With Seahawks training camp kicking off later this month, Seahawks.com is taking a look at 10 of the most intriguing storylines, position battles and players heading into the 2022 season. Today, we kick things off with a look at special teams, which was a team strength the last two years and figures to be again in 2022. Check back Tuesday for a look at tight end, a position Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is excited about heading into this season.
While Pete Carroll's Seahawks teams have evolved and changed over the years, his philosophy on how to best play winning football has never wavered.
Over the years the strengths and weaknesses of a team might change, but Carroll values having a team that can, in his words, play complementary football, which is to say, having an offense, defense and special teams unit that can all help each other succeed, be it an offense taking care of the football so as to not put the defense in a bad spot, or a defense getting a takeaway to set the offense up for success, or a punt team pinning an opponent deep to help the defense, or a return team setting up a short field to aid the offense.
"We're going to win with defense," Carroll said this offseason when talking about the idea of making the game easier for the offense and quarterback. "We're going to win with how we play on special teams. We'll run the football to help the whole thing fit together. That's never changed. It's never been a philosophy that we needed to alter, other than to continue to grow and make it dynamic and present and current and all. And that's what we're looking for."
And when it comes to special teams in particular, the Seahawks are counting on that unit once again being a strength of the team that can help the offense and defense both perform at their best, something that group has been able to do particularly well each of the past two seasons.
Longtime NFL writer Rick Gosselin has been compiling special teams rankings for decades, using a criteria of more than 20 statistical categories to rank NFL special teams units, and in 2021 the Seahawks ranked third. A year earlier, the Seahawks finished second in Gosselin's ratings, making them one of only two teams, along with the Colts, to crack the top five in each of the past two seasons.
Leading the way last year was the play of coverage units led by the likes of special teams captain Nick Bellore, who was third in the NFL with 15 special teams tackles and a forced fumble a year after he earned Pro Bowl honors on special teams; Cody Barton, who had 12 tackles; Jon Rhattigan, who had 10 tackles and a fumble recovery; Penny Hart, who had 11 tackles and several punts downed inside the 20 as a gunner; DeeJay Dallas, who in addition to handling kick return duties, also contributed 10 tackles and a forced fumble; and Travis Homer, who had nine tackles and a fumble recovery to go along with two touchdowns, one on a kick return and one on a fake punt.
The Seahawks will also be expecting to get big special teams contributions from this year's nine-player draft class, and in free agency added multiple players who should help in that phase of the game, including linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe and cornerback Justin Coleman.
For all the Seahawks did well on special teams last season, they know they can still be better in a few elements of that phase of the game. For starters, kicker Jason Myers will be looking to bounce back after a slightly subpar 2021 season. After going a perfect 24 for 24 on field goal attempts in 2020, including a franchise-record 61 yarder, Myers missed six times last season, going 17 for 23, though his extra point percentage of 93.6 was the best of his career. While it was a slightly down year for Myers, Carroll expressed nothing but optimism that his kicker would get back on track, and sure enough after four misses in the first seven weeks of the season, Myers finished strong, making eight of his final nine field goal attempts over the final five games, and 15 straight extra points to close out the year.
The Seahawks will also look to get more out of their return game in 2022 after seeing solid if not spectacular contributions in that area last season. One player Carroll has mentioned competing for those roles is receiver Dee Eskridge, who due to injuries was unable to get fully involved there as a rookie. The Seahawks also added other players who could compete for return roles in the draft, and know they also have strong options in players who have handled those roles like Dallas, Homer and Freddie Swain.
A look back at some of the best photos of Seahawks punter Michael Dickson from the 2021 season.