Seahawks Destroyed The Chargers’ Backups

Ahh, the first pre-season game of the year!  Is there anything like it?

If all pre-season games were exactly like this one, I’m sure I’d be sickened, but see, that’s how they get you.  The first one, you’re so starving for football, you’ll sit through anything.  So, yank the starters after one series and go to town with all the backups.  Then, little by little, increase the playing time of the starters to get you to stick around for the next two weeks.  Then, by the fourth week, you’re hooked, and from then on, they’ve got you by the balls!

I dunno.  I do actually like the pre-season.  I like getting to watch all the young guys play, particularly when the games don’t matter.  If I had to watch all these backups out there in the regular season, I’d probably shit myself, but in the sterile environment that is the pre-season, it’s fine.

I’ll just rattle off a bunch of random thoughts in a row, before I’m too swayed by the opinions of others.

I didn’t like anything about the first team defense’s lone drive, but I also know that the Chargers’ offense is the absolute WORST for the Seahawks’ defense to play.  Philip Rivers is more than happy to dink and dunk his way down the field, and some of their receivers (and particularly their pass-catching tight ends) are more than happy to gobble up all those short passes.  They’re big and physical and they can play and play well against this type of defense that encourages underneath throws.  And, when the Seahawks start to make adjustments to take this away (assuming this were a regular season game, for a moment), that’s when Rivers can strike against you deep down field.  It’s the perfect storm, and I’m glad we don’t have to play the Chargers twice a year every year, because I know for a FACT that they would be what the Rams have been against us, only with an offensive bent vs. the Rams’ defensive prowess.

That having been said, I think I was more disappointed by the first unit’s run defense.  I know that sounds stupid – because the Chargers’ longest rush on that first drive was for 5 yards – but here’s my rationale:  you know, with Rivers in there, the Chargers like to throw quick, short passes.  Because that’s what he’s good at, and in this situation, you KNOW they don’t want him holding the ball all that long, in a meaningless first pre-season game.  As such, I would’ve liked to have seen this team be stouter against the run on that drive.  Four out of seven rushes went for 4 yards or more, and one of those shorter runs was to convert a 3rd & 1.  So, really, five out of seven rushes were successful for the Chargers.  Instead of pinning them into multiple 3rd & Longs, more often than not the Chargers had easy conversions to make.  Granted the 3rd & 9 play went for 15 yards, but I just think if you could’ve gotten them behind the chains, you could’ve at least forced a field goal, if not a punt.

But, it was one drive.  It’s not the end of the world.

I liked what I saw out of the offense, particularly the wide receivers.  Paul Richardson picked right up where he left off, by snagging a beautiful diving catch for 25 yards to get the team into field goal range.  Unfortunately, Paul Richardson picked up right where he left off, by getting immediately injured and being forced to sit out anywhere from 1-4 weeks.  Not a great start for a guy entering his first contract season.

Obviously, I was blown away by Kasen Williams, and believe you me, I was not expecting to be.  4 catches, 119 yards, and each one more impressive than the last!  Well, maybe not the one where it looked like he landed out of bounds, but the refs blew the call so all the better!  I couldn’t be happier, for a lot of reasons.  First and foremost, Paul Richardson.  I mean, if we gotta worry about him being healthy – yet again – then there are issues.  I think Doug Baldwin will be fine, but obviously he was out with a strained foot.  I think Tyler Lockett is a valid question mark; I think he’ll play eventually, but will he be back to his usual self at any point this year?  Will he come back only to get immediately re-injured?  And, if THAT’S the case, we’re back to this unit being Baldwin and Kearse and dot-dot-dot.

I know everyone is just convinced that Amara Darboh is going to make this team, because of his draft position or whatever, but why?  Why is everyone so sure he can have his roster spot written down in pen?  I mean, for starters, he was injured yesterday!  Gotta play in the pre-season if you’re going to make the team, right?  I know there are other factors at play, like team control and all that, but in Kasen Williams you’ve got a guy who’s mature, who knows the system, who’s FINALLY healthy and capable to show his full potential.

If we have to worry about Lockett and P-Rich, it’s nice knowing Kasen is there, because I sure as shit trust him over guys like Darboh, David Moore, Kenny Lawler, and the rest.

That having been said, I did like the upside on guys like Moore and Lawler.  Moore had that nice crossing route that he was able to turn up for a big gain.  He showed good size and speed.  Lawler could’ve made an even bigger impact if he’d reeled in that second TD, but as it stands I like what he brings to the table.  I’ll also be curious to see what Cyril Grayson can do; he had that TD in the corner of the endzone that was overturned on replay because he could only get one foot down.  Great athleticism for a guy who’s pretty raw.

Also, before I move on, I want to see Kasen Williams keep it up.  This game got his name back into the mix when everyone had written him off, but now he’s got to parlay that into an actual 53-man roster spot.  That means not immediately disappearing into the ether after one great game.  You double down on that and you FORCE this team to keep you.  And, if they don’t, you go sign with the Rams and you shove it down our throats for the next five years.  God Awgs!

As for the rest of the offense, I wasn’t thrilled with the running game.  The Seahawks won this game 48-17, and this team couldn’t run for more than 133 yards?  It’s not like the team was avoiding the run; there were 36 carries, for a 3.7 yard per carry average.  It wasn’t great.

Mike Davis was the mop-up runner, leading the team with 33 yards.  Rookie phenom Chris Carson bulled through the line for two goalline TDs.  Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls got some work in, but didn’t do much.  Alex Collins did even less.  Honestly, the best runners by a million miles were the three quarterbacks.  Russell Wilson had a scramble that he ALMOST broke for a first down.  Austin Davis had a huge scramble when the middle of the field totally opened up for him.  And Trevone Boykin was an absolute baller.

Gotta devote more time to the #2 QB, because he earned it.  Boykin’s first drive was absolute garbage; he had a fumble on his first drop back, that he was able to recover, then he looked indecisive on the third down incompletion.  It led me to think, “Here we go again.”  I was fully expecting this to be a LONG day of Boykin holding the ball too long, running around in circles, and not getting anything done until the 2-minute drill at the end of the first half.  When, in reality, Boykin looked GREAT after that drive!  He started to get the ball out on time, he ran when he should have, but he also made some quality throws.  Kasen, obviously, bailed him out quite a bit, but there were some other good decisions mixed in there as well (it’s always a good decision to throw a jump ball to Kasen when he’s being guarded one on one, FYI).  All in all, 12 for 15, 189 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT (on an ill-advised deep ball on his final drive, into double coverage, very badly underthrown due to pressure coming up the middle).

He very well may have solidified his spot on this roster, even though Austin Davis didn’t look bad.  7 for 9 for 108 yards is nothing to sneeze at.  Of course, it was against third stringers, and if you thought San Diego’s the Chargers’ second unit was bad, their third unit was THE WORST.  We’ll know if the Seahawks are serious about its backup quarterback competition if they play Davis with the second stringers and hold Boykin for the third stringers next week.

The question on everyone’s minds was, of course, the offensive line.  Did they look better than they have in the last two pre-seasons?  Yes.  But, I wasn’t really watching them all that closely.  I’m trying to get a sense of the whole game, so I don’t want to sit there and try to focus on just the lines.  But, you could tell the quarterbacks had a lot more time to throw; they weren’t being immediately bombarded with defenders in their faces, which is a huge improvement over 2015 and 2016.

It’s hard to get a sense of the best individual players, but I’m sure we’ll learn that as we read the deep dives this week on the various Seahawks blogs and Twitter and whatnot.  Fant looked better, Joeckel looked solid, Britt was Britt.  It seemed like Glowinski and Aboushi were battling pretty good on the right side.  And, it looked like Ifedi will certainly have some growing pains, but is also vastly improved over his rookie year.

As for the backups, I can’t even begin.  Pocic got a ton of playing time and looks solid.  I think we’ll be calling for him to be a starter on this team before too long.  Jordan Roos got a lot of playing time as well and could be a nice little project for this team long term.  I wasn’t blown away by Odhiambo, but I was encouraged to see him play both left guard and left tackle.  I hope the deep divers have some positive reviews for these guys, because overall I came away encouraged.

I will say that I’d like to see these guys improve on the run blocking side of things.  Seems like every big run was called back due to a clipping penalty, which is beyond frustrating.

On the defensive side of the ball, I’ll just say that I’m glad no one of import got hurt.  The starters made it through their series unscathed, on to Minnesota.

That’s really it!  I mean, we know what this defense is going to look like; there aren’t a lot of spots up for grabs.

I thought Shaq Griffin looked solid.  It’s very encouraging to see our rookie play as well as he did, particularly when you factor in how important this rookie class is going to be to our depth for the next few years, and when you factor in Malik McDowell’s idiocy.  We need SOMEONE to pop, and who better than a guy who could be starting opposite Richard Sherman a month from now?  I’ll be glad to see him get more play with the #1 defense in the coming weeks.

I thought Naz Jones looked solid.  Again, I wasn’t there close-watching the lines, but he had that tipped ball, and he looked like he got some pressure up the middle at times.  Without McDowell, that interior pressure is going to need to come fromm somewhere.  I would’ve liked to have seen more from Jarran Reed – because I’ve heard he’s been awesome in Training Camp so far – but the pre-season is young.

Obviously, I thought Michael Wilhoite and Terence Garvin looked outstanding.  Wilhoite with the hit on the intended receiver to pop the ball up in the air; Garvin with the INT returned for a TD.  But, these guys got a lot of play and really showed up.  It’s nice having backup linebackers who aren’t just Special Teamers.  Brock Coyle is an okay story, but he was never a guy I was comfortable counting on in a base defense.

Cassius Marsh had a great tackle for loss.  Some of the deeper D-Linemen had some nice pressure numbers.  Tedric Thompson was the single-high safety who gave up the 74-yard touchdown from Kellen Clemens of all people, and honestly Thompson looked slow.  Maybe that’s being a rookie and he’ll improve when the mental aspect of the game catches up to him, but it was discouraging when you consider the Seahawks are a team that wants to eliminate the deep ball above almost everything else.

In the Speical Teams, J.D. McKissic got a lot of the return duties – both kickoffs and on punts – and looked okay.  He didn’t break anything, but he looked natural and like he COULD have broken something if he’d just gotten a key block.  I, for one, hope he makes the team as a sixth receiver, and as a guy who could fill in for C.J. Prosise if and when he gets injured.  I mean, a guy who can play receiver (most likely a slot guy), a guy who can run the ball, AND a guy who can handle all return duties if we want to save Lockett from that sort of exposure, is a guy I want on this team!

Finally, Blair Walsh made all his kicks.  2 field goals, 6 extra points.  Keep it up, kid!

Overall, I came away pretty impressed.  I know this is the pre-season and blah blah blah, but this team looked talented, looked deep, looked fired up, and honestly looked like the team from 2013.  We’ll see what we’re thinking this time next week, after the Minnesota game, but for now I’m encouraged.

Taking A Pre-2017 Look At The Seahawks’ 2018 Free Agents

There’s a great post over at Hawkblogger this week, taking a look at some of the decisions the Seahawks have to make looking beyond the 2017 season.  As it stands, this year is pretty much set.  The 2017 Seahawks might go dumpster diving at the tail end of the pre-season to pick up some bargains among other teams’ cuts, but for the most part what you see is what you get.

