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A case for optimism for the 2024 Seattle Seahawks

Why we should be excited about the future of the Seattle Seahawks.

Seattle Seahawks OTA Offseason Workout Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

I watched the same Seattle Seahawks team you all did last season. Every Sunday, or the occasional Monday or Thursday, I was parked in front of my preposterously large pandemic purchase of a 4K TV, rocking my brand new No. 6 throwback jersey, absolutely ready for the football team that I love to break my heart, and break my heart they did. To call it a frustrating season would be an understatement, as I’m sure many of you would agree. I’m still haunted by certain games, like our trip to Cincinnati, where our defense played admirably, limiting Joe Burrow and the Bengals to just 214 yards of offense, meanwhile the Seahawks offense, despite moving the ball up and down the field with ease, accumulating 384 yards of offense, just could not find the end zone. It’s one thing to lose a hard-fought battle against a great opponent, but to win a game in basically every statistical category except the score is ridiculous.

There was also our game in Los Angeles against the Rams. Clearly still holding a grudge from our Week 1 beatdown, the Seahawks defense showed up once again, stifling and hobbling Matthew Stafford, holding him to just 190 passing yards. Leading by a score of 16-7 with just 8 minutes left in the game, the Seahawks turned into a pumpkin. Suddenly down 17-16 with only 1:31 remaining, Geno Smith shook off an injury he had sustained to his throwing arm late in the 3rd quarter, pushed the ball into field goal range and gave Jason Myers a chance to be the hero. Wide right.

Just two weeks later was the game in Dallas, where unlike the two games mentioned above, the Seahawks offense was unstoppable, but our defense was nowhere to be found. Turning in a classic performance, Geno Smith and DK Metcalf connected 6 times, racking up 134 yards and 3 touchdowns. Geno and Zach Charbonnet would each add a touchdown with their legs, but it wouldn’t be enough, as the Cowboys would score 14 unanswered points in the final 12 minutes of the game to win 41-35, dealing the Seahawks their 3rd consecutive loss. A rare sight in the Pete Carroll era.

Perhaps no other loss was more appalling than our Week 17 embarrassment at home to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Ugly from the start, neither the offense nor the defense cared to show much heart. After briefly taking the lead in the second quarter, we would quickly relinquish it before halftime, and just two quarters later, there was no longer anything this team could do to get into the playoffs. It was out of our hands.

At this point, you’re probably trying to reconcile the negativity thus far with the title of the article, but don’t you worry, I’m getting there. Before I do so, however, I need you to join me in shedding all of the emotional baggage of the last 10 months. Go do whatever it is you normally do to clear your mind and reset, whether it’s healthy or not, I’m not one to judge.

Okay. I’m back. Are you ready?

Getting started, there are some crucial points to my argument which require a perspective of objectivity. First and foremost is this: looking at our 9-8 record, just one game removed from a Wild Card spot in the playoffs certainly feels like the basement, but ask a fan of any of the seven wild card teams that won the Super Bowl and they’ll tell you the regular season doesn’t count as long as you make the playoffs. The team I described to you in the recap above finished the season 9-8, with four losses that absolutely should not have happened. If the result had been different in any one of those losses, the Seattle Seahawks were playoff bound once again. Don’t get me wrong, I know the what-if game work both ways, and I’m perfectly aware that six of our nine wins were nail biters, but that’s Pete Carroll football, baby! To be honest, if we look closely at each of those six close wins and four close losses, it’s frustratingly obvious that the 2023 Seahawks lost more games that they should’ve won than won games they should’ve lost, indicating that the team under-performed not only our expectations, but reality as well.

Speaking of expectations, why would we have had any expectations in the first place? Could it possibly be due to the recent influx of young talent like Devon Witherspoon, Tariq Woolen, Boye Mafe, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, and Kenneth Walker III, led by seasoned veterans and winners like Bobby Wagner, Quandre Diggs, Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, and Geno Smith? I think it was absolutely rational to have expected the Seahawks to reach the playoffs in 2023, and moreover, I think it’s fair to consider anything less than a playoff berth a disappointment.

2023 is behind us, however. Pete Carroll has been let go as head coach. Bobby Wagner, Quandre Diggs, Jamal Adams, and Jordyn Brooks are no longer Seattle Seahawks. It’s 2024 and Mike Macdonald, now the youngest active head coach in the NFL, is in charge, and the vacuum of leadership left by the veteran players of the past seeks to be filled by fresh energy.

