Reconfigured Seahawks believe there won’t a backward slide
SEATTLE (AP) — John Schneider and Pete Carroll continue to refer to the makeover of the Seattle Seahawks as a reset, even if it’s looked more like rebuild.
The roster that brought Seattle its first Super Bowl title was deconstructed this offseason in the most massive overhaul of the franchise since the infancy of the Schneider-Carroll partnership when they arrived in 2010. Left in the wake are some stars from that title team — Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright — and an abundance of new faces trying to prove the Seahawks aren’t taking a major step backward after missing the playoffs in 2017 for the first time in five seasons.
“I feel like there is a different energy, a different vibe,” Wagner said. “I feel like everybody is hungry, everybody has something to prove, and that brings an excitement.”
Seattle believes there won’t be a backward slide because the principles of how it wants to play have only been reinforced by the offseason moves. The Seahawks want to run the ball to control possession with running backs Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny, and some tweaks to the offensive line. They want less pressure on Wilson in the pass game and hope receiver Brandon Marshall still has something left. They want to stop the run thanks to a defense that’ll be focused even more on linebackers Wright and Wagner.
Those are principles Carroll created when he arrived and Seattle slowly shifted away from them in some aspects. The run game fell apart after Marshawn Lynch departed. Wilson was the entirety of Seattle’s offense a year ago. And a defense that was among the best just a few years ago was exposed last season as injuries decimated the once-dominant unit.
That’s partly why the likes of Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, Jimmy Graham, coordinators Darrell Bevell and Kris Richard and offensive line coach Tom Cable all were sent away in the offseason.
Seattle needed to get younger and fresher in the hopes this reset isn’t just a bridge to 2019, but with the chance of being good now.
Here’s what else to know about the 2018 Seahawks:
RETURN OF THE RUN: The addition of new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer only reinforced Carroll’s determination that Seattle had gone away too much from its offensive principles. He built the Seahawks into a powerhouse by running the ball.
So the Seahawks are going to run and they’re not being secretive about it. Even though Carson flashed early last season before suffering a season-ending injury, Seattle still spent a first-round pick on Penny as a complement. A year ago, Seattle had one rushing touchdown from someone other than Wilson. No running back rushed for more than 240 yards for the season. If that happens again, the Seahawks’ offense will be in trouble.
“We want to run the football. That’s been crucial for our success,” Carroll said. “It’s part of the whole system and how it works. It’s probably the part of our team that I’m most looking forward to.”
SAFETY PLAN: Safety Earl Thomas’ holdout cast a shadow of questions over Seattle’s training camp as to whether second-year safeties Tedric Thompson or Delano Hill are ready to be starters. Thompson is the most likely to step in immediately in Thomas’ place as a free safety, while Hill is more apt to play strong safety, meaning Bradley McDougald would move to free safety.
Whatever the mix ends up being, this is not what Seattle expected or wanted, and could make the secondary a weakness after years of being one of Seattle’s great strengths.
FIND THE RUSH: The trade of Bennett and the loss of Avril to a neck injury left Seattle with major questions on the defensive line, such as: Who can rush the passer? Frank Clark will be the primary focus after getting 22 sacks in 46 games in his first three seasons. But Seattle must find a complement to Clark. Whether it’s Barkevious Mingo, Rasheem Green, Jacob Martin or someone from the interior of the line, Seattle needs to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks to keep its revamped secondary from being exposed.
Dion Jordan was supposed to be that other pass rusher but another leg injury has sidelined the former top five pick for the entire training camp.
SHAQUEM’S DREAM: Seattle drafted linebacker Shaquem Griffin because it believed his athleticism would be beneficial on special teams and potentially as a pass rusher. He may get a bigger role right from the start.
Griffin could end up being Seattle’s starting weakside linebacker in Week 1 after Wright underwent knee surgery. It’s unclear if Wright will be healthy in time for the opener and Griffin —who had his left hand amputated as a child— has been Wright’s backup throughout the offseason and training camp.
If Griffin starts the opener it would only add to what’s been one of the most uplifting stories of the offseason after Seattle drafted him in the fifth round and reunited Shaquem with his twin brother Shaquill.
NO FAVORS: If Seattle can survive a front-loaded schedule, it could be in position for a playoff run late in the season. The Seahawks play four of their final five and five of the final seven games at home. Their only road game in the month of December is to San Francisco.
But getting to December will be a challenge. The Seahawks open with four of six on the road, including a trip across the Atlantic Ocean to face the Raiders in London. Survive that rough start, and there may be a chance for a late surge into contention.