Wondering if and how your NFL team can make the playoffs in the coming season? Adam Rank and Marc Sessler have you covered in this ongoing series, as they provide five reasons why each of the league's 32 teams will make an appearance in the 2018 postseason. Today, Sessler examines the Seattle Seahawks.
1) Russell Wilson
The Seahawks furiously churned the roster this offseason, waving farewell to Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and a host of other veterans. Seattle parted ways with talented players who fit the scheme while replacing a pair of veteran coordinators. Dumping known talent is no guarantee of success, but the 'Hawks still have their most important player under center.
Russell Wilson is coming off a tremendous season for a Seattle offense that lacked balance and consistently asked him to operate as a one-man show. The veteran passer was required to spin magic behind one of the league's worst offensive lines. A stiffer, stuck-in-the-mud starter would have been dead by Halloween. Not Wilson, though, who dodged traffic play after play.
You don't want your quarterback under this much pressure, but Wilson has shown he can take it. He regularly ranks as the most exciting player on the field and, last season, gave this hot-and-cold offense a chance.
In today's NFL, a top-10 quarterback -- and Wilson is arguably in the top five -- can turn a team with issues into a nine-win operation. For a legitimate shot at the playoffs, though, some new faces must develop in a hurry.
2) Back to the ground game
There are plenty of legitimate unknowns in Seattle.
I won't call Brian Schottenheimer an upgrade over departed play-caller Darrell Bevell. Chalk it up as a curious hire, but Schotty made it clear the offense isn't about to drastically change, claiming Seattle will keep "70 percent" of last year's playbook.
Why did Pete Carroll hire Schottenheimer? It's a clear-cut signal that Seattle harbors a renewed emphasis on pounding the ball.
"It's a commitment to: That's the style of play and that fits," Carroll said. "You go back to a couple of years ago when Schottenheimer] had [Mark Sanchez back there and [the Jets] ran the football like crazy and they won [there] ... really with a young quarterback based on the commitment to the run and playing defense. Well, you know us, that's something that we do understand about how you play the game of football. [Schottenheimer's] committed to it. He gets us."
This points to a productive, high-touch campaign for first-round runner Rashaad Penny, who's already being talked about as a three-down starter who can do it all for the 'Hawks. Unafraid to play rookies, Carroll's plans for Penny could very well decide how this offense looks in 2018.
3) Bobby Wagner
Wagner was saddled by a hamstring injury late in the season. Before the setback, he didn't miss a tackle all year and often looked like the best player on the field. Wagner's speed and decision-making set him apart.
4) Trust in the team builders
The optics are plenty to ponder, with analysts wondering if Carroll has lost his magic touch. The way he sees it, though, this newfangled, youthful Seahawks roster brings the team back to one of their core values: competition.
"I'm not saying I'm not more challenged this year than some other years," Carroll told The MMQB's Albert Breer. "But I always feel like, 'Man, this is my whole deal, to try to figure out how to recapture that.
"... And it feels like four or five years ago. It feels fresh and wide open, it's more of an open competition for some of the spots. And that's a really good thing for us, because it does feed into the whole approach."
Why should we trust in Carroll and general manager John Schneider: They've done this all before.
5) Because everyone's counting them out
In a stacked NFC, counting out Seattle is arguably logical with so many established and newer powers grasping for real estate. Yet every season offers up its share of surprises.