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 most improved player in 2021? Our panel makes their picks:
Corbin Smith: There are a few other viable candidates to consider for this award, but no player on Seattle's roster took a bigger leap forward this year than Brooks. While his overall numbers benefited from the fact the Seahawks played nearly 200 more defensive snaps than any other team, he averaged nearly 11 tackles per game on his way to a team-record 184 stops. Capping off the season in style, he tied Bobby Wagner's single-game record with 20 tackles in a win over the Cardinals. Though Pro Football Focus charged him with allowing more than 1,000 yards receiving in coverage, that statistic doesn't tell the whole story, as the sophomore linebacker recorded four pass breakups and displayed obvious improvements in the passing game as the year progressed. Most notably, he started snuffing out screens more consistently in the second half after struggling in that department in the first eight games. Adding in nine pressures and a sack on 56 blitz attempts, he's evolving into a well-rounded player who looks like a future All-Pro.
Nick Lee: Once K.J. Wright left town and departed for Las Vegas, it was Brooks' time to shine and he blossomed into one of the best young linebackers in the league. Due in part to Bobby Wagner missing what ultimately amounted to the final two games, Brooks ended the season as Seattle's leading tackler with a whopping 184 tackles, establishing a new franchise single-season record in the process. He also led the team with 10 tackles for loss, continuing to shine as an elite run defender while making marked improvements in coverage. The best is yet to come for the former Texas Tech Red Raider.
Rishi Rastogi: After three mostly unproductive, injury-marred seasons, Green entered the final year of his rookie deal battling to maintain a roster spot in camp. Although expectations for 2021 were low, the ex-USC standout surprisingly won a starting job and surfaced as one of Seattle's top pass rushers, bolstering his stock for free agency immensely. While he started the year a bit slow, Green came on in the latter half of the season and finished in the top three on the team in sacks, quarterback pressures, and quarterback hits, making it by far his most productive season since entering the league in 2018. His 2021 season may not have been enough for the Seahawks to bring him back, but his improvement in play will certainly land him a reasonable contract elsewhere in March if he doesn't return.
Ty Dane Gonzalez: Penny has been a popular choice for many of these awards, and for good reason. If we’re purely going off whose road to improvement had the longest distance traveled from point A to point B, he’s the clear answer. Having more or less hit rock bottom as a former first-round draft pick, Penny was afforded one last opportunity to start and became the NFL’s most productive running back over the final six weeks of the season. From being an afterthought for the majority of the year to a sudden offseason priority for the Seahawks, the 25-year old ball carrier considerably changed the outlook of his career with his late-season efforts.