I’m Getting Excited About The Seahawks Again

Boy, I’ll tell ya, last week’s game is EXACTLY what I needed.  Up until they lost, all my football season excitement level revolved around the Washington Huskies for obvious reasons.  That dwindled pretty significantly, particularly because of the opponent (ASU) that we lost to.  There was a good 2-week period there where I was just in a football haze, going through the motions, watching the games but not really feeling invested.

The vast majority of that had to do with my relative indifference toward the Seahawks.  I mean, there’s no better way to kill the buzz around a season than to lose in Week 1 to the Packers, and ultimately start your season 1-2, where you REALLY had to scratch and claw your way to that lone victory, over the 49ers, who STILL haven’t won a football game.  The home win over the Colts was nothing special (especially when we went into halftime trailing, and I opted to go to bed and watch the rest the next day on DVR rather than interfere with my work sleep).  The road win over the Rams looked like a lot of fun, but I was out of town and unable to do anything more than read updates on Twitter.  Then, you had the run-of-the-mill road victory over the 1-win Giants.

Ho hum, right?

Then last week happened!  One of, if not THE greatest game of the season!  And then the trade deadline happened, and our biggest weakness (left tackle) turned into one of our biggest strengths overnight!  And now the struggling Redskins are in town?  Bring ’em on!  They’ve got injuries galore and should be PUSHOVERS, with the way we’re capable of playing!

I’m all in, baby!  I am dialed in, I’m loving the parity throughout the NFL, and I indeed smell blood in the water.  The Seahawks have been “championship contenders” since 2012, but this year is starting to feel different.  Like 2013 different.

I attribute it to the fact that it feels like the offense is further along in its progression than it has been in years past.  The defense has always been great (when the key parts have been healthy), but most years it’s taken a while for the offense to get rolling.  In 2012, there was a definite evolution.  Russell Wilson was a rookie, and he struggled early like most rookies do.  There were some close, hard-fought defeats and victories.  There was a major step forward in the You Mad Bro victory over the Pats, but an immediate step back with losses to the 49ers and Lions.  It wasn’t until the overtime victory over the Bears where things started to lock into place.  The Seahawks averaged 50 points per game over the next three victories (including a dominant one over the eventual NFC champion 49ers), and away we went.

2013 is the anomaly, because the offense more or less started out the year in okay shape and never really faltered too much, except against the really good defenses, which’ll happen to anyone.  It’s the reason why that year was so special, because when you pit a high-functioning offense with one of the greatest defenses of all time, you’ve got an unstoppable juggernaut.

But, in 2014, even though that was another Super Bowl year, there were some growing pains.  The offense was still good, but not great, and I attribute all of that to Percy Harvin’s presence, and Darrell Bevell going above and beyond to try to get him involved when he just didn’t fit with what we were doing.  Then, after we got rid of him, and we got our embarrassing Rams defeat out of the way, the offense was free to run wild once again.  The Seahawks finished the season 9-1, and while the closing schedule wasn’t as tough as we thought it might be heading into the season, there was still an impressive 35-6 road victory over the Cardinals towards the end.

In 2015, we had the start of our significant offensive line woes.  It was Okung’s final year, Britt was moved from right tackle to left guard (and struggled).  Drew Nowak was the opening day center (which was the source of most of our problems).  J.R. Sweezy was our whipping boy of a right guard (who was okay, but never really blossomed in a Seahawks uniform the way we’d hoped).  And Garry Gilliam was flipped over to right tackle and making his first starts there ever.  We struggled with this O-Line for a full half season!  We started out 4-4, had a BYE, then lost to the Cards out of the BYE (on one of the worst gambling nights of my life, that seriously had me considering whether or not I should ever gamble again).  But, in that Cards game, Patrick Lewis took over for Drew Nowak, we scored a ton in a 39-32 defeat, and from there the offense looked like its usual self again.  We closed out the year 6-1 to make the playoffs, including that famously high-scoring game against the Steelers (where Jimmy Graham injured his knee, but we won 39-30).  We averaged 32 points per game over the final 8, while averaging just a fraction under 21 points per game in the first 8.

In 2016, we had more of the same type of troubles with the offensive line (Okung gone, Sweezy gone, Britt converted to center in his third year as the lone bright spot), with the added bonus of all our running backs sucking (Christine Michael was our leading rusher with 469 yards, in only 9 games, finishing his season in Green Bay) and our quarterback getting injured in the first game and never really getting back to 100% with all the subsequent injuries he’d go on to suffer.  Last year, I’d be hard pressed to say the offense ever REALLY got going.  There wasn’t a game or a moment that jumpstarted things; we just kind of looked good in fits and starts.  The offense was pretty good against the Falcons, but we followed that up with the 6-6 tie game in Arizona.  Our best 3-game stretch of the season was when everyone was at their healthiest:  Week 9 vs. Buffalo on Monday Night, Week 10 at New England, Week 11 vs. Philadelphia.  Wilson played great, C.J. Prosise made the biggest impact of his rookie season (and career, if we’re being honest), and it really did feel like FINALLY things were snapping into place.  Then, we fell 14-5 to the Bucs and it was right back to “Where’s The Offense?” again.  I mean, maybe you can blame Britt being injured in that one, as Tampa’s interior linemen really feasted on our guards and backup center (it holds some water, as we would go on the very next week to score 40 on the Panthers), but then after that we were embarrassed on the road in Green Bay (being held to 10 points, as Wilson threw a grip of interceptions), and at that point it didn’t really matter.  With Earl Thomas gone, that team never had a chance.

And, make no mistake, we’re not out of the woods in 2017.  Injuries could decimate this team just as they did last year.  But, if they don’t, I think we’re in great shape.

It’s not just last week’s game against the Texans, though that certainly doesn’t hurt.  Here are the yardage and points totals for our offense, starting in Week 1:

  1. 225 yards, 9 points at Green Bay
  2. 312 yards, 12 points vs. San Francisco
  3. 433 yards, 27 points at Tennessee
  4. 477 yards, 46 points vs. Indianapolis
  5. 241 yards, 16 points at L.A. Rams
  6. BYE
  7. 425 yards, 24 points at N.Y. Giants
  8. 479 yards, 41 points vs. Houston

That’s an offense generating over 400 yards of offense in 4 of its last 5 games, and an offense that’s been good enough to win 4 of its last 5 games.  We’re moving the ball, we’re converting third downs.  Granted, it’s still somewhat of a struggle early – particularly on the first drive, where the Seahawks haven’t scored a first-drive regular season touchdown since early in 2016 – but it’s not as bad as it was last year.

