“We’re trying to win the Super Bowl over here. We don’t play (around). We’re trying to make it happen this year.”– Russell Wilson to rookie OG Damien Lewis
Russell Wilson wanted “superstars” this offseason. He wanted Jadeveon Clowney to return. And he obviously wants to get back to the Super Bowl.
What he has gotten is one aging star (Greg Olsen) and no Clowney (to this point), but the Hawks have revamped both lines in an effort to help Wilson lead them back to the NFL title game.
They have added four new edge rushers (though no star), three new offensive line starters and three tight ends (including two draft picks).
At the Combine, both John Schneider and Pete Carroll said they were focused on fixing the pass rush. After bringing back Bruce Irvin and Benson Mayowa and drafting Darrell Taylor and Alton Robinson, Carroll hopes they have done so.
“The four guys that we’ve added that rush the passer (average) 8-9 sacks apiece. You put them all together, that would be great,” he said. “If these guys can come up and create something like 36-40 sacks combined, we’ll really have hit the mark.”
Meanwhile, they have remade the right side of their offensive line, replacing Justin Britt, D.J. Fluker and Germain Ifedi (and George Fant) with B.J. Finney, Damien Lewis and Brandon Shell (and Cedric Ogbuehi).
“We love our quarterback,” Schneider said. “We want to have as many grown men in front of him as we possibly can. It was important for us to be able to identify some people early on and, quite honestly, we hit — in our mind — what was 1, 2 and 3 in free agency.”
Carroll said, “Looking at what they are up against, this is going to bring out the very best. We want to play great football up front. We want to give Russ the chance to really tear it up like he can.”
He has some new targets to tear it up with, too. With Will Dissly coming back from another serious injury (Achilles tear), Seattle brought in 35-year-old vet Greg Olsen — a guy Wilson loves. Then the Hawks drafted Colby Parkinson in the fourth round and project Stephen Sullivan in the seventh.
Those guys join Jacob Hollister and Luke Willson in what, on paper, is a strong tight end room. The Seahawks look very likely to keep four tight ends: Olsen, Dissly, Hollister, Parkinson. And then use a lot more 12 personnel (two tight ends).
They used three-receiver sets 69 percent of the time in 2019, which ranked fourth in the league. They used two tight ends 17 percent, which was bottom six in the league (that does not count the plays they used Fant as a big blocking tight end). Injuries really hindered any chance to create good TE packages in 2019.
If Olsen and Dissly can form one complete tight end this year, we could see a lot of them and Hollister. And the 6-7 Parkinson could find a role in the red zone, at least.
Brian Schottenheimer has loved to use double tight ends when he has had them. When he was with the Rams, Jared Cook and Lance Kendricks combined for 83 catches in 2013 and 79 in 2014. It would be great to see that kind of production from Seattle’s group this year.
As for the rest of the roster in the wake of the draft, the Seahawks still need vets at defensive tackle, running back and quarterback. They added around $12 million in cap space when they cut Britt and Fluker, leading some to think they might be ready to add a marquee pass rusher.
The door is ajar for Jadeveon Clowney, they say. “If there’s an opportunity that makes sense,” Carroll said, “we will dive back in and pursue it.’’ Everson Griffen also is still available. But it would not be a surprise if the Hawks just stuck with the four outside guys they have added.
With most of the roster building done, let’s take a look at the team, by position:
Position strength (1-10): 9
Veteran: Russell Wilson.
Rookie: Anthony Gordon (UDFA).
Position report: Wilson is coming off one of his best seasons, even though it ended poorly in Green Bay. He was prominent during the draft, quickly welcoming Seattle’s picks and laying down the expectations. He will be ready for another great season. … Gordon, the 2019 WSU QB, was added as an undrafted free agent. But the Hawks certainly will add a veteran, too.
Next moves: The Hawks could bring back Geno Smith, coin-flip caller extraordinaire. Other cheap options could include former NFL starters Blake Bortles, Trevor Siemian and Mike Glennon. … B.J. Daniels, who spent some time with the Seahawks during their Super Bowl years and 2015, seems to be lobbying for a return. He played QB for the Seattle Dragons this spring, before the pandemic ruined the XFL’s reboot.
Wilson to rookie OG Damien Lewis: “We’re trying to win the Super Bowl over here. We don’t play (around). We’re trying to make it happen this year.”
Position strength (1-10): 4
Veterans: Chris Carson, Travis Homer, Rashaad Penny.
