Seattle Sports Hell 2014 NFL Power Rankings – Week 9

If there’s one complaint Seahawks fans have had over the last 2.5 years, it’s gotta be the offensive line.  It has been a disaster for too long, but it’s been masked by our success, both record-wise and in the running game.

Since the start of 2012, the Seahawks have gone 33-12 (including playoffs), with a Super Bowl championship.  In that time, here is how the Seahawks have ranked in rushing stats:

  • 2012:  3rd in total yards with 2,579; 5th in yards per carry with 4.8
  • 2013:  4th in total yards with 2,188; 12th in yards per carry with 4.3
  • 2014:  4th in total yards with 1,188; 1st in yards per carry with 5.1

For the record, the top three teams in total yards this year have all played in an extra game.

Those are pretty good numbers.  Moreover, it fits our identity as a run-first, smashmouth football team.  Granted, our numbers probably get a boost from having Russell Wilson at quarterback, as opposed to Carson Palmer or someone else who will get you no rushing yards.  Nevertheless, it sort of makes our offensive line look better than it truly is.

The sack numbers aren’t particularly egregious, but they’re still not ideal.  We gave up 33 sacks in 2012.  That number spiked to 44 last year.  This year, we’ve given up 16 (on pace for 32, if my math is correct).  But, sacks don’t tell the whole story.

Russell Wilson is as under siege now as he has ever been.  I don’t have the hits/hurries numbers in front of me, but the eyeball test doesn’t look too good.  My primary concern at this point isn’t even Wilson getting injured (which would be a fucking catastrophe), but:  is this shitty O-Line stunting Wilson’s growth?

We all recall the cautionary tale of David Carr, first overall draft pick of the Houston Texans in 2002.  He was supposed to be a star for the expansion franchise.  The only problem was, they put him behind a wet paper bag offensive line.  Carr never had a chance, as he’s still being sacked to this very day.

Now, he may or may not have made it in the league if he’d had an elite crew protecting him; we’ll never know.  I’d like to think Russell Wilson is a better quarterback than Carr ever was, but even with this being his third year in the league, Wilson is far from a finished product.  He still has some growing and developing to do as a professional.  No one should expect him to be perfect every single game, but it’s always concerning to see games out of him like we had with the Raiders last week.  And against the Cowboys a few weeks ago.  Seeing him rushing throws, throwing the ball high, missing wide open receivers.  All of these are symptoms of a guy who’s running for his life on nearly every down.

It’s tough, because on the one hand, everyone scolds him for not hanging in the pocket and playing like some of these other, more polished pocket passers.  Yet, if he hangs in the pocket, he’s going to get killed.  Either way, he’s not going to be an effective passer if he doesn’t do his damnedest to elude pressure.  All of this falls on the offensive line.

I wanted to make the argument that the Seahawks are intentionally ignoring this all-important position group, trying to rob Peter to pay the Paul of the defense and some of the other stars on this team.  But, the fact of the matter is, Okung and Unger comprise two of the top five salary cap numbers of this year.  And, Carpenter isn’t cheap, what with him being the 13th-highest paid member of the team.  The Seahawks have skimped with guys like Sweezy and Britt, but I would argue that those two guys have been the most reliable members of the entire line!  At least they’ve played a full slate of games without missing big chunks of time due to injury.

The line could potentially be great if it stayed healthy, but that’s never going to happen.  Okung, Unger, and Carpenter have all proven they can’t stay on the field.  Which means, they’ve all proven they need to be replaced in the short term.  Right now, we’re getting by with backups like Bailey, Schilling, and Garry Gilliam, but that’s just it.  We’re ONLY getting by.  We’re not thriving.  And, we may actively be hurting our young quarterback’s development in the process.

Pete Carroll was right about one thing in his post-game comments this week:  the Seahawks were fairly fortunate in 2013 in one-score games.  We were involved in 8 of them and we ended up losing only 3.  Of the games we were truly in danger of losing, I’d say the Carolina, Houston, St. Louis, and Tampa Bay games could have realistically been losses.  Two of them were overtime victories, and the other two required late-game heroics to seal the deal.  That’s how close a 13-3 team could become a 9-7 team, and out of the playoffs.

This year, we’ve been pretty well handled in two of our three losses, but there were still opportunities to tie or take the lead late in each one.  When you tack on the Raiders, Panthers, and Broncos games, look at how close we are to being 2-6 and the laughingstock of the league!

So, in one sense, “getting by” is working for us.  It’s better to be 5-3 than the other way around.  But, our success in these close games – just like our success in the running game – is really masking a bigger problem that needs to be corrected in short order.

My solution?  For starters, let Carpenter walk after this season.  If he is to come back, bring him back at a very modest salary and give him some REAL competition for the starting job.  It’s probably unrealistic for this team to go out and spend huge amounts of money in free agency for a left tackle, but I think we can get a starting-calibre left guard for a reasonable rate.  Pit the new guy against Carpenter (on a short-term deal, I might add) and either you’ve dramatically upgraded, or you’ve got some solid depth at an oft-injured position of need.

Russell Okung is signed thru 2015.  His salary hit actually drops to $7.28 million next year, which is awesome.  If we were to cut him prior to June 1st, we could save $5 million, but again, I’m not so sure we’re going to find a left tackle on the open market who’s better than Okung, who won’t completely break the bank.  I say we keep him for next year, but we also make left tackle our number 1 priority in the draft.  This may prove difficult if we make the playoffs this year, as the best left tackles tend to be snapped up pretty early in the first round.  Worst case scenario:  we draft a highly-rated prospect and give him a year to learn behind Okung (with ample opportunity for actual playing time whenever Okung is too injured to play, which is more certainty than possibility).  I say first or second round draft pick at the LATEST.

