Biggest Concern This Week: The Receivers

Doug Baldwin is good.  Really, really good.  He’s not what you would consider an elite #1 a la Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins, or A.J. Green, but nobody asked him to be.  That’s not his game.  He’s not going to run a bunch of vertical routes, leap over defenders, and make crazy catches in traffic.  He’s also not a burner, a la T.Y. Hilton, Brandin Cooks, or John Brown; he’s not going to blaze past defenders for a bunch of 40-yard bombs.  He works out of the slot, but he’s MORE than your traditional slot guy, a la Wes Welker, Percy Harvin, or Randall Cobb.  He can do it all, he can line up anywhere, and his best attributes are his hands, his smarts, and his route running.  With those three things, Doug Baldwin is just as capable and effective as any of the guys I’ve listed in this paragraph.  He doesn’t need freakish size or speed.  The best comp, in all honesty, is probably Antonio Brown, who I feel is the best wide receiver in the game of football today (although, to be fair, Brown does have superior speed to get to those deep balls).  In a more pass-friendly offense, Doug Baldwin would be a top 5 or at the very least a top 10 receiver in this league.

In Seattle, Doug Baldwin is a #1 who’s not really a #1.  And, this week, he may be looking at his greatest test since the Super Bowl against New England.

The Panthers are down to one healthy starting cornerback.  He just so happens to be Josh Norman, who is on the final year of his deal while at the same time playing the best football of his career.  He’s a legit Top 5 shutdown corner in the league, and he’s looking at a significant payday once his season ends.  Much like Richard Sherman, Norman generally plays on the outside.  While he CAN follow receivers into the slot, he usually doesn’t.  This is the rationale for why Seahawks fans should be comfortable with the receiving matchups this week; because other than Norman, Carolina is forced into playing a couple guys they “picked up off the streets”.

On the flipside, the Seahawks have been reduced to the following because of injuries:  Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Tyler Lockett, Kevin Smith, and Kasen Williams.  I might be in the minority here, but I just don’t see why Carolina would choose to play status quo defense when they’ve got a shutdown corner and the Seahawks have one of the hottest receivers in the league.  We’ve seen Richard Sherman follow a receiver all around the field from time to time this year; I’m sure Josh Norman has done the same thing.  If I’m coaching for Carolina, this is the week I’m taking full advantage of all that Josh Norman has to offer.  And, while Doug Baldwin will get SOME catches, I highly doubt he’ll have this huge, impactful game (if, indeed, my theory is correct).

So, where does that leave us?  Well, for starters, I’m not expecting much at all out of our running game this week.  Carolina’s front seven is as good as it gets and should have no problem keeping us in check.  This game is going to hinge on the arm of Russell Wilson, which means it’s going to hinge on the other receivers getting open for him.

I like Jermaine Kearse as much as the next guy.  He runs pretty clean routes in his own right, and for the most part I trust him to catch whatever he gets his hands on.  But, his frequency of making big plays has diminished considerably this year; he’s essentially become a possession receiver in 2015.  Maybe he’s just saving it all up for another chance to be the hero in the NFC Championship Game, but this week would be a really good opportunity for him to break out.

The one person I forgot about when I started this post is Tyler Lockett.  He has, by all measures, had a wildly successful rookie season.  He’s an All Pro returner, and has cemented himself as this team’s third receiver.  He’s had a few big games (three combined touchdowns in the two games against the 49ers, 7 catches for 90 yards in the first Minnesota game, 6 catches for 104 yards and 2 TDs in the Baltimore game), but for the most part has had the kind of season you’d expect from a quality rookie receiver trying to break through on a championship-calibre team (averaging approximately 3 catches for 41.5 yards per game and a TD every third game or so).  We’ve seen Lockett’s over-the-top speed beat some defenders for big plays this year, but where his game is lacking a little bit is his ability to high point a ball and win those deep catches in traffic.  Obviously, it’s not the easiest thing in the world to do, but how many times have we seen Russell Wilson launch a 50/50 jump ball to Lockett, with that ball ultimately falling incomplete?  That’s where you miss a guy like Golden Tate; that’s where you’d ultimately like to draft a guy like DeAndre Hopkins to do that for you.

If the Seahawks are going to be successful against the Panthers this week, Tyler Lockett is going to have to really bust out.  There’s no reason why he shouldn’t get open on the reg against the likes of Cortland Finnegan (who I actually suspect will try to manhandle Kearse throughout the game) or Robert McClain.  I honestly sort of expected him to have more of an impact in the Vikings game last week, but the cold rendered that moot.  THIS WEEK, however, should be the week where he breaks his foot off in their asses.

I suspect, unless injuries arise, we won’t see much out of Kevin Smith or Kasen Williams this week outside of special teams.  I nevertheless maintain my belief that we will see at least ONE huge play out of Kevin Smith that nobody will see coming.  Maybe it’s a deep ball in traffic, maybe it’s a short catch and a lot of YAC.  Something!  Just watch.  As for Williams, I feel the Seahawks are missing a great opportunity there.  Williams DOES have a great ability to high point balls and come down with difficult catches in traffic.  If we’re smart, the Seahawks will include a few sub-packages with Williams, like we did with Chris Matthews in the Super Bowl last year.

This week is also the perfect week to get Luke Willson back.  I can’t even begin to tell you how tired I am of Cooper Helfet being our #1 tight end.  Not that I don’t like Helfet.  I think as a #2 or a #3, Helfet is quite effective.  But, his game is diminished the more he’s forced into the limelight.  I would assume Carolina’s defense is pretty stout against tight ends, what with their monster linebackers, but at least Willson presents a respectable challenge and will have to keep them honest.

I may be off base in this part of the game being my biggest concern – after all, Carolina’s secondary right now is much more palatable than it is at full strength – but it’s going to be imperative that our guys find ways to get open and get open quickly.  Their pass rush is insane, so being on time and staying on schedule is the best way we have of winning this game.

