The NFC West looks in excellent health, so much so that there are only two Seattle Seahawks positions that rank better than the rest of the division. This is a clear reflection of the heavy turnover the Seattle Seahawks roster has experienced in the past few years. General Manager John Schneider has done work, but the replacements are largely unproven.
? Kyler Murray
Russell Wilson is a better quarterback than the vast majority of NFL franchises, let alone being the top signal caller in the NFC West. Entering his second year working with Brian Schottenheimer, you can expect Wilson’s pass attempts to increase and his talent to continue to shine—even with the retirement of favorite target Doug Baldwin.
The rest of the division is made up of passers who may well get paid more than Wilson did. Jared Goff, the ultimate system-or-talent-conundrum, is in a contract year that will probably see him earn the typical “highest paid” title. His ability to throw to space is excellent, but play in big moments and out-of-structure still manages to bemuse.
Jimmy Garoppolo has never managed to rekindle the fire of his remarkable 2017 season; his tape underwhelmed in 2018 before injury. With General Manager John Lynch front-loading Garoppolo’s deal with bonus money, it’s time Jimmy G fully established his worth in Kyle Shanahan’s attack.
Kyler Murray with Kliff Kingsbury could prove to be a rookie phenomenon, with the NFL struggling to adapt to the 10 personnel-heavy, fast-paced attack. In truth, though, Chip Kelly’s time in the league showed that officials restrict the up-tempo potential of offenses and Air Raid concepts are already pervasive in pro offenses.
This group is one of the deepest in the league. The projected starters in 2019 figure to be Bobby Wagner at MIKE, K.J. Wright at SAM and Mychal Kendricks at WILL. With nickel now being the base defense in the NFL, and only two linebackers getting on the field, Seattle will be able to get more of a rotation going at the position.
Moreover, the strength in reserve is remarkable. It’s to such an extent that Barkevious Mingo could be cut with the bonus of cap savings. Despite Mingo’s coverage ability, athleticism and turnback play versus the run, the 2019 selections of Cody Barton and Ben Burr-Kirven feel ominous. Barton has the skillset to play any linebacker spot in this defense while Burr-Kirven’s athleticism fits well as a nickel WILL.
Second-year player Shaquem Griffin has been able to focus on being more of a rush-backer thanks to the recent additions, something that Cassius Marsh—once a SAM in Seattle—and Jacob Martin could do if required too.
The trend of defenses getting lighter and faster extends to the linebacker position, with sub-package linebackers and safety converts becoming more and more common. The state of the rest of the linebacker groups in the rest of the NFC West reflects this—excluding the San Francisco 49ers, which is essentially a poorer reflection of Seattle.
*Is Kwon Alexander going to recover well from his 2018 ACL injury?
Pete Carroll can coach
It’s telling that, despite the Seahawks lacking division-best position groups (disagree? comment below), they still managed to make the playoffs last year. This is testament to the coaching ability of Head Coach Pete Carroll and co.
The moment of reckoning will come in 2019. Can players like Rashaad Penny take the next step and project their position group to division-best status? Will a rookie D.K. Metcalf dominate as a fast, big receiver? Will third-year players like Lano Hill have the “lights come on” moment? It’s judgement time not just for players and coaches, but for the drafting of John Schneider.