The conference the Seattle Seahawks are preparing to battle in 2020 looks drastically different than the one from a season ago.
It could just be the offseason bravado talking but, judging by his answer, Wagner would have no issue doubling -- and tripling -- down on his claims should anyone revisit them in the future.
"I feel really confident. Obviously, Russell [Wilson] is an amazing quarterback; the things that he does on the field are just amazing. Like you said, he's one of the greatest quarterbacks in our game," Wagner said. "We're confident on that side. I feel like from the defensive standpoint, there's a lot of room for improvement. We have to play a little bit better. I feel like if we make those changes and make those improvements, I still feel like we'll be the team to beat."
Prior to last season, the Seahawks acquired defensive end Jadeveon Clowney in hopes of shoring up that side of the ball. And while Clowney, who may not be returning to Seattle, helped in some regards, the defense didn't quite live up to its full potential. After ranking 16th in total defense in 2018, Seattle dropped to 26th in 2019; they also tied for the second fewest sacks (28) after tying for 11th two seasons ago with 43.
Even with all of the regular season success Seattle had, including handing the 49ers their first loss in Week 10, they fell short of winning the NFC West. Now, the 'Hawks will have to bypass an even hungrier Niners squad, a retooling Rams team and a young Cardinals group that now includes Hopkins and a sophomore year version of Kyler Murray.
As is the case with every year, they will have to work their way from the inside out to get to where they want to go. Wagner framing that outcome as more of a foregone conclusion than a hopeful goal only makes the spotlight brighter for Seattle.
"First, we've got to win the NFC West, which I feel like we're confident we're gonna do, and then we move on from there. Those guys have great teams but at the end of the day, it's just paper. You've got to prove it on the field."