End-of-sea­son Sea­hawks awards for MVP, break­out player, more

Tri-City Herald - - Front Page - BY BOB CONDOTTA AND MIKE VOREL

So maybe you feel like the sea­son it­self was just one, big award – a ma­jor one, at that – as the Sea­hawks sur­prised the skep­tics to fin­ish 10-6 and get into the play­offs.

But we’re here to con­tinue the award sea­son as Sea­hawks beat re­porters Bob Condotta and Mike Vorel hand out some more hard­ware hon­or­ing the sea­son that was.

MOST VALU­ABLE

CONDOTTA:

QB Rus­sell Wil­son. Yeah I’m go­ing to take the easy and ob­vi­ous way out here in se­lect­ing Wil­son. But how can you avoid it in a sea­son when he set a fran­chise record with 35 touch­down passes while adapt­ing to the team’s move back to more of a run-first of­fense? And don’t for­get Wil­son’s role in that phi­los­o­phy – a key to Seat­tle’s re­vived run­ning this year was its in­creased use of the zone read, plays on which Wil- son has the choice of keep­ing the ball or hand­ing it off.

VOREL: LB Bobby Wag­ner. Rus­sell Wil­son, Chris Car­son and Tyler Lock­ett all be­long in this con­ver­sa­tion. But why is Bobby Wag­ner the Sea­hawks’ most valu­able player? The 28year-old line­backer wrapped up the reg­u­lar sea­son with 138 to­tal tack­les, 60 more than the team’s No. 2 tack­ler, Bradley McDougald. His 11 passes de­fended were also the most on the team from the line­backer po­si­tion. Wag­ner has made five con­sec­u­tive Pro Bowls, and he had ar­guably his best sea­son with­out an es­tab­lished sup­port­ing cast (or a full sea­son from fel­low line­backer K.J. Wright). The choice here is clear.

ROOKIE OF YEAR

CONDOTTA:

P Michael Dick­son. Tre Flow­ers is a great choice, too. But Dick­son showed just what a punter can mean to a team, set­ting a fran­chise record with a 42.5 net punt­ing av­er­age in be­com­ing the first rookie punter to make the Pro Bowl since 1985. He also, well, fin­ished the sea­son tied for the team high in yards-per-carry, at

9.

VOREL: CB Tre Flow­ers. Tre Flow­ers was never sup­posed to be a starter in his rookie sea­son. The Sea­hawks brought vet­eran cor­ner­backs Don­tae John­son and By­ron Maxwell into train­ing camp, with the ex­pec­ta­tion that one of them would win a job op­po­site Shaquill Grif­fin. John­son ac­tu­ally won that job, but promptly suf­fered a groin in­jury and was placed on IR. Flow­ers – who played safety at Ok­la­homa State – pro­ceeded to start 16 of

17 games and pro­duce 67 tack­les, six passes de­fended and three forced fum­bles. He was not a li­a­bil­ity. In­stead, Flow­ers is now an emerg­ing piece of the Sea­hawks’ young de­fen­sive core.

BREAK­OUT STAR

CONDOTTA:

WR Tyler Lock­ett. We can de­fine “break­out” in a few dif­fer­ent ways, and I’m

go­ing to use it here to de­scribe the player who most so­lid­i­fied his stand­ing among the NFL’s elite this sea­son. Lock­ett was known as a solid re­ceiver en­ter­ing the sea­son. But some ques­tioned if he was re­ally wor­thy of the three-year

$31.8 mil­lion deal he re­ceived last sum­mer. He looked un­der­paid by the time the year was over with a team-high 57 catches for

965 yards and 10 touch­downs with Wil­son turn­ing in a per­fect passer rat­ing of

158.3 when throw­ing his way, only the sec­ond time in NFL his­tory that’s hap­pened.

VOREL: RB Chris Car­son. Who else? Af­ter play­ing in just four games in his rookie sea­son be­fore suf­fer­ing a bro­ken leg, Car­son piled up 1,151 rush­ing yards, 4.7 yards per carry and nine touch­downs in 14 games in 2018. The sec­ond-year run­ning back eclipsed the 100-yard rush­ing mark six times, in­clud­ing three con­sec­u­tive games to close the reg­u­lar sea­son. He was named the NFC Of­fen­sive Player of the Month in De­cem­ber for his ef­forts.

MOST UN­DER­RATED

CONDOTTA:

DT Jar­ran Reed. Reed had one of the best years for a tackle in team his­tory with 10.5 sacks – just the third Sea­hawks tackle ever to get

10 or more, the oth­ers be­ing Hall of Famers Cortez Kennedy and John Ran­dle. Yet, he seemed like he was still un­der-ther­adar when the sea­son ended. Reed’s rookie deal runs out fol­low­ing the

2019 sea­son, so put him on the list of those who may get ex­ten­sions some­time this off­sea­son.

VOREL: S Bradley McDougald. You know about him lo­cally. But when, ex­actly, will the rest of the NFL catch wind of Bradley McDougald? All the 28-year-old safety did in his sec­ond sea­son with the Sea­hawks is start ev­ery game, fin­ish sec­ond on the team with 78 tack­les and add three in­ter­cep­tions, three forced fum­bles and a fum­ble re­cov­ery. He can cover. He can stop the run. He’s equally ca­pa­ble of play­ing both safety spots or drop­ping down to the sec­ond level. He pro­vided lead­er­ship in a sec­ondary stock full of first- and sec­ond-year play­ers.

