What I’d Like To See The Seahawks Do In The 2017 NFL Draft

I’m not a draftnik by any means.  I don’t do mock drafts, because I don’t know enough about the vast majority of college football outside of the University of Washington, and because they’re a collosal waste of time.  I like to write about other sports when nothing’s happening in the NFL, so I don’t know what I would do if I had to write about the NFL all year round.

But, you know, some information does manage to slip through into my brain from time to time.  I have a vague, general idea of some of the best players in the draft this year and where they might end up going.  I’m also keenly aware of the Seattle Seahawks and their needs in the aftermath of the first round of the free agency signing period (the second round is between the draft and the start of the regular season, and it’s much less interesting, with guys getting training camp tryouts more than anything else).  I know where the Seahawks pick, so I have a pretty good idea of who will be available and who won’t be.  And, I’ve got a decent idea of where this draft is strongest and weakest.

The Seahawks pick 26th out of 32 in the first round.  They have a second round pick in roughly the same spot, and three third rounders.  No fourths or fifths; one sixth and one seventh, for a total of 7 draft picks.  Knowing the Seahawks, they’d like to have more than 7 picks in this draft, so it’s entirely plausible that the Seahawks end up trading down on one or more occasions, to perhaps pick up an extra 2nd or 3rd rounder, or maybe fill in that extensive gap between their last 3rd rounder and their 6th rounder.

So, if I had to guess, I’d say the Seahawks don’t actually make a selection at 26.  I say that because they’ve traded down in the first round multiple times before.  I say that because there’s REALLY no consensus among rookie quarterbacks coming out this year, meaning it’s not too likely a quarterback is taken in any of the top five picks, but it’s entirely possible that many multiple quarterbacks are taken between 6-32, as I get the feeling different teams have different QBs rated as their highest and would love nothing more than to prove the rest of the NFL wrong, that they know better.  As such, there’s a pretty good chance we see a team willing to trade up from the early 2nd round and move into Seattle’s spot.  Cleveland, San Francisco, Chicago, and the Jets all pick pretty early in the 2nd round, for instance.  The lower the Seahawks go down the ladder, the more in draft capital they’re likely to pick up.

To wrap up this part of the post, would I be in favor of the Seahawks trading down?  Why not?  However, if it prevents us from getting certain guys I want, I’m going to be a little upset.

So, who are some of the guys projected to go to Seattle?  Well, I’m sure among many, many others, I’ve been seeing the following names a lot:

  • Cam Robinson OT
  • Garett Bolles OT
  • Forrest Lamp G
  • Kevin King CB
  • Obi Melifonwu S

I could probably go on and on if I wanted to really do some research, but I’ll tell you what I think about these guys.  Even though offensive line was an abject disaster last year, I’m not super high on taking a lineman in the first round.  When I hear things like, “This is the worst draft ever for offensive linemen,” I cringe.  All those people saying that could be dead wrong, and there could be any number of quality linemen who develop from this class, but it seems like a longshot to me.  Taking an offensive lineman at 26 (or wherever the Seahawks land with their first pick of the draft) is going to have the feel of a reach to me.  The Seahawks drafting for need over value, taking whatever lineman is the best available just because.  If the Seahawks are going to take yet another offensive lineman with their first pick, it better be a guy who is a quality starter from Day 1, and quite frankly their track record stinks in this area.

  • Ifedi, last year, was a starter from Day 1, but not a good one
  • Britt (their 2nd selection in the 2014 draft) wasn’t good until year 3
  • Carpenter (2011) wasn’t the right tackle we were promised, eventually settling into a so-so left guard
  • Moffitt (also 2011) was never good, is out of the league now
  • Okung (2010) the only quality lineman, but had his own issues (was also a #6 overall draft pick and the second left tackle taken in the draft)

The Seahawks and Plug & Play O-Linemen don’t really mesh.  It either takes time for them to develop into decent players, if they ever develop at all.

So, what are we supposed to do if we take one of these tackles like Robinson or Bolles, if they’re still around?  Well, you have to play them, of course!  You have to get value out of your top picks, meaning you need to feature them early and often to get your money’s worth!  Considering it looks like Ifedi is being moved over to right tackle, and considering the Seahawks signed Luke Joeckel, and considering they still highly regard George Fant, I mean, what do we do here with this embarrassment of debts?  (that’s the opposite of Embarrassment of Riches, right?)  Besides that, do either of them play left tackle, which is actually the position we need to be filling with a competent player?  I have my doubts.

Plus, I don’t even think O-Line is the most pressing need right now.  I think the Seahawks did all they did in free agency so they WOULDN’T have to settle on taking an O-Lineman with their first draft pick.  They NEED to replenish their secondary, and I think they do that here.  I hope they do that here.  I NEED THEM TO DO THAT HERE!

I’ve had it in my head, pretty much since the combine, that we can get the band back together – so to speak – with regards to the UW secondary.  I absolutely LOVE Kevin King’s potential for growth, and I also think he’d be ready to start from Day 1 opposite Richard Sherman.  And, in a couple years, when Sherman opts to move on to another team, I love Kevin King’s potential to take over that spot and flourish for many years to come.  I’m also well aware that, since the combine, his stock has skyrocketed, and as a result he may get selected before the Seahawks could even sniff at a chance of trading up for him.  Like, maybe even in the Top 20.  In which case, if that happens, so be it, and I wish him a long and fruitful career (except when he plays the Seahawks).

I also need to understand that there are many other cornerbacks and safeties out there that the Seahawks could conceivably covet (like that Melifonwu guy out of UConn), that could be as good or even better than Kevin King.  I just think I’m going to be REALLY upset if King is still there and the Seahawks pick someone else over him, that’s all.

As a dark horse, who no one is really talking about when they talk about the Seahawks, is Budda Baker.  Like I said, I’m REALLY high on the Washington Huskies’ secondary, and I think I want as many of them as possible to play for Seattle.  I know Baker’s essentially blocked at the safety position by Earl Thomas, and I know they just signed Bradley McDougald as a prominent backup safety they hope to incorporate into the defense; but I’ve also seen what this team looks like without Kam Chancellor, and without Earl Thomas (though, thankfully, not without both at the same time, which I fear would be the death of me), and I honestly believe you can’t have enough talent at that position, when you’re playing a Pete Carroll defense.  With Baker backing up Earl, you don’t have NEARLY the dropoff you had last year when Earl went down.  But, even if Earl and Kam don’t miss a single important snap the entire season, that doesn’t mean you wasted your selection on Baker.  Budda can play cornerback too!  Line him up outside and move Lane inside, or keep Lane outside and let Budda play nickel, either way I think you’re going to have tremendous production from him, and a fabulous stopgap until DeShawn Shead can come back from injury.

Not for nothing, but I haven’t even mentioned Sidney Jones here.  With his achilles tendon injury, his draft stock fell pretty hard.  If he were to fall to the Seahawks in the second round, I think I might lose my shit, though I think that’s a longshot.  Nevertheless, coming away with Baker and Jones in this draft might make it all worthwhile in mine eyes.

There’s also talk of the Seahawks going with a pass rusher with their first pick, but I dunno.  I just don’t know who’s going to be available.  They have Avril, Bennett, and Frank Clark in the fold already.  In the big pass rushing package, you can slide Bennett inside and play all three of those guys at once, but you still need another interior pass rusher to pair with him, and the very best ones of that group tend to be picked super high (I see you Solomon Thomas, and I hope to holy hell that the 49ers don’t pick you #2 overall).  If you could guarantee me the Seahawks find some diamond in the rough, I suppose I’d be for it, but there aren’t a ton of rookie pass rushers who make huge impacts AS rookies.

More than anything else, I want a guy who can come in and start right away, but I also want a guy who will have a big positive impact right away.  Seems unlikely at any of the line positions (either offense or defense), seems unlikely at wide receiver or running back, and in my opinion going after a linebacker (with Wagner and Wright never leaving the field) would be beyond irresponsible, given the holes this team needs to fill.  The only thing worse would be if the Seahawks went quarterback with their first pick, at which point I might throw my remote through the television.

The only logical choice is to use that first pick on the secondary.  So that’s what I’d like to see the Seahawks do in the 2017 NFL Draft.

Sincerely,

TL;DR

The 2017 Seahawks Have A Schedule

You know I love talking about the schedule months and months before the games are played and rosters are finalized!  Without further ado:

  • Week 1 – @ Green Bay
  • Week 2 – San Francisco
  • Week 3 – @ Tennessee
  • Week 4 – Indianapolis (Sunday Night)
  • Week 5 – @ L.A. Rams
  • Week 6 – BYE
  • Week 7 – @ N.Y. Giants
  • Week 8 – Houston
  • Week 9 – Washington
  • Week 10 – @ Arizona (Thursday Night)
  • Week 11 – Atlanta (Monday Night)
  • Week 12 – @ San Francisco
  • Week 13 – Philadelphia (Sunday Night)
  • Week 14 – @ Jacksonville (10am)
  • Week 15 – L.A. Rams
  • Week 16 – @ Dallas
  • Week 17 – Arizona

All times are in the afternoon time slot, unless otherwise posted.

