2020 NFL Team Previews: Seattle Seahawks
2020 NFL Team Previews
By Professor MJ
Upon hiring Pete Carroll as their new head coach back in 2010, the Seahawks had consecutive 7-9 seasons. Since then, the franchise has enjoyed eight winning seasons in a row, compiling an impressive 86-41-1 record (a 67.6% winning percentage).
Last year, Seattle stayed toe to toe with the 49ers atop the NFC West division by winning 10 of the first 12 games. However, the Seahawks lost three of their final four contests, including the season finale against the Niners that was lost by a matter of inches on fourth and goal.
The Seahawks opened the playoffs by traveling to Philadelphia. They took advantage of an early injury to QB Carson Wentz to take the game by a 17-to-9 score.
Seattle’s next stop was at Lambeau Field to face Aaron Rodgers’ squad. The Hawks almost rallied from a 21-to-3 deficit at halftime, but were defeated 28-23.
2. Offensive Position-by-Position Breakdown
2.1 Quarterbacks (QBs)
Russell Wilson is just a phenomenal quarterback. There are so many good things that could be said about him.
Before diving into the numbers, here’s a stunning fact: he hasn’t missed a single game over his entire 8-year career. That’s incredible considering the number of hits he’s taken and given that he rushes about 90 times per season.
If not for Lamar Jackson’s heroics, Wilson might have won the MVP honor. He had his second-highest completion percentage (66.1%) and passing yards (4,110) of his career. His 31:5 TD:INT mark was exceptional.
All of the numbers above are great, but what makes them even more impressive is Wilson didn’t have a top-10 supporting cast. Keep in mind that he had just lost perhaps his top target, Doug Baldwin, who had decided to hang up his cleats at 31 years old. Wilson can clearly embrace the role of carrying a team on his shoulders.
The backup QB job is still up in the air. Geno Smith has yet to be re-signed, but it’s not impossible that he comes back.
2.2 Running Backs (RBs)
Chris Carson has now rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of the past two seasons, while reaching the end zone nine times in each of those years. His career yards-per-rush average of 4.5 is very respectable as well.
Carson suffered a pretty significant hip injury in the season finale. He avoided surgery during the offseason, but is questionable for training camp.
The second leading rusher in 2019, Rashaad Penny, also had a severe late-season injury. He went down with a brutal torn ACL and he seems unlikely to be ready in time for Week #1. The number 28 overall pick from the 2018 draft rushed for just 370 yards behind Carson last year, but he improved his yards-per-rush average from 4.9 in 2018 up to 5.7 last year.
Considering both Carson and Penny are nicked up, can Travis Homer take advantage? Last year’s sixth-round rookie didn’t do much in 2019. He had touched the ball just three times through the first 15 weeks of the season. He had to step in when the injury bug hit Seattle’s backfield. It’s hard to draw any conclusions from his 18-114-0 rushing stat line.
2.3 Wide Receivers (WRs)
Tyler Lockett is a very reliable guy. His worst career season has been 41 receptions for 597 yards. Last season he set career-best in receptions (82) and receiving yards (1,057), while also hauling in 8 TD passes.
Much like his signal caller, Lockett is very durable. He has missed just one game in five years.
Rookie D.K. Metcalf stepped up in a nice way to grab the number two role. His 58-900-7 receiving line was a resounding success. He has a great mix of size and speed. He set a new league record with 160 receiving yards as a rookie in a playoff game.
The Patriots finally pulled the plug on the Phillip Dorsett experiment. He packed his bags for Seattle where he’ll be looking to fill a role as a deep threat. He couldn’t get going in New England despite a very thin receiving corps and having Tom Brady throwing the ball his way. It does not bode well for him.
David Moore had the third-most catches among Seattle WRs last year, but 17 receptions isn’t something to get overly excited about. He can be an occasional deep threat, but he makes bad mistakes at times. As a former seventh-rounder, there is not much upside with him.
2.4 Tight Ends (TEs)
Greg Olsen decided to hold off his project to call games on television for at least another year. He signed a $7 million one-year deal to join the Seahawks. He’s clearly not the once-dominant tight end he used to be, but the 35-year-old still caught 52 passes 597 yards despite catching passes from Kyle Allen and Will Grier.
