Down Goes Sherman & Prosise, Up Comes Davis & Maxwell

There were a couple of major injuries (as well as a lot of – hopefully – minor injuries) in last week’s Thursday Night game.  At the top of the heap is Richard Sherman, who was placed on IR this week, and is definitively finished for the 2017 season.  What that means for his future in a Seahawks uniform is a conversation for another day (I, for one, hope he comes back and plays his entire career in a Seahawks uniform).  What we know right now is that the L.O.B. took a major hit, and the Seahawks are a worse football team for it.

In his place, Byron Maxwell was signed to a minimum deal.  You remember Byron Maxwell!  He started his career in Seattle!  In his first two years (2011-2012), when he was healthy, he played mostly special teams.  He ended up taking over for Brandon Browner in 2013 and had a brilliant finish to the season, culminating (obviously) in a Super Bowl victory.  He entered the 2014 season as the starter opposite Richard Sherman and had another fine year.  So fine a year, in fact, that the Eagles signed him to a 6-year, $63 million deal.

We all know how that turned out.  He played one year in Philadelphia, earned a little over $13 million, then was traded to the Dolphins where he played a season and change, earned $17 million, before being released on October 24th of this year.  In his time away from Seattle, he didn’t play well.  You could argue that he wasn’t in the right scheme, and maybe that he was counted upon to be someone that he’s not, but there’s a reason why he’s been on the open market for three full weeks.

Now, he’s still only 29 years old, and just three years ago he was good enough to start opposite the best cornerback in the game, so I have to believe he can be a useful piece for Seattle.  We have the same coaches, we have a lot of the same pieces on defense, we’re more or less running the same scheme, so he should fit right in!  The question that remains is:  will he be effective?

There’s a major issue here that I’m not hearing a lot of talk about, and that’s the fact that not only are we replacing a legend, but we’re replacing someone who consistently – and almost exclusively – played on the right side of the field (from the offense’s perspective).  Every guy we’ve run out there at cornerback has been put on the left side for the most part.  How much of a change will it be for someone like Jeremy Lane – who looks to get the start opposite Shaq Griffin, who they apparently would like to keep on the left side of the field for now?  And, if Lane doesn’t work out, how will Griffin or Maxwell fare on the right side?  These are questions we just don’t know the answer to, because Richard Sherman never took a game off!  He rarely took any PLAYS off!  When you double-down on the fact that most right handed quarterbacks (and most quarterbacks ARE right handed) prefer to throw to their right, and it could be a long day (and a long rest of the season) for whoever they put over there.

And, don’t forget the lack of a vote of confidence in DeShawn Shead’s recovery process.  Pete Carroll noted on the radio that he’d hit a plateau, which CAN’T be good, considering the Seahawks have to make a decision on him by early next week, to either bring him back to the active roster (in hopes that he’ll get over the hump and back onto the playing field at some point this season) or put him on IR and crush all the hopes and dreams of Seahawks fans everywhere who’d been counting on his return.

It’s going to be vital for Shaq Griffin to take another big step forward in his progression, as I feel like Earl Thomas is going to have to live on the opposite side of the field the rest of the way.

Also, not for nothing, but assuming we ever play another game again this year where all three of our safeties are healthy, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more 3-safety looks, perhaps with Earl taking over coverage duties against the other team’s best wide receiver.  Probably more likely that we’d see McDougald in that type of role, but I bet in big moments we see Earl take over.  Boy, I hope he’s fully healthy this week.

Moving on, the Seahawks have put down C.J. Prosise, much to everyone’s relief.  Fans are obviously frustrated with him, because he was a high draft pick, because he’s CONSTANTLY injured and taking up a valuable roster spot, and because he’s so talented that we KNOW he’d be a game-changer for this offense if he could just stop getting nicked up every time he steps onto the field.

It’s been endless since he entered the league.  Not for nothing, but this was also a problem for him in college – to a lesser degree – but the Seahawks rolled the dice on him anyway.  He was injured in (or before?) training camp as a rookie.  He ended up playing in 6 games last year, having a positive impact in three of them.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this team was playing at its very best in 2016 when Prosise was healthy and commanding his share of the touches:

  • @ New England, won 31-24, 17 rushes for 66 yards & 7 receptions for 87 yards
  • vs. Philadelphia, won 26-15, 4 rushes for 76 yards and a TD, & 2 receptions for 5 yards

He was shut down after that Philly game, and the Seahawks immediately lost to the Bucs.  They beat the Panthers, but lost Earl Thomas, and the rest was history.

This year, he played in 5 games, having a positive impact in just one of them (a loss on the road to Tennessee, he caught 3 balls for 65 yards while rushing 4 times for 9 yards).  Hell, in the Giants game, he was injured on the first play while trying to make a block!  With him having spent more time on the rehab table than on the field, it’s been an endless cycle of doing everything in his power to get back to football, then immediately getting hurt again.  I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again:  he needs to take some time away from the game, get right, get STRONGER, and hopefully come back to a healthy and lucrative career in 2018.

If he’s not spending his entire offseason at the squat rack, I’m going to be VERY upset with him.

In his place, Mike Davis gets called up from the practice squad.  I don’t know HOW he’s lasted on the Seahawks’ practice squad all year, but the Seahawks are very fortunate to have him now.  He spent his first two years in the league as a backup in San Francisco, not really doing a whole lot.  We claimed him off waivers back in May and he had a nice run in the pre-season, playing in all four games.  Honestly, I thought he deserved a roster spot, but the team had Thomas Rawls, they’d just signed Eddie Lacy to be their big bruising back, they had C.J. Prosise, they had J.D. McKissic as C.J. Prosise insurance, they had Tre Madden as a fullback, and they drafted Chris Carson who looked like the Running Back Of The Future for this team.  In a numbers game, the Seahawks ended up releasing both Davis and Alex Collins (who has gone on to great success in Baltimore, much to Seahawks fans’ chagrin).  But, with Carson and Prosise on IR, and with Lacy nursing an injury, it’s Rawls and Davis, with McKissic as your third down back.  And, considering Rawls’ injury history, I think it’s only a matter of time before Mike Davis is the starter.

There’s a reason why Mike Davis was on the practice squad all this time.  One could argue that the rest of the league didn’t think he was worth the roster spot, which is fair.  But, on the flipside, the Seahawks churn through their practice squad as much as any team, but it doesn’t seem like they ever even flirted with getting rid of Davis (not that their running game should’ve inspired enough confidence to do so, but still).  I think they like him a lot.  And, for what it’s worth, so do I.

I don’t think Davis is elite in any areas, but I think he’s solid in every area.  He’s what I would describe as a running back’s running back.  Sure-handed, blocks well, will hit the correct hole more often than not, can catch a pass out of the backfield, I think he can do everything you’d ever ask of a running back.  He may not have elite speed or power, but he’s good enough in those areas.  On top of that, he MUST have better patience and vision than someone like Rawls, who gets the ball and turns into that old Warner Bros. Tasmanian Devil cartoon.

Mike Davis probably isn’t someone you’d want to build your offense around, but I believe he’s the best early-down back this team’s got at the moment, and he could be a fine #2 going forward behind someone like Chris Carson.

Seahawks Win Yet Another Seahawky Game

It was just one of those fucking things, you know?  Be happy with the victory and try to forget about it.

Except, how can we, what with Russell Wilson’s ankle injury sure to dominate the local conversation this week?  I’ll say this about the play:  it sure LOOKED like an accident, the way Ndamukong Suh hit him, causing his ankle to twist an unnatural way, but that big fucking galoot – known for more than his fair share of intentionally dirty hits – sure has a knack for injuring guys.  When you’re as athletic and as talented as Suh, there’s a way to make that play where it doesn’t hobble our quarterback.  Likewise, when you’re as athletic and as talented as Suh, you probably learn new ways to make dirty hits look “accidental”.  So, fuck that guy, I hope his ACL snaps real soon.

By all rights, the Seahawks should’ve lost that game.  On top of the fact that Russell couldn’t move after his ankle injury, the team in general couldn’t run the ball whatsoever.  That made us one-dimensional for most of the game, and with our makeshift O-Line against their front four full of studs, we had to be extra careful in the passing game, often limiting us to shorter, quicker throws.  Since we’re not the San Diego Chargers, and our quarterback isn’t Philip Rivers, that’s not exactly our forte, and we struggled accordingly.  By and large, we weren’t getting open in the conventional ways we normally get open, which left us grasping at straws on third down.  It wasn’t until that final drive where we hit on a couple of 4th down conversions, but we pretty much started out that drive in 4-down territory, so that likely dictated our play-calling on 3rd down.

Defensively, we were as savage as I can remember.  But, again, PROBABLY should’ve lost that game.  Kenny Stills got behind everyone, only to drop what would’ve been a HUGE touchdown early in the game.  Earl Thomas struggled like I can’t remember him ever struggling before.  There were more missed tackles than I like to see.  But, for the most part, the defense was on point.  The Dolphins had five 3 & Outs and had to punt 7 times on the day.  There was another critical stop by Kam Chancellor early in the game on 4th down that at the very least prevented them from scoring 3 points.  That’s on top of a mammoth blocked field goal by Cassius Marsh early in the 4th quarter to keep our 3-point lead intact.

Indeed, the way the defense was going, I wondered if we could hold on and make it a 6-3 final.  But, of course, as soon as I started to seriously maintain that line of thinking, midway through the 4th quarter, the Dolphins finally managed a competent scoring drive to take a 10-6 lead.  I’d be curious to know if, defensively, we played that drive any differently than we had up to that point.  From my naked eye and limited football acumen, it didn’t look totally out of character:  lots of zone, a blitz or two sprinkled in.  But, it was almost shocking the way the Dolphins were able to get in the endzone, considering how much we’d dominated them to that point.  It’s not fair to expect a defense to be perfect for a full game, but there you go again:  another lead blown by that unit late in the game, in remarkably easy fashion.

