The 2016 Seahawks Have A 53-Man Roster

Labor Day weekend was spent, by me, watching college football, going to parts of Bumbershoot, and constantly refreshing Twitter to check out the cuts, the signings, the trades, and the practice squad picks.

I won’t get into the whole 53-man here, but I’ll talk a little bit about some of the noteworthy choices.  You can see how everything compares to my lone roster prediction here.

Scrolling from top to bottom, the first thing that sticks out is how the Seahawks waived Will Tukuafu, to eventually be replaced by Tani Tupou (who plays both fullback and defensive tackle).  For a while there, it looked like the Seahawks weren’t going to have ANY fullback, and people predictably lost their shit for some reason.  Beat writers spent most of the weekend reassuring people that this was all a cost-cutting effort by the team to avoid having a full season’s worth of salary guaranteed to the veteran Tukuafu; and that by having him sign AFTER week 1, the team would reach that goal.  Even though the Seahawks brought Tupou back, I think nothing has changed in that regard.  There was a reason why the team originally cut Tupou, and there’s a reason why he was still readily available all this time later.  Tupou will still be there in the coming weeks, if Tukuafu ever gets injured.  For one week, Tupou gets to show if he’s worth bringing back, should disaster strike the fullback position.

The next shocker comes in the form of Tanner McEvoy cracking the roster as the team’s fifth wide receiver.  I don’t know what this means for his prospects as a tight end.  I don’t even know if he’s healthy enough to practice after missing a couple weeks with a nagging injury.  I do know this speaks volumes about his potential, and that he was rightly sought after by other teams, and never would’ve made it to the Practice Squad.  What this means for him long term is anyone’s guess.  I’d wager we’ll see him as a healthy scratch more often than not, and he’s REALLY going to have to make strides in practice to not get passed over.

Regarding the O-Line, I had that unit nailed except for one guy.  Will Pericak indeed made it back onto the Practice Squad, while rookie George Fant – a tackle prospect – gets that 9th and final roster spot.  The ends justifies the means, I suppose.  I still like Pericak as a talented prospect, but it probably wouldn’t hurt this team to hang onto four tackles.  Sowell is no sure thing, Webb was beat out by Gilliam when he got the most guaranteed money of any of our free agent offensive lineman this offseason, and Gilliam has already failed in his charge of converting over to the left side, when that’s all he was working towards this offseason.  Fant will most certainly be a healthy scratch for most of the season, but hopefully he can learn the left tackle position and win the starting job in 2017.

On the D-Line, I rightly predicted Jordan Hill’s release, but I didn’t quite nail this team keeping the 5th D-Tackle.  Garrison Smith was claimed after the 49ers released him and hopefully he’ll help provide some of that interior pass rush Hill brought.  Either that, or let’s hope Quinton Jefferson as a rookie will make a big leap in the early going of his career.

For the rest of the defense, I see we let Pinkins go, which I probably should’ve seen coming.  Wishful thinking, I guess, but it’s no shocker considering the team has let him go before.  I also see that we kept 11 DBs when I thought that was too many initially.  Of course, my prediction differed GREATLY from what the team ultimately decided upon.

I had Marcus Burley, Tye Smith, and Brandon Browner all sticking.  Instead, we opted to hang onto Steven Terrell, DeAndre Elliott, and trade for Dewey McDonald from Oakland.  We had also traded for the 49ers’ L.J. McCray, but he has since failed his physical (hence the re-signing of Tupou above).  Burley’s a tough one to swallow, especially when it was rumored that the Seahawks made all of these moves in the secondary – in large part – to shore up our special teams coverage.  But, I guess the team likes Tharold Simon’s play on the outside more than keeping a third nickel guy.  Brandon Browner’s release wasn’t all that shocking, considering we never really saw him play much in the pre-season.  For all we like to think about this coaching staff trying to pull one over on the league, hiding players until the games matter, they actually do the opposite more times than not.  They don’t mind giving the league tape on our guys, because they also want to evaluate how these guys look in real game situations.

The biggest disappointment is Tye Smith.  He was a draft pick last year who the team kept on its 53-man roster the whole season, and he was a guy the team had high expectations for coming into 2016.  Hell, from the sounds of things, Tye Smith had high expectations about Tye Smith coming into 2016.  But, from what I saw, he never really flashed, never really made many impact plays, and was never really called out for excellent coverage skills by the broadcast team.  Not only was Tye Smith cut, but he wasn’t even brought back onto the Practice Squad!  He could still be out there on the ghost roster, ready to be picked up during the season should a need arise, or try out for the 90-man next offseason, but that’s a pretty big blow.  DeAndre Elliott, an undrafted rookie with a similar build to Smith, DID flash this pre-season.  I remember seeing him mix it up quite a bit.  He very well could be the next DeShawn Shead if he keeps at it, so that’s nice to see.

On the special teams, still no movement on the long snapper position.  Nolan Frese, you may be safe for another week!

Seattle Seahawks 2016 Draft Spectacular!

I watched all of the first round, while in my apartment, reading from Twitter, and sending out the occasional text.  I had the draft on in the background for rounds two & three as I visited with my dad and brother, occasionally muting the commercials so I could listen to the local coverage on KJR AM, until I ultimately lost interest as we started drinking and playing Yahtzee.  I missed most of the last four rounds entirely, as I was helping friends move some stuff, then ate lunch at The Eleven Eleven in Tacoma, before catching the tail end of the draft.  It was a fun-filled weekend of sun and laughs that I shall cherish for always.

The Seattle Seahawks picked up some new guys in the process.  These are those guys:

  • First Round (31st overall) – Germain Ifedi, RT
  • Second Round (49th overall) – Jarran Reed, DT
  • Third Round (90th overall) – C.J. Prosise, RB
  • Third Round (94th overall) – Nick Vannett, TE
  • Third Round (97th overall) – Rees Odhiambo, G
  • Fifth Round (147th overall) – Quinton Jefferson, DT
  • Fifth Round (171st overall) – Alex Collins, RB
  • Sixth Round (215th overall) – Joey Hunt, C
  • Seventh Round (243rd overall) – Kenny Lawler, WR
  • Seventh Round (247th overall) – Zac Brooks, RB

Some potentially interesting undrafted guys include:

  • Steve Longa, LB
  • Tre Madden, RB
  • Trevone Boykin, QB
  • Tyvis Powell, S
  • Vernon Adams, QB (tryout basis)

I dunno, there could be other interesting guys, but that’s what I’ve gleaned from Twitter and various websites.  Anyone who I didn’t list is either an oversight, or is merely camp fodder.

Among the guys I like to produce for the Seahawks right away include Ifedi (who I talked about last week as a guy who should most certainly win a spot somewhere on the offensive line), Reed (who projects to be Brandon Mebane’s replacement), Prosise (who looks to have the inside track for that 3rd down running back job), and Vannett (who looks to be pushing Cooper Helfet out of Seattle, barring injury somewhere else).  Since we’re looking at those four players as having the best chance to make the team better, let’s talk about them first (as I just mentioned, you can read about Ifedi in the link above).

Jarran Reed was noted to be the best run-stuffing tackle in the draft.  One of 25 players invited to sit in at the draft live, he was the 25th of those man taken as he slid into the middle of the second round.  The Seahawks talked about him as being among the guys they considered in the first round at pick #31, so it’s certainly awesome to see the Seahawks technically got two first round-graded players.  When you think about why a player this good might have slipped into the second round, I think you can look no further than how the NFL has devalued the running game.  Running backs aren’t being given the huge contracts they once were, they’re not being taken as high as they once were (even though the Cowboys went rogue and took one with the 4th overall pick), and more and more often you’re seeing rookies step right in and produce, for pennies on the dollar.  A byproduct of this line of thinking is that stopping the run has also become devalued.  Most offenses don’t feature the run like we do.  As such, most teams don’t feel the need to put a large amount of resources into stopping the run, when there are bigger fish to fry in the secondary and in the pass rush.  The Seahawks, by their nature, feature an elite secondary and a pretty great pass rush.  Other teams know that and might think they could run on us as a result, but that’s why – unlike most teams – the Seahawks don’t neglect stopping the run.  They coach it, and they put resources into it.  Up until this year, they’ve had Brandon Mebane under contract and filling that void.  With Mebane off to sunny San Diego, the Seahawks had another void to fill, and Reed figures to be it.  That’s no knock to Sealver Siliga – he’ll definitely be great to have around as depth, and as a veteran presence, not to mention any goalline packages against jumbo offensive sets – but he’s on a 1-year deal.  Reed is our nose tackle of the future, and we got him at a second round discount.

I know it’s not sexy, I know he probably won’t make any Pro Bowls (because, again, the elite run stuffers never get the attention they deserve; it’s all about sacks at the defensive tackle position that make them stand out), but Reed is a starter, plain and simple.  The Seahawks just drafted a quality 4-year starter who should help us maintain our dominance in stopping the run defensively.

You want to know what IS sexy?  Running backs!  Running backs are sexy as hell!  C.J. Prosise is a DB that was converted to a linebacker for a short period that was converted to a wide receiver that was THEN converted to a running back.  The kid’s got hands, he can run the entire route tree, but he’s also big enough (6′, 220 lbs), that he could theoretically run up inside and one day possibly be an every-down back for this team.  I don’t know if I want to project all of that upon him right now, but I LOVE his third down potential for this team.  I love thinking about the 1-back shotgun sets we like to run (zone read, play action, and so on), and I love thinking about the no-back/5-wides shotgun sets we like to run.  Normally, I HATE it when we go empty backfield, because I have these visions of Russell Wilson being chased around by bad men out to harm him.  And, while Marshawn Lynch had pretty good hands for a running back, he was never someone I was 100% confident in (but, maybe that’s more on me than a reflection of his abilities), but either way, he’s gone now, and there’s a void to fill there too.  When you look at someone like Thomas Rawls, you see a guy who really struggled in the pass-catching part of the game, which is pretty huge.  Wilson’s not a guy who likes to check the ball down to the running back often, but when he does it’s either because he has no other choice and he’s about to be flattened, or it’s because he sees potential for the running back to get a lot of yards, with a ton of green field around him.  So, losing those modest and potentially huge gains because the running back has stone hands is something that may ultimately hurt Rawls in the long run, and lead to an opening for Prosise to take over the job on an every-down basis.