Taking A Mid-Season Look At The Seahawks, Part 2

Well, we’ve made it through the weekend, and no new complaints!  No one died, no one got arrested, no one got fired; you can’t ask much more out of a BYE weekend.

So, we continue on.  Last week, we took a look at The Good about the Seahawks’ 2015 season to date.  Today, we take a look at the rest, in a season where we’re coming off back-to-back Super Bowl appearances, where we were once favored to make it three in a row; now sitting at 4-4, tied for second in the NFC West, two games behind the surprisingly healthy Cardinals (and, at the moment, decidedly on the outside looking in at any Wild Card spot).  God, where do I even begin?

The Bad

How about the ol’ standby, right at the top of the list with a bullet:  4 blown 4th quarter leads in all 4 defeats.  Need a refresher?  Of course not, no one does; but here it is anyway:

  • At St. Louis – up by 7 points with less than 5 minutes to go; lost in overtime
  • At Green Bay – up by 1 point at the turn of the quarter; lost in regulation
  • At Cincinnati – up by 17 points at the turn of the quarter; lost in overtime
  • Vs. Carolina – up by 9 points with 8 minutes to go; lost in regulation

It comes as no comfort that two of those teams are still undefeated at 8-0, with a third still leading its division – and it should be of no comfort to you either.  If you’re willing to settle for, Aww Shucks, At Least We Got Beat By The Best, then you’re a loser and I’ve got no time for you.  To be the best, you need to beat the best, and so far the Seahawks haven’t beaten anyone REMOTELY even competent.  Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco, and Dallas are all bottom-feeders.  If we’re only barely better than some of these bottom-feeders, then what does it say about the state of the Seahawks’ football team?  We need to rise up and beat a good team, and we need to do it this week.

Going down to the player level, you can’t look anywhere else until you look squarely at the offensive line.  It just hasn’t been good enough, and that’s all there is to it.  While you can’t blame them for every single sack against Russell Wilson, you have to blame them for most, because there’s a huge spike in sacks and hits this year compared to last.  And, I’ll give you they’ve showed improvement as the season as gone along – which should give all Seahawks fans at least some hope that this will be a somewhat useful unit by season’s end – but you have to wonder if it won’t be too late by that point.

For allowing this liability to get to this drastic level, there’s no one you can point to but the front office.  Pete Carroll and John Schneider have totally and completely dropped the ball here when it comes to the offensive line.  You could argue it starts with the 2011 draft.  People believe that Pete & John have held that draft against Tom Cable – because they went Carpenter in the 1st and Moffitt in the 3rd, and neither panned out – but that’s juvenile and ridiculous.  They’re not going to actively harm their franchise just to make a point to an assistant coach.  The fact of the matter is, James Carpenter probably wasn’t worth the first round grade, and John Moffitt was a total wash-out.  The Seahawks subsequently spent the 2012 & 2013 drafts selecting offensive linemen no higher than the 7th round, then followed THAT up by putting a second round grade on Justin Britt – a wash-out at right tackle who looks no better at guard.  All the while, they let Carpenter and Giacomini walk, they traded Unger to the Saints, and they traded away multiple first round picks for offensive skill players while ignoring the meat & potatoes guys.

John Schneider has shown to be a savvy scout of college talent, but there have been some real draft busts in recent years.  The aforementioned Britt hurts the most – he’s our starting left guard now, but who knows how long that’ll last?  Kevin Norwood is a 4th rounder from last year who’s already gone.  Jimmy Staten is a 5th rounder from last year who’s already gone.  Christine Michael is a 2nd rounder from 2013 who was traded for next-to-nothing.  Chris Harper & Jesse Williams – 4th & 5th rounders respectively – from 2013 are gone.  Tharold Simon – 5th rounder from 2013 – can’t stay healthy.  Any of those picks could’ve been devoted to an offensive lineman or two – to pad out our ranks if nothing else – and for the most part they’ve been squandered.

Then, in 2015, we were back at it.  A couple guys taken in the 4th round are supposed to fix things?  They remain projects at this point, as they’re nowhere near reaching the point where they’ll see any playing time.  If the Seahawks don’t go offensive line hard and heavy in the first three rounds of the 2016 draft, then it’s going to be a long, hard few years for our beleaguered quarterback.

Moving on, we have to shout out Kam Chancellor in this section, for holding out the entirety of the pre-season, and the first two games of the regular season.  Right or wrong, I put that loss to the Rams squarely on his shoulders.

Shout out to Michael Bennett – one of my co-MVPs in last week’s Good section – for being an unstoppable Falling For The Hard Count machine.  Right or wrong, I put that loss to the Packers on him for giving Aaron Rodgers every conceivable advantage with all those free plays.

Shout out to the offensive coordinator for not using Jimmy Graham properly down near the goalline, aside from any number of baffling decisions in his career calling plays for the Seahawks.

Shout out to everyone affiliated with the offense in our four losses.  Where’s that killer instinct?  You can’t leave it on the defense to do EVERYTHING!  Sometimes, a defense is going to give up a lead; it’s your job as the offense to make those leads insurmountable.  On four attempts, you failed to either extend a drive to kill more clock, or play add-on with the score.  Those defeats are just as much in your hands.

Shout out to Chris Matthews who, for whatever reason, can’t seem to ingratiate himself with the coaching staff enough to get on the field and get some long-bomb plays called for him.  After a Super Bowl like that, being 6’5, with a crazy-insane catch radius, how is it you only have 4 receptions on 6 targets for a measly 54 yards?  Don’t blame the offense!  Don’t blame it on how conservative we are, because there are opportunities for down-field throws in this offense!  There are PLENTY of opportunities.  Instead of watching Russell Wilson try helplessly to throw to a double-covered Jermaine Kearse, I should be watching him throw to a double-covered Chris Matthews as he makes yet another sick catch for a long gain!  Instead, nothing.  Silence.  All the promise in the world and what does it mean?  You’ll almost certainly be playing elsewhere next year, and it won’t be long until you’re out of the game entirely.  Have some pride!  Step it up in practice and force your way out onto the field!

