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2013 Seattle Seahawks Preview

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120913-helmet-600Everybody and their website is picking the Seahawks as one of the Super Bowl favorites. Even my favorite football website, FootballOutsiders.com, recently released their projections and had the Seahawks, along with the Packers, Patriots, and Broncos, in their forecast.

It hasn’t happened that way very often, not for Seattle anyway. In fact, it was 1985 that was the last and only time the Seahawks were predicted to go to the Super Bowl after finishing 1984 with a 12-4 record and losing to the Raiders in the AFC Championship game.

Seattle, of course, proceeded to go 8-8, making a pretty pattern by winning two and losing two over and over again; it was like the kid taking his SAT test by filling in the bubble answer sheet to make a picture instead of reading the questions.

Actually, Seattle’s 12-4 record in 1984 was the first time it finished a season with double digit wins. Seahawks have never won double digits two straight years. Hell, the team has only had six double digit win seasons since 1976.

So pardon me if I sound a little less than euphoric with the Super Bowl predictions and number one rankings I keep hearing about this offseason. I’m not being a pessimist here, just saying that historically, if there’s a way to fuck things up, the Seahawks are world champions at finding it.

I’ve got so many things to worry about, I feel like an old lady here. I worry about Sidney Rice’s knee, Russell Wilson’s sophomore jinx, Chris Clemons’ knee, Breno Giacomini’s unsportsmanlike conduct, and Richard Sherman’s mouth.

Richard ShermanI worry about the taint of Adderall. However, I do laugh at how other fans act like no other team got popped. I also marvel at how other fans don’t know that of the seven Seahawks players that got popped, only one, Brandon Browner, was a legit starter. The others were backups, part timers, practice squad members or cut before the season started. I shake my head at the ones who claim Sherman beat the rap on a technicality instead of thinking that he actually might have been telling the truth.

I worry about the schedule that has the Seahawks playing five 10 a.m. Pacific Time games and has the team traveling to play Atlanta, Houston, Indianapolis, and New York to play the Giants while the 49ers have their toughest games at home.

I worry about opening in Carolina at 10 freaking a. m. Pacific Time against a Panthers team that almost, and probably should have, beat Seattle last year.

I worry about the team thinking more about week two against the 49ers than the Panthers.

I worry that Seahawks fans will be more worried about setting the noise record than paying attention to who has the ball.

I worry that the bandwagon fans will talk so much shit about going to the Super Bowl that it will cancel out all the good karma this team has earned by being so god awful shitty throughout the years.

And if that’s not enough of a list for you, the team Seattle is paired up with as another of the best is our arch enemy, the smug and arrogant San Francisco 49ers. They are the embodiment of their coach, Emperor Jim Douchebag Harbaugh .

In fact, everything about the 49ers is like the Empire in the Star Wars movies. The original episodes, Phantom Menace were a waste of all the years spent waiting and Hayden Christensen made me root for the lava.

If the 49ers are the Empire, that makes the Seahawks the rebellion, ready to take down the hated douchebags from the bay. Watching Pete Carroll swagger up and down the sidelines like Marshall Matt Dillon cracks me up every time. Plus, it’s definitely cooler than watching Harbaugh lose his shit every time he disagrees with something. It would be more effective if it didn’t happen every single play.

The fans aren’t any better. If you talk football with a 49ers fan, their default argument is to ask how many rings has your team won. Usually this is asked by a guy who’s not old enough to remember the last ring they won.

I could spend this whole time comparing and contrasting the two teams that are probably going to be battling all season for supremacy. But really, I’m a Seahawks supporter so, without further ado, fuck the 49ers and on with the Seahawks.

2012 was a breakthrough year for Seattle.

So after going 7-9 for the first two years of the Pete Carroll regime, the Seahawks found the cheat code for the offense and stormed to an 11-5 record. Seattle raced to the finishing line of the regular season by blowing the doors off the Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, and 49ers. The Seahawks scored 150 points total on the three teams, two with top defenses, while only allowing 30 points total against them.

It’s easy to see how the bandwagon could overflow with jumpers at that point. The team had a swagger to it and the muscle to back it up. A hard fought win against the St Louis Rams to close out the season followed by a come-from-behind first round playoff win against the Washington Redskins on a trash pit of a field.

Another miracle comeback effort that left too much time on the clock for the Atlanta Falcons ended the 2012 season for the Seahawks. That was a familiar sight too; the Seahawks lost the exact same way to the Detroit Lions and Miami Dolphins during the season.

