Have I Overreacted To All The Coaching Change On The Seahawks?

If you haven’t seen it yet, go ahead and take a gander at what I wrote yesterday.  A lot of doom and gloom and whatnot.  Anyway, I got a GREAT comment from someone named Justin that I thought I’d respond to.  I’m not here to be a Hot Taek factory, and I really hate it when recency bias creeps into my arguments and gets me to overreact to something that’s not really that big of a deal, so I thought I’d take a step back and consider Justin’s argument.

I do stand behind the crux of my argument yesterday, in that it’s never a great sign when a head coach makes wholesale coordinator changes, and you could argue that the Seahawks fired three coordinators, considering Tom Cable’s influence over the offense.  We’re in a period of transition with the Seahawks, there’s no doubt about it.  Some of the stars of those championship teams are aging out, or injuring themselves out, and will need to be replaced.  While it’s not impossible for this team to hit rock bottom in 2018, it’s just as possible that they find the right pieces to fill in and get this team back to the playoffs.  We could be looking at one 9-7 blip on the radar, and nothing would make me happier.

I like a lot of what Justin has to say.  I agree that Russell Wilson is in the Top 5 for me among quarterbacks in this league.  And we all know he has another level to his game; we’ve seen it during the second half of 2015.  He obviously can’t do it alone, though, and is going to need some help from his O-Line and running game.  But, that’s obvious to anyone.  Even Tom Brady looks pretty fucking mediocre in those rare instances where the Patriots have a struggling O-Line; the difference is they seem to know how to push the right buttons and right the ship before too long.

I also agree that we probably have a Top 15/Top 10 defense as it is.  That part of it is never going to get TOO bad, because Pete Carroll is too good of a defensive mind.  My biggest concern is that the injury bug tends to be random, and the Seahawks were pretty well battered in 2016, then followed that up by arguably being MORE battered in 2017.  That, to me, shows signs of age.  And, considering the core on this defense is so deep and has been together for so long, that’s A LOT of holes that need filling, not to mention a lot of depth that needs replenishing around that core.

It’s too early to know what that’s going to look like.  We don’t know, for instance, if Avril or Kam will make miraculous recoveries and try to play again.  Forgetting the cap situation for a moment, assuming we get those guys back, they’re still one awkward hit away from being done for good.  Then, there’s Michael Bennett, who ALWAYS seems to be slowed by one nagging thing or another.  A foot, a quad, a pec, an ankle.  I still say he’s someone who needs to be on the field way less than he is to remain effective.  There’s more snaps you have to replace.  Earl Thomas made a nice recovery in 2017, as I assume Richard Sherman will in 2018, but again:  guys getting older.  Guys more susceptible to these debilitating injuries.  And, I haven’t mentioned guys like Bobby Wagner or K.J. Wright, because they’re almost always pretty healthy.  But, before he went down, Sherm had never missed a game, and I don’t know if Earl missed much time either.  It just takes one hit, or one bad step and then a bunch of others that eventually wear you down until whatever’s ailing you just SNAPS.

So, let’s take a step back and look on the bright side:  who do we have on defense that we like?  That we can count on in major roles going forward?

Frank Clark, obviously, heads that list for me, and feels like a guy this team should prioritize with a big extension.  Dion Jordan is another guy I’ll be happy to see return, and in a meatier role than he had in 2017.  Should he prove to be effective, he’s a guy I wouldn’t mind seeing around semi-long term.  Naz Jones really flashed as a rookie.  He looks like a guy who could play every down and be an effective interior rusher (I just hope he’s not another of these injury-prone guys, what with him missing the last few weeks of the regular season).  Jarran Reed is another impressive interior lineman who feels more like a Brandon Mebane type (which is NOT a bad thing) and is someone I hope to have around for a long time.  So, that’s four guys, not counting Bennett (who I still think will probably be back in 2018).  I don’t expect Sheldon Richardson back, and who the fuck knows about Malik McDowell, but either way, the D-Line could use some work.  And some better injury luck.

Love me some Wagz and Wright; they’re both squarely in their primes.  But, would it kill this team to draft a couple of talented, athletic backups who might one day take their places?  Or, competently fill in for when those guys get nicked up?  I mean, we’re always one Wagner injury away from the biggest fucking drop-off on the entire team outside of quarterback!

In the secondary, I – along with most everyone – liked what I saw from Shaq Griffin.  He still has room to improve, and I hope he makes that leap.  With Earl and Sherm back in the fold in 2018, and Coleman being a solid slot guy, there’s even more to like.  But, how do you replace someone like Kam?  And, who’s gonna be your third outside corner?  Are ANY of the other rookies we drafted in the secondary in 2017 going to pan out besides Griffin?  I think it’s a BAD sign that guys like Delano Hill and Tedric Thompson hardly ever played last year.  I hope they look good behind the scenes, because I have a feeling we’re going to need at least one of them to pan out in the near future.

So yeah, there’s talent defensively.  There’s plenty of talent to be a Top 15 defense as it stands right now.  And, of course, the team will make moves this offseason to bolster that side of the ball.  A Pete Carroll team would NEVER neglect the defense.  But, is this team good enough to overcome just a Top 15 or a Top 10 defense?  Or, does it need a Top 2 defense to really do something?

And, I guess that’s my whole point in all of this.  With all its faults, the 2017 Seahawks were still SO CLOSE to making the playoffs.  And it would’ve been fun, and we would’ve had a rabid ramp-up to that game against the Rams (or whoever would’ve been the 3-seed in this alternate universe).  And who knows?  Maybe we shock the world just like we’ve done so many times in the Wild Card round of the playoffs!

But, I’m not interested in just making the playoffs.  I don’t think there’s a way in Hell that the Seahawks of 2017 – with all the injuries and everything else they had to deal with by season’s end – were in a position to make a serious championship run.  Odds are, if it’s Rams in the Wild Card round, then Eagles in the Divisional round, then Vikings in the Championship game … I mean, look at those defenses!  Those are far and away the three best defenses in the NFC this year (with the Saints probably coming in 4th).  You’re telling me this team, with this O-Line, and this lack of a running game, could’ve made it through all three?  I think the chance of that is 0.00%.

Maybe I’m being greedy.  As a long-suffering Seahawks fan through the years, maybe I SHOULD just be happy with a playoff appearance.  But, after 2013, all of that changed.  With Russell Wilson in the fold, I want to see MULTIPLE championships!  At least one more, ideally two more.  Anything beyond that would be beyond my wildest dreams, but you get the idea.  Great, amazing, franchise-altering quarterbacks don’t come around everyday unless you’re the Green Bay Packers, apparently.  To squander someone like Russell would be a travesty.  Beyond that, I can’t bear to imagine a world where his final play in a Super Bowl is that fucking interception at the goalline.  He NEEDS to be redeemed!

And no, this team probably WON’T collapse in the near future, not as long as Wilson is healthy.  He’s in his prime, and we’ve seen PLENTY of mediocre teams with elite quarterbacks who carry them to consistent 7-9/8-8/9-7 seasons.  Aside from 2015/2016, that’s pretty much the M.O. of the San Diego Chargers under Philip Rivers!  Not to mention a lot of those post-Super Bowl Saints teams.  And a lot of those Lions teams under Matthew Stafford.  On and on and on.  But, to be honest, those types of teams are my worst nightmare.  Not to say I envy the Browns or something, but I would RATHER bottom out for a year or two, bring in a bunch of highly-drafted college players, and turn things around.  The Seahawks will probably never get to be that bad, though, so I think it’s a very real concern that we have a bunch of 8-8 type seasons in the years ahead.

How do we avoid that?  Well, ideally, we need to figure out what the Saints did in their draft room last year, because God Damn!  Justin points out that we should have faith in the combo of Pete and John.  I have the utmost respect for those guys, and I agree they’re the best head coach and GM in franchise history (and maybe in the history of all of Seattle sports).  But, I also think it’s valid to wonder if they’re not coasting on the achievements of their drafts and free agent acquisitions from 2010-2012.  I mean, that’s one of the best turnaround jobs in all of professional sports, what they were able to do in that 3-year span.  And, for the most part, I like that they take chances and they swing for the fences on guys with rare and unique talents.

But, the mounting mistakes from 2013 onward is pretty glaring.  Bringing in Harvin, which led to losing out on Tate.  That whole fucking 2013 draft which has only netted you a backup tight end in Luke Willson (and no, they don’t get credit for Spencer Ware, because he was let go and has done all of his damage with the Chiefs).  Then, there’s the Jimmy Graham deal, and the whole fucking 2014 draft.  Paul Richardson has given us exactly 1 fully healthy season before turning into an expensive free agent.  Justin Britt gave us a couple of mediocre seasons as right tackle and left guard before finding his place at center.  Cassius Marsh and some of the guys below him were non-factors on defense and mostly just good special teamers.  Then again with the 2015 draft.  Clark and Lockett were hits, but Glowinski was a bust, and everyone else is gone.  Now, take a look at the 2016 draft:  the best player is arguably Alex fucking Collins, yet ANOTHER late-round running back this team threw away!  Ifedi has been miserable, Reed has been a run-stuffing defensive tackle, Vannett looks like nothing more than a 3rd or 2nd tight end at best, Prosise is a living, breathing ankle sprain, and the rest of those guys are backups, training camp fodder, or out of the game entirely.  That brings us to the 2017 draft, where it looks like maybe they got their mojo back with guys like Griffin, Jones, Carson, and hopefully Pocic, but also features your top selection in McDowell who might never play a single down in the league.  Then, when you compound it with some of the other deals, giving Joeckel so much money, giving Lacy ANY money, consistently trading away high draft picks for veterans.  My confidence with this line of decision-making hasn’t totally plummeted, but I’ll say this:  2018 is going to go a LONG way toward either restoring my faith, or leading me to construct a noose and hang myself.

I mean, shit, what happened to their prowess in picking guys on the third day of the draft???

In short, because this one ballooned WAY out of control, yesterday’s post is probably a bit of an overreaction, with an asterisk of We’ll See.  This thing has been trending downward for three years, so we just have to hope that the new blood is able to come in and turn things around.  If they can’t, or if injuries continue to kill us, or if guys don’t develop into stars for whatever reason, or if the front office keeps kicking the can down the road with some of these contracts and draft pick trades, then I’ve been on record for a while now saying this could be another Seattle Mariners situation:  a lot of high-priced veterans getting this team to at or around .500, but ultimately treading water for a bunch of years in a row.

Seahawks Death Week: Spread The Blame Around Nice N’ Thick

Had the Seahawks made the playoffs, I’m certain a topic of conversation would’ve been:  what do the Seahawks do well?  If things had gone differently – i.e. if the Seahawks won and the Panthers had beaten the Falcons – we’d currently be preparing to go on the road to Carolina.  The Seahawks would’ve been considerable underdogs in this game, and we would’ve been sitting around wondering how the Seahawks might match up with the Panthers.  Where is our edge?  In what universe could you imagine a Seahawks upset, as they’re currently constructed?

Boil it all down, and you come back to the question:  what do the Seahawks do well?

Well, at TIMES, the Seahawks have done lots of things well (except run the ball), so we should probably refine that to say:  what do the Seahawks do consistently well?  Or, to put it another way:  what DOESN’T need fixing for 2018?