Shout out to Bobby Wagner for not really having much of an impact.  Outside of that fumble recovery in Cincinnati, when was the last time you marvelled at something Bobby Wagner did?

Shout out to Cassius Marsh and Frank Clark for doing their best impressions of Guys Who Don’t Show Up On The Stat Sheet.  We don’t need you guys to do your jobs, we need you guys to make an impact!  To step it up and let us scale back the snaps on Bennett and Avril so they can stay fresh all year.  And, not for nothing, but eventually we need you to replace those guys when they either get too old or expensive, so hop to it, huh?

Shout out to Cary Williams who is who we thought he was:  the weak link by a million miles in the Legion of Boom.  Shout out to injuries to Jeremy Lane, Tharold Simon, and Marcus Burley that continue to hold this unit back.

Shout out to the Ricardo Lockette injury that drastically reduces the effectiveness of our coverage units on special teams.

Shout out to Dion Bailey for whiffing hard on that touchdown pass in St. Louis.

Shout out to the entire Seahawks defense for making Nick Foles look like a God damn world-beater when the rest of the time he has looked like a sack of dribbling shit.

Shout out to Bruce Irvin who’s on pace to be a serious Contract Year Cautionary Tale.

Shout out to whoever was at fault on those two Tyler Eifert touchdowns up the seam.

Ditto to whoever was at fault on that Greg Olsen touchdown.

The second half is here.  No more lip service.  A lot of this bad shit needs to be corrected, or else 2015 will go down as one of the great lost seasons in our generation.

A Closer Look At The Seahawks’ Red Zone Possessions

One of the big talking points of late – in trying to explain why the Seahawks have struggled to a 2-3 start to the season – is that the Seahawks are beyond mediocre in the red zone.  As you may or may not know, the “red zone” is that area of the field from the opponent’s 20 yard line all the way down to the goalline; ideally, when you get that close to an opponent’s endzone, you want to score more touchdowns than field goals (and, obviously, more field goals than nothing at all).  Your red zone success rate is determined by how many touchdowns you acquire per red zone trip.  1 being the ultimate, 0 being the absolute worst.  You get the idea.

On the year, in five NFL games, the Seahawks have scored a touchdown in exactly 3 red zone possessions.  That … is an absolutely abysmal figure.  27% of all red zone possessions, to be precise.  What I would argue is that the Seahawks have a critical lack of red zone possessions to begin with!

11 red zone possessions in 5 games.  If you take away the four we had against the Rams, that makes 7 in the last four games (2 against the Packers, Bears, and Bengals; only 1 against the Lions on Monday night).  Obviously, it’s possible to score touchdowns in other ways (we had a punt return and a fumble return for a TD against the Rams; a kickoff return for TD against the Bears; another defensive fumble return against the Bengals; and any number of TDs scored from beyond the red zone), but what we’ve seen so far more than anything else is just a simple lack of ability to move the football at any kind of consistent rate.

With every loss, and every poor offensive performance, the chorus of outrage over how Jimmy Graham is used becomes more and more deafening.  Is he getting enough targets?  Is he being used properly?  I can’t speak to the latter – I’m not an offensive coordinator – but I think he’s getting an appropriate amount of targets.  You can’t throw it to him if he’s not open.  If he’s not getting open because you’re having him run stupid routes, then that obviously needs to change.  But, if he’s not getting open because the defense is so worried about him beating you, that they’re giving you single coverage elsewhere, then obviously his presence is effective.  The fact of the matter remains, Graham’s importance is always going to be dictated by how he’s used in red zone situations, and there just haven’t been enough red zone opportunities to judge whether or not he’s being used effectively.

Below, I pulled all the drives from this year where the Seahawks reached the opponent’s red zone.  I didn’t count them as “drives” when the Seahawks returned the ball for a touchdown (either via kickoff, punt, or defensive recovery).  See for yourselves and come to your own conclusions.

@ St. Louis (Seahawks had 11 total drives in this game)

Drive 4 – 15 yard line (2-min offense)
1st & 10 (:22) 5-yd pass to Kearse
2nd & 5 (:15) Wilson scramble for 3 yds
3rd & 2 (:08) Incomplete pass to Lynch
Result – Field Goal

Drive 5 – 18 yard line
1st & 10 9-yd pass to Kearse
2nd & 1 Lynch run for -1 yd
3rd & 2 1-yd pass to Graham
Result – Field Goal

Drive 8 – 19 yard line
1st & 10 3-yd pass to Lynch
2nd & 7 Incomplete pass to Graham
3rd & 7 Wilson scramble for 9 yds
1st & Goal (7-yd line) Incomplete pass to Willson
2nd & Goal Incomplete pass to Graham
3rd & Goal Touchdown to Graham

Drive 9 – 18 yard line
2nd & 5 Jackson run for 1 yd
3rd & 4 Incomplete pass to Kearse
Result – Field Goal

@ Green Bay (10 total drives)

Drive 6 – 20 yard line
2nd & 3 Wilson run for 10 yds
1st & Goal (10-yd line) Lynch runs for -1 yd
2nd & Goal (11-yd line) Pass to Lynch for 1 yd
3rd & Goal (10-yd line) Incomplete pass to Graham (defense offsides)
3rd & Goal (5-yd line) Touchdown pass to Jackson

Drive 7 – 13 yard line
1st & 10 Touchdown pass to Baldwin

vs. Chicago (10 total drives)

