The Seahawks love hearing this kind of talk.
Little has been better for the direction of this team than for Russell Wilson being judged too short, Doug Baldwin being called a pedestrian receiver or Richard Sherman being overlooked until the fifth round of the draft.
These guys have long memories and acute hearing when it comes to slights.
So Seahawks fans should be delighted by a recent evaluation by Pro Football Focus that listed Seattle as having the No. 13-rated roster n the NFL.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Bellingham Herald
Is that fair? Probably as a totally objective assessment.
Accurate? Probably not, but open to interpretation.
An indicator that the Seahawks will be a bubble playoff team at best? No. They’ll be better than that.
PFF is an online website with a team of researchers that studies every play of every game and evaluates performances. After two straight years of rating the Seahawks No. 1, PFF’s No. 13 ranking seems a precipitous decline.
If all remained relatively static, a team that went 10-6 and made it to the divisional round of the playoffs could reasonably expect to have talent the next season that’s well into the top third.
But nothing goes unchanged.
And it’s important to point out that the rating is based on the judgment of player talents, not the potential of the team as a whole — an important distinction with the Seahawks.
Talent is only one determining factor. The quality of coaching, the management of players and their egos, and the understanding of the things that keep them motivated and productive are things that fall outside the ranking.
The comments accompanying the rating showed the Seahawks being downgraded for their reconfigured offensive line as well as the depth of their defense.
“(The Seahawks) find themselves with a roster that has a few cracks and weak spots,” PFF reported. “(The) once-spectacular defense is starting to show some cracks, especially when it comes to depth.”
Fair and fair.
The 2016 group most notably misses Marshawn Lynch, Brandon Mebane, Russell Okung, Bruce Irvin and J.R. Sweezy. And the draft classes of 2013 and 2014 have provided lean production, causing depth to be a legitimate question.
But I see some areas of debate.
Having a durable franchise quarterback in his prime, who was the previous season’s leader in passer efficiency (110.1), should put a team in the top-10 with almost nothing else considered. Ipso facto.
Russell Wilson finished the year better than his seasonal numbers, though, and is not only reaching his prime, but showing evidence that he’s still on the rise. In the final seven regular-season games, he threw 24 touchdown passes and just one interception.
His most productive battery mate, Doug Baldwin, pulled in 11 of his 14 touchdown catches in that span. To my mind, that surge carries the promise of a forged connection that should be hugely productive well into the future.
The retirement of Lynch is over-considered as a negative since the 2015 Lynch was nowhere nearly as productive as his injury-replacement, rookie Thomas Rawls. Rawls led the league’s top rushers with a 5.6-yard average while the banged-up Lynch averaged 3.8.
If Rawls returns to full effectiveness from his broken ankle, the Seahawks’ backfield will be undiminished from when Lynch was dealing with health concerns last season.
PFF offers justifiable skepticism over the new offensive line.
While looking at the new faces and those few familiar ones occupying different positions, here’s a thought that might factor in:
The Hawks’ line was an obvious liability early last season, giving up 31 sacks in the first seven games. But in the final nine games (15 sacks), the team made some schematic changes, and Wilson himself did a better job of getting the ball out quickly and avoiding sacks with those live-another-day passes out of bounds.
Wilson’s improvements in those regards could buy time for the offensive line to ripen and gel.
Interestingly, an NFL.com report listed the Seahawks as the team that improved the most on offense in the recent draft, with eight of their 10 picks bolstering that side of the ball.
While the defense is aging in spots, the key players not only remain in their prime, most are healthier than they were heading into last season. And second-year end Frank Clark and rookie tackle Jarran Reed look like potential high-impact players this fall.
Yes, there are too many question marks at certain spots, particularly the offensive line, to say the Seahawks are still at the top of the NFL lists of roster talent.
But No. 13? No way. Not while there’s so many youthful Pro Bowl talents.
And not when so many of them are still so eager to prove doubters wrong.