Seattle Seahawks (Last Year: 12-4)
2015 NFL Season Preview:
TE Jimmy Graham, NT Ahtyba Rubin, CB Cary Williams.
Early Draft Picks:
DE/OLB Frank Clark, WR Tyler Lockett, OT Terry Poole, G Mark Glowinski, CB Tye Smith. Seahawks Rookie Forecast
TE Zach Miller, TE Tony Moeaki, G James Carpenter, C Max Unger, DE/OLB O’Brien Schofield, OLB Malcolm Smith, CB Byron Maxwell, S Jeron Johnson.
2015 Seattle Seahawks Offense:
The Seahawks probably would have won the Super Bowl had they given the ball to Marshawn Lynch at the 1-yard line. Instead, Russell Wilson forced a pass to a pedestrian receiver who never had a chance to catch the ball. That one play prompted the front office to make one of the most significant moves of the offseason when it traded center Max Unger to the Saints for tight end Jimmy Graham.
Graham has dealt with some injuries throughout his career, but when he’s been healthy, he has been an unstoppable force. He is perhaps the most athletic tight end in the NFL, and he’ll provide Wilson with a potent intermediate target. Despite a substandard supporting cast, Wilson has been terrific in his 3-year career – 83 total touchdowns compared to just 26 interceptions – so it’s scary to imagine what he’ll be able to do with a healthy Graham at his disposal.
The rest of Wilson’s supporting cast remains the same, as Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse are tentatively slated to start at the receiver positions. That’s not exactly ideal, considering both are mediocre at best. This could change, however, if Chris Matthews shines in training camp and the preseason games. The 6-foot-5 Matthews came out of nowhere to catch four balls for 109 yards in the Super Bowl. He showed tons of promise, so perhaps he’ll be able to develop into a reliable target. Meanwhile, third-round rookie Tyler Lockett figures to see playing time in the slot.
Acquiring Graham was huge, but re-signing Lynch was just as important. Lynch once again was an absolute beast for Seattle, rushing for 1,306 yards, catching 37 balls and scoring 17 total touchdowns in 2014. He’s well worth every penny of his 3-year, $31 million contract, and at just 29, he should have a couple more strong seasons in the tank.
The only problem regarding the rushing attack is the offensive line, which is obviously weakened by the loss of Unger. In fact, the scoring unit sputtered when Unger was out of the lineup in the middle of the season. The Seahawks didn’t exactly replace Unger; they were hoping for Ali Marpet in the second round, but the Buccaneers jumped in front of them. Consequently, Seattle may have to use someone like Lemuel Jeanpierre as the starting center, which could be disastrous. Jeanpierre struggled mightily in three starts last season.
The center spot isn’t the only area of weakness on Seattle’s front. The right side is in terrible shape, as guard J.R. Sweezy performed poorly last year, while 2014 second-rounder Justin Britt was even more woeful. Britt was considered a huge reach when the Seahawks picked him, so it wasn’t surprising to see him struggle so much. Two fourth-round selections, Terry Poole and Mark Glowinski, will compete for Britt and Sweezy’s spots, respectively.
The good news is that the left side of Seattle’s offensive line is in good shape. Guard Alvin Bailey isn’t great, but he’s an adequate starter. The best blocker is Russell Okung, who is terrific when healthy. Unfortunately, Okung has never played a full 16-game slate; he has missed 21 contests in his 5-year professional career. Having said all of that, the Seahawks can get away with a substandard front because of Wilson’s elite mobility.
2015 Seattle Seahawks Defense:
Wilson has put the Seahawks over the top, but they were already a good team because of their outstanding defense. Their stop unit limited the opposition to just 16.9 points per game last year. The unit should once again be dominant in 2015, as 10 of the 11 starters will be returning this upcoming season.
The lone exception is Byron Maxwell. The 6-foot corner has played well for the Seahawks, but they could afford to lose him, considering the other players in their otherworldly secondary. Richard Sherman is the top cornerback in football, while Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor comprise the best safety tandem by a mile. If any defensive backfield can carry a weaker second corner, it’s Seattle’s.
