Seattle Seahawks Building a Strong Case for NFL's Strongest Team
The San Francisco 49ers are the reigning NFC champs, the Denver Broncos added Wes Welker in free agency, and the Atlanta Falcons signed Steven Jackson to bolster their running game, but Pete Carroll's club just might have the most complete roster in football heading into the 2013 season.
Let's look at how legitimately strong Seattle's case is for being classified as the league's strongest team.
Russell Wilson's Rookie Season
In 2012, Robert Griffin III won the Offensive Rookie of the Year, Andrew Luck received an abundance of praise after leading a previously 2-14 Indianapolis Colts team to the playoffs, and first-year starter Colin Kaepernick played in the Super Bowl.
While it'd be a stretch to say Wilson was completely overshadowed by his youthful quarterbacking counterparts, what he did individually deserved more notoriety.
Why, you ask?
|Robert Griffin III||65.6||3,200||8.1||5.1|
Griffin III was tremendously efficient, and Luck did so much for a Colts offense that lacked offensive-line strength. But Wilson's stats were strikingly similar to RG3's, and his touchdown percentage of 6.6 trumped RG3's 5.1. For perspective, Aaron Rodgers led the NFL with a 7.1 touchdown percentage last year.
If we're expecting these young quarterbacks to build on their spectacular debut campaigns—and it's hard to find someone who thinks otherwise—we have to understand that Wilson will be building from an extremely high level of play.
In today's NFL, no position has a stronger correlation to team success than quarterback, and the Seahawks have one with limitless potential and no injury history.
Much of Wilson's 2012 accomplishment was aided by Seattle's strong running game.
The Seahawks ran a league-high 536 times for 2,579 yards (4.8 yards-per-carry clip) behind an offensive line ProFootballFocus.com (subscription required) graded as a Top 15 run-blocking unit.
Marshawn Lynch nearly reached 1,600 yards on the ground and averaged a career-high 5.0 yards per rush. The comparably sized Robert Turbin amassed 354 yards rushing at 4.4 yards per carry. But this isn't all about rehashing the past.
Texas A&M running back Christine Michael was added in Round 2 of the 2013 draft. At 5'10'', 220 pounds with 4.54 speed and as someone who put up 27 reps on the bench press at the combine, he boasts the most impressive size-speed-athleticism combination in Seattle's backfield.
Michael carried the ball 16 times for 89 yards in the Seahawks' preseason opening win against the San Diego Chargers.
NBC Sports' Evan Silva tweeted the following after re-watching Michael's performance:
Re-watched Christine Michael's 16 carries. Love this dude so much. Highly explosive. Eats up ground. Quick, sharp cuts. Carries piles.— Evan Silva (@evansilva) August 13, 2013
Michael can make guys miss, run with power & suddenness. Outstanding burst & pad level. This is the #Seahawks running back of the future.— Evan Silva (@evansilva) August 13, 2013
Talk about a rave review.
Add in Russell Wilson's natural scrambling ability along with an offensive line that's returning all five starters, and it's easy to see why Seattle is primed to return to elite status.
Sure, today's NFL is pass-predicated, but pounding the rock efficiently will never go out of style.
On paper, the tandem of Sidney Rice and Golden Tate isn't instantly intimidating, especially for a top-tier NFL team.
Fail Mary receiver Golden Tate had a modest but not necessarily pedestrian stat line of 45 catches for 688 yards and seven touchdowns last season.
However, according to Jayson Jenks of the Seattle Times, Tate has been the "impressive player in training camp so far, making big plays, going up and over cornerbacks to haul in passes down the sideline."
Don't forget about slot guy Doug Baldwin, either.
With Percy Harvin sidelined for most of the season, Rice and Tate will be integral to Wilson's success under center.
When Harvin returns, watch out.
Seattle's defensive mastermind Gus Bradley is now the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, but that doesn't necessarily mean Seattle's defensive prominence will vanish.
Offseason acquisitions Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett are healthy, and NFL.com's Ian Rapoport provided this tidbit of encouraging news regarding defensive end Chris Clemons:
As I said on Inside Training camp, Pete Carroll expects Cliff Avril (foot) back next week. Thinks Chris Clemons "could" be by opener.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 6, 2013
Former seventh-round pick Malcolm Smith is the only new projected starter in the linebacking corps or secondary, but pass-rushing specialist Bruce Irvin is suspended for the first four games of the regular season.
Remember, Seattle allowed an average QB rating of 71.8 in 2012, the third-lowest in football.
While the run defense that allowed 4.5 yards per carry needs fine-tuning, we probably shouldn't worry about a Seahawks defense that, as a whole, surrendered the second-fewest points per drive a year ago, per FootballOutsiders.com.
Oh yeah, and there's this Richard Sherman fellow locking up No. 1 wideouts, too.
With a quarterback under center on the verge of elite status, someone with an ideal skill set for new-age, option-heavy football, an overpowering running game and offensive line, a deceptively effective receiving corps and a sound defense, the Seattle Seahawks certainly have a strong case to be considered the NFL's strongest overall team.
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