Seattle Seahawks 2013 Offseason Preview
SI.com is laying out offseason road maps for all 32 teams as they start their journey for the Lombardi Trophy -- two teams per day, from the teams that need the most work to contend in 2013 to the ones that are in pretty good shape. See them all.
2012 Record: 11-5; lost to Falcons in divisional round
Key Pending Free Agents: Alan Branch, DT; Leroy Hill, LB; Jason Jones, DE-DT; Marcus Trufant, CB.
List of Draft Picks (pending compensatory picks): 1 (25), 2 (56), 3 (87), 4 (122), 5 (133) 5 (153), 6 (186), 7 (200), 7 (206, 7 (217).
Available Cap Space: $13.2 million
GM/Coaching Moves: Rehired Dan Quinn, Seattle's defensive line coach in 2009 and 2010 before leaving for the University of Florida for two years, to replace defensive coordinator Gus Bradley (the Jaguars' new head coach). Hired Travis Jones to replace defensive line coach Todd Walsh, who went to Jacksonville with Bradley.
After four consecutive losing seasons, the Seahawks broke through in 2012. They looked mediocre at the midway point of the season with a 4-4 record, but caught fire in the second half and won seven of eight games, ending the regular season on a 5-0 run. During a three-game stretch, they beat the Cardinals 58-0, the Bills 50-17 and the eventual NFC champion 49ers 42-13. Seattle went unbeaten at home for the third time in team history and won its first road playoff game (a 24-14 wild-card victory over the Redskins) in nearly 30 years.
The Seahawks won four games in the final two minutes of regulation or in overtime. They were contenders in every game, their largest defeat being a seven-point loss to San Francisco on Oct. 18. A defense led by end Chris Clemons, rookie linebacker Bobby Wagner and a secondary that featured cornerback Richard Sherman and safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor allowed only 15.3 points per game -- the fewest in the league.
The Seahawks were involved in the most embroiled moment of the season in Week 3. Replacement referee Wayne Elliott ruled that wide receiver Golden Tate caught a 24-yard touchdown pass on the final play of a Monday Night game against Green Bay that gave Seattle a 14-12 win, even though Tate shoved a defender while the ball was in the air and it appeared that Packers defensive back M.D. Jennings had a greater control of the ball than Tate. The controversial call precipitated a quick settlement to the officials lockout, and regular officials returned to the field in Week 4.
Six Seahawks went to the Pro Bowl. Offensive tackle Russell Okung and center Max Unger were elected as starters; running back Marshawn Lynch, Thomas and kick returner Leon Washington were backups; and rookie quarterback Russell Wilson was an injury replacement.
1,590. Number of rushing yards, a career high, by Marshawn Lynch, who finished third in the league behind Minnesota's Adrian Peterson (2,097) and Washington rookie Alfred Morris (1,613). The Skittles-fueled Lynch averaged 5.0 yards per carry and rushed for 11 touchdowns.
While much of the league's attention going into the season was placed on Colts quarterback Andrew Luck and Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, the first two players taken in the draft, the lesser-known Wilson emerged as a potential franchise QB in Seattle. After beating out free agent acquisition Matt Flynn in training camp, Wilson, a third-round pick, started every game and helped lead the Seahawks to the postseason. He threw more touchdown passes (26) than Luck (23) or Griffin (20).
Like RGIII and Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco's second-year quarterback who helped lead the 49ers to Super Bowl XLVII this season, Wilson can serrate defenses with his arm and his legs. He passed for 3,118 yards and 26 touchdowns, and he ran for 489 yards and four scores. He threw a game-winning scoring pass in the final two minute of regulation or in overtime three times -- the most by a rookie quarterback since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger -- and he won a fourth game inside two minutes with a rushing touchdown. His plus-16 differential of touchdown passes (26) to interceptions (10) was the best in history by a rookie QB.
39.2. Percentage of plays on which Wilson was pressured, the second highest in the league in 2012, according to Pro Football Focus.
The Seahawks need to adapt the blocking scheme of their offensive line to where it's more in sync with the 5-foot-11, 206-pound Wilson, who is not a prototype pocket passer and throws a lot while he's on the move. Tight ends and backs also might have to help. Keeping pass rushers off Wilson, who was sacked 33 times (once for about every 12 pass attempts), is paramount. Right tackle Breno Giacomini is someone the team could stand to improve on, especially in a talent-rich free agent class at the position. The team doesn't necessarily need a home-run signing there, but the right deal at right tackle could go a long way.
1. Improve the pass rush. The Seahawks had 36 sacks (right at the league's average), but failed to mount much pressure on opposing quarterbacks down the stretch. In their final four games, including playoff games against Washington and Atlanta, the Seahawks had only three sacks -- none of Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan in a divisional-round playoff loss. Chris Clemons, who suffered a torn ACL in the Washington game, had a team-leading 11.5 sacks during the regular season, and rookie Bruce Irvin, used primarily as a situational pass rusher, had eight. But Jason Jones, acquired as a free agent from Tennessee, managed to record only three sacks in 12 games before going on the injured reserve list late in the season. If the Seahawks expect to be a playoff contender again in 2013, they'll need to put more pressure on the quarterback.
2. Bring in more weapons for Wilson. Seattle needs to expand a wide receiver corps that in 2012 was led by Sidney Rice (50 receptions for 748 yards and 7 touchdowns) and Tate (45-688-7). Most teams use three- and four-wide receiver packages as a big part of their arsenal. Adding another wideout or two would give Wilson more options and reduce some of the pressure on Rice and Tate.
3. Make tight end a bigger part of the offense. After catching only 38 passes for 396 yards and three touchdowns in the regular season, Zach Miller went bonkers in the postseason, with 12 receptions for 190 yards and a touchdown in two playoff games. Tight ends never have been as important in the NFL as they are right now. The Seahawks need to use Miller more in the passing game -- or get another tight end who can produce.
General manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll have formed a strong rapport in their three years together, and the fruits of it have spilled on to the field. They have restocked the roster; 46 of the 53 players (87 percent) who finished the season were in their first, second or third years with the Seahawks. This is a burgeoning team with young players (Wilson, Lynch, Tate, Okung, Unger, Wagner, Sherman and Irvin) at several key positions, and any free agent losses shouldn't dilute the roster.
San Francisco has won the NFC West two years in a row and still is hungry coming off its Super Bowl loss to Baltimore. St. Louis looks like it might be ready to make a push in the division. Seattle already has most of the pieces in place to contend for first place and, possibly, make a Super Bowl run in 2013. If Schneider and Carroll continue to make the right moves, the Seahawks will be a team of great expectations.