The replacement the Seahawks found for Maxwell was Cary Williams, who played for the Eagles last year. Williams wasn’t a bad option; rather than talent, his main issue has been his attitude, as he has refused to practice hard. Things could change for him in a locker room as strong as Seattle’s, however. If not, perhaps Jeremy Lane will see more time on the outside, though losing Lane’s ability in the slot wouldn’t be ideal.
Another prominent Seahawk who departed this offseason was former Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith. This wasn’t a big loss, however, as Smith started just a handful of contests last year. His absence will only affect depth; K.J. Wright, Bobby Wagner and Bruce Irvin will continue to form a terrific trio at linebacker. The former two are especially exceptional in all regards. Irvin, meanwhile, can get after the quarterback pretty well, but has never developed into the consistent player Seattle thought it was getting when it selected him in the first round in 2012.
Speaking of early-round selections, Seattle used its initial choice in the 2015 NFL Draft on pass-rusher Frank Clark. The Michigan product probably would have been a first-round selection had he been clean off the field. Clark slipped, but the Seahawks could greatly benefit if he develops into a forceful pass-rusher. In the meantime, the dynamic duo of Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril will return as the team’s starting defensive ends. Avril had a strong year in terms of getting after the quarterback, while Bennett was once again one of the premier defensive linemen in all of football. The Super Bowl completely changed Bennett left the game with an injury; that’s when the Patriots began their comeback, as Tom Brady no longer had tons of heat in his face.
As with Bennett, the Seahawks could have used defensive tackle Brandon Mebane in the Big Game. Mebane, an all-around skilled defensive tackle, was knocked out for the season in Week 10 with a hamstring injury. Getting him back will be huge. He’ll start next to Tony McDaniel, who should have been upgraded.
2015 Seattle Seahawks Schedule and Intangibles:
The Seahawks aren’t kidding about this whole 12th man thing. The deafening noise at Qwest Field is why they are a ridiculous 26-2 as hosts the past three seasons, including the playoffs.
Seattle has struggled on the road over the years, but that appears to have changed recently. After going 15-37 as visitors between 2007 and 2012, the Seahawks have been 12-6 away from their home stadium in the past two seasons.
Steven Hauschka has been outstanding in his first three seasons in Seattle. He went 25-of-30 in 2011, followed by 24-of-27 in 2012, and then he topped it off by drilling 33-of-35 attempts the year after. He was just 31-of-37 in 2014 (83.8%), but he could easily rebound next season.
Punter Jon Ryan does a good job of pinning the opposition inside the 20, but he was just 26th in net yardage last year.
The Seahawks struggled on special teams last season, as their opponents outgained them on both punts and kickoffs. Seattle fans will remember the ridiculous St. Louis road game as an example of this poor play.
Seattle faces an extremely taxing schedule in 2015, with 10 of its opponents being those that qualified for the playoffs last year (Packers, Lions, Bengals, Panthers, Cowboys, Cardinals twice, Steelers, Ravens).
2015 Seattle Seahawks Rookies:
Go here for the Seahawks Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.
2015 Seattle Seahawks Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
2015 Seattle Seahawks Analysis: The Seahawks are the best team in the NFC, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have their flaws. Their offensive could get Russell Wilson hurt, while their special teams may once again cost them a game or two. Despite all of this, as well as their brutal schedule, Seattle could still finish with the best record in the conference and represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
Projection: 12-4 (TBA in NFC West)
NFL Draft Team Grade: B Grade
Goals Entering the 2015 NFL Draft: The Seahawks traded their first-round pick for Jimmy Graham, so they’ll use their other picks to bolster the trenches. Upgrades are needed on both the offensive and defensive lines, and the secondary and linebacking corps need to be addressed as well.
2015 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Seattle did indeed make a concerted effort to improve the trenches by spending five of their eight selections – including three of their first four – on offensive and defensive linemen. The team wanted Ali Marpet at the end of Round 2, but the Buccaneers moved ahead of them and snatched him off the board. This forced the Seahawks into taking Frank Clark perhaps a bit prematurely. Clark has close to first-round talent, but carries some major character concerns. The Seahawks have been rewarded for taking chances on troubled players before, so Clark could work out for them as a talented pass-rusher.