The offensive line IS making improvements (and that’s before the addition of Duane Brown).  Granted, the running game is in shambles, but that just means Russell Wilson has been given an opportunity to step up, and he’s taken full advantage.  He was a man possessed in the back-half of 2015, and we all thought we’d get more of the same in 2016 until he injured his ankle and knee and later his pec (I think?).  Now that he’s 100%, and had a good off-season getting back into shape, we’re starting to see that MVP-calibre player we’ve all been waiting for.

The only thing we’ve been waiting on is the red zone offense to start turning those field goals into touchdowns, and if last week is any indication, we could be in for a big turnaround in that category.  I mean, let’s face it, does the Redskins’ defense really scare you?  This Sunday could be a massacre!

From there, we have a Thursday Night game in Arizona, a Monday Night game vs. the Falcons, and a road game against the 49ers before the showdown against the Eagles on Sunday Night, December 3rd.  There’s no excuse whatsoever for the Seahawks to not be 9-2 heading into that game.  And, if we can sneak out of there with a victory?  The sky is the limit on this season.  #1 seed, Super Bowl, parade in February.

The defense is the foundation upon which this team is built (and, I’ll reiterate, I’m not worried about last week’s performance; I chalk that up to an elite quarterback and a couple of elite receivers making incredibly accurate and efficient plays; talk to me if the Redskins put up those kinds of numbers, then I’ll say we have something to worry about on our hands), but this team will only go as far as the offense takes it.  The amazing defense will keep us in any and all ballgames, but the offense will put us over the top and win us another championship.  Even in 2013, it’s not like we shut out every team we played; we still needed to score when the games were on the line.  Same here.

I’m officially out of my funk!  These games mean something again!  Let’s go out there and kick some ass!

I Have Thoughts: Seahawks Sign Tramaine Brock, Extend Justin Britt

First thing’s first:  veteran cornerback Tramaine Brock (of the 49ers dating back to 2010) has signed a 1-year deal for at or near the veteran’s minimum.

This is unquestionably a good thing, as he’s unquestionably a good cornerback in this league.  So, why was he so cheap?  Well, he has some sort of domestic abuse allegations swirling around him that have apparently been resolved at a legal level, but perhaps not on a league level.  He still could be exposed to NFL punishment, but considering what little I know about this, it sounds like there’s nothing to see here.  Or, if that’s your bag, then by all means, dig into it.  But, I’m here to talk about the football team and how it affects the Seahawks’ chances in 2017.

Depth is depth, and this is some quality depth we were able to bring in.  As we’re only a week into the pre-season, there’s still time for him to get up to speed and at the very least compete for a nickel corner job.  Given Jeremy Lane’s current injury woes (that don’t figure to keep him out of any regular season games, but have kept him out of a lot of Training Camp so far), there’s no way this hurts.  Instead of God Knows What being our backup cornerback behind Shaq Griffin, we’ve got a bona fide NFL starter.

Is Brock elite?  Is he on a Richard Sherman level?  Of course not; if he was, there certainly would’ve been a bigger market for him than the veteran’s minimum (domestic abuse or no domestic abuse).  But, is he on a DeShawn Shead level?  Signs point to yes!  Signs, in fact, point to him perhaps being a little better than Shead, if the advanced metrics are to be believed.  Now, the caveat there is that Shead was doing his thing in our defense, while Brock was on another team, in presumably another scheme.  Cary Williams looked like an okay free agent signing, until he put on a Seahawks uniform and we discovered he couldn’t hack it in our scheme.  Will Brock be another Williams?  I doubt it, but I’m also not yet willing to put this crop of cornerbacks at the top of the NFL heap just yet.  Let’s see them in some games first.  Then, let’s see them in some games that actually matter.

I absolutely love this signing though.  My concern is that there are further moves in the works.  Like, for instance, the team trading away Jeremy Lane.  I don’t get this line of thinking AT ALL.  For starters, he’s not making THAT much money.  Secondly, he’s not THAT bad.  I don’t get you people!  Jeremy Lane wasn’t the reason why the Seahawks failed to advance past the Divisional Round the last two seasons (nor was Jermaine Kearse, but that’s neither here nor there).  You have these scapegoats stuck in your craws and won’t let them go!  Jeremy Lane is a perfectly fine nickel cornerback in this league!  And, by all accounts, when he was healthy at the beginning of Training Camp, he looked better than ever.  So, you know, let’s retract our claws a little bit here.

This team needs as much depth as it can get, particularly in the secondary where we could have up to three rookies on the roster.  I’m a Shaq Griffin believer, and you know I love Sherm, but how does it hurt to have Lane and Brock behind them?  If someone goes down, boom, another NFL starter steps up.  Or, if we face a team like the Packers or Falcons, we can put 4 starting-calibre cornerbacks on the field at the same time and not miss a beat!

Brock’s best attributes are his tackling and his coverage skills.  He gave up less than 50% completions last year, while getting thrown at among the highest rate in football.  Since, ostensibly, teams are still going to avoid throwing at Richard Sherman whenever they can, that’s EXACTLY what I want to hear about my new free agent cornerback.

So, we’ll see.

The other big news of the week is the team signing Justin Britt to a 3-year extension.  3 years, $27 million, looks like $15 million guaranteed.

Listen, I won’t neg this one to death.  I’m just surprised to see the team spend so much on a center as opposed to a left tackle or guard or something.  Now, obviously, in free agency you’re paying a HUGE premium, so it’s not like there were tons of great offensive linemen out there willing to sign a 3 year, $27 million contract.  We get Britt to sign that because he still has another year left on his rookie deal, so there’s a little give and take.  He gets financial security and job security for his family; we get to pay a little less than we would have had we let him play out his rookie deal and tried to extend him after the season.

