Bennett leads disruptive Seahawks’ defensive line into 2017

Photo Credit: Getty Images – Pro Football Talk

The 2016 season was quite the odd season for the Seattle Seahawks as they were ineffective at running the ball, while also being just as ineffective at stopping the pass on defense. But they were fairly efficient, but not really watchable, with a pass first offense and a stifling run defense.

Early on it became clear that the Seahawks were going to struggle running the ball as Thomas Rawls struggled to find space behind the troublesome offensive line. Both Rawls and rookie CJ Prosise missed games because of injuries they sustained during the season because they were absolutely abused just getting back to the line of scrimmage. And this porous protection up front also hampered quarterback Russell Wilson as he spent the majority of the season recovering from a high ankle sprain that occurred in the first game of the season.

While Wilson’s ankle kept him from moving around in the pocket, and the running backs were ineffective, the quarterback threw the ball all over the field; he completed 64.7% of his passes for 4,219 yards. The Seahawks shift to being a pass first offense was unnatural and unplanned as the wide receivers took a little bit to adapt to the team’s new reality, but the wideouts rose to the challenge and it helped lead the Seahawks to their fifth straight playoff berth.

The Seahawks were bounced from the Divisional Round of the playoffs by the eventual NFC champion Atlanta Falcons.

Defensive stats and preview

Yards Per Play Touchdowns Per Game NFL Rank
Rushing 3.4 1 1st
Passing 6.2 1 15th

Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” was not nearly as effective at containing the pass last season and a lot of that was teams picking on Jeremy Lane in his first season back since his gruesome injury during Super bowl 49. This left an entire side of Seattle’s defense vulnerable to the pass and it caused all sorts of problems for the Hawks down the stretch…especially after safety Earl Thomas went down with a broken leg.

Jeremy Lane will be competing with rookie Shaq Griffin and Justin Coleman instead to help shore up the team’s secondary. Coleman will be playing opposite Richard Sherman and he should immediately stabilize the defense, giving the defensive line time to get into the backfield and disrupt the opposing offense’s play flow. Even Sherman struggled last season as it seemed that he had lost a couple of steps.

If the secondary can even be a little bit better than it was in 2016, the defensive line should be able to get home to the quarterback more often than it did last season. Look in the below .GIF how the line quickly collapses the pocket on Ryan Fitzpatrick, but they aren’t able to sack him because he’s able to throw the ball at a wideout who’s two or more steps ahead of Sherman.

Seattle got lucky that Fitzpatrick overthrew his wide open wideout, because that play could have kept the Jets in the game longer than they ended up being.

The defensive line looks to be just as good as it was last season, despite the loss of Cassius Marsh, because the team traded for defensive end Sheldon Richardson. Richardson will be rushing opposite Michael Bennett on most snaps, which will be an absolute nightmare for opposing offensive lines to contain. It’ll primarily be up to the ends to get collapse the pocket and force the quarterback  out of the pocket; if the defensive line can get to the QB more often, the Hawks secondary will have a lot of pressure taken off of it.

Offensive stats and preview

Yards Per Play Touchdowns Per Game NFL Rank
Rushing 3.9 0.8 24th
Passing 7.8 1.4 6th

Offensive line was the Seahawks biggest weakness in 2016, and it looks to be that way again with offensive tackle George Fant suffering a leg injury in the final preseason game and it’s unknown how long he’ll be out for.

Last season, the offensive line was overloaded by the defensive line and it only got worse once blitzers became involved. In the below play, watch how the first four pass rushers completely collapse the pocket towards Wilson. This left Wilson with no time to work through his reads and he quickly dumped the ball of to Rawls…who bailed out his o-line with one hell of a run.

Credit: Pinterest

Rawls and Prosise inability to stay healthy has led the Seahawks to go out and acquire Eddie Lacy on the free agency market. If Lacy can be the power back that everyone is expecting him to be during the 2017 season, he’ll help the offense take a major step forward…even if the offensive line play is still questionable.

Outside of starting quarterback — the backup quarterback situation hasn’t been settled completely yet, despite the cuts — the biggest strength on offense is going to be the receiver corps led by Doug Baldwin. With Paul Richardson and Tyler Lockett coming back from injury this year, there was no space for local kid Jermaine Kearse as he was traded to the Jets for Sheldon Richardson. Watch out for rookie Darboh Amara as he showed off speed and soft hands throughout the pre-season.

Schedule

2017 REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULE
WK DATE OPPONENT TIME (ET) TICKETS
1 Sun, Sep 10 4:25 PM FOX 1,498 Tickets Available from $125
2 Sun, Sep 17 4:25 PM FOX 1,109 Tickets Available from $156
3 Sun, Sep 24 4:05 PM FOX 1,689 Tickets Available from $80
4 Sun, Oct 1 8:30 PM NBC 1,487 Tickets Available from $144
5 Sun, Oct 8 4:05 PM CBS 4,963 Tickets Available from $53
6 BYE WEEK
7 Sun, Oct 22 4:25 PM CBS 3,364 Tickets Available from $31
8 Sun, Oct 29 4:05 PM CBS 1,687 Tickets Available from $130
9 Sun, Nov 5 4:05 PM FOX 2,221 Tickets Available from $118
10 Thu, Nov 9 8:25 PM NBC 4,599 Tickets Available from $71
11 Mon, Nov 20 8:30 PM ESPN/WatchESPN 2,087 Tickets Available from $109
12 Sun, Nov 26 4:05 PM FOX 8,543 Tickets Available from $56
13 Sun, Dec 3 8:30 PM NBC 2,796 Tickets Available from $109
14 Sun, Dec 10 1:00 PM FOX 3,521 Tickets Available from $48
15 Sun, Dec 17 4:05 PM FOX 2,604 Tickets Available from $113
16 Sun, Dec 24 4:25 PM FOX 13,202 Tickets Available from $32
17 Sun, Dec 31 4:25 PM FOX 2,515 Tickets Available from $117

Prediction

Outside the first game against Green Bay, Seattle’s first five games set-up fairly nicely; as they only face one other team that finished with a record over .500, that’s Tennessee. Seattle will go 4-1 heading into the bye week after romping through the last four games.

But then the schedule will get tougher as the Seahawks open against two playoff teams from 2016, the Giants and Texans, one borderline playoff team and one .500 ball club. Eli Manning and his experienced wide receivers will test the Seahawks secondary, which will lead to the team’s second loss of the season. But the Hawks will quickly rebound against the Texans, as they’re a one dimensional offense and the front seven will be able to pin its ears back. Washington and Arizona will both stretch the secondary as well, but only one of those teams has a competent o-line…so the Seahawks will split those two games to go 6-3 heading into a huge matchup against Atlanta.

Atlanta’s offense is a matchup nightmare for the Seahawks, as quarterback Matt Ryan is one of the best in the game and the wide receivers can dominate anyone. Seattle’s defensive front seven will hammer the Falcons’ offensive line but even if they break through, Ryan will dump the ball off to his check down. The Seahawks will lose a close one, dropping to 6-4 on the year.

After the Falcons, the Hawks schedule gets significantly easier — outside of a December road trip to Dallas — and they should go 5-1 down the stretch; but we know they won’t because Los Angeles is always a problem for them, so they’ll go 4-2 during the last six games to finish with a regular season record of 10-6…which is good enough to win another NFC West crown.

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