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.

The 2012 Seahawks’ Draft Class Is Very Wealthy

I’ll never EVER get tired of mocking this Bleacher Report post that gave the Seahawks an F grade for their 2012 draft class.  Let’s overlook, for a moment, the fact that grading a draft class the day of, or the next day, or even in the first year, is pretty ridiculous.  You don’t know how good or bad players are going to be!  All you know is what the Mel Kipers of the world have been blathering on about, and they don’t know anything either!  Grading a draft class based on pre-draft projections and predictions is pretty silly.

But, there are some real juicy pull-quotes from that Bleacher Report link.  They called Bruce Irvin, “one of the worst picks in the first round I can ever remember,” before going on to say that the Seahawks, “didn’t draft any positions of need or draft for the future.”  Let’s run down those draft picks really quick:

  • Bruce Irvin, DE/OLB, 1st round, 15th overall
  • Bobby Wagner, MLB, 2nd round, 47th overall
  • Russell Wilson, QB, 3rd round, 75th overall
  • Robert Turbin, RB, 4th round, 106th overall
  • Jaye Howard, DT, 4th round, 114th overall
  • Korey Toomer, LB, 5th round, 154th overall
  • Jeremy Lane, CB, 6th round, 172nd overall
  • Winston Guy, S, 6th round, 181st overall
  • J.R. Sweezy, RG, 7th round, 225th overall
  • Gregg Scruggs, DE, 7th round, 232nd overall
  • Jermaine Kearse, WR, undrafted free agent
  • DeShawn Shead, CB/S, undrafted free agent

I tacked on those key undrafted guys to bolster my argument, but also because they’re still significant players in the NFL.  But, let’s look at this for a moment.  I’m sure I’m not the first to rail into Bleacher Report on this very topic, but they mentioned the Seahawks didn’t draft any positions of need.  Didn’t they?  Let’s look at the 2011 Seahawks for a bit.

Regarding pass rush – which they addressed in the first round with Bruce Irvin – the 2011 Seahawks were in the bottom third of the league, with 33 sacks.  They were essentially Chris Clemons and that’s it.  Looks like a position of need to me.

Regarding the middle linebacker spot – which they addressed in the second round with Bobby Wagner – the 2011 Seahawks were rolling with the aging and injury-prone David Hawthorne.  Lofa Tatupu was gone, K.J. Wright might have gotten a look there, but he’s better suited as an outside linebacker.  And, let’s not forget Aaron Curry on the other side; no help there!  I’d say middle linebacker was a HUGE area of need!

Then, there’s quarterback.  I’ll forgive Bleacher Report if they didn’t believe that the short, running quarterback could hold up in the NFL.  But, to say that quarterback wasn’t an area of need for this team – this team that was trotting out Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst the year before – is insanity.  And, don’t give me Matt “2 starts in the NFL” Flynn, because he was never going to be a sure thing.  In their analysis, Bleacher Report went on to say that Wilson, “doesn’t fit their offense at all,” and was “by far the worst move of the draft.”  Even in the infancy of Wilson’s professional career, while I might understand some doubt, I can’t even remotely understand how drafting him in the third round would be one of the two worst moves in the entire draft (with Irvin being the other one).  By all accounts at the time, if Wilson were only 2 inches taller, he would’ve been a first round, maybe even Top 10 draft pick.  He had all the tools, all the intangibles, everything going for him but those two inches.  The WORST pick?  Seems like hyperbole got the better of Bleacher Report here.  But, either way, what’s that about “fitting the offense”?  What offense?  You mean the one that likes to run the ball a lot?  You mean the one where Tarvaris Jackson was under pressure on a near-constant basis?  Seems to me a running quarterback – behind that suspect offensive line – was EXACTLY the right fit for our offense.

Anyway, I could go on and on.  But, I didn’t really intend on this being a Kill Bleacher Report post.  They’ve been killed enough, by a plethora of other writers out there.  What I want to look at is just how great this class really was.

For starters, all of the guys listed above – each and every person drafted, plus those two undrafted cats – are still in the league four years later.  That’s pretty big, when you think about it.  How many busts have we seen get drafted and are out of the league a few months later?

Now, obviously, not all of these guys are still with the Seahawks.  But, that just goes to show you how strong this class really was:  we couldn’t afford to keep them all!  Hell, at the moment we only have 5 out of 12 of those guys, and Shead’s on the last year of his deal!  Nevertheless, everyone but Shead has seen a second deal, and Shead is all but guaranteed to join the party after the 2016 season, given his versatility.

On top of that, five of those guys have pretty wealthy second deals that they’ve recently signed, with another couple more making some serious money too.  Below, I’ve re-listed all those guys, with how much money they earned on their rookie deals, as well as their general current contract terms next to it.

