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Clayton: The 5 Seahawks entering make-or-break seasons

The Seahawks hope Germain Ifedi can thrive in new offensive line coach Mike Solari's system. (AP)

Clearly, veteran players on the Seahawks have to step up for the team to succeed in 2018. Naturally, the remaining Pro Bowl players need to show leadership to get this younger team to win.

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Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Russell Wilson, Duane Brown and Doug Baldwin have responded to that change. But for the Seahawks to make it back to the playoffs, Pete Carroll’s team has several players who are in for make-or-break seasons.

Let’s take a look at five of those players.

Right tackle Germain Ifedi

Ifedi struggled horribly last year in Tom Cable’s zone blocking scheme. He made too many penalties. He missed too many blocks. If his game doesn’t pick up this season under new offensive line coach Mike Solari, the Seahawks might go to George Fant at right tackle. Part of the issue with Ifedi is that he needed to mature more as a player, and teammates say he’s improved in that area. Solari has been working on getting Ifedi to block with better leverage. The key for the Seahawks’ season is improving the running offense, and Solari’s system should work out better for Ifedi. He can use his power instead of trying to be more athletic.

Safety Bradly McDougald

McDougald was one of the best free agent signings of the past few years. He’s smart. He’s versatile. He’s a good player. That’s why the Seahawks re-signed him to a three-year contract at $4.5 million per year. This isn’t necessarily a make-or-break year as far as his future with the Seahawks – he should be here for the entire three years. What will be make or break for the Seahawks is whether their revamped secondary will be successful, and a big part of that will rely on what McDougald can do for the other players in the unit. If Earl Thomas isn’t playing for the Seahawks this season, McDougald will be instrumental in breaking in Delano Hill or Tedric Thompson. Kam Chancellor encouraged McDougald to show leadership to the young defensive backs and he did that at the OTAs and the mini-camp.

Halfback Chris Carson

Carson was one of the stars of the offseason, and had he stayed healthy last year, he could have had a 1,000-yard season. Most fantasy people believe the Seahawks’ running game will improve. In fact, ESPN is predicting a 983-yard season for Rashaad Penny. For that to happen, though, Penny has to beat out Carson, and that won’t be easy. It’s make or break for the Seahawks’ running game because they need to get between 1,800 and 2,000 yards to generate a point differential in excess of 80. If they can get a point differential over 100, they could win 10 or 11 games. Russell Wilson will get around 350 to 400 yards on the ground, so they need 1,400 to 1,600 from the running backs.

Defensive end Dion Jordan

Frank Clark goes from being a No. 3 pass-rushing defensive end to No. 1 with Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett both gone, but in reality he was a No. 2 last year. He started the final 12 games, which is where he produced seven of his nine sacks. Jordan, meanwhile, gets the first crack at the starting job on the other side. First, he has to stay healthy enough to show he can be a starter. He was one of the best players in the 2013 draft and is freakishly talented, but injuries have plagued him throughout his career. Last year was promising, though, as he ranked fourth on the team in sacks. This season, the goal is for the Seahawks to get around 39 sacks. If Jordan can start 15 or more games and get around eight sacks, he’ll be a free agent who can cash in next year. But he could also be part of a special pass rush in Seattle.

Kicker Sebastian Janikowski

The Seahawks felt the pain of a struggling kicker last year when Blair Walsh missed field goals in three losses that might have been wins had he connected, so it’s make for break for the Seahawks to make field goals. Janikowski, who until this offseason spent his entire career with Oakland, is 40 years old but still has a strong leg. If games are going to be close, they need Janikowski to make the kicks that Walsh missed. One concern, though, is that Janikowski missed a lot of practices in May and June because of a hip injury. There will be decent competition from Jason Myers, who was consistent in the OTAs and minicamps.

Which Seahawks are in the hot seat in 2018?

John Clayton on 710 ESPN Seattle
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