However, the 2018 Seahawks could look VERY different.  Well, okay, maybe putting the “very” all in caps is a bit of hyperbole, but there are some big pieces that could be playing elsewhere next year.  Big pieces to this team’s success dating back to 2012.  Guys we’ll always remember fondly for taking this team to such dramatic heights.

Obviously, part of this conversation – as noted in the Hawkblogger article – has to do with guys who will be cut after this year; guys just not getting the job done anymore, relative to the size of their contract.  Jermaine Kearse and Jeremy Lane generally top this list, but there’s just SO MUCH that can change in a year.  People getting injured, people becoming disgruntled, people getting unloaded for other players and/or draft picks to try to fill a position of need.  I’m not going to get into that today, as I believe there’s enough to talk about among just the impending free agents for next year.

The biggest names are as follows:

  • Kam Chancellor
  • Jimmy Graham
  • Justin Britt
  • DeShawn Shead
  • Eddie Lacy
  • Paul Richardson
  • Luke Willson
  • Cassius Marsh
  • Kevin Pierre-Louis
  • Luke Joeckel
  • Bradley McDougald

I’m going to work my way backwards here.  Let’s start off with McDougald and Joeckel.  They were brought in this season, along with a flurry of other guys on 1-year deals (Aboushi, Wilhoite, Garvin, Arthur Brown, Blair Walsh, Austin Davis, maybe a couple/few others), and honestly we don’t know anything about these guys.  They were given 1-year deals for a reason; they need to prove that they deserve multi-year contracts.  A few of them might not even play for the Seahawks this year!  Others might be relegated to backup status.  And a few just might break out and have great seasons.  We’ll just have to let the year play out and revisit them next off-season.

KPL and Cassius Marsh have spent the majority of their professional careers as backups and Special Teamers.  Neither of these guys even have their jobs secure for THIS year, so it’s weird to talk about their futures.  I do think Marsh will make the team this year, but I’m not breaking the bank to bring him back in 2018.  Unless he gets blown away by another team – either with more money or an opportunity for more playing time – I think maybe Marsh goes year-to-year with the Seahawks, until either he has a breakout season, or it starts to cost too much money to keep bringing him back year-to-year.  As for KPL, I think the writing is on the wall.  The Seahawks went out and brought in A LOT of linebackers on 1-year deals to come in and compete for his very roster spot, because by and large he’s been something of a disappointment.  I think he’s been pretty good on Special Teams, but probably not an elite-level player at that spot.  Unless he’s coming into Training Camp having taken a HUGE leap, I think he’s one of the final roster cuts as the team gets to 53 players ahead of opening weekend.

Luke Willson and Paul Richardson are a couple of interesting players.  Both were Seahawks draft picks with unique offensive abilities.  Both have, I guess, underwhelmed in their tenure here?  That’s probably not fair on Willson’s part; I think he’s been a fine player (coming from a terrible 2013 draft class) and I think he’s done what’s been expected of him.  He’s been healthy for the most part, he’s in an offense that doesn’t throw a ton compared to others around the NFL, and he really hasn’t had that many opportunities to be the TE1 on this team.  Sometimes guys ahead of him have gotten injured and thrust him into that role, but no one is going to put him up there with the great tight ends around the NFL.  The last couple years, he’s been firmly behind Jimmy Graham (i.e. the team was so concerned about the position, they went out of their way to make a blockbuster trade to bring in a true TE1).  As a TE2, I think Willson is fine.  He’s had his moments, he seems to be a good all-around player, and he hasn’t really cost this team a whole lot.  He’s making $1.8 million this year, on a 1-year free agent deal, because he couldn’t find anything better anywhere else in the league; that should say something about his value.  I’ll be really interested in where the Seahawks go with the tight end position going forward.  I think a lot has to do with what they do with Graham.  If Graham gets an extension, I think that’s it for Willson.  If they let Graham go in free agency, and Willson has an okay year, maybe you see the Seahawks bring him back on a 2-3 year deal at a very modest salary (just because I think it would be crippling to lose both of your top 2 TEs in the same year).  Some of it will have to do with Nick Vannett, a draft pick from 2016; is HE going to take a step up?  If he proves to be a capable and competent TE2, then the need to re-sign Willson goes way down (unless, again, Graham goes bye bye).

As for P-Rich, he’s the true underwhelming player of the two, from an underwhelming 2014 draft.  Of course, most of that has to do with all the injuries he’s sustained, but we really saw a whole new side of him down the stretch last year and in the playoffs, once Tyler Lockett went down.  The question we have to ask is:  who is the real Paul Richardson?  Is it the injury-prone string bean?  Or, is it the athletic freak who’s jumping all over the place making crazy catches through defenders?  Because, you know what?  The Seahawks could REALLY use the latter.  Indeed, the Seahawks have been looking for the latter pretty much since Pete Carroll got here.  Richardson isn’t that tall receiver we always talk about, but when he’s doing what he was doing in the playoffs, he PLAYS like a tall receiver.  If you pair THAT guy with the all-around greatness of a Doug Baldwin, and the speedy Lockett, we’re talking about one of the best wide receiver rooms in the league.  For a lot of these guys coming up, I’m going to be talking about whether or not the Seahawks should do an extension ASAP, do an extension at some point during the season, or wait until the season’s over and try to re-sign them; with P-Rich, it’s still early, but I think if he comes out of the gates on fire, you look to do an extension mid-season.  Get him locked up before the rest of the league has a chance to get its hooks in him.  I know the injury risk is there, and I’m sure any extension would reflect that in its guarantees/incentives, but if he looks as good in the first couple months of the season as he did in the playoffs, I think you LOCK THAT DOWN.

Eddie Lacy is another guy the Seahawks brought in on a 1-year prove-it deal, but he’s different than those depth guys.  He’s actually shown he belongs in this league.  I think he’ll come in here in the shape they want him to be in, and I think he’ll really flourish in this system.  That having been said, I’m really waffling on what the Seahawks should do with him.  I do think they need to wait it out a little bit before thinking about extending him.  Part of that has to do with the running back market itself; I don’t want the Seahawks to necessarily bid against themselves.  Part of it also has to do with how Rawls and Prosise look.  If those two stay healthy, and consistently blow teams away, is there really a need to keep Lacy beyond 2017?  Ultimately, I think you have to hold off until the next off-season and do a big picture assessment.  If Rawls and Prosise are hampered with nagging injuries again, and Lacy has a good year, then by all means wrap him up.  But, definitely wait and see.

The Seahawks caught a bit of a break in the DeShawn Shead situation.  On the one hand, yeah, it sucks balls that he’s hurt, and that he was hurt so late into last season; but on the other hand we WILL see him again in 2017.  He’ll get substantial action towards the back-half of the season, which will determine his fate.  Also, by that time, we should have a pretty decent idea of what we have in the new guys.  If one or more of the rookies really steps up and gets better as the season goes on, then there’s less of a need to go all out in re-signing Shead.  Also, if Shead fails in his rehab, or gets re-injured, then obviously his future is going to be determined by prove-it and/or incentive-laden deals.  But, if Shead comes back, plays like the Shead of old, and the rookies have more growing pains to go through than expected, then I fully expect the Seahawks to put in a good effort in bringing him back.  But, this would be another situation where I’d have the Seahawks hold off until next off-season.

As for Justin Britt, I’m surprisingly on the fence.  Going into this, I have to point out that the Jags just gave their center the highest contract ever for a center, at 5 years and $51.7 million, with $24 million guaranteed.  Is Britt worthy of that?  I’m not sure; his 2017 season will have a lot to say about that.  But, at the very least, that’s the market price now.  It’s the high-end of the market, but it’s out there, and it’s what Britt’s agent is going to aspire to.  I like Britt.  I like Britt as this team’s center, and I’d like to have Britt around for the rest of Russell Wilson’s career.  I like setting up a QB/Center duo and keeping them together for as long as possible; I think it’s very important to an offense’s success.  I also like the fact that they’re comparing his work ethic and leadership abilities to Max Unger.  I WANT that!  But, do I want to pay him upwards of $50 million?  When you take a look at that Hawkblogger article at the top, it shows you the percentage of what the Seahawks pay per position, and it’s clear that the team is robbing the O-Line to pay the secondary (and the defense as a whole).  While we can expect a bump in the NFL’s salary cap, will it be enough to offset Britt’s new deal?  Will that also allow us to extend other guys they want to or need to extend?  After all, we do need to start thinking about Frank Clark, and third contracts for guys like Russell Wilson, Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Bobby Wagner, and so on.

There’s also the issue of Ethan Pocic that I find utterly fascinating.  To date, he really hasn’t been talked up as a guy in the driver’s seat for a job on this offensive line, even though it was God awful last year, and even though he was a 2nd round pick this year.  In years past, as we’ve seen with guys like Britt and Ifedi, those higher draft picks have been slotted into starting jobs immediately upon entering the league.  So, what gives with Pocic?  I mean, I think the Seahawks have done an okay job in bolstering the depth along the O-Line, but it’s by no means vastly improved!  You’re telling me from a strict talent point of view, Pocic isn’t immediately better than some of these crappy veterans?  Which gets me to wondering if maybe this team isn’t grooming him to be Britt’s replacement.  After all, he was a center primarily in college, and that appears to be his best position.  Do we give him a year to learn behind Britt, then hand him the keys in 2018?  Thereby saving this team money and allowing them to fill in other spots?

I guess we’ll see.  In a vacuum, I’d say Britt has earned an extension and he’s earned it yesterday.  But, taking everything else into consideration, where does center rank on this team’s priorities list?  I’d wager not as high.  In an ideal world, Britt is here for the duration, but I don’t know if that’s how the Seahawks want to operate.

Moving on, we’ve got the case for Jimmy Graham.  I’ve been in love with his contract ever since we got him, because essentially nothing was guaranteed.  We could’ve cut him at any point without any dead cap; and from day 1 I’ve been clamoring for the team to let it play out just as they have.  So, it would make zero sense for them to extend him now.  If they were going to do that, they should’ve done it before the free agency period, so they could’ve used the extra cap space to get someone better than Luke Joeckel to be this team’s left guard.  Now, they COULD do the extension mid-season, but I think that would be a mistake.  He made it through all the games last year intact, but I have to believe the injury from 2015 is weighing heavily on their minds.  Quite frankly, I don’t like the way he’s taken some of the hits he was taking last year; he tends to get blown the fuck up in the middle of the field, and I think it’s only a matter of time before he sustains another serious injury.  Also, let’s face it, he’ll be 31 in November; how many more great years does he have left?  He’s obviously going to be looking for another bigtime contract, because he’s one of the most talented and athletic tight ends in the game today, but do we really want to risk it on an aging player?

For what it’s worth, even if he does get injured, as long as it’s not another devastating knee injury, I think he’ll have a nice second act to his career.  I could very much see him being a Tony Gonzalez type, a veteran presence who knows how to get open and work the open zones of a defense.  But, I think his years of being an elite, Top 3 tight end in this league are numbered (and I think that number is one you can count on one hand).  For me, I think you let him walk.  I think you thank him for his services, but you do NOT pay him whatever the market price will be for him in 2018 and beyond, and I think you go in another direction for your big red zone presence.  Because, let’s face it, with all of 8 TDs combined in his two seasons here, it’s pretty fucking obvious the Seahawks STILL haven’t figured out how to get him the ball in the endzone.  So, why chase good money after bad?  Keep tight end the fringe offensive weapon it’s supposed to be, and look to Luke Willson, or some other young guy, to get those 30-40 catches per season.  Frankly, I’d rather have another Zach Miller type anyway, with the way this team struggles in pass protection.

