Seahawks face winding road to repeat

Dylan Snyder

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Illustration by Tyle Schuh.

Amid all of the terrible off-the-field news currently occupying the sports cycle, it is easy to forget that there are actually games being played on Sundays. This season especially, there are plenty of story lines involving the actual playing of football to stay occupied with.

Last fall, campus was abuzz with the Seattle Seahawks’ eventually successful quest for their first Super Bowl. One the biggest story lines this year will be whether or not they can be the first team since the New England Patriots in 2004-2005 to repeat. Plenty of things stand in their way: being in the division with one of the other juggernauts of the NFL, the San Francisco 49ers, the league’s targeting of the physical Seahawks secondary and the loss of several key players to their daunting defense.

It was highly publicized that the former defensive coordinator Gus Bradley took a head coaching position with the Jacksonville Jaguars two off-seasons ago, but what didn’t get recognized thoroughly was how much he liked the Seahawks roster. Two prominent members of the Seattle defensive line rotation, Red Bryant and Chris Clemons, followed their old coach to Jacksonville this summer. The Seahawks have looked incredible every time they have taken the field this preseason, but it is likely that their vaunted pass rush has lost some of its bite.

The second issue facing Seattle’s shot at history is the new emphasis on illegal contact and defensive holding. Throughout the preseason, penalties were through the roof, but shockingly the Legion of Boom was the only secondary not to get flagged at all this preseason. It appears the Seahawks only played physically because they knew they could get away with it, and they are now going to attempt to continue to dominate the league in a different way. Teams may have figured out a weakness, though, as the Packers exposed the fact that Richard Sherman is unwilling to follow the opponent’s best receiver throughout the game. Sherman can lock down half the field, a huge advantage to be sure, but one that forces many of the opponent’s passes towards Byron Maxwell, who is more than-adequate, but hardly Richard Sherman.

The hardest thing for Seattle this season will probably be to remain consistent throughout the season. Last year Seattle occasionally seemed to take their opponents too lightly. Middling opponents like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Houston Texans almost managed to upset the Seahawks last year. Seattle was able to win those games, but the Hawks won’t be able to get away with some sloppy performances against top teams in the league and in the playoffs this time around.

It appears that there are several teams vying for the right to knock off the defending champions, most of which are coming in the NFC. The 49ers lost several defensive starters from last season, but their offense gained new weapons with a healthy Michael Crabtree, trading for Stevie Johnson, and the drafting of Ohio State standout Carlos Hyde. The Broncos revamped their defense after getting embarrassed in the Super Bowl, and the Saints and Patriots will be title contenders as long as Drew Brees and Tom Brady are playing.

Pete Carroll also will have his own set of issues to deal with. Russell Wilson is going to be entering a contract year and the Seahawks need to find out exactly how much he is worth to them as a player. The addition of Percy Harvin will let the offense open up and we can see if Wilson can move from his game-managing-developing-self to the elite-level quarterback that his potential has promised.

The Seahawks are well on their way to becoming one of the most dominant teams the NFL has seen in over a decade. Their defense is already in the Pantheon of the 1985 Bears and 2000 Ravens, but those teams could only secure one title each. It’s time to see exactly where this Seahawks team will be remembered in history.