Just to get it out of the way, I don’t care for the Week 6 BYE week.  I read that the NFL did away with BYEs in Week 4, which is nice, because GTFO with that shit.  I still think there should be one designated BYE week for everyone, smack dab in the middle of the season, so it’s fair for everyone, but obviously that’ll never happen, so you won’t hear from me on the topic again until this time next year, when I make the same exact argument.

Truth be told, I like A LOT about this schedule.  The things that stand out include only one 10am start, against Jacksonville, in December, which is a good time to get out of Seattle anyway.  I like that there are no back-to-back road games (or the dreaded 3-game road trip), as our only back-to-backers have the BYE week in between.  And, on top of all of that, three of our four primetime games are at home!  All in all, this might be the best Seahawks schedule I’ve ever seen (at least, this early in the year).

I’m seeing the strength of schedule is pretty easy, but that means nothing.  Comparing a schedule to how the teams finished the year before is pretty asinine, so I don’t take a lot out of that.  Here are my two cents, game by game (my official Game By Game prediction post comes at the end of the pre-season, so come back in early September for that).

Leading off with Green Bay isn’t the worst thing in the world.  Considering we knew we were going to have to go there at some point in the year, it beats playing them on the Frozen Tundra, in the middle of December.  Considering the Packers are always really good, there’s never a “good” time to play them, but I’ll settle for Week 1.  The best part of this is not having to face a crazy-tough D-Line.  The last two years, we had to face the Dolphins’ front four and the Rams’ front four, which is a lot to ask of a young O-Line in the first week of the season.  I won’t say we get a soft landing here, but it’s definitely a step down from those two teams.  We’ll just have to hope our defense comes to play, as the biggest downside is catching Aaron Rodgers at a point where our secondary is likely to be a little unsettled (even more terrifying if the team trades Richard Sherman, and we’re left with Jeremy Lane and a couple rookies filling the void).  Hard to see that as a win for the Seahawks, but we’ll see how I officially feel later this year.

Week 2 home opener against the 49ers?  Yes please!  That has the feel of the annual Washington Huskies/Portland State Fuckwads football game.

I know I’m supposed to get all hard for some of these marquee matchups (SEA @ GB, SEA v IND, SEA v WA, SEA v ATL, SEA v PHI, SEA @ DAL), but honestly?  The game that catches my eye right now is this Week 3 game in Tennessee.  The Titans were 9-7 last year, just a game out of winning that division, and I think they’re a team very much on the rise, and very much on nobody’s radar.  You’ll hear it here first:  don’t be shocked if the Seahawks lose this game.  I like their running game, I love their O-Line, I think Mariota has the goods, and I think their defense is poised for a big improvement.  Depending on how their draft shakes out, I could see them finally overtaking the Texans and dominating that division for years to come.

Week 4, Sunday Night, home vs. Indy.  Wilson vs. Luck, two great offenses, two very different teams in how they’ve been constructed.  I’m looking forward to Collinsworth’s analysis more than anything in this game.

We don’t have to play the Rams until Week 5; that feels like a victory in and of itself!  If it takes longer than a month for our O-Line to gel into some semblance of a working unit, then I give up.

Coming out of the BYE week, we go on the road to face the Giants.  This is actually, lowkey, a pretty brutal stretch of games the Seahawks have to open up with.  Aside from the 49ers, and maybe Indy, I see nothing but difficult matchups.  The Giants were one of the teams we managed to dodge in last year’s playoffs, and I was going to go into how they posed a difficult matchup for the Seahawks.  Their D-Line is vastly improved after last year’s spending spree.  But, Eli is still Eli, so if our defense is able to hold it together, I don’t see why the Seahawks couldn’t take this one.

Back-to-back home games against Houston and Washington.  I don’t see Houston being much of a problem, unless they somehow fix their quarterback quandary, which I don’t see happening.  Washington is a little more interesting, but they’ve never struck me as all that interested in bolstering their defense.  With their two primary receivers (from 2016) playing elsewhere, I’m curious to see how their passing attack looks.  I’m pretty high on Cousins, so I could definitely see him keeping them in the game.

Thursday in Arizona in early November:  who knows?  Once again, we don’t see them until the second half of the season, so there’s REALLY no predicting where this one will go.  Will Carson Palmer still be playing at this point?  Will their defense be able to thoroughly shut us down like they did in that 6-6 game last year?  Will the short week throw us off like it usually does when we have to go on the road in our Thursday game?

Then, we come upon perhaps the biggest or second biggest game on our non-divisional schedule:  Monday Night, home against the defending NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons.  This game was one of the best ones we played in 2016, and at least on paper looks to be no different in 2017.  I’m REALLY interested in how Atlanta is going to rebound this year.  Super Bowl collapse, offensive coordinator takes a head coaching job, target nevertheless squarely on their backs each and every week, will they be like the Panthers of last year?  Or the Seahawks of the year before.  I’ll be thoroughly impressed if they’re able to make the playoffs again after a year like that.

On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, we’re on the road in San Francisco.  Again, they should be pushovers.

Then, it’s right back in primetime with a home game against the Eagles.  I don’t totally understand why this game is on the schedule, to be honest.  Rather, I don’t understand why it’s in primetime.  I have some serious doubts about Carson Wentz and that coaching staff in general, and I don’t think that team stands a chance in that division, with how good the Cowboys, Giants, and Redskins look.  Look, just don’t be shocked when the NFL flexes this game out of primetime in favor of, oh I dunno, Giants at Raiders, Panthers at Saints, Bucs at Packers, or even Pats at Bills if they just want an excuse to play the Patriots in primetime yet again.

In Week 14, we finally come upon our lone 10am game.  GOD I LOVE IT!  From the looks of things, the other teams in our division got jobbed on the 10am game thing, but you know what?  I think we deserve it.  With the way we have to travel from Seattle, the Seahawks are constantly doing the most travelling in the league, so it’s better to reward us with those late afternoon road games.

Home vs. the Rams in mid-December?  No thank you.  Again, it’s the Rams, so expect the unexpected (but usually pretty terrible, for Seahawks fans).

Christmas Eve afternoon in Dallas?  Woof.  If it’s anything like last year’s Christmas Eve game against the Cardinals, I shan’t be happy.  But, all eyes will be on us, almost like it’s a Thanksgiving Day game, in which case that should be an interesting build-up (also, this game would’ve been much more appropriate as a primetime game, but what are you gonna do?).

Then, we close out on New Year’s Eve at home against the Cardinals.  We’ll either be fighting for our playoff lives, fighting for a division title, or hopefully fighting for a top spot in the NFC, so I would bank on this game actually meaning something.  In which case, either smart planning by the NFL, or they got really lucky.  Either way, should be a good one.

If you had to pin me down to a prediction, I don’t know what to tell you.  The rest of the NFC West doesn’t look all that impressive.  The Seahawks SHOULD go undefeated against the likes of the Rams and 49ers, but you know that won’t happen.  Let’s say 4-2 in the division, 3-1 against the AFC, bringing us to 7-3 with six more games against the NFC.  I gotta tell you, this conference schedule LOOKS tough.  GB, NYG, and Dallas on the road; ATL, Philly, and WA at home.  I see 1-2 in the road games and 2-1 in the home games, which would put us at 10-6 on the year.  That looks like it could be enough to win the division, but certainly not enough to get anything more than a 3 or (more likely) 4 seed in the playoffs.

The road to getting the top seed – and getting back to the Super Bowl – is simple.  First, the Seahawks need to stay remarkably healthy.  ESPECIALLY on defense, where I still see depth as being our primary issue (regardless of what happens in the draft).  Second, the Seahawks absolutely need to take care of business in the division.  That means going a perfect 6-0, no excuses!  The 49ers are terrible, the Rams are still rebuilding, and the Cards are on the cusp of collapse and a rebuild of their own.  This should be a down year for all three of those teams, and the Seahawks need to stop fucking around with them, playing down to their levels, and take advantage of the weak division in front of them.

If you give me 6-0 in division, with 3-1 against the AFC (which, if the Seahawks stayed as healthy as they need to, you’d think they’d go 4-0 against the AFC, but there’s always one of those weird outcomes seemingly out of our control every year against some random AFC team on the road), that’s 9-1 heading into the rest of the NFC slate.  Figure you can’t lose more than 2 of those games to be safe, which means probably running the table on those home games against the Falcons, Redskins, and Eagles, and then making sure you steal a tie-breaker game on the road.  Which is tough, because it looks like the Cowboys and Packers will be our primary competition for the top seed in the NFC.  Indeed, that game in Dallas in Week 16 very well could be a showdown for the top spot, should everything break right for the Seahawks.

Probably the best thing about the schedule is that there’s really not a huge cluster of tough games back-to-back-to-back.  Like I alluded to earlier, there’s 3 road games out of 4 (with a BYE mixed in) where we go @TEN, IND, @LAR, @ NYG.  The Seahawks SHOULD win all of those games, or at least 3 of 4, but I could also see all of those games going sideways for a variety of reasons.  Other than that, you have to say the toughest stretch would be WA, @ AZ, ATL right in the middle there, or LAR, @ DAL, AZ at the end, but both of those stretches have 2/3 games at home.