Two offensive linemen were taken in the fourth round – Terry Poole, Mark Glowinski – and they were both solid choices who could make an impact this year. Some athletic pass-rushers were added late, which should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Seattle’s successful draft strategy.
The Seahawks’ other picks made sense; they obtained some help at receiver and an athletic, tall cornerback. Once again, Seahawk fans should be familiar with this sort of draft planning.
Overall, Seattle did well. Nothing really stood out as spectacular, thanks in part to there being no first-round pick, but the front office once again did a decent job of upgrading the roster.
NFL Draft Individual Grades:
63. Frank Clark, DE/OLB, Michigan: B Grade
The Seahawks decided not to pick up the fifth-year option on Bruce Irvin’s contract, so here’s his replacement. Frank Clark is another ultra-talented pass-rusher who dropped because of character issues. Clark has numerous things on is rap sheet, including domestic violence. He was clear of those charges, but Clark dealt with other issues as well. Still, the Seahawks have taken chances on troubled players before and had it pay off, so this selection could definitely help their team.
Follow @walterfootball for updates.
69. Tyler Lockett, WR, Kansas State: C+ Grade
Tyler Lockett would’ve earned the Seahawks a B+ grade if they simply took him at this spot, but they traded multiple picks to get him. I don’t know about that move, especially with several decent receivers still available, including Jaelen Strong and Rashad Greene. Lockett should be able to help Seattle’s receiving corps, but I think Seattle gave up too much to get him.
130. Terry Poole, OT, San Diego State: B Grade
Surprise, surprise, the Seahawks drafted another very athletic player. The knock on Terry Poole is his short arms, but his athleticism might make up for it. Poole, who makes sense as a fourth-rounder, could start in a year or two.
134. Mark Glowinski, G, West Virginia: B Grade
I can pretty much copy-paste what I wrote for Seattle’s previous pick, except that Mark Glowinski is a guard instead of a tackle. He’s very athletic and fits this range. He also fills a need, so this is a solid choice.
170. Tye Smith, CB, Towson: B Grade
Hold on one minute… the Seahawks just selected a tall, athletic cornerback? WOW! I like this pick for Seattle, as Tye Smith, who fits the range as a low fifth-rounder, could emerge as the team’s next sleeper corner.
209. Obum Gwacham, DE/OLB, Oregon State: B Grade
Obum Gwacham didn’t produce much as a college player at Oregon State, but his athleticism definitely intrigued the Seahawks. He could develop into a contributor as a rotational pass-rusher if Seattle’s able to coach him up. I thought he would go in this area, so this is a solid pick.
214. Kristjan Sokoli, DE, Buffalo: B Grade
This pretty much mirrors Seattle’s previous selection, though Kristjan Sokoli was even less productive at school and more athletic than Obum Gwacham. However, Sokoli was playing out of position, so the Seahawks might be able to get something out of him.
248. Ryan Murphy, S, Oregon State: B Grade
The Seahawks sure love their tall, athletic defensive backs. But the formula has worked for them all along, so why change now? Ryan Murphy has great potential and could emerge as a solid contributor sometime down the road.
The Seahawks won their second-consecutive Super Bowl – perhaps in a parallel universe in which they ran the ball at the 1-yard line. Darrell Bevell’s decision to have Russell Wilson attempt a pass into traffic was inexplicable, and the play-call cost Seattle its second title. Going forward, the Seahawks have to worry about retaining their star players all while paying Wilson the big money he deserves.
- Wide Receiver: Russell Wilson had trouble finding receivers to throw on most occasions. Doug Baldwin is a No. 2 at best, while Jermaine Kearse is just a tertiary option. Rookie Paul Richardson didn’t show much. Perhaps Seattle has something in near-Super Bowl MVP Chris Matthews, but a No. 1 receiver will have to be acquired via the first round of the draft or free agency.
