As training camp approaches for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and with it the unofficial start to the season, we are taking a closer look at the opponents on the team's 2022 schedule. Next up is the Seattle Seahawks, who will join the Buccaneers in making history in Week 10 when the two teams square off in Munich for the first NFL game ever played in Germany. Buccaneer fans will be tuning in early on Sunday, November 13 as the game kicks off at 9:30 p.m. ET on NFL Network.
The Seahawks had their first losing record in a decade in 2021, finishing at 7-10, and that was only after they won four of their last six outings. Seattle actually had a positive point differential on the season, if barely, though that was certainly helped by a 51-29 drubbing of Detroit in Week 17. A finger injury suffered by Russell Wilson derailed the offense for a good portion of the season and the defense finished with lackluster numbers after a terrible start.
After an encouraging 28-16 win in Indianapolis to start the season, the Seahawks dropped eight of their next 10, with the only wins coming against Jacksonville and a San Francisco squad that had not hit its stride yet. Wilson's injury came in Week Five against the Rams, after he had thrown nine touchdowns and no interceptions in the season's first four outings. The veteran quarterback committed himself to a much speedier than expected return to action but was decidedly less effective upon his return. That said, after a strong finish Wilson would still finish the campaign with a 25-6 TD-INT ratio and a 103.1 passer rating.
Sitting at 3-10, the Seahawks in Week 13 finished off a season sweep of the 49ers, who only dropped one other contest in their final nine. Seattle was eliminated from playoff contention at home in Week 16 in dramatic fashion, with Nick Foles throwing a 15-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham with one minute left in regulation, followed by a successful two-point conversion for a 25-24 win. They still built some momentum for 2022 with that blasting of the Lions followed by a 38-30 win in Arizona.
Seattle finished the year ranked 20th in yards and 16th in scoring on offense, and they got a very intriguing finish from former first-round pick Rashaad Penny. Penny, in danger of becoming an afterthought in the Seattle backfield, exploded for 671 rushing yards and six touchdowns over the last five weeks. Tyler Lockett had his third straight 1,000-yard receiving season but fellow starting wideout D.K. Metcalf slid back from 1,303 yards in 2020 to 967 in 2021, albeit with a career-high 12 touchdowns.
The Seahawks defense has moved fully out of the Legion of Boom era and in fact ranked second-to-last in pass defense in 2021. Big plays were lacking as Seattle ranked 29th in sacks per pass play and 27th in interceptions. Linebacker Jordyn Books, a first-round pick in 2020, took a huge step forward in his second year, racking up 184 stops and leading the league with 109 solo tackles. Linebacker Bobby Wagner and safety Quandre Diggs earned Pro Bowl berths, though 2021 would prove to be Wagner's last season in Seattle.
He wasn't the big name in the deal – we'll get to that in a minute – but former Broncos quarterback Drew Lock is now in Seattle ready to battle Geno Smith for the starting job in 2022. That same deal with Denver also gave the Seahawks a new starting tight end in Noah Fant and an interior defensive lineman in Shelby Harris.
Before that trade, the Seahawks didn't have a draft pick until number 41 overall in the second round, but they picked up the ninth and 40th selections in the deal and thus were able to add some important pieces in the first two days of the draft. That includes what could be a new pair of starting offensive tackles in Mississippi State's Charles Cross (9th overall) and Washington State's Abraham Lucas (72nd). In between Seattle landed edge rusher Boye Mafe of Minnesota and running back Kenneth Walker of Michigan States with back-to-back picks in the fourth round.
The Seahawks weren't overly busy on the free agent market but they did give a pair of mid-level two-year deals to a pair of players who could be immediate starters on defense. Linebacker Uchenna Nwosu and defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson combined for 9.5 sacks last year playing for the Chargers and Raiders, respectively. Cornerback Artie Burns, who got a relatively modest one-year deal, could also end up as a starter. On offense, former Chiefs guard Austin Blythe may give the Seahawks a third new starter up front and former Bear wideout Marquise Goodwin adds depth.
