What I’d Like To See The Seahawks Do In The 2017 NFL Draft

I’m not a draftnik by any means.  I don’t do mock drafts, because I don’t know enough about the vast majority of college football outside of the University of Washington, and because they’re a collosal waste of time.  I like to write about other sports when nothing’s happening in the NFL, so I don’t know what I would do if I had to write about the NFL all year round.

But, you know, some information does manage to slip through into my brain from time to time.  I have a vague, general idea of some of the best players in the draft this year and where they might end up going.  I’m also keenly aware of the Seattle Seahawks and their needs in the aftermath of the first round of the free agency signing period (the second round is between the draft and the start of the regular season, and it’s much less interesting, with guys getting training camp tryouts more than anything else).  I know where the Seahawks pick, so I have a pretty good idea of who will be available and who won’t be.  And, I’ve got a decent idea of where this draft is strongest and weakest.

The Seahawks pick 26th out of 32 in the first round.  They have a second round pick in roughly the same spot, and three third rounders.  No fourths or fifths; one sixth and one seventh, for a total of 7 draft picks.  Knowing the Seahawks, they’d like to have more than 7 picks in this draft, so it’s entirely plausible that the Seahawks end up trading down on one or more occasions, to perhaps pick up an extra 2nd or 3rd rounder, or maybe fill in that extensive gap between their last 3rd rounder and their 6th rounder.

So, if I had to guess, I’d say the Seahawks don’t actually make a selection at 26.  I say that because they’ve traded down in the first round multiple times before.  I say that because there’s REALLY no consensus among rookie quarterbacks coming out this year, meaning it’s not too likely a quarterback is taken in any of the top five picks, but it’s entirely possible that many multiple quarterbacks are taken between 6-32, as I get the feeling different teams have different QBs rated as their highest and would love nothing more than to prove the rest of the NFL wrong, that they know better.  As such, there’s a pretty good chance we see a team willing to trade up from the early 2nd round and move into Seattle’s spot.  Cleveland, San Francisco, Chicago, and the Jets all pick pretty early in the 2nd round, for instance.  The lower the Seahawks go down the ladder, the more in draft capital they’re likely to pick up.

To wrap up this part of the post, would I be in favor of the Seahawks trading down?  Why not?  However, if it prevents us from getting certain guys I want, I’m going to be a little upset.

So, who are some of the guys projected to go to Seattle?  Well, I’m sure among many, many others, I’ve been seeing the following names a lot:

  • Cam Robinson OT
  • Garett Bolles OT
  • Forrest Lamp G
  • Kevin King CB
  • Obi Melifonwu S

I could probably go on and on if I wanted to really do some research, but I’ll tell you what I think about these guys.  Even though offensive line was an abject disaster last year, I’m not super high on taking a lineman in the first round.  When I hear things like, “This is the worst draft ever for offensive linemen,” I cringe.  All those people saying that could be dead wrong, and there could be any number of quality linemen who develop from this class, but it seems like a longshot to me.  Taking an offensive lineman at 26 (or wherever the Seahawks land with their first pick of the draft) is going to have the feel of a reach to me.  The Seahawks drafting for need over value, taking whatever lineman is the best available just because.  If the Seahawks are going to take yet another offensive lineman with their first pick, it better be a guy who is a quality starter from Day 1, and quite frankly their track record stinks in this area.

  • Ifedi, last year, was a starter from Day 1, but not a good one
  • Britt (their 2nd selection in the 2014 draft) wasn’t good until year 3
  • Carpenter (2011) wasn’t the right tackle we were promised, eventually settling into a so-so left guard
  • Moffitt (also 2011) was never good, is out of the league now
  • Okung (2010) the only quality lineman, but had his own issues (was also a #6 overall draft pick and the second left tackle taken in the draft)

The Seahawks and Plug & Play O-Linemen don’t really mesh.  It either takes time for them to develop into decent players, if they ever develop at all.