Drive 2 – 19 yard line
1st & 10 Incomplete pass to Lockette
2nd & 10 Rawls run for 6 yds
3rd & 4 Sack
Result – Field Goal

Drive 5 – 18 yard line
1st & 10 Pass to Kearse for 15 yds
1st & Goal (3 yd-line) Incomplete pass
2nd & Goal Incomplete pass to Graham
3rd & Goal Incomplete pass to Matthews
Result – Field Goal

vs. Lions (11 total drives)

Drive 4 – 9 yard line (2-min offense)
1st & Goal Sack for -9 yds
2nd & Goal (18 yd-line) False Start
2nd & Goal (23 yd-line) Jackson run for 1 yd
3rd & Goal (22 yd-line) Sack for -11 yds
Result – Field Goal

@ Bengals (11 total drives)

Drive 3 – 6 yard line (2-min offense)
1st & Goal – Field Goal

Drive 4 – 16 yard line
1st & 10 Interception, attempt to Graham

As you can see, pretty pisspoor all around.  But, there are still things we can glean.

For starters, of the 20 passes attempted in these situations, 7 were thrown to Graham (35%), which I feel is more than appropriate.  In fact, the only interception (aka the only time we came away with no points in these drives) was an ill-advised pass to a clearly-double covered Graham.

I’ll say it again, the main problem with this team is that it needs more sustained drives.  Whether that falls on the offensive line, offensive coordinator, or the offense as a whole performing better, I don’t give a shit.  Just improve.  Or else, this season will go nowhere fast.

The Seahawks Shut Out The Bears

It was a drubbin’, but it wasn’t THAT much of a drubbin’.  I mean, shit man, it was only 6-0 at halftime!  The first four drives totalled all of 37 yards, and the only reason we got that first field goal is because we stole that gimmicky St. Louis Rams fake-out punt return.  It wasn’t until – of course – the 2-minute warning, when we FINALLY got the ball moving down the field.  We got all the way down inside the 10-yard line, but unfortunately couldn’t punch it in on three straight throws.  For the record, I didn’t mind the play-calling on this particular end-of-half series.  Two of the three plays involved 1-on-1 matchups where we had a significant size advantage (Jimmy Graham and Chris Matthews).  On the first, the defender just made a great play; on the second, Wilson rushed the throw because we snapped the ball with 5 seconds left on the clock and still wanted to preserve the field goal try.

So, that’s pretty much all you need to know about the first half.

All you need to know about the Chicago Bears yesterday was that Jay Cutler and Alshon Jeffery were out, replaced by Jimmy Clausen and Some Guy.  The Bears had 10 possessions and punted the ball 10 times.  Even when one MIGHT make the argument that the Bears were within striking distance of making a comeback, while at the same time having the ball at or near midfield, they abjectly refused to go for it on 4th & short.

To call the Bears’ offense vanilla is to malign the most boring flavor of ice cream there is.  The Bears weren’t vanilla on offense yesterday, they were rice cakes on offense.  They were packing peanuts.  They were plain Cream of Wheat with unsalted soda crackers on the side.  Which helped to make this game probably the most boring of the three blowout afternoon contests yesterday.

Which was GREAT for me and my fantasy team, going up against someone who had the Seahawks as their defense.  No turnovers?  No defensive touchdowns and only one return touchdown?  Only two sacks?  Yeah, that Chicago offense was ALL RIGHT!

But, if I’m a Bears fan, I’d be absolutely furious.  John Fox gave up on that game before it even started.  He didn’t even try to score any POINTS, let alone win the game!  He was perfectly happy running the ball for minimal yardage, and dinking & dunking in the passing game, with no inkling whatsoever to try to convert many of the 4th & shorts they were presented all day.  I mean, why not just forfeit?  Could’ve saved you a flight.  It would’ve been less ugly than what we saw out there yesterday.

For what it’s worth, the Seahawks were much more impressive in the second half.  Tyler Lockett kicked things off right after halftime with a kickoff return for a touchdown, the longest in franchise history at 105 yards.  So, that’s something!

Thomas Rawls ran for 104 yards in extensive duty while the ailing Marshawn Lynch gave it a good try, but ultimately couldn’t make it through the game.

Jimmy Graham found the endzone again for the second time in three games, grabbing 7 balls for 83 yards.  Jermaine Kearse had a solid afternoon, with 6 catches for 76 yards.  Russell Wilson had a tidy game, going 20 for 30, with 235 yards and a 101.4 passer rating.

No one really stood out on defense; it was more of an all-around solid team effort.  They also probably didn’t stand out because I was distracted for most of the game while I was playing with my new iPhone 6s.  That thumb print scanner is dope as fuck.

Remember when the Huskies beat up on Sacramento State and all I could talk about was how there was nothing much to learn about a game like that.  Same deal here.  The bigger test is coming next Monday night, when Detroit comes to town.  Looking forward to it.

Seahawks Dominated Raiders In Final Pre-Season Game

Granted, it was essentially backups against backups, but our backups kicked the SHIT out of their backups!

But before we get to that, I have to say SOMETHING about the second play from scrimmage for the Seahawks’ offense.  Oh, you were worried about how the #1 offense had yet to score a touchdown?  How about the first pass of the game, 63 yards, from Wilson to Lockett in one of the prettier throws & catches you’re going to see.  Too bad it was wasted on a pre-season game, but I think we can all calm down a little bit about what we’ve witnessed the last four weeks.

Also, not for nothing, but the guys the Raiders had in uniform in this game were THE WORST.  So, you know, don’t get too cocky about all the ass-kicking our third stringers put on ’em.  I’m pretty sure I could’ve suited up and averaged 5.5 yards per carry on the ground.

