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State of the 2022 Seattle Seahawks: Ready for life after Russell Wilson?

Where does your franchise stand heading into 2022? Adam Rank sets the table by providing a State of the Franchise look at all 32 teams, zeroing in on the key figures to watch and setting the stakes for the season to come.

Members of the Seahawks organization, Seahawks fans around the world and those who refuse to put their Russell Wilson jersey in the Goodwill pile:

The 2021 offseason might have seemed rough for the Seahawks -- but then the 2022 offseason said, "Hold my oat-milk-latte-infused IPA," and went completely nuts. I don't even know what to tell you. Which is probably not what you want to read at this point of this dissertation.

2021 rewind

One high from last season: Winning two straight in December. The Seahawks followed up a home victory over the 49ers (those are always fun) in Week 13 with a win over the Texans to improve to 5-8, prompting some in the media to wonder if Seattle could turn it on with some favorable matchups down the stretch. Or maybe that was just Mina Kimes. Either way, there was reason for some to believe.

One low from last season: Watching Russell Wilson's imaginary reps. I love Wilson, but seeing him pretend to lead the offense down the field, alone and in shorts, before missing the first of three games with a finger injury that required surgery, felt like an almost comical representation of Seattle's frustrating fate in 2021. His absence was definitely the lowest point of the season. Russell being Russell, he worked himself back ahead of schedule to give it a go, suiting up when the Seahawks returned from their Week 9 bye to face the Packers. But he couldn't muster any offense, posting the fourth sub-40 passer rating of his career in that game, and the Seahawks were shut out on the road in Green Bay. They would go on to lose at home to Arizona and on the road in Washington, pretty much closing the book on the season, the above-mentioned mini-win streak notwithstanding.

2022 VIPs

Head coach: Pete Carroll. I'm almost sure I've made my feelings for Carroll obvious, but if not, know that I'm a huge fan. He's one of the best to ever do it, and one of the few to win championships on the NCAA level (yes, I'm aware several of his wins with USC were vacated by the NCAA, and that the Trojans' 2004 national title was stripped, but those games happened; I witnessed them with my own eyes) and in the Super Bowl. But while I still love the energy and enthusiasm, and while I still want to go out and run into a wall every time I hear him talk, I'm getting a little worried about him now.

Because transitioning the Seahawks from the end of the Wilson era -- which lasted 10 seasons and included eight playoff trips -- to whatever comes next will be a pretty tall order, especially at this stage of his coaching career, 28 years after he got his first head job (with the Jets in 1994). I mean, you can see the bumps Bill Belichick and the Patriots have gone through in the two seasons since Tom Brady headed to Tampa. I love Mac Jones, and New England did make the playoffs last year after going 7-9 in 2020, but the sledding has not been easy, and that's with a first-rounder in Jones under center. Seattle is going through this phase in the competitive life cycle (do NOT call it a rebuild!) with questions swirling around QB.

Then again, Pete has proven the doubters wrong on many occasions. He was knocked when he was hired at USC. He was knocked when he was hired in Seattle. Maybe I just need to take a breath and let him do his thing, especially given my stance on the next bolded name in this piece ...

Quarterback: Drew Lock. I sat in plenty of TV production meetings prior to the 2022 NFL Draft in which the idea of Seattle selecting a quarterback came up, along with the possibility of trading for Baker Mayfield. People always looked at me like I was from another planet when I'd point out the Seahawks really seem to love Lock, the former second-round pick who came over from the Broncos as part of Wilson's trade to Denver. But we've gone through the draft and free agency, and the 25-year-old Lock remains in a favorable spot on the depth chart, with only veteran backup Geno Smith standing between him and his first shot to be a regular starter since 2020. Carroll isn't ready to hand Lock the job yet -- but he did recently say Lock would have been the first quarterback off the board if he had been in this year's draft. Not that I'm trying to get into a debate about Kenny Pickett (who was the actual first QB taken in 2022) and Lock; I'm not about to do that. I'll just say a lot of Lock's best attributes suit the Seahawks' offense.

Seattle has ranked in the top half of the NFL in each of the past five seasons in play-action rate. Lock's career numbers (59.3 percent completion rate, 25:20 TD-to-INT ratio, 79.3 passer rating) might not be inspiring, but his play-action performance (64.7 percent completion rate, 9:2 TD-to-INT ratio, 101.3 passer rating) suggests he can be successful if Seattle is able to run the ball effectively to set up the pass. The Seahawks are not going to ask him to do a lot. Hell, they mostly didn't even ask nine-time Pro Bowler Russell Wilson to do a lot. Lock just might surprise some people this year.

Projected 2022 MVP: Tyler Lockett, receiver. I know, DK Metcalf would probably be the trendier pick for this slot, coming off a breakout season in which he finished fourth in the NFL with 12 touchdown grabs (three of them helped me in the fantasy playoffs, which was huge). But if we're talking about who needs to come through this season for the Seahawks' offense to take off, it's got to be Lockett, a veteran who has been a consistent force in Seattle, posting 70-plus catches, 1,000-plus yards and eight-plus TD receptions in each of the past three seasons. (I also want to give some love to tight end Noah Fant, who is being slept on a bit too much for my liking.)