I was pretty sick about the whole thing once Miami went ahead.  The Seahawks got the ball back with a little over 4 minutes to go in the game, and with the way Wilson was immobilized, and the way our offense had performed in general, it wasn’t looking likely we’d go down there and score a touchdown.  Then, I remembered I was the only person left in our Eliminator pool who didn’t pick the Seahawks this week, and I knew the gambling gods wouldn’t let me win it all in Week 1 (the fact that I had the Cardinals, who would go on to lose later that night, was further proof that the gambling gods hate me to no end).

Sure enough, the drive started out bumpy as hell, but the Seahawks put themselves in position to win it, and did so with a nifty little fade to Doug Baldwin on the left side of the endzone.  We’d go on to miss the extra point – because apparently that’s what the NFL likes:  ineptitude – but it would go on to not matter, because our defense quickly rediscovered our edge and made mincemeat of Ryan Tannehill.

Christine Michael got the start in this one, and looked okay, but also looked like he biffed a couple of assignments.  Thomas Rawls nearly matched him touch for touch, in spite of the discrepency in snaps (Michael out-snapped him by a wide margin), and while neither of their numbers were all that impressive, I liked the way they looked together.  Rawls will get you those difficult yards Marshawn Lynch used to get; Michael will slash and dash for large chunks of yardage, and is the consummate home run threat at tailback.  Just when a defense figures out how to stop one guy, you bring in the other for a total change of pace.  It does nothing for me in fantasy – as long as both are healthy, they both remain non-starters for fantasy purposes – but as a fan, it’s as much as I could’ve hoped for, what with Lynch’s retirement and all.

Doug Baldwin, on the other hand, is a guy you MUST start in fantasy, as he’s definitely Russell Wilson’s go-to guy, particularly in or near the red zone.  Yesterday, he caught 9 balls for 92 yards and that game-winning touchdown, and I think it’s just the start of a legitimate Pro Bowl season.

Tyler Lockett didn’t do a whole lot, and had a couple drops (one of them punched out by Byron Maxwell, but even then, had he caught it cleanly to begin with, he might’ve been able to hold onto it through contact).  He’ll need to do better, as Wilson looked his way early and often on third down in this one, resulting in a couple drives being stalled.

Jimmy Graham got into it a little bit.  I didn’t see him at all in the first half, but he played pretty regularly in the second half, though he looked like more of a decoy than anything else.  Nevertheless, he did catch one ball on that touchdown drive to get us a first down en route to the endzone.  Assuming he feels no ill effects from the game, I look forward to his re-emergence as the team continues to bring him slowly back.

C.J. Prosise had a nifty catch and run for a first down early in the game, but had to leave with a sprained wrist.  I don’t know what that means for his availability going forward – he might miss a game or two – but it sure limits us on third down.  Where’s Troymaine Pope when you need him?  Oh, right, with the Jets.

Defensively, I don’t know where to start, except yes I do, and it’s Bobby Wagner.  Oh man, WHAT A GAME!  He didn’t lead the team in tackles, but the ones he made sure counted, as all 6 were solo tackles.  He also had a couple QB hits, and they weren’t cheapies.  That’s what I talk about when I talk about a guy making his presence felt.  Wagner had his hands all over this game.

K.J. Wright was the leading tackler with 11, and he too had a QB hit, as well as a sack, and a tackle for loss.  The rest of the NFL has been slow to catch on to his greatness, but he’s the main reason why you’ll hear people around the Seahawks say this team has the best linebacking corps in the league.  He’s also the main reason why you don’t totally dismiss those people out of hand for their homerism.  Wright and Wagner, as far as one-two punches at the linebacker position are concerned – particularly with the way most teams ONLY play two linebackers, with how pass-wacky the league has become – are as good as any one-two linebacker punches in the league.

Richard Sherman stood out, one for his obvious dominance in coverage, as I don’t recall him letting anyone catch anything around him, but also for his tackling.  He made a couple of the most impressive open-field tackles in the game, where had he missed, they would’ve gone for huge gains.  Never take for granted Sherman’s tackling; it’s truly a precious and wonderful thing.

DeShawn Shead gets his own set of kudos.  The whole secondary played pretty well, aside from Earl on a few bad plays that stuck out like a sore thumb, but Shead looked like the real deal Holyfield.  The L.O.B. has had a number of quality cornerbacks opposite Richard Sherman.  Brandon Browner famously made the Pro Bowl in 2011 and helped give this unit its edge in its infancy, Byron Maxwell replaced Browner and helped lead us to a championship in 2013 before going on to a huge free agent payday, but Shead might be the best of them all.  He broke up a couple passes, and was an all-around force the likes of which I haven’t seen since teams stopped trying to challenge Richard Sherman in 2014.  I’m fully on the bandwagon now; look for Shead to have a HUGE year this year.

The D-Line as a whole stepped up in a big way.  Bennett, Avril, Clark, and even Marsh all had sacks on the day.  The Nascar lineup looks as fast and disruptive as it was in 2013.  And, the interior didn’t disappoint, holding the Dolphins to only 64 yards on 3.2 yards per carry.  Also, hat tip to Jarran Reed for two big batted balls at the line of scrimmage.  I hope that’s, like, a thing he’s randomly, weirdly good at, because it would be huge for our interception numbers this year.

Also, let’s go ahead and give kudos to Marsh again, as well as Mike Morgan on special teams.  Marsh had that blocked field goal, as well as a couple monster hits on returns.  And, if it wasn’t Marsh, it was Morgan who was always around the runner with the ball, ensuring his immediate introduction to the turf.  Can’t say enough about how well we covered punts and kickoffs in this one.

Look, all in all, I’m as not-thrilled as the rest of you with how the game played out.  Obviously, it would’ve been a million times worse had the Seahawks fallen short at the end, but there are positives to take away.  Defensively, in particular.  Reasons for hope on offense include the fact that Wilson was never actually knocked out of the game.  So, the ankle injury can’t be THAT bad.  By the same token, he couldn’t really run on it, and that sucks every dick in the free world when you think about how we’re playing the Rams next week.  Looking better offensively than we did against the Dolphins should be completely off the table right now.  Even winning this game at all is dodgy at best.  Getting Wilson through the game without making the ankle worse needs to be our top priority.  From there, we get a nothing game against the 49ers, followed by another fucking massive D-Line with the Jets.  What was once looking like a viable 4-0 start now has 2-2 written all over it.  I guess the early BYE week this year will actually come in handy for once.

Other reasons for optimism, if you really want to grasp at some straws, is that after this initial 4-game set, we don’t really face a dominating D-Line again until December, when we face the Panthers.  So, you know, we’ve got that going for us.

If by some miracle, we’re able to keep Wilson upright – which, hint hint Darrell Bevell, is going to require you to leave your tight ends in to chip A LOT MORE than you did against the Dolphins – the rest of the skill position players look up to the task of picking up our hobbled QB1.  Fingers crossed.

The 2016 Seahawks Have A 53-Man Roster

Labor Day weekend was spent, by me, watching college football, going to parts of Bumbershoot, and constantly refreshing Twitter to check out the cuts, the signings, the trades, and the practice squad picks.

I won’t get into the whole 53-man here, but I’ll talk a little bit about some of the noteworthy choices.  You can see how everything compares to my lone roster prediction here.

Scrolling from top to bottom, the first thing that sticks out is how the Seahawks waived Will Tukuafu, to eventually be replaced by Tani Tupou (who plays both fullback and defensive tackle).  For a while there, it looked like the Seahawks weren’t going to have ANY fullback, and people predictably lost their shit for some reason.  Beat writers spent most of the weekend reassuring people that this was all a cost-cutting effort by the team to avoid having a full season’s worth of salary guaranteed to the veteran Tukuafu; and that by having him sign AFTER week 1, the team would reach that goal.  Even though the Seahawks brought Tupou back, I think nothing has changed in that regard.  There was a reason why the team originally cut Tupou, and there’s a reason why he was still readily available all this time later.  Tupou will still be there in the coming weeks, if Tukuafu ever gets injured.  For one week, Tupou gets to show if he’s worth bringing back, should disaster strike the fullback position.

The next shocker comes in the form of Tanner McEvoy cracking the roster as the team’s fifth wide receiver.  I don’t know what this means for his prospects as a tight end.  I don’t even know if he’s healthy enough to practice after missing a couple weeks with a nagging injury.  I do know this speaks volumes about his potential, and that he was rightly sought after by other teams, and never would’ve made it to the Practice Squad.  What this means for him long term is anyone’s guess.  I’d wager we’ll see him as a healthy scratch more often than not, and he’s REALLY going to have to make strides in practice to not get passed over.

Regarding the O-Line, I had that unit nailed except for one guy.  Will Pericak indeed made it back onto the Practice Squad, while rookie George Fant – a tackle prospect – gets that 9th and final roster spot.  The ends justifies the means, I suppose.  I still like Pericak as a talented prospect, but it probably wouldn’t hurt this team to hang onto four tackles.  Sowell is no sure thing, Webb was beat out by Gilliam when he got the most guaranteed money of any of our free agent offensive lineman this offseason, and Gilliam has already failed in his charge of converting over to the left side, when that’s all he was working towards this offseason.  Fant will most certainly be a healthy scratch for most of the season, but hopefully he can learn the left tackle position and win the starting job in 2017.

On the D-Line, I rightly predicted Jordan Hill’s release, but I didn’t quite nail this team keeping the 5th D-Tackle.  Garrison Smith was claimed after the 49ers released him and hopefully he’ll help provide some of that interior pass rush Hill brought.  Either that, or let’s hope Quinton Jefferson as a rookie will make a big leap in the early going of his career.

For the rest of the defense, I see we let Pinkins go, which I probably should’ve seen coming.  Wishful thinking, I guess, but it’s no shocker considering the team has let him go before.  I also see that we kept 11 DBs when I thought that was too many initially.  Of course, my prediction differed GREATLY from what the team ultimately decided upon.