I’m a little bit at a loss with this question, because I don’t think there’s even one single thing the Seahawks do consistently well.  Sure, they have Russell Wilson, and he’s a good quarterback you can win a championship with, but all too often he fails to step up in the pocket and make quick decisions with the football.  Either because he can’t see what’s going on (and he’s being super-careful with the football to not throw it into harm’s way), or he’s constantly waiting for something better to come along.  And, he thinks he can beat everyone when he escapes, which leads to further issues (fumbles, intentional groundings, sacks, holding penalties on the O-Line because they have no idea where he’s going).  For everything he does well, he does something that holds this team back, and when the rest of the team isn’t up to the task, our margin of error is extremely low, so more often than not that Russell Wilson Magic is useless.

The running game is what it is:  a total fucking disaster.  That’s partly on the O-Line and partly on there being no dynamic running back on this roster for the last two years.

The receiving game is okay, but even there we have issues.  Aside from Doug Baldwin, guys don’t get consistently open, and Doug Baldwin can’t do everything.  Jimmy Graham seemed to always disappear unless we were 15 yards away (or closer) to the endzone.  Just about everyone aside from Doug (particularly the tight ends, particularly Graham) had issues with drops, which this team obviously can’t afford when – again – it can’t run the ball and can’t provide consistent protection for its quarterback.

The O-Line is what it is:  a total fucking disaster.  Luke Joeckel was a bust.  Germain Ifedi is certainly trending towards the bust category (though, I want to see him get multiple years in one position before I make that declaration).  Ethan Pocic was a rookie.  Duane Brown came in mid-season and I don’t think ever became totally used to what we’re trying to do here (and how our quarterback plays).  And, quite frankly, Justin Britt made too many fucking mistakes to be considered anything but a so-so player.  He’s certainly not worth Max Unger-type money, and once the dead money isn’t prohibitive, I’d seriously consider getting rid of him and moving Pocic over to center (where he played so well in college).  Don’t forget, it was Britt’s boneheaded and pointless dive that landed him on George Fant’s ACL and started us down this whole messy road (when it appeared Fant was going to take the next huge leap in his development in the pre-season).  Consider me off the Justin Britt bandwagon.

So, for those keeping track at home, that’s NOTHING about the offense that I trust as far as I can throw it.  How about the defense?

Well, the pass rush was hit or miss.  Sometimes it was on point, sometimes it completely disappeared.  Michael Bennett got way too much playing time, and struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness down the stretch (as anyone could’ve predicted).  Cliff Avril’s loss (probably for good) was a huge blow.  Frank Clark was probably our most consistent player, but he never made that leap to superstar status we were all secretly hoping we’d see.  And, most annoyingly of all, we were never able to find a consistent interior pass rusher.  Malik McDowell is the biggest fucking moron on the planet and might have ATV’d his way out of football before his career even started.  Which necessitated in us trading for Sheldon Richardson, who was okay, but who also never really seemed to fit in with our scheme or make any sort of an impact.  Jarran Reed took a baby step forward, but was never a consistent threat.  Naz Jones looked great for a rookie, but got injured and probably hit the ol’ rookie wall.  The back-end of the roster guys would flash from time to time, but never consistently.  Way WAY too often, opposing quarterbacks had all day to pick apart our defense, and it seemed like we only ever got pressure when we blitzed, which isn’t this team’s way (but maybe it should’ve been; maybe we should’ve gone hyper blitz-happy and seen if that would’ve helped spur more turnovers).

The run defense is SUPPOSED to be this team’s strength, but all too often it was a weakness.  The 49ers and Titans early in the year ran all over us.  And the Jags, Rams, and Cowboys had no problem whatsoever gaining big chunks of yards on us late in the season.  Teams with elite runners doing whatever they wanted:  that rarely ever happened before this year.

Then, you know, there’s the pass defense.  Earl Thomas missed a little time.  Kam and Sherm missed a lot of time.  Jeremy Lane lost his job early and often.  Byron Maxwell came in off the street and started over Lane almost immediately!  And he’s no prize pig!  Shaq Griffin looked pretty good for a rookie, but I’d still like to see a lot of development in him before I annoint him with Lockdown Corner status.  Justin Coleman looked pretty good for a slot guy.  Deshawn Shead never really came back from his injury (aside from a few special teams snaps).  Bradley McDougald was a solid pickup at safety (and a HUGE improvement over Steven Terrell/Kelcie McCray).  When everyone was healthy, the pass defense was okay, but even then, everyone was healthy for that Deshaun Watson game, and he threw all over us!  Tennessee didn’t have any trouble moving the ball down our throats.  And even the Redskins had no trouble marching down the field late on our pass defense.  Then, once you factor in everyone’s injuries, you could argue this was the weakest part of our team by season’s end.

I guess, if you had one position group to laud this year, I never really worried about the linebackers, until the end of the season, when it was obvious Bobby Wagner’s injury was severely limiting his mobility.  And, K.J. Wright had that concussion game he missed.  And, I’d be hard pressed to say I loved our veteran depth; the drop-off from starter to backup was pretty severe.  Seems like we could’ve filled those spots in the draft if we hadn’t completely neglected it the last few years (opting for undrafted free agents and veterans on minimum deals over actual draft picks).

So, no, nevermind.  There are zero position groups you could say I was 100% comfortable with over the course of the season.  Every single player on this team played a part in why the Seahawks are not in the playoffs right now, and if they WERE set to play in Carolina this weekend, they’d surely get their asses destroyed.  I hope the guys who remain on this roster in 2018 take a good, long look in the mirror.  Do you want to be here?  Do you still love the game of football?  Let’s maybe think less about that paycheck and more about wins and losses.

An Early Look At What The Seahawks Should Do In 2018

There is a lot of justified talk this week – following the 42-7 smackdown against the Rams – that the Seahawks need wholesale changes.  Blow the damn thing up!  No one is off limits!  (up to and including Russell Wilson … shh!)

And, yes, I get that, 100%.  This year, in many ways, has been a huge disaster (only to be punctuated by a 9-7 or 8-8 finish and missing the playoffs for the first time in the Russell Wilson era).  The second half of 2015 for Russ appears to be more of an anomaly than a sign of things to come.  We’re still seeing the same issues with him (missing open receivers because he can’t see them, running himself into sacks and/or turnovers, throwing the ball beyond the line of scrimmage and/or behind the line of scrimmage for intentional grounding penalties).  We’re also dealing with the same O-Line issues (penalties, early pressure, lack of a running game) and the same running back issues (injuries, lack of dynamism).  Jimmy Graham appears to be useless outside of the red zone, the receivers after Doug Baldwin don’t appear to be making any improvements, and the second and third tight ends aren’t anything more than second and third tight ends.

And that doesn’t even touch on the aging and injury-prone defense.

On top of all of this, we’ve traded away a lot of good future picks to bring in guys like Sheldon Richardson and Duane Brown, in an effort to Win Now (which I very much approved of at the time; it’s unfortunate that they haven’t been enough to push this team over the edge).  So, the only way to get those kinds of draft picks back is to trade down in the first round again (when you’re looking at a first round draft pick that will be the best we’ve seen since 2012, somewhere in the Top 20 to start out), or trade away some of our valuable stars (of which we don’t have many who aren’t currently injured or on bad contracts or both).

The Trade Russell talk is pretty dire, and most certainly a topic deserving of its own post (which I’ll probably get around to at some point, even though I can all but guarantee it will never happen in a million years … or at least not until he’s considerably older and/or whenever a new regime takes over), so I will proceed here under the assumption that Wilson will be on the Seahawks in 2018.

With that unpleasantness out of the way, I do agree that almost everyone else is on the chopping block.  Probably NOT Bobby Wagner, who has the second-largest cap hit next year, with $5.2 million in dead money.  Probably NOT Doug Baldwin, who has the fourth-largest cap hit next year, with almost $9.5 million in dead money.  And probably NOT Justin Britt, who is set to only count a little over $6 million against the cap, but has almost $9 million in dead money.

There are some obvious moves I think the Seahawks will make, without question.  Jimmy Graham is off the books after this season, and I think he stays that way.  It was a nice idea, but that experiment was an unmitigated disaster.  Sheldon Richardson is in the same boat; I think you let him walk and you accept the comp pick for 2019.  There’s no way he’s worth a huge extension at his age and at what will be his price.  Jeremy Lane only has $2.5 million in dead money, and was never meant to see 2018 in a Seahawks uniform anyway (unless it’s on a veteran minimum deal, but he would surely get more than that from another team).

Jon Ryan is currently set to have the 13th-highest cap number on the Seahawks next year, which is INSANE.  He’s not only been one of the least-effective punters in football, but $3.2 million?  Get the fuck right out.  It’s insane that we’ve been trying to pinch pennies all season, as far up against the salary cap as you can get, and we’ve got a punter making this much money.  Nice guy?  I don’t give a shit.  Good father?  Fuck you.  Go home and play with your kids.

Then, as sad as I am to say it, you’ve got guys like Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril, who might not play another down in the NFL.  And, if they do, they’ll definitely be at risk the next time they get hit to either go back on the IR or end up paralyzed.  No one wants to see that.  Cliff is set to make $8 million, but only has $500,000 in dead money, so I think that’s a no-brainer:  cut him.  Kam, on the other hand, is set to count $9.8 million against the cap, while having a dead money hit of $7.5 million.  Let’s get back to him.

Richard Sherman has 1 year left on his deal; he counts $13.2 million against the cap, with a dead money figure of only $2.2 million.  It feels like Seahawks fans are already shoving him out the door without giving much consideration to the fact that he’s impossible to replace.  Let’s also get back to him in a minute.

Earl Thomas, as well, has 1 year left on his deal; he counts $10.4 million against the cap, with a dead money figure of only $1.9 million.  If you cut both Sherm and Earl, that’s a TON of free money you get to play around with.  But, again, another guy who’s impossible to replace.

Duane Brown is back in 2018 at a figure just under $10 million, with no dead money since he was acquired in trade.  I don’t think it hurts you at all to keep him for another season, then make a decision on left tackle (groom George Fant to take his place in 2019 and beyond?).

Michael Bennett is an interesting case.  He’s under contract through the 2020 season, set to count only a little over $8 million against the cap, with only a little over $5 million in dead money.  You could argue that his 2018 season hasn’t been on par with his peak, and I would agree with you.  But, I don’t feel like he’s been totally useless.

K.J. Wright is another interesting case.  He’s only signed through 2018, and while his cap hit will be $8.2 million, his dead money is only $1 million.  He missed the Rams game due to a concussion, so a lot of people are lumping him in with the “aging defense” that needs to be purged, but he really hasn’t been all THAT injury-prone in his career.

My point, with guys like Kam (if he is medically cleared to play again), Richard (assuming he makes a full recovery of his Achilles, which I think will happen), Earl, Duane, Bennett, and Wright, is that you don’t necessarily NEED to dump all these salaries right away.  If you’re worried about extending Frank Clark, don’t be.  The Seahawks will have more than enough money to keep him here for the long haul.  If you’re worried about any of the other impending Seahawks free agents, I would ask why?  What have they done to garner such concern?  And, if you’re worried about having money to bring in other free agents, to bolster the O-Line or whatever, then I repeat:  don’t.  The Seahawks will have enough money coming off the books from the likes of Graham, Sheldon, Lacy, Joeckel, Walsh, Lane, Ryan, and any of the other turds on this team who don’t deserve to be back, that we should be fine to plug holes where needed.

