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Bumpus: NFC West is the Seahawks’ to lose, and the pressure is on

Are Seahawks GM John Schneider and HC Pete Carroll are under a lot of pressure in 2020? (AP)

Heading into the 2020 season, the NFC West is widely regarded as the toughest division in the NFL, and there’s a case that can be made for the Seahawks or any of the three other teams in the division taking the NFC West crown this upcoming season.

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The 49ers won the division last year and played in the Super Bowl, Seattle finished second and won a playoff game, the Rams made the Super Bowl in 2018, and the Cardinals are seen as a rising team that acquired one of the best receivers in football in DeAndre Hopkins. But who faces the most pressure in the NFC West?

Former NFL receiver Michael Bumpus was asked that when he joined Danny and Gallant Wednesday morning and he said the case could be made for Rams head coach Sean McVay, Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury, or 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. But he thinks a duo in the Pacific Northwest faces more pressure than anyone else in the division.

“Honestly, I think it’s a package deal. I think it’s (Seahawks general manager John) Schneider and (head coach) Pete Carroll,” he said. “I think it’s their division to lose this year. I think they’re the favorites to win this division.”

A big factor in determining Seattle’s success in 2020 is in its approach on both sides of the ball and how it changes and adapts.

“I think (Carroll and Schneider are) responsible for forcing this defense to change a bit. They’re responsible for making changes on this defense as far as personnel,” Bumpus said. “I think we’re going to see if they’ll let Russell Wilson cook. Are they going to change their philosophy a bit on offense?”

The defense was one of the worst in the NFL in 2019, and getting that fixed for 2020 will be key for the Seahawks as Wilson is in his prime, and the pieces are there on offense and could be used differently than in years past.

“I’m putting it on John Schneider and Pete Carroll. They’ve got to adjust on defense and let’s see what they do on on offense,” Bumpus said. “They made some moves, they got Greg Olsen – how are they going to use him? We’ll see what happens with Quinton Dunbar. You still haven’t made a move on that defensive line. I think the pressure is on them. It’s their division to lose and if they don’t win this division, I’d be highly disappointed.”

Danny O’Neil said that the Seahawks have had time to rebuild the defense in the draft and free agency the last two offseasons and if it’s not better in 2020, you have to question why it’s not improving.

“I understand why they took a step back,” he said. “When Kam Chancellor has to retire and Cliff Avril has to retire because of injuries and Richard Sherman gets cut and Earl Thomas leaves, you understand why there’s a dip, but it’s got to bounce back. And if it doesn’t bounce back this year, I think that question is, OK, why not? Why isn’t this group getting better? It’s young, you’ve had a lot of draft picks and you’ve got time and opportunity. Something should be happening to get this defense better.”

Bumpus said there seemed to be some understanding as to why the defense was subpar in 2019 but that it won’t fly in 2020.

“I think last year, people were OK with it – or not OK, but kind of understood where this defense was,” he said. “You don’t have a nickel guy, really, so you’re going to stay in your base defense out of necessity. And they’re not going to go out and say, ‘Hey, our personnel forced us to play this hand.’ They’re going to stick by their guys and say, ‘Look, this is what we wanted to do, this is our philosophy.’ This is the year of change.”

Last season saw a lot of soft zone defense and Bumpus thinks that needs to look different and that another addition on the defensive line would help with a pass rush that was among the league’s worst in 2019.

“Defensively, are they good enough to come down and play bump and run and press a little bit? Are they going to blitz more? Everyone’s been asking to blitz, you know,” he said. “If they come out and do the exact same thing, it’s going to be highly disappointing.”

Paul Gallant wanted to know if the Seahawks are closer to making a Super Bowl in 2020 than they were in 2019.

“I want to say yes. I can’t definitively say yes,” Gallant said.

Bumpus disagreed.

“I say yes because on paper there are more sacks on defense,” he said. “I say yes because if Quinton Dunbar gets out of this (legal issue), they got better at the corner spot. I say yes because Russell Wilson is on offense and they did pick up a Phillip Dorsett who I really like and I think is going to be a really good No. 3 receiver. They’ve gotten better.”

The question, again, remains at defensive line, Bumpus said, even with adding Bruce Irvin and Benson Mayowa, who combined for over 15 sacks in 2019.

“Have they gotten enough guys? I don’t know,” he said. “But I think they’re making moves and they’re moving in the right direction. We’ll see how it all unfolds.”

Listen to the full conversation at this link or in the player below.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Michael Bumpus on Twitter.

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