Eric Parks, Section Editor
The 2017 NFL season marked only the first time since 2011, and the fourth since 2002, that the Seahawks have missed the playoffs. Despite their sustained success, many fans are predicting the team will regress from last year’s 9-7 mark.
While last season felt like a major disappointment for Seattle fans, the Seahawks were only one game away from the playoffs. If they had beaten the Rams in Week 15, a game that Los Angeles won 42-7, and everything else went the same, Seattle would have made the playoffs as the fourth seed. Even though they were close last year, most fans and analysts are expecting them to finish even worse this year due to their significant losses. The team lost cornerback Richard Sherman, safety Kam Chancellor, defensive end Michael Bennett, defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, tight end Jimmy Graham, tight end Luke Wilson and wide receiver Paul Richardson in the offseason.
It is rare for a defense to lose half its starters in one offseason, especially when all of them were Pro Bowl players and leaders in the locker room. The offensive players that they lost accounted for just over a third of the team’s receiving yards, and the running game and offensive line were horrendous last year. While the team was able to retain other important players, these serious losses have many wondering how the Seahawks can come close to the playoffs. If the Seahawks could not make the playoffs with 13 Pro Bowlers on their roster, how will they do it with only seven? Even their punter, Jon Ryan, requested a release, which was granted on Aug. 20.
Even though the Seahawks lost so many key players, additions were made in the offseason that head coach Pete Carroll is excited to incorporate. Shaquill Griffin will replace Sherman as the top corner. He was a rookie last season and impressed the coaching staff when he filled in for Sherman after he tore his achilles. Richardson and Bennett are not heavy losses; Richardson never matched his dominant form in Seattle, and Bennett’s play was declining—not to mention he was controversial in the locker room. Chancellor will be very hard to replace, but Earl Thomas is still under contract and is returning to the team for the season, which will help the defense tremendously. Especially intriguing is outside linebacker Shaquem Griffin, who was drafted in the fifth round out of the University of Central Florida. Many viewed him as a longshot to play in the NFL despite earning ACC Defensive Player of the Year and second-team All-American honors because of his amputated left hand. After an extremely impressive camp, he made the final roster and is going to start in place of K.J. Wright, who is sidelined with a knee injury for the start of the season.
The offense has a new coordinator and offensive line coach, and Russell Wilson has praised the offensive line for improved play throughout the offseason. The Seahawks used their top draft pick on Rashaad Penny, a running back from San Diego State, but Chris Carson has impressed the coaches and kept the top running back spot so far. With improved play from the offensive line and running backs, Seattle’s running game should be much improved from last season. While Seattle did little to replace the receiving threats they lost, the team still has Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett. Wilson will also have more time in the pocket to make decisions. While the defense and receiving corps lost significant pieces, the team still has talent throughout the roster and a proven coach and quarterback leading them into the new season.