All in all, a lot to like.  And a lot to work one’s self into a lather about, if given half a chance.

Should The Seahawks Stop Punting On Backup Quarterback Already?

There was some Tweet saying that John Schneider was at Texas Tech’s Pro Day, ostensibly to look at their quarterback who’s coming out in this year’s draft (but, I would think, more likely to look at other players).  With the Seahawks, there’s been a lot of non-stories being spread around (more per capita than the average team, if I have anything to say about it), between Beastmode forcing a trade to the Raiders, and the Seahawks supposedly soliciting offers to trade away Richard Sherman; it’s all a bunch of media-created nonsense to generate clicks, pageviews, and hours of sports radio content.

YOU PEOPLE ARE SHAMELESS HUMPS!

Anyway, now there’s that Tweet, and it makes it sound like the Seahawks are in the market for selecting a quarterback high in the draft, with the intended effect of Seahawks fans speculating on Russell Wilson’s future with the team.

Obviously, the Seahawks aren’t getting rid of Russell Wilson, so let’s just put that to bed right now.  It’s probably like I said above, there’s probably some low-rated draft prospect on Texas Tech the Seahawks are getting a closer look at, nothing more.

But, the more I thought about it, the more I started to wonder:  SHOULD the Seahawks look to fill their backup quarterback role with someone other than an undrafted rookie who recently was involved in a drunken driving collision and an arrest?  Even if Trevone Boykin was a model citizen, does it make sense to run him out there again as our #2?

2016 should’ve opened up PLENTY of eyes in that Seahawks organization with all that went down.  Specifically, the quality of the offensive line, and the byproduct of Russell Wilson being hobbled for more than half the season.  Hey, fancy that, the kid’s actually human!  (sort of)  Russell Wilson has ankles rolled up on and knees bending the wrong way just like the rest of us!  (that made more sense in my head)  I’m not saying he’s going to be the next Ben Roethlisberger, who’s injured every year without fail, but I will say a couple things:

  1. After 4 full seasons where Wilson never missed even a practice rep, he had something of a year from hell and we got to see what this offense looks like with him at 50% or worse; so just imagine what it would look like with him totally sidelined.
  2. When you start sustaining injuries like that to your knees and ankles, you don’t see your foot speed increase over time.  You tend to get a lot slower as you age; that shit adds up!  At some point, Wilson’s legs will be as worthless as Peyton Manning’s, and at that time, will he still be as effective a leader of this offense?

Before 2016, we didn’t have to worry about this shit, because we had Tarvaris Jackson and we all agreed that he was the kind of quality backup this team needed in the event where Wilson might go down.  But, he was always coming back on 1-year deals (when the rest of the league turned its collective backs to him), and the Seahawks really needed something more permanent in its backup.  Someone who could grow with Wilson, build value in the pre-season, and maybe generate draft picks in trade should he turn into a Jimmy Garoppolo-type.  More than anything, we need someone comfortable in our system and someone with actual NFL talent, for when disaster does strike (and believe you me, it will strike, eventually).

Trevone Boykin is almost certainly not that guy.  At no point would I have ever felt comfortable with him leading this team last year, and I highly doubt he’s going to make some magical jump between Year 1 and Year 2.  He’s a third stringer at best, and should probably be nothing more than camp fodder before he gives up the ghost and signs with the CFL.  And I’m NOT saying that just because he got arrested recently (though, that certainly doesn’t help).  It’s like what Joe Thomas was saying about Colin Kaepernick:  NFL teams don’t want any sort of distraction coming from their backup quarterbacks (and, make no mistake, Kaepernick IS a backup quarterback).

Speaking of, there’s been a lot of chatter among Seahawks fans saying they desperately want the team to sign Kaep to be Wilson’s backup.  I dunno.  I guess I understand the argument – Wilson is a mobile quarterback; Kaepernick’s mobility is as good as it gets – but they’re really two VERY different players.  As the Seahawks start transitioning towards a precision-passing attack – mostly to compensate for a crappy O-Line, but also to help enhance Wilson’s pocket-passing game – Kaepernick has terrible timing, and a big ol’ wind-up in his throws.  Granted, he throws really fucking hard, but so does Jay Cutler, and I don’t see people clamoring for the Seahawks to sign him!  Maybe, if Wilson got hurt and Kaepernick went in, as long as the Seahawks shifted the offense back to one of a heavy rushing load, with lots and lots of zone read, I’d be okay with it.

Like I said, I dunno.  I’ve been so conditioned to hate the 49ers for so long, it’s hard to flip that script and start liking or wanting a guy like Kaepernick on my team.  There’s also the legitimate concern that he’s been VERY terrible for a while now, but is it a chicken/egg thing?  Like, yeah, he’s been terrible, but so has the entire 49ers organization from the top down.  Is he terrible because everyone around him is terrible?  I mean, it’s really a helluva regression from where he was, at one point considered one of the league’s very best young quarterbacks.  It can’t ALL be due to the league just figuring him out and Jim Harbaugh leaving, can it?

I’ll just say this and let it be done:  I’m ready to move on from Trevone Boykin.  I’m ready for a semi-competent backup, because I truly fear for Russell Wilson’s safety behind this O-Line.  If that means Kaepernick, or that Texas Tech quarterback, or someone else I haven’t mentioned today, I’m all for it.

Seahawks Re-Signed DeShawn Shead, Luke Willson, & Neiko Thorpe

Some old news to catch up on:  the Seahawks re-signed some guys!  All on 1-year deals, all for pretty low amounts.

Let’s go down the line.  I like the Shead signing an awful lot.  There’s really no downside here.  You bring him back on a 1-year deal, low cost, and if he comes back at midseason or for the stretch run and fills in at cornerback, it could be a boon for the defense.  At the very least, you figure there could be injuries and to get not only a healthy body that late into the season, but one who’s familiar with the system and has had good success in the system is just a no-brainer.  But, then you also take into account the high likelihood that the Seahawks are going to go hard in the draft for DBs, and you just don’t know how they’re going to end up.  Yeah, this draft is rated pretty highly for secondary players, but you don’t know how good they are until you get them on the field.  So, if they come in and struggle, it’s nice to know Shead is there and should be available for you at some point in the regular season.

And, if he comes back and plays really well, then you can look to maybe extend him long-term.  Hell, after this season, there isn’t any more guaranteed money on Jeremy Lane’s deal – and only a small amount of dead money – so if you’d rather have Shead than Lane, that’s possible going into 2018.

Really, we’re talking about a security blanket when we’re talking about having Shead in the fold for 2017.  Aside from him, we only have Sherman and Lane as guys with experience starting in the league.  When you figure we’re going into next season with just those two guys, maybe a couple of rookies, and a bunch of holdovers who don’t have much in the way of experience playing on defense, it’s a scary proposition.  But, knowing Shead is there, just biding his time until he gets healthy around November or December, I think we’ll be okay until we can get him in the fold.  And, if the rookies turn out to be great, then all the better; we have extra depth.

Speaking of the holdovers, Neiko Thorpe is back!  He’s an excellent special teams player, so if for no other reason, it’s nice to have him back doing that.  He’s also a backup cornerback who will get thrown into the mix in Training Camp to see who starts opposite Sherm this year.  He’s fairly tall, he’s got the right size, he’s a 4-year vet with 1 year in the Seahawks’ system.  Now, essentially, it’s on him to keep working on his craft and win the job in camp.  I have very little frame of reference on his defensive game, but I don’t remember being wildly impressed with him when Shead went down in the Atlanta game.  But, we’ll see.  The guys who tend to win starting jobs with the Seahawks’ secondary and actually play well are the guys we draft, not the guys we trade for or sign off the streets.  Best case scenario is probably a Kelcie McCray; I think if he gives you that type of production, it’s good enough for now.  You still hope that one of the rookies we bring in this year ends up being the guy to take over.

Finally, we’ve got Luke Willson back as our #2 tight end.  He tested the free agency waters and apparently didn’t care for what he saw, so he’s back on a 1-year deal.  It was probably the wrong time for a tight end of his calibre to become a free agent, what with all the great tight ends coming out of the draft.  But, at the same time, I’m a little shocked – with all the money other NFL teams are throwing around willy nilly – that he couldn’t get anything more than what he got with the Seahawks.  $1.8 million plus incentives?  I mean, it’s BARELY a raise over what he got last year!

Don’t get me wrong, I love the deal for the Seahawks.  He knows the system, he’s a quality backup, he blocks well, catches well, runs well.  As an offensive weapon, he’s going to beat most linebackers who try to cover him.  In that sense, again, how did he not command more money on the open market?  The only thing I can think of is that we simply haven’t utilized him all that much, and he’s taking the hit accordingly.

I’m interested to see how the tight end position looks for the Seahawks in a year from now.  Nick Vannett is obviously someone the Seahawks will want to involve more in 2017.  He’s also the only tight end on the roster after this year, as both Willson and Graham are currently slated to be free agents.  Could that mean the Seahawks are looking to draft one of the tight ends in this deep class and pair him with Vannett going forward?

