Seahawks Barely Get By Deshaun Watson & The Texans

This was a game you’ll love if you’re a fan of numbers.  Specifically offensive numbers, as we had oodles.  Russell Wilson:  452 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT, 30 rushing yards.  Deshaun Watson:  402 yards, 4 TDs, 3 INTs, 67 rushing yards.  DeAndre Hopkins:  11 catches, 224 yards, 1 TD.  Will Fuller:  5 catches, 125 yards, 2 TDs.  Tyler Lockett:  6 catches, 121 yards.  Paul Richardson:  6 catches, 105 yards, 2 TDs.  Jimmy Graham:  4 catches, 39 yards, 2 TDs.  Hell, even Lamar Miller had 54 rushing yards, 19 receiving yards, and 2 combined TDs.  Offense.  For.  Days.

But, it was pretty slim pickin’s as far as defense is concerned.  Earl Thomas came back with a pick-six after giving up a long opening-drive touchdown bomb.  Richard Sherman had a couple interceptions after being challenged with impunity all game.  Jadeveon Clowney was a beast, both in pass rush and particularly in the run game.  The Seahawks had 5 sacks and 9 tackles for loss, including big games for Bennett, Clark, Wright, and Wagner.  Even Dwight Freeney got in on the action with half a sack.

All of those things were great, but you don’t come out of a 41-38 game and heap praise on the defense.  And, I gotta tell ya, while it was a refreshing change of pace to see the Seahawks go out there and sling the ball up and down the field, I think I still prefer it when our defense is the best group on the field.  There’s something about both teams scoring on 13 possessions out of 26 (not counting end-of-half kneeldowns) that’s a little overwhelming.

What I did like was the fact that no team was ever up by more than 7 points.  That’s pretty rare, considering how much scoring took place.  I mean, the Over damn near hit before halftime!  When there’s a game like this, it usually involves the Seahawks looking like crap for the first half, then scrambling to come back by multiple scores to win by some miracle at the end.  This one was just a slugfest; two insane offenses throwing haymakers back and forth.

In a game like this, you can take it one of two ways:  you can breathe a sigh of relief and live with your heads in the clouds over how the offense moved the ball.  Just throw out the books and appreciate this one for what it was:  probably the most exciting game (from start to finish) in the NFL this season (perhaps narrowly edging that Chiefs/Raiders Thursday Night game a couple weeks back, but I don’t want to succumb to recency bias).  Or, if you’re like me, maybe you can’t help but see some of the warts.

I’m willing to more or less overlook the L.O.B.’s lack of dominance in this one, because let’s face it:  they’ve pulled this offense’s ass out of the fire on PLENTY of occasions.  Every once in a while, they deserve to have a bad game and somehow the team still finds a way to win.

I thought, for the most part, the run defense looked pretty good, aside from some key breakdowns in contain when it comes to Deshaun Watson.  I mean, where was the spy?  Isn’t this game tailor-made for Bobby Wagner to have eyes on Watson all game?  What you absolutely can’t have happen is the line getting sucked over to one side, with 20 yards of open field for Watson to punish us.

More than anything, you can say the Seahawks’ defense – while mediocre as a whole – made just enough big plays when it mattered most.  The aforementioned Earl Thomas interception returned for a touchdown.  The Sherman interception that led directly to a field goal that gave the Seahawks their first lead of the game at 27-24.  The sacks and D-Line pressure that led to the Texans’ five punts on the day.  And, the biggest play of the day that no one is talking about:

With just under 3 minutes to go in the game, and the Texans up 38-34, the Seahawks were driving.  Russell Wilson just scrambled for 21 yards that had me literally exclaim, “Wow, how did he do that?!”  He stepped up in the pocket and ran through a nexus of three Texans who all converged on a single spot, and instead of getting his block knocked off, he somehow caused all three of them to hit one another as he scampered to the 20 yard line.  At that point, it was without question that the Seahawks would re-take the lead, and the only question that would remain would be:  did we leave the Texans too much time on the clock?  Except, instead, Wilson treated everyone to his single worst throw of the game, an out-route that was easily picked off, as if he had intended to throw it to the defender.

(which, I mean, let’s not rule this out.  You know as well as I do that Russell Wilson is a wizard.  He just is.  He’s magic, and we’re all fortunate to be graced with his presence.  So, hear me out on this:  what if he could see into the future, realize we were in the process of scoring too quickly, and had we done so, Deshaun Watson would be the one everyone is lauding for his last-minute game-winning efforts?  I submit this as my argument that he MEANT to throw that interception, knowing we’d get the ball back, and ultimately score with too little time left on the clock for the Texans to do anything about it)

But, I digress.  Getting back to the biggest play of the day that no one is talking about:

The Texans took over with just under three minutes left in the game.  They ran the ball for 4 yards on first down, the Seahawks opted to save their time out.  They ran the ball for 8 yards on second down, and we hit the two-minute warning with a fresh set of downs.  After the break, the Texans ran again for 1 yard, time out.  THEN, we get to the play of the game:  second down, hand off to Miller again, this time for 5 yards.  But, if you look at it, the Texans had that thing blocked to go for double-digit yards or more.  Things just opened up like you wouldn’t believe, and if it weren’t for Michael Bennett diving in there and slapping at his foot to get him to fall down, the Texans would’ve ended the game right there.  Go back and look at it!  If you can find it, that is, because like I said, hardly anyone is talking about it, and yet the only reason the Seahawks had a chance at the end is because Michael Bennett saved the day.

Now, I’ll also say I agree with the majority of America today:  Bill O’Brien should’ve put the ball in Watson’s hands on at least the third down play.  I can see it both ways:  with the run, you take away Seattle’s final time out, and as I just discussed, there’s a decent chance of converting a 3rd & 4 with the way things were going as recently as that very drive.  But, on the other hand, Watson was a juggernaut yesterday.  You could’ve run with him, you could’ve had him drop back and pass, you could’ve done a run-pass option, you could’ve done one of those fucking plays where he fakes it to three other guys before hitting a fourth option (that our defense somehow could NOT figure out, at any point in this game).  Instead, in hindsight, it feels pretty weak to just run it back up the middle again for the fifth straight play.  The Seahawks stopped it for a 2-yard gain and the rest was history.

I suppose more of my consternation with this game comes from the fact that the Seahawks’ run game was abysmal.  I mean, just the worst I’ve ever seen, and I’ve lived through full seasons of Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett!

Part of this absolutely has to do with Chris Carson going down with injury, because God fucking dammit would he come in handy right about now!  Why do all of our best running backs have to be fucking injured all the God damn time?  Him and Prosise this year, Rawls and Prosise last year, Rawls the year before.  I mean, shit!