Right now, the only thing standing in Prosise’s way is his ability to hold up in pass protection.  Regardless of how talented, or athletic, or fast you are; you could have game-breaking ability and be seen as The Next Fill-in-the-Blank-Superstar, but if you can’t pick up the blitz, you’re not even going to SNIFF the field.  Don’t believe me?  Ask Christine Michael how his professional career has gone so far, after being a highly-coveted second round pick and potential Marshawn Lynch replacement.  If Prosise has that in him, or at least the want-to to learn how to do it, then he’s light years ahead already.

Nick Vannett is a guy I find REALLY interesting.  Depth at the tight end position has been seriously lacking since Pete Carroll and John Schneider took over.  Usually, we have one good one, and then a huge drop-off.  Zach Miller was the guy initially, and he was great when he was healthy.  He helped out tremendously when this offensive line was in its infancy, as an extra blocker to try to reduce some of the pressure on the quarterback.  He also did just enough in the passing game to keep defenses honest, as his soft hands made up for his inability to really run away from defenders down the seam.  The Seahawks went and drafted Luke Willson in 2013, but he was always more of a project.  The speed was there, and his height made him a nice little weapon in the passing game, but he’s never been known for his blocking ability.  Make no mistake, he’s made great strides in that area, as he’s been a hard worker for the Seahawks.  But, he is and always will be more known for his offense.  Plus, let’s be honest, he’s really more of a nice #2 option, which is why the Seahawks went out and got Jimmy Graham.  But, again, you’re talking about more of a wide receiver than a tight end.  No matter what he says, no matter how hard he tries, he’s never going to be a good blocker.  It doesn’t mean he doesn’t have value, but there are going to be times where he’s in there, and the Seahawks run the ball, and they don’t get anything out of it because Graham messed up on his assignment.  That’s just the way it’s going to be.

Now, though, we’ve got this Vannett guy, who right away comes with visions of Zach Miller.  Not in that he’s just a “blocking tight end”, but that he’s an “all-around tight end”.  Something this team has been lacking since Miller’s injuries finally forced him out of the league.  And, not for nothing, but Vannett’s confidence in interviews makes me think he’s got just the type of personality that’s going to thrive on a team of alpha dogs.  He’s 6’6, so there’s the height you look for; it doesn’t sound like he has great speed, so he’s not going to be a guy who burns it up the seams either.  But, by some accounts, he has some of the best pass-catching hands in the draft, which leads me to believe this guy is going to be super reliable and a secret weapon.  I mean, think about it, on a team with the wide receivers we’ve got, with Jimmy Graham, and with Luke Willson both as more like tall wide receivers than tight ends, someone like Nick Vannett isn’t going to attract the team’s best defender.  He’s going to get some slow linebacker or maybe even a defensive end on him, which means you should just throw to an area and be able to hit Vannett for a nice gain.  He’ll never be this team’s number 1 option or anything, but with other guys potentially covered, I like the potential this guy has to be a nice outlet for Wilson.  Plus, he should figure to be a quality option in the red zone too (assuming the team uses him properly, which is always a questionmark).

***

That brings us to the project half of the draft.  Guys who are interesting, but whose spots on this team are by no means guaranteed.

Let’s keep going down the line with Rees Odhiambo, a guy whose name I’m going to need to look up to remember how to spell for the first couple years at least.  He was a starting left tackle in college, but his frame suggests he’s going to be a guard in the NFL.  Which, when you think about it, most guards in the NFL are converted tackles anyway, who were only playing on the outside in college because that’s where teams put their best linemen.  With the shorter arms, and less athletic ability, you get bumped inside.  Odhiambo does have good size, though (6’4, 314 lbs), which suggests he may one day compete for the left guard spot (where Cable likes his bigger guards, compared to on the right side, where he likes them lighter and more athletic).  Considering Odhiambo was taken at the end of the third round (probably projected as more of a fourth or early fifth rounder, except the Seahawks had traded away their fourth rounder to move up in the second round), you figure he’s going to need a year to develop.  Depending on his skill-level right now, that either means the team stashes him on the practice squad (if he’s more raw in his skills) or is forced to carry him on the 53-man roster, and make him inactive every week (if he projects to be a future starter; see:  Mark Glowinski last year).

When you figure the Seahawks needed to upgrade along the offensive line, and needed to boost the level of competition among our reserves (with Alvin Bailey moving on), grabbing Ifedi and now Odhiambo gives us a couple of up-and-coming young players who may one day share jobs on the same O-Line.  Odhiambo, with his experience as a left tackle, should be more technically sound in the pass protection game, but we’ll see how he does in camp before we pass any judgment (good or bad) his way.

Let me go ahead and skip over a few guys, as I keep with the offensive line theme.  In the sixth round, the Seahawks took Joey Hunt, a center out of TCU.  As you may know, I (along with most everyone else) really wanted to see Ryan Kelly fall to the Seahawks.  Instead, the Colts took him with the 18th pick, to pair him with Andrew Luck for the next decade; can’t say I blame them.  Seeing a center go that high is beyond rare; you’ve got to be a special, once-in-a-generation type of talent (which is pretty sad, since he’s the Andrew Luck of centers, and he only went as high as 18th in the draft).  With three picks in the third round, you figured the Seahawks would grab one of the better ones there, but there was a little mini-run on centers earlier in the third round, so the position never really felt appropriate for the Seahawks to pick until the sixth.

Hunt was a guy in college who was an elite pass protector, which is something this team desperately needs in the middle.  If, indeed, we’re going with the types of guards Tom Cable likes to employ, they’re more maulers than they are protectors.  The Seattle Seahawks like to run the ball a lot, often to the detriment of the passing game, when it comes to the offensive line.  If we could manage to sneak just ONE elite pass protector in there, in a guy like Hunt, I think it would help out a great deal.  Now, he’s a bit under-sized, at anywhere from 295-299 lbs, which means there’s a chance he could get bullied in the running game.  But, when you look at centers, oftentimes they’re there to help double team with one of the guards.  As such, I don’t know if you expect a lot of 1 on 1 blocking out of your center.  What you NEED is a guy who is smart, who can call out the protections and assignments, and keep everything and everyone around him running smoothly (with the occasional burst up field to knock out linebackers at the second level).  I think Hunt can very much be that guy.  He may need some seasoning.  He may need a year to bulk up a little bit, to ensure he’s ready for the rigors of playing 16 games plus playoffs.  Which is why we have Patrick Lewis on board for one more year.  Let Lewis run the show in 2016, with an eye towards Hunt in 2017 and beyond.  Could be a GREAT value pick for the Seahawks if it pans out the way I’ve decided it should.

On the other side of the ball, the Seahawks took a second defensive tackle, this one with more of an eye towards rushing the passer.  Quinton Jefferson, whom the Seahawks traded up in the fifth round to get (giving up a 4th rounder in the 2017 draft in the process, but we should be getting a compensatory pick there, so it’s not all bad).  With Jordan Hill going into the final year of his rookie deal, you may be looking at his replacement right here.  Probably unreasonable to expect much out of him as a rookie, you nevertheless like the potential for him to slide into that rotation in pass rushing downs.  There’s going to be a significant numbers game going on with the D-Line this year, though, so we’ll see if he makes the cut.  Considering the Seahawks did trade up to get him, you think they’ll do everything they can to ensure he sticks with the team through the year.

Towards the end of the draft, the Seahawks picked up Kenny Lawler, a 6’2 wide receiver out of Cal, to throw onto the pile.  That gives us 12 officially on the roster, with, I’m sure, another few coming via tryouts and whatnot.  This is a stacked position, with Baldwin, Kearse, Lockett, and Richardson all figuring to be locks to make the team.  Then, you’ve got experienced guys in Kevin Smith and Kasen Williams back in the fold, and other guys from our ghost roster who are familiar with the system and our training camps.  By all accounts, Lawler has great hands, and is superb in the endzone, but he’s a seventh round pick for a reason.  He’s probably not all that fast, and in the NFL, he’s going to have to make his mark by winning the 50/50 balls.  Not dropping anything in sight is a great way to get your name remembered, but making highlight reel catches in practice will get you on the team in some capacity.  If he doesn’t have that in him, he might be practice squad fodder, or among the legion in our ghost roster, at the ready when the team needs someone off the streets.

I saved the other running backs for last, because I find it so fascinating that the team went with the Ball So Hard route at this position.  With Marshawn Lynch retired, the team has a serious void, and is apparently not fucking around.  Thomas Rawls returns, and has the inside track on the starting position, but he’s also returning from a serious injury, and the team doesn’t want to be left holding its collective dick if he has a relapse, or is otherwise not ready for the regular season.  Christine Michael is back on a 1-year deal, but that’s by no means guaranteed.  You figure he’s going to need to REALLY explode in camp if he’s going to stick around.  I think, more than anything, the team has put him on notice with the three draft picks it’s used, not to mention the undrafted guy from USC who’s coming in.

Alex Collins, the fifth rounder, looks to be a bigger, bruising type of back.  He shouldn’t be a threat to Prosise for the third down job whatsoever, but could theoretically knock Michael out of the game.  Zac Brooks, on the other hand, is a smaller guy, who should come in to compete for the scat-back type of role.  Given the resources the team has devoted to the position, I think it’s safe to say they didn’t draft all of these guys with the intention of keeping each and every one of them.  With Rawls pretty much guaranteed a spot, I suppose you could theoretically keep four non-fullback type running backs (if, indeed, the team cuts Michael as we head into the regular season), but I don’t know if I believe that’s a given.  I think it’s entirely possible that Michael beats out one of these two late round backs to be that third or fourth back (with Rawls the projected starter, and Prosise the projected #2).  Whoever proves to be more essential to special teams (either Collins or Brooks) could make that the tie-breaker in who wins a spot on the 53-man roster.  In that sense, I wonder if Alex Collins is the next Spencer Ware (i.e. squeezed out in a numbers game, doing it for the Kansas City Chiefs in a couple years).

