Any grade for the 2021 Seahawks’ season ultimately has to be a failing one.

In a 32-team NFL that now features a 14-team playoff, the Seahawks were on the outside looking in, officially 11th in the playoff seeding in the 16-team NFC.

Seattle’s 7-10 record was their worst since going 5-11 in 2009 and tied for the sixth-most losses out of 46 seasons the team has played.

Obviously, not every aspect of the season was a failure.

Let’s look at our annual grades for each of the Seahawks’ position groups.

Quarterback

Given the way the season went, it’s surprising how many of Russell Wilson’s conventional stats are right in line with his career numbers — his 1.5 interception rate is better than his career mark of 1.8. His yards per average of 7.8 is the same as his career number. His sack percentage of 7.6 is better than his career mark of 8.3. His TD percentage of 6.2 is right in line with his career mark of 6.3. And his completion percentage of 64.8 is right in line with his career mark of 65.0. But obviously this was an abnormal year for Wilson with the finger injury, three-game absence and then the rough return before a solid ending. The finish, though, seemed to answer a lot of the questions about whether Wilson was in decline. Geno Smith was serviceable in three games as a starter, but even before his arrest on suspicion of DUI, it was worth wondering if he’d be back for a fourth year as backup.

Grade: C

Running back

Here’s another roller coaster of a position. Chris Carson was off to a decent start before his neck injury sidelined him for the season. Alex Collins took over and had some promising moments before an abdomen injury derailed his year. Rashaad Penny got hurt in the opener, then missed five games and didn’t play regularly until December. But boy did he open eyes once he got healthy and played full time, setting a team record for a running back with an average yards per carry of 6.3.

Advertising

Penny gained 120 yards or more four times in last five games. Travis Homer was a special teams standout, but Seattle bringing in competition for the third-down back role wouldn’t be a surprise.

Grade: B

Wide receiver

Despite the rough stretches for Wilson and the offense in general, Tyler Lockett averaged a career-high 73.4 receiving yards per game. Most of DK Metcalf’s numbers were down from 2020, and as he admitted after the season, he had some moments of frustration that showed he’s still got some growing to do. But he still finished fourth in the NFL in touchdown receptions with 12. Pro Football Focus graded Lockett 14th out of 133 WRs this year and Metcalf 15th. Seattle, though, needed more out of the rest of its receiving corps, especially with the added attention given Metcalf this year. Dee Eskridge’s season was stunted by a concussion. But when he returned, his contribution wasn’t as much as hoped — he had just three catches for 17 yards in the last five games. Freddie Swain had 25 receptions and 343 yards and some really big plays. But he was hit or miss — he had a three-game stretch at midseason with no catches.

Grade: B-minus

Tight end

Gerald Everett, who had the role as the primary receiving tight end (of his 649 snaps, 377 were as a receiver), set career highs in receptions (48), yards (478) and TDs (four). He also had a few quiet stretches, as well as the bizarre three-turnover game against the 49ers. Will Dissly was used more as a blocker (of his 512 snaps, 203 came as a receiver) and had the 14th-best run blocking grade for tight ends from Pro Football Focus. Colby Parkinson showed some promise late.

Grade: B-minus

Offensive line

Always the most-scrutinized position on the team, by one objective measure, the line was worthy of criticism this year. PFF rated Seattle’s line 25th, noting, “Wilson was under pressure on 37.0% of his dropbacks this season, one of the higher marks in the league.” It was a particular struggle early as usually reliable left tackle Duane Brown allowed seven sacks in the first nine games. But he allowed just one in the final eight, which coincided with Ethan Pocic returning to take over the center spot from Kyle Fuller. Pocic finished rated 15th out of 38 centers by PFF, and 12th in run blocking. And in a stat Pete Carroll values greatly — rushing yards per carry — Seattle finished with its second-highest mark in team history at 5.02, behind only the 5.26 of the 2014 team. The play of Jake Curhan at right tackle and Phil Haynes at guard late in the season was promising. But especially in the middle part of the season, the Seahawks didn’t make the key plays when they needed — third downs were an issue all year with Seattle finishing 23rd at 37.71%.