  • Irvin – $9 million earned / 4 years, $37 million, $19 million guaranteed
  • Wagner – $3.3 million earned / 4 years, $43 million, $22 million guaranteed
  • Wilson – $2.2 million earned / 4 years, $87.6 million, $61.5 million guaranteed
  • Turbin – $2.5 million earned / 1 year, $760K in 2016
  • Howard – $2.5 million earned / 2 years, $10 million, $8.3 million guaranteed
  • Toomer – $1 million earned / 1 year, $600K in 2016
  • Lane – $2.3 million earned / 4 years, $23 million, $11 million guaranteed
  • Guy – $1.8 million earned / 2 years, $1.42 million
  • Sweezy – $3.4 million earned / 5 years, $32.5 million, $14.5 million guaranteed
  • Scruggs – $1.6 million earned / 2 years, $1.3 million
  • Kearse – $3.8 million earned / 3 years, $13.5 million, $6.3 million guaranteed
  • Shead – $2.2 million earned / 1 year, $760K in 2016

All told, that’s $35.6 million earned, with another potential $251.4 million in their current contracts (with Shead’s second deal to come next year) and $142.6 million in guaranteed money.  If you ask me, that’s a pretty nasty draft class.  2012 is the type of draft you only dream about.  It not only sets you up to win now, but to win for many years down the line.  We’re talking about 7 starters, 5 more reserve/rotation guys, with an All Pro and a Pro Bowler in the mix.  Outstanding!

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.

Knowing What We Know Now: Who Should The Seahawks Draft?

In the days following the end of the Seahawks’ season, a lot of bloggers like myself took to their keyboards to concoct plans for what the Seahawks should do this offseason.  I was no different, and I think it’s fun to go back and look at how things in real life differed from my Seahawks Vision Board (for the TL;DR crowd:  scroll to the very bottom for my concise list).

Part of what made my list so impractical is that I really didn’t have a handle on how much cap room the Seahawks really had.  Nor could I have seen how much money some guys – like Irvin and Sweezy – would end up commanding on the open market.  But, let’s quickly go one by one down the list to see how my vision differs from reality:

  1. The Seahawks did, in fact, let Okung go and move Gilliam to LT – CHECK!
  2. Couldn’t bring back Sweezy, cost too much (probably for the best anyway)
  3. Instead of “stud free agent guard”, the Seahawks went for a so-so guard and opted to move him to right tackle (Webb)
  4. (draft stud left guard in 1st round – draft hasn’t happened yet, but might be unlikely to see a stud fall to 26th overall)
  5. Seahawks brought back Lewis at center – CHECK! – and may indeed draft one as well
  6. Seahawks seem set at leaving Britt at left guard, and have already named Webb the starting right tackle, so this prediction looks like a bust
  7. Lynch retired, Rawls looks good to be the team’s #1, team re-signed Michael to be the #2, and still could draft a third down back late – ALMOST CHECK!
  8. Have yet to extend Baldwin, but still have time to do so
  9. Re-signed Kearse to 3-year, $13.5 million – CHECK!
  10. Kept Rubin, let Mebane go, replaced Mebane with cheap FA option (Siliga), and still could draft another – ALMOST CHECK!
  11. Seahawks didn’t re-sign Irvin (too expensive), looking to spread savings elsewhere – EITHER WAY I COULDN’T LOSE THIS CHECK!
  12. Re-signed Lane to 4-year, $23 million – CHECK!  (even better because I projected more money in my prediction)

So, I’m well on my way to getting 7 of these things right, with potential to get to 9 by the time the draft passes and we get closer to Training Camp.

Anyway, we’ve got a good idea of what most of the roster looks like right now.  In all likelihood, the Seahawks already have at least 39 of 53 players on their roster right now, and possibly as many as 49 of 53, depending on how the pre-season shakes out.  Let me run a quick list of my thoughts on the roster right now.  Guys listed I feel are locks, guys in parentheses () are potential roster guys, and if he’s not on the list, he’s a longshot in my eyes:

  • Russell Wilson – QB
  • Thomas Rawls – RB
  • Christine Michael – RB
  • Doug Baldwin – WR
  • Jermaine Kearse – WR
  • Tyler Lockett – WR
  • Paul Richardson – WR
  • (Kevin Smith – WR)
  • (Kasen Williams – WR)
  • Jimmy Graham – TE
  • Luke Willson – TE
  • (Cooper Helfet – TE)
  • Garry Gilliam – LT
  • Justin Britt – LG
  • Patrick Lewis – C
  • Mark Glowinski – RG
  • J’Marcus Webb – RT
  • (Kristjan Sokoli – C)
  • (Drew Nowak – C)
  • (Terry Poole – T)
  • (Bradley Sowell – T)

I ranked these guys in order (by position), so I think it’s more likely Kevin Smith makes it over Kasen Williams, but neither is a sure thing.  I think Helfet is here for insurance, but it wouldn’t shock me for the team to draft another tight end, or sign a guy off the free agent scrap heap who’s a quality blocker.  I think the team likely keeps one of Sokoli/Nowak and one of Poole/Sowell, depending on who looks best in the pre-season.  Anyway, that’s the offense.  I think we have a minimum of 16 offensive players already under contract, with the potential (though unlikely) of up to 21 players.  The Seahawks will need around 24-25 offensive players by the time the regular season starts.