Despite the dramatic departures, our defensive roster still carries some gravitas, and there’s one particular pairing I want to emphasize above all. One could argue, in retrospect, that the 2023 season was over from the moment Uchenna Nwosu tore his pectoral in our Week 7 matchup against the Arizona Cardinals; however, his absence certainly seemed to be a catalyst in the decision to trade for Leonard Williams prior to the trade deadline. The two most disruptive and experienced pieces of our defensive line have not yet played together. That’s a big deal. Now add in the continued development of Boye Mafe, who led the team with nine sacks last season, as well as Dre’Mont Jones who is moving to a new role, and rookie Byron Murphy II who is arguably the best defensive player from this year’s draft, and you suddenly have a defensive line that looks formidable, if not downright diabolical.

Now I’m far from an expert football analyst, but if I had to pick two defining characteristics of the 2023 Baltimore Ravens defense that put former defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald on the map, it’s the relentless pressure applied by the defensive line, and the opportunistic secondary that took advantage of errant passes from quarterbacks under duress.

Young cornerback duo, and back-to-back defensive rookie of the year snubs, Riq Woolen and Devon Witherspoon are both uniquely gifted and neither are guys you want to test in coverage. While Witherspoon has primarily played the nickel cornerback spot, the deadlocked competition between Tre Brown and Mike Jackson for the remaining outside cornerback position has been nothing short of fun to watch. I expect training camp to provide a lot more clarity for who our starters will be come week 1, but this is one position battle I do not see being resolved. Starting behind the cornerbacks, presumably are strong safety Julian Love, who led the Seahawks with 4 interceptions last year, and my favorite free agent acquisition this offseason, free safety Rayshawn Jenkins. Though not exactly a turnover machine thus far in his career, Jenkins racked up 21 passes defensed and 5 interceptions since 2022 with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and I foresee him meshing well with this new look secondary. I’m a fan of Julian Love, and I think he can easily build upon last season, but strong safety Jerrick Reed II showed a ton of speed and physicality as a special teams standout before tearing his ACL in his rookie campaign. Assuming he stays on track in his recovery and demonstrates the instinct and discipline necessary to play significant minutes on defense, this could easily turn into a depth chart battle at some point this season.

I’ve highlighted the defense so far for a reason. Despite coming off of a disappointing season, this team still looks primed to be special, especially with the introduction of a new scheme. This isn’t to say that I’m not equally enthused about our offense. Not only have Geno Smith and company shown that they’re capable of producing on offense, they’ve also shown, repeatedly, the ability to rise to the occasion when their backs are against the wall. I firmly believe that the majority of last season’s deficiencies were a combination of injury on the offensive line and a systemic inability, or unwillingness, to adjust. Shane Waldron showed us some really interesting offenses, sometimes too imaginative, but he would consistently revert to the most predictable scripts or inexplicably divert from what was working. New offensive coordinator, Ryan Grubb has a rich history of engineering potent offenses, most recently at the University of Washington and Fresno State. Perhaps more inspiring than that is his experience as offensive line coach and run game coordinator, proving his intimate knowledge of each part of an offense. If his Seattle offense looks anything like his previous offenses, we should expect to see plenty of that beautiful deep ball from Geno that we know and love, as well as plenty of sustained drives set up by efficient early down play calling. Not unlike our defense, the offense’s abysmal display of underachievement last season was more a symptom of a systemic issue rather than a lack of talent.

The best analogy I can come up with to describe the current Seahawks situation is this: Imagine your grandpa passed and in his will, he left you his most prized possession; His classic American muscle car. You haven’t seen him take that car out of the garage and really burn rubber since you were a kid, but you know he loved it and took great care of it. You take off the car cover and it looks just like you remember it, but there’s a couple chips in the paint and it could use a good wash and wax. The tires, though far from bald, are pretty worn out. You check the air pressure in the tires and to your surprise, not a single one has dropped below 20 psi. You hop in the driver seat and a stale mustiness fills your nostrils and waters your eyes a bit. Nothing one of those little pine trees wouldn’t fix, though. You pop the hood and tinker around a bit and discover everything to be in working shape, though the fan belt is cracking, the windshield wiper reservoir is bone dry, and an oil change is certainly in order. You jot down a list and head off to the auto parts store. You have the tools and know how to do most of the work yourself, but you still have your mechanic buddy come over and help out. You’re confident that you’ll get grandpa’s car back on the streets in no time.

In summary, I’m not beating my chest and saying “Super Bowl or Bust,” but the Seattle Seahawks are a deeply talented team with a bunch of fiery young players with something to prove, quality veterans who know what it takes to win football games in the NFL, and a fresh coaching staff led by a proven defensive genius. There is no reason to think this team isn’t capable of winning a lot of games, and if they can stay healthy and get into the playoffs, anything can happen.