I guess we’ll find out.  In the meantime, these are three moves I’m pretty happy about.

Seahawks Death Week: The Road Ahead

So, what do the Seahawks need to do to get back to playing in Super Bowls again?

The simple answer is:  bolster the O-Line, bring in a stud running back, pump up the secondary, sign an interior pass rusher, and fill out the roster with athletes.

But, it’s never that simple.  Pete Carroll made shockwaves among Seahawks fans by indicating – in his end-of-the-season press conference – that the plan right now is to bring back the same starting O-Line that we finished with.  On the one hand, you’re not going to get anywhere without continuity along the offensive line.  Those guys need to play together, get used to one another’s tendencies, and have that sort of mental telepathy to know where they’re supposed to be and who they’re supposed to be blocking.  But, on the other hand, you can get continuity by signing me and four of my friends to play on the line, and it doesn’t mean it’ll be worth a damn if you keep running us out there year-in and year-out.  At some point, you need some motherfuckin’ talent, and talent is always going to trump continuity.

Obviously, we’ve been going on and on about how great Britt has been, so that settles the center position.  You can argue that guys like Ifedi and Fant have a lot of room to grow.  They’ve gotten a ton of experience, they got through the season mostly unscathed, they can work this offseason to get stronger and learn the intricacies of their respective positions, and they can come back next year hopefully ready to take the next step in their progression.  You can sort of make that argument with Glowinski as well, but he always seemed a better fit for the right guard position; maybe with the full year under his belt, he’ll be ready to rock n’ roll in 2017.  I think Gilliam has had it though; he’s probably as good as he’s ever going to be.  Which would be passable if the other four guys were studs, but they’re not, so I think at a minimum you have to bring in some competition for right tackle.  If I had my druthers, I’d hit the free agent market hard and pick up a good one, but I don’t know what the market’s going to look like.  You’d think there’d be at least ONE right tackle worth a damn who’s up for grabs.  I say, spend some of that extra money and pick one up.  That would make two spots on the line you don’t have to worry about, and you can flip Gilliam over to left tackle and have him push Fant in a competition for that spot.

The deal with left tackle is, obviously, Fant is far from ideal.  But, he’s who we’ve got.  You’re not going to find a superstar left tackle on the free agent market, because those guys always get snapped up by the smarter teams who actually value the O-Line.  You’re also not going to find a superstar left tackle at the 26th spot in the draft, because this is a thin draft class for offensive linemen and all the good ones are going to be drafted WAY before it gets to Seattle’s turn.  And, you’re not going to trade for one, because the cost would be prohibitive, and again I don’t think there are a ton of teams clamoring to give away their franchise left tackles.  So, the best we can hope for is to bring in competition to fight it out with Fant and may the best man win.  For what it’s worth, Fant needs to come in bigger and stronger, so he’s not constantly beaten to death by the bull rush.  Also for what it’s worth, if the Seahawks sign someone off the scrap heap, it better be someone better than fucking Sowell and Webb.

At guard, Ifedi isn’t going anywhere.  For better or for worse, the two guaranteed spots on the O-Line right now that you can lock in are Britt at center and Ifedi at right guard (barring injuries, of course).  I think they’ve come to their senses about Ifedi ever being a tackle in this league, and there would be no point in flipping him to the left side of the line since that’s his weaker side.  Plus, he’s a first round draft pick; they’re not going to give up on that kind of a talent just because he had a tough rookie season.  Hell, they gave Britt three different chances at three different spots on the line over his first three years, and he was only a second rounder!  But, at the left guard spot, I think you’ll see Glowinski and Odhiambo duke it out, which again, I don’t know if that’s something Seahawks fans want to hear, but there you go.  Now, it’s POSSIBLE the team drafts the best guard available in the first round, in which case YAY, even more competition!  I mean, seriously, this team needs to bring in as much talent as it can get, and if that means overloading at guard to finally land on the right set, I’m all for it.  I’d probably prefer that they reach for a tackle at that spot in the draft, just because I think we’re so much worse off at that position long term, but I don’t know if that’s realistic.

So, what I’m looking for out of the O-Line:  sign a right tackle, draft a guard/tackle high, and maybe sign another swing tackle off the scrap heap.

***

As for the rest of the offense, let’s start with the running game.  I like the Seahawks to draft another one.  Maybe a couple, like they did last year, but at least one.  My hunch is they’ll look to get one in Day 3 of the draft, but I wouldn’t hate it if they found a real dynamic talent in the first or second rounds.  Pit Game Changing Talent with Rawls and Prosise and I think you’ve got something you can work with.  Given Rawls’ injury history, you’re all but guaranteed that Game Changing Talent will get significant playing time.  Give me a 3-headed hydra at running back any day of the week.

At wide receiver, I don’t think you have to do much of anything.  Baldwin, Lockett, Kearse, and Richardson are your top four.  We’ve still got McEvoy in the mix, as well as a bunch of practice squad and IR guys from 2016.  Maybe you draft one on Day 3 to throw onto the developmental pile, but I think you could be best served going after a couple undrafted guys instead.

At tight end, I think you keep Jimmy Graham and I think you extend him another 2-3 years to loosen up our 2017 cap burden, while at the same time still giving us some outs in case he has another devastating injury.  For the life of me, I don’t understand the hate on this guy, considering how awesome he was in 2016.  You can piss and moan all you want about 2015, but he was still getting acclimated to our system after a career in New Orleans.  I think he’ll only continue to get better the more time he gets with Wilson.  Beyond that, I’d like to see Luke Willson back on a reasonable deal.  But, if some other team blows him away, it’s not going to kill me.  We drafted Nick Vannett to be our backup, all-around tight end, so my hope is he takes a step forward in his second year.  Also, not for nothing, but don’t be shocked if we spend a 4th or 5th rounder on another tight end in the draft, as I hear this is a good year for that position.

At quarterback, I think we bring Boykin back, but I think we look to push him by drafting another QB.  I have no insider knowledge on this, but my gut says we could even go as high as a 3rd rounder on a backup quarterback, which sounds crazy, but not as crazy as having to start Boykin if Wilson gets injured.

So, what I’m looking for out of the rest of the offense:  select another running back in the first couple days of the draft, get another backup tight end in the middle of our draft, find a diamond in the rough at quarterback (possibly as high as round 3), and hold off until Round 8 to get any more receivers.

***

Let’s go with the secondary next, because I think this unit needs the most work on defense.  I have some REAL big plans with the first two or three picks the Seahawks make in this year’s draft, and I think one of them would be best used on another safety.  Get someone big and talented, who can learn from the best.  I suppose you COULD hold off to the middle rounds for this player, but my concern is that the safety position has seen an increase in value over the years, since the Seahawks drafted the blueprint in Kam & Earl.  It’s why someone like Keanu Neal goes in the first round of the draft last year, when he might have fallen to the 4th or 5th just a few years earlier.  Also, I think this team needs someone who can play right away, because at this point I don’t know if it’s wise to trust either of our starters to play a full 16-game slate.  If they do, then that’s a bonus, and maybe you fiddle around with your defense to let the new guy get his feet wet in some special packages.

Ideally, this safety would also have excellent coverage skills, and could be used in a pinch in some nickel or dime sets, if guys get injured or whatnot.  Someone who can play both positions is exactly what this team needs right now, considering Shead is likely to start the season on the PUP list.  I think this team needs to hit the cornerback position pretty hard, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw three DBs drafted.  The Seahawks have Sherman, Lane, and a whole lotta young guys right now, so bringing in a guy who can play right away in the first day or two of the draft seems to be the smartest way to go.  If Budda Baker somehow fell to us at 26, I’d lose my shit.

Beyond that, I like the idea of the Seahawks hitting the free agent market for a dominant interior pass rusher.  I know Calais Campbell’s name has been bandied about on Seahawks Fan Twitter, and believe me, I’m right there with ’em.  I just don’t think you’re going to find any sort of game changing talent in the draft, picking where we are.  Maybe they grab another experimental player late in the draft, but I think if we’re ever going to get this sort of guy, we need to throw money at a veteran.

The rest of the D-Line is solid, I think.  I’m also a big fan of the linebacking group as well, and I hope we get a shot at re-signing Mike Morgan to be our SAM, as I don’t think this team really needs to break the bank at that position.

So, what I’m looking for out of the defense:  hit the secondary in the draft early and often, re-sign Mike Morgan, sign a superstud interior pass rusher, and maybe some experimental players at the D-Line and linebacker spots if there’s room.

***

What I like most about our chances going into 2017 is that there’s not a ton of dead weight to lop off.  I think you let Sowell sign elsewhere.  Don’t break the bank on Luke Willson.  I wouldn’t mind seeing Marcel Reece back, as I thought he did some of the best lead blocking in a Seahawks uniform since Mack Strong retired.  I wouldn’t mind seeing Tony McDaniel back at the right price.  Maybe we look to shore up linebacker, find someone in the draft a little more promising than KPL.  And, don’t really kill yourselves trying to bring back McCray.