  • Cliff Avril – DE
  • Michael Bennett – DE
  • Frank Clark – DE
  • Cassius Marsh – DE
  • (Chris Clemons – DE)
  • Ahtyba Rubin – DT
  • Sealver Siliga – DT
  • Jordan Hill – DT
  • (A.J. Francis – DT)
  • Bobby Wagner – LB
  • K.J. Wright – LB
  • Mike Morgan – LB
  • Brock Coyle – LB
  • Kevin Pierre-Lewis – LB
  • (Eric Pinkins – LB)
  • Richard Sherman – CB
  • Jeremy Lane – CB
  • DeShawn Shead – CB
  • Tharold Simon – CB
  • (Tye Smith – CB)
  • (Marcus Burley – CB)
  • Earl Thomas – S
  • Kam Chancellor – S
  • Kelcie McCray – S
  • Steven Terrell – S

As we learned recently, there’s relatively little guaranteed money in the Clemons signing, which means he’s going to have to earn his spot in the pre-season.  As the team is likely to draft a defensive end relatively high, it could be a tough roster spot to win.  I think the team likes Francis a lot, so his spot largely comes down to how high another defensive tackle is drafted, and how well that player performs.  Pinkins has always been a bubble guy, but he’s stuck around for the most part.  Smith and Burley might have a lot to prove, as I feel like the team will be in the market for another tall, outside corner, meaning there might not be many nickel corner spots to go around.  I have it as at least 20 defensive players already on the roster, with potential for up to 25.  Considering the max is probably 25-26 defensive players, I wouldn’t bank on me having all 25 predicted right now.

  • Steven Hauschka – K
  • Jon Ryan – P
  • (Drew Ferris – LS)

I don’t know where the Seahawks are going with their long snapper position, and I don’t want to know.  Just make it a guy who won’t fuck up, ever.

That exercise more or less gives us an idea of what the Seahawks need heading into the draft.  A backup quarterback, probably two more running backs and a fullback, maybe a wide receiver and/or a tight end.  Maybe 2-3 offensive linemen (particularly a Center of the Future who can sit and watch and bulk up in his first year).  You always like to create competition among the pass rush – so probably one of each as far as end and tackle are concerned.  Probably not a linebacker, unless you find an undrafted guy or a late-round guy you like a lot.  Maybe a corner and maybe a safety to add to the depth there.

At the moment, the Seahawks have 9 draft picks.  It wouldn’t shock me to see the Seahawks move down once or twice, build up to 11 or 12 draft picks if they can.  But, assuming we’ve just got the 9, let’s take a look at where they are:

  • First round – 26th
  • Second round – 56th
  • Third round – 91st
  • Third round – 97th
  • Fourth round – 124th
  • Fifth round – 171st
  • Sixth round – 215th
  • Seventh round – 225th
  • Seventh round – 247th

The great thing about this draft is how strong it is along both the offensive and defensive lines.  So, that Center of the Future I’m talking about?  You can probably find him in the third or fourth round.  And, unless a real dominant pass-rushing force of a defensive tackle falls to you at 26, you can probably get an all-around good guy/run stuffer in the third or fourth round.  So, while you could argue those are the two biggest needs (C and DT), you probably don’t need to draft either of those in the first two rounds, unless you find someone really special.

Among the other highly-pressing needs this team has, we’re talking about the guard/tackle position on the offensive line, and a pass-rushing end on the defensive side.  While you like to find starters for your team in the first two rounds, the Seahawks have so few holes on their roster that it seems pretty improbable they’re going to draft either of these positions and find guys who will start right away.  Gilliam seems pretty entrenched as the team’s left tackle (and looks pretty studly, from the videos I’ve seen of his workout routines), and Britt is probably locked in at guard, considering he’s been a starter since day 1, he has experience, and he’ll be going into the second straight year as this team’s left guard (that consistency – not jerking him around from spot to spot – will hopefully help him to improve his overall technique).  Likewise, when you’re talking about the team’s defensive ends, Avril and Bennett are the guys.  Clark has a leg up over everyone, and Marsh has experience to probably fend off any defensive end we pick at either of the first two draft spots.

Nightmares of Lawrence Jackson notwithstanding, you hope to at least find a rotation guy at 26, if you go the defensive end route.

Since we’re talking about the Seahawks – a team that had Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin securely under contract, then went out and drafted Christine Michael in the 2nd round anyway – you have to talk about the possibility of John Schneider and Pete Carroll going rogue in the first two rounds.  Ultimately, I think the Seahawks draft Best Player Available with their first pick, if not their first two picks (though, it’s hard to see them not taking a pass rusher with either one).  So, if a quality cornerback or tight end falls to them late in the first round – even though those are two positions I believe the Seahawks are particularly strong in, and therefore should be among the last positions the team targets in the draft – it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest.  Even running back has to be on the table here.  I like Rawls as much as the next guy, and while I think they could go so far as to ignore the running back position altogether in the draft (and pick up someone like Arian Foster after the draft, to be in the RB rotation), it wouldn’t shock me if they saw Beastmode 2.0 fall to them at 26 and take him.  For as important as the running game is to Pete Carroll, don’t rule it out.

If I had my druthers, I’d have the Seahawks pick two of the following three spots in the first two rounds:  offensive guard/offensive tackle and defensive end.

In the third & fourth rounds, where the Seahawks have three picks, I’d like to see a center, a defensive tackle, and either a quality cornerback, or a third down running back.

In the fifth and sixth rounds, I’d like to see whatever they don’t get in that last pairing (either a cornerback or third down running back) and an outside linebacker to push Mike Morgan as we replace Bruce Irvin.