Jacob Hollister led the position in receptions last year with 41, but that’s unlikely to happen again in 2020. He did his best, but keep in mind he was an undrafted guy who had caught just eight passes in two years. He benefited from Will Dissly’s injury and with the lucrative contract awarded to Olsen, it seems obvious that Hollister will get his playing time cut out.
Will Dissly got drafted in the 4th round in 2018. He missed most of his rookie season due to a torn right patellar tendon. This time, he tore his left Achilles’ during the sixth game of the 2019 regular season after a promising start. His athletic abilities could be more limited after sustaining a major injury to both legs.
As for Luke Willson, he will be primarily used as a blocking tight end.
2.5 Offensive Line (OL)
Right tackle Germain Ifedi left for Chicago during the offseason, but that’s fine from Seattle’s perspective. The 2016 first-round pick has been a bust and clearly struggled throughout his career. The team will replace him with Brandon Shell, formerly of the Jets. He is a small upgrade, but far from a big-time acquisition.
Left tackle Duane Brown continues to provide quality play on Russell Wilson’s blindside, but you have to wonder how much longer he can do the job. Brown will be entering his age-35 campaign. He finished as the 23rd-best tackle out of 81 qualifiers last year, which is a nice accomplishment for a player in his mid-thirties.
The team lost some depth following the departure of their #3 tackle, George Fant, to the Jets. He wasn’t great, but he still represented a good insurance policy.
Center Justin Britt had started either 15 or 16 games in each of his first five seasons in the NFL. His lucky streak ended on a running play in Week #8 where he tore his ACL and missed the remainder of the year. His play has been uneven, and he graded out as a below-average center. The team decided to release him during the offseason.
Backup center Joey Hunt did even worse than Britt when called upon to fill in as the starter. He’s not a long-term solution for sure, but he will compete for the starting gig with B.J. Finney, who was complete dust when he stepped on the field for the Steelers last year.
Guards Mike Iupati and D.J. Fluker received almost identical marks from PFF last year: 60.3 and 59.1 (46th and 48th out of 81 guards).
Iupati is a 10-year veteran whose play has deteriorated since 2017 when injuries started to plague him. As for Fluker, he’s also a player in decline. His first 3-4 years were good, but the last three not so much. Seattle released him and he found a new home two days later in Baltimore.
One potential candidate to replace Fluker is third-round rookie Damien Lewis. He is a great fit for Seattle’s run-oriented offense since he’s great in run blocking; he was seen throwing defenders on the ground many times. However, he’s not nearly as good in pass protection.
Perhaps Ethan Pocic can take advantage of his last shot to play in the NFL. After being picked in the second round of the 2017 draft, he has been bad in all three of his pro years.
2020 VS 2019 OFFENSE
Russell Wilson, Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, Tyler Lockett, D.K. Metcalf and Jacob Hollister are all back for the Seahawks this year.
Add the return of TE Will Dissly from an injury, along with the acquisitions of Greg Olsen and Phillip Dorsett and you have a recipe for another successful season on offense, right?
A major potential problem stems from the offensive line. Replacing Ifedi for Shell is fine. However, Duane Brown and Mike Iupati are getting older (35 and 32 years old, respectively) and the team lost some depth following Fant’s departure to New York. There are big question marks at center and right guard following the release of Britt and Fluker without having clear-cut solutions to replace them.
Russell Wilson has always been great at dealing with suspect offensive lines, but there’s a limit to what he can do. Also, the team’s success relies on the running game quite a bit, so you need guys that will open up holes.
Don’t forget about Carson and Penny both coming back from significant injuries. Also, Russell Wilson is coming off an amazing season in which PFF rated him as the best QB in the league. As much as I love Wilson, it will be difficult to replicate that kind of success.
Seattle’s offense posted the 9th-most points in 2019. For the reasons stated above, I envision a slight downgrade in 2020.
