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Seattle Seahawks

2022 football preview: The Pete Carroll-John Schneider duo has produced plenty of big numbers, but loss of frontman Russell Wilson could leave Seahawks out of tune

Seahawks starting quarterback Geno Smith, left, and backup Drew Lock bring different skill sets in their quest to replace Russell Wilson.  (Jennifer Buchanan/Seattle Times; Staff photo illustration)
By Dave Boling For The Spokesman-Review

Several preseason power rankings consigned the Seattle Seahawks to the NFL cellar. No. 32. Dead last.

It adds particular relevance to a staple tune played over the loudspeakers at Seahawks practices for several years, Drake’s “Started from the Bottom,” which stands as a perfectly appropriate theme for the 2022 season. For much of the preseason the Seahawks did little to suggest their prospects were anything above divisional doormat.

How did the Pete Carroll/John Schneider golden age come to this?

Simply, a series of subpar drafts and the aging of cornerstone stars couldn’t sustain the level of play that had made the team perennial contenders. Follow up a 7-10 season (last in the NFC West) by trading the franchise’s best quarterback (Russell Wilson) and releasing the all-time leading tackler (Bobby Wagner), and here you are. Starting from the bottom.

Supporting that theme, the prime candidates for Wilson’s replacement, Geno Smith and Drew Lock, also have been touted as the worst quarterback prospects in the league. While Lock was limited with untimely COVID, Smith performed with mixed results during the preseason.

Meanwhile, the rest of the squad failed to convince fans they were adequately capable of tackling, catching the football, or executing the fundamental requirements of special teams.

A number of the better players saw limited action, which might cause fortunes to rise once the real games start. At times, rookies showed flashes of potential. The assimilation of those rookies, and the trajectory of other young replacements, will determine if the Seahawks can bounce back off the canvas or if fans will have to wait until the 2023 conscription of draftees to dare expect the team to challenge again.

Side A (offense): The preseason battle between Smith and Lock mostly displayed what was expected: Neither will reach the level of prime Russell Wilson. But neither did Russell Wilson in 2021. Smith, named the starter last week, has been somewhat steady (without much help from backup receivers), while Lock had little opportunity to show whether he has steadied the uneven performances that have characterized his career thus far.

The drafting of two tackles – Charles Cross in the first round, and Abe Lucas (Washington State) in the third – helped give a few returners up front the look of a much-improved offensive line.

The bankable portion of the offense will be the receiving corps, anchored by veteran Tyler Lockett (three straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons) and the contractually locked-up D.K. Metcalf (12 receiving touchdowns).

And although running back Chris Carson was forced into an injury retirement, his replacement, former first-rounder Rashaad Penny, was the hottest back in the NFL down the stretch and led the league with a 6.29-yard average per carry. Health has been the nagging concern for Penny, who rushed a modest 280 attempts in the first four seasons of his career.

Rookie second-round pick Kenneth Walker III could be a key addition in the backfield but missed time in the preseason with abdominal surgery.

Side B (defense): With Wagner gone, Jordyn Brooks gets the chance to grow into a new Wagner. Brooks was second in the NFL with tackles last season with a Seahawk record 183. The other linebackers have a great deal to prove.

The Hawks finished next-to-last in the league in pass defense in 2021. Former All-Pro safety Jamal Adams is coming off a down year, but safety Quandre Diggs had five interceptions in a Pro Bowl season. A number of new faces may see action at the corners and nickel with a pair of rookies, Coby Bryant and Tariq Woolen, looking like the corners of the future.

Darrell Taylor (6.5 sacks last season in his first year active), rookie Boye Mafe, and Uchenna Nwosa will likely provide most of the edge pressure for what is expected to be a more aggressive defense led by new coordinator Clint Hurtt.

Extras (special teams): Michael Dickson remains one of the most talented punters in the league with snapper Tyler Ott highly dependable. Kicker Jason Myers’ 17-23 performance was his lowest percentage of success in his three seasons with the Seahawks. Coverage and return units were less than adequate in the preseason, when many of the units were comprised of borderline players.

Surprise hits: Fifth-round cornerback Tariq Woolen, at 6-foot-4 and with sub 4.3 time in the 40, has the look of some of the young Legion of Boomers in their early days.

Producer: Pete Carroll begins his 13th season with a record of 119-73-3

Album review: Vegas has the Seahawks’ win total set at 5.5, and that’s probably fair. To get past six wins, they’ll need to get steady quarterback play, stay healthy and hope the promising rookie class grows up in a hurry. Five home games in the last seven could help spur a late rally.

Prediction: 6-11