My Unhelpful Preview Of Tonight’s Seahawks/Cardinals Game

The Seahawks just have to win.  That’s it!  End of post!  It’s patently ridiculous that the Seahawks are at this point, it’s ridiculous that they lost to the Redskins last week, and frankly it’s ridiculous how they’ve lost all three of those games this season.  We’re a game behind the Rams now – who look like a fucking murderer’s row the way they’re beating some of these teams (although, curiously, they too lost a home game to the Redskins, which just might be one of those teams unaffected by the 3-timezone change) – and if you haven’t seen their schedule, it’s so close to Seattle’s it’s eerie!

Their AFC road games are at the Jags and Titans, as are ours.  Their road NFC East games are at the Cowboys and Giants, as are ours.  They play last year’s 3rd place NFC South team – the Saints – at home; we play last year’s 1st place NFC South team – the Falcons – at home.  They play last year’s 3rd place NFC North team – the Vikings – on the road; we play last year’s 1st place NFC North team – the Packers – on the road.  Literally the only difference is the order in which we play these teams.  Which thus far has hurt the Seahawks, because we had to grapple with Aaron Rodgers and Deshaun Watson when they were still healthy; they avoid Watson, and get to face whatever backup Vikings QB is in the lineup in two weeks.

If I’m being honest, it’s hard to find two more losses on the Rams’ schedule, unless they start suffering significant injuries.  Their toughest games are both at home, against the Saints and Eagles.  Other than that, MAYBE the Vikings’ defense poses some threat, but I’m not really a believer in those guys.  So, either the Seahawks need to win their remaining 8 games – including at home against the Rams to take the season head-to-head tie-breaker – or the Rams need to start dropping some games they should otherwise win.

Also, not for nothing, but going 8-0 is pretty much a prerequisite for getting a first round BYE in the playoffs, which sounds pretty impossible when you’ve got the Falcons and Eagles at home, and the Jags and Cowboys on the road.  You scoff at the Jags, but have you SEEN their defense?  Now imagine those guys going up against this Seattle offense (particularly this Seattle offensive line), and understand the game is in Florida, at 10am Pacific time, and you’ll see why I’m freaking out here.

That’s obviously getting ahead of things by quite a bit.  Taking this second half of the season as one big chunk is insane; we’re going to have to take this one game at a time, just like Russell Wilson always says.  Forget about everything else, the Seahawks just need to go 1-0 tonight.

Of course, they SHOULD go 1-0 tonight, because the Cards are pretty terrible.  But, they also SHOULD have gone 1-0 last week at home against the Redskins, and you saw what happened.  Remember last year, when the Seahawks SHOULD have won down in Arizona, but dicked around all night and ended up with a 6-6 tie?  Remember why that happened?  Remember a certain kicker missing a certain number of field goals to cost this team a win?  Remember how that kicker frequently missed kicks down in Arizona because their field is garbage?  And remember how that kicker is now kicking in Buffalo, and the Seahawks went and signed Blair Walsh for some God-foresaken reason?

That 6-6 football game last year was EASILY the worst game of the entire season, across the entire NFL.  I’m just saying, don’t be shocked if we’re in for something similar tonight.

We all know Arizona is awful.  Their record is 4-4, which sounds insane, until you’ve seen who they beat:  Indy, San Francisco, Tampa Bay, San Francisco again.  So, three of the very worst teams in the league.  They lost to the Lions, Cowboys, Eagles, and Rams.  So, three of the very best teams in the league (and the Lions).  That 4-4 record feels like a lie, but given the discrepancy of their opponents, it’s hard to get a true read on just how bad the Cards really are.  Tonight should be a good litmus test, and it would be, if it weren’t being played on Thursday Night.

[SECTION WHERE I TALK ABOUT HOW MUCH I DESPISE THURSDAY GAMES]

(it’s just easier that way)

No Carson Palmer, no David Johnson; so two of their three best offensive players are gone.  Larry Fitzgerald is still the ageless wonder, and Drew Stanton is still a good fit in Bruce Arians’ offense as a backup quarterback.  He takes care of the ball for the most part, and puts his team in position to win more often than not.  And, he’s got Adrian Peterson to hand the ball off to, who is averaging 4.2 yards per carry since coming over from the Saints.  The key tonight is, obviously, prevent AP from keeping them on schedule and force Stanton to beat you down field.  Even without Earl Thomas, that shouldn’t be a concern for the Seahawks.

Defensively, the Cards aren’t very good.  27th in points per game, 23rd in yards per game.  They’re 24th in passing yards per game at 249.3, and 11th in rushing yards per game at 100.5.  Since the Seahawks can’t run the ball anyway, tonight would be a poor night to try to shoehorn that into our offense.  Just throw it on them!  Throw away from Patrick Peterson and take what’s given to you!  I expect Jimmy Graham to have a big one here, so expect him to colossally disappoint.

I’ll say this:  they don’t have Calais Campbell anymore, which is the best news I’ve heard all year (the downside is that he’s currently tearing shit up on the Jags, who we play in December).  I’m not saying it’ll be smooth sailing against that front seven, but any time you can avoid CC destroying the interior of your O-Line, it’s a leg up for the good guys.

Take care of business, Seahawks.  Or so help me God.

We’re The Best, Around: Seahawks Crush Cardinals

Come on, as if there was any doubt …

You may suck upon deez royal nutz ...

You may suck upon deez royal nutz …

It would be unfair to call Seattle’s offense strictly “one dimensional”.  But, you can’t deny they do one thing MUCH better than the other, and that’s run the football.  The problem with being one dimensional, of course, is that when the other team shuts down the one thing you do well, you’re at an extreme disadvantage.  When that one thing is rushing, you’re even more behind the 8-ball, as what are you going to do if you ever fall behind in a game AND you can’t run the ball?