So, what are we supposed to do if we take one of these tackles like Robinson or Bolles, if they’re still around?  Well, you have to play them, of course!  You have to get value out of your top picks, meaning you need to feature them early and often to get your money’s worth!  Considering it looks like Ifedi is being moved over to right tackle, and considering the Seahawks signed Luke Joeckel, and considering they still highly regard George Fant, I mean, what do we do here with this embarrassment of debts?  (that’s the opposite of Embarrassment of Riches, right?)  Besides that, do either of them play left tackle, which is actually the position we need to be filling with a competent player?  I have my doubts.

Plus, I don’t even think O-Line is the most pressing need right now.  I think the Seahawks did all they did in free agency so they WOULDN’T have to settle on taking an O-Lineman with their first draft pick.  They NEED to replenish their secondary, and I think they do that here.  I hope they do that here.  I NEED THEM TO DO THAT HERE!

I’ve had it in my head, pretty much since the combine, that we can get the band back together – so to speak – with regards to the UW secondary.  I absolutely LOVE Kevin King’s potential for growth, and I also think he’d be ready to start from Day 1 opposite Richard Sherman.  And, in a couple years, when Sherman opts to move on to another team, I love Kevin King’s potential to take over that spot and flourish for many years to come.  I’m also well aware that, since the combine, his stock has skyrocketed, and as a result he may get selected before the Seahawks could even sniff at a chance of trading up for him.  Like, maybe even in the Top 20.  In which case, if that happens, so be it, and I wish him a long and fruitful career (except when he plays the Seahawks).

I also need to understand that there are many other cornerbacks and safeties out there that the Seahawks could conceivably covet (like that Melifonwu guy out of UConn), that could be as good or even better than Kevin King.  I just think I’m going to be REALLY upset if King is still there and the Seahawks pick someone else over him, that’s all.

As a dark horse, who no one is really talking about when they talk about the Seahawks, is Budda Baker.  Like I said, I’m REALLY high on the Washington Huskies’ secondary, and I think I want as many of them as possible to play for Seattle.  I know Baker’s essentially blocked at the safety position by Earl Thomas, and I know they just signed Bradley McDougald as a prominent backup safety they hope to incorporate into the defense; but I’ve also seen what this team looks like without Kam Chancellor, and without Earl Thomas (though, thankfully, not without both at the same time, which I fear would be the death of me), and I honestly believe you can’t have enough talent at that position, when you’re playing a Pete Carroll defense.  With Baker backing up Earl, you don’t have NEARLY the dropoff you had last year when Earl went down.  But, even if Earl and Kam don’t miss a single important snap the entire season, that doesn’t mean you wasted your selection on Baker.  Budda can play cornerback too!  Line him up outside and move Lane inside, or keep Lane outside and let Budda play nickel, either way I think you’re going to have tremendous production from him, and a fabulous stopgap until DeShawn Shead can come back from injury.

Not for nothing, but I haven’t even mentioned Sidney Jones here.  With his achilles tendon injury, his draft stock fell pretty hard.  If he were to fall to the Seahawks in the second round, I think I might lose my shit, though I think that’s a longshot.  Nevertheless, coming away with Baker and Jones in this draft might make it all worthwhile in mine eyes.

There’s also talk of the Seahawks going with a pass rusher with their first pick, but I dunno.  I just don’t know who’s going to be available.  They have Avril, Bennett, and Frank Clark in the fold already.  In the big pass rushing package, you can slide Bennett inside and play all three of those guys at once, but you still need another interior pass rusher to pair with him, and the very best ones of that group tend to be picked super high (I see you Solomon Thomas, and I hope to holy hell that the 49ers don’t pick you #2 overall).  If you could guarantee me the Seahawks find some diamond in the rough, I suppose I’d be for it, but there aren’t a ton of rookie pass rushers who make huge impacts AS rookies.

