Your Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl XLIX Roster

I did this last year, albeit in a different format.  It’s nothing fancy, no real analysis or anything, but it’s just something I’d like to look at (and later, look back on and reflect).

Last year, it was more a reflection of how we crafted our Super Bowl roster (mostly via draft & undrafted free agents).  This year, I thought I’d take a gander at who’s on the team now as it compares to last year’s Super Bowl roster.  As with last year’s post, I’m not including guys who are on IR, or who were on the team earlier in the year and were released or traded.  I’m specifically looking at the guys on the 53-man roster RIGHT NOW.

I reserve the right to come back and adjust this if the Seahawks make any minor moves between now and February 1st.

Let’s start with the offense:

2014 2015
Quarterback 1 Russell Wilson Russell Wilson
Quarterback 2 Tarvaris Jackson Tarvaris Jackson
Quarterback 3 B.J. Daniels
Running Back 1 Marshawn Lynch Marshawn Lynch
Running Back 2 Robert Turbin Robert Turbin
Running Back 3 Christine Michael * Christine Michael
Fullback 1 Michael Robinson Will Tukuafu
Fullback 2 Derrick Coleman
Wide Receiver 1 Golden Tate Doug Baldwin
Wide Receiver 2 Percy Harvin Jermaine Kearse
Wide Receiver 3 Doug Baldwin Ricardo Lockette
Wide Receiver 4 Jermaine Kearse Bryan Walters
Wide Receiver 5 Ricardo Lockette Chris Matthews
Wide Receiver 6 Bryan Walters * Kevin Norwood
Tight End 1 Zach Miller Luke Willson
Tight End 2 Luke Willson Tony Moeaki
Tight End 3 Kellen Davis * Cooper Helfet
Left Tackle Russell Okung Russell Okung
Left Guard James Carpenter James Carpenter
Center Max Unger Max Unger
Right Guard J.R. Sweezy J.R. Sweezy
Right Tackle Breno Giacomini Justin Britt
Guard/Tackle Alvin Bailey Alvin Bailey
Tackle Michael Bowie * Garry Gilliam
Center Lemuel Jeanpierre Lemuel Jeanpierre
Offensive Line Paul McQuistan Patrick Lewis
Offensive Line Caylin Hauptmann * Keavon Milton

* denotes Inactive for Super Bowl

As you can see, from a roster standpoint, we’re carrying the third quarterback for some reason (even though he was inactive for the NFC Championship Game, and will most likely be inactive again for the Super Bowl), whereas last year we carried the extra fullback.  Obviously, Robinson is retired and Coleman is injured, so that’s what happened there.

What stands out the most is the drop-off in quality in the wide receiver department.  The 2015 Seahawks are essentially chopped off at the knees at this position, with Golden Tate and Percy Harvin playing elsewhere.  Baldwin, Kearse, Lockette, and Walters each move up two spots respectively, severely weakening our passing game.  Rookie Norwood was active for the NFCCG, but I would expect him to be inactive if Helfet is healthy.

Speaking of tight ends, another big blow is the loss of Miller.  I like Willson a lot and think he’s taken a big step forward this year (in spite of some infamous drops), but it’s pretty clear we’re hurting.  Moeaki is a fine stand-in, but he’s no Zach Miller.  I’ll be looking forward to all three tight ends as being active – again – if Helfet is healthy.  I think this can be a real mismatch in our favor against the Patriots.

The offensive line is largely the same as last year.  Britt sat out against the Packers with an injury, but I have to figure he’ll be back with the two weeks off to recover.  I think Britt is more-or-less a wash compared to Giacomini (MAYBE a slight downgrade, but in the long run will be a big improvement).  Our depth is pretty solid as well, as four of our reserves have played significant minutes this year.  I’ve still never heard of this Milton guy, so expect him to be inactive.

Now, let’s go with the defense:

2014 2015
Defensive End 1 Chris Clemons Michael Bennett
Defensive End 2 Red Bryant Cliff Avril
Defensive End 3 Michael Bennett O’Brien Schofield
Defensive End 4 Cliff Avril Demarcus Dobbs
Defensive End 5 O’Brien Schofield David King
Defensive End 6 Benson Mayowa *
Defensive Tackle 1 Brandon Mebane Kevin Williams
Defensive Tackle 2 Tony McDaniel Tony McDaniel
Defensive Tackle 3 Clinton McDonald Landon Cohen
Defensive Tackle 4 Jordan Hill *
Outside Linebacker K.J. Wright K.J. Wright
Middle Linebacker Bobby Wagner Bobby Wagner
Outside Linebacker Bruce Irvin Bruce Irvin
Linebacker 4 Malcolm Smith Malcolm Smith
Linebacker 5 Mike Morgan Mike Morgan
Linebacker 6 Heath Farwell Brock Coyle
Cornerback 1 Richard Sherman Richard Sherman
Cornerback 2 Byron Maxwell Byron Maxwell
Cornerback 3 Walter Thurmond Jeremy Lane
Cornerback 4 Jeremy Lane DeShawn Shead
Cornerback 5 DeShawn Shead Tharold Simon
Cornerback 6 Marcus Burley
Free Safety 1 Earl Thomas Earl Thomas
Free Safety 2 Chris Maragos Steven Terrell
Strong Safety 1 Kam Chancellor Kam Chancellor
Strong Safety 2 Jeron Johnson
Long Snapper Clint Gresham Clint Gresham
Punter Jon Ryan Jon Ryan
Kicker Steven Hauschka Steven Hauschka

* denotes Inactive for Super Bowl

As you can see, we’re carrying two fewer linemen and two more defensive backs.  Injuries have hurt us bigtime in the defensive line department, but depth has been an issue all year with our DBs, as it seems like we’re dealing with nagging injuries on a weekly basis in our secondary.

Along the line, we’re hurting bad.  Clemons and Bryant are obviously gone, so Bennett and Avril moved up into their places.  From a quality of play standpoint, this is an improvement.  But, from a depth standpoint, it’s not pretty.  Jordan Hill was a positive contributor this year until he got hurt.  Kevin Williams has been a godsend with Mebane going down.  McDaniel is as steady as they come.  And, Cohen is a widebody who played some key snaps against the Packers in our goalline package.  It’s our pass rush that I’m most concerned about, with Schofield essentially replacing Clemons from last year, which is indeed a step down.  Bruce Irvin will be key in this regard, as he’s looking a lot better when he rushes the passer.

Our linebackers are largely intact, as our top 5 are all holdovers from last year.  Coyle replaces Farwell, and from my naked eye, I haven’t seen a huge downturn in our special teams coverage.

Our secondary is still our strongest unit.  The only real change is Simon for Thurmond.  Thurmond was more versatile, but Simon is cheaper, under team control for longer, and is better on the outside.

I would argue we’re actually stronger in the secondary this year compared to last year.  Linebacking, offensive line, running backs, quarterbacks, and specialists (kicker/punter/long snapper) are all a wash.  We’re a bit worse in our tight ends and at fullback.  And, we’re A LOT worse along the defensive line and in our wide receiver group.  I may come back to this when the season is over, to compare & contrast 2013’s overall roster to 2014’s, but suffice it to say, we’re not as good of a team as we were last year.  That was to be expected, so it’s not like I’m telling you anything that’s untrue or shocking.  How much worse, I guess, depends on how the Super Bowl turns out.

Either way, as the years go on, we’re REALLY going to marvel at how good that 2013 team was.  To run out a squad with that amount of talent and depth is about as awe-inspiring as it gets.

For the Super Bowl, unless injuries are a factor, here’s my prediction for the seven inactives:

  1. B.J. Daniels – QB
  2. Christine Michael – RB
  3. Kevin Norwood – WR
  4. Keavon Milton – OL
  5. Patrick Lewis – C
  6. David King – DE
  7. Marcus Burley – CB

It was a struggle down there at the bottom.  In theory, you’d want to keep King active to give yourself another pass rusher, but really, how many can you have on the field at once?  I think Cohen gives you more value, especially if the Patriots make a concerted effort to run the ball with Blount.  I thought about keeping Burley active as well – what with Sherman and Thomas playing through injury, you may want more depth in the secondary – but he seems to be the low man on the totem pole right now.

Obviously, this changes as the injury reports start coming out.  Guys to watch out for here are obviously Britt and Helfet, as well as Terrell and Johnson in the secondary.  But, for now, my official guess at the inactives is what I’ve listed above.

Revising My All-Time Seahawks Greats

The last time I did something like this, we were in the middle of the offseason in 2011.  In all likelihood, I was looking for some way to fill space in the dreadful month of March when all the other local sports are effectively shut down and you can only say so much about Spring Training.

You may recall at the time that we were just coming off Pete Carroll’s first year with the team.  We made the playoffs at 7-9 and upset the reigning champion Saints in the Beastquake Game.  It was all very fun, but built on a house of cards.  The roster was aging, as leftovers from the Holmgren Era clung for dear life.  We drafted some promising rookies before the 2010 season – including Russell Okung, Earl Thomas, Golden Tate, Walter Thurmond, and Kam Chancellor – which may go down as the all-time greatest draft class in franchise history (and, indeed, probably ranks pretty high in NFL history as well).

To be fair, my list of the greatest Seahawks of all time was pretty solid for what it was.  But, it’s CLEARLY out of date now.  So, I thought I’d go back and compare what my list would be today vs. what it was nearly four full years ago.  Let’s go to town:

Quarterback

2011:  Matt Hasselbeck, Dave Krieg, Jim Zorn
2014:  Russell Wilson, Matt Hasselbeck, Dave Krieg

You’re going to see a pattern here as we go forward:  better players from the current era will be pushing down players from previous eras.  It’s difficult to compare someone like Wilson – who is working on his third year in the pros – against someone like Hasselbeck who played for us for so much longer.  But, in this case, I’m going to keep it nice and simple:  Russell Wilson led us to three playoff appearances, two division titles, two #1 seeds, and one Super Bowl title (pending what happens in this year’s playoffs).  Wilson is a winner, and he’s the guy who’s starting for me in my hypothetical Greatest Seahawks Team Of All Time.

Running Back

2011:  Shaun Alexander, Curt Warner, Ricky Watters
2014:  Marshawn Lynch, Shaun Alexander, Curt Warner

I opted to throw out the numbers here.  If I went strictly by numbers, Shaun Alexander would still be the clear starter for this team.  9,429 yards and 100 TDs with the Seahawks for Alexander against 5,930 yards and 54 TDs with the Seahawks for Lynch.  The numbers say it’s a no-brainer.  But, I’m going with my heart on this one, and my heart says BEASTMODE!

Wide Receiver

2011:  Steve Largent, Brian Blades, Bobby Engram, Darrell Jackson, Joey Galloway, Paul Skansi
2014:  Steve Largent, Brian Blades, Bobby Engram, Darrell Jackson, Joey Galloway, Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin

So, the thing is, it’s going to be VERY difficult to overtake the top three (and damn near impossible to overtake the top receiver on my list, because Largent is my favorite), what with how this offense is constructed and executed.  Furthermore, I realize Skansi was a reach, but I’m not sure I had a whole lot to work with.  Also, with Golden Tate playing for the Lions now, he’s obviously stuck where he is, with no chance for advancement unless he – by some miracle – returns to the Seahawks.  Doug Baldwin, on the other hand, if he sticks it out long term, could be a quick riser.  We’ll see where we are in another 3-4 years.  I could see someone like Baldwin topping out in the top 2 or 3.

Tight End

2011:  Itula Mili, John Carlson, Christian Fauria
2014:  Zach Miller, Itula Mili, John Carlson

The tight end position for the Seahawks throughout history is a vast wasteland of sadness.  Numbers might say that Jerramy Stevens deserves to be in the top 3, but numbers can suck my dick because Jerramy Stevens can suck my dick.  Zach Miller is a lynchpin for this offense who’s equal parts offensive lineman and soft-hands-pass-catcher.  He’s adorbs and I hope he gets well soon and sticks around another couple years.  I also hope someone like Luke Willson improves his catching ability, because I could see him being a fast riser here too.  It’s pretty sad that someone like Carlson is still hanging around on this list, what with how short his time was with us.

