JOHN CLAYTON

Russell Wilson is the difference in this Seahawks ‘re-build’

Mar 23, 2018, 8:31 AM
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With Russell Wilson, the Seahawks still have the best quarterback in the NFC West. (AP)
(AP)

After more than a week into free agency, the Seahawks’ plan to restock the roster has come into focus.

Despite the likelihood the Seahawks will open the season minus five defensive starters who have been to the Pro Bowl, the emphasis has been on offense, As surprising as that might sound, it makes sense.

The Seahawks made their name as a championship contender with the Legion of Boom, but the Pete Carroll era started on the construction of a running game. Michael Bennett said it best on a podcast with Bill Simmons the other day: Lynch established the personality of the Seahawks.

Lynch was the violent runner who struck fear into defenses. He can run with power and authority to his right or to his left. Defenders had to spend the Saturday night before a Sunday game thinking of the pain Lynch might inflict when he got the ball past the line of scrimmage.

Naturally, finding the Marshawn Lynch replacement will be tough. The Seahawks learned that over the past two seasons. But you can see with what John Schneider is doing that he is putting an emphasis on building a powerful running game. With limitations in what the Seahawks can spend cap-wise, though, the process has been a little slow.

The first move was getting a better blocking tight end who could help as a fullback. Ed Dickson signed up to fill that role. The second move was getting a more physical guard. Signing D.J. Fluker, who added 25 yards a game to the New York Giants running attack when he was inserted into the lineup, was the second move. Fluker was coached by current Seahawks’ O-line coach Mike Solari when he was with the Giants, and Solari prefers a more physical blocker over an athletic one. At 343 pounds, Fluker can open those holes on the right side.

Building around Russell

Here’s what the Seahawks are thinking: If they can get back into being a top five or top seven running attack, as they were when Lynch was in his prime, they can get back to being a team that can win between nine and 11 games. The difference from 2010 is that they have one of best quarterbacks in the game: Russell Wilson.

Tyrann Mathieu on Pro Football Talk radio Thursday morning was asked what thing is he not going to miss the most now that he’s out of the NFC West. He wasted no time in saying Wilson. Mathieu said Wilson drove him crazy with his running, his throwing and his escapablity.

Schneider and Pete Carroll apparently are following Mathieu’s scouting report and are building around Wilson. Another receiver might be added — and there is definitely interest in Terrelle Pryor — and more is needed in the backfield — where first step was re-signing running back Mike Davis. (They could look to Demarco Murray or some veterans in free agency, and also have the draft.)

The future of Seattle’s defense

Schneider and Carroll have looked back at the defense and surely know pieces need to be added. Thankfully, they already had a preview of younger talent during the final seven games last year. Despite the bad defensive game against the Los Angeles Rams in December, the Seahawks statistically ranked sixth despite playing without Pro Bowler Cliff Avril for 12 games, and Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor for seven games.

During the final seven games, the Seahawks defense gave up 59.4 percent completions and 178 yards a game. With that in mind, the Seahawks brought back defensive end Marcus Smith and are trying to re-sign Byron Maxwell, who did well filling in for Sherman. Naturally, the losses of Avril and Michael Bennett have to be addressed for the pass rush but some of that can be done in the draft.

John Clayton on 710 ESPN Seattle
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