My Top 25 All Time Favorite Seattle Seahawks

With Beastmode’s retirement this week, I thought I’d take stock and reflect upon where he lands among my all time favorite Seattle Seahawks.  While he’s my favorite over the last quarter century, he comes up just short of my all time fave.

I should probably point out that my knowledge of the Seahawks prior to the 1990s is pretty limited (I was born in 1981).  As such, you won’t find many of the old-timers.  Indeed, only 5 of my 25 played prior to 1990, and none of those five are named Dave Krieg, Jim Zorn, or Curt Warner.  Zorn was a guy I never saw play, Warner was always hurt when I started watching football, and the years I watched Dave Krieg were those loser years where he heavily contributed to his standing as one of the most fumble-prone quarterbacks in NFL history.  If I never again see Dave Krieg raise his arm back to pass, only to watch in horror as the ball gets flung backwards thanks to his criminally under-sized hands, it’ll be too soon.

Among the actual Honorable Mentions are the following:

Ricky Watters – a guy who reminds me a lot of Beastmode, but unfortunately didn’t play with us quite long enough to merit breaking through; Chris Warren – very underrated back, who unfortunately was saddled by a lot of mediocre Seahawks teams; Eugene Robinson – solid safety for some solid defenses; Michael Sinclair – second on Seattle’s all-time sacks list; Cliff Avril – who could potentially climb into the Top 25 one day, if he continues to produce the way he has; Red Bryant – mostly a fan favorite type, who I was happy to see find a role in the early Pete Carroll years; Robbie Tobeck – helped solidify the greatest offensive line in team history during the Holmgren years; Steve Hutchinson – who gets a bad rap even though it was Tim Ruskell who dicked him over first; Rocky Bernard – an underrated interior defensive lineman who this team would kill to have right now; Sam Adams – someone who blossomed after he left the Seahawks (and someone who I randomly have a signed jersey from); Bobby Engram – who was Doug Baldwin before Doug Baldwin; Chad Brown – who gets overlooked a little bit because he came from the Steelers, but still played quality football for his Seahawks tenure; Rufus Porter – a speed rusher off the edge and another fan favorite type; Zach Miller – who I’ll always respect for his toughness even though he got injured a lot; and Joe Nash – who would be my #26 if this list went that long, because he was an awesome nose tackle for this team who played here FOREVER.

Anyway, without further ado, My Top 25 All Time Favorite Seattle Seahawks:

1.  Steve Largent – He was this team’s first Hall of Famer, and when he retired, he had most – if not all – of the wide receiver records before they were broken.  When I started getting into football in the late 80s, there was every reason to be a fan of some other team in some other city, as those Seahawks teams were okay, but nothing special.  The 49ers had Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, the Raiders (who were a particular favorite among my elementary school classmates) had Bo Jackson (’nuff said), the Redskins, Oilers, Dolphins, and Bengals were all loaded with talent.  I don’t totally remember my thinking on this one, but I’m certainly convinced now that I would never have become a Seahawks fan if it weren’t for Steve Largent.  I mean, yeah, they’re the local team, so it’s easy to say I’d just stick with that as the reason, but throughout the 1990s, I used to mock this team relentlessly, and would frequently bet my family members that the Seahawks would lose (and won quite a bit of cash in the process, for a kid in the 1990s anyway).  But, I could always hang my hat that at one point, Steve Largent played for the Seahawks and was the best player at his position.  Also, didn’t hurt that I got to meet him at an autograph signing at the Tacoma Mall.  It was many hours of waiting in line, but it was worth it.

2.  Marshawn Lynch – Unlike many of the guys on this list, who were either career Seahawks, or played many more years here, Lynch became a favorite of mine in a little over 5 and a half seasons.  His bruising style of play, all the highlight runs, and his abilities as a receiver and blocker make him not only the most complete running back in franchise history, but one of the very best overall players we’ve ever seen in a Seahawks uniform, including the other Hall of Famers coming up next on this list.

3.  Cortez Kennedy – It’s hard to pick one over the other when it comes to Tez and Big Walt; both are consummate bad asses.  While you could make the argument that Walter Jones was the best player at his position in NFL history (which I do), I don’t think I’d necessarily put Cortez Kennedy as the best defensive tackle in NFL history (though, to be fair, I haven’t tried ranking them all, so who knows?).  What I will say is that what won me over in Tez’s favor is his Defensive Player of the Year Award in 1992.  First of all, it’s hard as fuck for a DT to win that award (there have only been two other players since 1992 at that position to win that award – Dana Stubblefield & Warren Sapp).  Secondly, no player at any position has ever won the award while playing on a shittier team (the Seahawks were 2-14 that year).  But, such is the fierce brutality that was Cortez Kennedy (who ranks 4th all time in franchise history for sacks); he finished that season with 14 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and a whopping 92 tackles.  Let me repeat:  92 tackles!!!  There are linebackers who don’t get that many tackles, and here we are, looking at a DT who got 92 tackles.  Just insane!  To compare, Stubblefield in 1997 had 15 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and only 48 tackles; Sapp in 1999 had 12.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and only 27 tackles (that wasn’t even Sapp’s best season, but regardless, he never surpassed 50 tackles in a season, so that point is moot).  Tez frequently battled double- and triple-teams throughout his career, and was still a God damn hurricane to deal with in the middle.  It’s just too bad he couldn’t be rewarded with more playoff appearances.

4.  Walter Jones – If you went pound for pound, you’re probably talking about the very best player the Seahawks have ever had.  With Bad-Assery being a theme, they don’t get much more bad-ass than this guy.  He was repeatedly franchise tagged, repeatedly held out in training camp and in the pre-season, then showed up right before the regular season started not only in tremendous shape, but ready to start from Game 1.  Then, when you tack on his training regimen of him pulling Cadillacs to get ready for the season, and I think I need to go lie down for a while because I just got winded writing that statement.

5.  Matt Hasselbeck – This is probably where things start to get a little more fluid.  In five years, I would anticipate someone like Russell Wilson will have surpassed someone like Matt Hasselbeck.  Indeed, many fans might disagree with me, but I gotta admit I’m still a pretty big Hasselbeck fan.  He led this team to its first Super Bowl appearance, which is always going to be huge, even if the result isn’t what we wanted.  Where his talent may be lacking compared to a guy like Wilson, his personality and charm in the media more than makes up for it.  It’s always WAY more entertaining to hear a Hasselbeck interview than a Wilson interview.  I know, that means little compared to on-field accomplishments, and as I mentioned above, Wilson will probably pass him in a few short years.  But, for now, I hold Hasselbeck in higher esteem.

6.  Richard Sherman – This future Hall of Famer has nowhere to go but up on this list.  Pretty unlikely leader in the clubhouse of Legion of Boom participants, but Sherm has been the most consistently elite through the 2015 season.

7.  Shaun Alexander – He gets a bad rap for not being Marshawn Lynch, but I think a lot of fans forget just how great he really was.  If he didn’t start breaking down towards the end, he was well on his way towards getting into the Hall of Fame.  As it stands, he was one of the best two or three running backs in the NFL for a good five-year period.  He should be a shoo-in for the Ring of Honor, if the Seahawks ever get around to putting more people in there.

8.  Brandon Mebane – Love this dude.  He won’t be a Hall of Famer, he won’t have his number retired, he might not even make the Ring of Honor when it’s all said and done.  But, he was one of the better Tim Ruskell draft picks.  As a third rounder, he got on the field right away and has been a staple for this defensive line ever since.  Nine years in, he looks as good as ever, and I hope the team retains him so he can retire as a Seahawk.