Fullback

2011:  Mack Strong, John L. Williams
2014:  Mack Strong, John L. Williams

While the fullback position is going the way of the dodo bird, I still got love!  And, while I think the world of Michael Robinson as a leader, a special teams stalwart, and a powerful lead blocker for Beastmode in previous seasons (before being forced into retirement and a new career in the media), there’s just no way his impact surpassed what Mack Strong and John L. Williams were able to do.  And, not for nothing, but I think those two names are going to be 1 & 2 on this fullback list for the duration of my lifetime.

Offensive Line

2011:  Walter Jones, Steve Hutchinson, Robbie Tobeck, Bryan Millard, Howard Ballard
2014:  Walter Jones, Steve Hutchinson, Robbie Tobeck, Bryan Millard, Howard Ballard

So, the thing here is:  I’ve made a conscious decision to list a man for every spot along the line (as opposed to, say, listing the five best linemen regardless of where they played along the line).  That having been said, if I felt like cheating (or, if I had the power of some sort of god), I’d probably look to put Russell Okung in at right tackle (because, let’s face it, he nor anyone else will be supplanting hall of famer Walter Jones).  Max Unger is a curious omission, but quite frankly, he’s been too injured in his stint as this team’s starting center to get serious consideration.  An interesting case will be J.R. Sweezy.  If he sticks around and continues his trajectory of improvement, we could be looking at a switch at right guard.  But, for now, Sweezy’s a little too loose in pass protection to take over that spot.

Defensive End

2011:  Jacob Green, Michael Sinclair / Jeff Bryant, Phillip Daniels
2014:  Jacob Green, Michael Sinclair / Jeff Bryant, Michael Bennett

Chris Clemons gets an honorable mention here.  I’ve split these up by first and second team.  Green & Sinclair are the clear 1 & 2 in Seahawks history and will be for the foreseeable future.  Michael Bennett jumps up into the second team because he’s been a force since his return and can pretty much do it all.  I opted to put him in with the ends because, to be honest, there are too many good defensive tackles, which you will see shortly.

Defensive Tackle

2011:  Cortez Kennedy, Joe Nash / Rocky Bernard, Sam Adams, John Randle
2014:  Cortez Kennedy, Brandon Mebane / Joe Nash, Rocky Bernard

The only reason Mebane was left off of my 2011 list is because he hadn’t quite played long enough, and because there was a question about whether he’d be sticking around long term.  Luckily for us, Carroll & Schneider saw fit to extend him, which has been a boon to our line.  You get a great sense of his value with him out of the lineup, as there are many things we just can’t do without him.  It has taken a rotation of 3-4 guys to try to make up for Mebane’s absence, which is about as impressive as it gets.

Also, can you IMAGINE what a defensive line would look like with a healthy Mebane in at nose tackle and an in-his-prime Cortez playing right alongside him?  Partner those two up with literally any of the defensive ends I’ve listed above and you’re talking about a powerhouse line on par with some of the best in the history of the NFL!

And, for the record, I understand going with a 3-man second team in 2011 was a total cop out.  Glad Mebane is here on this list to clean up my mess.

Linebacker

2011:  Chad Brown, Lofa Tutupu, Rufus Porter
2014:  Chad Brown, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright

So, yeah.  In my hypothetical defense here, I’m sticking with just the lone middle linebacker, but I’ve opted to essentially interchange who plays at outside linebacker.  In other words, I haven’t differentiated between strongside and weakside.  K.J. Wright’s primary position is weakside, but I THINK that’s where Brown played as well.  What puts Wright ahead of most other linebackers in Seahawks history is his versatility.  He can play all three spots, he’s been a stud since he joined the team, and he was just extended long term.  For the record, if I was picking linebackers regardless of position, Lofa certainly makes this list.  But, Bobby Wagner is lethal and should be for many more years than Tatupu.

Cornerback

2011:  Dave Brown, Marcus Trufant, Shawn Springs
2014:  Richard Sherman, Dave Brown, Marcus Trufant

This one is kind of irritating.  Right off the bat, Richard Sherman is the greatest cornerback we’ve ever had, full stop.  Dave Brown is a Ring Of Honor member and a VERY good corner in his own right.  Before Sherm came along, it was Dave Brown and everyone else a distant second.  Now, if I’m going by any cornerback who has ever put on a Seahawks uniform, then I’m looking at either Brandon Browner or Byron Maxwell over Trufant in a heartbeat (gun to my head:  I probably pick Maxwell because he can play inside and outside corner spots).  BUT, Trufant had a Ring Of Honor career in his own right, and Maxwell will only have a year and change as a starter before he moves on to another team (as the Seahawks surely won’t be able to afford to extend him).  And, not for nothing, but Trufant in his prime was as good as any other corner, so I don’t feel SO bad putting him third on this list.  Nevertheless, if the Seahawks do somehow find a way to squeeze blood from a stone and extend Maxwell, I’m coming back to this page and revising it immediately!

Safety

2011:  Kenny Easley, Eugene Robinson
2014:  Earl Thomas, Kenny Easley, Kam Chancellor

If I’m being 100% honest, I’m probably not splitting up Earl & Kam if I’m starting up this team.  But, I know I’m not the only one who wonders just what it would look like if Earl played alongside Kenny in his prime.  SICK!

Special Teams

2011:  Norm Johnson (Kicker), Rick Tuten (Punter), Steve Broussard (KR), Nate Burleson (PR)
2014:  Steven Hauschka (Kicker), Jon Ryan (Punter), Leon Washington (KR), Nate Burlson (PR)

I hope I’m not totally jinxing things, but I’m taking Hauschka as my all-time kicker.  Jon Ryan is sort of a no-brainer (he is, after all, the MVP of our hearts).  Leon Washington, while short in his time with us, made a HUGE impact (plus, let’s face it, the Seahawks don’t have a long and storied history with kickoff returners; also, Percy Harvin can suck it).  And the challengers to Nate Burleson’s throne never quite did enough (in this case, Joey Galloway – who didn’t last long as a return man – and Golden Tate – who was awesome, but is no longer with us, and wasn’t quite as dynamic).

So, there you have it.  A blog post for Thursday.  Giddyup.

Seattle Sports Hell 2014 NFL Power Rankings – Week 2

I’m still firmly in the camp of the Seahawks being the best team in football until some other team (or teams) jump out and prove themselves superior … but I can’t help having these nagging worries.  Doesn’t it feel like something’s a little off about this year’s team?  I read all these quotes and they’re as encouraging as always:

  • About how our stars are working harder than ever before
  • About how guys are in the best shapes of their lives
  • About how everyone is still hungry and that winning a Super Bowl has only made them hungrier

But, I dunno.  This is more of a gut feeling than anything, but it just feels like we’re going through the motions.  Like, everyone’s on auto-pilot until they decide to turn it on and ramp it up.  Which, in most cases, our auto-pilot is better than most other teams’ 100% effort, but it’s still cause for concern.

I just wonder why it looks so BLAH out there.  Is it Super Bowl Hangover?  Is it because we know we’re so very good, we can’t see anyone else as a threat?  Like that smart kid in school who acts out because he’s not challenged?  Or, have we lost our heart?

Golden Tate, Red Bryant, and Chris Clemons all play for other teams.  They were all either released, or it was made very clear to them that we didn’t want them back or need them back.  Those three guys were also three of the biggest personalities on the team.  Tate had a swagger about him that was the perfect complement to Beastmode’s tenacious desire.  He could dish out the shit-talking and he could back it up.  When the offense or special teams needed a big play, Tate’s sheer force of will would make it happen, no matter what it required.

Red Bryant was the leader on defense.  Not the signal-caller – that job belongs to Wagner – but he was the emotional leader for sure.  I can’t count the number of times I’d see him make a big play and then stomp around like a rabid elephant, barking at everyone around him that they were NOT going to run it in his direction!  Everyone looked up to him and voted him defensive captain.  It can’t be easy to lose that, because there’s a void bigger than his 330-pound frame left in his place.

And, by all accounts, Chris Clemons was the resident hard ass.  He’s all business, and he’s in the business of tearing some new assholes out of opposing quarterbacks.  When you look at these three guys, the word that comes to mind is:  intensity.  They had it, and we’ve lost it.  Sure, Earl Thomas brings the fire.  But, even he seems a bit scaled back this year.  I see it a little more in Bobby Wagner, which is nice, but it would be better to see it out of more guys.  I don’t care what anyone says, we need emotional leaders to step up.  When you tack on the loss of Michael Robinson, Sidney Rice, and so on, this could be a major problem for this team going forward.

The main take-away after two games is:  opposing offenses are going to be in no-huddle mode as much as possible, to prevent us from substituting on defense.  Part of me says, “BRING IT ON, BITCH!”  But, part of me also knows that subbing guys in and out regularly is what kept this team fresh, especially along the defensive line.

Now, obviously, not all teams are going to be able to do this, but the good ones will.  We were successful against Green Bay, but we were a trainwreck against San Diego.  Maybe it WAS just the weather and other circumstances that prevented us from playing our best last week, or maybe that’s just how it’s going to go:  the best teams are going to go no-huddle, and sometimes we’ll win, and sometimes we’ll lose.  The bad thing about that is:  if we want the #1 seed again, we can’t afford to lose too many games.  Three is about the limit.  We’ve already lost one, with Denver coming to town in a few days.  If we start the season 1-2, it’s going to require a ton of effort and a lot of luck to get back to 13-3.

I’m not in “Sky Is Falling” mode just yet.  I won’t even be in “Sky Is Falling” mode if we lose to the Broncos this weekend.  I know that our schedule has an 8-game creamy center of easiness that should have us red hot by the time we play the 49ers and Eagles in late November/early December.  I also know that it’s not how you start, but how you finish.  No one ever won a Super Bowl in September.  I’d MUCH rather we play our best football in December and January instead of right now.

But, while slow starts aren’t necessarily fatal, they can hurt an awful lot.  For my own peace of mind, I’d be delighted to see the Seahawks stick to taking care of business against these pass-first offenses like they’re supposed to.

