It doesn’t just hurt when the Seattle Seahawks lose, although that too, sure. It damages human bodies, and every year it feels like one of the conference champions made their run in large part because they dodged significant injuries more than the average team.
Draft luck comes and goes.
Literally no better example this millennium exists than the Seahawks, who plucked All-Pro level players out of the late rounds in 2010-2012 like they had a magic 8-ball, oblong with stitches across one side, through which John Schneider could see the future. Until he suddenly couldn’t, so the wizardry dried up. And with it, the roster, until by the ‘21 offseason, it was apparent the Seahawks star power was at its dimmest in a decade. The once Olympic pool-depth had evaporated to a puddle.
Poor drafts — for whatever reason — had left DK Metcalf and maybe Jordyn Brooks as the lone young franchise building blocks.
2022 told a different story, however. Armed with additional selections from the Denver Broncos, the Seahawks collared their LT of the future in round 1, RT of the future in round 3, and some dude who would’ve fit in just fine with the LOB in round 5. Plus other contributors up and down the board. NFL.com ranked the Seattle draft third in the whole league. PFF gave them an A-. And that was before Riq Woolen and Co. played a snap.
The Seahawks had their mojo back, an ascendant trajectory again, and finally a hearty helping of the secret sauce that invariably leads to true contenderhood: cheap young talent.
Until football started to hurt again. As it does. Now, instead of waiting to see if a draft encore is in the cards, Seahawks coaches, players and fans are left in a lurch brought on by the worst injury luck I’ve ever seen befall a rookie class. Maybe we’re all not kept in the dark excessively long, because not every setback looks serious. But it’s been brutal to watch nonetheless:
- Jaxon Smith-Njigba just had surgery for a broken bone in his wrist.
- Devon Witherspoon missed all of preseason with hamstring issues. He’s on track to practice this coming week.
- Derick Hall hurt his shoulder in the third preseason game. Severity is unknown.
- Zach Charbonnet looked good! First part of August saw him overcome a bum shoulder though.
- Cameron Young has been dealing with a calf strain all camp long.
- Mike Morris underwent a procedure on his shoulder last Monday.
- Olusegun Oluwatimi played in the third game but an elbow injury slowed him down early.
- Kenny McIntosh sprained his knee in the August 5 mock game and hasn’t seen the field since.
The only two Seattle draft picks who didn’t miss time in training camp or a preseason game are safety Jerrick Reed II and guard Anthony Bradford, who himself was held out of mandatory minicamp with a head injury.
Snakebitten is almost too impotent a word for what the injury
cobra bug hath wrought this preseason. No doubt in all our minds it’s been very gratifying to watch the Seattle backups outplay their mirrors, and there’s little doubt in my mind personally the Seahawks would be undefeated if Pete Carroll had stuck with Drew Lock for one more drive in Green Bay. It’s cool why he didn’t though.
Carroll on playing Ahlers on the final series: "Wanted him to play. His dad is here, the whole thing. He's been such a great competitor through this camp. I didn't think he had any less chance of winning it than anyone else in the game."— Bob Condotta (@bcondotta) August 26, 2023
On the flip side, it’s been ungratifying and exasperating to see one exciting rookie after another deprived of their valuable acclimation period and crucial development time. Preseason might be the best avenue to figuring out how NFL speed compares to college speed (hint: they’re not the same). You can simulate game speed in practices, sure, but you can also simulate how to land a plane, only to find out in real life it feels a wee bit different.
How are we supposed to know if this is the year, if this particular infusion of talent is what pushes the Seahawks to catch the 49ers? And then surpass them, as the prophecy has foretold?
Free prediction: there will never come another point in franchise history where Seattle selects the first corner and the first wide receiver off the board. It hadn’t happened in any previous draft, and the circumstances that would lead to it re-occuring are farfetched. It sure would be peachy to get an idea if both blue chips are, in fact, as blue as believed.
Fortunately, JSN looks the part of a modern WR3 already. How about this almost-score again, but from a cool new angle:
Seahawks Rookie Jaxon Smith-Njigba with a great catch on a crossing route, and almost takes it all the way to the house.— Seven Rounds in Heaven (@7RoundsInHeaven) August 20, 2023
The Ohio State product does a nice job looking Drew Lock throw into the hands, over the shoulder. pic.twitter.com/RrJa9qAyRp
JAXON SMITH-VETERA-NJIGBA— John Fraley (@johndavidfraley) August 20, 2023
He hasn’t played a snap since my egregiously awful tweet, but there was every indication in his preseason that his game would immediately transfer to the next level.
Still, the Seahawks will need more than one hit if they want to reclaim the division throne that is theirs by birthright.
So what now?
On the return front, it’ll be compelling to see which rookies return to full health in time for Week 1, which guys start to get their feet wet in Weeks 2 and 3, and which unfortunate souls have to delay their coming-out parties until after the Week 5 bye. How safe do the front office decision-makers play it with their rookies when it’s apparent the team will be playoff caliber in the neat future?
What these relentless waves of injuries do do, is give players a chance who might otherwise have been left out in the cold at cutdown time. And that’s cool. In the universe where JSN, Dareke Young and Cade Johnson remain healthy, does Jake Bobo have a realistic path to WR5? Heart might say yes but gut says no. Other fine fellows who seemed destined for the practice squad — here or elsewhere — will make the 53. Can’t find the next diamond in the rough if you don’t look through the rough, after all.
Besides, in a few weeks, it’s very possible we could look back on this injury spate as a mere speed bump. If Hall’s shoulder is a nothingburger, if Witherspoon’s hamstring holds up, if Smith-Njigba doesn’t have a setback, if Young’s calf doesn’t flare up again, if Morris is this year’s fifth-round steal, if McIntosh can ever get on the field and win the third-down back job — wow that’s a lot of ifs, isn’t it? Hate to start a playoff-looking season with that many questions.
True Super Bowl aspirations begin with the draft. Lasting contention requires than one successful draft. Two outstanding classes would come close to sealing the deal, and the Seahawks are halfway there.
The rookies just have to, you know, actually play first.