More than anything else, I want a guy who can come in and start right away, but I also want a guy who will have a big positive impact right away.  Seems unlikely at any of the line positions (either offense or defense), seems unlikely at wide receiver or running back, and in my opinion going after a linebacker (with Wagner and Wright never leaving the field) would be beyond irresponsible, given the holes this team needs to fill.  The only thing worse would be if the Seahawks went quarterback with their first pick, at which point I might throw my remote through the television.

The only logical choice is to use that first pick on the secondary.  So that’s what I’d like to see the Seahawks do in the 2017 NFL Draft.

Sincerely,

TL;DR

Seahawks Fans Won’t Have Garry Gilliam To Kick Around Anymore, Except For When 49ers Quarterbacks Get Sacked Of Course

The Seahawks tendered Garry Gilliam at the lowest possible level, for a little under $2 million, with an Original Round designation.  That means any team could offer Gilliam a contract and the Seahawks would have the right to match it.  That also means, if the Seahawks refused to match it, they’d get no draft pick compensation in return, because in this case Gilliam was an undrafted free agent, and as such there is no “Original Round” pick to recoup.

Which is precisely what happened.  The 49ers offered Gilliam approximately $400K more total money on a 1-year deal – after he’d turned down a couple of their multi-year offers – but the rub is that the 49ers guaranteed $1.4 million of his 2017 contract, which is approximately $1.4 million more than the Seahawks wanted to guarantee him.  Today, word came down that the Seahawks officially declined to match the contract, so Gilliam is now a member of the 49ers.

Pretty good bargain on their part.  Gilliam has starting experience, which is always helpful.  I don’t know if he’s going to be starting for them, necessarily, or thrown onto the pile, but either way he’s a good depth piece, and a guy I wouldn’t have minded seeing in a Seahawks uniform.  But, I understand why the Seahawks did what they did.

This all but guarantees that Germain Ifedi will be the starting right tackle for the Seahawks in 2017 (barring injury, of course).  I don’t really know how to feel about that, other than totally scared shitless.  As it was, Ifedi was pretty bad as a guard, and that’s a position that frequently sees the center helping in double teams.  As a right tackle, Ifedi will mostly be on an island.  With zero experience at the NFL level as a tackle, I’m less than convinced he’s going to somehow be an improvement over what he was last year.

You could argue all that matters is that he’s an improvement over Gilliam, which shouldn’t be TOO hard, as Gilliam was pretty bad in his own right.  But, why set that bar so low?  With Gilliam in the fold, we have experienced depth and someone to really push Ifedi to earn that spot.  Without Gilliam, we’ve essentially handed the job to an unproven 2nd year player.  If Ifedi struggles, or gets injured, guess where that leaves the Seahawks!  See:  2016 Seattle Seahawks, only probably worse.

Nothing about this offseason plan, as it pertains to the O-Line (our greatest weakness the last two years), instills any confidence whatsoever that the Seahawks actually have a plan.  In free agency, they’re piling on a lot of crappy, unwanted players from other teams and seemingly settling for less at every turn.

What’s the line looking like?  Either Joeckel or Fant at left tackle, either Joeckel, Glowinski or Odhiambo at left guard, Britt at center, Aboushi at right guard, and Ifedi at right tackle.  Aside from Britt, and maybe Aboushi, that’s a real Who’s Who of God Fucking Dammit Here We Go Again.

I can’t wait for the O-Line to be all anyone ever talks about for the rest of 2017 and beyond until the end of time because we’re living in some bullshit Groundhog Day universe where every day brings a new opportunity to complain about the O-Line.

Finally Something To Talk About: Seahawks Sign Luke Joeckel

It’s a 1-year deal most likely with incentives built in to get it up to $8 million if he hits them all.

