Division rival San Francisco went to the Super Bowl in 2012, but Seattle scored more points, allowed fewer and, in the process, found a likely future star to be the team’s signal caller in the process.
Russell Wilson arrived on the scene via a third round draft pick. He surprised most experts by beating out Matt Flynn for the starting job and he improved all season, earning a Pro Bowl berth and being named Pepsi Max NFL Rookie of the Year.
Heading into 2013, the team not only has the more-experienced Wilson, but also Percy Harvin to add to a mix of weapons that still includes Marshawn Lynch and Sidney Rice. So how far can this team go? Just a half-game behind the 49ers in the division standings last year, a good start alone could propel Seattle to the top of the NFC West and deep into the playoffs, says Keith Myers, editor and lead writer for 12th Man Rising.
Zoneblitz: Russell Wilson’s development happened faster than most expected. How surprised were you about his 2012 season and how good can he be going forward?
Myers: That is a very good question. His 2012 was shocking. Do you realize that by most statistical measures he was a top five quarterback last year? That just isn’t supposed to happen for rookies.
Going forward it all depends on Wilson being able to avoid the big injury. So much of what he does is dependent on his ability to make people miss, extend the play, and give his receivers a change to get open. If he loses that, he’ll lose part of what makes him great.
If he can stay healthy, he’s going to be a genuinely special player.
Zoneblitz: The Seahawks made an aggressive offer to acquire Percy Harvin. What do you think of the price the team paid and what does Harvin’s addition do to the offense?
Myers: The price was high, but we’re also talking about one of the most explosive players in the NFL. Harvin’s speed and versatility will allow the Seahawks to attack defenses in ways that they simply weren’t able to a year ago. He should also open up defenses and create space that will make Sidney Rice and Marshawn Lynch even more effective than they were in 2012.
Zoneblitz: What do you think of the Matt Flynn trade and what will the Hawks do for depth at the position?
Myers: The Matt Flynn trade was good for both teams. Oakland got a short-term starter that allowed them to get Carson Palmer’s salary off the books. The Seahawks got a couple future picks as well as some much needed cap relief. It was really win-win for both teams.
As for what the team does for a potential backup, I’m not sure we’ll know until rosters are set just before week one. Josh Portis, who was with the team in 2011 and part of 2012 has been re-signed, Tyler Thigpen has been brought in for a workout, as have Matt Leinart, Seneca Wallace and Brady Quinn. One of those four likely ends up in camp with the Seahawks. I also expect the Seahawks to look at a late round draft pick as well. Somewhere from that group, the Seahawks will find Wilson’s backup.
Zoneblitz: With Harvin in the fold, how do the skill players around Wilson look and how is the offensive line stacking up?
Myers: The skills players look like an impressive group. Harvin and Rice give the Seahawks a pair of a league’s best WRs, and having Beast Mode in the backfield is a great complement.
The line is still a question. Russell Okung and Max Unger are pro-bowlers from a year ago, but the rest is relatively unknown. The guards, James Carpenter and John Moffitt, both have had a tough time staying healthy in their first two years in the league. Both played hurt for most of 2012, and it showed. The team ended up playing a rookie who was a defensive tackle in college at the position down the stretch, and the results weren’t pretty. Breno Giacomini, the right tackle, was one of the worst at his position in the NFL last season, and is likely replaced by a rookie at some point this year.
Zoneblitz: It’s my belief that San Francisco and Seattle are the two best teams in the NFC with St. Louis rapidly improving too. What do the Seahawks need to do to leap ahead of the 49ers and make a deep playoff run?
Myers: The only thing Seattle has to do to “leap ahead of the 49ers” is to win winnable games early in the year. The Seahawks absolutely dominated the 49ers (42-13) late in year. Had the team not lost to a couple bad teams in September, they would have been in front of the 49ers in 2012.
Zoneblitz: Seattle had a top defense in 2012 and added Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett in the offseason. Where can the defense improve upon last season and how?
Myers: The Seahawks still could use a slot corner (Antoine Winfield perhaps?) and they’ve yet to replace Alan Branch as the team’s starting three-technique defensive tackle. I think the most important thing with the defense though, is that they do a better job of getting off the field on third down. If they can do that, this defense will be one that no team wants to play.
Zoneblitz: Richard Sherman has been outspoken this offseason about being the top cornerback in the NFL. How has his bravado been taken in the locker room and by the fan base and is he the best?
Myers: People in Seattle, fans and teammates alike, seem to love it. Sherman is a guy who plays with an “edge,” but that’s not all that this offseason bravado has been about. This is all about publicity, and it’s clearly working.
Think of it this way. Sherman is very good, that is clear, but he was a fifth round pick out of Stanford who plays up here in “South Alaska.” It would have taken years before anyone actually noticed. After the offseason he’s had, now everyone in America is going to be watching. All he has to do now is have another year like 2012.
Ultimately, Sherman’s crazy offseason was just about brand management. His teammates get that. Most Seahawks fans understand that. The rest of the nation just hasn’t caught on yet.
Zoneblitz: Who on the roster do you see having a breakout season in 2013?
Myers: It’s tough to find someone who hasn’t already “broken out” at some point already. The Seahawks are returning all but one starter on defense (though a couple key rotational player have changed), and currently the only offensive addition has been Harvin. There isn’t a lot of playing time to be had by young players who
Zoneblitz: What do you think of Seattle’s free agency approach thus far and what would you like to see the team do throughout the rest of free agency and the draft?
Myers: It’s tough not to like what the Seahawks have done. Their two biggest needs were wide receiver and the pass rush, and with Harvin, Michael Bennett, and Chris Avril now under contract, those are taken care of. The best part is that Bennett and Avril’s contracts are extremely team friendly.
Zoneblitz: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Myers: This is going to be an interesting year for the Seahawks. They are going to have to manage having expectations on them for the first time. They’ve been the “young team still learning how to win” every year under Carroll. That changes this year. The go into the season with everyone talking about the Super Bowl.