There was a legitimate reason why the Seattle Seahawks felt good about themselves at this time last offseason.
They were coming off a divisional-round loss to the Carolina Panthers, but quarterback Russell Wilson had reached a level the team hadn't previously seen. During an eight-game stretch from Week 10 to Week 17, Wilson completed 67.5 percent of his passes, averaged 8.62 yards per attempt and threw for 25 touchdowns with just two interceptions.
The coaching staff felt like he'd made a significant leap in his fourth season. And the Seahawks were counting on Wilson to carry that performance over into 2016. But three separate injuries -- a high ankle sprain, a sprained MCL and a strained pectoral -- never allowed him to even get started.
Wilson's numbers were fine -- 64.7 completion percentage, 7.7 YPA, 21 TDs, 11 INTs -- but the Seahawks had to pare down their playbook because of his limited mobility. The run game never got going, and the offensive line struggled throughout.
With OTAs finally underway, the focus for Wilson will be on regaining that 2015 form. Coach Pete Carroll said as much when asked about expectations for Wilson during a 710 ESPN Seattle interview on the "Brock and Salk" show a few weeks ago.
"I think what you saw the second half of the year before, I think he has the ability to be the best quarterback out there, doing his thing," Carroll said. "And he showed it. Unfortunately, in Game 1 [of 2016], he gets knocked. He has put together an extraordinary offseason. He took the physical challenge that we throw out there to have the best offseason of your life. He is having that. He is working in all areas of his game. It’s really important to him. He’s maxed that out. He’s right on it."
Wilson has a lot going for him entering the 2017 season. He's only 28, and his array of weapons might be the best he's had in his career, led by Doug Baldwin, Jimmy Graham, Tyler Lockett and C.J. Prosise. Of course, if the Seahawks can't protect him, that won't matter.
But at the very least, just having the quarterback healthy should help a Seattle offense that ranked 17th in efficiency last season.
"He looks great throwing the football," Carroll said. "He looks great moving around. It just feels so much different than it did for so long of that season. Never during that season last year did we see him in practice where he could move. Never. So he mustered it up for game time. The last five or six games, [he] could move. But it isn’t like it is now. So we’ve got to take care of him, look after him, and have tremendous expectations for Russell’s performance next year."