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Larry Stone: Seahawks have areas of concern, but offseason moves make Super Bowl dreams not so far-fetched

UPDATED: Sat., Sept. 7, 2019, 5:21 p.m.

Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll looks up at the scoreboard during the second half of a preseason game against the Los Angeles Chargers in Carson, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. (Alex Gallardo / AP)
Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll looks up at the scoreboard during the second half of a preseason game against the Los Angeles Chargers in Carson, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. (Alex Gallardo / AP)
By Larry Stone Seattle Times

RENTON, Wash. – In the 2018 season, the Seahawks lost six games – including the one to Dallas in the playoffs that still causes sleepless nights – by a total of 23 points.

That’s barely more than a field goal per game preventing them from the coveted home-field advantage in the postseason they rode to all three of their Super Bowl appearances.

The Seahawks also won five games by a total of 19 points last season. That’s barely more than a field goal a game keeping them from missing the playoffs for the second year in a row.

That’s a roundabout way of emphasizing what a tenuous hold the Seahawks have on their place in the NFL hierarchy. Imagine a teeter-totter balanced at the midpoint. Depending on how the ballast has shifted in the eight months since the season ended, they could soar or crash – or hang right where they were, a wild-card-caliber playoff team without the capabilities to attain the big prize.

The good news is that the Seahawks have done much to strengthen their position. It’s customary on the eve of a new season to contemplate best- and worst-case scenarios for the year ahead. It’s clear what the potential pitfalls would be – an injury to quarterback Russell Wilson, an inability to develop a reliable receiving corps beyond Tyler Lockett, a lack of depth in the offensive line, and a vulnerable secondary, for starters.

But when it comes to upside, it’s not much of a stretch to envision this team solidifying around its pillars – a healthy Wilson at his quarterbacking peak; a transformed offensive line that could be dominant so long as Duane Brown, D.J. Fluker and Mike Iupati can stay healthy; a battering running attack that’s as deep as any in the NFL; and a defensive front seven, augmented by the late addition of pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney, that should assuage fears of a depleted pass rush.

In other words, in a league that prides itself on its parity and the ability of multiple teams to legitimately believe, entering a season, that they are of Super Bowl mettle, the Seahawks don’t have to rely on pipe dreams and mental gymnastics to get themselves to that state of mind. To a greater extent than in recent years, this Seahawks team can envision a path to get back to the top. It’s teeming with hazards and land mines, of course, but it’s there.

No one senses that more than Seattle head coach Pete Carroll, who turns 68 on the day of the Seahawks’ Week 2 game in Pittsburgh against the Steelers. Carroll would love one more crack at the Super Bowl, and has been steadfast in his belief that this team is capable of special things. He said that immediately after the heartbreaking loss to Dallas, one which to many highlighted the shortcomings of the Seahawks’ conservative offensive strategy.

That was before they knew receiver Doug Baldwin was going to retire and pass rusher Frank Clark would be traded, creating two gaping holes. It was also before they re-upped cornerstone players Wilson and linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright, and before they compensated for the loss of Clark by acquiring Ziggy Ansah and Clowney as bookend edge rushers.

And so, while fully mindful of the traps, Carroll was just oozing with enthusiasm this week – extra-effusive even by his standards – as he discussed Sunday’s season opener against the visiting Cincinnati Bengals and the season beyond.

Carroll cautioned that there would be a definite learning curve because of the Seahawks’ youth and the limited preseason action some key veterans received – “It’s going to take us a while to get to our best,” is how he put it. Yet Carroll left no doubt he sees the seeds of greatness in this team, and has for some time.

“I have applied myself this offseason as much as I could ever remember,” he said. “It really takes me back to whatever year it was that we were playing that Rose Bowl game against Texas (while at USC), that whole year. When you could just so clearly see that you have a chance to have a great run at it again.

“I felt like that ever since we’ve come off of last season, and it’s just drawn me into it. It’s not like I’m not trying any harder. I just feel like all of the elements of what we talked about, the experience of our staff and the relationship of our staff, our ability to communicate at a really high level, the shared experiences that we have, allows me to function at a higher level.”

Asked what excites him looking at the Seahawks’ roster, Carroll replied: “The whole time, it’s just been their attitude. These guys, they’re making this happen. Their energy and their juice for it. The really connected feeling I have with the leadership of this team, too. … That has felt really strong, a strength of ours, knowing that there’s going to be some young guys involved. That make you feel secure that messages will get passed down.”

The primary message for the Seahawks, as the 2019 script starts to be written Sunday, is that anything is possible.

Anything, and everything.

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