Did the Seattle Seahawks remake the NFL with their Super Bowl win?

Did the Seattle Seahawks remake the NFL with their Super Bowl win?

"The way the game is today, none of these offensive records will last." Those are the words of Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning after he broke the NFL’s single-season record for touchdown passes back in Week 16. The five-time league MVP even quipped Tom Brady would “probably break it again next year.”

Funny, but there was a hint of truth to those words. Dan Marino’s previous record of 48 touchdown passes set in 1984 stood for 20 years, but has since been broken three times in the last decade—first by Manning, then Brady, and now Manning again, who this time shattered it with 55.

Marino’s single-season record of 5,084 passing yards survived even longer. It took 27 years, but Drew Brees finally raised the bar in 2011. Of course, Brees’ mark stood for all of two years before Manning one-upped it with 5,477 during his historic 2013 campaign.

Both lists read like a who’s who of the great signal-callers in the present-day NFL. Of the 10 times a player has eclipsed 40 touchdowns in a season, half of those occurred in the last three years. Of the eight times a player exceeded 5,000 yards through the air, all but Marino accomplished the feat in the last three years.

It’s a passing league, as analysts like to say, a point Andy Reid rammed home to Philadelphia Eagles fans for 14 years. As maddening as Reid could be, it was difficult to argue which direction the sport was trending through his tenure as head coach of the Birds. All evidence pointed to the NFL being quarterback-driven.

The truly great, dominant defenses were a thing of the past, left for dead because rule changes made things easier for offenses; because the talent pool has been stretched and diluted by expansion; because wide receivers and tight ends were becoming enormous monsters that are impossible to match up against.

Then the Seattle Seahawks came along and won a Super Bowl the old-fashioned way—on the back of a punishing, hard-nosed defense.

The Seahawks didn’t merely win the game, they absolutely demolished Manning’s Broncos, by a final score of 43-8 in case you tuned out early. Manning, who when it’s all said and done might finish his career as the most prolific passer of all time, was limited to 5.7 yards per attempt and was responsible for committing three of his team’s four turnovers.

Not that the outcome was all Manning’s fault—far from it. Denver’s offensive line was no match for the Seahawks’ pass rush, nor would you have guessed the Broncos had hands down the best receiving corps in the league this season given how easily the Seahawks were able to take away everything but short dinks and dunks over the middle.

The loss wasn’t really on Manning at all. Denver’s offense, the No. 1 offense in the NFL this season by almost any meaningful measure—and by a wide margin at that—was completely overmatched by Seattle’s defense in every aspect of the competition.

Until Sunday, when was the last time a team reached the playoffs and went on to hoist the Lombardi Trophy almost entirely on the strength of its defense? Probably the 2000 Baltimore Ravens. That’s the class of defense the Seahawks have entered, in 2013, when some might’ve believed it impossible.

And it was no fluke. Seattle was ranked No. 1 against the pass in 2013, surrendering a paltry 172.0 yards per game during the regular season—22.1 yards per game better than second place. Only two quarterbacks all year threw for over 300 yards in a contest including playoffs, and only seven of 19 opponents even accumulated 200 yards through the air.

Seattle was eighth with 44 sacks, first in interceptions by five with 28, and posted the best opponents’ passer rating was 63.4, the lowest in the league by a whopping 10.8 points—the lowest of any defense since 2009.

So, like we do every year in the immediate aftermath of the Super Bowl, we wonder aloud what the Eagles and the rest of the league can learn from the victors, and it boils down to a very simple line of questioning. Have the Seahawks come up with the solution to defeating the modern-day, pass-happy, quarterback-friendly NFL?

Does defense once again win championships?

If Seattle was the only team in the league getting it done with defense right now, that would give us pause, but one look around the NFC tells that’s not the case. The San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers featured two of the toughest defenses this season, and to a lesser extent, the New Orleans Saints did too. All four franchises advanced to the Divisional Round of the tournament. Their combined record was 54-19.

It’s no secret how these great defenses are being built, either. The emphasis is on size and speed at every level, period.