I’m just glad the Seahawks are spending money on the offensive line finally.  Or, rather, I’m just glad the Seahawks have the OPPORTUNITY to spend money on the offensive line.  I know we all like to bitch about this, but there’s only so much money to go around.  Would you rather have Okung, Sweezy, and Carpenter – and ostensibly have all this continuity in your O-Line (though, all three, I believe, have dealt with injuries since signing elsewhere) – or would you rather have Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Doug Baldwin, and so on and so forth?  For the most part, I understand what the Seahawks have tried to do!  I just think, so far, they’ve gone about it poorly.

While I understand the thinking behind it – you need versatility along the line, considering you can have only so many available on gameday (the 46-man roster cutdown on gameday is another appalling issue for another time) – I really don’t care for Cable’s proclivity for moving guys around from year to year.  Glowinski from right to left to right; Ifedi from guard to tackle; Britt from right tackle to left guard to center.  Yeah, in the case with Britt (and Carpenter, and – God willing – Ifedi this year) sometimes they get it right and it just takes time.  But, you could also argue it stunts their growth and limits their efficiency.

If the whole idea is to save money by drafting linemen and inserting them into games right away, then wouldn’t you want to take advantage of them while they’re on their rookie deals?  We’ve had Britt for 3 seasons, but we’ve only really gotten 1 good season out of him!  Now, for all intents and purposes, his rookie deal is over (2017 sees a cap increase thanks to his signing bonus), and it’s like we’ve lost two years.

I guess my biggest frustration is that the team seems to whiff a lot on determining where these players best fit.  This is a talent evaluation gripe, more than anything.  If they could’ve seen Britt as a center from Day 1 (a position of need when he was drafted, if I’m not mistaken), he’d be going into Year 4 of being a center and we would’ve gotten a lot more value out of him those first two years.

Same goes with Ifedi.  Is he a guard?  Is he a tackle?  If he’s a tackle, why not throw him into the fire last year?  I mean, shit, you let a basketball player man the left tackle position!  And, if Ifedi is neither – if he’s a backup (that’s a funny spelling of the word “bust”) – then you need to make that determination now as well, and get Ethan Pocic in there stat!

But, I’m really getting off-topic here.  This is about Britt.  He’s here to stay!  Yay!

I wouldn’t have been surprised if they just let Britt play this year out, then groomed Pocic to be the starting center for next year (and beyond), thereby saving that extra cap space for other spots along the O-Line, but I like this.  I like Britt.  As I’ve said all along, I like knowing that at least I don’t have to worry about 1/5 of my O-Line.  I also like having a center to pair with Russell Wilson for the duration.  And, while it doesn’t look like the center does a whole lot more than help out on double teams with the guards, they’re really so much more than that.

With Britt, you’ve got a natural leader for the O-Line.  You’ve got a guy calling out the protections, making sure guys are lined up, and making sure guys know their responsibilities.  You’ve got a workhorse in the weight room who will whip the rest of the line in shape.  I think it’s no coincidence that George Fant is in such good shape; he’s got a guy in Britt to look up to and model his workouts after.

More than anything, I think the Seahawks were just waiting for the salary cap to increase to the point where they could finally afford to put money into the O-Line.  It just so happened to coincide with Britt going into the final year of his rookie deal, and we’re all the more fortunate for it.

Britt and Brock, two quality signings we should look back on in the years to come as key moves in the continued dominance of the Seattle Seahawks.

The Seahawks Keep Getting In Their Own Fucking Way

I hate Training Camp.  Let’s just get that out of the way right now.  Why?  Because there’s really only BAD news that can come of it.  Oh sure, you hear all the stories about so and so being in the best shape of his life; about so and so looking good in his recovery from a devastating injury last year; about New Player X looking good since coming over from Old Team Y.  But, ultimately, what does any of that mean?  Nothing.  Nothing until you can see them in a real game, with real hitting and real tackling and real opponents trying to knock your block off.

You know what you hear about in Training Camp?  TEAMMATES trying to knock one another’s block off!

What an absurd start to Training Camp!  First we get Malik McDowell’s ATV Accident Heard ‘Round The World, and then we almost immediately transition into a fucking Royal Rumble with Frank Clark sucker punching Germain Ifedi.

Now, I’m not one of these pearl-clutching spineless weenies who shudders at the thought of a little inter-camp violence, but by all accounts this wasn’t your average dust up between the offensive and defensive linemen.  This was a nasty, vicious and I’ll also call it COWARDLY shot at a guy who wasn’t even aware of what was about to happen to him.  I give Frank Clark a lot of leeway because he’s a good player who I desperately want to see be great, but he’s starting to sound like a real fucking asshole, and when his temper (combined with his sheer idiocy) starts to not only take himself out of the equation, but other Seahawks?  At that point, you’ve gotta call a punk a punk, because Frank Clark is acting like a little punk ass bitch.  And I say this knowing full well I’m not a female blogger, so I know he won’t actually go after me.

I mean, come on!  He knocks Ifedi out and costs him valuable, precious Training Camp days when he’s trying to convert back to right tackle after a year at guard?  AND, he knocks himself out in the process???  They can try to spin this that he’s had this knee issue all along; all I know is before the sucker punch, he wasn’t wearing a knee brace, and after the sucker punch, boom, knee brace.  Do the math.  JET FUEL DOESN’T MELT STEEL BEAMS!!!1

The silver lining is that it looks like both Ifedi and Clark will come back and contribute pretty soon here.  In the meantime, Ethan Pocic has gotten a billion reps at right tackle, and by all accounts looks pretty good.  Certainly better in pass protection than in run blocking, which I love, because I feel like by next year at this time he can bulk up with enough muscle to vastly improve his run blocking.  I think it’s tremendously easier to teach run blocking than pass protection, so if he’s already coming in as a plus pass protector, then he’s WAY ahead of the game compared to other rookie offensive linemen we’ve brought in here (Carpenter, Sweezy, Britt, Ifedi, Fant, Odhiambo).