Which brings us to Kam Chancellor.  I’ve been on the Extend Kam train for a while now, and I still think we can get a deal done – a la with Marshawn Lynch’s final contract in Seattle – where he gets the money he deserves, while the Seahawks get the cap security they want.  After all, let’s face it, the Seahawks don’t want to go throwing around a ton of guarantees for a guy who hasn’t had a fully healthy season since 2013!  If that’s what he’s expecting, or if he’s still got a sour taste in his mouth from his holdout, then maybe he just wants to get out of Seattle and finish out his career elsewhere, which would be a shame.  For a guy who’s been as critical, as inspirational, as fun to watch, I’d really hate for this relationship to end poorly.  And, for the record, I do think he has some good years left in him.  I’d LOVE to see him retire as a Seahawk and one day go into our Ring of Honor, and who knows?  Maybe he’s already done enough to get in there.  But, he’s a unique talent, and I’d hate to see him come back in another team’s uniform and start murdering our guys.

All in all, a lot of intrigue for this 2017 season.  Not just because of this being another year in the closing Championship Window for these Seattle Seahawks, but in how this team transitions from one Championship Window to (hopefully) the next.  Who will be the biggest stars and key components of the 2018 season and beyond?  Will guys like Clark, Prosise, McDowell, and Griffin be the next studs who deserve huge, bank-breaking second contracts?  And, who among those studs we have now will deserve even huger, bank-breakinger third contracts?  2017 will go a long way in parsing that out; it should be fun to watch.

Taking A Pre-Training Camp Look At The 2017 Seahawks Roster

Going into the 2013 season, I was as high on the Seahawks as I’ve ever been.  Indeed, there have been a number of years where I’ve predicted a Seahawks championship, but I’ve never been as certain as I was before that fateful season.

This year, on the other hand, I dunno.  You’ve got a lot of the same players, which should inspire confidence that – at the very least – this Seahawks team will give us another playoff appearance and probably another division title.  But, there are also question marks up and down the roster, where there weren’t any going into 2013.  Even the positions of strength are causes for concern, as we’ve discovered in the last few years that injuries can hit anywhere, at anytime, for any reason.

Let’s just start at the Safety position, for instance.  The Seahawks feature two of the very best in the game of football today in Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor.  No sweat, right?  On a scale from 1-10, you write in a 10 for Most Confident and you call it a day!  Except, Earl is coming off of a horrendous injury and might not have his usual impact (particularly early in the season).  Is it appropriate to expect Earl to be as dominant as he’s always been?  Or will the injury – and subsequent rehab eating into his regular workout routine – mean we get just 75% of Earl or less?  And, quite frankly, there’s an honest concern that both of these guys will get re-injured at some point.  Both are another year older, and Kam has proven to be pretty injury prone over the last few seasons.  When they’re healthy, they’re the best in the game; but all I’m going to be doing whenever they’re on the field is worrying about their next injury.

And, honestly, this is the same issue we can run out there for a lot of position groups.  Cornerback?  Check.  Wide receiver?  Check.  Running backs?  Bigtime check.  So, as it was last year, the issue is going to come down to depth.  Because while the Seahawks have one of the most talented rosters in the league, they’ve also been the most snakebitten of late.

On paper, it’s really a tremendous group.  If you could sit here and promise me 100% health out of all of our starters, I’d tell you that I have the utmost confidence in this team making a deep run in the playoffs, up to and including a Super Bowl victory.  Very briefly, let’s scan the starters:

Russell Wilson, in spite of last season’s quasi-regression, is still a Top 10 quarterback in this league, and probably closer to Top 5 than a lot of people are willing to admit.  When he’s healthy, he’s as dangerous as they come.  At running back, we may not have Beastmode, but a healthy Thomas Rawls has proven to be wildly effective.  Eddie Lacy is a nice, big back who will get the tough yards and wear down defenses late.  And C.J. Prosise is as unique a talent at the running back position as there is in the league.  At wide receiver, Doug Baldwin is as good as they get.  Lockett is a speedster with great hands.  P-Rich really came on strong in the playoffs last season and has a lot of talent at making the difficult catches.  And Kearse is a fine #3 or #4 possession receiver with good blocking abilities.  Tight end might be our strongest position on offense, with the combo of Graham and Willson making life difficult for opposing defenses.  I won’t go crazy about the O-Line, but there are a lot of returning pieces who should improve by virtue of ending the 2016 season healthy, bulking up, and having that experience in their back pockets.  You have to like a lot about the D-Line, that killed it in run blocking, and has a lot of great pass rushers.  Avril & Bennett obviously anchor that line and are great in all facets of the game.  Rubin and Reed are solid run stuffers.  Frank Clark is coming on like gangbusters.  Malik McDowell has all the talent in the world at pass rushing from the tackle spot.  You can mix and match those guys in all sorts of different formations and should come off in a good spot.  At linebacker, we return Bobby Wagner – the team’s MVP of a season ago – and K.J. Wright, two of the league’s best.  When we’re not in nickel, you’re looking at any number of talented free agent signees to play that SAM spot and play it well.  At corner, we return Sherm and Lane; Sherm is still his wonderful self, and Lane is still good enough.  Shead will hopefully be back at some point to add to this team’s depth, and in the meantime a number of rookies will vie for that nickel corner spot (or the opposite outside spot, thus pushing Lane inside), including 3rd rounder Shaquill Griffin.  Tack on the aforementioned safeties, and I’m telling you, that’s a starting roster that can hang with the best of ’em, including the vaunted New England Patriots.

I don’t think anyone is questioning that, necessarily, but from a national perspective it’s a lot like that famous Eminem chorus:  motherfuckers act like they forgot about Dre.

The NFL is very much a What Have You Done For Me Lately league, particularly with the fickle media.  If you scan around at some of the Power Rankings, NFL.com has the Seahawks ranked 10th (behind the likes of the Bucs, Chiefs, and Giants).  I mean, what do those teams have that the Seahawks don’t?  Last I checked, Tampa has a very young QB who has yet to prove he’s a winner at this level, the Chiefs are staring down the barrel of a quarterback controversy after trading up to pick one in the first round, and the Giants still employ Eli Manning.  ESPN.com has the Seahawks up at 6th, which feels a little more reasonable, but still behind the likes of the Steelers and Falcons.  The Steelers have a lot of fantasy football talent on the offensive side of the ball, but they’ve yet to really prove they’re ready to make the leap and challenge for the AFC Championship; and I think the Falcons are in for a rude awakening when they kick off this season with the COLLOSAL downgrade at offensive coordinator (Sark, stepping in for Kyle Shanahan).  Peter King, in all his infinite wisdom, has the Seahawks at 9th, behind the Chiefs again, as well as the Titans (in his Top 5!).

If you want my opinion, I think the Top 5 should look something like this:

  1. New England
  2. Green Bay
  3. Oakland
  4. Seattle
  5. Dallas

New England was the best team last season, and it looks like they’ve only gotten better with their offseason moves.  Green Bay is as good as they get as long as they have Aaron Rodgers (similarly to the Seahawks, they just need to stay healthy to reach their potential).  I’m in love with everything that Oakland has done this offseason (aside from abandoning their city and moving to Vegas); they remind me a lot of the 2013 Seahawks with how young and talented they are (though, maybe tilt it in the offense’s favor as opposed to the Seahawks’ defense in 2013).  And, you could go either way with Dallas/Seattle in the 4th/5th spot, with Seattle having the edge by virtue of Dallas crumbling in big game after big game.  Let them prove they belong to a higher ranking rather than just handing it to them with their so-so defense and injury-prone receiving corps.

But, as always, it comes down to depth.  Will the Seahawks need it and do they have enough of it?  And, can their remaining healthy starters do enough to compensate for where they’re lacking?

Let’s take quarterback out of the equation because without Russell Wilson, this team doesn’t work.  Trevone Boykin is cool and everything – and I fully expect him to win the backup job again – but he’s not even close.

Can the three-headed hydra of Lacy, Rawls, and Prosise make it through 16 regular season games plus the playoffs?  As much as I want to gnash my teeth about this position group, I think the Seahawks are okay here.  Yeah, Rawls will probably have some nagging injuries that cause him to miss a few games.  Yeah, Prosise will be banged up.  Heck, Lacy might even roll an ankle or something.  But, what are the odds that all three of them go down at once?  Even still, I thought Alex Collins looked okay in spurts in his regular season duty and should be able to fill in okay as an emergency backup.  Beyond that, I mean, I’m not going to sit here and predict another running back apocalypse like last year, so let’s move on.

The wide receiver group looks a lot different if Lockett has trouble and isn’t able to make it back.  I think that pushes Kearse back into the #2 role, which is less than ideal.  Also, while P-Rich was great in the playoffs, he’s yet to do that over the long haul.  Granted, he hasn’t really been given the opportunity, so here’s to hoping he makes the most of it this year.  Beyond those guys, Darboh is a rookie and I fully expect him to be a last resort type.  That leaves Tanner McEvoy and/or Kenny Lawler; both have their strengths, but gametime experience really isn’t one of them.  Continuing with tight end, the starters may be the most talented of any group on offense, but the reserves are the biggest question marks.  Nick Vannett was a draft pick in 2016, but never really played.  Beyond that, we have guys I’ve never heard of before, one of whom will surely win a job in the pre-season.

The one place the Seahawks tried their damnedest to improve depth – in their own Seahawky way, i.e. on the cheap – was along the O-Line.  Fant, Glowinski, Britt, and Ifedi all return, though with some projected shuffling of spots.  Britt is the leader and best of the bunch; Ifedi returns to his more natural right tackle spot (until he proves he can’t handle it and is moved back to guard); Fant is the key to the whole thing, as he needs to prove he’s capable of holding his own at left tackle, so we can slot our main competition into the guard positions (Joeckel vs. Odhiambo on the left; Aboushi vs. Glowinski vs. Pocic on the right).  Let the best men for the job go to town and hope for the best, I suppose.  What I would say is that the Seahawks are probably in a better position for success with this unit than they were at this time a year ago.  We know Britt is a bona fide starter in this league at center.  Fant, Glow, and Ifedi all have a year of starting experience.  Odhiambo has a little bit of experience, but he’s also being put into a better position to succeed by getting his shot on the left side of the line (as opposed to the right, where he struggled in limited action last year).  And Joeckel and Aboushi are a couple of serviceable veterans who by no means allow us to say, “Problem Solved!”, but they provide better depth than we had a year ago.  And, Pocic appears to be a talented, highly rated rookie, who could step in in a pinch, but will probably be better served in sitting and watching for a year to bulk up and learn the system.  If he’s as good as people say he can be, he could be filling in for any number of guys who win a job out of Training Camp.