So what does 2013 hold for the Seahawks and the 12th Man? One thing is always certain, nothing is certain with this team.

Pete CarrollCarroll has a mantra; it’s built into this team. He repeats it constantly and lives by it. It’s the two words, “Always Compete.” It’s the policy that made Wilson the starter over the big free agent Matt Flynn. It’s what brought about a total makeover of the team from the Mike Holmgren era and keeps the roster continuously evolving. For a team so close to the Super Bowl, the Seahawks have 17 players on the roster that weren’t with the team in 2012.

There’s so much uncertainty with the Carroll and John Schneider regime that I refused to do a preview before final cuts. I would have written the names Antoine Winfield (ex-Minnesota Vikings) and Michael Robinson in ink. Both are gone now, let go in the final round of roster cuts.

Winfield was supposed to be a key free agent signing, becoming the nickel back that the Seahawks lacked. He got outplayed by a now healthy Walter Thurmond and the emergence of Jeremy Lane and Byron Maxwell.

Percy HarvinThe other free agent signing you may have heard of was also from the Vikings, wide receiver Percy Harvin. Harvin will be out until at least Thanksgiving so as much as I love the signing, the Seahawks luck shines through again.

Actually, the Harvin signing is just another example of the Carroll and Schneider gambling spirit. Harvin was considered injury prone and temperamental in Minnesota and the team couldn’t wait to get rid of him despite him being the only thing keeping both safeties out of the box against Adrian Peterson.

Carroll and Schneider saw a bigger reward than risk, especially with all the weapons the Seahawks have on offense already.

That leads me directly into… (That’s called a segue in the business, boys and girls)

The Offense:

Despite all the print about a certain short rookie quarterback, the Seahawks are first and foremost a run-first offense. That philosophy starts with the Beast, Marshawn Lynch.

marshawn+lynch+stiff+arm+vikingsLynch sets a tone of toughness and non-stop aggression, something the Seahawks have never had before he arrived. Imagine Shaun Alexander trying to duplicate the Beast Quake run against the Saints in the playoffs two years ago. Yeah, that ain’t happening.

The passing game is dangerous, with weapons at every spot. A receiving corps already loaded with Rice, Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin, as well as the return of Zac Miller should be able to hold on until Harvin returns.

Miller exploded at the end of the year as the Seahawks were finally able to let him out in pass routes instead of keeping him in to help block. He led the Seahawks with eight catches for 142 yards against the Falcons while battling Plantar Fasciitis.

Russell WilsonAll of this is dependent on the continued development of Wilson, of course. He set a high bar in his rookie season, completing 64.6% of his passes and tying Peyton Manning for touchdown throws with 26 while only throwing nine interceptions. He also ran for 501 yards on 82 carries and four touchdowns.

The offensive line remains a work in progress under the underrated hands of Coach Tom Cable. He’s done wonders with the projects given to him, helped by Pro Bowlers at center, Max Unger and tackle Russell Okung.

And now onto…

The Defense:

This is where Carroll really gets his hard-on going, being a defensive coordinator when he’s not a head coach. It helps that he’s turned around a defense that was weak against the run and slow against the pass when he got here.

No one else would have put the 300+ pound Red Bryant on the end of the line and had him set the edge. No one but Carroll, that is. Bryant went from merely a bench warmer to a key on the line, able to play tackle or end while excelling at both.

To take the currently vacant other end position while Chris Clemons heals from a knee injured on that crappy Redskins field, the Seahawks had hopes for second-year pass rush specialist Bruce Irvin. That changed too when Irvin came up positive on the league’s Performance Enhancing Drugs policy and was suspended for the first four games.

So Carroll and Schneider went out and picked up two of the best ends on the free agent market, Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. Avril had 9.5 sacks and 13.5 hurries last season for the Detroit Lions, while Bennett had 9 sacks and 23.5 hurries for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The unsung but completely necessary center of the defense is tackle Brandon Mebane. Mebane is essential to the Seahawks’ defensive front and will be paired with former Miami Dolphin Tony McDaniel.

The linebackers are led by second-year player and defensive rookie of the year candidate Bobby Wagner in the middle with KJ Wright and Malcolm Smith on the sides. All are solid but not as good as the 49ers, who still have the best linebackers in the league.

Legion of BoomThe real strength for the defense is in the secondary though. Nicknamed the Legion of Boom, this group earns that label. Not only that, they revel in it. If swagger is the hallmark of a cornerback and safety, Seattle leads the league.