***

  1. Seattle Seahawks (1-1) – Until further notice, this year will resemble 2013 in a lot of ways:  it’s the Seahawks & Broncos in some order at the top, and then everyone else.  No loss to an old AFC West foe – that we will never face again this year – will change that.
  2. Denver Broncos (2-0) – The proof will be in the pudding this weekend as the Broncos travel to Seattle.  They’re 2-0 at home with a couple comfortable 1-score victories.  Let’s see if they can take their show on the road in their toughest matchup of the year.
  3. Cincinnati Bengals (2-0) – This is as complete a team as it gets, with their feisty defense.  Losing A.J. Green isn’t ideal, so it’ll be interesting to see how they manage until his return.
  4. New Orleans Saints (0-2) – The defense scares me, but it also hasn’t had a chance to get a home game under its belt.  My feeling is that it can’t get much worse, and the offense will start clicking.  Bank on the Saints being one of those rare 0-2 teams to win a division.
  5. New England Patriots (1-1) – Start on the road in 3 of their first 4 and 4 of their first 6 games of the season.  That’s rough.  They’re still good (though, it’s possible Miami is better than we thought).
  6. San Francisco 49ers (1-1) – Hahahaha, I can’t believe I gave up on that Bears game and they ended up coming back to win!  What a gift!  49ers still look pretty strong, considering their injuries.  But, if their offense doesn’t take the next step, this team will be doomed.
  7. San Diego Chargers (1-1) – Well, they blew a late lead on the road against what appears to be a better-than-expected Cardinals team.  Then, they gave the Seahawks the business.  This team’s legit.
  8. Philadelphia Eagles (2-0) – Yes, they’re undefeated, and yes, their offense is explosive.  But, it should probably be concerning that they keep starting games so shabbily.
  9. Green Bay Packers (1-1) – Is it possible the Packers are WORSE than expected?  Well, I didn’t expect them to win their division, so maybe they’re just “as expected” in my book.
  10. Arizona Cardinals (2-0) – If they can continue to play teams tough, even without Carson Palmer, that doesn’t make me feel good.  Their immediate future is a little rocky with games against the 49ers, Broncos, and Eagles coming up in the next few weeks; I don’t think they stay a Top 10 team for long.
  11. Carolina Panthers (2-0) – I must say, this is a pleasant surprise if you don’t hate the Panthers.  I still have my doubts that they’ll be able to continue winning over the long haul, but they’re clearly not the bottom-feeders I thought originally.
  12. Indianapolis Colts (0-2) – You look at Andrew Luck – if you’re an objective football viewer and not necessarily a fan of either the Colts or the Seahawks – and you think:  yeah, I’d rather have him over Russell Wilson.  I guess he passes the eyeball test or whatever.  But, he’s streaky!  He goes through long periods of sucking before turning it on.  Yes, he’s able to generate breathtaking comebacks in those games where they start so poorly, but you have to ask yourself:  is he part of the problem?  Or, conversely, if you swapped quarterbacks, and Luck got to enjoy all the talent around him that the Seahawks have to offer (along with a coaching staff that preaches ball control and plays a different style of offense than the Colts), would he be better than he is right now, on the Colts?  Would Wilson be remarkably worse if he played in Indy and had a crap defense with no running game and a pass-first mentality?  These are the questions.  I don’t necessarily have the answers, though.
  13. Baltimore Ravens (1-1) – I’m still in wait-and-see mode with this team.  They strike me as a team right around .500, but who knows?
  14. Chicago Bears (1-1) – So, they lay an egg at home against the Bills, then they lay another egg on the road in San Francisco before getting hot in the 4th quarter to steal one.  Again, I appreciate the sentiment, but I’m still not buying the Bears as a legitimate playoff team.
  15. Detroit Lions (1-1) – Well, they’ve beat up on a terrible Giants team, then got throttled by a sneaky good Panthers team.  Probably not the start they envisioned, but then again I don’t think the rest of the teams in that division are all that great either.
  16. Atlanta Falcons (1-1) – You put a good defense in front of Matt Ryan and he’s going to struggle.  The good news is, they don’t play what I would consider another “good” defense for another nine weeks.  And, by then, who knows where the Panthers will be?
  17. Miami Dolphins (1-1) – No, I don’t think Buffalo is all that good.  I think the Dolphins kicked one they should’ve won.  Their schedule going forward is pretty cheesy, so they SHOULD still be able to parlay that into a good record.  But, watch out for games like we saw last weekend, because they’ll show up again.
  18. Dallas Cowboys (1-1) – That’s a bad team right there.  But, they’re in a bad division and their offense is kinda okay.  If they manage to stick with the run game, their offense could even be GREAT.  Or, at least good enough to keep them in enough ballgames to be interesting.
  19. Kansas City Chiefs (0-2) – They’re screwed.  They’re even more screwed if Jamaal Charles goes down.
  20. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1) – Probably not as bad as that Thursday performance, but still not very good.  Their defensive line is shot, their secondary is less-than-ideal, and their cap situation is a joke.  You’re going to hear the words “Blow Up” when it comes to the Steelers more than a few times this year.  These are the lean times.
  21. Buffalo Bills (2-0) – Well, if any city deserves a pleasant surprise, it’s Buffalo.  I wouldn’t expect it to last though.
  22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-2) – Lost two home games and two conference games (one in the division).  THAT’S what we call a bad start.  Every year, I get sucked into the Bucs and every year they come out of the gate in a fucking coma.  Now, they play three straight on the road, starting with tonight in Atlanta (followed by Pittsburgh and New Orleans).  Can you say 0-5?
  23. Tennessee Titans (1-1) – They won a game 26-10 and lost a game 26-10.  Those are weird scores to have in a football game, let alone in back-to-back games.  That’s all I have to say about the Titans.
  24. New York Jets (1-1) – I’m even more interested in what the Jets have to offer after almost sticking it to the Packers.  They’re not a good team, don’t get me wrong; but can they be decent?
  25. Cleveland Browns (1-1) – I know the Browns can be decent!  Do they weirdly have the Saints’ number, or is it just me?
  26. Washington Redskins (1-1) – I’m definitely more afraid of the Redskins with Cousins than I am with RGIII.  A lot of unhappy fantasy owners this week.
  27. St. Louis Rams (1-1) – You still have to write off the Rams, right?  Yeah, I think so.  I think so …
  28. Houston Texans (2-0) – Yes, they’re undefeated, but they’ve only played the dregs of the league.  Washington and Oakland?  No thank you.
  29. New York Giants (0-2) – This team is amazingly bad and in need of a total overhaul from top to bottom.  They remind me a lot of the 2008/2009 Seahawks.
  30. Minnesota Vikings (1-1) – I don’t know how much you can learn about a team that’s faced one of the worst teams (with a ton of injuries) and one of the best teams.  One thing is for certain:  Matt Cassel needs to be out of football.
  31. Oakland Raiders (0-2) – Derek Carr isn’t quite the world-beater I thought he was going to be.  Then again, they’ve faced two pretty solid defenses with the Texans and Jets.  Doesn’t get much easier with the Patriots and Dolphins coming up.
  32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2) – In a freak occurrence, they took a 17-0 lead against the Eagles.  They have since been outscored 75-10.  Worst team in football, you’ve returned to me!

Looking Ahead To YOUR 2014 Seattle Seahawks

This was me last year.  I predicted the Seahawks would go 13-3, take the #1 seed in the NFC, and beat the Broncos in the Super Bowl.  Last year’s NFL season was so easy to predict, I actually managed to correctly guess 2 of the Seahawks’ 3 losses (Indy & at SF, with my lone boner being the Atlanta game).  Of course, when you’re predicting the fortunes of a team this good, it’s hard to be wrong.  Just pick the Seahawks to win every game and you’re bound to be mostly right!

These Seahawks aren’t too different from the 2013 Seahawks.  Off the top of my head (so, forgive me if I forget a few), here are the players no longer on the roster, who had at least a minor impact on last year’s championship squad:

  • Golden Tate (#1 receiver)
  • Michael Robinson (fullback)
  • Paul McQuistan (guard/tackle)
  • Breno Giacomini (starting right tackle)
  • Kellen Davis (3rd tight end)
  • Sidney Rice (receiver)
  • Michael Bowie (guard/tackle depth)
  • Chris Clemons (starting LEO defensive end)
  • Red Bryant (starting 5-tech defensive end)
  • Brandon Browner (starting cornerback)
  • Walter Thurmond (nickel cornerback)
  • Clinton McDonald (backup defensive tackle)
  • Chris Maragos (backup safety)
  • Heath Farwell (IR) (backup linebacker)

On paper, that looks like a lot.  But, it’s pretty easy to spot which players were REALLY important to our success in 2013, and which players were sort of along for the ride.

Golden Tate is obviously the biggest blow.  He was our top receiver and punt returner.  He’s playing for Detroit now and should put up monster numbers while playing alongside Calvin Johnson.  His loss is mitigated somewhat by having a fully healthy Percy Harvin.  If Harvin can play all or the majority of games in 2014, it’s pretty easy to make the argument that our passing game (and offense as a whole) should actually IMPROVE.  Yes, Tate is a good player, but Harvin is on a completely different level of greatness.

Our offensive line depth took some big hits, and that’s going to be a concern.  No doubt about it.  I’d go out on a limb and say losing Paul McQuistan is addition by subtraction, though.  He’s getting up there in age and probably shouldn’t be an everyday starter going forward.  His best position is guard, but he was also our backup left tackle last year when Okung went down.  As a tackle, McQuistan is THE WORST.  So, not having him around to tempt the coaches into starting him when Okung ultimately gets hurt again is probably for the best.

Michael Bowie was always a depth guy last year, who got some serious playing time with all the injuries we suffered.  He was going to contend for the starting right tackle spot this year – and many had penciled him in as the favorite coming into Training Camp.  But, what no one expected was Bowie coming into camp overweight and/or out of shape, as well as injured.  He was ultimately released and the starting right tackle job has been given to rookie 2nd rounder Justin Britt.  In the long run, going with Britt now hopefully will prove to be the smart choice.  But, in the short term, we’re probably going to feel the sting of losing Giacomini.  I really liked him and thought he was solid when healthy.  But, again, you can’t afford to pay everyone, and you’ve got to get younger whenever possible to keep the roster fresh and vibrant (and to be able to afford expensive extensions to your stars).  I think by season’s end, Britt will have made us all forget about Giacomini’s reign of terror.  But, in the early going, it could be rough.

No one is worried about losing Sidney Rice, because he never really impacted this roster to the extent his contract would have dictated.  Jermaine Kearse is more than capable of picking up the slack.  Michael Robinson was on his last legs, plus fullback isn’t an important position.  Ditto the third tight end spot.  So, that rounds out the losses to our offense.

Defensively, our line took a big hit.  Clemons and Bryant were both starters and were both critical to stopping opposing offenses from running the ball.  McDonald was a pleasant surprise, capable of generating good pressure on the quarterback with our second unit.  Being able to interchange our linemen so frequently ultimately helped keep everyone fresh and healthy when it came time to make our playoff run.

In their place, Michael Bennett was extended; he’ll play a bigger role.  Cliff Avril will move into the starting LEO spot.  Kevin Williams was signed as a free agent.  In his prime, Williams was one of the best defensive tackles in the league.  He’s older now, but with reduced snaps – and playing alongside the elite talent we’ve got – he should prove to at least be as effective as McDonald.

Where we’re really going to be tested is in our depth.  Last year, our second-unit defensive line featured Bennett and Avril (it was truly an embarrassment of riches).  This year, they’re starting, and we’ve got to find replacements.  Cassius Marsh is a promising rookie out of the 4th round who can play on the end and on the inside.  But, he’s been dinged up quite a bit in the pre-season, so durability is in question.  Greg Scruggs is back and healthy this year, but he didn’t show a whole helluva lot in the pre-season.  It looks like he can play both outside & inside as well, but I don’t know if he’s any good at either.  O’Brien Schofield was one of the biggest surprises in camp, as he fought off Benson Mayowa for one of the final roster spots.  Schofield was on the team last year, but didn’t get a whole lot of playing time (and didn’t really deserve a whole lot of playing time, considering the talent around him).  He was signed away by the Giants in the offseason, but they ended up backing out of the deal, worried about possible injuries.  So, the Seahawks swooped in and re-signed him to a small number; he could be the steal of the off-season!  I have to imagine he’s the backup LEO behind Avril at this point, with the potential to join our NASCAR defense and play on the same line as Avril, Bennett, and either Marsh or Williams, with Irvin coming from the linebacker spot.

No, we’re not as deep as we were last year, but it could be close enough if Schofield shows up to play.

We have similar depth issues with our secondary as well.  We ultimately lost Browner and Thurmond for long stretches late in the season last year, but we found that Byron Maxwell was more than up to the task of being the starting cornerback opposite Richard Sherman.  Maxwell is back – on the last year of his deal – so we should be okay there.  But, again, the depth has taken a hit.

With Thurmond gone, Jeremy Lane steps up.  I like Lane and think he has the potential to be as good or better than Thurmond; but, right now Lane is injured, so that’s troubling.  Tharold Simon was a rookie last year and never played thanks to injuries.  He looks to be back and healthy now (though, like Lane, he’s suffering through some nagging something or other at the moment), and he also looks capable of being another in a long line of productive outside cornerbacks.  Where we’re light is in the nickel corner spot, which is why we recently traded for Marcus Burley for a 6th round pick in next year’s draft.  I know pretty much nothing about him, but apparently he had a pretty good camp this year.  And, apparently he’s pretty fast and super athletic.

I’m less inclined to worry about the secondary than the D-Line, because our starters are intact.  And our backup safeties are top-notch, with DeShawn Shead and Jeron Johnson.  Shead, especially, can play both the safety and corner spots, so in a pinch we can totally put Shead in the nickel and be fine.

With our linebackers healthy and peaking at the right time, we should be just fine on defense.  Yes, we lost Farwell – who was our special teams captain – but we picked up Brock Coyle, an undrafted rookie, who could be Farwell 2.0.

***

So, those were the primary changes between 2013 and 2014.  Next, we’ll look at what’s the same.

When I was younger, I would’ve taken the position that:  if you’ve got a championship team, just keep that team together for as long as possible.  Indeed, the 95/96 Supersonics were a championship-calibre team (they just ran into the buzz-saw that was the greatest team of all time, with those Jordan/Pippen/Rodman 72-win Chicago Bulls).  If the 96/97 Sonics wouldn’t have tinkered so much (like signing Jim McIlvaine to a monster contract), they could’ve made serious runs at a title for the next 2-3 years.  Same goes for the 1995 Mariners.  Just keep that team together and make some moderate improvements to the pitching staff.  DON’T trade Tino Martinez and Jeff Nelson to the fucking Yankees and hand them a million championships!