9.  Kenny Easley – He’s the only player on this list who I don’t really remember watching play live.  So, I’m really basing his ranking on highlights and on testimonials from players around the league who talk about this guy with some of the highest reverence I’ve ever seen.  If his career wasn’t shortened by kidney disease, he’d be in the Hall of Fame right now.  Compared to Ronnie Lott, he’s the only other Seahawk to win the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award, in 1984, when he had 10 interceptions (2 returned for touchdown).  As it stands, he’s a Ring of Honor guy, and the best safety in franchise history (eventually to be surpassed by the next guy on this list).

10.  Earl Thomas – He’s our Ed Reed.  Our Troy Polamalu.  Our All Pro Machine striving to be the best this game has ever seen.  The only thing that could cut him short on his quest is if he succumbs to injuries.  His dedication to the game and being the best puts him in my Top 10.

11.  Russell Wilson – Seems criminally low, I know.  I don’t think it’ll be too much longer before he’s in my Top 10.  Maybe even one more season.  The way he’s playing right now, and with Lynch’s retirement, this will be HIS offense.  If he manages to carry this team to unknown levels of awesomeness, I think he’s destined to skyrocket up my list.

12.  Jacob Green – He was an absolute monster throughout the 80s, racking up the most sacks in franchise history with 97.5 (and that doesn’t even include his first two seasons, when the NFL didn’t record sacks as an official stat).  Certainly one of the more underrated defensive ends of the 80s.

13.  Joey Galloway – Probably another controversial pick – especially this high in the rankings – but I don’t care.  He only really played 4 seasons for the Seahawks before holding out for 8 games in his fifth year before forcing Holmgren’s hand, but those four years were outstanding!  He was an elite return man from the get-go, and a big play machine on offense as well.  If we only could have paired him with a competent quarterback (he was saddled with Rick Mirer, John Friesz, and Jon Kitna before we were able to get Warren Moon in here for a couple of injury-plagued years towards the end of his career) he might have been even better, for as crazy as that sounds.  Still, even the way he left things wasn’t so bad, as we ended up getting two first round draft picks (one of which we used to nab Shaun Alexander, with the other being traded for multiple picks so we could get Koren Robinson, Heath Evans, and some backup offensive lineman I’ve never heard of).

14.  Doug Baldwin – Another player whose ranking could go way up on my list if we manage to keep him on the team beyond his current contract.  He’s proven to be a clutch possession receiver, as well as a guy capable of making bigger plays downfield, and as of 2015, a touchdown monster.  To think an undrafted receiver who has started since his rookie year could still be getting better in his fifth season is pretty amazing.  I want to see the Wilson to Baldwin connection continue for at least the next half decade, if not longer.

15.  Golden Tate – Maybe another controversial pick, but I like who I like, and I like me some Golden Tate.  I kind of dismissed him when he left for Detroit, as we still had Percy Harvin, after all.  But, when Harvin proved to be a huge chump, I’ve longed for Tate’s big play ability ever since.  His loss is now mitigated by the drafting of Tyler Lockett, but there’s still a lot to like about a guy like Tate who was another outsize personality on a team full of ’em.  A guy who got under the skin of opposing defenders (like the fucking Rams, for instance).  And a guy who played bigger than his size.  Not extending him, in favor of bringing in Harvin, is a move this team continues to regret.

16.  Brian Blades – The wide receiver parade marches on, with Blades, who played significant minutes for a rookie under Chuck Knox, and who eventually went on to replace a legend in Steve Largent as this team’s #1.  He was never super flashy, and only made one Pro Bowl in his career, but he’s this team’s second-leading career pass catcher.  He has the team’s second-most receiving yards, and is fifth in touchdowns.

17.  K.J. Wright – He cracks this in large part due to recency bias.  He’s been here for five years, has played all three linebacker spots, has only missed a small handful of games, and should be in the Top 10 in franchise history in tackles by this time next year.  I love his smarts, his professionalism, his toughness, and the fact that on a defense full of superstars, he just quietly goes about his business of being consistently great.  He’s never been to a Pro Bowl, and probably never will, but when it’s all said and done, he’ll go down as one of the best linebackers in Seahawks history.

18.  Marcus Trufant – He was rarely flashy, but he was a first round pick and a starter from day 1.  He made a Pro Bowl in 2007 when he had 7 picks, and it doesn’t hurt that he was a local kid who made good.  And, not for nothing, but we went to the same high school and played on the same Freshman football team (he was the superstar, I was the third string right tackle who never ACTUALLY got to share a field with him on gameday, because I was terrible).

19.  Michael Bennett – In three short years, Bennett is already #10 on Seattle’s all time sacks list.  Of course, he’s so much more than sacks, but that’s still pretty impressive.  With his ability to play both inside and outside, against the run and against the pass, he’s probably the most talented defensive lineman in franchise history (just behind Tez, that is).  If we can keep him happy and playing through the end of this contract – or onto another if he keeps producing – he could easily shoot up this list as well.

20.  Kam Chancellor – He took a bit of a hit this year with his holdout.  I don’t mind a guy who holds out of training camp and/or the pre-season, but I tend to draw the line when a guy starts missing regular season games (and starts costing us those games with his absence).  Truth be told, his 2015 was far from ideal; but, that doesn’t wash away the previous four years of amazingness.  If we can make him happy again and keep him around a few more years, he’ll return to his rightful place among the Top 15 or Top 10 on this list.  For now, it’s sort of Wait & See mode, for fans and the franchise alike.

21.  Lofa Tatupu – His career was relatively brief, but man did he shine bright!  In only six years (one of them severely injury-marred), he made three Pro Bowls, one first team All Pro, and cracked the top 10 in tackles in Seahawks history.  THIS is the best draft pick of Ruskell’s tenure, and a big reason why this team made the Super Bowl during the 2005 season.

22.  Darrell Jackson – Fourth in franchise history in receptions, second in touchdown receptions, and the number 1 receiver for most of Matt Hasselbeck’s time here.  His reputation was somewhat tainted by drops early in his career, but I feel he more than made up for it from 2003 through 2006.  Another guy who never made a Pro Bowl, and will probably never make the Ring of Honor, but he’s a big part of those Holmgren teams that brought the Seahawks to a level of respectability we’d never seen to that point.

23.  John L. Williams – Listed as a fullback, but he was really a do-it-all type of back.  He had hands like a receiver (3rd all time in receptions, 6th all time in receiving yards in Seahawks history), had quicks like a running back (fifth all time in rushing yards in Seahawks history, 9th in rushing touchdowns), and the size of a bruising fullback (5’11, 231 lbs), he could really do it all.  In an era that pre-dates these types of specialty backs who are equally as good at catching as rushing (LaDainian Tomlinson, Marshall Faulk, etc.), John L. Williams was truly a trailblazer.  He’s securely third place in franchise history in total yards from scrimmage (behind bellcow back Shaun Alexander with 10,940 total yards, and Hall of Fame receiver Steve Largent, who had a total of 13,172 yards), ahead of other, more notable, running backs like Curt Warner, Marshawn Lynch, and Chris Warren.  John L. played largely a reserve role, as a third or fourth option for this offense for most of his tenure here, but he played that role splendidly.

24.  Bobby Wagner – He’s been great since his rookie year, I only expect further greatness going forward.  He’s another who could easily skyrocket up this list, the longer he remains the quarterback of the greatest defense we’ve ever seen.

25.  Jermaine Kearse – What can I say?  He’s another local kid, another undrafted free agent, who worked his way through the practice squad into being this team’s #2 receiver.  Doesn’t hurt that he’s a Husky.  Also doesn’t hurt that he’s made some of the biggest catches in franchise history, including the 4th down touchdown against the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game, and the game-winning touchdown against the Packers the very next year in the NFCCG (not to mention the super-human TD catch in Super Bowl XLVIII, and the beyond-human bobbling/diving catch in Super Bowl XLIX).  He might have played his last down in a Seahawks uniform, and if so, I’ll be sad.  But, I’ll also be happy for a guy who started at the bottom and worked his way into a contract that was too big for the Seahawks to match.