Well, if you’re the Seattle Seahawks, not to worry, because the Seahawks are NOT one dimensional, but that’s neither here nor there, because why would you ever fear being down by two scores or more?

You can get some flawed analysis coming out of this game.  I know, in the moment, that was a FUN NIGHT.  And I know in the standings it looks like we have the same record as the Cardinals (overtaking them for the division thanks to the head-to-head tie-breaker).  But, the Cardinals right now are no where near our league.

I mean, what do you learn about a game where their fourth string quarterback threw for less than five yards per attempt?  The same quarterback who is yet to throw for a touchdown in over 200 career attempts, which is an NFL record.  Or, about a team that couldn’t run at full strength getting held to 29 yards?  Overall, we’re talking about an offensively-challenged team on its BEST day.  And, last night was far from that.

Yes, the Seahawks dominated, and surely would’ve dominated most teams – if not all teams – but a much lesser defensive unit could’ve done just as good of a job.

I’m more impressed by what the offense showed us.  Against a team that WAS a top 10 defense before last night, we generated 596 yards of total offense.  That’s on top of a ridiculous 97 yards in penalties by our three units.  We ran for 267 yards on 34 carries for a nearly 8-yard per carry average.  I hate doing this – because all the runs count – but if you take out Beastmode’s 79-yard touchdown run, you’re STILL talking about a Seahawks offense that averaged 5.7 yards per carry.  Want to further limit us by also taking out Russell Wilson’s 55 yard scamper?  The Seahawks STILL averaged over 4 yards per carry.

This is an Arizona defense built upon stopping the run – stopping the thing we do the best – and we absolutely manhandled them.  AND, on top of that, just to prove we’re not one dimensional, Russell Wilson went and threw for 339 yards and two touchdowns, for a rating of 122.9.

The Seahawks are riding a 5-game winning streak now.  Who saw this team at 6-4 and thought, “This is a team that’s going to be playing for a #1 seed in the NFC”?  Because, I’m not gonna lie to you, I sure as shit didn’t.  You know how there are trap games, where you might overlook a bad team you’re playing this week because you know you’re going to face a really tough team the next week?  It’s almost like the Seahawks had seven straight weeks of trap games – from Washington thru Kansas City – simply looking ahead to the 6-game stretch to close the season.  I don’t know what switch was flipped, but this is a VASTLY different team than it was in the first half.

Let’s kick off our kudos this week on offense for a change.  Luke Willson had three monster catches.  Two for touchdowns, one to convert a 2nd & 20.  139 yards overall, 80 of them on his long TD.  He’s had an up and down year this year to say the least, but when we needed him the most last night (especially with Kearse going down early with a hamstring), he didn’t have a drop.

Doug Baldwin had as quiet of a 7 catch, 113 yard game as I’ve ever seen, but we really had to lean on him more than ever with the aforementioned Kearse injury.  Hopefully he’s not out for too long.

To top off Wilson’s brilliant passing day, he also ran for 88 yards and a garbage touchdown, to bring his season rushing total to 842, which is 15th in the NFL at the moment, ahead of MANY players who only run the ball for a living and will never throw a pass in their careers.  I’m told 842 rushing yards for a quarterback is 5th most in NFL history, but I’m too lazy to go and confirm that myself.

Defensively, we had four sacks.  One apiece for Bennett, Hill, Schofield, and newcomer David King.  Jordan Hill’s sack particularly stands out because it was on a nice little stunt move where Bennett bull rushed to the middle of the line – occupying two blockers – while Hill ran around for the easy pancake.  Schofield’s was notable for how absolutely swift and fierce the hit was, while still being legal, which for last night was a bit of a problem.

Also bringing the pain, while not necessarily lighting up the stat sheet, we have Kam Chancellor, Cliff Avril, and Bruce Irvin.  They’re all so damn active and forcing opponents into making Business Decisions on a regular basis.

Richard Sherman not only got an interception – to give him 24 in his career, which is tied for the second-most in NFL history through the first four seasons in the league – but he got to outshine Patrick Peterson once again.  Before the game, there were stories about his chat with Bob Costas where Sherm got to clowning on him once again.  Then, fast forward to the game:  whenever they completed a pass on Sherman, it took the greatest throw combined with the greatest catch for it to be successful.  The Seahawks were able to throw pretty much at will on Peterson.  Sherman CAUGHT his INT; Peterson dropped his only chance.  Sherman was mixing it up in the run game, tackling guys at the line of scrimmage.  Peterson got posterized by Beastmode as he tried for the strip instead of the tackle, forever on the ass-end of one of the greatest runs in NFL history.  A run that will be replayed countless times throughout the year and through the end of time.

Best cornerback in the league?  You may say it’s not Richard Sherman, and you may be right (though, that wouldn’t be MY opinion); but one thing’s for certain:  the best cornerback is NOT Patrick Peterson.  Case closed, bitches.

Finally, you knew we’re closing with Beastmode.  Marshawn Lynch started the day with some sort of stomach virus and didn’t show up for much of the first quarter.  But, once he was finally able, he made the most of his touches:  10 carries, 113 yards, two touchdowns.  I’m putting that performance up there with Michael Jordan’s flu game in the Finals and there’s not a God damn thing you can do to stop me!  To not only play football with that kind of nausea, but to play it at the very highest level you can possibly play, with as physical as he does it?  I mean, are you kidding me?  When I’m that sick, I have to sit on the toilet with a bucket in my lap so I don’t shit my pants while I’m throwing up.