Part of this has to do with Eddie Lacy, because he’s effectively useless.  I’d been willing to give him time to grow with this offense up until this game, because he’s a volume rusher, and gets better the more you feed him (ironically enough).  But, 6 carries for 0 yards?  No.  No thank you.  Go home, eat your China food, and waste some other team’s time.  You’ll never for ONE SECOND get me to believe the guys on the active roster are better than Mike Davis, who is LANGUISHING on the practice squad right now.

Which gets me to my next gripe:  Darrell Bevell.  Not Darrell Bevell the play-caller, mind you.  I know that’s what everyone gets on him about, but again, I thought he called a pretty great game, all things considered.  He gave the running game everything he had, but it clearly wasn’t working and he gave it up for the most part in the second half.  What I’ve got a problem with is Darrell Bevell the offensive coordinator.  And, by that I mean, the way he designs his offense, and how he uses the players he’s got.

It took him FUCKING FOREVER before he put Jimmy Graham out wide near the goalline this season.  Why is that?  Because he doesn’t want to tip off his play-calling.  It’s why he lines Graham up inside on run plays, when Graham is the worst blocking tight end in the universe.  You can’t just have Graham out there on passing plays, because then defenses will expect that.  SO FUCKING WHAT?  Here’s a newsflash, you fucking moron:  what you’re doing now – by “out-thinking” the defense – ISN’T FUCKING WORKING!  Rushing plays with Graham on the field get blown up CONSTANTLY!

Same goes for Thomas Rawls, out there on third downs.  Why would you do this when you’ve got a talent like J.D. McKissic?  Oh, because if McKissic is out there, the defense will know you’re passing?  WHO CARES?  It beats throwing to a fucking stone-hands, who drops carefully-lobbed balls in the endzone!

I come from the school that says, “Put my best 11 guys up against your best 11 guys and let the chips fall where they may.”  Because, more often than not during the Pete Carroll/John Schneider Era, the Seahawks have had the most talent in the NFL.  That’s just a fact.  And, you know what?  It used to be enough for this team.  The Seahawks used to be a team (albeit, with Beastmode in the backfield, which obviously has to account for a lot) that would run the ball when the opposing team had 8-9 guys in the box, and we’d STILL get a productive gain on the play!  Because our 11 guys were better than their 11 guys, and we’d make them pay for their inferiority.

But, nowadays?  The Seahawks have lost their sack.  They’re trying to get cute, which leads to throws to Rawls, runs towards Graham’s side, long bombs to McEvoy, and fullbacks streaking free up the middle for 66-yard gains.  Which, obviously, when it works – like the throw to Madden, and the 53-yard bomb to McEvoy – you look like a genius.  But, more often than not, those plays haven’t been working this season, and you just look like an asshole who’s trying to get a head coaching job somewhere else.  Which, GREAT, DO IT, GET OUT OF HERE!  But, of course, the NFL sees right through that, so we’ll be stuck with Bevell here for as long as Pete Carroll remains head coach.  It’s our burden, but one I’m willing to live with.  Still doesn’t mean I’m not going to bitch about it.

Thankfully, the receivers were there to pick up the slack.  Doug Baldwin was mostly quiet, which is shocking.  But, we had 100-yard games from Lockett and Richardson, who both had a bevy of long bombs they went up and snagged.  P-Rich in particular looks like the Golden Tate we’ve been lacking since we let him walk to Detroit.  See, the Seahawks don’t necessarily need a guy who’s 6’5; we just need a guy like Richardson who’s 6’0, but can jump like a freak of nature.  Thankfully, he’s been able to stay healthy, because he sure looks like a stud this season.

Let’s finish with some quick hitters.

The Seahawks took over their final drive on their own 20 yard line, and Russell Wilson immediately uncorked a dagger.  Honestly, I don’t know how Ifedi got away without a holding flag, and I’ll admit, I half-expected another flag on P-Rich for offensive-PI (replays showed that to be a clean catch, but I’ve seen flags for less contact than that).

I hope Earl Thomas’ hamstring injury isn’t too serious.  At the same time, I was relieved that Steven Terrell wasn’t back there to get torched in the game’s closing moments.

I thought the Special Teams got short shrift for having a pretty great game.  The Texans didn’t get much of anything on their returns, Jon Ryan made some clutch punts off of some poor snaps, and Blair Walsh was a silent assassin.  He made his two field goals (both pretty short range), and all 5 of his extra points, which ended up being huge, particularly the last two that gave us 3-point leads, as a Houston field goal in response would’ve only tied the game instead of given them the lead.  The NFL’s objective with the longer extra points was to make them more exciting, and while I hate them with a passion and wish like Hell that they’d move them back to the 2-yard line, I have to admit they’re maddeningly interesting, particularly in games like this.

Finally, I’d like to shout out the offensive line.  Not so much for the running game, in which their blocking was predictably awful; but in pass protection, they were okay!

I know, the narrative now and forever is that the pass-protection was, is, and always will be dreadful.  But, I mean, if it was really THE WORST as everyone (particularly the national media) claims it to be, could Wilson have thrown for a franchise-record 452 yards?  Obviously, while it wasn’t the best, and a stick figure quarterback like Jay Cutler or Eli Manning would be lunch meat behind this kind of line, it was Good Enough.  Hawkblogger’s Sunday night tweets go into it in a lot of detail, so check out his Twitter.  Essentially, the Seahawks were middle-of-the-road, from a leaguewide perspective, when it comes to pass protection, and God bless ’em, that’s all Russell Wilson needs!  Hell, that’s all any of us have been clamoring for since Wilson busted out onto the scene!  We don’t need a Top 5 unit to put up a ton of points, just give us a Top 15-20 unit and watch us go to work!  And, yesterday, the O-Line (again, from strictly a pass-protection perspective), played like just that.  They gave Wilson time to throw, and when they didn’t, they at least opened up lanes for him to scramble around until he could find someone down field.  That’s our game!

What’s frustrating is when there’s a guy in his face on the third step of his 3-step drop.  I’m sure the Texans’ defensive numbers will show a lot of good pressures on Wilson, but those are the types of pressures we can all live with.  And, in the end, it all added up to Wilson’s best day as a pro.

Of course, we’ll never REALLY know how much of that was due to his wizardry, but that’s the beauty of magic:  it’s more fun when you DON’T know the magician’s secrets.

The Seahawks Won While I Was In Hawaii

While I was by no means cut off from the outside world during my week in Hawaii, my GiveAFuck levels were pretty depleted as far as maintaining this blog is concerned.  And, as I return to normality this upcoming Monday, with various BYE weeks happening, and what I’m anticipating to be a fuckload of work waiting for me at the office, posting might be a little light this month.  I hope to settle into more of a regular writing routine for November and beyond, but for now the quality might be a little ragged.

Shockingly, the Rams/Seahawks game wasn’t televised in Hawaii when I was there.  Since they don’t have a team, they generally get slotted with whatever the national audience gets, and FOX saw fit to go with Packers/Cowboys (I can’t imagine why).  Even though Rams/Seahawks was televised on CBS, the Hawaii affiliate opted to televise infomercials instead of trying to compete against the juggernaut that would be Aaron Rodgers vs. America’s Team.  I mean, what was this, WWII France???

