Contending With a Tough Off-Season
As a fan, a normal Seahawks off-season can be a very difficult time to endure. It is slow going, John and Pete keep those blockbuster trades & signings few and far between and players inevitably leave in free agency to sign with other teams. This year, with our extended off-season, the departures of Bennett, Sherman, Graham, Lane, Shead, and both Richardsons - not to mention the long-term injury questions surrounding Cliff & Kam - along with the Earl Thomas trade rumours (that seem to be getting louder again), and oh, the major overhaul of the coaching staff from the coordinators down, it has felt like a nightmare. The 12’s are shook right now.
From my part, I am not at all worried. In John and Pete I trust.
I bet that’s not a popular sentiment at the moment; I get it. Following a 9-7 season where we miss the playoffs only to seemingly hemorrhage core players in free agency, there must be doubts about the front office decision making. But it was so recently that we were praising the brilliance of this organization’s management; is it so hard to believe that they are capable of that again? I don’t think so, and here I want to focus on why I am feeling abundantly confident about the 2018 - and beyond - Seattle Seahawks.
This team just got younger and that is a good thing (don’t throw our new 30 year old TE in my face yet, I’ll get there). In parting ways with Sherman, Graham, and Bennett we said goodbye to players that will be 30, 32, and 33 years old respectively by the end of the upcoming season. That is not at all to say that they are not playing excellent football still - they are indeed - but they each carried heavy price tags, struggled with injuries last season, and will ultimately show signs of decline. The choice to move on before that decline occurs is not inherently unreasonable, especially considering the cap money that would be tied up in those contracts had we retained them.
We can mention Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril here too. They’ll be 30 and 32 next month, and while they are still on the team, their playing futures look decidedly murky due to serious injuries. Losing these five Seahawks staples is tough, but it opens the door for Bobby Wagner (27) , Frank Clark (24), and sophomores Nazair Jones (23) & Shaq Griffin (22) to take the reigns and reform our defensive identity. Perhaps, as Schneider hinted at earlier this year, if allowed out from the shadow of the team’s veterans, the younger players will ramp up their development and become the new leaders of this franchise.
There is a lot to look forward to on offense, as well. Most importantly, the Seahawks have a new Offensive Coordinator and a new Offensive Line Coach - Brian Schottenheimer and Mike Solari. The offense in 2017 was slow starting and stagnant for much of the season, and not another word ever need be written on the struggles of the O-Line. This year though, things should be different. Schottenheimer is an experienced coach who managed to reach two AFC Championships as OC of the NY Jets with Mark Sanchez as his quarterback. Last year, he was the quarterback’s coach in Indianapolis. With Andrew Luck hurt and backup Scott Tolzien totally unqualified, the team brought in Jacoby Brissett a week before the season began and he was starting by week 2. Considering the circumstances, Schottenheimer coached Brissett into a reasonably successful year as QB. Now, armed with the most talented quarterback of his coaching career, Schottenheimer will have a chance to put a high football IQ into action.
He is going to start by protecting Russell Wilson. This is why the Seahawks passed on some of the bigger name free agent tight-ends like Austin Sefarian-Jenkins and Eric Ebron and settled on Ed Dickson, even though the former two are younger and could have been signed for similar money to what we gave Dickson. Dickson graded out as PFF’s best pass blocking TE last year and that is more important to the team than a TE who is primarily a pass catcher, like Graham and the free agents mentioned above. Dickson wasn’t signed because he is the best or most exciting TE on the market, or because he can replace the red-zone presence of Jimmy Graham - he isn’t and he can’t. Dickson was signed because he offers the best protection for Wilson that was available at his position and that is the offensive priority of this off-season. The hiring of Solari, or maybe more specifically the firing of Tom Cable, is further evidence of this.
Two players returning for their second seasons with the team, that I am extremely excited to see back, are Duane Brown and Dion Jordan. Brown a 4-time Pro Bowler and a 2012 All-Pro team first selection left tackle, joined the Seahawks last year in mid-season via trade. Since being picked 26th overall in the 2008 draft, Brown has been one of the league’s premiere LTs. He is a dominant force and the idea of him playing after now having spent a full off-season working with the team and the new coaches is mouth-watering. His presence and leadership on the O-line will be strongly felt throughout 2018 and hopefully for more seasons to come. Jordan, the 3rd overall pick of the 2013 draft enjoyed a career resurgence last year after being released by Miami and acquired in free agency by Seattle. His time in Miami had been marred by injury and suspension, but in the 5 games he played for Seattle in 2017 he recorded 4 sacks, 10 tackles with 8 assists, and 1 forced fumble. If Jordan can stay on the field and maintain those average numbers, he will be an integral part of our defensive scheme.
It’s true that there are a great deal of unknowns heading into the new season, far more than there have been in recent years, and that this will be a different Seattle Seahawks team. But this is not the result of mistakes or failures, and it is not the fault of the players, coaches, or team executives - this is an inevitable result of the NFL machine continuing its relentless churn. It was only four seasons ago that we were last in the championship game and only five since we won.
While the player turnover is apparent, the architects of those teams remain. The best that we can do is to embrace the changes, trust in John and Pete, and to remember that no-matter-what, as long as we have Russell Wilson playing quarterback we are always in contention. Go Hawks.