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Position Group Preview: Continued improvements on offense could see MVP push by Russell Wilson

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NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Roster turnover between seasons and increased numbers for preseason means position groups are fresh, crowded, and in some instances, complicated. While the Seahawks’ quarterback position doesn’t quite fit that, there is a new face set to compete for a roster spot—and an old face set to compete for the league’s Most Valuable Player award.

With training camp expected to begin shortly, we’ll be previewing Seattle’s position groups, diving into the expected regular season group, dark horse candidates, what could go right or wrong, and the general outlook for 2020.

Expected group

Pretty simple here: The NFL’s ironman, Russell Wilson, and incumbent backup Geno Smith.

Dark horse

With the benefit of a full training camp and preseason slate—in addition to rookie minicamp—undrafted free agent Anthony Gordon would make a strong push for the 53-man roster. In May, I projected him to beat out Smith for the backup role. The former Cougar has an exciting high-ceiling and, despite it being a minimal difference, would be a cheaper option. Unfortunately for Gordon, it will be too difficult of a task this year. (With practice squads set to increase to 16 players for 2020, it seems highly likely Gordon remains with the team in some capacity.)

Reason for optimism

Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer’s dreadful first season with the Seahawks was clear for all to see, with a pitiful wildcard showing against the cowboys serving as a sad exclamation point. But, for as poor as 2018 was, 2019 served as an encouraging development.

Between 2018 and ‘19, Seattle’s pass frequency rose from 47.5 percent to 54.3 percent. Both 1st and 10 runs and 2nd and 7+ runs dropped in frequency, from 65 percent to 53 percent and 46 percent to 37 percent respectively. They operated their offense in a more sensible manner with palpable results, as they rose from 9th in offensive DVOA in 2018 to 5th in 2019.

Within an improved season were multiple stellar performances from all parties.

In their Week 2 win against the Steelers, the Seahawks adjusted to Pittsburgh’s dominant defensive front by leaning on the quick passing game. The results were joyous, as Wilson’s time to throw of 1.89 seconds was the fastest recorded since 2016 while recording the highest single-game completion percentage of his career at 82.86 percent. It was a masterful performance, with Wilson playing point guard.

In a Week 9 overtime victory against the Buccaneers, it appeared as though Wilson had been dropped into Sean Payton’s offense. Schottenheimer put on a masterclass in scheming receivers open and Wilson gleefully attacked all areas of the field while throwing for five touchdowns with zero interceptions for the third time in his career.

Seattle will never get to the extreme end of the run-pass ratio some want, but if they can continue to trend in the right direction in 2020, Wilson and the Seahawks’ passing attack could be as lethal as they have been over the course of their nine-year marriage.

Where it could go wrong

Such is the nature of the quarterback position that the only way* it could really go wrong in 2020 would be an injury to Wilson. Smith is a fine backup, but it’s difficult to imagine him captaining Seattle to anything better than 7-9.

On a more team-wide scale, a reversal back to 2018—stubborn attachment to the running game and a bland scheme—would be excruciating and inexplicable. However, that team was still a top-10 offense by DVOA.

*For this exercise, I’m excluding the possibility of a positive test for COVID-19. Yes, that is absolutely a possibility and things could go seriously sideways as a result. Wear a mask.

Outlook

For another season, the Seahawks sit at the “haves” table, comfortable in the knowledge they have a franchise quarterback in place. Not only that, but they have a true superstar at the height of his powers. Among the best players in the league, Wilson should earn his second-straight All-Pro nod in 2020, while being in the MVP conversation.