Which Seahawks Team Had The More Difficult Path To The Super Bowl?

Yesterday, I did a little comparison of the rosters between last year and this year.  Obviously, it wasn’t comprehensive – as it’s JUST a look at the Super Bowl rosters and not taking into account all the injured players who helped get us to those points – but I think we can all agree that the 2013 Seahawks were the clear Best Team In Franchise History.  But, either way, we’re talking about two VERY good teams.  It takes a buttload of talent to make it to the Super Bowl; and it takes a special kind of buttload to make it to back-to-back Super Bowls.

My take on these two teams is this:  the 2013 Seahawks were more special, because it was our first championship.  You never forget the first time.  Those players will be fixtures in my sports fandom until the day I die.  But, what these 2014 Seahawks are doing is more DIFFICULT, and not just because of what we saw against Green Bay last Sunday.

I look at it like this:  go ahead and check the standings and how they compare between 2013 and 2014.  Now, check the Seahawks’ schedule between 2013 and 2014.  If you count the games where we faced legitimate opponents, you’ll see it’s pretty clear.  The 2013 Seahawks had to square off against 7 legit opponents.  Two vs. SF and AZ, then games against Carolina, Indy, and New Orleans.  The rest of the AFC South was a joke, the Rams were mediocre as usual, the rest of the NFC South was terrible, and the Giants and Vikings were God awful.  Now, granted, those 7 games were against real tough teams – including the 49ers who were the clear Second Best Team In Football – but I don’t think last year’s run really compares.  We kicked off our season with back-to-back great teams (and 3 in our first 5 games), but there was a huge lull in the middle where we played 1 good team in six weeks.  THEN we had a bye week before catching the Saints at home!  By the time we got through that powderpuff stretch, we were 11-1 and on cruise control the last four weeks as we finished up going 2-2, losing both of our difficult matchups in the process while still locking down the #1 overall seed.

In those 7 big games, we ended the regular season 4-3.  We more than made up for it with the gauntlet we had to take down in the playoffs, as I would argue the Saints were the 3rd-best team in the NFC and probably the 5th-best team in the NFL.  Then, we had to squeak by the 49ers again, before we slayed the best offensive team in NFL history.  So, when you include playoffs, the Seahawks had 10 really hard teams (but, then again, when you’re in the playoffs, just about every game is hard).

In 2014, the Seahawks not only had to contend with a more difficult schedule, but they had all the other distractions away from the game.  Just being a Super Bowl champion, for one.  Having that target on your back.  Getting everyone’s best game because they want so desperately to beat the best.  Then, you’re talking about losing a sizable chunk of your depth because you just can’t afford to pay everyone.  Starters like Tate, Giacomini, Browner, Clemons, and Bryant.  Role players like Thurmond, McDonald, and Maragos.  Key contributors from last year, playing for other teams.  THEN, you’ve got guys getting paid in the offseason.  It’s great for fans to see their favorite players locked up and happy, but you never know how that’s going to affect locker room chemistry.  And, quite frankly, you never know how the players who’re getting paid will respond.  Will they still have that desire?  Will they still wake up at the crack of dawn every day and put in the work to maintain their level of excellence?

We know a little bit about how Marshawn Lynch felt about it, because he threatened to hold out and retire and all this stuff before getting a bump in pay.  Still didn’t stop all the early-season chatter from the media that he was disgruntled and still thinking about retiring.  Or that the team was fed up and ready to cut him loose after the year ended.  Oh, and we can’t forget the whole Percy Harvin situation.  What a shitshow THAT was.

Hashtag Russell Wilson Isn’t Black Enough.

All of this stuff, plus the usual smattering of injuries every team has to deal with.  3/5 of our offensive line missing significant time, Kam and Bobby and Maxie all missing time.  Zach Miller and Brandon Mebane being lost for the year, along with a bunch of our young role players like Cassius Marsh and Jordan Hill and – most recently – Paul Richardson.

And, in the middle of all of that, if you look at the schedule, we faced 10 legitimate opponents (11 if you want to count Carolina, but I’m inclined to throw that entire division in the toilet where it belongs).  We kicked off the season with three tremendous teams in Green Bay, San Diego, and Denver, before being saddled with the week 4 bye.  You can say what you want about the Chargers, but they finished the season with a winning record and that was a game on the road.  Plus, they were a much better team early in the year compared to their late-season swoon.  I’m counting ’em.

Once you get past that point, there was an 8-game stretch that I’d pegged at the beginning of the season as the stretch where we’d need to make our hay.  I didn’t see ANY of those teams being able to give us much of a game.  As it turned out, the Cowboys were pretty great, the Chiefs were better than expected, and the Cardinals were 9-1 and three games ahead of us when we got to play them.  I’m also counting the Chiefs as one of the legit teams as they ALSO finished the regular season with a winning record and that game was ALSO on the road.  As it turned out, the most difficult part of the schedule – the last six weeks – turned out to be much easier than expected.  But, I’m still counting Arizona and Philly as legit, because Arizona’s defense never quit this year, and Philly’s offense was still pretty solid even with Mark Sanchez.  It’s debatable as to whether or not I should include the 49ers in this list, but I’m going to do it anyway.  Granted, 8-8 is a pretty mediocre record, but we’re still talking about a roster that was comprised of most of the same parts that took that team to the NFC Championship Game last year and to the Super Bowl the year before, with the same coaching staff as well.  When you lump in how they’re our most bitter rival and prioritize beating us over any other team, I’m saying that’s a legit matchup.

So, to recap, two against Arizona and Frisco, with solo games against GB, Den, SD, KC, Phi, & Dal.  With a possible 11th if you want to count Carolina, but I’ll leave that up to you.  And, in doing so, we went 7-3 (8-3 with the Panthers).

Of course, with the level of competition, you have to take into account the level of turmoil.  Things were spiraling out of control as this team started out 3-3, playing four very good teams in that stretch, and losing a heartbreaker to a sub-par Rams team (who nevertheless managed to beat some pretty impressive teams this year on their way to a 6-10 record).  As I said before, we were 6-4 when we played 9-1 Arizona.  We pretty much needed to win out and get help.  And we got that help by Arizona losing their top two quarterbacks; otherwise this season may have played out VERY differently.  To elevate our game at the last possible moment, win six in a row to finish with the #1 seed yet again … I don’t know what else you can say.  Just a remarkable job.

Then, with the playoffs, we’re talking about rematches against the Panthers and Packers.  I don’t hold the Panthers in very high esteem, but I think the Pack ended up being the second-best team in the NFC this year (and probably third-best in the NFL).  Of course, the Packers are always going to be some variation of good as long as Aaron Rodgers is playing.  But, for once, they remained pretty healthy on both sides of the ball, and when that happens, the Packers are as formidable as any team.  I don’t think this year’s Packers team was necessarily better than last year’s 49ers team, but they’re pretty close, and they sure as shit gave us a helluva game.

To cap off the season, we get to face the #1 team in the AFC, the New England Patriots.  For the last 9 weeks, you could argue that the Seahawks and Patriots have been the top two teams in the league, so this is just as exciting as getting to play Denver was last year.  To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best, and the Seahawks don’t get any respite in that regard.

I dunno, maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe I’m looking at it all through biased eyes because this year’s team is still fresh in my mind.  But, I can’t see how you don’t find this year’s team much more impressive than last year’s, even if the level of talent isn’t quite as elite.

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.

