Earl Thomas says he’s asked his coach, Pete Carroll, “to watch my blind spots — stuff that I can’t see yet.”
It’s part of Thomas’ never-ending quest to get better, which he sums up thusly: “I don’t even fathom my full potential. It’s crazy.”
Coming off a Super Bowl win, the Seahawks will have to be constantly alert for the blind spots that endanger NFL champions. The potential dimming of the hunger to dominate. The increase in the hunger of opponents to knock them from their perch.
The Seahawks insist they’ve got all that covered. If that’s the case, and pure talent alone is the arbiter of their success, well, they’re in prime shape for a second title run.
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In fact, the case can be made — and has been by the Seahawks throughout the exhibition season — that on paper, they are even better than last year.
That doesn’t mean they’ll win it all again, because victory and defeat in the NFL is such a fine line, and an untimely injury or two can change everything. But quarterback Russell Wilson put forward their marching orders quite succinctly: “We have to do the same thing we did last year but do it 10 times better.”
Wilson himself is indicative of the potential for even better things from this team. Yes, he’s the winningest quarterback through two years in NFL history. But the third year is just about the time a quarterback begins to get a full grasp of not only his offense, but the defenses thrown at him.
“He’ll just continue to grow,’’ Carroll said. “There is still a real ascending process, I think, for Russell.”
Wilson said he came up with a motto for this year, one which he shared with receivers during offseason workouts: “It’s not that I can’t miss; it’s that I won’t miss.”
He added, “That’s just got to be my mentality all the time. Just keep believing in every throw; keep believing in every situation.”
Wilson should also have a more dynamic offense to work with. The loss of leading receiver Golden Tate will be more than compensated for by the presence of a healthy Percy Harvin — provided, of course, he remains healthy. Few players in the league provide a bigger home-run threat, as Harvin showed in the Super Bowl.
With Harvin and second-round draft pick Paul Richardson (he of the 41.8-yard average per touchdown catch in his college career), the Seahawks have a speed element that goes well beyond last year. It’s one that opposing defenses will have to pay heed to, which should pay dividends for everyone. And if the reshaped offensive line, a trouble area for much of last year, can give Wilson more time to operate, that would be a major boost, as well.
That doesn’t mean Carroll is going to open up his passing game to become a freewheeling, razzle-dazzle offense, mind you. He is incredulous at the very thought. Carroll insists the Seahawks will be what they’ve always been: An offense predicated on the running game, specifically the bruising attack of Marshawn Lynch.
“We have no intention of changing,’’ he said. “I don’t even know why we would. I like what’s going on.”
Lynch, at 28, might qualify as a question mark, except that he’s shown few signs of the decline that his punishing style and excessive workload would indicate is just around the corner. The Seahawks are confident they’ll have at least one more year of vintage Lynch, albeit one in which they’ll begin to integrate Robert Turbin and Christine Michael.
If Lynch is still Lynch, Wilson’s words from training camp ring true: “I get excited every time I go in the huddle … I believe we’re definitely more explosive this year in terms of the talent we have on the flank.”
The defense, meanwhile, will continue to be the driving force of the Seahawks. The defections seem formidable — Red Bryant, Chris Clemons, Clinton McDonald, Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond all gone. The team might take a leadership hit, as well. That’s the salary cap at work, with the Seahawks forced to prioritize the retention of Michael Bennett, new deals for Thomas, Richard Sherman and Doug Baldwin, and a future whopper for Wilson.
But Sherman believes that the leadership void is a myth.
“Guys follow guys who make plays, and who show up on game days and make big plays in big games,’’ he said. “We have all those things, so we have tremendous leadership.”
They also have the vaunted Legion of Boom virtually intact — Byron Maxwell had already been integrated into Browner’s spot down the stretch. Meanwhile, the linebacking corps is poised to become one of the best units in the league.
The defensive line, which thrived on its depth and the ability to keep pumping in fresh bodies, would seem to be vulnerable. But the Seahawks are confident that the addition of veteran Kevin Williams, the emergence of O’Brien Schofield, and reinforcements from among Benson Mayowa, Jordan Hill and Cassius Marsh, will provide similar depth.
Mostly, though, the Seahawks still have their elite playmakers, still in their prime, sprinkled throughout the defense. All are a year older, and a year wiser. We’ll find out soon enough if success will change them for the worse, or if, as Thomas said, “We’ve been waiting for this opportunity to catch everyone’s eye, and we want to keep that attention on us.’’
Garnering attention will not be the Seahawks’ problem, of course. And despite fears to the contrary, neither will be fielding another Super Bowl-caliber team.