My Angry Fucking Seahawks/49ers Review

There’s a lot to dig into with this game, so I’m gonna split it up into two posts.  Look for My Happy Fucking Seahawks/49ers Review a little later.  Spoiler Alert:  it should be a lot shorter than this one.

The Seahawks played like dogshit yesterday.  There’s no other way to describe it.  Even when the offense was going good, there’d be a drop, or a breakdown in protection, or a lack of pocket awareness by Russell Wilson, or a baffling string of play calls, and all that good would be derailed.  And yeah, the defense held Brian Hoyer to 99 yards passing, but they gave up a whopping 124 yards rushing to Carlos Hyde, on only 15 carries!  On the day, the 49ers rushed for an average of 8.4 yards per carry!  If you put even a SEMI-competent quarterback on that team, the Seahawks would’ve lost handily.

Let me repeat that:  the Seahawks – AT HOME – nearly lost to the 49ers, a team coming off of a 2-14 season, with a new coaching staff, a rookie GM straight out of the broadcast booth, and a backup quarterback masquerading as a starting quarterback until they can draft somebody better in 2018.  Now, granted, I like Kyle Shanahan a lot.  I think he completely transformed the Falcons into a dominant force last season, and I think he’s got a lot of great things in store as a head coach.  I also like what they were able to do with their draft this year, and could see John Lynch really working out if they can manage to find their quarterback of the future (either via the draft, or via signing Kirk Cousins to a megadeal).  But, come on!  At this point, the 49ers shouldn’t pose a threat!  They CERTAINLY shouldn’t find themselves ahead 9-6 in the fourth quarter in the driving rain of Seattle, Washington!

Look, there was never a point where I was looking forward to this game last week.  It’s almost one of those proverbial “no-win” situations.  If you kill the 49ers, then great, you’ve killed the 49ers and it’s a boring game.  If you LOSE to the 49ers, then that’s it, the season’s over and we can all kill ourselves.  But … this?  Scratching and clawing to a 12-9 victory at home?  That’s almost as bad as a loss.  Now, obviously, it’s not worse.  A win is still a win and they all count the same, regardless of how pretty they are, but with the win everyone gets to gloss over the fact that the Seahawks looked terrible and in no way look like a viable playoff team going forward.

You know what I thought of when I was watching this team?  The Houston Texans.  The Texans are notorious for their 9-10 win seasons where – by virtue of the terrible division they reside in – they frequently make the playoffs as a 4-seed, before getting bounced in the first round whenever they don’t play the Bengals.  Yeah, it’s cool having an awesome defense, and it’s cool to call yourselves “Division Winners”, but how cool is it to lose every time you play a quality team?

And that’s the bottom line here.  The last two years, against the Best of the Best, the Seahawks have a record of 4-7.  When you go back to our two Super Bowl years, sure the Seahawks would drop a clunker every now and then, but they also seemed to get up for the big ones!  If they’re going to spend all their time just beating up on the bad teams and losing the games that really matter, they might as well call themselves the Mariners and get it over with!

But, if they keep playing offense the way they have through two weeks, I don’t think “beating up on the bad teams” is even on the table.

I’m going to start with Jimmy Graham, because this guy is the fucking worst.  Oh yes, I’ve found my new whipping boy!

Look, we all knew Graham was soft.  He was a big puffy cloud of cotton candy in New Orleans, and he didn’t suddenly get hard because he joined the Seahawks.  We KNEW this!  We knew this when we played against him:  if you hit Jimmy Graham in the mouth, he will become a non-factor for the rest of the game.  I don’t mean that literally, of course, but if I had all the time in the world, I’d love to do a deep dive into his career and watch all of his video.  What are his numbers when he takes a huge hit in the first quarter of a game?  Because it seems just from watching him that he shrivels up like a dick in the Arctic Ocean.  Gutless.  Weak.  A punk.  And probably worst of all:  a frontrunner.  When things come easy to him, when defenses play off-coverage, when he’s able to nab a few balls and get into the flow of the offense, Jimmy Graham will pile on the catches and yards and really look like a dominant force.  But, when the chips are down and you need a big catch in the fourth quarter of a game, where is he?  Nowhere to be fucking found.

And I’m not buying this argument that the Seahawks don’t use him right.  Fuck that.  If you’re a tight end, you have to do ALL the things tight ends do.  If you want to be a wide receiver, then tell your team that ahead of time.  But, I’ll tell you what, I don’t know a lot of teams that want a slow wide receiver on the outside with bad hands.  Sure, it’s fine when you throw fades to him in the red zone, when he can contort his body and only has to contend with one defender.  But, that’s not realistic.  He NEEDS to be able to make catches in the middle, in traffic, absorb the hits, and most importantly COME DOWN WITH THE FUCKING FOOTBALL!

The Seahawks use him just fine.  They throw to him probably MORE than he deserves.  And what has HE done to deserve the benefit of the doubt?  There’s got to be a give and take here.  Quite frankly, I no longer think it’s a coincidence that this team looked VASTLY improved in the second half of 2015 when he was OUT of the lineup.  You know what, throw all your bullshit stats at me; I’ll throw “Scoreboard” back at you.  How has this offense looked throughout 2016 and through the first two games this year?  How did this offense look in those few games in 2014 when they tried to revolve the offense around Percy Harvin.  Prima donnas don’t fucking WORK in this offense!  At this point, I’d take 8 Jermaine Kearses over an offense that tries to make Jimmy Fucking Graham its centerpiece.

So, what do you do?  I mean, you can’t cut him, but I think you can demote the shit out of him.  I think you can make Luke Willson the starter.  I think you can keep Graham on the bench outside of clear-cut passing situations.  I don’t need him fumbling blocks and being a waste of space on all running plays.  On any straight hand off to the running back, it’s already 10 vs. 11 because the quarterback is a non-factor; but, with Graham on the field, it’s like 9 vs. 11, and that’s why this team time and time again fails to move the ball on the ground.  I agree, you CAN’T call Jimmy Graham your starting tight end, but only play him in passing situations; so stop starting him.

And, when he’s out there in passing downs, keep throwing him into heavy coverage.  Either he’ll adapt to the harder hits and start catching these fucking passes, or he’ll get himself injured, and you can just cut him and move on.  Yes, I’m ACTIVELY rooting for Jimmy Graham to get injured; better him than someone who can actually help this team win fucking football games!

I would suggest trading him, but that doesn’t seem very realistic either.  Part of me thinks putting him in the AFC would be ideal (my fantasy team would appreciate it if he joined the Patriots, who very much should be trying to trade for him at this point, what with their receiver situation and Gronk’s injury history), but from a strict football standpoint, I think it’d be better for the Seahawks to send him to an NFC rival.  Stick him on the Packers, let them start to depend upon him, and then beat the shit out of him in the playoffs and leave them scrambling to find answers for when he inevitably no-shows.  It’s how we kept beating the Saints; I don’t see why it wouldn’t work again!

