MIKE LEFKO

Lefko: Seahawks’ best and worst case scenarios for 2023

Jun 14, 2023, 10:44 AM

Seattle Seahawks Geno Smith...

Seattle Seahawks QB Geno Smith is pressured the 49ers' Nick Bosa on Dec. 15, 2022. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

We are in the deadest of dead times for NFL teams. There is a month and a half between the end of minicamp and the start of training camp, but at least the Seattle Seahawks enter this summer break filled with promise and expectations.

Huard: Two words that sum up the Seattle Seahawks’ offseason

A better-than-expected offense, along with a plethora of draft picks making significant contributions in 2022, has naturally led to projections and conjecture about what is possible now for this team. They are getting the respect of the national pundits, as well. For example, NFL.com’s Eric Edholm was on Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob a couple of weeks ago and broke down why he has the Seahawks as one of the 10 most complete teams in the league and in the top four in the NFC.

A top-four team in a conference boils down to a spot in the divisional round of the playoffs, a step further than the Seahawks reached a year ago. Yet there could be the potential for them to push past that and turn a step forward into a full-on leap. Conversely, if the unknown elements don’t perform, there is a high likelihood the Seahawks remain stagnant or even regress.

So let’s break it down by the best case/worst case scenario in three critical areas for the Seattle Seahawks this season.

Seattle Seahawks’ defensive line

Best case

The complete overhaul on the defensive line leads to the right personnel in the scheme the Seahawks want to run. The returning Jarran Reed comes close to replicating his 2018 form, while Seattle’s biggest offseasn addition, Dre’Mont Jones, finishes with double-digit sacks and validates why the Seahawks initially wanted him as part of the Russell Wilson trade.

Rookie tackle Cam Young puts together a strong training camp like Abe Lucas and Tariq Woolen did as draft picks a year before, becoming another non-first-round pick to win a starting job in his first year and succeeds while doing so. Pass rushers Uchenna Nwosu and Darrell Taylor put out consistent production off the edges, while the waves of depth from Derick Hall, Boye Mafe, Tyreke Smith, et al. lift the Seahawks’ defense to a top-five sack unit (they were eighth in 2022) and a run defense in the top half of the league.

Worst case

Young doesn’t win the nose tackle spot so much as he is the starter simply because the Seahawks don’t have anyone else at that position. The inexperience shows early on and the handful of new players on the line don’t gel quickly enough to stave off growing pains.

Miscommunication continues to plague the run defense and the Seahawks remain one of the worst rush defenses in the NFL.

Seattle Seahawks’ offensive line

Best case

A year under the belt for Charles Cross and Abe Lucas allows the two tackles to improve on stellar rookie seasons. A younger, healthier option at right guard brings stability to the interior, and a true competition at center means that whoever emerges will have had to win the job instead of simply being the only viable option.

A cohesive group up front paves the way for the Seahawks to establish the run and dictate the game to their opponents. A strong O-line also allows quarterback Geno Smith time in the pocket to tinker with his wealth of options in the passing game.

Worst case

A new center means a learning curve and early growing pains. Protections are missed, Smith doesn’t have enough time in the pocket, and the Seahawks’ offense starts to resemble the stagnant one that it was at times during prolonged offensive scoring droughts last year.

A year of film on Cross and Lucas gives edge rushers an idea of how to beat them. Sophomore slumps ensue and it becomes more of a challenge to win at the line of scrimmage in either opening up holes for a running back or allowing receivers enough time to get open downfield.

The schedule

Best case

A full offseason for Geno Smith as the starting QB, plus the additions to the offense has that unit clicking early and before other teams start to find their rhythm. Things slow down for Clint Hurtt in Year 2 as the defensive coordinator, and any potential fatal flaws to the defense are recognized and ironed out by the start of the season.

The Seahawks take advantage of the easy opening stretch to the season with a 4-0 start, at worst 3-1, and then use the extra week of rest with a Week 5 bye before visiting the Bengals to design a game plan that frustrates a pass-happy Cincinnati offense into playing right into the strength of the defense. Seattle doesn’t lose to an inferior team all season and rides into the playoffs with a 12-5 record.

Worst case

A lot of young players and rookies comprise the bulk of the Seahawks’ starters, and the inexperienced group takes more time to gel than initially expected, which leads to a Week 1 loss against a now-healthy Rams offense led by QB Matthew Stafford and receiver Cooper Kupp.

The defense needs live game reps to get up to speed and iron out communication issues, and can’t do so quickly enough to slow down the Lions’ powerful offense in Week 2. Rinse and repeat for back-to-back road games against the Giants and Bengals, and the Seahawks are sitting at 1-4 after five games.

An early bye week plus a late-season gauntlet of the 49ers, at Cowboys, at 49ers, and Eagles proves to be too much for a worn-down team that has seen a number of key contributors hit a rookie wall, and the Seahawks win just two of their final eight games.

Those are two extremes for how the Seahawks’ season could go and it’s most likely that the answer is somewhere in between. Keep in mind, though, at this time last year there wasn’t even a logical reason to think that the best case could reach as far as it did, so who knows what awaits this season.

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Lefko: Seahawks’ best and worst case scenarios for 2023