In the seventh round, I think the Seahawks pick up another offensive lineman (whatever they don’t draft – guard or tackle – in the first two rounds), and either another running back, a fullback, or a project at either cornerback, safety, or tight end.

And, if I have to be specific, let’s make it so:

  • First round – Offensive Guard
  • Second round – Defensive End
  • Third round – Center
  • Third round – Defensive Tackle
  • Fourth round – Running Back
  • Fifth round – Cornerback
  • Sixth round – Outside Linebacker
  • Seventh round – Offensive Tackle
  • Seventh round – Fullback

Seahawks Lose Bruce Irvin

I won’t be writing posts about every Seahawks player who signs with another team, but I feel exceptions should be made for a former first round pick (15th overall) who has been a regular contributor all four years and a starter for the last three (give or take).

This is just a simple case of Can’t Keep Everybody, plain and simple.  The Seahawks have so much money tied to players already on contract, with huge chunks going to our star players.  I mean, look at these cap hits for 2016:

  • Russell Wilson – over $18 million
  • Richard Sherman – over $14 million
  • Earl Thomas – nearly $10 million
  • Jimmy Graham – $9 million
  • Michael Bennett – $7 million (for now)

And so on and so forth.  When you add to that the fact that so many other teams have so much money to throw around, it’s plain to see that the Seahawks are going to be losing some guys.  Bruce Irvin is one of those unfortunate casualties.

I’m pretty high on Irvin; I have been for a long time.  He was noted as one of the best pure pass rushers coming out of the 2012 draft, and I believe that to be a fitting description.  He came out of the box with 8 sacks as a rookie, but he was a little undersized to play defensive end (see:  the loss to the Falcons in the playoffs in 2012, after we lost Chris Clemons to injury).  His 2013 season was one of transition as the team moved him to linebacker, but he re-hit his stride in 2014 and 2015 as a linebacker with heavy pass rushing responsibilities.  He’s athletic as all get-out, which is why the transition was such a success, and I feel like he’s got a long and fruitful career ahead of him.  Even if he ends up losing a step in his advancing years and/or puts on a little more weight, you can just put him back on the line as a defensive end, and he should be able to continue being awesome.

Now, you may be thinking, “Well, if he was so great, why didn’t the Seahawks find a way to keep him?”  And that’s valid.  The whole Can’t Keep Everybody thing is true, but if he was REALLY a priority for the Seahawks, they would’ve shuffled some other players out, shuffled some money around, and figured out a way to keep him here.  That’s just a fact.  If nothing else, they could have used their 5th Year Option on him before last season and at least guaranteed that he’d be here in 2016, allowing us an extra year to get a long-term deal done.

With Bruce Irvin, I’ll never use the word “bust” to describe him, because he was a talented and vital cog in our defense.  But, I think the team and the fans had different expectations for a guy drafted in the middle of the first round.  A guy being touted as the best pass rusher in the draft (or, at least one of the best 2 or 3 when he came out).  For starters, while the Seahawks were the ones touting him that high, the rest of the football universe saw Bruce Irvin as a reach.  Many had a 2nd round grade on him, but I don’t know if that was more for character concerns than actual talent levels.  Either way, as it started to come out that teams like the Jets and various others were thinking about either moving up to grab him, or take him if he fell to their spots in the first round, the sentiment on that draft choice started to slowly change.  And, when you factor in his 8 sacks as a rookie, it might have been reasonable to think we had a phenom on our hands.

Part of what I’m going to call his regression had to do with the Seahawks being stacked across the board in 2013.  They didn’t really have the time or the opportunity to bring him along slowly.  The Seahawks brought in Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril to join Chris Clemons as the team’s primary pass rushing defensive ends.  With Irvin’s limitations in the run game exposed as a rookie, the team obviously wasn’t going to give up on him, so they did what they thought was best for the team, and that was converting him to strong-side linebacker.  That obviously cut into his opportunities to get after the quarterback, and his sack totals suffered accordingly.  Not that he didn’t contribute in other ways, but when you draft a guy 15th overall as a defensive end/pass rusher, you expect more than the 6 sacks per year that he averaged over the last two years of his deal.

As I’ve said repeatedly, I think his best years are still ahead of him.  I think good pass rushing defensive ends age like a fine wine as they gain more experience and learn different techniques to use against offensive linemen.  And, quite frankly, I think if Irvin had been given a chance to work out his craft exclusively as a defensive end, we would’ve seen better numbers out of him.  But, if that would’ve cost us someone like Avril or Bennett, or if it would’ve cost us our Super Bowl championship in 2013, obviously I’m going to agree with what the Seahawks decided to do.

By all accounts, the Oakland Raiders – with Ken Norton Jr. as their defensive coordinator – have brought him in on a huge deal (makes sense, since they had a ton of money to spend).  I think he’s going to be a good player for them for a good many years.  They may ultimately wind up winning the free agency period of this offseason with the moves they’re making.