And, again, as with Percy Harvin costing us a chance to extend Golden Tate, I wonder if having Jimmy Graham around cost us a chance to keep Jermaine Kearse around for one more year.  I won’t overreact to his 2-TD day with the Jets yesterday, but I will say that I’d straight up trade Graham for Kearse right now.  Regardless, having Kearse around would’ve been nice considering Tanner McEvoy dropped everything thrown in his direction, including a surefire touchdown that would’ve changed the complexion of the entire game.  Between him, Prosise, and the rest, guys were dropping balls left and right!  Prosise particularly, as Russell led him with a pass that would’ve taken him straight into the endzone on our opening drive.  He also dropped a potential third down conversion later in the game that was a crusher.

It really made Russell Wilson’s day look so much worse.  I’m not going to sit here and say he played great – he definitely had his share of poor throws and poor decisions – but it could’ve been a decent, forgettable performance had he not been greeted by so many drops.  Also, let’s not kid ourselves, he’s still running for his fucking life back there, even when the protection is kinda okay.

But, for the most part, it wasn’t okay.  It’s never GOING to be okay.  Mark Glowinski is a disaster, and he needs to not be starting for this team anymore.  I know Oday Aboushi is just a veteran on a 1-year deal, but I refuse to believe he’s worse.  I think the Seahawks see a guy they drafted, a guy under club control for a bit longer, and they want to shoot for continuity over simply just playing the five best linemen, and I get that to a point.  I think we’re in a no-win situation with Luke Joeckel, because if he turns it around and somehow plays well, he’s going to command a mint on the open market.  If he’s terrible, then he’s likely going to find himself back on the street next offseason, playing for another 1-year prove-it deal (only this time as a clear backup).  Either way, it doesn’t seem likely that he’s a longterm solution for the Seattle Seahawks at left guard.  So, to play two of these types of guys – with Aboushi at right guard – and risk losing both to free agency next year if they both play well, is a lot to handle.

But, I mean, how much more of THIS can we withstand?  Sure, there are a couple of underwhelming defensive fronts the next two weeks with the Titans and Colts, but then it’s right back to getting your ass kicked against the likes of the Rams, Giants, Texans, Cardinals, Falcons, 49ers, Eagles, Jags, Rams again, and the Cardinals again.  That’s 10 of your remaining 14 games against really good defensive fronts that should certainly give this Seattle O-Line fits.  RARE is the game we can look forward to this team being in control of the line of scrimmage.  And, I’m sure, even against those terrible fronts, we’ll still struggle, because of course we will.  No name assholes will make mincemeat out of us, and Russell Wilson will have the bumps and bruises to prove it.

And holy shit, what was THAT on defense?  That’s two years in a row where Carlos Hyde has come into our building and come away with a 100-yard game!  We’re supposed to be this elite defense at stopping the run, and we can’t stop a just-sort-of-okay running back?  He almost single-handedly cost us the game with his explosive plays!  They couldn’t do SHIT aside from his long-distance runs!

But, you know, pobody’s nerfect.  The defense has been outstanding these first two weeks, only to be repeatedly let down by this offense.  Really, since 2012, we’ve been sitting around and daydreaming about a time where the offense finally takes over.  We thought, maybe in 2014, the script would flip.  Then, after that dominant run to close out the 2015 season, we thought YES!  2016 is the year!  And here we are, now in 2017, and this offense is more inept than it’s ever been.  The defense is STILL carrying this team.  And somehow, we’re not greeted with weekly rantings by disgruntled stars on that side of the ball.

You know how I know that pre-season Seth Wickersham article is 100% accurate?  Particularly the parts that talk about the defense being upset with this offense costing the Seahawks ballgames?  Because I’m sitting here watching this team fall all over itself in the running game, and in the red zone, and everywhere else, and I know for a fact I’d be going ballistic if I was a member of this elite defense and I knew every single game was on our shoulders.  We all wanted to dismiss Wickersham – myself included – but this is a real problem, and if we blow another shot at a championship with all these stars in the prime of their careers, I think we’re going to see all the bad vibes start to snowball.

I Really Wish I Could’ve Seen The Version Of That Game Where Kevin Pierre-Louis Didn’t Have That Dumb Holding Penalty

Believe me when I say that I would never blame a single play or event as to why the Seahawks lost to Atlanta.  There are SO MANY factors, and not even factors in that game, but across the entire season, and possibly across many seasons.  Having the worst offensive line in the league.  Losing Earl Thomas.  Losing out on the 2-seed by getting beaten by Arizona on Christmas Eve (or, shit, how about losing out on the 2-seed by settling for a fucking tie in Arizona earlier in the year when Hauschka had an opportunity to give us the improbable victory).  An inability of this coaching staff to coach up its depth players for when they’re pressed into duty thanks to in-game injuries.  Those very in-game injuries themselves, like DeShawn Shead and Germain Ifedi.  Russell Wilson being alarmingly inaccurate this season (and in particular on that pass in the third quarter, down by 16, when he had Doug Baldwin wide open in the endzone and overthrew him).  The pass rush not getting home.  Our zone defense being completely and totally ineffective, thereby not giving the pass rush more time to get home.  Our entire blitz package being a complete failure.  Marshawn Lynch retiring before the season.  Trading Unger for Graham.  Signing Percy Harvin.  Letting Golden Tate go.  Losing Dan Quinn as a defensive coordinator.  I could go on and on and on.  There’s never any one thing that decides a football game, even a game decided by one score, but ESPECIALLY a game you lose 36-20.

P.S.  Look who guessed Atlanta would score 36 points this game

And I get that momentum isn’t a thing, so I’ll try to avoid talk of that mumbo jumbo.  But, what IS a thing is being sent backwards from the Atlanta 7 yard line to the Seattle 7 yard line thanks to one stupid fucking holding call on Kevin Pierre-Louis – who was pancaked by the blocker, then proceeded to compound his ineptitude by pulling the blocker down with him like a fucking moron – which led to the Seahawks losing 3 yards on first down before losing the other 4 yards on a safety because our backup rookie right guard stepped on our quarterback’s foot, leading to this fucking Three Stooges scenario where Wilson falls on his ass and gets landed on for 2 points going the other way.

What was a 10-7 lead, with the Falcons forced to punt on a 3 & Out, with Devin Hester – in what I’m hearing will be his final game ever – returning a booming punt 80 yards, with the Seahawks facing first and goal and at a MINIMUM poised to add another 3 points to our total, with a better than average chance of taking a 17-7 lead and changing the entire complexion of the game; instead became a 10-9 lead, with the Seahawks free-kicking it away to the Falcons, who promptly drove it down and went up 12-10, then holding the Seahawks to a 3 & Out, followed by the Falcons going up 19-10, and the rest is history.

All because Kevin Pierre-Louis made one idiotic mistake, which was compounded by a baffling series of mistakes.

Still, I’d like to see what that game would’ve looked like with the Seahawks up 17-7.  Maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference.  Maybe we still would’ve lost.  But, I’ll tell you this, we wouldn’t have been trailing 19-10 at halftime in this scenario, with the Falcons set to get the ball after half.  Worst case, we probably would’ve been tied at 17 at halftime with the Falcons set to get the ball after half.  And, even if things would’ve shaken out like they did for most of the second half, we at least would’ve been within 7 points with the ball late in the fourth quarter.  We at least would’ve had a SHOT!

