I see one of two things happening with this Seahawks season. Either the Seahawks rule, or the Seahawks are just okay.
There are, of course, a myriad of other options. The Seahawks could be bad, for instance! But, I feel like for that to happen, this team would have to be decimated by injuries, to the offensive line, to key skill position players, and to the quarterback. You can’t rule it out! Luck is always a factor in the NFL. The thing is, you can make that case every single year, but you’re just speculating out of thin air at that point. As with every team, depending on injuries, the floor is a number one overall pick, and the ceiling is whatever that team is capable of if it manages to stay fully healthy. For the Seahawks, I would say that range is a Top 5 pick all the way up to competing for a spot in the Super Bowl.
Last year, I had the Seahawks projected for a top 5 pick; I just assumed it would be their own and not the Broncos’. Now that we have the knowledge of what happened in 2022, combined with the moves they’ve made in 2023, I obviously believe this team is poised for greater things.
Let’s start with Geno Smith. I don’t think it’s out of line to bring his durability into question, for the simple reason that he didn’t miss a game last year. But, maybe he has the secret sauce to avoiding back-breaking hits or twisted ankles or bent-backward thumbs. Given what we discovered about his ability to play at this level, an improvement in the weapons around him, and hopefully some more-consistent O-Line play, I believe we can get his 2022 numbers as a baseline. I also think, if the O-Line is considerably better, HE can be considerably better. A little more effective on third down. Turning some of those close losses into close victories. He alone – with everyone else being the same – can add or subtract two wins from last year’s total.
Now, let’s flip over to the defense. The good news is: we can’t be any worse. If we run it back, we’re 30th against the run and considerably better against the pass, with a good chunk of sacks to keep teams honest. BUT, if we can push that run defense up to just 20th, then I think we’re in business. We should be poised for better linebacker play. We should have more interior pressure with Dre’Mont Jones. And the sky is the limit for our secondary.
Bump the run defense up to 15th? Then, we’re talking about a team that not only contends for the division, but the whole damn conference.
There are so many variables with this team, which is what makes it both fun and nerve-wracking. The defensive front seven, the offensive line, the quarterback, the rookies and second-year players. We could be entering the next great period of Seahawks dominance, or it could be yet another year of post-L.O.B. tire-spinning.
What I’m excited about is the potential. If everything goes right, our offensive tackles are masters at their craft, and the rest of the line is full of bullies shoving dudes around. If everything goes right, the pass rush pressure is coming from a variety of sources (Jones, Nwosu, Taylor, Mafe, Hall, Reed, Adams, Love, Witherspoon). If everything goes right, Jones is a monster in the backfield against the run, Jarran Reed picks up where he left off with us in 2020, Morris and Young are legitimate contributors as rookies, and Bobby Wagner is the glue that holds everything together. If everything goes right, as soon as Jamal Adams returns, he doesn’t miss another game and gets back to what he does best: wreaking havoc all around the line of scrimmage. If everything goes right, Woolen and Witherspoon are lockdown corners funnelling passes to spots where Diggs, Love, and even Brooks are able to make plays. If everything goes right, JSN catches 80 balls and converts countless third downs, while opening up Metcalf and Lockett for monster years. If everything goes right, Kenneth Walker resumes his dominance, and Charbonnet is another Rashaad Penny (minus the injuries). If everything goes right, Geno Smith throws for 4,500+ yards, 35+ touchdowns, and never misses a down.
If everything goes right, the Seahawks overtake the 49ers and earn a top two seed as the NFC East bashes itself into smithereens.
Now, you read that and you can’t help but think that’s A LOT you need to go right. But, here’s the fun part: do you need ALL of that to happen to overtake the 49ers? Or can we get some percentage of that and still get the job done? I think it’s definitely possible. It won’t be easy, but it’s never been easy with this Seahawks team, even when they were going to Super Bowls.
