Seahawks have plenty of reasons to be optimistic, provided offensive line does its job
Three reasons for optimism
1. Russell Wilson is healthy
As weary as Seahawks fans might have grown hearing about Wilson’s injuries last season, the reality is that everything changed in 2016 when he suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 1 against Miami and then two more injuries (knee, pectoral muscle) by the time the first half of the season had ended. Wilson now is healthy and a little lighter and if he can again run the way he did in 2012-15 — and stay upright — the Seattle offense should perform more like it did during those four seasons, as well.
2. Earl Thomas is healthy
If there was any reason to question how valuable Thomas was to the Seahawks, the answer came last season when he missed games for the first time in his career. Thomas missed the final four regular-season games and both playoff games after suffering a broken tibia. The Seattle defense fell apart without him, allowing 34 or more points three times after having not allowed 25 in any of the 11 games he played. But Thomas is healthy and looked like his old self in the preseason. At 28, he is in the middle of his best years.
3. The defense is still filled with potential Hall of Famers in their prime
It might be easy to forget that the defense was playing about the same level as always before injuries crept in. The Seahawks led the NFL in total defense four of the first six weeks last season and despite what happened at the end of the season, they finished the year allowing an NFL-low 3.4 yards per rushing attempt. The Seahawks aren’t the fresh, young faces they were when they won the Super Bowl after the 2013 season, but they are hardly over the hill, and the Seahawks appear eager to prove they haven’t lost a step despite the unsettling end to last season.
Three reasons to be worried
1. The offensive line remains unproven
So maybe the one thing we know about this season is that the offensive line can’t be worse than it was in 2016 when many regarded it as being as bad as any in the NFL. But how much better it can be remains in question, especially after a season-ending injury to projected starting left tackle George Fant in the second exhibition game. That has the Seahawks likely going with second-year player Rees Odhiambo — who had just 33 regular-season snaps last season — as the starting left tackle to start the season. Seattle also is counting on improvement from second-year right tackle Germain Ifedi and banking on free agent signee Luke Joeckel securing the left guard spot. Some of the preseason performances were promising, but the jury remains out — way out — until the Seahawks do it in the regular season.
2. Every running back has a question to answer
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The key to an offensive revival for the Seahawks this season is to get the running game to look more like it did from 2012-15 — when Seattle rushed for at least 136.8 yards or more per game — than last season when the Seahawks were 25th in the NFL at 99.4 per game. Wilson’s return to health and better offensive line play would help markedly. But Seattle is also counting on more consistent performances from its running backs. All, though, have some sort of question mark: Eddie Lacy is in a new system and is coming off a season-ending ankle injury last October; Thomas Rawls has had significant injuries each of his first two seasons and has played in only 22 of a possible 36 games; C.J. Prosise also has had a slew of injuries and played just six games last season; and rookie Chris Carson remains unproven on the big stage despite impressive play in the preseason. The Seahawks are hoping that, at the least, there will be strength in numbers.
3. Will the young players come through on defense?
While the Seahawks’ ability under Pete Carroll to build an all-time-great defense can’t be questioned, it’s fair to note that Seattle has added only one real impact player on that side of the ball since 2012: defensive lineman Frank Clark. The rest of the standouts remain players taken during the likely-to-never-be-topped drafts of 2010-11-12. But the Seahawks have spent some heavy draft capital on defense the past two years and are hoping to get a breakthrough season from lineman Jarran Reed (2016 draft) and some contribution from some of the six defensive players taken in the first six rounds in 2017 — all among the team’s first eight picks — notably lineman Nazair Jones and cornerback Shaquill Griffin. The Seahawks suffered a blow when the first choice in 2017, lineman Malik McDowell, suffered injuries in an ATV accident and has yet to practice. While the vets remain at the top of their game, Seattle will need some of the young players to emerge to make a legit Super Bowl run.