And, who knows?  Maybe if the Falcons are down double-digits, maybe they start making the mistakes.  Maybe they press, trying to get back in the game.  Maybe Matt Ryan – who was one of the most mistake-prone quarterbacks in the entire NFL just one season ago, when he had a mind-boggling 21:16 TD to INT ratio and led to my keeper league fantasy team dropping his ass in the final week, to avoid even the TEMPTATION of keeping him for another mediocre season – would’ve made some of those Matt Ryan poor decisions that led to so many turnovers in the red zone.  He may end up with the MVP award this year, but he is NOT a good quarterback, and he’s certainly not the most valuable player in the NFL I’m (not) sorry to say.

That game, the one where Kevin Pierre-Louis doesn’t exist, would’ve been SO MUCH more enjoyable.

But, no, I’m not blaming one guy for one massively stupid penalty.  He can go fuck himself for being an overall disappointment though!  One of many duds we’ve drafted and failed to develop since 2013.  Does John Schneider deserve a little slice of blame?  You betcha.  They all do.  Every last man, woman, and child on this team.

So begins Seahawks Death Week for another year.  Where I complain about the season that was, try to keep things a bit in perspective, and look forward to what this team needs to do in the coming offseason to get back on track and start winning their way into the top seed of the NFC again.  Because, apparently, this team is only able to nut up and play with heart when it’s got homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.  Without that, it’s one road loss in the Divisional Round after another.

Seahawks Look Like Their Old Selves In Beating The Lions

Well, that was something, huh?

That game was about as Seahawky as it gets.  No score in the first quarter, a slow build through the next two quarters, still a one-score game in the fourth quarter, until the Seahawks pour it on and win by 20, 26-6.

Just when I thought the offensive line would never be able to get its collective shit together, they put up their single best game of the 2016 season.  Quite frankly, this is what we’ve been waiting for all year, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.  Well, except for maybe in this next game against Atlanta.  Or the game after that, should we be so fortunate as to somehow get past the Falcons.  Or, you know, the Super Bowl.  But, considering this game was do-or-die in itself, I guess I’ll take it.

It turns out I put too much ado into the Lions for the nothing we saw in that game.  The Matthew Stafford finger injury on his throwing hand proved to be one of the primary reasons why they never got anything going.  His throws were off target all day, and the ones that weren’t were dropped by his collective of what has to be the most maddening receivers in the NFL.  Pile on top of that the fact that they had to start two rookies in place of injured offensive line starters, and the fact that they haven’t had a running game since Barry Sanders retired, and I suppose I was worried about them for nothing.

I came into this post thinking we just saw Thomas Rawls’ career-best game, but I forgot he had some really dynamic performances in his rookie season before the injury.  Nevertheless, this was easily his best game of the 2016 season, and also the best-ever rushing performance by a Seahawks player in the playoffs, surpassing Marshawn Lynch’s game against Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game.  It was a nice reminder that Thomas Rawls has elite talent, but he just can’t stay healthy.

As a quick aside, it’ll be interesting to see what the Seahawks do with the running game for 2017.  This is probably a subject for another time, but between Rawls and Prosise, you’ve got two very different types of backs, with two glaring similarities:  they’re game-changers, and they can’t stay on the field.  It seemed like a no-brainer that the Seahawks would look to the draft – and maybe very high in the draft – to bolster that position, but with the very clear step forward in his progress, I wonder if Alex Collins’ power running puts some of that to bed.  For the Seahawks, you probably can’t have enough game-changing talent at the position, so they might very well make a first rounder or a second rounder their next running back project regardless.  But, I do wonder …

While I think the co-players of the game have to be Rawls and the O-Line (particularly Glowinski and Britt, who were called out all night during the telecast for their improved play), the guy everyone’s talking about is Paul Richardson.  What a coming out party!  He’s had big plays before, but they’ve been few and far between.  In this game, he had 3 catches for 48 yards, but each one seemed to be more difficult than the last!  Jumping over, around, and through defenders; getting interfered with on at least two of them (with the third going uncalled); you’d have to say most receivers need two arms to play the position, but I’m beginning to wonder about P-Rich.  What some are calling the Catch of the Year will go down as at least the most entertaining catch of the year.  4th and goal, Wilson lobbed it to the corner of the endzone but left it mighty short, causing P-Rich to adjust, causing the defender to interfere with him, which led to P-Rich inadvertently(?) grabbing the defender’s facemask and twisting it (uncalled), while he corralled the ball with his left hand for the game’s first touchdown.  Outstanding!  I don’t know if it’ll show up on any Year-End highlight reels by the NFL – considering it showed in equal measures one man’s athleticism and the league’s major problem with officiating – but it’ll go down as one of the most impressive catches by a Seahawk in the history of the franchise for sure!

The actual best receiver on the field was Doug Baldwin, though.  He pulled in a NASTY 42-yard catch near the sideline, which was one of his 11 receptions for 104 yards.  He was so good, he even caught a touchdown that was going to Jermaine Kearse near the end of the fourth quarter!  While I’ll always lament the team choosing Harvin over Tate, if that move means we were eventually able to make Doug Baldwin our #1 receiver, I’ll gladly take it, because he’s the best over ALL of those guys!

Defensively, it was another fantastic group effort.  Bobby Wagner led the team in tackles (again).  I don’t think Richard Sherman was targeted all game.  DeShawn Shead was real damn sticky all day.  Cliff Avril ended up with 2 sacks against his former team; Michael Bennett had 1.  We held them to 49 rushing yards on 15 carries, and we held Stafford to 205 yards passing.  And, even though he didn’t appear to show up on the stat sheet, I’d like to call out Frank Clark for being a force to be reckoned with along the line.  He’s not quite there yet, but he’s growing into one of the best pass rushers on this team, and I don’t think it’s crazy to say that he just might be this team’s very best as soon as next season.  Year 3 for Frank Clark:  WATCH OUT!

In the end, it amounts to the Seahawks moving on, to a matchup with the Falcons next Saturday.  And we get to obsess about the Seahawks for another week, which is always fun!

How The Playoff Situation Looks For The Seahawks

Everything that we needed to have happen in Week 15 went ahead and happened:

  • The Seahawks needed to beat the Rams
  • The Giants needed to beat the Lions

So, I guess that’s not a ton of things, and I suppose the Lions could have lost anytime between yesterday and the end of the regular season.  But, this puts everything smoothly in order.  It’s simple:

  • If the Seahawks beat Arizona at home, and win in Santa Clara after that, the Seahawks will be the #2-seed in the NFC playoffs, get a BYE in the first round, and host the highest-seeded team to come out of the Wild Card weekend.

Isn’t that fun?  I think that’s fun.  The top of the NFC crop is pretty simple.  In fact, the only way the Dallas Cowboys won’t have the #1 seed locked up is if they lose their final two games (vs. DET, @ PHI) and the Giants win out (@ PHI, @ WAS).  Seems unlikely.  Seems likelier that Dallas wraps up their regular season against Detroit and gets to fart around in Week 17 just hoping no one gets injured.

Down ballot, it’s a little more complex.  If Atlanta wins out (@ CAR, vs. NO), they will lock down the 3-seed.  If Detroit also wins out, they would still lock down the 4-seed, unless there are a ton of tie-breakers I’m not seeing.  Figure the Giants have as good a chance as any to lock in that 5-seed with a win over Philly this week.  Otherwise, craziness could abound.