All in all, this is a draft I really like for the Seahawks.  Could be the best one we’ve seen since 2012.  I see lots of starting and reserve potential for most of these guys.  I could also see some of these guys getting cut and immediately snapped up by other teams around the league.  Who knows?  In five years, I might be writing about how this is another one of those drafts where most of the guys got paid big money in their second contracts.  I can see the compensatory picks from here!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Knowing What We Know Now: Who Should The Seahawks Draft?

In the days following the end of the Seahawks’ season, a lot of bloggers like myself took to their keyboards to concoct plans for what the Seahawks should do this offseason.  I was no different, and I think it’s fun to go back and look at how things in real life differed from my Seahawks Vision Board (for the TL;DR crowd:  scroll to the very bottom for my concise list).

Part of what made my list so impractical is that I really didn’t have a handle on how much cap room the Seahawks really had.  Nor could I have seen how much money some guys – like Irvin and Sweezy – would end up commanding on the open market.  But, let’s quickly go one by one down the list to see how my vision differs from reality:

  1. The Seahawks did, in fact, let Okung go and move Gilliam to LT – CHECK!
  2. Couldn’t bring back Sweezy, cost too much (probably for the best anyway)
  3. Instead of “stud free agent guard”, the Seahawks went for a so-so guard and opted to move him to right tackle (Webb)
  4. (draft stud left guard in 1st round – draft hasn’t happened yet, but might be unlikely to see a stud fall to 26th overall)
  5. Seahawks brought back Lewis at center – CHECK! – and may indeed draft one as well
  6. Seahawks seem set at leaving Britt at left guard, and have already named Webb the starting right tackle, so this prediction looks like a bust
  7. Lynch retired, Rawls looks good to be the team’s #1, team re-signed Michael to be the #2, and still could draft a third down back late – ALMOST CHECK!
  8. Have yet to extend Baldwin, but still have time to do so
  9. Re-signed Kearse to 3-year, $13.5 million – CHECK!
  10. Kept Rubin, let Mebane go, replaced Mebane with cheap FA option (Siliga), and still could draft another – ALMOST CHECK!
  11. Seahawks didn’t re-sign Irvin (too expensive), looking to spread savings elsewhere – EITHER WAY I COULDN’T LOSE THIS CHECK!
  12. Re-signed Lane to 4-year, $23 million – CHECK!  (even better because I projected more money in my prediction)

So, I’m well on my way to getting 7 of these things right, with potential to get to 9 by the time the draft passes and we get closer to Training Camp.

Anyway, we’ve got a good idea of what most of the roster looks like right now.  In all likelihood, the Seahawks already have at least 39 of 53 players on their roster right now, and possibly as many as 49 of 53, depending on how the pre-season shakes out.  Let me run a quick list of my thoughts on the roster right now.  Guys listed I feel are locks, guys in parentheses () are potential roster guys, and if he’s not on the list, he’s a longshot in my eyes:

  • Russell Wilson – QB
  • Thomas Rawls – RB
  • Christine Michael – RB
  • Doug Baldwin – WR
  • Jermaine Kearse – WR
  • Tyler Lockett – WR
  • Paul Richardson – WR
  • (Kevin Smith – WR)
  • (Kasen Williams – WR)
  • Jimmy Graham – TE
  • Luke Willson – TE
  • (Cooper Helfet – TE)
  • Garry Gilliam – LT
  • Justin Britt – LG
  • Patrick Lewis – C
  • Mark Glowinski – RG
  • J’Marcus Webb – RT
  • (Kristjan Sokoli – C)
  • (Drew Nowak – C)
  • (Terry Poole – T)
  • (Bradley Sowell – T)

I ranked these guys in order (by position), so I think it’s more likely Kevin Smith makes it over Kasen Williams, but neither is a sure thing.  I think Helfet is here for insurance, but it wouldn’t shock me for the team to draft another tight end, or sign a guy off the free agent scrap heap who’s a quality blocker.  I think the team likely keeps one of Sokoli/Nowak and one of Poole/Sowell, depending on who looks best in the pre-season.  Anyway, that’s the offense.  I think we have a minimum of 16 offensive players already under contract, with the potential (though unlikely) of up to 21 players.  The Seahawks will need around 24-25 offensive players by the time the regular season starts.

  • Cliff Avril – DE
  • Michael Bennett – DE
  • Frank Clark – DE
  • Cassius Marsh – DE
  • (Chris Clemons – DE)
  • Ahtyba Rubin – DT
  • Sealver Siliga – DT
  • Jordan Hill – DT
  • (A.J. Francis – DT)
  • Bobby Wagner – LB
  • K.J. Wright – LB
  • Mike Morgan – LB
  • Brock Coyle – LB
  • Kevin Pierre-Lewis – LB
  • (Eric Pinkins – LB)
  • Richard Sherman – CB
  • Jeremy Lane – CB
  • DeShawn Shead – CB
  • Tharold Simon – CB
  • (Tye Smith – CB)
  • (Marcus Burley – CB)
  • Earl Thomas – S
  • Kam Chancellor – S
  • Kelcie McCray – S
  • Steven Terrell – S

As we learned recently, there’s relatively little guaranteed money in the Clemons signing, which means he’s going to have to earn his spot in the pre-season.  As the team is likely to draft a defensive end relatively high, it could be a tough roster spot to win.  I think the team likes Francis a lot, so his spot largely comes down to how high another defensive tackle is drafted, and how well that player performs.  Pinkins has always been a bubble guy, but he’s stuck around for the most part.  Smith and Burley might have a lot to prove, as I feel like the team will be in the market for another tall, outside corner, meaning there might not be many nickel corner spots to go around.  I have it as at least 20 defensive players already on the roster, with potential for up to 25.  Considering the max is probably 25-26 defensive players, I wouldn’t bank on me having all 25 predicted right now.

  • Steven Hauschka – K
  • Jon Ryan – P
  • (Drew Ferris – LS)

I don’t know where the Seahawks are going with their long snapper position, and I don’t want to know.  Just make it a guy who won’t fuck up, ever.

That exercise more or less gives us an idea of what the Seahawks need heading into the draft.  A backup quarterback, probably two more running backs and a fullback, maybe a wide receiver and/or a tight end.  Maybe 2-3 offensive linemen (particularly a Center of the Future who can sit and watch and bulk up in his first year).  You always like to create competition among the pass rush – so probably one of each as far as end and tackle are concerned.  Probably not a linebacker, unless you find an undrafted guy or a late-round guy you like a lot.  Maybe a corner and maybe a safety to add to the depth there.

At the moment, the Seahawks have 9 draft picks.  It wouldn’t shock me to see the Seahawks move down once or twice, build up to 11 or 12 draft picks if they can.  But, assuming we’ve just got the 9, let’s take a look at where they are:

  • First round – 26th
  • Second round – 56th
  • Third round – 91st
  • Third round – 97th
  • Fourth round – 124th
  • Fifth round – 171st
  • Sixth round – 215th
  • Seventh round – 225th
  • Seventh round – 247th

The great thing about this draft is how strong it is along both the offensive and defensive lines.  So, that Center of the Future I’m talking about?  You can probably find him in the third or fourth round.  And, unless a real dominant pass-rushing force of a defensive tackle falls to you at 26, you can probably get an all-around good guy/run stuffer in the third or fourth round.  So, while you could argue those are the two biggest needs (C and DT), you probably don’t need to draft either of those in the first two rounds, unless you find someone really special.

Among the other highly-pressing needs this team has, we’re talking about the guard/tackle position on the offensive line, and a pass-rushing end on the defensive side.  While you like to find starters for your team in the first two rounds, the Seahawks have so few holes on their roster that it seems pretty improbable they’re going to draft either of these positions and find guys who will start right away.  Gilliam seems pretty entrenched as the team’s left tackle (and looks pretty studly, from the videos I’ve seen of his workout routines), and Britt is probably locked in at guard, considering he’s been a starter since day 1, he has experience, and he’ll be going into the second straight year as this team’s left guard (that consistency – not jerking him around from spot to spot – will hopefully help him to improve his overall technique).  Likewise, when you’re talking about the team’s defensive ends, Avril and Bennett are the guys.  Clark has a leg up over everyone, and Marsh has experience to probably fend off any defensive end we pick at either of the first two draft spots.

Nightmares of Lawrence Jackson notwithstanding, you hope to at least find a rotation guy at 26, if you go the defensive end route.

Since we’re talking about the Seahawks – a team that had Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin securely under contract, then went out and drafted Christine Michael in the 2nd round anyway – you have to talk about the possibility of John Schneider and Pete Carroll going rogue in the first two rounds.  Ultimately, I think the Seahawks draft Best Player Available with their first pick, if not their first two picks (though, it’s hard to see them not taking a pass rusher with either one).  So, if a quality cornerback or tight end falls to them late in the first round – even though those are two positions I believe the Seahawks are particularly strong in, and therefore should be among the last positions the team targets in the draft – it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest.  Even running back has to be on the table here.  I like Rawls as much as the next guy, and while I think they could go so far as to ignore the running back position altogether in the draft (and pick up someone like Arian Foster after the draft, to be in the RB rotation), it wouldn’t shock me if they saw Beastmode 2.0 fall to them at 26 and take him.  For as important as the running game is to Pete Carroll, don’t rule it out.

If I had my druthers, I’d have the Seahawks pick two of the following three spots in the first two rounds:  offensive guard/offensive tackle and defensive end.

In the third & fourth rounds, where the Seahawks have three picks, I’d like to see a center, a defensive tackle, and either a quality cornerback, or a third down running back.

In the fifth and sixth rounds, I’d like to see whatever they don’t get in that last pairing (either a cornerback or third down running back) and an outside linebacker to push Mike Morgan as we replace Bruce Irvin.

In the seventh round, I think the Seahawks pick up another offensive lineman (whatever they don’t draft – guard or tackle – in the first two rounds), and either another running back, a fullback, or a project at either cornerback, safety, or tight end.

And, if I have to be specific, let’s make it so:

  • First round – Offensive Guard
  • Second round – Defensive End
  • Third round – Center
  • Third round – Defensive Tackle
  • Fourth round – Running Back
  • Fifth round – Cornerback
  • Sixth round – Outside Linebacker
  • Seventh round – Offensive Tackle
  • Seventh round – Fullback

Seahawks Re-Sign Ahtyba Rubin

We’re currently in the period where agents can talk to teams about their players, setting up contracts and whatnot, but nothing can officially be signed until tomorrow afternoon for some reason.  The NFL is stupid in a lot a lot A LOT of ways.