I had Marcus Burley, Tye Smith, and Brandon Browner all sticking.  Instead, we opted to hang onto Steven Terrell, DeAndre Elliott, and trade for Dewey McDonald from Oakland.  We had also traded for the 49ers’ L.J. McCray, but he has since failed his physical (hence the re-signing of Tupou above).  Burley’s a tough one to swallow, especially when it was rumored that the Seahawks made all of these moves in the secondary – in large part – to shore up our special teams coverage.  But, I guess the team likes Tharold Simon’s play on the outside more than keeping a third nickel guy.  Brandon Browner’s release wasn’t all that shocking, considering we never really saw him play much in the pre-season.  For all we like to think about this coaching staff trying to pull one over on the league, hiding players until the games matter, they actually do the opposite more times than not.  They don’t mind giving the league tape on our guys, because they also want to evaluate how these guys look in real game situations.

The biggest disappointment is Tye Smith.  He was a draft pick last year who the team kept on its 53-man roster the whole season, and he was a guy the team had high expectations for coming into 2016.  Hell, from the sounds of things, Tye Smith had high expectations about Tye Smith coming into 2016.  But, from what I saw, he never really flashed, never really made many impact plays, and was never really called out for excellent coverage skills by the broadcast team.  Not only was Tye Smith cut, but he wasn’t even brought back onto the Practice Squad!  He could still be out there on the ghost roster, ready to be picked up during the season should a need arise, or try out for the 90-man next offseason, but that’s a pretty big blow.  DeAndre Elliott, an undrafted rookie with a similar build to Smith, DID flash this pre-season.  I remember seeing him mix it up quite a bit.  He very well could be the next DeShawn Shead if he keeps at it, so that’s nice to see.

On the special teams, still no movement on the long snapper position.  Nolan Frese, you may be safe for another week!

Another Pointless Mid-Pre-Season Seahawks Roster Prediction

I’m not immune!  I rail against these things (particularly the regularity with which they’re produced) and laugh at people who take them too seriously.  That having been said, it’s Monday.  We’ve seen two pre-season games so far, and I don’t know any more than anyone else covering this team.  But, that also means I really don’t know that much less than anyone else, particularly when it comes to predicting the season-opening 53-man roster.

These things are, like, 85% duh, with another 13% educated guesses, and 2% batshit insanity so you can look back in a couple weeks and say, “See, I was crazy, but I was right!”  Or, with a laugh, go, “Hoo boy, what was I thinking, right folks?”  Sad!  Fun!  Sad!

Without further ado, feel free to pick it apart:

QB (2)

Russell Wilson
Trevone Boykin

Put this in the ol’ Duh category.  I think the ship has sailed on Tarvaris Jackson.  I mean, if we cut Clint Gresham to save a few sheckles at long snapper, there’s no reason to expect this team to shell out a million bucks just to have Tarvar calling the coin toss for us in overtime games.  They’ve given Boykin every opportunity to win the job, and so far he hasn’t really disappointed.  You don’t want him starting for you anytime this year (or next, or ever, really), and he doesn’t look like he could win you any games if you needed him in an emergency basis.  But, he’s the kind of guy who could grow into the role, learn behind Wilson, and build value over the next 3-4 years.  Plus, if Wilson ever was severely injured, guess what?  Nobody’s signing Tarvaris Jackson anytime soon, so you could very well see him back with the club if it came to that!  Win-win, everyone!

RB (5)

Thomas Rawls
Christine Michael
C.J. Prosise
Alex Collins
Will Tukuafu

I am … not confident at all in this grouping.  Prosise has yet to do much of anything since we drafted him; I keep getting an IR vibe off of him.  Collins has looked pretty bad in the first pre-season games, but I’m hard pressed to judge the kid based off of running with the reserve O-Linemen.  Tukuafu was just re-signed, so that seems like a no-brainer.  He knows the system and they obviously like what he brings to the table.  On my cut list, that ices out Brooks & Pope.  It’s a numbers game at this point, and I think one of these guys makes it on the practice squad.  With a VERY outside chance of Pope weaseling his way onto the roster outright, if he keeps looking amazing, and the team doesn’t want to risk losing him to another team.

TE (4)

Jimmy Graham
Luke Willson
Nick Vannett
Brandon Williams

Pretty easy, this one.  I guess you could consider me buying into all the Brandon Williams hype, as the best blocking tight end on the team.  His spot gets cemented even further the longer Graham sits out of practice.  And, this ankle sprain from Vannett is another nail in the coffin … of Williams’ continued good fortune!  Were the top three guys fully healthy, I could easily see the team only keeping three tight ends, but with each guy bringing something different to the table, I like going with the four.  For now.

WR (5)

Doug Baldwin
Jermaine Kearse
Tyler Lockett
Paul Richardson
Kenny Lawler

Here’s where I’m going to stick one of my batshit insane picks.  Receivers 1-4 are obvious no-brainers.  But, I get a sense everyone is jumping off of the Lawler bandwagon.  I see what you all see:  a VERY skinny kid who looks like he’s about to snap into a million pieces with the next stiff breeze that crosses his path.  But, he’s looked pretty resilient so far in the first couple games.  He definitely looks like one of those receivers who’s ahead of the game, compared to where he’s at in his career (rookie 7th rounder).  If he plays smart, avoids excessive contact, and stays healthy, I think he has as good a shot as anyone of making that 5th WR spot.  I also think that if he’s released, he won’t make it onto the practice squad; I bet some other team snaps him up in a heartbeat.  Kevin Smith is doing himself no favors by being injured all this time.  Kasen Williams has been out with injury for a while too (and already has experience being passed through to the practice squad).  4th quarter hero Tanner McEvoy is someone you’d think would be in the mix, but I don’t think he’s all that refined in his route running.  I do think teams are looking at him, but I also think he’s a year or two away from making any sort of impact at the NFL level.

OL (9)

Bradley Sowell
Mark Glowinski
Justin Britt
Germain Ifedi
Garry Gilliam
J’Marcus Webb
Joey Hunt
Rees Odhiambo
Will Pericak

The surprises here land in who gets left out.  No Patrick Lewis:  I think the team feels he’ll be available if/when they need him; and I think Hunt has the higher upside (with being more likely to be picked up by another team, and thus not on our practice squad).  Also, no Jahri Evans:  I think he came a little too late to the party, and I think the team likes the guards it has.  That having been said, not all the veterans are set for dispatch.  I think Sowell and Webb both stick, as this team is pretty thin at Tackle and needs all the quality depth it can get (I also think the younger tackles just aren’t ready yet, and have a higher likelihood of making the practice squad since they suck so bad).  I think Odhiambo will prove he’s able to play multiple spots on the line, as a rookie, which gives him HUGE value.  And, I think Pericak is one of those developmental guys the team keeps on the 53-man roster all year, but never plays.  Seems like there’s always one – too valuable to sneak onto the practice squad, but not quite ready to even be a 2nd stringer just yet – and this year, my money is on Pericak (just don’t ask me to pronounce his name … W-ill?).

That puts us at an even 25 for the offense, which is about what you should expect.  Save a wide receiver spot by having Graham (who is already a quasi-receiver), and hope at least one of those young running backs makes it onto the practice squad.

DE (4)

Michael Bennett
Cliff Avril
Frank Clark
Cassius Marsh

This part is tough sledding, because 3/4 of these guys play multiple spots (Bennett as end & tackle; Clark as end, tackle, and linebacker; Marsh as end & linebacker), but I’m going to put them here and call them “primary pass rushers”, and if you don’t like it, tough titty.

DT (4)

Jarran Reed
Ahtyba Rubin
Quinton Jefferson
Tony McDaniel

Reed and Rubin are both locks, barring injury.  Jefferson sure looks like a guy who can fit into our rotation right away.  Which leaves newly-signed McDaniel, who looks as good as ever, providing that veteran leadership.  If I’m off-base anywhere in this list, the number one spot is probably leaving off Jordan Hill.  As you’ll see, I ended up keeping 6 linebackers, which is probably a mistake.  But, I haven’t seen anything from Hill this pre-season, or at any point last year for that matter, that would justify he HAS to be a guy this team keeps.  I think Jefferson takes over his role, and he’s left either stashed on the IR-to-return list, or he’s just cut and replaced.

LB (6)

Bobby Wagner
K.J. Wright
Mike Morgan
Kevin Pierre-Lewis
Brock Coyle
Eric Pinkins

Again, if I’m off-base, it’s here.  Pinkins feels like a stretch.  I think it’s going to take a monster final couple of games for him to win a spot, but I also think he has it in him.  He provides value on special teams and as a backup to Mike Morgan.  It just feels like it’s time to give him a shot and see what he can do in certain situations.

CB (6)

Richard Sherman
Jeremy Lane
DeShawn Shead
Tharold Simon
Marcus Burley
Tye Smith

If there’s anyone I’m not sold on, it’s Tye Smith.  Now, maybe we haven’t seen his name called much in the pre-season because he’s being quietly effective in pass coverage.  All I know is, he hasn’t stood out like you’d expect a young member of the L.O.B. to do.  Who HAS stood out is Marcus Burley.  He looked as good as I’ve ever seen him last week!  I know, I might be making too much out of a 2nd pre-season game, but he’s been with us a long time, he knows the system, and he’s probably the second-best nickel corner on the team (if we just keep Sherm on the outside and don’t have him following around the other team’s best receiver).

S (5)

Earl Thomas
Kam Chancellor
Kelcie McCray
Brandon Browner
Tyvis Powell

Is 11 DBs too many?  Feels like it’s too many.  Feels like I’m short 1 DE and 1 DT.  Anyway, Kam, Earl, and McCray are all locks.  I’m hopeful Browner makes the team, but could easily see the Seahawks walking away if it comes to a numbers game (injuries at other positions might dictate we need to keep extra resources elsewhere).  Powell has been the hotshot of camp and pre-season so far; I think the team figures out a way to keep him.  Since both he and Browner can play CB, maybe the team skimps there?  Or, maybe it comes down to Browner vs. Powell, at which point I bet the team goes younger and cheaper.  We’ll see.