So, with all of that mess out of the way, HOW ABOUT THAT FRANK CLARK???  He’s the fucking best.  That was a spectacle the likes of which I haven’t seen in quite some time.  On the edge, on the inside, line him up wherever, he is GOING to get through that line.  He’s big, he’s mean, he’s got a keen sense of where the ball is and what it’s going to take to get to that ball.  This is a REAL defensive force!  He’s certainly the most impressive rookie I’ve seen in the Pete Carroll/John Schneider era (with Lockett not too far behind, if I’m being perfectly honest), and that’s really saying something, when you look at guys like Earl, Okung, Wagner, Wright, and of course, Russell Wilson.

This is a terrible thing to say, but I’m going to say it anyway:  thank God for Ray Rice.  If he didn’t do what he did – causing the uproar he did – the NFL landscape wouldn’t have been in such a hyper-aware state when it comes to domestic violence, thereby leading to many multiple teams passing on Frank Clark without a second thought (some even having him off their draft boards entirely).  Without the Ray Rice woman-punching incident (and accompanying damning video footage), there’s no way in Hell Frank Clark falls to the second round.  At the same time, thank God for the Seahawks being strong enough to make that pick, knowing that the details of the case pointed to something much less than our imaginations led us to believe, because Frank Clark is going to be a monster for us for quite a long time.

Beyond that, three fringe receivers really stood out:  Kevin Smith, Kasen Williams, and B.J. Daniels.  A lot of us thought – going in – that this would be the game that would separate one from the pack.  Instead, it just made the pack that much bigger.

Smith had an underrated day compared to the other two, with 4 receptions and a few really nice returns.  We all know Lockett is the primary special teams return man, but it’d be nice having Smith in reserve just in case.  He strikes me as Doug Baldwin 2.0, and I don’t care what anyone says, I’m telling you right now you can’t have enough Doug Baldwins on your team!

Kasen Williams got some nice pub out of his two catches, one being a nifty diving grab at the back corner of the endzone.  In my eyes, I think Smith and Williams both have tremendous value.  But, I also believe the team can’t really afford to keep them both, and if I’m being honest, I have to put Smith just a slight notch ahead of Williams if I’m picking one over the other.

B.J. Daniels didn’t get a whole lot done in the receiving game – missing out on one potential explosive play due to the ball being severely underthrown – nor did he really do a whole helluva lot in the return game.  But, speaking of returns, he made his RETURN to the quarterback position in the second half, leading the team for a couple of touchdown-scoring drives (including that TD throw to Kasen).  I didn’t see a lot of evidence out of Daniels this pre-season that he’s a better receiver than either Smith or Williams, but he’s got athleticism for days, and I think his versatility (another special teams return candidate, as well as a receiver, someone you might be able to line up in the backfield, and of course as a quarterback) is off the charts and too good to pass up.

To be quite honest, I think we’re all looking for a reason for the team to dump Ricardo Lockette, and if it’s EVER going to happen, it’ll happen this weekend.  Lockette has been a mainstay because he’s outstanding on special teams.  But, I think guys like Daniels, Smith, and Williams have all proven they’re quite valuable on special teams in their own right.  Truth be told, I don’t know if I’m ever going to be totally comfortable with Lockette on my team after what happened in the Super Bowl.  Was it a great play by the defense?  That’s what I’m told; but I can’t help shake the feeling that if Lockette made a stronger play for the ball, he might have gotten it (or at least caused an incompletion).  Lockette’s got a lot to redeem in my mind, fair or unfair (of course, not as much as the coaching staff, but I’m going to leave that dead horse alone).

What I’m trying to say is, if I had my druthers, the wide receiving corps would look like this:

  • Doug Baldwin
  • Jermaine Kearse
  • Tyler Lockett
  • Chris Matthews
  • B.J. Daniels
  • Kevin Smith
  • (with Kasen Williams as our 7th, if the team opts to go with 7)

In other areas, Thomas Rawls looked good, but again I’m going to refer you to the fact that the Raiders are fucking terrible, and he got most of his carries against their scrubbiest of scrubs.  In no way shape or form should the Seahawks be thinking about keeping Rawls on the 53-man roster.  They should have no problem sneaking him onto the practice squad, and if some other team snaps him up, then oh-fucking-well.  Not really a big loss, if you ask me.

Mohammed Seisay looked pretty brutalized last night, but I can see why the team likes him.  He needs to clean up some stuff in his game, but he’s got potential.  Might not make a lick of difference, as he apparently suffered a pretty serious shoulder injury.  Looks like an IR candidate with the potential to return to compete for a spot next year.  Not too bad, if you ask me.

A lot of people are writing off Marcus Burley, but I like him, and I think I like him more than Blackmon.  My prediction:  Blackmon will be looking for employment elsewhere after the weekend.

Chris Matthews returned from injury, but didn’t do a whole lot.  Still, I think he solidified his spot in the Super Bowl.  If we don’t keep him, it’ll take about 30 seconds for another team to snatch him up.

OK, that’s it.  Regular season starts on the 13th (which seems like it’s years away).

Pre-Season Game Against Kansas City Proves Pivotal Once Again

2012.  Seahawks roll in with a 3-way battle for the starting quarterback job.  In the first pre-season game against the Titans, Matt Flynn got the start.  He played okay, but was outshined in the second half by rookie third rounder Russell Wilson.  The following week, Flynn started again, and once again he played okay.  If you’ll recall, though, that was the infamous Terrell Owens game where he dropped everything in sight, costing Flynn at least one touchdown and a whole lotta points on his QBR.  As such, he was once again outshined by the second half prowess of one Russell Wilson.

Third week of pre-season, 2012.  Road game, in Kansas City.  This time, Matt Flynn was nursing some sort of minor arm injury.  Russell Wilson would get the start and play into the third quarter.  Many speculated as to whether Flynn had an injury at all.  Either way, with Wilson getting the biggest showcase of his all-too-young professional career, against a rather pedestrian Kansas City defense, the starting job was his to lose.