There’s been a remarkable dearth of Seahawks free agent rumors, at least from the side of things where we’re talking about the Seahawks being interested in players, either their own or from outside the organization.  I actually commented as such last night on Twitter, and probably within the hour, we got word that Ahtyba Rubin was brought back.  We now know that it’s for 3 years and $12 million, with something like $6 million guaranteed.  Let the games begin!

Defensive Tackle is one of our primary areas of focus this offseason, mostly because our two starters (Rubin and Mebane) just wrapped up their previous deals and are unrestricted free agents.  While it was always going to be important for the Seahawks to address this position in free agency (and also probably the draft), I don’t know if anyone would consider Ahtyba Rubin one of those impact players most fans feel we’d NEED to have back.  Certainly, he’s a very important and talented piece in our run defense, but he’s not a Bruce Irvin, Jeremy Lane, Russell Okung, or even a J.R. Sweezy.  Nevertheless, Rubin goes down as the first free agent signing of the 2016 season for the Seahawks, probably because it was the biggest no-brainer of a decision and the easiest contract to get out of the way.

The Seahawks have a lot of tough decisions to make regarding their own players who are up for new deals; it’s nice to have this one off the board.  We’re talking about one less hole we need to fill – as indeed Rubin represents one of our starting 11 in our base defense – at a reasonable sum of money.  This presents us with a lot of options going forward.  We can re-sign Mebane if he’ll come back reasonably; we can dumpster dive for Mebane’s replacement; we could possibly move Rubin over to nose tackle (though, he seems better suited for the 3-technique); we can look at the draft to find a starter in the early or middle rounds; OR, what I feel is most likely to happen, we can do some combination of those options.  The Seahawks like to be well stocked at as many positions of need as possible.  Right now, we’ve got Rubin and Jordan Hill under contract, but Hill is more of a pass-rushing tackle in pass-rushing downs.  The Seahawks would probably like to grab one more free agent AND draft a player in the early or middle rounds.  One veteran nearing the end of his career, with some juice left, and his eventual replacement.

It’s less daunting when you no longer have multiple glaring holes to fill.  The Seahawks had two along the defensive line, now they have one, and one hole is pretty much nothing.  We should EASILY be able to dumpster dive for another widebody, I’m not even worried about that.  This opens us up, now, to focus on the other side of the ball, at our various holes along the offensive line.  And, the way things are looking with some of these early O-linemen deals, it won’t be cheap.

Seahawks Death Week: Getting Defensive

Yesterday, I took a look at the positives, what went right in the 2015 season for the Seahawks.  It ended up sprawling out of control and only covered the offense, so I decided to split it up and talk about the defense today.

Part of me feels like I’ve been a little hard on the defense – a defense that finished tops in the league in fewest points allowed for the fourth straight year, a feat never accomplished in the Super Bowl Era of the NFL – but part of me also feels that it’s warranted.  The stars are plenty on that side of the ball, which is why it gets the lion’s share of the salary cap devoted to it.  Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, and Bobby Wagner are among the best at their respective positions.  K.J. Wright, Cliff Avril, Brandon Mebane, Ahtyba Rubin, Bruce Irvin, Jeremy Lane, and Kam Chancellor are also pretty great and probably don’t get the type of recognition they deserve.  That is, literally, the entire starting base defense, 1-11; any team would be lucky to have even a few of those guys!  And here we are, with a murderer’s row of who’s who.

My response to the season this unit has had is more of a gut reaction, or an eyeball test, than anything I’m going to sit here and try to express with numbers.  I went into it a little bit on Monday, but I’ll say it again:  there were four games – including the loss to Carolina last week – where this defense gave up 30 points or more.  There were four such instances TOTAL (including playoffs) from 2012-2014.  So, that’s a little upsetting.  While the offense took a big leap forward in 2015, it wasn’t quite able to account for all of the defense’s shortcomings when we talk about some of these losses we had this season.  In most of those defeats where we blew the lead late, all it would have taken was a little extra clock-killing on offense to render those comebacks moot.  But, no dice.  Maybe, going forward, the offense will gain that killer instinct; instead of just trying to run out some clock, we’ll actively be trying to play add-on with the score late in some of these games.  I know it’s not necessarily in Pete Carroll’s nature, as a run-first guy, but we might have to adapt as the defense comes back down to Earth.

A lot of breakdowns in our pass defense as well, which used to be the belle of the ball.  Part of that was shored up with the combo of Jeremy Lane (returning from injury) and DeShawn Shead combining to take the place of Cary Williams, who was never all that impressive, but who I think also takes an unfair share of the burden for this team’s harrowing start to the season.  As you can see in some of these games towards the end of the season where breakdowns remained.  Not just against Carolina, but we can’t forget the Pittsburgh game, which was just a blitzkrieg of deep passes.  And I’ll never understand how we lost to the Rams a SECOND time, but there were a few critical lapses there as well.

I like a Seahawks defense that’s able to get by with a 4-man pass rush.  I like a Seahawks defense that prevents the big play from hurting us.  But, we gotta figure out what we’re doing on these intermediate-range plays, and we’ve GOT to fix whatever’s going on with our coverage on tight ends.  That Carolina playoff game wasn’t a microcosm of our season, Greg Olsen standing wide open at the line to gain as they convert yet another clock-wasting first down is a microcosm of our season.  We need to cut that shit out, but soon.

But, this post is meant to be more positive than negative, so let’s get to the 2015 accolades!

It’s been repeated ad nauseam, but it’s still remarkably cool:  4 straight years leading the league in fewest points allowed.  Unbelievable!  The Seahawks were also 2nd in fewest total yards allowed, 2nd in fewest passing yards allowed, and best in the league in fewest rushing yards allowed.  We managed all of this while being pretty middle-of-the-road when it comes to sacks, interceptions, and fumble recoveries.  As we all know, a lot of turnovers is luck-based.  Carolina and Arizona led the league in takeaways and, not surprisingly, they had the two best records in the NFL.  When you combine a lot of takeaways with an already-strong defense, amazing things tend to happen with your win/loss record.  The fact that the Seahawks could be so good in yards and points allowed, while being tied for 18th in takeaways, says a lot about the talent on that side of the ball.

So, maybe that’s it.  Maybe that explains my gut reaction to this defense.  Big plays – like sacks and turnovers – tend to stand out.  A high volume of big plays leaves a better impression on you.  In years past – especially in 2012 & 2013 – the Seahawks were dominating the league in getting turnovers.  The past couple years, not so much.  Which is obviously a reflection of the rest of the league going hyper conservative (for the most part) against the Seahawks, settling for quick, short throws in the passing game.  And, not for nothing, but when it’s so difficult to run on us, we’re probably seeing fewer rushing attempts.  Combine that with the increase in quick throws, and you’ve got fewer opportunities to force fumbles, either by strip-sacking the quarterback, or punching it out of a runner’s hands.

Is there a way to increase turnover production, without changing everything that you’ve ever been about on defense?  Or, is it all just blind, stinking luck, bound to turn around with no rhyme or reason?  That’ll be something interesting to look at for 2016.

Anyway, back to the kudos, gotta start with Michael Bennett.  10 more sacks this year to lead the team.  He now has 25.5 sacks over his 3-year Seahawks career, which is a pretty great clip.  He was more disruptive overall in 2015 than I think I’ve ever seen, with just getting pressure, stopping the run game, and all the rest.  Glad to have him on our side, hope he stays on our side, without any disgruntled contract issues this offseason.

Sticking with the line, Cliff Avril was second on the team with 9 sacks, giving him 22 sacks in his 3-year Seahawks career.  These guys are the best 1-2 punch we’ve had on this team since Jacob Green and Jeff Bryant.  Always love to have an awesome pass rush.

Earl Thomas led the defense with 5 more interceptions, giving him 21 in his 6-year career.  He’s got a ways to go to get up around the career leaders in NFL history, but he’s also got a ways to go in his own career.  Here’s to hoping he makes a big push in the next few years to move up the rankings.

Richard Sherman had the fewest interceptions of his career, with only 2, but I can vividly remember a handful of uncharacteristic drops that would’ve had him around his career norms.  Regardless of numbers, Sherm was his usual amazing self, locking down his side of the field, and sometimes even following the opposing team’s #1 all around the field.  It was exciting to see, and to be quite honest, I wouldn’t mind seeing more of it.  We’re just so lucky to have him on our team; I pinch myself every time I watch him play to make sure I’m not dreaming.

I think I might have the most sheer respect for K.J. Wright over anyone else on this team.  He’s only missed 4 regular season games in his career, he comes to work every day, is CONSTANTLY overshadowed by a bunch of guys on this defense, and yet he’s one of the smartest, most talented, and athletically gifted players on this team, who simply gets better each and every season.  I didn’t think he had a better season in him than his 2014, when he finally got over the hump of making 100 tackles, but his 2015 blew me out of the water.  He led the team in tackles for the second straight season, with 116, he was a force in stopping the run, and he played sideline to sideline, really strong coverage.  If he ever got beat down the field, I don’t remember it.  Just a consummate pro, without whom this defense’s effectiveness would be drastically reduced.

Bobby Wagner wasn’t far behind, with 114 tackles, in a very workmanlike season.  He posted a career low in sacks, with 0.5, and this is the second straight year he’s been held without an interception, which again probably accounts for my gut reaction to his having a “down” season.  I’m not sitting here watching hours of tape, so I can’t say for sure if it was down, but from a fan’s perspective, I hope for something more.  When I compare Wagner to anyone, it’s Lofa Tatupu, the best middle linebacker in Seahawks history, and when I think of Tatupu, I think of all the great interceptions early in his career.  Fair or unfair, when your defense by its nature forces other teams to throw lots of underneath routes, you hope to have more of a visible impact out of your middle linebacker when it comes to knocking passes down and picking passes off.

