The Seattle Seahawks come into the 2016 season looking to make the playoffs for the fifth year in a row and regain the NFC West title.
Not a lot has changed for the Seahawks in terms of their organization both on and off the field under owner Paul Allen. Pete Carroll enters his seventh season as head coach, with the same offensive and defensive coordinators as 2015 -- Darrell Bevell and Kris Richard.
John Schneider remains the guy in charge of roster moves as general manager. As for on the field, Russell Wilson is the starting quarterback for the forseeable future after signing a new deal in 2015. As for the defense, the 'Leigon of boom' remains largely in tact with Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas still in Seattle jerseys.
The main stories around the franchise during the offseason have been focused on the injuries picked up last season by Jimmy Graham and Thomas Rawls. They are both questionable heading into the season opener against the Miami Dolphins.
A dissapointing 2015 season
Most people within the Seahawks organisation would acknoweldge that the 2015 season was not what they hoped it would be, but their bubble had to burst in a way after making back to back Super Bowls in the 2013 and 2014 seasons, winning the first one against the Denver Broncos.
It was a horrible start last year for Seattle as they left themselves 2-4 after a third of the season. But, Seattle recovered to go 8-2 over their last 10 games and make the playoffs as the 6th seed. They beat the Arizona Cardinals 36-6 on the road to clinch their postseason berth.
Despite ending the regular season on a high, they couldn't carry momentum into the playoffs. Despite beating the Minesota Vikings on the road in the Wildcard round, they were fortunate to advance after Blair Walsh missed a 27-yard field goal in the final minute of a game played in bitterely cold conditions.
In the divisional round they were outclassed. The one-seed Carolina Panthers dominated early, and left Seattle down 31-0 at half time. The Seahawks put up a great second half fight to get within a touchdown of the eventual NFC champions, but time simply ran out on Carroll's team.
However, their were plenty of positives that devoloped throughout the season for Seattle, especially on the offensive side of the ball with quarterback Russell Wilson putting up his best career numbers since he was drafted in 2012. For the first time, Wilson threw for 4000 yards in a season and had a touchdown interception ratio of 34-8 -- and he threw seven of those picks in the first nine games of the year.
These Wilson numbers were produced when two of his main weapons on offence went down hurt and were ruled out for the majority of the season -- Graham and RB Marshawn Lynch. Undrafted back-up half back Thomas Rawls stepped up, though, and made a great impact in the second half of the season before being ruled out injured himself for the playoffs.
It's been a fairly uneventful offseason for the Seahawks, as despite picking up 10 players in the draft, none of them are set to be starters on the depth chart. Most of them were signed to add depth to some positions like the offensive and defensive lines as well as running backs.
Giving wide reciever Doug Baldwin a contract extension through 2020 was probably the most eye catching move Seattle made in the offseason, but who could deny him such a deal after his second half to the season. He and Wilson built up a serious connection to get the Seahawks into the postseason.
As for changes to the depth chart, the only notable one is at full back where free agent signing Tani Tupou replaces Will Tukafu.
Another obvious change in the depth chart is at running back. After years of being in the shadow of 'beastmode', Christine Michael is set to be the starter at least for week one. Michael will start mainly because last year's breakout star Rawls is still very much in recovery from his ankle injury, but if he does well it could be hard for Rawls to get the postion back, so it's one to look out for as the season goes on.
Strengths and Weaknesses
The strengths for Seattle remain very much the same in terms of a strong running game and arguablly the best pass defense in football. However these areas have doubts with Jeremy Lane perhaps a weakness at cornerback, while Michael is mainly unproven esepcially as a starter in the NFL.
The improvement of the passing game will have to continue -- the improvement of the running game isn't a given. Wilson will need to make big plays either with his arm or his legs, and he'll need to do so consistently.
The real weakness of this team remains the offensive line, despite a couple being drafted in April. Joey Hunt and Rees Odhiambo won't be starting. The O-Line needs to step up this year in order to give Wilson better chances to make plays and keep him healthy.
I think the depth added to the roster and the will give Seattle an edge this year, helping them to regain the NFC West title. These factors, along with their easiest schedule on paper in a few years should see the Seahawks top their division and achieve a 12-4 record to hold off the Cardinals.
Jimmy Graham getting healthy again and actually being a go-to target in the offense is the key for me, as I don't see why he can't be what Rob Gronkowski is to the New England Patriots in terms of a nightmare for defences.