Why The Seahawks Will Return To The Super Bowl

Right around this time last year – though, admittedly, a couple weeks later – I was writing a lot about the impending Super Bowl matchup between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks.  Sometimes, I do this thing where I’ll write one article on how the Seahawks could theoretically lose, and another article on why they’ll win.  Usually, I do this because I’ve run out of other things to write about, but sometimes there’s a good reason to argue both sides.  But, last year, I really struggled with it.  How might the Broncos have beaten us in the Super Bowl?  Well, on any given Sunday and all that …

Yeah, pretty much anything can happen at any time.  A player can take a wrong step and tear his ACL.  A perfectly-thrown pass can bobble out of the hands of a receiver and into the hands of a defender.  Fumble luck is INCREDIBLY random and sometimes infuriating.  A couple of special teamers can take bad angles and before you know it, the other team is running back a freebie touchdown.  I could go on and on.  There are millions of reasons why the Packers might beat the Seahawks this Sunday, just as there were millions of possibilities in that Broncos/Seahawks Super Bowl.

But, just looking at it rationally, it was pretty hard to believe that the Seahawks were going to lose last year.  Just like it’s pretty hard to believe they’ll lose on Sunday.

How, exactly, are this year’s Packers different than last year’s Broncos?  Both teams play/played with MVP quarterbacks.  With Aaron Rodgers’ calf strain, he’s about as mobile now as Manning was last year.  Neither defense was all that impressive.  And, I would argue that Denver’s offense last year was MUCH better than Green Bay’s this year.  The only thing left to look at is how the Seahawks are different this year compared to last.

On the surface, not much.  We’re missing a Golden Tate on offense, and you can’t argue that we’ve really found a replacement.  Jermaine Kearse has stepped up, so it’s not a HUGE drop-off, but our third and fourth receivers as a result are a step back.  So, there’s that.

We’re missing Zach Miller, but I’d say Luke Willson and company have stepped up adequately.  Our offensive line is about the same.  Running game is the same.  And quarterback is the same.

Defensively, we’ve lost Mebane and Jordan Hill along the interior.  Hill was turning into a nice little Clinton McDonald replacement, so that hurts.  On the outside, we no longer have Chris Clemons or Red Bryant, but we haven’t had those guys for the full year and our defense has still held up like gangbusters.  You’re still looking at the top defense in the league and it’s not really even close when the stars are healthy.

So, you tell me.  How are the Packers supposed to come in here and beat us?  I repeat:  “in here”, as in “in Seattle”.  The Super Bowl was on a neutral field!  So, not only were the Broncos a more formidable opponent, but they didn’t even have to play us in the most dominant home field advantage in all of football!

I just don’t see it.  I don’t think it’s possible to be more at ease going into a conference championship game.  I’m trying to get my worry on about this game, but it all comes back to fluke shit.

One thing I could look at is to review all of our defeats this year.  How did other teams beat the Seahawks?  Seems impossible, right?  But, it happened.  Four times, in fact!  Four different teams beat the Seahawks in 2014!  So, what can we learn?

Week 2, at San Diego

I would argue we were at our healthiest in this game among the four defeats, so this game really stings.  What happened here?  Well, the Chargers dominated time of possession by dinking and dunking us to the True Death.  They had two drives that lasted less than 4 minutes.  One came off of a turnover that they converted into a touchdown; the other was a punt after six plays.  In the second half.  We didn’t force the Chargers into a punt until the second half of the game!  The Chargers went 10/17 on third down and Philip Rivers was about as perfect as can be.  He was perfect because there was only one pass that was completed beyond 20 yards.  Patience, timing, and 100+ degree weather really did us in.  Our offense was moving the ball well, but almost too well, as all three of our scoring drives were touchdowns that took less than three minutes of clock.

Week 6, vs. Dallas

Admittedly, this was the only game I didn’t watch this year, as I was travelling.  But, from what I’ve read and seen, the Cowboys were able to run the ball at will and made just enough plays through the air to keep us honest and win the fourth quarter.  A particularly back-breaking completion to Terrance Williams converted a third & long late in the game, allowing them to secure victory.  In this game, the Seahawks were pretty banged up.  Also, this was the game where Percy Harvin reportedly refused to re-enter the game late.  The team was kind of a shitshow at this point in the season, and the Cowboys were an underrated power.  Sort of a perfect storm if you will.  It’s almost too bad we don’t get to play them again, as they may still believe they’re better than us (silly mortals).

Week 7, at St. Louis

The Seahawks had just traded Harvin a couple days before.  The Rams pulled off a road-runner punt return for a TD as well as a fake punt late in the game to seal it.  I’m calling bullshit on this one.  I highly doubt Green Bay will devote their week to a bunch of asinine trick plays to beat us (though, I guess if they’re smart, they probably should, as we seem to fall for it every time).

Week 11, at Kansas City

The defeat where we were at our MOST banged up.  Brandon Mebane had just gone down.  We were on our final week without Bobby Wagner.  And, the Chiefs straight up bullied us with their running game.  Still a hard one to swallow, considering how badly they finished the regular season.

What to take away?  Well, for starters, as I alluded to before, throw out that Rams game.  If the Packers are going to win, they’re going to have to achieve some combination of the other three games:  i.e. develop a running game and stick to it, while at the same time having Aaron Rodgers maintain a level of patience where he sticks to the easy, short throws and doesn’t challenge us deep.  Likewise, they’re going to have to keep him protected.  Yeah, it’s always important to keep your quarterback from getting hit, but it’s especially important in this scenario, as Rodgers is already gimpy and he IS their team.  Without him, they might lose by 40.

Somehow, I just don’t see it.  Eddie Lacy might have some success, but I doubt he’ll have the type of success where he’s gashing us consistently.  Also, let’s face it, there is blood in the water.  Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, and Bruce Irvin must be absolutely licking their chops at the prospects of chasing down an immobile Aaron Rodgers.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see more blitzing out of this defense than we’ve seen at any other time in the last three years.

One key will be whether or not Byron Maxwell is healthy.  I need to see him back and starting on the other side of the field.  Particularly, I need to see him put a stranglehold on Randall Cobb.  Either that, or lock down Jordy Nelson and allow Kam Chancellor the opportunity to put Cobb on his ass a la Wes Welker last year.

On the flipside, I don’t see the Packers stopping our offense.  Once again – like in the run-up to last year’s Super Bowl – people are ignoring the other matchup of our offense vs. their defense.  Yes, the marquee reads “Aaron Rodgers vs. The Legion Of Boom”, but the undercard of “Wilson & Lynch vs. Whatever The Hell The Packers Call Their Defense” is really what’s going to determine things.  If we can get out to a strong start, we’ll take away any hopes they had of running the football.  At that point, it’ll be time to tee off on Rodgers.

I expect the Seahawks to have a MUCH better rushing attack this week compared to last.  The Panthers are stout up front; the Packers … not so much.  I’d expect a 100-yard day out of Lynch at a minimum.  And if they try to stack the box and take him away, well guess what:  Big Game Russell Wilson is back there, ready to take over.  The Seahawks shouldn’t have any trouble moving the ball and scoring on this team.  Oh, and all this talk about Clay Matthews moving from outside to inside linebacker?  Great!  Leave the edges to an inferior defender so Russell Wilson can abuse them with his legs!

I’m sorry, but I’m totally at ease in this game.  The only way we lose is if we screw ourselves with an abundance of turnovers.  Or, if our defense isn’t able to capitalize on turnover opportunities.  It also wouldn’t shock me in the least to see Rodgers go down and have to leave the game at some point prior to the 4th quarter.  Mark it down.  I’m usually wrong, but I don’t see how I can be wrong here.

Come Monday, we’ll all be giddy with anticipation for a repeat Super Bowl appearance.