The Seahawks are strongest along the D-Line, but you still wonder about their ability to get pressure up the middle.  With the emergence of Frank Clark, I think we’ll still see a lot of Michael Bennett sliding inside, but we had that for the most part last season and still didn’t wreak enough havoc to make much of a dent.  As such, it’s really do or die with Malik McDowell, as if he doesn’t make an impression as a rookie, you’re hoping for Quinton Jefferson to do something in his second season in the league, or one of the bigger guys – Reed, or Nazair Jones perhaps – to step up and do something they’ve yet to prove they’re capable of doing.  Also, not for nothing, but with the loss of Tony McDaniel, did the Seahawks sacrifice their run defense for the sake of interior pass rush?  That might not be the worst thing in the world if we only fall from Best In The NFL to something like 7th-best in the NFL.  But, if we take a deep hit, because of injuries or ineffectiveness, other teams’ abilities to run the ball at will could hinder our ability to put in the ol’ NASCAR package and really do damage to opposing quarterbacks.

I absolutely don’t want to think about what life would be like without the likes of Wagner or Wright, but it won’t be pretty.  As things stand, it’s a huge unknown what these new additions will bring to the table.  I hear good things about Wilhoite and Brown, but that’s just chatter; it means nothing until I can see them in games and see how they mesh with the scheme.

I also absolutely don’t want to think about what life would be like without our studs in the L.O.B.  Bradley McDougald, Neiko Thorpe, and a whole bunch of rookies and young guys.  Without Shead in the mix, it’s hard to say we’re all that improved depthwise, so here’s to hoping they can just hold their own until he’s good and ready (and here’s to hoping the pass rush is as advertised, as they could REALLY help ease this transition period in the L.O.B.).

I really want to like these guys.  I really want to be confident about this season.  I want to believe that we’re better than we were in 2015 and 2016, that we won’t have those fatal flaws that prevented us from getting past the Divisional Round in the playoffs.  Ultimately, it’s going to come down to getting the job done in the regular season, getting that playoff BYE week, and playing clutch football when it matters most.  To get to that spot, it’s going to come down to a lot of injury luck and certain guys stepping up in a big way over the production (or lack thereof) that we got last year.

Projecting Where The New Seahawks Fit

I think it’s always helpful to remind ourselves that the Seahawks are a good football team.  They’ve won at least 10 games every year for the last five seasons, and have won at least one playoff game each year to boot.  Only the New England Patriots have been more successful in this stretch by those parameters.  When they grab the #1 seed, they go to the Super bowl; when they don’t, they lose in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.  But, I think panic is starting to set in as this team’s championship window starts to close.  No Super Bowl in the last two seasons?  BLOW IT UP!

While there have been flaws in this team that have done the Seahawks in the last two years, they can also be corrected.  The offensive line has always been a matter of concern for this team, even as far back as 2012 and 2013; the only difference is those teams had so-so O-Lines, while the last two years, the O-Line has been one of the very worst in the league.  Also, I think it’s safe to say while opposing teams haven’t “figured out” the Seahawks’ defense, they’ve definitely made some inroads into not being thoroughly dominated on a regular basis.  Injuries – and a lack of proper depth – torpedoed our season last year, particularly following the loss of Earl Thomas.  But, when this team is healthy, this defense is still near the top in all of football, simply based on talent alone.

What those great Seahawks teams had, that these recent Just Okay Seahawks teams have lacked is what I pointed out in that previous paragraph:  league average O-Line play, and proper depth in the defense.  With the moves the Seahawks made this offseason, the hope is that they’ve done enough to right those wrongs, without creating holes elsewhere.

So, let’s start with the offensive line, because that’s ONCE AGAIN going to be the topic du jour not only from the national pundits when referencing the Seahawks, but very much from the local guys as well.  Last year, the primary configuration of the line looked like this:

  • Fant – Glowinski – Britt – Ifedi – Gilliam

Right off the bat, we know Gilliam is gone, having signed with the 49ers.  On the way in, we’ve got Luke Joeckel, Oday Aboushi, Ethan Pocic, and Justin Senior (along with various holdovers from last year, and undrafted free agents).  We know Britt is safe, for at least this year, if not for many years to come.  But, the other four spots are very much up for grabs at this point, ostensibly with the best man winning the job.

It’s impossible to project the exact battles until we get into OTAs and Training Camp and our trusty beat writers give us the scoop.  For now, we know Fant will battle for left tackle.  I’m pretty sure Glowinski will battle exclusively for the left guard spot, though I suppose it’s possible he could flip over to right guard (but, for the purposes of this post, I’m going to keep him on the left side).  Fighting with them will be Luke Joeckel, who has $7 million guaranteed on a 1-year $8 million deal; he will be considered for both the LT and LG spots.  Also being considered at LT and LG is Rees Odhiambo, 3rd round pick in 2016.  Four guys for two spots; I’ll put the early favorites as Joeckel and Glowinski, but absolutely nothing will shock me with the way this team operates.

On the right side, 2nd rounder Ethan Pocic will get a hard look, along with 2016 first rounder Germain Ifedi.  Ifedi was the RG last year, but was a RT in college, and word around the team is that they’re going to put him back outside.  That would seem to jibe with the selection of Pocic, who has extensive experience at center, and projects more as an interior lineman.  Aboushi is a guard who will also be in the mix on the right side, as well as 6th rounder Justin Senior, though he feels more like a project the team would want to redshirt.

So, how does that strike you?  The best two left-side guys, Britt, Pocic and Ifedi?  Will that formation ultimately be better than what we got in 2016?  I would assume yes, but that’s not saying much.  ANYONE will be a better left tackle than 2016 Fant, up to and including 2017 Fant.  I didn’t see Gilliam as the line’s biggest issue last year, but obviously he can be improved upon as well.  Will moving Ifedi back to his natural spot at right tackle help things click for him?  I’ve yet to see Pocic play, but I have to believe he’ll be better than any of the guards we had going for us last year.  And, I know the team really likes Odhiambo, so I hope he’s been working his ass off to win that job on the left side.

It’s going to be critically important for the line to at least be functional, because once again this team failed to address backup quarterback.  I don’t blame them, as I mentioned earlier, this team has a lot of holes and a lot of depth to replenish, and the worst thing you can do is reach for a quarterback you don’t necessarily want, but that just means the onus is on this team to protect its most important asset:  Russell Wilson.  I’m through trying to parse out blame on sacks, by the way.  Sure, Wilson might run himself into some pressure, but as long as the O-Line keeps letting guys get uninterrupted runs at our quarterback, I’m placing the blame squarely on them to fix that issue.

As for Wilson’s weapons, the only real major addition is Eddie Lacy at running back.  Between him, Rawls, and Prosise, the hope is that at least one of them will be healthy each and every game.  I like what they all bring to the table, aside from the fact that they seem to be on the trainer’s table more than the field (table).  Table.  I’m also not buying the seventh rounder we drafted, unless it comes to a point where there are a barrage of injuries at the position, at which point he’ll probably still be blocked by 2-3 guys.

At tight end, the Seahawks were conspicuously absent in the draft.  Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson are both on the final years of their deals, with Nick Vannett on the second year of his rookie deal.  I can’t imagine the team is ready for Vannett to jump to the #1 tight end spot in 2018, which would lead me to believe that they’re looking to extend one of Graham or Willson.  It might not be the worst idea to let the season play out before making your decision on this, as I can’t imagine the market for either will be out of our range heading into 2018.  If one of them has a serious injury this year, then your decision has effectively been made and you can extend the other guy.  Considering there really isn’t much left on the free agent market (and the Seahawks were able to save some pennies by trading out of the first round), it doesn’t make a ton of sense to extend Graham now just to lower his cap hit.  The time to do that would’ve been BEFORE free agency started, when there was still an opportunity to get a great player with the money saved.

At receiver, Baldwin and Kearse are back, Tyler Lockett is coming back from an injury, Paul Richardson is going into the final year of his deal, and the Seahawks drafted Amara Darboh in the third round.  On top of that, we’ve got Kenny Lawler (7th round draft pick in 2016), Tanner McEvoy (our 5th receiver for most of last year), and Kasen Williams (among others) fighting to make the final roster.  Last year, the team mostly just kept 5 receivers, opting to go with an extra tight end, but I think this year the Seahawks will look to keep 6 receivers.  They’ll obviously want to keep Darboh around (who can justify his roster spot by owning a special teams role), leaving Lawler, McEvoy, and Williams fighting it out for the final spot.  Lawler should still be able to pass onto the Practice Squad for another season, but I think it’s do or die for Williams at this point.  Considering this is Kearse’s last year, I’ll be really interested in what the team decides to do come training camp.  Also, let’s not forget, Paul Richardson really came on in the playoffs last season; he could be in for a HUGE breakout year (which, not for nothing, has been long overdue).

My hunch is, the Seahawks let Kearse go AFTER this season, they reward Richardson with a Kearse-like 3-year deal (because, while he could be in for a “HUGE breakout year”, that’s all relative to the fact that these are the run-first Seahawks, and Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham are still going to command the lion’s share of the targets), and in 2018 the Seahawks go in with a receiving corps of Baldwin, Lockett, Richardson, Darboh, and a couple of TBDs, but that’s over a year away and neither here nor there.

With the bulk of the offensive weapons returning from last year, all that matters is getting even marginal improvement out of the O-Line, and I think you can expect better things over last year.

Which brings us to the defense.

My #1 priority coming into this offseason was seeing the Seahawks bring in top notch talent in their secondary.  While they didn’t necessarily overlook the position, they obviously had their priorities set elsewhere.

For starters, they signed a grip of backup linebackers in free agency, to bolster the strong-side linebacker spot, as well as our depth and special teams.  They also took a flier on Dion Jordan to see if he has anything left in the tank after busting out in Miami.  More than anything, though, they made D-Line their #1 priority in the draft, which will be a big key heading into the season.

Malik McDowell is an interior lineman adept at causing pressure up the middle.  Aside from Michael Bennett – who more often than not finds himself in the defensive end spot – we really haven’t had anyone to bring the pressure up the middle since Clinton McDonald, and even then we’re talking about a part-time player.  McDowell’s ceiling is MUCH higher than McDonald’s, and if everyone manages to stay relatively healthy, he could be the key to making the lives of opposing quarterbacks miserable.

Just picture a line that looks like this:

  • Avril, McDowell, Bennett, Clark

Or, you know, some variation of that order.  Those are some rabid dogs!  That’s a 4-man defensive line that can get home, allowing the other 7 guys on defense to help out in coverage.  That’s a line that will not only generate a bunch of sacks and hits, but also a TON of hurries, that will hopefully lead to some bad decisions from those QBs.

The Seahawks have always been pretty solid in their sack numbers since bringing in Avril and Bennett, but the defense as a whole hasn’t been able to generate a lot of turnovers since 2013, when they were getting the most pressure with their 4-man front.  If McDowell hits, we could be talking about the best 4-man line we’ve seen since our championship season.

Which will hopefully make the lives of our secondary a lot easier and more fulfilling.  Shaquill Griffin looks like he can start right away, which is good, because odds are we’ll need him to.  Between him, Lane, and Sherman, I like our cornerbacks.  I’ll like them a lot more whenever Shead gets off the PUP list.  And, I’ll like them even more still if some of these other guys manage to surprise us!