Anyway, I could’ve gotten dropped off at a sports bar, but this was Rams/Seahawks, not the moon landing.  It’s the Athletics/Mariners of football games; we’ve seen it a million times and it’s never satisfying.  I could live with myself not seeing this game.

And, as it turned out, I really didn’t miss much.  The Seahawks threw two picks (one by Tanner McEvoy on a botched gadget play), Jared Goff threw two more, and the Rams tacked on three more fumbles to give the game away.  The Seahawks couldn’t run for shit, Russell Wilson did NOT play one of his better games, and in the end it came down to a few key factors.

For one, Blair Walsh made all three of his field goals (35, 48, & 49), while Greg Zuerlein missed 1 of 2.  Had he been perfect, the Rams likely would’ve been down only 3 points instead of 6 in that final drive (though it’s impossible to know for certain how the rest of the game would’ve changed had he made that miss), which means they could’ve easily forced overtime.  And the other factor is that Cooper Kupp drop in the endzone that would’ve put them in position to win the game in heartbreaking fashion.  Yes, Goff rushed the throw, possibly due to our pass rush, but that was still a catchable ball, and one that Kupp gave away.

Of course, it’s not all his fault.  Earl Thomas had that Hall of Fame play, punching the ball out of Gurley’s hand before he got into the endzone, forcing a touchback as the ball hit the pylon.  I still think it’s a miracle that the refs overturned what was originally ruled a touchdown, as they seem to give every opportunity to at least have the call “stand”.  Earl also had a late INT on a poorly thrown ball to seemingly put the game away, before our inept offense gave it right back to the Rams.  Granted, Sheldon Richardson was in the right place at the right time for a fumble recovery that led to the field goal that gave us a 6-point lead, but had we gotten just a couple first downs at any point late in the game, it would’ve ended it for good right then and there.

All that matters is we got the win.  We’re 3-2, as are the Rams, but we hold the tiebreaker over them for now.  We’re 2-0 in the division, we’re on a BYE this week, then we go to New York to face the hapless Giants.  Let’s just sit and enjoy it for a while.

My Angry Fucking Seahawks/49ers Review

There’s a lot to dig into with this game, so I’m gonna split it up into two posts.  Look for My Happy Fucking Seahawks/49ers Review a little later.  Spoiler Alert:  it should be a lot shorter than this one.

The Seahawks played like dogshit yesterday.  There’s no other way to describe it.  Even when the offense was going good, there’d be a drop, or a breakdown in protection, or a lack of pocket awareness by Russell Wilson, or a baffling string of play calls, and all that good would be derailed.  And yeah, the defense held Brian Hoyer to 99 yards passing, but they gave up a whopping 124 yards rushing to Carlos Hyde, on only 15 carries!  On the day, the 49ers rushed for an average of 8.4 yards per carry!  If you put even a SEMI-competent quarterback on that team, the Seahawks would’ve lost handily.

Let me repeat that:  the Seahawks – AT HOME – nearly lost to the 49ers, a team coming off of a 2-14 season, with a new coaching staff, a rookie GM straight out of the broadcast booth, and a backup quarterback masquerading as a starting quarterback until they can draft somebody better in 2018.  Now, granted, I like Kyle Shanahan a lot.  I think he completely transformed the Falcons into a dominant force last season, and I think he’s got a lot of great things in store as a head coach.  I also like what they were able to do with their draft this year, and could see John Lynch really working out if they can manage to find their quarterback of the future (either via the draft, or via signing Kirk Cousins to a megadeal).  But, come on!  At this point, the 49ers shouldn’t pose a threat!  They CERTAINLY shouldn’t find themselves ahead 9-6 in the fourth quarter in the driving rain of Seattle, Washington!

Look, there was never a point where I was looking forward to this game last week.  It’s almost one of those proverbial “no-win” situations.  If you kill the 49ers, then great, you’ve killed the 49ers and it’s a boring game.  If you LOSE to the 49ers, then that’s it, the season’s over and we can all kill ourselves.  But … this?  Scratching and clawing to a 12-9 victory at home?  That’s almost as bad as a loss.  Now, obviously, it’s not worse.  A win is still a win and they all count the same, regardless of how pretty they are, but with the win everyone gets to gloss over the fact that the Seahawks looked terrible and in no way look like a viable playoff team going forward.

You know what I thought of when I was watching this team?  The Houston Texans.  The Texans are notorious for their 9-10 win seasons where – by virtue of the terrible division they reside in – they frequently make the playoffs as a 4-seed, before getting bounced in the first round whenever they don’t play the Bengals.  Yeah, it’s cool having an awesome defense, and it’s cool to call yourselves “Division Winners”, but how cool is it to lose every time you play a quality team?

And that’s the bottom line here.  The last two years, against the Best of the Best, the Seahawks have a record of 4-7.  When you go back to our two Super Bowl years, sure the Seahawks would drop a clunker every now and then, but they also seemed to get up for the big ones!  If they’re going to spend all their time just beating up on the bad teams and losing the games that really matter, they might as well call themselves the Mariners and get it over with!

But, if they keep playing offense the way they have through two weeks, I don’t think “beating up on the bad teams” is even on the table.

I’m going to start with Jimmy Graham, because this guy is the fucking worst.  Oh yes, I’ve found my new whipping boy!

Look, we all knew Graham was soft.  He was a big puffy cloud of cotton candy in New Orleans, and he didn’t suddenly get hard because he joined the Seahawks.  We KNEW this!  We knew this when we played against him:  if you hit Jimmy Graham in the mouth, he will become a non-factor for the rest of the game.  I don’t mean that literally, of course, but if I had all the time in the world, I’d love to do a deep dive into his career and watch all of his video.  What are his numbers when he takes a huge hit in the first quarter of a game?  Because it seems just from watching him that he shrivels up like a dick in the Arctic Ocean.  Gutless.  Weak.  A punk.  And probably worst of all:  a frontrunner.  When things come easy to him, when defenses play off-coverage, when he’s able to nab a few balls and get into the flow of the offense, Jimmy Graham will pile on the catches and yards and really look like a dominant force.  But, when the chips are down and you need a big catch in the fourth quarter of a game, where is he?  Nowhere to be fucking found.

And I’m not buying this argument that the Seahawks don’t use him right.  Fuck that.  If you’re a tight end, you have to do ALL the things tight ends do.  If you want to be a wide receiver, then tell your team that ahead of time.  But, I’ll tell you what, I don’t know a lot of teams that want a slow wide receiver on the outside with bad hands.  Sure, it’s fine when you throw fades to him in the red zone, when he can contort his body and only has to contend with one defender.  But, that’s not realistic.  He NEEDS to be able to make catches in the middle, in traffic, absorb the hits, and most importantly COME DOWN WITH THE FUCKING FOOTBALL!