That puts us at 25 defenders.  Again, I’m not married to this, but it’s just my feeling for today.  Obviously, a lot is going to change.  Up to and including:

Special Teams (3)

Steven Hauschka
Jon Ryan
Clint Gresham

You’re damn right!  I think Nolan Frese’s days are numbered!  I think the flaws in his young career become too many to overcome in these last couple pre-season games, when the pressure is increased.  I think the Seahawks figure out a way to find the money to pay a pro like Gresh, and I think we move on from this nightmare once and for all.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Seahawks/Vikings Preseason Game 2 Takeaways

You know what was ultimately my biggest takeaway from that game?  The Seahawks are going to fucking DESTROY Dallas next week.

I came away predictably impressed by Minnesota’s defense.  That unit as a whole is no joke.  I don’t know if, ultimately, their secondary is better than ours, but their front seven is pretty savage, from both run and pass rush perspectives.  I also erroneously came away frustrated, thinking that we’d have to play them again in the regular season, but it turns out they’re not actually on the schedule, and we won’t have to play them again until the playoffs.

I also think, yeah, the Vikings are GOING to make the playoffs.  Unless that defense suffers no less than 7 major injuries, they should easily carry what should be another pretty anemic offense.

One final bit on the Vikings:  I thought it was a real chickenshit move to not start Bridgewater.  Given their head coach’s non-answer to why he didn’t play, I can only assume it was because he was afraid that we’d further stunt his limited growth by making him look bad.  I mean, it’s not like he’s reached Adrian Peterson status where he can sit out the entire pre-season and then perform at an All Pro level in Week 1.  Since Bridgewater played in the first pre-season game, we know THAT level of insanity hasn’t been breached.  So, what else could it be?  If he was being disciplined for some team violation, the coach could have just said that, and left unsaid what the violation was.  But, no, this was a coach’s decision, and I think it was a mistake.  That kid needs reps against a legit defense if he’s ever going to grow.

Onto more Seahawky things, I thought Christine Michael looked legit.  As a personal philosophy, I don’t like the Running Back By Committee, but as a Marshawn Lynch fanatic, I like the idea that it takes two quality running backs to compensate for the loss of Beastmode.  The Seahawks’ running game is in good hands this season.

Knowing full well Minnesota’s defense is great, I thought it was disappointing that we couldn’t score on them in the first half.  There are other great defenses on our schedule this season – like the Rams in Week 2, for instance – and it’s disheartening to see us struggle so mightily against these stout front sevens.  Of course, penalties and other mistakes don’t help matters much.  Russell Wilson looked like he reverted a little bit when the pressure was on – resulting in him taking a couple of sacks he probably shouldn’t have.  I was also a little scared to see Wilson get chopped down a couple times where – in seasons past – I remember him being able to get away from such forces.  Is he losing a step?  Maybe too early to go to that extreme, but he certainly wasn’t doing the type of Russell Wilson things we’ve grown accustomed to seeing.

Regarding the offensive line, I thought the interior played another fine game.  But, both the left and right tackles were DISASTERS.  The more I think about it, the more we’re going to need to rely on the quick-strike passing game.  Teams already want to do everything they can to keep Wilson in the pocket, to prevent him from doing those aforementioned Russell Wilson things.  But, that’s made MUCH easier if our tackles are going to give defenders the edge on a constant basis.  Bradley Sowell is not a starter in this league, period.  Webb’s injury has forced the team to revert Gilliam back to the right side, which has to be fucking with his development like crazy.  Don’t expect the tackle positions to be even remotely competent anytime soon.

On defense, we still haven’t seen them play to their full potential.  Michael Bennett’s reps have been scaled back, what with it being the pre-season, and what with him being amazing.  I don’t know how much we’ve actually seen with Bennett, Avril, and Clark all rushing the quarterback at the same time, but it really hasn’t been a lot (if any).

I thought it was weird that Brandon Browner didn’t get any play with the starters.  If he’s supposed to have this “special role” with us, where we use him against opposing tight ends, then how about we at least TRY it in the pre-season to see where and how he fits in?!  Like usual, the middle short of the defense, as well as the tight end position, were the areas where we struggled.  That offense, with Shaun Hill and no AP, should have looked as inept as can be, but they ultimately managed to move the ball a little bit, to my dismay.  And score on us, where we were unable to score on them.

DeShawn Shead looked like the real deal.  So did Kelcie McCray.  This secondary is in good hands.

Still no sign of Tye Smith having any impact whatsoever.  To think, I had such high hopes in his Year 2.

Frank Clark continued to be Mr. Pre-Season, which is fun.  Jarran Reed looked strong up the middle, which is also fun.

Boykin almost led us to another second half comeback, then got smacked with a Pick Six, then almost led us to another MIRACLE second half comeback.  That kid’s got Quality Second Stringer written all over him (I just hope we don’t have to use him as a rookie, when the games start to mean something).

Steven A. Taylor’s Long Snapper Corner

So, not a great week for Nolan Frese.  I saw at least two bad snaps to the punter (maybe three?) and one VERY high snap on a field goal opportunity, that messed with Hauschka’s timing, ultimately causing him to leave a long field goal a few yards short.  That also happened while some fans were passing around a video on Twitter of Clint Gresham on YouTube doing his long snapping magic.  Gresh is still out there, looking for work.  I’d consider it, if I were running the Seahawks …

A List Of The Seahawks’ Pre-Season Storylines

Making us all wait until Saturday before we get to watch the first Seahawks pre-season game seems a little masochistic by the NFL, but what are you gonna do?  Tomorrow, FINALLY, the pre-season starts.  All we’ve had so far are beat writer accounts of practice and sports radio interviews of coaches and athletes.  But, now we get to see the team in action.  It might be pretend action, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn a whole lot about what these 2016 Seahawks are going to look like.

From this point forward, there will be a lot more writing on the Seahawks on this site, so get ready!  I’ve jotted down a list of the major storylines, with a little blurb on each one, that I could very well expand upon in longer posts sometime in the next month or so.  Without further ado, and in no particular order:

The Offensive Line

Yeah, you better believe I’m going to be focusing on the O-Line more than any other unit when the Seahawks take the field this pre-season.  I read good things about various guys so far in Training Camp, but is that relative to last year’s abomination?  We’ll find out.

Improved Secondary

I think it’s funny to hear these national writers talk about the Vikings, or some other team, having the league’s best and deepest secondary, TOTALLY sleeping on the Seahawks.  Motherfuckers act like they forgot about Dre the L.O.B.  Earl is still Earl, Sherm is still Sherm, Kam is still the most destructive force in the strong safety game today.  Beyond that, you want to talk about depth?  I’m looking at Lane, Shead, and Simon all playing at high levels when healthy.  I’m looking at a 2nd year pro in Tye Smith with a chip on his shoulder who had a healthy rookie year where all he had to do was learn the system.  I’m looking at safety Kelcie McCray who could be starting on a lot of teams right now.  I’m looking at a special role for Brandon Browner, matching up exclusively with other teams’ big receivers and tight ends.  Then, there’s Tyvis Powell, an undrafted rookie, who’s making a big impression these first couple weeks.  They’re sleeping on the L.O.B. now, but the league will be quick to learn who the real O.G.’s are.

The Defensive Line

I keep reading reports about how this is – or could be – the greatest pass rush we’ve had since 2013, but I’ve got my doubts.  We lost Bruce Irvin and replaced him with Frank Clark; is that a good move or not?  Last year, we had BOTH guys, so how does losing Irvin help us, exactly?  And, aside from Bennett, where are we getting our interior pass rush?  Is there someone I’m not familiar with who will step up as a 4th pass rush option from the defensive end position?  Believe you me, that’s going to be a huge part of my pre-season focus.

New Look Running Game

Obviously, the scheme will be the same, but the players are new.  Will Thomas Rawls return to last year’s record-breaking form?  Will the resurgence of Christine Michael translate into increased opportunities?  Will ANY of the rookies be able to stay healthy?

Passing Game Stability

I love the fact that the Seahawks brought Jermaine Kearse back, and that for the most part, our entire receiving corps is back for another run.  They may not be household names across the league (although, I don’t know how you can ignore Doug Baldwin’s contributions to our success any longer), but these guys continue to get the job done.  As they continue to mesh with Russell Wilson, in conjunction with the question marks surrounding the running game, I do think we’ll see an increase in this team’s passing numbers.

Backup Quarterback

For at LEAST the next two weeks, as the backups tend to play more than the starter in those games, this will be a constant point of focus, in the games and in the media between games.  Trevone Boykin vs. Jake Heaps vs. some possible third option not currently on the roster vs. Tarvaris Jackson perhaps?  Boykin appears to be more mobile, more Russell Wilson-esque; Heaps appears to be the better pocket passer and more accurate.  We know what Tarvar can do, so he could probably roll in here the day before the regular season starts and get his job back if he wants it.  But, I’ll tell ya, if the backups shit the bed against the Chiefs tomorrow, don’t be surprised if you see a flurry of tryouts by Monday.

Long Snapper

Scoff all you want!  You won’t be scoffing the moment one of these new long snappers sails a football over Jon Ryan’s head, or costs us a game-winning field goal attempt!  Don’t say I didn’t warn you chickenfuckers, because I’m going to have a little blurb about the long snappers after every pre-season game this year!  “Steven A. Taylor’s Long Snapper Corner” I’ll call it, and it’s going to be all anyone ever talks about!

Michael Bennett’s Contract

Things have sort of quieted down in this arena, which is nice, because no one really wants to hear about it anyway.  But, you know it’s going to come up again.  If Bennett continues to kill it, you’re going to hear (from him, and media types alike) that he deserves bigtime money.  But, the fear is:  what if he goes the other way?  What if the production dips?  Surely, they’ll look to point out that he’s not content with the money he’s making.  Now, a lot of that is likely a bunch of bullshit; but if there’s any element of truth to it, and he does slack off because he’s not making the money he thinks he’s earned, then we could be in for a long, frustrating season.  He is key in so many ways to this team’s defensive success.

Bobby Wagner Bounce Back Year

It’s not in the numbers he put up last year, so much as the eyeball test.  I just want to see more of an impact, in the obvious, fan sense.  Big run stuffs, big sacks, big interceptions, big forced fumbles.  Let’s get Bobby Wagner back on the map and in the same arena as Luke Kuechly.

