The 2022-23 season was a memorable one for Geno Smith, who overcame all expectations and was named the Comeback Player of the Year by the Associated Press, Pro Football Writers’ Association, and The Sporting News.
In his 11th season, Smith stacked up more career highlights, becoming the first NFL QB since 1999 to be selected to their first Pro Bowl in year 10 or later of a career. He outperformed his highly decorated predecessor, Russell Wilson, in several statistical areas.
In his first season as a starter in Seattle, the fourth-year Seahawk led the NFL with a 69.8 completion percentage and set franchise records in completions (399) and yards (4,282). He led the league with ten games in which he had a passer rating of 100-plus.
According to Player Profiler, Smith was third in “Money Throws” last season, which are passes requiring exceptional skill or athleticism as well as critical throws executed in clutch moments. He was third in Deep Ball Accuracy Rating and fourth in True Completion Percentage.
The 32-year-old late-career bloomer led the Seahawks to an unexpected playoff berth. Seattle’s preseason Over/Under for wins in the 2022 preseason was 5.5 at BetMGM Sportsbook.
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After a loss in the NFC Wild Card round at San Francisco, though, it was apparent that the team needed to add some extra offensive pieces while also reworking the defense to make a deeper playoff run. General Manager John Schneider and Head Coach Pete Carroll, who also functions as team Executive Vice President, were aggressive in the offseason on both sides of the ball.
Most notably for Smith, the Seattle offense, which ranked sixth in the NFC, was further stocked in the NFL Draft to improve its outlook. The team’s second-year starting QB was rewarded with a handsome three-year contract extension and impact rookies to work with as the franchise’s decision-makers sent the message that he will be the continued axis of the offense.
When meeting with the media at offseason workouts, Smith indicated he certainly perceived much enthusiasm among his teammates as the Seahawks look ahead to a season that could produce even better results in 2023.
“The offseason was great,” he said. “Everybody is having fun. As you can see in practice, we are flying around and looking good.”
Of course, such positive proclamations are normal at this time of year, when the forecast is bright at Organized Team Activities. Yet there is real substance behind such a statement from Smith, as he is a face of one of the most potent-looking offensive playmaking depth charts of the Carroll/Schneider era.
The Super Bowl-winning Seahawks had a true difference-maker in Wilson and one of the greatest running backs of the past decade in Marshawn Lynch. Doug Baldwin was one of the most underrated wide receivers in the NFL, and Tyler Lockett has succeeded him in that regard.
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Yet in terms of pure talent around the quarterback, rarely has the Seattle offensive cast of playmakers looked this deep talent-wise in the preseason. Established standouts DK Metcalf and Lockett are joined in the wide receiver room by first-round rookie Jaxon Smith-Njigba.
Second-year running back Kenneth Walker III, who rushed for 1,050 yards and nine touchdowns in 2022 while starting 11 games, will now be complemented by second-round rookie Zach Charbonnet. Smith said his internal fire is already burning hot as he aims to take the team to new levels of success in 2023.
“I’m very internally motivated right now, and you know, I’ve really got some things that obviously I want to do for this team and for this city and so I’m just working extremely hard. Probably working harder than I’ve ever been,” Smith said.
Any quarterback would be excited to work with a three-WR set as Smith has in place for this season. Smith-Njigba, one of the favorites in the 2023 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year odds, was compared to Jarvis Landry by the NFL’s official site prior to the draft.
“He’s so impressive,” Smith said of how the rookie is looking so far. “Very smooth route runner. Natural hands. Also, the game is not too big for him. You can see he’s got that self-confidence that you look for.”
Smith-Njigba adds a needed element to the Seattle passing game. While Metcalf and Lockett command heavy defensive attention downfield, the passing game can become even more steady and effective with a slot type that can make frequent key catches on important passing downs.
Longtime Seahawk fans remember how effective Bobby Engram was as a third-down and possession target as an important part of the franchise’s first Super Bowl team in 2005. The 6-foot-1, 196-pound rookie may have some Engram in him, and he has the potential to stand out in other areas of his game, too.
“He’s got great body control. He’s actually a very physical guy,” Smith said. “He’s not the biggest in stature or widest but you can see when he runs, he has that route strength and guys don’t really knock him off his course really too often.”
“So you look for things in those guys, body control, how are they at the top of the route, the three-cone shuttle, how are they in and out of cuts and I think he’s really good at all those.”
The Ohio State product is an instant luxury for Seattle as a new partner for Lockett. Charbonnet, the former UCLA star, is an ideal backfield companion for Walker, a guy who is capable of scoring from anywhere on the field.
Charbonnet is a physical runner who along with Smith-Njigba, can help the Seahawks sustain drives. The two first-year players were drafted highly because they can help the offense improve on its 2022 NFL rank of 20th in third-down conversion percentage.
Becoming a better offense in critical situations was a prime focus for the front office in the offseason. Carroll always seemed to desire a two-pronged feature RB attack with Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny in recent years, but injuries, unfortunately, prevented those two from playing together frequently enough.
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This season, however, Walker and Charbonnet can help the offense become more consistent as a highly utilized duo while also providing ample and needed support to the quarterback, both in terms of offensive balance and play-action success, which has always been a staple of offenses in the Carroll/Schneider era. Smith also noted that Kenny McIntosh, a rookie from Georgia with pass-catching potential, and returnee DeeJay Dallas round out what should be a deep and solid RB crew.
“You add them to a room with DeeJay Dallas, and you add them to a room with Ken Walker, who was an outstanding rookie running back last year, I think the sky’s the limit and I can see where guys are stepping up,” Smith said. “Kenny (McIntosh) and Zach, they bring great things to the table. We have to use all the guys and we look forward to it.”
The Seattle QB is ready to show that his stirring first year as a starter was a foundation for a better second campaign at the helm. He appears to have the right supporting cast to play his major part in attempting to return the Seahawks to greater glory, in the 10th anniversary season of the team’s first Super Bowl win.
Smith said his levels of intensity never waned after the 2022 season concluded, as he eyed his second year as a starter for Seattle.
“After the season, I just continued to work out. I really never stopped. I’ve just been super motivated,” he said.
Everything appears to be in place for Smith to build on the impressive foundation established last year, as the Seahawks anticipate rising in the NFC pecking order. He has the requisite contract to confirm the franchise’s confidence in him and the weaponry, as his comeback story’s sequel premieres in September.