Taking out injuries, the worst case scenario is that the O-line is as wishy-washy as it was last year, with none of our young guys stepping up and dominating. Mafe and Hall aren’t legitimate NFL pass rushers. Adams gets hurt on his first play back (because you can’t “take out injuries” when you talk about Adams; it’s his primary flaw). Wagner and Reed are washed up. Jones suffers under the weight of constant double-teams. Diggs loses a step, Love isn’t as great as he’s cracked up to be, and Witherspoon – having lost so much of his training camp and pre-season to injuries – takes a full year to get up to NFL speed. JSN is under-utilized (or worse, poorly-utilized by way of bubble screens and whatnot), our running backs are stuffed behind a line that can’t block, and Geno Smith regresses back to his old ways of taking too many sacks and turning the ball over too much. In that scenario, we’re probably a 7-8 win team and not making the playoffs.
The baseline for this team is 7-8 wins, because there’s simply too much talent for it ALL to go tits up.
The zenith for this team is 12-13 wins, because that talent reaches its full potential.
When I think of the great Seahawks teams – as well as the great teams we’ve seen in the NFC recently – I think of savage lines. The L.O.B. had it, the 49ers, Eagles, and Cowboys have them, and usually it’s those teams you see succeeding in January. But, there’s other ways to succeed. The Seahawks need to tap into that. Tap into its secondary. Tap into an elite passing attack. Tap into a pass rush that might be criminally underrated. Kill teams with speed, rather than simply bash them with brute force. It’s that speed, I think, if administered properly, that could start a new wave of dominance in the NFL. Pete Carroll is always changing, always adapting, and always forging new ways to win. I have every reason to believe this team could be on the cutting edge. Fly to the ball on defense, and utilize a mix of run and pass on offense that most teams can only dream of. We’re not pass-wacky like the Chiefs and Bills; we’re not overly run-dependant like the Ravens and Eagles. We’re equal parts awesome, and that could very well take us a long way.
This takes us back to our schedule. If injury luck is of utmost importance in the NFL, schedule luck is a close second. The Eagles last year were fortunate to have one of the easiest schedules in the league; they cruised to a number one seed and a spot in the Super Bowl. How is our schedule shaking out?
Well, the Rams and Cardinals look to be awful, so that’s a nice 4-game start. The Lions just got done looking great against the Chiefs last night – and their fans will surely be fired up for their home opener in week 2 – but that’s not a team that’s unbeatable. The Panthers look legitimately terrible (and we’re catching them early, before they have a chance to gel behind their number one overall draft pick), and I think the Giants are ripe for regression after a similar-to-the-Seahawks unexpected run of competence in 2022. The Browns, Ravens, and Guardians are all very suspect, and I like the Titans, but they could very well be toast. That’s 11 games where the Seahawks should at the very least be in it. Add the Steelers to that list, because we don’t know if they’re going to be competent on offense.
The tough-looking games are against the 49ers, Bengals, Cowboys, and Eagles. I mean, as I see it now. Anything could happen with any of these teams. If we can go 10-2 against the beatable teams, and 2-3 against the very good teams, that’s 12-5, and that’s probably good enough for a top 2 seed in the NFC. Even if we go 8-4 against the beatable teams, but find a way to go 3-2 against the good ones, that’s an impressive 11-6. That’s a team you can take into the playoffs and probably play in a home game.
So, that’s where I’m leaning. 11-12 wins and either the 2-seed, or a very dangerous 5-seed.
What’s fun is that the Seahawks have always been interesting, dating back to Russell Wilson’s first year. But, they were less fun in his last years here. Every time, we had to talk ourselves into a wild card team that hopefully could go on a deep playoff run on the back of our superstar QB. This time, I don’t think anyone’s putting that kind of pressure on Geno, so this could be one of those rare Seahawks teams that doesn’t NEED to have home field advantage throughout to go all the way. They’re totally balanced. They can get input from a myriad of sources. And that makes us the most dangerous team of all, because you can’t focus (and stop) any one thing and expect to beat us. Cut off one head, and others will pop up in its place.
We’re the fucking Hydra of the NFL, and we’re here to infiltrate your puny democracy!