Who Wears the Crown: Identifying the Seahawks Best Player at the Midseason Mark
With a record of 4-3 through seven games, the Seattle Seahawks are right about where I expected them to be as we near the midway point in the season.
They're currently a very good team that could make the playoffs, at the same time they're not quite ready to be considered amongst the NFL's elite just yet.
That's not to say they are without some truly special players. When asked to put together a list of the team's best players through midseason I was surprised to find myself having to give this a little more thought than I had anticipated.
Essentially it's easy to pencil in Marshawn Lynch given he's arguably one of the best running backs in football, yet it wasn't so easy to leave Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas off the list. In fact there are quite a few players who could be listed as "Honorable Mentions."
Not that that's a bad thing, since it means the team has a healthy number of productive players, but ultimately there's only so much room on the list as we will focus on the 'Hawks five best players through the season's first half.
No. 5: K.J. Wright
If you had told me at the beginning of the season that second year linebacker K.J. Wright would be on a list like this, I probably would have wondered if something had gone wrong or if the team had been bitten by injuries.
Fortunately neither has been the case through the first seven weeks as Wright has emerged as the team's leading tackler with 54 total and 43 of them solo. Beyond the numbers what makes Wright's first half all the more impressive is how he has managed to sure up one of the team's weak spots by improving his play while helping rookie Bobby Wagner get adjusted.
So far this season Wagner has managed to get most of the attention as the 'Hawks second round selection in this year's draft, but it would be unfair not to acknowledge the team's fourth round pick from a year earlier.
Together, along with veteran Leroy Hill, this unit has gone from being one the team's weakest to strongest and the results each week keep getting better.
No. 4: Chris Clemons
Speaking of an area the Seahawks defense needed to improve, the team's pass rush at times in 2011 was often times nothing more than a one man show.
Chris Clemons led the team in sacks last season and once again holds the lead this season. The big difference being that this year it seems that the help the team provided Clemons appears capable of helping him do his job even better.
Much like K.J. Wright, Clemons is in some strange found himself playing in the shadows of a rookie who he had been tasked to help teach what it takes to succeed.
Unlike Wright, Clemons found himself working alongside arguably the most controversial first round draft pick in this year's draft. When Bruce Irvin was the first pass rusher selected last April, just about everyone painted a giant bulls-eye on his back with the word "Reach."
When Irvin struggled in preseason, the whispers only grew louder.
Meanwhile Clemons with a new deal in hand returned to the team and basically took over where he left off following two solid seasons in Seattle. This in turn gave Irvin a little more breathing room and by the time the Green Bay Packers arrived in Week 3, the two, along with fellow lineman Brandon Mebane, made believers of reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers by sacking him eight times in the first half.
Yes, the 'Hawks pass rush remains a work in progress, but Clemons has been the stable force that the team needed early on for the initial push against some of the NFL's best quarterbacks. Ideally he will get more help as time passes from his fellow linemen, but for the first half of the season he gets my vote as the 'Hawks best sack artist.
No. 3: Russell Wilson
If you ever want to start a "spirited" discussion amongst football fans, just throw Russell Wilson's name out for fun.
Love him or hate him, you have to have an opinion on him.
A few weeks ago I crowned him the Seahawks best player, which through seven weeks seems either ridiculous or prophetic depending on your point of view. Honestly I've reached the point where I believe the question needs to be revisited on a week to week basis.
This is a guy who has managed to beat Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, and Tony Romo, while also losing to Alex Smith, Sam Bradford, and the combination of Kevin Kolb/John Skelton through the first seven games of his rookie season.
Can anyone tell me what the future holds for him and the Seahawks?
Assuming that Wilson is at he helm the rest of the way the 'Hawks could finish anywhere from 7-9 to 11-5 by my best guess.
On some levels he has so much room to grow, but at the same time he's already shown us quite a bit.
What makes him special is that each and every week he makes sure that you watch every minute he's on the field, because you never know what he might do next. Understand that doesn't always guarantee success, but when was the last time the Seahawks had a quarterback who left you breathless the way that Wilson does?
No. 2: Richard Sherman
As we get to the top of the list, it gets tougher to choose.
Arguments in favor of Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, and Brandon Browner could easily be made for their inclusion on this list. All three went to the Pro Bowl last year and all three may very well return this year, but the one player from the 'Hawks starting secondary who didn't make the cut gets my vote for being the best defender on arguably the best defense in the NFL.
At 6'3" / 195, Richard Sherman is big for a cornerback, yet what makes him special is that he just keeps getting bigger...bigger plays, tackles, interceptions, and soundbytes.
With 11 passes defended, two interceptions, and 26 tackles, Sherman has a way of always being the center of attention, yet what has impressed me thus far is how well he has managed to handle the pressure.
Will he emerge as the league's next shutdown corner?
That's something that remains to be seen, but based on is play through the first seven weeks he looks like someone that could very well be on his way given his age, ability, and poise.
Perhaps some day he will be the 'Hawks best player, but for now someone else has managed to carry the load.
No 1: Marshawn Lynch
And at No. 1, could it really be anyone else?
Through seven games, Marshawn Lynch has 652 yards, but only two touchdowns.
It seems when all else fails, the 'Hawks can rely on Beast Mode to carry the load.
Yet for the Seahawks to turn a corner, I believe that Lynch will need help.
Help from his quarterback, help from the team's pass catchers, and also from fellow running back rookie Robert Turbin. Otherwise I'm concerned that Lynch will become the Beast of Burden as the Seahawks will become too reliant upon him to carry the team.
Against New England it was nice to see the passing game pick up the slack as the 'Hawks rallied, but generally speaking the team will need a better balance moving forward if they intend to make the post seasons and make any noise come January.