Russell Wilson went out and dominated anyway, and the rest is history.

In hindsight, giving Wilson the biggest showcase against the weakest of our four opponents could’ve proven short-sighted and fatal.  What if Wilson was a bust?  What if his inflated numbers against a crappy Chiefs defense led this team into a false sense of security?

Thank Christ that wasn’t the case.  Yet, here we are.  Pre-season 2015.  Road game in Kansas City.  And our future very well might hang in the balance once again.

That was a franchise-defining moment back in 2012.  It set this team on the course of a world championship.  We may be looking at a similar moment tomorrow night.

The Seahawks have, on offense, the most talented collection of players in this entire Pete Carroll run.  With that being the case, you could make the argument that it’s the most talented collection of offensive players in franchise history, but I’m still going to keep that distinction with the 2005 team until proven otherwise.  Offensive line is a big part of that.  The 2005 O-Line had two future Hall of Famers and two very good and underrated veterans.

The 2015 O-Line has an injury-prone Pro Bowler at left tackle and that’s it.

That’s a problem.  Because you can have Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Jimmy Graham, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Tyler Lockett, Luke Willson, Chris Matthews, and Ricardo Lockette – all these GREAT FUCKING PLAYERS – but if the O-Line is letting defenders run free through our ranks, rendering our starting quarterback ineffective at best & on the IR at worst, then it won’t matter how many stars this team has.  It will fall on its face, and another year will have gone to waste in this Championship Window we’re all basking in.

This is all preamble to say that there are Twitter reports saying veteran All Pro guard Evan Mathis could be coming out for a visit on Saturday.  He’ll be going into his 11th season, so he’s no spring chicken.  But, just last year he was in the Pro Bowl, and just two years ago he was an All Pro, so he’s still got the chops.  Reports indicate he’s been looking for $5 million on a 1-year deal; teams have thus far balked.  However, with the Seahawks in apparent tremendous need, maybe he gets that (or something approaching that) here.  OR, maybe he uses the Seahawks to gain leverage elsewhere.  But, for the sake of argument, let’s say it’s here.

This makes tomorrow’s game against the Chiefs VERY important, for some admittedly non-obvious reasons.

It looks like Justin Britt – erstwhile right tackle turned left guard – has one game (and but a handful of practices this week) to prove he’s got what it takes to stick at the position.  If he does his best impression of a wet paper bag, I’m not going to tell you his pro career is over, but I will say it’s all but certain this team in fact signs Mathis the next day.  That takes away one spot, leaving him just the right tackle spot, to try to take it back from Garry Gilliam.

What’s wrong with that?  Sounds perfect!  We shore up a very important position, knock a shaky player back into the second string where he belongs, and resume ass kicking through the NFL.

Well, as I mentioned above, Mathis won’t come cheaply.  And, capwise, the Seahawks are RIGHT up against it.  Signing Mathis means cutting another guy.  Which guy?  Well, if I had to throw out a wild guess, I’d say Brandon Mebane.  He’s set to make around $5 million, and he’s already said once this pre-season that the team came to him and asked him to take a pay cut (which he refused).  I SUPPOSE, the team could theoretically sign Mebane to an extension to reduce his cap hit this year, but I’m not sure that was such a priority for this team given the nature of his injury last year and his advanced age.

Losing Mebane to sign Mathis is the ol’ robbing Peter to pay Paul thing.  I don’t know how jacked I am about that, but I also don’t know where else this team can chop a large amount of salary.

This also obviously hurts us going forward, because if none of these guys we have now end up sticking at guard, then that’s one more position we’ve got to focus on next year.  But, without serious improvement along the offensive line, I doubt we’re in a position to win it all.

The best case scenario is:  Britt looks good at guard tomorrow and the team lets Mathis walk without a deal.  I’m not so sure I believe all that highly in Britt, but I’m also not ready to throw a second round draft pick away when this spot – left guard – could actually be his calling in the league.

Things are going to look a lot more dicey after tomorrow if Britt looks like trash.

Four Tet – She Just Likes To Fight

Have Teams Figured Out How To Beat The Seahawks’ Defense?

I’m not gonna lie to you, this is something of an underlying fear of mine that I don’t think enough people are talking about.

We all know the formula by now.  You start by taking what you can get from your running game.  Some days are better than others for teams trying to rush on us; hell, some DRIVES are better than others.  Sometimes you get stuffed, sometimes you bust into the secondary with ease; a.k.a. you take what you can get.  In the passing game, it’s short, quick passes.  Don’t give our speedy pass rush an opportunity to get home, and neutralize the speed in our linebacking corps by getting the ball out into the open spots of the zone before they have a chance to read your eyes and react.

What you absolutely DON’T want to motherfucking do is pull out the 7-step drops and try to throw on us deep.  That wack shit won’t hunt.

It requires an over-abundance of patience, especially because all that work tends to get washed away in the red zone and you’re generally stuck settling for field goals.  Bend/Don’t Break.  That shit’s etched into our very being.

The Seahawks take so much away that other teams like to do, that you HAVE to settle for the scraps if you want to get by.  Yes, the Seahawks love to slow it down on offense, run the ball a lot, reduce the number of overall possessions, and “shorten the game” as the coaches like to say.  On the flip, you have to understand that the Seahawks’ defense is the exact opposite:  they want to end your drive on FIRST down if they can!  They can’t handle it when the tables are turned and other teams shorten the game.  The longer they’re on the field, the less effective they become; you make them tired and they’re unable to rely on the one thing they rely upon the most:  their speed.  Now, obviously, you can say that about ALL defenses, and I’ll still take my chances with what the Seahawks have to offer.  I’m just saying, that’s what you have to do.

