What must be different for Seahawks in 2021 to avoid another disappointing finish?
The Seahawks have been one of the best franchises in the NFL for more than a decade, but after appearing in back-to-back Super Bowls in 2013 and 2014, Seattle’s success has been mostly limited to the regular season.
Since that last Super Bowl appearance, the Seahawks have made the playoffs in all but one year, but they’ve gone 3-5 in the postseason and have failed to advance past the divisional round.
It seemed like the Seahawks had an opportunity to get back to the conference title game, or even a Super Bowl, in 2020 with the team going 12-4 and winning the NFC West, but instead Seattle fell in the Wild Card round to the Los Angeles Rams.
In 2020, Seattle’s offense started the season red hot and, as Heaps pointed out, was a top offense in the NFL. But in the second half of the year, the Seahawks played better opponents with better defenses and struggled.
The Seahawks were a team that attacked defenses deep down the field, but teams played more two-high safety formations, which gave Seattle fits. The offense failed to adjust both in-game and week-to-week, which played a big part in the team’s offensive numbers decreasing in the second half of the year.
Heaps said the Seahawks need “more diversity” on offense going forward, and he’s optimistic that will happen under new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron, who is taking over for Brian Schottenheimer.
So what exactly does a more diversified offense look like?
“Not just going to their bread and butter, which is the deep passing attack,” he said. “It’s being able to get (running back) Chris Carson going again in the running game. It’s about being able to spread the ball out (with quicker and shorter passes) so your playmakers can get the ball and generate yards after catch through your play designs.”
If the Seahawks do that, Heaps said, it will also help Seattle in an area the team has struggled for a decade.
“You’re lessening the sack totals and you’re lessening the amounts that (quarterback Russell Wilson) is taking, and that was obviously a friction point this offseason,” he said.
Rost sees things similarly, and she thinks that urgency is something the Seahawks have greatly lacked on offense over the years in a variety of ways.
“At times (the Seahawks) don’t have (that necessary urgency),” she said.
Head coach Pete Carroll preaches that you can’t win a football game until the fourth quarter. Rost said that kind of philosophy can work against worse teams because if you wait them out, they often can give the game away. But that kind of ideology doesn’t always work against top competition.
“When you’re going against the best teams in the NFL, they’re not going to make (many) mistakes,” she said. “You make more mistakes at times, so you don’t always just get to outlast them. And also adapt when your offense isn’t working … That includes urgency when something is not working.”
The game that Rost pointed to was Seattle’s 17-12 loss to the New York Giants. That game really encapsulated what the Seahawks’ offense struggles would look like the rest of the way as the Giants took away the deep passing attack and were able to sack and hit Wilson pretty regularly. Rather than that game being a turning point for the offense, though, things stayed relatively stagnant through the end of the year.
“They had ways to fix this and they didn’t do it,” she said. “I constantly look back at that as basically a failure where it felt like your offense was heading in two different directions with what you wanted to do versus what you were doing … Whatever it was, your offense was not right and that Giants game was a perfect example of it and you need to change that.”
While Seattle’s offense started the 2020 season as one of the best before trailing off late, it was the opposite for the defense, which started 2020 as one of the league’s worst units before playing like one of the best during the second half of 2020.
Despite things turning around late in 2020, Heaps thinks there are some clear factors that need to change with that group’s mentality and makeup.
“In order for them finally to get over that hump and for them to get back to the NFC Championship Game and get back to a Super Bowl … one of the biggest things for me is defensively, they need to find their true identity and make their presence felt across the league,” he said. “You saw that with the Legion of Boom and (this defense) needs to do it in their own way — a new way.”
Seahawks general manager John Schneider, when talking about 2021 fourth-round cornerback Tre Brown, told 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant last week that the Seahawks need and want more guys who play with an edge. Heaps agrees and also wants to see more speed and hitting “with physicality.”
Additionally, he wants the Seahawks to force more turnovers, not just record takeaways.
“They have ironically been one of the league leaders at different points in the season … in turnovers,” he said. “But they have been more turnovers by (the other team’s) mistake and turnovers by opportunity … rather than having someone that is a ballhawk that is going and taking the football away or a defensive end that can turn the corner and generate that strip sack fumble.”
And speaking of defensive ends, that gets us to what Rost wants to see more of, which is a healthy and competitive defensive line.
Last year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had one of the best pass rushes in football, and it helped them win the NFC and the Super Bowl.
The Seahawks have gone out and put together a quality pass-rushing unit this offseason, and Rost thinks that group will be key in whether the Seahawks are more successful in 2021 than they’ve been in previous years.
“You need impact players and consistent impact plays from the defensive line, especially when it comes to the pass rush,” Rost said.
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