The Seahawks use him just fine.  They throw to him probably MORE than he deserves.  And what has HE done to deserve the benefit of the doubt?  There’s got to be a give and take here.  Quite frankly, I no longer think it’s a coincidence that this team looked VASTLY improved in the second half of 2015 when he was OUT of the lineup.  You know what, throw all your bullshit stats at me; I’ll throw “Scoreboard” back at you.  How has this offense looked throughout 2016 and through the first two games this year?  How did this offense look in those few games in 2014 when they tried to revolve the offense around Percy Harvin.  Prima donnas don’t fucking WORK in this offense!  At this point, I’d take 8 Jermaine Kearses over an offense that tries to make Jimmy Fucking Graham its centerpiece.

So, what do you do?  I mean, you can’t cut him, but I think you can demote the shit out of him.  I think you can make Luke Willson the starter.  I think you can keep Graham on the bench outside of clear-cut passing situations.  I don’t need him fumbling blocks and being a waste of space on all running plays.  On any straight hand off to the running back, it’s already 10 vs. 11 because the quarterback is a non-factor; but, with Graham on the field, it’s like 9 vs. 11, and that’s why this team time and time again fails to move the ball on the ground.  I agree, you CAN’T call Jimmy Graham your starting tight end, but only play him in passing situations; so stop starting him.

And, when he’s out there in passing downs, keep throwing him into heavy coverage.  Either he’ll adapt to the harder hits and start catching these fucking passes, or he’ll get himself injured, and you can just cut him and move on.  Yes, I’m ACTIVELY rooting for Jimmy Graham to get injured; better him than someone who can actually help this team win fucking football games!

I would suggest trading him, but that doesn’t seem very realistic either.  Part of me thinks putting him in the AFC would be ideal (my fantasy team would appreciate it if he joined the Patriots, who very much should be trying to trade for him at this point, what with their receiver situation and Gronk’s injury history), but from a strict football standpoint, I think it’d be better for the Seahawks to send him to an NFC rival.  Stick him on the Packers, let them start to depend upon him, and then beat the shit out of him in the playoffs and leave them scrambling to find answers for when he inevitably no-shows.  It’s how we kept beating the Saints; I don’t see why it wouldn’t work again!

And, again, as with Percy Harvin costing us a chance to extend Golden Tate, I wonder if having Jimmy Graham around cost us a chance to keep Jermaine Kearse around for one more year.  I won’t overreact to his 2-TD day with the Jets yesterday, but I will say that I’d straight up trade Graham for Kearse right now.  Regardless, having Kearse around would’ve been nice considering Tanner McEvoy dropped everything thrown in his direction, including a surefire touchdown that would’ve changed the complexion of the entire game.  Between him, Prosise, and the rest, guys were dropping balls left and right!  Prosise particularly, as Russell led him with a pass that would’ve taken him straight into the endzone on our opening drive.  He also dropped a potential third down conversion later in the game that was a crusher.

It really made Russell Wilson’s day look so much worse.  I’m not going to sit here and say he played great – he definitely had his share of poor throws and poor decisions – but it could’ve been a decent, forgettable performance had he not been greeted by so many drops.  Also, let’s not kid ourselves, he’s still running for his fucking life back there, even when the protection is kinda okay.

But, for the most part, it wasn’t okay.  It’s never GOING to be okay.  Mark Glowinski is a disaster, and he needs to not be starting for this team anymore.  I know Oday Aboushi is just a veteran on a 1-year deal, but I refuse to believe he’s worse.  I think the Seahawks see a guy they drafted, a guy under club control for a bit longer, and they want to shoot for continuity over simply just playing the five best linemen, and I get that to a point.  I think we’re in a no-win situation with Luke Joeckel, because if he turns it around and somehow plays well, he’s going to command a mint on the open market.  If he’s terrible, then he’s likely going to find himself back on the street next offseason, playing for another 1-year prove-it deal (only this time as a clear backup).  Either way, it doesn’t seem likely that he’s a longterm solution for the Seattle Seahawks at left guard.  So, to play two of these types of guys – with Aboushi at right guard – and risk losing both to free agency next year if they both play well, is a lot to handle.

But, I mean, how much more of THIS can we withstand?  Sure, there are a couple of underwhelming defensive fronts the next two weeks with the Titans and Colts, but then it’s right back to getting your ass kicked against the likes of the Rams, Giants, Texans, Cardinals, Falcons, 49ers, Eagles, Jags, Rams again, and the Cardinals again.  That’s 10 of your remaining 14 games against really good defensive fronts that should certainly give this Seattle O-Line fits.  RARE is the game we can look forward to this team being in control of the line of scrimmage.  And, I’m sure, even against those terrible fronts, we’ll still struggle, because of course we will.  No name assholes will make mincemeat out of us, and Russell Wilson will have the bumps and bruises to prove it.

And holy shit, what was THAT on defense?  That’s two years in a row where Carlos Hyde has come into our building and come away with a 100-yard game!  We’re supposed to be this elite defense at stopping the run, and we can’t stop a just-sort-of-okay running back?  He almost single-handedly cost us the game with his explosive plays!  They couldn’t do SHIT aside from his long-distance runs!

But, you know, pobody’s nerfect.  The defense has been outstanding these first two weeks, only to be repeatedly let down by this offense.  Really, since 2012, we’ve been sitting around and daydreaming about a time where the offense finally takes over.  We thought, maybe in 2014, the script would flip.  Then, after that dominant run to close out the 2015 season, we thought YES!  2016 is the year!  And here we are, now in 2017, and this offense is more inept than it’s ever been.  The defense is STILL carrying this team.  And somehow, we’re not greeted with weekly rantings by disgruntled stars on that side of the ball.

You know how I know that pre-season Seth Wickersham article is 100% accurate?  Particularly the parts that talk about the defense being upset with this offense costing the Seahawks ballgames?  Because I’m sitting here watching this team fall all over itself in the running game, and in the red zone, and everywhere else, and I know for a fact I’d be going ballistic if I was a member of this elite defense and I knew every single game was on our shoulders.  We all wanted to dismiss Wickersham – myself included – but this is a real problem, and if we blow another shot at a championship with all these stars in the prime of their careers, I think we’re going to see all the bad vibes start to snowball.

My Big Fat Seahawks Preview 2017

It’s insane at work right now, so I’m looking for little pockets of time to write this out and get it done on time before the weekend.  If it feels disjointed, just blame the scapegoat du jour.

I’ve already written a couple of preview-ish things on the 2017 Seahawks.  Back in April, when the schedule came out, I took a preliminary stab at predicting the outcomes.  Now that we’re just days away from the start of the season, I’ll update that with the power of new information!  Then, back in July, I took a look at the roster as we were barrelling toward Training Camp.  I don’t know how much my opinion has changed – from either of those two earlier posts – so if I harp on the same points, forgive me, but I just don’t have the time to re-read all of my blatherings.

