STACY ROST

2 areas the Seahawks can take the biggest step forward in 2023

May 26, 2023, 9:57 AM | Updated: 9:57 am

Seattle Seahawks Tyler Lockett...

Tyler Lockett of the Seattle Seahawks reacts after catching the ball for a first down on Jan. 9, 2022. (Norm Hall/Getty Images)

(Norm Hall/Getty Images)

Progress doesn’t have to be a giant leap forward. In fact, sometimes realistic progress doesn’t even sound exciting. But it’s important. And it’s why this week on Bump and Stacy when we discussed where the Seattle Seahawks can realistically take the biggest step, we talked about some more specific categories.

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A step forward opportunity: Third down conversion rate

Much like their struggles with the screen game, the Seahawks’ issues on third down aren’t new.

Seattle was 20th last year (38.32%), 23rd in 2021 (37.31%), and 27th in 2020 (38.42%). The last time they were above 40% was in 2019 (when they ranked 15th) and they haven’t been higher than 15th since 2015, when they were 3rd (45.8%).

So no, heading into the offseason with a plan to fix their third-down rate isn’t new. But a few weapons are.

Seattle could use a sure answer – and potentially more depth – on the interior of the offensive line, but they found two promising rookie tackles who became full-time starters last season and added a pair of interior linemen in the draft. Even without tested depth, the group looks like one of Seattle’s more promising units in recent years.

There are other weapons being added to diversify the offense. Second-round pick Zach Charbonnet saw a career high not just in rushing yards and touchdowns for UCLA last season, but also in receptions (37) and receiving yards (321). First-round pick Jaxon Smith-Njigba was dominant at Ohio State during his last full season and gives Geno Smith a premier target in the slot. All three tight ends are returning after last year finishing with over 300 receiving yards apiece (the first time under Pete Carroll that three separate tight ends finished with as many yards).

There’s no one answer. Simply put, the Seahawks need to be a more complete offense to execute on third down. But they took a step toward that this offseason. An improvement to 42% would make them a top-10 team here, while 40% would at least put them at league average.

A step forward opportunity: Turnover differential and takeaways

The obvious answer for overall importance is their performance against the run, but the Seahawks still have some question marks on the defensive line. Meanwhile, they have a crowded and talented secondary group and the return of Bobby Wagner to hold down the middle of the defense. So perhaps it’s fair to expect a bigger leap with an area in which those players can have a hand (pun intended).

The Seahawks were plus-2 in turnover differential last season and were tied for 12th in interceptions. The league’s top teams – Philadelphia, Dallas, and San Francisco – were at least plus-8.

“Let’s just start there,” Michael Bumpus said. Bumpus chose turnover differential as his greatest leap forward.

“Take the football away. Now, you have to account for Geno Smith’s turnovers because that’s how it’s balanced out. But let’s take the football away. I’m not gonna ask Tariq Woolen to come out and get six interceptions again. If he did that would be great, but that’s tough to do, especially when the scouting report is out on you. So, let’s have more contributions from the rest of the secondary.

“How? You get pressure in that box. You get Cam Young, Uchenna Nwosu, Jarran Reed, Bobby Wagner, Devon Bush – everyone is active when it comes to pressuring that quarterback. I look at differential and interception and say ‘let’s get better there to start.’”

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2 areas the Seahawks can take the biggest step forward in 2023