Rost: The good and bad news for Seahawks’ chances of dethroning 49ers

Jun 20, 2023, 10:36 AM

Seattle Seahawks DK Metcalf...

Seattle Seahawks WR DK Metcalf makes a catch vs. the 49ers on Jan. 14, 2023. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Well, there’s good news and there’s bad news. The bad news is the 49ers are favored to win the NFC West, and it’s for good reason. But that doesn’t mean the Seattle Seahawks don’t have the potential to pull ahead (more on that in a minute).

The new version of last year’s Seahawks could be the rival Rams

San Francisco might’ve been a Super Bowl team last year were it not for injuries to their starting and backup quarterbacks. They were second in overall team DVOA (27.5%), and their always-elite defense, led by defensive player of the year Nick Bosa, allowed the second-fewest yards per game. They’re returning most starters outside of losing starting right tackle Mike McGlinchey, and they added to the defense with free agent Javon Hargrave, a former Pro Bowler who recorded 11 sacks for the Eagles last season.

Even losing another defensive coordinator didn’t set them back. San Francisco defensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan brought in Steve Wilks, who was in consideration for a head coaching job in Carolina, to replace now-Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans.

The good news is this 49ers team isn’t without questions. That, and the Seahawks have some reinforcements.

“On defense, as good as that defense has been, the edge rusher opposite Bosa is kind of an unknown,” NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco told us Monday on Seattle Sports’ Bump and Stacy. “Drake Jackson is a guy they drafted in the second round last year. He got off to a pretty good start and then fell off the face of the earth and was inactive for many of the games down the stretch. And I think there are still some question marks about the defensive backfield, particularly cornerback and nickel back.

“In the salary cap era, there’s probably no such thing as a perfect team. The 49ers are darn good, but they’re not perfect. There are some issues that could crop up over the course of the season.”

It’s not a bad spot to be in overall, which is why the Hawks are still working on closing the gap. But there’s a chance Seattle takes a bigger step forward in 2023 thanks to an influx of new (and some old) talent.

It’s where these two teams in particular are different. The 49ers won’t be leaning on nearly as many first- and second-year players (outside of Brock Purdy under center, of course), whereas Seattle will hope to get another batch of starters one year after drafting offensive and defensive rookie of the year nominees (running back Kenneth Walker III and corner Tariq Woolen, respectively). Not only that, but Seattle’s entire defensive line will feature new starters, headlined by free agent acquisition Dre Jones and the returning Jarran Reed. Holding down the middle of the defense will be Bobby Wagner, now in his second stint with Seattle.

Joining the fold, though, are two first-round picks that have the chance to take Seattle’s secondary and wide receiver groups from good to great. Then there are those rookies not joining established groups. Cam Young will be competing at a thin nose tackle spot while Olu Oluwatimi will be in the mix in an ever-changing center position. A stellar season from first-rounders Devon Witherspoon (cornerback) and Jaxon Smith-Njigba (wide receiver) would help the team take a step forward, but it’s development from young players in the trenches that could help close that gap. And it’s in the trenches where last year’s two best teams in the NFC, San Francisco and Philadelphia, excelled.

It’s that reliance on young players that makes the Seattle Seahawks a more volatile team than San Francisco, but potentially a more interesting one. There’s nothing boring about being elite, which is what the 49ers have going for them this season. There is something exciting, though, about a team potentially tapping into new, impactful talent.

More on the Seattle Seahawks

Video: Will Seattle Seahawks QB Geno Smith improve in 2023?
Brock & Salk: Should Seahawks consider blockbuster trade for Aaron Donald?
Rost: Three big swings have potential to take Seahawks from good to great
The Legion of Boom star Huard sees in Devon Witherspoon
Salk: Seattle Seahawks look like they’ve found ‘Goldilocks Zone’ again

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