The Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots are the only two teams in the NFL to have won at least one playoff game in each of the last five seasons. The Seahawks had few departures from last year’s roster that lost in the Divisional Round to the Atlanta Falcons. They’ve added an 11-man draft class and augmented the roster with a few free agent signings that addressed a few areas of concern over the offseason.
Seattle’s roster remains the most talented in the NFC West. However, an offseason dominated by trade discussions involving star cornerback Richard Sherman has left an uncertainty regarding the cohesion of the locker room after Sherman’s multiple tirades and criticism of coaches last season. And for all the downplaying of the trade discussions Seattle wants to espouse now, NFL teams don’t look to trade All-Pro cornerbacks in their prime, with a reasonable contract and depth issues at the position for no reason at all. And the Seahawks practically hung a “For Sale” sign on Sherman in letting teams know publicly they were taking calls regarding Sherman’s availability.
Can the Seahawks still win the division and make a deep playoff run despite any potential lingering issues? Of course. They managed to win the division again last year in the midst of all the happenings with Sherman. But if the gremlins of last season carry over into 2017, there is potential for a crash landing.
Even if they do, the Seahawks may be talented enough to win the division again anyway.
Biggest positive change: With the selection of four defensive backs among their 11 draft picks in the NFL Draft, the Seahawks infused youth into their secondary depth. The additions of Shaquill Griffin, Tedric Thompson, Delano Hill and Mike Tyson give the Seahawks young depth that can contribute immediately on special teams and push starters Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor for playing time in the coming years. Griffin could earn a starting role opposite Sherman as Deshawn Shead is likely to start the year on PUP and Jeremy Lane has been better served as a slot cornerback during his tenure in Seattle. The rest of the group provides potentially more stable options as backups should a player of Thomas’ caliber be lost for the season again as he was last December. The drop in ability from Thomas to back up Steven Terrell was substantial and significantly lessened Seattle’s defensive might.
Biggest negative change: While Steven Hauschka had some issues in Seattle last year, the Seahawks now seem destined to be relying upon a career resurgence from Blair Walsh. Walsh, who helped the Seahawks win a playoff game in Minnesota two years ago by missing a 27-yard field goal at the end of regulation for the Vikings, now joins the Seahawks in an effort to get his career back on track. Walsh was released by the Vikings last year nine games into the season after missing eight (four field goals, four extra points) of his 35 kicks on the year. Hauschka had a problem with low kicks as five of his 10 missed kicks last season were blocked. Walsh has a big leg and earned a Pro Bowl trip as a rookie. However, what he can bring to the table now is uncertain.
Coaching thermometer: Pete Carroll has a job in Seattle as long as he wants it given the run of success the team has had during his tenure as head coach. The Seahawks have made two Super Bowl trips and brought home their first Lombardi Trophy in 2013, have won at least one playoff game in each of the last five seasons and have missed the postseason just once in Carroll’s seven seasons at the helm. Carroll has given no indication he sees the end of his coaching road coming any time soon. He and general manager John Schneider are seemingly joined at the hip and Carroll’s contract was extended through 2019 last summer.
We’d like to crack a beer with . . . Jon Ryan. The Seahawks’ punter is one of the more engaging personalities on the team. He’s thrown a touchdown pass in an NFC Championship game, broke his face in frigid conditions during a playoff game in Minnesota and fumbled without being touched on a fake punt. He’s also caught a 109-yard touchdown pass as a receiver playing college football at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan. Ryan is now the longest-tenured member of the Seahawks and the only player on the team to predate Pete Carroll in Seattle. Honorable mention to Doug Baldwin.
How they can prove us wrong: In the positive, the Sherman issues don’t linger into the season. Wilson returns to 2015 form, now healthy, behind a significantly improved output from Seattle’s offensive line. Lacy gives the team the power back presence they’ve missed and Seattle’s defense remains along the league’s best. In the negative, the Seahawks are slow out of the gate as Wilson struggles behind continued poor offensive line play. Fissures within the team resurface as blame gets tossed around. The running game isn’t consistent. Wilson is forced to throw 30-35 times a game. Age begins to catch up to key pieces of Seattle’s defense as they slide back from the top of the league. Blair Walsh’s inconsistencies follow him to Seattle.