The aforementioned trade that the Seahawks swung with Denver on March 16 may have brought in some very useful assets but it also ended an era as quarterback Russell Wilson gets a fresh start after a hugely successful decade in Seattle. The Seahawks made the playoffs in eight of Wilson's 10 seasons and went to two Super Bowls, winning one; during that span, Wilson went to nine Pro Bowls.
Seattle essentially moved on from their quarterback on both sides of the ball when they released linebacker Bobby Wagner, who arrived in the same 2012 draft that produced Wilson. Wagner went to eight Pro Bowls with the Seahawks and was a six-time first-team Associated Press All-Pro. The Rams kept him in the division with a five-year deal.
Seattle needed to spend a couple draft picks on tackles after the trio of Duane Brown, Brandon Shell and Jamarco Jones all hit free agency and were not asked to re-sign. Of the three, only Jones has landed a new NFL home to this point, as he signed with the Titans. Other starters who departed in free agency included cornerback D.J. Reed and tight end Gerald Everett.
What Else is New?
Head Coach Pete Carroll did some retooling on his coaching staff during the offseason, including the addition of former Bears Defensive Coordinator Sean Desai as the new associated head coach and defensive assistant. Desai is likely to help out new Defensive Coordinator Clint Hurtt, who was promoted from defensive line coach. He replaces the fired Ken Norton Jr.
The new-look offensive line will also have a new tutor as the Seahawks let former Offensive Line Coach Mike Solari go and replaced him with Andy Dickerson. Dickerson had spent the previous year as the team's run game coordinator.
Do the Seahawks have the answer at quarterback with Russell Wilson gone, and will that answer portend a greater shift on offense?
The Seahawks' drafting of Wilson in the third round in 2012 (notably one year after the new CBA went into place) and his immediate success basically created the now prevalent NFL storyline of a starting quarterback on a rookie contract being the league's most valuable asset. Even after he got a new and much more lucrative deal, Wilson continued to perform at such a high level that Seattle remained contenders throughout most of his tenure. It's fair to say that Wilson has ranked somewhere among the NFL's top five quarterbacks during his peak and probably no lower than top 10 even in his valleys. And now that run is over in Seattle.
As noted, Drew Lock came over from the Broncos in the Wilson deal and the Seahawks have been singing his praises ever since, while also touting Geno Smith's strengths. Do they mean it? They gave credence to the idea by not drafting a quarterback in April despite getting the ninth-overall pick from Denver. Of course, the league as a whole may have made it clear what they thought of this year's quarterback class; perhaps Seattle thought it was a better plan to build up its offensive line, see what they have in Lock and if needed dip into what looks to be a much deeper class of passers next spring.
Whoever gets the nod under center in 2022, it's likely that Carroll's Seahawks will emphasize the running game even more than ever. They drafted Kenneth Walker in the second round despite Rashaad Penny's late breakout and the continued presence of Chris Carson. Wilson was incredible making plays out of structure and his deep ball touch might be the best in the NFL. If neither Lock nor Smith can generate the same sort of production, Seattle may become increasingly conservative on offense.
Can the Seahawks generate a pass rush on defense?
Whatever the answer to the above question is, it's not likely Seattle will be getting better at quarterback simply because there aren't many Russell Wilsons out there. On the other hand, they have a chance to improve on the other side of the ball in an area that was the defense's greatest weakness.
As noted above, Seattle ranked 29th in sacks per pass attempt last year, but they appear to be working on that in 2022. Their top free agent signing was Nwosu, whose never had huge sack numbers but is still young enough to develop into more of an edge threat. The draft brought two more edge rushers from the Big Ten in the aforementioned Mafe in the second round and Ohio State's Tyreke Smith in the fifth round. Seattle might also be hoping to get a little bit more out of 2020 draft picks Darrell Taylor and Alton Robinson.
A shift in defensive philosophy could make a difference, as well. Both Hurtt and Desai coached under Vic Fangio, who is known for an aggressive approach. If the pass-rushers above aren't dialing up enough heat, Seattle could become more of a blitzing team in 2022.