The Offseason is a time for optimism in the NFL, and the Seattle Seahawks have reason to believe they’re going to be one of the league’s elite teams.
Fans of NFL teams, I hear you out there. This is the year, you say. We’re winning the division. We’re going to the playoffs. We’re winning the Super Bowl! (Or, Rams fans: We’re going to break .500!) It’s May, and May is the season for hopeless optimism.
The draft brought your team a collection of sure-fire talent. Reports are your veterans are in the best shape of their lives. That one free agent you got is the perfect fit for your team. Your team was unlucky with injuries last year but now they’re healthy. Everything is falling into place!
Only it’s not. Because it can’t. Only one team can win the Super Bowl this year, and that team is the Seattle Seahawks. Here’s why:
Defensive Continuity + Improved Depth = A Return to Historic Defense
Kris Richard struggled early in his first year as defensive coordinator before finding a groove in the second half of the season. Perhaps his weakest area was in-game management. Recall the multiple occasions of defensive players not getting the correct play call, or how it seemed every play call came in late. Experience improved these issues as the season went on, which bodes well for his second season in the role.
Player continuity is also a factor this season. Nobody appears to be planning a holdout (I’m looking at you Mike B). Earl Thomas is healthy, and Seattle returns the entire secondary from last season (with no Cary Williams!). The only notable subtractions are Bruce Irvin and Brandon Mebane, both of which will likely prove more difficult to replace in personality than on-the-field role. A tweak in scheme (more on that later) and a handful of players will replace Irvin. Jarran Reed could actually prove to be an upgrade from fan-favorite Mebane.
Finally, Seattle is approaching the level of depth they had prior to their historic 2013 season. The secondary is ridiculously deep at cornerback with Lane, Shead, Smith, Simon, Farmer, Jean-Baptiste, Burley, Reed, Marshall, Elliott, and Seisey (IR) all competing for playing time. Plus Richard Sherman, obviously.
Competition at backup safety also figures to be intense with the addition of Tyvis Powell to group that includes Browner, Shead, Terrell, and McCray. The linebacker group added a few promising athletes in UDFA that figure to push an already intriguing group of veterans. Finally, the defensive line will be nearly as deep as the famed 2013 group that saw starter quality players get cut due to sheer depth of talent (I miss you Jaye Howard).
Some very talented players will end up on other team’s rosters after the cut to 53 and while that’s sometimes frustrating to see, if other teams are starting your castoffs that’s usually a good thing.
Creating More Problems for Opponents
Good strategies create problems for your opponent, but under Pete Carroll Seattle has won more often with superior athletes rather than superior schemes. Some schematic creativity could go a long way when facing teams with similar levels of talent, such as Carolina, New England, or Arizona. Seattle has made several moves this offseason that indicates they are again ready to try and add some schematic creativity.
The loss of Bruce Irvin led many to believe Seattle would target a pass rusher this offseason, but that hasn’t really happened. Instead, it appears they will rely on organic talent to fulfill his pass rushing role while making schematic changes to actually reduce the use of a SAM linebacker.
Seattle brought back Brandon Browner to play a hybrid safety/linebacker role which will result in three safeties on the field instead of three linebackers. Keith wrote about the Bandit formation earlier. This change will hopefully correct some of last season’s issues guarding tight ends.
On the other side of the ball, C.J. Prosise brings some intriguing offensive versatility. Prosise projects to immediately step in as the 3rd down and 2-minute drill running back, replacing Fred Jackson and Robert Turbin before him. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Seattle attempts to pass to the running back position more often this year. Furthermore, I’d expect to see Prosise split out wide from the backfield (empty backfield) more often than Seattle has in the past. While Seattle will always remain a running team at its core, I’m expecting a lot more variation in the passing game this year and those changes may begin with the running back position.
Improved Competition on the Offensive Line
It’s too early to simply say “improved offensive line”, so I’ll call it improved competition along the line. The offensive line last year was a disaster in every sense. The lack of credible depth limited the team’s options to make in season changes and you get the feeling Pete said: never again. This season, there appears to be enough depth all along the line, except left tackle, to create credible competition. Competition creates options.
First of all, let’s get this out of the way: I’m on team Gilliam. I think he’ll be a very good left tackle this year. He was actually good against speed rushers last year, but struggled against power rushers and in the run game. This offseason he seems to have focused on bulking up to fix those aspects of his game. He looks stronger to me:
"Off season gains. Shhhh just wait on it"