Rookie: DeeJay Dallas (Round 4).
Position report: This is the weakest position on the team, simply because of the serious injuries to Carson (hip) and Penny (ACL). For now, former Miami Hurricane teammates Homer and Dallas are the main guys, but Carson is expected to be ready for the season. … Carson is in the final year of his rookie contract, so he is playing for a new deal. … Penny is expected to start the season on PUP.
Next moves: The Hawks need a veteran, especially with Penny not likely to be ready. The team reportedly has talked with Isaiah Crowell, and there are a few others out there (Carlos Hyde, Lamar Miller, Doug Martin, et al.). … Many hold out hope for the return of folk hero Marshawn Lynch on the eve of the season.
Carroll on Dallas: “Our guys are really excited about him on special teams. He’s a guy with a really big attitude and personality — try hard and effort and all of that. He’s been a wildcat guy back there in the backfield. That just adds to the makeup that he brings that makes him unique. That’s kind of the guys that we love to fall for. Hopefully, he will contribute in many ways. Versatility is a big deal with him.”
Position strength (1-10): 8
Veterans: Tyler Lockett, D.K. Metcalf, Phillip Dorsett, David Moore, John Ursua.
Rookies: Freddie Swain (6).
Position report: Lockett and Metcalf are an excellent 1-2 punch that should get even better in Metcalf’s second season, as Schotty moves him around in the offense. … Dorsett is a former first-round speedster who should open things up for Lockett even more. Dorsett really wanted to play with Wilson, one of the top deep-ball throwers in football. … Ursua should get a big shot to unseat Moore as the No. 4 guy. … The Hawks need a punt returner, and Schneider hinted Swain might be able to pick up that role (though he later told KJR that Dallas will be given a shot at returning punts).
Next moves: None expected.
Schneider on Swain: “First of all, he’s a very, very persistent person. Tons of grit, very instinctive. He played outside, he played inside, he is a very good punt returner. I would say from a special-team point of view, he will be a guy who will be in the mix immediately.”
Position strength (1-10): 7
Veterans: Greg Olsen, Jacob Hollister, Will Dissly, Luke Willson.
Rookies: Colby Parkinson (4), Stephen Sullivan (7).
Position report: The strength of this group will depend significantly on the health of 35-year-old Olsen and Dissly (torn Achilles). If one or both can play with Hollister, this squad could do some good damage in 2020. … Parkinson, who is 6-7, figures to bump Willson by a hair as the Hawks keep four tight ends, something they rarely do. … With Olsen and Hollister signed only for 2020 and Dissly having trouble staying healthy, Parkinson could end up the No. 1 guy in 2021. … Schneider and Carroll said Sullivan is a project, so expect him to land on the practice squad.
Next moves: The Hawks have to monitor Dissly’s rehab, which apparently has gone well so far.
Schneider on Parkinson: “He’s a huge target. He’s got great hands. … He’s a smart, tough, reliable guy — off the charts from a character standpoint.”
Position strength (1-10): 7
Veterans: Duane Brown, Mike Iupati, B.J. Finney, Brandon Shell, Cedric Ogbuehi, Joey Hunt, Jamarco Jones, Phil Haynes, Ethan Pocic, Chance Warmack, Jordan Simmons, Chad Wheeler, Jordan Roos.
Rookie: Damien Lewis (3).
Position report: Lewis’ main competition at right guard was quickly eliminated, as the Seahawks cut 2018-19 starter D.J. Fluker. Lewis likely will be installed as the No. 1 RG and then compete against Haynes, Warmack and/or Simmons. … Justin Britt, a Seattle starter since his rookie year in 2014, has been replaced by Finney. … Iupati is back at LG, with maybe Jones and Haynes pushing him. But he and Brown would offer a stable left side for Wilson, assuming the old guys can stay heathy. … Jones is listed at tackle but looked better at guard in spot starts last season. Do coaches think he can develop into a left tackle, even after he struggled there in a 2019 cameo?
Next moves: Hunt is the backup center, but it’s unlikely he will be paid $2.1 million.
Carroll on Lewis: “He won’t take a backseat to anybody. He’s going to come in and battle for it. That’s part of the reason we took him. We wanted him to come in and battle to play, and all of that competition will make us better.”
