RENTON, Wash. – The most important thing for the 2014 Seahawks about Sunday’s win in Carolina was the fact that, well, they won. When we look back on that game a few years from now, however, what might be most important to the franchise’s long-term success is the way the game-winning drive played out for Seattle.
On the second play of Seattle’s final possession, Russell Wilson drilled a hard pass that was slightly behind Kevin Norwood, and despite getting his head around at the last second, the rookie receiver made what Wilson described as an “unbelievable catch” to keep the chains moving. Three plays later, Wilson hit rookie Paul Richardson for a 9-yard gain, and four plays after that, he connected with second-year tight end Luke Willson for the game-winning touchdown. Throw in a strong performance by rookie linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis, which included a tackle for loss on Carolina’s previous possession, and the Seahawks got more contribution out of their past two draft classes in that game than they have in any other over the past two years. And that’s not even mentioning second-round pick Justin Britt, who has been Seattle’s starting right tackle all season.
Britt, Richardson, Norwood, Pierre-Louis and Willson might not all be huge pieces of Seattle’s future, but what’s significant is what them all contributing important plays in a victory represents: the Seahawks are beginning to see returns on their past two draft classes, and in particular out of this year’s rookies.
“It really was a point of emphasis in our team meeting (Monday) that a lot of young guys have come through and done a really nice job,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “It has really fallen into the formula that we’ve always looked to – you play your young guys early and by midseason they’re playing like regulars.” ”
The nucleus of their championship team was built through the first three drafts under John Schneider and Carroll. Like any NFL team, the Seahawks’ best, and really only path to sustained excellence is to draft well, and it is completely fair to look at their 2013 class and wonder how much it might set them back in the coming years.
From 2010 to 2012, the Seahawks drafted the likes of Russell Okung, Earl Thomas, Golden Tate, Kam Chancellor, K.J. Wright, Richard Sherman, Byron Maxwell, Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner. Even their often criticized first-round picks from 2011 and 2012, James Carpenter and Bruce Irvin, have shown signs of improvement this year,
Last year’s draft, however, was a much different story. It’s hard not to call the 2013 class a disappointment, so far at least.
And while the Seahawks were just fine without getting anything significant from their rookie class last year, they won’t be OK going forward if the remaining members of that class, and several from this year’s, aren’t key players going forward.
Already the Seahawks are seeing how having to pay star players affects depth. That problem will become significantly more pronounced when the Seahawks give Wilson a new deal, which will almost certainly happen after this season, and they’ll also have decisions to make on several other key players like Maxwell, Wright, Wagner, Lane, Irvin and J.R. Sweezy, who will either require big raises or be gone in the next two seasons. Rookies like Norwood, Richardson, Pierre-Louis and Britt will all play a role in whatever success the Seahawks have this season, but even more important is what their emergence means for Seattle’s future.
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