I’d like to throw out a combo shout-out to a few guys who are free agents in 2016:  Mebane, Rubin, Lane, Shead, Mike Morgan, and Bruce Irvin.  All of them except for Shead are unrestricted free agents (meaning they can sign with anyone, with no penalty to the team that signs them).  Shead, I believe, will just get a tender to sign, so we can count on him being back in the fold.  All of these guys had great seasons, with big impacts either on defense, special teams, or both.  Bruce Irvin probably has the biggest market for his services; it’ll be interesting to see how many teams are interested, how much they’re willing to spend, and how interested the Seahawks are in bringing him back (for the record, I’ll believe Irvin takes a discount to return to the Seahawks when I see it; everyone says that on the last day of the season; it’s emotional, you’re seeing your friends for the last time in a while, you say shit you don’t necessarily mean when you’re staring at a contract offer two months later).  Mebane is probably the guy I’d want to have back the most, for sentimental reasons alone.  But, he also proved he’s got a lot left in the tank after missing a lot of 2015 with injury.  I’ll also be interested in seeing what happens with Lane.  He was injured for most of 2015, but also kinda helped save our season with his return and insertion into the starting lineup.  Will that, and the reputation of the Seahawks churning out amazing cornerbacks, be enough to build up his value across the NFL?  Or, will teams be a little more gunshy after the disaster that was the Byron Maxwell deal in year 1 with Philly?

Honestly, I’d like to have all of those guys back, but this is a business, so it’s not likely going to happen.  Gotta work on that offensive line, which probably means dipping our toes into free agency, which means less money to go around on defensive free agents.  I’m also curious to see what happens with Mike Morgan.  He’s a special teams standout, he’s a capable fill-in guy on defense if/when guys go down with injury.  Does he have enough tape to prove to teams he’s a starting-calibre guy a la Malcolm Smith?  OR, might he be – to the Seahawks – a cheaper alternative to replace Bruce Irvin, if he maxes out his deal elsewhere?

Part of me thinks we’re only scratching the surface of Bruce Irvin’s potential, in spite of his being in the league for four years already.  But, the rest of me knows the danger in over-paying for all three linebackers on the same defense, as there’s only so much salary cap to go around.

Interesting times for this team.  2015 might be a transition year for the defense as well as the offense.  I’ll close with some thoughts on some of the younger guys.

Frank Clark flashed some of that great potential we all saw in the pre-season.  I think his rookie season was wildly successful!  More than anything, he stayed healthy.  That’s huge for a guy who’s obviously developing, both his skills and his body.  What’s he going to look like when he comes back for Training Camp, with a full offseason to work out and get comfortable with the NFL life (now that he’s no longer a rookie, with everything going a thousand miles a minute)?  He could truly be a beast in 2016, and a candidate to make a big jump in overall production.

Kelcie McCray was a real find for this team.  The Seahawks traded a 5th round pick to Kansas City to bring him in at the end of the pre-season, which appeared to be – at the time – something of a panic move, with Kam Chancellor’s hold-out dragging on into the regular season.  Without any time to gel with the defense, he wasn’t anything more than a depth guy (with credentials as a fantastic Special Teams player).  But, over the course of the season, he got comfortable with our scheme, and looked every bit the part in his time taking over for Kam, who missed some games with injury late in the season.  McCray is signed through 2016, which could be a good bargaining chip for this team, as we head into another offseason of uncertainty regarding Kam’s happiness with his contract.  It’s reasonable to assume Kam isn’t any happier with his deal than he was at this time last year.  But, you know, he didn’t have the greatest 2015 by any stretch of the imagination.  Perhaps the team opts to rid itself of the headache and looks to insert McCray into the starting lineup.  At the very least, the team has that move in its back pocket, should another holdout be on the horizon.

Finally, because I somehow managed to blow out this post more than yesterday’s, shout out to Cassius Marsh and Jordan Hill for making it to the end of the season relatively injury-free.  Marsh, as a rookie in 2014, was shut down REAL early in the season.  But, he came back quicker and stronger in 2015 and made it the whole season.  Granted, he’s still a role player, behind a couple of studs in Bennett and Avril, but you need those guys in your rotation to keep everyone fresh.  And, not for nothing, but Marsh might have been our best coverage guy on kickoffs; he seemed to always be around the ball making tackles inside the 20.  As for Hill, he’s yet to play a full season in his 3-year career, but he played out the last three games for the Seahawks, and will hopefully be able to use his offseason to get stronger as opposed to simply rehabbing another injury.  I look forward to both of these guys making a bigger impact next year, with Hill possibly even starting.

The Seattle At Carolina Preview

When you take them one game at a time, it doesn’t feel so ominous.  In a vacuum, these Seahawks are fully capable of winning a game in Minnesota.  In a vacuum, these Seahawks are fully capable of winning a game in Carolina.  And, in a vacuum, these Seahawks are fully capable of winning a game in Arizona OR a game in Green Bay.  But, jeez, when you line them all up in a row, knowing you have to do all this in back-to-back-to-back weeks, it starts to feel REALLY daunting.  Even though it’s just a series of three coin flips, one week apart, it’s just knowing that you have to win all three that sort of drives me batty.

Last week, it felt like a foregone conclusion that the Seahawks would advance.  Of course, the game ended up being a lot closer (and a lot closer to DISASTER) than I anticipated, but the better team did win and move on.  This week, as I’ve said repeatedly, feels like the Super Bowl.  I still think the Seahawks are the better football team, but they’ve got SO MUCH going against them.  At this point, fair or unfair, right or wrong, it’s going to depend on which Seahawks team shows up.  Will it be the team that struggled to find consistency in the first half of the season (and in recent games against the Rams & Vikings)?  Or, will it be the team running like a top, who has taken care of business against some pretty good opponents?

As a Seahawks fan in recent years, we’ve come to expect certain things.  We expect our defense to clamp down like a bear trap.  We expect varying levels of success out of our offense, with steady improvement as the game goes along.  This year has flipped the script a little bit.  The defense – while still tops in points allowed – isn’t quite what it has been in recent years.  It shows flashes, and sometimes pulls off entire games where it looks as dominant as ever.  But, other times, the game starts to get away from them.  Breakdowns happen.  Where once it was the Seahawks making their furious comebacks late in games, now it’s the other teams taking it to us.

I don’t know how you get more frustrating than that first Carolina game this year.  Let’s take a look back, blow by blow.

  • We traded punts on the first three drives of the game
  • On Carolina’s second possession, deep in their own territory, Cam Newton threw a pick to Earl Thomas at the Carolina 33 yard line.  The Seahawks ran four plays & had to settle for a field goal
  • On the next possession, Carolina ate up the rest of the first quarter, marching 80 yards with an equal mix of run & pass, for a TD
  • On the next possession, Seattle marched right back to score a TD, re-taking the lead 10-7, which is how the half ended after trading more punts
  • Carolina got the ball to start the 2nd half, went 3 & Out
  • On the next possession, Seattle scored a TD on two explosive pass plays to make it a 2-score game
  • Again, deep in their territory, Cam Newton threw a pick, returned to the Carolina 33 yard line.  The Seahawks went 3 & Out and settled for a long field goal to go up 20-7
  • On the next possession, Carolina marched 80 yards AGAIN, with an equal mix of run & pass, for a TD
  • The teams traded punts, then the Seahawks drove for a FG to again make it a 2-score game, 23-14
  • The teams again traded punts, then the Panthers engineered their third 80-yard TD drive, mostly on the arm of Cam Newton, to make it a 1-score game
  • On the next possession, the Seahawks went 4 & Out – marred by penalties & sacks, while only managing to take off less than 90 seconds of game clock
  • In a little under 2 minutes, the Panthers completed their comeback with their FOURTH 80-yard TD drive of the day, with Greg Olsen catching the go-ahead score on a broken coverage in the secondary

It was a good sign to see the team move the ball relatively effectively, as well as the defense forcing Cam Newton into two interceptions on the day.  But, the offense was a miserable 4/14 on third down (29% conversion), 1/3 in the red zone, and failed to convert either of those turnovers into touchdowns.  On top of that, I’m sorry, but that was a mind-boggling performance by the defense.  On Carolina’s four 80-yard TD drives, they ran 42 of their 72 overall plays, while taking up 18:23 of their 32:12 time of possession.  And, as I said, for the most part it was a healthy mix of run & pass, running for 135 yards and throwing for another 248 in total on the day.  We’re talking about a defense who – all year – only gave up 6.6 yards per pass attempt; Cam Newton managed 7.5.  And a defense who – all year – only gave up 3.6 yards per carry; Carolina managed 4.1.

Now, obviously, the Seahawks were missing some dawgs.  Bobby Wagner, Jordan Hill, Jeremy Lane, Marcus Burley, all sat out with injury.  And, of course, the notorious Cary Williams (who has been, without fail, the biggest fucking scapegoat I’ve EVER seen) still held his starting job at that time, and was getting picked on throughout.  Nevertheless, if I’m a member of the Seahawks defense, going into Carolina this weekend, I’m out for blood.  Our Week 6 performance was absolutely unacceptable.

For all the factors going against the Seahawks this weekend, there’s one positive in all this:  the revenge factor.  Coming into the 2015 season, the Seahawks had made Carolina our bitches time and time again.  Close, hard fought games, sure.  But, we always found a way to pull it out, and I’m sure that had to have driven them CRAZY.  It all came to a head in last year’s playoffs, where the Panthers came in and played pretty well for a team with a losing record.  But, we owned that fourth quarter, and pulled away when it mattered.  So, when they came back to Seattle in Week 6 with an undefeated record, against a somewhat reeling Seahawks team still trying to find its footing, they were not only prepared for the onslaught of the fans and the hugeness of the game, but they powered through and made us look silly in the fourth quarter, when that’s OUR time.  That’s when WE make YOU look silly!

So, now, here we are.  Underdogs in a playoff game for the first time since probably 2012.  Going into Big, Bad Carolina, the 15-1 juggernaut who couldn’t have had an easier path to the #1 seed.  The last taste we have in our mouths being that Week 6 embarrassment.  You’re telling me we don’t have a reason to be up for this game, outside of the obvious (this being the playoffs, win or go home, and all that)?  I think the Seahawks want to show Carolina – and the rest of the world – who the REAL top dawgs are.  We may have stumbled at times this year, but we’re STILL the champs.  And January is when we come to play our best!