But, I honestly don’t think we need to do a total rebuild.  Not THIS offseason, anyway.  I think, if you were to rid the Seahawks of every single big contract (outside of the aforementioned Russell, Bobby, Doug, and Britt), you only do that because you want to tank the 2018 season.  And, if you’re doing that, then you might as well go all the way, trade EVERYBODY (including Russell Wilson), stockpile a billion draft picks, and start all over with a new rookie QB in 2019 with the first overall draft pick.  But, I’ve never been much of a fan of the Cleveland Browns approach, and I don’t think you should be either.

I think the Seahawks should let it ride in 2018 (minus, of course, the obvious moves of letting go of Graham, Richardson, Lane, Ryan, Walsh, Lacy, Joeckel, Avril, and so on and so forth).  I absolutely don’t think the Seahawks should be thinking about throwing around any extensions to any of our aging vets, and I think we use 2018 as a testing ground.  If 2018 goes well, and the team improves, maybe we look on a case-by-case basis.  For instance, I don’t hate the idea of extending Earl or Richard, if they make it through 2018 unscathed, as long as their next deals give us some easy outs in the event of future injury (particularly Earl, as I could see him eventually acquiring this neck/stinger issue that Kam’s dealing with right now).

And, if 2018 goes to shit, then I think you’re in a MUCH better position to drop all the vets, blow the thing up, and head into 2019 with a cleaner slate to start over through the draft and whatnot.

This is also contingent, of course, on not blowing your wad with 2018 free agents.  Bringing in Sheldon Richardson in the first place – and giving away such a high draft pick – was only palatable because he was going to get us a huge compensatory draft pick in 2019.  If we fuck that up, by spending a ton of money on high-priced free agents, then what was the point?  Same goes for keeping Jimmy Graham around; he should get us at LEAST a 4th round comp pick, if not another 3rd.  I WANT those comp picks!

And, for the love of God, stop trading away our draft picks for players!  It should be the other way around, if anything!  It was fine for 2017, as we were clinging to hope that our championship window could be extended.  But, to double down on this terrible line of thinking would be a disaster.  Kicking the can down the road is exactly what the New Orleans Saints did for so long, and they ended up with a bunch of 8-8/7-9 seasons as their reward.  It wasn’t until they finally devoted themselves to rebuilding through the draft this past offseason when they were finally able to get back to division-winning football.

Let’s just … maintain.  No huge splashes in free agency, no giving away draft picks for veterans, no free agency money PERIOD on the running back position, let the big money free agents walk so we can get some comp picks, cut off some of the fat, but save the rest of the fat to deal with after 2018, at which point we’ll be better prepared to set this team up for 2019 and beyond.

Why I’m Dreading This Seahawks/Jaguars Game

There’s a lot riding on this game.  Frankly, there’s a lot riding on ALL of the remaining games on the schedule, thanks to a couple of bumbling home losses to the Redskins and Falcons.  The Seahawks are a game back of the Rams, and if they want to hold out any hope of winning the division – or even a remote hope of getting a top 2 seed, which is highly unlikely, but still – they almost certainly need to run the table.  Winning out at home is a must, and is very do-able (so long as the Seahawks don’t lose any more key starters to injury), and that road game against the Cowboys doesn’t look nearly as imposing as it did before the season.  But, here, this week, against the Jags, is where I’m most afraid.

I don’t need to tell you that the Jags have the best defense in the league.  Their secondary is second to none, and their D-Line is as ferocious as any in football.  They lead the league in fewest total yards allowed, passing yards allowed, and total points allowed.  By a pretty considerable margin, I might add!  They lead the league in sacks, are tied for second in interceptions, are tied for fourth in forced fumbles, and tied for first in fumble recoveries, as well as lead the league in turnovers returned for touchdowns.

In other words, they lead all of football in just about every important defensive statistic.  Where they’re middle-of-the-road is in rush defense, which just so happens to be the area of the Seahawks offense where they struggle the most.  Yay.

I’ll say this, apropos of nothing:  the Seahawks picked the worst possible week to have their most significant victory of the season.  Coming off a game where they thoroughly destroyed the best team in football, you just know the Seahawks will have spent this week sniffing their own farts and reading their own press clippings, to the detriment of the on-field product this Sunday.  Sure, the Jacksonville defense will have something to say about it, but when the Seahawks’ offense comes out flat and we’re all mashing our respective Twitter keyboards in frustration, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The problem is, a loss like the one I’m predicting this Sunday is often seen as a “wake-up call” for a good team.  Better to get that unexpected defeat out of the way now, before the playoffs, when that type of performance will end your season.  But, here’s the thing:  the Seahawks don’t NEED any more wake-up calls!  They’ve had 4 already this year!  The next wake-up call will send us hurtling to a Wild Card spot, and the wake-up call after that will keep us out of the playoffs entirely.  WE’RE AWAKE!  And, if you don’t see this Jaguars team for what it is – a real, legitimate threat to your 2017 season – then you might as well go the fuck back to bed.

To spin it another way, though, it’s not like all hope is lost.  The Seahawks CAN win this game, but they have to tread lightly.  The Rams and Cardinals both put 27 on them; the Titans earlier this season put up 37.  The Jags’ defense isn’t infallible.  But, I don’t think we can afford a slow start and a big 2-score early deficit.

Thankfully, the Jacksonville offense is absolutely nothing to write home about.  Led by Blake “The Bort” Bortles, we’re talking about a 4-year pro who is just the worst, most bustiest bust who is somehow still starting for an NFL team and not a car dealership’s sales team.  They’ve effectively chopped his balls off this season, which is absolutely the correct call, in making this a run-first, run-second, and run-third offense.  The beneficiary of that move is rookie Leonard Fournette, who started his career absolutely on fire, in looking like Ezekiel Elliott 2.0 through six weeks.  But, then an ankle injury and a suspension set him back.  Over his last four games, he’s averaged only 2.94 yards per carry, with just the 1 rushing touchdown (after 6 in the first 6 weeks).  He’s coming into a game against the Seahawks, who are 7th in the league in rush defense.  So, it’s appropriate to believe we should be able to hold their ground game in check.

And, if we can do that, we should have no trouble whatsoever in holding The Bort in check, L.O.B. or no L.O.B.

So, ultimately, the question is:  can the offense go out there and do its job?

That doesn’t necessarily mean we need Mike Davis to rip off 100+ yards, or Russell Wilson to go out there and continue his MVP pace.  I’m not asking for the moon and the stars here!  How about:

  • Can Russell Wilson avoid turnovers?
  • Can the O-Line avoid free rushers at the quarterback?
  • Can our receivers and running backs hold onto the football?
  • Can we all limit our penalties?

The way to lose this game is to cough up the ball and put our defense on its heels with short fields.  I don’t expect the Jags to score a bunch of touchdowns or have a bunch of lengthy, ball-control drives.  But, they might have one or two.  So, I wouldn’t expect to hold them to single-digits (if we do, our odds of winning this game goes up tenfold).  But, if we give them those short fields, I don’t think it’s out of the question for the Jags to score 20+ points, in which case it’s going to be VERY difficult for the Seahawks to win this game.

I don’t expect the Seahawks to look very good on third down.  Likewise, I don’t expect to see a lot of big plays out of our offense.  It’s not hopeless, but it’s going to mean taking advantage of our limited opportunities.  Touchdowns instead of field goals.  Hitting long field goals instead of punting, or worse.

If the Seahawks are going to win this one, it’s going to have to be in that 20-17 range, and it’s likely going to require a last-minute drive for go-ahead points.  There is a universe where I can imagine that happening.

But, there are also plenty of other universes out there, where I see the Seahawks losing 15-9, or 16-6, or 10-9, or 11-8, or 23-12.  In those games, I see Russell Wilson getting sacked 6 times and suffering a safety.  I see a couple fumbles and a pick.  I see the Jags moving the ball at will early in the game and the defense needing to adjust on the fly.  I see Fournette – against all rational thought – having a monster game and making the likes of Earl Thomas and Bobby Wagner look foolish on his cutbacks.  And, I see that Jags defense dancing on our grave.

Look, I want to be there with you guys.  I want to BELIEVE!  I want to cast off the shackles of this Haterade I’ve been drinking and sail the Good Ship 12 into the Harbor of Positivity, but as a Seattle sports fan, I’ve been beaten to a pulp over the years.  Granted, a lot of that was from the Mariners, who continually get my hopes up, only to pull the rug out from under me, but the Seahawks of the last couple seasons have played their part.

I will say this, if you allow me to put on the rose-colored glasses:

The offensive line is as good as it’s been since 2013/2014.  That’s not hyperbole.  With Duane Brown healthy and getting healthier by the week, we’ve already seen the dividends being paid.  With Luke Joeckel healthy and getting healthier by the week, the left side of that line is terrific!  With Ethan Pocic taking over for the revolving door of Mark Glowinski/Oday Aboushi, the right guard spot is no longer a total bust.  And, as he continues to get more comfortable at the right tackle spot, I no longer find myself cursing the name Germain Ifedi on a play-by-play basis.

In short:  the offensive line IS good.  I’ll say it!  Come at me, brothers and sisters!

It’s going to take a while before they get the credit they’re due, but I’m charging through as conductor of this bandwagon, and there’s plenty of room if you want to come along for the ride!

I’ll also say this:  the depth on this team is what we thought it was.  Heading into the year, after bemoaning our fate vis-a-vis the O-Line, the depth on this team was all I could talk about.  When our 2016 season was so thoroughly derailed by the loss of Earl Thomas, and the thinning of our D-Line, 2017 is going a long way towards subsiding those concerns.

A year ago, the thought of losing Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, AND Cliff Avril would’ve brought about a rash of suicides among the 12’s.  Yet, aside from some tough times against the Falcons, we’ve largely looked okay.  Getting Byron Maxwell back, and watching him play his ass off like he never left, could prove to be the luckiest move of the year.  Having Shaq Griffin grow into a bona fide starter, signing Bradley McDougald as Kam-insurance, Jeremy Lane failing his physical with the Texans, snatching Justin Coleman from the cornerback-starved Patriots (at the time, anyway; they’ve since improved their secondary play as guys got healthier), all of these events – along with the impending return of DeShawn Shead (fingers crossed!) – has helped this secondary not miss much of a beat, and could be critical going forward, as we look to face the likes of the Rams, Vikings, Saints, and Eagles in the playoffs.

Then, there’s the depth along the D-Line.  Sheldon Richardson coming over via trade, Frank Clark taking that next step, Naz Jones coming alive as a rookie, Jarran Reed becoming an every-down monster in the middle, the Dion Jordan flier actually turning into a useful rotation piece, the return of Quinton Jefferson, the production we’ve gotten out of the likes of Branden Jackson and Marcus Smith, on top of the fact that Michael Bennett is an ageless wonder who still thrives on playing just about every single defensive snap against all rational thought.  We’re not only super deep in this all-important area of the football field, but we’re also improving as the season goes along and these guys learn one another’s strengths and tendencies.