As for the Seahawks, in keeping with the Can’t Keep Everybody philosophy, I’ll add one more:  you Can’t Pay All Your Linebackers.  Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright are counting over $12 million against our cap this year combined.  Throwing a third big money linebacker into that stew would too closely resemble the travesty that were the later Tim Ruskell years, when he gave big money deals to Lofa Tatupu, Leroy Hill, and Julian Peterson.  It’s just unnecessary!  The Seahawks could re-sign Mike Morgan, pay him next to nothing, and put him right into the starting lineup without missing much of a beat.  We’ve still got KPL, who’s got the speed to play weakside linebacker, which could push K.J. Wright to the strong side.  And, we’ve got any number of draft picks to play around with.  You’re telling me we can’t find the next K.J. Wright in the 4th or 5th round this year?  Please!

Losing Bruce Irvin is the end of a fun era.  The sky was the limit as far as his potential was concerned, and it’s always fun to dream.  While he may not have lived up to our original expectations, I’m more impressed with the way he adapted and made the most out of a difficult situation.  He very easily could have taken that position-switch as a demotion and sulked about it forever.  He very easily could have simply never adjusted or been able to learn the position of linebacker, making him an athlete without a home.  But, he put in the work, he learned the position, and he played well enough to garner significant interest from across the league, parlaying that into a big money deal.  Best of all?  He’s in the AFC, and for the most part out of our hair.  The last thing I want to see is Bruce Irvin making us pay for not keeping him.

Still, though, it’s bittersweet.  That 2012 draft class will go down in history as the best ever for the Seahawks, despite what Bleacher Report thought at the time.  Bruce Irvin, first round, defensive end turned starting linebacker.  Bobby Wagner, second round, starting middle linebacker, All Pro.  Russell Wilson, third round, starting quarterback, Pro Bowler.  Robert Turbin, fourth round, backup running back.  Jaye Howard, fourth round, defensive tackle & productive starter for the Chiefs.  Jeremy Lane, sixth round, backup/nickel cornerback (potential starter starting this year).  J.R. Sweezy, seventh round, starting right guard all four years.

I want to come back, after all their new contracts get finalized, and see just how much money this class is going to be making on their second deals.  Aside from Turbin – who was truly a solid backup, but ultimately is nobody’s starter – we’re talking about six guys who should all make significant money!  In one draft class!  That’s fucking incredible!

And, unfortunately, a lot of those guys will be making that money for other teams.  End of an era indeed.

Are We Sure The Seahawks Are Good?

To borrow the oft-used question from the Bill Simmons podcast.

I don’t mean to be Debbie Downer this year; indeed, I’m usually much more chipper during the holiday season.  But, I guess that’s why it’s my favorite time of year:  you’re surrounded by countless reasons to be happy – the lights, the music, the buying of presents, the receiving of presents – and yet there’s an undercurrent of overwhelming misery.  Thinking back on the year that was, thinking about our own mortality, getting dumped on with rain, being forced to spend time with one’s extended family.  The older you get, and the more loved ones you lose, the more you reflect back on how great things used to be decades ago, when you were a child and your only care in the world was making it to Christmas Break and going crazy for a week of no-school/new-presents mania.

Such is life as a Seahawks fan right now.  There are SO MANY reasons to be happy – we’re playing better than we have since around this time last year, we just clinched our fourth consecutive playoff berth (and fifth in the 6-year run of Pete Carroll), we’re in a great position to possibly lock down the 5th seed and maybe even get a chance to rest some players in Week 17 – but it’s not too hard to take a step back and reflect upon what’s not so great.  Last week, I was moaning about the loss of Thomas Rawls, which was a brutal blow to this team’s depth and my fantasy team’s chances of going anywhere in the playoffs; this week, we’re coming off of another blowout victory of a terrible team – a 30-13 rout of the Browns in front of the hometown 12’s – and I can’t help coming away somewhat underwhelmed.

I know it feels like I’m grasping at straws, looking for any and every reason to be down, or worried, or whatever.  But, I think there’s a real red flag about this team that’s getting glossed over as we beat up on the dregs of NFL society.  I’m sure happier, more secure individuals would dismiss me as a hopeless neurotic.  On the one hand, you can look at the last three games – dominant victories over the injury-riddled Vikings, Ravens, and Browns – and see three bumbling saps; or, you can look at those games as the superior Seahawks doing what they’re supposed to do to inferior competition.  I get that.  I’m sure I’ve even said it before:  I’ve seen these very same Seahawks do worse against worse teams.  A win is still a win, and it’s still difficult to win in the NFL, even if you’re facing teams who are playing for relatively little.  I know it’s hard to lump the Vikings in there with the Ravens and Browns, considering the Vikings are as close to locked into the playoffs as they get, but let’s be realistic here:  the Vikings are not going to do a damn thing in the playoffs.  From this point forward, with the playoffs a formality, I’m looking at our chances to win the Super Bowl.  And, from that standpoint, you might as well lump the Vikings in with everyone else on the outside looking in, because they just don’t have what it takes this year.

The 2015 Seahawks have played exactly six teams that are legitimate playoff contenders:  the Packers, Bengals, Panthers, Cardinals, Steelers, and Vikings.  The 2015 Seahawks are 2-4 in those games.  Aside from the Vikings, I wouldn’t rule out any of those teams as true championship contenders (unless Andy Dalton’s thumb never heals, then you can probably rule out the Bengals).  For as crappy as the Packers have looked in recent weeks, they still have Aaron Rodgers.  For as wimpy as their schedule has been, the Panthers are still undefeated and have beaten both championship contenders they’ve played (including that game in Seattle we won’t discuss further).  And I don’t know anyone who’d be happy to face the offenses of the Cards, Steelers, or Bengals with a healthy Dalton in the playoffs.

