With the 2016 NFL season now in the books, and the 2017 league year not yet upon us, now is a good time to take a look at where things stand with the Seahawks roster. This week, we continue to take a position-by-position look at the Seahawks, both looking back at the 2016 season and looking ahead to 2017. Today, the focus is on special teams.
The Seahawks did plenty of good things on special teams in 2016. Jon Ryan had his best net average (39.3 yards per punt) since 2012; there were standouts on kick and punt coverage units, most notably Cassius Marsh and newcomers Neiko Thorpe, Dewey McDonald, Brandon Williams and DeAndre Elliott; and when healthy, Tyler Lockett was good enough to earn second-team All-Pro honors as a returner. But those positives were somewhat overshadowed by some uncharacteristic struggles in the kicking game, and in particular on extra points. While Steven Hauschka was solid as usual on field goals, he missed or had blocked six extra point attempts. Not all of those misses were Hauschka's fault—there were some errant snaps, as well as pressure that led to blocks on some—but as Seahawks coach Pete Carroll noted, Hauschka "had gotten a little stink with kicking the extra points."
On a more positive note, Hauschka finished the season strong, making all four field goal attempts and four of five extra points in the postseason.
"I was really excited that he finished the season on a good note and he hit everything that he had a chance to hit, because he knew he was up against it, he knew he needed to show that," Carroll said. "I wish it would have happened a few weeks earlier, just so he could have had more weeks to bank on that. Hauschka is a really good kicker that got in a little bit of a rut with the extra points. He's come through for us a lot of times and been a big-play guy for us, so I outwardly commended him about showing that he's back and he's on it by the way he finished, and I thought that was pretty good."
Notable Number: 9
The Seahawks signed cornerback Neiko Thorpe following their season opener in large part because they thought the former Oakland Raider could help on special teams, and he came through in a big way, leading the team in special teams tackles with nine. It was second time in as many years that the Seahawks added a defensive back in September who would go on to lead the team in special teams tackles, with Kelcie McCray accomplishing the same feat in 2015 after coming to Seattle in a trade with Kansas City.
The Seahawks got an early start on their special teams offseason work, signing former Minnesota Vikings kicker Blair Walsh last week. While the new league year has yet to begin, the Seahawks were able to sign Walsh because he was released by the Vikings during the season and finished the year as a free agent. Hauschka is set to become an unrestricted free agent when the year begins, and while he could re-sign, Walsh's addition signals that there will be a competition and possibly change at a position that has remained the same since Hauschka became the Seahawks kicker in 2011.
There are also a number players who have been big contributors on special teams who are headed to free agency, including Thorpe, McCray, Williams and Mike Morgan.
As is always the case when it comes to adding young talent in the draft and free agency, the Seahawks will be looking for players who can not only help on offense or defense, but also contribute on special teams.
What The Future Holds
Walsh has a strong résumé—last year's struggles notwithstanding—including Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro honors in 2012, but even if Hauschka isn't back, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Seahawks have more than one kicker in camp to compete for the job. There could also to be a battle for the long-snapping job between Nolan Frese and Tyler Ott, who was signed late in the season when Frese was injured. With Tyler Lockett recovering from a broken leg that required surgery, the Seahawks could also look to find a player or players who can handle return duty if Lockett isn't ready for a full-time workload at the start of the season.
- Offseason Position Breakdown: Wide Receiver
- Offseason Position Breakdown: Offensive Line
- Offseason Position Breakdown: Cornerback
- Offseason Position Breakdown: Defensive Line
- Offseason Position Breakdown: Quarterback
- Offseason Position Breakdown: Safety
- Offseason Position Breakdown: Running Back
- Offseason Position Breakdown: Linebacker
- Offseason Position Breakdown: Tight End
The best photos from team photographer Rod Mar's behind-the-scenes 'Eye on the Hawks' photo blog from the Seattle Seahawks' 2016 NFL season.