Max Unger is signed thru 2016.  His salary drops the next two years to $5.6 million per.  His dead money hits aren’t too big either (we’d save $3.4 million if we cut him prior to June 1, 2015; we’d save $4.5 million if we cut him prior to June 1, 2016), so in theory we can move on from him at any time.  I’d honestly look to treat Unger the same way I would Okung:  for sure keep him next year.  But, at the same time, draft a replacement center (maybe in the 4th/5th round).  Give that player a year to learn behind Unger (who really is a quality center when he’s healthy).  And, if by the grace of God, Unger manages to play a full slate of games next year, let him play out his contract in 2016.  At that point, keep Unger on a year-by-year basis until he proves that the injury bug has returned.  But, always have a contingency in place in the form of a young prospect with potential.  Not these young guys we’ve got now who are nothing more than practice squad fodder.

In the next two years, I’d like to see a true overhaul along the offensive line.  And, for the love of all that is holy, stay away from Alabama linemen!

***

  1. Denver Broncos (6-2) – Patriots are on fire offensively right now, but I still think the Broncos are the best until further notice.
  2. Arizona Cardinals (7-1) – I’d love to live in an alternate universe where they had to face Romo instead of Weeden.  Then again, I’d love to live in an alternate universe where I’ve got a 13-inch cock and am a millionaire because of said gargantuan cock.
  3. Detroit Lions (6-2) – In two weeks, this team goes into Arizona.  THAT will be a game to watch.
  4. New England Patriots (7-2) – Offense is fucking legit.  How?  Gronk and a bunch of magic beans, I suppose.
  5. Indianapolis Colts (6-3) – Andrew Luck is hands down the first guy anyone would take if they’re building their own franchise right now.  And yet, he’s prone to meltdowns that would make your head spin.
  6. Green Bay Packers (5-3) – Must be nice to move up the rankings on a BYE week.
  7. Kansas City Chiefs (5-3) – Couple of cakewalks the last couple weeks.  I’ll be interested to see their game in Buffalo next week.  Can KC continue to roll against inferior teams?  IS Buffalo an inferior team?
  8. Seattle Seahawks (5-3) – Gonna be a much different team if we can get our injured guys back quickly.
  9. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3) – Offense is starting to roll after the season nadir in Cleveland.
  10. Philadelphia Eagles (6-2) – Yeah, the record is nice, but I’m just getting a jumpstart on their rankings decline with the Sanchize at the helm.
  11. Dallas Cowboys (6-3) – Mo’ Weeden, Mo’ Problems.
  12. Cincinnati Bengals (5-2-1) – Two team race in the North between the Bengals and Steelers after the Ravens went in the tank.  They play one another twice in the final month; look for one or both of those games to be flexed to primetime.
  13. San Francisco 49ers (4-4) – You know a shit-ton of 49ers fans were laughing their asses off when the Rams beat us.  I’d like to see the looks on each one of their faces after that Kaepernick fumble on the goalline.
  14. Miami Dolphins (5-3) – Impressive shutout win against the Chargers.  Ryan Tannehill is starting to roll, which should bode well for that franchise.  He’s probably not a Top 5 QB in this league, but he could top out as a Top 10 guy, which is good enough.
  15. San Diego Chargers (5-4) – I don’t want to hear about a tough schedule.  You can’t lose three games in a row against your primary AFC competition and expect to make the playoffs.
  16. New Orleans Saints (4-4) – NFC South is there for the taking.  I think the Saints will look good going forward, but I by no means think this team is ready to go on a huge winning streak.
  17. Baltimore Ravens (5-4) – In the same boat as San Diego, losing too many games against important AFC foes.  2-3 in the division, with one left against Cleveland, isn’t the way to take care of business.
  18. Carolina Panthers (3-5-1) – It was aa nice run, but the Panthers just don’t have the horses this year.
  19. New York Giants (3-5) – For some reason, I have Rueben Randle on my fantasy team, because he was deemed to be – after Victor Cruz’s injury – the #1 receiver on the Giants.  Which is like being ranked the #1 shitter in a diarrhea contest (also, Randle’s got nothing on ODB).
  20. Houston Texans (4-5) – One defensive lineman can’t do it all, I’m sorry, but it’s true.
  21. Chicago Bears (3-5) – Hello Bears.
  22. Buffalo Bills (5-3) – Hello Bills.
  23. Cleveland Browns (5-3) – Really struggling at home against the Raiders and Bucs the last two weeks.  Not the strongest 5-3 team in the world, let’s put it that way.
  24. St. Louis Rams (3-5) – I don’t know how this team looks as good as it does – especially defensively – against the Seahawks and 49ers, and then lays as many eggs as it does against every other team in the league.  Do me a favor, go beat the Cardinals a couple times this year, will ya?
  25. Atlanta Falcons (2-6) – Hi Falcons.
  26. Minnesota Vikings (4-5) – Scraping by against those bottom-feeders.
  27. Washington Redskins (3-6) – One of those bottom-feeders.
  28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-7) – One of the biggest disappointments in the league.
  29. New York Jets (1-8) – One of the biggest messes in the league.
  30. Tennessee Titans (2-6) – One of the most boring bad teams in the league.
  31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8) – One of the most frustrating bad teams in the league.
  32. Oakland Raiders (0-8) – And the rest.

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