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Seattle Seahawks: 2022 Preseason Predictions and Preview

DK Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks

DK Metcalf and the Seahawks are moving forward without longtime franchise anchors Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner.

It was almost as if the Space Needle toppled over, Mount Rainier erupted and Puget Sound flooded Seattle, all at once. By March 16, 2022, let the record show that the Seahawks had traded away Super Bowl-winning quarterback Russell Wilson and released perennial All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner.

These dramatic moves all at once — parting ways with two of the franchise's most iconic players — shook the city to its core and effectively commenced a team teardown.

While head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider went to great lengths to insist that this was not a sacrificial reload, they were hard-pressed to find anyone in Seattle who shared that opinion with them. The fan base was greatly distressed by this overload of change and let out a collective groan.

With Wilson now a member of the Denver Broncos and Wagner playing for the division rival Los Angeles Rams, the Seahawks, barring any dramatic last-minute wheeling and dealing, will turn to former Broncos backup Drew Lock and Wagner's linebacker sidekick Jordyn Brooks to run the offense and defense, respectively.

Brooks is a star in the making, and people are starting to realize it, but the Seattle quarterback solution prompts no one outside of the team's front office to consider this a playoff-caliber team. The QB job was a Seahawks' position luxury for a full decade. Now it's the team's biggest question mark.

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OFFENSE

Baker Mayfield, Jimmy Garappolo and Jordan Love were among the names floated as possible targets for a Wilson replacement. Instead, the Seahawks deferred to Lock and holdover subs Geno Smith and Jacob Eason, hoping for the best.

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Schneider pointed out that he'd always admired Lock's ability since scouting him for the draft, and he noted the 6'4", 228-pounder was 4-1 as a rookie Broncos starter in 2019. What the GM didn't mention was the quarterback has stumbled to a 4-12 record since. That pales considerably next to Wilson's 104-53-1 Seahawks ledger over a decade, though the departed one suffered through his first Seattle losing season in 2021, and he missed three games with a finger injury, the first absences of his pro career.

Whoever ends up as the next Seahawks quarterback will have some of the league's best skill-position players to work with in wide receivers DK Metcalf (75 catches for 967 yards and 12 TDs) and Tyler Lockett (73 catches for 1,175 yards and eight scores), plus breakout running back Rashaad Penny, who rushed for 671 yards and seven scores over the last five games of 2021, his fourth season in the league. The team also drafted All-America running back Ken Walker III (due in part to Chris Carson's neck injury, which resulted in his release at the start of training camp and could end his career). Add former Broncos tight end Noah Fant (68 catches for 670 yards and four TDs for Denver), part of the bounty collected in the Wilson deal, and there's no question that Seattle has lots of firepower.

Yet the Seahawks also felt they needed to rebuild their offensive line with a pair of rookie tackles, which could tend to make any quarterback squeamish. They used their first-round pick, and ninth overall, to pick up Mississippi State's Charles Cross, an All-SEC selection groomed in a pass-minded offense who now has to concentrate on the run, and a third-round pick to draft Washington State's Abraham Lucas, a four-year starter in the Pac-12 and a physically mature 6'6" 322-pound building block. If their draft intel is correct, these are powerful players who could give the O-line a needed refresh and become pillars to build around. The Seahawks also replaced their center with Austin Blythe, who was an accomplished three-year starter for the Los Angeles Rams before playing only four games in an injury-filled season in Kansas City. Holdover guards Damien Lewis and Gabe Jackson gave up just one and three sacks, respectively, and were part of the reason Penny looked so good.

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DEFENSE

The Seahawks will shift to a 3-4 alignment in hopes of shoring up a defense that's been overly generous in recent seasons, giving up far too many passing yards because they can't get enough pressure on the opposing quarterback. Wagner became expendable as the lead linebacker because he got old with a big contract, and also because of the emergence of Brooks, who resembles a young Wagner. Piling up 20 tackles to close the season in a game against the Arizona Cardinals, Brooks broke the franchise single-season record for tackles with a whopping 184, surpassing Wagner's previous team standard of 167. Cody Barton, with just five career starts and 37 tackles last season, is a steady and functional player who will pair with Brooks inside. To increase Seattle's defensive pressure, free-agent signee Uchenna Nwosu from the Los Angeles Chargers and holdover Darrell Taylor will come off the edge as linebackers rather than traditional defensive ends, hoping to exceed their collective 11.5 sacks in 2021. Nwosu is a highly active player who should work well in tandem with Brooks, who operates in the same manner.

The Seahawks will try to find three defensive line starters from among four seasoned veterans in holdovers Poona Ford and Al Woods, plus newcomers Shelby Harris from the Broncos and one-time Seahawk Quinton Jefferson, most recently with the Raiders. All were full-time starters in 2021. Woods is the big body at 6'4" and 330 pounds, while Ford is a compact guy at 5'11", 310. Harris and Jefferson are coming off 6.0- and 4.5-sack seasons, respectively, at their previous stops, which would be definite upgrades for Seattle.

In the secondary, the Seahawks return a pair of high-quality safeties in Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs, though these former Pro Bowl selections were both injured and out when last season ended abruptly without anything close to a playoff berth. Limited to 12 games by a torn labrum, the blitzing Adams went from 9.5 sacks in 2020 to zero in 2021, which is not why the franchise gave up two first-round draft picks and a third-rounder to get him in 2020. The Seahawks need him in the enemy backfield at his disruptive best at all times. Diggs, carted off with a broken fibula and dislocated ankle in the season finale, needs to reclaim the form that had him intercept at least five passes in each of the previous two seasons, one of just four players league-wide to do so. Cornerback has been a big problem area, and the Seahawks will start two new ones in Artie Burns from the Bears and rookie Coby Bryant, the Jim Thorpe Award winner as the nation's top college defensive back. If they're not up to the task, returning starter Sidney Jones IV is back, and former Seahawk Justin Coleman was brought in from Miami to boost these coverage positions. Only Coleman, with two, logged any NFL interceptions last season among this quartet.

SPECIALISTS

The Seahawks' kickers both fell off in 2021. Punter Michael Dickson dropped from third in the league to 14th with a 46.9-yard average, and placekicker Jason Myers went from being perfect on 24 field-goal attempts two years ago to 17-for-23 (a 74 percent success rate). They're still solid enough, though, with the ability to be among the top players at their positions. Lockett is always dangerous with the ball in his hands, including on returns.

FINAL ANALYSIS

With Wilson, the Seahawks always considered themselves a playoff contender. Without him, that proposition becomes iffy for the second year in a row for a franchise that has prided itself on being one of the NFL's most consistent. Seattle has enough resources to be decent if it can find a quarterback it can count on for long stretches at a time. No one other than the front-office brain trust believes Lock is the answer unless they're simply posturing and trying to buy time. Look for the Seahawks to strive to be a near break-even team if the quarterback situation stubbornly doesn't change for the better.

Prediction: 2nd in NFC West