The 2018 season originally was supposed to be the last hurrah for the Legion of Boom era Seahawks. But injuries in 2017 ruined that, so Pete Carroll and John Schneider turned 2018 into a youth movement instead — an audition for the core of Carroll’s next potential Super Bowl team.
The Seahawks surprised many (not us) by making the playoffs and then had an unnecessarily premature departure, but Carroll is confident he has created the foundation for his next Super Bowl window. Carroll already has re-upped through 2021, and he thinks he has most of what he needs to make a deep playoff push in the next three years.
“We come out of here with a great feeling about our future,” he said after the 24-22 loss in Dallas. “Our guys are excited about it. They know that we can do some damage in the playoffs. They know that we can go a long way …
“You can tell that the nucleus and the core of the team that you need to be a championship club is here. These are the guys that we’re going to build it around. I couldn’t be more adamant about that right now. That’s where we are.”
That core includes veterans Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner, Doug Baldwin, Duane Brown, Justin Britt, Tyler Lockett, Frank Clark, Jarran Reed, Bradley McDougald, Germain Ifedi, Ed Dickson, Barky Mingo and hopefully K.J. Wright.
That’s 12-13 veterans. Of course, if they are going to remain part of the core, Clark and Wright need new deals now and Wilson, Wagner and Reed all need new deals beyond 2019. Linemen J.R. Sweezy, D.J. Fluker and George Fant could beef up that number a bit if they are re-signed.
Carroll said he is also counting on 10-12 players from the past two drafts to figure prominently. That group includes young starters Chris Carson, Will Dissly, Shaquill Griffin, Tre Flowers and Tedric Thompson — plus role players Michael Dickson, Delano Hill, Rashaad Penny, David Moore and Poona Ford.
“There’s two solid years of young guys that are right in the middle of the start of their career,” Carroll said, “and they’re with us and they’re good dudes and they work hard and they care and all that. I can’t talk any more positive about how we see the future.”
Early in the season, we wrote about the lack of development from Seattle’s league-high number of third-rounders over the past three years. That didn’t change much by the end of the season, so there still are a bunch of Day 2 guys who need to prove themselves: 2016 third-rounder C.J. Prosise, 2017 second-rounder Ethan Pocic, 2017 third-rounders Nazair Jones and Amara Darboh, 2018 third Rasheem Green.
Here’s a status report on Schneider’s last three draft classes, including Carroll’s comments on many of the young players:
1 (27) — RB Rashaad Penny, San Diego State
3 (79) — DE Rasheem Green, USC
4 (120) — TE Will Dissly, Washington
5 (141) — LB Shaquem Griffin, Central Florida
5 (146) — CB Tre Flowers, Oklahoma State
5 (149) — P Michael Dickson, Texas
5 (168) — OT Jamarco Jones, Ohio State
6 (186) — LEO Jake Martin, Temple
7 (220) — QB Alex McGough, Fla. International
UDFA — DT Poona Ford
Mid-round picks Dickson, Flowers and Dissly easily outplayed the top two picks, Penny and Green. But Penny showed he will be a factor — he was better than Carson against the Cowboys — and the team will not give up on the 21-year-old Green after just one year.
Carroll said Dissly “was terrific starting his season off. We missed the heck out of him, but he’s coming back. We’re thrilled to get him back.”
Flowers “had a fantastic season. … The sky is the limit for him really. He’s got all of the attributes that you’re looking for. He’s a real heady player, and he’s going to learn and he’s going to grow. … He’s one of those guys that the day he steps back with us in April, he’s going to be a whole new football player because of what he’s been through. You can’t clear away from that first experience until you get away from it and then you look back at all of the stuff, all of the lessons. He should be a tremendously improved player, which is really bright because he played a good football season for us anyway.”
Penny “is going to be a big factor. He did really well. He’s been growing throughout the process. It was a jump for him, like it is for the guys. It’s a jump to be in the limelight, particularly when you’re a No. 1 pick and everyone puts the pressure and expectations on you. There’s a lot going on. You’ve just got to go through it. He’s a young kid.”
Green “will come back and be a big factor I think in the competition of it all. He showed tons of good stuff during the course of the season.”
Carroll said undrafted Poona Ford “had a great finish to the season. Poona is legitimately going to play for starting time when we come back. … He warranted it with the activity. Everything was positive.”
Shaquem Griffin “handled it really well. … I think Griff gave himself a chance to be a factor in a lot of ways on the team. He showed up, he played hard, he worked hard, he learned a lot playing his linebacker spot, He’s come miles from where he started. I think he handled it really well.”
Jamarco Jones, who spent the year on IR, “looks great. He’s in great shape, he’s gained weight, he’s stronger than he’s ever been. Now, he’s already raring to go. He’ll be back, and there should be no hesitation with his return.”