Neiko Thorpe is a name to watch.  He has a year in our system and just re-signed.  He’s obviously here for his special teams prowess, but he’ll definitely be given a shot to compete for a spot on the defense from Day 1.  Then, we have the other three draft picks, who were all safeties coming out of college, but who all will get a look at corner as well.  I mean, let’s face it, no one in this draft was ever going to take the place of Kam and Earl.

In watching some of the highlights of these guys – Delano Hill, Tedric Thompson, and Mike Tyson – they all look the part.  If I had to guess, I’d say Thompson projects as the best of the three in coverage.  Hill very much looks the part of a downhill strong safety a la Kam Chancellor.  Tyson also looks pretty solid in coverage, but is probably behind Thompson and Griffin.  They all look like great tacklers and they all look like HUGE upgrades over our secondary depth in 2016.

This is what I was banking on.  I was hoping we’d go to the secondary early and often in the draft (as opposed to the third round and later), but when you’re right, you’re right:  everyone was saying how this draft was super deep in the secondary, and that very much looks like the case.  I think Hill will ultimately be a better long-term option behind Kam than Kelcie McCray ever was, and I think dropoff from Earl to Thompson is a lot smaller than the dropoff from Earl to Steven Terrell.  Bottom line:  assuming these rookies don’t get injured or hit a wall, I think our secondary depth is leaps and bounds improved over last year.  Particularly with the promise that our pass rush will be able to generate extra QB pressure.

So, will the 2017 Seahawks be better than the 2016 Seahawks?  We’ll have to see these guys prove it in Training Camp, while ultimately staying a lot healthier than they did last year.  In the early going, I’m leaning towards yes, the Seahawks will be better.  At which point, we have to ask:  are the 2017 Seahawks good enough to get back to contending for the #1 seed?  I mean, I don’t see why not.  They can’t be any unluckier than they were last year, with respect to injuries.  It looks like the rest of the NFC West (aside from maybe Arizona) will be rebuilding.  But, it’s really now or never with this group.  Our core guys are all getting into their late 20’s.  Which means they’re as good as they’re ever going to get, in all likelihood.  The odds of these guys getting injured only increases.  And, with some, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a drop-off in production due to the natural aging process.

We very well may look back at the 2017 season as the last year where we had everyone in the primes of their careers.  It might all be downhill after this year, for all we know.  So, the team needs to see this and use it to increase their sense of urgency.  Pete Carroll and John Schneider have done their part:  they’ve kept the core intact (not panicking, not blowing it up, not trading Richard Sherman for pennies on the dollar and creating extra holes where you didn’t need to have them before), while filling in admirably along the edges of the roster, hopefully bolstering its depth.  At this point, it’s on the players to do their jobs, and the coaches to get everyone ready to take advantage of this unique opportunity.

I can’t wait for the off-season to start ramping up.  It’s going to be fun hearing about how the new players are fitting in.

The Seahawks’ 2017 Draft Was Unsexy & Pivotal

I don’t think we’re going to see a lot of national coverage on what the Seahawks did in this draft, and I’m okay with that.  You can see it as disrespect all you want, and I’m okay with that too, but that just means we can sit here in our little corner of the United States and just focus on football.  We’re not one of these teams who needed to draft a quarterback in the top third of the first round; we didn’t select any of these woman-beaters or drug users.  Hell, most of our guys have really uplifting and tearjerking stories of how they got to where they are today!  Good character guys, who at the very least won’t distract us from what’s most important:  the quality of play on the field.  I can’t tell you how sick and tired I was of all the Frank Clark stuff when we brought him in a couple years ago.  I thank my lucky stars we didn’t get Joe Mixon, or some of these other guys, so I don’t have to read 5,000 thinkpieces on why the NFL hates women (they do, or at least they don’t give a shit about women, so long as you can score touchdowns or sack quarterbacks on the reg, but it doesn’t mean I want to spend the whole offseason reading about it over and over again).

I know I don’t know much about the players the Seahawks drafted, so I can’t really give an informed opinion.  I like the thought process behind the positions the Seahawks targeted, even if it’s not necessarily the order I would’ve picked them in (I’ll have a separate post written at some point, lamenting the lack of Huskies and further lamenting where most of them ended up).

As always, it’s going to take a few years to see where we’re at with this class, so I’ll forego grading this thing:

  • 2nd Round – Malik McDowell – DT/DE
  • 2nd Round – Ethan Pocic – OL
  • 3rd Round – Shaquill Griffin – CB
  • 3rd Round – Delano Hill – SS
  • 3rd Round – Nazair Jones – DT
  • 3rd Round – Amara Darboh – WR
  • 4th Round – Tedric Thompson – FS
  • 6th Round – Mike Tyson – S/CB
  • 6th Round – Justin Senior – OT/G
  • 7th Round – David Moore – WR
  • 7th Round – Christopher Carson – RB

After trading down twice – from 26 to 31 (to get an extra 3rd & 7th), then from 31 to 34 (to get a 4th rounder) – the Seahawks traded down from 34 to 35 with Jacksonville, picking up an extra 6th rounder.

With the 35th pick, the Seahawks finally selected Malik McDowell.  This guy will play right away, particularly in obvious passing situations, as a pass rushing defensive tackle.  He can also play on the end, as I’m sure he and Michael Bennett will be interchangeable.  From the tape I watched on him after we made this pick, he looks like he can be quite the disruptive force in getting upfield.  I don’t know if he’s too great at stopping the run, so that might be something for him to work on.  He’ll need to stay extremely disciplined if he plays for the Seahawks, minding the gaps he’s supposed to mind and so on.  There’s also people who greatly question his effort, which is obviously concerning, because I keep hearing reports that McDowell is a Top 5 talent if not for his effort concerns.  I have to wonder if that just means going all out every play, or if that encompasses his entire life.  Like, is he going to keep up with offseason workout programs?  Am I going to have to worry about him showing up overweight and out of shape?

What I don’t buy is McDowell falling because of poor interviews.  I don’t care if my stud D-Linemen are great orators; quite frankly, with guys like Bennett, Sherman, Doug Baldwin, and so on and so forth on this team, I wouldn’t mind the Seahawks drafting a fucking mute.  Who cares if McDowell gives boring, one-word answers?  He’s not getting paid to give great interviews; he’s getting paid to kill the quarterback!

What I also don’t buy is knocking McDowell for poor effort on a bad Michigan State team in his senior season.  They keep saying his effort went downhill as they kept losing as the season wore on.  Well, so what?  If I only have to worry about his effort when he’s on a bad team, then I shouldn’t have to worry very much, because the Seahawks are VERY good still!  He’s coming onto a championship contender, so I would expect the effort will be there.  And, if it’s not, or if he’s injury prone or whatever, then we obviously have huge problems.

What I saw when I watched McDowell play is a guy with long arms, lots of strength, and lots of quickness.  He’s going to make quick work of single-teams, and if he’s double-teamed (which he probably should be a lot of the time, particularly on the interior of the line), then that just opens up lanes for Bennett, Avril, Clark, and so on.  The upside with this kid is through the roof!  If the veterans are able to keep him in line and he comes in with a positive attitude, we could be looking at the guy who replaces Bennett whenever he’s ready to retire.  McDowell is a potential superstar and long-term player, if we got this pick right.  If we failed, and he turns out to be a diva, he could be a spectacular bust.

***

One of the biggest shocks for me of this Seahawks draft is – after they made all of their trade downs to collect extra draft picks – they didn’t try to trade up (particularly in the 2nd round) and use some of that extra draft capital to pick up a unique talent.  Maybe the right deal never came along, maybe the unique talent didn’t fall far enough, or maybe all the talent at the end of the 2nd round was pretty much the same anyway and the Seahawks just took the best player available (considering their needs, of course).

In this case, that player turned out to be Ethan Pocic, offensive lineman out of LSU.  He checks off a lot of the boxes we like:  pro-style offense, has played multple positions along the line, is very intelligent, is very athletic, played in the SEC, and he absolutely towers over Russell Wilson, so watch out for those sight lines!

I think what flipped out a lot of Seahawks fans about this one is the fact that he primarily played center for LSU.  He does have experience at tackle and guard, but the overwhelming majority of his playing time was devoted to center.  And, obviously, the Seahawks already have their starting center in Britt.  Which means either we picked this guy to be our center after 2017 (in this case, Britt would walk in free agency), or the Seahawks plan to eventually extend Britt long term, and we’ve just drafted yet another guy we’re going to have to convert into something else.  Something that’s NOT his natural center position.  It’s just getting a little frustrating, you know?  Carpenter came in as a right tackle, eventually converted to left guard.  Britt was a right tackle, then a guard, until he finally made it work at center.  Ifedi was supposed to be a right tackle, but last year we made him a right guard, and now it looks like we’re going to move him back to tackle again?  Now, this Pocic guy, who is a center, will be a WHAT in 2017?

Well, for now, it looks like he’ll land on the right side of the line.  He, Ifedi, and Aboushi will all compete to be starters for those two positions, with the loser as backup.  I’ll talk more about my thoughts on the O-Line another time, but for now, I like the pick.  I’ll like Pocic even more if he IS as versatile as they say he’ll be.

***

The next two guys were right in my sweet spot.  Right where I’ve been screaming at the Seahawks to address since the 2016 season ended:  the secondary.

Shaquill Griffin is a cornerback out of UCF.  6′, 194 lbs.  He’s got long arms, is apparently a good tackler, and can play press coverage or off the ball, so he’s exactly what the Seahawks look for in a corner.  He should come in and compete for a starting spot right away, and can likely play inside or outside, which is nice, because the Seahawks need both.

Delano Hill is a strong safety out of Michigan.  Nearly 6’1, 216 lbs.  He strikes me as a Kam Chancellor type.  He likely starts out as a backup safety, playing a lot of special teams, and learning at the feet of the master.  He is good in helping to stop the run, but his coverage skills may be suspect.  Of course, they said the same thing about Kam when he came out in the draft, so we’ll just have to see.  If he can spend the majority of this year just being a promising backup, maybe next year he’ll come in and be twice the player he is now.

***

With the final two picks in the third round, the Seahawks did some very Seahawky things.

First up, Nazair Jones, DT out of North Carolina.  6’5, 304 lbs.  This guy is more of a run-stuffer, likely replacing Tony McDaniel in the interior rotation on base defense.  He should fit in nicely with Reed and Rubin, though you’ll be hard pressed to see him and McDowell on the field at the same time.  They kind of project to play the same spot on the line, with Jones in there on likely run situations, and McDowell there in likely passing situations.  This pick would seem to eliminate the annual last-minute DT free agent signing, and hopefully shore this position up for a few years.

Then, the Seahawks went rogue, picking up Amara Darboh, wide receiver out of Michigan.  6’2, 214 lbs.  Big receiver who likely won’t play much right away (unless he catches on as a special teamer), he does project to have a potentially huge role in 2018 and beyond.  We’re going into a contract year with Paul Richardson, and we’re also going into the likely final year with Jermaine Kearse (as you can cut him after the 2017 season with minimal dead money going against the cap).  While Darboh doesn’t have the speed of a Richardson, he could very well have the ball skills and leaping ability to high point over defenders.  And, while Darboh doesn’t have the experience or toughness of a Kearse, he does appear to have the blocking ability that’s kept Kearse employed for so long.  The question remains:  can he make those big, game-changing catches we’ve seen Kearse come down with throughout the years?  He’ll have to prove that in practice and pre-season games.

