Simple question: Are the Seahawks better than they were eight months ago?
Since the end of the 2019 season, when Seattle lost in the second round of the playoffs to the Packers in Green Bay, has this squad improved?
It’s not an easy question to answer given some of the acquisitions and losses that have transpired in the offseason. But it’s a compelling query, as Seattle is on the cusp of beginning the 2020 slate.
“We’re dying to see where we are,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Friday.
So is the rest of this town, because it’s difficult to tell.
At quarterback, they are obviously just as good as they were last year with a healthy Russell Wilson. And spectacular as No. 3 was at times last season — particularly in the fourth quarter — there is plenty of room for improvement in 2020.
After Week 9 last year, he truly was the NFL MVP, having racked up eight games with a QB rating of 100 or better. But he only posted one such game the rest of the season. Crazy as it might seem, Wilson could actually be much better this year.
In the backfield, Chris Carson returns as the lead running back after sustaining a hip injury at the end of last season. We don’t know if there will be lingering effects, but there has been little indication that there will be. And with an injured Rashaad Penny being momentarily replaced by Carlos Hyde, whose 1,070 rushing yards last season marked the most of his six-year career, the run-first Seahawks may be as dynamic as they have been in years.
Assuming anyone can block for them.
Four-time Pro Bowler Duane Brown is one of the Seahawks’ best acquisitions of the past five years, but he is 35. Left guard Mike Iupati played well for the Seahawks last year, but is 33. Justin Britt and Joey Hunt are gone at center, with Ethan Pocic expecting to get the starting nod there. Guard D.J. Fluker and tackle Germain Ifedi have left the right side, likely to be replaced by Damien Lewis and Brandon Shell, respectively.
Is this group as talented as last year? Probably. But could there be problems on the continuity front, given that they haven’t had as much time to jell due to the coronavirus wiping out many offseason workouts? Yes. I wouldn’t be surprised if the O-line declines … even if it’s just a touch.
As far as the pass catchers go, expect an upgrade. For two reasons. The first is the acquisition of three-time Pro Bowler Greg Olsen at tight end. The second is what’s expected to be a breakout season for sophomore receiver DK Metcalf, who stunned onlookers with his athleticism last year. Throw in No. 1 receiver Tyler Lockett coming off the most productive season of his career, and Russ has more cooking utensils than ever before.
Defense is where things become a bit more questionable — particularly on the line. The premier pass rusher, frankly, isn’t here. And Seattle lost its most impactful defensive player from last year when DE Jadeveon Clowney signed with the Titans. Yes, the addition of Bruce Irvin, who had a career-high 8.5 sacks last year, helps, but for a team that was tied for 29th in sacks in 2019, he isn’t a solution.
How about the linebacking corps? Well, Bobby Wagner is the best LB in football, and he returns at age 30. And 31-year-old K.J. Wright is coming off one of the better years of his Pro Bowl career. Some may have thought the cliff might be approaching for Wright, who missed 11 games due to injury in 2018. Didn’t happen, though. Seattle still has one of the best linebacking groups in the league.
And finally, there’s the secondary. It’s hard to think they aren’t better there with the addition of Jamal Adams, who is perhaps the best safety in the league, and cornerback Quinton Dunbar. They’ll join the likes of corners Shaquill Griffin and Tre Flowers, along with Quandre Diggs and Marquise Blair, the latter of whom shined in his rookie season last year. Hard to think he won’t improve.
So what does this all mean? Quarterback is the same, receivers and running backs are likely better, and the O-line took a slight drop. Struggling D-line got even worse, linebackers are still among the best, and the back end has improved drastically.
I don’t know if the Seahawks will improve on their 11-5 record last year, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t improved. A good chunk of those wins came due to fourth-quarter heroics that simply can’t be expected year in and year out.
But the question wasn’t whether they’d have a better record. The question was just “Are they better than they were eight months ago?”
And based on the personnel, I gotta go with yes.