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3 steps to success: Seahawks need to maintain balance on offense and get an effective pass rush

The Seattle Seahawks fell just short of the mark in 2012 and have high expectations heading into this season.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Seattle Seahawks were expected to compete in 2012 thanks to an elite defense. Few expected them to be so proficient on the offensive side of the ball. Most of the NFL world underestimated rookie quarterback Russell Wilson.

Matt Flynn was set to be the starter, but Wilson, a third-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, usurped the starting job and led Seattle to an 11-win season and a spot in the playoffs. Wilson also led the Seahawks to a win over the Washington Redskins in the wildcard round of the playoffs. He could not lift them beyond the Atlanta Falcons in the divisional round.

Wilson finished his rookie campaign with 3,118 yards and 26 touchdowns against 10 interceptions. He completed 252 of 393 pass attempts, good for a completion percentage of 64.1 percent. He had a solid case to be Rookie of the Year and is a big part of the reason why Seahawks fans are expecting playoffs once again heading into the 2013 season.

Of course, it's not all on Wilson. The team added wide receiver Percy Harvin this offseason, have Marshawn Lynch at running back, and of course, possibly the most talented secondary in the NFL. Let's take a look at what they need to do to be successful next year, what can go wrong and what constitutes a successful season.

3 Steps To Success

1. Maintain a proper balance on offense

Obviously, the Seahawks have taken steps to surround Wilson with more talent on offense. The addition of Harvin is significant. They invested heavily in the trade and obviously want Wilson to get the ball to him. But taking the ball out of Lynch's hands would be a mistake. They need to maintain a healthy balance on offense, and not get caught up slinging the ball everywhere.

2. Get the pass rush working

The Seahawks have one of the best secondaries in the NFL. Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner are great cornerbacks, and the addition of Antoine Winfield can only help. At safety, Earl Thomas is among the best at his position. But that unit can go from elite to absolutely unstoppable if the Seahawks can get an actual, functional pass rush working. They brought in Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett via free agency. Injury concerns with Bennett and Chris Clemons along with a four-game suspension for Bruce Irvin, leave the team with some concerns about the unit headed into the season.

3. Percy Harvin

Sure, that's not a flashy headline; it's just a player name, but he's an important player. Sidney Rice can be something like a No. 1 receiver, when healthy, which isn't too often. Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate fall under the "solid" description. Wilson is an exciting, up-and-coming quarterback, and the Seahawks need Harvin to be an effective weapon so Wilson doesn't have to do it all on his own.

3 Feats Toward Failure

1. Struggling within the division

The San Francisco 49ers are obviously Seattle's biggest competition, and the Seahawks need to do well against them. However, the St. Louis Rams are a team on the rise, and it seems their primary objective is to beat Seattle and San Francisco. If Seattle can't keep the Rams and an improving Arizona Cardinals team at bay, they may struggle making it into the playoffs in a strong NFC.

2. Any kind of setback for Russell Wilson

Make no mistake about it, the Seahawks would have been competitive without Wilson breaking out last season, but they wouldn't have been nearly as good. Wilson took a team with a poor offense and an elite defense and turned them into so much more. Wilson can't get hurt, he can't regress and the Seahawks absolutely need to keep him in his comfort zone.

3. More suspensions

The Seahawks almost lost Sherman at a critical point last season, and they would have if not for some NFL drug testing incompetence (good ol' NFL). Losing a player like Sherman would be terrible for the team. All it takes is one piece to collapse, even with a roster full of superstars.

Ultimate Answer

What would constitute a successful season for the Seattle Seahawks? Well, at this point, it seems like it's Super Bowl or bust. Seattle has a young roster and many of those players are already inserted into starting roles. Seeing progression on the roster is always a big deal, but by and large, these are players expected to win right now.

Seattle is one of the teams mentioned when people talk about best rosters in the NFL. When that's the case, a Super Bowl is what's expected. That said, to turn things down just a little bit, we can say that the Seahawks winning the NFC West over a non-collapsing 49ers team would constitute success.

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