The Redskins have the 6-seed on lock if they win out (vs. CAR tonight, @ CHI, vs. NYG).  Otherwise, Tampa is right on their heels.  Tampa (@ NO, vs. CAR), if they win out, would be in at 10-6 over the 9-6-1 Redskins.  I don’t see the Packers having much of an in with the final Wild Card spot unless some really wonky stuff happens these next two weeks.

However, the Packers have a very real chance of re-taking their division.  First thing’s first, they need to beat Minnesota at home.  Detroit’s game at Dallas this week is essentially meaningless from a divisional perspective, as the NFC North will only be decided by the Green Bay @ Detroit showdown in Week 17.  In other words, in any scenario where the Packers and Lions have the same record, the Packers win the division based on beating them head-to-head twice this year.  And, the only way for the Packers and Lions to end up with the same record (since Green Bay currently sits a game behind) is for Green Bay to beat Detroit in Week 17.

I won’t presume to pick the winner of that one, though my gut tells me it’s going to be a VERY exciting football game, probably with stupid Aaron Rodgers and the Packers pulling it out in the end.  God, his commercials are the worst; Peyton Manning out-pitches that putz in his SLEEP!

So, for the sake of this exercise going forward, I’m going to be laboring under the impression that either Washington or Tampa will be playing at Atlanta in the 3 vs. 6 matchup on Wild Card weekend, and the Giants will be playing at either Green Bay or Detroit in the 4 vs. 5 matchup.

In ranking these teams, I think the clear worst team is whoever ends up with the 6-seed.  I really DON’T think that either of those teams has a chance to beat the Falcons, but if they do it’s definitely the Disaster Scenario for the Seahawks.  If the 6-seed wins, they go on to play Dallas in the Divisional Round; Dallas would absolutely massacre either of those teams, most likely, meaning it would be virtually guaranteed that if the Seahawks get to the NFC Championship Game, we would be playing it in Dallas.  That might happen regardless, but I’d sure like to at least have the Cowboys work at it!

On top of that, the Giants are pretty damn scary (particularly with their D-Line), the Packers have already pounded us once this year, and quite honestly I don’t know how the Lions have made it this far, aside from the fact that they’re particularly good inside of 2 minutes of a half.  Ideally, if the 6-seed wins, I’d want to play Detroit in the Divisional Round, but since I don’t even think they’re going to win their own division, that seems pretty unlikely.  What’s more likely is that we play either the Giants or the Packers, and end up with the hardest path to the Super Bowl.

In a likely ideal world, Atlanta beats the 3-seed and comes back to Seattle for a revenge game.  Then, either the Packers or (more likely) the Giants go to Dallas and end up beating them.  Then, if we beat the Falcons again, we’d get to host the NFC Championship Game against either the Packers or (more likely) the Giants, which I think is more than do-able at home in that type of situation.  In that case, I gotta think we’d have a better shot against the Giants, just because their offense is so mediocre outside of OBJ.  Also because, not for nothing, Russell Wilson has 10 interceptions in his last three games against the Packers.  For some reason, I think they have his number.

There’s also a fantasy scenario I’m pretty keen on that COULD happen, but it’s somewhat far-fetched.  It involves Detroit winning out (including that game in Dallas), with the Falcons losing one of their next two games.  That puts Detroit in the 3-seed and either Atlanta or Tampa in the 4-seed.  Tampa, it appears, actually has the edge over the Falcons if they both end up at 10-6.  So, a Tampa 4-seed (hosting the Giants) would mean either Atlanta falls to 6, or out of the playoffs entirely if the Redskins win out.  I don’t know who I fear in this scenario, as both Atlanta and Washington appear pretty similar.  But, it wouldn’t matter anyway, because if they beat Detroit in the Wild Card game, they’d just go to Dallas and get smashed anyway.

This is my fantasy scenario mostly because I want to play Detroit over any of these teams in the Divisional Round.  I don’t think their defense is very good, they have no running game whatsoever, and Golden Tate is a fine receiver, but I’m not sure he’s a true #1.

Whatever happens, it would be a dream to not only get the 2-seed, but also find a way to host the NFC Championship Game.  That means having the Giants do their job and taking out Dallas for us.

The picture should be that much clearer this time next week, so figure I’ll look to write another one of these after Christmas.

The Long Shadow of the Randy Johnson Trade

I moved this to my Seattle’s Worst Trades, Draft Picks & Free Agent Signings heading HERE.

The Justin Britt Experiment

Last year, during the entire offseason, I wrote exactly three posts dedicated to speculation on the Russell Wilson contract negotiations, before he finally signed it and we could all move on with our lives.  Around Seattle, that was a pretty huge story; you couldn’t turn on any of the sports radio stations without hearing talk of it.  You couldn’t go on Twitter without being bombarded by a thousand articles a day.  It was THE story, until it wasn’t.

This year, we’re just past the draft – we’ve got MONTHS before we get to real football – and yet I feel like almost every post I write has something to do with the offensive line.  I’d think I’m running this story into the ground, but part of me feels like this is the difference between REAL football fans, and everyone else.  Everyone else is interested in the daily speculation on a quarterback contract you 100% should know is going to get done (Russell Wilson was never going anywhere); real fans obsess over the real aspects of their football team that’s going to make a difference between winning a championship and coming up a little short.  In this case, if you’re not obsessed with the daily goings-on of the Seahawks’ O-Line, you need to hop aboard the train and ride with me a while.

Does anyone else get the feeling the Seahawks don’t know what in the fuck they’re doing with Justin Britt?

Add this name to the long list of reasons why the organization crippled itself by trading for Percy Harvin (2013 first rounder & seventh rounder, huge contract preventing the team from re-signing Golden Tate, making the 2014 offense too much about him, getting off to a slow start in the process, losing that 2014 third rounder).  Know why Britt is a member of the Seattle Seahawks?  Look no further than not having a draft pick in the third round in the 2014 NFL Draft.  The Seahawks ended up trading back a couple times, before drafting Paul Richardson at #47; we would pick again at the end of the second round – #64 – and then we wouldn’t pick again until the fourth round, #108 overall.  With 44 picks in between, the Seahawks had a need along the offensive line (specifically right tackle, with Breno Giacomini signing a big free agent contract with the Jets).  Per their draft chart, they noted a significant drop-off in talent after Justin Britt, who obviously was still available, but likely wouldn’t have been at pick 108.

Had the Seahawks still had their third rounder, would they have passed on Britt, and landed on someone in the third round (perhaps using their surplus of picks to trade up in the third round to get him)?  Tough to say.  It’s not out of the realm of possibility that regardless of whether or not the Harvin trade happened, by virtue of drafting last in every round, the Seahawks would’ve been stuck with him either way.  The point is, they ARE stuck with him now, and he’s seemingly a riddle the coaching staff is unable to solve.

He started every game as a rookie at Right Tackle.  He had growing pains early, but was ultimately a disaster in pass protection.  He went into last season as the incumbent, but after a disastrous first pre-season game, Tom Cable hit the re-set button on the whole line, bumping Britt over to left guard, where he would go on to start all 16 games.  Again, he had growing pains early, but was ultimately a disaster in pass protection.