- Defensive Tackle: Kevin Williams was a nice short-term solution at defensive tackle, but Seattle has to get younger and better at the position, as finding someone to push the pocket from the interior will be key. Signed Ahtyba Rubin
- Two Cornerbacks: Only one corner will be needed if Byron Maxwell is re-signed. It’ll be difficult for Seattle to keep him, however, considering the team’s other financial obligations. A second corner is needed for depth so that Tharold Simon doesn’t have to take the field again. Signed Cary Williams
- Center: The Seahawks traded Max Unger to the Saints for Jimmy Graham, so they’ll need to improve the center position.
- Guard: James Carpenter is an impending free agent, so a new guard is needed. Carpenter probably had to be upgraded anyway.
- Defensive End Depth: The Seahawks have to find another edge rusher behind Cliff Avril. They couldn’t get to Tom Brady at all once Avril left the field with a concussion in the Super Bowl.
- Tight End: Luke Willson has potential, but he was a major disappointment in the Super Bowl, failing to log a single catch despite playing almost every snap. Traded for Jimmy Graham
- Linebacker Depth: The Seahawks have some linebackers about to hit free agency, including former Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith. Depth will be needed at this spot.
- Safety Depth: Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor are awesome, but top backup Jeron Johnson will be entering free agency in March.
- Backup Center: Seattle’s offensive line struggled when Max Unger was out of the lineup. The front office has to find a better backup center.
- Backup Quarterback: Tarvaris Jackson is an impending free agent, so the Seahawks will need to re-sign him or find another No. 2 quarterback.
Follow me @walterfootball for updates.
2015 NFL Free Agent Signings:
Ahtyba Rubin, NT, Browns. Age: 29.
Signed with Seahawks (1 year)
Ahtyba Rubin was a big reason (literally) why the Browns struggled against the run in 2014. He had a shockingly dreadful season despite always being a great run-stuffer. Perhaps an ankle injury that he sustained in early October was the culprit.
Cary Williams, CB, Eagles. Age: 30.
Signed with Seahawks (3 years, $18 million)
Cary Williams wasn’t incompetent like his former teammate Bradley Fletcher, but his horrible attitude brought down the locker room a bit. Every team should be cautious when considering this poisonous player.
Seattle Seahawks Free Agents:
Salary Cap: TBA.
Byron Maxwell, CB, Seahawks. Age: 27.
Signed with Eagles (6 years, $63 million)
Byron Maxwell stepped into the starting lineup in the middle of last season and never looked back. Another tall corner (6-1), Maxwell continued to play well in 2014.
James Carpenter, G, Seahawks. Age: 26.
Signed with Jets
James Carpenter has always had problems with conditioning and injuries throughout his career. He played well early in 2014, but had some issues toward the end because of an ankle injury.
Malcolm Smith, OLB, Seahawks. Age: 26.
Signed with Raiders
Malcolm Smith was named MVP of the Super Bowl in February, but he didn’t exactly parlay his success in the big game to a strong 2014 season. Smith struggled in every regard this past year.
- Jermaine Kearse (RFA), WR, Seahawks. Age: 25. — Tendered by Seahawks (2nd round)
- Kevin Williams, DT, Seahawks. Age: 35. — Signed with Saints
- Zach Miller, TE, Seahawks. Age: 29.
- O’Brien Schofield, DE/OLB, Seahawks. Age: 28. — Signed with Falcons
- Jeron Johnson, S, Seahawks. Age: 27. — Signed with Redskins (2 years, $4 million)
- Heath Farwell, OLB/ST, Seahawks. Age: 33.
- Tony Moeaki, TE, Seahawks. Age: 28. — Signed with Falcons
- Tarvaris Jackson, QB, Seahawks. Age: 32. — Re-signed with Seahawks
- Lemuel Jeanpierre, C/G, Seahawks. Age: 28.
- Will Tukuafu, FB, Seahawks. Age: 32. — Re-signed with Seahawks
- Ricardo Lockette (RFA), WR, Seahawks. Age: 29.
- Anthony McCoy, TE, Seahawks. Age: 27. — Re-signed with Seahawks
- Deshawn Shead (RFA), S, Seahawks. Age: 27. — Re-signed with Seahawks
- Demarcus Dobbs, DE, Seahawks. Age: 27.
- Bryan Walters (RFA), WR, Seahawks. Age: 27. — Signed with Jaguars
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