Following a 38-30 win over the Cardinals at State Farm Stadium, the Seahawks have officially transitioned into offseason mode after a disappointing 7-10 campaign.
While the franchise didn't live up to lofty expectations coming off of an NFC West title and a 12-win season in 2020, several players still starred in all three phases for Seattle. Over the next two weeks, the Seahawk Maven writing staff will be naming their selections for end of season awards, including most valuable player, most improved, assistant coach of the year, and many more.
Continuing to hand out postseason hardware, which player stood out as Seattle's biggest surprise in 2021? Our panel makes their picks:
Corbin Smith: Only a few days into training camp, I thought Green's days in a Seahawks uniform were numbered. Though still just 24 years old, with the depth in front of him and being in the last year of his rookie deal, he looked to be the odd man out. But after the team quickly cut ties with troubled veteran Aldon Smith, the former third-round pick out of USC impressed throughout the preseason lining up at multiple positions along the line and his stellar play carried over into the regular season. Seeing action as a defensive end and defensive tackle, he tied for second on the team with a career-best 6.5 sacks, finished third in quarterback pressures (34), and tied for the team lead in quarterback hits (9). While he still battled inconsistencies as a run defender, he recorded 48 tackles and a personal-best six tackles for loss, transforming himself into a pending free agent who could draw immense interest from other teams in the process.
Ty Dane Gonzalez: As the fourth and final year on his rookie contract neared its closing moments, Penny was on the cusp of NFL irrelevancy. For an oft-injured, failed first-round draft pick at a devalued position, the future looked rather bleak. But the belief Pete Carroll and the Seahawks' coaching staff had - and still have - in the San Diego State product never wavered. After returning from a hamstring injury in Week 13, Penny started each of Seattle's final six games of the season; and in that time, he considerably reshaped the trajectory of his career. Leading the league in almost every rushing category from Weeks 14-18, including yardage (671) and touchdowns (6), the 25-year old tailback's dominant stretch was nothing short of a triumphant, storybook finish no one - other than perhaps the Seahawks and Penny themselves - could have seen coming.
Nick Lee: I was very quick to jump off the Penny bandwagon and equally as slow to climb back on it later in the year due to his non-stop injuries in his first three-plus seasons. I couldn't believe he would actually play five games in a row, let alone star in those games. But he burst onto the scene with nearly 700 rushing yards while starting Seattle's final five games, earning an NFC Player of the Week honor and ambushing defenses with four 130-plus yard rushing performances. What he accomplished in the final five weeks of the season is nothing short of spectacular and just shy of unbelievable. He was the NFL's leading rusher in Weeks 14 through 18 and arguably was the best back in the league. Who could have seen that coming?
Colby Patnode: After being acquired in a late preseason trade with the Jaguars, Jones toiled on the bench for a while and failed to impress in his first opportunity to start in place of a demoted and eventually released Tre Flowers. He gave up a long touchdown in a busted coverage to Deebo Samuel in his first start against the 49ers and just two weeks later, rookie Tre Brown had taken his spot in the lineup. But after Brown went down with a season-ending knee injury, Jones stepped in and not only held down the position, he thrived. In his last seven games, he received an 80.6 coverage grade from Pro Football Focus, the 10th-best score for his position during that span. In just two months time, Jones turned himself from a useful backup into a high-priority free agent the Seahawks should aggressively try to bring back. Color me shocked.
Rishi Rastogi: Taylor already looked to be on the verge of earning the dreaded bust label after missing his entire rookie season, in large part due to the poor track record the Seahawks have keeping top draft picks healthy. Yet, Taylor was able to fully recover from his lower leg injury and constantly flashed his speed and physical intangibles. While he may not have been an X-factor caliber player on the defensive line, Taylor quietly filled up the stat sheet with 6.5 sacks, seven tackles for losses, and 13 quarterback hits. Overall, Taylor had an impressive first season in the league and he's likely to make a substantial improvement next year with experience under his belt in Seattle's scheme and another offseason to get stronger.