Brandon Browner’s Return

This guy was a Pro Bowler for us.  This guy’s tenacity and strength and attitude was a HUGE reason why this secondary was so good back in the day.  I want to see if he’s as bad as he was in New Orleans, or if he was just used improperly.  I want to see if he’s still got something in the tank to be an enforcer this team needs.  I want to see him knock some tight ends on their asses!  Remember all those games we blew late last year?  Cincy, Carolina, Green Bay, St. Louis?  All of them had big days out of their tight ends.  Here’s to hoping Browner can put a stop to that shit once and for all.

Russell Wilson’s Eliteness

There’s nothing fans love more than to tout their quarterbacks as the best.  New England fans have had a stranglehold on this type of douche-baggery for far too long.  Wilson showed he can be an elite pocket passer for much of the second half of last season.  Let’s see him pick it up where he left off (especially since we’re breaking in this all-new offensive line).  Let’s see him make Pete Prisco look more and more like the know-nothing jackass that he is.

Tyler Lockett’s Impending Breakout

He was excellent as a rookie.  So, what can this kid do now?  He made it through the whole year healthy, has had a full offseason to absorb the playbook and work with Wilson away from the practice setting.  He’s going to be on the field more than any other receiver except for Baldwin; he’s going to get PLENTY of chances to make some big plays.  I, for one, can’t wait to see him unlock his full potential.

Frank Clark’s Expanded Role

He was pretty solid as a rookie.  He didn’t have to play a lot, but he showed flashes.  I’m curious to see how he’ll do as more of a primary pass rusher (really, as this team’s third option behind Bennett and Avril).  I don’t generally have a ton of confidence in young pass rushers, so I hope he’s able to take a HUGE step forward.  Otherwise, as I mentioned up top, this team’s pass rush could be in real trouble.

The SAM Linebacker

Or, Replacing Bruce Irvin in Base Defense.  So far, it’s been a 3-man race between Mike Morgan, Cassius Marsh, and Eric Pinkins.  Morgan has the experience, knows the system, and feels like the sensible choice.  Marsh dropped weight to get to this point, has always been good against the run, and seems athletic enough.  Even if he doesn’t win the starting job, you don’t have to worry about him, because he’s one of this team’s best Special Teamers.  Pinkins has been coming on strong of late, from what I’ve read.  He appears to have the highest upside of the three, from a playmaking perspective.  He’ll need to play mistake-free, assignment-correct football (or pretty close to it) in the pre-season games to win the job.  I hope he does; this team could always use another young, cheap playmaking force.

Jimmy Graham & Thomas Rawls

Their returns from graphic injuries will continue to be stories until they’re not.  Until they get back on the field, in a game setting, and knock it around with the pros.  Rawls came off the PUP list first, and could be practicing with the team as early as next week.  Graham just came off the PUP list a day or two ago, has the more-serious of the two devastating injuries, and will need to be brought along more slowly.  As such, and given his star status, his every movement will continue to be news for the next month straight.  I eagerly await his return, but I’d be just as happy to see him held back as long as possible, to avoid re-injury, and ESPECIALLY to avoid injuring other body parts in compensation for protecting the knee.

Ranking The Seahawks By How Much I’d Freak The Fudge Out If They Got Significantly Injured

There’s never really a GOOD time to get news about a player being injured.  No matter who it is, no matter when it happens, it’s cutting into your team’s depth, and that’s always going to be bad.  I suppose if I HAD to pick a “good” time, it would be sometime before the season starts.  With the hopes that they’ll either recover in time for the games that count, or that they can be put on IR-Designated To Return, with the idea that they’ll show up for a good second half of the season stretch run.

But, even then, I can’t help but simmer at a low boil right now, in constant fear of the first major injury to befall my favorite team.

So far, it’s just been a couple of reserves with Achilles injuries, as far as MAJOR injuries are concerned.  I guess you could lump Rawls and Graham in there, but those guys were hurt last year, and they’re reportedly on the mend and set to come back for the regular season.  But, there really aren’t any significant NEW injuries to speak of (knock on all the wood you’ve got), so my low boil remains.

As there have been the usual reports of a lot of minor strains and such, with the start of Training Camp – pretty normal, as guys get back into football playing shape – I started thinking about the unthinkable.  So, let’s dig in!  I love nothing more than to be wildly inappropriate, so let’s put it all on the table.  Let’s talk about the guys the Seahawks can ill afford to lose.  The illest, as it were.

  1. Russell Wilson – It’s so obvious it’s hardly even worth mentioning.  Russell Wilson makes this offense go.  Without Russell Wilson, we’re toast; you might as well call us the Denver Broncos.  That’s on an ordinary year.  But THIS year, where Tarvaris Jackson remains unsigned, and we’re looking at a couple of undrafted rookies as potential #2’s, it’s even more obvious.  This list is “Russell Wilson” in the first 550 spots, and then we get to someone different.
  2. Doug Baldwin – Threw you a curveball!  I bet you thought I was going to say any number of elite defenders!  But, this isn’t a list of “Best Seahawks”, this is a list of Most Important Seahawks To Keep Healthy.  Or, in other words, it’s a ranking of where I feel this team is strongest and weakest.  And I’ll tell you right now, I like our depth along the D-Line, and I LOVE our depth in the secondary.  But, the drop-off from Doug Baldwin to Jermaine Kearse, or Doug Baldwin to Tyler Lockett, is pretty significant.  I still like Kearse to make the tough catches, and I still like Lockett to make the big plays, but Baldwin does it all.  He’s a security blanket on third down, he’s a big-play machine in the open field, and most importantly of all, he scores them TDs.  With the running game to be a big fat question mark until either Rawls returns from injury, or someone else proves himself fit to carry the load, this team is going to need to rely on the passing game.  And Baldwin is the biggest non-QB component of that passing game, hands down.
  3. Michael Bennett – I like the D-Line, but I don’t love it.  A lot of what makes this unit passable is the fact that Michael Bennett is so versatile.  We need him wreaking havoc on the outside, containing the run game; but we need him even more on the inside, slashing through the line and making the opposing quarterback’s life a living hell.  He allows you to play less versatile guys on the outside in obvious passing downs, which gives this team three viable pass rushing options to get the job done.  Without Bennett, the Seahawks have absolutely zero interior push (unless they blitz up the middle, which they rarely do), so losing him would completely change the defense.
  4. Cliff Avril – This more or less speaks to the lack of depth we have in our pass rush.  I’ve narrowed it down to three guys:  Bennett, Avril, and Frank Clark.  The drop-off, from a defensive end standpoint, is pretty stark.  Cassius Marsh?  He’s never proven to be anything more than a solid special teams guy, and someone surprisingly good against the run.  But, Marsh has never really been a pass rush specialist.  With Bruce Irvin now on the Raiders, and Chris Clemons having retired, this team REALLY needs someone to shock the world in the pre-season.
  5. Earl Thomas – I tried to fend it off as long as I could.  Kelcie McCray appears to be the backup, though, and I thought he looked pretty good last year!  Nevertheless, there’s only one Earl Thomas, and after making it through last year, able to prepare for this season from a standpoint of health, I would expect him to be a scud missile this season.  He allows this defense to get away with so much, because he can cover so much ground.  Combined with Sherm, and a solid triad of Lane, Shead, and Simon on the other side/in the nickel, it allows Kam and/or Browner to play closer to the box and be the enforcer this defense thrives off of.
  6. Bobby Wagner – Because no one wants to see Brock Coyle in there.
  7. Richard Sherman – Because while I like the depth of our secondary as it stands now, we all know it’s only a matter of time before Tharold Simon is lost for the year, and at THAT point, we’d be proper fucked.
  8. Frank Clark – Because I really want to see this nickel defense at full strength, to see how well we do in replacing Bruce Irvin.
  9. Thomas Rawls – Because I don’t know if I trust Christine Michael, and I don’t want to go into this season with nothing but rookies at running back.
  10. Germain Ifedi – Because I hate losing highly-rated draft picks in their rookie seasons.  I want him to get all the experience he can, then go into the offseason completely healthy, so instead of rehabbing, he can focus on getting stronger and working on technique (in hopes of being our starting right tackle of the future).

That’s all I got.  I could probably drag this out some more, but the whole 12 thing is played out.

Taking A Hard Look At The Seahawks’ Roster

On Twitter, I heard Pro Football Focus ranked the Seahawks as having the 13th-best roster in the NFL, which on the one hand is absurd, because seriously?  Worse than Philly, Oakland, and Dallas?  And on the other hand, is a missed opportunity, because that’s the perfect opportunity to take an extra dig at this fanbase by ranking the Seahawks 12th (or, at least tied for 12th).

I don’t subscribe to PFF, nor am I an ESPN Insider, because I have enough shit to read on the free Internet, I don’t need to go spending money to read more shit for which I just don’t have the time.  So, I can’t tell you the context or the rationale behind it, but knowing the Seahawks, I think you can look squarely at the offensive line, the loss of Marshawn Lynch, and the questionable pass rush.  If you factor in a couple of key injuries here and there, then who knows?  Maybe the 2016 Seahawks take a large tumble.

So, just how dire is it?

I’ve gone on at length about the O-Line, and I’m sure I’ll continue to do so as we get into the pre-season, so I’ll just say this:  it’ll look bad early, it’ll get better as the season goes along, but it’ll always be a source of dismay for the fans.  The question we need answered is:  how bad is it RIGHT NOW (i.e. what is the floor for this unit?), and how much better can it get as it gels over the weeks (i.e. what is the ceiling?)?  Last year, the floor was pretty low.  But, I’m hard-pressed to cite it as the overwhelming reason why we started off the season so poorly (if anything, I’d blame the O-Line for why the season ended the way it did, with a late home loss to the Rams, followed by a first-half dismantling in Carolina in the playoffs).  If the ceiling isn’t going to be any better than it was last year, then we’re either screwed, or we’re going to need to get lucky in our matchups down the stretch and in the post-season.