Now, obviously, there isn’t much to get excited about here.  For starters, he has a massive knee injury he’s recovering from, so we don’t even know if he’s going to PLAY this year.  You’d think, with modern medical advances and whatnot, he’ll return to the field in some capacity, but that’s certainly no guarantee.  Beyond that, he’s been a humongous bust since being drafted #2 overall in 2013 by the Jaguars.  In addition to being injured last year, he suffered a massive injury his rookie year to his ankle.  When he was healthy, he was among the worst left tackles in all of football.  He was so bad, they moved him to left guard to try to salvage some value.  With a limited sample size there, it’s tough to say if he’s even worth a damn at a lesser position like that.

As I wrote about yesterday, the Seahawks are pretty limited in what they can do in free agency.  They can’t afford to go out and sign the best free agent left tackle on the market.  Honestly, they can’t really come close to what these other teams are able to dish out.  So, they’ve got to find value in other areas, not unlike the whole Moneyball craze in baseball.  Again, you’d LIKE to think there are guys out there willing to come to a contender on a more reasonable deal, but this is the NFL, and business is booming.

At the same time, it seems like A) this is a bit rushed & B) they could’ve gotten someone better for a reasonable pricetag.  Hell, they could’ve gotten someone with two legs at the very least!

This really smacks of the underwhelming signings of Bradley Sowell and J’Marcus Webb.  This isn’t fishing in the bottom of the barrel, this is skimming the top of the barrel for a fish that’s been dead for a week.  It’s also another sign, to me, that the Seahawks have already made up their minds about the O-Line:  and that is to keep it almost exactly the same as last year’s.  You don’t bring in Sowell and Webb because you think they’re viable starters – those guys have been terrible their entire careers!  You bring them in because you have younger, cheaper guys you want to play, and you want to make them look good by comparison.  You can’t do nothing, even if you’re strapped financially, so you make these nominal moves to make it look like you’re focused on improving the team.  But, in reality, you’re banking on young guys getting better with experience and time together, while the Luke Joeckel’s of the world are there as injury insurance and nothing more.

Part of me wants to at least dream a little bit on the potential of Joeckel.  I mean, he was a #2 overall draft pick for a reason, right?  He must’ve had good measurables and whatnot.  You figure getting him in a new situation, away from all the pressure and disappointment in Jacksonville, let Tom Cable work with him, and maybe we can make it work.  Maybe he can push Gilliam or Fant and give us another solid piece on the line to go with Britt at center.

But, then I go right back to his injuries, and I have to wonder how much athleticism he has left.  Does he have the lateral movement required to be a tackle?  Are we simply plugging holes in our offensive line with TNT and a lit match?

Obviously, we’ll have to see everything the Seahawks do in the offseason before we pass too much judgment.  So far, pretty underwhelmed though.

Seahawks Death Week: The Road Ahead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

Seahawks Death Week: Looking On The Bright Side

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seahawks Look Like Their Old Selves In Beating The Lions

Well, that was something, huh?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s Difficult To Win In Green Bay In December For Some Reason

I guess Green Bay is on some crazy-long winning streak at home in the month of December, and in games started by Aaron Rodgers it’s even crazier and longer?  I dunno.  I suppose that’s some comment on how difficult it is to win in freezing cold weather, unless you’re “used to it” like the Packers ostensibly would be.  But, doesn’t that feel like one of those stats that has more to do with the organization?  The Packers have been pretty damn good for a long time, and they’ve been particularly good with Rodgers at the helm, so it would stand to reason that an anomalous winning streak such as this might be in the cards.

If the Cleveland Browns played all their home games in Green Bay for the last decade, I’m certain we would not be having this same conversation.

So, I’m not going to put a ton of credence into this winning streak, because like all streaks, they come to an end eventually.  And since 2016 is literally the worst year in the history of years, it would stand to reason that some hardships are coming Green Bay’s way.

