4 Bold (and Slightly Less Bold) Predictions for the 2014 Seattle Seahawks
The Seattle Seahawks will have a target on their back from the very beginning of the 2014 season, but that won't stop them from continuing the level of excellence that their football team has maintained over the past couple of seasons.
They're in the position to do some extravagant things, but one of the most intriguing possibilities is that Marshawn Lynch may break 2,000 yards rushing this year. He certainly has the talent to do so, and now that Seattle has made some improvements around him, Beast Mode may be able to reach a new level.
A juiced-up passing game and a patched-up offensive line will be two advantages afforded to Lynch in 2014 that he didn't have in 2013, and could be the key to him hitting that milestone.
It will be interesting to see how things play out, but that's not the only exciting thing that the Seahawks could accomplish this year.
Bold Prediction: Justin Britt Will Beat out Michael Bowie for Starting RT Spot
Justin Britt has been an impressive rookie through minicamp and OTAs and is looking like a prime contender for the team’s right tackle spot.
Michael Bowie is who many would regard as the leading horse, largely because he has displayed the ability needed to be successful in this league.
Bowie performed well at both the tackle and guard spots last year, though I believe he projects better as a guard since Britt can handle playing right tackle. Britt could potentially play guard instead of Bowie, but he is a better tackle and Bowie is a nice option at guard anyway.
His physicality and nasty attitude as a blocker will be what drives his case as the team’s next starter at right tackle.
Slightly Less Bold Prediction: Doug Baldwin Will Lead Team in Receptions
Doug Baldwin showed a lot of promise last season, and will be expected to perform on a larger scale now that Golden Tate is gone. Baldwin is a talented guy who does lack elite speed, but his catching ability and route running make him a dangerous receiver.
He’ll undoubtedly have better chemistry with Russell Wilson after having full offseason with him, and he could very well be this team’s leading receiver. Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin are both talented receivers and will get a lot of snaps, but both of them have health issues that they can’t seem to shake.
Baldwin will be one of Wilson’s main targets if he maintains his level of play from 2013, in which case it is very likely that he will lead this team in receptions.
Seattle will want to work the passing game more to help open things up for their running game, and Baldwin is the perfect receiver to help them do just that. He fits into Darrell Bevell’s system well and will surely put numbers on the board in 2014.
Bold Prediction: Marshawn Lynch Will Break 2,000 Yards Rushing in 2014
Marshawn Lynch has strung together several successful seasons since joining the Seahawks and has steadily gotten better and better. He will finally have a reliable right tackle in Justin Britt if my prediction proves true, and that could be the key to a whole new level of Beast Mode.
Given the improvements to the offensive line and passing game, it’s entirely within the realm of possibility for Lynch to break 2,000 yards rushing next season.
That’s obviously contingent upon many things, but if he gets consistent play from his O-line, then we may see Lynch run his way into the NFL history.
Slightly Less Bold Prediction: Malcolm Smith Will Overtake Bruce Irvin
Malcolm Smith displayed a ton of ability last year during Seattle's championship run, and may have played his way into a larger role in the defense.
As it stands right now, Bruce Irvin holds the starting weak-side linebacker position, but he could soon be overthrown by Smith. Irvin is a good option as a pass-rusher, but he leaves much to be desired in coverage, which is where Smith shines—though he’s more of a run defender than anything.
He displays elite tackling ability and uses his speed to penetrate the offensive line and get into the backfield. Overall, he just has more plusses about him than Irvin.
Irvin is still a valuable option when rushing the passer, but Smith is clearly the better the option after tearing it up last season.
Bold Prediction: Kevin Norwood Will Make a Bigger Impact Than Paul Richardson
Kevin Norwood showed much value as a vertical threat in college, and could bring some of that explosion to the Seahawks offense. He will have to work his way past Paul Richardson, who was drafted a few rounds before him, but Norwood has the talent needed to contribute.
Richardson can surely help out the team on offense, but he is a bit small and may not be able to get separation against the physical corners in this league. Norwood is an inch taller and close to 30 pounds heavier than Richardson, which will help him make a smoother adjustment to the NFL.
Both receivers are talented, but Seattle already has a small and speedy receiver in Percy Harvin—they could use the leaping ability and red-zone threat that comes with Norwood.
Slightly Less Bold Prediction: Earl Thomas Ends Up as the Team's Punt Returner
Golden Tate handled punts for Seattle last season, but now that he’s a Detroit Lion, the Seahawks need a new plan at punt returner.
Enter Earl Thomas. The defensive star is the lead candidate to be the team’s punt returner, per Curtis Crabtree of Pro Football Talk, a move that would actually make some sense.
Thomas doesn’t have an extensive history of returning kicks, but he is a very smart and cerebral player with bushels of speed and athleticism—all traits needed to be successful as a returner.
The team could opt to use another skill position player like Percy Harvin or Paul Richardson, but Thomas is the best option in my opinion.
Bold Prediction: Terrelle Pryor Will Beat out Tarvaris Jackson as Backup QB
Terrelle Pryor was acquired from the Oakland Raiders this offseason, and he may actually find himself in a solid role as the team's backup. We've seen that Pryor has a boatload of potential, and he could definitely benefit from being around a player like Russell Wilson.
Even though Wilson is younger than him, his poise and veteran touch would be some great things to have rub off on Pryor.
Regardless, Pryor is clearly a talented quarterback who can move very well outside of the pocket. Because of his ability as a dual-threat quarterback, Pryor may leapfrog over Tarvaris Jackson and become Seattle's backup quarterback.
He's younger, faster and more promising than Jackson. Granted, it doesn't really matter as they won't be overthrowing Wilson anytime soon, but Pryor has shown enough to warrant a look as the team's No. 2 quarterback.
Slightly Less Bold Prediction: Marshawn Lynch Will Lead League in Rushing
As I mentioned earlier, Marshawn Lynch is set up for another nice year, and could really do some damage to some team records. While he may not reach the 2,000-yard mark, Lynch could very well lead the league in rushing.
He's landed in the top 10 in rushing yards every season since 2010, though this could be the year he tops them all.
He will have a complete and talented offensive line that will now have a solid pair of bookend tackles in Russell Okung and Justin Britt. Add in the spiced-up passing game, and Seattle's running game could be busted wide open with the reins in Lynch's hands.
He's a seemingly perfect balance of speed and power, and he could ride those talents all the way to the upper echelon of NFL runners. Lynch is largely considered to be one of the best backs in the league, but this may be the year he drops "one of" and becomes "the".