(Sports Network) - If there truly is an arms race going on between San
Francisco and Seattle in the NFC West, it's currently at the height of Cold
War levels because both the 49ers and Seahawks have amassed enough firepower
to obliterate just about everyone else.
After trading for star slot receiver Percy Harvin, signing a pair of pass
rushers in Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, and inking perhaps the game's best
nickel corner in Antoine Winfield, the Seahawks appeared to be entering
training camp with few weaknesses.
Few plans are implemented without a hitch, however, and the Seahawks' vision
of adding a dynamic playmaker like Harvin to an offense featuring second-year
quarterback Russell Wilson and Pro Bowl running back Marshawn Lynch will have
to wait for now.
Harvin, who was acquired from Minnesota for a first-round pick in the
offseason, was forced to undergo hip surgery in early August and will be
sidelined for most, if not all, of the upcoming season.
"What we have heard so far is that the surgery went very well, and that
there's a long rehab process coming up," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "We
don't have any dates or timelines, but we're going to be very optimistic and
hope that he gets back as soon as possible."
The 25-year-old Harvin would have certainly added a big play element to both
Seattle's passing and return games but before you cry poverty for Seattle,
let's understand this is a core group which finished the 2012 season in
second-place in the NFC West and advanced to the divisional round of the
playoffs for the second time in Carroll's three years as head coach.
The Seahawks posted an 11-5 record in 2012, the third most wins in franchise
history and went undefeated at home for only the third time in franchise
After starting 4-4, Seattle won seven of its last eight games to close the
season, leaning on the emergence of Wilson, who set numerous NFL and franchise
records as a freshman NFL signal caller.
With Wilson at the helm, aided by the league's third-ranked rushing
offense and fourth-ranked defense, Seattle was rarely out of any game, as its
largest defeat all season was a seven-point loss at San Francisco.
The unflappable Wilson also nearly pulled off a brilliant comeback during the
playoffs in Atlanta before the Seahawks eventually succumbed.
2012 RECORD: 11-5 (2nd, NFC West)
LAST PLAYOFF APPEARANCE: 2012, lost to Atlanta in NFC divisional round.
HEAD COACH (RECORD): Pete Carroll (25-23 in three seasons with Seahawks, 58-54
in seven seasons overall)
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Darrell Bevell (third season with Seahawks)
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Dan Quinn (first season back with Seahawks)
KEY ADDITIONS: DE Cliff Avril (from Lions), DE Michael Bennett (from
Buccaneers), CB/KR Will Blackmon, WR Percy Harvin (from Vikings), QB Tarvaris
Jackson (from Bills), DT Tony McDaniel (from Dolphins), QB Brady Quinn (from
Chiefs), CB Antoine Winfield (from Vikings), RB Christine Michael (2nd round,
Texas A&M), DT Jordan Hill (3rd round, Penn State)
KEY DEPARTURES: DT Alan Branch (to Bills), QB Matt Flynn (to Raiders),
DE Jason Jones (to Lions), OG John Moffitt (to Broncos), CB Marcus Trufant (to
Jaguars), RB/KR Leon Washington (to Patriots).
QB: Measured at under 5-foot-11 Wilson doesn't look like your prototypical
NFL quarterback but he plays with an uncommon self-assuredness, rarely seen in
veterans never mind second-year pros. The University of Wisconsin product has
the requisite speed and elusiveness, along with the arm strength to be a
dangerous dual-threat under center. Some think there will be a bit of a
"market correction" when it comes to read-option types at quarterback this
season but Wilson's feel and natural instincts for the game leave him well-
prepared for any curve balls opposing defensive coordinators throw at him.
"I think that I've done a good job," Wilson said when discussing his
preseason. "Obviously you want to improve on a couple of things here and
there, but it's just that constant progression. As a football team, and
personally it's, 'Can I be better that I was last week?' It's just miles of
difference for me emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically compared
to last year."
There is plenty of experience behind Wilson in former starter Tarvaris Jackson
as well as ex-Golden Domer Brady Quinn.
"Our guys really like him here," Carroll said of Jackson. "I have tremendous
respect for what he did when he was here. So to have him back in our locker
room is a real positive for really the whole club."