Finally, I’ll say this:  Russell Wilson has arrived.  Yes, he’s been great since he came into the league in 2012.  Yes, we would never have reached the heights we reached in 2013 & 2014 without him, and he’s carried this team on his back (particularly late in 2015 when Lynch and Graham were lost with injury).  But, he’s putting it all together now, in 2017, with the running game being what it is and this team NEEDING him to be The Man.  It’s what the all-time greats do, they pick their games up when their teams need them.  This is the difference between Pro Bowl quarterback, All Pro quarterback, and Hall of Fame quarterback.  Russell Wilson is playing like a Hall of Famer in his prime.  All he needs now to make that Hall of Fame a reality is time.  Continue playing like he’s playing for the next 5-8 years, and slowly fade into his 40s, and he’ll be a lock for the golden jacket.

If anybody can lead this team across the country, against a young, hungry defense, and come away victorious, it’s Russell Wilson.  In Russ We Trust.  Time to go out and take care of business.

Are You Not Entertained: Seahawks Flush Season Down The Toilet

The game couldn’t have started off any worse.  First drive:  Atlanta marched right down the field for a touchdown.  The defense got caught by a couple penalties and our shaky secondary got picked on.  Jeremy Lane couldn’t have been more useless last night in proving what a collosal drop-off he is from Richard Sherman.  Of course, it wouldn’t be the Seattle Seahawks without more catastrophic injuries, hence the Shaq Griffin loss on the opening drive.  He was replaced by Byron Maxwell, who did okay, but I really would’ve liked to have seen what Griffin could’ve done in this matchup (and I REALLY would’ve liked to have seen what the defense would’ve looked like with Griffin on one side and Maxwell on the other, with Lane in the Dime package, if on the field at all).

Then, as Tyler Lockett brought back his first of many tremendous kickoff returns out past the 50 yard line, it looked like we’d be in for a barn-burner.  Instead, Russell Wilson threw a mind-boggling interception on 2nd & 1, which led to another easy Atlanta touchdown.  On the back of another quality kickoff return, the Seahawks pulled the game back to within 7 points on yet another nifty touchdown to Jimmy Graham, and after forcing the first of only 3 Atlanta punts, it looked like we’d climb back into this thing.

Not so fast:  another disastrous play by Wilson – this time a sack/fumble – led to a defensive touchdown and a 21-7 Atlanta lead.

The Seahawks and Falcons went back and forth the rest of the half, with Atlanta leading 24-17 with a little over a minute left to go.  The Seahawks got into field goal range almost immediately, and then they did what all shitty teams do:  they settled for that field goal.  EXCEPT NOT SO FAST!  They had a fake all lined up and ready to go, which was killed on Twitter all last night and will continue to be killed in Seattle the rest of this week, but I’m telling you right now:  that fake would’ve worked if it didn’t get blown up by Grady Jarrett, who flew past the long snapper and stopped Luke Willson in the backfield.  You stop that guy, and the Seahawks had that thing blocked all the way to the endzone.  Instead, it’s a missed field goal opportunity (which, when you figure you’ve got Blair Walsh, is at best a 50/50 proposition, from any distance 40 yards or closer), and a reason to point fingers at the coaching staff.

The Seahawks moved the ball all day, at will.  I know there were turnovers and whatnot, but Jon Ryan only punted once all day.  Tyler Lockett racked up 197 yards in kickoff returns alone, and the offense tacked on another 360.  Russell Wilson accounted for 258 yards passing, with another 86 yards rushing, and 3 combined touchdowns.  Of course, he gets dinged for the pick and the fumble leading directly to 14 Atlanta points (pretty important when the Seahawks only lost by 3), but yeah, let’s go ahead and put all of this on the coaches.

The way I see it, there was only one time I was disappointed in Pete Carroll, and that’s when he challenged the Doug Baldwin drop.  I know, he’s Doug Baldwin, and believing he caught the ball inspires more confidence than what your own eyes tell you, but you can’t listen to him in that situation.  You’ve got to trust in your staff who – upon seeing that replay JUST ONCE – should’ve been telling you to stay away from that red challenge flag.  And, if the staff didn’t tell you that, then someone should be fired, because they were asleep on the job.  That timeout was WAY more important than stroking some wide receiver’s ego, and I’ll argue that cost us the game more than the fake field goal attempt.

Even still, the Seahawks had a chance.  I tried to predict a Seahawks victory with 3:49 left in the game, down 11 points.  And, sure enough, we marched right down the field, scoring on an impressive throw to Baldwin with 3 minutes to go in the game.  Hell, we even hit the 2-point conversion!  (which, in hindsight, might’ve actually lost us the game, as I have to believe we would’ve been more aggressive in that final drive – as opposed to settling for the game-tying field goal try – if we were down by 5 points).

In the end, the Seahawks got the ball back, down 3, with almost 2 full minutes to go in the game (and no time outs).  And again, they got into Falcons territory super quick … and then proceeded to throw short pass after short pass, instead of going for the jugular and winning this thing in regulation.  I’ll never understand how Pete Carroll can be so aggressive one minute, and so conservative the next.  There’s really no rhyme or reason to it sometimes.

But, there we were, a 52 yard field goal away from sending this game into overtime.  A game we’d been losing since the opening drive, would’ve finally been tied for the first time since 0-0.  It was straight enough, it looked on target, but it fell just under the crossbar for the soul-crushing defeat.  Blair Walsh needs to be off this team going into 2018, that’s all I’ve got to say.  He obviously doesn’t trust his leg – which is why he put all his focus into making sure it was on target, as opposed to putting the oomph required to get the ball to fly 52 fucking yards – he’s a mental case, and he doesn’t deserve to be on this team.  Period.

You can say this about every single loss, but there really is a lot of blame to go around.  Some people blame the fake field goal.  Some people blame the botched challenge.  How about blaming Doug Baldwin for dropping an easy 3rd down conversion late in the game?  Or, how about punting in that situation when you know your fucking defense couldn’t stop a God damn thing?  You’ll notice the Falcons got a field goal right after that sequence, to go up two scores; if we go for it on 4th down and fail, HEY, they’re in field goal range already and maybe we save a couple minutes!

You can blame the dropping-ass receivers, you can blame the refs for clearly looking for reasons to throw flags on us (while overlooking all the holding and interfering the Falcons were doing on very similar-looking plays), you can blame the secondary for not only allowing Julio Jones to do whatever he wanted, but for making the rest of their mediocre receivers look like Julio Fucking Jones.  You can even play Poor Me and blame all the injuries, because if we’re being honest, if you put both of these two teams on the same field at full strength, the Seahawks would wipe the floor with the Falcons.

But, for me, the number one culprit in why the Seahawks lost falls squarely on the defensive line.  Specifically the pass rush, as the rush defense was okay, aside from not tightening up on the goalline.  4 QB hits?  1 sack?  Matt Ryan had all FUCKING day to throw the ball!  And I don’t give a shit if he spent most of the day getting the ball out quick, do you understand how many resources we’ve piled into bolstering this D-Line?  Even without Avril, we’ve got Michael Bennett (big money contract), we’ve got Frank Clark (high draft pick, could’ve been a first rounder if not for his trouble in college), we’ve got Sheldon Richardson (All Pro talent, who we traded away a 2nd round pick for), we’ve got Dion Jordan (taking a flier on the 3rd overall draft pick in 2013), we’ve got Naz Jones (another relatively high draft pick), we’ve got Dwight Freeney (a future Hall of Famer who was non-existent in this game), and we regularly run K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner up the middle on blitzes (two Pro Bowl/All Pro type talents at linebacker).  WE HAVE ALL OF THAT, and all we could muster were 4 QB hits and 1 measly sack?

Un-fucking-acceptable.  All we heard about all off-season and all pre-season was about how the Seahawks were going all in on making the pass rush better, and it looks NO DIFFERENT than it did last year, in spite of the influx of all this new talent.  What a fucking joke; the D-Line should be fucking ashamed of the performance it’s put up this season, and in particular last night.

You’re at home for Christ’s sake!  You’ve got nearly 70,000 screaming fans at your back!  You’ve got the other team scrambling with their silent counts and getting guys lined up correctly, and that’s as good as you’ve got?  Fuck that.  Fuck that and fuck you.

As noted by countless people, this loss knocks the Seahawks out of the division lead and out of the playoffs entirely, if they started today.  But, I mean, who cares now?  It’s not like this team has a Super Bowl run in it anyway.  I mentioned this on Twitter last night and I think it’s very appropriate today:  should we even be rooting for the Seahawks to make the playoffs?  What’s a pointless Wild Card game going to prove?  Give me the Top 20 draft pick.  Get a REAL impact player in here to start ruffling some feathers.

This isn’t a good team, particularly the defense.  It’s really sad to watch.  A once-pround, dominant group has now given up over 30 points in 3 of 10 games.  And sure, the offense looks better than ever, but no one ever said “Offense Wins Championships.”  Russell Wilson is great, and if you were voting on the award objectively (and not based on which team has the most wins), he is clearly the NFL’s Most Valuable Player (because without him, we’d be even worse than the Green Bay Packers without Aaron Rodgers, which is saying a lot) – also, for the record, Tyron Smith, left tackle of the Dallas Cowboys, is probably #2 on the Objective MVP list, with how that team has fallen apart since he went down, but that’s neither here nor there.  But, Russell Wilson can’t do it all.  He can’t be quarterback AND running back AND wide receiver AND cover guys on special teams AND kick field goals AND cover guys on defense AND sack the quarterback.  I mean, he’s Russell Wilson, he’s not 53 guys.

The Seahawks Won A Football Game But Who Cares?

There’s no way to spin this positively.  Everybody is going to be down in the dumps after a divisional victory on the road for good reason.  Or should I say reasons, as in many of them, as in all the fucking injuries the Seahawks suffered because the greedy fucking NFL just HAD to have its Thursday games, regardless of how shitty they are and how most people fucking hate them.

The injuries include:

  • Richard Sherman’s achilles, out for the year
  • Duane Brown’s ankle
  • Jarran Reed’s hamstring
  • C.J. Prosise’s ankle
  • Michael Wilhoite’s calf
  • Frank Clark’s leg
  • Shaq Griffin’s shoulder
  • Kam Chancellor’s whatever at the end of the game
  • Sheldon Richardson’s whatever when he collided with Frank Clark on his injury
  • Russell Wilson’s (maybe a) concussion?  Or at least that blow to the chin/neck area

And, I’m sure there are lots of other bumps and bruises that will hopefully heal up before the next game, on Monday night, November 20th against the Falcons.

The Sherman injury alone is enough to keep me down in the dumps for the rest of the season.  Yeah, we’ve got Jeremy Lane (thank God the Texans are a bunch of idiots who failed him on his physical), and sure DeShawn Shead is looking like he’ll be back in the next few weeks, but neither of those guys are Richard Sherman.  NO ONE is Richard Sherman.  Plays every day, every snap, blankets his opponent, supports in the run game like a safety.  I mean, he does it all, and if you take him out of your defense, your defense becomes worse.  It’s just basic math!  The more complicated math becomes:  what percentage of Richard Sherman can you get out of guys like Lane and Griffin and Coleman and Thorpe and whoever you end up picking up off waivers or the practice squad?

