An exciting 11-5 regular season came with its fair share of ups and downs before the Seahawks won their first road playoff game in 30 years. A week later Seattle was 31 seconds away from winning its second consecutive playoff game on the road after climbing out of a 20-point hole.
Unfortunately, things didn't go as planned and a Super Bowl appearance eludes this organization for yet another year. But that doesn't mean a loss in Atlanta spells trouble for head coach Pete Carroll and company.
For the 'Hawks, the best is yet to come and 2013 is shaping up to be their year. Russell Wilson will have a full offseason as the full-blown starter at quarterback, Bobby Wagner will be entering his second season as the man in the middle on defense, and John Schneider will have the opportunity to add even more talent to an already accomplished roster.
An accomplished roster that no one deemed ready to compete in 2012. Considering "compete" is coach Carroll's favorite word, it only seemed fitting that this team was one game away from competing in their first NFC Championship Game since 2005.
Gus Bradley's defense fielded the fourth-best defense in the NFL, which helped this team stay competitive week after week. Not to mention the continual progression from Russell Wilson also aided in the club's late-season success.
Plenty of building went into 2012, but if this organization wants to continue to grow they have to have another slam dunk draft coupled with even better coaching. Talented scheme-specific players only make up one-half of the Seahawks' success. The other half comes from a staff's ability to coach up players, so they are as prepared as possible.
Let's take a look at what needs to be addressed as the Seahawks head into the offseason.
1. Find More Pass-Rushing Help for Chris Clemons
After defensive end Chris Clemons went down with a knee injury in the third quarter of the Seahawks' Wild Card game against the Redskins, Seattle's pass rush was hardly the same. Yesterday's performance against the Falcons was evident of the defensive line's lackluster performance.
For only the second time in 18 games, Bradley's defense failed to register a sack. Rookie Bruce Irvin was underwhelming with one quarterback pressure on 25 pass-rush snaps. Newly signed defensive end Patrick Chukwurah didn't fare any better as he didn't register a pressure either.
In terms of the interior pass rush, Brandon Mebane, Alan Branch and Greg Scruggs managed three quarterback hurries between the three of them. Surprisingly the only defensive lineman to receive a positive pass-rushing grade from Pro Football Focus was the 328-pound monster out of Texas A&M, Red Bryant.
It's quite obvious that injuries affect every team, but if there was area of injuries that hit the Seahawks the hardest it was the injuries to Clemons and fellow defensive end Jason Jones. Before getting hurt, Jones was third on the team in total quarterback pressures behind Clemons and Irvin.
Also, the jury is still out on whether Irvin can be an every-down defensive end. Regardless, it never hurts to have too many pass-rushers. With an elite secondary an improved pass rush, that would quite possibly make the Seahawks' defense the most intimidating unit in the NFL.
Their 36 sacks on the season ranked them a modest 18th in the NFL. Not to mention Clemons will turn 32 during the 2013 season. Age and a lack of depth would once again hinder Seattle's 2013 season, but if we know anything about coach Carroll and Schneider, they know how to draft.
2. Upgrade the Right Guard Position
We are all aware of the strong play of center Max Unger and left tackle Russell Okung. Both players were selected to their first Pro Bowl and Unger was selected to his first All-Pro team. Through 18 games they only allowed two sacks, five hits and 25 hurries.
Additionally, their performance in the run game was just as inspiring. When running off the backside of Okung, Seattle's offensive line averaged 5.3 yards per carry and when running off Unger's backside they averaged four yards per carry.
Their weakest area of running the football was behind the ever revolving door at right guard. Paul McQuistan, John Moffitt and J.R. Sweezy all had a shot at right guard during some point within the season. With McQuistan doing such a fine job at left guard, it was up to Moffitt and Sweezy at the end of the season to lockdown the right guard position.
Neither player could grab hold of the position individually, so offensive line coach Tom Cable thought it would be best to rotate both players depending on the series. Yet that didn't seem to help—against the Falcons Sweezy and Moffitt combined for three quarterback pressures allowed. One was a sack and the other two were quarterback hurries.
Through 18 games, the former defensive tackle from North Carolina State had one positive grade according to the analysts at PFF. Moffitt on the other hand had four above-average performances. Not a whole lot of consistency to say the least, which is why they need to look for an upgrade at right guard.
In terms of big-name free agents, their isn't a whole lot of quality out there. The biggest name would be Jets guard Brandon Moore. Moore is arguably one of the best run-blocking interior offensive linemen in the league and can still hold his own in pass protection.
3. Lock Up Richard Sherman Long-Term
With $9,256,155 of free cap space in 2013, it would be wise of the Seahawks organization to get a long-term deal for cornerback Richard Sherman in place before he becomes even more expensive in 2014.
Over the course of his first two seasons in the NFL, Sherman has exploded onto the scene. From an unknown fifth-round draft pick out of Stanford to a first team All-Pro member, there's not a better young corner in the game.
His ascent to "elite" status came over night, but his incredible numbers stand for themselves. As a rookie in 2011 he only allowed 39 of 84 potential passes to be completed in his coverage area. He also tallied four interceptions and the oppositions quarterback rating was a lowly 57.3, and this was as a rookie.
One year later, his numbers proved to be even better. Quarterbacks managed to complete a measly 44.4 percent of their passes when throwing into his coverage and their quarterback rating sunk to an awful rate of 44.9.
Furthermore he went on to lead the league with 24 passes defended. A personal goal he set out to accomplish before the season started:
1 Pre-Season goal accomplished! I am the best in the NFL at defending the Pass. Well at least according to the numbers twitter.com/RSherman_25/st…— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) December 31, 2012
Here is a full list of his numbers from the 2012 season.
If the 'Hawks don't get him signed to an extension soon, he could easily become the highest paid cornerback in league history when he becomes a free agent in 2015. Obviously, Seattle would never allow him to hit the open market, but weirder things have happened.
Let's take a look at who the top-five highest paid cornerbacks in the NFL are right now.
Based on the level of play from the highest paid corners in the NFL, Sherm is better than each and every one of them. Which further supports my argument to lock him up immediately—I don't care if he came on the cheap at $465,000 this year and $555,000 next year.
Do the right thing, ensure he's a Seahawk for as long as possible.