Rost: Where the Seahawks stand after adding big 2023 draft class

May 2, 2023, 10:45 AM

Seattle Seahawks Jaxon Smith-Njigba...

Jaxon Smith-Njigba of the Ohio State Buckeyes celebrates a reception on Oct. 30, 2021. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)

(Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)

One trade of a franchise quarterback later, and the Seattle Seahawks have stocked up with some of the best young talent they’ve had in years. Because of that, they could have a chance to do something they haven’t since 2015.

Of course, this 2023 draft class has yet to prove anything, but the optimism is there for good reason.

Pete Carroll Breakdown: Detailing the Seahawks’ 2023 draft class

A No. 5 overall pick, Seattle’s the highest ever under coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider, used on Devon Witherspoon, the top corner in a great class.

The No. 20 overall pick used on Jaxon Smith-Njigba, a wide receiver who was last year considered the best of an Ohio State group that included Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson

Also selected were Auburn pass rusher Derick Hall and UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet in the second round, two Day 2 offensive linemen (LSU’s Anthony Bradford and Michigan’s Olusegun Oluwatimi), two defensive linemen (Mississippi State’s Cam Young and Michigan’s Mike Morris), and depth additions New Mexico safety Jerrick Reed and Georgia running back Kenny McIntosh, the latter of whom was projected to be drafted two rounds earlier.

They’ll be added to a Seahawks team that last year saw five rookie starters, including nominees for both Defensive Rookie of the Year (cornerback Tariq Woolen) and Offensive Rookie of the Year (running back Kenneth Walker III).

If the offseason is about optimism and projecting, then here’s hoping the Seahawks have a chance to do a few things they haven’t in years.

Do Seattle Seahawks have a shutdown secondary?

When healthy, Seattle’s secondary includes former All-Pro safety Jamal Adams, Pro Bowlers Quandre Diggs and Woolen, Witherspoon, and ex-Giants starter Julian Love. Depth pieces include Coby Bryant, Tre Brown and Michael Jackson (who started last year).

The Seahawks’ passing defense took a big step forward in 2023. Whether it was a breakout year from Woolen or new instruction from secondary coach Karl Scott, the Seahawks cut passing yards allowed from 265 per game (31st in the NFL) to 217 per game (17th).

No secondary is perfect if there are issues up front, and Seattle has plenty to address there this offseason. But even an average run-stopping defense (which would mean cutting down about 30 yards per game) and a more consistent pass rush can provide a boost.

Here’s what Carroll said when we asked him Monday on Seattle Sports’ Bump and Stacy whether they could have their best secondary since their Legion of Boom days:

“We’re gonna be pushing to see how far we can take it. It is a very good group. We’ve got good leadership, we’ve got playmaking, we’ve got physicality. I’m really pumped up about this.”

Elite WR group rounds out a solid offense

Now, listen. Seattle’s receivers haven’t loved being challenged before – and frankly, they were right to push back against the idea that they weren’t a top group. But an offense with two 1,000-yard receivers just got one of Ohio State’s brightest stars. Smith-Njigba racked up over 1,600 receiving yards in his last healthy season with the Buckeyes.

The addition of Smith-Njigba and a pass-catching running back in Charbonnet diversifies an offense that’s struggled on third down for years (20th in 2022 at 38.3%).

Returning to complementary football

Being top 10 in anything in the NFL is hard enough, so being a top-10 offense and top-10 defense takes a balanced, exceptionally talented and well-coached group.

Seattle, as you well know, was the top-scoring defense in the league for four consecutive seasons from 2012-15. During that same time, the offense was also top 10 in scoring, peaking at fourth in 2015.

There’s been a drastic decline defensively in yards and points allowed, and a few years of up-and-down offense for Seattle. The Seahawks’ defense has been 22nd or worse in yards allowed since 2019.

That the Seahawks haven’t been top 10 in both categories in the same season isn’t so much an indictment as it is a reflection of a flawed team, and an example of how difficult it is to be dominant in a league built for parity. Still, that’s the goal, right?

More Seattle Seahawks draft reaction

UCLA coach Chip Kelly breaks down what Seahawks get in RB Charbonnet
UCLA WR Jake Bobo may be Seahawks’ biggest undrafted steal
‘Speed and violence’: Why Huard gives Seahawks’ draft high marks
Seattle Seahawks Draft Breakdown: A close look at all 10 picks

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