Some of you are going to laugh, but I genuinely think that the Seattle Seahawks could surprise a lot of people this season. And I don’t mean by being so bad that they get the #1 overall pick in next year’s draft.
I think the Seahawks could surprise us in a good way.
Let’s start with the reason that everyone seems to be writing us off (i.e., Geno Smith is our starting quarterback) and counter that with some completely skewed and extremely misleading statistics.
Geno Smith vs. Russell Wilson, circa 2021
Won-Loss Record & Winning Percentage
- Geno Smith: 1-2, .333
- Russell Wilson: 6-8, .429
Points Per Game
- Geno Smith: 20.3 (71 points divided by 3-1/2 games)
- Russell Wilson: 24.0 (324 points divided by 13-1/2 games)
Note: Before anyone points out that Geno’s points per game is skewed by the 31 points the Seahawks scored against the Jacksonville Jaguars, I will point out that RW3’s points per game is skewed by Seattle scoring 89 points over the last 2 weeks of the season - 51 vs. the Detroit Lions + 38 vs. the Arizona Cardinals.
- Geno Smith: 68.4%
- Russell Wilson: 64.8%
Yards per Attempt
- Geno Smith: 7.4
- Russell Wilson: 7.8
- Geno Smith: 103.05
- Russell Wilson: 103.05
One could look at the above stats and draw the conclusion that, other than the record (and the points per game), there wasn’t a huge difference between Geno Smith and Russell Wilson last year.
Except that we all know that isn’t true.
Russell Wilson on his worst day gives a team a better chance to win than Geno Smith does on his best day – regardless of what the stats say.
Here’s the thing though …
Geno’s stats last year weren’t a fluke.
Smith has a bad rap for a variety of reasons, including his age (32 in October), his recent lack of playing time (only 5 starts since 2014), and the not-very-good start to his career after being drafted by the New York Jets (29 starts over 2 years, with 28 TDs, 36 INTs, and a passer rating of 72.4).
Excluding his time with the Jets though, his career stat line looks like this: 91 completions on 140 attempts (65%) for 955 yards, with 6 touchdowns, only 1 interception, and a quarterback rating of 96.0.
And his stat line with the Seahawks is even better: 69 of 100 (69%) for 735 yards with 5 TDs, 1 INT, and a passer rating of 102.7.
Yes, in both instances, it’s a small sample size, but that’s because he was the backup quarterback.
Other than personal biases, there aren’t many (any) reasons to believe that Geno Smith’s ultra-conservative, play-it-safe approach can’t hold up through a 17-game season. Especially if the coaching staff game plans for Geno’s “game-manager” nature.
And, if Geno falters, we’ve got Drew Lock waiting in the wings!
Granted, Lock is as likely to kill ya as to thrill ya, but “he has a hose” (to quote John Schneider) and ... um ... I think that’s supposed to be a good thing.
There’s also this stat working in Drew Lock’s favor:
Preseason Points, 2022
- Drew Lock: 38
- Geno Smith: 13
- Jacob Eason: 11
- Russell Wilson: 0
Run, Run, and Run Some More
We all know that Pete Carroll is going to lean into his tendency to run first, run second, and maybe pass third. But guess what … Geno is really good at handing off the ball. And Seattle’s running back room, on paper, looks pretty good.
Admittedly, the preseason was hard to watch. Seattle played a lot more starters than the teams they faced and still managed to look pretty bad the majority of the time.
But the run game was solid.
- Travis Homer: 12 carries for 90 yards (7.5 average)
- DeeJay Dallas: 28 carries for 163 yards (5.8 average), with 1 touchdown
- Darwin Thompson: 16 carries for 72 yards (4.5 average), with a touchdown
- Total: 56 carries for 325 yards (5.8 average), with 2 touchdowns
And that was without Rashaad Penny – who provides plenty of reason for optimism given how he played during the back half of last season – and only a handful of plays with our R2 running back (Ken Walker III).
Note: Walker had 5 carries for 19 yards (3.8 average) vs. Pittsburgh but left the game with an (at the time) undisclosed injury.
If Penny stays healthy and picks up where he left off in 2021 … and if Walker is as good as he’s expected to be …
Seattle Has a Solid Cast of Pass Catchers
If teams decide to stack the box and dare Geno Smith to beat them with his arm, which is likely to be standard operating procedure early in the season, well, what better wide receiver duo is there in the league than DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett?