And now you know a little something more about me.  I’m pretty much the catch of the century, ladies …

Seahawks Slayed The Dragon, Prepare For Next Dragon

I’m not going to make a huge deal about the struggling offense, because yesterday was pretty much our best case scenario.  Like I figured, we needed every ounce of that defensive performance, and BOY was it a sight for sore eyes!  We held them to 3.2 yards per rush, we pressured the quarterback with regularity (finishing with 3 sacks and 8 hits), we held them to 204 total yards, and we plucked an interception out of the air for good measure.  Most everyone, minus Mebane, was healthy and out there making an impact.  We’ll need this type of injury-free effort the rest of the way if we want to make the playoffs.

What I didn’t see coming – really, what I COULDN’T see coming – was the utter dominance of our Special Teams over their Special Teams.  The lone blemish was a missed field goal on our part, but as you can see from the final score, it didn’t matter.  The Cardinals also missed a field goal, as well as had a punt blocked, and overall got massacred in the battle of field position.  In other words, our offense wasn’t able to do much, but in this case, it didn’t have to do too much.

This is the point in the post where I turn around and make myself into a liar by invalidating the first sentence through making a huge deal out of the struggling offense.

I know the Cardinals have a very good defense, so it’s somewhat understandable for a team to settle for field goals in a game like this.  Except, this is by NO MEANS an isolated incident.  The Seahawks have been notoriously awful in the red zone all season long.  Yes, part of it is due to play calling.  But, you can’t absolve the players of their part in this whole thing.

  • The offensive line has struggled at times.  Yes, there have been lots of injuries there, but that’s no excuse.  That’s a problem for the coming offseason, but right now, I’m sick of talking about it.
  • The quarterback has struggled at times.  Part of that is on the O-Line, but part of that is Russell Wilson just not getting the job done.  Missing wide open guys, being late with throws, indecisiveness.  He needs to be better.
  • The wide receivers are all WILDLY out of position.  I know it’s an ongoing theme, but this team misses Golden Tate and it’s driving me crazy.

Then, when you factor in the coaches not putting the players in positions to succeed, you’ve got quite the mess on your hands.  Going away from the run inside the five yard line.  Calling corner-fades when all of our receivers are 6-feet or less.  It’s not even the play-calling that I have a problem with, but the overall lack of creativity within the plays we have to choose from!  I know there’s not a lot you can do when you’re so close to the endzone, but I watch a lot of other teams play football, and they seem to find a way to punch it in WAY more than the Seahawks do.

But, anyway, I’m rambling again.  The Seahawks got the win, and they got it comfortably.  That’s all that matters right now.

Our backs were against the wall.  Ol’ Baby was put in that corner.  We were on the precipice, one foot dangling over the edge of the plank, about to fall to our doom in shark-infested waters.  A loss yesterday would have put the Cardinals at 10-1, while the Seahawks would have fallen to 6-5 and into sole possession of third place in the NFC West.  We would have been 0-2 in the division and hopelessly fighting for a playoff dream nowhere in sight.  God, can you imagine?

Instead, they’re 9-2, we’re 7-4 and tied for second with the 49ers, who we JUST so happen to be playing in three days.  I’ve got no love for Thursday games whatsoever, but I’m going to make an exception for this:  Thanksgiving, at a bar in Bell Town, screaming my God damn head off with all the other degenerates who have nowhere else better to be than a bar on Thanksgiving night.

It’s going to be glorious.  I don’t think I’m going to be able to contain myself in the meantime.

But, let’s roll it back and call out some players of the game.  The offensive line obviously wasn’t at its best, with Carpenter and Unger both out.  They gave up 7 sacks, 11 tackles for loss, and 11 quarterback hits.  But, they made good adjustments after halftime and looked rather solid in the second half.  It can’t be easy going up against those maniacs in the Arizona front seven; I’m just glad nobody was killed.

Bobby Wagner, WELCOME BACK!  Good lord was he ever missed!  I don’t think I had any idea of his overall value to this defense until we were condemned to playing football games without his leadership, intensity, and oodles of talent holding us all together.  He deserves whatever it takes to keep him here long term.  He above everyone else is the one guy I want extended on that defense.

The difference between Healthy Kam Chancellor and Nagging Injury Kam Chancellor is night and fucking day, let me tell you.  I’ll feel A LOT better about our chances if we can keep Wagner & Chancellor in the lineup every week from here on out.

I feel like Bruce Irvin is THIS CLOSE to really breaking out and becoming a superstar in this defense.  At this point, it’s just a matter of him making the big plays with more regularity, but he’s right there.  If, over these last handful of games, he can step it up, we could be looking at a lethal defense the likes of which we have yet to see (which should be scary for opposing offenses).

Cliff Avril had a couple sacks and was generally a pain in the ass of Drew Stanton all game.  He’s only got 4 sacks on the year, which is a shockingly low number, but I feel like that doesn’t paint the whole picture with him.  From the eyeball test, he has looked quite good this season and is another guy I’d like to see extended, if the price is right.  My hunch is, with everyone else getting healthier around him, Avril is poised to go on a nice little run to close out the season.  It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest to see him get another 6 sacks in the next five games to really boost his value as he becomes a free agent in the offseason.

Jordan Hill had the other sack in the game, his first of the season.  It’s hard for me to get a handle on him as a football player.  From what I read about him, it’s neither good nor overwhelmingly bad.  He’s sort of Just A Guy.  But, he’s a draft pick, in the second year of his deal, and we have an obvious hole at defensive tackle with Mebane on the shelf.  Now is the time!  There’s really no one else out there we can bring in, so this is his big break.  Over these last few games, we’ll have a pretty good idea of whether he’s a starter, merely a role player, or if he’s someone to be replaced in the coming offseason.  I’d like to see him make that leap toward being someone important for this team, if for no other reason than it’s one less thing we’ve got to worry about.

