PFT Preseason Power Rankings No. 4: Seattle Seahawks
The Seattle Seahawks were the most dominant team in the NFL over the final month of last season. They scored 50 points in consecutive weeks against Arizona and Buffalo and threw in a 42-13 beating of the division rival San Francisco 49ers for good measure. They fell 31 seconds shy of a trip to the NFC Championship game and look to take another step forward toward a second Super Bowl this fall.
Their secondary is as good as any team in football and Russell Wilson has given the Seahawks a quarterback they believe can take them to a championship. The Seahawks added some key veterans on defense to patch some minor holes and brought in Percy Harvin in a trade from Minnesota to add another dimension to an offense that hit its stride late last season.
Expectations are high in Seattle. It’s a position the franchise hasn’t been in very often. Can they deliver?
Seattle’s secondary was arguably the best in the NFL last year. Cornerback Richard Sherman and free safety Earl Thomas were both named first-team All-Pro. Cornerback Brandon Browner and strong safety Kam Chancellor were both Pro Bowl selections as well in 2011 and continued to play at a high level last season. With the addition of Antoine Winfield to play the nickel role and Walter Thurmond finally healthy after two injury-plagued seasons, they could be even better this year.
Last year, the Seahawks entered training camp with three quarterbacks vying to be the team’s starter. Russell Wilson was the long-shot, third-round rookie that was “competing” for the job but realistically didn’t appear to have a shot to start over free agent addition Matt Flynn. But Wilson proved he was the best option in training camp and won the job. He never looked back. After some early growing pains, Wilson became incredibly efficient as the Seahawks starter. He completed 67-percent of his passes with 16 touchdowns and only two interceptions over the final eight games of the regular season. He also had four rushing scores over that span. Coincidentally (or maybe not) there is no quarterback competition this year in Seattle.
The Seahawks’ receiving corps gelled together well by the end of last season with Sidney Rice, Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin all contributing to Seattle’s offensive explosion over the last half of the year. Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin provided a strong one-two punch for the Seahawks backfield as well. With the acquisition of Harvin from Minnesota and the selection of running back Christine Michael in the second round of the draft, both positions should be even more dangerous this season.
Behind starter Zach Miller – who will be the highest paid tight end in the league this season – the Seahawks have mostly unproven talent at the tight end position. Anthony McCoy tore his Achilles during OTAs and will miss the upcoming season. Seattle will need either fifth-round draft pick Luke Willson or 2012 undrafted free agent Sean McGrath to become a trustworthy second option.
It seems odd to say a team that rushed for nearly 2,600 yards as a team last season (third in the NFL) has concerns along the offensive line but it is an area of concern for the Seahawks. Both guard positions are unsettled. Right tackle Breno Giacomini was among the most penalized players in the league last season and depth at tackle behind Giacomini and left tackle Russell Okung is somewhat suspect.
The Seahawks made some sizable additions to their roster over the offseason. The trade for Percy Harvin brings a versatile weapon to add to an offense that really hit stride the second half of last season. Defensive ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett were added to try and bolster a pass rush that was inconsistent last season. Cornerback Antoine Winfield signed after nine years in Minnesota to assume the nickel cornerback role after Marcus Trufant was picked on last season.
Seattle has seen significant turnover at the defensive tackle position. Alan Branch signed with the Buffalo Bills after spending the last two years with the Seahawks and Jason Jones signed with the Detroit Lions. Seattle brought in Tony McDaniel from Miami and drafted Jordan Hill and Jesse Williams to add to their interior line depth. Linebacker Leroy Hill was also not extended an offer after being arrested again in January. Trufant also has moved on signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Backup quarterback. No, seriously. The Seahawks signed Brady Quinn and re-signed Tarvaris Jackson after he was released by the Buffalo Bills. The Seahawks will likely only carry one additional quarterback on the roster so Quinn and Jackson will have to battle for the job. Signs seem to point toward Jackson winning the job. Jackson was signed after Seattle saw Quinn in offseason workouts. Combined with his season as a starter in Seattle in 2011 and his familiarity with the team, he’s likely the favorite to win the job.
Outside linebacker will be a focus for the Seahawks as well. Seattle is converting Bruce Irvin to outside linebacker in a move that could indicate the Seahawks will have more of a 3-4 feel than previously seen. Irvin and Mike Morgan have worked as the rush linebackers in offseason workouts but Irvin was serve a four-game suspension to start the season. Meanwhile, Malcolm Smith has taken the majority of the first team work in Seattle’s more traditional base defensive looks and would appear the be the starter at that spot. How the Seahawks mix and match the groupings of players under new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn will be something to keep an eye on.
Seattle also has several options at guard. James Carpenter is expected to be ready to go after knee surgery and will battle with Paul McQuistan at left guard. On the right side, John Moffitt and J.R. Sweezy will continue their battle for the starting job. If Carpenter settles back in on the left side, McQuistan could also move to the right side adding to the logjam there.
The Seattle Seahawks enter the 2013 season with perhaps more expectations placed upon them than any season in their 37-year franchise history. They were the most dominant team in the league over the final month of last season and won their first road playoff game since 1983. A tough division slate stands in their way and road trips to Houston, Indianapolis and Atlanta will be difficult tests as well as the Seahawks attempt to dethrone the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC West. The Seahawks hope the additions of Harvin, Avril, Bennett and Winfield allow them to knock off the 49ers and take the next step toward getting back to the Super Bowl for the second time in team history.