I will say this:  whereas before I was cautiously optimistic – believing if everything broke right, it wasn’t hard to imagine this team back in the Super Bowl – now I’m a rock-hard, veiny, throbbing erection of populist Seahawks swaggeration!  I haven’t felt this confident about my team since the start of 2013!  Except, to be honest, I’ll have to walk that back a bit and say I haven’t felt this confident about my team since the start of 2014.  I mean, look, that 2013 team was CRAZY deep and CRAZY talented, up and down the roster.  On top of that, the 2013 team actually had a competent offensive line, whereas this year’s team is still very much in doubt (in spite of recent improved pre-season play, which I’ll get to in a bit).  Frankly, I was still pretty stoked on the Seahawks heading into 2014, and indeed pegged them for a repeat championship, which they had in their grasp one yard from fruition, but it wasn’t as solid a feeling as 2013.

This year is the same, in my mind.  The talent is there, no question.  In fact, in some areas, the talent is vastly improved (at least on paper).  And, the depth is in some ways back to where it was in 2013.  But, the last few years of creeping failure is clouding my enthusiasm JUST enough to have this nagging creature of doubt in the corner of my mind-grapes.  I’m doing my damnedest to give that guy the finger though, because I want to be ALL IN on the ground floor with this Seahawks team.

TL;DR:  WE’RE BACK, BABY!!!

Let’s just take this position by position, to show you how strong this team is, and to show the world how foolish it is to doubt us.

Quarterback – Top 5 in the entire league, fully healthy, in great running shape (the better to compensate for a questionable-to-say-the-least offensive line).

Running Backs – A deep stable of runners of all stars and stripes!  Lacy, the power back.  Prosise, the speed/pass-catching back.  Rawls, the good mix of both.  McKissic, the Prosise insurance.  Carson, the overall back & everyone else insurance.  If you can’t have Marshawn Lynch in his prime, then the next best thing is to stockpile 5 guys who add up to 1 Beastmode.

Wide Receivers – A Top 10 guy in Baldwin.  A burner in Lockett.  Another burner with outstanding ball skills in P-Rich.  A tall red zone threat in McEvoy.  And a rookie project in Darboh.  Not as deep without Kearse in the fold, but if you throw in McKissic and Prosise, you’ve got a lot of versatility in the passing game.

Tight Ends – A Top 3 guy in Graham.  Another tall receiving threat in Willson.  And a young blocking tight end with a good pedigree in Vannett.

Defensive Line – Off-the-charts talent all over the place.  Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril are proven studs.  Sheldon Richardson is the pass-rushing interior force we’ve been looking for since Cortez Kennedy retired.  Frank Clark is an up-and-coming dominant force who should look to take a giant step into the spotlight this season.  Jones and Reed are young interior talents with a lot to prove.  Smith and Bass are young ends with a lot to prove.  This could go down as the best D-Line we’ve ever had in Seattle, and yes even better than that 2013 unit that laid waste to the entire league.

Linebackers – More off-the-charts talent in guys like Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright; guys who can cover all over the place, who are dominant against the run, and who can rush the passer on occasion.  Depth here is vastly improved over the last couple seasons, with proven vets in Wilhoite & Garvin.  Injuries should not be as much of an issue as they would’ve been in years past.

Secondary – The L.O.B. is still here and still as good as ever.  Earl, Kam, and Sherm comprise the best threesome of any secondary in the NFL.  Jeremy Lane is a solid all-around corner, with emphasis on nickel.  Shaq Griffin is the only question mark, but he’s got a good pedigree and should get plenty of safety help in the early going.

Special Teams – Blair Walsh looks like he’s starting to get back on track, but will have to prove it when the games matter.  Either way, he shouldn’t be as bad as Hauschka was last year, particularly on extra points.  Jon Ryan is still going to keep opposing offenses pinned back inside their 20 more often than not, and overall control the return game with his quality punts.  The return game is bolstered with McKissic as insurance for Lockett, should the team opt to bring him back slowly, or otherwise take some of the duties off his plate.  And, coverage units look a lot better with Neiko Thorpe, D.J. Alexander, and our rookie secondary guys.

The only real area of uncertainty is, obviously, the offensive line.  Everywhere else, the Seahawks have elite, top-shelf talent and depth.  So, let’s dig into this.

An argument can easily be made that past seasons’ O-Line groups were made to look better than they actually were because Marshawn Lynch was so money, and I’m hard pressed to go against that line of thinking.  Can any of the runners we have now live up to that and make this group of guys look better than they are?  I think, maybe, in small doses, Lacy can be that type of runner who limits negative rushes and falls forward for impressive gains.  I also think, in between injuries, Rawls can certainly be a Baby Beastmode with his style, but the question with him is how long will those healthy stints last?  Prosise has the speed to get around the edge and through holes before they close, but he’ll have to prove he can stay healthy too.

Indeed, even in the pass-protection portion of the O-Line game, the major concern is health:  can they keep Russell Wilson from getting injured?  Obviously, Wilson can help out his own cause by getting the ball out quickly and eluding pressure before it’s right on top of him; but they’re going to have to drastically reduce the amount of free runners at the quarterback if this thing is going to work.

In a lot of ways, injuries are a matter of luck, and the Seahawks were pretty fucking unlucky last year.  Not 2017 Mariners unlucky, but not too far off either.  What are the odds that Wilson will spend the entire season hobbled again?  In a vacuum, I’d have to say not very good; but with this line I think you have to consider it a coin flip at best.  Luck is one thing, but there are things a team can do to limit the amount of bad luck that comes your way.  Getting improved O-Line play is one of them.

For what it’s worth, I do think this line will be better than last year’s, and I think it’ll be better right from the start.  This is key, as there are a lot of important games early in the season, and we can’t afford to slog through 10 weeks of growing pains before we go on our annual year-end hot streak.

I think Odhiambo, with a year under his belt, will be better than Brad Sowell and 2016 George Fant.  Since Fant, last year, was about as bad as you can get, I’d say that’s a huge upgrade (and Odhiambo doesn’t even have to be GOOD to achieve this level of improvement!).  Now, obviously losing 2017 Fant to injury is about as devastating as it can get, because he really did look like he was going to take a huge step forward in his development, but I’ll take baby steps at this point over what we had last year.

Luke Joeckel looks like a solid upgrade over Glowinski at left guard.  Paired with Britt at center, I think that side of the line will be just fine.

Glowinski slides over to right guard, which appears to be his better side.  He’s been playing somewhat evenly with free agent Oday Aboushi, so it’s good to know at least the right guard spot should be adequate (and probably a step above 2016 Ifedi).