Wilson’s goodbye to Britt: “In life… we all meet people who we get to spend time with and talk life and compete to be the best in the world with… well JB.. thanks for all the focus and hard work and love you brought to the game. You laid it on the line for many years together and I will be forever grateful for your work ethic, passion, and love for the game, but most importantly others. Although I wish we could keep celebrating in the End Zone together and I wish it could be longer, the reality is your best days are ahead of you. Go be who you are destined to be. I’m grateful God put you in my life and I can’t wait to watch the rest of your journey. Love you brother.”
Position strength (1-10): 6
Veterans: Benson Mayowa, Bruce Irvin, Rasheem Green, L.J. Collier, Branden Jackson.
Rookies: Darrell Taylor (2), Alton Robinson (5).
Position report: The Hawks lack the double-team star they really need, but Carroll is hoping the rotation of Mayowa, Irvin, Taylor and Robinson will create better pressure than in 2019, when Seattle tied for 29th with just 28 sacks. … Carroll said Green & Collier “are developing pass rushers. They’re learning their way. Both have a lot of ability and a lot of upside to them.”
Next moves: It’s possible, though unlikely, that the Hawks will sign another pass rusher. They left the door ajar on Clowney, but don’t expect him to return. And Griffen seems like he was a Plan B in case they didn’t get pass rushers in the draft. … Jackson’s RFA tender of $2.1 million seems likely to be reduced, especially with Taylor and Robinson expected to bump him from the roster.
Carroll on Taylor & Robinson: “They really fit the bill. They look like … they could be really good over the long haul (as a pass-rushing tandem).”
Position strength (1-10): 6
Veterans: Jarran Reed, Poona Ford, Nazair Jones, Bryan Mone.
Position report: We would have liked the Hawks to add a 3-tech in the draft (Justin Madubuike, perhaps), but Carroll is counting on Green and Collier to join Reed inside on passing downs. If Reed can return to 2018 form, Carroll said, “It’s going to be a nice mix (with four new outside guys) and we should be really better than we’ve been.” … Jones, a former third-rounder, has been a major disappointment the last two years and doesn’t seem likely to make this club.
Next moves: Carroll said Schneider is on the lookout for a veteran defensive tackle. There are plenty on the market still, including Damon Harrison, Mike Daniels, Marcell Dareus and Brandon Mebane (another Seattle reunion?).
Carroll on adding a vet: “Johnny’s going to keep … digging around and see if there’s a guy who might spark us in there.”
Position strength (1-10): 8
Veterans: Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Cody Barton, Shaquem Griffin, Ben Burr-Kirven.
Rookie: Jordyn Brooks (1).
Position report: Wagner and Wright remain the leaders of this group, both coming off excellent seasons. … Brooks was the typical surprise first-rounder. Carroll says he can play inside or out. We’ll see how much he offers in 2020, but he appears to have the talent to step in as a starter in 2021, whether replacing Wright or playing SAM. … The Hawks have spent a first and third (Barton) on linebackers in the past two drafts, and they need to be a big part of the club headed forward.
Next moves (updated): Wright underwent minor shoulder surgey, Schneider said, and there was not a timeline for his recovery. He still is not likely to be cut, despite what many fans seem to think.
Carroll on Brooks: “We’re going to give this guy a chance to see where he can fit in. We’ll work the competition to uncover what exactly is best. We really think he’s got a chance to be fighting for playing time right away.”
Position strength (1-10): 7
Veterans: Shaquill Griffin, Quandre Diggs, Bradley McDougald, Quinton Dunbar, Tre Flowers, Marquise Blair, Ugo Amadi, Neiko Thorpe, Linden Stephens, Lano Hill.
Position report: The Hawks obviously didn’t feel pressured to add a corner in the draft because they previously sent a fifth-rounder to Washington for Dunbar, who figures to challenge Flowers for the starting spot on the right side. … Diggs also was a roundabout product of this draft, as the Hawks sent a fifth to Detroit last season. … It will be great to see a full season of Diggs and McDougald at the safeties, and Blair needs to get more playing time. … Amadi will be pushed for the nickel spot, possibly by Stephens, who is back after spending time on the practice squad in 2019. The more likely option is using Dunbar inside and Flowers outside in nickel packages or using all three safeties.
Next moves: Will the Hawks extend Griffin? Asked before the draft, Schneider offered no comment. Griffin and Dunbar both are free agents in 2021, and the Hawks have no other potential starters in the pipeline beyond Flowers. Extending Griffin seems like a no-brainer, but we’ll see.
Carroll on nickel competition: “There’s some things that we’re working on. I don’t want to tell you all of it right now; I’d like to keep it under wraps. But there’s some different things that we’re going to try.”