Regardless of how you viewed the Seahawks’ 2022 season, it was year one of their rebuild after moving on from long-time QB Russell Wilson, who was the starter in Seattle from 2012-2021.
Career backup Geno Smith stepped in and almost immediately put the league on notice that this was no ordinary rebuild. Most folks in the NW, myself included, thought Seattle would be lucky to win a few games, but they did better than that. They fought their way to a wild card playoff spot and posted a 9-8 record – a two-game improvement over their 7-10 record the previous season and Wilson’s last in Seattle.
Even though they got to the wild card round, they didn’t get any farther, which means they still have work to do to get past their recent struggles in the playoffs. Seattle won the Super Bowl following the 2013 season, returned to the Super Bowl following the 2014 season, and has not made it past the divisional round since. They haven’t even been to the divisional round since the 2019 playoffs.
So with so much accomplished in the first year, what can we expect in the second year? Well, for starters, I would expect at least one step backward. The defense was patchwork at best last year, and the front office made minimal improvements in the offseason. The interior of the defense is just as weak as it was this time last year, and they are still working on a good rotation to keep their pass rushers fresh. Getting middle linebacker Bobby Wagner back after a year in LA will help, but an aging player can only solve so much of the puzzle. They still lack a big strong tackle, no slow or plug-the-run game, and to implode the interior of the offensive line on passing downs.
The secondary may have improved with the addition of rookie cornerback Devon Witherspoon and the return of injured safety Jamal Adams. While adding a new talented player will be a good thing in the long run, it’s not likely to equate to win shares early on, but the return of Adams should help set the tone for a defense looking to make a name for itself. Even if they struggle to apply pressure to opposing QBs or give up some broken plays in the secondary, once they click, it could be really tough to throw against them – maybe even Legion of Boom difficult.
The offense is a lot of question marks. The offensive line is very young, and while they have shown promise, they also have a lot of work to do to protect Geno against elite pass rushers. Kenneth Walker III is a great young running back, but we’ll see if they can get anyone behind him to step up. Seattle drafted two running backs, including one in the second round, and signed another as an undrafted free agent in addition to keeping DeeJay Dallas on the roster, so they will have options to work with.
Seattle currently has twelve, yes, TWELVE receivers on their roster. There’s no way they keep more than seven going into the season; for comparison, they had five active receivers by the end of last season. That doesn’t mean they will drop seven players, but they will probably drop at least five. It really means that beyond their first-round pick of Ohio State receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba and star receivers Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, they don’t know what they have. It’s a numbers game at receiver, you can have the most athletic person on the planet, and they might struggle to catch the ball in games or even in practice. You don’t know what you have until you start getting them some game action in the preseason, which begins in just over two weeks as they open their first game against Minnesota on August 12th. Once the coaching staff sees how their pass catchers perform against an opposing cornerback, they will know who is staying and who needs to find work as a receiver somewhere else.
Tight End is the most promising it has been in years. Will Dissly is just a season-ending injury waiting to happen, but when he’s healthy, he’s sneaky good. He can block for the run game, and he just seems to always find open space when it’s time to run a route. I can’t tell if it’s the defense ignoring him or if he is just that good at getting open, but either way, he’s money when healthy. Even if Dissly isn’t available, they have a wealth of options with Noah Fant and Colby Parkinson.
Seattle has a lot of reasons to be excited about the new season; I’m just not sure they reloaded enough in the offseason to take a big step forward. They were a neat story last year, but teams now have an entire year of film to watch on them, and they didn’t make major improvements in two critical areas of need – offensive and defensive line. This roster is talented at the skill positions but may lose a lot of tough battles between the trenches, and that’s where a lot of winter football is won or lost. Many teams can cover up their weaknesses when they play in really nice weather in the fall or indoors at any time, but once winter hits, it can get tough to gloss over those issues when the weather turns, and the games matter even more. Luckily Seattle plays a lot of their second-half schedule against teams in warm-weather cities, or they will be at home, where they should be more comfortable in sloppy conditions.
They will have an uphill battle to prove last season was not a fluke and that they did enough to improve their roster, but there is plenty of reason for optimism. They have a talented team on paper, and even if they experience some early struggles, if their new additions don’t gel right away, it won’t be a reason to panic. The good news is that they get a bye week after week four if things don’t click right away, and they need a week without an opponent to get back on track. The bad news is they will have thirteen consecutive games to close out the season after their bye week. If they make the playoffs and don’t earn a first-round bye, they will go even longer without a break. Even the best rosters are not always ready to sustain injuries at key positions, and playing that many games in a row, someone is bound to need a little time to heal. I’m not sure why the NFL would want a team playing that many games in a row, but we’ll see how they handle it.
If they can stay healthy and build on last season, it will likely mean even bigger things are on the horizon next year. Suppose they fall behind early on and struggle to pick up wins. In that case, it may force the front office to look at bringing in a young QB they can mold after opting not to draft one this year and giving last year’s backup Drew Lock another year as the reserve. Undrafted free agent Holton Ahlers is the only player currently listed behind Lock.