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Three keys to the Seattle Seahawks getting their swagger back

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The Seattle Seahawks used to be the team no one wanted to play on any given Sunday, let alone in January.

It started in 2010, when Pete Carroll was hired. That year's roster was made up of misfit players -- including myself, in the first of my four seasons in Seattle -- who bonded over the fact that we weren't valued by most other teams. Few of us had won a lot in the NFL, and we had this "forget everybody" attitude that Carroll encouraged. He gave us so much damn love we thought we were on top of the world. Before then, none of us had been a part of an organization that gave us leeway to be ourselves. A group of us -- including Red Bryant, Chris Clemons, Leon Washington and Marshawn Lynch, who started to evolve as a leader -- were considered veterans on a young team, and we just appreciated the opportunity Carroll and the Seahawks gave us.

Alongside motivated veterans, key parts were added in free agency and through the draft in the first four seasons of the Carroll-John Schneider era. The foundation was set, and we slowly climbed the NFC ranks, staying under the radar until we defeated San Francisco in the 2013 NFC Championship Game, with Richard Sherman announcing himself as a shutdown corner and our team as true contenders. The dominant mindset and play, marked by punishing hits and unwavering confidence, catapulted the Seahawks to the Super Bowl XLVIII mountaintop, and it carried into the next season.

Since the stunning end of Super Bowl XLIX, however, this group hasn't been the same feared team of old. Consider that Seattle's average margin of victory last season (3.9 points) was its lowest since 2011, far below the high-water marks established in 2012 (10.4) and 2013 (11.6). After five straight seasons of ranking in the top five in turnover differential, the Seahawks plummeted to 16th last season. Finally, there were the alarmingly punchless performances in the 9-3 loss to the Rams, the 6-6 tie with the Cardinals and the 14-5 defeat to the Bucs. There were glimpses of greatness and gritty play, but it wasn't on the regular. Yes, it seems my beloved 'Hawks have lost their swagger.

That's not to say they're necessarily in a bad spot. Even though the last two seasons have been considered "down years," the Seahawks still made the Divisional Round of the playoffs in both campaigns. But getting their old attitude back will give them the boost they need to go deeper into the postseason. Here are three things that will help them restore their swagger in 2017:

1) Finding offensive balance

The Seahawks haven't been the same rushing team (after four straight top-four finishes, they ranked 25th last season) since parting ways with Marshawn Lynch. In an effort to recreate the ground-and-pound mojo provided by Beast Mode, they went out and signed Eddie Lacy this offseason. Carroll wants a big, nasty, tone-setting running back -- and he got one with Lacy, as long as the former Packer can keep the weight off. So far, it seems Lacy is committed to getting the Seahawks' run game in shape once again, based on his ability to meet an early weight-related contract incentive.

The rushing offense struggled partly because of poor line play. Ironically, the Seahawks have drafted 13 offensive linemen since 2010, second only to the 49ers' 14 in that span. But they've missed on a few picks in recent years. Moreover, Seattle's five starting O-linemen by the end of last season entered 2016 possessing a total of five years of NFL experience, with George Fant and Germain Ifedi playing as rookies. You can't win championships with so little experience in one of the most crucial -- and often underrated -- areas of the offense. The unit also struggled to protect quarterback Russell Wilson, allowing the sixth-most sacks in the NFL a year ago. These growing pains should subside going forward. Several offseason signings, along with second-round pick Ethan Pocic, will certainly give the unit a different look and more depth.

Wilson has been the center of this offense of late. But he's at his best when he is a complementary factor, as opposed to being The Show. A more balanced offense will allow Wilson to still be a playmaker with less pressure. For example, when they won a championship in 2013, the Seahawks rushed the ball 509 times while throwing just 420 times. And in 2014, they rushed the ball 525 times and passed on 454 plays. Last season, Seattle had 567 passing attempts and 403 rushing attempts.

2) Regaining full health

Injuries hindered the offense and defense last season. There were season-ending injuries to safety Earl Thomas and receiver/return man Tyler Lockett, along with injuries to running backs Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise. Defensive end Michael Bennett missed five games in the middle of the season after having knee surgery, and Wilson was banged up with knee and ankle injuries.

Though the Seahawks were without some of their starters, backups still produced on the field -- especially on the defense, which ranked in the top five overall. Where the team felt the losses most was in the locker room. From a leadership standpoint, it's hard to hold teammates accountable on the field without being out there yourself.

3) Playing with a sense of urgency

People have questioned if the window is closing for the Seahawks to make another Super Bowl run. I recently spoke to some of my former teammates, and the word "hungry" was used a lot in conversation, indicating that the 2017 group feels much like the teams at the beginning of Carroll's tenure and the ones that advanced deep in the playoffs.

In the 2010 season, we saw over 200 roster moves, so we knew this coach and front office meant business about turning the organization around. Carroll was masterful in his language, painting an "us against the world" picture and making the players really feel like we had all we needed to make a run. The sense of urgency came because of this culture. If you weren't getting the job done on the field, you were gone -- and every man in the locker room knew why. It brought us together and forced us to take ownership.

This was embodied in our 2010 playoff push, which was highlighted by the grit, determination and urgency of the Beast Quake game vs. New Orleans. No one gave us a chance as a 7-9 team that had limped into the playoffs, but our goal was to give the 12s a playoff victory. The wild-card win stemmed from a collective effort not just to compete with a good team but to show our individual sense of urgency to the world, and that we were supposed to be playing in January and competing at a high level.

Of course, this year's team still needs to perform at an extremely high level to see the results it wants, but I get the sense the Seahawks are paying attention to detail and are motivated once again. Expect the swagger to return in full force in 2017.

Follow Michael Robinson on Twitter @RealMikeRob.

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