New face to know: Kenneth Walker III, running back. Oh my gosh -- I passed up on Walker in my dynasty fantasy league, and based on the reactions of the dudes I play with (and those on Twitter), you would have thought I was passing on peak-era Christian McCaffrey. The second-round pick turned heads in rookie minicamp. Some dream of Walker being the kind of workhorse back we haven't seen in Seattle since the days of Marshawn Lynch. That said, the Seahawks will still have to divide carries between Walker, re-signed veteran Rashaad Penny, who is currently at the top of the depth chart, and Chris Carson, who is going to run forever.

2022 breakout star: Darrell Taylor, edge defender. Finding a way to regularly get to the quarterback might be the Seahawks' biggest issue headed into this season, given that they play in the same division as Matthew Stafford and Kyler Murray, and two of their three leaders in sacks from last season (Carlos Dunlap and Rasheem Green) are gone. Taylor is a second-round pick from 2020 who started to show some promise last year, finishing with 6.5 sacks (tied with Green for third on that list, behind Dunlap's 8.5) and 13 quarterback hits. The Seahawks could really use a big effort from him.

2022 roadmap

Three key dates:

  • Week 1 vs. Denver Broncos (Monday night). I mean, Seattle is opening the season with Russell Wilson coming to town with his new team. It doesn't get much bigger than this.
  • Week 4 at Detroit Lions. If the Seahawks want to survive this year without Wilson, they need to take advantage of these winnable games. Not that the Lions will be a pushover this year, but you know what I mean.
  • Week 14 vs. Carolina Panthers. Is this a game that can help get the 'Hawks into the playoffs? Or will their fans be secretly rooting for a loss as they look to improve their draft position?

Will the Seahawks be able to ...

Replace Bobby Wagner? Russell Wilson's exit might have caused some people (not you, Seahawks fans) to overlook the fact that Wagner is gone, too. I'm not going to sit here and say Wagner, who signed with the Rams after being released this offseason, was the Russell Wilson of the defense, exactly, but the comparison is not that far off. Like Wilson, the linebacker played at a high level as soon as he hit the league in 2012 -- he was kind of a big deal, and a main driver of the Seahawks' defensive success over the years, racking up six All-Pro nods in his 10 seasons. My big thing about Bobby is this: Seattle can, in theory, find someone to fill in for him, a human being who starts at his position, and who is probably even going to be very good. But Bobby was more than a body -- he was the soul of the defense, like Russ was for the offense. Making up for his absence is going to be much more difficult than just slotting another name in there, as rising young linebacker Jordyn Brooks understands.

Block well enough? I mean, this is an issue that's been ongoing for the Seahawks for, well, seemingly forever. They did make a significant investment up front in the draft, selecting the highly regarded Charles Cross with the ninth overall pick and adding Abraham Lucas in the third round, marking the first time since the Carroll-John Schneider era began in 2010 that Seattle used multiple picks within the first three rounds on offensive linemen. (Does anybody find it strange the Seahawks went so hard on the O-line after Russell Wilson left? It's like breaking up with somebody who always wanted to travel to Paris, finding somebody new and immediately booking a Paris vacation, which you post all over IG.) Both Cross and Lucas should start this season and provide a foundation for a unit that has bounced around the lower half of PFF's year-end offensive line rankings over the past five seasons.

One storyline ...

... people shouldn't overlook: An infusion of young defensive talent. In Round 4, Seattle drafted corner Coby Bryant, who was, indeed, named after the late Lakers legend. Bryant will wear No. 8, which is the number Kobe wore for Los Angeles back when the Sonics played basketball in Seattle. (Sorry; low blow.) The Seahawks also snagged pass rusher Boye Mafe in Round 2. Bryant and Mafe are two excellent defensive prospects for this team. Mafe, especially, showed some skills at Minnesota; he's a raw player who might take a little bit of time to develop, but he boasts the kind of athleticism you just can't teach. As a borderline first-round prospect, he was a great value at No. 40 overall.

... people shouldn't overthink: The retention of Quandre Diggs. Wilson was traded this offseason. Wagner was shown the door. But Diggs, a safety whose 2021 season ended with a dislocated ankle and broken fibula, was welcomed back on a three-year, $40 million deal? That series of personnel decisions might seem odd, but Diggs has been huge since being acquired from the Lions in 2019. And while the Seahawks do have a lot of capital invested in safeties Diggs and Jamal Adams (acquired from the Jets in a deal that included two Seattle first-rounders in 2020, then given a four-year, $70 million pact in 2021), this is a position of emphasis for this defense. Remember what I was talking about with the departure of Wagner? I think Diggs can be the kind of leader everybody can turn to -- the kind of guy the Seahawks need him to be.

For 2022 to be a success, the Seahawks MUST:

  • Make the playoffs (and figure out the quarterback situation). Look, I think a lot of people would be down to let the Seahawks just take a year to see what they have in Lock, and if it doesn't work out, draft a quarterback next year. But while some fans might be content if Seattle were to sit in the back of the pack and focus on QB evaluation, Pete surely won't be. That's never been his style. I almost feel like they have to make the postseason more for him than anyone else.

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