I don’t have much good to say about the offense.  Another gutty, gritty Russell Wilson performance.  I will say that it’s appallingly frustrating that our rookie wide receivers have yet to really make any impact whatsoever.  When you consider this rookie class of receivers will go down in history as probably the best ever, and you factor in that we have TWO of them who are doing nothing, it’s starting to make my blood boil.  I do understand that wide receivers often take time to really blossom into their full potential, but it sucks when we’re talking about a position of great need and we’re looking at something we’re going to have to invest heavily in again next year.

Although, I bet part of it is the offense not using these guys appropriately.  I did like the whole flea-flicker play to Norwood in yesterday’s game, even if it didn’t work thanks to a great play by Patrick Peterson.  I hope we take more shots like that with him, in a jump-ball setting, to see if he’s got that in his game.  As for Paul Richardson, I don’t know WHAT the fuck they’re doing.  He’s a speed guy; maybe use him for that?  I know we don’t have any sort of vertical passing game to speak of, but how about we TRY letting him run behind the defense down field a few times, just to see if this is a thing we can do.  Why can’t Richardson be the next T.Y. Hilton?  I’m not asking for 10 TDs out of him, but he should be a team leader in yards per reception!

Is this too much to ask?  I’m not saying you have to make these guys the focal points of your offense, but work ’em in!  Let ’em do what they do best!  If you INSIST upon these WR screens, can you please just throw it ONE TIME to the fastest guy on the roster?  It feels like Richardson was born to run those.

That’s all I got.  In the meantime, I’m going to try to focus on something other than the impending Thanksgiving showdown.

Seahawks To Visit Chargers

I have a hard time knowing how to feel about this game.  Obviously, there’s an undercurrent of great excitement, as it’s FOOTBALL SEASON and this is only the second game of said season.  But, should I be nervous about a matchup against a quick-tempo offense on the road?  Or, should I be cocky, because we’re the champs and so obviously the best team in football?

By all rights, the Seahawks SHOULD win this game.  I don’t know about covering point spreads and all that, but at the end of the day the Seahawks should have at least one more point than the other team.  You could realistically say that every week and you wouldn’t be crazy.

But, wonky shit happens.  Like, for instance, let me take you back to a few weeks ago when me and my friends had our fantasy football draft.  I was fortunate enough to have the number one draft pick.  Since this is a 2-QB, 2-Keeper PPR league, I had my quarterback position set and all I needed to do was bust out with the skill position players that remained.  The best player – in my estimation, for fantasy purposes – was Jimmy Graham.  So, I took him #1.  And, as it’s a snake draft – like I assume most of you have to deal with – since I picked first, I didn’t get to pick again until the 20th & 21st picks.  Not gonna lie to you, A LOT of good players went off the board in those first 19 picks.  But, I still managed to wrangle in Alfred Morris and Keenan Allen.

That last name might sound familiar.  No, this isn’t an excuse for me to recap the entirety of my fantasy football draft; I’m here to tell you that I think SO HIGHLY of one Keenan Allen and his potential to be a star in this league, that I made him the very first wide receiver chosen for my fantasy football team.  And yet, this week, I’m benching Allen in favor of T.Y. Hilton’s matchup against the Eagles, because I don’t think Allen is going to be someone worth starting.

So, if I feel so strongly about benching a really good player, I MUST have a pretty strong feeling about the Seahawks winning this game!

And you’d be right.  But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t nagging doubts burrowing into my guts.  Keenan Allen will have the freedom to move all around the field, so it’s not like he’s going to have Richard Sherman locking him down like he did Patrick Peterson last week.  It wouldn’t shock me in the slightest to see Allen rip off 10 receptions for over 100 yards and really make me look like a fucking idiot.  Nevertheless, the rest of that Seahawks defense is pretty great, so even IF Allen gets his share of targets and receptions, I highly doubt he’s going to reach the endzone.

As for San Diego as a whole, I’m nervous.  When Philip Rivers gets on a roll, he’s the most unstoppable quarterback in the league.  I don’t remember the last time I’ve ever seen a quarterback get as hot as Rivers in a game – MAYBE Kurt Warner, but it’s rare.  That isn’t to say that Rivers is one of the greatest of all time.  Maybe in San Diego history, but not in NFL history, that’s for damn sure.  When Rivers ISN’T on a hot streak, he generally looks befuddled and makes bad decisions.  Not to the point of a Jay Cutler or a Tony Romo, but not too far off either.

Aside from Allen, I don’t really like their skill position players.  Antonio Gates is washed up and should easily be locked down by one of our linebackers.  Malcom Floyd is tall, but he’s not particularly speedy.  He fits right into that mold of receiver that our cornerbacks – Sherman and Maxwell – can dominate.  Ryan Matthews is nothing special at running back.  Danny Woodhead is the NFL equivalent of one of those try-hard, gritty white guys in baseball.  He’s football’s Willie Bloomquist.

Of course, none of that matters if Rivers gets going.  We’ve got to find a way to harass him on a consistent basis.

For the Seahawks, I think this game is going to shed a light on what this team is really capable of.  Defensively, will this game prove that we’ve taken a step back from our crazy heights of 2013?  Or, will it show that we’ve still got it and we’re still the best in the game?  Offensively, will we be able to take our show on the road?  It’s one thing to be at home and line up Percy Harvin all over the field and have him running around, driving defenses crazy.  You’re comfortable there.  Mistakes are mitigated at home, whereas they’re compounded on the road.  I think this offense has the ability to be truly great and to average over 30 points per game.  But, if we’re going to be great, we have to be able to do that anywhere.

San Diego is the perfect team to play, in a lot of ways.  They’re good, but not great.  It’s a road game, but it’s not that far away.  They made the playoffs last year and know what it takes to succeed, but they were never really a serious contender and it’s tough to think they’re one this year either.  They’ve got a good quarterback and a young, tricky defense.  If we shut them down on both sides of the ball, we look like a juggernaut.  If we struggle and win in a close game, it’s somewhat to be expected because of all the aforementioned positives surrounding the Chargers in this game.  If we lose, well, then we’ll know where we’re deficient and what we need to work on.