If I can just briefly throw in a paragraph about the rest of the O-Line, it looks like Fant is pretty locked in at LT, and Joeckel is locked in at LG.  Joeckel is still coming back from injury, so they’re bringing him back slowly, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he misses some time this season, but word on Joeckel when he’s in there is nothing if not positive.  Britt, of course, is the unquestioned leader of this O-Line and is hopefully working his way towards a mid-season extension.  Glowinski and Aboushi are in a dogfight right now for RG, with Glowinski taking the lead in recent days.  It would nevertheless not shock me at all to see both Pocic and Ifedi on the right side of the line in some order, when all is said and done.

Anyway, getting back to the Seahawks shooting themselves in the foot, let’s get back to Malik McDowell.  He came in and reported, and was immediately placed on the Non-Football Injury List.  Meaning, obviously, that he’s injured and it wasn’t football related.  The team is extremely cagey right now about his future, but word trickling out isn’t promising.  Not just that he’s going to miss the pre-season, but that he very likely will end up missing the WHOLE season.  Which is just a fucking disaster for a guy who was going to be a major part of this defensive pass rush.  I mean, at a minimum, it was going to be HUGELY important just to get him professional reps and get him used to life in the NFL, but he also has the talent to be a difference-maker, and he really shit the fucking bed.

So, the question here is:  what does that mean for his contract?  It sounds like he might miss out on his 2017 salary and the team might even go after a quarter of his signing bonus.  What I’m wondering is:  if he doesn’t play at all this year, will 2017 count against his service time?  I mean, rookie contracts are 4 years, which means the Seahawks have 4 years of control over the career of Malik McDowell.  If he turns into a superstar, it’s fucking bullshit that the Seahawks could lose out on a year of him being under a team-friendly contract.  If he’s going to be out entirely this year, 2018 should technically be his rookie year, if there’s any justice in this world.

As for the rest of Training Camp, it’s more of what I alluded to at the top.  Jeremy Lane was looking better than ever (until he got hurt, then he’s had to sit out).  Shaquill Griffin has looked like the best rookie on the team, taking over for Lane, and appears to be making great strides.  Christopher Carson, rookie running back, has been on fire from day one, even succeeding in blitz pickup drills.  Russell Wilson has looked great when he’s been given time to throw.  And, the backup quarterbacks look like absolute hot garbage.

But, again, what does it matter?  Show me something come gametime.  This Sunday, 5pm, against the Los Angeles Chargers, which sounds as stupid to say and write as it is.

Seahawks Death Week: The “2016 The Year” Of Football Seasons

There’s just nothing to like about that season by the Seattle Seahawks.  Not a damn bit of good came from it.  That’s two years in a row of spinning our tires in the mud, with not a lot to show for it.  All we got was another year older.  Instead of being the next great dynasty, we’re just another good team.  One Super Bowl win, with the hope that we’re able to squeeze another one out of Russell Wilson before he moves on.  More and more, it’s looking like instead of a Brady/Manning/Roethlisberger situation, we’ve got a Drew Brees situation.  Maybe one title is all this group gets.  Maybe we spend the rest of our time with this core just slowly getting worse, until it’s just Wilson and Carroll, and a bunch of stiffs, regularly finishing in 3rd and 4th place in the NFC West.

The worst part is, I don’t even know how to define this season.  Yeah, the O-Line stunk, but they didn’t stink in every single game.  Yeah, we lost Earl Thomas, but there were plenty of times where this defense looked inept with Thomas in there.  If you go game by game, it’s a pretty frustrating exercise.

***

The Seahawks barely beat the Dolphins at home in week 1; the offensive line was definitely our primary fault in that one.  Wilson’s ankle got rolled up on, and that was the genesis of Hobbled Russell Wilson.

The Seahawks lost on the road to the Rams in week 2; again, the O-Line was crushed.  We lost three field goals to one, in the second game where the offense was totally out of sorts.

The 49ers were some home cooking in week 3; but, then Wilson got rolled up on again, this time injuring his knee, sending him to work with a brace for the rest of the regular season.  No fun there.

The Jets on the road were supposed to be a big test in week 4; they ended up being 5-11 on the year and one of the worst teams in the NFL.  The Seahawks, with Hobbled Russell Wilson, won by 10 points and settled into a much-needed BYE week.

The Seahawks were able to squeak by the Falcons in week 6; I think we all know enough of that game.  One bright spot was that, even in spite of a disastrous third quarter, we were able to fend off a last-minute drive, like we weren’t able to do in 2015.  The defense, when most everyone was healthy, was certainly better in 2016 than 2015; but the defense was rarely healthy.

Just when we were hoping to build on some momentum of a 3-game winning streak, we went and tied the Cardinals in week 7.  The third game out of six for the Seahawks where the offense was absolutely manhandled.  Of course, had Hauschka not been a ninny, this would’ve been a win.

The Seahawks followed that up with a road trip to New Orleans, and a baffling defeat in week 8; but, a defeat very similar to ones we have every year.  Not a good look for our defense, but the fact that our offense was held to 13 points (the other 7 attributed to an Earl Thomas fumble return for TD) against that defense is unconscionable.  Four games out of seven where the offense was a fucking trainwreck.

The Seahawks played the Bills on Monday Night Football in week 9; turns out Rex & Rob Ryan are the cures for what ails this offense.  It was less encouraging for our defense to give up 25, but they were able to foil a 2-minute drive at the end of the game to lock it up (again, shades of this not being the 2015 season).

In a game everyone expected the Seahawks to lose, they went into New England on Sunday night and upset the Pats 31-24.  Even with Michael Bennett on the shelf, this was a watershed game for our defense, as Kam returned and locked down Gronk in New England’s final series.  This was also a coming out party for C.J. Prosise, showing what this offense can do when it has a healthy, dynamic running back.

The Seahawks followed this up with a dominating performance over a then-contending Eagles team at home in week 11.  Prosise had another big impact in this game, with a 72-yard touchdown run, before leaving injured and not returning for the rest of the season.  Not a ton of people talking about the loss of Prosise as the 2016 Seahawks’ downfall, but let’s just say if we’d had him healthy for the full season, things might’ve gone a lot differently for this offense.

On the heels of another 3-game winning streak – and probably the best 3-game stretch for this team in the 2016 season – the Seahawks went to Tampa in week 12 and had their fifth terrible offensive game of the season.  This one is all on the O-Line, but one could argue things might have gone differently had Britt been healthy.  Either way, after going down 14-0 in the first quarter, and giving up no points the rest of the way, that was a real missed opportunity for the Seahawks, allowing the Bucs to hang around in contention for a while longer.