Like I said before, you can’t get frustrated.  When you get frustrated, you start taking chances you shouldn’t be taking against a defense of this calibre.  Likewise, the longer the Seahawks’ D is on the field, the MORE frustrated they’re going to get.  Which, if they’re not careful, will lead to assignments being missed, guys trying to do too much, and ultimately some moderately big plays for the offense if they’re not careful.

That’s it.  That’s how you beat the Seahawks’ defense.  So, if it’s so easy, why doesn’t EVERYONE do it?  There’s your $64,000 question, my friend.  EVERYONE … CAN’T do it.  It takes a special kind of offense which is just a really nice way to say it takes a special kind of quarterback:  comfortable in a swarming pocket, quick release, and above all accurate.  Who shredded the Seahawks the most last year?  Philip Rivers, Tony Romo, and Tom Brady.  One might not normally lump Romo in with those other two, but behind that O-Line he might as well be Joe Montana.

So, in 2015, who are some of the better quarterbacks out there that might achieve such a feat, that the Seahawks also happen to have on the schedule?  Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Tony Romo again, Ben Roethlisberger, and Joe Flacco just to name a few.  I’m less-inclined to call Flacco a patient, accurate passer like some of those other guys, but that’s a road game, so he’s getting lumped in.

Obviously, the Seahawks aren’t going to lose to ALL of those teams.  Just like they’re not going to beat ALL the teams I didn’t list.  But, they just have to lose ENOUGH to get to the point where – should they make the playoffs – they’ll have to head out on the road.  It wouldn’t be impossible for this team to win a playoff game or two on the road, but obvs you like your chances more with the 12th Man at your back.

I know I said this last year, but I was still entranced by the seductive power of a healthy Percy Harvin being added to the 2013 offense that just won a Super Bowl almost entirely without him.  A prior MVP candidate, with this quarterback and this running game, should’ve made for tidings of GREAT joy.  Anyway, I said last year that 2014 might be the season where the offense out-plays the defense.  I said that coming from a place where I believed the D would be just as good as 2013, but the Harvin-full offense would be on another level entirely.  Of course, I was wrong as SHIT, and the offense actually sort of took a step back in a lot of ways.

But, this year, not only do I believe it will finally happen, I think it HAS to happen for this team to consider a third crack at the Super Bowl in as many years.  Unlike Harvin, Jimmy Graham is a positive influence in the lockerroom and in the community.  Unlike Harvin, Graham helps us in the area we need the MOST help:  the red zone.  I mean, when you think about it, the best version of Percy Harvin is a nice idea between the 20s; but what in the merciless fuck is a bloody pipsqueak like Harvin going to do for you in the endzone?  Get knocked down by the multitude of bigger defenders, followed immediately by pulling himself out of the game for no reason (the reason is: because he’s a P-U-S-S-Y and would be better-served playing a game like youth soccer instead of American Football).

Why do I think the offense needs to be better than the defense this year?  Because I have a strong conviction that this is the year we finally stop leading the league in fewest points allowed.  The more I look at this defense, picture this secondary without some key players, and worry about Richard Sherman’s reportedly “minor hip issue” that could just as easily be “future hip surgery” with the definition of the word “future” being “within the next three months, weeks, or days”, the more I believe the Seahawks won’t even be in the top 10 in points allowed.  And, if that’s the case, we’re in for a lot of long drives by opposing teams, followed by our own offense needing to throw its way back into games.

I think they can do it, don’t get me wrong.  I’m glad to have Graham here.  I’m glad Baldwin and Kearse are another year stronger and experienced.  I’m glad we drafted Tyler Lockett.  I’m even glad Ricardo Lockette will likely be around to atone for the play that which we do not speak its name.  And, should Chris Matthews return from injury, and should Luke Willson figure out his drops issue, and should Marshawn Lynch play like we’ve come to know and love these last few years, I’ll sit here and tell you that this offense has the potential to REALLY make a charge into the top half of the league.  And that everything will be all right and we’ll still find a way to get by with a lesser defense.

In the end, it’ll make for more exciting football, but I gotta tell ya, it’ll be less-enjoyable for me.  I LIKE having the best defense in the game!  I like being the team that slogs out 19-3 victories.  I like completely imposing our will on opposing offenses, in a league where all the rules are tilted that way and the bulk of the talent tilts that way.  I think those days – for the most part – will be in the past.  Now’s when we find out if this team can overcome and still be as great as ever.

Underworld – Always Loved A Film

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.

A Pre-Pre-Season Prediction of the Seahawks’ Opening Week 53-Man Roster

Because now seems to be the time to do these.  “Now” being:  at any and every point before the actual 53-man roster is finally chosen by the coaching staff.  I’m not immune to the type of wild speculation in the early going of a football season!  I’m just as excited as the next rabid NFL fan who’s sick and tired of the Seattle Fucking Mariners already!

Of course, this is just my best estimate, having seen exactly zero of the practices to this point.  I’m sure things will change greatly between now and the final pre-season game against the Raiders on September 3rd.  Will I do more of these as the pre-season goes along?  Maybe one more, right before the end, if I’m in the mood.

For most of these position groups, you’ll see a dashed line (————-).  Anyone listed above that line I consider a lock to make the team.  Anyone listed below that line I still think will make the final 53-man roster, but I’m not as confident.

Quarterback

Russell Wilson
Tarvaris Jackson

Seems pretty cut & dry.  You gotta wonder how long we’re going to be able to keep bringing Tarvar back on 1-year deals, but I’m game to keep him around as long as he’s willing to keep winning championships.

