The 2017 Seattle Seahawks finished their season a disappointing 9-7. The campaign was somewhat of an enigma, some impressive wins like the one against the eventual Superbowl champion Eagles, followed up by games like the season ending home loss 42-7 to the eventual NFCW Champion LA Rams. Injuries to defensive stalwarts like Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Bobby Wagner and Cliff Avril tested the defense’s overall depth and will power. The response was lackluster, with the depth not being able to pick up the slack. At season’s end, we saw the retirement of iconic safety Kam Chancellor as well as pass rusher Cliff Avril. Michael Bennett got traded to the Eagles, and Richard Sherman ended up being cut then proceeded to sign with the rival 49ers. Now gone are the most vocal members of the 2013 championship defense, and potentially another with Earl Thomas in the midst of a major contract dispute that could end up with him being traded.
Notable FA Additions:
OG DJ Fluker
DT Tom Johnson
TE Ed Dickson
OLB Barkevious Mingo
K Sebastian Janikowski
WR Brandon Marshall
WR Jauron Brown
The Seahawks will be looking at this entire group as day 1 starters. DJ Fluker has never lived up to being the first round pick he was, but is expected to start at RG. DT Tom Johnson is a veteran 33 year old lineman known for his pass rush ability, gaining 16 sacks in 4 seasons with the Vikings. TE Ed Dickson has had a decent career in Baltimore and Carolina, but is more valued by his new employer for his run blocking. OLB Barkevious Mingo will be asked to start next to MLB Bobby Wagner and OLB KJ Wright. He is another player who has never lived up to his 1st round pick draft status, and could be a potential liability. Seattle’s kicking woes last year were well documented, and K Sebastian Janikowski was brought in to stabilize the position. At age 40, he missed all of last year due to a back injury. Provided he has anything left in the tank, he should be a solid contributor. WR Brandon Marshall missed most of last season with the New York Giants, who did not choose to bring back the veteran WR. If he is healthy, he should provide a good red zone option for Russell Wilson. Much beyond that is questionable though, due to his advancing age. Juaron Brown has flashed as a deep threat at times, but only has 86 career receptions playing in a Bruce Arians offense that featured deep passes prominently. Paul Richardson whom he is replacing has similar career numbers, but a better rapport with Russell Wilson
Seahawks 2018 Draft Class:
Round 1, No. 27 Overall: RB Rashaad Penny
Round 3, No. 79 Overall: DE Rasheem Green
Round 4, No. 120 Overall: TE Will Dissly
Round 5, No. 141 Overall: LB Shaquem Griffin
Round 5, No. 146 Overall: CB Tre Flowers
Round 5, No. 149 Overall: P Michael Dickson
Round 5, No. 168 Overall: OT Jamarco Jones
Round 6, No. 186 Overall: DE Jacob Martin
Round 7, No. 220 Overall: QB Alex McGough
Seattle traded back in the first round to acquire more mid round picks, and they used the 27th pick on the reigning D1 rushing champion Rashaad Penny. Penny is known as an excellent in between the tackles runner with quick feet, but is also raw in the passing game. With desperate need at pass rush, offensive line and corner – and with BC’s Harold Landry and Iowa CB Josh Jackson on the board – it wasn’t a pick that was met well by draft experts. In fact, Seattle drafted only one CB in their entire draft class. Pass rusher was addressed with their next pick, but not until the 3rd round, with USC DE Rasheem Green. This would indicate that they expect Frank Clark to contribute significantly in 2018. Draft combine phenom Shaquem Griffin was taken in the 5th round, and ideally will push for starting time. He is however a raw player with a somewhat unique disability, and it’s no sure bet he will be able to overcome it in the NFL. Draft experts almost unanimously slammed this draft class, with the highest grade the author found being a C-. I cannot disagree with the consensus here. Seattle has desperate need at offensive line, pass rush and CB yet they took a RB at 27 and didn’t draft again until the 79th pick.
At the start of the decade, Seahawks GM John Schneider and Pete Carroll had a historically great run of drafting elite talent in a short span. They turned this massive boon into a Superbowl championship in 2013. Finding talent like Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, and Russell Wilson with mid round picks has earned the duo much deserved credibility and leniency. However, Schneider’s once Midas touch has waned the past few years. While amassing so much talent so quickly was an impressive feat, the downside is that the group has aged simultaneously. Recent Seahawks drafts have not provided the team with the talent pool it once had, and the drop off was perhaps the most stark this past year. Without the defense consistently performing at an elite level, Russell Wilson was required to deliver a near super human effort on a weekly basis. The offensive line, never a strong suit during the PC/JS era, has now become maybe the worst unit in the league. To make matters worse, the Seahawks decided to hire middling OC Brian Schottenheimer. The word on the street was that “Anyone is better than perpetual scapegoat Darren Bevell”, but this in reality could be nothing short of a total disaster. Russell Wilson by himself can raise an offense, but this might be above and beyond even his abilities. Lack of offensive line talent outside of aging LT Duane Brown is once again going to test the durability of a QB who shouldn’t be asked to do virtually everything on offense. Wilson will also be faced with an ever decreasing selection of pass options. Defensively, Seattle could be looking at the loss of one of the best free safeties ever to play the game in Earl Thomas. If Seattle is not able to work out a deal with him, they will have a very tough time defending the pass. That is without mentioning that Seattle’s once vaunted pass rush has been reduced to Frank Clark, a 1st round bust Dion Jordon, and a 3rd round rookie. Fortunately, All Pro Bobby Wagner remains and if healthy can perhaps attempt to hold it all together.
Record Prediction: 7-9
It’s really tough to even look at that defense without iconic players like Michael Bennett, Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman AND potentially Earl Thomas all being gone. Clearly, Seattle is looking to rebuild and restock at this point. Expecting a seamless transition on that side of the ball at this juncture is ill advised. Russell Wilson is in his prime., and it is too bad that poor drafting the past couple of years has put them in the position where an almost total rebuild on defense is needed. Wilson’s strength in his passing game(aside from the sandlot plays) is the deep ball, and it’s just not something OC Brian Schottenheimer runs in his offense. I can see the desire to get back to running the ball, but without a proven offensive line it’s just not something that one should rely upon. This is kind of similar to AZ where they want to get back to running the ball with a new system, but lack the personnel to execute it. Wilson will still have enough super human performances to upset a superior team here and there, but I can’t see it leading to serious contention in 2018.