The Packers are 6-6 coming into this game, and they’ve looked decidedly unremarkable this whole year.  Their offense, which is supposed to be their strength, is ranked 13th in total yards, just two spots ahead of the Seahawks.  Their running game is particularly terrible, averaging less than 100 yards per game, ranked 24th overall (the Seahawks are only ranked 20th, but remember we’ve been dealing with another brand new O-Line and the struggles of Christine Michael for most of the year).  Most galling of all might be that the Packers are only ranked 10th in passing, behind teams like Arizona, Cincinnati, San Diego, and New England (and don’t forget Brady missed 4 games!).  Maybe most importantly of all, the Packers only rank 11th in points scored, behind teams like Buffalo and Tennessee.

It’s been a problem this year, because while their defense is rarely a strength, it’s even less disruptive this year.  They’re pretty middle-of-the-road in sacks, and now they’ll be missing their sack leader in Nick Perry.  They’re already down a couple of inside linebackers, and if Clay Matthews can’t go, you might as well stick a fork in their defense.  Ha Ha Clinton-Dix can’t be everywhere at once!

As was shown in the Tampa Bay game, though, it doesn’t necessarily take an elite front four to get pressure on the Seahawks.  Unlike that game, we’re healthy across the O-Line, and Garry Gilliam has effectively been benched for stopgap improvement Bradley Sowell.  I don’t know how you lose a right tackle job to Sowell, but Gilliam must’ve been awfully bad.  On the plus side, Britt is playing like a quasi-Pro Bowler at center, and Glowinski and Ifedi have looked better as the season has gone on.  Regardless, you have to be concerned for whoever’s trying to block Julius Peppers, but if that’s all they’ve got for their pass rush, I don’t feel too worried.

On the flipside, we’ve got a secondary that’s down Earl Thomas for the rest of the year.  I don’t anticipate we’re just going to completely fall apart in his absence, but there’s obviously a steep drop-off from him to Steven Terrell.  That doesn’t change the overall makeup of the defense though.  We’re still going to do everything we can to funnel everything into the underneath routes.  And, let’s be honest here, MUCH worse secondaries have been able to hold the Packers’ passing game in check this season.  Since we don’t really have a run game to worry about, it might make sense to regularly alternate between blitz-heavy packages and dropping extra guys into coverage.  I wouldn’t stick in a zone too much though, as the Packers seem to really struggle against man coverage.

In a vacuum, the Seahawks should have little trouble moving the ball and putting up points, as well as holding the Packers’ offense in check.  But, we’re looking at a game in sub-freezing temperatures, with a likelihood of snowfall.  In other words, crazy shit can happen.  The ball will be extra tough to kick, as well as – I’m sure – not ideal for throwing.  I want to say the team that runs the ball best will prevail, which puts the odds of winning severely in Seattle’s favor.

I mean, come on, tell me a Seahawks fan who isn’t looking forward to Christine Michael getting a lot of reps with the Packers!  On that playing surface?  He’ll be slipping and falling like CRAZY!

I ultimately think the Seahawks will win this game, but for some reason I keep coming back to these nagging doubts.  Is it the weather?  The haunting specter of almost losing to the Vikings in the playoffs last year?  The fact that I still hold Aaron Rodgers in the highest of esteem even though he’s not quite at the all-world level we’ve seen him at in recent seasons?  Or, is it that damned December winning streak in Lambeau Field?

More than anything, I just think it’s this NFL season.  I can’t remember the last time I’ve struggled this hard at picking NFL winners.  It seems like when I give the home team the edge in a 50/50 matchup, it backfires.  Then, when I pick the quote-unquote best team, regardless of location, it backfires some more!  No matter who I pick in this game, that team will most certainly lose.  So, I might as well pick the Packers and at least do the Seahawks a solid.

Or, has my saying that effectively reversed the reverse-jinx?  God, I hate me sports.

