It was an up-and-down season for the Seattle Seahawks, and the roller coaster ended up veering off of the rails and into the trees, where it's now seemingly one phone call away from bursting into flames.
At one point, Russell Wilson was owning the league and there was talk of him finally landing his first NFL MVP honor. That was tabled when he and the Seahawks began to struggle before they'd finally get things going again to end the year with the NFC West crown. And so the stage was set, the Seahawks facing the Los Angeles Rams for a third time, on NFL Super Wild-Card Weekend and only days after losing to them in the regular-season finale.
It was, and the world quickly found out why.
Donald led a defensive effort that suffocated Wilson and Co., so much so that the quandary at quarterback mostly proved of no consequence. John Wolford was forced out of the game in the first quarter and an injured Jared Goff entered, the latter having to do nothing more than avoid costly mistakes while delivering timely throws. He did both of those things en route to eliminating the Seahawks from the playoffs, and questions regarding what went wrong in Seattle are now front and center. Wilson isn't shy about admitting the primary issue, and recently noted he "wants to be involved" in roster decisions going forward -- comments that come in the midst of teams calling the Seahawks to see if they'd be open to trading their franchise quarterback, according to Jason La Canfora.
In dissecting five ways the Seahawks can return to glory, none of them involve sending away the best player on the team.
Step 1: Protect Russ, finally
Blaming Wilson for Seattle's failure is low-hanging fruit.
The All-Pro was playing at an MVP-caliber level early in the season, spawning a movement defined by the "Let Russ Cook" mantra and was the main reason Seattle was viewed as a Super Bowl contender. And cook he did, until he began to stumble in the kitchen, largely due to a lack of consistent protection and a defensive unit that was one of the worst in the NFL -- allowing opponents to score at will. We'll get to the latter point in a moment, but the Seahawks' inability to put a wall in front of Wilson for another consecutive season saw him ultimately bullied into submission by the Rams (the latest to do so). He was sacked five times on the day and you didn't even notice Aaron Donald left the game with a rib injury, not to return, because the assault on Wilson never relented. So until Seattle finally fixes the O-line issue, Wilson will forever be tasked with being a superhero to a degree that is flat out unsustainable -- with play and/or durability.
Step 2: Rebuild the pass rush
When the team's sack leader safety Jamal Adams, you might have a problem up front.
There was a reason the Seahawks tried to re-sign Jadeveon Clowney in 2020, and while it was wise to not cave to his asking price, the thought behind it was indicative of a team desperately trying to get after the opposing quarterback after struggling in that respect the previous season. There's promise in this regard, by way of Jarran Reed, but Reed's sack total (6.5) came from the interior, and that means neither of the top-two in the category were on the edge of the defensive line. Kudos to Benson Mayowa for adding six sacks to the tally, but there isn't a terrifying presence on either edge and that was on full display against the Rams. Carlos Dunlap might become that in 2021, but even if he does, who's the complementary piece opposite him -- for now and, more importantly, the future? With free agency and the NFL Draft now on the menu, it's paramount the Seahawks find themselves a lethal edge rusher who can sack a Wolford and injured Goff combo more than three times in four quarters of a home playoff game.
Step 3: Level up the secondary
One of the two things has to improve immediately, if not both.
That is to say, you can't lack a dominant pass rush and be absent a dominant secondary, and yet that's the current situation in Seattle. The Seahawks defense allowed the most passing yards in NFL history over their first nine games of the season, and that was despite having made the blockbuster trade for Adams. And while Adams proved he was worth the move, he also dealt with durability issues that saw him miss several games and will Quandre Diggs brings to the table on the back end, but the cornerback lot leaves much to be desired. An example would be Shaquill Griffin, who grabbed three INTs in 2020 but allowed a 62.1 percent completion rate when targeted and gave up a career-worst six touchdowns, to boot. The Seahawks need one, or two, shutdown corners and they need it yesterday.. Additionally, while Adams is locked in for 2021, he's a free agent thereafter -- something to keep an eye on when trying to determine how the Seahawks secondary will look for the foreseeable future. You have to love what
Step 4: Upgrade the TE position
If your answer for TE1 was Greg Olsen, you never actually had an answer.
Olsen had long been battling durability issues before his eventual parting of ways from the Carolina Panthers, so it felt inevitable that would again be an issue with the Seahawks, and it was. He was available for 11 games but logged just eight starts, finishing the year on injured reserve with yet another foot injury, after grabbing only 239 receiving yards and one touchdown in roughly half a season, numbers that were still nearly better than Will Dissly's (who had four more starts). It is incumbent upon the Seahawks to upgrade this position and in two parts. On one hand, they need an athletic starter who can complement the likes of DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, also allowing for the exploitation of linebackers and nickel corners. On the other hand, they'd ideally like him to at least be solid at blocking, or they'll have to better identify a TE2 who can focus on that job -- a nod to point No. 1 on this list. However you slice the bread, though, it's still bread, and if the Seahawks want their sometimes prolific passing offense to offer up more of a challenge than their two star receivers, they better start baking with quality dough at TE.
Step 5: Add gunpowder at RB
Chris Carson played in 15 games this season, and that's a great sign.
Having battled through injury heading into the 2020 season, Carson did miss four games but is still a more than capable starting running back in the NFL. That said, it wasn't a banner year for Carson with 681 rushing yards, although he did add 287 receiving yards and nine total touchdowns to this bottom line, so the Seahawks are fine there. The problem is, there's no one-two punch in the RB room, which is what Carlos Hyde was supposed to resolve. Hyde didn't play horribly in 2020, but it felt like he and DeeJay Dallas were constantly fighting to become the Robin to Carson's Batman -- in futility. Despite a massive beatdown by the Rams defense, Carson fell only 23 yards shy of a 100-yard outing, but Wilson had the second-most rushing yards in the game (50). It's well known that Wilson is a threat on the ground as well as in the air, but his primary job isn't to be a great running back in the league. Lastly, quiet as it's kept, Carson is a free agent in 2021, which brings us full circle to why the Seahawks have a lot to figure out at the position.