The allure of a Justin Britt is that he’s big and powerful and nasty and will run block the hell out of you.  And, for all the crap he gets, he was still a second round pick (at probably a third round value) and a starter from Day 1 for a reason.  He was never a project like Glowinski or Gilliam, who had to sit for the most part during their rookie seasons.  Britt has starting-calibre stuff, but it’s the technical details he’s lacking.  On top of that, he’s sort of gotten a bum go of it from Day 1.

Britt was brought in because the Seahawks had an immediate need that they couldn’t fill from among their reserves on the roster or in free agency.  The Seahawks probably knew from the minute they drafted him that Britt’s best position was going to be along the interior of the line, and NOT right tackle (in spite of the fact that tackle is where he played most in college; again, at the college level, you put your best linemen on the outside, even the ones who project to be guards at the NFL level).  But, the Seahawks never had the luxury to bring Britt along slowly, or to immediately convert him to guard/center as a rookie, so he could have more time to adjust and learn the intricacies of the position.  They NEEDED a right tackle, and he was the best man for the job.  Then, they NEEDED someone to replace James Carpenter at left guard, and again, Britt was the best man for the job.  He may not be suited to play either position, but we’ll never know, because he’s been jerked around more than Brandon Morrow during the Bavasi/Zduriencik transition years.

Now, here we are, in 2016, and once again the Seahawks have a huge hole to fill, this time at the center position.  They just used a draft pick on a tackle-turned-guard in Ifedi, who is getting immediate play on the right side in place of Sweezy.  Free agent Webb is filling in at tackle on that side, at least to start, where best-case scenario has him playing all 16 games reasonably well, while at the same time helping guide Ifedi along and show him the ropes.  We all pegged Glowinski to be Sweezy’s replacement, but Ifedi has only really succeeded on the right side of the line, so it’s looking like Glow will be gunning for the left guard spot.  Again, this could all change once the season starts, but I know the team really likes Glow as a guard, and he should lock up one of those spots for the next three years if he stays healthy.

That leaves the obvious opening at center.  Yeah, Patrick Lewis came in and the line as a whole improved over the second half of last season, but Lewis is far from a polished or perfect line captain.  He’s what you’d consider Replacement Level in baseball.  Britt has a size advantage over Lewis, as well as probably a greater skillset overall.  With his run blocking ability, sandwiched between Glowinski and Ifedi, you’re looking at some serious beef in the interior.  Likewise, as a pass protector, there are fewer instances of the center going 1 on 1 against a defender, which would hopefully mean Britt would be on the hook for fewer hurries and sacks allowed.  And, he apparently does have some experience snapping the ball, so it shouldn’t be 100% foreign to him.

What it all ends up meaning is anyone’s guess (what it tells us right now is rookie center Joey Hunt is all but assuredly not ready to start as a rookie).  I think what it shows is that the incarnation of Justin Britt that we have now is probably more of a solid backup than a true starter.  You’d think, barring injury, sticking at center is going to be his best bet to make it to a significant second contract in the NFL.  What we know for sure is that this is his third year in the league, and he’s already proven he’s not fit to start at either of the tackle or guard spots.  He’s got this offseason to prove he’s got what it takes to play center, and if he wins the job, he’s got this one year to prove he’s got what it takes to be a starter at the position going forward (ideally, Hunt will be ready to assume the starting duties in 2017).

Not that it’ll really matter, for what the Seahawks are doing.  One thing I think a lot of fans need to start wrapping their brains around is that when the Seahawks draft an offensive lineman, it’s generally not so they can draft a lifelong Seahawk.  Hell, Russell Okung was a Pro Bowl-quality left tackle, and even HE couldn’t get a second contract out of this organization!  Anyone who has proven to be a starter for this line, from Giacomini to Carpenter to Sweezy to Okung, has ultimately gotten paid elsewhere when the Seahawks were finished squeezing as much value out of them as humanly possible.

Bouncing Britt around from tackle to guard to center isn’t about finding a place where he’ll land for the next 8-10 years; it’s about maximizing his second round value until his four years are used up and they can replace him with the next hot, young rookie prospect.

It’s why we saw so many offensive line projects being drafted in the 4th round and later last year.  We ultimately didn’t have any holes for them to fill in 2015, but we had our eye on 2016 when we knew we probably couldn’t re-sign Okung and Sweezy.  Now, we have Glow and Sokoli and to a lesser extent Poole on the roster, competing with the likes of Ifedi and Britt and whoever else, to really nail down the five best linemen possible.

That’s why you shouldn’t look at a guy like Ifedi as this project or this huge risk.  The Seahawks drafted a guy at the end of the first round who they know, right now, can step in and be a starter.  He may not be perfect, but he’s good enough right now to get the kind of value we want out of the position.  Then, in 4-5 years, when his contract is up, he’ll also move on to another team, as the Seahawks should have hopefully figured out who his successor will be.

It’s not a perfect system, but it’s the Seahawk Way.  Value over quality, at least when it comes to the offensive line.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why The Front Office Deserves Its Share Of The Blame For The Seahawks’ 2015 Failures

File the 2015 Seahawks under “Missed Opportunity”.  Maybe not as frustratingly eyeball-stabbing as the 2014 Seahawks, but it’s impossible to look back on 2015 and not say, “What in the fucking FUCK just happened?”

The general, lazy narrative surrounding the 2015 Seahawks is that the offensive line did them in.  Granted, the O-Line did them few favors, and is certainly in need of some overhauling – especially in the pass protection realm – but the truth is there’s a smattering of reasons, all across the board, for why this team broke down and ultimately fell far short of its goal.

If you want to bring up the December Rams defeat, and the loss in the playoffs, I’ll go along with you on the O-Line argument:  we were absolutely obliterated up the middle for most of those two games.  It was the reason why the Rams were able to slow down our wrecking ball offense, who had been on a run of five straight dominating performances to that point; and it was a big reason why we were shut out in the first half against the Panthers as they steamrolled us to a 31-0 lead.

But, those are just two games.  Furthermore, who knows how the season would’ve gone had the Seahawks not blown those early games?

Yes, the offensive line sucked in the first half of the season, and certainly got better over time as the same five guys were able to – for the most part – play consistent snaps together.  But, the O-Line wasn’t the primary reason why we lost those first four games.  Especially galling was that first Rams loss, where Nick Foles & Co. moved the ball at will; but the defeats to the Packers, Panthers, and Bengals were all pretty bad in their own rights.  In all four of those games, we’re talking about late defensive breakdowns in conjunction with an offense that was unable to play add-on.  The secondary stunk, the pass rush stunk, the offense as a whole stunk, and the coaching stunk.  Furthermore, it could be strongly argued that roster construction played a big factor in torpedoing this season.  I know John Schneider and Co. tend to get saintly praise for all the great they’ve done – and for good reason – but there were some serious flaws heading into this season that I don’t think any of us (myself included) could have seen coming.

