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State of the 2023 Seattle Seahawks: After surprising success, expectations up for Geno Smith and Co.

Where does your squad stand in 2023? Adam Rank sets the table by providing a State of the Franchise look at all 32 teams, zeroing in on the key figures to watch and setting the stakes for the season to come.

Members of the Seahawks organization, Seahawks fans around the world and those who want Geno Smith to write back to them ...

The Seahawks moved on from their franchise quarterback last offseason and proved that nobody is bigger than the team, reeling off a surprising playoff run. Felt like it could have been a storyline on Ted Lasso or at least an ABC Afterschool Special. 2022 was a good year for Seattle, and there is much to look forward to in 2023.

2022 rewind

One high from last season: Trading away Russell Wilson. What, is that too mean? It's the truth. Yes, the move technically happened before the season, but dealing Russell Wilson to Denver after a decade-long marriage in Seattle really worked out well. The replacement quarterback played better than Wilson did in 2022, and the 'Hawks acquired three veterans and five draft picks. Oh, and they beat the Russ-led Broncos on Monday Night Football to open the season. They could have ended the year there.

One low from last season: Losing in the playoffs to the 49ers. Even the low wasn't that bad. Yes, falling to the rival Niners was unfortunate. But let's be serious: It was huge just to reach the postseason, especially with many observers assuming this team was going to be awful without Wilson.

2023 VIPs

Quarterback: Geno Smith. If you weren't happy for Geno last year, I don't know what to tell you, other than you don't have a heart. Smith's remarkable season wasn't just a feel-good story; the 2022 Comeback Player of the Year was also a damn good quarterback. One thing he excelled at was throwing the deep ball. Which, if I'm not mistaken, is a specialty of Russell Wilson's. It's like when Robin Finck replaced Slash in Guns N' Roses and was kind of a better guitarist. My guy Nick Shook points out here that Geno completed nearly 50 percent of his downfield passes, and nearly half of his 30 touchdown throws were deep balls. Look, if you're Geno and you get your shot after spending all of those years cooling your heels on the bench, you're not going to just decide to take it easy.

Projected 2023 MVP: Smith. I know this is lazy, but this team wouldn't have made the playoffs in 2022 if Geno hadn't put up a career season in Year 10, subsequently earning a three-year, $105 million extension. He's going to need to keep it going this season. No pressure or anything.

New face to know: Bobby Wagner, linebacker. Well, this is more like an old face that's new again. I understood the logic of Wagner joining the Rams, who were theoretically better positioned to play in the postseason, after being released by the Seahawks last offseason. Yes, even though his one-year stint in Los Angeles basically amounted to just giving people the chance, years from now, to say, "Hey, remember that one season when Bobby Wagner played for the Rams?" I know that when an older veteran returns to the franchise where he enjoyed his glory days, the talk tends to be about how great it will be for the locker room and leadership, which tends to mean the player is washed up. But the 32-year-old Wagner can still bring it. Just take a look at this play from OTAs:

2023 breakout star: Devon Witherspoon, cornerback. I loved the Seahawks' selection of Witherspoon with the fifth overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. I was in on him when I wrote my Mock Draft With a Twist, pairing him with the Colts at fourth overall. But Seattle looks like the perfect spot. I realize I'm just a commentator, but I dig seeing guys like Jason McCourty agreeing with me. It's kind of like when the teacher gave you high marks in school.

2023 braintrust

Table inside Article
Head coach Pete Carroll
General manager John Schneider
Offensive coordinator Shane Waldron
Defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt
Special teams coordinator Larry Izzo
  • Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart won Heisman Trophies under Carroll at USC. And before you try to give all of the credit for that to Norm Chow, remember that Mark Sanchez also played well for Carroll after Chow left his post as offensive coordinator for the Trojans. Then there's Russell Wilson, the third-round pick Carroll helped turn into an elite NFL quarterback. And, of course, there's the success Carroll spun with Smith in 2022. Maybe -- MAYBE -- Pete Carroll knows what he's doing when it comes to the quarterback position.
  • Carroll-Schneider might be the most perfect pairing of any duo in the world -- well, outside the reunion of Gargano and Ciampa. And the Seahawks kind of have that DIY attitude. (Sorry, had to do it.) You already know what I think about the pick of Witherspoon, which was amazing. I'll also have some glowing words about the player they selected with their other first-round choice in a minute here. It will be interesting to see how the decision by Carroll and Schneider to pass on Jalen Carter works out down the line. But these two have earned the benefit of the doubt.

Roster reshuffling

Below is a rundown of the Seahawks' most notable roster developments for the 2023 season, including this year's draft class, as well as key acquisitions and departures via free agency and trade.

