Coming into the 2018 NFL season most people had the Seattle Seahawks written off as finishing in the basement of the NFC West. Many had pegged the high-powered LA Rams to win their division easily, which yes, they did. Many analysts surmised that the San Francisco 49ers were going to finish in second due a full season with Jimmy Garoppolo, followed by the Arizona Cardinals finishing in third.
At the bottom of the division, then, would sit Seattle. After jettisoning Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and opting not to bring back Sheldon Richardson – essentially dismantling their defence that ran supreme for the last six years – the expectation was that the Seahawks would be in a rebuilding mode. Those expectations were confirmed when Pro-Bowl Tight-End Jimmy Graham signed with Green Bay in the offseason among the other player transactions.
Fast forward four months and things haven’t quite gone to everyone else’s plan. Seattle currently sits in second place in their division and in sole possession of the 5th seed in the NFC with an 8-6 record. Finishing out the bottom of the NFC West are the 49ers and Cardinals with a combined seven wins.
Seattle has taken a group of unknowns on defence and given them an identity while restoring one of their own on offence. Not only are the Hawks in a Wild Card spot, but to me, they could be the scariest team in the NFC come playoff time. This is even despite their disappointing loss to the Niners this past weekend. Why has Seattle succeeded despite analyst’s predictions?
Let’s find out!
Let’s start with the defence. Statistically, Pete Carroll’s defence is nothing to write home about. They’re ranked 19th in the league, giving up an average of 359 yards per game with the 7th worst points-per-game average. For the most part, the Seahawks fall around the middle of the pack in most other categories.
But here’s what they’re starting to find – an identity. Their pass rush has started to make a name for itself with 36 sacks on the season. Leading the charge is four-year veteran Frank Clark with 12 sacks. Behind him,guys like Jarran Reed, Quinton Jefferson, Jacob Martin, Barkevious Mingo and even Bobby Wagner are players capable of finding success getting pressure on the QB.
The secondary definitely bends at times but is slowly turning its head with names like Shaq Griffin, Tre Flowers, Bradley McDougald and Tedric Thompson. They will give up a big play from time to time and surely aren’t the Legion of Boom, but for a unit centred around generating pressure on the QB they do their jobs more times than not.
It isn’t the defence, however, that has me sold on this team. It’s the offence – and more importantly, the ground game – that could really make some noise come January.
The Seahawks are finally getting back to the type of football that made them so successful in the past – one that runs the ball, runs it a lot, and runs it effectively.
Seattle leads the league in rushing with an average of 154.9 yards per game and 4.7 yards per carry. They have 11 rushing touchdowns and 15 runs of 20+ yards this year. When you look at who’s running the ball, the numbers become more impressive.
Chris Carson is proving to be the steal of the 2017 NFL Draft after being taken in the 7th round last year. He leads the team with 913 yards this year and an average 4.5 yards per carry and 6 rushing TD’s. Behind him, former 49er Mike Davis (439 yards, 4.4 yards/carry) and rookie Rashaad Penny (413 yards, 5.1 yards/carry) make up the bulk of the rushing yards. The numbers are all the more impressive considering Penny hadn’t become a consistent weapon until just a few weeks ago.
Seattle runs the ball on average 33 times a game; this year, their 154-yard rushing average is one we haven’t seen since 2014 when the Seahawks led the league in rushing and went to a second consecutive Super Bowl.
When they can’t run the ball, they have Russell Wilson, the X-factor in this whole thing. Wilson is quietly having an outstanding season finding himself just one spot out of the top five in passer rating with a rating of 111.6. He’s thrown 31 touchdowns to 6 interceptions while rushing for 321 yards as well.
This team under new Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and OL Coach Mike Solari has found a way to control most games which is allowing a young defence to grow while finding success.
When you combine a team that dominates the game on the ground and add veteran pieces like Bobby Wagner, KJ Wright and Frank Clark on the defensive side and guys like Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett on offence, you’ve already got a solid start. Top it all off with a quarterback who knows how to win like Russell Wilson you have a recipe for an incredibly dangerous team.
There are games much like this past weekend that Seattle should win and end up on the losing side of things. However, this team can beat any team in the league week in and week out. Though there are some heavy-weights in the NFC like the Rams and Saints, the Seahawks could be that team this year that gets hot at the right time with the right recipe and makes a run.
One thing is for sure: Pete Carroll and company have re-established something in Seattle that made them one of the best teams in the league in years past, and it isn’t the Legion of Boom.