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, who deserves the honor as Seattle's Comeback Player of the Year in 2021? Our panel makes their selections:
Corbin Smith: While Rashaad Penny's impressive return from numerous injuries deserves praise, Taylor didn't play a single snap as a rookie due to a prolonged recovery from surgery to repair a stress fracture in his ankle. There were legitimate questions about whether or not he would ever return to form as the player the Seahawks thought they drafted in the second round out of Tennessee. Such concerns were put to rest early in the 2021 season, however, as Taylor made his presence felt quickly rocketing past and powering through blockers in pursuit of opposing quarterbacks. In Seattle's first five games, he recorded 4.0 sacks and five quarterback hits, emerging as the team's premier edge rusher. A scary neck injury in Week 6 put his future up in the air, but he returned to the lineup two weeks later and produced a pair of quarterback hits in a win against Jacksonville. Displaying rawness in a pseudo-rookie campaign, Taylor left too many tackles on the field, allowing quarterbacks to slip from his grasp far more times than he would have liked. But while his sack production dipped in the second half, he still finished with an 11 percent pressure rate for the season per Pro Football Focus and racked up 6.5 sacks, tied for second-most on the team. He should be a fixture in Seattle's pass rush for years to come after a remarkable comeback from a devastating injury.
Nick Lee: Many had left Penny for dead in Seattle after missing more than 25 games in his first three and a half seasons due to a litany of injuries. Just when his Seahawks career was coming to an unceremonious end and he couldn't possibly discard the bust label attached to him, he caught fire in magnificent fashion down the stretch, averaging 134 rushing yards over the final five games of the year and twice eclipsing 170 yards in a game. He finished the year as Seattle's leading rusher despite having just 78 yards to his name heading into Week 14. That's simply remarkable and now, the Seahawks have to find a way to keep the explosive runner after he looked like the best running back in the NFL for the final month.
Colby Patnode: This award feels like a two-horse race between Penny and Darrell Taylor. While Taylor was pretty solid all year and finished with 6.5 sacks to rank among Seattle's team leaders, the final five games turned in by Penny were record-breaking and historic. There never should have been a question about his talent, but Penny has gone from an afterthought to a "must keep" after he racked up over 700 rushing yards and six touchdowns in the final six games, won an NFC Player of the Week award, and led the team in rushing despite having less than 80 yards in the first 13 weeks of the year. Bouncing back from countless injuries, he was the engine that drove Seattle's offense winning four of its last six.
Rishi Rastogi: This was arguably one of the easiest award picks this year given the absolute tear Penny ended the last five games of the season on. Entering the season, hope was lost for Penny’s chances of success with the team given his long injury history. The Seahawks had also declined his fifth-year option, putting his future in doubt. After a lackluster preseason, Penny was buried on the depth chart behind lead back Chris Carson, veteran Alex Collins, and second-year back Deejay Dallas. However, after a string of injuries to starters, Penny stepped into the lead role and broke out in superb fashion. After entering the starting role, Penny averaged over 6.4 yards per carry, a league-high in that time span. Penny also tied Jonathan Taylor for the most runs of 25-plus yards in the league on over 200 less carries.
Ty Dane Gonzalez: After opting out of the 2020 season over concerns relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, Woods returned to action for his third career stint with the Seahawks and may have been their most underrated contributor in 2021. The big-bodied, 330-pound force of nature was an absolute game-wrecker on most weekends, finishing fifth amongst all defensive tackles in ESPN's run stop win rate metric (42 percent). As a result, Seattle finished the year second in yards per carry allowed (3.8) and played well against the run in short yardage situations. A few frustrating penalties aside, some of the more positive aspects of Ken Norton Jr.'s maligned defense wouldn't have been possible without "Big Al" in the heart of its front line.