As for the pass rush, it’s too early to make any definitive statements, which is both exciting and scary.  Assuming Avril and Bennett are back and healthy (and not holding out), that’s a terrific pass rushing base.  The loss of Bruce Irvin certainly hurts, but that opens up a role for Frank Clark, so it’s not all bad.  Can Clark be a percentage of what Irvin gave us?  Will his ceiling be higher?  Let’s not forget, Bruce Irvin wasn’t some Tasmanian Devil; if he was some elite, All Pro pass rusher, the Seahawks would’ve done more to hang onto him.  So, you know, it’s entirely possible that Clark can be exactly what Irvin was, at least from a pass rush standpoint.  And, regardless, we’ve also got Chris Clemons back in the fold, as a veteran LEO end we can use in spots, who should have enough in the tank to give us a little extra something we didn’t have last year.

Barring injury, I’m okay with what our pass rush looks like going into the season.  If we can get what we got last year – which wasn’t Top 5 by any stretch, but was probably closer to league average – I’m entirely fine with that.

Because I think our secondary is going to take a HUGE step forward.  Having Jeremy Lane to start the season is an immediate upgrade over the likes of Cary Williams.  Having some combo of Tharold Simon, Brandon Browner, Tye Smith, and DeShawn Shead, will make us MUCH deeper than we were last year.  And, the inclusion of Browner in more of a safety role – to target the bigger tight ends we were getting beaten by so often last year – should help reduce some of those late-game let-downs we gave up last year.

An outstanding pass rush can – and often will – make up for a lacking secondary.  On the flipside, an outstanding secondary can – and often will – give the pass rush a little extra time to get home.

You can argue that some guys on defense last year didn’t appear to be their usual, dominant selves.  For instance, I didn’t see a lot popping off the screen when I watched Bobby Wagner or Kam Chancellor.  But, I would argue that K.J. Wright took a huge step forward, Richard Sherman was as good as he’s ever been, and you’re going to struggle to convince me Earl Thomas has lost a step.  Just because the guys weren’t making good on a lot of turnover opportunities, doesn’t mean this unit has all of a sudden fallen off the cliff.  If anything, turnovers are random, and could just as easily be this team’s defining characteristic in 2016.

Yes, injuries would kill our depth, but you can say that with any team.  But, I would argue the Seahawks made great strides in free agency to at least shore up some of that depth.  Clemons, as I mentioned above.  Siliga is a great option at tackle behind our draft pick, as well as re-signing Rubin for the 3-Tech.  Mike Morgan is back to compete at SAM in the base defense.  Lane and Browner, as I mentioned above, are upgrades over guys we were starting early last year.  I have high hopes for this defense – as is – to be better than it was in 2015, and to have enough depth to get us through the tough times, should guys go down with nagging complaints that keep them out a few weeks.

Which brings us to the offense.

You don’t go anywhere until you talk about Russell Wilson’s great leap forward over the last half of last season.  That’s hard, real-world evidence of a guy hitting the next level.  That’s important.  It’s also something that needs to be furthered if this offense doesn’t want to take a step back in 2016.

Like it or lump it, the running game is in jeopardy.  The O-Line is, obviously, built to run the ball, so that’s fine.  But, who carries the rock?  Will Rawls be ready?  If he’s ready, will he be the same guy he was in 2015?  If he’s not, or if he’s supplanted, will his replacement have what it takes to carry the load, and at least approach what Beastmode gave us in his healthy years?

Just as there will certainly be some growing pains in our pass protection to start the season, there could very well be similar growing pains in our run game, only the O-Line likely won’t be at fault.  Nevertheless, we’re going to need Wilson to be an elite, Top 5 QB just to MAINTAIN what we were able to do.  Then, once the running game gets going, the sky is the limit for this offense.  But, how long will that take?  And, how many games will it cost us in the early going?

In the passing game, there’s a lot of carry-over, which is nice.  The wide receiver group is pretty much the same, especially at the top-end of the group with Baldwin, Kearse, and Lockett.  While it’s reasonable to question whether Graham will be ready or not, he’ll be back eventually, and in the meantime there’s a lot to like about the guys behind him, with Willson and draft pick Vannett.

I suppose, you could argue that outside of Russell Wilson, and a healthy Graham, there isn’t a lot of dynamic game-changers on offense (like there is on defense).  So, if you’re ranking teams from top to bottom at this arbitrary point in the offseason, you can look at the Seahawks and shrug your shoulders at the running backs, and the overall depth in the receiving game.  While Baldwin was legitimately great in 2016, he’s still seen as a possession receiver.  While Kearse has made some of the biggest, most important catches in franchise history, he’s still seen as Just Another Guy.  Lockett has yet to really prove himself on offense.  And, beyond those guys, you’ve got a bunch of receivers no one has ever heard of before (outside of Seattle, anyway).  And, until someone plays himself into a starting role, the running back group is essentially anonymous, with guys like Prosise and Rawls having the upside you like, while at the same time having the question marks you hate to need to count on.

If I step back and look at this team honestly, you know what I see?  In many ways, it could be a transition year just like 2015.  That’s hard to swallow, as a fan, when you’ve seen this unit – by and large – go to back-to-back Super Bowls.  You’d like to think, for a team this stacked, you wouldn’t need more than a year off before going back to another title game.  But, there were a number of missteps on many fronts that led to this.  Not taking Kam’s holdout seriously and working to build depth at the safety position was something that cost us a couple games last year.  Trying to get by with smoke & mirrors on the O-Line for another year, when you knew you were likely going to lose Okung and Sweezy at season’s end and have to start all over.  And, quite honestly, the severity of the injuries to Rawls and Graham have us in a bind.  It dictated how we drafted – taking an absurd three running backs, hoping that at least two of them will stick – and it’s ultimately going to dictate how high our upside is as we enter the regular season.  Regardless, 2015 was a transition year no one really saw coming, which could very well carry over into a 2-year hangover of sorts from the disasterous end of Super Bowl XLIX.

I go back to floors and ceilings when I think of the 2016 Seahawks.  We’re going to get a clear view of this team’s floor come September, when guys are still getting used to playing (and playing together) on both sides of the ball.  Any injuries on top of that will only delay our potential rise to prominence.  If we can get off to a quality start to the season, while playing at our relative floor, it’ll make all the difference.  Because, in spite of what I see as a team in transition in 2016, I still see a team poised to make a big jump over the second half of the season.  The O-Line should improve with more games played together; the running game should sort itself out as guys get healthy (and rookies get used to the speed of the NFL).  The defense as a whole should be improved over what it was in 2015, so as long as we can keep it patched up and running smoothly (particularly early in the season), there’s a good chance that this “transition year” could morph into another championship year.  Either by overcoming a slow start – and improving our play on the road, particularly through the playoffs – or by overcoming our early-season shortcomings, WINNING in the first half more than our primary NFC rivals, and gelling in time for a quality finish to the season and another high seed in the playoffs.

So, while the roster might indeed be something the rest of the league (and the analyzing public at large) sleeps on, none of that really matters.  All that matters is how the schedule shapes up.  Can a so-so Seahawks squad get through the early weeks before they turn into a butterfly and lay to waste the rest of the league in the later weeks?

The Dolphins, Rams, 49ers, and Jets await us in the first four weeks.  Can we go 3-1 or stay perfect in that stretch?  It’ll be important, because then we get the BYE before hosting the Falcons.  That leads us into our first really important game, in Arizona, before games against the Saints and Bills take us to the midway point in the season.  One would hope, after 8 weeks (if not sooner), the Seahawks can get through their growing pains and start to gel, as I mentioned above.  If the Seahawks can figure out a way to go 6-2 or better in the first half, we’ve got a good chance to be really special, even if the second half is full of teams that are – on paper – super good (Pats, Packers, Panthers, Cards again, not to mention the Bucs and Rams again).

But, if we struggle early, end up 4-4 at the midway point, with all those tough teams yet to play, then yeah, I could see this being another year where we flame out as a Wild Card team, or even miss the playoffs altogether.

The point in all this is while the roster might not be championship level now, or to start the season, it has potential to get there by season’s end, or going into 2017 after a year’s worth of experience for some of these young guys.

A Look Back at the Impressive Draft History of the John Schneider Era

With the draft coming up in a couple days, it’s always fun to look back at all the success the Seahawks have had in their current regime, overhauling a franchise in the toilet and propping it up as world champions.  You don’t get this good, this fast, without some remarkable drafting and some remarkable coaching.  Who can say if all of these guys would have been just as good under the tutelage of lesser men?  What we know is that a lot of these guys panned out in a big way, thanks to the system we have in place.

To give the full picture, you actually have to go back to the 2009 draft, when we had Jim Mora Jr. as our head coach and Tim Ruskell calling the shots on the personnel side.

Like all of Ruskell’s drafts after his first one back in 2005 – where he nabbed Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill, to solidify the middle of our defense – his 2009 class was a huge disaster.  The Seahawks had the #4 pick and wasted it on a bust of a player in Aaron Curry.  Given the downward trajectory of the franchise at that point, you had to wonder where Ruskell found his erroneous sense of job security, as he traded away Seattle’s second round pick (37th overall) to the Denver Broncos for a 2010 first round pick (to further confuse matters, the Seahawks ended up trading 3rd & 4th rounders to get back into the second round – 49th overall – to select Max Unger, the last bit of good from the Ruskell regime).

With that 2010 first round pick, however, the Seahawks would build their dynasty.  As we’re all well aware, the 2009 Seahawks ended up being a trainwreck just like the 2008 variety, leading the franchise to earn the #6 draft pick in 2010.  The 2009 Broncos did their part by going 8-8 and failing to make the playoffs, which meant that their first round draft pick (which was now ours) was 14th overall.

While the 2010 draft wasn’t quite up to the elite level of the 2012 class, it seriously jumpstarted things in a big way.

