By Clint Elsemore
We all know the Seahawk philosophy and method of winning games, play unmatched defense, dominate on special teams, and control the ball on offense taking your explosive shots down the field at the right times. This formula keeps the game within reach no matter what. Having said that, the most significant loss the Seahawks face in free agency is most likely Golden Tate, will the Seahawks have enough talent at Wide Out to compete for another title a year from now? I believe the answer is an emphatic yes depending upon players staying healthy for the coming year.
Pete and company believe in their players, put them in the best situation to succeed, and help them to maximize their talents, but not at the expense of the overall team concepts. Even if the Seahawks WR corps was Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant, and AJ Green, I don’t believe they would throw the ball 40-50 times per game, Marshawn and the running game would still be the identity of this offense. Now shake yourself out of the Johnson, Bryant & Green dream and let’s look at what the Seahawks have for the coming season and how this group of Wide Outs has the ability to be even better than last year.
2013 – Percy was penciled in to be the lead wideout, but when inflammation turned into hip surgery and he missed all but one half of the regular season as well as one and a half playoff games, the impact in 2013 was minimal (notwithstanding his electric performance in the SuperBowl).
2014 – Percy is once again tabbed to be the main guy, but his recovery appears to be nearly complete. The impact of a healthy Harvin cannot be understated, as the role he has on the game cannot be measured by stats and box scores. Hi speed and ability to run in space creates matchup problems for the defense as shown on the two WR reverses by Harvin in the big game. Towards the end of the first quarter the Hawks faked a handoff to Percy and gave the ball to Lynch, two defenders hesitated and moved in Harvin’s direction leading to running room and a first down for Lynch. In the Mic’d up tape you can hear Sherman on the sideline say, “It’s Percy, he’s got their eye”. From a defensive perspective you can see how much they have to pay attention and gameplan to stop him, if healthy he opens up opportunities for other WR’s as well as the ground game. The last bonus is Harvin’s ability to impact the game as a kick returner he is one of the best, and the Hawks struggled last year with both Kearse and Turbin fumbling prior to switch to Baldwin who was good, but not exceptional in this area.
Verdict – 2013 < 2014 – based on expected health of Harvin for the coming season.
2013 – Sydney Rice started the year coming of a strong 2012 and had solid moments early in 2013 including his multiple touchdown game against the Jaguars, and a beautiful touchdown early in the Cardinals game, but blew out his knee against the Rams in week 8 and did not return. The season started ominously when he missed the first week of training camp for a mysterious non-surgical procedure in Switzerland, but he never appeared at full speed.
2014 – Doug Baldwin is elevated to the #2 position for this coming season. With the injury to Percy he proved he can play outside, and he stepped up to every challenge last year. Yes, he is not your prototypical receiver being smaller than most teams are comfortable with, but he has proved durable, dependable, and has an incredible ability to come down with the ball in contested situations.
Verdict – 2013 < 2014 – Rice was inconsistent and injured for much of the year, Baldwin looks to improve upon his strong 2013 season.
2013 – Golden Tate started the year as the #3 wideout, and was quickly elevated due to Harvin’s injury. Golden had a very good year largely mirroring his production from 2012 when he finally broke out. He was explosive and made some sensational plays, including winning the Rams game in week 8 almost on his own accounting for all of the offenses points. He was also one of the best punt returners in the NFL routinely flipping the field in the Seahawks favor.
2014 – This position appears to fall to 2013 breakout player Jermaine Kearse. Kearse flashed in the pre-season last year, and stepped up to make big grabs with limited opportunities early in 2013 against the Panthers and Colts. With the injury to Rice his snaps increased, and he closed the season strong and played well in the playoffs culminating with the go ahead touchdown in the NFC championship game, and an incredible 4 broken tackle TD in the Superbowl.
Verdict – 2013 > 2014 – Kearse has the potential to come out on top, but Tate had a solid year that will be tough to match.
2013 – Jermaine Kearse had a breakout year and made the most of his opportunities finding the endzone at a very high rate even with limited usage the first half of the year.
2014 – Sydney Rice is back, and if his recovery proceeds he appears to have the inside track on this spot. I believe the Hawks are likely to take a WR in the first 4 rounds of this year’s draft, perhaps even in round 1 that can fill this role as well. Getting an athletic and dynamic playmaker that can provide big play ability is likely given the strength of talent entering the NFL via the draft this year.
Verdict – 2013 = 2014 – Kearse filled this role well in 2013, a healthy Rice or dynamic rookie have the ability to match or exceed this production.
WR Depth (5 – 7)
2013 – Lockette rejoined the Hawks during the season to improve depth, and Walters was active for a few games during the year. The Seahawks don’t run a lot of 4 or 5 wide plays as this goes away from their identity, but you need depth for injuries and the ability to put pressure on the opponents secondary by spreading them out in dime coverages when weaker opponent DBs are on the field.
2014 – Players vying for the final roster spots include either Rice or a newly drafted rookie, Lockette, Bates, Clark, Matthews (CFL), Price (Free Agent), & Walters.
Verdict – 2013 < 2014 – The depth of this unit would be stronger than what the Hawks had at the end of last year with Lockette playing the #4 wideout role in the Super Bowl. Depth was tested in 2013, and with injuries some of these players will play a role for the Hawks in 2014.
Verdict: 2014 = 3, 2013 = 1, Equal = 1
Tate will be missed at some point in the coming season, but the players are there now to exceed the production and efficiency of 2013. The health of Percy Harvin will determine whether this is a top ten unit in the league for 2014, or if it is more a serviceable but middle of the pack unit that is was in 2013. The main question that remains to be answered is who will be the dependable and explosive punt returner that will change momentum in 2014; but given Pete and John’s track record in the draft and player development I have little doubt they will get that figured out. Wide receiver will not be the place to hold back the Seahawks in 2014, it looks like this will be an improved and possibly exceptional unit for the coming year.
Clint Elsemore has been a fanatic Seattle sports fan for his entire life, and possibly several past lifetimes, should reincarnation be proven to be real