tackle now playing in San Francisco.
It’s reasonable to expect Justin Britt to have another solid year and the addition of Luke Joeckel should be a boon to this line. If the hype is reasonable, George Fant could take an enormous step towards becoming a solid left tackle in this league. Rookie Ethan Pocic (you thought I forgot about him in section five, didn’t you?) has taken reps at first team right tackle for all of camp and doesn’t seem to have any prominent deficiencies.
It’s not the hottest take in the world to expect Seattle’s offensive line to possibly maybe be not the absolute worst we’ve ever seen it. We can only pray for this to be the case.
10. The front seven is stacked.
I see no indication that Seattle doesn’t have the most talented front seven in the league. Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, and Frank Clark are a trio of dominant defensive ends who can move all over the line. Ahtyba Rubin is a solid presence on the interior alongside Jarran Reed who I expect to start eating everyone’s lunch on a weekly basis.
Bobby Wagner was the best linebacker in the NFL in 2016 and K.J. Wright might be the most underrated defensive player in all of football. Michael Wilhoite and Mike Morgan are decent if underwhelming options for the third spot, but nickel is the new base so I can live with decent.
11. The secondary is fired up and ready to come back angrier than ever.
Kam has his new deal and Earl has his new leg. After an offseason chock full of drama and bullshit, Richard Sherman is ready to prove to the world that everything is ay-okay over in Seahawksland. The Legion of Boom is prepared to remind the naysayers just how fucking good they are.
After adding depth through free agency and the draft and health through the offseason, Seattle’s signature swaggy group is out to show the world that they can still ball with the best of them.
12. The 2016 season ended in the Georgia Dome.
On January 13, 2013, the Atlanta Falcons beat the Seattle Seahawks in the Georgia Dome to advance to the NFC Championship.
After 385 days, the Seahawks won the Super Bowl.
On January 14, 2017, the Atlanta Falcons beat the Seattle Seahawks in the Georgia Dome to advance to the NFC Championship.
After 386 days, Super Bowl 52 takes place.
What will happen on that fateful date?
You might not be as superstitious as I am, but there might just be something here. While the sample size of success is at a mere single occurrence, the addition of a second data point would be an incredible rallying point for Seattle fans to try and halt the construction of a new stadium for the Falcons. Could Atlanta’s current coliseum be the key to the Seahawks’ Super Bowl hopes?
But if Seattle wins Super Bowl 52, then this is going to be quite eerie.
According to the evidence above, I wouldn’t rule it out.