But, there’s one main difference between the NBA/MLB and the NFL:  keeping the team intact for too long will ultimately kill your franchise in football.  The shelf life for good-to-great baskeball and baseball players is WAY longer than it is in football.  In the NFL, if you’re approaching 30, you’re approaching retirement.  The ideal scenario in the NFL is to get young, coach those young players into being stars, and then constantly churn about 20% of your roster every year, where you’re shipping off the older players and infusing with young talent through the draft (or among the undrafted).

Could the Seahawks have retained Golden Tate, Chris Clemons, Red Bryant, and Breno Giacomini?  Yeah, I think I can envision a scenario where we make it all work for at least one more year.  But, then we wouldn’t have gotten the team-friendly extensions for Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, and Doug Baldwin.  We wouldn’t be in a position to make Russell Wilson one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the league next year.  Getting those guys done early (not counting Bennett, who was an unrestricted free agent at the time) is supremely important (as you can see by the subsequent cornerback deals for Patrick Peterson and the like, which were higher than what we ended up giving Sherman).

Yes, there were some losses to the roster.  There will always be losses to the roster.  Teams have to make important decisions each and every year.  Next year, we’re looking at the possibility of not having Marshawn Lynch, Zach Miller, James Carpenter, K.J. Wright, Malcolm Smith, and Cliff Avril around.  I would anticipate at least a few of those players WILL be here, but that’s life in the NFL.  You never know.

Most importantly to the Seahawks chances in 2014 will be who is still around.  This is still a MONSTER of a lineup:

  • Russell Wilson (QB)
  • Marshawn Lynch (RB)
  • Percy Harvin (WR)
  • Doug Baldwin (WR)
  • Jermaine Kearse (WR)
  • Zach Miller (TE)
  • Luke Willson (TE)
  • Robert Turbin (RB)
  • Christine Michael (RB)

And those are just the skill position players!  Our offensive line is 4/5 intact (and looking MUCH improved at the guard positions, with Carpenter in the “best shape of his life” and with Sweezy having bulked up while still retaining his athleticism).  And, we’ve got a couple rookie receivers who may not make much of an impact this season, but who should prove to be important for many years to come.

Then, on defense, you’re looking at:

  • Michael Bennett (DE/DT)
  • Cliff Avril (DE)
  • Brandon Mebane (NT)
  • Tony McDaniel (DT/DE)
  • Bobby Wagner (MLB)
  • K.J. Wright (OLB)
  • Bruce Irvin (OLB
  • Malcolm Smith (OLB)
  • Richard Sherman (CB)
  • Earl Thomas (FS)
  • Kam Chancellor (SS)
  • Byron Maxwell (CB)

I’d still put that defense up against any other defense in the NFL.  Depth will be an issue, but depth is an issue pretty much everywhere, every year.  This is still a Top 5 defense unless we just get absolutely crushed with injuries.

***

Now, it’s time for my favorite part of any preview post:  predicting the schedule results.

Week 1, vs. Green Bay, 5:30pm (Thursday Game)

I go back and forth on this one.  Like, 85% of me believes this will be a comfortable Seahawks victory.  14% of me believes this will be a nailbiter of a Seahawks victory.  And, that last 1% seems to think that Green Bay can come in here, withstand all the craziness, and pull off a huge upset.

Are you kidding?  A week’s worth of build-up.  The city shutting down large areas of SoDo and Pioneer Square.  A pre-game concert.  THE UNVEILING OF THE CHAMPIONSHIP BANNER!  All of that alone would be enough to have the loudest 12th Man presence in the history of the world, but I expect there to be a hidden edge to this game.  The NFL cursed us with this game being the only home game played at night.  They’d have you believe that’s just the way it shook out, but I’m CONVINCED it’s because we keep crushing our opponents whenever we have a night game at home, and they’re tired of televising blowouts.  With this being our only chance to shine on a national stage (unless we somehow have one of our late-season games flexed), I think the 12th Man is going to take it to another level.  Look for this to be somewhere in the range of 38-17, Seahawks.

Week 2, at San Diego, 1:05pm

The schedule this year will be famous for the difficult first three games and the difficult final five games.  This has “Trap Game” written all over it.  Hangover from our season-opening win, combined with a rematch of the Super Bowl NEXT week back at home.  Considering the Chargers should be plenty good this year, I’m not calling this one a walk-over by any stretch.  In fact, I could see this being pretty high-scoring.  In the end, I think the Seahawks are able to do just enough to pull out a 33-30 victory.

Week 3, vs. Denver, 1:25pm

No chance.  No way, no how we lose this game.  I do think we’re looking at a closer contest, but that’s only because I think the Broncos’ defense has improved enough to warrant it.  Losing Wes Welker to suspension certainly hurts the Broncos.  Indeed, I think they’ll try to lean on their running game like they did in the pre-season.  How our defense responds will be key.  The Seahawks still win, but we’re looking at a 24-20 type game.

Week 4 – BYE

Bullshit.  Complete and utter bullshit.  I would’ve rather had the alternate NFL schedule that put the Seahawks on the road for three straight weeks over having a BYE in September.  For the record, NO team should have a BYE week in September.  They should all be clustered in late October and early November, to make it fair for everyone.  Either that, or break down and give every team two BYE weeks per year, because this shit is ridiculous.

Week 5, at Washington, 5:30pm (Monday Night)

If the NFL didn’t want to televise blowout Seahawks victories, they probably shouldn’t have put this game on the schedule.  Indeed, there appears to be a lot of dogs when it comes to the Monday Night slate this year; don’t know how that worked itself out, but I’d be pissed if I ran ESPN.  The Redskins don’t have a defense that can anywhere REMOTELY hang with our speed.  44-10, Seahawks victory.

Week 6, vs. Dallas, 1:25pm

This game is my wet dream.  A pass-first offense without a bona fide slot receiver and a shaky quarterback who takes too many chances?  If Richard Sherman doesn’t get his hands on at least 8 balls (interceptions, tips, etc.), I’ll be shocked.  35-17 Seahawks (and that’s only because it’s going to be 28-3 at halftime and we end up running out the clock in the second half; we could probably drop 50 on them if we tried for the full game).

Week 7, at St. Louis, 10am

The League did do us one favor with the schedule:  we’ve only got three 10am starts this year.  This is the first one.  No Sam Bradford, no win for the Rams.  Last year, we were lucky to come away from this game with a victory, needing a last-second goalline stop to preserve it.  This year, I’m expecting more of an easier go.  We’re not going to be perfect; they do still have a solid defensive line.  But, 27-13 is in order.

Week 8, at Carolina, 10am

Back to back road games starting at 10am Pacific time.  I’m already on record as saying that I think Carolina is going to struggle mightily this year.  But, this is still a road game on the East Coast, so a victory won’t come easy.  I’m looking at something like 19-9, with a LOT of field goals.  Seahawks improve to 7-0.

Week 9, vs. Oakland, 1:25pm

I like catching Oakland here.  Derek Carr will have had some bumps in the road by now, so his confidence will likely be shaken.  Their veterans on defense will be wearing down and/or injured by this point.  I’m expecting an easy victory, if maybe a sloppy one.  Still, we should take it going way, 27-6.

Week 10, vs. NY Giants, 1:25pm

Give me Eli, give me a nothing defense, and give me no weapons on offense.  Is it possible to shut out a team in back-to-back years?  I think so!  44-0, Seahawks.

Week 11, at Kansas City, 10am

Final morning game.  Kansas City is sure to come back to Earth this year, as their defense is worse and they still did nothing to improve the offense around Jamaal Charles.  Nevertheless, I got a feeling this one will be closer.  I’m looking at a 34-28 victory for the Seahawks.

Week 12, vs. Arizona, 1:05pm

There will be no repeat of last year’s fluke Cardinals victory in Seattle.  The defense is remarkably worse and Carson Palmer is remarkably a year older.  I’m sensing a 33-7 Seahawks victory.

Week 13, at San Francisco, 5:30pm (Thanksgiving)

The Seahawks will be the talk of the nation coming into this game, as their 11-0 record is the best in football.  However, their relatively tame schedule to this point (highlighted by poor seasons out of the teams they’ve played in recent weeks) will give pundits cause for concern:  is this team really as good as their record?

It will be at this point that I will give just about anything to steal a win in Santa Clara.  EVERY YEAR I keep thinking:  this will be the time.  And every year, the 49ers end up finding a way to pull it out.  I can’t remember the last time we won down there, but I’m sure it was the best day of my life.

Unfortunately, this year will be no different (prove me wrong, Seahawks!), as the underwhelming 49ers find a way to pull it out.  I’m thinking 28-24, Seahawks lose to go to 11-1.

Week 14, at Philadelphia, 1:25pm

Many pundits are eyeballing this as a defeat for the Seahawks.  The Eagles were pretty good last year; their offense is and was on point.  Could be looking at another Trap Game, as this one is sandwiched between the two games against the 49ers on our regular season schedule.

I don’t see it, though.  I think the Seahawks’ offense is the story of this game.  I’m looking at something around 44-34, Seahawks win.

Week 15, vs. San Francisco, 1:25pm

And here is the game where we kill the 49ers, like we do every time they come to town.  Nothing fancy, just making Kaepernick our bitch.  31-13, Seahawks.

Week 16, at Arizona, 5:30pm (Sunday Night)

By this point, I’m expecting to see the Cardinals in full give-up mode.  Carson Palmer will be either benched or injured, and their backup will be some lame-ass.  Their defense will still be terrible and the Seahawks will roll, 38-10.

Week 17, vs. St. Louis, 1:25pm

At this point, we’ll be 14-1 and we will have wrapped up home field advantage.  So, it’ll come down to a couple things:  how long will our starters play in this game, and how well will our backups hold the fort?

For the record, I DO think our starters will get at least some play.  My guess is, anywhere from 1 to 2 quarters.  Yes, Seahawks fans will lose their God damn minds (as, again, the Rams have the best defensive line in football, and the last thing we need is for Russell Wilson to take unnecessary hits).  I don’t think we’ll be necessarily all that sharp though.

In the end, the backups come in and they’ll get pushed around a little bit.  The Rams will make a late-game comeback, and the Seahawks will lose.  Something like 24-17.

The Seahawks will be 14-2, and in spite of the final-week defeat, will be on fire as a football team heading into the playoffs.  I think ultimately the schedule will prove to be easier than last year’s, as a lot of the teams we THINK will be good are ultimately not.  I think the 49ers start to decline, even though they’ve got enough talent to still be pretty okay.  In the end, I think the Seahawks are just too good.  They’re too talented, they’re strong at every position group, and they’ll have enough depth to push through and overcome any injuries in their way (except for the quarterback position, of course).

Yes, repeating as world champions is one of the most difficult things to do.  Hell, just winning ONE championship is one of the most difficult things to do!  But, we’re in a once-in-a-lifetime window here where the Seahawks are the best team in football.  Now, it’s time to go out and show the world just how great we truly are.

Filling The Gaps On The Seahawks’ Roster

For starters, this isn’t going to be the most comprehensive thing you’ve ever read in your lives.  I’m not getting into the 90-man roster so much as the 53-ish man roster.

When I list the “2013 Roster”, I’m talking about the 53-man roster we had for the Super Bowl, with a small handful of extras tacked on who made a somewhat big impact in the 2013 season.  That having been said, let’s take a look at where we are and where we were.

I more-or-less already got into this subject a few weeks ago, but I thought I’d make it a little more visual-friendly (for my own sake, if nothing else).  In essence, this is another call to Seahawks fans out there that this offseason hasn’t been as devastating as it seems.

2013 2014
Def Line Michael Bennett Michael Bennett
Cliff Avril Cliff Avril
Brandon Mebane Brandon Mebane
Chris Clemons
Red Bryant (Jesse Williams)
Tony McDaniel Tony McDaniel
Clinton McDonald (Greg Scruggs)
O’Brien Schofield
Jordan Hill Jordan Hill
Benson Mayowa Benson Mayowa

As you can see, there aren’t a crazy amount of holes here.  Red Bryant’s spot will most likely be filled by Michael Bennett, with a little help coming from Jesse Williams (if he’s recovered from his IR stint as a rookie in 2013), Greg Scruggs (who also found himself on the IR, though has bulked up considerably in anticipation of his return to the playing field), or a rookie/someone from off the scrap heap.  I’m not TOO worried about replacing Red Bryant, because I believe Michael Bennett is a capable run defender, and other big bodies aren’t all that difficult to come by.