Not that we need the reminder, but here are the numbers for our elite duo the last 3 seasons:
- Lockett: 73 receptions for 1,175 yards with 8 touchdowns
- Metcalf: 75 receptions for 967 yards with 12 touchdowns
- Total: 148 receptions for 2,142 yards and 20 touchdowns
- Lockett: 100 receptions for 1,054 yards with 10 touchdowns
- Metcalf: 83 receptions for 1,303 yards with 10 touchdowns
- Total: 183 receptions for 2,357 yards and 20 touchdowns
- Lockett: 82 receptions for 1,057 yards with 8 touchdowns
- Metcalf: 58 receptions for 900 yards with 7 touchdowns
- Total: 140 receptions for 1,957 yards and 15 touchdowns
The depth behind Metcalf and Lockett may be suspect, but ...
- Dee Eskridge was the 56th-overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft for a reason and has dibs on filling the WR3 role.
- Penny Hart is poised to be this year’s Freddie Swain (i.e., the guy who hauls in a couple dozen passes for roughly 350 yards and a handful of touchdowns when teams get “too focused” on Metcalf and/or Lockett).
- Dareke Young oozes potential - enough so that he made the roster as a 7th-round pick despite dropping a number of passes.
- Marquise Goodwin is the wily vet who provides above-average “insurance” against injuries to either DK or NoE.
Note: Don’t “sleep” on Goodwin; his career mark of 16.5 yards per reception is well above the career marks of anyone else on the team, including Metcalf (14.7) and Lockett (13.5).
Plus, the Seahawks have the option of elevating Cade Johnson from the practice squad.
Note: The Cade Johnson Fan Club is accepting applications.
In addition to the wideouts, Seattle’s group of tight ends is arguably its best in recent memory. And the tight ends should be more involved in the offense this year than they have been in seasons past.
Below is the list of tight ends who had at least 20 catches each of the past 3 seasons:
- Gerald Everett: 48 receptions for 478 yards with 4 touchdowns
- Will Dissly: 21 receptions for 231 yards with 1 touchdown
- Will Dissly: 24 receptions for 251 yards with 2 touchdowns
- Greg Olsen: 24 receptions for 239 yards with 1 touchdown
- Jacob Hollister: 25 receptions for 209 yards with 3 touchdowns
- Jacob Hollister: 41 receptions for 349 yards with 3 touchdowns
- Will Dissly: 23 receptions for 262 yards with 4 touchdowns
And, as a comparison, here are Noah Fant’s stats the past 3 seasons:
- 2021: 68 receptions for 670 yards with 4 touchdowns
- 2020: 62 receptions for 673 yards with 3 touchdowns
- 2019: 40 receptions for 562 yards with 3 touchdowns
Yes, Fant’s numbers are from a different offensive system, but the fact remains that with those stats, Fant would have been Seattle’s #1 tight end - by a lot - each of the last 3 seasons.
It’s Okay to be Excited About the O-Line
Seattle turned over 3 of the 5 starting positions on the O-line during the offseason.
Gone are stalwart left tackle Duane Brown (signed with the Jets on August 11th), mid-tier RT Brandon Shell (currently unsigned), and C Ethan Pocic (slated to start Week 1 for the Cleveland Browns).
In their place, Seattle will start rookie LT Charles Cross (R1, #9 overall), rookie RT Abe Lucas (R3, #72 overall), and journeyman Center Austin Blythe (49 career starts).
Will there be growing pains? Sure. (See “Cross, Preseason game #2.)
But growing pains don’t have to cost us games.
And as long as the rookies learn from their mistakes, the O-line should be fine by season’s end, if not long before then.
What About the Defense?
For as maligned as the defense has been the last few years, and for good reason, they’ve actually been pretty decent at keeping teams off the scoreboard.
- 2021: 21.5 points per game, tied for 11th-best league-wide
- 2020: 23.6 ppg, #16
- 2019: 24.2 ppg, #19
Obviously, the defense has been trending in the right direction with an improvement of 2.7 points per game from 2019 to 2021,
The question is if the switch from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense, and a fairly extensive retooling of the roster on the defensive side of the ball, will allow the team to jump up into the top-10 or, dare I say it, the top-5 this season?
Note: For what it’s worth, the San Francisco 49ers were ranked 5th last season, allowing 20.6 points per game so it’s not like Seattle is that far off the pace.
Both on paper, and based on what we saw in the preseason, Seattle’s defensive line should be better this year than it’s been in years past. And the switch in scheme should pay dividends.
As it is currently constructed, Seattle’s D-line is a mix of young(ish) players and wily veterans.
Poona Ford (27) is in a contract year, Bryan Mone (27) recently signed an extension, and Myles Adams (24) was one of the preseason stars.
Quinton Jefferson (29) is back after 2 years away. Al Woods is still tearing it up at age 35. And let’s not forget Shelby Harris (31) who came over as part of the trade package for RW3 and will be one of the starters at Defensive Tackle.
