Seahawks coach says team got off to slow start to season just like loss to Carolina, but return of core players indicates strong chance for another long run in 2016. “We’re really, really young. That’s a scary thing,’’ said Russell Wilson.
RENTON — It was a season that left Pete Carroll and the Seahawks wanting more. But it also was a season, he said when meeting the media for the final time Monday, that left him thinking more is just around the corner.
“We come out of the game with an interesting mentality,’’ Carroll said after a final team meeting with his players following a 31-24 divisional playoff loss the day before against the Carolina Panthers.
“They kind of understood this season was one where we didn’t quite capture all the opportunities that were there. We know there’s a lot of future and there’s big upside for us. … We’re very disappointed about the outcome but yet knowing we have a chance to be really good.’’
That likely will be a widely-shared opinion in 2016, because the Seahawks are set to return a core of players that would be the envy of most teams. It’s a group led by quarterback Russell Wilson, coming off a season in which he threw for a team-record 34 touchdowns; a defense that allowed the fewest points in the NFL for the fourth consecutive year and has the bulk of the key veterans under contract; and a core of young players Carroll says could make the entire roster better.
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“We’re still young,’’ Wilson said as players cleared out their lockers. “We’re really, really young. That’s a scary thing.’’
But as Carroll also said, “There are difficult decisions we have to make, and we’ll make them. And we’ll move forward in hopes of making our roster more competitive.’’
The Seahawks have a number of key unrestricted free agents, notably left tackle Russell Okung, right guard J.R. Sweezy, receiver Jermaine Kearse, defensive tackles Brandon Mebane and Ahtyba Rubin, cornerbacks Jeremy Lane and DeShawn Shead and punter Jon Ryan.
Carroll said he wouldn’t speak to the situations of any specific players other than to say, “We want to keep these guys together as much as we possibly can.’’ NFL salary-cap economics, though, mean some players won’t return.
The Seahawks also are expected to release or look to trade running back Marshawn Lynch, who turns 30 in April. They could save $6.5 million against the salary cap by moving him.
“I don’t know how that’s going to go,’’ Carroll said of Lynch. “I don’t know how any of these guys are going to go right now. I don’t know.”
Lynch was present during a time when media were allowed in the locker room but did not speak with reporters.
If Monday proved to be Lynch’s last day in the Seahawks’ locker room, it came at a time when Wilson appears as ready as ever to take over full leadership of the offense.
Wilson led the NFL in passer rating during the regular season at 110.1 and threw a career-high 48 passes in Sunday’s loss. He passed for 366 yards as the Seahawks tried to rally from an early 31-0 deficit.
Carroll said the way that Wilson and the passing game came around this season that he “couldn’t be more excited about it, really. … You always wanted to ask us, ‘What if he had to throw the ball a lot?’ Well, we had to throw it almost 50 times, and he did a great job.’’
Carroll said he had spoken to Wilson about spending significant time in the offseason together broadening his knowledge of the game.
“He and I will spend a lot of time this offseason introducing him to the perspective of what it’s like to look at the defense from the defensive side of the ball,’’ Carroll said. He said he hoped to have similar sessions with safety Earl Thomas and cornerback Richard Sherman to help them “understand schematically even more so’’ what opposing offenses are attempting to do.
They are the kind of steps Carroll hopes can prevent what led to the slow start this season. The Seahawks were 0-2 and 2-4, which ultimately relegated them to a wild-card berth and having to go on the road in the postseason.
One thing the Seahawks won’t have to worry about in 2016 is the proverbial Super Bowl hangover. Carroll said again Monday that he thinks it took the Seahawks awhile to move past the brutal ending to the Super Bowl loss to the Patriots, and when they did it was too late to catch Arizona in the NFC West.
“We struggled early, and we were really coming out of the last season,’’ Carroll said. “It didn’t go away just automatically, just like the year before didn’t either. By the time we got righted, we had taken our lumps and we’d put ourselves in a position in our division — a very difficult setting because Arizona had started so fast. So we were trying to catch up the whole time. It was very much like (Sunday). We were catching up the whole season.’’