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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Projecting Where The New Seahawks Fit

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

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

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

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

  • Fant – Glowinski – Britt – Ifedi – Gilliam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which brings us to the defense.

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

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

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

Just picture a line that looks like this:

  • Avril, McDowell, Bennett, Clark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Seahawks’ 2017 Draft Was Unsexy & Pivotal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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!