  • First Round, #6 – Russell Okung (LT)
  • First Round, #14 – Earl Thomas (S)
  • Second Round, #60 – Golden Tate (WR)
  • Fourth Round, #111 – Walter Thurmond (CB)
  • Fourth Round, #127 – E.J. Wilson (DE)
  • Fifth Round, #133 – Kam Chancellor (S)
  • Sixth Round, #185 – Anthony McCoy (TE)
  • Seventh Round, #236 – Dexter Davis (DE)
  • Seventh Round, #245 – Jameson Konz (WR/TE/DE/FB)

Of note is that the Seahawks were originally slated to draft much earlier in the second round, but ended up swapping picks with San Diego (along with giving them a third rounder in 2011) to trade for Charlie Whitehurst.  So, you can’t tell me there weren’t some roadblocks in the early going of the John Schneider era.

Also, it wasn’t all peaches and cream out of Tim Ruskell in the 2009 draft, as he sold off our 2010 third round pick to get Deon Butler in that 2009 class.  The Seahawks also ended up trading back in the 4th & 6th rounds with Tennessee to grab LenDale White and Kevin Vickerson.  Vickerson proved to be an adequate defensive tackle; White never made the roster.

In a much happier deal, the Seahawks acquired their extra fourth round pick (which they used on E.J. Wilson, who didn’t pan out) and managed to get Chris Clemons from the Eagles (who very much DID pan out), and all we had to give up was Darryl Tapp.

More deals to come.  The Seahawks traded away their original fifth round pick to the Jets for Leon Washington and the Jets’ 7th round pick.  But, the Seahawks got back into the fifth round (ahead of their original pick) in a deal with Detroit where we also received some defensive end, where we only gave up Rob Sims (a guard who was never all that good with the Seahawks) and a seventh round pick.  The Seahawks would use that pick to draft Kam Chancellor, locking down their two starting safeties in the same class.

As far as I can tell, the Seahawks didn’t really get much from the undrafted free agent class of 2010, though Lemuel Jeanpierre and Breno Giacomini were both brought in that year.  And, obviously, the Seahawks would bring in Marshawn Lynch via trade during the season.  But, when you look at that draft class, you’ve got 6 key contributors, including 4 starters (Okung, Thomas, Tate, and Chancellor) and great ones at that.

That brings us to 2011, or the mule of the John Schneider draft classes.  It gets a lot of flack for being mediocre, but upon further review was pretty underrated.

To kick things off, the 7-9 Seahawks of 2010 were stupidly allowed into the playoffs by way of winning one of the worst divisions in recorded NFL history.  Even though that team had literally no chance of winning the Super Bowl, it still made some noise with the Beastquake run and the unlikely upset of the previous year’s Super Bowl champion Saints.  Of course, the Seahawks would go on to lose the very next week in Chicago, meaning that for all the hubbub, the Seahawks would end up picking 25th overall in the 2011 draft.

If you were like me, you saw this as a sign of doom.  The 2010 Seahawks were not good.  Not by a longshot.  And, to be hampered with drafting so low in the first round (and in subsequent rounds) would only set things back that much further.  Apparently unable to find a partner with which to trade back, the Seahawks made that selection James Carpenter, who started as our right tackle before getting bumped inside to guard.  Everyone thought this was a reach, and history has proven this to be true; Carpenter was adequate at best, but not a true impact player you’d hope to get in the first round.  Nevertheless, he was a starter all four years, so he wasn’t quite the crime against humanity everyone makes him out to be (indeed, his current salary with the Jets would speak to how other teams have come to value his strong run blocking abilities).

  • First Round, #25 – James Carpenter (OL)
  • Third Round, #75 – John Moffitt (G)
  • Fourth Round, #99 – K.J. Wright (LB)
  • Fourth Round, #107 – Kris Durham (WR)
  • Fifth Round, #154 – Richard Sherman (CB)
  • Fifth Round, #156 – Mark LeGree (S)
  • Sixth Round, #173 – Byron Maxwell (CB)
  • Seventh Round, #205 – Lazarius Levingston (DE)
  • Seventh Round, #242 – Malcolm Smith (LB)

The Seahawks ended up trading away their second round pick to the Lions to pick up an extra third & fourth round picks (used on Moffitt and Durham).  Recall they gave away their original third round pick in 2010 to get Charlie Whitehurst.  All in all, nothing too impressive with any of these moves, as Whitehurst was a bust, Moffitt ended up getting traded to Denver after a mediocre rookie season, and Durham never panned out with Seattle.  In that same Lions trade, the Seahawks moved up in the fifth and seventh rounds, which they used to grab Richard Sherman (GREAT!) and Lazarius Levingston (WHO?).

The Seahawks gave up their original fourth round pick in the Marshawn Lynch trade (as well as a conditional 2012 pick that ended up being a fifth rounder).  However, the Seahawks got back into the fourth round by trading Deion Branch back to the Patriots.  Branch was a turd sandwich in Seattle, and we used the pick we got from the Pats to grab K.J. Wright, who has been a stalwart for our linebacking corps.

That above trade wasn’t the last time we’d deal with the Lions.  In a spectacular move, the Seahawks traded away former bust under the Ruskell regime, Lawrence Jackson, to get the Lions’ sixth round pick, which we used to grab Byron Maxwell, a huge part of our success in his final two years here (and a great special teamer and backup overall).  That made up for giving away our original sixth round pick to the 49ers for Kentwan Balmer, who would go on to be cut prior to the 2011 season.

To wrap things up, the Seahawks traded their original seventh rounder to Philly for an offensive lineman who did nothing.  However, the Seahawks were granted a compensatory pick, which we used on Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith.

Among the 2011 undrafted free agents, we have Doug Baldwin (WR), Ricardo Lockette (WR), Jeron Johnson (S), and Mike Morgan (LB).  This would also be the year the Seahawks took a flyer on Brandon Browner from the CFL, among many other free agent acquisitions.

When you look at the haul of just the rookies, though, you’re talking about 10 contributors, including 5 starters (Carpenter, Wright, Sherman, Maxwell (eventually), and Baldwin).

That brings us to 2012, or one of the greatest draft classes you’ll ever see.  The 2011 were again 7-9, but thankfully weren’t saddled with a futile playoff appearance.  As such, they were granted the 12th overall selection, which they promptly traded to Philly to move back to 15.  The Seahawks were granted picks in the fourth (Jaye Howard, DT) and sixth round (Jeremy Lane, CB), and away we go!

  • First Round, #15 – Bruce Irvin (DE/LB)
  • Second Round, #47 – Bobby Wagner (LB)
  • Third Round, #75 – Russell Wilson (QB)
  • Fourth Round, #106 – Robert Turbin (RB)
  • Fourth Round, #114 – Jaye Howard (DT)
  • Fifth Round, #154 – Korey Toomer (LB)
  • Sixth Round, #172 – Jeremy Lane (CB)
  • Sixth Round, #181 – Winston Guy (S)
  • Seventh Round, #225 – J.R. Sweezy (G)
  • Seventh Round, #232 – Greg Scruggs (DE)

Not to be stopped, the Seahawks traded back in the second round as well, this time with the Jets.  We would pick up extra picks in the fifth and seventh rounds (Toomer & Scruggs, respectively).  That one didn’t totally pan out, though I would argue injuries to both players hampered their ability to make a significant impact early in their careers.  Nevertheless, you can sense a theme:  the Seahawks wanted as many picks in this draft as possible, as it was laden with talent.

No more trades until the seventh round, where the Seahawks got the pick they’d use to nab Sweezy from the Raiders, in addition to a conditional 2013 pick (which ended up being in the fifth round) for the privilege of jettisoning Aaron Curry (who would only last with the Raiders for a little over a year before being waived).  The Seahawks did trade away their original seventh rounder for Tyler Polumbus (from the Lions), who was a starter here, but wasn’t any good.

The Seahawks also got Jermaine Kearse (WR) and DeShawn Shead (CB) from the ranks of the undrafted free agents.  All told, this class netted the Seahawks 9 contributors, with 5 starters (Irvin, Wagner, Wilson, Sweezy, and Kearse), with Lane expected to start this year, given the big money he made this offseason to re-sign with the Seahawks.

Obviously, the 2012 squad made a huge leap, thanks to the Seahawks’ tremendous draft success.  In those three classes alone, you’re talking about 14 starters, and 25 contributors overall.  The 11-5 record, and first round victory against the Redskins, meant the Seahawks would draft 25th again in the first round in 2013 (as they did back in 2011).  In something of a stunner of a move, the Seahawks would trade away this pick, as well as its seventh rounder, and a 2014 third rounder, for the right to get Percy Harvin and sign him to an ill-advised huge free agent deal.

  • Second Round, #62 – Christine Michael (RB)
  • Third Round, #87 – Jordan Hill (DT)
  • Fourth Round, #123 – Chris Harper (WR)
  • Fifth Round, #137 – Jesse Williams (DT)
  • Fifth Round, #138 – Tharold Simon (CB)
  • Fifth Round, #158 – Luke Willson (TE)
  • Sixth Round, #194 – Spencer Ware (RB)
  • Seventh Round, #220 – Ryan Seymour (OL)
  • Seventh Round, #231 – Ty Powell (DE)
  • Seventh Round, #241 – Jared Smith (OL)
  • Seventh Round, #242 – Michael Bowie (OL)

The 2013 draft has proven to be the real dog of the John Schneider classes.  Nevertheless, let’s run through the moves that got it to where it was.  As a volume drafter, Schneider found multiple ways to recoup draft picks after spending so much on Percy Harvin.

To start, the Seahawks moved back in the second round, from 56 to 62, and received from the Ravens a fifth and a sixth (165 & 199).  As you can see from above, the Seahawks didn’t draft at either of those positions.  That’s because the Seahawks traded both of those picks to the Lions to get pick #137 (Williams) at the top of the fifth round.  The very next selection came from the Raiders in the Aaron Curry deal, which we used on Simon (who has been good, but has never been healthy).

The flurry of seventh rounders (none of whom were worth a damn) came from the Saints (pick 220, for some linebacker we gave them), and a couple of compensatory picks (#241 & #242).

Alvin Bailey was the only notable undrafted free agent in this class; he was a quality reserve along the offensive line, but nothing more.  All told, the Seahawks only managed to get one eventual starter in this class (Luke Willson, who has only been a starter thanks to injuries to Zach Miller and Jimmy Graham), and three other contributors (Michael, Hill, and Simon), though Spencer Ware got a crack at a job with the Chiefs and seems to be pretty good.