***

Can I just step back for a second and say how much fun I think this all is?  On the one hand, yeah, it’s the playoffs and it’s nerve wracking as all get-out.  The further you advance, the more intense it becomes.  And LOSING in the playoffs?  I don’t know what’s worse.  For a good week or two or three or fifty (as is the case when you lose a Super Bowl like the Seahawks did last year), I just couldn’t feel any lower as a fan.  Depressed and angry and jealous and confused and depressed some more.  There are SO MANY drawbacks to being a sports fan, I sometimes wonder why it’s all worth it.

But, then we get to a week like this.  Seahawks at Panthers.  THIS is what being a fan is all about.  Remember how jacked up we all got when the Seahawks would face the Jim Harbaugh 49ers?  This feels just like that.  Maybe Ron Rivera isn’t as loathesome as The Douchebag (I actually respect the hell out of the guy, if I’m being honest); but I’m starting to come around on hating Cam Newton.  I don’t know if anyone can be as revolting as Colin Kaepernick kissing his own bicep after a touchdown, but Cam Newton and all his dabbing is a REAL close second in my book.  If I’m being perfectly honest, I do think a lot of the hate, in general, from non-Carolina fans throughout the country, is at least somewhat racially motivated.  I mean, when Tom Brady runs around like a maniac during his touchdown celebrations, mostly people just talk about how he’s a competitor and a fiery guy; but when Cam Newton does his thing, he’s a preening cunt.  I’m not going to be that guy who’s out here calling everyone a racist, but I think subliminally, there’s a little something to it.

All I know is, if he was my team’s franchise quarterback (and I knew nothing of what it’s like to have Russell Wilson), I’m sure I’d love Cam Newton to death.  But, he’s not on my team, and he plays on one of my team’s biggest rivals, so I’m starting to hate him just a little bit more.  It’s only healthy.

What’s fun about the Seahawks/Panthers matchup is that it IS a rivalry now.  We’ve played them at least once every year since Russell Wilson came into the league.  Five times overall.  The Seahawks won the first four matchups (including last season in the Divisional Round), and through that point, while the games were all close and highly competitive, it was a little bit like the Big Brother holding the little brother at arm’s length while he stands there flailing his fists wildly to no avail.  Our defense was the embodiment of “Stop Hitting Yourself!” when it came to forcing Cam Newton into untimely mistakes (untimely for the Panthers, anyway).  Then, the Panthers came into Seattle in Week 6 and totally pantsed us, and NOW it’s a true rivalry.  They stole our mojo, in the home of the 12’s, and rode that mojo to the best record in all of football.  Now, it’s on, and it couldn’t be more exciting.

***

If you’re a football fan, and you don’t necessarily have a hog in this race, I don’t see how you can look at the four games this weekend and NOT be looking forward to the Seahawks/Panthers matchup the most.  Kansas City/New England?  There’s a slim chance that game is competitive, but my money is on the team with the better quarterback.  I think the odds of that game being a blowout are VASTLY greater than of the game being interesting in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter.  Green Bay/Arizona?  No way.  The Cards are going to CRUSH them into dust!  That might be the most boring game of the weekend.  Pittsburgh/Denver is the only game that might even approach the quality of our game, but there are a lot of reasons to think that might be an ugly affair.  Can Ben Roethlisberger throw the ball more than 10 yards in the air?  Does Peyton Manning have any juice left?  We could be looking at a matchup of the noodliest arms in the history of the league!  With Denver’s defense on a mission, if Ben doesn’t have it, I could see this being a rout in the Broncos’ favor.

Seattle/Carolina, that’s what’s up.

We’re talking about two teams who are as healthy as they could possibly be at this point in the season (not counting players on IR, of course; and assuming Marshawn Lynch is able to give it a go).  We’re talking about the MVP of the league (Cam) against the hottest quarterback in the league the last half of the season (Wilson, 25 TDs, 2 INTs in the last 8 games, including last week).  We’re talking about the #1 scoring offense (Carolina) against the #1 scoring defense (Seattle).  The #2 rush offense (Carolina) against the #1 rush defense (Seattle).  A rematch of last year’s remarkable Divisional playoff game, only this time played in the other team’s stadium.

And, when you flip it around, it’s still pretty damn close.  Seattle was the #4 scoring offense; Carolina was the #6 scoring defense.  Seattle was the #3 rushing offense; Carolina was the #4 rushing defense.  Seattle’s got big play-makers on both sides of the ball (Wilson, Lynch, Baldwin, Bennett, Avril, Wagner, LOB); Carolina’s got big play-makers on both sides of the ball (Newton, Stewart, Olsen, Kuechly, Davis, Short, Norman).  Our strengths are their strengths; this should prove to be a massively entertaining ordeal.

The great equalizer in all this, oddly enough, will be Seattle’s offensive line.  In that Week 6 game, Russell Wilson was sacked 4 times, but harassed all day.  The Panthers had 7 QB hits and another 6 tackles for loss.  Russell Okung also had a pretty costly holding penalty that negated a big run by Lynch, helping lead to that drive stalling.  Over the majority of the second half of the season, as Russell Wilson’s performance has improved, so has the offensive line’s.  Everyone returned for last week’s game, and no new injuries cropped up.  On top of that, Luke Willson is returning, who should provide a boost over the other tight ends on the roster when it comes to blocking.

If the Seahawks’ offensive line plays to the best of its abilities, the Seahawks shouldn’t have any trouble improving upon their third down conversion rate, moving the football, and scoring touchdowns over field goals (when compared to our Week 6 contest).  When the Seahawks are clicking, as they’ve been known to do from time to time, there’s no team in the game that can stop them.

But, when the Seahawks make mistakes.  When they let the pressure overwhelm them, when they allow lots of hurries and sacks, when they get penalized at inopportune times, then the game gets all mucked up, and before you know it, there we are at the end of the game sweating out another nailbiter.

As far as weather is concerned, we’re looking at the low-to-mid 40s come kickoff.  Says there’s a 20% chance of rain, but overall looks pretty reasonable.  Nothing too much to be concerned with there.

The thing I can’t help but shake is the comparison to the 2012 playoffs.  That was our first year with Russell Wilson, but we still blew it in the first half, and ultimately blew it at the game’s end.  Getting over THIS hump feels like the more difficult challenge than the hump that would await (likely in Arizona); just like getting over the hump in Atlanta in 2012 proved to be more difficult than it would have been to beat the 49ers that year.  Losing in the Divisional Round is pretty bad in its own right, because it leaves you with so many more What If’s.  Mainly:  what if we’d won and gotten a chance to play in the NFC Championship Game?

We can’t lose this one.  And, I don’t THINK we will, but I’m not nearly as confident as I was last week.  What everyone is banking on is that the Seahawks are battle tested.  7 of our 16 regular season games were against playoff teams; we were 3-4 in those games.  The Panthers, by contrast, only faced off against 4 playoff teams in their 16 regular season games; they went 4-0 in those games.  Obviously, the most impressive win was against Seattle IN Seattle.  Two of those games were against Houston and Washington (both at home), who were two of the shakiest divisional winners of all time.  The other was also at home, against a struggling and injury-plagued Packers team.  Their schedule, to be quite honest, deserves all the ridicule it gets.  But, to be fair, they did get the job done, and beat the teams they were supposed to beat.

And, as we all know, anything can happen in a 1-game sample.

So close, and yet still so far away.  This is the week where the Seahawks can prove whether they truly earned the title of Team Nobody Wants To Play in this year’s playoffs, or if they’ll just be another in a long line of cautionary tales, about the struggles that good teams can face when they don’t get one of the top two seeds and home field advantage.

I’ve got Seahawks 33, Panthers 27, but like I said before, I’m not confident at all.

Would The Seahawks’ Crap Offense Look Any Worse If The Seahawks’ Defense Took Over?

You saw the same game I saw; you don’t need me to sit here and rehash it for 1,000 words.  The offense stunk.  Russell Wilson stunk, Jimmy Graham stunk, the offensive line stunk.  The running game couldn’t get going, there were too many penalties on both sides of the ball, and our secondary got ripped to shreds.  The only reason why it was as close as it was – and the only reason why the Seahawks were able to continue their string of having a lead in every game for however many games in a row – is because of some well-timed blitzes causing some well-timed turnovers leading to some well-timed points.

You can blame the defense all you want for giving up 39 points to the Cards, but it’s not their fault that the Seahawks’ offense was only on the field for 21 minutes (unless you count that one fumble recovery at the Arizona 3-yard line, which resulted in a quick TD).  It’s also not their fault that the offense could only convert 1/8 third downs and had the following drives:

  • 6 plays, 8 yards, 3:05, punt
  • 3 plays, -5 yards, 1:34, punt
  • 1 play, -22 yards, 0:38, safety
  • 3 plays, -8 yards, 1:16, punt
  • 2 plays, 6 yards, 0:41, interception
  • 7 plays, 5 yards, 2:41, punt

That comprises half of our 12 drives; all told, for half of our possessions, we ran 22 offensive plays, for -16 yards, across 9:55, resulting in four punts, a safety, and a pick.  And those first FOUR drives were the first four possessions for the Seahawks in this game.  Maybe the defense wasn’t the sharpest it could’ve been.  Maybe there were too many mistakes in the secondary.  Maybe the 4-man pass rush wasn’t getting home like it’s supposed to.  Maybe the defensive coordinator went away from the blitz-heavy package that got us the lead in the first place.  But, that offense right there?  That’s inexcusable, and it’s time to stop making those excuses for a unit that is a huge failure across the board.

Instead, why not perform an exercise that might actually be a little more interesting and fun?  On the drive back to Reno from Tahoe, a buddy of mine brought up the point:  what if the Seahawks’ defense also played offense?  Couldn’t be any worse than what we saw!  Hell, we DID see what they can do, and it WAS better.  Fumble returned for a touchdown, another fumble recovered at the 3-yard line, and an interception in the endzone that prevented at a minimum a field goal, and at the most another TD.  That’s 17-21 points accounted for right there, or around half of the entire team’s point output in a game they’d lose 39-32.