Final call (2020 vs 2019):
Big downgrade-Moderate downgrade-Small downgrade-Stable-Small upgrade-Moderate upgrade-Big upgrade
3. Defensive Position-by-Position Breakdown
3.1 Defensive Linemen (DLs)
The interior of the defensive line featured a mix of Quinton Jefferson, Poona Ford, Jarran Reed and Al Woods.
Let’s kick off the analysis with the two guys that left via free agency. Jefferson got drafted in the 5th round and had a slow start to his career. However, he showed nice improvement in each of the past two seasons, even reaching the #27 spot out of 114 DLs based on PFF grades. Seeing him leave for Buffalo wasn’t good news.
Al Woods also jumped off the ship to sign with the Jaguars. He won’t be missed as much as Jefferson, although he had a respectable 2019 season. He was more of a run-stuffer who turned 33 years old.
Poona Ford showed promise in limited time as an undrafted rookie in 2018, especially defending the run. He was an “okay” player last year and might see the field more often in the upcoming season.
Jarran Reed seemed like an up-and-coming star after generating 10.5 sacks in 2018. However, the 2016 second-round pick had a season to forget both on and off the field last year. He was slapped with a six-game suspension for domestic violence before having an ordinary season that included just two sacks.
He just signed a very lucrative contract, so the team is banking on him to rebound to his 2018 form. The talent is there for sure. Let’s see if he can put it together this year.
3.2 Defensive Ends (DEs) / Edge Rushers (ED)
The Seahawks were pretty bad last year rushing the passer. They had the second-fewest sacks in the league.
The team’s leader in sacks was Rasheem Green with only 4! The third-round pick from the 2018 draft wasn’t super effective, as shown by his 92nd rank out of 107 edge defenders in the NFL. There’s not much hope he will become a game-changer.
The only guy receiving good grades was Jadeveon Clowney. He’s known for his pass rushing abilities, but he’s an underrated run stuffer. He had his lowest sack output in five years, but he is bound to get rack up more in 2020. The bad news is he left via free agency.
Ezekiel Ansah was a major bust in his first year as a Seahawk. After averaging 8 sacks per year over his first six seasons, he recorded just 2.5 last year. He was also a liability defending the run. An awful year across the board. Now 31 years old, he has yet to sign with any team.
As for Branden Jackson, he is a replacement-level player. He has 3.5 sacks in four years.
The team is attempting to boost the position via a couple of free agent acquisitions: Bruce Irvin and Benson Mayowa.
Irvin is a nice addition. He is reuniting with the team that selected him in the first round of the 2012 draft. He has 52 career sacks in eight seasons, which amounts to 6.5 on average per year. Not bad!
It’s harder to figure out what to anticipate from Mayowa. He’s playing for a new team for the 5th time in 7 years. After posting just two sacks in his first three seasons, he now has 18 over the last four years. He is coming off a career year in Oakland with seven sacks and three forced fumbles. He is likely to be used as a rotational pass rusher.
Why not attempt to boost a position that underwhelmed last year by adding one more piece through the draft? That’s what the Seahawks did when taking Darrell Taylor in the second round. Based on expert evaluations, he has the toolbox necessary to succeed, but he needs quite a bit of development.
3.3 Linebackers (LBs)
Bobby Wagner led the NFL with 159 tackles last year. He’s never had less than 104 tackles in a season (and that was over 11 games). I think it’s fair to call him a tackling machine.
During his eight-year stint in the NFL, Wagner also has 19.5 sacks, 10 interceptions and five forced fumbles. He can do it all! He will be playing his age-30 campaign.
K.J. Wright had a subpar year. He received his lowest PFF grades of his nine-year career, but still finished in the middle of the pack (46th out of 89 LBs). He missed 11 games in 2018 with lingering knee issues, so you have to wonder if that still affects him.
Mychal Kendricks is gone after spending two uneven seasons in Seattle. He tore is ACL in the season finale and he pleaded guilty to securities fraud accusations.
The Seahawks picked a guy that is likely to play a rotational role in 2020: Jordyn Brooks. Some experts thought he was a reach at the 27th overall selection. He is good chasing running backs and scrambling QBs (he can literally fly and won’t miss many tackles), but he is far from a finished product in coverage.
