Same-old Seahawks counting on Russell Wilson to carry them

Russell Wilson will spend another year dragging the Seahawks' outdated offense and fading defense into the playoffs.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Russell Wilson and the Seahawks have been stuck in a rut of arch-conservative play-calling, unreliable-to-downright-terrible offensive line play, and diminishing returns on defense since the great goal-line catastrophe of Super Bowl LXIX. Last year’s team wouldn’t have come near the playoffs if not for a pair of overtime wins and four other victories by margins of four points or less. 

Jamal Adams’ arrival and the return of Bruce Irvin will bring some boom back to head coach Pete Carroll’s defense, tight end Greg Olsen offers Wilson a dependable veteran possession target, and running back Carlos Hyde will keep the team from having to drag Marshawn Lynch out of retirement if Chris Carson (hip) is sidelined again. But the rest of the roster hasn’t changed all that much, and frustrating offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer will still be bringing the boredom every Sunday. 

There’s a risk that the same old strategies are likely to yield the same old results for the Seahawks this year. Or worse.

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Can the Seattle Seahawks change in 2020?

Best-case scenario

Schottenheimer is visited by the Ghosts of Play-Calling Present and Future, who teach him an important lesson about how 2nd-and-10 is no longer a running down. Adams turns into Kam Chancellor 2.0 and proves he is worth trading two first-round picks for. The latest reshuffling of offensive line deck chairs pays greater dividends than all of the others did. The Seahawks earn a playoff bye, and Wilson gets a chance to duel with the best quarterbacks in the NFL in the playoffs the way he’s supposed to.

Worst-case scenario

The Seahawks are one Wilson injury or slump away from becoming the Jet City Jets.

Deep Dives

Secondary issues and the defense

A thin secondary forced the Seahawks to remain in their base defense when they shouldn’t have last year. Opponents attempted 140 passes from three-wideout personnel groups when the Seahawks had just four defensive backs on the field last season; no other defense faced more than 31 pass attempts with such a disadvantage.

Opponents completed 70% of their passes in this situation, though the Seahawks did record six interceptions. Adams was the only significant addition in a secondary that could have used three or four new faces. 

Adams led all defensive backs in pass rush opportunities (71), sacks (six), quarterback hits (15), and every other pass-rush category while playing for the Jets last year. Look for him to be much more than a “box safety” in a system that was designed to get the most out of Chancellor and Earl Thomas.

The running game

Carson finished fourth in the NFL with 39 broken tackles on running plays last season and third in yards after contact per rush at 3.3 (via Sports Info Solutions; minimum 50 carries). Schottenheimer and the offensive line should strive to give Carson and Hyde more space to maneuver so they don’t need to break tackles to turn one-yard losses into four-yard gains. Or, you know, Schottenheimer could let Wilson throw a teensy bit more often.

The Seahawks starting offensive line could feature longtime Steelers backup B.J. Finney at center, Jets castoff Brandon Shell or Bengals/Jaguars disappointment Cedric Ogbuehi at right tackle, and either oft-injured 33-year old Mike Iupati or last-chance prospect Ethan Pocic at left guard. At least Duane Brown is protecting Wilson’s blindside.

Fantasy Spin

Can Metcalf continue to break out? 

D.K. Metcalf was a pleasant surprise last year after the Twitter draft hipsters wrote him off as a bodybuilder/sprinter who couldn’t change directions without a freeway cloverleaf. But 38 of Metcalf’s 100 targets last season came on the left side of the field and 10-yards past the line of scrimmage.

For him to be more than a deep touchdown threat and take even more pressure off underrated Tyler Lockett, he’ll have to add something to his arsenal besides “run fast up the left sideline and out-jump defender.” Per Football Outsiders Almanac, Metcalf led the NFL with 21 targets in the end zone, so he’ll have plenty of opportunities to score.

Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde

Look for Hyde to eat into Carson’s touches this season. Hyde wanders from team to team, posting credible numbers as the “thunder” guy in committee backfields (he averages 54.6 rushing yards per game over a seven-year career), and Schottenheimer loves his power backs. Carson averaged 21.5 touches per start, so there are carries to spread around.

Will Russell Wilson be enough for this Seahawks team this season?

The Seahawks are a .500-caliber team that competes for the playoffs because Wilson is a perennial MVP candidate who covers for their weaknesses and engineers lots of fourth-quarter comebacks. But they think they’re the Patriots, perennial contenders who can make quirky draft decisions and replace Hall of Fame defenders with randos without anyone noticing. 

If the Seahawks can once again squeak into the playoffs, Wilson makes them a match for any opponent. But the NFC is stacked with teams that have better rosters and softer schedules, and the Seahawks haven’t left themselves very much margin for error.

Seattle Seahawks 2020 Prediction

8-8, third place in the NFC West.

NFL Recap from Mike Tanier
Every Sunday and Monday, Mike Tanier gives his NFL Recap of the biggest stories around the NFL. Click here for the rest of his takes on NFL Week 2 in the long-form format you’re used to seeing from Mike. For individual pieces, head on over to our NFL Recap page.