Seattle Times writers give their thoughts on the keys to the Seahawks’ success in 2016.
The Seahawks will succeed if … the offensive line is at least close to league average. The offensive line looms as Seattle’s only glaring weakness in terms of an overall position group and questions will remain until the season begins and the new-look front five shows what it can do. But while the line will need some time to mature, the team’s increasing reliance on a quick passing game should help mitigate some of the growing pains, and the strength of the defense and offensive skill position players should be able to make up for the rest
The Seahawks won’t succeed if … Wilson has a down year, the running game proves to need Marshawn Lynch more than was apparent last year and the defense shows any sign of slippage. Wilson played at an MVP level the second half of last season. But he proved more vulnerable in the playoffs when opponents kept the running game in relative check. And while there’s no reason to suspect the defense to fall off, four straight years of being the best in the NFL is a lot to live up to.
The Seahawks will succeed if … the defense solves its fourth-quarter issues.
It’s unfair to be too critical of a defense that led the NFL in scoring defense for the fourth straight defense. But the Seahawks’ defense has constructed ambitious standards, and as good as that defense was for most of last season, the fact is they let up too many leads in the fourth quarter.
That can’t happen again. The Seahawks were so good in 2013 and 2014 because if they got to the fourth quarter with a lead, it felt like the game was over. It was like bringing in Mariano Rivera.
The Seahawks have to get back to that.
The Seahawks won’t succeed if … Russell Wilson doesn’t take another step forward.
This is less about his stats than about the details of the position. In particular, how he interacts and handles the offensive line.
Wilson has always toed the line between hanging on to the ball too long and making absurd plays by scrambling. It’s rarely an easy or clear answer.
But in the second half of the season, Wilson was crisp and efficient. He threw in rhythm. And the sacks and pressures decreased as a result.
If Wilson doesn’t help the offensive line with how he plays — breaking in five new starters — the Seahawks will struggle to achieve their lofty goals.
The Seahawks will succeed if … they stay healthy, establish their running game, develop their offensive line and see Russell Wilson play anywhere close to the level he did last year.
Obviously, Seattle’s defense is stacked, as it returns the core that has led the NFL in points allowed for the past four seasons. But its offense if more of a “maybe” then it is a “definitely.”
We don’t know if Thomas Rawls will be the same coming off an ankle injury that derailed his season last year. We don’t know if the offensive line can recover from the loss of Russell Okung and J.R. Sweezy. We don’t know if Wilson’s historic five-game stretch last year was a fluke or prelude to a season for the ages.
The answers to these mysteries will factor critically into the Seahawks’ season.
The expectations for Seattle is high, and justifiably so. If the Hawks pick up where they left off last year (winning eight of their final 10 games) they’ll be the team to beat in the NFC.
But the line struggling, Rawls being rusty, and Wilson reverting to the mean are all strong possibilities. And if any of those three things occur, success may be hard to come by.
The Seahawks will succeed if … they stay healthy at key positions, most tellingly quarterback. But beyond that, they need one particular player coming back from a major injury, Thomas Rawls, to return to the form that made him one of the NFL’s leading backs until his season-ending ankle injury.
For a team whose offense is predicated upon its running game, and already without stalwart Marshawn Lynch, a fully functioning Rawls would be a huge boost toward replicating the offensive success that marked the second half of last year. Of course, all eyes will be on the restructured offensive line, a trouble area at times last year and the most scrutinized unit during the preseason.
The Seahawks won’t succeed if … the line doesn’t jell and Tom Cable has to keep juggling personnel, that would be a major red flag. Minus injury, it’s hard to envision a scenario by which Seattle’s defense isn’t among the best in the league once again, despite the loss of Bruce Irvin and Brandon Mebane.