Also, I would anticipate Jordan Hill to improve and earn MUCH more playing time in 2014.  He saw almost no action as a rookie in 2013, but with these holes in the line (specifically the Clinton McDonald-sized hole in our D-Tackle rotation), I expect Hill to pick up the slack admirably.

The real thing to worry about is finding that third pass rusher.  I’m not so worried about the O’Brien Schofield spot, as that could be literally anybody at this point.  But, who will replace Chris Clemons?  That’s the most important question of the off-season, if you ask me.  We carried Benson Mayowa for the entirety of 2013; you’d have to think he’s learned all he could and is ready to apply that knowledge.  Mayowa had an impressive pre-season last year; let’s hope he carries that over.  If not, I fully expect the Seahawks to hit the draft for a pass rusher, as well as hit HARD the free agent scrap heap as the season approaches and teams have to cut their rosters down to 53.

2013 2014
Linebackers Bobby Wagner Bobby Wagner
K.J. Wright K.J. Wright
Bruce Irvin Bruce Irvin
Malcolm Smith Malcolm Smith
Heath Farwell Heath Farwell
Mike Morgan Mike Morgan

As you can see, we’ve got everybody back from this position group.  That doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to keep it EXACTLY the same.  My hunch is:  the top four guys come back, and the team pushes HARD for the final two spots to be rookies, or otherwise cheaper replacements.  Maybe not so much Mike Morgan, but certainly Farwell, whose cap number is around $1.67 Million.  For a guy who only plays special teams (albeit, really fucking well), that’s kind of a high number.  And, aside from that, you gotta figure this team will want to groom at least one future starter at this position, as it won’t be able to pay Wagner, Wright, AND Smith the type of money they’d command on an open market.  I don’t see Farwell or Morgan as a starter type, so their jobs are probably in jeopardy.

2013 2014
Secondary Earl Thomas Earl Thomas
Kam Chancellor Kam Chancellor
Richard Sherman Richard Sherman
Byron Maxwell Byron Maxwell
Brandon Browner (Tharold Simon)
Walter Thurmond (Phillip Adams)
Jeremy Lane Jeremy Lane
Chris Maragos
DeShawn Shead DeShawn Shead
Jeron Johnson Jeron Johnson

As you can see, there aren’t any holes where it counts!  The Legion of Boom (Byron Maxwell Edition) is entirely intact.  We lost Browner, but we lost Browner last year too.  We also lost Thurmond, but you figure that Jeremy Lane (who returns) is still here and did just as well, in my book anyway.  Tharold Simon was a draft pick last year who spent 2013 on the IR.  He COULD be a Browner replacement/depth guy, but that all depends on how seriously he takes his job and how much he’s grown as a player since his lost rookie season.  I’d expect the team to look to the draft for one or two secondary guys.  We lost reserve safety (and special teams whiz) Chris Maragos, but DeShawn Shead and Jeron Johnson both return.  Phillip Adams was also re-signed by the Seahawks this offseason, so at least for 2014 we’ve got another experienced body to play on the inside.

2013 2014
Quarterbacks Russell Wilson Russell Wilson
Tarvaris Jackson Tarvaris Jackson
Terrelle Pryor

As you can see, we’re solid at quarterback.

2013 2014
Kicker Steven Hauschka Steven Hauschka
Punter Jon Ryan Jon Ryan
Long Snapper Clint Gresham Clint Gresham

As you can see, we’re solid at kicker, punter, and long snapper.

2013 2014
Receivers Percy Harvin Percy Harvin
Golden Tate
Doug Baldwin Doug Baldwin
Jermaine Kearse Jermaine Kearse
Sidney Rice Sidney Rice
Ricardo Lockette Ricardo Lockette
Bryan Walters Bryan Walters

As you can see, we’ve got just a Golden Tate-sized hole in our receivers unit.  Of course, one could argue that since Harvin only appeared in three games last year, it’s kinda like we replaced Tate with Harvin going into 2014.  Nevertheless, I fully expect a wide receiver to be drafted (and probably pretty high), and I expect a fierce battle among the undrafted free agents and other younger guys already on this roster.  In short, I expect Lockette and Walters to be replaced by two guys not even on our radar right now.  Also, I don’t expect this team to hold onto seven receivers, so disregard the table in that respect.

2013 2014
Backs Marshawn Lynch Marshawn Lynch
Robert Turbin Robert Turbin
Christine Michael Christine Michael
Michael Robinson
Derrick Coleman Derrick Coleman
Spencer Ware Spencer Ware

As you can see, our running backs are intact.  Michael Robinson is always an option, but probably won’t make the opening day roster unless there are some injuries we’re dealing with.  Expect Lynch, Turbin, Michael, & Coleman to be locks to make the roster.  Ware will probably have to win a job (doesn’t help his cause that he had that DUI last year).  There’s maybe an outside chance that the team trades Turbin for a low-end draft pick, but that’s only if the team is confident in Michael’s ability to block for the quarterback.

2013 2014
Tight Ends Zach Miller Zach Miller
Luke Willson Luke Willson
Kellen Davis (Anthony McCoy)

As you can see, we’re good at tight end.  Anthony McCoy re-signed after being on IR all of last year.  If he’s healthy, he’s a pretty sure bet to be this team’s third tight end and REALLY give us some versatility.  McCoy is probably a better blocking tight end than Willson, and he’ll give us some better hands in the passing game than Kellen Davis.

2013 2014
Off Line Max Unger Max Unger
Russell Okung Russell Okung
J.R. Sweezy J.R. Sweezy
Breno Giacomini
James Carpenter James Carpenter
Paul McQuistan
Lemuel Jeanpierre Lemuel Jeanpierre
Michael Bowie Michael Bowie
Alvin Bailey Alvin Bailey
Caylin Hauptmann Caylin Hauptmann

As you can see, just a tiny bit of work to do along the offensive line.  Max Unger, Russell Okung, and J.R. Sweezy have all locked down their respective spots (Center, Left Tackle, Right Guard).  Left guard is still up for grabs, but James Carpenter probably has the early lead in that battle.  Right tackle will be brand new, and maybe Michael Bowie or Alvin Bailey wins that job.  Maybe one of them wins the left guard job.  Maybe this Caylin Hauptmann guy who was on the roster for most (if not all) of 2013 will shock the world and steal a spot somewhere.  Regardless, I like our line, and I like our depth.  By my count, I’ve got 6-7 guys in that roster who can start for me and not give me any gray hairs

So, when you look at it, there’s not a lot of places where we have to plug guys in.  Depth might be a little bit of an issue, but that’s what’s going to make this training camp and pre-season so interesting.  Who’s going to fill out in the back-end of the secondary and offensive line?  Who’s going to assume that third pass-rusher role?  With new, bigtime deals for Sherman and Thomas (presumably), one would figure that their roles in special teams will go away; who picks up that slack?

I’ve got, in my head, somewhere around 44-46 players listed above who are locks to make this team (and another handful that are on the bubble).  That means there could be upwards of 7-9 guys on the 2014 opening-day 53-man roster that we’ve never heard of!  On a Super Bowl champion, no less!

Again, these are merely depth positions, but who knows?  You could be talking about the next stars on this team starting with 2015 and beyond.

It’s exciting to be a Seahawks fan right now.  It helps that we’re coming off of a championship, but still.

Should I Double-Down On The Seahawks Winning The Super Bowl?

I’m sort of what you would call “Bad With Money”.  As a single man, living in a reasonably-priced apartment, no car payment, still on a family plan for my cell phone, without much in the way of expensive hobbies or any sort of sexual allure with the ladies, I tend to have money to burn.  And burn it I shall!  I like eating out, going to bars with friends, going on weekend trips out of state, long walks on moonlit beaches, cuddling by the fire with a big bowl of popcorn and a romantic comedy on the TV (is this working yet?  I will accept nearly any request for dates) …

Anyway, where was I?  Oh yeah, “Bad With Money”.  I spent almost all of my 20s in massive credit card debt, to the point where – after extensive road trips, moving to NYC, and an endless run of music festivals – I had to move back home for a couple years just to get my finances in order.  At this point, I’ve made it my vow to stay out of debt if humanly possible.  But, that doesn’t mean I’m sitting here shovelling money into my savings account or anything.  Aside from my healthy 401K and retirement plan (which, Satan-willing, will allow me to retire just 10 years after I’ve died from colon cancer), I make money and I spend money.  It’s a blessing and a curse, because you only live once, right?  YOLO YOU MOTHERFUCKERS YOLO!!!

One part of being “Bad With Money” is being Impulsive With Money.  I tend to buy a lot of shit I don’t need.  It’s stupid.  Just last weekend, I spent over $100 on compact discs so I can have something to listen to on my drives to and from Tacoma (where my family lives and where I visit them on occasion).  $100 isn’t going to put me in the red or anything, but it’s just stupid, you know?  Stupid shit like that.

I tend to get even stupider when you put me inside of a casino.  I’m not much of a gambler, because I have self-diagnosed adult-onset A.D.D.  It’s boring to me to just sit there slowly losing money for hours on end.  Not only that, but it’s fucking stressful!  I feel great if I can just leave a blackjack table with as much money as I started with; but if I start losing, I start playing shitty, making bigger and bigger bets, until I’ve lost what I came with in a matter of minutes.  I can’t just sit there, roll with the ebbs & flows, and work the game until I get my money back.  If I start losing, I have to get it all back RIGHT NOW, or I don’t feel comfortable.  As such, I tend to avoid these games.  Let my friends play them while I stand there and watch.  Or, let my friends play them while I wander around looking for something else to do.

My game is roulette, but again, I don’t play roulette like others play roulette.  As I said before, I can’t be bothered to sit there for hours on end, spreading my chips around.  Instead, I like to make big bets, on black.  And when I say “big bets”, I mean AH big bet.  And when I say “big”, I mean $500.  On black.  I win, I walk away.  I lose, I walk away.  It’s the ultimate high, and it lasts about 15 seconds (just like my sex life … HI-YO!).

Just my writing about this is probably going to jinx the fuck out of my trip to Tahoe next week, but I will admit:  I somehow find a way to win more than I lose.  The odds are a tad under 50/50, but I think only once have I come away from a casino having lost my shirt.  I tend to play it smart:  carry all the cash I plan on gambling, leave the ATM card at home.  Last year in Tahoe, I think I walked away up somewhere around $1,500-$2,000 richer, just by making a few big bets on roulette.  I gave some of that back in drinks, and black jack, and slots, and sports gambling, but I still made it back home with more money than I left with.

I also made it back with a ticket on the Seahawks to win the Super Bowl.  $100, at 7-to-1 odds.  This time next week, I’m going to take that ticket to the sportsbook where I purchased it and I’m going to collect $800.  And, if you couldn’t tell where this is going, I’m going to ask it again:  should I let it ride on the Seahawks?

Since I’m “Bad With Money”, I’m legitimately considering this.  I highly doubt I’m looking at 7-to-1 odds again, but I might get something like 4-to-1 odds.  $800 with that kind of action would win me $3,200.  Now, I’m not trying to make it a habit of throwing away $800, so I wouldn’t even consider it if I didn’t think I had a pretty good chance of winning.  At this point, I have to ask myself:  do I feel lucky?

This time last year, I was more confident than I’ve ever been in the Seahawks winning the Super Bowl.  I was so confident, I honestly don’t know why I didn’t bet MORE than $100 with those 7-to-1 odds (especially considering the killing I’d made on roulette that weekend).  Because at this time last year, the Seahawks were returning damn near everyone from a dominant 2012 team that had come OH SO CLOSE to the NFC Championship Game.  It was a foregone conclusion.  Beef up the defensive line (which we did, by signing Bennett and Avril), get some help for our receivers (which we did, by trading for Harvin), and we’d be good to go.  More importantly, we didn’t lose ANYONE who was important in our 2012 run.  That was key.  Right down to Heath Fucking Farwell and Michael Robinson (eventually, getting him back mid-season after his mystery illness).

This year, while I still consider the Seahawks as favorites, you can’t deny that we’re missing some key guys.  Golden Tate, Red Bryant, Clinton McDonald, Breno Giacomini, Walter Thurmond, Brandon Browner, Chris Clemons, Chris Maragos.  These are starters and depth guys.  Whereas last year, we had the best talent and the best depth in the league, now we’ve got some real question marks.