But, I really don’t think we’ll lose.  And that’s what makes this game REALLY exciting.  Beating up on the dregs of the league has its moments; you generally get to enjoy a relaxing – somewhat boring – afternoon of football.  But, beating the good ones?  Really pounding it in that we’re the best and you’re not even in our league?  That’s taking bliss to another level.

If I could, I’d leapfrog today and tomorrow and make it Sunday morning right now.

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.

Who Should Return Punts For The Seattle Seahawks?

In 24:  Live Another Day, you’ve got another of the ol’ tropes alive and well.  When they take you out of the field RIGHT BEFORE a big assignment where they’re going to go somewhere with guns to attack some bad guys, possibly with more guns, it ALWAYS means that assignment is going to be a huge, explosive failure.  In this case, Cute Blonde C.I.A. agent gets shackled to the office while the C.I.A. head Benjamin Bratt and his lead officer both go out to supposedly bring in the main terrorist lady.  Except, in this case, SURPRISE!  They’re at the wrong house, and there’s a bomb, and EXPLOSION, and now some are dead and some are not.  All in a day’s work in the world of 24.  With some bigtime cast members either killed or knocked out for the rest of the day, it’s only a matter of time before Jack Bauer is reinstated and put out into the field with Cute Blonde.  For sexy times and ass-kickery, just break glass …

File this under:  Slow News Week.

Yesterday, the local media just about crapped their pants when they heard Pete Carroll tell everyone that Earl Thomas would be the starting punt returner if the season started today.

This is news??? has turned into THIS IS NEWS!!! because it’s the end of May and absolutely nothing important is going on in the world of local sports.  And because I’m no different, here’s my two cents.

For the last couple of years, Golden Tate returned punts.  He was good at it.  Prior to that, Leon Washington returned punts.  He was really good at it.  As far back as I can remember, from Bobby Engram to Joey Galloway, it seems like the Seahawks have always had quality punt returners.

I tend to like the more conservative, veteran guys, who lean towards fair catching a punt, because the worst case scenario with any return is muffing it and letting the other team recover.  I’d rather just secure the possession, because really, what are the odds you’re going to break a punt return for a TD?  What’s the average punt return anyway?  I bet it’s less than 10 yards.  Is it worth it to gamble the health of a valuable part of your offense or defense just to see if you can improve on a very small number?

Yes, I loved having Golden Tate back there returning punts, even though he took what some deemed foolish risks.  And yes, Golden Tate was also a very valuable member of our offense – at wide receiver, where we weren’t necessarily the deepest.  And, of course, on any play, anyone – even your most important player – can be injured.  Hell, Russell Wilson could be standing on the sideline talking to a teammate during a kickoff return when someone rolls up on him suddenly, without him expecting it!  That’s the football equivalent of walking out of your home and getting hit by a bus.  If you sit around waiting for the worst to happen, what kind of a way is that to live?

Fast forward to 2014:  Golden Tate is a Detroit Lion.  Apparently, the only other person who ever returned a punt for the Seahawks in 2013 is Richard Sherman, who had one return for -6 yards, and I’ll be damned if I remember when THAT happened.  No one on the 2014 squad really has any significant punt returning experience, so someone will have to step up.

The obvious choice is Percy Harvin – who is slated to return kickoffs for us.  He’s an experienced kickoff returner, and an elite one, so how much harder could it be for him to take in punts?

Other options include Earl Thomas and the aforementioned Richard Sherman.  I’m less interested in Richard Sherman returning punts, because I think there’s no chance in Hell he wins that job.  My hunch is, he’s throwing his hat into the ring because he heard Patrick Peterson talk all of his shit about being the more complete player and wants to show him that it doesn’t take much to be a punt returner in this league (which it doesn’t, for the record).

I’m more interested in Earl Thomas, especially because he’s the supposed front-runner.

Earl Thomas has elite speed.  He just LOOKS like the kind of guy who would thrive in the punt returning job.  Elusive, able to cut on a dime, able to get around the edge while also running right over you.  If he wasn’t so integral to the defense, I’d put my 100% stamp of approval on this move right now and move on with my life.

But, you can’t remove risk/reward from the situation.  Yes, as stated above, there’s risk on any football play.  There’s risk in every second of your everyday life!  But, not all moments are created equal.  Earl Thomas, flying around in the field, playing free safety, trying to remove the torsos from the bodies of ball-handlers is not the same thing as one man, isolated, with 11 snarling beasts bearing down on him while 10 of his teammates backpedal in a hopeless attempt to prevent bodily harm.

In one scenario, Earl Thomas is the aggressor:  he chooses where he’s going to hit and how hard that impact is going to be.  In the other scenario, Earl Thomas is on the defensive:  he could get smashed head-on, or he could get rolled up from behind.  Or, any other injury in-between.  It’s a vulnerable position being the punt returner, just as it is being the kick returner.  Why do you think they’ve been talking about all these rule changes with kickoffs?  They moved the kickoff line once and almost did it again!  They want to eliminate kickoffs because they’re so dangerous.  As are punt returns.

You could argue that Golden Tate was pretty important, but he was nowhere NEAR the level of Earl Thomas.  Without Thomas, our defense changes drastically.  Without Tate, it would’ve been tough, but our offense would’ve essentially continued as it did, with just the next man up replacing him.

I know Bryan Walters is being tossed around as an option, but I wouldn’t make him the punt returner unless he’s also a clear winner of a roster spot as just a wide receiver.  I see no point in keeping a guy on the team to JUST return punts.

