One off-season isn’t enough to return the Seahawks to the the top shelf. But if overlooked guys such as WR Brandon Marshall, 34, do the unexpected, Seattle could surprise.
Through a tumultuous off-season and a winless preseason, the Seahawks have tried to convince themselves and us that the 2017 season left merely scratches, not the dents, smoke and steam that seem fairly apparent. The franchise still runs, but with three away games in the first four, there’s a hard road ahead for damaged goods.
Then again, it’s pro football. Everything is damaged goods.
As WR Brandon Marshall put it Thursday, “No one has (no injuries). This is a 100 percent injury rate league, right?”
Former Seahawks coach Chuck Knox put it another way: “It’s not always who you play; it’s when you play them.”
If the Seahawks beat the odds and go anywhere beyond 7-9 this season, several of them are going to have to get past injuries and other shortcomings to out-play their projections. Chief among them is Marshall.
It may be a stretch to say a No. 4 receiver who isn’t going to play special teams is more than a marginal contributor. But that’s the point. Some unexpected guys have to step up.
“On paper, it’s a 34-year-old receiver with two down years,” he said. “So every day I go out there, I remind myself: I want to prove to No. 3 (QB Russell Wilson) what type of receiver I am, and what he has out there.”
In five games with the Giants last year, he had 18 catches for 154 yards and no touchdowns, with a long of 18 yards. Those numbers are why the Seahawks were able to sign him to a free agent deal with only $90,000 in guaranteed money. Other numbers — 6-foot-5 and 232 pounds — explain why the Seahawks are more than a little desperate to have him succeed.
After letting walk into free agency TE Jimmy Graham, the Seahawks have Marshall as the biggest, most experienced target in the passing game. In the continuing injury absence of newcomer TE Ed Dickson (6-4, 250), and the run-blocking priorities for TEs Ed Vannett and rookie Will Dissly, the Seahawks need a big guy to go up and get the occasional desperate fling from a fleeing Wilson.
There’s reassurance for Wilson that in Marshall’s 12 NFL seasons, there’s little he hasn’t seen.
“Think about how many catches he’s had (959) — there’s guys who haven’t had 950 plays,” Wilson said Thursday. “He’s a true superstar. He can make all the plays.”
Coach Pete Carroll eased Marshall along throughout training camp and preseason. It appears to have paid off in time to be ready for the opener Sunday in Denver (1:25 p.m., FOX) . Marshall seems slotted behind Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett and newcomer Jaron Brown, and ahead of second-year man David Moore.
In the four preseason games, Marshall had just three catches for 44 yards — for whatever it’s worth, the Seattle leader was RB C.J. Prosise with 10 for 51 — but his work in practice was noteworthy.
“It took him a while to get in shape, so we just had to postpone the evaluation on him,” Carroll said. “His smarts, his willingness, all of that has always been there.
“When his body came into good shape and he settled down, he’s showing us all of the things that he can do. He’s fit in really well. We’re excited to include him. We have some thoughts that we’re trying to make him look really good.”
The physical breakthrough was last week.
“Two days before the Oakland game is when I was like, ‘Wow, OK, this is what it feels like to be where I was for most of my career,’” he said. “I’m excited about that. Now it’s just knocking the rust off and getting in game shape.”
Still, he’s long removed from the last of his six Pro Bowl appearances (2015), and the various surgeries make him vulnerable to re-injury. But in January, responding to a Twitter follower who asked about his greatest feat, Marshall wrote that it was in the future: Comeback player of the year.
Next years Come Back player of the year award. https://t.co/SsA5vzGG1l
— Brandon Marshall (@BMarshall) January 20, 2018
“I think that’s what the greats are — guys who are able to sustain for a long time,” he said. “You’ve got to be able to play with some things. There’s a lot of guys that are making Pro Bowls and All-Pro years at 80 percent. You’ve just got to find a way.”
That last sentence also sums up the Seahawks roster that has been undeniably diminished.
“We have the makeup,” Marshall said. “We have the leadership and the coaching staff and the locker room and we have the work ethic.
“But as you guys know, on any given Sunday . . . like, who would’ve thought the Philadelphia Eagles were going to win a Super Bowl last year and be so dominant?”
For Seattle fans in 2018, that’s what the comparison needs to be, not with the 2013-15 Seahawks. Only a few players remain from the Super Bowl teams. And a single off-season, after several poor drafts, is not enough to replenish the talent level.
Undramatic as it seems, an 8-8 year is in the offing. Unless the unheraldeds, such as Marshall, beat the odds.