WELCOME BACK: A run-first approach. Picking San Diego State runner RASHAAD PENNY in the first round suggests what the offense will be under new coordinator BRIAN SCHOTTENHEIMER (even if Penny is out a few weeks with a broken finger). The Seahawks were more consistent from 2012 to '14, when they leaned on Marshawn Lynch. True, Lynch was a great back, but the run-first approach was also better for RUSSELL WILSON; his off-schedule playmaking can be sensational, but it makes for an inconsistent O. Defenses held Seattle to less than 230 yards passing in 10 games last season and less than 140 yards in three.
An improved rushing attack—Seattle's was 23rd in 2017—plays to Wilson's strengths. Beating zone coverage requires timing and rhythm, which can be hard for the 5'11" Wilson given his sight-line limitations in the pocket. When he's throwing on the move, however, his vision and touch are second to none. With a strong ground game, out-of-pocket pass designs become much more effective because they use similar blocking schemes. And with play-action, a QB usually gets deeper in his drop-back, making it easier to see downfield.
With cornerback Richard Sherman now a 49er and strong safety Kam Chancellor retired because of a neck injury, Seattle's secondary is changing, but it is not necessarily in shambles. At left corner, second-year man SHAQUILL GRIFFIN has the physical technique to be the type of stopper Sherman was, though whether Griffin can approach Sherman's uncanny ball skills is yet to be seen. At strong safety, BRADLEY MCDOUGALD isn't Chancellor, but he's better than most people realize. The slot belongs to JUSTIN COLEMAN, a fourth-year player who is coming off a surprisingly stellar season. The biggest question is right corner, which appears to be BYRON MAXWELL'S job to lose.
The defining trait of Seattle's great defenses has been speed up the middle. Free safety EARL THOMAS and linebackers BOBBY WAGNER and K.J. WRIGHT can get almost anywhere, and their coverage prowess is unmatched. With these three players back, this D has a chance to be formidable.
2017 RECORD 9W 7L
SI'S 2018 PREDICTION 7W 9L
17th @BEARS [Monday]
14th @RAIDERS [In London]
15th PACKERS [Thursday]
10th VIKINGS [Monday]
THE PROBLEM isn't pedigree. Left tackle DUANE BROWN has been to Pro Bowls. The other starters (guard D.J. FLUKER, center JUSTIN BRITT, guard ETHAN POCIC and tackle GERMAINE IFEDI) were drafted in the first two rounds. They simply must play better.