So, what would that offense look like?  For starters, my friends and I settled on some variation of the triple option.  Definitely gotta go run-heavy in this hypothetical scenario, and put your best athletes in the best spots to succeed.

I’ve got Earl Thomas as my quarterback.  I feel like he’s got the best hands on the defense, for starters, so you always want the guy with the best hands handling the ball as much as possible.  He’s also the fastest guy, so any keepers will put a tremendous strain on any defense trying to spy him.  And, for what it’s worth, he’s a natural leader.  I want that guy kneeling down in the huddle, talking the rest of the offense through the tough times, pumping them up and giving them the confidence to know they’re going to succeed on an important drive late in the game.  I’ve never seen the guy throw, but in this offense we’re not going to ask him to throw too often.  Just handle the ball and make good decisions on your reads.

My two running backs are going to be Kam Chancellor and Bruce Irvin.  I know you look at Kam and you think he’s too tall to be a running back, but think about it.  Think about how hard that man hits.  Think about him running up into a hole and either blocking for Irvin (if it comes to that) or taking the ball and running right over someone.  I want that kind of devastation in my running back.  As for Irvin, he’s got great quicks and change-of-direction-ability.  I want to see him with the ball in his hands, pulling his best spin moves to get away from defenders.

As for our fullback:  Bobby Wagner, without question.  He’s leading the way on any stretch play, or any play in the hole.  I want him bowling guys over, opening lanes for our faster runners to get through.  I know you think the fullback is a nothing position, but in this type of offense, the fullback is key.  He can also run some dive plays when we need a yard and absolutely no one else will do.

Richard Sherman is the obvious choice for wide receiver, since he’s actually PLAYED wide receiver in his career.  In this offense, you really only need one receiver.  We can send him down the sideline on a fly pattern and just have Earl Thomas chuck it up to him; we can also run Sherman on some fly sweeps (but absolutely no bubble screens!).

I’m making K.J. Wright our tight end, as I feel like he’d be a really stout blocker.  I’m not sure what kind of hands he’s got, but at 6’4, if we wanted to go with a quick pop pass or something, he’s got the height you want out of a tight end.

Honestly, our skill position players are pretty amazing in this hypothetical offensive unit, but I fear we’re going to run into a similar problem with our offensive line.

On the ends, we need quick guys with some height.  The obvious choice is Michael Bennett – at the all-important left tackle position – and Cliff Avril at right tackle.  At 6’4 & 6’3 respectively, I think these two are giving you everything you could ask for, even though they’d be a little on the light side at 274 lbs & 260 lbs respectively.

On the inside, at left guard, I’m putting Brandon Mebane.  He’s quick, he’s powerful, and he gives the left side of our line a dynamic 1-2 punch with Bennett.  At right guard, to make up for Avril’s svelteness, I’m putting 325-pound Ahtyba Rubin.  He might be a little less refined, but he’s a mauler and should make up for it with his nastiness (whereas, I’d say Mebane is the more technically gifted of the two).  At center, I’m leaning towards Jordan Hill.  At 6’1, he’s not too tall, at 303 lbs, he’s big but not TOO big, so he can still move and get to the second level.

I think that offensive unit could get some work done!  Maybe not, but could it really be any worse than what we saw on Sunday (and what we’ve seen for the majority of this season)?  I’d think about doing the reverse (seeing what the Seahawk offense would look like playing defense), but I’m just too irritated.  I imagine it’d be a good thing to have so many converted defensive tackles on the line, as they can just go back to their regular positions.  Russell Wilson would have to be your free safety.  Marshawn Lynch would probably have to be your middle linebacker.  I don’t know WHAT you’d do with Jimmy Graham, as I imagine a wide receiver who plays tight end and is afraid to get hit probably wouldn’t make a good anything on defense.  Maybe we can make him a long snapper on special teams or something.

Seahawks’ Arrogance Leads To Seahawks Sucking

One of the quotes I took away from Twitter before I had to get off and give myself a little peace of mind last night was from Earl Thomas, when he said, “We know we don’t suck.”

Unfortunately, that’s not true. The Seahawks DO suck right now. When you can’t explain exactly why you’re losing, because there are too many reasons to name, then you just have to throw up your hands and realize it’s the fact that this team just plain sucks right now.

Kris Richard sucks as a defensive coordinator. The defense as a whole sucks at the fourth quarter. No one is able to get consistent pressure on the quarterback late in the game, which means that guys like Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril are playing too many snaps overall. When this team was at its best, Bennett and Avril were playing closer to 60% of the snaps. Now, they’re playing 85-95% of snaps, and they’re gassed at the end of games. Which means players like Frank Clark and Cassius Marsh (suck) are not developing at a rate we need them to. It means when Jordan Hill is injured (which is always, because his body sucks) we have no one on the interior who can generate consistent push.

The book is out on the Seahawks’ defense. Teams know what it takes to beat us, and we’re not adjusting to the way the rest of the league has adjusted to us. It’s this team’s arrogance – and it starts all the way at the top with Pete Carroll – that’s going to be its downfall. The arrogance being:  all you need are elite players while playing a simple style of defense, then let your opponent beat themselves. Well, that’s not working anymore. Because, teams are all too comfortable taking the underneath stuff, and they’re finding the holes in our deep pass defense to generate just enough big plays to make us look bad.

You hate to pile on a guy so early in his career as a defensive coordinator, but it’s pretty clear that Kris Richard isn’t a good defensive coordinator. We’re six weeks in, and what have we accomplished defensively as a unit? When you throw out that Bears game (which, I guarantee they would have scored upwards of 30 points if all their offensive stars were healthy and playing), the Seahawks are giving up 25 points per game. This is elite? This is the same defense we’ve watched the last three years rank at the top in the game? What’s changed from 2014 to 2015 besides Byron Maxwell playing for Philly? There’s no way Byron Maxwell is worth upwards of 10 points per game; the difference is Kris Richard is the guy running the defense. He’s clearly not ready for this much responsibility, and again, going back to this organization’s arrogance, it speaks volumes that they thought he could handle it.

Just stick some guy in there! Some jerk off the street could run the Seahawks’ defense and make it look okay!

Turns out, Dan Quinn was a little better at his job than anyone thought. Good for the Falcons; bad for the rest of us.

Of course, the offense is no better. Yeah, Jimmy Graham had a big day, but he ALWAYS has a big day against the Panthers! He’s made them his bitch since entering the league. But, like I’ve been saying all along, Jimmy Graham doesn’t make this offense go. Throwing it to him 8 times for 140 yards isn’t going to make us the #1 offense in the league. Not when the rest of our guys are held to 10 catches for 101 yards. Not when Marshawn Lynch is held to 54 yards on 17 carries. Not when Russell Wilson was sacked ANOTHER four times.

It’s cute that some of the players are saying that when this team clicks, it’s going to be hard to stop. But, I just don’t see how it’s going to happen. There’s too much going wrong right now. There are too many aspects in which this team truly SUCKS to think that they’ll be able to flip a switch and magically get things going.

It’s the whole Gods N’ Clods thing biting us in the ass like it bites most teams in the ass. When you pay as many players big money deals like we have, then you have to rely on too many guys earning next-to-nothing. We all thought the Seahawks would be immune, because the coaching staff is just too good. What’s happened is, we’ve wildly overestimated their abilities. Our best coaches – Dan Quinn, Ken Norton Jr., Gus Bradley – are working elsewhere. Leaving us with the likes of Richard, Tom Cable, and, of course, Darrell Bevell, left to pick up the pieces and keep this train a rollin’. They’re not up for the task, and as a result a once-great team is staring down the barrell of an 8-8 season.

Maybe a crappy, playoff-free season is just what this team needs to regain its hunger for the game of football. I’m starting to think that miracle finish in last season’s NFC Championship Game was more of a curse than we realized.

The Hellacious Seattle Seahawks 2015 Season Preview!

There was supposed to be three full days of previews – befitting the excitement level of going into yet another Championship Season in this current Championship Window – but my dad picked up a cold over Labor Day weekend, which remained dormant in my body until Tuesday afternoon, when it revealed its presence, dragging down my fragile frame in the process.

The subsequent two days were spent in various states of repose, between my couch and my bed, filling my body with a steady diet of bananas and Vitamin C while I filled carefully folded bundles of toilet paper with mucus from my ever-running nose.  I’m still nowhere near 100%, but season previews don’t write themselves!  So, here goes nothing.

As you could probably tell from this post, I’m pretty high on the Seahawks getting back to the Super Bowl and winning it yet again.  In fact, I’m higher on the Seahawks THIS year than I was last year, when we were essentially the same starting units on both sides of the ball less a couple key components.  Where the 2014 Seahawks really bought the farm was in the loss of Golden Tate.  Had we never made the trade for Percy Harvin, and instead focused on giving Tate the deal he deserved, the rest of the receivers on this team would’ve slotted out where they were supposed to be, and we wouldn’t have been throwing a goalline pass to Ricardo Lockette of all people on our final offensive play of the Super Bowl.  But, it’s not fair to lay all the blame on one guy (or lack thereof), when the real culprit of 2014 was a lack of quality depth.

That’s where 2015 comes on to shine.  Harvin and Tate have been replaced by rookie Tyler Lockett.  Turbin and Michael have been replaced by Fred Jackson and Thomas Rawls (two steadier and more capable backs).  Willson and Helfet get knocked down to the second & third tight end spots with the trade for Jimmy Graham.  Our pass rush that was – by season’s end – pretty much just Bennett, Avril, and Irvin, gets bolstered with the addition of rookie Frank Clark, and the growth and maturity (and hopefully health) of Cassius Marsh and Jordan Hill.

2015 should also offer additional gains out of our already-established stars.  Guys like Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Bruce Irvin, Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, and Tharold Simon should all see considerable improvements in play as they enter the primes of their careers.  And, while guys like Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman are coming off of significant injuries, it’s still fair to expect their very best play, as we would with veterans like Bennett, Avril, Okung, Mebane, Lynch, and Chancellor if/when he ever shows up again.

If you assume everyone will be healthy all year (which, I understand, is ridiculous), then on paper the only real weakness we’re looking at is the offensive line.  You could make an argument for secondary depth being the primary weakness, but as long as the rest of the defense is able to stay on the field, it should more than make up for what’s going on opposite Richard Sherman.  The O-Line is truly the problem area, but I also feel that’s a bit unfair.