That having been said, I have the same concerns for him as I do for all mid-round receivers:  will he ever develop into anything?  A guy like Doug Baldwin can flourish when he came into the league, because the Seahawks were still rebuilding when he signed on.  But, the Seahawks are mostly set everywhere and are just filling in the cracks of the back-end of the roster.  Can Darboh make an immediate impact?  If not, can the Seahawks afford to keep a guy based on potential?  When our championship window continues to close on us?  It just seems like these “big” receivers we keep drafting are never worth a shit.  Hopefully, Darboh is the exception and not the rule.

***

After a pleasant night to think about the final four rounds, the Seahawks were back at it early on Saturday.  They had the 3rd pick of the 4th round, then didn’t pick again until the 3rd pick of the 6th round, but that didn’t stop them from bolstering their secondary with both of those selections.

Tedric Thompson, a safety out of Colorado, kicked it off.  6′, 204 lbs.  While Delano Hill projects as more of a Kam-type safety, Thompson projects as more of an Earl-type free safety.  Generally speaking, Colorado’s secondary was the best secondary the Huskies played all year last year; those guys REALLY impressed the shit out of me, and it obviously translated into those guys getting drafted by the NFL.  Thompson has great coverage and ball skills, producing a lot of turnovers in college, which is exactly what the Seahawks need.  His tackling skills leave a lot to be desired, but I feel like that’s something the Seahawks can coach into him.  The real worry is his history of concussions.  With the way this team likes to tackle – emphasizing shoulder tackling over spearing guys and drawing flags – I wouldn’t think that would be a huge problem.  But, you can never REALLY prevent hits to the head, so it’s going to require a bit of luck to keep Thompson in the league over a long career.

Then, the Seahawks picked up Mike Tyson out of Cincinnati in the 6th round, and everyone had a huge fucking laugh.  6’1, 204 lbs.  He’s very athletic and very raw.  Right now, he’s projected to compete as a cornerback as well as safety, so we could be looking at a guy to help compete at the nickel.  I would anticipate he cracks the special teams, develops behind the scenes, and maybe starts getting rotated into the nickel defense in 2018 and beyond (that is, if he makes the team at all, which is far from a guarantee).

More than anything, I love the strategy here.  The Seahawks saw a need for depth in the secondary, and instead of just drafting a couple 3rd rounders and calling it a day, they went out and threw a bunch of resources into the L.O.B.  All four of these guys won’t make the Opening Day roster, but you seriously improve your chances of hitting on at least one or two of these guys with the more picks you devote to the position.  I think that, more than anything, is the reason why the Seahawks never used their extra picks to move back up in any one round.  They wanted this to be a Numbers Game situation.  You hit on 100 women at the bar, odds are you’ll get at least 1 phone number!

***

The Seahawks had 3 picks in the late 6th and 7th rounds.  All of these guys are projects who I won’t spend much time on.

In the 6th, the Seahawks picked up Justin Senior, offensive tackle out of Mississippi State.  6’5, 331 lbs.  He’s only played right tackle, so that would appear to be his spot.  That having been said, a guy just playing one position has never prevented the Seahawks from pounding a square peg into a round hole.  Even if that position is power forward on the college basketball team, but I digress.  I wouldn’t expect much out of this kid.  Best case scenario is he’s a backup swing tackle.  Again, more depth.

In the early 7th, the Seahawks selected David Moore, wide receiver out of East Central.  6’1, 219 lbs.  He’s from a Division II school, which isn’t a reason to keep him out of the NFL, but obviously you first have to question the level of talent he played against.  His only shot to make the team is if he plays special teams REALLY well.  Odds are, we try to stash him on the practice squad.

In the late 7th, the Seahawks brought in Christopher Carson, running back out of OK State.  6′, 218 lbs.  Another long shot, though with the way Seahawks running backs have been getting injured the last couple seasons, maybe not as long a shot as it would first appear?  He kind of strikes me as a Thomas Rawls type, so maybe he’s a hedge against yet another Rawls injury.

***

All in all, I don’t mind the strategy.  I will say this:  I think the odds of the Seahawks picking up a cornerback who can start right away were MUCH better when taking one with your first pick, as opposed to your third rounder.  They obviously felt that the drop-off from McDowell and the type of pass-rushing DT that would’ve been available to them later in the draft was too much to cope with, when compared to the lesser drop-off of cornerbacks from Kevin King to Shaq Griffin.  But, when I look at a Kevin King (or other, comparable cornerbacks in the late first/early second round), I see a guy who not only starts right away, but plays every down.  When I look at a guy like McDowell, I see a guy who plays situationally, in a rotation.  Now, the ceiling on McDowell is through the roof, so maybe you take the long-term approach to your draft assessment.  If you hit on McDowell, and he plays at a Pro Bowl level, you can argue a disruptive D-line force is more valuable than a starting cornerback in a Cover Three defense.  But, I also think the odds of McDowell becoming that Pro Bowl-type player are longer than they are for someone like Kevin King to be a Pro Bowl corner.  In which case, the Seahawks might’ve forsaken a Pro Bowl corner just to draft a Cassius Marsh-type D-lineman (worst case scenario, obviously).

But, you can’t say the Seahawks are afraid to take risks.  Go big or go home seems to be the motto.  I think this draft, more than any of the drafts since 2013, is the most pivotal to our long-term success.  In that sense, if they’ve failed this weekend, and passed on more sure things to roll the dice on the likes of McDowell, Pocic, and Griffin, it could really spell doom for this franchise and set us back a long time.  I mean, look at the results, we haven’t had a game-changing draft since 2012; it’s been spotty at best ever since.  We need to get back to really hitting on some guys, or this team is going to wither and die at the feet of an aging Russell Wilson in a few years.

If nothing else, though, I like the potential of this draft to do EXACTLY what it was supposed to do:  improve the depth of this ballclub at the back-end of the roster.  The secondary looks like it could be replenished in a big way, the D-line DEFINITELY looks like it’s got some dogs for many years to come, the team didn’t neglect the all-important offensive line (as Pocic looks like he can not only come in to play right away, but he might be the best lineman after Britt on the entire team, without playing a single snap!), and they looked to the future of the wide receiver position and brought in at least one very interesting player who could be productive in 2018 and beyond.

If some of these guys can come in to play right away, it’ll be huge.  You know injuries are coming, and you know some of these guys (particularly on defense) will be pressed into action early and maybe often.  If they can do what some of our crappier reserves from last year couldn’t – and actually mitigate the drop-off in quality of play from starter to backup – the Seahawks might just have another Super Bowl run in them.

That’s a very big IF, of course, but the draft is here to give us hope, so we might as well take a long, satisfying drag from that cigarette.

Seahawks Death Week: The Road Ahead

So, what do the Seahawks need to do to get back to playing in Super Bowls again?

The simple answer is:  bolster the O-Line, bring in a stud running back, pump up the secondary, sign an interior pass rusher, and fill out the roster with athletes.

But, it’s never that simple.  Pete Carroll made shockwaves among Seahawks fans by indicating – in his end-of-the-season press conference – that the plan right now is to bring back the same starting O-Line that we finished with.  On the one hand, you’re not going to get anywhere without continuity along the offensive line.  Those guys need to play together, get used to one another’s tendencies, and have that sort of mental telepathy to know where they’re supposed to be and who they’re supposed to be blocking.  But, on the other hand, you can get continuity by signing me and four of my friends to play on the line, and it doesn’t mean it’ll be worth a damn if you keep running us out there year-in and year-out.  At some point, you need some motherfuckin’ talent, and talent is always going to trump continuity.

Obviously, we’ve been going on and on about how great Britt has been, so that settles the center position.  You can argue that guys like Ifedi and Fant have a lot of room to grow.  They’ve gotten a ton of experience, they got through the season mostly unscathed, they can work this offseason to get stronger and learn the intricacies of their respective positions, and they can come back next year hopefully ready to take the next step in their progression.  You can sort of make that argument with Glowinski as well, but he always seemed a better fit for the right guard position; maybe with the full year under his belt, he’ll be ready to rock n’ roll in 2017.  I think Gilliam has had it though; he’s probably as good as he’s ever going to be.  Which would be passable if the other four guys were studs, but they’re not, so I think at a minimum you have to bring in some competition for right tackle.  If I had my druthers, I’d hit the free agent market hard and pick up a good one, but I don’t know what the market’s going to look like.  You’d think there’d be at least ONE right tackle worth a damn who’s up for grabs.  I say, spend some of that extra money and pick one up.  That would make two spots on the line you don’t have to worry about, and you can flip Gilliam over to left tackle and have him push Fant in a competition for that spot.

The deal with left tackle is, obviously, Fant is far from ideal.  But, he’s who we’ve got.  You’re not going to find a superstar left tackle on the free agent market, because those guys always get snapped up by the smarter teams who actually value the O-Line.  You’re also not going to find a superstar left tackle at the 26th spot in the draft, because this is a thin draft class for offensive linemen and all the good ones are going to be drafted WAY before it gets to Seattle’s turn.  And, you’re not going to trade for one, because the cost would be prohibitive, and again I don’t think there are a ton of teams clamoring to give away their franchise left tackles.  So, the best we can hope for is to bring in competition to fight it out with Fant and may the best man win.  For what it’s worth, Fant needs to come in bigger and stronger, so he’s not constantly beaten to death by the bull rush.  Also for what it’s worth, if the Seahawks sign someone off the scrap heap, it better be someone better than fucking Sowell and Webb.

At guard, Ifedi isn’t going anywhere.  For better or for worse, the two guaranteed spots on the O-Line right now that you can lock in are Britt at center and Ifedi at right guard (barring injuries, of course).  I think they’ve come to their senses about Ifedi ever being a tackle in this league, and there would be no point in flipping him to the left side of the line since that’s his weaker side.  Plus, he’s a first round draft pick; they’re not going to give up on that kind of a talent just because he had a tough rookie season.  Hell, they gave Britt three different chances at three different spots on the line over his first three years, and he was only a second rounder!  But, at the left guard spot, I think you’ll see Glowinski and Odhiambo duke it out, which again, I don’t know if that’s something Seahawks fans want to hear, but there you go.  Now, it’s POSSIBLE the team drafts the best guard available in the first round, in which case YAY, even more competition!  I mean, seriously, this team needs to bring in as much talent as it can get, and if that means overloading at guard to finally land on the right set, I’m all for it.  I’d probably prefer that they reach for a tackle at that spot in the draft, just because I think we’re so much worse off at that position long term, but I don’t know if that’s realistic.

So, what I’m looking for out of the O-Line:  sign a right tackle, draft a guard/tackle high, and maybe sign another swing tackle off the scrap heap.

***

As for the rest of the offense, let’s start with the running game.  I like the Seahawks to draft another one.  Maybe a couple, like they did last year, but at least one.  My hunch is they’ll look to get one in Day 3 of the draft, but I wouldn’t hate it if they found a real dynamic talent in the first or second rounds.  Pit Game Changing Talent with Rawls and Prosise and I think you’ve got something you can work with.  Given Rawls’ injury history, you’re all but guaranteed that Game Changing Talent will get significant playing time.  Give me a 3-headed hydra at running back any day of the week.