Injured guys started trickling back for the next game, at home, against the Panthers in week 13.  Britt was back, Bennett was back, Rawls had worked his way back to being a workhorse, Wilson was on the mend.  For the first time in a long time, things were FINALLY looking up for the Seahawks.  We crushed the Panthers, 40-7, and this was around the same time where we always go on our late-season runs of dominance.  But, because 2016 is the fucking worst, this was the same game where Earl Thomas broke his leg and was lost for the season.  Hashtag WeCantHaveNiceThings.

It was hard not to be deflated over the Thomas injury, but I refused to believe things would fall apart just because he was out.  We still had Kam after all!  Well, week 14’s game in Green Bay should’ve been our first clue that the rest of this year would just be a formality.  Aaron Rodgers did Aaron Rodgers things and the Seahawks were blown out for the first time since 2011.  Also, this was the sixth terrible offensive game, but mostly due to Russell Wilson’s interceptions.

In week 15, we handled the Rams on Thursday Night Football, in the game where Richard Sherman put Darrell Bevell on blast.  He would go on to put most everyone else on blast the rest of the year, in what should’ve been our second clue that the rest of this year would just be a formality.  The Seahawks don’t lose their cool.  Even when they lose their cool, it’s for a reason.  There wasn’t much of a reason for this.

In spite of the Seahawks being an up-and-down team, they held their fate in their hands.  All they needed to do was beat an underwhelming Cardinals team at home, then finish off the 49ers on the road.  Simple, right?  Win those two games, lock down the 2-seed.  Lock down the 2-seed, get the first round BYE.  Get the first round BYE, then host the Falcons in the Divisional Round instead of the other way around, and maybe our crowd does enough damage to their offense to allow the Seahawks to win and host the NFC Championship Game for the third time in four seasons.  But, the defense gave up 34 points to the Cardinals in week 16, and all of that was washed away.  The third and final clue that the rest of this year would just be a formality:  now we’d be a 3-seed, be forced to play in the Wild Card round, and have to go on the road to the Falcons, where we would go on to lose.

The Seahawks were able to take down the 49ers in week 17, but it was a lot closer than it should’ve been.  Was it us taking it easy, knowing the Falcons would lock up the 2-seed in a matter of hours?  Was it the defense continuing to struggle without Earl Thomas?

Then, the big Wild Card win at home.  The last hurrah, over a pretty inept and banged up Lions team.  Not a lot to learn from that, and ultimately the next game would look nothing like this one.

***

I mean, how do you wrap your head around a season like that?

To start, you can’t say a damn thing about it without getting into the offensive line issues.  This was the second year in a row that the Seahawks went with a bullshit, makeshift O-Line, instead of ponying up the money for proper blockers.  Justin Britt had his position moved for the third time in three seasons, and that was the ONLY move that worked.  He’ll go into the final year of his rookie deal in 2017 as our starting center; that makes me happy.  You can take the other four guys and throw them in a fucking volcano for all I care.

The Seahawks, in their prime, 2012-2014, always got by with Just Okay offensive lines.  Adequate, middle-of-the-road, doing just enough to let Marshawn Lynch run by them, and to let Russell Wilson run around them.  Then, slowly but surely, all the good parts were stripped away:  Unger traded away; Giacomini, Carpenter, and Sweezy allowed to hit free agency; Russell Okung – probably the most talented of the bunch – also allowed to hit free agency and sign a terrible deal in Denver.  Ending up with two rookies, a second-year player getting his first starting action, a third-year player switching positions for the third time, and Garry Gilliam, the only guy starting in the same spot from the year before.  Oh, and don’t forget the two free agents – Sowell and Webb – who were terrible, lost their starting jobs, and won’t be around beyond this season.

And, I get it.  I understand what the Seahawks were doing.  There’s only so much money to go around, and they preferred to give that money to their star players at the skill positions.  Wilson, Baldwin, Graham, Bennett, Avril, Wagner, Wright, Thomas, Sherman, Chancellor.  Those guys take up a lot of money.  Where can we save?  The O-Line!  Hell, we’ve got Tom Cable, surely he can build them up to be respectable by season’s end!

They damn near did it in 2015.  It looked like, once Patrick Lewis took over at center, things settled down for that unit.  Then, we got into the Divisional Round, against the Panthers and their ferocious interior linemen, and that unit was reduced to rubble.

But, without much of a choice, they did the same thing again in 2016.  As I mentioned, Britt was moved to center and that worked.  Glowinski was drafted in 2015 to be a guard of the future for this team, so why not let him work on his craft in actual games?  Germain Ifedi came at the price of a first round draft pick in 2016, so there was no way he wasn’t starting.  They made it through the season mostly unscathed, and you can ALMOST see a future with those guys in those spots, but they’ve got a lot of work to do.

And, while the guards made PLENTY of mistakes, and were often the worst parts of this unit, in my book they’re taking a back seat to the tackles, who were God-fucking-awful.  George Fant was a tight end in college, and here he was as our starting left tackle.  He was almost constantly over-matched, when we weren’t chipping defensive ends with our tight ends and running backs to give him a little help.  Gilliam was a little better – particularly later in the season, when he essentially had his manhood questioned by the coaching staff – but he too was often overmatched.  Together, neither of them are starting talents in the NFL.  Gilliam is a guy who might be a swing tackle for a good team, a 6th guy on the line who can start for you in a pinch.  But, he has no business being in there everyday.  Fant should’ve had this year to just develop in the background, but since this organization did absolutely nothing to replace Okung – aside from signing Sowell, who is a known commodity as one of the worst tackles in football – Fant was put in a position he had no business being in.  And, in that sense, he did all right.  He could be another guy who is a quality swing tackle, but he probably shouldn’t be a starter either.

This team needs, at a minimum, two new offensive tackles.  Ideally, one high in the draft and one as a free agent.  Luckily, we’ve weathered the storm of our salary cap being up against it, and should have enough extra money to make some moves, as 2017’s cap looks to be up to $170 million or more.  Not so luckily, we draft 26th again, and no quality offensive tackles will be there waiting for us.  I don’t know what the free agent market is going to be like, but things are going to get REALLY salty in Seattle if this team sits back and does nothing.

