Russell Wilson's value hardly needs restating. So who are the Seahawks who will be most vital to success the rest of the way for Seattle?
The Seahawks get back to work this week, hosting Atlanta Sunday in the first of 12 games in 12 weeks to finish the regular season.
Here’s a look at five players not named Russell Wilson who will be key for Seattle successfully navigating that run (Wilson’s value seems so obvious as to hardly need restating).
TE JIMMY GRAHAM
The last two games Graham has indeed been the game-breaker and difference-maker the Seahawks hoped for when they traded for him in March 2015, with 12 catches for 213 yards and a touchdown. And his emergence came at a most opportune time with Wilson hobbling and the Seahawks having to depend on more of a pocket passing game. After Graham had six catches for 113 yards against the Jets last week, Andy Benoit of Sports Illustrated wrote: “Jimmy Graham was dominant in Week 4—and from an array of different positions. That’s what we’ve been waiting to see. If it continues, this offense could be lethal.’’ Oh how the narrative has quickly changed from the days when everyone wondered if the Seahawks even knew Graham was part of the team. It’s probably not realistic to expect the output of the past two weeks to continue (that pace would see him catch more than 90 passes for more than 1,600 yards). But the Seahawks will need Graham to keep contributing significantly, especially as Wilson and the running game continue to get back to health.
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CB DESHAWN SHEAD
None of the four teams Seattle has played so far ranks in the top half of the NFL in passing offense with the 49ers at 31st and the Rams at 30th. But the tests will get more difficult now, led by the Falcons, who are first in the NFL in passing offense at 333 per game, and then second-ranked New Orleans (304) in two weeks. Shead has been an early-season standout but opponents will surely look his way as much as they can, and some of the opponents coming up will have a better history of spreading the ball all over the field than have some of the teams Seattle has played already.
RB CHRISTINE MICHAEL
With Thomas Rawls out for a few more weeks, the running back load will continue to fall on Michael. He has been a revelation so far, and at this point you can pretty much just assume a certain level of production from him. Still, the running game remains the one big question mark about this team — after the games of Sunday, Seattle is 30th in the NFL in yards per carry at 3.3 per attempt. And while Wilson’s health and the offensive line’s continuing development are also two key parts of that, the Seahawks will also need Michael to continue to play as has — and stay healthy in the process. Michael is on pace for 1,160 yards, averaging 4.6 per carry — one yard less per carry than Rawls did last season.
DE FRANK CLARK
Starting strongside linebacker Mike Morgan will be out at least eight weeks after being placed on Injured Reserve to have sports hernia surgery. But it’s worth remembering that Morgan only plays in the base defense, which Seattle has been in only about 32 percent of the time this season. The Seahawks may be in base even less and the nickel even more against some of the teams they are playing the next month or so. So while that might mean an even bigger role for nickel back Jeremy Lane it’ll also put more of a premium for the Seahawks to get production from the linemen in their nickel package, such as Clark. Clark had three sacks the first two weeks but none the last two.
WR TYLER LOCKETT
After playing 62 snaps in the season opener against Miami, Lockett has been held to just 64 since — and only 14 against the Jets — after suffering a sprained knee in the second game against the Rams. He has continued to play through the injury but has not handled kickoff returns and as noted, has seen his snap counts decline significantly. Paul Richardson has been the prime beneficiary of added snaps with Lockett limited, playing 45, 27 and 39 the last three weeks. But while Richardson has contributed some — he has four catches for 62 yards on seven targets in the last three games — there’s a reason there was so much excitement about Lockett entering his second season in the NFL. Getting Lockett back to full health and contributing the way he did the first two games — seven catches for 116 yards compared to one for 13 since — will add that much more to the offense.