For starters, when you compare the O-Line to the other position groups on this team, OF COURSE it’s going to rank dead last!  But, more importantly, I would argue this position group has always been a little bit neglected from a talent perspective, and they’ve made up for it by employing one of the very best O-Line coaches in the league.  AND, not for nothing, but the Seahawks have gone to two straight Super Bowls with two pretty sub-par offensive lines, and it hasn’t prevented us from winning yet.

They tinkered with it in the pre-season and came away with a starting five that’s as good as it’s going to get (since we can’t really afford to bring in quality outside help).  But, that doesn’t mean it’s as good as it’s ever going to be.  We’ve got three guys – Britt at left guard, Nowak at center, Gilliam at right tackle – who are getting their first professional starts at their respective positions.  Will it be a struggle early?  I think, from what we’ve seen of the running game this pre-season:  yeah, it’s going to be a little ugly.  This O-Line is going to struggle against the better D-Lines in the league (which makes it utterly horrific that we have to play the Rams in week 1), but it’s going to look downright competent against the lesser D-Lines.  And, I think these guys have a real chance to mature and gel, to where by season’s end, we’ll be looking at a solid group of guys on an offense that’s humming along with the best of ’em.

When even your weakest point is still good enough to be argued into a strength, you know you’ve got a great team on your hands.  I think we’re all pretty much in agreement that this team has the potential to be better than their 2014 counterparts, with a ceiling being at the 2013 level (which is really saying something, because I’ll always believe the 2013 Seahawks were one of the all time greatest teams in the history of the league).

That doesn’t mean there aren’t concerns.  There are always reasons to worry, especially early in the season.  Will Earl Thomas be back to his usual self?  Will Kam Chancellor ever end this idiotic holdout?  Will Richard Sherman make it through the full season?  Will the offense mesh well with Jimmy Graham, or will they try to force it to him too many times, stalling too many drives?  Will the O-Line be able to open holes for Lynch?  Will Russell Wilson be a better pocket passer?  And, most importantly, in an overall sense:  will the key players and key positions be able to stay healthy?

Health is the ultimate X-Factor.  I say it every year, and ever year it’s no less true.  Poor health can take a championship team and prevent them from even making the playoffs.  It can rear its ugly head at any time – and often at the worst of times – leaving you grasping at straws for a solution.  Did the Seahawks lose the Super Bowl because of the one goalline play?  Or, did the Seahawks lose the Super Bowl because our entire fucking secondary was injured, and Cliff Avril had a concussion that reduced our pass rush to nothing, thereby allowing the Patriots back into a game we were controlling?  You can make compelling arguments for either, but the fact remains the same:  if the Seahawks were mostly healthy in that game, it probably doesn’t come down to a goalline pass in the first place.

So, that’s what you’ve gotta do:  pray for health and let the chips fall where they may.  Let this be the last word on health for the rest of this preview.

The first half of this season is fairly tough.  Five of eight on the road, five of eight against 2014 playoff teams, and not very many soft landings.  Let’s run through the schedule to see where we are.

Week 1, at St. Louis, 10am

Honestly, I have my doubts about this one.  I know I probably shouldn’t; I know they’re going through something similar on their offensive line as we are, and I know their starting two running backs are both injured, but I can’t help but look at this game and see our offense struggling.  I see Lynch getting bottled up, I see growing pains with Graham, and I see the Rams doing just enough on offense to kick one more field goal than us.  I’m putting my life savings on this game being within one score either one way or the other, and if you put a gun to my head, I’ll tell you the Rams come out on top in this one, 16-13.

Week 2, at Green Bay, 5:30pm (Sunday Night)

Bounce back game, and one the Seahawks desperately need (with tie-breakers and whatnot).  I know the Packers will be fired up, and I know their fans will be insane after a day’s worth of tailgating, so it probably won’t be easy coming out of the gate.  After a sluggish first quarter, I expect the Seahawks to move the ball with regularity and defeat the Packers with ease in the second half.  Somewhere along the lines of 31-20.

Week 3, vs. Chicago, 1:25pm

This one should be a walk-over, but I expect the Bears to put up a bit of a fight, as they’ve got some nasty, talented guys in Jeffery and Forte.  But, given that this is Seattle’s home opener, I’d look for the home team to jump out to an early lead and keep it pretty comfortably in the 1-2 score range the rest of the way.  33-27.

Week 4, vs. Detroit, 5:30pm (Monday Night)

The return of Golden Tate!  There’s no way he doesn’t make a big play or two in this game.  But, with Seattle back home for a primetime game, I’m expecting another win for the good guys.  Maybe not quite the blowout we’re used to, but we’re going to scratch it out.  27-24.

Week 5, at Cincinnati, 10am

I’ve been wary of this game from the moment I saw it on our schedule.  Something about road AFC games in the morning, teams we rarely get to go up against, and them having just enough talent to get by.  I’m on record as hating on Andy Dalton pretty hard, but I think he’s going to go into this game with extra focus in not turning the ball over.  Combine that with the fact that this game isn’t in primetime and I think you’ll see Good Andy Dalton on this day.  Plus, their running game is legit, and they’ve got enough talent at receiver to move the ball on us if they want.  I see an upset here, with Cincy taking us down 20-13.

Week 6, vs. Carolina, 1:05pm

Notice we can’t help but beat on Carolina every damn year and no one ever talks about them getting fired up for us like they do about the Packers getting up for us.  Pretty much, Carolina is Seattle’s younger brother, and we can’t help but hold them down, rub our asses in their faces, and fart repeatedly until they call mom to get us to stop.  No change here.  I expect something along the lines of 27-14.

Week 7, at San Francisco, 5:25pm (Thursday Night)

The 49ers are going to be terrible this season and I expect them to look terrible whenever we play them.  Without Gore, I expect their running game to be non-existent.  Without Harbaugh, I expect their offense to be pathetic and their overall output to be among the worst.  There’s no reason why this shouldn’t be a cakewalk, in a long line of ugly, unwatchable Thursday Night Football games.  Seahawks 38, 49ers 3.

Week 8, at Dallas, 1:25pm

This game would normally scare the bejesus out of me, and scream “Third Loss Of The Season!”  But, I dunno.  I like the Seahawks with 10 days to prepare.  I like the Seahawks a week before their BYE.  I like the fact that the Cowboys embarrassed us on our home turf last season.  And, quite frankly, I like how Dallas has zero home field advantage to speak of whatsoever.  I predict a huge following by the 12’s, I predict a solid day out of our offense, I predict a return touchdown from someone (probably Lockett) and ultimately I predict a Seahawks victory, to the tune of 24-23.

Week 9 – BYE

Week 10, vs. Arizona, 5:30pm (Sunday Night)

I’d be shocked if Carson Palmer isn’t injured at this point in the season, but even if he’s managed to stay healthy, I don’t expect the Cards to be as good.  This game feels like a gift from the scheduling gods – at home, after a BYE, on Sunday night?  Are you kidding me?  This has blowout written all over it!  26-9.

Week 11, vs. San Francisco, 1:25pm

Just played them three games ago, I don’t know why anyone would expect a different outcome.  Seahawks 30, 49ers 7.

Week 12, vs. Pittsburgh, 1:25pm

Three home games in a row after a BYE!  That’s what I’m talking about!  This one looks like a difficult matchup.  I like the Steelers’ offense a lot, particuarly their passing game.  I don’t care for their defense, but that hasn’t stopped some fringey defenses from coming in here and making us look bad.  Ultimately, I think this game will be a shootout, and I think it’ll prove to be the most exciting game of the entire season.  And, as much as it pains me to say it, I think the Steelers come in here and steal one.  They have JUST the right mix going for them:  veteran quarterback, difficult to take down or rattle in the pocket, superstar wide receiver, superstar running back.  I just think they’re going to expose us the way no other offense on our schedule will.  Pittsburgh 31, Seattle 30.

Week 13, at Minnesota, 10am

I like Minnesota’s rebuilding plan.  They’ve got a lot of young talent on both sides of the ball, with a hungry Adrian Peterson and a quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater with a lot of potential.  He might not ever be an MVP of the league, but I think he can lead this team to some winning seasons in his career.  In this game, I like the Seahawks to bounce back on defense and make life difficult for the Vikes.  Seahawks 17, Vikings 6.

Week 14, at Baltimore, 5:30pm (Sunday Night)

This might be the most hyped non-divisional, non-playoff game on the horizon.  Two sterling franchises, two stud quarterbacks, two sound defenses.  All the storylines in the world, from Lynch vs. Forsett, to Pete Carroll vs. The Other Harbaugh, to this being a matchup of two of the last three Super Bowl winners.  Both teams should be in great positions in the standings by this point (likely leading their respective divisions) and I think we’ll all be talking about how it’s a real strong probability that this is the eventual Super Bowl matchup in February.  A lot of people will predict a Ravens victory, but I just like the Seahawks too much in primetime.  I see Seattle winning 27-23.

Week 15, vs. Cleveland, 1:05pm

Please, dear lord, give me one chance to see Johnny Football obliterated by the Seahawks in Seattle.  It’s all I ask.  Seattle 28, Cleveland 0.

Week 16, vs. St. Louis, 1:25pm

No tricks, just hardnose football.  The Seahawks make up for the week 1 defeat as we almost always do this time of year when the Rams come to town.  This game effectively wraps up the division, if not Home Field Advantage, pushing the Seahawks to 12-3 on the season.  20-13, Seahawks.

Week 17, at Arizona, 1:25pm

I don’t expect the Seahawks to need this victory, so I don’t expect many of the starters to play for too long.  As a glorified pre-season game, I see the Seahawks going down to the Cardinals 28-17.

12-4 is pretty tame for a #1 overall seed, but with tie-breakers over the Packers and Cowboys, I think it’s just enough.  What we have to hope for at that point is that we don’t get stuck playing the Rams, or some other difficult defensive team in the playoffs.  As always, I’ll take a battle of offenses over a grudgematch on the defensive side of the ball, as I think our defense is better than most any offense you can put on the field.

Now, all we have to do is play the games.  NBD.