Our depth along the D-Line has been wounded to say the least.  The team (probably wisely) is avoiding any major splashes for veteran free agents, instead scouring the wire looking for bargains (because we’ve got bigger fish to fry with Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman).  We’re down a couple of receivers (not to mention a punt returner), unless the team brings Sidney Rice back on a small, prove-it deal.  All of our depth at cornerback is thrust to the fore with Maxwell starting and Lane as our primary nickel corner.  Behind them, we’ve got … nothing.  And, I know we kind of like Bowie and Bailey, but are they capable starters along our O-Line?

The Seahawks didn’t get a whole lot out of last year’s draft because they didn’t NEED to get a whole lot out of last year’s draft.  This year, it’s different.  This year is HUGE.  This year will go a long way in determining if whether this is truly a dynasty, or just a couple/few years of dominance.  This draft needs to produce future starters and key depth pieces.  The time is now; we’ve got to find cheap talent as our stars start getting motherfucking PAID.

All of this is enough to give me pause.  Then, I see what the other teams around us are doing.  Teams in our division getting better.  Teams in the NFC South getting better.  The Eagles bulking up their offense.  The Lions bulking up THEIR offense.  The Patriots and Broncos in an arms race over in the AFC.  The rich are getting richer in a way that you just don’t see very often in the NFL (the rich tend to get richer in the NBA or MLB more often), thanks to the salary cap bump for all teams.

We all know how difficult it is to repeat as champs.  It almost NEVER happens.  If ever there was a team that could do it, you’d think the Seahawks would be th at team, but I dunno.  The NFC is STACKED.  This isn’t like back in the day when the Cowboys could hack through the NFC like warm butter before beating up on the Bills in the Super Bowl.  There are five or six other legitimate contenders in the NFC, with another small handful that could surprise.

That’s enough doubt to play it straight, accept my $800, and blow it some other way (I’ve always wanted to learn how to play craps).

But, then I get to thinking:  why CAN’T the Seahawks win it all?

Let’s get into this.  Everyone is SO FUCKING FREAKED OUT about all the guys we’re losing.  But, you know what?  Who have we lost, really?  I’d say, we lost three guys:  Tate, Bryant, and Clemons.  The rest of them were backups or were beat out by better players.  So, why don’t we focus on who’s still here?

Russell Wilson, for starters.  With Tarvaris Jackson as his backup just in case.  I’d say the depth and talent at the quarterback position is championship calibre.

Marshawn Lynch.  With Turbin and Christine Michael as his backups.  Lynch still has what it takes to play at a high level.  And, if he gets hurt or starts to fall off, we’ve got the crazy-talent of Michael to step up to the streets.

Percy Harvin.  With Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse.  And some other fringe roster guys to battle it out.  And a whole draft full of guys who could step up and be the next Golden Tate.  And who knows?  Maybe Sidney Rice comes back and wins a job.

Okung, Unger, Sweezy.  These three guys have been your starting left tackle, center, and right guard for the better part of the last two years.  We’ve also got the aforementioned Bowie & Bailey who looked solid, as well as James Carpenter, who has a lot of starting experience.  And, most importantly, we have Tom Cable.  I’m not worried about right tackle or the guard spots in the least.

Zach Miller.  With Luke Willson and Anthony McCoy.  Maybe the Seahawks go out and get another tight end in free agency, maybe they select one high in the draft.  Or, maybe we just stick with Zach Miller because he’s awesome.

Aside from Tate, we’re really not missing much of a beat on offense in 2014.  Tate can be replaced.  Look for Kearse to keep making an impact.  And, if we sign a Jermichael Finley, then we’ve just upgraded at a position that hasn’t been known to be all that offensively-minded around these parts.

On defense, we’ve got Mebane, Bennett, Avril, McDaniel and Jordan Hill.  I know Hill didn’t play much, but I would argue that’s because the guys ahead of him were lights out.  Hill has talent.  I have faith he’ll be around here and producing for a long time.  Also, we kept Benson Mayowa around for a reason:  he’s got some pass-rushing chops.  With a year in our system, he could really take a big step forward in Training Camp and earn himself some playing time.  AND, don’t forget Greg Scruggs.  He got some snaps in as a rookie.  I know he missed all of last year due to injury, but by all accounts he’s been working his ass off to get back into playing shape.  I would expect he makes a big impact this year.  We’ve got other depth type guys, as well as the draft, as well as any gems we’re able to pluck from free agency.  I think we’ll be fine.

As for our linebackers, we will have EVERYBODY BACK.  Well, everybody who matters anyway:  Wagner, Wright, Smith, and Irvin.  Heath Farwell will probably be a casualty, but then again, maybe not?  This team values special teams like no other, and he’s the king of special teams for the Seahawks.  We managed to keep him last year, I don’t see why we don’t try to keep him again.

And, in the secondary, we have a full Legion of Boom:  Sherman, Thomas, Chancellor, and Maxwell.  With a rock-solid Lane as our nickel corner.  Nobody likes losing Maragos (who was another special teams standout and backup safety), but we’ve got Shead who had some playing time last year as a capable backup.  Jeron Johnson is also a capable backup, if he can just stay healthy.  Beyond that, it’s a crapshoot.  Depth in the secondary is a REAL concern, especially if we’re talking about any extended injuries to our starters.  That having been said, I will counter with this:  these Seahawks coaches – if they know ANYTHING – know how to coach up the secondary.  Where have all of these guys come from?  The 4th & 5th & 6th rounds of the draft.  The CFL.  The scrap heap.  All of them (aside from Earl Thomas, a first rounder) would be considered diamonds in the rough who have made their mark because this coaching staff has worked its magic.

So, you see what I’m talking about, right?  This team is intact!  This team is solid!  And, as long as we don’t dick around with the kicker, we should be intact and solid from top to bottom.

I think I’m going to do it!  Yeah!  Well, how about this:  I’ll save my $800 ticket for a rainy day.  If I lose all the money I come down with in the first couple of nights, then I’ll cash the $800 and use it to have fun.  But, if I have somehow managed to not jinx myself and come away somewhat even by the time Saturday night rolls around, I’m going to take that ticket, I’m going to get a picture of me with my money (as it may be the last time I see it), and I’m going to turn around and put it BACK on the Seahawks to win it all!

Maybe I can just do this ever year.  Keep going to Tahoe in March, keep putting money on the Seahawks to win it all, and keep generating championship parades for the city of Seattle.  All the while increasing my next year’s Tahoe bankroll by leaps and bounds!

Your Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl XLVIII Roster

Assuming nothing changes between now and February 2nd, the following will be the 53 guys on the roster for The Big Game.

For the record, 32 of 53 were either drafted by the organization, or were undrafted rookie free agents.  They include the following:

  • Brandon Mebane – 2007 Draft
  • Red Bryant – 2008 Draft
  • Max Unger – 2009 Draft

2010 Draft

  • Russell Okung
  • Earl Thomas
  • Golden Tate
  • Walter Thurmond
  • Kam Chancellor

2011 Draft

  • James Carpenter
  • K.J. Wright
  • Richard Sherman
  • Byron Maxwell
  • Malcolm Smith
  • Doug Baldwin (undrafted)
  • Ricardo Lockette (undrafted)
  • Mike Morgan (undrafted)

2012 Draft

  • Bruce Irvin
  • Bobby Wagner
  • Russell Wilson
  • Robert Turbin
  • Jeremy Lane
  • J.R. Sweezy
  • Derrick Coleman (undrafted)
  • Jermaine Kearse (undrafted)
  • DeShawn Shead (undrafted)

2013 Draft

  • Christine Michael
  • Jordan Hill
  • Luke Willson
  • Michael Bowie
  • Alvin Bailey (undrafted)
  • Caylin Hauptmann (undrafted)
  • Benson Mayowa (undrafted)

Of course, this list doesn’t include guys on the Injured Reserve or P.U.P. lists.  This is just the 53 players eligible to play on Super Bowl Sunday.

By the way, would you look at that 2010 draft again?  Holy SHIT!  Three Pro Bowlers, a starting wide receiver, and your nickel cornerback.  In fact, if you look at those first three drafts by John Schneider and Pete Carroll, you’ve got 12 of your 22 starters (sometimes 13, depending on whether Carpenter gets the nod over McQuistan or Bowie), with guys like Thurmond, Smith, Lane, Kearse, and Turbin playing quality minutes.  Just amazing.

Of course, your three elder statesmen are Mebane, Bryant, and Unger, the only three draft picks the team has retained from the pre-Carroll/Schneider Era.

Next up, you’ve got your guys acquired in trade:

  • Chris Clemons (3/16/2010 – with a 4th round pick from Philly for Darryl Tapp)
  • Marshawn Lynch (10/5/2010 – from Buffalo for 4th round pick in 2011 & 5th round pick in 2012)
  • Clinton McDonald (8/29/2011 – from Cincinnati for Kelly Jennings)
  • Percy Harvin (3/11/2013 – from Minnesota for 1st & 7th round picks in 2013 & 3rd round pick in 2014)

Aside from the Harvin trade (which I contend the jury is still out on), I can’t tell which trade worked out best for the Seahawks.  In McDonald, we got a steady rotational inside presence on the D-Line (AND we got rid of a liability in our secondary, for a 2-birds/1-stone type of deal).  In Clemons, we got a guy who averaged double-digit sacks in his first three seasons with the Seahawks.  And, in Lynch, we got an elite, every-down running back.  It’s an embarrassment of riches!  Trading with John Schneider should come with a Surgeon General’s Warning, because it’s seriously bad for your health.

Up next, we have the guys signed as free agents (or claimed off of waivers, denoted with ***):

  • Jon Ryan – 9/9/2008

The only free agent signed prior to the Schneider/Carroll regime still on the team.

  • Clint Gresham – 8/1/2010
  • Michael Robinson – 9/6/2010 (then cut & re-signed 10/22/2013)
  • Lemuel Jeanpierre – 9/6/2010
  • Breno Giacomini – 9/28/2010

Members of the 2010 team, we’ve got our long-snapper, our starting fullback, our backup center, and our starting right tackle.

  • Paul McQuistan – 1/28/2011
  • Tarvaris Jackson – 7/29/2011 (then traded & re-signed 6/14/2013)
  • Zach Miller – 8/3/2011
  • Steven Hauschka – 9/4/2011 ***
  • Chris Maragos – 9/22/2011
  • Heath Farwell – 10/19/2011

Members of the 2011 team, we’ve got our sometimes-starting left guard, our backup quarterback, our starting tight end, our kicker, and two special teams standouts in Maragos & Farwell.

  • Bryan Walters – 12/20/2012
  • Cliff Avril – 3/13/2013
  • Michael Bennett – 3/15/2013
  • Tony McDaniel – 3/28/2013
  • O’Brien Schofield – 7/27/2013 ***
  • Kellen Davis – 9/11/2013

No big free agents left over from the 2012 team (Walters was a practice squad player when he signed originally).  A lot of pieces were already in place by the time we got to our current team, but there is no more important stretch of days (aside from a couple of the drafts, of course) than those two weeks in March when we signed Avril, Bennett, and McDaniel.  Mother of God!  Essentially, you’ve got our pass-rush unit right there in those three guys.  All made possible thanks to our quarterback earning well under a million dollars.

Add ’em all up, and you’ve got your 53-man roster.  Probably the deepest roster in the league.  And if you line ’em all up, our starters look something like this:

  • WR – Golden Tate – Drafted
  • LT – Russell Okung – Drafted
  • LG – James Carpenter – Drafted
  • C – Max Unger – Drafted
  • RG – J.R. Sweezy – Drafted
  • RT – Breno Giacomini – Free Agent
  • TE – Zach Miller – Free Agent
  • WR – Doug Baldwin – Undrafted Rookie Free Agent
  • QB – Russell Wilson – Drafted
  • FB – Michael Robinson – Free Agent
  • RB – Marshawn Lynch – Trade

In our base, 12 offense (1 tight end, 2 backs), you’ve got mostly draft picks/rookie free agents (7 of 11).  In our 21 offense (2 tight ends, 1 back), you’ve got 8 of 11.  In our 11 (1 tight end, 1 back) offense (assuming Harvin is playing), we’re back to 7 of 11.  When we go 4-wides, it’s back up to 8 of 11.

