5 Seahawks who must improve for Seattle to return to the playoffs

Seattle can get better if these five players do.
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Seahawks may have new personnel and new coaches, but these five players still need to step up their game for Seattle to get to the postseason again.

The Hawks needed to make changes, clearly. After back-to-back 9-8 seasons and missing the playoffs twice in three years, changes were mandated. The new staff led by Mike Macdonald will certainly have the biggest impact on the success or failure at Lumen Field this season.

The team's new players will make an impact too, hopefully a very large one. Whether they're the top draft pick or an undrafted free agent with a tantalizing upside, how far Seattle goes in 2024 will largely be determined by the transfusion of new talent.

That's not to say the holdovers won't matter, though (that's a really good movie, by the way). The core of the team was already in place, and that core must perform better overall this year than it did in 2023. In several cases, they won't get the chance. Four of the nine players I discussed as the Seahawks who fell below expectations last year are gone. Surprise, a couple of the players on that list appear below as well, but the draft and free-agent additions have changed their circumstances.

These Seattle Seahawks need improvement or backups could take over

Defensive end Dre'Mont Jones

It isn't that the defensive lineman was terrible. He just wasn't as good as his $51 million contract demands. To his credit, he was better once the Hawks moved him outside the tackle as a true end, rather than playing in the B gap between the opposing guard and tackle. That change was made in week 10. Average grade through week 9 per Pro Football Focus (subscription required): 57.1. Average grade from week 10 forward: 66.1. That was still far from elite, but I think Macdonald and his staff will get that performance from him. If not, Mike Morris is waiting for his opportunity.

Cornerback Riq Woolen

Yes, we've all written a lot about how disappointing Woolen's season was. For good reason, too. He was a great competitor for the 2022 Defensive Rookie of the Year. The last year, he simply didn't make the hits he did in 2022. His shoulder injury had to play a big factor in that, and he's had a full off-season to recover now. He was still very good in coverage and is primed to bounce back to Pro Bowl-level play. If not, The Hawks drafted a pair of cornerbacks ready to step in and start.

Edge rusher Derick Hall

Alright, now we're on to the new nominees for improvement needed on the annual evaluation. While Jones and Woolen underperformed, Hall did almost nothing as a rookie. A second-round draft pick, he had every opportunity to shine, especially when Uchenna Nwosu was lost for the season in week 6. Hall got 307 snaps on defense, but could only muster 11 pressures and zero sacks. That's especially disappointing when a player like K.J. Wright saw great things coming from him. UDFA Nelson Ceasar is chomping at the bit to take over here.

Center Olu Oluwatimi

I really liked the pick of Olu last year as the Seahawks' center for the future. I mean, come on, the guy was the leader of the best offensive line in college football and was the best center in the NCAA as well. He allowed just three sacks in three seasons and was an excellent run-blocker as well. I mean, you have to be at Michigan. Yet he wasn't able to unseat Evan Brown as the starter, despite Brown's precipitous drop in play in midseason. I believe he'll be outstanding this year, but free agent (and Washington Husky) Nick Harris is ready to star in his return to the PNW.

Quarterback Geno Smith

Surprise! Yes, I'm citing Smith as one of the five players who has to step up his game for the Seahawks to get some meaningful time in the postseason. Meaningful, as in wins. I am definitely not part of the bizarre ABG cult among the 12s. You know, the "Anyone But Geno" types who rant about how great Drew Lock would be. This group is incapable of acknowledging that Smith set league records with his last-minute heroics. Somehow, Smith was responsible for Seattle's open sieve of a run defense the past two seasons.

However, Smith has to be even better this year for the Seahawks to take than next step forward and return to prominence. I'd prefer dominance, but I'm willing to wait until next year for that. Maybe. With a truly innovative offensive coordinator like Ryan Grubb in charge and a team that will actually commit to the run, not just say they will, Smith is primed for success. If not, Sam Howell will be ready. No, he's not the guy now, but he can be.

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