The big pre-season moves (not counting extensions) were as follows:

  • Trade Unger for Graham (with swapped draft picks)
  • Sign Cary Williams to replace Byron Maxwell
  • Sign Ahtyba Rubin to replace Kevin Williams
  • Draft Frank Clark
  • Draft Tyler Lockett
  • Sign Thomas Rawls to replace Robert Turbin
  • Sign Fred Jackson to replace Christine Michael
  • Draft/sign various other depth players

That was our offseason in a nutshell.  That’s what a back-to-back Super Bowl team did in hopes of making it three in a row.  Signing Cary Williams was a failure, but I don’t know what other options the team had.  I don’t recall a lot of better options out there on the free agent market, and we really got bitten on the ass by Tharold Simon not playing a down this year.  We did know that we needed SOMEONE, what with Jeremy Lane a lock for the PUP list; and we knew we couldn’t afford Byron Maxwell, so it’s somewhat easy to defend the choice to sign Williams from that standpoint.  But, an argument could be made that this team should have seen this coming and planned accordingly a year in advance.  The 2013 draft class gets a lot of flack for its lack of pizazz, especially compared to the classes of 2010-2012.  But, the 2014 draft class might go down as an all-time dud of duds, and might go a long way towards explaining why the 2015 Seahawks never had enough pieces to get the job done.

Paul Richardson has seemingly spent more time injured than contributing.  Justin Britt has been a starter since Day 1, and has been mostly mediocre the entire time.  Cassius Marsh has been a valuable special teamer, but hasn’t done a whole lot for our depth along the D-Line.  Kevin Norwood is just a waste of a God damn draft pick in the middle of the 4th round.  Kevin Pierre-Lewis is another valuable special teamer, but hasn’t done a whole lot for our linebacking depth (then again, it’s not like the guys ahead of him have given him many opportunities to make plays on defense).  After the 4th round, only Eric Pinkins is still on the roster, and he’s played hardly at all.  Among the undrafted rookies, we brought in Brock Coyle (backup middle linebacker, mostly a special teamer); Garry Gilliam (elevated to starting right tackle in 2015, did mostly all right); and Dion Bailey, who you may recall fell down and gave the Rams the game-tying touchdown in Week 1 of 2015 to send that game into overtime, where we’d go on to lose.

Maybe the board didn’t shake out too well when it came time to make draft picks, but there’s a notable lack of youthful talent in that class.  And, there’s a distinct lack of cornerback help which – when you factor in Simon’s injury, Lane’s injury, and the nothing we got out of Cary Williams – is a big reason for a lot of our ills in the secondary for the first half of the 2015 season.

Beyond the Williams debacle, there’s actually a lot to like about our pre-2015 offseason moves.  Rubin played like a stud in helping us dominate against the running game.  Clark didn’t make a huge impact, but he started to come on towards the end of the season (and I tend to give receivers and pass rushers a lot of leeway in their rookie seasons, since it’s so difficult to make an impact as a rookie receiver/pass rusher).  Which makes the Lockett draft pick so essential to our 2015 success and our future success; that’s another starter and Pro Bowler picked in the 3rd round or later for this team; another guy to hang one’s hat on.  Rawls ended up being an upgrade over Turbin, and could be Lynch’s replacement as soon as 2016.  The team didn’t take a step back with Fred Jackson, who had his role and played it well enough (plus, we ended up getting Christine Michael back anyway, along with Dallas’ 7th round draft pick, so bully for us).  And, the various other depth players are just that:  depth.  I won’t nitpick our choices in the back-end of this roster too much; that’s not really the point of this post.

The other major move that came to define the 2015 season was the trade for Jimmy Graham.  I’m on record as being in favor of that trade, even after knowing how the 2015 season ended.  I don’t think Unger is too much longer for this league, and I think there’s a lot we can get out of someone like Graham.  But, his insertion into this roster is endemic of a larger fault of this front office, which ultimately came to ruin this season.

We learned a hard lesson this past year:  the Seahawks have no business being in the market for veteran skill players from other teams.  Percy Harvin was the first strike, and Jimmy Graham was a quasi-second strike (like a foul tip behind the catcher’s outstretched glove).  The rationale SORT OF makes sense – as why would it be a bad thing to add really talented weapons to your offense? – but not when you pair it with this team.

The Seahawks, ever since Pete Carroll took over, have been a run-first operation.  We pound the ball, we take some chances down field, but we more or less only throw when we need to.  So, what’s the point in shuffling around so many resources to bring in guys to improve a part of your offense you don’t use as much as most other teams?

I hate to keep harping on it, but I can’t stop/won’t stop:  the team should have never gone after Percy Harvin and should have just kept Golden Tate instead.  At this point, I’d take Tate over both Harvin AND Jimmy Graham, but that’s not the point.  The point is, this coaching staff didn’t know what it was doing with Harvin and, for most of the first half of this season, didn’t know what it was doing with Graham either.  When teams make personnel decisions, they need to make them with a plan in mind.  The decisions to bring in these elite receivers seemed to have more of a fantasy football focus in mind, rather than a practical focus FOR THIS TEAM in mind.

It’s hard breaking in new, established receivers into a different offensive scheme; you’re almost begging for growing pains.  And doing so, while creating yet another hole along your offensive line – when you were already losing your left guard, and still unsure that your right tackle was the right guy for the position – at a semi-premium position like Center (who is in charge of a lot of the protection calls for the line), was the ultimate in final straws for what broke this team’s back.

Maybe we should have seen the slow start to the season coming.  But, either way, it’s obvious now.  And it starts at the top.  This team didn’t have a clear succession plan in place at its left cornerback spot.  This team let its offensive line completely fall apart, to where they were scrambling three weeks before the regular season, shuffling players around.  This team didn’t make smart use of its new tight end weapon.  And, ultimately, all of this cost the Seahawks four games in the first half it could have easily won (I won’t count that Cardinals defeat, as that was a pretty sound whuppin’, in spite of the close score).

A team with a more talented offensive line/secondary probably wins 14 regular season games and gets the #1 seed in the playoffs for a third straight year.  This Seahawks team with the top seed most likely gets another crack at the Cardinals in the Divisional Round, while the Vikings would go on the road to Carolina (hopefully with their stout defense able to bruise the Panthers up good), then likely hosts the Panthers in the NFC Championship Game (again, I’d like to see how well they would have played coming off of a tough matchup against the Vikings the week before, while also playing on the road, like the actual 2015 Seahawks had to do).

“Missed Opportunity”, from the top of the organization on down.  Here’s to hoping they’ve learned from their mistakes, and have done enough to sufficiently set themselves up for a championship run in 2016.

My Top 25 All Time Favorite Seattle Seahawks

With Beastmode’s retirement this week, I thought I’d take stock and reflect upon where he lands among my all time favorite Seattle Seahawks.  While he’s my favorite over the last quarter century, he comes up just short of my all time fave.

I should probably point out that my knowledge of the Seahawks prior to the 1990s is pretty limited (I was born in 1981).  As such, you won’t find many of the old-timers.  Indeed, only 5 of my 25 played prior to 1990, and none of those five are named Dave Krieg, Jim Zorn, or Curt Warner.  Zorn was a guy I never saw play, Warner was always hurt when I started watching football, and the years I watched Dave Krieg were those loser years where he heavily contributed to his standing as one of the most fumble-prone quarterbacks in NFL history.  If I never again see Dave Krieg raise his arm back to pass, only to watch in horror as the ball gets flung backwards thanks to his criminally under-sized hands, it’ll be too soon.