RB: All-Pro Lynch is the bell cow of Seattle's offense, amassing a career-high
1,590 yards on 315 carries a season ago. The bruising Lynch can wear down any
defense with his punishing running style and ability to break tackles but he
also takes a ton of punishment and his potential longevity as a top back has
to be a question in the back of nearly everyone's mind.
The depth is largely unproven with second-year man Robert Turbin, a big back
in the mold of Lynch, trying to hold off Texas A&M rookie Christine Michael,
one of the most naturally gifted runners in the 2013 draft,
Fullback Michael Robinson, an ex-QB in college at Penn State, was named a
first-alternate to the Pro Bowl after helping Lynch become Seattle's first
back-to-back 1,000-yard rusher since Shaun Alexander in 2004-05.
WR: It would have been nice to add Harvin into the mix with the rangy Sidney
Rice and versatile threat Golden Tate.
Harvin has always been high-maintenance and the upkeep finally became too
steep for classy Vikings coach Leslie Frazier when Harvin blew up at him
during a Minnesota loss at Seattle back on Nov. 4 of last year.
Interestingly enough, Pete Carroll was on the opposing sideline that day,
piloting the Seahawks and watching Harvin's immaturity in living color. It
obviously wasn't enough to dissuade the Seahawks' mentor from rubber-stamping
Harvin's arrival in the Pacific Northwest, however.
If football were played in a vacuum, this would be a no-brainer. Harvin is a
heck of a talent and one of the best playmakers in all of football, a YAC
(yards after catch) machine and an absolute field-tilter as the game's best
pure kickoff returner.
But the Seahawks not only acquired Harvin, they also got his reputation. They
snared the moody, unpredictable man who is prone to migraine headaches. And
they got the undersized, injury-prone guy who never takes his foot off the
The payoff could be huge for Seattle, but the risk of upsetting the apple cart
is just as high.
Rice has always had big play ability but hasn't been able to stay healthy save
for one season in Minnesota, when he lit up opponents en route to a Pro Bowl
berth. At 6-foot-4, Rice uses his size well and can high-point the football
downfield with the best of them. That said, he spent two nights in Switzerland
earlier this summer undergoing a procedure in his balky knee similar to
Platelet-rich Plasma therapy.
"(It was) just to help the patella tendonitis die down a little bit," Rice
said. "I've been having a sore knee for quite a while now, so I'm just working
Tate tied Rice for the Seahawks team-lead with a career-high seven receiving
touchdowns last year. The ex-running back excels in space and has the ability
to break tackles like few other receivers, making him a serious threat on
hitches and bubble screens.
"I think he's a tremendous football player," Carroll said when talking about
Tate. "We have no hesitation to feature him and get him the football and all
kinds of things with him. He is a very good football player. Right now it's
all ahead of him. He is just kind of getting started in a sense. But I think
we got a fine player."
Harvin's absence also gives undersized slot receiver Doug Baldwin more of a
chance to contribute.
TE: Zach Miller was spectacular in the last game he played, catching eight
passes for a career-high 142 yards and a touchdown in the divisional-round
playoff loss to the Atlanta Falcons back in January. Miller was hoping to
improve on his rapport with Wilson during training camp but a foot injury kept
him sidelined until last week.
"It adds that consistency, it adds that competitive nature for sure. Zach is
so competitive," Wilson said of his tight end. "He's so physical, he's a
playmaker, and he does the right thing. To have a guy at the tight end
position who does the right thing every time, we want that, and that's what we
have in Zach for sure."
The depth behind Miller is scarce although rookie Luke Wilson could add a
consistent seam threat.
OL: Seattle's offensive line is headlined by All-Pro center Max Unger and big
left tackle Russell Okung. Unger is a strong pass blocker, who mirrors well
while Okung, although never living up to his position as the sixth overall
pick in the 2010 draft, is an athletic, consistent lineman in both phases who
has reached his Pro Bowl potential.
The rest of the group is far more pedestrian with guards journeyman Paul
McQuistan and converted defensive lineman J.R. Sweezy flanking Unger inside,
and the somewhat steady but unspectacular Breno Giacomini playing opposite
Okung at right tackle.
You have to believe former starter James Carpenter, a first-round pick in 2011
out of Alabama, could get back in the mix at guard if he proves he can stay
healthy. Carpenter, though, has been limited to 16 games over his first two
seasons due to two major knee injuries.
