The Seattle Seahawks are one of the most unique teams in the NFL. Their “always comPETE” mantra is instilled into them by their head coach Pete Carroll. Carroll believes in giving everyone an equal shot, whether you are a high draft pick, undrafted free agent, incumbent starter, or career backup. That’s why undrafted free agents flee to Seattle every season, because they know they’ll get their fair shot. With up-and-coming players likely getting some playing time, that means some incumbent starters will see their roles diminish. Here are five Seahawks that will see their playing time and effectiveness diminish in 2017.
Seattle Seahawks Declining Players
Jermaine Kearse has been a fan favorite during his entire Seahawks career. The Seattle native and former University of Washington star has been on the Seahawks for five seasons, and has never reached 50 receptions or 700 yards in a season. Kearse has had issues with drops, getting open, and offensive pass interference penalties throughout his entire career. He has been clutch, having some of his best games in the playoffs.
During the 2015 NFC Championship Game, Russell Wilson threw four interceptions while targeting Kearse. Two of them were directly Kearse’s fault, and the two others were partly his fault. But he rebounded by catching the game winning touchdown in overtime and sending the Seahawks to the Super Bowl. He also made an amazing catch in the Super Bowl that would’ve been legendary if the Seahawks decided to run the ball from the one yard line.
However, these clutch moments won’t guarantee Kearse a spot on the roster. Paul Richardson looked like an emerging star during last year’s playoffs, and Seattle drafted Kearse’s potential replacement in Amara Darboh in the third round of the 2017 draft. Kearse will need a strong training camp and preseason to guarantee a roster spot, and even if he makes the team he’ll likely see his playing time diminish.
The Seahawks took a chance by signing Eddie Lacy to a one-year contract this offseason. This contract is full of incentives, including weight clauses. Lacy has struggled with his weight throughout his career, which has cost him a lot of money. If Lacy regains form, he’ll likely receive a big payday during the next offseason. Lacy started his career with two consecutive 1,000 yard seasons in Green Bay. He hasn’t been able to stay healthy since. Carroll says he wants Lacy to play “big.” However, the Seahawks want him to be healthy and not overweight. This is a fine line for Lacy to walk, and he’ll likely be on a short leash.
Incumbent starter Thomas Rawls struggled with injuries last season too, and will be trying to regain his 2015 form. Second year running back C.J. Prosise will also get a chance to see the field. The former Notre Dame wide receiver will likely be Seattle’s third down back because of his receiving skills, but he’ll have an opportunity to become a three down starter. The Seahawks want to get back to running the ball, so it’s likely that all three running backs will see the field. This could rob Lacy of an opportunity to show that he’s a Pro Bowl talent again. He’ll get his chance to shine, but there’s a good chance that he won’t be the starter by the end of the season.
DeShawn Shead has thrived in his role as the number two corner opposite of Richard Sherman. Although Sherman traveled with number one receivers more than usual during the past season, he was still on the left side of the defense more often than not. That allowed teams to scheme away from Sherman by putting their number one receiver against Shead. It’s not easy playing opposite of a star corner. With Sherman rarely getting challenged, Shead was constantly being attacked by opposing offenses. Not only did Shead hold his own, but he thrived in this role.
Unfortunately for Shead, he tore his ACL in the playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons. The Seahawks signed him to a one year deal this offseason knowing that he’ll likely miss the beginning of the regular season. Nickel corner Jeremy Lane may take his spot during the beginning of the season. Lane is coming off of a pedestrian 2016, but he’s been a playmaker in the past. Lane can play both inside and outside in Seattle’s scheme.
The Seahawks drafted Shaquill Griffin in the third round of the 2017 draft, and will give him every chance to compete for the number two cornerback position. There’s no guarantee that Shead will get his job back once he returns from injury. He might not be part of the Seahawks’ long-term plan. Shead has played safety and cornerback for the Seahawks, which will make him a versatile commodity for all teams. He might surprise and return to form early in the 2017 season, but there’s an even better chance that he won’t return to form this season.
Ahtyba Rubin has excelled in his two years as a Seahawk. He was brought in to be an interior pass rusher, but has only achieved three sacks in two seasons. However, Rubin has been an excellent run defender. He takes on double teams and allows linebackers to flow to the ball unblocked. This has helped Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright achieve Pro Bowl honors. Rubin is thirty years old and is playing on a deep defensive line. If the Seahawks want him at his best, they’ll likely limit his snap count.
Malik McDowell, Quinton Jefferson, Nazair Jones, and Jeremy Liggins will all have chances of making the defensive tackle rotation this season. McDowell, Jones, and Liggins are all rookies. Liggins wasn’t drafted, but he’s talented enough to make this roster. The Seahawks love giving undrafted rookies a chance. Rubin’s job isn’t in jeopardy, but it’s likely that he could lose his starting position. He’ll likely see a decline in production in 2017.
Cliff Avril is coming off of a career year, so it seems unlikely that he’ll have a down year in 2017. After having 11.5 sacks and making his first Pro Bowl in 2016, Seahawks fans are expecting more of the same out of Avril. There’s a good chance that he’ll be equally as impactful this season, but I’m expecting his role to be reduced.
Seattle’s defense fell apart down the stretch last year, and a lot of it can be attributed to the injury of Earl Thomas. Thomas is their leader and cleans up mistakes on the back end, but he’s not the only catalyst of their end of the season woes. The Seahawks didn’t have as much depth last season as they’ve had in years past. Some of that can be attributed to paying their stars, but some of it should be attributed to the Seahawks making poor draft selections, which is something that GM John Schneider and Pete Carroll aren’t accustomed to doing. However, the Seahawks have great depth on their defensive line, and should take full advantage of it by playing their stars less often during the regular season. That will allow them to be fresher during the playoffs.
Avril shouldn’t have a poor season in 2017, but he should get fewer opportunities with the emergence of Frank Clark and others. Clark had an excellent season last year and should get more chances to shine. The Seahawks also have Dion Jordan, Cassius Marsh, Quinton Jefferson, Malik McDowell, and Nazair Jones as potential playmakers on their defensive line. If the Seahawks are going to rotate in all of their defensive lineman to keep everyone fresh, it’s unlikely that Avril will be able to have another double-digit sack season.