The point is, when we get to the playoffs, there really won’t be any more easy games, and the shit can hit the fan at any time.  The one ray of hope you can point to is at least the Seahawks have been competitive in all their games, and have still held a lead at some point in the fourth quarter in all their games.  Indeed, one shouldn’t go into any of these do-or-die affairs expecting the Seahawks to lose.  But, there’s enough reasons to worry that the Seahawks might struggle, and get snakebitten in the end.

The Seahawks are 2-4 in one-score games this year.  And, even if you factor in the loss to the Packers by 10 points, you can point to a certain amount of bad luck that’s (hopefully) bound to turn around going forward.  Injuries should always be a concern this time of year, but even if you project these Seahawks to be there for us come January (with a possible return of Marshawn Lynch), there’s reason for doubt.

The secondary just isn’t as dominant as it once was.  In years past, these Browns and Ravens teams wouldn’t have been able to move the ball nearly as effectively through the air.  When you look at teams like the Packers, Panthers, and Cardinals, these are teams that can sling it with the best of ’em (and that’s not even factoring in whoever comes out of the AFC, which is riddled with quality quarterback play).

I would also argue that the Seahawks have yet to find that steady third pass rushing option behind Avril & Bennett.  In 2013, we were blessed with the reasonable contract of Chris Clemons coming from that LEO position.  This year, I dunno.  I’m probably way off base and the in-depth stats show Bruce Irvin is that guy and then some, but to my untrained eye he still strikes me as a guy who’s a force to be reckoned with one week, and then disappears for games at a time.  Maybe his hurries and QB hits and whatnot are up to snuff, but it’s not really something that’s standing out.  To be a championship team, and cover for a weakened secondary, we’re going to need that third guy to stand out.  Maybe it’ll be Irvin, maybe it’ll be some combination of him, Clark, and/or a blitzing linebacker.  But, we’ve got to make life miserable for the likes of A-Rod, Palmer, and Newton if we expect to go on the road and beat those guys.

Offensively, there’s a lot to like right now.  Russell Wilson is continuing to play out of his mind, Doug Baldwin has made it his mission to take ALL the touchdowns, and Tyler Lockett is that big play threat we haven’t had since Golden Tate signed with Detroit (and when you factor in his superior speed, I’d argue that Lockett might be even better than Tate).  The running game chugged on apace with the return of Christine Michael taking the lion’s share of the committee’s carries yesterday (84 yards on a 5.3 yard per carry average).  Still, when you look at the playoff teams, you’re going to see a vast improvement in the quality of defensive play.  Their pass rushes will be more fierce, their pass coverage will be more stingy, and their run defense should tighten up.  The number to watch is third down conversions.  The Seahawks have been converting third downs at an impossible pace the last five weeks (something like 60+% I think).  If the defense does indeed struggle with the improved quality of opponents, we’re going to need our offense to keep rocking and rolling.  That means Russell Wilson needs to keep being Russell Wilson, and our offensive line needs to continue its improved play.

In the end, you never relish having to go on the road in the playoffs.  But, if you’re stuck, the way we are, then it’s nice being that Team No One Wants To Play.  I mean, in Carolina they have to be on cloud nine right now with the way their team has banded together and laid waste to their opposition.  But, how much of a kick in the dick is it going to be when their first-ever season as the #1 seed in the NFC sees them playing the Seahawks in the divisional round?  The top two seeds right now are those Panthers and Cardinals, but if you’re looking at quality of opponent, it’s almost like playing the Seahawks in the divisional round is akin to playing another top 2 team; whereas the Cardinals will get to host a very-flawed Packers team that I would put firmly in that second tier of opponents, to borrow a thought from Mike Pettine.

The Good & Bad of Last Night’s Pre-Season Game

This is just going to be a random jumble of thoughts, in no particular order, as they come to me.

I’m giddy right now about two players:  Tyler Lockett & Frank Clark.  LEARN HOW TO SPELL HIS NAME NOW!  No ‘e’ on the end!  Lockett was a pure bundle of energy last night on most of his returns.  Maybe time will tell if that’s just the Broncos having a crappy special teams, but I’m putting it out there that at some point in the next two years, Lockett will be a Pro Bowl returner.  This kid’s got everything we ever hoped and dreamed out of Percy Harvin, minus the cancerous attitude, hefty paycheck, and need to be placated on offense with an endless stream of bubble screens.  Was he worth the draft picks it took to trade up to get him?  I think the NFL will learn very soon (if they haven’t learned already) that he most certainly was!

Frank Clark definitely looked like he belonged among the starters in the first half, and that’s great.  But, he looked like a man among boys in the second half, and that’s actually what I find encouraging.  I know you’re not supposed to get too excited about what happens in the second half of the first pre-season game, but I think it clearly showed he’s a step above most rookies in the league.  He rifled through the line to make play after play in the backfield; if we only get that on a rotational basis, just imagine how good he’ll be once he’s got a year or two of professional experience under his belt!