And, just to get it on the record now, I HOPE we get to play the Patriots.  I’m sorry, but the Colts scare the bejesus out of me.  Their defense is better than they get credit for (especially with Vontae Davis healthy as one of the top cornerbacks int he league).  Luck is obviously the more mobile quarterback, and he’s got tons of weapons to throw to.  Neither team really has much of a rushing attack to worry about, but I just feel like we could get to Brady more often, and we can neutralize Gronk (who is really the only guy to worry about on their team).  Gronk, meet Kam, and get your clock cleaned in the process.

So, yes, go Patriots.  Go Seahawks.  Let’s ring up another championship, boys!

Percy Harvin: Reviewing A Human Failure

This whole Percy Harvin situation deserves more than just a single off-the-cuff missive in the hours following pure Internet anarchy.  With a game post-Harvin under our belts, I feel like it has finally started to sink in.  Still with a lot of fresh and twisted feelings boiling over, of course.

In cases like these, I always wonder what I felt at the time we first acquired someone like Percy Harvin.  Luckily for all of us, I have a blog!  A blog where I get to write down my feelings about things.  Things like:  the Seahawks trading a 1st, 3rd, and 7th round pick for Percy Harvin.  In that first of three posts about the coming of Percy Harvin, I mostly stated my concern over his health.  Seeing as he missed just about all of his first year with the team, I’d say those reservations were pretty well-founded.

Then, I started getting really excited about how great the Seahawks would be with him in the lineup.  Certainly a Glass Half Full outlook, while at the same time acknowledging how he was a head case and a diva back in Minnesota.  Finally, I wrapped up my 3-day Harvin binge with a comparison to the Deion Branch trade with New England way back when.  Ultimately, the Deion Branch trade was bad, but knowing now what I didn’t know then, is the Harvin trade worse?

The bottom line is:  when you make a deal for someone like Percy Harvin, you can’t help – as a fan – to gloss over all the negatives and play the “What If” game.  You always think YOUR team is going to succeed where others failed.  The Seahawks had the added benefit of being really, really good, and it’s ALWAYS more fun to be on a winning team than a losing one.  Finally, when you consider Pete Carroll as a head coach, you think of someone who is pretty easy to work for (compared to some bitter hard-ass like Jim Harbaugh, for instance).

Even if you were a total Negative Nellie at the time the Seahawks brought him in, you had to admit that we would’ve AT LEAST had a couple years of quality Harvin output before things went south.

I mean, how could you look at this guy and not think, “The Sky Is The Limit”?  Great run game, great run-first scheme, young quarterback on the rise, and solid players around him who should benefit from his mere presence.  PLUS, we just signed him to that huge deal; how could he not be happy for at least a couple years?  Especially when one of those years he had to have felt pretty low about himself, considering he missed almost all of it with injury.  It’s hard to second-guess your contract status when you’re injured for 100% of it; you can’t rightly think you’re worth MORE money without being a psychopath.

So, if you’re one to believe in “honeymoon phases”, and you hear about all the anger issues with Harvin not only this year, but LAST year as well, then you have to admit that there’s something seriously wrong with Percy Harvin, mentally.  Quite frankly, he’s not fit to associate with a team of any kind.

Which ultimately is what burns my ass the most.  What a fucking piece of shit!  What a worthless cuntbag of a prick!  Just because he’s fast, he thinks he can dictate terms to the people who employ him.  He thinks he can tell the coaches how to be used and when he’ll go into the game.  If you don’t cater every single fucking thing to this cocksucker, he’s either going to pout or he’s going to clock you in the face.

Make no mistake:  Percy Harvin isn’t worth the money he commands.  If you have to put up with all of his nonsense, he’s not even worth having on your team for free!  He’s not worth the roster spot, let alone the millions he thinks he deserves … and for what?  For being fast?  There are lots of fast guys in the league who don’t poison locker rooms.  Who won’t piss and moan like a fucking infant because they’re not getting the ball enough.

And, let’s face it, it’s not like he’s even that good.  If a guy is going to get injured – or fake injuries – as much as Harvin has in his career, who would you rather have:  Harvin, or an “average” receiver who suits up and plays like a man every week?  Harvin’s not a man; he’s a little child with no moral compass who doesn’t get along with others and doesn’t know how to share.  I don’t know who raised Percy Harvin, but they unquestionably failed as parents, if this is the man he has become as an “adult”.

In the end, I was no more prophetic than I was in this post, comparing Percy Harvin to a Jaguar automobile.  Yes, like a Jag, you spend way too much to get one, because you’re just so excited to be getting your dream car.  And, like any Jag owner knows, you’re selling that bitch for pennies on the dollar just to be rid of the regular maintenance involved in owning one long term.

Here’s the thing, though:  I was willing to put up with the injury concerns.  What I won’t tolerate is what we’ve learned about since the trade last Friday:  how he doesn’t get along with others and how he holds the team hostage by not going into football games.  How he essentially took himself out of that Cowboys game for God knows what reason.  That just sends me into a tailspin of rage.  Only topped by the thought of What Could’ve Been.

There are two paths you can choose to engage.  The first What Could’ve Been scenario is:  Percy Harvin comes to the Seahawks for an exorbitant price and flourishes.  It’s easy to see why the Seahawks were enticed by him, just as Seahawks fans came to believe we were getting the final ingredient to a long and fruitful reign of dominance.  If Harvin would have been willing to play ball and accept his role within the offense, it all could have been really special.  Instead, the coaches felt like they had to build everything around him, which is pretty much what you DON’T want to do.  No wide receiver is that good.  Especially no wide receiver who’s a total head-case.

The other What Could’ve Been scenario is:  What if the Seahawks never traded for him to begin with?

Well, I’ll tell you this much:  we’d still be World Champs.  That will never be taken away from us.  On top of that, there’s a good chance we could’ve kept Golden Tate as our #1 receiver.  I’m not gonna lie to you, it’s KILLING me seeing him do so well in Detroit.  He’s ours!  We found him, we cultivated his talents, and we thrived under his antics (both on and off the field).  When the Seahawks lost Golden Tate, they lost a lot of heart and a lot of the fun that comes with rooting on this team.  Beastmode is fun to root for too – and he certainly represents the identity we’ve tried to establish since he came here – but he’s a different sort of head case.  Like most head cases, when things are going well, Lynch is great to have around.  But, when the chips are down, can we count on him to continue to be the player we need him to be?  Let’s see how the rest of this 2014 season goes before I answer that.

Russell Wilson is fun to root for, but he’s more machine than man.  Doug Baldwin is great to have on the team, but he’s always so serious.  Golden Tate is just pure joy.  I hate to say it, but we’re all going to look back at losing Tate as the reason this team failed to repeat as champions.  And that has a direct correlation with the signing of Harvin to that massive contract extension.

Likewise, him signing here – and us running into that balloon payment in 2014 – resulted in our losing Chris Clemons, Red Bryant, Walter Thurmond, Clinton McDonald, and maybe a couple other guys.  Granted, you can’t hold on to everyone forever, but just knowing that we were a championship ballclub without Harvin REALLY makes this whole fiasco a kick in the crotch.  To have some of those guys – even if it’s just through this year – would have been SO MUCH better.  Especially when you look at the younger replacements we’ve brought in over the last two drafts and see how they’re not doing a fucking thing to help us maintain that championship level.

All of this falls on the shoulders of the Harvin trade and signing.  Yes, it IS easily the biggest mistake of the Pete Carroll/John Schneider collaboration.  There haven’t been a huge amount of these types of boners (the Charlie Whitehurst ordeal comes immediately to mind), but you can see a running theme:  desperation.  The smartest and best franchises never reveal a sense of desperation.  I’m sure, over the years, there have been guys the New England Patriots REALLY REALLY wanted, but they didn’t succumb to their impulses by offering the moon and the stars to get them.  Well-run organizations are on the opposite end:  they wait for great players to fall into their laps, taking advantage of desperate teams willing to unload.