Grade: C-minus

Defensive line

This spot is a real tale of two responsibilities — the Seahawks finished second in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per carry at 3.8, and Seattle was seventh in ESPN’s run-stop win rate ratings (Al Woods and Poona Ford had big years inside). But the pass rush was at times nonexistent and overall inconsistent. Seattle was 20th in pass-rush win rate by ESPN and tied for 22nd in sacks with 34 led by the 8.5 of Carlos Dunlap, whose lack of use at midseason was one of the biggest mysteries of the season. True, blitzing less and a less-aggressive scheme than past years played a role in the numbers and the 6.5 sacks of Darrell Taylor were promising. But Seattle needed more out of its rush.

Grade: C

Linebackers

The good? Jordyn Brooks (183) and Bobby Wagner (170) finished second and third in the NFL in tackles and played key roles in Seattle’s solid run defense numbers. The bad? Seattle for much of the season didn’t seem to know how to cover a screen pass and the middle of the field was too often way too available to opposing quarterbacks. Brooks allowed 865 passing yards, second-most of any defender in the NFL and most of any linebacker, according to Pro Football Reference, while Wagner allowed 593, second-most of any linebacker. Seattle revamped its strongside linebacking spot this year, using Benson Mayowa, Taylor, Alton Robinson and even Dunlap there, putting them more in coverage than in past years, a trade-off that at times hurt the pass rush.

Advertising

Grade: C-plus

Secondary

What a strange year for the secondary. The Seahawks misjudged their cornerback spot heading into the year, which they seemed to acknowledge with the trade of Ahkello Witherspoon, waiving of Tre Flowers and continued additions deep into camp to try to find the right answers. And that Jamal Adams went from 9.5 sacks to zero before he suffered a season-ending injury 12 games in was another of the year’s big head-scratchers. The team’s bend-but-don’t-break philosophy has to be considered when judging turnover numbers. Still, that Seattle got just three interceptions from corners was hard to fathom. But Quandre Diggs was deservedly a Pro Bowl starter and the cornerback group of D.J. Reed and Tre Brown/Sidney Jones seems like one the team can build around. Adding competition at the nickel spot seems a need, though. And Adams has to get healthy and into a more clearly defined role.

Grade: C-minus

Special teams

People tend to think of special teams as almost solely kicking, which can overlook the broader role of coverage and field position. Football Outsiders, for instance, rated Seattle’s special teams fifth-best in the NFL this year, and opponents had an average drive start of their own 26th, worst in the NFL. Punter Michael Dickson had another Pro Bowl-caliber year, downing a team record 40 punts inside the opponents’ 20. But Seattle could use more explosiveness out of its return games, especially punt returns, where there are more consistent opportunities to make things happen. And maybe it was inevitable that Jason Myers would regress some after making all 24 field goals in 2020. Myers was just 17 of 23 this year and misses against the Bears, Saints and Rams were all pivotal in games Seattle lost as was a point after touchdown against the Titans.

Grade: B-minus

Coaching

The NFL is a league driven by elite QBs and Seattle has one in Wilson — but didn’t for a key stretch when the season got away. Any judgment of offensive coordinator Shane Waldron has to come with an asterisk due to Wilson’s injury and then the weeks of adjustment to get back to full health. The last six games, though, seemed to validate that the plan can work. The defense was a mystery, allowing the second-most yards per game in team history (379) but finishing 11th in the NFL in points allowed. Carroll can argue the passive scheme worked in keeping opponents out of the end zone. But all those long drives were frustrating to watch — while keeping the offense off the field. Carroll, though, answered questions about whether the team has tuned him out with the way the team played at the end. Still, it took too long to settle on the right cornerback duo, and there were some curious decisions in some of the five games lost by three points or fewer that ultimately determined the season.

Grade: C-minus