Table inside Article
Draft class (round-pick) Key additions Key departures
Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois (1-5) Evan Brown, C Travis Homer, RB
Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State (1-20) Mario Edwards Jr., DL Rashaad Penny, RB
Derick Hall, OLB, Auburn (2-37) Dre'Mont Jones, DL Marquise Goodwin, WR
Zach Charbonnet, RB, UCLA (2-52) Jarran Reed, DL Gabe Jackson, OG
Anthony Bradford, OG, LSU (4-108) Devin Bush, LB Austin Blythe, C
Cameron Young, DT, Mississippi State (4-123) Bobby Wagner, LB L.J. Collier, DE
Mike Morris, DE, Michigan (5-151) Julian Love, S Bruce Irvin, OLB
Olu Oluwatimi, C, Michigan (5-154) Poona Ford, DL
Jerrick Reed II, S, New Mexico (6-198) Shelby Harris, DL
Kenny McIntosh, RB, Georgia (7-237) Quinton Jefferson, DL
Al Woods, DL
Cody Barton, LB

2023 roadmap

Three key dates:

  • Week 2 at Detroit Lions. This one is going to be so telling. Everyone seems to love the Lions, who will be coming off a long break after opening up the season against the Chiefs in the Kickoff Game. It will be interesting. Fun fact: The Seahawks are in line to face a former No. 1 overall pick at quarterback in each of their first three games: vs. the Rams (Matthew Stafford), at the Lions (Jared Goff) and vs. the Panthers (Bryce Young).
  • Week 6 at Cincinnati Bengals. The Seahawks will follow their terrible early Week 5 bye with this absolute tester on the road against one of the best teams in the AFC. Oh, and they take on another former No. 1 overall pick at QB: Joe Burrow.
  • Week 12 vs. San Francisco 49ers (Thanksgiving night). This prime-time holiday showdown kicks off a four-game gauntlet for Seattle against teams that won 12-plus games in 2022 (although one of them is the Cowboys in Week 13, so the Seahawks are probably fine in that one). This portion of the schedule also overlaps with a concentration of down-the-stretch away games (four of Seattle's final six regular-season contests are on the road).

Will the Seahawks be able to ...

... boast the best receiving corps in the league? I know some people might have wondered what the Seahawks were doing when they used the 20th overall pick to add Jaxon Smith-Njigba to a team that already features DK Metcalf and the tremendously underrated Tyler Lockett at receiver. But it really was the right thing to do. The NFL has evolved to the point where having three credible receiving threats is a must. (The 'Hawks also have a pretty good group of tight ends.) I love this for JSN. Remember that his finest season at Ohio State came when he was playing alongside Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson. This is actually the best possible scenario for his arrival to the NFL. I also love how his selection showed that Seattle is going all in on Geno Smith this season, rather than burning high-value draft capital on a developmental quarterback prospect.

... stop people on the ground? Adding a damn good corner (Witherspoon) to a pretty good secondary (Seattle ranked 13th in passing yards allowed last season) should fuel talk of a new Legion of Boom, and I'm here for it. But the Seahawks were near the bottom of the NFL in rushing yards allowed (30th) and had trouble getting off the field on third down. Bryan Mone is still making his way back from surgery to repair a torn ACL. Jarran Reed is a Seahawk again after spending the past two seasons with the Chiefs and Packers, though his return to the franchise has kind of been overshadowed by Wagner's homecoming. Can fourth-round pick Cameron Young step up and make a difference at nose tackle? Not to repeat myself too much, but the decision to pass on Jalen Carter could loom large in the near future.

One storyline ...

... people shouldn't overthink: Who ends up as the lead running back. Seahawks fans don't care, as long as the ground game is successful. This is mostly for the fantasy kooks who are already trying to look past Kenneth Walker III and move on to Zach Charbonnet. Charbonnet is very exciting, and it won't take Seahawks fans long to compare him to former running back Chris Carson, with his receiving ability and skill near the goal line. But I'd expect Walker to end up being the guy. I love his upside and explosiveness. Still, while some of you might end up screaming "That helps no one!" when Charbonnet steals a touchdown or ends up getting those hard yards at the end of a game, Charbonnet could make Seattle much better, especially in the red zone, where the team's conversion rate (47.3%) ranked 28th in 2022.

For 2023 to be a success, the Seahawks MUST:

  • Get back to the playoffs. The Seahawks are good. They are solidly in the mid-card of the NFC. Are they among the conference's elite? I have them behind the Eagles and 49ers at this point. But there isn't a team that I would say is significantly better than Seattle. The 'Hawks were able to sneak up on teams last year because, well, let's face it: Not much was expected of them. That's no longer the case in 2023.

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