It hurts to get ousted from the playoffs. Bad. But you can feel good about this.
Like most NFL teams that come up short, the Seattle Seahawks’ season was undone by injuries. Unlike most other teams, the Seahawks’ season was undone by one injury in particular—Earl Thomas. Oh, and one other thing … their season-long Achilles heel, the offensive line.
In this regard, the Seahawks are the anti-Dallas Cowboys, which is why they won’t be ranked as high as Dallas when the 2017 regular season kicks off in Sept. But the Cowboys and possibly the Green Bay Packers and the Atlanta Falcons are the only teams Seattle can expect to looking up to in the coming season. The future is indeed bright.
When it fell apart
The blue birds’ season took a turn for the worse when Thomas broke his leg while colliding with teammate Kam Chancellor on Dec. 4 against the Carolina Panthers. The Seahawks’ vaunted Legion of Boom was never the same.
True, the Seahawks battled through other injuries like other teams, including lower leg injuries to quarterback Russell Wilson (ankle, knee), Michael Bennett (knee) and Tyler Locket (broken leg). None of these three news-making injures managed to derail the Seahawks: Wilson never missed a game, despite playing compromised for half the season, Bennett missed a third of the season but came back strong for the stretch run and playoffs, and Lockett was more than ably replaced by the man he replaced, Paul Richardson.
Richardson’s playoff output may be the most unexpected reason for optimism in 207: seven receptions for 127 yards and one touchdown in two games; all but one of the “wow!” variety.
If you suspected the Seahawks were not the Seahawks of recent Super Bowl vintage in 2016, you were given final proof on Saturday. The Seahawks’ season was truly over in the second quarter of the Divisional Playoff when reserve linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis was called for holding at the line of scrimmage. By itself, that was bad. But since it wiped out an 80-yard punt return by Devin Hester and instead pinned the Seahawks deep in their own territory, as opposed to being on Atlanta’s door step, the game — and season — collapsed.
That doesn’t happen to Super Bowl-caliber teams.
What this means for 2017
The offseason is time for rebuilding. The Seahawks do not need to draft wide receivers, nor running backs, nor tight ends in the upcoming draft. Not as a high-round focus, anyway. Instead, they can—and should—spend every draft pick on offensive linemen.
The NFL’s least expensive offensive line was mostly offensive all season long. Ultimately, it cost the Seahawks a chance to make a championship run. Once the team’s lone first-round draft pick, Germain Ifedi, went out of the Divisional Playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons, the oft-overrun-and-confused Seahawks offensive line was in a tailspin.
The Seahawks won’t take my (admittedly terrible) advice and select only offensive linemen in the 2017 draft, which means they will add to their arsenal of defensive players as well. That’s a plus for the 12s out there. Let’s face it: offensive draftees of the non-lineman variety will be hard-pressed to find a role in the Seahawks’ lineup in 2017. Those lead roles are set.
The same cannot be said for draftees of the defensive side of the ball. While still a formidable defense, the Seahawks need reinforcements at cornerback (depth: nickel & dime packages), safety (Thomas threatened retirement, Chancellor will be 29 next season), and interior defensive line, where the Seahawks have been getting by with veteran re-treads more than advisable. There are spots to be won for new defensive rookies at every level.
The 2017 Seahawks are gonna be good. Maybe even great. And they’re gonna be playing against the NFC West, which, as of 2016, is now known for finding new and myriad ways of imploding one’s NFL season, if you don’t reside in Seattle.
The old cliché is true: The NFL is a game of replacement. The Seahawks of 2016 started out talented (except for the offensive line) and adequately replaced their injured players — except for Thomas. Looking ahead to 2017, the Seahawks can expect to reap equal or improved rewards from Wilson, Rawls, C.J. Prosise, Doug Baldwin, Lockett, Richardson, Jimmy Graham, Bennett, Thomas, Chancellor, Richard Sherman, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Cliff Avril, Frank Clark and more. That’s quite a collection of superior talent.
Unless they all get injured, of course.