I think the Seahawks need to look awful hard at long snapper again this year, because that was never NOT an issue with this team in 2016.  And, I think the Seahawks need to look at the kicker spot.  Was this year just an anomaly for Hauschka?  Or, is this the beginning of the end?  Kicking is such a mental game, and if these longer extra points are going to be an issue for him, then maybe the Seahawks have to look at selecting a kicker in the 6th round.  I mean, a drafted kicker couldn’t be MUCH worse than what we got out of Hauschka last year, right?  Sure, dude only missed 4 field goals all year, but two of them were inside of 30 yards.  Plus, he missed 6 extra points and another one in the playoffs.  So, you know, that shit’s gotta stop.  Plus, his last deal with us averaged nearly $3 million a year, so it’s not like he’s going to accept a significant pay decrease just to re-sign with us.  Maybe 2017 is the year we draft a kicker of the future and take our chances?  It wouldn’t crush me, I’ll put it that way.

Seahawks Death Week: Looking On The Bright Side

Hey look, I get it, losing sucks.  Teams like the Seahawks have a finite championship window.  On the one hand, that’s a good thing because it means we have a good team.  The Cleveland Browns don’t have a finite championship window because they suck!  On the other hand, that championship window is going to close sooner or later, if it hasn’t already.  For what it’s worth, I think the future still looks pretty promising, but that obviously comes with the fact that they have work to do on the player personnel side.

Before I get into the promising future, let’s take a quick look back.  We’re at the end of the best 5-year run in franchise history!  56-23-1, or a .706 winning percentage.  That easily bests any of the best 5-year runs in the 80’s, as well as that superb 5-year run in the Holmgren years.  This includes the fact that we’ve won at least 10 games AND made the playoffs AND won at least one playoff game every season since 2012.  Only the Patriots have done that, and they enjoy the luxury of having the very worst divisional opponents this side of the AFC South.  On top of that, factor in 3 divisional championships, 2 Super Bowl appearances, and 1 championship, and you could say the Seahawks have been pretty hashtag-blessed in this run.

All the while, the Seahawks have remained one of the youngest teams in the NFL.  Now, more and more, that’s a result of the back-end of our roster being filled with rookies, but the players at the top are still in their primes, which means we’ve got at least 2-3 more years of this championship window left to stress over!

First and foremost, we’ve got a franchise quarterback.  You’re not going anywhere without a franchise quarterback.  Just ask those aforementioned Cleveland Browns, or the Houston Texans, Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars, San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bears, New York Jets, and so on and so forth.  Even in those rare instances where a team rides its defense to a title, you’re never going to be able to achieve sustained success with that tactic.  Yeah, Peyton Manning stunk in 2015 and the Broncos won it all, but you saw what happened in 2016.  Due to salary cap constraints, players get poached.  Due to the law of averages, a defense largely healthy one year suffers a bevy of injuries the next.  I mean, go back through time of all the teams with elite defenses and crappy quarterbacks – 2002 Bucs, 2000 Ravens, 1985 Bears – did any of them repeat?  The Bears didn’t make another Super Bowl until the 2006 season; the Bucs haven’t been back period; and the Ravens didn’t win it all again until the 2012 season, at which time their defense was a shell of its former self, and they were able to ride the hot hand of Joe Flacco of all people.  The overwhelming majority of Super Bowl champions – and even Super Bowl participants – had either great quarterbacks, or average quarterbacks having great seasons.

Now, is there cause for concern about Russell Wilson’s 2016 season?  Sure felt like a step back to me, but I don’t know how much you can learn about a season when he’s hobbled and still running for his life because of that O-Line.  I think it all finally caught up to him, resulting in rushed throws, which in turn resulted in a lot of inaccurate throws.  Improved offensive line play will surely result in improved quarterback play.  Or, it’ll spell doom for a promising young player who looked like he was on the fast track to the Hall of Fame.

As I mentioned before, the wide receiver group is as strong as ever.  Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett are great players.  Jermaine Kearse unquestionably had a down year in 2016, but he nevertheless brings a lot to the table with his blocking and his rapport with Wilson and the other receivers.  Paul Richardson came on like gangbusters after Lockett went down.  If we’re able to incorporate him more into this offense, we haven’t had a player with his combination of speed and catch radius EVER in the Pete Carroll era.  The person who comes closest is Sidney Rice in his prime, which I think this team would take in a heartbeat.  When you top it off with Jimmy Graham – who I believe this team not only needs to hang onto in 2017, but should probably look to extend out another 2-3 years to make his cap hits more reasonable – this offense has the weapons in the passing game to succeed.  They won’t need to hit the free agent or trade markets, nor will they need to look in the draft all that high.

Running back might be another story.  When healthy, you’ve got elite talent with Rawls and Prosise, but obviously you can’t count on either of them for a full 16-game season plus playoffs.  Alex Collins really started to play well towards the end of the season, so obviously I think you keep him in the mix.  But, this team will most definitely have to look in the draft for another quality back to throw onto the pile.

In talking about the O-Line, Justin Britt was a pleasant surprise and lone bright spot.  While there is plenty of work to do here, it’s nice to know at least ONE spot out of five is locked in.

Defensively, we’re still stacked up and down the lineup.  Bennett and Avril are still making lives miserable.  Frank Clark – already solid as a rookie – took a big leap forward in his second year, setting himself up for a HUGE third season, and likely a huge payday once next season concludes.  Along the interior, Rubin and Reed and the return of Tony McDaniel helped us maintain our status as one of the best run defenses in the league.  You never mind picking up extra talent in this group – particularly at the back end, to shore up the depth – but D-Line isn’t really the priority it has been the last couple years.

I was most impressed with our linebackers in 2016.  Bobby Wagner had a so-so 2015, and responded with the best season of his career this past year.  He was, in fact, the best linebacker in the entire NFL, which is no small feat.  Led the league in tackles, managed 4.5 sacks for a guy who doesn’t rush the passer a ton, and was just generally always around the football.  K.J. Wright continued being the most underrated defender in football, and the guy most deserving of a Pro Bowl invite who has yet to actually make it who finally got in this year!  This group didn’t see its strongside linebacker out on the field a lot, but when Mike Morgan came back from injury, he was a force, particularly in setting the edge on running plays.  Just, all around, the best linebacking unit in football, period.

The secondary, while it needs some work, has the broad strokes in place.  Richard Sherman didn’t have his best year (and, it sounds like half that year he was dealing with an MCL issue), but when he’s locked in on his side of the field, as you saw in the Detroit playoff game, he’s still a force to be avoided.  On the opposite side, DeShawn Shead got the starting nod and really acquitted himself well.  Unfortunately, they didn’t trust him enough to just leave him over there – as we saw more and more Richard Sherman following the other team’s best receiver – and I think that might’ve had something to do with our defense taking a step back.  At safety, Kam was his usual dominant self when he was on the field, and Earl was Earl (again, when he was on the field).  The fact that both of those guys missed some pretty extensive time this year, and the fact that our defense REALLY suffered accordingly, means this team has work to do in shoring up our depth in the secondary.  Those four guys, plus Jeremy Lane, were supposed to make the secondary this team’s #1 strength.  Instead, they were this team’s second-biggest weakness, when the likes of Kelcie McCray, Steven Terrell, DeAndre Elliott, and Neiko Thorpe were thrust into active duty.  Bolster the unit from the bottom up and we should see a return to former glories for the secondary.

The foundation is solid, is what I’m trying to get at!  Across the board, except for the O-Line.  We’ve just got to figure out a way to get the complementary pieces in place to get us through the hard times.  As luck would have it, 2017 presents a unique opportunity to really pump this team full of talent.  The Salary Cap should be upwards of $170 million.  Our dead money is currently less than $1 million.  Add that to our contracts already on file, we’ve spent approximately $135 million on our 2017 roster.  The best part, though?  Our list of unrestricted free agents is pretty weak.  The most expensive player on that list is Steven Hauschka, and we might end up looking in another direction at kicker anyway, given how poor of a season he had in 2016.  Then, there’s Luke Willson, who figures to test the market and see if he can get himself a starting job somewhere.  If he comes back to Seattle, it’ll likely be on a very reasonable deal.  As for starter types, Mike Morgan and Tony McDaniel could be had on small deals as well.  Beyond those guys, we’re talking about the bottom of the roster:  McCray, Sowell, Thorpe, Marcel Reece, Tukuafu, Jeron Johnson, Brandon Williams, and Damontre Moore.  So, you know, it’s not like there’s some big contract we need to take care of on our own roster.

I’m fuzzy at best as to what the free agent market is going to look like, but that’s a topic for another day.  For now, let’s just bask in the glow that we’ve got a very good football team, with some very smart people running the show, and we’re really not THAT far off from competing for the top seed in the NFC and the Super Bowl.

Seahawks Death Week: The “2016 The Year” Of Football Seasons

There’s just nothing to like about that season by the Seattle Seahawks.  Not a damn bit of good came from it.  That’s two years in a row of spinning our tires in the mud, with not a lot to show for it.  All we got was another year older.  Instead of being the next great dynasty, we’re just another good team.  One Super Bowl win, with the hope that we’re able to squeeze another one out of Russell Wilson before he moves on.  More and more, it’s looking like instead of a Brady/Manning/Roethlisberger situation, we’ve got a Drew Brees situation.  Maybe one title is all this group gets.  Maybe we spend the rest of our time with this core just slowly getting worse, until it’s just Wilson and Carroll, and a bunch of stiffs, regularly finishing in 3rd and 4th place in the NFC West.

