NFC West Preview: Seattle Seahawks

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

With the start of training camp right around the corner, there might not be a better time to take a look at the NFC West's forthcoming season...

The Seahawks have to be one of the sneakiest teams in the NFL. They make a lot of subtle moves that seem minor, but are high-impact moves and no one knows it until it’s too late. Their one big splash over the last three seasons was acquiring Percy Harvin. Outside of that, they’ve done a lot of little things that have equalled big success. The question is were those little changes this off-season enough to continue building on their success?

NOT MUCH NEW TO SEE HERE

The Seahawks did not do much with their offense via free agency. They did, however, draft a semi-underrated receiver by the name of Paul Richardson. Richardson is a superb route runner with blazing speed. This is one of those aforementioned subtle moves. Putting him on the field with Percy Harvin makes this offense a lot faster, and more explosive. Being a team known for it's devotion to the run, you seldom hear the word explosive. But that is exactly what this addition will add. Richardson is not expected to start, but that is media talk. It has long been a fact that Pete Carroll plays the best man. If Richardson can outperform a few guys in a relatively average receiving corps he should - at the very least - become the third option in the passing game. I view this kid as a sleeper difference-maker if he cracks the top three.

The Seahawks offensive line was not one to be trusted in 2013. It just goes to show how impressive Russell Wilson was, as he faced endless pressure but continued to produce big plays. The issue starts with the play of the tackles. They drafted Justin Britt in the second round with hopes of him manning the right tackle position. While it was believed pre-draft that Britt might develop in to a solid tackle, very few - if any at all - projected him to be drafted before the third round. Russell Okung is also expected to return at 100% and step back in as the left tackle. There looks to be a dog fight of a battle for both guard spots, while Max Unger is fully expected to walk away with the starting center job in a headlock. This unit has to be better in 2014, as the they will face a supercharged defensive line in St. Louis twice. In both meetings in 2013, the Rams defensive line can be given a lot of credit for keeping both games closer than Seattle would have liked.

At running back there is no question who will lead this team, and quite possibly the NFL in carries. Marshawn Lynch is by far the engine on this team. He is the meanest back in the NFL, and runs with the motor and violent style that we have seen from only a few backs in league history. An underrated part to his game is his vision and elusiveness. He is such a powerful runner, it is often overlooked that he is not the easiest guy to tackle in the open field. Expect Lynch to continue hitting the switch and going straight "BEAST MODE" on a regular basis. After Lynch, there is certainly not a huge drop off in talent. Christine Michael, was sort of saved and molded last year. Now after spending a season grooming the young and ultra-talented back, it's not hard to envision the Seahawks getting Michael more involved in year two.

Russell Wilson could easily be the most undervalued quarterback in the NFL. Not by his teammates, and judging by this years NFL Top 100 countdown, no longer by his peers. But the media's perception is that he's a game manager on a really good team. I beg to differ. This kid makes it very obvious he's about as prepared as a quarterback can be. Not only does he prepare like Brady and Manning, but his physical tools are exceptional. He is very quick, fast, and agile. He has very impressive arm strength, and his ball placement, at times, can rival the best in the league. There has been far too many throws that sealed the victory for him to be viewed simply as a game manager. This kid is the real deal and I have to give credit where credit is due. If he played in an offense like Brees, Manning, or Stafford, he would flourish. The sky is the limit for this young franchise cornerstone, and no one should expect any decline in 2014. My guess is with the hard work mentality he has, the taste of championship success has done nothing but fueled his hunger for rings. I fully expect him to play hotter than fire, while staying cool as if he has ice in his veins. Russell Wilson could prove to be the most dangerous player, in the NFL's best division.

LEGION OF BOOM AND THEN SOME

Lets be clear: The heart and soul of this defense is without question the secondary; better known as the Legion of Boom. Beating this secondary is no easy task. As a unit, they are one of the best the NFL has ever seen. They are so well prepared on a weekly basis, that tricks are not the answer. The only way to win is mano y mano. They not only play the pass, but this unit will get after it in the run game. Led by Earl Thomas - not Richard Sherman - they can say not only the best safety in the NFL, but one of the best overall players leading them. He flies around and makes a lot of plays. And he is teamed up next to Kam Chancellor, who just might be the most feared defender in the NFL. He is the team’s enforcer. Make no mistake about it, he was the difference in the Super Bowl victory. With Sherman on the field, the Broncos were only willing to attempt three passes to the right side of the field. Leaving Chancellor to roam the rest of the field making plays. As for Sherman, he is the mouth of the group. While it annoys most, it brings confidence to the unit as a whole. They are always going to try to back up everything that is said. So the more he says they are the best, the harder they will work to prove him right. Also, the harder he works for individual success. Love him or hate him, he has indeed backed up everything that he has said he would do. The one position to keep an eye on will be the corner back position opposite of Sherman. Jeremy Lane will most likely man the slot. That means Byron Maxwell (6'1" 207), Tharold Simon ( 6'3" 202), AJ Jefferson (6'1" 195), and Eric Pinkins (6'3" 220, Browner 2.0) will be left to battle it out for the last open position in the LOB.

Often overshadowed by the secondary, the linebacker corps is full of young, athletic, playmakers, that fly around sideline-to-sideline. Led by Bobby Wagner, this group has some depth of it's own. Wagner is the best of the bunch by far, but you cannot say enough about KJ Wright, Malcolm Smith, and Bruce Irvin (who is easily the most versatile of the bunch). The team also drafted the speedy and athletic playmaker Kevin Pierre-Louis. The Seahawks have employed a rotation that allows them to play all of their backers, which gives a different look every time. This allows the defense to switch schemes at a moments notice, due to the versatility and athletic ability of the group.

The defensive line is a very deep group as well. Though the argument can be made that as a whole it was a bit of an underachiever in 2013. This off-season they saw the departures of two of their leaders in Chris Clemons and Red Bryant. But those players were replaced with 5x All-Pro Defensive tackle, Kevin Williams, and three rookies (Jackson Jeffcoat, Cassius Marsh, and Jimmy Staten) all of whom look to gain access to this heavy defensive line rotation. The Seahawks do a good job of keeping fresh bodies on the field every week. Led by Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, this unit will look to catch up to the secondary and linebackers, from a production standpoint, and play up to par with the talent that they possess.

There is no denying the Seahawks are the team to beat in the NFC West. They possess arguably the most depth and experience, while having the least turnover. Outside of that, they are the current world champs, which alone is enough give them the title of "the team to beat". I do not expect much - if any - drop-off in their production. In fact, with the hunger and desire to be the best, there should be legitimate concern that this team will actually get better. Look for the Seahawks to be a favorite to play in the Super Bowl for consecutive years.

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