Everyone knows Sherman by now. While he’s become the face and mouth of the Seahawks, he backs it up by playing at a level on par with the best in the league. What’s amazing is that he played receiver in college at Stanford and was drafted in the fifth round. That’s part of what drives him to perform so highly.

A few people may dispute his claims (Darelle Revis included) to be the best corner around right now. That’s fine because that kind of thing is what keeps driving him higher.

Sherman has become a player opposing teams and fans hate but I don’t mind that so much. He reminds me a lot of another Seattle player, a favorite of mine that loved to talk, former Sonic Gary Payton. Like Sherman, Payton could shut down anybody and would tell the other guy all about it while doing it. He talked shit all day but could back it up.

On the other side is another tall and aggressive corner, former CFL player Brandon Browner. Where Sherman is a talker, Browner is a silent brawler. Rarely speaking but always willing to throw down, just ask Pierre Garcon how much he enjoyed wrestling with Browner.

The key to the secondary is free safety Earl Thomas. His ability to cover and close, as well as lay the lumber, allows the corners to be more aggressive.

The strong safety Kam Chancellor is an enforcer who can do so much more than just hit, although he does that incredibly well. Ask Vernon Davis, if he can remember. Although Chancellor got flagged on one hit to him last season, it was clean and shows he’s not a dirty hitter but a punishing one.

Special Teams:

The kickers haven’t changed; it’s still Steven Hauschka and Jon Ryan putting their foot on the ball. The kick returner was changed as Leon Washington was let go when the Seahawks signed Percy Harvin. Harvin’s injury means that the returner duties will be split up between Golden Tate, Jermaine Kearse, and Jeremy Lane, amongst others.

Coaching:

The main change is the change at Defensive Coordinator. Gus Bradley left for the black hole of Jacksonville and Dan Quinn, last of the Florida Gators and the Seahawks before that, took the position. If he can stop the late game meltdowns that led to losses against Miami, Detroit, and finally Atlanta, he’s got my vote.

Still, here is the gunslinger, the head coach. His reputation is being a player’s coach, which is always a concern because that implies a lack of discipline and control. That may have been a problem at his last stops in the NFL (including New England) but I don’t see it now. He’s learned from the past and while he’s a ball of energy, way too excited for his age, and his players love to play for him, he’s also ruthless and not afraid to cut the chord on anyone that doesn’t measure up. I get the feeling that he feels that if he’s going to go down in flames, it’s going to be because he did it his way.

Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell and Offensive Line Coach Tom Cable are still here and still putting together the perfect marriage of West Coast offense and zone blocking.

Final Thoughts:

Like every other team, there is a lot riding on a few key points: Wilson’s arm and brain, Lynch’s legs, and the defense holding up as a whole.

I don’t believe in sophomore slumps but I do remember Rick Mirer sharing rookie of the year honors with Drew Bledsoe. He was another mobile quarterback wearing the number three. There is a difference though. Wilson, besides having a great first name, has a much more mature disposition and is more than willing to throw to his left. For those that don’t know, teams realized Mirer wouldn’t or couldn’t throw to his left. From that time forward, his days as a starting quarterback were over.

Lynch’s legs are a worry too but he hasn’t had any injury issues so far (knock on wood). The coaches do a good job of giving him breaks and the team does well with backups Robert Turbin and Christine Michael. I think Lynch will miss his fullback Michael Robinson but the team feels that Spencer Ware can fill that void.

Besides being tough and aggressive, the Seahawks have fun. That’s the vibe I get most from this team. It seems a little odd to say that, at least to me, but it’s true.

From the top down, they are enjoying the fruits of their labors. Carroll has instilled a vibe that very much has his players smiling but it also gets the best effort from each and every one of them. They know they could be gone anytime so they don’t worry about it. They put out 100% every day and let the effort speak for them. They know if they do their best, Carroll will do everything he can to keep them on the team.

In the end, if everything works out like it is written down on paper, this comes down to a battle between the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.

In the movies, the rebellion blows up the Death Star and leaves Darth Douchebag spinning helplessly out into space.

Let’s see if the reality is like the movies.

Photo credits: AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, Joe Sargent

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About Russ Evenhuis

I'm a writer with a mid-life crisis. I'm into sports of all kind, a Seattle fan to my bones. A retired rugby player, now I punish myself with triathlons when I'm not hanging out with the family, drinking Guinness and playing PlayStation.