2018 Seattle Seahawks report card: A season of surprises
Season comes to an end
Seattle's season ended earlier than the team had hoped but the Seahawks, who went 10-6 during the regular season before losing 24-22 at Dallas in the NFL playoffs, also went further than many had expected.
Their surprising run to the playoffs was made possible by some unexpected performances in areas believed to be weaknesses before the season began.
Here is a final report card for the season along with notes on what the team needs moving forward at each position in order to make a deeper run in the playoffs next season.
A = Elite; B = High quality; C = Solid; D = Below average; F = Needs overhaul.
Russell Wilson, once again, was fantastic. He posted career-highs in touchdown passes (35), touchdown percentage (8.2) and passer rating (110.9) while setting a career-low in interceptions (seven). His completion percentage of 65.6 is the second highest of his career.
He also excelled as a leader on a team that saw the departure of several key players from the Super Bowl years. Wilson's belief in this young squad even in the face of failure certainly helped propel Seattle into the playoffs.
He receives a minus attached to an "A" only because he threw two inexplicable interceptions that went back the other way for touchdowns in winnable games that became losses at Chicago (24-17) and home against the Los Angeles Chargers (25-17).
But hey, nobody is perfect.
Looking ahead: This position, assuming backup Brent Hundley returns, is rock solid.
Running back: C-plus
Nobody saw Chris Carson coming? Well, other than Seattle coach Pete Carroll.
The second-year back overcome a fractured leg in 2017 to finish fifth in the NFL in rushing at 1,151 yards and had nine touchdowns. Not bad for a former seventh-round pick. Carson runs with power and tenacity, which helped him average 4.7 yards per carry.
Seattle had strong depth behind Carson with Mike Davis (514 yards, 34 receptions) and rookie Rashaad Penny (419). The only real knock against this group is that it lacked a home run hitter. Penny is the only one with true breakaway speed and he underachieved.
This unit did well but the star power is lacking.
Looking ahead: The hope for next season has to be that Penny becomes more of a factor by adding throughout the season.
Wide receiver: B-minus
This was a fascinating season for Seattle's wide receivers.
Brandon Marshall didn't pan out. Doug Baldwin battled injuries. David Moore emerged for a bit but then faded. Jaron Brown scored five touchdowns but caught just 19 passes. Then there was Tyler Lockett, who emerged as a legitimate No. 1 receiver with 57 receptions for 965 yards and 10 touchdowns.
It's tough to knock a group that helped Wilson compile a 110.9 passer rating, but with Baldwin struggling to reach 618 yards and five touchdowns, this crew didn't quite reach its potential.
Looking ahead: Seattle could benefit from drafting a young, big-play receiver to help bolster this group with Baldwin entering the final year of his contract.
Tight end: C-minus
The season began on a sour note with veteran acquisition Ed Dickson landing on the PUP list and not playing until game seven. Prior to his return, Seattle lost promising rookie Will Dissly for the season after he injured his patella tendon at Arizona. In four games he had 14 receptions for 156 yards and two touchdowns.
“Will was terrific starting his season off,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “We missed the heck out of him, but he’s coming back.”
A combination of Dickson, Dissly and Nick Vannett would have made for quite the trio. But that never materialized. Still, this turned out to be a solid group that blocked well, had success in the passing game and only lacked explosive big play potential.
Looking ahead: Dickson, who has two years remaining on his contract, will likely return as the starter in 2019 but Dissly is the future. This position appears to be set.
Offensive line: B-minus
Without one 2018 Pro Bowl performer, the Seahawks went from having one of the most maligned offensive lines in the league in 2017 to leading the NFL rushing in 2018.
Proven LT Duane Brown and center Justin Britt were the best of the group. The big surprises were right tackle Germain Ifedi, a first-rounder in 2016, and free agent guards, D.J. Fluker and J.R. Sweezy.
Offensive line coach Mike Solari molded that group into one of the most productive in the NFL by getting them to play well together.
The depth of Ethan Pocic, George Fant and Jordan Simmons, lost for the season late, proved impactful, as well.
Looking ahead: Seattle must figure what to do with Fluker and Sweezy, both free agents. Chances are that the Seahawks will sign one of them and then either sign another free agent guard or draft a lineman.
Defensive line: B
Defensive end Frank Clark, 14 sacks (sixth in the NFL), has become an elite pass rusher and the free agent is about to land a huge payday. But we already knew he could ball based on his combined 19 sacks the previous two seasons.
The big surprise was defensive tackle Jarran Reed, who had 10 1/2 sacks (tied for 17th). Clark and Reed proved to be one of the best sack-producing combos in the NFL.
Defensive end Quinton Richardson, in his third season, did an adequate job replacing Michael Bennett. Rookie DE Rasheem Green had some moments. Rookie defensive tackle Poona Ford showed promise and veteran Shamar Stephen also held it down in the middle.
The emergence of Reed rivals that of Carson's emergence on the offensive side. If Reed continues to flirt with double-digit sacks on an annual basis the Seahawks are set inside for the foreseeable future.
Looking ahead: Imagine Seattle's defense with one more strong pass rusher. Scary. Green might be the answer. If not, Seattle should look to acquire one more piece to help take this unit to the next level.
Defensive backs: C-plus
The secondary had a solid season but there is no denying that the loss of safety Earl Thomas hurt. He had three interceptions in four games before breaking his leg at Arizona and gave Seattle an elite performer in the secondary.
But even in his absence, the secondary played well. Safety Bradley McDougald provided leadership within a group of rookie cornerback Tre Flowers and cornerback Shaquill Griffin and safety Tedric Thompson, both in their second seasons.
It's no Legion of Boom, but this group certainly was above average. Still, despite a quality pass rush in front of them, the defensive backs managed to produce just 10 of the team's 12 interceptions (tied for 18th in the NFL).
Looking ahead: Improvement will come from the growth of Flowers, Griffin and Thompson. Seattle is unlikely to make a big splash here.
Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner had another great season that earned him All-Pro recognition and a trip to the Pro Bowl. He warrants an A-grade to be sure. But the madness that surrounded him drops this group's overall grade.
The team turned to former No. 6-overall pick (2013, Cleveland) Barkevious Mingo to play outside linebacker and he proved to be solid with 48 tackles and two for losses.
The team lost OLB K.J. Wright (knee) for 11 games and ended up starting Mychal Kendricks after picking him up when Cleveland released him after he had pleaded guilty to insider trading. Kendricks played well for Seattle before being suspended by the NFL and then being lost for the season in the team's Week 14 win over Minnesota.
Rookie Jacob Martin, a fifth-round pick, showed signs of being at least a good pass rusher, and Austin Calitro, previously released by four teams including Seattle, came up big with 45 tackles and five starts.
Looking ahead: Seattle must add a linebacker in the draft even if it brings back Wright, a free agent. OLB might be the team's top priority in the draft.
Special teams: B-minus
Rookie Punter Michael Dickson certainly turned out to be a gem. The Pro Bowler and All-pro punter ranked second in the NFL in punting average (48.2 yards) and sixth in net punting average (42.5).
His hang time time and strong coverage worked well with Seattle's emphasis on running the football and playing strong defense.
Kicker Sebastian Janikowski, 40, made 22 of 27 field goals and nailed three game-winners.
Led by returner Tyler Lockett, Seattle ranked 14th in kick return average (23.1) but just 30th in punt return average (5.7).
Looking ahead: Seattle should really consider finding a younger kicker after watching Janikowski pop a hamstring in the playoff loss to Dallas.