2015 Season Preview: Seattle Seahawks

Without a doubt, one of the top franchises in the National Football League is the Seattle Seahawks. They have won the NFC Championship the last two seasons and were, of course, the World Champs in 2013. Can the Seahawks stay on top of the conference and get back to the Super Bowl? In my mind, yes! Quarterbacks Seattle is in an enviable situation with one of the better quarterbacks in the league, yet they haven’t had to pay him yet. Russell Wilson is entering the final season of his original rookie deal. It remains to be seen when a new deal will get done, but we can be sure it will happen. Seattle isn’t about to let one of the bright young stars at a team’s most important position go anywhere. Wilson and Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell work very well together, and Bevell does an outstanding job designing the gameplan around Wilson’s strengths. Wilson is very unique in that he doesn’t have good NFL size, but he is so athletic and instinctive, it doesn’t matter. Behind Wilson is journeyman Tarvaris Jackson. I have never been a big Jackson fan, but he plays well in the Seattle offense, and the coaches have confidence in him. That’s what matters. Running Back In Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks have one of the true bell cow running backs in the NFL. Lynch can control the ground game like few others, and there might not be a better short yardage back around. The only downside on Lynch is that he is going into his ninth season, and few backs have been that productive when they are in the league that long. My feeling is that Lynch is the exception to the rule and still has a few strong years left. The Seahawks have solid depth at the position. Christine Michael hasn’t had to play a lot with Lynch staying healthy but has the tools to be solid. When Seattle uses a fullback, Derrick Coleman is a very good blocker. Coleman only played five games a year ago because of a broken foot, but he is back healthy now. Wide Receiver and Tight End As successful as Seattle has been the last few years, they have done it without a true number one receiver. That could change as the Seahawks were able to obtain former Saint Jimmy Graham in a trade. Regardless of if you want to call Graham a wide out or a tight end, he is a true number one. He runs excellent routes, and because of his size and pass catching skills, he is open even when covered. His presence will make Russell a better quarterback. The two wide receivers in the Seahawks' offense will be Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse. While nether is outstanding by himself, as a duo, they work very well together. Add to that the fact that they are both young and will improve. Last year, in the Super Bowl, Chris Matthews had a breakout game, and the hope is that the game was a sign of things to come. Matthews is a big and athletic wideout who can create mismatches. The player who could make a difference in the Seattle offense is rookie Tyler Lockett. Lockett is an ideal slot receiver with very good hands and outstanding run after the catch skills. All told, the Seattle receiver corps is stronger than it has ever been since Wilson has been the quarterback. Offensive Line Seattle lost a lot when they had to give up Max Unger as part of the Jimmy Graham trade. They also lost guard/tackle James Carpenter but I don’t feel his loss will be that big. The tackles will be Russell Okung on the left side and Justin Britt on the right. When healthy, Okung is one of the better left tackles in the NFL. Like most rookies, Britt struggled at times in 2014, but with a year’s experience, he will be a much better player in 2015. The guard spots will most likely be Alvin Bailey, who started five games a year ago and J.R. Sweazy. Sweazy started to come on last year and the hope is that the arrow is still pointing up. At center will be Patrick Lewis. He takes over for Unger making the line calls. A rookie to watch is Kristjan Sokoli, the Seahawks' sixth round pick. He played defense in college but was moved to center during OTA’s. He has excellent strength and athleticism. While it will take him some time to adjust to offense, he is a guy to watch for the future. Defense In the last three years, the Seahawks have lost two defensive coordinators to head coaching jobs. This year, it was Dan Quinn who took over in Atlanta. It has been my opinion that regardless of who coordinates the Seattle defense, it has always been Pete Carroll’s defense. This year, Kris Richard takes over, but Carroll will have a big say in what the defense does. Defensive Line The core of the defensive line returns, as all four starters are back. The ends are Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, while the tackles are Tony McDaniel and Brandon Mebane. Ahtyba Rubin, Jordan Hill, and D’Anthony Smith provide the depth inside. Each of the three, when healthy, are good enough to be starters for some clubs. The backups at end are second year man Cassius Marsh, who flashed as a rookie before being injured and controversial rookie Frank Clark. There is no questioning Clark’s talent, but he has had some off field issues that have many concerned. As a group, this line is one of the better pass rushing lines in the NFL. As good as Bennett is outside, he is even better when lined up at tackle in nickel. Linebackers The group as a whole is one of the better linebacker units in the NFL. Mike linebacker Bobby Wagner is a tackling machine. Last year, he was in on 104 total tackles. Just think, there were some draftniks who thought the Seahawks drafted Wagner too high in 2012. Will linebacker K.J. Wright got a contract extension late last year and is capable of playing Mike or Will. He has top instincts and, like Wagner, is a playmaker. It took Bruce Irvin some time to adjust to playing linebacker, but he is starting to come into his own. Seattle didn’t pick up the fifth year option on his rookie contract, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to keep him. He is valuable as a pass rusher in nickel situations. The depth is strong with Mike Coyle, Kevin Pierre-Louis and Mike Morgan. Secondary The secondary took a big hit in the offseason with the loss of starting corner Byron Maxwell. They also lost safety Jeron Johnson. Seattle still has the core of the secondary back with Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, and Kam Chancellor. To replace Maxwell, Seattle signed Cary Williams, who was with the Eagles. Williams style of play may be better suited for Seattle. The third corner is Jeremy Lane, but he is coming off an injury and may not be ready for the start of the season. Because of that, the Seahawks brought back veteran Will Blackman, who should be an adequate fill-in until Lane is ready to go. Steven Terrell also figures into the equation, and he can play safety. Rookie Ryan Murphy will compete for time. Outlook Seattle lost some key players in the offseason but also gained some. Many of the media will focus on the loss of defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, but Pete Carroll will minimize that loss. This is a strong, well coached club that knows how to win. They are still relatively young, and I see them holding on to the NFC West crown. Arizona and St. Louis are stronger, but the 49ers have dropped off. Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

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