The Seahawks’ D isn’t full of blue-chip prospects as you might suspect, either. Only linebacker Bruce Irvin and safety Earl Thomas were even first-round picks. However, the unit is built to play big and fast. They can run around or through the opponent’s offensive line. They can match up with the offense’s tallest and speediest players. Everybody is physical and they all can tackle.

Although, to suggest any of this changes the Eagles’ blueprints for this coming offseason would be a tad disingenuous. Based on their many of their recent moves, the organization has already started moving toward the Seahawks model.

Head coach Chip Kelly has discussed what he looks for in personnel at certain positions, and those feelings are probably best summed up in one quote: “Big people beat up little people.” And when we dissect what the Birds did in the last two drafts under general manager Howie Roseman, you can see the premium that’s been placed on all-around athleticism.

Since 2012, the Eagles have come away from the draft with Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks, Vinny Curry, Brandon Boykin, Bennie Logan and Earl Wolff. If nothing else, there’s a lot of speed in that group.

Also, just last offseason, the front office signed Connor Barwin, Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher to free-agent contracts. The additions provided a boost to the overall size and physicality of a defense that was in abysmal shape before Kelly and defensive coordinator Bill Davis arrived on the scene.

The Eagles need more athletes like the players listed above—a lot more in fact, and in several cases, better. At least it’s a start. In many respects, Philly is ahead of the curve, having won 10 games and earned a playoff berth with major contributions from a young core in what many assumed would be a rebuilding year.

However, it would seem Philadelphia’s 32nd-ranked pass defense still has a long way to before reaching Seattle’s level on defense, or even San Fran, Carolina or New Orleans for that matter. That should be the goal of every team in the league as of today, because those defenses are proving the likes of Peyton Manning and similarly prolific passers in the modern-day NFL can be slowed and in fact shut down.

Apparently, that’s become the way to win again in pro football.

NFL Notes: Dolphins' Dion Jordan reinstated by NFL after sitting out 2015

NFL Notes: Dolphins' Dion Jordan reinstated by NFL after sitting out 2015

DAVIE, Fla. -- Miami Dolphins defensive end Dion Jordan has been reinstated by the NFL after sitting out last season for his latest violation of the league's substance abuse policy.

Jordan applied to the league in May for reinstatement, and he was cleared to return Friday as the Dolphins held their first training camp practice.

The overall No. 3 selection in the 2013 draft out of Oregon, Jordan has contributed little so far in his career. He's coming back from his second suspension under the NFL substance abuse policy.

Jordan has played in only 26 games with one start, totaling 46 tackles and three sacks. The Miami group that drafted Jordan is gone, and he returns to a new coaching staff led by head coach Adam Gase.

JAGUARS: Lee sidelined with hamstring injury
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Oft-injured receiver Marqise Lee stayed healthy for one day in training camp.

The Jacksonville Jaguars held Lee out of practice Friday with a left hamstring injury, the latest setback for a third-year pro who can't seem to stay on the field.

Lee has missed significant time with ankle, hamstring and knee injuries. He practiced so little last summer that offensive coordinator Greg Olson said Lee was "like the albino tiger at the zoo. If you get there and you're lucky enough to get him to come out of the cave and see him, it's a good day."

Lee embraced the nickname, but had hoped to make it part of his past and not a pattern. Now, he's back on the sideline.

Running back T.J. Yeldon (right ankle) also was held out.

SAINTS: Nicks joins camp roster
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Former New York Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks has joined the New Orleans Saints at training camp.

Nicks, who practiced with New Orleans for the first time on Friday, is taking a spot on the 90-man preseason roster that opened up when the Saints placed Vincent Brown on injured reserve.

The 28-year-old Nicks, who posted 1,000-yard seasons in 2010 and 2011, has been far less productive since and likely will need to demonstrate the promise of a significant resurgence to make the regular season roster.

Last season, he played in only six games with the Giants, catching seven passes for 54 yards and no touchdowns.

Now he'll try to carve out a role on a New Orleans receiver corps led by Brandin Cooks, Willie Snead, Brandon Coleman and rookie Michael Thomas.

DOLPHINS: Team confident stadium renovations will be completed on time
DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins say their $500 million stadium renovation will be completed as scheduled and in time for the team's final exhibition game Sept. 1.