Overall, Carroll said of the 2018 class: “I think it’s a really good group. I think it’s a group that’s going to be here for a long time, factoring in. They have special qualities that we love.”
2 (35): DT Malik McDowell, Michigan State
2 (58): OL Ethan Pocic, LSU
3 (90): CB Shaq Griffin, Central Florida
3 (95): SS Delano Hill, Michigan
3 (102): DT Nazair Jones, North Carolina
3 (106): WR Amara Darboh, Michigan
4 (111): FS Tedric Thompson, Colorado
6 (187): DB Mike Tyson, Cincinnati
6 (210): OT Justin Senior, Mississippi State
7 (226): WR David Moore, East Central (Okla.)
7 (249): RB Chris Carson, Oklahoma State
Beyond Griffin and Carson, this class still has a ton to prove in 2019.
Carroll said Griffin “was very consistent throughout the year. I thought he was really solid. We counted on him to be the guy. We’re not even concerned about him. He’s going to be all right because he had all of that experience of one year. I think he had a good, solid season. I understand that there’s some talk about his game (against the Cowboys). He missed a tackle and got caught on a fade route and he was all over the guy; he just couldn’t get the ball played. I thought he played really good throughout this season. He’s tough and he’s physical and he’s consistent. His approach is great, his competitiveness is absolutely rock solid. I think we’re really lucky to have him playing. He’s just going to continue to get better. There’s no question that he’ll continue to improve.”
Carson was Seattle’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 2014, averaging 4.66 yard per carry. Carroll said, “Chris Carson had a fantastic season for us. What a player he is and what a contributor he is. What a great draft pick that was.”
Safeties Hill and Thompson got their first extensive playing time, and Carroll is optimistic about both: “Look at the difference between Delano and Tedric’s play a year ago and how they contributed now. I think Delano is going to be really good. He’s just getting started. Tedric, we’ve been excited as can be about, and he’s just getting going, too, really.”
The others have work to do:
“David Moore (is) maybe one of the guys that can improve the most from Year 2 to Year 3 because of where he’s come from, the sparks that he showed during the season, a fantastic competitor on this roster to play a factor a year from now.”
“Naz has been moved to five-technique. We’re excited about that. We did that in the middle of the year to see him contribute out there.”
Darboh, who has been injured his first two years, “looks great and he should be fine.” He’ll get one more shot to make the roster.
1 (31) — OT Germain Ifedi, Texas A&M
2 (49) — DT Jarran Reed, Alabama
3 (90) — RB C.J. Prosise, Notre Dame
3 (94) — TE Nick Vannett, Ohio State
3 (97-comp) — OG Rees Odhiambo, Boise State
5 (147-NE) — DT Quinton Jefferson, Maryland
5 (171-comp) — RB Alex Collins, Arkansas
6 (comp) — C Joey Hunt, TCU
7 (Dallas) — WR Kenny Lawler, California
7 — RB Zac Brooks, Clemson
This class looked a lot better in 2018 than it did in the first two years, when Reed was really the only consistent contributor.
Carroll said the embattled Ifedi “had a good year. He improved throughout the year. He was very steady and really took to Mike (Solari) and B.C.’s (Brennan Carroll’s) coaching and they worked with him to make sure that he was working to improve the whole time … getting better technique-wise and scheme-wise. He’s a legit player.”
The Seahawks must decide on Ifedi’s fifth-year option by May 3 — it’s highly unlikely they will pick it up.
They should, however, be ready to give Reed an extension — probably somewhere around $10 million a year. They might end up making him prove he really is a perennial 10-sack guy though, with the idea they might be able to extend him for more like $8 million APY.
Vannett has saved Seattle’s 2016 third-round class from being a complete bust. In 2018, he was fourth on the team in receptions (29) and played one more game than Dickson and Dissly combined. He has one year left, and it remains to be seen whether he is part of Carroll’s 2019-21 core.
Prosise continues to be harried by injuries — he ended the season on IR due to an abdominal problem. He’ll have one very last chance to stick next summer.
Carroll said, “I think he’s a fantastic player. He just has that bug about staying healthy that he’s had to deal with. But he’s a terrific competitor when he’s out there, so it’ll be exciting to see him back.”
Jefferson and Hunt have been solid role players. Jefferson actually started 12 games in 2018 and was third on the team with three sacks and 15 quarterback hits.
Other than the guard spots and Wilson’s extension, the Seahawks are set on offense for the next couple of years.
Once Wilson is extended this offseason, their only long-term questions on that side of the ball will be No. 2 receiver (Baldwin might not be in Seattle beyond 2019) and the makeup of the offensive line.
Carroll and Schneider have the most immediate work to do on defense, especially the line, as we noted in our offseason to-do list.
Assuming they keep their key players and add two or three other impact guys, along with improving their offensive game plans, the Seahawks will indeed “do some damage in the playoffs” the next three seasons.