Ask a fan their favorite thing about the Seahawks and you are likely to hear them mention Marshawn Lynch breaking tackles, Percy Harvin zipping by defenders, or Kam Chancellor blowing up would-be receivers. Seattle sported one of the best defenses in history last year, and have an up-and-coming offense. Both sides are chock-full of star talent. Hidden in their shadows is a crucial pillar of the Seahawks championship formula. Seattle had one of the most efficient special teams units in the NFL last year.
They nearly set records in punt coverage, were almost perfect in the kicking game, and were sometimes electric in punt or kick returns. It has not been a stellar start for Seahawks special teams in 2014, and that needs to change this Sunday.
Jon Ryan had five touchbacks in his 74 punts last season and just three touchbacks in his 65 punts in 2012. He already has two touchbacks this year after just six punts. He also had 37-yard punt that set up a Chargers field goal.
Jon Ryan and the punt coverage team have not been good enough so far
Seattle is without Jeremy Lane, who was a Pro Bowl level gunner last year in punt coverage. Ricardo Lockette has been great at times, but Jermaine Kearse has not proven to be as good on the opposite side. The team is also missing special teams standouts in Heath Farwell (injury) and Chris Maragos (free agent signed with Philadelphia).
Everyone remembers Harvin and his two electric kick returns last season. Through two games this year, he and the kick return team rank 26th in the NFL with a subpar 17.1 average on nine returns. He has one return over 30 yards, and has a fumble that changed the game in San Diego.
Punt returns have not been any better. They, too, are responsible for a key turnover and are near the bottom of the league with a 1.5 average per return.
Kick coverage and field goals
These aspects of special teams have been okay so far. Seahawks opponents are starting at the 17.8 yard line, on average, after a kickoff. And Steven Hauschka has been perfect to this point.
Must be better
The special teams is responsible for both of the Seahawks turnovers so far this year, and those turnovers have led to 14 points. The punt return and punt coverage teams are not dictating field position like they were last year, but have the talent needed to do it. The same can be said of the kick return team. Seattle was a dominant team in all three phases last year, and while the defense is getting the lion’s share of criticism this week, the special teams is nowhere near pulling their weight. That must change if the team hopes to regain their championship form.