The worst part is, I don’t even know how to define this season.  Yeah, the O-Line stunk, but they didn’t stink in every single game.  Yeah, we lost Earl Thomas, but there were plenty of times where this defense looked inept with Thomas in there.  If you go game by game, it’s a pretty frustrating exercise.

***

The Seahawks barely beat the Dolphins at home in week 1; the offensive line was definitely our primary fault in that one.  Wilson’s ankle got rolled up on, and that was the genesis of Hobbled Russell Wilson.

The Seahawks lost on the road to the Rams in week 2; again, the O-Line was crushed.  We lost three field goals to one, in the second game where the offense was totally out of sorts.

The 49ers were some home cooking in week 3; but, then Wilson got rolled up on again, this time injuring his knee, sending him to work with a brace for the rest of the regular season.  No fun there.

The Jets on the road were supposed to be a big test in week 4; they ended up being 5-11 on the year and one of the worst teams in the NFL.  The Seahawks, with Hobbled Russell Wilson, won by 10 points and settled into a much-needed BYE week.

The Seahawks were able to squeak by the Falcons in week 6; I think we all know enough of that game.  One bright spot was that, even in spite of a disastrous third quarter, we were able to fend off a last-minute drive, like we weren’t able to do in 2015.  The defense, when most everyone was healthy, was certainly better in 2016 than 2015; but the defense was rarely healthy.

Just when we were hoping to build on some momentum of a 3-game winning streak, we went and tied the Cardinals in week 7.  The third game out of six for the Seahawks where the offense was absolutely manhandled.  Of course, had Hauschka not been a ninny, this would’ve been a win.

The Seahawks followed that up with a road trip to New Orleans, and a baffling defeat in week 8; but, a defeat very similar to ones we have every year.  Not a good look for our defense, but the fact that our offense was held to 13 points (the other 7 attributed to an Earl Thomas fumble return for TD) against that defense is unconscionable.  Four games out of seven where the offense was a fucking trainwreck.

The Seahawks played the Bills on Monday Night Football in week 9; turns out Rex & Rob Ryan are the cures for what ails this offense.  It was less encouraging for our defense to give up 25, but they were able to foil a 2-minute drive at the end of the game to lock it up (again, shades of this not being the 2015 season).

In a game everyone expected the Seahawks to lose, they went into New England on Sunday night and upset the Pats 31-24.  Even with Michael Bennett on the shelf, this was a watershed game for our defense, as Kam returned and locked down Gronk in New England’s final series.  This was also a coming out party for C.J. Prosise, showing what this offense can do when it has a healthy, dynamic running back.

The Seahawks followed this up with a dominating performance over a then-contending Eagles team at home in week 11.  Prosise had another big impact in this game, with a 72-yard touchdown run, before leaving injured and not returning for the rest of the season.  Not a ton of people talking about the loss of Prosise as the 2016 Seahawks’ downfall, but let’s just say if we’d had him healthy for the full season, things might’ve gone a lot differently for this offense.

On the heels of another 3-game winning streak – and probably the best 3-game stretch for this team in the 2016 season – the Seahawks went to Tampa in week 12 and had their fifth terrible offensive game of the season.  This one is all on the O-Line, but one could argue things might have gone differently had Britt been healthy.  Either way, after going down 14-0 in the first quarter, and giving up no points the rest of the way, that was a real missed opportunity for the Seahawks, allowing the Bucs to hang around in contention for a while longer.

Injured guys started trickling back for the next game, at home, against the Panthers in week 13.  Britt was back, Bennett was back, Rawls had worked his way back to being a workhorse, Wilson was on the mend.  For the first time in a long time, things were FINALLY looking up for the Seahawks.  We crushed the Panthers, 40-7, and this was around the same time where we always go on our late-season runs of dominance.  But, because 2016 is the fucking worst, this was the same game where Earl Thomas broke his leg and was lost for the season.  Hashtag WeCantHaveNiceThings.

It was hard not to be deflated over the Thomas injury, but I refused to believe things would fall apart just because he was out.  We still had Kam after all!  Well, week 14’s game in Green Bay should’ve been our first clue that the rest of this year would just be a formality.  Aaron Rodgers did Aaron Rodgers things and the Seahawks were blown out for the first time since 2011.  Also, this was the sixth terrible offensive game, but mostly due to Russell Wilson’s interceptions.

In week 15, we handled the Rams on Thursday Night Football, in the game where Richard Sherman put Darrell Bevell on blast.  He would go on to put most everyone else on blast the rest of the year, in what should’ve been our second clue that the rest of this year would just be a formality.  The Seahawks don’t lose their cool.  Even when they lose their cool, it’s for a reason.  There wasn’t much of a reason for this.

In spite of the Seahawks being an up-and-down team, they held their fate in their hands.  All they needed to do was beat an underwhelming Cardinals team at home, then finish off the 49ers on the road.  Simple, right?  Win those two games, lock down the 2-seed.  Lock down the 2-seed, get the first round BYE.  Get the first round BYE, then host the Falcons in the Divisional Round instead of the other way around, and maybe our crowd does enough damage to their offense to allow the Seahawks to win and host the NFC Championship Game for the third time in four seasons.  But, the defense gave up 34 points to the Cardinals in week 16, and all of that was washed away.  The third and final clue that the rest of this year would just be a formality:  now we’d be a 3-seed, be forced to play in the Wild Card round, and have to go on the road to the Falcons, where we would go on to lose.

The Seahawks were able to take down the 49ers in week 17, but it was a lot closer than it should’ve been.  Was it us taking it easy, knowing the Falcons would lock up the 2-seed in a matter of hours?  Was it the defense continuing to struggle without Earl Thomas?

Then, the big Wild Card win at home.  The last hurrah, over a pretty inept and banged up Lions team.  Not a lot to learn from that, and ultimately the next game would look nothing like this one.

***

I mean, how do you wrap your head around a season like that?

To start, you can’t say a damn thing about it without getting into the offensive line issues.  This was the second year in a row that the Seahawks went with a bullshit, makeshift O-Line, instead of ponying up the money for proper blockers.  Justin Britt had his position moved for the third time in three seasons, and that was the ONLY move that worked.  He’ll go into the final year of his rookie deal in 2017 as our starting center; that makes me happy.  You can take the other four guys and throw them in a fucking volcano for all I care.

The Seahawks, in their prime, 2012-2014, always got by with Just Okay offensive lines.  Adequate, middle-of-the-road, doing just enough to let Marshawn Lynch run by them, and to let Russell Wilson run around them.  Then, slowly but surely, all the good parts were stripped away:  Unger traded away; Giacomini, Carpenter, and Sweezy allowed to hit free agency; Russell Okung – probably the most talented of the bunch – also allowed to hit free agency and sign a terrible deal in Denver.  Ending up with two rookies, a second-year player getting his first starting action, a third-year player switching positions for the third time, and Garry Gilliam, the only guy starting in the same spot from the year before.  Oh, and don’t forget the two free agents – Sowell and Webb – who were terrible, lost their starting jobs, and won’t be around beyond this season.

And, I get it.  I understand what the Seahawks were doing.  There’s only so much money to go around, and they preferred to give that money to their star players at the skill positions.  Wilson, Baldwin, Graham, Bennett, Avril, Wagner, Wright, Thomas, Sherman, Chancellor.  Those guys take up a lot of money.  Where can we save?  The O-Line!  Hell, we’ve got Tom Cable, surely he can build them up to be respectable by season’s end!

They damn near did it in 2015.  It looked like, once Patrick Lewis took over at center, things settled down for that unit.  Then, we got into the Divisional Round, against the Panthers and their ferocious interior linemen, and that unit was reduced to rubble.

But, without much of a choice, they did the same thing again in 2016.  As I mentioned, Britt was moved to center and that worked.  Glowinski was drafted in 2015 to be a guard of the future for this team, so why not let him work on his craft in actual games?  Germain Ifedi came at the price of a first round draft pick in 2016, so there was no way he wasn’t starting.  They made it through the season mostly unscathed, and you can ALMOST see a future with those guys in those spots, but they’ve got a lot of work to do.

And, while the guards made PLENTY of mistakes, and were often the worst parts of this unit, in my book they’re taking a back seat to the tackles, who were God-fucking-awful.  George Fant was a tight end in college, and here he was as our starting left tackle.  He was almost constantly over-matched, when we weren’t chipping defensive ends with our tight ends and running backs to give him a little help.  Gilliam was a little better – particularly later in the season, when he essentially had his manhood questioned by the coaching staff – but he too was often overmatched.  Together, neither of them are starting talents in the NFL.  Gilliam is a guy who might be a swing tackle for a good team, a 6th guy on the line who can start for you in a pinch.  But, he has no business being in there everyday.  Fant should’ve had this year to just develop in the background, but since this organization did absolutely nothing to replace Okung – aside from signing Sowell, who is a known commodity as one of the worst tackles in football – Fant was put in a position he had no business being in.  And, in that sense, he did all right.  He could be another guy who is a quality swing tackle, but he probably shouldn’t be a starter either.