Also, I mean, when is Earl Thomas coming back?  It never felt realistic that he’d be back for the Redskins game, and you hate to risk him on a short week against the Cardinals.  But, can he make it back for the Atlanta game?  We’re KINDA gonna want to have him back there, you know, given the whole Richard Sherman thing and whatnot.

As for the rest of those injured guys, you just have to hope for the best.  Griffin and Richardson both came back to finish the game, so they don’t sound too serious.  I have to wonder if we’ve seen the last of Prosise, because AGAIN he’s seriously hurt himself after only a few on-the-field plays.  Just put him on IR and we’ll get back to him next season.  Let him have the 9 months to get healthy and get STRONGER.  Considering he’s never really had a break from rehabbing since he was drafted, it might be nice to take the pressure off and let him build.

As for the game itself, sure, the Seahawks won, but who cares?  Sure, Russell Wilson had an okay game, and Doug Baldwin had a lot of yards, and Jimmy Graham had 2 touchdowns, and Bobby and K.J. and Kam all had amazing games on defense and the Seahawks are now 6-3 and get a bunch of time to rest before their next game, but this really feels like the end of the season in a lot of ways.

The offensive line is what it is; it’s bad.  The running backs are who they are; they’re bad.  The offense as a whole is too mistake-prone and inconsistent.  The team as a whole is too ravaged by injuries and susceptible to idiotic, mind-blowing penalties (to the point where it honestly feels like the refs are now anticipating these calls and throwing flags on the most benign bullshit).  And, quite frankly, there are too many teams that are flat out better than the Seahawks.  Forget the whole Any Given Sunday adage; yeah, the Seahawks are so inconsistent, on any given Sunday, they could CERTAINLY lose to any team, up to and including the winless 49ers.  But, there are too many teams that could beat us on our BEST day.  Who likes the Seahawks against the likes of the Eagles?  How about the Cowboys?  Or the Vikings with that defense?  Or the Saints with their own improved defense?  Or the Panthers, who know how to beat us.  Or the Rams for that matter, who will be out for revenge when they come back to Seattle to play us.  And on and on and on.  I’m not holding my breath against the Falcons, the Lions, the Redskins, or any other team that we might face in the playoffs if we’re fortunate enough to get there.

Once again, the Seahawks’ season ends prematurely.  Now, it’s just a matter of running out the string.

On the Pro Football Talk radio show this morning, they were talking about how this might have been Richard Sherman’s last game in a Seahawks uniform.  I never for one second even CONSIDERED that, but they have a point.  The Seahawks have already put him on the trade market before.  He’s only signed through 2018, and his dead cap hit if we were to cut him before then is only $2.2 million.  Sure, it’s only an achilles injury, and I’m sure he’ll be able to come back to full strength in time for next season, but he’ll also be 30 years old next year, and maybe the Seahawks will want to move on.  Maybe they’ll want to allocate that money elsewhere.  Maybe they’ll take another shot at drafting a starting cornerback opposite Shaq Griffin and life will go on.

If that’s true, then my heart is broken.  As frustrating as this team can be to watch on a weekly basis, I’m certainly not ready for one of its core guys to play in another uniform.  The core, of course, being Richard, Earl, Kam, Bobby, K.J., Russell, and Doug.  Guys who’ve played their entire careers in Seattle.  Draft picks and undrafted free agent.  Future Ring of Honor guys.  Future Hall of Famers.  You start chipping away at this group, and the Seahawks are going to feel a lot different in a hurry.

Boy, a downer of a blog post ended on a really shitty note, huh?

Seahawks Barely Get By Deshaun Watson & The Texans

This was a game you’ll love if you’re a fan of numbers.  Specifically offensive numbers, as we had oodles.  Russell Wilson:  452 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT, 30 rushing yards.  Deshaun Watson:  402 yards, 4 TDs, 3 INTs, 67 rushing yards.  DeAndre Hopkins:  11 catches, 224 yards, 1 TD.  Will Fuller:  5 catches, 125 yards, 2 TDs.  Tyler Lockett:  6 catches, 121 yards.  Paul Richardson:  6 catches, 105 yards, 2 TDs.  Jimmy Graham:  4 catches, 39 yards, 2 TDs.  Hell, even Lamar Miller had 54 rushing yards, 19 receiving yards, and 2 combined TDs.  Offense.  For.  Days.

But, it was pretty slim pickin’s as far as defense is concerned.  Earl Thomas came back with a pick-six after giving up a long opening-drive touchdown bomb.  Richard Sherman had a couple interceptions after being challenged with impunity all game.  Jadeveon Clowney was a beast, both in pass rush and particularly in the run game.  The Seahawks had 5 sacks and 9 tackles for loss, including big games for Bennett, Clark, Wright, and Wagner.  Even Dwight Freeney got in on the action with half a sack.

All of those things were great, but you don’t come out of a 41-38 game and heap praise on the defense.  And, I gotta tell ya, while it was a refreshing change of pace to see the Seahawks go out there and sling the ball up and down the field, I think I still prefer it when our defense is the best group on the field.  There’s something about both teams scoring on 13 possessions out of 26 (not counting end-of-half kneeldowns) that’s a little overwhelming.

What I did like was the fact that no team was ever up by more than 7 points.  That’s pretty rare, considering how much scoring took place.  I mean, the Over damn near hit before halftime!  When there’s a game like this, it usually involves the Seahawks looking like crap for the first half, then scrambling to come back by multiple scores to win by some miracle at the end.  This one was just a slugfest; two insane offenses throwing haymakers back and forth.

In a game like this, you can take it one of two ways:  you can breathe a sigh of relief and live with your heads in the clouds over how the offense moved the ball.  Just throw out the books and appreciate this one for what it was:  probably the most exciting game (from start to finish) in the NFL this season (perhaps narrowly edging that Chiefs/Raiders Thursday Night game a couple weeks back, but I don’t want to succumb to recency bias).  Or, if you’re like me, maybe you can’t help but see some of the warts.

I’m willing to more or less overlook the L.O.B.’s lack of dominance in this one, because let’s face it:  they’ve pulled this offense’s ass out of the fire on PLENTY of occasions.  Every once in a while, they deserve to have a bad game and somehow the team still finds a way to win.

I thought, for the most part, the run defense looked pretty good, aside from some key breakdowns in contain when it comes to Deshaun Watson.  I mean, where was the spy?  Isn’t this game tailor-made for Bobby Wagner to have eyes on Watson all game?  What you absolutely can’t have happen is the line getting sucked over to one side, with 20 yards of open field for Watson to punish us.

More than anything, you can say the Seahawks’ defense – while mediocre as a whole – made just enough big plays when it mattered most.  The aforementioned Earl Thomas interception returned for a touchdown.  The Sherman interception that led directly to a field goal that gave the Seahawks their first lead of the game at 27-24.  The sacks and D-Line pressure that led to the Texans’ five punts on the day.  And, the biggest play of the day that no one is talking about:

With just under 3 minutes to go in the game, and the Texans up 38-34, the Seahawks were driving.  Russell Wilson just scrambled for 21 yards that had me literally exclaim, “Wow, how did he do that?!”  He stepped up in the pocket and ran through a nexus of three Texans who all converged on a single spot, and instead of getting his block knocked off, he somehow caused all three of them to hit one another as he scampered to the 20 yard line.  At that point, it was without question that the Seahawks would re-take the lead, and the only question that would remain would be:  did we leave the Texans too much time on the clock?  Except, instead, Wilson treated everyone to his single worst throw of the game, an out-route that was easily picked off, as if he had intended to throw it to the defender.

(which, I mean, let’s not rule this out.  You know as well as I do that Russell Wilson is a wizard.  He just is.  He’s magic, and we’re all fortunate to be graced with his presence.  So, hear me out on this:  what if he could see into the future, realize we were in the process of scoring too quickly, and had we done so, Deshaun Watson would be the one everyone is lauding for his last-minute game-winning efforts?  I submit this as my argument that he MEANT to throw that interception, knowing we’d get the ball back, and ultimately score with too little time left on the clock for the Texans to do anything about it)

But, I digress.  Getting back to the biggest play of the day that no one is talking about:

The Texans took over with just under three minutes left in the game.  They ran the ball for 4 yards on first down, the Seahawks opted to save their time out.  They ran the ball for 8 yards on second down, and we hit the two-minute warning with a fresh set of downs.  After the break, the Texans ran again for 1 yard, time out.  THEN, we get to the play of the game:  second down, hand off to Miller again, this time for 5 yards.  But, if you look at it, the Texans had that thing blocked to go for double-digit yards or more.  Things just opened up like you wouldn’t believe, and if it weren’t for Michael Bennett diving in there and slapping at his foot to get him to fall down, the Texans would’ve ended the game right there.  Go back and look at it!  If you can find it, that is, because like I said, hardly anyone is talking about it, and yet the only reason the Seahawks had a chance at the end is because Michael Bennett saved the day.

Now, I’ll also say I agree with the majority of America today:  Bill O’Brien should’ve put the ball in Watson’s hands on at least the third down play.  I can see it both ways:  with the run, you take away Seattle’s final time out, and as I just discussed, there’s a decent chance of converting a 3rd & 4 with the way things were going as recently as that very drive.  But, on the other hand, Watson was a juggernaut yesterday.  You could’ve run with him, you could’ve had him drop back and pass, you could’ve done a run-pass option, you could’ve done one of those fucking plays where he fakes it to three other guys before hitting a fourth option (that our defense somehow could NOT figure out, at any point in this game).  Instead, in hindsight, it feels pretty weak to just run it back up the middle again for the fifth straight play.  The Seahawks stopped it for a 2-yard gain and the rest was history.

I suppose more of my consternation with this game comes from the fact that the Seahawks’ run game was abysmal.  I mean, just the worst I’ve ever seen, and I’ve lived through full seasons of Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett!

Part of this absolutely has to do with Chris Carson going down with injury, because God fucking dammit would he come in handy right about now!  Why do all of our best running backs have to be fucking injured all the God damn time?  Him and Prosise this year, Rawls and Prosise last year, Rawls the year before.  I mean, shit!

Part of this has to do with Eddie Lacy, because he’s effectively useless.  I’d been willing to give him time to grow with this offense up until this game, because he’s a volume rusher, and gets better the more you feed him (ironically enough).  But, 6 carries for 0 yards?  No.  No thank you.  Go home, eat your China food, and waste some other team’s time.  You’ll never for ONE SECOND get me to believe the guys on the active roster are better than Mike Davis, who is LANGUISHING on the practice squad right now.

Which gets me to my next gripe:  Darrell Bevell.  Not Darrell Bevell the play-caller, mind you.  I know that’s what everyone gets on him about, but again, I thought he called a pretty great game, all things considered.  He gave the running game everything he had, but it clearly wasn’t working and he gave it up for the most part in the second half.  What I’ve got a problem with is Darrell Bevell the offensive coordinator.  And, by that I mean, the way he designs his offense, and how he uses the players he’s got.

