Welcome, sports fans, to the Seahawks Insider season preview. We know we’re way behind in keeping the fans filled in on the comings and goings of the team, as well as what to expect now that pre-season is over and the regular season kickoff against Miami is just 48 hours away!
Last season would be considered a success by most teams, but most teams are not these Seattle Seahawks. After posting a league best 14-2 regular season record, the ‘Hawks emphasized their dominance over top division rival Arizona with a 30-22 victory at Century Link in the Divisional round of the NFC Playoffs.
If these Seahawks had an Achille’s heal in 2015, though, it was in the form of the Green Bay Packers. The Boys in Blue lost 3 games in the entire 2015 campaign, and two of them were to the Pack. The heartbreaker, of course, was their lackluster performance in the NFC Championship game, denying them a spot in the leagues inaugural League Championship. While this loss will not soon be forgotten, to a man these Seahawks say it’s time to move on and focus on the opportunity ahead. And speaking of that opportunity, here are the important things to know as we approach the season opener.
Notable Subtractions and Replacements:
TE Jimmy Graham – The team was hoping to re-negotiate all world TE Jimmy Graham at something less than his 9 million per year rate. Those negotiations were unsuccessful, and they found no takers in the trade market for the 6’7″ phenom. As such, they parted ways with the TE and his hefty contract. The good news is that none of that contract was guaranteed, so all of his salary and bonus is now off the books. The so-so news is that Luke Willson is now the premiere TE on the roster. While he’s no Jimmy Graham, he has been a dependable target and blocker in his tenure here, so hopefully he will blossom in his new role as starter.
DE Cliff Avril – Avril is still one of the premiere defensive linemen in the league, but with age catching up with him and a contract that made him an attractive trade option, the team opted to pursue that route. The bounty came in the form of a 2017 4th round pick and 2018 6th round pick from the Chicago Bears. Rumors are the team preferred to move Michael Bennett, but the salary cap implications put a crimp on that. We are big Avril fans, of course, and hate to see him go. But sometimes that’s just the nature of this biz.
SLB Bruce Irvin – Bruce was another luxury that the Seahawks simply could not afford. Though they love his size, speed and swiss army knife skill set, his contract demands proved more than they could allot for the position. They are also very high on his heir apparent, OLB Roman Malley. While Malley doesn’t have Irvin’s physical presence or athletic freakishness, the 2nd year player does bring a similar skill set to the table, and at a significantly reduced rate. The bad news here is that Irvin signed with the Seahawks primary division rivals down in Arizona, where there just might be motivation to show the Seahawks what they lost.
Notable Veteran Additions:
WR Chris Givens – This was a huge signing, as the bidding war for this player was in danger of getting out of hand. In true Paul Allen fashion, though, once the hawks had their man in town (delivered by sea plane to the incredibly scenic Lake Washington facility) they never let him leave. Luring with guarantees above and beyond what the competition was offering, the ink was still drying on the contract before the sea plane props stopped spinning. Givens was highly sought after for his big play abilities but, as it turns out, the signing may have even bigger implications early on, as the Seahawks will begin the season with a few significant injuries at wideout. More on this later.
G Andy Levitre – Levitre was brought in to provide solid depth to the O-Line. He starts the season with a minor nagging injury of his own, but once healed should provide a valuable insurance policy for this “run first” team.
DE Juan Peterson – This first round pick is all about the loss of Cliff Avril. Peterson was viewed by many as the top DE in the draft, and the fact the he fell so far in the first was a cause for celebration by the front office. Peterson likely would have been the pick even if Avril were still here. While it would be nice to let him learn behind the veteran leader, the expectations are that he will start and contribute right away. Pre-season performance indicates he’ll do just fine.
G Willard Watkins – Watkins was drafted in the 2nd round with the hopes of starting, but it appears it will take him a year to learn the ropes. Still, he should be available as depth should the need arise, and the coaching staff would have no hesitation in turning to him if that were the case.
DT Troy Williams – The pleasant surprise of training camp. Of course, you always hope your 3rd rounder will be a quality player, but Williams absolutely raised eybrows in the pre-season with his occassional dominance. Williams is unique at the DT position, as he’s long and lean, stretching his 300 pound frame to a full 6’8″. That can cause leverage issue in the pros, but it can also be a nightmare for opposing QB’s when looking for windows to throw the ball through. We expect Williams will see plenty of snaps coming off the bench this season as he develops.
RB Riley Williams – A special teams phenom that just happens to have a well rounded running back skill set. With Lynch and Rawls set at #1 and #2 on the depth chart, he’s unlikey to see a lot of action at RB, but he certainly shows promise there and may just turn some heads if he does get the opportunity.
The rest of the rookies are essentially filler, but we’ll keep our eye on them as they progress and note anyone jumping out of their expected box.
The Seahawks suffered a number of significant injuries to the receiving corp in the preseason, notably to Tyler Lockett and Paul Richardson. While Lockett should be able to play, they’ll likely ramp him up slowly. Richardson will be out for a few weeks, which makes the Givens signing that much more notable, as he’ll likely enter the season as the #1 reciever. Still, this is a run first team, and the Seahawks probably have the best stable of RB’s from 1-3 on the depth chart in the entire league. It’s quite the luxury to bring a back like Rawls off the bench to spell the Beast that is Marshawn Lynch. And with Riley Williams showing such promise, we dare say an injury to either of the aforementioned wouldn’t be catastrophic. This will also be QB Russell Wilson’s 5th year at the helm, and he’s quickly developed into one of the premiere QB’s in the league. A dual threat with his legs and his arm, this offense is now one that will give opposing Defensive Coordinators sleepless nights galore.
Pair that with a defense that is sure to be one of the best in the league, and the recipe and expectations are much the same as last year. This team is loaded and now has a chip on the shoulder, what with the failure to achieve the lofty expectations of last season. Arizona looks to again be the rival of note in the division, and it will likely come down to the wire before we crown a division champ this year. We expect the Seahawks will be that champion. In the NFC, Green Bay again looms large, and this team would like nothing more than a shot at the Pack come playoff time. The one big danger this season is that there is Russell Wilson, and then a steep cliff. The season may well hinge on the health of their star QB but, really, is there a contender out there that can’t say the same? If all goes well in that regard, these Seahawks may well hoist the championship trophy at seasons end.