In Brian Schottenheimer’s inaugural season as offensive coordinator, the Seahawks overcame a rocky start to finish tied for sixth in the NFL in scoring, averaging nearly 27 points per game in 2018.
Seattle re-established its rushing attack by feeding the trio of Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, and Mike Davis behind a much-improved offensive line coached by Mike Solari. With less pressure on his shoulders than prior seasons, quarterback Russell Wilson put together arguably his finest season despite throwing less frequently, tossing a career-best 35 touchdowns and just seven interceptions.
Wilson somehow managed to put up these excellent numbers without the services of a healthy Doug Baldwin, who battled multiple injuries over the course of the season. Picking up the slack, Tyler Lockett broke out as Seattle’s new No. 1 target, catching 57 passes for 965 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Despite the Seahawks surprising offensive triumphs from a year ago, however, it’s safe to say a great divide has formed when it comes to evaluating the supporting cast around Wilson going into the 2019 season.
Using a point value system, NFL.com editor Ali Bhanpuri attempted to rank the top quarterback, running back, and receiver trios in the league. Seattle came in 10th overall, with Wilson being ranked the eighth-best quarterback, Carson the 14th best running back, and Lockett rating 21st overall among receivers.
“I have to admit that I'm a bit surprised by the Seahawks' score, considering Lockett's modest spot among the pass catchers.” Bhanpuri wrote. “But it's a testament to Russell Wilson's greatness and Chris Carson's take-notice arrival last season.”
If there are any discrepancies to be had with Bhanpuri's rankings, an argument can be made that Carson, who finished fifth in the NFL in rushing last year, should have been higher. Given his historical efficiency, Lockett could also easily be considered a top-10 receiver, but since he plays in a scheme that limits his targets substantially, it’s unlikely he’ll ever be bunched with elite players like Julio Jones and Deandre Hopkins.
On the other side of the argument, ESPN writer Bill Barnwell offered a far more disparaging evaluation of Seattle’s skill players surrounding Wilson, ranking the team’s “offensive arsenal” 29th overall. By making this assertion, he believes 28 teams in the NFL have a superior combination of running backs, receivers, and tight ends compared to the Seahawks.
While Barnwell referenced Lockett’s brilliance and the “continued effectiveness” of Carson out of the backfield, he specifically pointed to the receiving corps minus Baldwin as his reason for wariness regarding Seattle’s offensive talent.
“The depth chart behind Lockett at receiver is scary thin, with the likes of David Moore, Amara Darboh, Jaron Brown and second-round size/speed monster DK Metcalf at wideout, and Ed Dickson, Nick Vannett and post-patella tear Will Dissly at tight end.” Barnwell wrote. “It’s telling that the Seahawks gave Brandon Marshall meaningful snaps last September; it’s scary that they’re actually worse at the position without replacing Baldwin.”
Barnwell certainly makes some valid points here. Moore hit a wall late last season and still has much to prove, Darboh missed all of last season, and Metcalf has yet to play in an NFL game. If Dissly doesn’t return to form coming back from a devastating knee injury, the rest of the tight end group leaves something to be desired.
But even with all the uncertainty at receiver and tight end as alluded to by Barnwell, ranking Seattle’s skill players in the bottom five of the league still seems criminally low.
The combination of Carson and Penny along with newcomer Travis Homer should give the Seahawks one of the league’s most dynamic backfields, which by itself makes such a low ranking laughable. While disregarded by Barnwell, the highly-efficient Brown should be a bigger focal point in the passing game and if Moore can bottle up how he played during the middle of last season and perform at that level for an entire year, he’s a potential game changer for their aerial attack.
Whether fair or not, Seattle’s old-school, run-heavy offensive approach isn’t as exciting to some as modernized offensive schemes such as the ones found in Kansas City and Los Angeles, which could play a role in being rated unfavorably. Without Baldwin, there’s not really a household name for analysts to hang a hat on either, though Lockett appears to be trending in that direction and Metcalf has the physical tools to become a star.
When it’s all said and done, the Seahawks skill players likely fall somewhere in between Bhanpuri and Barnwell’s rankings. The trio of Wilson, Carson, and Lockett belongs in top-10 discussion, and while there’s plenty of uncertainty elsewhere that warrants some skepticism, that trifecta alone should put Seattle in the upper half of the league.