As bad as you may have felt about the way the Seahawks’ season ended, no one appeared more devastated than coach Pete Carroll.
“The season comes to a finality that is striking,’’ he said Monday. “It’s just hard. I don’t know what to do with myself. It’s just a mess coming back because you are just cranking for the next and the next and the next.’’
But end it did, leaving Carroll, coaches, players and fans to spend the offseason sifting through what happened and wondering where the team goes from here.
The end of the season also means it’s time for our final grades for the 2019 season as a whole. So here we go.
This actually wasn’t Russell Wilson’s best season statistically — his 106.3 passer rating was the third best of his career — but it felt like it aesthetically. Week in and week out, it was hard to imagine him doing more to help the Seahawks win. One critical stat was the best of his career: 5, the number of interceptions he threw, two fewer than any other season, in a year he threw the third-most passes of his career. The last of those five was a desperation heave against the Rams (another was against the Vikings when he tried to bat a tipped pass to the ground and it instead went forward). He ended the year on a streak of 158 attempts without a pick, including the postseason.
A testament to how well Wilson played this year: One of the big controversies as the season ended was whether the Seahawks were using him enough.
Chris Carson gave definitive proof that, when healthy — and not fumbling — he is one of the best running backs in the NFL. But the Seahawks will have to consider his injuries and fumbling as they assess the position going forward. This is the second time in three years Carson has suffered a season-ending injury — as he enters the final year of his rookie contract in 2020.
Rashaad Penny showed signs of increased life before suffering an ACL injury Dec. 8, which means he might not be ready until the preseason, if then. Travis Homer showed promise, and Marshawn Lynch put a fun coda to his career — assuming this is the end.
It might not be a surprise if Seattle makes an addition or two in the offseason. Fullback Nick Bellore played just 29 offensive snaps but 267 on special teams, the third most of anyone. Still, Seattle may change or add competition to that spot, too.
We’ll always wonder what might have been this season with Will Dissly, who was on pace for one of the better years by a tight end in team history before suffering an Achilles injury in Week 6.
Jacob Hollister and Luke Willson did yeoman’s work as his replacement. But Willson likely won’t be back, same with Ed Dickson, whose tenure hasn’t gone as planned, and this feels like another position where the Seahawks could aggressively pursue a free agent or two while hoping Dissly makes a full recovery in time for Week 1.
We need two grades here — an A- for Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, who each met any realistic expectations for what they could do in their new roles in 2019 (Lockett as the No. 1 receiver stepping in for Doug Baldwin, Metcalf as an NFL rookie). But the rest was a disappointment as no other receiver had more than 17 receptions — by far the lowest for the No. 3 receiver in the Carroll era.
David Moore didn’t really progress as hoped, Jaron Brown likewise didn’t make the leap coaches talked about in the offseason and fourth-round pick Gary Jennings never even got on the field before being waived at midseason, all of which led to the ill-fated claiming of Josh Gordon (not to mention the acknowledged pursuit of Antonio Brown). Put adding a No. 3 WR on the team’s offseason to-do list.
Seattle’s line lived up to its rep for being pretty good at run blocking — FootballOutsiders ranked the Seahawks in the top 15 of each of its four main run-blocking categories — but not so good protecting the passer (ranked 24th). That’s how the weekly eye test usually made it seem, as well, until injuries took hold late in the year and the run blocking took a hit.
The bad news there is that four of the team’s main five starters in 2019 will be 29 or older next season, with the leader of the unit, left tackle Duane Brown, turning 35. Carroll wants to keep the crew together, but expect a few changes because, for the second straight year, Seattle’s OL was not at its best when the playoffs rolled around.
There was some definite good — Jadeveon Clowney’s brilliance when he was healthy, Quinton Jefferson’s consistency, Rasheem Green’s emergence. But there were also disappointments — Jarran Reed’s suspension and subsequent inability to pick up where he left off in 2018, first-round pick L.J. Collier’s almost total washout season, and prized free-agent signee Ziggy Ansah’s relative non-factor. Ansah was bothered by injuries most of the year and didn’t come close to producing like he did before coming to Seattle.
The Seahawks simply have to get better at rushing the passer (just 28 sacks this season) and deeper overall on the line to get back to the kind of defense they played from 2012-15.
K.J. Wright had a bounce-back year and seemed to assure he’ll return in 2020.
Bobby Wagner was asked to do a bit more in pass coverage this year and also battled a few nagging injuries (it’s worth remembering he sprained his ankle against Carolina on Dec. 15) but was again named first team All-Pro.
Mychal Kendricks was a dependable playmaker before being injured. Seattle valued Kendricks enough to leave him on the field in lieu of a nickel corner on all but the most extreme passing situations.
Cody Barton showed promise in place of Kendricks, who is now a free agent. It will be interesting to see if Seattle adds anyone to compete with Barton or simply upgrades the unit as a whole.
We should probably divide the grade here, too.
Give the safety tandem of Bradley McDougald and Quandre Diggs a solid B.
Diggs’ addition led to the best stretch of play by the entire defense, including a run of 16 forced turnovers in five games.
Left cornerback Shaquill Griffin was solid, if still not quite reaching the admittedly high bar of his predecessor (Griffin has three interceptions in 45 career games).
Right corner Tre Flowers took a step back in Year 2, and Seattle needs to acquire or groom a nickel corner it can confidently play at a regular rate, if needed.
Memories of the Legion of Boom secondary, though, may make it easy to think this group was more of a disaster than it was. Pro Football Focus rated Seattle’s secondary 15th this year, and Seattle’s passer rating allowed of 85.6 was the eighth-lowest in the league (lower being better, in this case).
Punter Michael Dickson was solid after a slow start, but Seattle ranked in the bottom third in the NFL in both punt and kickoff returns and may need to take some of that off Lockett’s hands permanently, if needed.
The coverage teams were generally solid, especially after a couple of early breakdowns, as young players such as Ugo Amadi and Marquise Blair became dependable gunners.
Kicker Jason Myers made all 17 field goals under 40 yards but had a couple of key PAT misses and was just 2 of 5 beyond 50 yards. His 50-yard miss at Green Bay, followed by the Packers’ driving for a late score before the half was a pretty underrated turning point of the divisional playoff loss.