Now, for the defense:

  • DE – Chris Clemons – Trade
  • DT – Brandon Mebane – Drafted
  • DT – Tony McDaniel – Free Agent
  • DE – Red Bryant – Drafted
  • SAM – Bruce Irvin – Drafted
  • MIKE – Bobby Wagner – Drafted
  • WILL – K.J. Wright – Drafted
  • CB – Byron Maxwell – Drafted
  • SS – Kam Chancellor – Drafted
  • FS – Earl Thomas – Drafted
  • CB – Richard Sherman – Drafted

That’s a whopping 9 of 11 in our base defense that we drafted!  Incredible!  Reserves who get frequent playing time are Malcolm Smith, Walter Thurmond, and Jeremy Lane – all drafted.  When we get into our Nascar package, that’s when the number starts to go down (with a line consisting of Avril, Bennett, McDonald, and Clemons).  But, even with that lineup, we’re still talking about 7 of 11 guys who were drafted.

This is how it’s done, people!  Soak it in!  I know we’re not used to having a hyper-competent general manager, but this is what it looks like.  You couldn’t cherry-pick a roster more effective and complete than this one (within the constraints of the salary cap, of course).  Just an overall amazing feat, and it happened (predominantly) in four short years!

Always Never A Doubt In My Mind

At one point in this game, Russell Wilson had scrambled his way into an opening-play fumble (recovered by the 49ers), LaMichael James had muffed a punt (recovered by the 49ers), and Colin Kaepernick had the ball stripped on a sack (recovered by a 49ers lineman, ran for 6 yards).  That final piece of lunacy saved a touchdown drive and gave the 49ers a 17-10 lead, and it left Seahawks fans wondering if the football gods were EVER going to smile down upon us.

Ask anyone who knows anything, and they’ll tell you that going 0 for 3 on fumble recoveries is pretty fucking rare.  A fumble is generally a 50/50 proposition, and if the Seahawks went down because of this stat, you’d call it one of the unluckiest breaks in football.  Of course, one game is pretty much as small of a sample size as you could get; nevertheless, I couldn’t help but believe that this streak couldn’t continue FOREVER.  There would HAVE to be fumbles forthcoming that would bounce our way.

Sure enough, from that point in the third quarter where the 49ers went back up by a touchdown, the Seahawks caught all the breaks.  Colin Kaepernick was strip-sacked by Avril (recovered by Michael Bennett).  A fumble by Jermaine Kearse at the goalline that was recovered by Marshawn Lynch at the 1.  And, on the very next play, a Russell Wilson/Marshawn Lynch fumbled exchange on 4th & Goal from the 1 yard line (recovered by Michael Robinson, which doesn’t sound so great, because we failed to score the touchdown or even keep the 49ers pinned back inside the one yard line, but if you look at it again, you’ll see a ton of 49ers players around that football, with a clear opportunity to return that thing for a 99-yard touchdown).  Kaepernick was intercepted by Kam (which wasn’t a lucky break, per se, but it was a turnover).  Another Russell Wilson fumble on a busted play (recovered by Wilson, resulting in an offensive pass interference penalty).  And finally, the game-ending interception on the tip from Sherman to Malcolm Smith.

To be honest with you, I don’t know how to feel about a game that hinged so deeply upon luck.  There’s the obvious turnover issues I described above, there were referee issues (some iffy penalties, some iffier non-calls, and that fumble recovery that couldn’t be reviewed, which ended up not really mattering anyway), there were injury issues (I don’t know if we’ll ever know the impact of the 49ers losing their best offensive guard and their best linebacker in Iupati and Bowman respectively), and there was the play of the game.

To set it up, the Seahawks pulled to within 17-13 on a Hauschka field goal.  We forced a 3 & out thanks to the refs missing what probably should have been roughing the punter.  We got the ball at our own 38 yard line, and we drove to the San Francisco 34 yard line, with 2nd down and 6 coming up.  Russell Wilson was called for a clear Intentional Grounding, which put us back to the 50 yard line, for a 3rd down and 22 to go.  This is the nightmare scenario, but to our credit, we called something reasonable.  A nice little pass to Zach Miller out on the flat, who rumbled for 15 yards to the San Francisco 35 yard line.  At this point, it was 4th and 7.  Maybe within the range of Hauschka, but not really something you feel comfortable about in this situation.  It was the beginning of the fourth quarter, and the Seahawks very nearly decided to kick it, but ultimately burned a timeout.  Had we lost this game because we were short on timeouts, I’m sure everyone would have pointed to this situation.  As it stood, that timeout was probably the smartest decision we made all game.

We put the offense back out on the field to pick up the seven yards.  Russell Wilson nailed the hard count, which got the 49ers to go offsides.  To their credit, the refs didn’t whistle the play dead (for the record, in a similiar situation this season, the refs blew the play dead and cost us an opportunity to make a huge play).  All the receivers broke off of their intended routes and ran for the endzone.  Wilson made the perfect throw, and Jermaine Kearse came down with an amazing catch.

How does luck come into it?  Well, if that throw is offline, or if the 49ers defender makes a better play on the ball, and it falls incomplete, then we’re looking at 4th and 2 from the 30 yard line.  At that point, I don’t think there’s any question that the Seahawks go for the field goal, to pull within 17-16.  And who KNOWS how the game turns from there!  What if Hauschka misses the 47 yarder?  Of course, he would go on later to make a 47 yarder, but Hauschka was on record – after the game – as saying that he really didn’t want to kick that field goal when it was going to be a 52 yarder.  What if, in his shaken state, Hauschka pulls that one?  Then, the 49ers would get great field position, and most importantly, we’d get no points.  Even if we assume he would make it, that still would have left us down a point with a quarter left to go.  That touchdown was the difference between the 49ers ultimately needing a touchdown to win the game vs. needing a field goal to win the game.  If that’s the case, I don’t think there’s any doubt we’re sitting here today lamenting the fact that the 49ers are playing for the championship.

Just a wild, crazy game.  Here are some other observations:

Russell Wilson was REALLY driving me crazy in that first half.  I understand that you’ve got to take the good with the bad with a guy like Wilson, and it really COULD be worse.  I’m not sitting here wishing that we had some gunslinger like Tony Romo who would ultimately cost us more in big games than he’d help us.  But, it really looked like Wilson was playing tentative yesterday.  Holding the ball too long, looking to scramble out of the pocket (which couldn’t have been worse, because more often than not – with our linemen pushing their ends outside and around the pocket in a circle – he was just running himself INTO pressure) when he should have just stepped up and made a throw (especially when he’s got Golden Tate streaking downfield with single-coverage).

Of course, Wilson ended up having enough in him to lead us to victory, so it’s not like I can complain too hard.  And, if he leads us to a Super Bowl victory, it’s going to be hard for me to EVER badmouth the man again.

Good God, do we need someone better to spy Colin Kaepernick on the run!  It struck me that Bruce Irvin probably would have been perfect, but it didn’t look like we used him all that much in this game.  He seriously whiffed on one play, where he bit on the play fake and let Kaep run around him for a huge gain; but, if Irvin’s sole job was to simply follow the quarterback wherever he went, I think Irvin’s speed could have neutralized him.

Marshawn Lynch had another huge game, going for 109 yards on the ground and a touchdown.  This was the first time anyone had run for over 100 yards on the 49ers this year, and for a minute it looked like one of the rare times that the Seahawks would lose a game where Lynch went over 100 yards.  That fumble at the goalline wasn’t even his fault, so I’m glad they didn’t put that on him in the scorebook.

Doug Baldwin, as always, was a revelation.  One of these days, he’s going to get the respect he deserves, but for now, let the doubters keep doubting him.  He’ll just keep making them look stupid.  With 6 catches for 106 yards, it looked like he was going to be the MVP of the game.  He still might be, especially when you consider his 69 yard kickoff return ultimately led to a field goal (and probably should have been a touchdown drive, if our offense wasn’t still sputtering so frustratingly.

Finally, what can you say about a defense that’s the best in the game.  From the first play, where we were placed at a disadvantage thanks to the Wilson fumble, this defense showed up and put in their usual outstanding work.  Bobby Wagner led all tacklers with 15, and Kam Chancellor wasn’t far behind with 11.  Kam also came down with that interception (on just an AWFUL pass by Kaepernick) and had another two passes defended.  Our D-Line wasn’t able to get as much pressure as you’d like, but I thought they played a lot smarter in the second half, not letting Kaepernick just immediately have the edge to run.  Even though we were playing so safe, Bennett and Avril were still able to wreak some havoc.  And the run defense?  Aside from Kaepernick (who got most of his rushing yards on scrambles when a pass play broke down), this part of their game was completely shut down.  Frank Gore finally started looking his age, running for 14 yards on 11 attempts.

I don’t really know what the next-day narrative is going to be today (aside from Everything Richard Sherman, which I will write about tomorrow), but I have the feeling that Colin Kaepernick is going to get a lot of love from the national media.  This is a mistake.

Yes, it’s quite the breathtaking thing to see Colin Kaepernick with the football, running in the open field.  Dodging tacklers, graceful as a gazelle, he’s a weapon unlike any other in the game of football.  If he didn’t have all that, you know what he’d be?  Without the ability to run for dozens upon dozens of yards, Colin Kaepernick would be Jeff George:  a rocket arm attached to a mental midget.

When he’s on, he’s something to behold.  That touchdown pass to Boldin in the back of the endzone from 26 yards out was as good as it gets.  Nevertheless, it was a STUPID decision and the ball was very nearly tipped or picked off entirely.  Then, there’s that aforementioned interception to Kam.  He was standing RIGHT THERE the whole time!  There was no deception out of Kam to bait him; Kaepernick saw him the whole time and still threw the damn pass right to him!  He said he thought he could get it over Kam … but Kam’s 6’3!  There were his two fumbles, which resulted from him trying to do too much with a play (which I can’t really fault him for, unless I feel like jumping down Wilson’s throat every time he does something annoying like that).  And, of course, the game-clinching interception when he challenged Richard Sherman with less than 30 seconds to go in the game.

He said he’d take Michael Crabtree in a 1-on-1 matchup with anyone in the league.  He said he wouldn’t change a thing about his decision-making process.  Did he say this because he’s stupid?  Because he’s arrogant?  Because of his blind hatred of the Seahawks and especially Richard Sherman?  Any way you slice it, it’s foolish thinking from a foolish individual.  Maybe if Crabtree magically transformed into Randy Moss in his prime, I could see it.  But, Crabtree isn’t anything special.  I’d take Doug Baldwin over him any day.  Crabtree is only considered an “elite” receiver by the national media because he was drafted in the first round, plain and simple.  There’s nothing about his game that’s elite.  He’s okay.  Off the top of my head, I can think of 25 wide receivers who are better than him (Baldwin, Tate, Fitzgerald, Dez, Marshall, Jeffery, Megatron, Jordy Nelson, Cobb, Demaryius Thomas, Decker, Welker, Hilton, Garcon, Green, Brown, Cruz, Desean Jackson, Andre Johnson, Keenan Allen, Josh Gordon, Cordarrelle Patterson, Julio Jones, Vincent Jackson, and Jimmy Graham – who is actually a wide receiver, in spite of what they try to label him as in New Orleans).

The point is, he’s not better than Richard Sherman.  And if Kaepernick is too stupid or too stubborn to realize that, then maybe Kaepernick isn’t the guy who’s going to lead you to a championship.  His talent may be good enough to get him past most teams in the league, but his hubris is ultimately going to be his undoing against the best teams in the league.  He thinks that just because he has a strong arm, he can make every throw, and that’s just not the case.  And, if that throw’s not there, no worries, he can just run for any first down he wants.  Except, here’s the thing:  when his team is down and he’s got to mount a comeback, the same shit he gets praised for is what’s going to ultimately cost his team ballgames.

In the end, this was a game about two quarterbacks.  One a little too cautious, one a little too reckless.  Somewhere in the middle, you have the perfect NFL player.  But, ultimately, it’s easier for a cautious quarterback to take a few more chances than it is for a reckless player to settle for the sensible decision.  That’s why the Seahawks won this football game.  That’s why the Seahawks are in the Super Bowl and the 49ers are licking their wounds.

Is This The End (As We Know It) Of Marshawn Lynch In Seattle?

