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2014 Season Preview: Seattle Seahawks

2013 Season Recap

  • Record: 13-3 (1st NFCW, Super Bowl Champions)
  • Head Coach:  Pete Carroll (4th season)
  • Offensive Rankings: No. 8 Scoring, No. 18 Yards
  • Defensive Rankings: No. 1 Scoring Allowed, No. 1 Yards Allowed
  • Pro Bowlers: Russell Wilson (QB); Marshawn Lynch (RB); Max Unger (C); Richard Sherman (CB); Earl Thomas (S); Kam Chancellor (S)
  • Key Injuries w/Games Missed: Percy Harvin (15); Sidney Rice (8); Russell Okung (8); Breno Giacomini (7)

2014 Season

Seahawks depth chart via seahawks.com

Offense

The Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl, but they did not have a terrific offense in 2013.  They ranked just 18th in total yards, or one spot behind the Cleveland Browns.  And though they ranked 8th in total points, that figure doubtless reflects the terrific starting position the offense regularly enjoyed (3rd best in the league) as a result of the Seahawk’s historically great defense.

However, it must be acknowledged that each of the Seahawks most damaging injuries in 2013 occurred to players on the offensive side of the ball.  Wide receivers Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice missed 15 and 8 games, respectively.  Lacking their presence, the now-departed Golden Tate led the team in receiving yards with a relatively paltry 898.  Among all other pass-catchers only Doug Baldwin also surpassed 500 yards, with 778.  The Seahawks also lost two of their best offensive tackles in Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini for long stretches during the season.

With those losses, and with the luxury of playing conservatively and with a lead, it is understandable that the Seahawks would rank low in total passing.  However, their coaching staff would assuredly like to see improvement over their 2013 passing ranking: 28th.  Harvin and Okung are back for 2014, and the Seahawks signed NFLPA President Eric Winston to start at the other tackle position.  While Winston struggled in 2013 (Pro Football Focus ranked him No. 69 out of 76 at the position) and the team is still bereft of talent at the receiving position, quarterback Russell Wilson is now entering his third year in the NFL.  Wilson has played the part of game manager to near-perfection, and it remains to be seen how successful he will be if forced to carry the offensive load.

Perhaps lucky for Seattle, there is no reason to believe that will be the case this season.  Mauler running back Marshawn Lynch returns to Seattle for at least one more season despite a dispute over his 2014 contract status.  He looked sharp as ever this preseason, and there is every reason to suspect that will continue.  Assuming Lynch remains healthy – he has no significant history of injuries – the Seahawks can be counted on to continue being a run-first, defensive-minded team.  And for this particular organization, its hard to argue against those tactics.

Defense

Let’s start with the obvious: the Seattle Seahawks defense has been good for a while, made the leap to excellent in 2012, and in 2013 was historically great.  They capped the season off by utterly destroying the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl, who by all outward appearances were every bit as great on offense as Seattle was on defense.  These guys can play.

Is there any reason to forecast a change?  Not really.  Cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond left for new greener (more likely browner) pastures this offseason, but cornerback Richard Sherman, safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, and the rest of the gang is returning (some significantly enriched).  Furthermore, Head Coach Pete Carroll has seemingly turned the cornerback position into a Pro-Bowl turnstile, and cornerback Byron Maxwell played well in 2013.  Odds are pretty decent he will be a household name by year-end.

If any one position group on the Seahawks’ defense can be criticized, it is the interior defensive line.  Seattle addressed this by signing defensive tackle Kyle Williams, long a staple of the Minnesota Vikings defense, to the roster.  While Williams’s best playing days are likely behind him, he is still a productive player.  The open question is whether the 30-year-old has enough football left to anchor the interior effectively.

Then again, if the answer is “no,” would it really matter?  The maxim “your defense is only as good as its weakest link” is an appealing cliche, but utter nonsense.  With the coaching staff and defense this team has compiled, Williams will likely fill his new role more than adequately to let the Seahawk’s defense continue apace.  The only thing likely to slow (if not quite stop) the Legion of Boom is the NFL’s much-discussed emphasis on defensive holding and pass interference penalties.  We have yet to see that emphasis play out in the regular season, and until some sign that it will significantly impact the Seahawk’s arrives, predicting the downfall of this defense is premature.

Biggest Key for 2014

Health.  In particular the Seahawks have no solid backup for Lynch, and losing Earl Thomas or Richard Sherman would cause a reshuffling of the team’s defense that would be very difficult to survive unscathed.

Predictions

I predict Seattle will again win the NFC West, and boast a record of 12-4.  The day will come when this team has to decide which of their many assets are most important, and which they will let go of.  In fact, that day will come soon.  But it has not come yet, and  Seattle will compete for another Super Bowl.  However, no Super Bowl champion since the 2004 New England Patriots, who repeated the following year, has won even a single playoff game the next season.  Repeating is no easy task, especially when everyone is out to get the king.