My biggest concern is 2017 Ifedi, having moved back to right tackle (where he played in college and was projected to play in the NFL).  I’ve seen this movie before, but usually it’s a right tackle who gets moved to one of the guard spots, and not the other way around.  The consensus being:  tackle is a harder position to play than guard (which is a harder position to play than center … hi Justin Britt!).  So, the rationale ends up as:  if Ifedi was pretty terrible at right guard last year, what hope is there for him as a right tackle?  Indeed, I don’t have a good answer for you there.  Again, I suppose I’ll bring up the experience angle.  The leap from rookie to second year player, particularly along the O-Line, is pretty pronounced.  You gotta figure he’s at the very least more comfortable in his assignments.  And, at his size, you’ve gotta give him the power advantage over what should be smaller defensive end/linebacker types going up against him (whereas when he was a guard, he was going up against mammoth D-tackles).  His limitations are obviously in the speed game, where his footwork comes into play.  I have very few concerns about Ifedi the run blocker, but I have a SHITLOAD of concerns about him in pass protection, as I think some of the better pass rushers can rope-a-dope the shit out of him.  We’ll see I guess.

Overall, as I said, I have hopes that instead of being the 32nd-rated offensive line, the Seahawks can jump up to the 25th-best.  Even that modest increase could prove to take this offense to as-yet-unseen heights of efficiency and scoring prowess.

Things to watch this season on offense will be:

  • 3rd down efficiency
  • Red zone efficiency
  • Yards per rush

In 2016, it seemed like the Seahawks were more prone to mistakes (penalties, missed blocking assignments) on third down, which is just a ball-buster.  No one is expecting the Seahawks to cut out the penalties entirely (indeed, some of their very best teams were among the most penalized in the league), but they’ve got to do a better job of not holding on long rushing plays, not getting called for offensive PI on pick plays, and not setting themselves back with third & long nonsense.

For the red zone, it’s simple:  find a way to get Jimmy Graham the ball.  Full stop.  He was the man in New Orleans and he had 9 or more TDs in all but one season there.  That needs to happen again, here, this season (and I’m not just saying that because he’s on one of my fantasy teams, but I’m also not NOT just saying that either, I think).

And, look for the Seahawks to get back to their rushing roots.  Beastmode may be gone, but the running backs we have now are more than capable of picking up that slack.  I’d also like to see a moderate return to the zone read, with Wilson pulling the ball back on occasion to keep defenses honest.  Also, not for nothing, but I’d like to see Wilson do this EARLY in games, to put that in other teams’ minds from the get-go.

On defense, watch for:

  • Turnovers
  • Late-game heroics
  • Quarterback pressure, hurries, hits, sacks

To get back to where we were in 2013, we’re going to have to force turnovers.  That goes hand-in-hand with pressuring the quarterback into bad decisions, as well as knocking the ball from his hand for fumbles.  That also goes hand-in-hand with the late game heroics, as we need to prevent those breakdowns we’ve seen in 2015 & 2016, and instead force turnovers to slam the door on those close games.  It’s a team game, and nowhere is that more apparent than the symbiotic relationship that is an NFL defense.

As for this year’s record, I’ll go through the schedule again, briefly.

  • Week 1 – I like the Seahawks to go into Green Bay and shock the world.  It’ll be our official announcement to the rest of the league that the Seahawks are here, they’re for real, and they’re going to stomp all over the lot of you!
  • Week 2 – A comfortable home victory against the young, rebuilding 49ers team.  Maybe not as dominant as we’d like, as they do have some young and talented pieces (particularly on defense), but a win is a win.
  • Week 3 – The Seahawks under Pete Carroll always seem to lose one road game to an AFC opponent that we’re all pretty unfamiliar with (except for last year, randomly, although we almost blew one at home against the Dolphins in week 1).  I think the Titans are really good and I could see the combination of their dominant rushing attack, and efficient passing game (particularly in the red zone) to just nip us for our first loss of the season
  • Week 4 – I like the Seahawks to get back on track at home, in primetime, against a weak Indy team.  With or without Luck, I like the Seahawks to roll.
  • Week 5 – No more losing to the Rams!  Jeff Fisher is dead, and with him so is the Rams’ proclivity of beating us for no good God damned reason.
  • Week 6 – BYE
  • Week 7 – I’m not particularly afraid of the Giants’ running game.  While they’ve got some good receivers, I think we can hold them in check and put enough pressure on Eli into forcing some mistakes.  Their defense is legit, but I like the Seahawks to do just enough in this one and win a close game by 3 in overtime.
  • Week 8 – The Texans come to town and will be sent packing.  I could see this one as a battle of defenses, with the Seahawks pulling away late.  Something in the realm of 16-3 or 16-6.
  • Week 9 – The Redskins come to town and they feel like just the sort of team who should be held in check by us.  Force Kirk Cousins into the worst game of his season, eliminate all threat of a rushing attack, and really take it to their porous defense.
  • Week 10 – Thursday Night in Arizona.  By this time, I wonder if Carson Palmer will even be playing.  Either way, he showed his age in 2016, and I can’t imagine he’ll be in for a fountain of youth situation this year.  No Calais Campbell, no monster in the middle to defend.  I think this is another game where the 12’s will make themselves heard on the road, and the Seahawks take the game comfortably in the fourth quarter.
  • Week 11 – Monday Night in Seattle against the Falcons.  I know the Seahawks took them out in the regular season last year, and I know we’ll be coming off of a Thursday game (and thus have all this extra time to prepare), but I can’t help but be concerned about this one.  I think it’ll be exciting and I think it’ll be close, but I could also see the Falcons just having our number and being able to score in bunches.  Rare home Monday Night loss for the Seahawks here.
  • Week 12 – At San Francisco, again, I think they should be relative push-overs.
  • Week 13 – Home night game against Philly.  I don’t see enough out of their offense to hold a candle to our defense.  Another comfortable, boring win at home at night.
  • Week 14 – I could see the Seahawks getting off to a sloppy start on the road, in a 10am start, in Jacksonville.  But, by the second quarter, the tide should turn and the Seahawks should take this one running away.
  • Week 15 – I SAID NO MORE LOSING TO THE RAMS!!!
  • Week 16 – Here we go!  Christmas Eve in Dallas!  In what could very well be a matchup that decides the NFC’s #1 seed!  I can’t imagine the odds of the Seahawks sweeping the NFC East are very good, but I dunno.  I just got a feeling that the Seahawks are going to sweep this road slate of impossible NFC teams (Packers, Giants, Cowboys).  This one could be another barnburner, with a late turnover keying the Seahawks to victory.
  • Week 17 – At 13-2 headed into the final week, I think the Seahawks rest a lot of guys after a quarter or two and drop the season finale, with the #1 seed all wrapped up.

13-3 is my official prediction.  The Seahawks cruise through the playoffs into the Super Bowl where they await the darlings of the NFL:  the Oakland Raiders.  Everything about that game gets my loins all a-tizzy.  Also, the idea of sticking it to the Raiders brings me tremendous joy.

The Seattle Seahawks, Super Bowl LII Champions!

Okay, that’s all for now.  Let’s get this season in gear!

