The 2013 NFL regular season is right around the corner. With that being said, it’s time to launch our team previews. FOXSports.com contributor Taylor Jones will answer important questions for every franchise.
2012 Record: 11-5. Eliminated in the divisional round by Atlanta.
What is the position battle to watch?
After trading for Percy Harvin, the Seahawks released 2012 Pro Bowl kick returner Leon Washington. No big deal. Harvin has returned at least one kickoff for a touchdown in each of his first four seasons in the NFL. But after missing the last seven games in 2012 with an ankle injury, Harvin is to miss at least the first three months of the season as he recovers from a slightly torn labrum. His return is likely sometime in December. That leaves a major void in the battle for field position. For a team that loves to run the ball and play great defense, field position becomes that much more important. While this may not seem like a sexy position battle, I promise you it is one that Pete Carroll and the rest of the coaching staff will be watching closely.
What is the team’s biggest obstacle?
Injuries and suspensions. Injuries seem to be hitting every training camp particularly hard this preseason, but the Seahawks lost their prized offseason acquisition in Harvin and are still waiting for their best defensive lineman Chris Clemons to recover from knee surgery. Bruce Irvin will serve a four-game suspension for violating the league policy against performance enhancing drugs which means Seattle could be without three key players to start the season. Irvin and Clemons had a combined 19 1/2 sacks last season, while Harvin has averaged 70 catches a season in his four-year career. That is a lot of missing productivity for a team that has a ton of expectations.
What is the team’s biggest asset?
Seattle relies on its running game more than any other team in the NFL. The Seahawks ran the ball 55 percent of the time lat season and relied on Marshawn Lynch to do the heavy lifting. Lynch had 315 carries and was still able to average five yards per carry. That is an astonishing number when you look at the two stats consecutively. Everyone Seahawks’ opponent knew they were going to run the ball, yet no one could stop them. Five yards a pop against seven- and eight-man boxes is incredible.
The Seahawks will look to continue this trend. Their first pick of the 2013 NFL Draft was brought in to help take some of the load off of Lynch. Christine Michael has proven to be more than just a change of pace back during the preseason and some reports suggest he could supplant Robert Turbin as the backup altogether. Even with Lynch averaging nearly 20 carries per game, Seattle’s backup running backs combined to carry the ball for just over 100 attempts last season. I don’t think they will want to rely on Lynch to carry the ball more than 300 times again this season, so finding a substantial No. 2 is a top priority.
The frequency in which the Seahawks run the ball also plays an important part in the team’s passing game. Besides the Redskins last year, I can’t think of a team that had a more impressive play action game than Seattle. Because defenses will put an extra man, or sometimes, two in the box, receivers have a chance to win one-on-one matchups down the field with very little help over the top. That more than anything was the biggest factor in Russell Wilson’s success last season.
Which rookie stands the best chance to succeed?
The Seahawks got two value picks at the defensive tackle position. Jordan Hill in the third round and Jesse Williams in the fifth round will each help provide a more balanced defensive front. The Seahawks were great off the edges in 2012, but struggled to get any penetration in the middle of the front. Hill and Williams will help do that on first and second down and force the offense into more third-and-long attempts in which the Seahawks can play their sub package that includes all the phenomenal pass rushers I will discuss below.
What is the team’s biggest addition/loss from the previous season?
The rich got richer with the additions of defensive ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, who both led their 2012 teams in sacks last season. Avril and Bennett bring a combined 18 1/2 sacks to the No. 1 scoring defense from a season ago. Now, this defensive line is not only ripe with talent, but it is also is one of the deepest units in the NFL. Bennett and Avril may not even become full-time starters on a defensive line that already includes Clemons and Red Bryant as the defensive ends, but all four could be on the field at once in their sub package.
The added depth will also allow the Seahawks to move Irvin to linebacker, a position that is more suited for his skinny frame. Irvin was a skilled situational pass rusher at the beginning of 2012, but as injuries forced him to play a more prominent role on all three downs, he became a liability on the edge in the running game. Now, after serving his four-game suspension, Irvin can play linebacker which will allow him to use even more of his explosive speed off the edge.