Come to think of it, it’s kind of shocking that they weren’t a trade partner for the Seahawks.  This seems like JUST the type of deal a team like New England would make:  relatively low cost and no risk, as he can be cut after this season with no cap ramifications.

No doubt about it, the Vikings fleeced us like we haven’t been fleeced since the last time they fleeced us in the Steve Hutchinson deal.  I hope their search for a franchise quarterback lasts another hundred years, because Fuck The Vikings.  That trade is a fucking SAVAGING knowing what we know now.  Not only did they get three draft picks, but they got rid of a fucking irredeemable asshole.  The Seahawks got 8 mostly nondescript games of no- or low-impact on Harvin’s part, followed by a 6th round draft pick that can be bounced up to a 4th rounder if he’s on the Jets in 2015 (which, at this point, doesn’t seem TOO likely).  Unless Harvin returns to form and doesn’t drive everyone crazy in the process, while giving the Jets either a few good years of production, or a nice return in trade this off-season, I’m not willing to say we were also fleeced by the Jets, but there’s certainly that chance.  The most important thing here is:  the cancer is gone.  Now, the question remains:  is it too late to save the patient?

No one is going to come out and say that the Seahawks are better off now, without Harvin in the lineup.  But, that’s because most people can’t differentiate Harvin’s Potential from Harvin’s Reality.  Since what’s reported is only his on-field impact (and what’s discarded is how he’s a bad teammate … that is, until AFTER he’s been traded, and then all the horror stories come flooding out), all anyone can think about is the best case scenario of a healthy Harvin added to a young and talented offensive group.

But, the reality is twofold:  Harvin wasn’t bringing enough to the table to be worth the cost, and the Seahawks weren’t using him properly to facilitate him being worth the cost.  I mean, if you’re not even going to ATTEMPT to throw him the ball downfield, how do you expect him to thrive?  Or, for that matter, the offense as a whole?  Yeah, he’s better with the ball in space, near the line of scrimmage, where he can make guys miss and break long gains.  But, if teams are expecting that and only that, Percy Harvin is actually pretty easy to game plan for.  Just zone up in the middle of the field and gang tackle when he has the ball.  See, I just did it, give me a million dollars to be your defensive coordinator.

So, if you accept the reality of our situation, then yes, the Seahawks are better now than they were two weeks ago.  Did it show in that Rams game?  Sort of, as the game went on, the Seahawks’ offense really started to click.  We’ll know more as the season goes along, but I’ll tell you this much:  if we didn’t waste all that fucking time trying to build the offense around Harvin, we’d be much further ahead now than we are.

In the end, there was really no winning with that Percy Harvin deal.  He simply cost us too much in draft picks and in cap space.  The only way he would’ve been worth it is if he played all of 2013 and was a direct contributor to our world championship.  Since we largely did it without him, that really spelled doom for Harvin.

You want to know why so many Seahawks fans have turned on him so quickly and so harshly?  Because Percy Harvin did absolutely nothing to endear himself to the fans.  When you lose a year to injury, then come back in year two and do nothing for us, you’re going to be loathed for that alone.  Then, to top it all off with the stories of him fighting with teammates, and the realization that some of our favorite ex-Seahawks are out there thriving for other teams, there might not be a more hated individual in all 12th Man-ville.

Big money free agents are always at a disadvantage, because they’re always paid a premium for past accomplishments they almost never live up to.  They’re also at a disadvantage because fans automatically gravitate towards players their team drafted and nurtured.  Percy Harvin was a hired gun who meant nothing to us until he started wearing our jersey.  To win our admiration, he would have needed to contribute to our culture of winning.  Instead, he decided to create a culture of animosity and distrust.  Now, he’s gone, and in his wake we have a .500 football team with a lot of injuries and a lot of over-paid stars already not living up to their contracts.  Best case scenario is Addition By Subtraction.

Worst case scenario is:  this is just the first swirling of toilet water in a season being flushed down the drain.  Lord help us …

Seattle Sports Hell 2014 NFL Power Rankings – Week 3

What’s this?  Another reminder to vote for me in the Western Washington Sports Blog competition?  This is absolutely too much!

Sometimes when I’m bored, I’ll plan out my posts for the next couple weeks.  I try to get one post per day, Monday thru Friday, and I like a little routine in my life.  Lately, with football season starting, it’s been:

  • Monday – Seahawks recap
  • Tuesday – Huskies recap
  • Wednesday – Mariners recap
  • Thursday – NFL Power Rankings
  • Friday – Seahawks preview

It’s a good system.  Covers all my bases and sets myself up to not have to think too hard about what’s going on.  But, when we get into BYE weeks, there are gaps to fill.  And, with these power rankings, I always like to have an intro topic to talk about.  Maybe something that’s not worthy of its own post, but still something I find interesting.

Anyway, for today, in my little “note to self” in the section where I have my idea for this post’s intro, I wrote:

Is Anything Wrong With The Seahawks’ Defense?

And then below it, I wrote:

Probably not.

This is what I have to work with for today.  If this doesn’t interest you, I encourage you to skip ahead to the rankings.  Spoiler Alert:  I still like the Seahawks a lot.

So, IS there anything wrong with the Seahawks’ defense?  Again, probably not.  It’s early in the season, so a lot of this is more “gut feeling” than anything tangible.  Also, if you’re in the Excuse-Making game, it’s easy to argue that the Seahawks have faced three of the better offenses – and in particular three of the better quarterbacks – in all of football.  Totally valid.

When I take a step back and look at this team objectively, I see a lot of the same faces we had last year, when the Seahawks were the best in football.  The L.O.B., the linebackers, and many of our stars on the D-Line are all back and all still in the primes of their careers.  Some may be dealing with injuries – either concealed or not – but either way you wouldn’t expect a huge drop-off.  And, I’m not saying there IS a huge drop-off.  But, something feels wonky.  That’s all I’ve got.

The run defense is off-the-charts good and way better than I thought it’d be, considering the loss of Red Bryant and Chris Clemons.  We’re giving up less than 3 yards per carry, and less than 73 yards per game.  That’s GREAT!  So, you won’t hear me speak ill of the rush defense one iota.

The pass defense is a little more unsettling, as we’re giving up 249 yards per game (up from 172 last year), but again, consider the opponents.  When we get to start factoring in the likes of Eli Manning, Cam Newton, and whoever the Rams, Cardinals, and Raiders end up throwing at us, that 249 figure is sure to go down.

AND, not for nothing, but it’s not like the 2013 defense was perfect!  Indy managed 34 points.  A winless Tampa Bay team ran up a huge first half lead before we started our comeback.  And, shit, even the Cardinals – after Palmer had thrown four interceptions – managed a late-game, game-winning touchdown in CenturyLink to delay our winning of the division by a week.

So, really, what am I getting at?  Nothing, I suppose.  Once we put a little more distance between us and that San Diego contest, my nerves should calm down.  And maybe the next time, when a good team is driving down for a game-tying (or game-winning) score, we can nip that in the bud instead of letting them send the game into overtime (or, heavens forbid, another loss).

One interesting trend I’d like to watch going forward is the number of defensive snaps played by each guy on that side of the ball.  The usual suspects are in the 90% range of percentage of plays played (the entire starting four in the L.O.B., Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright at 87.5%), and the next man on the list is Michael Bennett at 76.4% of the defensive snaps.  I want to say that’s up a good 20-or-so percent compared to last year, when most everyone was in the 50-60% range along the defensive line.  We all sort of expected that when Bennett signed the contract extension (and guys like Bryant and Clemons were let go, freeing up more snaps for our new starters), but it’ll be interesting to see how he holds up as the season goes on (especially considering the BYE week is happening now, followed by 13 straight weeks of football).

