The Seahawks were good in 2012, but should be even better in 2013. They know it. Everyone seems to know it. But the players and coaches also know hard work and competition remain the keys to continued improvement.
Don’t look now, but the offseason program that felt like it would never get here is almost over.
That’s right, this offseason of heightened expectations for the Seahawks concludes this week with a three-day minicamp Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday – the only mandatory camp allowed under the CBA that ended the 136-day lockout in 2011, when there was no offseason.
After the Seahawks won seven of their last eight regular-season games, posted the franchise’s first road playoff victory since 1983 and came within 30 seconds of advancing to the NFC Championship game last season, it seemed like April 15 couldn’t come soon enough to start providing snapshots of what 2013 might hold.
And there has been a lot to like about the Seahawks’ spring, and two things have underlined that: the tempo and intensity of the just-completed OTA sessions, which had a training-camp feel to them despite the fact that contact was limited; and the improvements made in personnel for the fourth consecutive offseason under general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll.
From the March trade to acquire receiver/returner/runner Percy Harvin to the selection of tackle Michael Bowie with the Seahawks’ final pick in the seventh round of April’s NFL Draft, an already good team has only gotten better. In between those moves, the club also signed defensive linemen Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett and Tony McDaniel and cornerback Antoine Winfield in free agency and also selected running backs Christine Michael and Spencer Ware, wide receiver Chris Harper, tight end Luke Willson and defensive tackles Jordan Hill and Jesse Williams in the draft.
As for that tempo on the practice field and the interwoven intensity that has carried over to a finer focus in the meeting rooms and weight room, All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas put it this way, “I’m very motivated, especially this offseason. And nobody else is going to relax, either. That’s the great thing about this team – it’s the competition, and not wanting to let the guys next to you down.”
Are there questions and concerns? Of course. The depth at linebacker would hardly fill a wading pool, as Heath Farwell has played in more NFL regular-season games (97) than the combined total (96) of the other nine linebackers on the 90-man roster. The defense, despite allowing the fewest points in the league and ranking fourth in average yards allowed last season, failed to hold fourth-quarter leads in three of the five losses in the regular season and the divisional playoff game against the Falcons in Atlanta. A large part of that was the inability of the defense to get off the field in third-and-long situations – and that’s why Avril, Bennett and Winfield were signed.
As is proven in the NFL every season, the teams that remain the healthiest are usually the ones that have the most success. And, as former coach Mike Holmgren always said, for a good team to become one of the best teams its best players must have their best seasons. That was the case during the 2005 run to the Super Bowl with the Pro Bowl contingent of Shaun Alexander, Matt Hasselbeck, Lofa Tatupu, Mack Strong, Walter Jones, Steve Hutchinson and Robbie Tobeck.
You could make the case that also was the situation last season, when Richard Sherman, Max Unger, and Marshawn Lynch joined Thomas in being voted All-Pro; while Thomas, Lynch and Unger were joined in the Pro Bowl by the Russells – Wilson and Okung. Except these players are so young that you have to think there are even better things ahead for all of them.