BUMP AND STACY

Why former NFL exec thinks Seahawks will be a ‘sleeper team’

May 26, 2024, 9:24 AM | Updated: 11:24 am

Seattle Seahawks Kenneth Walker Pittsburgh Steelers 2023...

Kenneth Walker III of the Seattle Seahawks carries the ball against the Steelers in 2023. (Jane Gershovich/Getty Images)

(Jane Gershovich/Getty Images)

Earlier this month, NFL Network and FOX Sports analyst Peter Schrager tabbed the Seattle Seahawks as potentially being this year’s team that takes a significant leap forward.

He’s not the only expert who shares that view.

What are experts predicting for Seahawks’ 2024 record?

During an appearance on Seattle Sports’ Bump and Stacy this past week, former longtime NFL executive Michael Lombardi said he views the Seahawks as a “sleeper team” this season. Lombardi thinks that with better health and a new coaching staff led by defensive guru Mike Macdonald, Seattle can improve on last year’s 9-8 record.

“I really think Seattle is going to be a sleeper team,” Lombardi said. “I think it’s going to be a tough out for people. I think their talent is better than they performed last year. Defense was the problem. Injuries were the problem. … And yet, (former coach Pete Carroll) still won nine games. And if they beat Pittsburgh (in Week 17), it’s a playoff team.

“But they didn’t, and so now Mike comes in with his scheme and (new offensive coordinator) Ryan Grubb gets to run the offense. And I think that if they play complementary football and (Macdonald) coaches the team not as a defensive coordinator but as a head coach, they’ll have a chance to really improve.”

Lombardi likes the Seahawks’ offense and thinks they have a good collection of talent with quarterback Geno Smith, running back Kenneth Walker III and the receiving trio of DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and Jaxon Smith-Njigba. He viewed the slew of injuries along the offensive line last season – especially the knee issues that sidelined right tackle Abraham Lucas for 11 games and a nagging toe injury that plagued left tackle Charles Cross – as a major reason Seattle was 17th in the NFL in points per game after finishing 10th in 2022.

“I think their (offensive) skill is really good,” Lombardi said. “I think … this is a good offensive team. I think their struggles lined with the fact that Lucas missed a lot of games last year and they had to bring in (41-year-old offensive lineman) Jason Peters off the retirement couch, which made it really challenging.

“I think Geno, if he’s protected, his accuracy is really good,” he added. “His decision-making has really improved. His anticipation is really good. But I think last year he got hit way too much.”

What separates new Seahawks coach Mike Macdonald? Analyst dives in

On the defensive side, Lombardi thinks first-round pick Byron Murphy II will help the Seahawks in the trenches at defensive tackle. He also thinks Seattle’s defense as a whole can benefit from Macdonald, who brings a cutting-edge defensive scheme to Seattle. Macdonald had immense success with his scheme in Baltimore, where he was the defensive coordinator for a Ravens defense that became the first in NFL history to lead the league in points allowed, sacks and takeaways last season.

As an example of Macdonald’s coaching acumen, Lombardi pointed to two defensive players who resurrected their careers under Macdonald last year in Baltimore. Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who was coming off a down season in Cleveland, rebounded with 9.5 sacks and nine tackles for loss. Veteran linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who was an unsigned free agent early last season before signing with the Ravens, exploded for a career-high nine sacks and nine tackles for loss in Macdonald’s defense.

“Macdonald gets two guys off the street,” Lombardi said. “He gets Clowney to have his best year of his career … and then he gets Kyle Van Noy off The Pat McAfee Show, and the next thing you know, Van Noy is playing really good. It’s pretty remarkable.”

Listen to the full conversation with Michael Lombardi in the podcast at this link or in the player near the top of this post. Bump and Stacy airs live from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays on Seattle Sports.

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