Kam Chancellor's loss is one of six spots where the Seahawks are weaker than the Super Bowl years.
RENTON, Wash. – These are not your Super Bowl Seahawks of three years ago. That’s just a fact.
It doesn’t mean Super Bowl LII is out of reach. It’s doesn’t mean they will lose a huge matchup Sunday night at home against the 10-1 Philadelphia Eagles.
However, in several key areas, they aren’t the team that played in back-to-back Super Bowls. Let’s take a closer look. Where are the stronger and where are they weaker for now?
Strong safety – Bradley McDougald has played well, but he isn’t the intimidating presence of Kam Chancellor, who is out for the rest of the season (and has an uncertain future) with a neck injury.
Cornerback -- Richard Sherman is done for the year after undergoing surgery for a ruptured Achilles tendon. No matter who the Seahawks put out there (Jeremy Lane at the moment) it isn’t Sherman, a future Hall of Famer.
Defensive end – Cliff Avril is out for the year after undergoing disk surgery in his neck. Avril’s future also is in doubt. The Seahawks have gotten solid play from Frank Clark and others in Avril’s spot, but they lack Avril’s ability to force fumbles and consistently disrupt things in the backfield.
Kicker – In order to save cap space, the Seahawks let Steven Hauschka leave and signed Blair Walsh. Not good. Walsh has made only 13 of 19 field-goal attempts outside the 30. He missed all three attempts in the 17-14 loss to the Redskins and missed a difficult 52-yard attempt that would have tied the game in the final seconds of a 34-31 loss to Atlanta.
Right guard – J.R. Sweezy, the college defensive linemen that Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable transformed into a quality NFL guard, started both Super Bowls before signing a 5-year, $32 million deal with Tampa Bay. Rookie Ethan Pocic has a bright future for the Seahawks, but he isn’t playing at Sweezy’s level yet. Neither was Oday Aboushi before he was hurt.
Running back – Not even close. The Seahawks haven’t found anyone who can give them the backfield presence that Marshawn Lynch gave them. That’s a lot to ask. The offense was built around Lynch and the power-running game. But the Seahawks running game is a disaster at the moment, except for quarterback Russell Wilson. He has 401 yards rushing, more than double any running back on the active roster.
Tight end – Jimmy Graham isn’t the blocker Zach Miller was in 2013, but he’s exactly what the Seahawks need in the red zone, especially near the goal line. Graham has dropped too many passes this season, but he has eight TD receptions in the last seven games by using his 6-7 frame to post-up on smaller cornerbacks.
Defensive tackle – Trading for Sheldon Richardson at the start of the season has been a huge plus for the Seattle defense. Richardson is a wrecking ball inside. He has 29 tackles, five quarterback hits, a sack and two fumble recoveries.
By this list, that’s six spots where the Seahawks are weaker than the Super Bowl years and two spots where they’re stronger.
You certainly could argue other spots. Is Duane Brown better than Russell Okung at left tackle? Is Germain Ifedi as good at right tackle as Bruno Giacomini was in 2013?
Are Paul Richardson and Tyler Lockett as good as second and third receivers as the Seahawks were with Golden Tate and Jermaine Kearse? Is outside linebacker Michael Wilhoite as good as Bruce Irvin or Malcolm Smith (the Super Bowl MVP in the victory over Denver)?
Those are gray areas and probably a wash.
However, there’s one other point to factor in. Wilson, middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and receiver Doug Baldwin all are better than they were in the Super Bowl seasons because they have improved from experience.
Wilson is an MVP candidate and carrying the offense on his shoulders. Wagner could be the Defensive Player of the Year in the NFL. Baldwin is on pace for more than 80 receptions, the second best on his career to his 2015 Pro Bowl season.
That helps, but overall, the team appears weaker. This isn’t the Super Bowl Seahawks, but are they good enough to get back to the Super Bowl?
Sunday night’s game against the Eagles will go a long way toward answering that question.