***

Aside from that, it’s a lot to do with what I was talking about yesterday:  our shoddy depth.  Starting with the 2013 draft, let’s look at who panned out:

  • Luke Willson – backup tight end
  • Spencer Ware – quality running back who we waived; he’s playing well for the Chiefs
  • Paul Richardson – 4th receiver, started coming on in this year’s playoffs with Lockett injured
  • Justin Britt – starting center, with 2016 being his first good year
  • Cassius Marsh – backup pass rusher & special teamer, 3 career sacks
  • Frank Clark – quality defensive lineman
  • Tyler Lockett – quality receiver & returner
  • Mark Glowinski – guard, started in 2016
  • Germain Ifedi – guard, started in 2016
  • Jarran Reed – quality run-stuffing defensive tackle
  • C.J. Prosise – quality running back who can’t stay healthy

That’s it, and I’m really stretching the definition of “panned out” with some of these guys.  The quality guys who we still have on this team include:  Britt, Clark, Lockett, Reed, and Prosise.  Beyond that, when you talk about this team’s depth, it’s a lot of young guys who haven’t really gotten a chance to start – because they’ve been boxed out by all the studs we’ve got starting on this team – but these same guys also aren’t making the most of their opportunities when they do find themselves on the field.  That means the coaches are failing them, or that they’re just not working very hard, but I don’t think this coaching staff or this team would sit by and let a bunch of slackers fuck around in practice.

Also, not for nothing, but when I talk about depth, I’m mostly looking at the secondary.  The depth on the O-Line is, I’m sure, a real problem, but so are the starters, so why beat that dead horse?  There’s solid depth at receiver – as shown by how P-Rich stepped his game up in the playoffs this year like a fucking CHAMP!  PROUD of you, boy! – and at tight end.  There’s also good-enough depth at D-Line and in the linebackers’ room to get by.  Where this team – and particularly this defense – struggles is when we get into the depth in the secondary.  When Kam Chancellor goes down (as he seems to do every year now), and when Earl Thomas goes down.  When, inevitably, Richard Sherman goes down (because he’s such a monster tackler; I can’t imagine those shoulders will hold up forever).  Or, like in this last game, where Shead went down with what looks like an ACL.  We thought Jeremy Lane would be enough – and I think he did okay, I’m not in this big hurry to run him off the team – but this team needs more back there.  It’s a shame too, because that’s supposed to be Pete Carroll’s specialty.  He should be ashamed of the depth we had back there in the secondary – particularly at safety – and he should be looking to shore that up in a major way in the upcoming draft.

No team stays healthy for a full year, but you’ve got to have guys to come in there and pick up the slack.  We weren’t able to do that this year.  That, and our O-Line troubles, doomed us for two years in a row.

It sounds insane to be this disgruntled about a team that hasn’t been to a Super Bowl in the last two years, but that’s what comes with success.  We’re not very far from those teams, in terms of talent and in terms of years, but we’re also trending in the absolute opposite direction.

Part 2: Why The Seahawks Will Win The Super Bowl This Year

We got into the Glass Half Empty side of things yesterday.  Today, it’s all about Glass Half Full.

I’ll start here where I started yesterday:  the offensive line.  In this run of dominance the last four years, the Seahawks have never really had a world-beating O-Line.  Sure, Okung was a nice player and a talented first rounder, but he also often found himself injured and being replaced by the likes of Alvin Bailey.  Has that stopped us from winning ballgames or running the ball among the best teams in the league?  Absolutely not!  We’ve gotten by with the likes of James Carpenter, J.R. Sweezy, Breno Giacomini, and Patrick Lewis – all fine players in their own rights, but ultimately all replacement level players who made their money on the back of this team’s success.

People like to denigrate Russell Wilson, saying he’s just a “system quarterback”, and that had he been put into the wrong situation, he’d be another nobody right now.  Well, by the same token, this is a “system” offensive line, behind Tom Cable’s vision for what this unit should do and do well:  run the football.  It’s always going to struggle somewhat in pass protection – it has the last four years anyway – but like I said before, that hasn’t stopped us yet.

Because we DO have Russell Wilson!  And while he might want to thank his lucky stars the Cleveland Browns didn’t draft him, I think he’s pretty great, and fully capable of making up this O-Line’s shortcomings.  Will he be perfect?  No.  He’ll occasionally run himself into some sacks.  He’ll hold onto the ball too long when he should’ve just thrown it away.  But, he’s also going to do some truly amazing things that only he can do.  And, in the end, that’s going to be more than good enough to make up for the O-Line.

I like our ability to run the ball.  I like the continuity of our receiving corps.  And while I don’t necessarily think Russell Wilson is going to double his second half of last year and turn it into a full season this year, I think he’ll certainly take another step in his progression and by season’s end have had his best year ever.  I don’t know if the offense is going to be the dominant Seahawks unit over the defense, but I think we’ll have put up the most points in franchise history when all is said and done.

I also don’t know if the defense will be able to make it 5 straight years with the fewest points allowed, but if not, they’ll still be close to the top.  I just think, at this point, you know what to expect from this defense.  With everyone here, happy, and healthy to start the season, I think that puts us in the driver’s seat compared to last year, where we had so many issues.  Just having the vets around, practicing, playing, is going to be great for our younger guys.  The kids won’t have to play right away, they can soak in more of the system, more of the game plans, so by the time they ARE pressed into duty, because of injuries or whatever, they’ll be that much better than if they had to start right away and be thrown into the fire prematurely.

Finally, I like what the schedule has to offer.  Let’s break it down, week by week:

Miami, to kick things off on Sunday.  I think this game starts off a little too close for comfort in the first half, but ultimately I think the Seahawks start to blow it out in the second half for a double-digit victory.

At Los Angeles, for their regular season home opener.  By all rights, I’d be a fool to lock this one down as a win.  The Rams, particularly under Jeff Fisher, have had our number in ways I’m not even comfortable thinking about.  With this being their first game back in L.A., with upwards of 90,000 fans in a rabid froth, it won’t be easy.  I think this game is a slog, but I also think the Rams are remarkably worse than they’ve ever been, and I think we take this by a field goal to start 2-0.