DL: In dire need of a consistent pass rush, especially with Chris Clemons
expected to begin the year on the PUP list after tearing an ACL last season,
the Seahawks brought in veterans Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett to flank an
inside group which includes newcomer Tony McDaniel and Brandon Mebane,
Avril was always a dynamic guy in Detroit but his motor ran hot and cold while
Bennett will probably settle in as a nickel rusher. Veteran Red Bryant is a
supreme run stuffer on the edge who rarely registers a blip on the pass rush.
Bruce Irvin remains the undersized but fast guy who is a tweener, handling a
hybrid outside linebacker/defensive end "Leo" role as a pass rusher.
"We wanted to make sure and take advantage of the kind of spectrum of play
that he offers us," Carroll said of Irvin. "He looks very good in space. He
looks really good coming off of the edge. He would be a feature to outside
rush guys if continued to be that for us and we think we could do both of that
by the way we are playing him and he is really taking to it."
Active nose tackle Mebane and McDaniel, a stop-gap-type, will handle the
inside grunt work.
LB: Mike linebacker Bobby Wagner led the team with 140 tackles last season,
setting the franchise record for tackles by a rookie, and matching Brandon
Browner and Earl Thomas for second on the team with three interceptions.
Wagner is an instinctive, downhill run defender that loves hearing the pads
He's flanked by K.J. Wright and Malcolm Smith, two unproven players who
need to step up.
Wright is another downhill player with good lateral quickness who plays
balanced. Smith, meanwhile, toiled for Carroll at Southern Cal and knows the
defensive scheme. The athleticism is there with these two but the instincts
may not be.
DB: The strength of the Seahawks really lies in the defensive backfield. In
fact this unit could rival San Francisco's linebackers as the best in all of
Aging but still productive slot cornerback Winfield turns a dominating group
into an embarrassment of riches. Winfield joins with a pair of talented,
lengthy corners in Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner, along with two
difference-makers at safety in Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor.
Winfield doesn't have great speed any longer but his short-area quickness
remains top notch and he is a rare, fundamentally sound form tackler who can
secure the edge in the running game.
Sherman was the best corner in all of football last season, being named first-
team All-Pro after leading Seattle with a career-high eight interceptions and
24 passes defensed. That was the most interceptions by a Seahawks player since
Darryl Williams led the AFC with eight in 1997.
At 6-foot-4 Browner is an inch taller than Sherman and while not quite as
talented as his counterpart, can still make things happen in press coverage.
The only real way to attack Seattle's corners is with quickness and superior
Thomas was also a first-team All-Pro and is one of the best two or three
safeties in the game, adept in coverage or run support, while Chancellor is
a big thumper who can get lost in coverage on occasion.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Journeyman Steven Hauschka is back from a calf injury to handle
kicking duties. Hauschka was a solid 24-of-27 on field goals last season but
missed a pair of extra points and is just 3-of-8 from 50 yards or more while
with the Seahawks. Also, his 41.4 percent rate of touchbacks was 22nd in the
NFL last year.
Punter Jon Ryan was a second-alternate to the Pro Bowl in 2012 after ranking
fourth in the NFC with 30 punts landing inside the 20.
Harvin is the best kick returner in all of football and would have made Leon
Washington's exit less impactful but now it's up to Will Blackmon, who did
some nice things in Green Bay once upon a time. Tate will handle at least some
punts and his lower body strength can give the first and second tacklers
problems, a key for any punt returner.
COACHING: Carroll is an energetic guy who seems on the cutting edge of ongoing
NFL trends thanks to his time in college where the up-tempo offensive game has
Bevell did a wonderful job mentoring Wilson last year and will try to navigate
at potential sophomore slum pitfalls the diminutive one may face.
Innovative defensive mind Gus Bradley is now the head man in Jacksonville,
leaving his core defense to Dan Quinn, who must mix and match correctly in the
front seven to mask any deficiencies.
THE SKINNY: The Seahawks have some holes but they possess the game's best
secondary in a league which is slanted heavily toward the pass.
The formula for this team shapes up pretty simply, capture the lead early and
rely on Wilson's smarts and Lynch's road-grader mentality, while forcing the
opposition to throw into the teeth of the game's most dangerous defensive
The Sports Network