We're entering into uncharted territory with the Pete Carroll/John Schneider Seahawks, primarily because it feels like we do not know what they are going to be in 2018. For nearly a decade, the mission has been clear: they are going to play defense and run the ball. It would be grand if they could continue to do those things, but after stripping down the defensive side of the ball, it remains to be seen if the Seahawks will have the same identity moving forward.
It would make more sense to just build around Russell Wilson. The franchise quarterback, who managed to magically keep the Seahawks offense afloat last season despite a lack of talent on the offensive line and no running game to speak of, can elevate an offense on his own. Mix in Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett and Rashaad Penny and there are enough pieces to at least pretend to play with. Where Carroll is willing to abandon his principles and make this an up-tempo Russell show is the question that looms.
Well, actually there are more questions: what happens to the Seahawks defense if you take away Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril? Those guys are all older and some of them weren't going to play at all, but it's still a lot of talent being taken away from Seattle's roster.
Seattle's big move in the draft was nabbing Penny in the draft, a surprising first-round selection of a running back for a team without a great offensive line. The good news is analytics show Penny's great at breaking tackles in the backfield!
It's easy to keep believing in what Carroll's program does, but it is also reasonable to be concerned about how this team will look. Vegas is clearly confused by the whole thing,.
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Early Schedule Analysis
This thing does them NO favors early: the Seahawks play three of their first four games on the road, including a Mile High opener against the Broncos, a Week 2 matchup against the Bears in Chicago and a Week 4 game in Arizona. At least they get the Cowboys as a home opener in Week 3? Week 5 is a home game against the Rams, followed by a road trip to Oakland in Week 7 and a Week 8 bye. Things aren't much easier after: the Lions (road), Chargers (home), Rams (road), Packers (home) and Panthers (road) await Seattle to close out November. The good news is they're home for four of their last five games, but the bad news is if the 49ers are good, they see them twice (home in Week 13 to start December, road two weeks later). They also draw the Vikings (home, Week 14), Chiefs (home, Week 16) and Cardinals (home, Week 17). That is rough.
Why They'll Go Over
The blind assumption that the Seahawks will be bad is just silly: this has been a very good team for a very long time. Losing a lot of stars is a problem, but the Seahawks developed a lot of nice depth pieces on defense to make up for the attrition. Frank Clark, Jarran Reed, Nazair Jones and Dion Jones is not a terrible defensive line, just not what we've . Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright still give them one of the best linebacking tandems in the game. Earl Thomas is still around, and Shaq Griffin . There's talent all over this defense, it's just not recognizable, which might be the way Carroll likes it. The offense is still a concern -- Darrell Bevell is gone and the Seahawks want to get rid of the "spin and pray for magic" offense Russell Wilson ran last year. But are they going to go up tempo? Or are they going to try and ground/pound again? Honestly, both could be tough. There are not a ton of weapons here: Doug Baldwin is great but he's one man. Tyler Lockett hasn't been able to stay healthy. Marcus Johnson and Tanner McEvoy are next on the depth chart. Penny is a huge addition given the lack of production from their running backs since Marshawn Lynch retired (only to return to the Raiders). Since Lynch left, the Seahawks have had one player go over 500 rushing yards, and it was Wilson last year (586 yards). If they can successfully get back to their roots on offense, they can challenge in this division.
Why They'll Go Under
The offense is the biggest concern here, no doubt about it. Penny has to break the mold of the past few years -- even in Lynch's final season with Seattle, the Seahawks didn't have a back go over 1,000 yards. Doing so is going to require the team's biggest weakness, it's offensive line, become a strength. Even if Duane Brown is operating at a high level, it's hard to see it happening. Wilson could be under siege early on and who knows what Brian Schottenheimer's offense will actually look like. Any optimism on the defense is just that -- it's much easier to sit here in May and convince yourself that group of early-round picks, including 2018 third-round selection Rasheem Green, is going to band together and form an above-average defensive front. Thomas might not want to be in Seattle; he certainly won't be showing up to OTAs without a new contract. The defense moved up to 13th in DVOA last year after falling to 19th in 2016; it just hasn't been elite for two years. The schedule could be a major problem, because regardless of opponents, if the Seahawks can't pick up some early wins out of the gate on the road, they might be doomed to a lost season.
Didn't think I would go in this direction, because the Seahawks finally present some value after being a heavily-hyped team heading into the year the last few seasons. The last time Seattle had an over/under that was below 10 wins was, when Russell was a rookie and the Seahawks were coming off two straight seven-win seasons. They were primed to start a dynasty. Maybe Carroll and Wilson surprise everyone again, but I can't buy on it.