Seahawks 2020 Awards: Most Improved

As the team marched to a 12-win season and an NFC West title, several Seahawks took major strides forward in 2020. Which players showed the greatest year-to-year improvement on offense and defense?
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While they didn't finish their season as envisioned with a Wild Card round playoff loss at Lumen Field, the Seahawks still enjoyed a strong 12-win season that culminated in their first NFC West title since 2016 and fifth overall under coach Pete Carroll.

Over the course of the season, Seattle had no shortage of star power, as three players earned All-Pro honors and numerous others could have staked a claim to such distinction playing for one of the NFL's best teams. Seven players also garnered Pro Bowl nods, including four first-time selections.

Looking back at one of the best regular seasons in franchise history, which Seahawks made the greatest improvements from 2019 to 2020? Our writers make their picks:

Offensive Most Improved

Corbin Smith: Jordan Simmons

Simmons flashed in six games during the 2018 season, including helping Seattle rush for over 200 yards in a loss to the Los Angeles Rams, but chronic knee issues dating back to his time at USC cost him the entire 2019 campaign. Still, the Seahawks brought the 340-pound mauler back on a restructured contract hopeful he could overcome his durability issues and he wound up being an invaluable swing guard filling in for Mike Iupati and Damien Lewis. Playing in 14 games, he earned six starts in place of Iupati and gave up just three sacks and two quarterback hits on nearly 600 offensive snaps.

Ty Gonzalez: Brandon Shell

In his first year with the Seahawks after signing a two-year deal in free agency, Shell had the best season of his career replacing Germain Ifedi at right tackle. Following a mediocre 2019 campaign in New York, the former South Carolina standout bounced back with his new team in Seattle, allowing just three sacks in 11 starts and earning a stellar 72.1 overall grade from Pro Football Focus. He also committed just four penalties, a major improvement from his predecessor.  

Nick Lee: Ethan Pocic

Most pundits wrote off Pocic once the Seahawks acquired B.J. Finney and then cut Justin Britt. Their intentions seemed to be to give the center job to Finney, who signed a two-year, $8 million deal in free agency. Pocic would have none of it, however, and took command of the center spot from early on in training camp. He started 15 total games in Britt's old spot, including the Wild Card round. This was a vast improvement from a player who either couldn't stay healthy or couldn't get into the rotation as a guard the last couple of seasons.

Colby Patnode: Pocic

Having missed 18 games due to injury in the previous two seasons, Pocic looked like another offensive line bust as a former second round pick. But with Justin Britt gone, he stepped into the lineup and started 14 games at center, turning in his first decent season as an NFL starter. He appears to be a functional center, something most of us didn't expect going into 2020, and could be a candidate to re-sign.

Defensive Most Improved

Corbin Smith: Poona Ford

While Ford didn't make an All-Pro team or the Pro Bowl, he played at such a level for most of the 2020 season and looks poised for a lucrative raise as a restricted free agent. Excelling with additional opportunities at the 3-tech defensive tackle role, Pro Football Focus credited him with a whopping 28 quarterback pressures and 26 run stops, further illustrating his emergence as one of the better all-around defensive tackles in the NFC. Out of 32 defensive tackles with at least 600 defensive snaps, he finished with the sixth-highest grade on PFF behind only the likes of Aaron Donald, Chris Jones, DeForest Buckner, Cameron Hayward, and Jeffrey Simmons.

Ty Gonzalez: L.J. Collier

It was a rough rookie season for Collier in 2019, as he made just three tackles after being set back by an ankle injury. And while 2020 was definitely not a roaring success by any means, the ex-TCU standout found a way to show up in key moments. With 3.0 sacks on the year and a crucial goal line tackle of Patriots quarterback Cam Newton on the final play of a Week 2 victory for the Seahawks, Collier's contributions helped provide a boost to a defensive line that needed it.

Nick Lee: Ford

I don't think there is any question Ford is the guy here. He went from undrafted free agent in 2018 to being a starter in year two to producing 40 tackles, 2.0 sacks, and 13 quarterback pressures in 2020, per Pro Football Reference. He was one of the most consistent defenders on the team and as the year progressed, he became more of a weapon as an interior pass rusher to compliment Jarran Reed and the rest of the defensive line.

Colby Patnode: Jarran Reed

After signing a two-year contract to stay in Seattle, Reed appeared to pay off the Seahawks trust that his breakout 2018 season was more indicative of his play than 2019. Thriving after Carlos Dunlap's arrival via trade, he recorded 5.0 of his 6.5 sacks in the second half of the season after making just 2.0 sacks in 2019. His stellar play continued into the playoffs, as he sacked Jared Goff twice in the Wild Card round.