After a heartbreaking Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots, the Seattle Seahawks look to pick up the pieces in the 2015 season, and remain top championship contenders after two consecutive trips to the title game. Pete Carroll once again boasts an overwhelming secondary and a strong running game, which explains why the Seahawks own 13/2 odds to win the Super Bowl and just behind the Green Bay Packers (6/1), according to Bovada.lv.
Along with Seattle and Green Bay, the Philadelphia Eagles (17/2) and the Dallas Cowboys (14/1) are all considered the class of the NFC and favorites to rep the conference in the Super Bowl. With two-time Pro Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson still leading the way, the Seahawks could be the first team since the Buffalo Bills of the early 1990s to reach three straight Super Bowls.
Keeping such a dominant defense together, as well as paying Wilson, has been the key storyline for the Seahawks and general manager John Schneider throughout the offseason and it continues right up until kickoff. Seattle and strong safety Kam Chancellor are still currently engaged in one of the more drawn out contract disputes of the offseason, with Chancellor telling NFL.com the two sides are only separated by $1 million and that the negotiations have reached a “petty” stalemate.
Chancellor was recently replaced by second-year safety Dion Bailey on the team’s first depth chart before the opener, which could suggest the holdout will spill into the regular season and that the Seahawks will continue to play hardball with Chancellor.
Other than the Chancellor saga, Seattle still had a very productive offseason and made several upgrades on offense while keep its core contributors on defense together. However, there are some questions along the offensive line.
Here’s a look at Seattle’s offense, defense, and special teams, as well as a prediction for the season.
Just hours prior to the start of training camp, Seattle sewed up Wilson to the tune of $87.5 million over the next four years, and the passing game also got a boost with the addition of superstar tight end Jimmy Graham.
The former Saint immediately becomes one of the Seahawks best pass catchers, especially in the red zone, and should take some pressure off running back Marshawn Lynch, who also signed a contract extension in the offseason.
However, Seattle did sacrifice starting center Max Unger in the trade for Graham, and now former practice squad defensive lineman turned center Drew Nowak is starting in front of Wilson. That leaves left tackle Russell Okung as the most senior member of Seattle’s line with six years of experience, with left guard Justin Britt now in his second season, right guard J.R. Sweezy in his fourth year, and right tackle Garry Gilliam in his second year as well.
Directly behind that group are Alvin Bailey and Patrick Lewis, each with three years of pro work, and fourth-round rookie draft choice Mark Glowinski.
While Wilson’s rushing abilities are likely to quell any fears over pass protection, how this group meshes will go a long way in determining whether Seattle can once again lead the league in rushing.
Leading the league in points and total yards allowed for the last two years, there’s little question which group deserves most of the credit for Seattle’s success. The secondary’s core of safety Earl Thomas and cornerback Richard Sherman are back, with corner Cary Williams a new face after spending two years with Philadelphia and fifth-round rookie corner Tye Smith backing him up.
However, how Bailey fills in for Chancellor, one of the most devastating and athletic hitters in the league, will be a key factor in Seattle repeating as the NFL’s top pass defense.
The frontline remains the same with defensive ends Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril manning the pass rush, while defensive tackle Brandon Mebane comes off injured reserve after playing only nine games last season and he’s joined by fellow tackle and former 49er DeMarcus Dobbs.
Bobby Wagner is still one of the best linebackers in football, and he has very good help around him with K.J. Wright, Bruce Irvin, and the emergence of Kevin Pierre-Louis. Brock Coyle and Mike Morgan are quality reserves, as well.
One glaring area in need of improvement was Seattle’s work on kickoff and punt returns. Last season they were No. 25 with 7.1 yards gained per punt, and No. 30 with 21.0 yards per kickoff. Enter explosive playmaker and receiver Tyler Lockett, a third-round draft choice out of Kansas State.
The Seahawks actually traded up in the draft to take Lockett, and in the preseason he proved them right with a 103-yard kick return for a touchdown and a 67-yard punt return for another score. He’s also moved up to the first-team offense, and is getting reps with Wilson as a receiver.
Prediction: The Seahawks have plenty of reasons to be optimistic, but three-peating as the NFC champions will be difficult with the Packers and Cowboys bolstering their squad in the offseason. A date in the NFC Championship is probably the deepest Seattle can hope to achieve this season.