Running Back

Marshawn Lynch
Robert Turbin
Christine Michael
————————
Derrick Coleman

I’m not as sold as some are on Thomas Rawls or Rod Smith.  I think either or both could be kept around on the practice squad (unless, of course, one or both absolutely breaks out in the pre-season games).  I still like Coleman over Will Tukuafu, even though Tukuafu is more versatile.  Coleman is still younger and better on special teams.  If he can stay healthy, I think he’s got it on lock.  I also highly doubt the team keeps five running backs, but if they do, it’ll likely come from one of my offensive line spots.

Wide Receiver

Doug Baldwin
Jermaine Kearse
Tyler Lockett
————————-
Ricardo Lockette
Chris Matthews
Kevin Norwood

I’m not deaf to all the hype surrounding Kasen Williams right now, but it’s one thing to look impressive in practice and it’s another to do so in game situations.  Norwood still has a year’s worth of experience on him.  Besides that, I think we can also sneak Kasen onto the practice squad.  The other five guys figure to be pretty safe, especially with Douglas McNeil converting to cornerback.  B.J. Daniels is a dark horse candidate to win a job, but to do so, there’d probably have to be a rash of injuries ahead of him.

Tight End

Jimmy Graham
Luke Willson
———————–
Cooper Helfet

This one will be interesting, though it might go down to who stays healthy.  Should the team keep Helfet, then we’re essentially talking about the team keeping three “move” tight ends.  Anthony McCoy is the obvious other choice to be the team’s third tight end, and you’d have to think he’d have an advantage given his blocking ability.  But, he hasn’t been able to stay healthy through an entire pre-season for I don’t know how long anymore.  I can’t pencil him into my predicted 53-man lineup until I actually see him play in a game again.

Offensive Line

Russell Okung
J.R. Sweezy
Justin Britt
———————
Drew Nowak
Mark Glowinski
Alvin Bailey
Garry Gilliam
Lemuel Jeanpierre
Kristjan Sokoli
Keavon Milton

I’ll be honest with you, offensive line is the biggest crapshoot on this team.  I’ve got three locks, that’s how bad it is right now.  The safe play is to say that Bailey and Jeanpierre will join the other locks in giving us the best chance to win right now.  But, I have a feeling that the team will give our rookies every opportunity to try to steal those jobs away, even if it means taking a hit on our production right now, with the hope that their ceilings will be higher by season’s end.  Terry Poole is a tough one to chop, but to be honest I wouldn’t be shocked to see him or a couple of these other guys I’ve listed make the practice squad.  I can’t imagine the rest of the NFL is all that excited about picking up some of our projects who we’ve converted from being defensive linemen.

Defensive End

Michael Bennett
Cliff Avril
Frank Clark
Cassius Marsh

All locks, all should be productive members of our pass rush this year.  Can’t wait to see how this unit meshes.

Defensive Tackle

Brandon Mebane
Jordan Hill
Ahtyba Rubin
———————–
Jimmy Staten

Really difficult to see who the fourth guy will be.  I think it comes down to Staten and D’Anthony Smith, but it very well could go to a guy who’s not even on the roster right now.  Pre-season games will go a long way in shedding light.

Linebacker

Bobby Wagner
K.J. Wright
Bruce Irvin
Brock Coyle
Kevin Pierre-Louis
————————-
Mike Morgan

Probably the most potent unit on the entire defense.  The final spot(s) will come down to special teams.  Mike Morgan has been here forever, which is a plus and a minus in his favor.  He knows the system, he’s versatile, and he’s obviously good otherwise he wouldn’t have lasted as long as he has.  But, I think he’s in the last year of his deal, so you have to wonder if the team will opt to go younger with someone like Eric Pinkins.  The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and I think the nod goes to Morgan when all is said and done.  (Unless, of course, KPL’s injury is worse than expected, in which case, maybe both make it?)

Cornerback

Richard Sherman
Tharold Simon
Cary Williams
————————
Will Blackmon
Mohammed Seisay
Marcus Burley

For what it’s worth, I’m REALLY banking on Simon returning to action at some point this pre-season and not landing on the PUP.  Haven’t seen him yet, so we’ll see.  Jeremy Lane will obviously start on either the PUP or IR Designated To Return.  While he’s a huge loss, it opens up some good competition this month.  I’m THIS close to making Blackmon a lock, simply because – while he’s on the older side at 30 – this team can’t fuck around at a position where it’s so thin.  We’re already committed to Williams and the young & injury-prone Simon, so it’ll be nice to have someone who’s good and knows the system, in spite of his age.  Beyond that, I like Seisay’s height and I hope like Hell that he makes a positive impact this pre-season.  The final spot goes to Burley until I see whether Tye Smith is capable of living up to the high expectations thrust upon the L.O.B.  What I’ve heard about Smith thus far has been pretty underwhelming, so I have to believe Burley has the advantage.  Smith might be a guy we can sneak onto the practice squad, so I wouldn’t consider him a total draft pick bust just yet.

Safety

Earl Thomas
Kam Chancellor
DeShawn Shead
———————–
Steven Terrell
Dion Bailey

MAYBE the team opts to keep only four safeties, in order to stock up on the D-Line, but I don’t think I’m buying it.  I think, at least in the early going, this team will want to have sufficent backups in the event Earl Thomas re-injures himself.  Obviously, Kam is still a concern, considering he still has yet to show up to camp.  I don’t know what’s going to happen there, but I like how the younger guys are getting a lot of run.  I’ve heard a lot of exciting things about Dion Bailey, so I really hope he sticks.  Terrell appears to be pretty safe, as he’s still young, yet has some good experience.  Shead is obviously the glue that’s going to help us hold things together, as he can play both safety spots.  If he needs to step in for Kam, I don’t think we lose all that much (as crazy as that sounds).

Special Teams

Steven Hauschka
Jon Ryan
Clint Gresham

Not a lot to say here.  The Nate Boyer story is fun, but I can’t see us keeping him unless Gresham gets injured.

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.