Avril’s snaps are up as well, to 67.6%.  Everyone else is down in that 40-50% range that we like to see.  So, for all this talk about teams using the hurry-up offense to keep us from rotating guys in and out, we can rest assured that it’s all mostly just talk.

In the end, it’s going to come down to injuries.  If the defense can stay healthy, it will still be great.  If we start losing guys left and right, then we’re probably in trouble (but, you can say that about anyone).  Having Kam Chancellor playing through ankle issues is a little distressing.  As I said before, I’d rather he get the surgery done now if it means he’d be able to return later this season.  I’d rather have him 100% for a playoff run than have him 75% now and deteriorating by the week.  This thing isn’t going to magically get BETTER on its own without rest or surgery.  Since he’s having neither the rest of the way, don’t be shocked if at some point down the line we end up losing our starting strong safety for the season.  Either due to this issue, or some other issue related to this one because he’s compensating.  Me no like.

***

  1. Seattle Seahawks (2-1) – That’s what we call a “sigh of relief”.  Now we get a week off to rest our injured player (singular) before another road game against another tough offense.  Watch out for the Redskins, that’s all I’m saying!  I’m just kidding, I’m not saying anything; and their defense is beyond a joke.
  2. Denver Broncos (2-1) – I can’t say that I’m QUITE as convinced as ever that it’ll be a Broncos/Seahawks repeat in the next Super Bowl, but I’m fairly certain the AFC will feature either the Broncos or the Bengals.  Big matchup between those two teams in Cincinnati in week 16.
  3. Cincinnati Bengals (3-0) – So, that’s kinda weird:  the best three teams in football all have BYEs in week 4.
  4. Philadelphia Eagles (3-0) – They’re not much on defense, but with the talent and scheme they’ve got on the other side of the ball, I’m not even sure they NEED to field a defense to win the NFC East.
  5. Arizona Cardinals (3-0) – They’re not much on offense, but with the talent and scheme they’ve got on the other side of the ball, I’m not even sure they NEED to field an offense to win the NFC East (wait …).
  6. New Orleans Saints (1-2) – To inspire the least bit of confidence in my opinion of this team, they COULD have put up a better effort against a hapless Vikings team.  That’s all I’m saying.
  7. Detroit Lions (2-1) – I’m not gonna lie to you, but I’m gaining more and more confidence in their ability to win the NFC North with every passing week.  Or, at the very least, have a better record than the fucking Packers.
  8. San Diego Chargers (2-1) – The only loss is by 1 point on the road to a very good Cardinals team.  For the record, on Thursday, October 23rd, they play the Broncos for the first time.  I will be watching that game.
  9. Atlanta Falcons (2-1) – I got perverse joy out of that Thursday night dismantling of the Bucs.  Mostly because Matt Ryan is my quarterback in fantasy and before the season started I was THIS close to trading him straight up for Jamaal Charles (it’s a keeper league).
  10. Indianapolis Colts (1-2) – They lost two games by one score apiece to two very good teams (Eagles & Broncos).  Their schedule the rest of the way looks about as reasonable as a schedule can be.  If Luck stays healthy, even with their suspect defense, I could see them finishing 13-3.  Mark it down now.
  11. New England Patriots (2-1) – Anyone else less than impressed by the Patriots right now?  A pretty bad loss down in Miami in week 1, and now a pretty ugly win at home against the Raiders.  THIS is supposed to be the team that contends with the Broncos for the Super Bowl?
  12. San Francisco 49ers (1-2) – AH-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH.  *Takes a deep breath* … HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
  13. Chicago Bears (2-1) – Big test this week against the Packers.
  14. Green Bay Packers (1-2) – Stunk up the joint in Seattle.  Let the Jets get out to a big lead before mounting a comeback.  Stunk up the joint again in Detroit.  We always wonder about the Packers’ defense, but what’s going on with the offense?
  15. Carolina Panthers (2-1) – I couldn’t possibly fathom what happened in that game against the Steelers, but I’m grateful (my fantasy team was going up against a guy with the Panthers’ defense).  This is going to be a tough team to peg all year, I can already tell.
  16. Baltimore Ravens (2-1) – The Ravens play 5 of their 6 divisional games by week 9.  Their schedule the rest of the way looks less-than-ideal; they might not win more than 1 more road game going forward.
  17. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1) – Their defense looks pretty good when the opposing offense has no skill position players!
  18. Dallas Cowboys (2-1) – A lot of people (myself included) jumped off the Cowboys bandwagon pretty hard after week 1.  Not that the bandwagon was filled with a bunch of people thinking this was a playoff team; but this also isn’t a team that’s going to be held to 4 wins or less.  As long as that offense has its stars, they’ll be able to out-score some of the crummier teams out there.
  19. Washington Redskins (1-2) – KILL ME, I like this team about a million times more with Cousins at quarterback.  RGIII might go down as a Top 5 most disappointing NFL player of all time (not counting the wife beaters, child abusers, dog killers, human killers, and so on).
  20. Kansas City Chiefs (1-2) – Don’t get too excited, it’s only the Miami Dolphins that they beat.
  21. New York Jets (1-2) – Even in defeat, this team is showing me more fight and vigor than these teams below them in the rankings.
  22. Buffalo Bills (2-1) – Stop trying to talk yourself into the Bills.  It’s not going to happen.
  23. Miami Dolphins (1-2) – Well, after a strong opener against the Patriots, they’ve followed that up with two clunkers.  Suffice it to say, the new offense isn’t clicking like they’d envisioned.
  24. Cleveland Browns (1-2) – They’re bad, but they’re not the worst.  I hope they keep themselves close in all their games so Johnny Football rots on the fucking bench for the rest of his life.
  25. Tennessee Titans (1-2) – Jake Locker has the best job security in the NFL, and it’s not even as a result of him being all that talented!  When your only alternative is Charlie Whitehurst, you’d stick with Matt Cassel himself to avoid having to watch Clipboard Jesus boner his way through a football game.
  26. St. Louis Rams (1-2) – A little birdie told me that the Rams, as a team, only have one sack on the season.  That’s … less than ideal.
  27. New York Giants (1-2) – The Giants are like the Cowboys except without the talented stars on offense.  Which might be the biggest insult I’ve ever written about anyone.
  28. Houston Texans (2-1) – I’ll never understand how Ryan Fitzpatrick Who Went To Harvard ever gets a starting job in the NFL.  It would seem to me that Ryan Fitzpatrick Who Went To Harvard would be better suited as a career backup, and playing absolutely anyone other than Ryan Fitzpatrick Who Went To Harvard would be the better option.  But, you know, that’s just me.
  29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-3) – Hey who knew giving a career backup a starting job following a crazy-insane stretch of just a few good games would blow up in a team’s face?  I certainly didn’t, because I think I picked the Bucs to be a playoff team.  But, I’m an idiot, so that’s to be expected.  One of these years, the Bucs WILL make it back to the playoffs; just not this year.
  30. Minnesota Vikings (1-2) – This offense is the WORST!  Norv Turner needs to be given the Old Yeller treatment.  How hard is it to simply have Cordarrelle Patterson run a crossing pattern each and every pass play?  It’s pretty obvious that the quarterbacks they have aren’t ready for the down-field passing scheme Norv is famous for, so it’s time to change the scheme to fit the personnel.  NORV!
  31. Oakland Raiders (0-3) – I got nothing.  At least the Raiders have three straight home games (with a BYE week thrown in) to really rest up and enjoy the end of the Bay Area summer.
  32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-3) – Blake Bortles is your starting quarterback for the rest of the season!  Hope he doesn’t get killed by your offensive line!

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.

#2 – Michael Bennett

To see the full list of the Top 10 Most Important Seahawks in 2014, click here.