This team needs, at a minimum, two new offensive tackles.  Ideally, one high in the draft and one as a free agent.  Luckily, we’ve weathered the storm of our salary cap being up against it, and should have enough extra money to make some moves, as 2017’s cap looks to be up to $170 million or more.  Not so luckily, we draft 26th again, and no quality offensive tackles will be there waiting for us.  I don’t know what the free agent market is going to be like, but things are going to get REALLY salty in Seattle if this team sits back and does nothing.

***

Aside from that, it’s a lot to do with what I was talking about yesterday:  our shoddy depth.  Starting with the 2013 draft, let’s look at who panned out:

  • Luke Willson – backup tight end
  • Spencer Ware – quality running back who we waived; he’s playing well for the Chiefs
  • Paul Richardson – 4th receiver, started coming on in this year’s playoffs with Lockett injured
  • Justin Britt – starting center, with 2016 being his first good year
  • Cassius Marsh – backup pass rusher & special teamer, 3 career sacks
  • Frank Clark – quality defensive lineman
  • Tyler Lockett – quality receiver & returner
  • Mark Glowinski – guard, started in 2016
  • Germain Ifedi – guard, started in 2016
  • Jarran Reed – quality run-stuffing defensive tackle
  • C.J. Prosise – quality running back who can’t stay healthy

That’s it, and I’m really stretching the definition of “panned out” with some of these guys.  The quality guys who we still have on this team include:  Britt, Clark, Lockett, Reed, and Prosise.  Beyond that, when you talk about this team’s depth, it’s a lot of young guys who haven’t really gotten a chance to start – because they’ve been boxed out by all the studs we’ve got starting on this team – but these same guys also aren’t making the most of their opportunities when they do find themselves on the field.  That means the coaches are failing them, or that they’re just not working very hard, but I don’t think this coaching staff or this team would sit by and let a bunch of slackers fuck around in practice.

Also, not for nothing, but when I talk about depth, I’m mostly looking at the secondary.  The depth on the O-Line is, I’m sure, a real problem, but so are the starters, so why beat that dead horse?  There’s solid depth at receiver – as shown by how P-Rich stepped his game up in the playoffs this year like a fucking CHAMP!  PROUD of you, boy! – and at tight end.  There’s also good-enough depth at D-Line and in the linebackers’ room to get by.  Where this team – and particularly this defense – struggles is when we get into the depth in the secondary.  When Kam Chancellor goes down (as he seems to do every year now), and when Earl Thomas goes down.  When, inevitably, Richard Sherman goes down (because he’s such a monster tackler; I can’t imagine those shoulders will hold up forever).  Or, like in this last game, where Shead went down with what looks like an ACL.  We thought Jeremy Lane would be enough – and I think he did okay, I’m not in this big hurry to run him off the team – but this team needs more back there.  It’s a shame too, because that’s supposed to be Pete Carroll’s specialty.  He should be ashamed of the depth we had back there in the secondary – particularly at safety – and he should be looking to shore that up in a major way in the upcoming draft.

No team stays healthy for a full year, but you’ve got to have guys to come in there and pick up the slack.  We weren’t able to do that this year.  That, and our O-Line troubles, doomed us for two years in a row.

It sounds insane to be this disgruntled about a team that hasn’t been to a Super Bowl in the last two years, but that’s what comes with success.  We’re not very far from those teams, in terms of talent and in terms of years, but we’re also trending in the absolute opposite direction.

My Prediction For Seahawks @ Falcons

I think the Seahawks will lose.

Sorry, but I’m having a hard time seeing us go all the way to Atlanta, playing a well-rested, talented Falcons team, and coming away victorious.  I think the Seahawks are clear underdogs, meaning that if you played this game 100 times, the Seahawks would lose well over 50% of the time.  I think it’ll take nearly a perfect game to come away victorious.  There’s probably a 2% chance of the Seahawks blowing them out, maybe a 30% chance of the Seahawks squeaking out a victory, a 50% chance of the Falcons winning by one score, and the rest devoted to a Falcons blowout.

We’ve seen this game from these Seahawks before.  Just last year in the Divisional Round, the underdog Seahawks went into Carolina, saw themselves losing 31-0 at halftime, and scrambled their way to a 31-24 defeat.  But, it took the Seahawks scoring on nearly every second half possession to get it that close, and quite frankly, it took the Panthers taking their foot off the gas and coasting to victory.

We saw something relatively similar two years ago against the Packers.  We might not have been underdogs in that game, but we were nevertheless facing a hungry team with a fantastic offense, and we found ourselves down 16-0 at halftime and 19-7 with under 4 minutes to go in the game, before a miracle of all miracles saw us win 28-22 in overtime.

Or, HEY, I know!  What about the 2012 season’s playoffs?  Underdog Seahawks, Divisional Round, in Atlanta … 20-0 Falcons at halftime!  Miracle comeback, blah blah blah, lost on a last minute field goal 30-28.

The Seahawks, in the playoffs, have an incredible knack for not showing up whatsoever in the first halves of ballgames, before turning it on in the second halves, making furious comebacks, and sometimes sticking the landing, but more often than not falling flat on our faces.

Not for nothing, but you tend to see this happen in a lot of our regular season losses too.   The maddening thing is:  the Seahawks have the talent to beat anyone.  It’s not like we’re talking about the Browns, or even the Lions for that matter.  There are still healthy Pro Bowlers and All Pros up and down this lineup.  Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Jimmy Graham, Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Jon Ryan.  Studs, one and all!  I’m not a connoisseur of the Atlanta Falcons’ roster, but I’d wager we have more great players than they do, at more key positions.

But, for some reason, we come out flat in games EXACTLY like this one.  Wilson comes out misfiring.  The O-Line gets overwhelmed.  The running game can’t get going.  Jermaine Kearse gets called for pass interference.  Steven Hauschka misses a field goal.  The D-Line fails to get home.  The middle of the field get shredded.  The linebackers who seemingly show up each and every game are conspicuously absent.  We go down double-digits, try to recover, go down even further, and go into halftime trying to talk ourselves into a comeback while actively despising this team and wishing it didn’t ALWAYS have to be the Cardiac Kids in the 4th quarter.

Just because the Seahawks CAN beat everyone gives us a false sense of security that they WILL beat everyone.  And when they don’t, it’s always the fucking same.  Yet, for some reason, it catches us off guard and it feels like the first time all over again.

Well, not THIS time!  You’re not suckering me into believing.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still be watching, and I’ll still be rooting like crazy.  But, if being a “real fan” means you have to blindly believe they’re going to win every single game, then I’m sorry, but you’ve come to the wrong guy.

Best case scenario, I hope the Seahawks can get the ball back, down one score, with two minutes left.  I suppose you can’t ask for much more than that.  I just hope we succeed in getting that score, and I hope we don’t leave too much time on the clock.

Seahawks Look Like Their Old Selves In Beating The Lions

Well, that was something, huh?

That game was about as Seahawky as it gets.  No score in the first quarter, a slow build through the next two quarters, still a one-score game in the fourth quarter, until the Seahawks pour it on and win by 20, 26-6.

Just when I thought the offensive line would never be able to get its collective shit together, they put up their single best game of the 2016 season.  Quite frankly, this is what we’ve been waiting for all year, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.  Well, except for maybe in this next game against Atlanta.  Or the game after that, should we be so fortunate as to somehow get past the Falcons.  Or, you know, the Super Bowl.  But, considering this game was do-or-die in itself, I guess I’ll take it.

It turns out I put too much ado into the Lions for the nothing we saw in that game.  The Matthew Stafford finger injury on his throwing hand proved to be one of the primary reasons why they never got anything going.  His throws were off target all day, and the ones that weren’t were dropped by his collective of what has to be the most maddening receivers in the NFL.  Pile on top of that the fact that they had to start two rookies in place of injured offensive line starters, and the fact that they haven’t had a running game since Barry Sanders retired, and I suppose I was worried about them for nothing.

I came into this post thinking we just saw Thomas Rawls’ career-best game, but I forgot he had some really dynamic performances in his rookie season before the injury.  Nevertheless, this was easily his best game of the 2016 season, and also the best-ever rushing performance by a Seahawks player in the playoffs, surpassing Marshawn Lynch’s game against Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game.  It was a nice reminder that Thomas Rawls has elite talent, but he just can’t stay healthy.