Among the actual Honorable Mentions are the following:

Ricky Watters – a guy who reminds me a lot of Beastmode, but unfortunately didn’t play with us quite long enough to merit breaking through; Chris Warren – very underrated back, who unfortunately was saddled by a lot of mediocre Seahawks teams; Eugene Robinson – solid safety for some solid defenses; Michael Sinclair – second on Seattle’s all-time sacks list; Cliff Avril – who could potentially climb into the Top 25 one day, if he continues to produce the way he has; Red Bryant – mostly a fan favorite type, who I was happy to see find a role in the early Pete Carroll years; Robbie Tobeck – helped solidify the greatest offensive line in team history during the Holmgren years; Steve Hutchinson – who gets a bad rap even though it was Tim Ruskell who dicked him over first; Rocky Bernard – an underrated interior defensive lineman who this team would kill to have right now; Sam Adams – someone who blossomed after he left the Seahawks (and someone who I randomly have a signed jersey from); Bobby Engram – who was Doug Baldwin before Doug Baldwin; Chad Brown – who gets overlooked a little bit because he came from the Steelers, but still played quality football for his Seahawks tenure; Rufus Porter – a speed rusher off the edge and another fan favorite type; Zach Miller – who I’ll always respect for his toughness even though he got injured a lot; and Joe Nash – who would be my #26 if this list went that long, because he was an awesome nose tackle for this team who played here FOREVER.

Anyway, without further ado, My Top 25 All Time Favorite Seattle Seahawks:

1.  Steve Largent – He was this team’s first Hall of Famer, and when he retired, he had most – if not all – of the wide receiver records before they were broken.  When I started getting into football in the late 80s, there was every reason to be a fan of some other team in some other city, as those Seahawks teams were okay, but nothing special.  The 49ers had Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, the Raiders (who were a particular favorite among my elementary school classmates) had Bo Jackson (’nuff said), the Redskins, Oilers, Dolphins, and Bengals were all loaded with talent.  I don’t totally remember my thinking on this one, but I’m certainly convinced now that I would never have become a Seahawks fan if it weren’t for Steve Largent.  I mean, yeah, they’re the local team, so it’s easy to say I’d just stick with that as the reason, but throughout the 1990s, I used to mock this team relentlessly, and would frequently bet my family members that the Seahawks would lose (and won quite a bit of cash in the process, for a kid in the 1990s anyway).  But, I could always hang my hat that at one point, Steve Largent played for the Seahawks and was the best player at his position.  Also, didn’t hurt that I got to meet him at an autograph signing at the Tacoma Mall.  It was many hours of waiting in line, but it was worth it.

2.  Marshawn Lynch – Unlike many of the guys on this list, who were either career Seahawks, or played many more years here, Lynch became a favorite of mine in a little over 5 and a half seasons.  His bruising style of play, all the highlight runs, and his abilities as a receiver and blocker make him not only the most complete running back in franchise history, but one of the very best overall players we’ve ever seen in a Seahawks uniform, including the other Hall of Famers coming up next on this list.

3.  Cortez Kennedy – It’s hard to pick one over the other when it comes to Tez and Big Walt; both are consummate bad asses.  While you could make the argument that Walter Jones was the best player at his position in NFL history (which I do), I don’t think I’d necessarily put Cortez Kennedy as the best defensive tackle in NFL history (though, to be fair, I haven’t tried ranking them all, so who knows?).  What I will say is that what won me over in Tez’s favor is his Defensive Player of the Year Award in 1992.  First of all, it’s hard as fuck for a DT to win that award (there have only been two other players since 1992 at that position to win that award – Dana Stubblefield & Warren Sapp).  Secondly, no player at any position has ever won the award while playing on a shittier team (the Seahawks were 2-14 that year).  But, such is the fierce brutality that was Cortez Kennedy (who ranks 4th all time in franchise history for sacks); he finished that season with 14 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and a whopping 92 tackles.  Let me repeat:  92 tackles!!!  There are linebackers who don’t get that many tackles, and here we are, looking at a DT who got 92 tackles.  Just insane!  To compare, Stubblefield in 1997 had 15 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and only 48 tackles; Sapp in 1999 had 12.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and only 27 tackles (that wasn’t even Sapp’s best season, but regardless, he never surpassed 50 tackles in a season, so that point is moot).  Tez frequently battled double- and triple-teams throughout his career, and was still a God damn hurricane to deal with in the middle.  It’s just too bad he couldn’t be rewarded with more playoff appearances.

4.  Walter Jones – If you went pound for pound, you’re probably talking about the very best player the Seahawks have ever had.  With Bad-Assery being a theme, they don’t get much more bad-ass than this guy.  He was repeatedly franchise tagged, repeatedly held out in training camp and in the pre-season, then showed up right before the regular season started not only in tremendous shape, but ready to start from Game 1.  Then, when you tack on his training regimen of him pulling Cadillacs to get ready for the season, and I think I need to go lie down for a while because I just got winded writing that statement.

5.  Matt Hasselbeck – This is probably where things start to get a little more fluid.  In five years, I would anticipate someone like Russell Wilson will have surpassed someone like Matt Hasselbeck.  Indeed, many fans might disagree with me, but I gotta admit I’m still a pretty big Hasselbeck fan.  He led this team to its first Super Bowl appearance, which is always going to be huge, even if the result isn’t what we wanted.  Where his talent may be lacking compared to a guy like Wilson, his personality and charm in the media more than makes up for it.  It’s always WAY more entertaining to hear a Hasselbeck interview than a Wilson interview.  I know, that means little compared to on-field accomplishments, and as I mentioned above, Wilson will probably pass him in a few short years.  But, for now, I hold Hasselbeck in higher esteem.

6.  Richard Sherman – This future Hall of Famer has nowhere to go but up on this list.  Pretty unlikely leader in the clubhouse of Legion of Boom participants, but Sherm has been the most consistently elite through the 2015 season.

7.  Shaun Alexander – He gets a bad rap for not being Marshawn Lynch, but I think a lot of fans forget just how great he really was.  If he didn’t start breaking down towards the end, he was well on his way towards getting into the Hall of Fame.  As it stands, he was one of the best two or three running backs in the NFL for a good five-year period.  He should be a shoo-in for the Ring of Honor, if the Seahawks ever get around to putting more people in there.

8.  Brandon Mebane – Love this dude.  He won’t be a Hall of Famer, he won’t have his number retired, he might not even make the Ring of Honor when it’s all said and done.  But, he was one of the better Tim Ruskell draft picks.  As a third rounder, he got on the field right away and has been a staple for this defensive line ever since.  Nine years in, he looks as good as ever, and I hope the team retains him so he can retire as a Seahawk.

9.  Kenny Easley – He’s the only player on this list who I don’t really remember watching play live.  So, I’m really basing his ranking on highlights and on testimonials from players around the league who talk about this guy with some of the highest reverence I’ve ever seen.  If his career wasn’t shortened by kidney disease, he’d be in the Hall of Fame right now.  Compared to Ronnie Lott, he’s the only other Seahawk to win the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award, in 1984, when he had 10 interceptions (2 returned for touchdown).  As it stands, he’s a Ring of Honor guy, and the best safety in franchise history (eventually to be surpassed by the next guy on this list).

10.  Earl Thomas – He’s our Ed Reed.  Our Troy Polamalu.  Our All Pro Machine striving to be the best this game has ever seen.  The only thing that could cut him short on his quest is if he succumbs to injuries.  His dedication to the game and being the best puts him in my Top 10.