Sounds a little silly, doesn’t it?  Michael Bennett isn’t even the best player on his side of the ball – let alone the best player at his position in the NFL, compared to a couple other guys ranked lower on my list – but he’s #2 on the Most Important Seahawks of 2014 list.  And so, here we are.

The Seahawks definitely took a chance in re-signing Bennett in this offseason to a 4-year deal.  He was a priority, to be sure, but when you looked at our cap situation at the time – figuring there were guys in Thomas, Sherman, and Wilson (among others) who would be due to get big raises – the writing was on the wall for some of our other starters and depth guys.  What it eventually boiled down to was the Seahawks losing Red Bryant and Chris Clemons.  He’s going to have to go out there and – with another guy, making the minimum (Marsh perhaps, as a backup to Avril who will start at LEO?) – replace two starting defensive linemen who were productive members of our championship team.

But, really, it doesn’t stop there.  His contract also meant the end of guys like Clinton McDonald and Walter Thurmond.  We could have EASILY re-signed those guys to cap-friendly deals, while maybe also hanging onto guys like Bryant and Clemons for another year.  Thurmond wasn’t a starter, but he would’ve slid right back into our slot-corner role.  And McDonald wasn’t a starter either, but he was a fabulous rotation guy at D-Tackle.  So, you could argue that Bennett is really replacing FOUR guys on our defense.

Obviously, that’s not fair, because we have other, younger guys who will make this team and try to pick up some of the slack, but you can see in the decision-making that this franchise feels Michael Bennett IS that important to our success.

Technically, Bennett is going to take over the starting end spot vacated by Red Bryant.  The 5-tech.  He’ll have to set the edge against the run in our base defense, which is his added responsibility.  He often played at that side of the line last year in passing downs, so you figure his percentage of snaps will go up dramatically.  How dramatically obviously depends on who around him manages to step up and inserts themselves into that rotation.  Someone like O’Brien Schofield – if he keeps playing lights out like he has in these first three pre-season games – could insert himself into that LEO end spot (vacated by Clemons), which would push Avril down to his more-comfortable 5-tech end spot on passing downs, thus pushing Bennett inside to mash against the guards of the league.

Michael Bennett’s value is obviously in his versatility.  He can play both end spots as well as inside and get good push from everywhere.  That’s huge.  These guys don’t grow on trees, so when you find one – like we have with Bennett – you do just about whatever it takes to keep him on your roster.  With him and Avril and Schofield and Mebane/Williams, our pass rush shouldn’t suffer whatsoever from where it was last year.  Remember, this wasn’t the best pass rush in the league; the Seahawks tied for 8th in sacks.  But, of course, you can’t quantify a pass rush’s effectiveness exclusively on sacks.  This line got in the quarterback’s face with regularity, forcing quarterbacks to throw early or change their arm angles.  If we can be AS effective as we were last year, I’d be a VERY happy man.

The key will be the run defense.  With the loss of Bryant, this line got a lot smaller against the run.  Granted, we theoretically CAN run out a jumbo package – with Mebane and Williams on the inside and McDaniel at the 5-tech – but Bennett is your starting end and he’s going to get the majority of snaps on this line.  He’s going to need to prove his mettle at holding that side of the line down and pushing the running back inside.  From what I’ve read, Bennett is no slouch in this regard, so hopefully we won’t miss a beat.

It’s unfair to project numbers on him, so I’ll refrain.  I just want to see him healthy and wreaking havoc as always.  He did, after all, contribute to a reduction of our depth, so obviously we’re going to need to lean on him a little more than others along this line.  If he just does his thing, we should be fine.  And, as a result, his presence opens up opportunities for younger guys to come in here and make an impact.

In the short term, re-signing Bennett may make it tougher on this defensive line to play at a high level.  But, in the long run, getting younger – swapping out Bryant and Clemons for guys like Marsh and Hill and whoever else manages to make this team – will be a boon to our continued success as we push to make this a dynasty NFL fans won’t soon forget.

#6 – Cliff Avril

To see the full list of the Top 10 Most Important Seahawks in 2014, click here.

Let’s say you’re at a really cool birthday party and the host made a huge spread of your favorite desserts.  And you’re standing there and you can’t decide whether you want the brownie, the red velvet cupcake with the homemade frosting, the rice krispie treat, or the lemon square.  You just had a full meal, because they were out there barbecuing ribs and hot dogs and corn on the cob; you BARELY have room for even one of these tasty treats!

And yet, because you have no will power – and because you’re a grown-ass man – you grab one of each and eat until it hurts to breathe.  And it’s glorious.  Your life has only been prelude to this impossible moment.

That’s what it was like, last season, with our pass rush.  Just getting Chris Clemons back from injury would have been enough to make us a playoff team.  Only signing Michael Bennett in free agency would have been enough to make us a championship team.  But, tacking on Cliff Avril was absolutely GLUTTONOUS.  Avril helped turn us from just your ordinary championship team to one of the BEST teams of all time!

This year, as we’re coming down from our high, we’re coming to realize that we can’t have it all anymore.  We can STILL be a championship team, and in so doing become a dynasty, but it certainly won’t be easy.  Cliff Avril, last year, wasn’t an every-down player.  Indeed, no one on that line was, but Chris Clemons came close.  He was our starting LEO defensive end and could do it all – rush the passer, stop the run – and he didn’t have to leave the game in certain situations like Red Bryant and others.  That the team CHOSE to rotate Clemons out like they did with everyone else was a testament to our depth, but suffice it to say, these types of rotations aren’t commonplace.  The Seahawks are different, though, so I would expect more of the same with this year’s personnel.

With Clemons playing in Jacksonville, Cliff Avril is the next man up.  Michael Bennett was one of our big off-season priorities and we locked him up for the long term.  He plays 5-Tech end and effectively replaces Red Bryant on most downs.  When we still had Clemons last year, Bennett was often opposite him in passing downs.  And, when we were trying to ramp up the pass-rush, we’d slide Bennett inside and bring Avril down to play end opposite Clemons.  Technically, we can still DO that, and we very well might, but for our base defense, we still need a guy to start at LEO.  And that guy is Avril.

Cliff Avril is not a natural LEO defensive end.  He hasn’t had a lot of success going up against the left tackles of the league.  This is a great concern, because we’re going to NEED him to step up and fill Clemons’ void.

We’ve got a couple things going for us.  First and foremost, it’s a contract year for Avril.  Not that I’d have reason to expect anything less than his top effort, but you know with guys out to get their last big paydays, they always come with a little something extra.  Secondly, Avril is still surrounded by some of the most talented and underrated linemen in the league.  Michael Bennett is a relentless beast.  Brandon Mebane is as good as they get.  Kevin Williams is as talented as they come.  The rotation behind them is still rock solid.

We all know how important it is to have a good pass rush.  On this team, with this secondary, a good pass rush is absolutely lethal.  I won’t put it all on the defensive ends – because we can generate pressure from a number of different positions – but to get a pass rush with only four guys (like we did against the Broncos in the Super Bowl, for instance) makes us absolutely unstoppable.  And it doesn’t mean just sacks!  Knocking quarterbacks down, getting in their faces, rushing their throws, changing their arm angles, batting balls up in the air:  they’re all part of a dominant pass rush.  And they’re all things that Cliff Avril happens to do very well.

I won’t put a number on what we need from Avril.  Yeah, double-digit sacks would be nice.  I just want him healthy and in there, every game.  Cliff Avril is a guy other teams have to account for and gameplan against.  He makes those around him better.  And, who knows, maybe someone else steps up and handles the LEO spot just as well, leaving us to slide Bennett inside again and bring Avril from the other end spot.  Anything is possible.

Of course, it’s also possible that Avril just won’t take to the LEO end.  If he struggles, and is handled in most one-on-one situations, we’re gonna have a bad time.  So, let’s hope he’s got what it takes to be as versatile as this team needs.