The Seahawks Won A Meaningless Pre-Season Game, Lost Fant For The Year

The Vikings were no match in a solid 20-13 victory for the Seahawks.  Our starters are clearly better than their starters, and just as importantly, our backups are better than their backups.  There won’t be cause for concern about the Vikings this season, in case you were worried.

But, shit, none of that matters.  Not in lieu of George Fant busting his ACL and needing surgery that will wipe away his whole year.

I could sit here and tell you that Russell Wilson looked great (13/18, 206 yards, 2 TDs in a half of play), I could tell you that Kasen Williams picked up where he left off last week (2 catches, 28 yards, a TD, a superb Special Teams tackle, and almost a second miraculous TD catch), I could tell you the run game looked vastly improved (against improved competition to boot), that Doug Baldwin is already in mid-season form (4 catches for 69 yards, making defenders look SILLY just for THINKING about covering him), that our backup running backs are also great pass-catchers, and that we had a Nick Vannett sighting (1 catch for 32 yards).

On the defensive side of the ball, we were a lot better.  We eventually settled down against the run after the Vikings’ first drive.  We held them in check on third downs.  Shaq Griffin was picked on quite a bit, but it looked like he has some good stuff to build on.  I liked what we got out of Naz Jones and some of our backup D-Linemen (that’ll be a tough cut-down for sure).  Blair Walsh hit a couple of 50-yard field goals and was perfect on his extra points.  And, overall, I thought Special Teams coverage units were solid.  They’ve been better, but not by much.

SO MANY positives coming out of that game, but I can’t help but think of George Fant.

I’ve said it all along:  Fant was the key to this O-Line coming together.  Not Britt, not Joeckel, not Ifedi.  The dropoff from Fant to #2 at that left tackle spot is ENORMOUS, and quite frankly we didn’t even know how good Fant was going to be this year.  By all accounts, he still could’ve been terrible when the calendar flips to September, but what we’ve got in his wake might just be leaps and bounds worse.

There are a couple options, as far as I can tell.  Keep Joeckel where he is at left guard and start someone else (likely Rees Odhiambo) at tackle; or move Joeckel back out to tackle and open up the competition for left guard.  Beyond Odhiambo, I don’t even know who the Seahawks HAVE who can play the left tackle position!  Glowinski, Aboushi and Roos all look to be exclusive to the guard spot, and Ifedi is strictly a right-side player.  Plus, it sounds like while Pocic can play every spot on the line, his very worst spot by a large margin is left tackle.

Well, he might have to suck it up and start working on it, because from what I saw the rest of the game on Friday was pretty miserable.

The Seahawks opted to keep Joeckel at guard and play Odhiambo extensively at tackle, and it wasn’t pretty.  He was beaten like a fucking red-headed stepchild!  Indeed, he might be worse right now than Fant was LAST year!  Just miserable to watch, all around.

So, yeah, I don’t know what the Seahawks should do.  I mean, it’s not like Ifedi was all that much improved in pass pro either, so once again we’re talking about Russell Wilson getting killed off the edge.  And, if Pocic has to try to learn the left tackle position, that pretty much locks us into Ifedi being the starter on the right side.

I hate this.  I hate everything about this.  At least we have two more weeks to figure it out.

Seahawks Destroyed The Chargers’ Backups

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Seahawks Keep Getting In Their Own Fucking Way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The biggest names are as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Projecting Where The New Seahawks Fit

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

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

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

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

  • Fant – Glowinski – Britt – Ifedi – Gilliam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which brings us to the defense.

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

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

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

Just picture a line that looks like this:

  • Avril, McDowell, Bennett, Clark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Seahawks Signed Dion Jordan & Pre-Season Schedule Is Set

If you told me the Seahawks would be getting two of the top three draft picks in the 2013 NFL draft, I probably would’ve died and gone to heaven.  Of course, when those picks are notorious busts Luke Joeckel and Dion Jordan – and the 2013 draft in general is notorious for being one of the worst in recent memory – it’s a lot less impressive.

Dion Jordan hasn’t played professional football since 2014, a year when he was suspended for 6 games.  He was also suspended for the entire 2015 season, and apparently spent the 2016 season injured.  Even when he was out there, he wasn’t anything to write home about (something to complain home about, maybe), as he has 3 career sacks to his name, and not much else on the stat sheet.

So, you know, maybe don’t get TOO excited about this.  He was really highly regarded coming out of college, but obviously that hasn’t translated to the NFL game.  He’s got the size and athletic ability you like out of a pass rushing end, but I don’t know how effective he’ll be.  Best case scenario:  he starts at SAM linebacker and rushes the passer in nickel situations.  Worst case scenario:  he’s camp fodder who gets released in the pre-season.  I assume there’s little guaranteed on his contract, which means there’s little risk to give him a shot at making the team.  By all accounts, he’s turned his life around from a drug perspective, but I’d say the two knee surgeries he had (on which knee, I have no idea; it’s like there’s some conspiracy among the media to not disclose which knee had the two surgeries) is a bigger concern.  How explosive will he be?  Will he be able to stay healthy?  Is he worth the risk, if he’s just going to get injured again in the regular season?

