2015 SEASON REVIEW – SPECIAL TEAMS
We’ll start of the post season reviews with the position group that is often most overlooked, but comprises one of those 3 phases of the game. Today we will look at the kicking specialists as well as the returners and others who made a big impact on Special Teams in 2015. As we know, this is an area of the game that Seattle uses a bit differently than some other teams in the NFL. Pete Carroll looks for quality play out of his Special Teams units, and also uses it as something of a proving ground for young players and fringe roster guys looking to make or keep a spot on the team. As a result, we may be able to pick up on a few tips for 2016 by looking at these units in 2015.
We’ll start with those kicking specialists, because you can’t cover Special Teams for the Seattle Seahawks without talking about Kicker Steven Hauschka and part time Ninja Warrior – Full Time NFL Punter Jon Ryan. Hauschka was once again money all year long, making 29/31 FG on the season, including 7/9 from 40-49 and 6/6 from 50+ yards. He did have some issues with the new XPs going 40/44, but he was lights out in 2015. As for the other kicker of footballs, Jon Ryan had a solid year as well. He was top 5 in the league with 7 punts resulting in Touchbacks, but with just a 45.7 yard average he was sitting right in the middle of the league.
While Jon Ryan was carrying his weight fairly well punting the ball, the coverage team was far from elite this year. The Seahawks surrendered an NFL worst 13.3 yards per return. This marks the 2nd straight year Seattle finds itself in the bottom 3 in the NFL after finishing 2nd best in the 2013 Super Bowl winning season. Throw in a 9th worst kickoff coverage unit at 25.5 yards per return and we’re looking at an area the team is likely to be making some changes with in the offseason.
However, we ought to end on a high note because there was one big change in special teams this year and everybody in the league took notice. Seattle was 5th in the NFL in kick return average (25.5 yards), and 5th in the NFL in punt return average (10.7 yards). A lot of this improvement can be put squarely at the talented feet of rookie WR Tyler Lockett, who finished in the top 10 in the NFL in average returns on both punts (9.5) and kickoffs (25.8).
One other player who really stuck out this year on special teams was DE Cassius Marsh, who lead the team with 11 tackles on Special Teams. He showed that he can make plays in space as well as tackle well. I think coming off an injury plagued 2014 he really earned his way into a rotation spot with his Defense and Special Teams play in 2015. I hope to see him continue to develop in 2016.
Hauscka and Ryan did their jobs this year, and Tyler Lockett provided a serious spark in the return game. However, when the coverage units rank so low it is impossible to give out an A.