Seahawks' Depth Proving to Be Ultimate Difference-Maker for Seattle

Tyson Langland@TysonNFLNFC West Lead WriterDecember 3, 2013

Dec 2, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) celebrates with wide receiver Doug Baldwin (89) after teaming up on a touchdown pass against the New Orleans Saints during the second quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

By now, we all know how destructive of a team the Seattle Seahawks are. They not only have the best record in football, but they are the first team in the NFL to clinch a playoff berth in 2013.

Fans and media members alike are quick to praise second-year signal-caller Russell Wilson, running back Marshawn Lynch and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn’s defense. Rightfully so, considering the Seahawks have been dominating the opposition week in and week out since Week 13 of the 2012 season.

Yet, one overlooked aspect of this team’s superior nature is its ridiculous depth on both sides of the ball. Aside from the top-notch play received from the top 22 players, Seattle has proved time and time again that it can win with backup players at key positions.

For a majority of the season, the offensive line operated without Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung, All-Pro center Max Unger and right tackle Breno Giacomini. Additionally, the Seahawks’ quote, unquote first-round pick (Percy Harvin) has only appeared in one game, and the defensive secondary has had troubles of its own.

Cornerback Brandon Browner has dealt with injuries and substance-abuse problems, while cornerback Walter Thurmond has also had substance-abuse difficulties.

Even though pundits around the league felt those dilemmas would eventually catch up with the Seahawks, Seattle proved to the nation that adversity is easy to overcome when you have a stacked roster.

Shoot, even the wide receiver position has had its fair share of troubles outside of Harvin. Sidney Rice tore his ACL midway through the season, which in turn raised a few eyebrows. Why? Because some felt the team didn’t have enough depth at the position to compensate for his loss.

Lo and behold, wideouts Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin quickly put that notion to rest. With four games left to play, one could confidently argue that the Seahawks' wide receiving corps is better off with Rice on the sidelines.

The analysts at Pro Football Focus (subscription required) tend to agree. Based on the website’s grades for Kearse and Baldwin, the Seahawks offense is a much more effective unit when they are in the game.

Prior to this past week’s game against the New Orleans Saints, Baldwin was the 10th-best receiver in the league and Kearse was the third-best receiver on the Seattle roster.

Forget the statistics for a moment; both players have shown that they are sure-handed, effective route-runners who can block in the run game. What more could a team want from a No. 3 receiver and a guy who was buried on the depth chart to start the season?

However, the fun doesn’t stop there. When you examine the grades of the 57 players who've played at least one snap for the Seahawks this year, you realize only nine defensive players and 15 offensive players have negative grades for the season.

This, in turn, means 58 percent of the players on the team are registering above-average performances for the season. Despite the influx at particular positions, it’s important to tip your hat to head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider.

Both men are responsible for building a sound team from top to bottom. Sure, they have had their fair share of misses in the draft (just like any other organization), but as time has gone on, they have gotten better and better at evaluating talent.

Yet, evaluating talent is only half the picture. The other half resides in predicting how a certain player's skill set will translate to Seattle’s schemes.

With a seemingly endless pool of talent at every position, it’s safe to say the Seahawks’ depth is proving to be the ultimate difference-maker. There isn’t another team in the NFL that touts a roster with as much ability as the Seahawks do.

Yes, there are organizations that could compete with Seattle’s starters on offense and defense, but the whole landscape of that discussion changes when injuries hit. Would the Seahawks be the team they are now without Wilson? No, but what team has the luxury of having a No. 2 quarterback that is as good as its starter?

If you haven’t figured it out by now, the best late-season teams in the NFL are the ones that have the most depth. I’m not talking about having depth at just the skill positions; I’m talking about depth at every position.

In today’s NFL, every position is viewed as crucial during postseason play.

As it stands right now, the Seahawks are a couple of wins away from clinching home-field advantage in the playoffs. And if Seattle’s convincing 34-7 win on Monday Night Football was any indicator, the rest of the NFC should be praying home-field advantage somehow escapes the ‘Hawks.

From now until the end of the season, expect Coach Carroll’s club to continuously impose its will on the opposition. Moreover, it would be wise to assume the Seahawks’ role players will see additional snaps once the team secures the right to play in front of its home crowd throughout the playoffs.