Opposite Sideline: Seahawks look like Super Bowl contenders
The lowdown on the Green Bay Packers' next opponent from a beat writer who covers that team.
The Green Bay Packers are set to face the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday to kick off the 2017 NFL regular season. The two teams last met last December at Lambeau Field, a decisive 38-10 Packers win.
To find out what's been going on with the Seahawks since then, and to get an idea of what kind of team will be coming to Green Bay on Sunday, I caught up with Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. You can read our Q&A below and check out our conversation in the video at PackersNews.com.
1. A lot ofpreview articles on the Seahawks have mentioned Russell Wilson playing injured last season. Did injury affect his play in 2016 more than maybe the average NFL fan realizes?
I think so. He suffered three significant injuries in the first seven weeks of the season — a high ankle sprain in the third quarter of Week 1 when he was tackled by Ndamukong Suh, an MCL sprain in Week 3 and then a pec injury before Week 7. The first two severely limited Wilson's ability to run — he rushed for just 259 yards and 3.6 per carry last season after rushing for at least 489 and 5.2 in every other season. His lack of running also impacted the effectiveness of the zone read offense — without defenses having to worry about Wilson taking off and running 60 yards they could concentrate on taking out the running back. Wilson also makes many of his best big-play throws when improvising while running, something that was pretty much negated last season. Seahawks coaches are beyond excited that that should all be back this season.
2. Where has this Seahawks team improved the most since its 38-10 loss in Lambeau last year?
If you are talking specifically about that game then the answer is easy, the secondary. And the reason is simple: perennial All-Pro safety Earl Thomas is back. The Green Bay game was the first last year after the team found out that Thomas would be gone for the season after breaking his leg the week before; he had missed only one previous game in his career. Steven Terrell, who had played little previously, had to start in Thomas' place and teams attacked the middle of the field like never before. Seattle knew that Thomas was a valuable part of things but had no real clue until he was gone. The Seahawks hadn't allowed more than 25 points in any game until Thomas was lost to injury — they allowed 31 or more in three of the six he missed including the playoffs and 23 in another.
3. Have the offseason reports of friction in the locker room come into play during camp and preseason at all? How has the team addressed it, if atall?
One thing that's worth remembering is many of the things mentioned in that story happened in previous years. The anecdote that led off the ESPN story about Richard Sherman and Russell Wilson happened in a practice the spring after Seattle won the Super Bowl. There's no question that the Seahawks have a number of strong and unique personalities. But those close to the team say reports of friction impacting anything that happens on the field are overrated. Russell Wilson, supposedly disliked by much of the team, was just elected by teammates as a team captain for a fifth straight season. Seattle went 4-0 in the preseason and played well with the starters so there's zero evidence that the Seahawks are struggling in any way entering the regular season.