Work continues 24 hours a day on upgrades that include a canopy. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said Friday the stadium will be ready for the preseason finale against the Tennessee Titans.

The Dolphins say the Miami Hurricanes will open their season at the stadium as scheduled Sept. 3 against Florida A&M.

Ross says the Dolphins' 2015 and 2016 seasons left an eight-month window for the renovation, which normally would have taken about 12 months.

He says there's no backup plan for a Dolphins game site if the stadium isn't ready on time.

Jason Peters: 'So long as I'm healthy, I'm going to be a dominant force'

Jason Peters: 'So long as I'm healthy, I'm going to be a dominant force'

Jason Peters long has been the foundation of the Eagles' offense, so much so its success seems to be tied to his play. At least, it's probably no coincidence the club's last two losing seasons -- 2012 and 2015 -- corresponded with injuries to the left tackle.

To the extent quad and back injuries hurt Peters' performance last year, or how much of his decline can be traced to the fact that he turned 34 in January, nobody can say for sure. Either way, there's plenty of skepticism as to whether he's still reliable, much less if he can return to his All-Pro form.

For what it's worth, Peters doesn't sound like he shares those concerns. He arrived at training camp feeling rejuvenated and believes he has some good years left.

"I feel like I have gas in the tank," said Peters following Thursday's first full-team practice. "Before I got hurt, I wasn't even getting beat. At the same time, we were 1 on 1 on every play. Those guys get paid too, so you're gonna win some, you're gonna lose some."

Peters described himself as being at 75 percent for much of last season, adding that he doesn't need any extra motivation or feel as though he has anything to prove.

"No, I'm in Philly," said Peters. "Y'all get on me every year. I've been here since '09, and I've had a chip on my shoulder ever since I [came into the league] in '04, so I just come to play. The fans deserve championships and division titles, so that's what I'm striving for."

The eight-time Pro Bowler used the Eagles' Week 17 finale against the New York Giants -- a game in which he kept veteran defensive end Robert Ayers (now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) at bay -- as evidence he can still play.

"I show them every year," Peters says of his critics. "I got banged up last year, and then we finished with a win against the Giants. If you put the tape on, Ayers was trying to beat me. He was a free agent and he's a good rusher.

"So as long as I'm healthy, I'm going to be a dominant force."

Strong words, but Peters has reasons to feel confident beyond recovering from injuries.

Last season, he showed up for camp at a reduced weight, a decision offensive linemen often make in an effort to prolong their careers. While it's worked for others, Peters now believes it wasn't the right move for him.

"I tapered down last year and I felt like it took away from some of my game a little bit. This year I put on about 10 to 12 (pounds) and I feel real good. I feel stronger and I'm ready to go," said Peters, adding that he's back back to his preferred playing weight of 345.

But perhaps the aspect Peters is most optimistic for in 2016 is the head coaching change to Doug Pederson and how that equates to a return to a familiar offensive system and approach.

Peters is incredibly versatile and could've played in any scheme, at least he could in his prime. Based on some of the other comments he made however, clearly he did not find Chip Kelly's methods to be ideal (see story). More specifically, he made no secret of his affinity for Pederson's mentor and long-time Eagles head coach Andy Reid.

"Just getting back into this, the ground and pound, the old Andy Reid offense, I'm excited," said Peters.

"I can adjust to any offense, you've seen that," Peters continued. "From (offensive line coaches) Howard Mudd to (Jeff Stoutland) to (Juan Castillo), they all teach different schemes and different techniques, and it really doesn't matter. I'm happy to have the Andy Reid era back, which is Doug, and I'm ready to go."

Pederson also plans to rest Peters during the season in an effort to keep the aging left tackle ready for gameday, which he admits "caught up to" him last season.

Despite his confidence level remaining high, Peters is realistic too and understands he can't play in the NFL forever. While he wouldn't go so far as to put an expiration date on his career, he knows at this point that any season could be his last.

"I'm year to year," Peters admitted. "I don't want to put a number on it. You can watch me out here, watch some of the younger guys, and you can be the judge."

Maybe that's why 2015 under Kelly was an especially tough year.

