You can catch Part 1 HERE. It’s about the defense. In case you couldn’t tell …
To make a long story short: I’m taking a look at which Seahawks can stand to up their games. Here’s a hint: most of them can, because they’re such a young team.
Look, what you see out of Okung and Unger is what you’re going to get. I would venture to say they’re both smack dab in the middle of their primes. In other words, they’re as good as they’re ever going to be; I wouldn’t expect either to get much better. The only question about these two – as there is with any player on this team – is: can they stay healthy?
A big question is James Carpenter. He’s in the last year of his rookie deal. As a first rounder, the Seahawks had an opportunity to lock him up for next year – at an inflated salary – but they chose to waive that right. So, here’s another CONTRACT SEASON ALERT. Love it when we get these! Especially when they’ve had somewhat disappointing careers, yet have flashed the occasional brilliance. In the case of Pancakes Carpenter, his run-blocking ability is unmatched on this roster. He’s a mountain of a man who will flatten you ten times before he hits the ground! But, he tends to whiff on pass blocking, and that’s kind of a problem. Not a HUGE problem, mind you, as Russell Wilson has escapability. But, it’s still something you’d like to see him fix. He’s also had his fair share of injuries, which is never good. Word on the street is, Carpenter is in the “best shape of his life”, so take that with the requisite grain of salt. The coaches seem to like his potential; well, it’s now his fourth year, so it’s time to either see him reach that potential, or see him walk to another team at season’s end. We do have plenty of depth behind him, so it’s not like we NEED him to produce. It would just be nice, because he’s definitely a boost to our rushing attack.
J.R. Sweezy is another guy who the fans seem to have on the hot-seat, while the coaches seem to love his grit and whatnot. I’ve heard plenty of positive remarks from Tom Cable about Sweezy taking a big step forward this year (his third season), so let’s hope that’s the case. He’s another guy who tends to whiff on pass protection. If we can keep our interior line from being a fucking sieve, maybe we can keep Russell Wilson upright for another season.
The biggest battle in Training Camp and the pre-season is at right tackle. We’ve got one-year veteran Michael Bowie going up against rookie Justin Britt. I would expect Bowie to improve leaps and bounds over his rookie season, now that he’s had the experience of real game play, topped with the comfort level of this being his second camp in the NFL. If Britt wins the job, you can chalk that up to him having a higher pedigree. Either way, I would expect the position of “Right Tackle” to have the potential for improvement over last year’s starter, Breno Giacomini (who was good, to be fair, but far from great).
There’s also a number of younger guys who are battling for those all-important backup spots. Guards include: Jared Smith, Greg Van Roten, and Stephen Schilling (among others). Tackles include: Caylin Hauptmann, Alvin Bailey, and Garry Gilliam (among others). All of those listed I’ve seen on various mock-ups of possible 53-man rosters going into the regular season. All of those listed will be fighting for, like, 3-4 spots, so figure it will be a tough battle.
Wide Receiver & Tight End
Percy Harvin is Percy Harvin. When healthy, he’s one of the most dynamic players in the NFL. No reason to expect improved play out of him; but there IS reason to expect improved performance out of our offense with him on the field.
Doug Baldwin & Jermaine Kearse are a couple of holdovers who are still young. It’s hard for me to expect Baldwin to get any better than he already is, but it looks like he’s entering an era where his role expands beyond simply being the team’s slot receiver. With Golden Tate’s departure, it looks like Baldwin is the next man up to be the guy on the outside. His improvement will be dictated on how much better he gets at going after the deep ball in tight coverage. He’s been pretty good at that thus far, but that’s certainly one aspect that could stand to get better. Kearse, on the other hand, has a chance to really break out. He’s steadily improved year by year: first, as a special teams guy, and last year as sort of a third or fourth receiver option. After Sidney Rice went down with injury, Kearse saw much more playing time, and continued to get better (culminating with his 4th & 7 TD catch against the 49ers in the NFC Championship game, and his monster touchdown catch & run against the Broncos in the Super Bowl where he broke about a million tackles). With Rice continuing to come back from his injury, Kearse figures to be the other receiver on the outside, opposite Baldwin. If he can become a dependable receiver on that side, it would really help open things up for this passing game.