It took him FUCKING FOREVER before he put Jimmy Graham out wide near the goalline this season.  Why is that?  Because he doesn’t want to tip off his play-calling.  It’s why he lines Graham up inside on run plays, when Graham is the worst blocking tight end in the universe.  You can’t just have Graham out there on passing plays, because then defenses will expect that.  SO FUCKING WHAT?  Here’s a newsflash, you fucking moron:  what you’re doing now – by “out-thinking” the defense – ISN’T FUCKING WORKING!  Rushing plays with Graham on the field get blown up CONSTANTLY!

Same goes for Thomas Rawls, out there on third downs.  Why would you do this when you’ve got a talent like J.D. McKissic?  Oh, because if McKissic is out there, the defense will know you’re passing?  WHO CARES?  It beats throwing to a fucking stone-hands, who drops carefully-lobbed balls in the endzone!

I come from the school that says, “Put my best 11 guys up against your best 11 guys and let the chips fall where they may.”  Because, more often than not during the Pete Carroll/John Schneider Era, the Seahawks have had the most talent in the NFL.  That’s just a fact.  And, you know what?  It used to be enough for this team.  The Seahawks used to be a team (albeit, with Beastmode in the backfield, which obviously has to account for a lot) that would run the ball when the opposing team had 8-9 guys in the box, and we’d STILL get a productive gain on the play!  Because our 11 guys were better than their 11 guys, and we’d make them pay for their inferiority.

But, nowadays?  The Seahawks have lost their sack.  They’re trying to get cute, which leads to throws to Rawls, runs towards Graham’s side, long bombs to McEvoy, and fullbacks streaking free up the middle for 66-yard gains.  Which, obviously, when it works – like the throw to Madden, and the 53-yard bomb to McEvoy – you look like a genius.  But, more often than not, those plays haven’t been working this season, and you just look like an asshole who’s trying to get a head coaching job somewhere else.  Which, GREAT, DO IT, GET OUT OF HERE!  But, of course, the NFL sees right through that, so we’ll be stuck with Bevell here for as long as Pete Carroll remains head coach.  It’s our burden, but one I’m willing to live with.  Still doesn’t mean I’m not going to bitch about it.

Thankfully, the receivers were there to pick up the slack.  Doug Baldwin was mostly quiet, which is shocking.  But, we had 100-yard games from Lockett and Richardson, who both had a bevy of long bombs they went up and snagged.  P-Rich in particular looks like the Golden Tate we’ve been lacking since we let him walk to Detroit.  See, the Seahawks don’t necessarily need a guy who’s 6’5; we just need a guy like Richardson who’s 6’0, but can jump like a freak of nature.  Thankfully, he’s been able to stay healthy, because he sure looks like a stud this season.

Let’s finish with some quick hitters.

The Seahawks took over their final drive on their own 20 yard line, and Russell Wilson immediately uncorked a dagger.  Honestly, I don’t know how Ifedi got away without a holding flag, and I’ll admit, I half-expected another flag on P-Rich for offensive-PI (replays showed that to be a clean catch, but I’ve seen flags for less contact than that).

I hope Earl Thomas’ hamstring injury isn’t too serious.  At the same time, I was relieved that Steven Terrell wasn’t back there to get torched in the game’s closing moments.

I thought the Special Teams got short shrift for having a pretty great game.  The Texans didn’t get much of anything on their returns, Jon Ryan made some clutch punts off of some poor snaps, and Blair Walsh was a silent assassin.  He made his two field goals (both pretty short range), and all 5 of his extra points, which ended up being huge, particularly the last two that gave us 3-point leads, as a Houston field goal in response would’ve only tied the game instead of given them the lead.  The NFL’s objective with the longer extra points was to make them more exciting, and while I hate them with a passion and wish like Hell that they’d move them back to the 2-yard line, I have to admit they’re maddeningly interesting, particularly in games like this.

Finally, I’d like to shout out the offensive line.  Not so much for the running game, in which their blocking was predictably awful; but in pass protection, they were okay!

I know, the narrative now and forever is that the pass-protection was, is, and always will be dreadful.  But, I mean, if it was really THE WORST as everyone (particularly the national media) claims it to be, could Wilson have thrown for a franchise-record 452 yards?  Obviously, while it wasn’t the best, and a stick figure quarterback like Jay Cutler or Eli Manning would be lunch meat behind this kind of line, it was Good Enough.  Hawkblogger’s Sunday night tweets go into it in a lot of detail, so check out his Twitter.  Essentially, the Seahawks were middle-of-the-road, from a leaguewide perspective, when it comes to pass protection, and God bless ’em, that’s all Russell Wilson needs!  Hell, that’s all any of us have been clamoring for since Wilson busted out onto the scene!  We don’t need a Top 5 unit to put up a ton of points, just give us a Top 15-20 unit and watch us go to work!  And, yesterday, the O-Line (again, from strictly a pass-protection perspective), played like just that.  They gave Wilson time to throw, and when they didn’t, they at least opened up lanes for him to scramble around until he could find someone down field.  That’s our game!

What’s frustrating is when there’s a guy in his face on the third step of his 3-step drop.  I’m sure the Texans’ defensive numbers will show a lot of good pressures on Wilson, but those are the types of pressures we can all live with.  And, in the end, it all added up to Wilson’s best day as a pro.

Of course, we’ll never REALLY know how much of that was due to his wizardry, but that’s the beauty of magic:  it’s more fun when you DON’T know the magician’s secrets.

The Seahawks Play The Giants This Weekend

Before the season, this game looked a little scary.  The Giants were pegged to contend for the NFC East, Eli Manning had a bunch of cool weapons on offense to throw to, and a defense that looked remarkable in 2016 had a year’s worth of experience and an off-season of moves to better itself.  Then, the Giants started out 0-5, and all of a sudden this game looked like one of the easier matchups on the Seahawks’ schedule.  THEN, the Giants went into Denver as something like 13-point underdogs last Sunday night and somehow managed to not just win, but DOMINATE the Broncos 23-10.

And now this game is scary again?

I’ll admit, I didn’t watch a lick of that Giants/Broncos game.  Like most everyone in America, I expected the Broncos to win easily.  I don’t know if I necessarily expected a blowout, or even a cover of the point spread, but I did think we’d be in for a boring, grind-it-out game where the Broncos would win comfortably by 7-10 points or so (with still a reasonable chance of it being a blowout victory).  It feels impressive that the Giants were able to run for 148 yards and a 4.6 yards per carry average against a quality defense like the Broncos.  It feels even more impressive that the Giants were able to win at all, considering Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall were out and are officially lost for the season, but, you know, last week was a crazy fucking week.  A lot of underdogs won outright.  Hell, this SEASON has been fucking crazy with the underdogs; it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before!

But, I digress.  The question remains:  are the Giants good or not?  Obviously, with 5 losses in their first 6 weeks, and all their injury issues at wide receiver, it feels impossible for them to make the playoffs.  I’m sure they’ll give it the good ol’ college try, but I can’t see them finishing any worse than 8-2 over the next 10 games and still making the post-season.  With the Eagles at 5-1, that probably puts the division out of reach, so they’d have to hope for a Wild Card berth at 9-7 in that scenario, which isn’t impossible, but again, I don’t know if I see 8 more wins on their schedule.

The Giants lost on the road to the Cowboys and Eagles, which feels reasonable.  Those are a couple of good teams.  They lost at home to the Lions, which isn’t out of the question, as you’re talking about a playoff team from a year ago (largely the same as they were), and a team looking to compete for the NFC North.  But, then you tack on a road loss to the Bucs (who look bad) and a home loss to the Chargers (who look worse) and I gotta tell you:  I think the Giants are NOT good.

In which case, this should be a win for the Seahawks, right?  I’m not saying it’ll be easy.  They’ve still got a quality defensive line that should give us fits (as they all do).  But, I mean, where are they getting their points from this Sunday?  Their best and healthiest offensive weapon is rookie tight end Evan Engram, who legitimately looks like he could be one of the better players at his position.  Second year wideout Sterling Shepard should be returning from an ankle injury, so there’s another.  But, I mean, come on.  I know we like to joke around about the Seahawks’ defense sucking against tight ends, but we’ve actually been vastly improved this year!  It looks like Kam Chancellor has taken more of an active role in guarding them one-on-one, and he’s shutting them down pretty good.  Instead of being the worst in the league, the Seahawks are right in the middle of the road, which is fine.  That sort of improvement is something you can take to the bank.  Engram will get his looks, but I hardly think he’ll be a dominant force like we’ve seen from other tight ends in years past.

As for Shepard, he looks okay, but he hasn’t made that leap to elite status (not with ODB hogging all the glory to date), and it’s questionable that he ever will.  He looks fine.  If Richard Sherman were to follow him all over the field, I have no question whatsoever that he’d be locked down, but something tells me that’s not the gameplan.  But, either way, Shaq Griffin has looked better and better every week, and I think he’d be fine against Shepard.

Which leaves their running game.  I know the Seahawks have gotten gashed this season, but that was by the likes of DeMarco Murray, Derrick Henry, and Carlos Hyde.  Those are some of the most talented and productive running backs in the league this season!  That having been said, this defense used to eat even the very best running backs for breakfast, so getting gashed at all is of great concern.  But, Orleans Darkwa?  Wayne Gallman?  Shane Vereen?  I’m supposed to be quaking in my boots over this triad of suck?

Even when the Giants had all the receivers in the world, they weren’t able to run the ball effectively.  It’s only last week – when they had no one to throw to – where they put all their effort into the running game (and Denver mysteriously didn’t load up to stop it).  That one will puzzle me to my last breath, but I guess you could say that since the Giants over the last 2-3 years haven’t put any sort of running game whatsoever on tape, the Broncos just weren’t expecting it and had no evidence on how it could theoretically be stopped?

Well, it’s a good thing the Seahawks were on BYE last week, because they had nothing else going on last Sunday and were able to watch every minute of that game.

It’s also good, because I think you’re going to see incremental improvement in the Seahawks’ run defense over the next few weeks.  There’s been a lot of turnover on the D-Line.  Tony McDaniel is gone.  Ahtyba Rubin is gone.  Those guys were instrumental in stuffing the run the last couple seasons.  Jarran Reed is getting more playing time.  Naz Jones is a rookie.  And Sheldon Richardson is new to our system.  As they get more experience in practice and games, with gap assignments and whatnot, I expect this unit to gel and return to its run-stopping roots.

So, I mean, if we stop the Giants’ running game, what do they have left?  Eli Manning?  Please.  He should be lunch meat, with or without Cliff Avril.

Speaking of which, that’s a really sad case right there.  Avril was knocked out of the Indianapolis game a few weeks back with a neck/spine issue (he was seen, right after the hit, shaking his arm as if he’d lost all feeling, which is pretty terrifying for him).  Ever since, he’s apparently been seen by every doctor on the planet, and it’s looking more and more like he’s headed for surgery and the Injured Reserve.  At which point, he’d be eligible to return in mid-to-late December.  But, given the nature of the injury, and the uncertainty around the surgical procedure, it’s possible he misses the rest of the year entirely.

It’s also possible he’s played his final game in the NFL, which is the biggest bummer of all.