3.4 Cornerbacks (CBs)
After two run-of-the-mill seasons, Shaquill Griffin flipped the switch and performed admirably well last year. His coverage skills improved dramatically and he finished at the #10 spot out of 112 corners in the NFL based on PFF rankings. Can the 2017 third-round pick keep it up?
Tre Flowers received awful marks from PFF after getting burned repeatedly last year. He finished among the worst CBs in the league.
The team felt a need to upgrade the position, and they did so in a big way. Seattle signed Quinton Dunbar, formerly of the Redskins. He is coming off a career year where he picked off four passes and graded as the second-best corner in the NFL.
Still, let’s not get exhilarated too much. Dunbar is an undrafted guy that had four decent, yet unspectacular, seasons. He hasn’t proved he can be a top starter yet, but having him over Flowers is definitely an upgrade!
3.5 Safeties (S)
Quandre Diggs was acquired from the Lions last year to bolster Seattle’s secondary. He did a great job with three picks in just five games! He was a nice get and an upgrade over Tedric Thompson (who is now off the team).
The other starting safety is Bradley McDougald. He’s been fairly solid in each of his six seasons in the NFL. He is not a game changer, however.
2020 VS 2019 DEFENSE
Let’s evaluate how the 2020 Seattle defense should fare compared to the 2019 unit.
On the interior of the line, we detect a downgrade following the departure of Quinton Jefferson, and to a lesser degree Al Woods. Granted, there is hope that Jarran Reed might bounce back from his super disappointing 2019 season.
At edge, Clowney and Ansah are out, while Bruce Irvin and Benson Mayowa are in. What is the net outcome from those moves? I’ll go with a slight loss, in part because Clowney is likely to improve upon his 2019 sack total and he was great against the run.
At linebacker, Wagner and Wright aren’t young fellows anymore, but they’re not old either. Wright had a subpar year and he certainly has a shot to do better in 2020. However, losing Mychal Kendricks isn’t good news (albeit not a devastating blow either!). We’ll see if rookie Jordyn Brooks can fill his shoes.
Plugging Quinton Dunbar opposite Shaquill Griffin is an upgrade for sure since Tre Flowers struggled mightily last year.
At safety, we know what to expect from McDougald: respectable play. Now, having Diggs for a full season instead of Tedric Thompson is a vast improvement.
For all of those reasons, I am pegging Seattle’s defense to stay around the same level as 2019. They finished 22nd in points allowed last year and I expect them to secure a similar spot in 2020.
Final call (2020 vs 2019):
Big downgrade-Moderate downgrade-Small downgrade-Stable-Small upgrade-Moderate upgrade-Big upgrade
4. Regular Season Wins
According to sportsbooks, the Seahawks are expected to win 9.5 games this season. Should we bet the “over” or the “under”?
Here is the methodology I used in order to answer this vital question:
- Use BetOnline.ag’s point spreads on all 256 regular season games.
- Convert those point spreads into win probabilities.
- Simulate each of the 256 games, according to those win probabilities, via the R statistical software.
- Repeat the previous step one million times (you get 1M simulated seasons).
- Count the proportion of seasons where the Seahawks won more or less than 9.5 games.
Here are the results:
- Tip: Bet OVER 9.5 wins
- Return On Investment (ROI): +13.6%
- Rank: 21st-highest ROI out of 32 teams
- Minimum odds required to bet (i.e. ROI = 0%): +102
Here are BetOnline’s point spreads for the Seahawks’ 16 regular season games:
- HOME: -7.5 vs ARI, -2.5 vs DAL, -3.5 vs LAR, -3 vs MIN, -4.5 vs NE, -9 vs NYG, -8.5 vs NYJ, 0 vs SF.
- ROAD: -2.5 @ ARI, -1.5 @ ATL, +2.5 @ BUF, +1.5 @ LAR, -4 @ MIA, +2 @ PHI, +6.5 @ SF, -6 @ WAS.
Note: The “Best odds” from the table above were obtained after looking at 13 well-known online sportsbooks on May 18th, 2020.
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