The 2017 Seahawks Have A Roster

So, last Thursday happened, and everyone rejoiced because the Seahawks got through their final pre-season game mostly unscathed.  Then, Friday happened, and shit started hitting the fan all over the place!

Five trades were made, countless players were shockingly waived, and when the dust settled, it appears the Seahawks are better in the short term and the long term than they were at this time last Thursday.

Let’s run down the trades in brief:

  • Trade with Jets:  Jermaine Kearse & a 2018 Second Round Pick for Sheldon Richardson and a swap of 2018 Seventh Round Picks
  • Trade with Patriots:  a 2018 Seventh Round Pick for Justin Coleman
  • Trade with Patriots:  Cassius Marsh for a 2018 Fifth Round Pick and that Seventh Round Pick we gave them for Coleman
  • Trade with Vikings:  Tramaine Brock for a 2018 Seventh Round Pick
  • Trade with Chiefs:  a 2018 Conditional Seventh Round Pick for Isaiah Battle

Now, let’s discuss these trades in reverse order:

Isaiah Battle is an offensive tackle who has never actually played in an NFL game.  From something I saw on Twitter, if you think back to the third pre-season game, Battle was getting abused on the reg by our defensive linemen.  He’s got the size you want, but at three years into his professional career, you have to wonder if he has the talent.  It looks like the Seahawks could get that draft pick back if they just waive him, but the question remains:  how long of a look do we get at Battle before making that happen?

On Friday, as the Jermaine Kearse rumors were swirling, there were a similar number of Jeremy Lane rumors swirling.  Where there’s smoke, there’s fire this time of year, and usually when it leaks out that a team is shopping someone, that means if they find no takers, they’re just going to cut that player later.  So, as we all prepared to say goodbye to Lane, it turns out Tramaine Brock was getting the ax (and just when I learned how to spell his name without looking it up!).  I guess Brock became expendable when Coleman was brought in.  Coleman is more of a prototypical nickel corner, while Brock has played more on the outside in his career.  With Shaq Griffin more of an outside guy (who will force Lane inside in nickel situations), and with Griffin proving to be competent with lots of upside, Brock was redundant.  It’s too bad, but at least the Seahawks got something for him.

I’m going to lump the two deals with the Pats together.  It essentially boils down to a swap of players (Cassius Marsh for Justin Coleman) with the Seahawks getting an additional fifth round pick as a cherry on top.  Marsh was going to be a free agent after this season.  Coleman will be a restricted free agent in 2018, meaning if the Seahawks like him, odds are they’ll be able to keep him.  Coleman figures to be our dime corner, and probably adds something to special teams.  Marsh, honestly, is what he is.  Every year, we go into the Seahawks’ pre-season hoping that THIS will be the year that Marsh finally makes the big leap forward in his productivity as a rush end, but every year it’s just baby steps (if it’s any steps at all).  He’s better at defending the run than he is getting to the quarterback, and he’s better on special teams than he is at defense.  While that’s nice, it’s not really game-changing, and if you can get a fifth round pick for that, you absolutely do it!  Marsh might end up being a late bloomer, and I wish him all the best (when he’s not playing against the Seahawks), but he won’t be doing his blooming here.

Finally, the big news of the weekend – indeed, of the season so far – is the trade for Sheldon Richardson.  We gave the Jets Jermaine Kearse (I guess they’re desperate for wide receiver help) and a second round pick in compensation.  It’s sad to see Kearse go, and I’ll always think of him fondly for all his huge catches through the years, but if you have a chance to bring in Sheldon Richardson, and you need to clear up some cap space to do it, I’m more than happy to part with Kearse now.

Richardson is a monster.  He can play DT or DE, he can rush the passer from the inside and out, he can stop the run from the inside and out.  He fits seamlessly on this D-Line and could very well prove to be a game-changer for this defense as a whole.  He takes the Seahawks from Contender to Favorite in the NFC.  He makes this defense SO MUCH BETTER it’s insane!  I mean, we’re talking 2013/2014 levels of Seahawks defense.  Shit just got real.

***

There were some interesting, tough cuts made over the weekend as well.  In no particular order, here’s a list of some of the big ones:

  • Ahtyba Rubin
  • Trevone Boykin
  • Kasen Williams
  • Mike Morgan
  • Marcel Reece
  • Pierre Desir
  • Alex Collins
  • Mike Davis
  • Joey Hunt
  • Quinton Jefferson
  • Kenny Lawler
  • David Moore
  • Will Pericak
  • Garrison Smith
  • Tyrone Swoopes
  • Mike Tyson
  • Cyril Grayson

Rubin is obviously a tough one to see go, but he became expendable with Richardson in the fold.  Boykin being let go means that Austin Davis won the backup QB job, which makes sense.  I don’t see why Boykin couldn’t land on the Practice Squad; I can’t imagine another team wanting him.  Morgan and Reece are a couple of vets we could have at any time, I imagine.  The writing was on the wall for Collins and Davis, considering the depth at running back.

But, I’m really just dancing around the obvious here.  The Seahawks didn’t keep Kasen Williams and I’m pretty pissed about it.  If he didn’t win a job on this roster with all that he did this pre-season, then what the fuck more did he have to do?  He made just about every single catch you could’ve asked of him, he balled out on special teams, and with Kearse gone, wouldn’t you want someone intimately familiar with our system to be our fourth receiver?  You know, in case guys like Lockett or P-Rich get injured again like they always do?

And you know who snapped Kasen up?  The Cleveland Browns!  Who just so happen to be at the very tip top of the waiver priority list.  If the player you just gave up goes to the very first team that could claim him, you probably done fucked up.

To a lesser extent, I’m also pissed that the Seahawks let Pierre Desir go, because he was far and away one of the top two cornerbacks on this team this pre-season.  This one is more of a numbers game than anything.  Sherm isn’t going anywhere.  Griffin isn’t going anywhere.  With Brock gone, Lane isn’t going anywhere.  And the Seahawks just traded for Justin Coleman.  This one came down to Desir and Neiko Thorpe, and Thorpe JUST signed a 2-year deal this past offseason.  Thorpe isn’t anywhere NEAR the cornerback that Desir is, but he’s a fundamental member of the Special Teams, and it’s clear the Seahawks have made Special Teams a top priority this season.  So, that’s that I guess.

***

Without further ado, let’s get into the guys we decided to keep.

Quarterback

Russell Wilson
Austin Davis

In this one, it came down to what do you want more:  someone who has real, significant NFL experience?  Or someone who can do the best Russell Wilson impression (minus all the accuracy, decision-making, and smarts)?  Considering, again, I think Boykin can be had for the Practice Squad, I’m perfectly fine with this (either way, this team stinks the minute Wilson goes down with injury).

