We have returned with another FY 2016 NFL team preview! Not a fan of Seattle’s bright colors? Jump to Arizona; Atlanta; Baltimore; Buffalo; Carolina; Chicago; Cincinnati; Cleveland; Dallas; Denver; Detroit; Green Bay; Houston; Indianapolis; Jacksonville; Kansas City; Los Angeles; Miami; Minnesota; New England; New Orleans; New York Giants; New York Jets; Oakland; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; San Diego; San Francisco.
Where They’re Coming From
A fourth-straight season of advancing to at least the Divisional Playoffs.
That sounds good, but I guess 2015’s Divisional Playoff exit was actually a disappointment, considering the Seahawks made the Super Bowl the previous two seasons.
After starting the season 2-4 and surrendering just under 29 points per game in the losses, it appeared the Seahawk train was finally going to derail. However, their defense regained its championship form and Russell Wilson got the offense rolling; “DangeRuss” led the Hawks to 32 PPG game over the final eight games. The turnaround allowed Seattle to win eight of its last ten and clinch a playoff berth.
Then they beat the Vikings in the Wild Card round (er, they won anyway; the Vikings actually beat the Vikings) before a first-half debacle against the Panthers sent them home for good.
Where They’re Going
Trying to remain contenders while replacing key pieces.
The Seahawks have drafted very successfully over the last six years. As is the case in any league that employs a hard cap, eventually you can’t afford all of your homegrown talent.
In 2016, Seattle will be faced with the tough task of replacing a couple of their key pieces (see below), and they’ll be doing so with more players they have groomed themselves, for the most part.
If the Seahawks want to remain competitive, the new starters will have to make their presence felt immediately.
Key Offseason Moves
Additions: OL Germain Ifedi (drafted), DT Tony McDaniel, OT Bradley Sowell
Losses: RB Marshawn Lynch, LT Russell Okung, LB Bruce Irvin, DT Brandon Mebane
What to Watch For
The offensive line.
The 2015 Seahawks rushed for almost 500 fewer yards than the 2014 edition and Russell Wilson was sacked 46 times (tied for sixth-most in NFL). That number would have been higher if Wilson wasn’t so mobile. There is no single figure that can accurately describe how difficult it was for the quarterback to operate under center.
Standing only 5’11”, Wilson was not able to efficiently work the quick passing game because the towers on the o-line were constantly being pushed back into his face.
Entering 2016, Seattle will have three new starters along their offensive line, including Bradley Sowell in place of Russell Okung. These new faces will be relied upon to provide Wilson with some needed protection and open up holes for the new backfield tandem of Thomas Rawls and Christine Michael.
The Seahawks are hoping Wilson doesn’t have to be Mr. Everything for the team, like he was in the second-half of 2015. If the offensive line doesn’t take a few steps forward, though, he will.
Who to Watch For
Tyler Lockett, WR
The Seahawks struck gold in the third-round of the 2015 draft when they selected Tyler Lockett from Kansas State.
In his rookie campaign, Lockett was a First-Team All-Pro as a return specialist. But he proved to be more than a great special teamer, catching 51 passes for 664 yards and six touchdowns. That doesn’t sound great for a 16-game season, but 404 of those yards and five of his touchdowns came in the last seven games as he became a bigger and bigger part of the offense.
Lockett is an extremely explosive player and provided the Seattle offense with the piece they were missing in the first half of 2015. He’ll be a guy you won’t be able to miss in 2016.
What Could Go Wrong
An injury to Russell Wilson.
Since I wasn’t going to talk about the offensive line struggles again, I was left searching for what else could go wrong for this team. The fact that I had to resort to this should indicate how talented and deep this roster is at most positions. However, quarterback is not one of them.
Seattle will enter the 2016 season with Trevone Boykin, an undrafted college free agent, as their sole backup to Russell Wilson on the 53-man roster.
Wilson took his beatings last season and was lucky to escape without any major injuries. If his line doesn’t provide him with some better protection in 2016, he may not be so lucky.
If they have to turn the offense over to a rookie quarterback playing behind a shaky offensive line, it could be a disaster.
Where They’ll End Up
Back in the playoffs.
Even if the Cardinals defend their division crown, I have a really hard time naming two other teams in the NFC that could snag Wild Card spots.
The tandem of Rawls and Michael in the backfield, an underrated wide receiver corps, and Jimmy Graham as an afterthought at tight end will provide Wilson with enough weapons to put points on the board. Meanwhile, a defense led by the Legion of Boom will look to allow the fewest points in the league for the fifth-straight season.