I was also highly encouraged by Cassius Marsh.  He looked faster than most coming off of the edge.  While he didn’t always get home – and on more than a few occasions ran himself out of the play – that’s something you can correct and work on in practice.  To say he’s the second-coming of Chris Clemons would be short-changing him, but I think we’ll have something special in him when it’s all said and done.

The obvious bummer of last night (aside from the injuries) was the offensive line.  From the get-go, it just didn’t look right.  I don’t know how you can expect Russell Wilson to throw in rhythm and in the pocket when it’s collapsing around him the moment he reaches the end of his drop!  Still, I believe in Tom Cable, and I think he’ll give us something we can use by the time the games start counting.  Nevertheless, the O-Line will be our #1 concern throughout the season, so be prepared (what else is new, right?).

Honestly, what’s most discouraging was our lack of a run game.  Turbin & Michael were pretty well bottled up most of the game.  Cable seems to be willing to concede some pass protection in the name of a powerful rushing attack, and if he’s okay with it, I can be okay with it.  But, if we’re getting neither?  That’s gotta change.

Given the horrendous effort from our O-Line, it’s hard to really evaluate anyone else on the offense.  Obviously, Anthony McCoy dropping two easy passes doesn’t bode well, so we’ll see how he bounces back (he’s obviously not the only tight end on this team whose been prone to the dropsies – I’m looking at you, Luke Willson).  Honestly, I thought Chris Matthews was looking the most solid of our receivers – bringing in one catch for 8 yards with a defender draped ALL OVER him.  I REALLY fucking hope his injury isn’t serious, but it looked bad when I saw it in live action.  Potentially season-ending (if you believe Jeremy Lane is going to be our one IR-Designated To Return player).  For the record, I think that’s a stupid rule, and I think teams should be able to put as many players as they want onto the IR-Designated To Return.

Tarvaris Jackson went down with an ankle, which also looked pretty bad.  I don’t know how long he’ll be out for, but if this team has to bring in another veteran QB, that’s a bad sign.

I don’t have a lot to say about the secondary, other than the obvious:  this team will be hurting if our stars don’t show up for the regular season.  No one really stood out in a good or bad way to me, so we’ll see how the rest of the pre-season goes.

Top 12 Seahawks I’m Most Looking Forward To Seeing This Pre-Season

I get it, the pre-season isn’t for everyone.  For the casual fan, it just means we’re about a month away from real football.  A good chunk will watch at least SOME of the pre-season games, but I’d be willing to bet the vast majority start checking out as soon as the regulars leave the game.

I happen to love the pre-season.  I try to block out the evening so I can watch the entire game uninterrupted.  Inevitably, I end up camping with my family during one of the pre-season games, but the last few years we’ve been DVR’ing it and watching it upon our return – avoiding our phones and any news on the radio until we’ve had a chance to get it in.  If you’re a hardcore football fan, what’s not to like?  You already get to watch 16 weeks with the regulars, plus playoff games.  They’re stressful and intense and exciting.

But, the pre-season?  It’s all relaxation!  Like a nice little vacation.  You can watch for the starters, to get a sense of how guys will mesh and work their ways into playing shape.  But, I like it mostly for the other guys.  The roster fringe.  You get to start out with 90 guys at the beginning of camp, knowing full well that many of them won’t make it.  But, there’s always a few who pop from out of nowhere.  And, there are bona fide prospects getting ready to make the jump from back-end of the roster to potential future star.  There are incoming free agents, draft picks, and guys returning from injuries.  I want to see ’em all!

And here are the 12 I want to see the most.  We’ll go in order starting with the one I’m most excited to see (jersey number in parentheses):

1.  Tyler Lockett, Wide Receiver/Punt & Kick Returner (#16)

The Seahawks traded up in the third round to nab him, giving up quite the haul.  Many believed it to be a reach, but I’ve been touting this guy since his final bowl game when he did a number on UCLA.  The safe stance has been:  well, at least the Seahawks finally have a quality return man; but, I think this kid has something special in him.  I think he’s going to make a real and immediate impact for our offense the way Paul Richardson never did.  Hell, the last rookie receiver to make an impact for this team was Doug Baldwin, so you can throw a bunch of names on that list of guys who never made an immediate impact (including Golden Tate, for the record).  Per reports, Lockett has looked good in the early going, so not only am I looking forward to him getting a lot of play this pre-season, but I’m looking forward to him getting some play with the starters.

2.  Cassius Marsh, Defensive End (#91)

He was a rookie last year, played in a few games, started to show some promise, and then he got injured and was lost for most of the year.  Now, he’s back, and per reports looks like an immediate impact player.  He figures to be a rotational guy behind Avril and Bennett, but I’ll be looking forward to seeing what he does for us in nickel situations, and in some base defense situations.  If he could apply the impact we used to get with Chris Clemons, there’s that third pass-rushing defensive end we’ve been looking for!