That’s what we’ll have to find out as the pre-season gets underway.  Speaking of which, here’s the schedule if you haven’t already seen it:

  • Week 1 – at L.A. Chargers
  • Week 2 – vs. Minnesota
  • Week 3 – vs. Kansas City
  • Week 4 – at Oakland

I don’t have a lot of thoughts about the pre-season schedule.  My lone prerequisite is that it doesn’t involve a lot of travel (considering the Seahawks have the most travel to contend with during the regular season almost every year).  As usual, we see a lot of AFC West teams, and of particular interest is that we only have to go to Los Angeles and Oakland, which aren’t very far at all.  It kind of stinks having to play the Vikings’ defense in back-to-back years, but you gotta figure those two home games will be nice tests as we warm up to the regular season.

I’m hearing the rest of the NFL schedule could be released anytime this month, so be on the lookout for that.  And, of course, the NFL draft takes place in the final weekend of April, so lots to talk about in the near future.

Eddie Lacy Signs With The Seahawks

The Seahawks are the kings of bringing in guys nobody else wants.  Usually, that means finding diamonds in the rough among late-round draft picks and undrafted free agents.  Guys with chips on their shoulders from being passed over time and time and time again.  It fosters an environment where everyone is hungry.  Hungry to prove the doubters wrong, while at the same time hungry to prove to the organization that believed in them that they’re worth the trouble.  It’s worked well so far, with the Seahawks enjoying a run of success unprecedented in franchise history.

Yet, this offseason, in the early goings of free agency, the Seahawks appear to be targeting other teams’ cast-offs that they no longer want.  On the one hand, it’s a good way to avoid a bidding war and the rising costs of an increasingly-absurd free agency landscape; but on the other hand, the players you sign are usually terrible.

First it was kicker Blair Walsh, and we all shrugged our shoulders because we figured they’d bring in a rookie to compete with him.  Then, it was offensive lineman Luke Joeckel, and we all held our breath in the hopes that T.J. Lang would be right behind him.  With Lang having since signed with Detroit, and with the knowledge that at least $7 million of Joeckel’s 1-year deal is fully guaranteed, that move is looking less and less tolerable.

As we continue this parade of scraping the bottom of the barrel, here comes Eddie Lacy on a 1-year deal.  At least this one is only for $5.5 million, with only $3 million (or thereabouts) guaranteed.  But, again, we’re talking about a guy who has been a recent disappointment.  It might be unfair to call him an outright bust like we can with Joeckel, considering Lacy does have two 1,000-yard seasons under his belt, with a career 4.4 yard per carry average.  But, you’re talking about a guy best known for his issues with weight.

At this point, I’d almost rather the Seahawks just stop dipping their toes into the free agency waters altogether, because all we’re getting in return is consternation.

Like Joeckel, Lacy is coming off of season-ending surgery (in late October/early November).  Unlike Joeckel, Lacy’s injury was to his ankle, and I have much more confidence in his ability to return to the football field in 2017.  The question for now is:  when can Lacy return to exercising and getting back into football shape?  Not for nothing, but my confidence in him to not gain a hundred pounds while laid up with a bum wheel is pretty low.

Of course, I’m breaking the cardinal rule of Seahawks talent evaluators:  focus on what they can do, not what they can’t.  So, let’s try to look on the bright side a little bit.

Lacy’s first two years in the league were very good.  He had over 1,100 yards both years and a combined 20 rushing touchdowns.  He also caught over 30 balls in each of those seasons, to go with another 4 total receiving touchdowns.  And, let’s not gloss over this:  that’s on a Green Bay team that’s not necessarily a “run first” organization.  They tend to run the ball more later in the season, when it gets colder out, but by and large the Packers – with Aaron Rodgers leading the way – throw the ball to set up the run and not the other way around.

So, the question is:  how does THAT player look on this Seahawks team?  I think he looks pretty good.  He’s a complete back, you have to give him that.  He’s not as talented or dynamic as Marshawn Lynch, but that’s a once in a generation type player.  Lacy is, however, an every-down back.  The best part of that is, of course, he won’t be asked to do that with the Seahawks.  Even with Beastmode doing his thing, you’d often see the Seahawks put Turbin on the field on third downs.  I would expect as long as he’s healthy to see Prosise getting the lion’s share of those third down carries.  Just as I would expect to see Rawls get some series here and there.  What we’re likely looking at is more of a time-share, where the hot hand gets the most play.  The difference this year is, with Lacy in the fold, the Seahawks have greater depth for when injuries inevitably strike.

Now, obviously, you can’t just take the good and discount the bad.  Lacy’s third season, in 2015, was about as awful as you can get.  He was overweight, he had nagging injuries he had to deal with all year, and the coaches lost confidence in him at times.  He had a few good performances that year, but for the most part he was dead weight, and the team issued an ultimatum for the following season.

To his credit, Lacy came into 2016 in much better shape.  That was reflected in his on-field performance.  In five games, he averaged 5.1 yards per carry.  Now, in none of those games did he rack up 20 carries or more, so maybe we’re talking about a Less Is More situation?  I dunno.

All in all, this 2017 free agency class looks pretty shitty, and if there was ever a year where I’d be PERFECTLY fine with the Seahawks sitting it out entirely, it’d be this year.  With the increase in the salary cap, and the outrageous amounts of money most other teams have to throw around, the Seahawks just don’t have enough money to compete for the best guys and are reduced to taking flyers on disappointments, guys coming off of injury, or both.  Now, obviously, these guys we’re bringing in aren’t crippling the organization.  They’re all 1-year deals that aren’t really breaking the bank.  But, I’m at a point where I’d rather have the money rolled over into our salary cap next year.