San Francisco in week three.  Absolute pushovers from top to bottom.  Nothing about this team scares me.  I think we beat them by three touchdowns.

At New York, to play the Jets before our BYE week.  A lot of people have this down as a loss for the Seahawks.  I can see why.  You’ve got a cross-country trip and a 10am start.  You’ve got a team with an excellent defense, some strong weapons on offense, a savvy veteran quarterback, and one of the better up & coming head coaches in the NFL.  But, at the same time, I think you’ve got a team that doesn’t match up with us very well.  Sure, they’ve got Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, but we’ve got one of the top secondaries in the league.  I think we easily shut down their passing attack, and just as easily shut down their mediocre rushing attack.  This game will depend on how well the Seahawks can move the football.  The Jets’ D-Line is ferocious, so it’ll be tough sledding for our O-Line.  They’ve also got Revis, but I think we have what it takes to beat him.  If he clamps down on Doug Baldwin, I think Tyler Lockett has a big game.  I also think the Seahawks take advantage of Kearse’s size in this one and he leads the team in receptions.  I also think our tight ends will be a huge factor, as Jimmy Graham should have played his way back into the #1 role.  It’ll be a dogfight, but I’m seeing something like 17-13, with the Seahawks on top.

Atlanta at home, after the BYE.  I just don’t think the Falcons are very good.  At all.  Matt Ryan has been a mistake-prone mess ever since Tony Gonzalez – his security blanket – retired, and ever since Roddy White’s aging body turned him into a nobody.  Sure, he’s still got Julio Jones – making Jones one of the most valuable receivers in the game, for fantasy purposes – but we’ve got Richard Sherman.  Beyond that, good fucking luck.  I think the Seahawks steamroll in this one by a good 2-3 touchdowns.

The next two weeks are at Arizona and at New Orleans.  The Arizona game is a Sunday Night game, the Saints game is a 10am start.  I think the Seahawks go 1-1 in this set of games, but I’m not going to commit to which game they win and which one they lose.  What does that mean?  Well, USUALLY it means I think the Seahawks will win the game they’re supposed to lose, and lose the game they’re supposed to win.  It’s probably idiotic, but even at Arizona’s best, we’ve been able to handle them pretty savagely on their home turf.  Combined with the fact that we’ll be out for revenge after they embarrassed us on Sunday Night in 2015, and the opinion that I secretly hold – which is that the Cards are due for some regression in 2016 – and I could see the Seahawks walking all over the Cards and solidifying our hold on first place in the division.  As for the Saints game, I’ve seen this one play out too many times before.  It reminds me of the Chargers game in 2014, the Lions game of 2012, and ESPECIALLY the Colts game of 2013.  They have a dominant offense, with a Hall of Fame quarterback who will put up 30+ points against us.  Meanwhile, we’ll probably make one too many mistakes on offense – against a shitty, but improved Saints defense – and gag it away at the end.  Saints 35-27, to put our record at 6-1.

Buffalo on Monday Night to close out the first half of our schedule.  This one should be another home walk-over.  We’ll be jacked up for a home Monday Night game, and the Bills – who have no experience in our environment – won’t know what to do with themselves.  7-1 to close out the first half.

At New England on Sunday Night to kick off the second half.  I try to run this game through any number of scenarios, and I just can’t find a way the Seahawks win, short of Tom Brady being injured.  Another cross-country trip.  All the hype from it being a Super Bowl XLIX rematch.  And, let’s face it, if any team is going to put into use the main strategy of beating the Seahawks – dink & dunk, then try the seams on double moves with their taller receivers – it’s the Patriots.  On the plus side, I think the Pats’ defense is much worse than two years ago.  So, if the Seahawks DO win this game, it’s almost certainly going to require this game being a shootout like last year’s Steelers game.  But, I don’t see that happening.  Patriots by a single score.

Home for Philly and another walkover.  You’ve got a team starting a rookie quarterback, but more than that, you’ve got a team clearly playing for next year.  They’re stocking up on draft picks and kicking out all the old players on the roster, compiled by Chip Kelly.  I don’t see this one being particularly close either.

At Tampa in yet another cross-country flight.  We really got hosed by playing the AFC East and NFC South (which are all pretty much in the East anyway).  This game strikes me as one of those traditional slow starters for the Seahawks.  I think we have to overcome a double-digit deficit, and perhaps have to win this one in overtime, just like the last time we played the Bucs, back in 2013 (except that game was in Seattle).  Ultimately, I think we have just enough to pull this nailbiter out.

Home for Carolina in another Sunday Night game.  If both teams are at full strength, we could be looking at the best game of the regular season.  I just love how these teams match up.  I also wonder how healthy Cam Newton will be, considering all the hits he took in last night’s game.  Will his recklessness in taking hits finally catch up to him?  I kinda, sorta have a feeling this game will come down to who’s actually playing, and for whatever reason I have a feeling Cam will be out for this game.  Either way, I like our chances at home, on Sunday Night, trying to rectify the disaster that was our 2015 season against the Panthers (going 0-2 in two games).  It’ll be a nailbiter, but Seahawks win.

At Green Bay in December.  I think this is another one of those games we’re supposed to lose, but in fact we turn the tables and steal one.  Is it weird for the Packers and their fans to hate Seattle more than teams in their own division?  Well, when we keep ruining their playoff hopes, I guess it’s not!

Home for the Rams and Cardinals the next two weeks.  I think we go 1-1 here too, and while I’m not yet ready to commit, I will say that I feel it’s more likely we beat the Rams and lose to the Cards.  I still think this is the year the Rams go 6-10 or 5-11 and Jeff Fisher gets fired.  A girl can dream, can’t she?

Finally, at San Francisco to close it out.  If we’re playing for anything, I think we win easily.  If we’ve somehow got the #1 seed wrapped up, I think we let the kids get the majority of the snaps and probably lose it in the end.  Let’s just say we win and call it a day.

13-3, number one seed in the NFC, and an inside track for another Super Bowl.  This year, we get back to it, and this year we win the whole fuckin’ thing.  Mark it.