It’s a serious blow to this defense, but not one that’s impossible to overcome.  It means stripping away some of our depth at a position of strength, which is always a bad thing.  It also means more of a role for Frank Clark.  It remains to be seen how that will change things.  Will more Frank Clark allow him an opportunity to step up and become a star in this league?  If so, that’s fantastic.  But, does a little Frank Clark go a long way, and will we see a decline in his production on a per-snap average due to overuse?

Avril is a stalwart.  He’s a pro.  You can always count on him.  He’s also still right there in the prime of his career, as pass-rushing defensive ends tend to age pretty well in this league compared to other positions.  Clark is still young, still learning, still growing.  I don’t believe he’s yet reached his full potential.  Here’s to hoping this accelerates his development and he becomes one of the greats in this league by season’s end.

As for the Seahawks’ offense, your guess is as good as mine.  That second half against the Colts feels more and more like an anomaly against a really bad team.  Say what you want about the Giants as a whole, but that defense isn’t bad.  I think they’re every bit as capable of making our lives miserable as the Rams, 49ers, and Packers.  In which case, I guess we’re in for another slow Russell Wilson start, another shitty performance by the running game, with the only signs of life coming in the final two minutes of each half.

Can we win this one 14-9?  With that Giants offense, I’d be furious if they reached double digits in points, so I’ll go out on a limb and say yes.  But, while a 14-9 victory is still a victory, and you’ll take them however you can get them, it’s still not something that inspires hope.

A good Seahawks team would come out and blow the doors off, winning 44-3 or some damn thing.  But, I can’t imagine a scenario where we don’t get more of the same.  For the same fucking reasons.

Only now, we’re down our second-best offensive lineman in Luke Joeckel (who used his BYE week to have a cleanup surgery on his knee, and will be out for a month or so).  In his place, we’re looking at a combo of Mark Glowinski (the starter at LG last season) and rookie Ethan Pocic (whose natural position is center, and who doesn’t really have much college experience on the left side of the line).  For the record, I expect Glowinski to get the start and the lion’s share of the snaps.  I also expect him to struggle, and within a week or two I expect Pocic to take over that job until Joeckel returns.  Hopefully I’m proven wrong.  Hopefully Glowinski takes his recent demotion from the RG spot to heart and returns like a rabid pitbull.  But, I just don’t think he has the talent to be a starter in this league.  Doesn’t mean he can’t have a long and pointless career as a backup (or move on to another team in the future and have great success, because he’s just not cut out for Tom Cable’s zone blocking scheme).

At running back, I think we’re all hoping for Thomas Rawls to take the bull by the horns, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see a steady stream of handoffs to Eddie Lacy.  For what it’s worth, I still like Lacy and I think he fits this offense pretty well.  I think he’s a volume-dependant running back though, and I just don’t know if this offense, with this O-Line, has what it takes to give him the volume of carries he needs to succeed.

Here’s to hoping Russell Wilson gets some time to throw, though, because I think some serious gains can be had in the passing game.  The Giants are TERRIBLE against opposing tight ends, so you’d think Jimmy Graham would have a field day.  And, if they sell out to stop him, then it should open up opportunities for Baldwin, Richardson, and Lockett.  Again, though, Russell needs time to throw.  We’ll see.

All these games are important, but this one really feels big.  The Giants are still banged up, we’re coming off of a BYE, yeah it’s on the road across the country, but it’s a late afternoon game and we’ve had a lot of success playing in this stadium.  It’s also a conference game, which becomes vitally important for playoff seeding.  And, not for nothing, but the Rams went on the road and beat the Jags last week, regaining sole possession of first place in the NFC West.  They play Arizona in London this Sunday and could very well be 5-2 when the weekend is over.  We need to win just to keep pace with the Rams!  Who could’ve ever predicted saying that sentence before the season started?

The Seahawks Beat A Bad Colts Team At Home In Primetime

I’m not gonna lie to you, I couldn’t make it past halftime of this game.  Maybe if I had some incentive; maybe if the Colts and Seahawks were both good this year.  Maybe if the Seahawks showed me ANYTHING in the way of competence through the first three and a half weeks of the season.  But, I saw that first half (where the Colts went in leading 15-10, with the last taste in my mouth being a missed field goal from a very make-able distance – 37 yards – out of Blair Walsh), I saw my impending Monday morning workday coming (where I’d have to wake up at the crack of 4am), and I made a business decision.  I decided this game wasn’t worth my being exhausted the following day.  And I’m pretty sure that’s the only time that’s ever happened with me and a Seahawks game; that’s something I do ROUTINELY with the Mariners though!

Oh yeah, that’s right, I’m equating the Seahawks with the Mariners.  That’s how bad this season has been.

I mean, there was no upside to staying up and watching that second half.  Either I sit there, miserable, as the Seahawks continue to suck dick against a terrible Colts team; or they scratch and claw to a meager victory; or they do what they did last night, which is outscore the Colts 36-3 (which, not for nothing, is something they should’ve done from the opening fucking kickoff).  Any way you slice it, I would’ve been too keyed up to go right to bed afterward, and I’d be sitting here on 5-6 hours of sleep.  Fuck that; I have DVR.  I’ll watch the second half tonight!

Russell Wilson had a pretty good game.  He was 21/26 passing, though two of those misses went for interceptions.  He threw 2 TDs and ran for a third.  He apparently looked MUCH better in the second half, though he did look sharper in the first half than we’ve seen from him in recent weeks.

I’ll say this, last night’s game was not without consequences.  Jeremy Lane strained a groin on the opening series of the game.  Cliff Avril has a neck injury that will keep him out for an indeterminate amount of time (the fact that he was shaking his hands, as if he had no feeling in them, is certainly a frightening sight).  Rees Odhiambo was taken to the hopsital with a chest injury, as he was having trouble breathing after the game after a hard hit.  Frank Clark missed a few snaps; Naz Jones missed a few snaps.  And, of course, Chris Carson was carted off the field with an ankle injury that could be minor, or could keep him out for a month or more.  Just what we needed in a running back room that already features C.J. Prosise (who missed this game with injury) and Thomas Rawls (who was apparently a healthy scratch and probably watched this game smothered in bubble wrap).  So, that’s neat.

At least the team around them stepped up.  Eddie Lacy got his first significant work of the season, running the ball 11 times for 52 yards.  J.D. McKissic ran the ball 4 times for 38 yards and a TD, as well as caught a 27-yard TD pass to close out the game.  That makes me VERY happy, as I’m tired of seeing Prosise’s name in the news for all these injuries.  If McKissic can keep that up, we can cut or trade Prosise after the season and move on with our lives!

Marcus Smith apparently had a whale of a game!  He had 1.5 sacks, 1.5 tackles for loss, and 2 QB hits, all in place of Avril.  We got him in a minor deal with the Eagles before the season, and that could be HUGE if Avril has to miss a lot of time.  Then, there was the Pick-Six by Justin Coleman, who took over the nickel role from Lane after he went down.  It was a nifty jumping of an out-route that he had no trouble taking back to the house.  He had another pass breakup in there for good measure.

I thought Shaq Griffin looked pretty good, though he got beat on that touchdown in the second quarter.  It wasn’t the worst coverage I’ve ever seen, but there’s a better way to play that ball and he looks like he’ll get the hang of it before too long.  He definitely looks better than some of the guys we’ve had over there opposite Richard Sherman, and that’s okay in my book.

Bobby Wagner also had a game, with 6 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 0.5 tackles for loss, and a fumble return for a touchdown.

All in all, not too shabby, but again, the Colts are terrible.  Don’t think all of our problems are fixed.  This might as well have been a pre-season game.

The real test comes next week in L.A., against the Rams, who are apparently legit now that they went on the road and out-scored the Cowboys 35-30.  Jared Goff looks like he’s for real, they finally have a competent receiving corps, Todd Gurley looks rejuvenated, and their offensive line is no longer a total liability.  Tack onto that they have the same defense that always fucking destroys us, with Wade Phillips of all people now pulling the strings, and this one has the makings of an ugly blowout.

The Rams are 3-1; the Seahawks are 2-2.  Lose next week, and the Rams are 4-1 and running away with the division, while the Seahawks are 2-3 and trying to cling for dear life to a meaningless Wild Card spot.

God I hate professional football.

My Big Fat Seahawks Preview 2017

It’s insane at work right now, so I’m looking for little pockets of time to write this out and get it done on time before the weekend.  If it feels disjointed, just blame the scapegoat du jour.

I’ve already written a couple of preview-ish things on the 2017 Seahawks.  Back in April, when the schedule came out, I took a preliminary stab at predicting the outcomes.  Now that we’re just days away from the start of the season, I’ll update that with the power of new information!  Then, back in July, I took a look at the roster as we were barrelling toward Training Camp.  I don’t know how much my opinion has changed – from either of those two earlier posts – so if I harp on the same points, forgive me, but I just don’t have the time to re-read all of my blatherings.

I will say this:  whereas before I was cautiously optimistic – believing if everything broke right, it wasn’t hard to imagine this team back in the Super Bowl – now I’m a rock-hard, veiny, throbbing erection of populist Seahawks swaggeration!  I haven’t felt this confident about my team since the start of 2013!  Except, to be honest, I’ll have to walk that back a bit and say I haven’t felt this confident about my team since the start of 2014.  I mean, look, that 2013 team was CRAZY deep and CRAZY talented, up and down the roster.  On top of that, the 2013 team actually had a competent offensive line, whereas this year’s team is still very much in doubt (in spite of recent improved pre-season play, which I’ll get to in a bit).  Frankly, I was still pretty stoked on the Seahawks heading into 2014, and indeed pegged them for a repeat championship, which they had in their grasp one yard from fruition, but it wasn’t as solid a feeling as 2013.

This year is the same, in my mind.  The talent is there, no question.  In fact, in some areas, the talent is vastly improved (at least on paper).  And, the depth is in some ways back to where it was in 2013.  But, the last few years of creeping failure is clouding my enthusiasm JUST enough to have this nagging creature of doubt in the corner of my mind-grapes.  I’m doing my damnedest to give that guy the finger though, because I want to be ALL IN on the ground floor with this Seahawks team.

TL;DR:  WE’RE BACK, BABY!!!

Let’s just take this position by position, to show you how strong this team is, and to show the world how foolish it is to doubt us.

Quarterback – Top 5 in the entire league, fully healthy, in great running shape (the better to compensate for a questionable-to-say-the-least offensive line).

Running Backs – A deep stable of runners of all stars and stripes!  Lacy, the power back.  Prosise, the speed/pass-catching back.  Rawls, the good mix of both.  McKissic, the Prosise insurance.  Carson, the overall back & everyone else insurance.  If you can’t have Marshawn Lynch in his prime, then the next best thing is to stockpile 5 guys who add up to 1 Beastmode.

Wide Receivers – A Top 10 guy in Baldwin.  A burner in Lockett.  Another burner with outstanding ball skills in P-Rich.  A tall red zone threat in McEvoy.  And a rookie project in Darboh.  Not as deep without Kearse in the fold, but if you throw in McKissic and Prosise, you’ve got a lot of versatility in the passing game.

Tight Ends – A Top 3 guy in Graham.  Another tall receiving threat in Willson.  And a young blocking tight end with a good pedigree in Vannett.