The Seahawks Will Have Real Problems If They Don’t Beat The Panthers This Weekend

I was pretty, I dunno, laid back I guess, in my analysis of last week’s game.  While we’re all used to the Seahawks going on these terrific runs to close out their seasons under Pete Carroll (particularly with Russell Wilson behind center), it seems like every year they have at least one slip up.  A game they lose in November or December – en route to a solid playoff run – that they really should’ve won, but for whatever reason didn’t.

Last year, we lost at home to the Rams.  The year before, it was a road game in Kansas City.  The year before that, it was that crazy home loss to the Cards where Carson Palmer threw four picks and still managed to lead them to a late win.  The year before that, in Wilson’s rookie season, it was that loss in Miami against a pretty mediocre Dolphins team.

So, again, I wouldn’t take too much stock in their loss to Tampa last week.  On the road, across the country, a foe we don’t play very much, with injuries on both sides of the ball.

However, if we lose THIS week … we’ve got issues.

This week, we’re at home, on Sunday Night Football, against a team we’re VERY familiar with, who has had to fly across the country and stay out in San Jose for the week instead of going back and forth twice in two weeks.  And, whereas the Seahawks are getting their guys back – Bennett, Earl, Shead, and Britt have all practiced this week, so as long as they hold up through Saturday, they should play – the Panthers are the ones dealing with major injuries on both sides of the ball.  They’ve lost multiple O-linemen for the year, Luke Kuechly is dealing with another pretty severe concussion, and Kelvin Benjamin has been limited (though he figures to give it a go with a bum shoulder).  The Panthers are also, not for nothing, mired in a post-Super Bowl hangover season where they find themselves 4-7 and in last place in their division.

Make no mistake, as long as they’ve got Cam Newton, they’re more than capable of going on a run to close out the season, but it just feels like this team is dealing with more than simple injury woes.  There’s a fundamental flaw with this team that’s going to keep them out of the playoffs.  MAYBE it’s simply the loss of Josh Norman!  They are giving up 275 yards per game through the air, compared to 234 last year.  I mean, that’s pretty steep.  I know if I were a Panthers fan, I’d be ripping their GM on a weekly basis.

Here’s the thing, though:  being familiar with a team – because you play them so much – isn’t necessarily a good thing.  With all things being equal, it usually leads to a game being relatively close and exciting.  But, if they terrorize our offensive line like they’ve been known to do in recent years, we could be in for another LONG day.

We’ll see how it goes.  I tend to believe the Seahawks – by getting everyone back healthy – will go out and crush the Panthers this weekend.  If we don’t, though, then you have to wonder what that means for the rest of our season.

Next week, we go to Green Bay, another team we’re VERY familiar with, and another supposedly great team having a bad season.  If we can’t beat the Panthers this weekend, what hope do we have of beating the Packers next weekend?  Then, we’re home for the Rams and Cardinals.  I don’t need to tell you about the Rams; and as for the Cards, they’d be the third team in four weeks who went to the playoffs last year and appear to be dead this year.

I mean, this is SUPPOSED to be among the easiest remaining schedules in the NFL!  And yet, every team (except the 49ers in Week 17) terrifies the living dickens out of me!

Except, not really.  I’m of the belief that the Seahawks should win out, because they’re clearly the most talented of the remaining teams on their schedule.  What I’m REALLY afraid of is the Seahawks themselves.  More often than not, if the Seahawks lose, it’s because they beat themselves.  Too many penalties, too many sacks and QB pressures allowed, getting too cute with roster construction (particularly along the O-Line), getting too cute with the play-calling, holding onto the ball too long, taking too long to settle down on defense (or, conversely, giving up too many big plays late), not getting off the field on third downs on defense, not converting third downs on offense.  These are all things that are within OUR control, and when we lose games, it’s because there’s a major breakdown in one or more of these areas.

The Seahawks just need to go out, play Seahawks football, stop losing so many key players to injury, and get the fucking job done.  Cat feesh?