Part 1: Why The Seahawks Won’t Win The Super Bowl This Year

Consider this the start of a two-part season preview for the 2016 Seahawks.  Anything less would be uncivilized.

Speaking of Right Guard, let’s start there.  One of the primary failings of the 2015 Seahawks – particularly on offense – was the offensive line.  Sure, there were early-season defensive breakdowns that were our regular season undoing, but if you want to look at why the Seahawks lost in the playoffs, look no further than the interior offensive line.  Guard-Center-Guard.

Now, at least in the early going, it appears the Seahawks have vastly improved this combo compared to last year.  Once Alvin Bailey proved he wasn’t up to the task of left guard, the team panicked and put Justin Britt there.  He was a disaster.  Eventually, the team settled on Patrick Lewis at center, and things seemed to improve along the line as a whole.  But, Lewis was far from ideal.  And, we were in J.R. Sweezy’s fourth year with the team; four years that saw him plateau pretty early on, then continue to make the same mistakes in pass protection over and over and over again.

Mark Glowinski – after a year on the bench to learn the position at an NFL level – is ready to be a starting left guard in this league.  Justin Britt – in his third position in three years – seems to have finally found a spot that works for him.  And rookie first rounder Germain Ifedi is being broken into the league at right guard, where he’ll hopefully thrive and eventually shift outside to tackle in the coming seasons.  These three guys should be a marked improvement over the three we had there last year.

And yet … HOO BOY, are we thin!  News came down yesterday that Ifedi left practice with an alleged ankle injury.  The severity is unknown at this time – he could be out for the year, or he could play this weekend – but the fright it’s caused this fanbase is all too real:  who replaces Ifedi if he can’t play this week?  The only other guard on this roster is Rees Odhiambo, who was taken at the end of the third round of this year’s draft.  J’Marcus Webb is another possibility – as he’s played both guard and tackle – but as you can see, we’re already greatly reducing this unit’s effectiveness with these diminishing returns.

WE CANNOT HAVE INJURIES ALONG THE OFFENSIVE LINE!!!

Particularly up the middle, which is where we failed against the Panthers in last season’s playoffs.  Russell Wilson improved on his pocket passing last year, and getting the ball out quicker, but you still need to give him SOME time.  Thinning out the interior of this O-Line – when the tackles are already pretty shaky – is going to be a disaster this team won’t be able to recover from.

But, you know, anyone could write a preview about why a team won’t make the Super Bowl and put “Injuries” as the leading cause.  Let’s face it, if your quarterback goes down, you’re not winning the championship.  If too many key offensive or defensive playmakers get injured, you’re not winning the championship.  And so on and so forth.  So, let’s move on.

Another big concern for me has to do with the defensive line.  I still don’t see us having the type of pass rush we had in 2013, and I don’t think we ever will.  Avril and Bennett are great, but Frank Clark is still young and unproven.  And I just don’t see anyone behind those three guys who will have much of an impact.  Does that mean we’ll have to blitz more?  If so, that takes away from a weak spot that is the middle of our defense.  Teams dink and dunk on us with regularity as it is; sending an extra blitzer just opens up that part of the field even more for converted third downs.

AND, I’m not so sure our run defense is up to snuff.  This is the first year in forever that we won’t have Brandon Mebane anchoring the middle.  Will Rubin, Reed, and McDaniel be able to pick up that slack?  There were a lot of times this pre-season where I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the first defense’s ability to stop the run.  Let’s hope that mess is left where it belongs:  in the meaningless pre-season.

All in all, I wonder if this is the year where the Seahawks finally fall from the top in points allowed.  It’s been a record-breaking four year run of dominance, and it’s bound to end at some point.  Part of me wonders if teams have figured us out, and part of me wonders if Kris Richard will be a new whipping boy, a la Darrell Bevell.  Kris Richard can pay lip service all he wants about not changing the scheme from years past, but he’s still the one calling the plays, and this is only his second year doing that job.  Are we sure his situational play-calling abilities are good enough for the NFL?

I mean, come on, if the players are mostly the same, and the scheme is the same, then it has to be the play-calling, right?

Of course, to really derail the Seahawks, they’ll have to lose a few games they shouldn’t.  More defensive lapses like last year.  More oddball defeats to the likes of the Rams, Eagles, or Dolphins.  Arizona will have to be as good as I think they’ll be, and run away with the division again.  The Packers and/or the Panthers will have to be another dominant NFC team.  If we let too many regular season games slip away, and prove we can’t beat the elite teams like last year, we’ll once again be 10-6 and looking at a Wild Card path to the Super Bowl.  Unfortunately, as much as I’d like to believe it, I just don’t think the Seahawks are able to cruise through the regular season and then flip a switch come playoff time.  Hell, last year they SHOULD have lost to the Vikings in the first round!

Finally, I’d say there’s one big concern no one really wants to talk about.  Russell Wilson had one of the better second halves to a season that I’ve ever seen last year.  Rightly, everyone is on his bandwagon for him to continue that trend – possibly with an MVP finish.  Did Wilson figure it out, and take that next step in his development?  Or, is this a matter of momentum?  Because, we all know there’s no such thing as momentum, and it could just as easily go the other way starting Sunday.

In the pre-season, I saw good Russell Wilson and I saw bad Russell Wilson.  I saw the guy who makes quick decisions and rips off chunk passing plays, and I saw the guy who holds the ball too long and takes unnecessary sacks.  It’s the pre-season, so I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.  But, I don’t think anyone goes from Good to Elite without some bumps in the road.

If he does regress, though, with the way this team is counting on him to carry us all the way, it could be a total disaster.

It takes a lot going right for a team to win a Super Bowl.  Luck, obviously, plays a huge factor.  This team has what it takes to go all the way, but there are a good number of other teams who can say the same thing.  Arizona, Green Bay, Carolina, New England, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Houston, Jacksonville, Washington, Oakland, Cincinnati.  We’re damn near through half the league!

So, yeah, I’d say the odds are stacked against us in a number of ways.  Tomorrow, I’ll write about how none of that matters.

Taking A Hard Look At The Seahawks’ Roster

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

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

So, just how dire is it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which brings us to the offense.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

The 2012 Seahawks’ Draft Class Is Very Wealthy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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