"It was frustrating," admitted Peters. "An older guy like me, I'm just trying to get that ring, and to keep losing like that, it was hurtful."

Beyond getting healthy, most of all Peters just sounds happy to put the drama of the past year behind him. And despite all of the concerns over what he has left, there's little doubt he still gives the Eagles to win on Sundays when he's in the lineup.

Eagles camp Day 5 observations: Rough day for the quarterbacks

Eagles camp Day 5 observations: Rough day for the quarterbacks

The Eagles were forced to practice inside the bubble for the second straight day, even though the rain subsided shortly after it began.

Still, with how sloppy the quarterbacks were indoors, it’s probably a good thing the team wasn’t outside. It might have been even worse.

This was the first real full-team practice of camp, but tomorrow morning will mark the first day in pads, followed by Sunday’s open practice at the Linc.

Here are some observations from Friday:

• Brandon Brooks (hamstring) and Ryan Mathews (ankle) were still out. In their places, Stefen Wisniewski and Darren Sproles took most of the first-team reps. Head coach Doug Pederson said Brooks and Mathews are day to day and he expects to have them back next week.

• The quarterbacks looked bad in 11-on-11s. All of them. Overthrows, underthrows, balls behind receivers – this morning’s practice really had it all. They all struggled.  

• Sam Bradford overthrew his receivers several times and opened up 11-on-11s with an underthrown ball that was picked off. He also threw the ball behind a few players.  

• Chase Daniel had one bad overthrow to Chris Givens that forced him out of bounds in 11-on-11s just about a minute after Bradford did the same thing to him. After the second one, Givens turned around and was visibly frustrated by the throws.

• Carson Wentz continues to struggle finding timing with some of the third-string receivers. No, many of these guys won’t make the team, but after a week of throwing to these guys, you’d figure they’d be on the same page a little more.

• One impressive play Wentz did make, though, came when he was forced up in the pocket. Clearly the most athletic quarterback on the roster, Wentz moved up and found tight end M.J. McFarland on the run. It was a big play because we know Wentz can take off and run, but here he had the presence of mind to keep his eyes downfield.

• It seemed like Jordan Matthews, Chris Givens and Nelson Agholor were the three receivers who were on the field most with the first team. But Josh Huff and Rueben Randle did get some first-team snaps. Agholor had a pretty good day and made a great diving catch during the individual portion of practice. And Huff got some work in the slot.  

• It wasn’t just the receivers who rotated with the first team on Friday. On defense, while Leodis McKelvin, Ron Brooks and Nolan Carroll got most of the reps with the ones, Eric Rowe and Jalen Mills got a couple too.

• And Rowe made the best of it. His “hiccups” this spring were well documented (see story), but on the first play of 11-on-11s, he made a nice leaping interception on an underthrown ball from Bradford. Earlier this week, he said he thinks he corrected his problems and is looking forward to proving himself when the pads come on.  

• The offense spent some time working on end-arounds. Matthews got one, Huff got another. They also played around with some fake end-arounds. Maybe they’ll never use them in a game, but they exist as a reminder that this playbook is significantly more in-depth than Chip Kelly’s.

• Many fans I’ve heard from just expect Cody Parkey to easily win the kicker job over Caleb Sturgis. Well, that’s not happening so far. I thought, at least in the practices we saw, Sturgis was much better than Parkey this spring. That has now continued into camp. Sturgis was perfect on Friday, while Parkey missed two makeable field goals. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Sturgis beats him out.

• On one play in 11-on-11s, it looked like Nigel Bradham screwed up his assignment, which left Zach Ertz wide open in the middle of the field. Ertz tripped over his feet, but it had the potential to be a touchdown play. Afterward, Malcolm Jenkins went over the play with Bradham on the field. That tells you how smart Jenkins is. Bradham has played in this defense before, but Jenkins is the one there to help him go over the play. Jenkins is a Pro Bowl caliber player, but means more to the team than his individual play.

• The orange linebacker donuts were back today. This time, they were paired with a giant ball. I don’t tire of watching these drills. I can’t think of any relevant reason to do so, but I’d like to see the linebackers dive through the donut one time.