Corbin Smith

Five Reasons Seahawks Will Improve in 2014

Created on Jul. 18, 2014 10:09 AM EST

Traditionally, Super Bowl winners face an uphill battle trying to remain a contender when training camp opens the following season.

Last year, the Baltimore Ravens finished with a mediocre 8-8 record and failed to return to the playoffs after capturing the Lombardi Trophy in 2012.  The New York Giants also failed to make the postseason with a 9-7 record after winning the Super Bowl at the conclusion of the 2011 season. As recent history suggests, once a team makes it to the top, it's very difficult to make it back.

Historically, however, the NFL has seen repeat Super Bowl champions eight different times, with the New England Patriots last pulling off the feat in 2003-2004. The Denver Broncos captured back-to-back titles with John Elway leading the way in 1997-1998 and the Dallas Cowboys won three championships in a four year span in the mid 1990's. The Pittsburgh Steelers are the only team ever to repeat as champs on two separate occasions, hoisting the Lombardi in 1974-1975 and 1978-1979.

When comparing earlier eras to the current one, we must keep in mind that there are many stark differences that have made repeating much more challenging. The Steelers won four titles in the 1970's in a league with less teams to compete against and didn't have to deal with losing key players in free agency. The Ravens, on the other hand, watched future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis retire and were forced to let several key free agents walk to other teams due to salary cap constraints.

The Seattle Seahawks have also lost multiple starters from last year's championship team, but unlike the Ravens and Giants who won titles before them, it appears the best is yet to come from this talented young squad. General manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll have assembled a team built to win long-term, and with core players like Russell Wilson, Earl Thomas, and Richard Sherman all under 26 years of age, the sky is the limit for this group.

Every team speaks optimistically this time of year, so you have to take words from a player, coach, or executive with a grain of salt. But it's easy to understand why Sherman thinks this year's team could be even better than the championship team from 2013. Here's a look at five reasons why I fully expect the Seahawks to improve this season:

1. The receiving core should be dramatically improved from last season.
Speedster Percy Harvin missed all but one regular season game in his first year with the Seahawks, but now fully healed, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell will look to make him a featured play maker as both a receiver and a runner. As if adding a healthy Harvin wasn't enough, Schneider added explosive deep threat Paul Richardson out of Colorado and savvy route runner Kevin Norwood from Alabama during May's draft. Losing Golden Tate to the Detroit Lions hurt at the time, but if Harvin can stay healthy and the two rookies step in as contributors alongside Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse, this group should be much more dynamic this season.

2. The offensive line could go from a weakness to a potential strength.
If the Seahawks had one major weakness during last year's title run, it was an injury-ravaged offensive line. Left tackle Russell Okung missed half the season with a toe injury and had surgery after the Super Bowl. Departed right tackle Breno Giacomini and Pro Bowl center Max Unger missed several games as well. With Okung back in the lineup and guard James Carpenter arriving to offseason workouts 15 pounds trimmer and in the best shape of his life, there's reason to believe the line could be a force in 2014. Add in the fact that second round pick Justin Britt has looked impressive so far at right tackle and the unit should be upgraded substantially.

3. Last year's draft class will finally be able to make a splash for Seattle.

Entering training camp last August, the 2013 draft class had little hope of making immediate contributions barring major injury issues. Aside from tight end Luke Willson and tackle Michael Bowie, few rookies had a chance to make an impact, but free agent departures have created more opportunities this year. Second rounder Christine Michael saw limited action in the backfield, but he should become more relevant behind Marshawn Lynch this season. Defensive tackle Jesse Williams and corner Tharold Simon missed the entire 2013 season with injuries, but they've both drawn raving reviews during offseason training and should be in prime position to earn some snaps this fall. If these second-year players can show growth and contribute, it will greatly improve Seattle's chances of winning another NFC West title and possibly more.

4. Russell Wilson will continue his rise to elite quarterback status.
Wilson has been nothing short of sensational in his first two professional seasons, but as indicated earlier, he has the weapons in place to take the next step towards becoming elite in 2014. The Seahawks will never have a pass-happy offense and Wilson will probably never rank among league leaders for passing yards, but don't let those statistics fool you. Despite making less throws than most NFL quarterbacks, he is incredibly efficient and with an improved receiving core, it's not out of the question he could make a big jump and throw for 30 or more touchdown passes this season. Combine that with one of the league's best run games, and this offense will be near-impossible to stop.

5. It's basically the same team- and that's not a bad thing.
Everyone wants to talk about "making waves" with free agent signings, but that's not the Seattle way. Even with Tate and Giacomini gone, the Seahawks should have better depth at receiver and the combination of Britt/Bowie should be an improvement at right tackle. This team is still among the youngest in the entire league, but it's a well-seasoned, playoff-tested group that should be able to handle even loftier expectations. With the roster fully intact and impressive depth across the board, this team should be in prime position to bring another Lombardi back to the Pacific Northwest.

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