Note: The Seahawks also have L.J. Collier (27) stashed on IR to start the season. Y’all can debate whether or not that’s a good thing, but JSPC seem to think Collier is better suited to the new scheme than he was to the old one, and ... maybe they’re right.
John P. Gilbert wrote a fabulous piece the other day: Where have all the linebackers gone?
In that article, John pointed out that the Seahawks are “building a roster that is designed to compete in the NFL in 2022, not 2012.”
And the linebackers are the key.
Just not in a way that many of us might have expected.
I won’t spoil the article for those that haven’t read it, but I will say that the lack of depth behind Jordyn Brooks and Cody Barton shouldn’t be a fatal flaw.
The EDGE of the Defense
It sort of flew under the radar at the time, but when Seattle signed Uchenna Nwosu at the start of free agency, it broke the mold for a Seahawks free agent signing.
Let’s start with a “normal” type of response to the signing:
Only 25 years old, he will be joining the Seahawks at the perfect time as they transition to a 3-4 defense that suits his strengths as an overhang defender capable of rushing the passer and dropping into coverage. While $10 million per year may seem steep for a player who has never had more than 5.0 sacks in a season, he’s on an upward trajectory and has a shot at breaking out in 2022 and his contract has big-time steal potential (SI.com, April 3rd)
Next, we’ll look at what Spotrac projected his market value to be:
- Calculated Market Value: $12.1M average annual salary
- Projected Contract Value: $60,517,069
- Projected Contract Term: 5 years
Actual contract, per OTC:
- 2 years
- $19.055M total
- $9.5M signing bonus
- $10.535M guaranteed (signing bonus + 2022 base salary)
- 2022 cap hit: $6,295,000
- 2023 cap hit: $12,760,000 ($4.75M dead money)
And let’s conclude with this little nugget:
Nwosu is now joining Seattle on a two-year, ($19.055) million deal, the most-expensive annual average for an outside free agent in the Pete Carroll and John Schneider era.
Clearly, the Seahawks targeted Nwosu as a must-have piece for the new-look defense being implemented by new Defensive Coordinator, Clint Hurtt, and clearly they expect “big things” from him.
Personally, I think that pairing Nwosu with Darrell Taylor is going to be a lethal combination - especially with Alton Robinson and Boye Mafe factoring into the rotation behind them.
For what it’s worth, Nwosu is the oldest player in the group and he’s only 26.
Taylor is 25, Robinson is 24, and Mafe is 23.
There is a very real possibility that by the time the Seahawks exit their Week 11 bye, the starting corners could be Tre Brown, Tariq Woolen, and Coby Bryant.
Let that sink in for a moment.
And then list a better group of starting corners for Seattle, post-Legion of Boom.
Yes, it’s more potential than experience right now. But experience comes fast in the NFL and those 3 seem to be up for the challenge.
In the meantime, the Seahawks will probably roll with some combo of Sidney Jones IV, Artie Burns, and Michael Jackson Sr. manning the LCB and RCB roles to start the season. And that’s okay too. Lower ceilings, higher floors ... at least for now.
A recent SB Nation Reacts poll asked the 12s to pick the strongest position group on the team. Unfortunately, safeties were lumped in with corners and “secondary” came in 3rd. Had they been listed separately, I have no doubt that Safeties would have been the #1 choice.
And for good reason.
In 2020, Jamal Adams etched his name in the NFL Record Book.
With a sack earlier this drive, @Seahawks S @Prez set the record for most sacks by a DB since they became an official stat in 1982. #GoHawks— Seahawks PR (@seahawksPR) December 13, 2020
Note: Adams currently has 21.5 career sacks which is the 6th-most all-time and only 9 behind Rodney Harrison for the most career sacks by a DB.
Opposite Adams, is his good friend, Quandre Diggs, who made a bit of history last season when he recorded his 3rd interception.
With that interception, @qdiggs6 made history. pic.twitter.com/4npCmt8V0o— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) October 31, 2021
Although the tweet doesn’t explicitly state it, Diggs is the only DB in the league to record at least 3 INTs each of the past 5 seasons.
He’s looking to make that SIX straight seasons in 2022.
I’m not saying that the 2022 Seahawks are going to be explosive on offense.
They’re almost certainly not.
But they have the weapons to do some damage ... even with an uninspiring game-manager as their starting quarterback.
I’m also not predicting that Seattle’s defense is going to be one of the stingiest defenses in the league.
Maybe they will, maybe they won’t.
But if I were a betting man, I’d put money on the Seahawks topping their 7-10 record from last season.
And, as I stated at the outset, that would surprise a lot of people.
Including the 12s.