3.  Douglas McNeil, Wide Receiver (#19)

He’s 6’3, 200 pounds.  Most fans have probably never heard his name before; truth be told, I’m just getting acquainted with what he has to offer.  Watch the catch he makes at the 50-second mark, this kid could be the real deal.  Yes, he’s an Arena Football League receiver, but his hands, his quicks, his athleticism, they’ll all play well in the NFL.  Hopefully, he’s got some polish and is able to run a quality route, because he could be a nice little find for us.

4.  Frank Clark, Defensive End (#55)

I don’t expect as much out of Clark as I do out of Marsh, so that’s why he’s ranked a little lower (even though he’s probably a higher-ceiling talent).  It’s just tough for rookies to step into the league and dominate.  Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to seeing what we got out of our controversial first draft pick this year.  He’ll figure to get a lot of play in the second and third quarters – and even some special teams work – so we should certainly get our fill and he should certainly get his opportunities to make some sort of pre-season impact.

5.  Jimmy Graham, Tight End (#88)

If this was a list of Guys I’m Looking Forward To Seeing This Regular Season, Graham would absolutely top the list.  As it stands, this is the pre-season incarnation of that article, so he figures to not get all that much playing time.  At least until the third game, when the starters usually play into the second half.  Regardless, I’m pretty excited about that first drive of the first pre-season game next week, when I’m sure they’ll feature him extensively, followed by the fans in attendance going absolutely bitchcakes.

6.  Bruce Irvin, Linebacker (#51)

Again, this is more of a guy I’m looking forward to seeing in the regular season – as I’m CONVINCED he’s going to give us one of the better Contract Seasons we’ve ever seen – but from reports I’ve read, he looks like he’s bulked up while still keeping the speed that made him such an enticing first rounder to begin with.  Even though the pre-season games don’t really count, I’m still looking forward to Irvin making an immediate impact, to set the tone that this will be the best season we’ve ever seen out of a guy looking to get paid like a superstar.

7.  Chris Matthews, Wide Receiver (#13)

It’s been pretty resounding in the early going this camp:  the wide receiver battle is the one to watch.  Baldwin and Kearse look pretty entrenched.  Lockett obviously will have his spot on lock.  Paul Richardson will most likely start on the PUP, opening up one spot.  Kevin Norwood has the advantage of being a draft pick last year; Ricardo Lockette has the advantage of having played in the system for so long (plus, his talent for playing special teams).  It’s very possible there will be a bunch of REALLY talented receivers all fighting for one final roster spot.  Which is where Chris Matthews comes in.  He’s the tallest receiver in camp, at 6’5, AND he had that miraculous Super Bowl performance that kept it from turning into a New England rout.  A lot of people believe that Matthews has a spot waiting for him, so I’m looking forward to seeing if he goes out there this pre-season and earns it.  Nothing will be handed to him, and we’ve got a lot of hungry cats on this team.  Let’s see how he responds.

8.  Brandon Mebane, Defensive Tackle (#92)

Normally, Mebane wouldn’t be anywhere near this list.  After all, how excited can you be for a nose tackle in the pre-season?  For the record, I don’t expect him to play a ton, but I do expect him to play, as he’s coming off of a bad injury – his first real heavy-duty injury that kept him out of multiple games – and he’s getting up there in age.  On top of that, with the team releasing Tony McDaniel, we’re a little thin (so to speak) along the interior of our defensive line.  So, I’m looking forward to Mebane looking like his usual self, if nothing else than to calm my fears (let’s face it, I’ve got enough to worry about with how thin we are in the secondary right now).

9.  Ahtyba Rubin, Defensive Tackle (#77)

ANOTHER defensive tackle???  Well, yeah, but this guy’s new!  He played for Cleveland last year, but now he’s ours, and he’s officially replacing Tony McDaniel as our starting 3-tech defensive tackle in our base defense.  Beyond that, I’ve been hearing NOTHING but good things about him from our coaches in interviews, so I’m pretty stoked to see what he can do.

10.  B.J. Daniels, Wide Receiver (#5)

You may remember B.J. Daniels as our third-string quarterback the last few years.  Well, he has officially converted to wide receiver full time, and this is his first camp in that new role.  I don’t think he has much of a shot to make the final 53-man roster, but he’s got amazing athleticism, so I’m looking forward to seeing how the transition takes.  Hopefully he gets more play than just as our backup return man.  I want to see him get some snaps on offense, even if it’s with the second or third strings.

Tie – 11 & 12.  Kevin Smith & Kasen Williams, Wide Receiver (#17 & #18)

So, how exciting is the wide receiver battle this year?  HALF of my Top 12 are receivers!  Obviously, you can’t keep everyone, but these guys will give the coaching staff something to think about.  Maybe enough of these fringe receivers show promise to allow the organization to cut someone like Jermaine Kearse to save some money.  I’m not advocating for that (especially in this, my Washington Husky wide receiver section of the post), but I think we all know there’s a better than good chance Kearse is playing elsewhere in 2016; I don’t think the team will have the money to extend him long term.  So, maybe these aren’t guys we’re looking at to make the team this year, but MAYBE – if they’re still around – we could be talking about these guys next year.  Per reports, Kevin Smith has looked rock solid.  I’m not hearing as much about Kasen Williams, but he’s out there battling and it would be nice to see good things out of someone coming back from such a devastating injury.  Maybe one or both gets stashed on the practice squad.  I guess we’ll find out in a few weeks.