At wide receiver, I don’t think you have to do much of anything.  Baldwin, Lockett, Kearse, and Richardson are your top four.  We’ve still got McEvoy in the mix, as well as a bunch of practice squad and IR guys from 2016.  Maybe you draft one on Day 3 to throw onto the developmental pile, but I think you could be best served going after a couple undrafted guys instead.

At tight end, I think you keep Jimmy Graham and I think you extend him another 2-3 years to loosen up our 2017 cap burden, while at the same time still giving us some outs in case he has another devastating injury.  For the life of me, I don’t understand the hate on this guy, considering how awesome he was in 2016.  You can piss and moan all you want about 2015, but he was still getting acclimated to our system after a career in New Orleans.  I think he’ll only continue to get better the more time he gets with Wilson.  Beyond that, I’d like to see Luke Willson back on a reasonable deal.  But, if some other team blows him away, it’s not going to kill me.  We drafted Nick Vannett to be our backup, all-around tight end, so my hope is he takes a step forward in his second year.  Also, not for nothing, but don’t be shocked if we spend a 4th or 5th rounder on another tight end in the draft, as I hear this is a good year for that position.

At quarterback, I think we bring Boykin back, but I think we look to push him by drafting another QB.  I have no insider knowledge on this, but my gut says we could even go as high as a 3rd rounder on a backup quarterback, which sounds crazy, but not as crazy as having to start Boykin if Wilson gets injured.

So, what I’m looking for out of the rest of the offense:  select another running back in the first couple days of the draft, get another backup tight end in the middle of our draft, find a diamond in the rough at quarterback (possibly as high as round 3), and hold off until Round 8 to get any more receivers.

***

Let’s go with the secondary next, because I think this unit needs the most work on defense.  I have some REAL big plans with the first two or three picks the Seahawks make in this year’s draft, and I think one of them would be best used on another safety.  Get someone big and talented, who can learn from the best.  I suppose you COULD hold off to the middle rounds for this player, but my concern is that the safety position has seen an increase in value over the years, since the Seahawks drafted the blueprint in Kam & Earl.  It’s why someone like Keanu Neal goes in the first round of the draft last year, when he might have fallen to the 4th or 5th just a few years earlier.  Also, I think this team needs someone who can play right away, because at this point I don’t know if it’s wise to trust either of our starters to play a full 16-game slate.  If they do, then that’s a bonus, and maybe you fiddle around with your defense to let the new guy get his feet wet in some special packages.

Ideally, this safety would also have excellent coverage skills, and could be used in a pinch in some nickel or dime sets, if guys get injured or whatnot.  Someone who can play both positions is exactly what this team needs right now, considering Shead is likely to start the season on the PUP list.  I think this team needs to hit the cornerback position pretty hard, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw three DBs drafted.  The Seahawks have Sherman, Lane, and a whole lotta young guys right now, so bringing in a guy who can play right away in the first day or two of the draft seems to be the smartest way to go.  If Budda Baker somehow fell to us at 26, I’d lose my shit.

Beyond that, I like the idea of the Seahawks hitting the free agent market for a dominant interior pass rusher.  I know Calais Campbell’s name has been bandied about on Seahawks Fan Twitter, and believe me, I’m right there with ’em.  I just don’t think you’re going to find any sort of game changing talent in the draft, picking where we are.  Maybe they grab another experimental player late in the draft, but I think if we’re ever going to get this sort of guy, we need to throw money at a veteran.

The rest of the D-Line is solid, I think.  I’m also a big fan of the linebacking group as well, and I hope we get a shot at re-signing Mike Morgan to be our SAM, as I don’t think this team really needs to break the bank at that position.

So, what I’m looking for out of the defense:  hit the secondary in the draft early and often, re-sign Mike Morgan, sign a superstud interior pass rusher, and maybe some experimental players at the D-Line and linebacker spots if there’s room.

***

What I like most about our chances going into 2017 is that there’s not a ton of dead weight to lop off.  I think you let Sowell sign elsewhere.  Don’t break the bank on Luke Willson.  I wouldn’t mind seeing Marcel Reece back, as I thought he did some of the best lead blocking in a Seahawks uniform since Mack Strong retired.  I wouldn’t mind seeing Tony McDaniel back at the right price.  Maybe we look to shore up linebacker, find someone in the draft a little more promising than KPL.  And, don’t really kill yourselves trying to bring back McCray.

I think the Seahawks need to look awful hard at long snapper again this year, because that was never NOT an issue with this team in 2016.  And, I think the Seahawks need to look at the kicker spot.  Was this year just an anomaly for Hauschka?  Or, is this the beginning of the end?  Kicking is such a mental game, and if these longer extra points are going to be an issue for him, then maybe the Seahawks have to look at selecting a kicker in the 6th round.  I mean, a drafted kicker couldn’t be MUCH worse than what we got out of Hauschka last year, right?  Sure, dude only missed 4 field goals all year, but two of them were inside of 30 yards.  Plus, he missed 6 extra points and another one in the playoffs.  So, you know, that shit’s gotta stop.  Plus, his last deal with us averaged nearly $3 million a year, so it’s not like he’s going to accept a significant pay decrease just to re-sign with us.  Maybe 2017 is the year we draft a kicker of the future and take our chances?  It wouldn’t crush me, I’ll put it that way.

Seahawks Death Week: Looking On The Bright Side

Hey look, I get it, losing sucks.  Teams like the Seahawks have a finite championship window.  On the one hand, that’s a good thing because it means we have a good team.  The Cleveland Browns don’t have a finite championship window because they suck!  On the other hand, that championship window is going to close sooner or later, if it hasn’t already.  For what it’s worth, I think the future still looks pretty promising, but that obviously comes with the fact that they have work to do on the player personnel side.

Before I get into the promising future, let’s take a quick look back.  We’re at the end of the best 5-year run in franchise history!  56-23-1, or a .706 winning percentage.  That easily bests any of the best 5-year runs in the 80’s, as well as that superb 5-year run in the Holmgren years.  This includes the fact that we’ve won at least 10 games AND made the playoffs AND won at least one playoff game every season since 2012.  Only the Patriots have done that, and they enjoy the luxury of having the very worst divisional opponents this side of the AFC South.  On top of that, factor in 3 divisional championships, 2 Super Bowl appearances, and 1 championship, and you could say the Seahawks have been pretty hashtag-blessed in this run.

All the while, the Seahawks have remained one of the youngest teams in the NFL.  Now, more and more, that’s a result of the back-end of our roster being filled with rookies, but the players at the top are still in their primes, which means we’ve got at least 2-3 more years of this championship window left to stress over!

First and foremost, we’ve got a franchise quarterback.  You’re not going anywhere without a franchise quarterback.  Just ask those aforementioned Cleveland Browns, or the Houston Texans, Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars, San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bears, New York Jets, and so on and so forth.  Even in those rare instances where a team rides its defense to a title, you’re never going to be able to achieve sustained success with that tactic.  Yeah, Peyton Manning stunk in 2015 and the Broncos won it all, but you saw what happened in 2016.  Due to salary cap constraints, players get poached.  Due to the law of averages, a defense largely healthy one year suffers a bevy of injuries the next.  I mean, go back through time of all the teams with elite defenses and crappy quarterbacks – 2002 Bucs, 2000 Ravens, 1985 Bears – did any of them repeat?  The Bears didn’t make another Super Bowl until the 2006 season; the Bucs haven’t been back period; and the Ravens didn’t win it all again until the 2012 season, at which time their defense was a shell of its former self, and they were able to ride the hot hand of Joe Flacco of all people.  The overwhelming majority of Super Bowl champions – and even Super Bowl participants – had either great quarterbacks, or average quarterbacks having great seasons.

Now, is there cause for concern about Russell Wilson’s 2016 season?  Sure felt like a step back to me, but I don’t know how much you can learn about a season when he’s hobbled and still running for his life because of that O-Line.  I think it all finally caught up to him, resulting in rushed throws, which in turn resulted in a lot of inaccurate throws.  Improved offensive line play will surely result in improved quarterback play.  Or, it’ll spell doom for a promising young player who looked like he was on the fast track to the Hall of Fame.

As I mentioned before, the wide receiver group is as strong as ever.  Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett are great players.  Jermaine Kearse unquestionably had a down year in 2016, but he nevertheless brings a lot to the table with his blocking and his rapport with Wilson and the other receivers.  Paul Richardson came on like gangbusters after Lockett went down.  If we’re able to incorporate him more into this offense, we haven’t had a player with his combination of speed and catch radius EVER in the Pete Carroll era.  The person who comes closest is Sidney Rice in his prime, which I think this team would take in a heartbeat.  When you top it off with Jimmy Graham – who I believe this team not only needs to hang onto in 2017, but should probably look to extend out another 2-3 years to make his cap hits more reasonable – this offense has the weapons in the passing game to succeed.  They won’t need to hit the free agent or trade markets, nor will they need to look in the draft all that high.

Running back might be another story.  When healthy, you’ve got elite talent with Rawls and Prosise, but obviously you can’t count on either of them for a full 16-game season plus playoffs.  Alex Collins really started to play well towards the end of the season, so obviously I think you keep him in the mix.  But, this team will most definitely have to look in the draft for another quality back to throw onto the pile.

In talking about the O-Line, Justin Britt was a pleasant surprise and lone bright spot.  While there is plenty of work to do here, it’s nice to know at least ONE spot out of five is locked in.

Defensively, we’re still stacked up and down the lineup.  Bennett and Avril are still making lives miserable.  Frank Clark – already solid as a rookie – took a big leap forward in his second year, setting himself up for a HUGE third season, and likely a huge payday once next season concludes.  Along the interior, Rubin and Reed and the return of Tony McDaniel helped us maintain our status as one of the best run defenses in the league.  You never mind picking up extra talent in this group – particularly at the back end, to shore up the depth – but D-Line isn’t really the priority it has been the last couple years.

I was most impressed with our linebackers in 2016.  Bobby Wagner had a so-so 2015, and responded with the best season of his career this past year.  He was, in fact, the best linebacker in the entire NFL, which is no small feat.  Led the league in tackles, managed 4.5 sacks for a guy who doesn’t rush the passer a ton, and was just generally always around the football.  K.J. Wright continued being the most underrated defender in football, and the guy most deserving of a Pro Bowl invite who has yet to actually make it who finally got in this year!  This group didn’t see its strongside linebacker out on the field a lot, but when Mike Morgan came back from injury, he was a force, particularly in setting the edge on running plays.  Just, all around, the best linebacking unit in football, period.

The secondary, while it needs some work, has the broad strokes in place.  Richard Sherman didn’t have his best year (and, it sounds like half that year he was dealing with an MCL issue), but when he’s locked in on his side of the field, as you saw in the Detroit playoff game, he’s still a force to be avoided.  On the opposite side, DeShawn Shead got the starting nod and really acquitted himself well.  Unfortunately, they didn’t trust him enough to just leave him over there – as we saw more and more Richard Sherman following the other team’s best receiver – and I think that might’ve had something to do with our defense taking a step back.  At safety, Kam was his usual dominant self when he was on the field, and Earl was Earl (again, when he was on the field).  The fact that both of those guys missed some pretty extensive time this year, and the fact that our defense REALLY suffered accordingly, means this team has work to do in shoring up our depth in the secondary.  Those four guys, plus Jeremy Lane, were supposed to make the secondary this team’s #1 strength.  Instead, they were this team’s second-biggest weakness, when the likes of Kelcie McCray, Steven Terrell, DeAndre Elliott, and Neiko Thorpe were thrust into active duty.  Bolster the unit from the bottom up and we should see a return to former glories for the secondary.

