Quiet Sea­hawks could make noise in NFC West

The Prince George Citizen - - Sports -

There is an un­usual and no­table lack of noise sur­round­ing the Seat­tle Sea­hawks.

The loud per­son­al­i­ties of the past are gone.

There are no con­tract dis­putes. The gen­eral buzz around the fran­chise is at a mur­mur.

There are no out­landish Su­per Bowl ex­pec­ta­tions, but there re­mains a be­lief Seat­tle is a good team that should be in the NFC play­off con­ver­sa­tion.

Af­ter years when Seat­tle was among the loud­est teams in the NFL, it’s a stark change.

“We had so many names that peo­ple were pay­ing at­ten­tion to that were do­ing so many dif­fer­ent things that it’s just kind of dif­fer­ent now... I think a lit­tle bit of that, too, is I think the league is sleep­ing on our team,” Seat­tle line­backer Bobby Wag­ner said.

“They kind of did it last year, but we had lost so many play­ers there was no ex­pec­ta­tion. This year kind of has that same vibe, but we know what we’ve got in our locker room and know how good our team can be.”

Last sea­son was sup­posed to be the tran­si­tion year in a re­model. In­stead, the Sea­hawks found a for­mula that worked with a re­vi­tal­ized run game, an ef­fi­cient Rus­sell Wil­son and a de­fence that while tak­ing a step back from the past was still good enough for Seat­tle to win 10 games and earn a wild­card berth.

Seat­tle should be able to pick up where it left off, but might not be ready to chal­lenge the Rams in the NFC West.

The Sea­hawks’ of­fence could be dy­namic with a run game led by Chris Car­son and an ex­pe­ri­enced, vet­eran of­fen­sive line, but will need to find a re­place­ment for the loss of go-to wide re­ceiver Doug Bald­win.

Seat­tle has one of the best line­backer groups in the NFL led by Wag­ner, and may have solved its ques­tions about the pass rush by ac­quir­ing Jade­veon Clowney from Hous­ton to pair with Ezekiel An­sah com­ing off the edge, hop­ing the duo can be the dis­rup­tive an­swer.

The Sea­hawks seem to be equal parts po­ten­tial and ques­tions go­ing into the 10th sea­son with Pete Car­roll in charge.

“I’m hop­ing we can be a very com­plete team,” Car­roll said. “In years past, we’ve been able to be good at a lot of ar­eas and it’s hard to find a way to get at us.”

Here’s what else to watch for the up­com­ing sea­son:

Locked up

The Sea­hawks avoided a ma­jor dis­trac­tion by lock­ing up Wil­son to the rich­est con­tract in league his­tory in April.

With his long-term fu­ture set, Wil­son can fo­cus on build­ing off one of his most ef­fi­cient sea­sons.

With Seat­tle pro­duc­ing the best run game in the NFL, Wil­son set career highs in touch­down passes (35) and passer rat­ing (110.9) while match­ing his career low with seven in­ter­cep­tions.

Wil­son threw for only 215 yards per game, but that num­ber was sim­i­lar to the two sea­sons when he helped lead Seat­tle to NFC ti­tles.

Wil­son’s task will be find­ing a new No. 1 wide re­ceiver.

Tyler Lock­ett is com­ing off a career year, but Bald­win of­ten drew cover­age, leav­ing Lock­ett open.

Look for rookie DK Met­calf to be an­other favoured tar­get, but mi­nor knee surgery dur­ing train­ing camp could slow his start.

In the mid­dle

Wag­ner also got a con­tract ex­ten­sion at the start of train­ing camp that keeps the four-time All-Pro as the cen­tre of Seat­tle’s de­fence go­ing for­ward. Wag­ner will team with K.J. Wright and My­chal Ken­dricks to form what could be the best line­backer trio of Car­roll’s ten­ure. There is depth as well with promis­ing rookie Cody Bar­ton. The three starters will be asked to make plenty of plays with ques­tions else­where on the de­fen­sive side.

Caus­ing chaos

Seat­tle lost its pri­mary pass rusher when Frank Clark was traded to Kansas City, send­ing away 13 sacks to ac­quire more draft picks. The Sea­hawks will also be with­out Jar­ran Reed and his 10 1/2 sacks for the first six games be­cause of a sus­pen­sion.

If healthy, An­sah can be part of the an­swer.

He’s two years re­moved from hav­ing 12 sacks in 14 games, and Seat­tle needs that kind of pro­duc­tion.

The trade for Clowney may end up being a one-year rental, but is a proven as­set that will bol­ster the pass rush and help draw at­ten­tion away from An­sah.

Clowney had 18 1/2 sacks com­bined the past two sea­sons. Pass rush will be key to take pres­sure off a sec­ondary that was ex­posed at times last sea­son.

Rock solid

For a rare change, the of­fen­sive line is not a con­cern.

Seat­tle re­turns four of five starters, with vet­eran Mike Iu­pati step­ping in for J.R. Sweezy as the one change among the start­ing five.

Left tackle Duane Brown con­tin­ues to play ex­tremely well go­ing into his 12th sea­son.

Ger­main Ifedi has ma­tured at right tackle and is en­ter­ing a con­tract sea­son.

And right guard D.J. Fluker is a mas­sive run-block­ing star if healthy.

Back loaded

If Seat­tle can han­dle a mid­sea­son stretch of chal­leng­ing tests it could ben­e­fit from play­ing three of its fi­nal five games at home, in­clud­ing the fi­nal two weeks against di­vi­sion foes San Fran­cisco and Ari­zona.

But the Sea­hawks face a tough stretch from Weeks 5 thru 10 with road games at Cleve­land, At­lanta and San Fran­cisco to go with home games against the Rams, Bal­ti­more and Tampa Bay.

AP PHOTO

Seat­tle Sea­hawks head coach Pete Car­roll, cen­tre, yells as play­ers, in­clud­ing mid­dle line­backer Bobby Wag­ner, cen­tre left, and de­fen­sive back Mar­quise Blair run a drill, dur­ing NFL foot­ball train­ing camp in July.

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