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Here's Why The Seattle Seahawks Won't Regress After Last Year's Shocking Run To The Playoffs

David Eulitt. Getty Images.

Could just say, "Refer to the picture above of Jaxon Smith-Njigba" and leave it at that. Should probably elaborate a little bit.

Before gushing about JSN, we must rewind to yesteryear's draft first. After so many years of awful draft classes, it seemed unfathomable that the Seattle Seahawks would strike gold to the extent that they did in 2022. You can’t often bank on one rookie to develop into an immediate star. You’re hoping for a solid, passable starter or two at best in the first year.

Instead, Seattle got two legit starting tackles in Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas, a dynamic feature back in Kenneth Walker III who was very hard to stop when healthy. Then, of course, my guy Tariq Woolen. The fifth-rounder rose up the cornerback depth chart and nabbed six INTs in his maiden NFL season. Those instant studs were a big reason behind the team's stunning success. I am indeed using the word "stunning" to describe their 9-8 record.

Yes, the Seahawks caught everyone by surprise. That won’t happen this year. However, I get the sense that a lot of folks expect them to take a step back. After all, approximately six new playoff teams emerge year-over-year. Those of us who make season-long predictions have to make cuts somewhere. Maybe it’d be easy to write off Geno Smith’s Comeback Player of the Year campaign as a fluke. If you do that, just remember, Geno ain’t write back.

I really don’t understand why the Seahawks are only a -120 bet to make the playoffs, and even money not to. They command more respect than that. As good as I felt about their last draft class, I feel even more confident about the difference-makers who headlined their latest crop of rookies.

You might read, "as good as I felt"  and laugh as if I'm touting some revisionist history. Please read back:

And behold also, my 2022 big board ranks (in parentheses) compared to where the Seahawks drafted their guys:

  • Round 1, Pick 9: LT Charles Cross (15)
  • Round 2, Pick 40: EDGE Boye Mafe (25)
  • Round 2, Pick 41: RB Kenneth Walker III (66)
  • Round 3, Pick 72: RT Abraham Lucas (69)
  • Round 4, Pick 109: CB Coby Bryant (68)
  • Round 5, Pick 152: CB Tariq Woolen (33)

Somehow serial tape-watcher Brian Baldinger doesn't believe Woolen has "broken out" yet. I beg to differ. But he's already gassing up Coby Bryant as someone who could have a big Year 2:

From this year, though — again, didn't think it was possible — Seattle had the fifth and 20th overall picks thanks to the Russell Wilson trade. They managed to select Illinois corner Devon Witherspoon (Big Board: 5), and Ohio State wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba (Big Board: 2).

Witherspoon was the last rookie to sign his contract officially, which delayed his training camp arrival by two days. Doesn't seem to have impacted his standing with the team whatsoever:

As for JSN, I think we'll look back on him falling to 20th in the draft and collectively ask ourselves, "How the hell did that ever happen?" Look no further than Smith-Njigba's legendary Rose Bowl performance, where he had 15 catches, 347 yards and three TDs against Utah. Box-score scouting is often a stupid shortcut to take. Not in that instance, I assure you.

Pretty sure Geno crunches a good amount of game tape and is pretty measured in his praise of other players. All he saw was a highlight reel of JSN before he got Pete Carroll on the line and pleaded with him to draft the ex-Buckeye star.

"From Day 1 he's been so special," Geno says of Smith-Njigba in the interview above.

Catches like these highlight what the Seahawks QB is talking about:

That whole "six new playoff team" rule I mentioned earlier isn't necessarily absolute, yet it happens all the time. 

Fan bases who are convinced their squad will go back since they were in the tournament will often use the following logic: They got "better" on both sides of the ball and just had a great record. Therefore, how will they not be in the postseason this time around? It's a mystery, ain't it!? Somehow, there were SEVEN new teams in the playoffs this past year (Jaguars, Ravens, Chargers, Dolphins, Vikings, Giants and Seahawks).

All I'm saying is, don't leave Seattle out. They just went from having a bottom-three roster to a top-10 outfit in one calendar year.

You always have to try to determine who really got better in the offseason by how those perceived improvements relate to the rest of the conference/division, and whether or not a certain team has "peaked" yet. It sure seems like the Seahawks are far from their peak in this current iteration. They're adding two rookies who I think may be among the most immediately impactful in the entire league.

Concern may be that these Seahawks are too young. Maybe I'd acknowledge that to a larger degree if Bobby Freaking Wagner weren't walking back through that door!

Wagner is still an All-Pro-caliber linebacker who finished as PFF's No. 1 linebacker in '22 with the best run defense grade. In addition to his prowess in coverage, Wagner will help a Seattle unit who just ranked 30th in yards yielded on the ground.

Cutting back to the offense: Arming Geno Smith with another premier weapon in JSN to go with DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, with an offensive line that should only progress on the strength of two sophomore tackles, bodes well for Geno's future. Didn't even mention, either, how the addition of second-round tailback Zach Charbonnet (retro edit: once he's back from a shoulder injury) will take some of the workload off Walker and help Seattle stay balanced to set up Smith for downfield play-action shots.

Don't sleep on Seattle again. They just might come take the NFC West from the 49ers and go even deeper in the playoffs in the relatively wide-open NFC.

PS I'm not hating on y'all, Niners fans. Very bullish on CMC and Deebo:

JSN Rose Bowl highlights to play you out:

Twitter @MattFitz_gerald/TikTok