The foundation is solid, is what I’m trying to get at!  Across the board, except for the O-Line.  We’ve just got to figure out a way to get the complementary pieces in place to get us through the hard times.  As luck would have it, 2017 presents a unique opportunity to really pump this team full of talent.  The Salary Cap should be upwards of $170 million.  Our dead money is currently less than $1 million.  Add that to our contracts already on file, we’ve spent approximately $135 million on our 2017 roster.  The best part, though?  Our list of unrestricted free agents is pretty weak.  The most expensive player on that list is Steven Hauschka, and we might end up looking in another direction at kicker anyway, given how poor of a season he had in 2016.  Then, there’s Luke Willson, who figures to test the market and see if he can get himself a starting job somewhere.  If he comes back to Seattle, it’ll likely be on a very reasonable deal.  As for starter types, Mike Morgan and Tony McDaniel could be had on small deals as well.  Beyond those guys, we’re talking about the bottom of the roster:  McCray, Sowell, Thorpe, Marcel Reece, Tukuafu, Jeron Johnson, Brandon Williams, and Damontre Moore.  So, you know, it’s not like there’s some big contract we need to take care of on our own roster.

I’m fuzzy at best as to what the free agent market is going to look like, but that’s a topic for another day.  For now, let’s just bask in the glow that we’ve got a very good football team, with some very smart people running the show, and we’re really not THAT far off from competing for the top seed in the NFC and the Super Bowl.

My Prediction For Seahawks @ Falcons

I think the Seahawks will lose.

Sorry, but I’m having a hard time seeing us go all the way to Atlanta, playing a well-rested, talented Falcons team, and coming away victorious.  I think the Seahawks are clear underdogs, meaning that if you played this game 100 times, the Seahawks would lose well over 50% of the time.  I think it’ll take nearly a perfect game to come away victorious.  There’s probably a 2% chance of the Seahawks blowing them out, maybe a 30% chance of the Seahawks squeaking out a victory, a 50% chance of the Falcons winning by one score, and the rest devoted to a Falcons blowout.

We’ve seen this game from these Seahawks before.  Just last year in the Divisional Round, the underdog Seahawks went into Carolina, saw themselves losing 31-0 at halftime, and scrambled their way to a 31-24 defeat.  But, it took the Seahawks scoring on nearly every second half possession to get it that close, and quite frankly, it took the Panthers taking their foot off the gas and coasting to victory.

We saw something relatively similar two years ago against the Packers.  We might not have been underdogs in that game, but we were nevertheless facing a hungry team with a fantastic offense, and we found ourselves down 16-0 at halftime and 19-7 with under 4 minutes to go in the game, before a miracle of all miracles saw us win 28-22 in overtime.

Or, HEY, I know!  What about the 2012 season’s playoffs?  Underdog Seahawks, Divisional Round, in Atlanta … 20-0 Falcons at halftime!  Miracle comeback, blah blah blah, lost on a last minute field goal 30-28.

The Seahawks, in the playoffs, have an incredible knack for not showing up whatsoever in the first halves of ballgames, before turning it on in the second halves, making furious comebacks, and sometimes sticking the landing, but more often than not falling flat on our faces.

Not for nothing, but you tend to see this happen in a lot of our regular season losses too.   The maddening thing is:  the Seahawks have the talent to beat anyone.  It’s not like we’re talking about the Browns, or even the Lions for that matter.  There are still healthy Pro Bowlers and All Pros up and down this lineup.  Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Jimmy Graham, Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Jon Ryan.  Studs, one and all!  I’m not a connoisseur of the Atlanta Falcons’ roster, but I’d wager we have more great players than they do, at more key positions.

But, for some reason, we come out flat in games EXACTLY like this one.  Wilson comes out misfiring.  The O-Line gets overwhelmed.  The running game can’t get going.  Jermaine Kearse gets called for pass interference.  Steven Hauschka misses a field goal.  The D-Line fails to get home.  The middle of the field get shredded.  The linebackers who seemingly show up each and every game are conspicuously absent.  We go down double-digits, try to recover, go down even further, and go into halftime trying to talk ourselves into a comeback while actively despising this team and wishing it didn’t ALWAYS have to be the Cardiac Kids in the 4th quarter.

Just because the Seahawks CAN beat everyone gives us a false sense of security that they WILL beat everyone.  And when they don’t, it’s always the fucking same.  Yet, for some reason, it catches us off guard and it feels like the first time all over again.

Well, not THIS time!  You’re not suckering me into believing.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still be watching, and I’ll still be rooting like crazy.  But, if being a “real fan” means you have to blindly believe they’re going to win every single game, then I’m sorry, but you’ve come to the wrong guy.

Best case scenario, I hope the Seahawks can get the ball back, down one score, with two minutes left.  I suppose you can’t ask for much more than that.  I just hope we succeed in getting that score, and I hope we don’t leave too much time on the clock.

Seahawks Look Like Their Old Selves In Beating The Lions

Well, that was something, huh?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saints Be Praised: The Seahawks Finally Beat The Rams!

With Jeff Fisher’s sorcery over the Seahawks no longer a dark cloud surrounding this franchise, maybe we can finally go out and win some championships!

Also, uhh, how about those green unis?  I still contend they’re better than the green ones we wore in 2009 that one time – mostly because they didn’t tack blue onto the sleeves for no good reason – but yeah.  It’s not like I’m against alternate unis (so long as they don’t have feathers on the shoulderpads, you stupid fucking Oregon Ducks), but I don’t understand why they have to be neon-ass green!  What about an alternate, ligher, more old school blue?  Or an alternate, old school silver?  Mostly, I just want to see the throwbacks come back for the Seahawks, and if we had to shoe-horn it into some Color Rush bastardization, then fine.

But, I guess the kids like the neon.  I think the best alternate uniform would’ve been more of a darker emerald color.  You know, because Seattle’s the Emerald City and everything?

Whatever.  It’s fine.  I don’t really care that much.  I’m sure they crunched the numbers and did the research and determined this was the most profitable way to go, so okay.

As for the game itself, I don’t know what to tell you.  It’s another Thursday dog.  I’m just glad the Seahawks were on the right side of history.  A loss there and we’re talking about just a disaster of a missed opportunity season.  That might still come to pass, but we’ve put ourselves – currently 9-4-1 – in a great position to leap back into the 2-seed if the Lions lose to the Giants this Sunday.

I didn’t see everything.  I watched the first half at the Yard House in downtown Seattle, then at halftime I made my way to the Rabbit Hole over in Belltown to see bits and parts of the third quarter before a comedy show at The Moore at 8pm.  The first half was pretty erratic.  LOTS of potential big plays the defense could’ve given up, had it not been for the Rams being so inept.  The fucking Packers wouldn’t have botched some of those wide open throws!  If Jeff Fisher weren’t in some underground bunker right now, I’m sure his presence would’ve led to the Rams hitting on those plays!

By the way, I have a theory about why the Rams would fire Fisher in the same week they had to prepare for a Thursday game:  I think they really wanted to get rid of him – before things started to sour even further among the players and the rest of the organization – but they were worried that he’d ONCE AGAIN pull out a miracle win against the Seahawks.  And, if that happened, I mean, how do you fire a guy coming off of a win against a playoff team?  You don’t, that’s how!  You’re then stuck with him, and that would’ve given them that many fewer weeks to go on with their coaching search.

On another side note:  what the hell was Jeff Fisher’s son doing still coaching there?  If I were him, I would’ve quit out of solidarity!  Fuck the Rams!

I did think it was pretty funny that the kind of shit the Rams like to pull on us – aka the Fake Punt – went disasterously for them with Jeff Fisher out of the picture.  Meanwhile, I can’t even remember the last time the Seahawks ran a fake punt, but Jon Ryan absolutely killed it until he figuratively got killed.  A punter in the concussion protocol?  Only the Seahawks.  Only in 2016, the year where we can’t fucking have nice things anywhere.

Wilson had a pretty solid day by the numbers, but still had some questionable decisions.  His interception was thrown into triple coverage (I heard), and that throw to Graham at the back of the endzone ABSOLUTELY deserved a Richard Sherman rant on the sidelines!  I mean, SERIOUSLY Seahawks!  What the fuck is the MATTER with you?  STOP THROWING THE BALL FROM THE 1 YARD LINE, YOU MISERABLE CUNTS!!!

Somewhat surprisingly, the run game didn’t do anything.  Jon Ryan had the longest run of the night at 26 yards, and only needed 9 more to lead the team.  Thomas Rawls led the way with a miserable 1.6 yards per carry average, which … come on.  I know the Rams have a good D-line and everything, but what’s-his-name (Robert Quinn) was put on IR before the game, so they were down their best defensive end.  How are you going to win a game by three touchdowns, with their offense doing next-to-nothing all night, and only manage a total of 72 yards on 30 carries as a team?  This is some fucked up repugnant shit!

Tyler Lockett had himself a game, boy!  A career high in receiving yards at 130, tied a career high in receptions at 7, and yeah, fucking finally, his first receiving TD of the season!  I heard they gave him the start over Jermaine Kearse, which was a long time coming, really.  I like Kearse a lot, and I think he does a lot that he doesn’t get credit for, but he’s been miserable in the receiving game this year.  His bout of the Drops has returned from its banishment at the University of Washington; someone better check his lasik surgery to see if he needs a touch-up!  On top of that, Russell Wilson has this perverse need to get Kearse the ball on the reg, even though he’s this offense’s, like, 7th or 8th-best option when everyone’s healthy.  I get it, Kearse was a huge factor for us when we only employed a bunch of “pedestrians” at wide receiver, and he’s made some of the biggest catches in franchise history.  But, for whatever reason, this just isn’t his year, and to continuously force feed him the ball – particularly when we’ve got someone elite in Tyler Lockett just languishing there – is a crime against humanity, and against a very good football team looking to get back to the Super Bowl before it’s too late.

Doug Baldwin had himself a nice game too, with 5 catches and a TD.  Look for the vine of him absolutely obliterating the ankles of his defender on the TD catch; Allen Iverson would be proud.

Defensively, it looked like we hounded Goff pretty good.  Avril and Clark each had 1.5 sacks, Marsh added one of his own.  Michael Bennett got into the mix, and was a 1-man wrecking crew on the play that knocked him out of the game.  It initially sounded like a concussion, but ended up being a neck injury.  I don’t know if that’s better?  Let’s just hope it doesn’t keep him out of any games.

We gotta lock down that 2-seed.  Period.  Overall, a good team win, an important win in an important season.  Now, we need a little bit of help, and we need to take care of business the rest of the way.  Next game on Christmas Eve, so let’s rest up and get right.  Next week, I’ll do a post on the playoff situation as we hit the home stretch.  Two games to go!