The Seahawks Regressed, Lost To The Bucs

I’m having a hard time giving a shit about the Seahawks losing to Tampa, if I’m being honest.  Have you heard about this local university football team that’s been kicking ass and taking names this season?  I’m on too much of a high (or, at the very least, an upside down rollercoaster), and it’s overwhelming my feelings about the Seahawks right now.

I want to say I saw this coming, but that’d be a lie; I picked the Seahawks to win in my local pick ’em pool and suffered accordingly.  But, let’s just say the outcome doesn’t necessarily shock me.

Earl Thomas was out, DeShawn Shead was out, Michael Bennett was STILL out, and, fuck, who knows?  Maybe more important than all of those guys was the fact that Justin Britt was out.  From the looks of things, it didn’t feel like Joey Hunt did a terrible job – though, I did see him get turned around on some stunts and whatnot – but this was just a total breakdown from every offensive line position.  Hell, Garry Gilliam was pulled in favor of Bradley Sowell, for Christ’s sake!  But, he wasn’t the only one fucking up, leading to pressure on over 60% of our passes.  Ifedi looked like he took a step back, Glowinski was getting burned on the reg, and Fant looked exactly like an undrafted rookie should look in protecting Wilson’s blindside.  Considering all the progress the Seahawks had made to this point in the season, one has to wonder if Britt not being there really threw this line for a loop.  He calls out all the protections and whatnot, and by simply losing the continuity the line had shared in recent weeks, maybe that was the catalyst to the Bucs’ front four absolutely destroying us.

Either way, it led to Wilson being held to 151 yards passing with 0 TDs and 2 INTs.  He was able to salvage something in the run game for the first time all year, thanks to 80 yards on 8 carries (and he could’ve had A LOT more on some zone reads he ended up handing off when he should’ve pulled it).  Nevertheless, you’re never going to do well when you’re giving up 6 sacks and however many pressures.

Make no mistake, though, Wilson was off.  He was off-target on most of his deep throws; pressure in his face or no, he’s usually better able to drop those balls into the arms of his receivers.  I don’t know if it was tentativeness from expecting the pressure to get to him every snap, but it also looked like the receivers were having a hard time getting open.  I think maybe Darrell Bevell tried to stick to the down-field passing game too much, when we maybe should’ve gone back to the quick passes earlier.

And, if I never see the fucking fullback dive on 3rd & 1 or 4th & 1, it’ll be too fucking soon BEVELL!

But, I mean, what can you do?  I can’t put it all on any one person, because this is the team we’ve constructed.  It’s bound to be better once we get totally healthy (IF we get totally healthy), but the O-Line is probably going to struggle more often than not against really good front fours.

Did we underrate Tampa’s pass rush?  Probably a little bit.  It’s also probably a totally different football game if it’s played in Seattle, not for nothing.

Anyway, I’m not too worried about this one.  Sure, it sucked, and watching a Seahawks game when the offense is totally incapable of moving the football is worse than being strapped into a chair with your eyes forced open, facing a 48-hour Big Bang Theory marathon, but nothing has changed from where we were last week.  The Seahawks still hold the 2-seed (and, after the Cowboys beat the Redskins on Thanksgiving, you had to know it was going to be HIGHLY improbable for the Seahawks to pick up two games on Dallas in the last 5 weeks, so the 1-seed was never likely going to happen anyway), with a half-game lead over Detroit and Atlanta.  Detroit has three of its last five on the road, and has to face the Giants, Cowboys, Packers and Saints the rest of the way.  Atlanta, you figure, has it a little better (which is why I was rooting for Arizona to beat them this weekend), only having to face the Chiefs and Saints (both at home) and the Panthers on the road for their tough games.

As for the division, thanks to everyone else being terrible and all losing this weekend, we still have a 3-game lead over the Cards with five weeks to go.  The way Palmer & Co. are playing, go ahead and salt the division away right now.

So, nothing is fucked here!  We’re home for 3 of 5, we get the plummeting Panthers this weekend on Sunday Night Football, and all should be right with the world!