What about Terrelle Pryor?  This team seems hell-bent on keeping him as a quarterback, which is a damn shame, because I’d LOVE to see what he could do returning punts.

I also wouldn’t mind seeing Doug Baldwin back there, but it doesn’t sound like the team is considering it.

If the Seahawks really want to go dynamic, why not use Paul Richardson?  As a rookie, you don’t expect a whole lot out of him on offense, so it’d be nice to get some value out of him in special teams.  Of course, with any rookie, you have to worry about inopportune fumbles in such a role.  Probably not something the team would be comfortable with (especially considering I’m not so sure he has any experience in that role).

If you ask me, I’d say we just go with Jermaine Kearse.  He has proved to be reliable with the ball in his hands, elusive-enough in open space, and tough enough to endure the types of hits he’d have to endure.  With his role looking to be diminished with the additions of rookies Richardson and Kevin Norwood, it might be a good way to establish some more value, especially if the team decides they don’t want to extend him beyond whenever his contract ends.

Either that, or just stick with Percy Harvin and have him return both kickoffs and punts.  If we’re already risking his health in one arena (or, I guess two arenas, if you count the actual offense), then why not go full bore?  He’s obviously the best candidate, and he’s NOT as important as Earl Thomas.

Richard Sherman, Best Cornerback In The Game, Signs 4-Year Extension

I’m less interested in the fact that Richard Sherman is the highest-paid cornerback in football, because that’s all temporary.  I care more about what it has taken for Richard Sherman go GET that deal (4 years, 50-something million, $40 million guaranteed), which is his being the best cornerback in the game.

Mostly, I just care about the fact that Richard Sherman is going to be with the Seahawks at least through the 2018 season.

Richard Sherman has a lot of haters.  He’s brash, he’s arrogant, he talks a mountain of shit.  While he’s not necessarily a “me-first” type of player, he certainly encourages all the attention anyone is willing to give him.  Plus, he plays on the Seattle Seahawks.  Which means he’s NOT playing for 31 of the NFL’s 32 teams.  He’s the consummate player you love if he’s on your team, and the player you love to hate if he’s not.

As such, people love making the argument that he’s NOT the greatest cornerback in the game.  As if it’s so easy to do what he does.

Here’s what we know:  primarily, Richard plays on one side of the field.  Which means for the most part, he’s not following the other team’s best receiver all around the field.  As if this is some sort of skill he lacks (I’d ask Anquan Boldin in week 2 of last year how he liked having Richard Sherman in his back pocket all day long).  Apparently, if you’re not constantly shutting down the other team’s best receiver (or, at least holding him at bay), then you’re lacking.  Let’s not forget, Richard Sherman has absolutely put a wall on his side of the field.  You’d think that would count for something.

Furthermore, every team that plays the Seahawks knows what they’re going to do on defense.  They know exactly where Richard Sherman is going to be at all times.  They can counter this by putting their weakest receiver on his side and essentially “neutralize” Sherman.  With all of this a matter of public record, isn’t it even MORE amazing that Richard Sherman was able to lead the league in interceptions last year, with 8?  Or that he’s been among the league leaders in his first three years with 20 interceptions total?  Or that he led the league in passes defended?

Opposing offenses KNOW they can just avoid his side, and yet he’s still the most productive cornerback in the game!  I’d like to see Patrick Peterson do that (oh, that’s right, he’s got all of 12 interceptions in the last three years).

Another knock on Richard Sherman is the fact that he’s on the best defense in football.  This somehow discounts the fact that Richard Sherman is one of the primary reasons WHY the Seahawks have the best defense in football.  But, that’s neither here nor there.  Richard Sherman has Earl Thomas to his right, and Earl Thomas is the key to the whole fucking thing.  Not to mention the most underrated linebacking corps in the game, and a ruthless defensive line.  We’re stacked!  There’s no denying this.  As such, it has to make Sherman’s job a whole lot easier.

But, do you ever hear anyone knock Michael Jordan for being on some of the best teams of all time in the mid-90s?  He had Pippen and Rodman and Kerr and a number of other dynamite role players on that team who all fit together perfectly.  Michael Jordan was the best basketball player of all time, yet nobody knocks him for having some of the most talented players of all time around him!  They didn’t expect Jordan to put up 50 shots a game, because he didn’t HAVE to put up 50 shots a game.  He just needed to do his thing, play within the offense, and the wins would take care of themselves.

So, why are you asking Richard Sherman to move all around the field with the other team’s best receiver if he doesn’t have to?  I would understand it if our other cornerbacks were terrible, and we didn’t have the safeties we have.  But, we’ve got the BEST safeties and a bunch of other really good corners.  So, why put unnecessary pressure on Sherm?  Let him play his game, let him lock down his side, and let opposing offenses try to work around him.

I’ll take Richard Sherman over any other corner in football.  You can call it blind homerism if you want, but I’ve watched the man work.  I’ve seen nearly every game he’s been involved with in the pros.  As a rookie, he flashed amazing potential.  In 2012, he was really coming on and starting to make a name for himself.  From 2012 through 2013, he brought all the attention upon himself, by punking Tom Brady, by arguing over Twitter with Darrelle Revis.  When 2013 started, Richard Sherman had the biggest target on his back of any player in the league.  What did he do?  Did he crumble under the self-inflicted pressure?  Hell no!  He went out and kicked even MORE ass, culminating with that tipped pass to Malcolm Smith in the NFC Championship Game (aka the REAL Super Bowl XLVIII).

Richard Sherman IS the greatest.  Take it from someone who has just written the single-greatest argument as to WHY he’s the greatest.

Can Richard Sherman Win Defensive Player Of The Year?

***Update 12/27/2012*** Aaaaaannnnnd Sherman has been acquitted.  Free at last!

Well, for starters, not making the Pro Bowl is a bad sign.  But, that probably says more about the Pro Bowl than it does about Sherman’s abilities and his status as the best cover-corner in the NFL.