Defensive Line – Off-the-charts talent all over the place.  Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril are proven studs.  Sheldon Richardson is the pass-rushing interior force we’ve been looking for since Cortez Kennedy retired.  Frank Clark is an up-and-coming dominant force who should look to take a giant step into the spotlight this season.  Jones and Reed are young interior talents with a lot to prove.  Smith and Bass are young ends with a lot to prove.  This could go down as the best D-Line we’ve ever had in Seattle, and yes even better than that 2013 unit that laid waste to the entire league.

Linebackers – More off-the-charts talent in guys like Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright; guys who can cover all over the place, who are dominant against the run, and who can rush the passer on occasion.  Depth here is vastly improved over the last couple seasons, with proven vets in Wilhoite & Garvin.  Injuries should not be as much of an issue as they would’ve been in years past.

Secondary – The L.O.B. is still here and still as good as ever.  Earl, Kam, and Sherm comprise the best threesome of any secondary in the NFL.  Jeremy Lane is a solid all-around corner, with emphasis on nickel.  Shaq Griffin is the only question mark, but he’s got a good pedigree and should get plenty of safety help in the early going.

Special Teams – Blair Walsh looks like he’s starting to get back on track, but will have to prove it when the games matter.  Either way, he shouldn’t be as bad as Hauschka was last year, particularly on extra points.  Jon Ryan is still going to keep opposing offenses pinned back inside their 20 more often than not, and overall control the return game with his quality punts.  The return game is bolstered with McKissic as insurance for Lockett, should the team opt to bring him back slowly, or otherwise take some of the duties off his plate.  And, coverage units look a lot better with Neiko Thorpe, D.J. Alexander, and our rookie secondary guys.

The only real area of uncertainty is, obviously, the offensive line.  Everywhere else, the Seahawks have elite, top-shelf talent and depth.  So, let’s dig into this.

An argument can easily be made that past seasons’ O-Line groups were made to look better than they actually were because Marshawn Lynch was so money, and I’m hard pressed to go against that line of thinking.  Can any of the runners we have now live up to that and make this group of guys look better than they are?  I think, maybe, in small doses, Lacy can be that type of runner who limits negative rushes and falls forward for impressive gains.  I also think, in between injuries, Rawls can certainly be a Baby Beastmode with his style, but the question with him is how long will those healthy stints last?  Prosise has the speed to get around the edge and through holes before they close, but he’ll have to prove he can stay healthy too.

Indeed, even in the pass-protection portion of the O-Line game, the major concern is health:  can they keep Russell Wilson from getting injured?  Obviously, Wilson can help out his own cause by getting the ball out quickly and eluding pressure before it’s right on top of him; but they’re going to have to drastically reduce the amount of free runners at the quarterback if this thing is going to work.

In a lot of ways, injuries are a matter of luck, and the Seahawks were pretty fucking unlucky last year.  Not 2017 Mariners unlucky, but not too far off either.  What are the odds that Wilson will spend the entire season hobbled again?  In a vacuum, I’d have to say not very good; but with this line I think you have to consider it a coin flip at best.  Luck is one thing, but there are things a team can do to limit the amount of bad luck that comes your way.  Getting improved O-Line play is one of them.

For what it’s worth, I do think this line will be better than last year’s, and I think it’ll be better right from the start.  This is key, as there are a lot of important games early in the season, and we can’t afford to slog through 10 weeks of growing pains before we go on our annual year-end hot streak.

I think Odhiambo, with a year under his belt, will be better than Brad Sowell and 2016 George Fant.  Since Fant, last year, was about as bad as you can get, I’d say that’s a huge upgrade (and Odhiambo doesn’t even have to be GOOD to achieve this level of improvement!).  Now, obviously losing 2017 Fant to injury is about as devastating as it can get, because he really did look like he was going to take a huge step forward in his development, but I’ll take baby steps at this point over what we had last year.

Luke Joeckel looks like a solid upgrade over Glowinski at left guard.  Paired with Britt at center, I think that side of the line will be just fine.

Glowinski slides over to right guard, which appears to be his better side.  He’s been playing somewhat evenly with free agent Oday Aboushi, so it’s good to know at least the right guard spot should be adequate (and probably a step above 2016 Ifedi).

My biggest concern is 2017 Ifedi, having moved back to right tackle (where he played in college and was projected to play in the NFL).  I’ve seen this movie before, but usually it’s a right tackle who gets moved to one of the guard spots, and not the other way around.  The consensus being:  tackle is a harder position to play than guard (which is a harder position to play than center … hi Justin Britt!).  So, the rationale ends up as:  if Ifedi was pretty terrible at right guard last year, what hope is there for him as a right tackle?  Indeed, I don’t have a good answer for you there.  Again, I suppose I’ll bring up the experience angle.  The leap from rookie to second year player, particularly along the O-Line, is pretty pronounced.  You gotta figure he’s at the very least more comfortable in his assignments.  And, at his size, you’ve gotta give him the power advantage over what should be smaller defensive end/linebacker types going up against him (whereas when he was a guard, he was going up against mammoth D-tackles).  His limitations are obviously in the speed game, where his footwork comes into play.  I have very few concerns about Ifedi the run blocker, but I have a SHITLOAD of concerns about him in pass protection, as I think some of the better pass rushers can rope-a-dope the shit out of him.  We’ll see I guess.

Overall, as I said, I have hopes that instead of being the 32nd-rated offensive line, the Seahawks can jump up to the 25th-best.  Even that modest increase could prove to take this offense to as-yet-unseen heights of efficiency and scoring prowess.

Things to watch this season on offense will be:

  • 3rd down efficiency
  • Red zone efficiency
  • Yards per rush

In 2016, it seemed like the Seahawks were more prone to mistakes (penalties, missed blocking assignments) on third down, which is just a ball-buster.  No one is expecting the Seahawks to cut out the penalties entirely (indeed, some of their very best teams were among the most penalized in the league), but they’ve got to do a better job of not holding on long rushing plays, not getting called for offensive PI on pick plays, and not setting themselves back with third & long nonsense.

For the red zone, it’s simple:  find a way to get Jimmy Graham the ball.  Full stop.  He was the man in New Orleans and he had 9 or more TDs in all but one season there.  That needs to happen again, here, this season (and I’m not just saying that because he’s on one of my fantasy teams, but I’m also not NOT just saying that either, I think).

And, look for the Seahawks to get back to their rushing roots.  Beastmode may be gone, but the running backs we have now are more than capable of picking up that slack.  I’d also like to see a moderate return to the zone read, with Wilson pulling the ball back on occasion to keep defenses honest.  Also, not for nothing, but I’d like to see Wilson do this EARLY in games, to put that in other teams’ minds from the get-go.

On defense, watch for:

  • Turnovers
  • Late-game heroics
  • Quarterback pressure, hurries, hits, sacks

To get back to where we were in 2013, we’re going to have to force turnovers.  That goes hand-in-hand with pressuring the quarterback into bad decisions, as well as knocking the ball from his hand for fumbles.  That also goes hand-in-hand with the late game heroics, as we need to prevent those breakdowns we’ve seen in 2015 & 2016, and instead force turnovers to slam the door on those close games.  It’s a team game, and nowhere is that more apparent than the symbiotic relationship that is an NFL defense.

As for this year’s record, I’ll go through the schedule again, briefly.

  • Week 1 – I like the Seahawks to go into Green Bay and shock the world.  It’ll be our official announcement to the rest of the league that the Seahawks are here, they’re for real, and they’re going to stomp all over the lot of you!
  • Week 2 – A comfortable home victory against the young, rebuilding 49ers team.  Maybe not as dominant as we’d like, as they do have some young and talented pieces (particularly on defense), but a win is a win.
  • Week 3 – The Seahawks under Pete Carroll always seem to lose one road game to an AFC opponent that we’re all pretty unfamiliar with (except for last year, randomly, although we almost blew one at home against the Dolphins in week 1).  I think the Titans are really good and I could see the combination of their dominant rushing attack, and efficient passing game (particularly in the red zone) to just nip us for our first loss of the season
  • Week 4 – I like the Seahawks to get back on track at home, in primetime, against a weak Indy team.  With or without Luck, I like the Seahawks to roll.
  • Week 5 – No more losing to the Rams!  Jeff Fisher is dead, and with him so is the Rams’ proclivity of beating us for no good God damned reason.
  • Week 6 – BYE
  • Week 7 – I’m not particularly afraid of the Giants’ running game.  While they’ve got some good receivers, I think we can hold them in check and put enough pressure on Eli into forcing some mistakes.  Their defense is legit, but I like the Seahawks to do just enough in this one and win a close game by 3 in overtime.
  • Week 8 – The Texans come to town and will be sent packing.  I could see this one as a battle of defenses, with the Seahawks pulling away late.  Something in the realm of 16-3 or 16-6.
  • Week 9 – The Redskins come to town and they feel like just the sort of team who should be held in check by us.  Force Kirk Cousins into the worst game of his season, eliminate all threat of a rushing attack, and really take it to their porous defense.
  • Week 10 – Thursday Night in Arizona.  By this time, I wonder if Carson Palmer will even be playing.  Either way, he showed his age in 2016, and I can’t imagine he’ll be in for a fountain of youth situation this year.  No Calais Campbell, no monster in the middle to defend.  I think this is another game where the 12’s will make themselves heard on the road, and the Seahawks take the game comfortably in the fourth quarter.
  • Week 11 – Monday Night in Seattle against the Falcons.  I know the Seahawks took them out in the regular season last year, and I know we’ll be coming off of a Thursday game (and thus have all this extra time to prepare), but I can’t help but be concerned about this one.  I think it’ll be exciting and I think it’ll be close, but I could also see the Falcons just having our number and being able to score in bunches.  Rare home Monday Night loss for the Seahawks here.
  • Week 12 – At San Francisco, again, I think they should be relative push-overs.
  • Week 13 – Home night game against Philly.  I don’t see enough out of their offense to hold a candle to our defense.  Another comfortable, boring win at home at night.
  • Week 14 – I could see the Seahawks getting off to a sloppy start on the road, in a 10am start, in Jacksonville.  But, by the second quarter, the tide should turn and the Seahawks should take this one running away.
  • Week 15 – I SAID NO MORE LOSING TO THE RAMS!!!
  • Week 16 – Here we go!  Christmas Eve in Dallas!  In what could very well be a matchup that decides the NFC’s #1 seed!  I can’t imagine the odds of the Seahawks sweeping the NFC East are very good, but I dunno.  I just got a feeling that the Seahawks are going to sweep this road slate of impossible NFC teams (Packers, Giants, Cowboys).  This one could be another barnburner, with a late turnover keying the Seahawks to victory.
  • Week 17 – At 13-2 headed into the final week, I think the Seahawks rest a lot of guys after a quarter or two and drop the season finale, with the #1 seed all wrapped up.

13-3 is my official prediction.  The Seahawks cruise through the playoffs into the Super Bowl where they await the darlings of the NFL:  the Oakland Raiders.  Everything about that game gets my loins all a-tizzy.  Also, the idea of sticking it to the Raiders brings me tremendous joy.

The Seattle Seahawks, Super Bowl LII Champions!

Okay, that’s all for now.  Let’s get this season in gear!