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Buffalo Bills opponent preview: Seattle Seahawks

Once every four years, the Bills face the Seahawks.

Every year, the NFL blogs of SB Nation share intel on their teams with the other blogs heading into the season for our 2020 NFL season preview. This year is no different in that regard, but the circumstances around the season are different.

In today’s installment, we take a look at the Seattle Seahawks with some help from Field Gulls.

Editor’s note: The responses are unedited and were sent in early July before the opt outs due to coronavirus.

Notable free agency additions: TE Greg Olsen, DE Bruce Irvin, DE Benson Mayowa, RB Carlos Hyde, RT Brandon Shell, C/G B.J. Finney, WR Phillip Dorsett

Over/under 10 wins? Push. The Seahawks should always be considered a 10-win caliber team with Russell Wilson and even an average roster, but the historically great close game fortune from 2019 could easily turn against them and drive them under.

Rookie I’m most excited about: Second-round draft pick Darrell Taylor is an edge rusher from Tennessee who can hopefully produce the type of pass rushing prowess that was sorely lacking for Seattle last season. Also in the running is third-round guard Damien Lewis, and that’s an unusual thing to say but a Seahawks offensive lineman with immediate promise is not something fans have been used to in recent years.

Best position battle heading into training camp: Best is hard to definitively say but I think one that is certainly of considerable intrigue is the strong safety position. Bradley McDougald has that spot at the moment, with Quandre Diggs as the free safety. Marquise Blair can be a strong safety, a free safety, or even a big nickel option. He was drafted in the second-round in 2019 but rarely saw the field and when he did it was primarily at FS. Diggs should have the FS spot locked down, which leaves Blair likely competing with McDougald for strong safety. McDougald has been a very solid and consistent part of the Seahawks secondary, but he’s also in a contract year and cutting him would save Seattle $4 million in cap space. With Blair they have a younger talent with greater upside than the 29-year-old veteran, but the risk factor is that the Seahawks’ depth at the safety spot is hardly convincing. Still, Blair showed flashes of promise in his limited playing time and he should not be ruled out as someone who could spring a surprise and earn his way into the starting lineup. Along similar lines, the nickel spot appears to be Ugo Amadi’s to lose, but a lot of what happens to the Seahawks’ cornerbacks is dependent on the outcome of the Quinton Dunbar armed robbery case. If Dunbar is let go, then surely Tre Flowers remains on the outside while Amadi is in the slot. Should Dunbar remain on the team and able to play, Flowers and Amadi could be jostling for that nickel role.

Biggest storyline heading into training camp: Who will provide the pass rush? That’s the number one question that’s faced the Seahawks all offseason. Rasheem Green led Seattle in sacks last year with four, and that was sad to type. Barring a Jadeveon Clowney re-signing or bringing on Everson Griffen, it looks like Seattle will rely on Bruce Irvin, Benson Mayowa, Shaquem Griffin, and rookies Darrell Taylor and Alton Henderson on the outside. Rasheem Green and L.J. Collier can play inside and outside, while Jarran Reed and Poona Ford are on the interior. Ford is really a run-stuffing specialist whereas Reed has developed into a dual threat, but he underperformed last year. The Seahawks offense has established itself as one of the best in the NFL, Russell Wilson has firmly established himself as a great quarterback, but all of this has happened at a time when the defense has fallen off considerably. The hallmark of Seattle’s elite defenses was not just the Legion of Boom, but a ferocious pass rush with Michael Bennett, Chris Clemons, Cliff Avril, and eventually Frank Clark all wreaking havoc. While the rest of the NFC West boasts at least one standout pass rusher on their respective defenses, Seattle is left trying to rebuild what was one of the league’s worst at pressuring and sacking the quarterback.

Under-the-radar storyline heading into training camp: The Seahawks surprised everyone by drafting Jordyn Brooks at 27th overall. Fans have been accustomed to seeing Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright together in the same way we saw Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs in Chicago. Wagner is still playing at a high level but he’s just turned 30 years old. Wright had shoulder surgery and is entering the final year of his contract, having just turned 31. Brooks could be positioned as Mychal Kendricks’ replacement at strongside linebacker, but he may end up taking Wright’s spot as weakside (WILL) linebacker with K.J. moving to strongside. The progress Wright makes based on his injury recovery will be a factor in what’s next for him.

It’s evident that whether Seahawks fans like it or not, the sun is setting on the Wagner-Wright era and Brooks is part of a long-term goal. With that said, the expectation is that Brooks should be able to contribute right away, and if that doesn’t materialize then Seahawks fans will not be particularly thrilled to once again have minimal to no rookie production from a number one draft pick. From what the film shows, worries about his pass coverage skills might be a bit exaggerated, and he has a lot of physical and mental talents necessary to fit into Pete Carroll’s scheme.

Notable injuries heading into training camp: Third-year running back Rashaad Penny is still recovering from a horrific knee injury, and putting him on PUP is likely to happen. Starting running back Chris Carson is on course to return in September from a cracked hip. These two injuries are really what prompted the Carlos Hyde signing, and even he just came off surgery in February for a torn labrum. At tight end you have Will Dissly coming off surgery on a ruptured Achilles, while rookie Colby Parkinson broke his foot during the offseason. As mentioned earlier, linebacker K.J. Wright is recovering from shoulder surgery.

The Buffalo Bills face the Seahawks in Week 9 of the 2020 NFL season. Thanks again to Field Gulls for their expertise!