Nobody’s really talking about this right now (not tooting my horn or anything; I just haven’t seen any articles on the topic), so let’s take out the possible suspension of Sherman for Adderall for the sake of argument.  I don’t know if you’re allowed to win any awards if you’re suspended for this, but my gut tells me either way, by the simple fact that we have these allegations, there will probably be people who leave him off their ballots entirely.

There have been 41 winners of the D-POY award.  15 have been linebackers, 9 have been defensive ends, 7 have been defensive tackles (including Cortez Kennedy in 1992), 5 have been safeties (including Kenny Easley in 1984), and 5 have been cornerbacks.  So, right there, it’s pretty rare to have a cornerback win the award.

When you think about the D-POY, what do you think of?  You think of a defensive player who has made the biggest impact in the league.  What does that mean?  Well, for starters, you have to like the chances of a guy who’s going to the playoffs over a guy who doesn’t.  Only 6 players who’ve won the D-POY did not participate in the playoffs that season (with Cortez Kennedy being the most mind-boggling in this regard, coming off of a 2-14 season with those ’92 Seahawks).  You also gotta figure he’s on a defense that’s in the top half of the league.  There’s only one player who was on a defense ranked worse than 14th and that’s Reggie White in a 1987 strike-shortened season where the Eagles missed the playoffs; their defense was ranked 23rd out of 28 teams.  Still, when you’re Reggie White and you get 21.0 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and a touchdown, those are the kinds of undeniable numbers you can’t ignore.

Richard Sherman is on a top-flight defense (easily in the top 3 in the league in most catagories).  Richard Sherman’s team is also going to the playoffs.  Those are two big checks in his favor.  Of course, they’re not the ONLY things voters look at.

Going back, you’re talking about a guy who makes the biggest impact; what does that mean?  Having a lot of tackles is great and all, but tons of guys have a bunch of tackles.  Those won’t separate you from the pack.  Impact plays are, in no particular order:  sacks, interceptions, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries, and touchdowns.  Then, when you’re talking about cornerbacks, you’ve gotta look at Passes Defended, you’ve got to look at number of penalties against, you’ve got to look at number of targets (i.e. how many times that player was challenged by the opposing quarterback; because if a quarterback is avoiding that side of the field due to the level of competition on defense, that’s a HUGE impact), and finally, I’m sure the voters do the ol’ Eye Test.  Does he LOOK like a defensive player of the year?  This could go any number of ways.  They can watch the games, they can watch highlight packages, they can read about him in local and national articles, they can hear what players and coaches say about him.

Anyway, that’s what you’re looking at.  I’m just a humble blogger, so I don’t know things like how many times he was targeted, or what the players are saying about him.  But, there are plenty of websites that can give me the hard stats.  First, let’s take a look at past winners; specifically, past winners who were cornerbacks.

What does it take to be a cornerback and win the D-POY?

  • 2009 – Charles Woodson (Green Bay):  2 sacks, 9 interceptions, 4 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 3 touchdowns, 65 tackles, 18 passes defended.
  • 1994 – Deion Sanders (San Francisco):  6 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery, 3 touchdowns, 34 tackles, 14 passes defended.
  • 1993 – Rod Woodson (Pittsburgh):  2 sacks, 8 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 1 touchdown, 95 tackles, 23 passes defended.
  • 1980 – Lester Hayes (Oakland):  13 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 touchdown, an unknown number of tackles & passes defended (because these were not recorded stats back then).
  • 1975 – Mel Blount (Pittsburgh):  11 interceptions, an unknown number of tackles and passes defended.

I don’t know a thing about Mel Blount, but I know he played for the Steelers.  The Steelers in the 1970s had one of the most fearsome defenses in the league.  A Steeler won the D-POY 4 times out of the first 6 years the award was given out, all in the 70s.  I gotta think that’s a major reason why Blount won it in ’75 (plus, you know, 11 interceptions is pretty fucking insane for a cornerback).

I don’t know much about Lester Hayes either, but that’s a pretty damn good season.  Plus, he had some cachet back then.  If you’re a cornerback and you have eyes on the D-POY award, you’ve got to have some name recognition.  Hayes (for being just a brutal hitter and tackler), Rod Woodson, Deion (Primetime) Sanders, and Charles Woodson all have HUGE name recognition.  Normally, the best athletes are reserved for offense.  It’s pretty rare to be the best athlete on your team and also play corner.  In the case of these last four guys, you’re talking about just that.  You’ll also notice that a lot of these guys have returned kicks in their days; not a coincidence.  If your best player is a cornerback, you do whatever it takes to get him on the field with the ball in his hands.

Of the five guys listed above, I think Rod Woodson’s season was probably the most impressive.  I mean, 95 tackles for a corner?  Are you KIDDING me?

Anyway, let’s take a look at Sherman’s numbers for reference:

  • 2012 – Richard Sherman (Seattle):  1 sack, 7 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 2 touchdowns, 53 tackles, 23 passes defended.

He’s up there in interceptions, which is good.  He’s got some forced fumbles, he’s got a couple touchdowns, he’s got a ton of passes defended, and he’s even got a sack for good measure.  These are all numbers right in line with the best seasons of any cornerback.  So, let’s look at some of the other great cornerbacks this year.

  • 2012 – Charles Tillman (Chicago):  3 interceptions, 10 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 3 touchdowns, 71 tackles, 14 passes defended.
  • 2012 – Tim Jennings (Chicago):  8 interceptions, 1 touchdown, 53 tackles, 19 passes defended.
  • 2012 – Patrick Peterson (Arizona):  7 interceptions, 5 fumble recoveries, 50 tackles, 15 passes defended.
  • 2012 – Champ Bailey (Denver):  2 interceptions, 58 tackles, 9 passes defended.
  • 2012 – Johnathan Joseph (Houston):  2 interceptions, 1 touchdown, 53 tackles, 9 passes defended.
  • 2012 – Antonio Cromartie (New York Jets):  3 interceptions, 1 touchdown, 28 tackles, 13 passes defended.