As a quick aside, it’ll be interesting to see what the Seahawks do with the running game for 2017.  This is probably a subject for another time, but between Rawls and Prosise, you’ve got two very different types of backs, with two glaring similarities:  they’re game-changers, and they can’t stay on the field.  It seemed like a no-brainer that the Seahawks would look to the draft – and maybe very high in the draft – to bolster that position, but with the very clear step forward in his progress, I wonder if Alex Collins’ power running puts some of that to bed.  For the Seahawks, you probably can’t have enough game-changing talent at the position, so they might very well make a first rounder or a second rounder their next running back project regardless.  But, I do wonder …

While I think the co-players of the game have to be Rawls and the O-Line (particularly Glowinski and Britt, who were called out all night during the telecast for their improved play), the guy everyone’s talking about is Paul Richardson.  What a coming out party!  He’s had big plays before, but they’ve been few and far between.  In this game, he had 3 catches for 48 yards, but each one seemed to be more difficult than the last!  Jumping over, around, and through defenders; getting interfered with on at least two of them (with the third going uncalled); you’d have to say most receivers need two arms to play the position, but I’m beginning to wonder about P-Rich.  What some are calling the Catch of the Year will go down as at least the most entertaining catch of the year.  4th and goal, Wilson lobbed it to the corner of the endzone but left it mighty short, causing P-Rich to adjust, causing the defender to interfere with him, which led to P-Rich inadvertently(?) grabbing the defender’s facemask and twisting it (uncalled), while he corralled the ball with his left hand for the game’s first touchdown.  Outstanding!  I don’t know if it’ll show up on any Year-End highlight reels by the NFL – considering it showed in equal measures one man’s athleticism and the league’s major problem with officiating – but it’ll go down as one of the most impressive catches by a Seahawk in the history of the franchise for sure!

The actual best receiver on the field was Doug Baldwin, though.  He pulled in a NASTY 42-yard catch near the sideline, which was one of his 11 receptions for 104 yards.  He was so good, he even caught a touchdown that was going to Jermaine Kearse near the end of the fourth quarter!  While I’ll always lament the team choosing Harvin over Tate, if that move means we were eventually able to make Doug Baldwin our #1 receiver, I’ll gladly take it, because he’s the best over ALL of those guys!

Defensively, it was another fantastic group effort.  Bobby Wagner led the team in tackles (again).  I don’t think Richard Sherman was targeted all game.  DeShawn Shead was real damn sticky all day.  Cliff Avril ended up with 2 sacks against his former team; Michael Bennett had 1.  We held them to 49 rushing yards on 15 carries, and we held Stafford to 205 yards passing.  And, even though he didn’t appear to show up on the stat sheet, I’d like to call out Frank Clark for being a force to be reckoned with along the line.  He’s not quite there yet, but he’s growing into one of the best pass rushers on this team, and I don’t think it’s crazy to say that he just might be this team’s very best as soon as next season.  Year 3 for Frank Clark:  WATCH OUT!

In the end, it amounts to the Seahawks moving on, to a matchup with the Falcons next Saturday.  And we get to obsess about the Seahawks for another week, which is always fun!

Reasons To Be Optimistic About The Seahawks

My last Seahawks post wasn’t a joke, I really don’t have much confidence in the Seahawks doing much of anything in these playoffs.  My brother and I already have a Pizza Party bet going.  He says the Seahawks will beat the Falcons (i.e. implying that the Seahawks will get there by beating the Lions this weekend) and I say they absolutely will not.  So, as I told him before, it’ll either be the sweetest pizza I’ve ever eaten (if I’m wrong and we beat them) or the easiest free pizza I’ve ever won (when I’m right and we lose tomorrow or next Saturday).

But, as Seattle sports fans, we’re nothing if not dreamers.  All you gotta do is get in the post-season tournament, then anything can happen.  Hell, Joe Flacco won a Super Bowl in 2012 (after closing out the regular season on a 1-4 streak), while throwing 11 touchdowns and 0 interceptions in his 4 playoff games!  If that doesn’t scream “on any given Sunday”, I don’t know what does.

There are plenty of reasons to be down about the Seahawks right now.  Earl Thomas is out and our pass defense has collapsed as a result.  Tyler Lockett is out and we’re reduced to signing Devin Hester off the scrap heap (which, I suppose, beats having Richard Sherman back there and risking him to injury; but Hester also fumbled a bunch earlier this year, which is why he was free to sign with us in the first place; he’s also 34 years old).  And we’ve absolutely run out of time on this offensive line.  There are no more practice games where we can say, “Maybe they’ll pull it together and gel for the stretch run.”  We’re fucking IN the stretch run!  And they haven’t gelled for shit!  Remember last year, when our O-Line really DID gel in the second half of the season (or, at least, we thought they did)?  Remember what happened in the first half of that Carolina playoff game, where their D-Line was in our backfield so often it felt like it was Week 1 against the Rams all over again?  Well, the Lions nor the Falcons are on par with what the Panthers had going last year, but with how much worse the Seahawks are this year, they might as well be the fucking ’85 Bears.

But … I’m supposed to be optimistic here.  Reasons for optimism.  Think think think.

Well, truth be told, the Lions are probably the best possible draw in the NFC.  We don’t have the luxury of being in the AFC with half the teams missing their starting quarterbacks, so we’ll take what we can get.  The problem is, if the Lions are the 6th team out of 6 in the NFC, the Seahawks are probably 5th.  One could argue there’s some low-level blogger in Detroit writing about his Lions right now, thrilled (relatively speaking) that they caught a break and only have to play the very-beatable Seahawks this week, as opposed to Green Bay or the Giants.

Also on the plus side is that, while it’s no BYE week, we still get the game at home.  We’re 7-1 at home this season, and while we’ve been far from dominant, we’ve at least played better here than on the road.  It’s a night game, on a Saturday, so I’m sure the crowd will be in a drunken lather.  In an ideal scenario, the Seahawks will come out on fire and take a double-digit lead, thereby allowing our pass rush to tee off.  In the likeliest real world scenario, Matthew Stafford will dink and dunk us to death, taking out the crowd but good.

If you want to get down to it, the biggest reason for optimism is the fact that we have Russell Wilson and his two best receiving targets in Baldwin and Graham.  Between the two of them, you’d think we’d be able to get at least one of them going!  Also, by the looks of the 49ers game, it looked like Wilson was more aggressive in the zone read, pulling the ball and running with it.  Considering our O-Line can’t open up any holes for our running backs, we might need about 80 yards or so on the ground from our quarterback.

We’re not going to keep the Lions off the scoreboard, so it’s going to come down to our offense probably winning in some sort of a shootout.  The Lions’ defense doesn’t strike me as all that impressive; they seemed to beat up on the crappy teams (holding the Titans, Bears, Redskins, Vikings, Jags, Vikings, Saints, Bears, and Giants under 20 points; I suppose that performance against the Giants is somewhat impressive, but Eli is still Eli), but they’ve been gashed pretty good by the likes of the Packers twice, the Cowboys, the Colts (all over 30 points) and even the Rams (28 points).  I’d say 30 is the magic number.  I have a tough time seeing the Seahawks losing this game if we can put up 30 or more.

Going forward, if you want reasons for optimism in these playoffs, here’s a juicy one:  the Seahawks will either be playing at home or in a covered (domed) stadium from here on out.  Yeah, I know the Falcons and Cowboys are really good, but if we end up playing both of them on the road, at least there won’t be any field conditions to worry about.  At least if we’re ever faced with any sort of bitter coldness, it’ll be in front of our home fans (should either the Giants or Packers go into Dallas and beat them, which is entirely possible, while we go into Atlanta and win, which … could theoretically happen I suppose).

I would also say, regarding the remaining four NFC teams (Falcons, Cowboys, Giants, Packers), that none of them are really dominant on defense.  Each team has a player here and there you have to worry about.  But, nothing like the Vikings or Panthers were able to throw at us last year, or even the Cardinals or Bucs this year (at least, when you talk about D-Lines).

What the Seahawks need to do, if they expect to make another run at the championship, is have the offense put on its big boy pants and get to work.  For too long, they’ve leaned on the defense like a crutch.  Well, now the defense is struggling.  It’s banged up and thin.  So, now it’s time for the offense to finally pick up the defense.

I’ve been saying for years that I think Russell Wilson is an elite quarterback, and if you give him a chance to carry this team, he’ll prove he’s just as good as the likes of Brady, Brees, and Roethlisberger.  Well, I don’t see a running game anywhere, do you?  This is it!  The time is now!  Russell Wilson is all we’ve got!  And, to be quite honest, he hasn’t been good enough.  After last season’s breathtaking second half blitzkrieg, we all thought that the switch had been flipped and we’d be witnessing a Top 3 quarterback in the prime of his life.  While he’s managed career highs in completions, attempts, and total yards, his completion percentage is down from last year, his average yards per pass attempt is among the lowest of his career, and he’s thrown 13 fewer touchdowns than his career high last year!  While surpassing his career high in interceptions thrown.  Suffice it to say, he’s seen career lows in both QBR and passer rating.  I know he had those nasty knee and ankle injuries earlier in the season, and we were lucky to even get him in all 16 regular season games, let alone starting them all and playing the lion’s share of snaps.  But, he’s had some of his very worst games in the second half of this season – ostensibly when he was feeling as good as he had since before the injuries – and he’s consistently been missing receivers and turning the ball over too much to be effective.

I would never want my quarterback to be more like Joe Flacco – because he’s terrible – but if the Seahawks are going to do anything this year, they’re going to need Russell Wilson to channel some of that Joe Flacco 2012 post-season magic.  It’s the only way.