11.  Russell Wilson – Seems criminally low, I know.  I don’t think it’ll be too much longer before he’s in my Top 10.  Maybe even one more season.  The way he’s playing right now, and with Lynch’s retirement, this will be HIS offense.  If he manages to carry this team to unknown levels of awesomeness, I think he’s destined to skyrocket up my list.

12.  Jacob Green – He was an absolute monster throughout the 80s, racking up the most sacks in franchise history with 97.5 (and that doesn’t even include his first two seasons, when the NFL didn’t record sacks as an official stat).  Certainly one of the more underrated defensive ends of the 80s.

13.  Joey Galloway – Probably another controversial pick – especially this high in the rankings – but I don’t care.  He only really played 4 seasons for the Seahawks before holding out for 8 games in his fifth year before forcing Holmgren’s hand, but those four years were outstanding!  He was an elite return man from the get-go, and a big play machine on offense as well.  If we only could have paired him with a competent quarterback (he was saddled with Rick Mirer, John Friesz, and Jon Kitna before we were able to get Warren Moon in here for a couple of injury-plagued years towards the end of his career) he might have been even better, for as crazy as that sounds.  Still, even the way he left things wasn’t so bad, as we ended up getting two first round draft picks (one of which we used to nab Shaun Alexander, with the other being traded for multiple picks so we could get Koren Robinson, Heath Evans, and some backup offensive lineman I’ve never heard of).

14.  Doug Baldwin – Another player whose ranking could go way up on my list if we manage to keep him on the team beyond his current contract.  He’s proven to be a clutch possession receiver, as well as a guy capable of making bigger plays downfield, and as of 2015, a touchdown monster.  To think an undrafted receiver who has started since his rookie year could still be getting better in his fifth season is pretty amazing.  I want to see the Wilson to Baldwin connection continue for at least the next half decade, if not longer.

15.  Golden Tate – Maybe another controversial pick, but I like who I like, and I like me some Golden Tate.  I kind of dismissed him when he left for Detroit, as we still had Percy Harvin, after all.  But, when Harvin proved to be a huge chump, I’ve longed for Tate’s big play ability ever since.  His loss is now mitigated by the drafting of Tyler Lockett, but there’s still a lot to like about a guy like Tate who was another outsize personality on a team full of ’em.  A guy who got under the skin of opposing defenders (like the fucking Rams, for instance).  And a guy who played bigger than his size.  Not extending him, in favor of bringing in Harvin, is a move this team continues to regret.

16.  Brian Blades – The wide receiver parade marches on, with Blades, who played significant minutes for a rookie under Chuck Knox, and who eventually went on to replace a legend in Steve Largent as this team’s #1.  He was never super flashy, and only made one Pro Bowl in his career, but he’s this team’s second-leading career pass catcher.  He has the team’s second-most receiving yards, and is fifth in touchdowns.

17.  K.J. Wright – He cracks this in large part due to recency bias.  He’s been here for five years, has played all three linebacker spots, has only missed a small handful of games, and should be in the Top 10 in franchise history in tackles by this time next year.  I love his smarts, his professionalism, his toughness, and the fact that on a defense full of superstars, he just quietly goes about his business of being consistently great.  He’s never been to a Pro Bowl, and probably never will, but when it’s all said and done, he’ll go down as one of the best linebackers in Seahawks history.

18.  Marcus Trufant – He was rarely flashy, but he was a first round pick and a starter from day 1.  He made a Pro Bowl in 2007 when he had 7 picks, and it doesn’t hurt that he was a local kid who made good.  And, not for nothing, but we went to the same high school and played on the same Freshman football team (he was the superstar, I was the third string right tackle who never ACTUALLY got to share a field with him on gameday, because I was terrible).

19.  Michael Bennett – In three short years, Bennett is already #10 on Seattle’s all time sacks list.  Of course, he’s so much more than sacks, but that’s still pretty impressive.  With his ability to play both inside and outside, against the run and against the pass, he’s probably the most talented defensive lineman in franchise history (just behind Tez, that is).  If we can keep him happy and playing through the end of this contract – or onto another if he keeps producing – he could easily shoot up this list as well.

20.  Kam Chancellor – He took a bit of a hit this year with his holdout.  I don’t mind a guy who holds out of training camp and/or the pre-season, but I tend to draw the line when a guy starts missing regular season games (and starts costing us those games with his absence).  Truth be told, his 2015 was far from ideal; but, that doesn’t wash away the previous four years of amazingness.  If we can make him happy again and keep him around a few more years, he’ll return to his rightful place among the Top 15 or Top 10 on this list.  For now, it’s sort of Wait & See mode, for fans and the franchise alike.

21.  Lofa Tatupu – His career was relatively brief, but man did he shine bright!  In only six years (one of them severely injury-marred), he made three Pro Bowls, one first team All Pro, and cracked the top 10 in tackles in Seahawks history.  THIS is the best draft pick of Ruskell’s tenure, and a big reason why this team made the Super Bowl during the 2005 season.

22.  Darrell Jackson – Fourth in franchise history in receptions, second in touchdown receptions, and the number 1 receiver for most of Matt Hasselbeck’s time here.  His reputation was somewhat tainted by drops early in his career, but I feel he more than made up for it from 2003 through 2006.  Another guy who never made a Pro Bowl, and will probably never make the Ring of Honor, but he’s a big part of those Holmgren teams that brought the Seahawks to a level of respectability we’d never seen to that point.

23.  John L. Williams – Listed as a fullback, but he was really a do-it-all type of back.  He had hands like a receiver (3rd all time in receptions, 6th all time in receiving yards in Seahawks history), had quicks like a running back (fifth all time in rushing yards in Seahawks history, 9th in rushing touchdowns), and the size of a bruising fullback (5’11, 231 lbs), he could really do it all.  In an era that pre-dates these types of specialty backs who are equally as good at catching as rushing (LaDainian Tomlinson, Marshall Faulk, etc.), John L. Williams was truly a trailblazer.  He’s securely third place in franchise history in total yards from scrimmage (behind bellcow back Shaun Alexander with 10,940 total yards, and Hall of Fame receiver Steve Largent, who had a total of 13,172 yards), ahead of other, more notable, running backs like Curt Warner, Marshawn Lynch, and Chris Warren.  John L. played largely a reserve role, as a third or fourth option for this offense for most of his tenure here, but he played that role splendidly.

24.  Bobby Wagner – He’s been great since his rookie year, I only expect further greatness going forward.  He’s another who could easily skyrocket up this list, the longer he remains the quarterback of the greatest defense we’ve ever seen.

25.  Jermaine Kearse – What can I say?  He’s another local kid, another undrafted free agent, who worked his way through the practice squad into being this team’s #2 receiver.  Doesn’t hurt that he’s a Husky.  Also doesn’t hurt that he’s made some of the biggest catches in franchise history, including the 4th down touchdown against the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game, and the game-winning touchdown against the Packers the very next year in the NFCCG (not to mention the super-human TD catch in Super Bowl XLVIII, and the beyond-human bobbling/diving catch in Super Bowl XLIX).  He might have played his last down in a Seahawks uniform, and if so, I’ll be sad.  But, I’ll also be happy for a guy who started at the bottom and worked his way into a contract that was too big for the Seahawks to match.

Biggest Concern This Week: The Receivers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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