In case you were wondering:  those are the six starting cornerbacks selected to this year’s Pro Bowl.  Whether you agree with the decision or not, these are six premiere corners and thus need to be taken seriously as competition with Richard Sherman for D-POY.

If you look among the league leaders, Sherman is tied for 2nd with 7 intereptions (Jennings is alone at the top with 8).  In forced fumbles, among defensive backs (including safeties), he’s tied for 7th in the NFL with 3.  Tillman has a GROTESQUE 10 forced fumbles to lead the league, regardless of position.  If you take the safety position out of the equation, then Sherman is tied for 2nd among cornerbacks with 3.

If we just stick with cornerbacks, it’s only Sherman and Tillman and everyone else.  Tillman has forced a combined 13 turnovers.  Sherman has forced 10.  Both have multiple touchdowns.  Both have name recognition.  Tillman has been in the league for 10 years, so he has a little MORE name recognition, but still.  People know who Richard Sherman is, and they will only continue to know who he is.  He leads the league in opposing quarterback rating when he’s thrown at.  Don’t know where Tillman ranks, but based on the fact that he has nearly 20 more tackles, I gotta think opposing quarterbacks don’t fear him quite as much.  It’s not opposing QBs’ fault that their wide receivers keep getting stripped by the guy.  Likewise, Sherman has nearly 10 more passes defended.

Looking elsewhere, J.J. Watt is getting a lot of pub down in Houston.  As a defensive end, he currently has 20.5 sacks.  Aldon Smith for the 49ers has 19.5, but you can see his play has tailed off considerably with Justin Smith injured.  Getting punked by Russell Okung in primetime surely didn’t help his chances either.

As for the linebackers, you’ve got a dark horse in Arizona by the name of Daryl Washington.  He’s got 123 tackles and 9 sacks to go along with an interception and 2 forced fumbles.  You’ve got London Fletcher with Washington:  128 tackles, 1 sack, 5 interceptions, 1 forced fumble, 10 passes defended.  Then there are the big dogs in tackles – Luke Kuechly (151, with 1 sack, 2 INTs), Chad Greenway (145, with 3 sacks, 1 INT), NaVorro Bowman (144, with 2 sacks, 1 INT), and Jerod Mayo (142, with 3 sacks, 1 INT).  I’m going to say, with his name recognition, and the fact that everybody LOVES the guy, I’m putting London Fletcher as the clubhouse leader among linebackers.  He’s got a nice stat spread that could go a long way in this race.

I don’t think there are any serious contenders among the safeties.  The usual suspects – Troy Polamalu, Ed Reed – have either been injured, or less stellar than in years past.

That leaves us with four legitimate candidates:

  • London Fletcher
  • J.J. Watt
  • Charles Tillman
  • Richard Sherman

My hunch?  I really like London Fletcher’s chances.  Remember when they gave Denzel Washington the Academy Award for that awful Training Day movie?  This is kind of like that.  A belated award to an industry veteran who’s at the top of his game while slumming it.  In the case of Fletcher, “slumming it” means he’s on a TERRIBLE defense, but is the one shining vision of glory holding things somewhat together.

But, I don’t necessarily think anything is decided yet either.  Will Sherman win his appeal?  That’ll go a long way.  Will Sherman close out the regular season in dramatic fashion?  Maybe he gets another interception, scores another touchdown, keeps the national focus on himself.  Do they put into consideration playoff performance?  I don’t know, but if they do, then Sherman will have more opportunities to shine.  I would wager:  more opportunities than either Fletcher or Tillman.

A lot of things up in the air for the D-POY award.  It’s not impossible for Sherman to win it, but right now I’d say he’s a longshot.

Biggest Win Ever: Seahawks Annihilate Cardinals

58-0.  Three big TD runs by Marshawn Lynch, one by Leon Washington.  A touchdown pass from Wilson to Zach Miller.  An interception for a score by Richard Sherman; a fumble recovery in the end zone by Malcolm Smith.  Three field goals by Steven Hauschka.  All told, 58 points by the Seahawks, a franchise record.

Biggest shutout victory, biggest margin of victory.  Sheer, unadulterated domination.

Just two weeks ago, I was thoroughly disgusted with this football team.  Today?  I couldn’t be happier.  It’s the life of a sports fan.  Highs and lows, ups and downs.  Today, it’s an impossible high.  Discounting the stakes (because, really, it’s just a regular season home game against one of the worst teams in football), today is as good as it gets.

Today was LITERALLY a laugher.  I found myself cracking up throughout.  John Skelton’s ineptitude en route to 74 yards passing, 4 INTs and a fumble.  Ryan Lindley’s somehow-even-greater ineptitude en route to 59 yards passing, and a fumble.  Larry Fitzgerald’s one reception for two yards late in the 4th quarter.  Patrick Peterson’s two fumbles on special teams.  We’re talking about 8 turnovers!  This Seahawks team forced 8 fucking turnovers!  8 turnovers, 3 sacks, 2 touchdowns, and 0 points; it was the single greatest defensive fantasy football day of all time!

Absolutely amazing, from top to bottom.  We more than doubled our point differential on the season, now at +98.  We just jumped to +8 in turnover differential.  We’re currently 5th in the playoff seeding, still with an outside shot at 2nd if everything breaks right.

Tonight, if feels good to be a Seahawks fan.  It’ll feel even better if Detroit can find a way to beat Green Bay …