BIG­GEST DIS­AP­POINT­MENT

CONDOTTA:

In­juries to key play­ers. I was go­ing to maybe go with de­fen­sive end Dion Jor­dan, who af­ter the prom­ise he showed at the end of the

2017 sea­son, had just 1.5 sacks this sea­son while bat­tling a chronic knee is­sue. Jor­dan made it clear he’s not go­ing to be a long-term an­swer as a pass-rush­ing end. But in­juries to proven vets such as Doug Bald­win, K.J. Wright and Earl Thomas make this a real ‘what-might-have-been?’ of a sea­son de­spite the

10-6 record.

VOREL: WR Bran­don Mar­shall. I get it, the Sea­hawks signed Mar­shall to a one-year deal with very lit­tle fi­nan­cial risk. But re­mem­ber the buzz sur­round­ing the 34-year-old wide re­ceiver in train­ing camp? Mar­shall was sup­posed to be Wil­son’s long lost red zone threat. He was sup­posed to pro­vide valu­able lead­er­ship for an in­cred­i­bly young team. This was the guy who ar­rived in Seat­tle with six

100-catch sea­sons and eight sea­sons of at least

1,000 re­ceiv­ing yards. But none of that came to fruition in 2018. Mar­shall was re­leased af­ter seven games, catch­ing 11 passes for 136 yards and a touch­down.

PLAY OF THE YEAR

CONDOTTA:

Lock­ett/ Bald­win catches against the Chiefs. I was go­ing to do with Dick­son’s “Big Balls” run against Detroit. But as fun as that was, Seat­tle was go­ing to win that game any­way. They might not have even got­ten to the play­offs if not for the spec­tac­u­lar catches by Lock­ett and Bald­win to set up the fi­nal TD to clinch the Kansas City game. For each, the catch rated as maybe the best in their ca­reers – es­pe­cially Bald­win’s jug­gling, one­handed grab.

VOREL: Chris Car­son’s run, hur­dle and flip against the Panthers. Sure, there were plenty of other plays that meant more in games this sea­son. But which play will the fan base re­mem­ber the most? Which play truly de­fines the sea­son? I’ll go with Car­son, who found a hole in the mid­dle of the Panthers’ de­fen­sive line early in the third quar­ter, took off into open field, at­tempted to hur­dle safety Eric Reid, was spun in the air like a gym­nast in the floor ex­er­cise, landed on his feet and kept right on run­ning for a 15-yard gain.

BIG­GEST NEED FOR ‘19

CONDOTTA:

De­fen­sive end. The Sea­hawks will keep Frank Clark, which will give them one of the pre­mier pass rush­ers in the NFL. But Clark can’t do it alone – aside from Reed no other Sea­hawk had more than three sacks this sea­son. Seat­tle sta­tis­ti­cally was solid with its pass rush this sea­son, fin­ish­ing with 43 sacks, tied for 11th in the NFL. But more than half came from Clark (14) and Reed (10.5). And that led to a few games where the pass rush seemed non-ex­is­tent. In what is in­creas­ingly a pass­ing league hav­ing as many pass rush­ing op­tions is more vi­tal than ever.

VOREL: Free safety. The Sea­hawks have plenty of op­tions here. They could use more depth on the sec­ond level, they need to con­tinue to add pass-rush­ers, Wil­son would love an­other le­git­i­mate re­ceiv­ing threat and, once again, Seat­tle is in the mar­ket for a place­kicker. But two sea­sons into his ca­reer, Tedric Thomp­son doesn’t look like the an­swer at free safety. De­lano Hill also showed prom­ise late in the reg­u­lar sea­son but has started just two games in his ca­reer. Shalom Luani and Mau­rice Alexan­der are also ques­tion marks. McDougald is ca­pa­ble of play­ing ei­ther safety po­si­tion, so that gives the Sea­hawks some flex­i­bil­ity both in free agency and the draft.

EARLY EX­PEC­TA­TIONS

CONDOTTA:

This was the true chang­ing-of-the­guard sea­son for Seat­tle. ... Seat­tle ben­e­fited this year from be­ing a lit­tle un­der-the-radar en­ter­ing the sea­son and tran­si­tioned nicely thanks to some tweaks to its of­fen­sive scheme. Seat­tle won’t catch any­one off guard next sea­son, though.

VOREL: The Sea­hawks sur­passed all re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions in 2018. With a young, tal­ented core re­turn­ing, there’s no rea­son they should not be able to build on that suc­cess next sea­son. It will be dif­fi­cult to up­end the Rams at the top of the NFC West, but the goal for these Sea­hawks should be a di­vi­sion ti­tle and home field in the play­offs.

MICHAEL AINSWORTH AP

Seat­tle Sea­hawks mid­dle line­backer Bob­byWag­ner, right, has made five con­sec­u­tive Pro Bowls and ended the reg­u­lar sea­son with 138 to­tal tack­les.

ROGER STEINMAN AP

Sea­hawks quar­ter­back Rus­sell Wil­son, who set a fran­chise record with 35 touch­down passes while adapt­ing to the team’s move back to more of a run-first of­fense, sprints for the end zone against the host Dal­las Cow­boys last week­end.

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