As the Seahawks get ready to play the New Orleans Saints this week, one can’t help but reflect upon what happened this week, three years ago, when the Seahawks won a game 41-36.  Of course, we played the Saints on that day, and everyone remembers it for the Marshawn Lynch game-clinching 67 yard touchdown run where he broke countless tackles and set off the 12th Man into an ecstasy we’ve never seen ’round these parts before or since.

That play will live on as one of the most amazing individual feats in NFL playoff history.  We’ll be talking about that play in 50 years just like we talk about the Immaculate Reception and the Dwight Clark catch.

Locally, it’ll be remembered as the moment where it all started to go right for the Seahawks.  Personally, I’ll always remember it as the point where Marshawn Lynch was at his absolute peak.  It’s all been downhill (albeit, a very negligible grade) since then.

The Seahawks traded for Marshawn Lynch 4 games into that 2010 season.  The Bills had just drafted C.J. Spiller, plus they already had Fred Jackson on roster, so there was no point in holding onto three starting-calibre running backs.  The Seahawks were just working their way out of the dark days of Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett and were looking for a dynamic talent to bring this team into the light.  Supposedly, Lynch had fallen out of favor in Buffalo for reasons that aren’t important.  Either way, we got him for a steal.  His numbers in Buffalo weren’t particularly outstanding, and there was a real chance that he would come to Seattle and fizzle out.  People tend to forget that.

Lynch came into a situation in Seattle where everything was a mess.  The offensive line was a massive ball of injuries and ineptitude.  To his credit, Lynch was a consummate professional, and one of the baddest motherfuckers on the planet as he continuously took on defenders behind the line of scrimmage and turned those runs into positive gains.  His first game in Seattle was a road contest in Chicago, and he ran for the most impressive 44 yards on 17 carries that anyone has ever seen.

The rest of his first season wasn’t much better, as Lynch never had a 100-yard rushing game in 2010.  But, his hard running set the tone.  And he was rewarded in that playoff game against the Saints.  Aside from that 67-yard run, Lynch had 64 yards on 18 carries, which sounds about right.  Nevertheless, with that putrid offensive line, you’ll never find a more-impressive season out of a running back.  That 67-yard run was indeed the peak of Lynch’s powers.

Of course, with Tom Cable coming in starting in 2011, things started to improve.  We infused the line with more talent, and halfway through 2011, Lynch ripped off six 100-yard efforts in his last nine games.  His numbers from 2010 to 2011 were drastically improved.  And, in 2012, his numbers were even better!  With 1,590 yards and 5.0 yards per carry, Lynch was the second-best running back in the NFL.  So, how could I sit here and say that he peaked in the 2010 season?

Well, with all aspects of the offense, improved line play makes everyone’s job easier.  And, like I said before, it’s not like Lynch’s effectiveness has diminished THAT much.  But, still, if you put the 2010 Lynch behind last year’s offensive line, you would’ve seen him damn near approach 2,000 yards.

Anyway, while still carrying the load in 2013, Lynch’s numbers came back down to Earth.  At a 4.2 yards-per-carry average, Lynch put up 1,257.  Still good, but not great.  He has averaged almost exactly 300 carries per season the last three years, and that’s not including playoff runs.  My hope is that he’s got enough left in the tank to push us through to a championship this year, because I don’t know how many more years he has left.

If we want to maximize Lynch’s effectiveness going forward, we’re going to have to start cutting back on his carries.  We did just draft Christine Michael and he looks like the kind of twitchy, breathtaking talent that you eventually can’t help but play.  I expect a couple things going into next season.  First, I expect to read a bunch of stories about how amazing Michael looks in OTAs and Training Camp later this year.  And second, I expect more of a time-share in the backfield starting next season.

When you read that a running back had 301 carries in 2013 (which Lynch did), it sounds like a lot.  It sounds like you’re running a guy into the ground prematurely.  But, honestly, that averages out to a fraction of a carry less than 19 per game.  Lynch had a high of 28 carries against the 49ers in Week 2 and only 7 games with over 20 carries.  Robert Turbin had approximately 5 carries per game and Russell Wilson had about 6 carries per game.  That’s the bulk of this team’s carries in 2013:  30 carries per game.  So, if I’m expecting a Lynch/Michael time-share, what would that look like?

Well, I don’t expect Wilson’s carries to go down all that much.  Maybe he drops down to 4 carries per game (you have to expect he’s going to become less and less of a “running quarterback” the deeper he gets into his career).  Turbin really muddies things a bit.  It’s impossible to have a three running back rotation, because this isn’t college football and we’re not running the single-wing offense.  Either the team shops Turbin for a low-end draft pick, or converts him into a Michael Robinson-esque fullback.  After that, I think you look at something of a 13/13 split of carries for Lynch and Michael.  Maybe that means running them in and out, alternating by series.  Maybe that means Michael carries the load between the 30s and Lynch comes in when they’re closer to the goalline (sort of like how Buffalo uses Spiller more between the 30s and Jackson on goalline).  I don’t think it’s as simple as giving the ball to Lynch on first and second down, then running Michael in on third downs and passing situations, because the real wildcard here is how improved Michael is at pass protection.  But, either way, expect Michael to carry more of the load in 2014, with him to eventually become the featured back in 2015.

Marshawn Lynch’s cap numbers going forward aren’t too prohibitive.  He’s set to earn $5 million in base salary and $1.5 million in signing bonus in 2014 (with a $500,000 roster bonus, bringing his cap number to an even $7 million), and $5.5 million in base and $1.5 million in bonus in 2015 (with a $2 million roster bonus, bringing his cap number to $9 million).  This contract was designed to keep Lynch around for three years at the most.  With guys like Wilson, Sherman, Thomas, and Harvin all set for big raises, you’re going to have to find money somewhere.  I don’t think that means cutting Lynch prior to 2014 (even though we would only owe $3 million in dead money, saving us $13 million in base salary and roster bonuses over the next two years), but I’m certain that means cutting Lynch prior to 2015.  Either way, I’d like to see us win it all now, just to give Lynch his due while we still can.

In this day and age, it’s almost foolish for teams to over-pay for running backs.  While Lynch has been the one guy above all others who has come to define what Seahawks Football has become under Pete Carroll, at some point you have to make decisions that are best for the team long-term.  In this case, it means cutting ties with a guy on the down-side of his career.  It’ll be a sad day when it comes (especially if it comes sooner rather than later), but the last thing you want to see is a once-great player turn into a burden.

While Marshawn Lynch was never better than he was at the tail-end of 2010, he’s still in what can be considered his prime.  What we have to be prepared for is that this is the tail-end of his prime.  It’s been a great 4-year run, but all great things eventually come to an end.

Seahawks Lost To, Are Still Better Than The 49ers

The simplest equation goes like this:  we have murdered them in both of our home games (winning by a combined 55 points), and just barely lost to them in both of our games in Candlestick the last two years (losing by a combined 9 points).  That’s all you really need to know.  That, and the next time we play them this season (if we do) will be in Seattle in the playoffs.

As predicted, this loss didn’t really bother me too much.  Oh sure, that simmering hate began to boil over as the seconds ticked away on that fateful final 49ers drive, but what did we lose here?  The biggest thing we lost would have been that demoralizing feeling that would have come over the 49ers, knowing without a doubt that we’re the better team.  Now, they get to live in their fantasy land where a 2-point victory at home is just as good as our 26-point victory in Seattle in Week 2.  They think we’re equals.  It’s sad, really.

Normally, I get super fired up at these types of games – close contests against hated rivals – but there was a weird calm about me the whole afternoon.  I dunno, I was just so SURE that we were going to win that game!  Even when Gore ripped off that 51-yard run to put them in field goal range.  Even when they converted that 3rd and 7!  I still believed that there was some miracle waiting right around the corner.

At the time, I didn’t have much of a problem with our defensive tactics on those last three plays before the field goal, but in retrospect we really should have let them score the touchdown.  Hell, just grab the running back and carry him over the goalline if you have to!  Best-case scenario, we would’ve had, what, 30 seconds, starting from our own 20 yard line?  Instead, we had, like, 25 seconds from our own 16 yard line.  That’s, at best, three plays, but all three would have to be sideline outs against a defense that is funnelling everything into the middle of the field.  Truth be told, without any time outs in that situation, you’ve got no shot.  We would have had to complete that long pass (which was intercepted), kill the clock, and either complete a hail mary or hope the refs flag the defense to give us an untimed down for a field goal.  What are the odds of THAT?

So, it was a bit of a shock when they came away with the victory.  But, again, I’m not even that mad.  We’re still clearly in the driver’s seat for the #1 seed.  Nothing has changed:  the Seahawks need to win two more games.  Next week, we go to the lowly Giants.  Then, we’re at home against the Cards & Rams.  In reality, after next week, we won’t have to go on the road again until the Super Bowl.  How does that sound?

Of course, in order for us to get there, we’re going to have to be better than we were yesterday.  There’s a certain agitation level that comes with being Almost Good Enough that you just don’t feel when you KNOW you’re good enough.  If I believed the Seahawks were just AS good, or worse, than the 49ers, yesterday’s game would’ve driven me out of my mind.  Because when you’re Almost Good Enough, and you’re on the road against a team that’s either as good or better than you, then you know you have to play a flawless (or near-flawless) game to get the victory.  The best teams have some margin for error, which is why we were able to play a game like we played yesterday and still had a chance to prevail.  If we were the Seahawks of two years ago, we would’ve been blown out.  If we were the Seahawks of last year, we still would have lost, but it wouldn’t have felt nearly as close.  This year, we know we SHOULD have won, but too many mistakes killed us.

That face mask penalty on Michael Robinson was a crusher.  Late in the third quarter, Lynch had just ripped off a 20-yard run, and it was called back, leaving us with 1st and 25.  That’s damn near an impossible situation.  You might as well just punt right there and save yourself the clock.

Calling the time out while at 1st and 25 … why not just take the delay of game penalty?  That time out was WAY more important than saving five yards in a situation where you’re probably just going to punt anyway.

There was a number of defensive holding penalties, but no more important than the one on Richard Sherman in the second quarter, on a third down play, that kept their drive alive and led to a 49er field goal.  That’s three points when there should have been none.

The punt block in the first quarter:  another three points when there should have been none.

Then, of course, there’s the matter of allowing Frank Gore to run 51 yards.  What the hell were we doing on that play?

This was the first time all year where I found myself asking, “Where’s Earl Thomas?”  Obviously, I’m not privy to what the scheme was, but I saw pretty much zero impact out of our best defensive player yesterday.  I’m sorry, but if you want to be in the discussion for Defensive MVP, or Best Safety In Football, there can’t be games where you’re just lost in the shuffle.  Do you think Ed Reed or Troy Polamalu in their primes ever went a game without making an impact?  Especially in the spotlight of playing a bitter rival (which, in their cases, would have been games against one another)?

Finally, I’ll just close with what this game hinged on.  The 49ers took the lead just before halftime, going up 16-14.  The third quarter, both teams put up goose eggs (thanks in large part to Byron Maxwell picking Kaepernick off deep in Seattle territory).  More punts were exchanged into the 4th quarter until finally, Golden Tate caught one he could return.  And return it he did, to the San Francisco 27 yard line.  The Seahawks took over on this drive with a little over 9 minutes left in the game, already in field goal range.  At this point, you CANNOT settle for a field goal!

I don’t know if I want to blame the play-calling (we went super-conservative, rushing on 3 of the first 5 plays of that drive before a third down incompletion), the personnel-calling (even when we did throw on this drive, it looked like we were throwing out of jumbo packages, with Kearse as the only receiver on the field), or the execution by the players (how does Lynch only get 5 total yards on three carries this close to the endzone?).  Seems to me, we probably could have done a better job by spreading things out and running from a 3-wide, 1-tight end set.  At the very least, don’t you ALWAYS want Doug Baldwin on the field on third down?

If the Seahawks score a touchdown on that drive, maybe it doesn’t change anything.  Maybe Gore still gets that long run and maybe they dink and dunk their way into the endzone while still taking off all of the clock.  Then again, maybe they feel they need to get into a passing mindset, and maybe that long run never happens.  And MAYBE the Seahawks are able to get to Kaepernick and force him into a turnover.

Lotta what-ifs.  In the end, you just tip your cap and wait.  We’ll see this team again.  And when we do, the outcome is going to be very different.