We all know what happened with that 2013 team, built on a rock solid foundation of draft picks.  Following that year, the team started to get picked apart a little bit, with free agents going to other teams.  With the 2013 class already looking like a bummer, the pressure was on John Schneider to right the ship with a banner 2014 draft.  He started it off by trading away our first round pick to the Vikings for a second straight year.  The Vikings would select Teddy Bridgewater with the 32nd pick in the class; the Seahawks would get Minnesota’s second and fourth round selections (40 & 108 overall).

Before Seattle could make a pick, we traded back again, this time with the Lions.  The Lions picked at 40, and also received our fifth round pick at 146 (which we got from the Raiders for Matt Flynn) in exchange for second, fourth, and seventh rounders from Detroit (45, 111, & 227).  At 45, the Seahawks finally made their first pick, selecting Paul Richardson.

  • Second Round, #45 – Paul Richardson (WR)
  • Second Round, #64 – Justin Britt (OL)
  • Fourth Round, #108 – Cassius Marsh (DE)
  • Fourth Round, #123 – Kevin Norwood (WR)
  • Fourth Round, #132 – Kevin Pierre-Louis (LB)
  • Fifth Round, #172 – Jimmy Staten (DT)
  • Sixth Round, #199 – Garrett Scott (OL)
  • Sixth Round, #208 – Eric Pinkins (DB/LB)
  • Seventh Round, #227 – Kiero Small (FB)

To make up for the loss of our third rounder (to the Vikings, in the Harvin deal the previous year), you can see why the Seahawks wanted to trade back so many times to start the draft.  They were able to pick up two extra fourth rounders.  That pick we got from the Vikings would go to Marsh, who has been a quality reserve and special teamer.  The Seahawks would use that 111th pick to trade with the Bengals to get pick 123 (Norwood) and an extra sixth rounder (Scott, who never made the team due to health concerns).  That seventh rounder from Detroit ended up being Kiero Small, who also didn’t make the team (the Seahawks would trade away their original seventh round pick to the Raiders for Terrelle Pryor, who never amounted to much of anything).

Among the undrafted free agents, we grabbed Garry Gilliam (OL), Brock Coyle (LB), and Dion Bailey (S).  At first glance, this class doesn’t look any more impressive than the 2013 class, but there are a number of under-the-radar players in there.  Right now, we’re looking at 2 starters (Britt and Gilliam), with four other contributors (Richardson, Marsh, KPL, and Coyle).  Depth guys, special teams guys, people to round out the roster.  When you figure so many of this team’s starters were already on the team ahead of this class, it’s not like you’re talking about a huge number of available openings.  Granted, a lot of this class hinges on Britt and Gilliam improving, and Richardson remaining healthy for a full season.  Should they fail, then you could make an argument that THIS is indeed the worst class of the John Schneider era.  But, until another couple years pass, it’s still TBD.

A second Super Bowl appearance for the 2014 squad meant that the 2015 Seahawks would be drafting quite low again.  With the obvious disaster of the Harvin trade looming over the franchise, the Seahawks opted to take another swing for the fences, trading away their first rounder (along with Max Unger) to the Saints for Jimmy Graham (and their fourth round pick, #112 overall).  We kick off the 2015 draft DEEP into the second round, with a controversial pick in Frank Clark (with domestic abuse allegations swirling around him, yet with an obvious cliff after him with regards to pass rushers in this draft class).

  • Second Round, #63 – Frank Clark (DE)
  • Third Round, #69 – Tyler Lockett (WR)
  • Fourth Round, #130 – Terry Poole (OL)
  • Fourth Round, #134 – Mark Glowinski (G)
  • Fifth Round, #170 – Tye Smith (CB)
  • Sixth Round, #209 – Obum Gwacham (DE)
  • Sixth Round, #214 – Kristjan Sokoli (OL)
  • Seventh Round, #248 – Ryan Murphy (DB)

The Seahawks had a ton of extra picks in this draft, which I’ll get to below.  They used a package of third (95), fourth (112), fifth (167), and sixth (181) round picks to move up to #69 from the Redskins.  That pick at 95 was our original third rounder.  That fourth rounder at 112 came from the Saints in the Jimmy Graham deal.  That fifth rounder at 167 was our original fifth rounder.  And that sixth rounder at 181 came from the Jets when we gave them Percy Harvin.  So, obviously, we sent away two picks that we got in deals, and two original picks.  We were more than happy to do so because 1) Tyler Lockett is a special player, and 2) we had extra picks throughout.

Poole was from our original fourth round pick; Glowinski was from a compensatory pick.  Tye Smith was also a compensatory pick, as were both of our sixth round guys (Gwacham and Sokoli).  That’s what you get when you don’t over-pay to keep your own players who aren’t necessarily worth big-money deals.

The only notable undrafted free agent from 2015 was Thomas Rawls, who very well may be our starting running back in 2016.  Combine him with Lockett (a Pro Bowl returner, and #3 wide receiver), Clark (valued rotation guy on the D-Line), Glowinski (projected starter at right guard in 2016), and Tye Smith (someone who will battle for minutes this pre-season) and you’ve got the makings of a very good draft class, that could be great if some of these players turn into elite starters.

With the 2016 draft class supposedly dripping with talent throughout, it wouldn’t be crazy to see the best Seahawks draft class since 2012.  Obviously, we’re drafting pretty low again, this year at #26, but with compenatory selections, the Seahawks already have 9 picks to select from, with a real opportunity to trade down in the first round to pick up some more (and gain some flexibility within the draft, in case we want to move up later).

I’m pretty excited for this year’s draft.  I’m sure I won’t know who these players are when I hear their names, but over the ensuing months, I look forward to getting to know them.

Brandon Browner Is Back, The Legion Of Boom Is Whole Again

One of the more interesting moves of the offseason has seen the Seahawks return to some familiar faces, in signing Chris Clemons and now Brandon Browner to 1-year prove-it deals.  As this post posits, perhaps this is a reaction to a perceived void in veteran leadership on this team.  You could argue that this team has a lot of leaders already, in Wilson, Graham, Baldwin, and Kearse on offense; and Earl, Sherm, Wagner, Wright, Bennett and Avril on defense.  Nevertheless, I would say – to borrow from Jim Mora Jr. a little bit – that the team doesn’t necessarily have very many dirtbags on the team.  Enforcers who bring one primary trait to the table:  pain.  Clemons, by all accounts, is a nasty customer, whose focus on taking out the quarterback is legendary on this team.  And, of course, we all know how lethal Brandon Browner can be.  I would also note that with Kris Richard as a first-time defensive coordinator, and a young one at that, it’s nice to have an abundance of veterans on this defense to show the younger players how it’s supposed to be done.

In the ol’ Gods & Clods way of team-building, you’ve got a lot of expensive players, and a lot of very VERY cheap players (usually rookies/guys on rookie deals).  When you can bring in players on cheap, 1-year deals, who know the system and are able to bring something of a teaching element to Training Camp (even if it’s simply leading by example), I believe there’s really no downside to these types of moves.  There’s no guarantee either Clemons or Browner make the team in 2016, but if they push younger guys to be great in the pre-season, they will have been well worth the modest cost of their signing bonuses.

With both of these guys, you’re looking at 50/50 deals as far as whether they make the team or not.  I think with Clemons, it’ll be a matter of him proving he’s still got it.  You don’t bring in a guy like Clemons to be a starter; you bring him in to add a little extra to your pass rush in obvious passing situations (to help lessen the blow of losing a guy like Irvin).  If he comes in during Training Camp and pre-season and he looks a step slower than everyone, then hey, at least he’ll impart some lessons to the younger guys, and it doesn’t cost you much to cut him.

With Browner, I’ll give the same odds of him making the team, even though his position has much more competition.  Browner’s reputation has taken quite a hit the last couple years.  He was a big part of costing the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX, but at the same time, he was super prone to penalties and was cut by the Patriots after the season ended.  Then, he cashed in with New Orleans, but his defensive coordinator was a boob and didn’t use him properly, so he continued making many boneheaded penalties and getting beat frequently.  The Seahawks know what Browner brings to the table, limitations and all.  In this system, Browner made a name for himself, and was able to cash in on that.  Returning to this system, we should see something of a bounce-back year out of him (assuming he makes the team, of course).

I’m not as negative as a lot of Seahawks fans are with this move, mostly because I agree the guy wasn’t in the right scheme last year.  If you bring in a veteran on a free agent deal, you sure as shit better adapt your defense to him and not the other way around.  With a rookie, you can mold him; with a veteran, you’re not teaching an old dog new tricks (unless he’s a superstar like Revis, but even then, he struggled a bit in Tampa when they had him play more zone coverage than his customary lockdown man coverage).

I’m also tempering my expectations a little bit.  Browner’s best years with the Seahawks were in 2011 and 2012 (mostly 2011, if we’re being honest; his Pro Bowl season).  He wasn’t exactly all that dominant in 2013, when he played only 8 games, and wasn’t even around during the stretch run or the playoff run; that’s where Byron Maxwell stepped into the starter’s role and ran with it.  Even Browner at his best has his limitations.  He’s not as great against smaller, shifty receivers.  Against a guy like Kearse – who he was able to shut down in the Super Bowl – Browner is all kinds of effective.  In that sense, you wonder if he’s a guy who will see a lot of time in certain games, against certain teams, and then next to nothing against others.

What we should all be looking forward to is the fact that – barring injury – Browner isn’t coming in to be a starter.  Jeremy Lane is the one who got the big contract, and he’s going to see the majority of the snaps on the field after Sherm, Earl, and Kam.  Browner is here for depth – so the team is able to push Lane inside on nickel situations – and he’s here to push Tharold Simon, who is solid when healthy, but who’s never healthy for a full season.  In that sense, as a depth piece, he further cements the secondary as the best unit on the team, and nearly brings us back to the greatness that was the secondary of 2013.

We’ll see how it all shakes out in the pre-season, but my initial impressions are nothing but favorable.