SEATTLE – Pete Carroll loves slogans.
Whether it’s “Always Compete,” “I’m In,” or “Win Forever,” Carroll’s mantras are plastered all over the Seattle Seahawks facility.
But the most important motto for his 2013 Seahawks didn’t come from the head coach. It was the idea of his players, tired of the team getting more notice for its problems with suspensions than the talent the Seahawks display on the field.
The idea of “Leave No Doubt,” is all encompassing: stop with the off-field distractions; try to continue what started last season; and prove that the best team in the NFC resides in the Pacific Northwest.
There are no longer questions at quarterback with Russell Wilson’s emergence his rookie season. The secondary might be the best in the NFL with All-Pros Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman, and Seattle has the most formidable home-field edge in the NFL.
Here are five things to watch as Seattle gets ready for its season that starts Sunday at Carolina:
BEING RUSSELL WILSON: Wilson is now a star. He’s not a novelty. He’s not mocked for his lack of height outside the NFL mold. He’s not overlooked because he was a third-round pick. Wilson’s rookie season was so impressive his achievements take up an entire page in the Seahawks’ weekly game release. Whether it was tying the rookie record for touchdown passes or winning a road playoff game, Wilson’s rookie season proved he belonged.
Now he has to back it up.
SURVIVE THE SUBTRACTIONS: No Percy Harvin. No Chris Clemons. No Bruce Irvin. Three expected starters will begin the season on the sidelines. Clemons is continuing his recovery from major knee surgery and no one has given a firm timeline when he’ll be back on the field. Harvin had hip surgery at the start of training camp and is expected to miss at least half the season. And Irvin won’t be eligible until Week 5 while serving a four-game suspension.
BEAST MODE: Perhaps lost in Wilson’s rise and Sherman’s mouth, the Seahawks are foremost a team that relies on the bruising running of Marshawn Lynch. He’s coming off an All-Pro season when he rushed for a career-high 1,590 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Seattle believes it can be just as dynamic offensively as in the final half of 2012. Continuing that trend means Lynch needs to be effective to that level in the running game.
PASS RUSH PROWESS: Getting to the quarterback is going to be Seattle’s biggest question entering the year. Free-agent signing Cliff Avril has battled hamstring problems during training camp to the point that Seattle has used O’Brien Schofield and undrafted rookie Benson Mayowa as its rush defensive ends. Seattle hopes D’Anthony Smith can provide pressure from the inside in passing situations, but rookie defensive tackle Jordan Hill has also been limited by injury. It’s Seattle’s one glaring weakness.
FREQUENT FLYERS: Seattle was given no favors with its schedule. Division rival San Francisco gets Indianapolis and Houston at home, while Seattle goes on the road to face the Colts and Texans. The Seahawks have road trips to Carolina, Atlanta and the New York Giants – in December no less.