The Seahawks have a couple highly-touted rookies in Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood who figure to make the team if healthy. Richardson’s small frame scares me, as he strikes me as a guy who is going to be in and out of the doctor’s office quite frequently. Norwood looks to be a dependable guy as far as catching the ball and being a last-ditch outlet for the quarterback, but it’s hard to expect either of these guys to do all that much as rookies. It’s just difficult for rookie wide receivers to grasp the NFL game right off the bat.
Ricardo Lockette returns for another chance. He’s great on special teams, which will help his cause, but he’s been less dynamic on offense as a receiver. It’ll be interesting to see if he has what it takes to crack the roster in this, his fourth season. Lots of younger guys behind him who are hungry to catch on with a team.
As for the tight ends, I’d say Zach Miller is probably entering his decline phase. With his contract set to expire after this season, I’d say that’s not the worst thing in the world. Expect Luke Willson – last year’s most impactful rookie – to improve leaps and bounds, as he heads into 2015 as the likely #1 tight end on this roster. Anthony McCoy is returning from a season-ending injury and is as good as he’ll ever be: a blocking tight end with surprisingly good hands.
Marshawn Lynch is nearing the end of his prime. Running backs tend to fall off a cliff pretty quickly, so let’s hope that doesn’t happen this season. Robert Turbin is entering his third season as the team’s backup, so he’s young and theoretically has room to grow. But, I just don’t see it. I think he’s a career backup, albeit a pretty good one.
The only running back I really expect to see a large amount of improvement in is Christine Michael. That is, if the team gives him a chance to show what he’s got. I get the feeling that Michael either isn’t that hard of a worker, or he isn’t really a team player. What that comes down to, in my mind, is that he doesn’t handle the blitz pickup very well. His natural talents should supercede all of that, but how do you get him on the field when Beastmode is still the heart & soul of the team, and when Turbin is more willing and able to do the dirty work in pass protection? I don’t want to diminish the running back’s role in pass protection, but it seems to me Michael brings another dynamic element to this offense (a la Harvin and potentially Richardson) that you shouldn’t simply bury on the inactive list every week (like we did most of last year). I guess we’ll see.
And it all comes down to this. Russell Wilson, in his third year in the NFL. In his first two years, Wilson has broken nearly every record for quarterbacks in their second year (passing yards, touchdowns, passer rating, wins, wins at home, wins in the playoffs), he’s started every game, and he’s brought us a championship. He’s passed every test, overcome every obstacle, and seemingly gotten better with every game. He’s the hardest worker on the team, and probably ranks pretty high on the “hardest worker in the NFL” list.
And yet, the same old arguments against him dog his career. He’s still too short. He gives up on plays in order to scramble too often. He has trouble finding the open receiver. He’s not elite. He doesn’t rank in the top ten of quarterbacks in the NFL today.
To that, I would say: what would his game look like if his offensive line wasn’t always injured, forcing him to run for his life more often than not?
I would also say: what if he played in a division and a conference that didn’t have so many fucking amazing defenses? It’s pretty easy for someone like Tom Brady to look good when he’s going up against the pigeons of the AFC and AFC East in particular. Ditto Aaron Rodgers, as he plays the Bears, Lions, and Vikings six times a year.
Can Russell Wilson get better? Absolutely. It’s hard to peg a quarterback’s prime until he’s been in the league four or five years. Considering Wilson’s numbers and all that he’s done to help turn this team into a bona fide wrecking machine, that has to be pretty scary for the rest of the NFL.
In fact, I’ll venture a prediction that Russell Wilson takes the biggest step forward of anyone on this team in 2014. Look for him to shake off the doubters once again, as he leads this team back to a division title and, ultimately, a repeat championship. Can this team – with all the pressure, with the talent level of their divisional opponents, with all the media attention and hype, with all the non-stop talking they’ve done – repeat as champions? Of fucking course they can! Because, 2014 is the year Russell Wilson vaults himself permanently into the Top 7 or 8 quarterbacks in the game today.
I’d say Top 5, but I’m no dummy. I know this team is still a run-first enterprise. But, given the weapons around Wilson in the passing game (in spite of Tate now playing for the Lions), I would expect even better numbers with a similar number of pass attempts.
Get excited, Seahawks fans. You root on the best team in the NFL and one of the youngest. They’re already great, and most of them can only get better from here.