Running Back

Eddie Lacy
Thomas Rawls
C.J. Prosise
Chris Carson
Tre Madden (FB)

Again, no shockers here.  Madden over Reece is a mini-shocker (just the tips), but when you think about it, when was the last time the Seahawks kept an aging veteran fullback on the roster heading into week 1?  You bring those guys in AFTER week 1 and make sure their contracts aren’t fully guaranteed!

Wide Receiver

Doug Baldwin
Tyler Lockett
Paul Richardson
Tanner McEvoy
Amara Darboh

While I don’t believe McEvoy is QUITE as athletic as Kasen Williams, he’s pretty fucking athletic.  He’s tall and can make a lot of the catches Kasen can make.  He’s also, if we’re being honest, probably better on Special Teams.  As for Darboh, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that the team wanted to keep their third round draft pick, even though we’ve seen this team move on from relatively highly-drafted wide receivers before.  It sounds like the Seahawks really like Darboh.

Running Back/Wide Receiver/Kickoff & Punt Returner

J.D. McKissic

I think the reason why I’m not more blinded by rage at the loss of Kasen Williams is that it facilitated the team keeping McKissic.  He’s technically listed as a running back (having switched to Shaun Alexander’s old number, which I don’t know how I feel about just yet), but he does everything.  Most importantly, he spares Lockett from returning kicks, which is huge considering the injury from which he’s returning.  McKissic isn’t elite at any one spot, but I think he could be highly productive, even in a reserve role.  A+ for this move!

Tight End

Jimmy Graham
Luke Willson
Nick Vannett

Again, no surprises here.

Offensive Line

Rees Odhiambo
Luke Joeckel
Justin Britt
Mark Glowinski
Germain Ifedi
Oday Aboushi
Ethan Pocic
Jordan Roos
Matt Tobin
Isaiah Battle

The starters are set, Aboushi sticks around as veteran depth inside, Pocic is our Jack of All Trades, Roos is our rookie project, and Tobin and Battle are tackle insurance.  I can’t imagine we stay with 10 offensive linemen for very long, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see one or both of those final two guys get the ax at some point.

Defensive Line

Cliff Avril
Michael Bennett
Sheldon Richardson
Jarran Reed
Frank Clark
Nazair Jones
Marcus Smith
David Bass

Along the lines of there being too many O-Linemen, there’s probably one fewer D-Lineman than we’d like.  Reed and Jones are the only natural DTs, but obviously Richardson is going to start there as well and play most every down, so that mitigates things.  It’s cool to see Bass make the team, as he really balled out this pre-season as well.  And, you have to like the versatility Smith brings.

Linebacker

Bobby Wagner
K.J. Wright
Michael Wilhoite
Terence Garvin
D.J. Alexander
Dewey McDonald

Obviously, the top two are our studs and will be on the field every down.  The next two are our depth pieces/SAM ‘backers.  The final two are special teams studs and will hopefully never see meaningful snaps on defense.

Cornerback

Richard Sherman
Jeremy Lane
Shaq Griffin
Justin Coleman
Neiko Thorpe

I talked about these guys up top.  Nice group all around, though I still probably would’ve kept Desir.

Safety

Earl Thomas
Kam Chancellor
Bradley McDougald
Tedric Thompson
Delano Hill

Not much to say here.  McDougald mitigates some of the loss I feel for Desir, as he figures to play quite a bit on defense in 3-safety sets, covering tight ends.  Desir was more of a third outside corner/injury depth; McDougald should actually play and play considerably.  Thompson and Hill, the two rookies, were never going anywhere.

Special Teams

Blair Walsh
Jon Ryan
Tyler Ott

Bingo, bango, bongo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Projecting Where The New Seahawks Fit

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

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

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

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

  • Fant – Glowinski – Britt – Ifedi – Gilliam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which brings us to the defense.

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

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

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

Just picture a line that looks like this:

  • Avril, McDowell, Bennett, Clark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Dumbstruck: Seahawks & Cardinals Somehow Tie

All week, I was on my high horse, talking about how THIS game, on Sunday Night, in front of a national audience, would be the cure for what ails the NFL.  So sure, was I, that this game would be exciting.  And, as always, the gods just LOVE to prove me wrong, so they made this game the most boring, unwatchable disaster that’s ever befallen primetime NFL football.

Unless you love defensive battles, shoddy special teams play, and even shoddier offensive line play.  Then this game was your JAM!

I come away from this game with conflicting emotions.  Half of me believes the Seahawks are the better overall team, with one glaring flaw that prevented us from winning that game outright.  At the same time, the other half of me feels like we had no business even TYING that game, let alone winning, with the way we played on offense.  Tyrann Mathieu had the absolute quote of the night:

Let’s call it what it is.  Their offensive line is not that good.  So, we felt like we could get pressure on them, which we did a bunch of times.

I can’t even be mad at that!  I want to be!  I want nothing more than to replay that game next week and prove him wrong.  But, he’s NOT wrong!  Our offensive line was as inept as I’ve ever seen it, and I’ve seen it go up against the Rams countless times!  They were a gutless, worthless unit who couldn’t even give our quarterback two seconds to throw the ball in a clean pocket.  And if they did, they ultimately found a way to draw a holding penalty to continuously knock us behind the sticks and prevent us from ever converting third downs on a regular basis.

But, it’s all the more reason why I think, overall, the Seahawks are the superior squad.  Their defense had the luxury of going up against five jag-offs and a hobbled Russell Wilson, whereas OUR defense had to go up against a professional unit, probably the best running back in the game today, and one of the best receivers in the history of the league.  Granted, both defenses held the opposing offenses to 6 points, but ours was on the field for over 90 plays and over 45 minutes!

On the flipside, when you give Wilson time to throw the ball, we’ve seen in the very recent past that he’s able to carve up even good defenses.  But, last night, that O-line – particularly the two tackles (Sowell and Gilliam) were fucking turnstiles.  The fact that we didn’t take more than the lone sack is more of a testament to Russell Wilson’s ability to throw the ball away than anything else.  Just fucking pathetic by a pathetic group of individuals.

It wasn’t all on them though.  I’m saving some of my ire at the play calling.  When you see how much pressure the Cards are able to generate even on the 3-step drops, when you see how we’re getting called for a holding penalty on every positive play (because the only way we could POSSIBLY generate a positive play in the first place is if we held first!), and when you see the Seahawks were never down by more than 3 points all game, what in THE FUCK are you doing calling 37 passing plays and only 19 rushes?  Look, I know it’s not like Christine Michael was lighting the world on fire or anything, but neither was David Johnson!  C-Mike averaged 3.3 yards per carry, D-John averaged 3.4.  But, the Cardinals were dedicated to the run, and ran him a whopping 33 times!  Even though he never busted loose for anything over a 14-yard rush, he still kept them in short downs and distances.  And, let’s face it, you’re not going to see nearly as many holding calls on running plays as you will on passing plays where their elite ends can just tee off on us.

Pete Carroll likes to preach how we’re going to be dedicated to the run, and we’re going to be a balanced team, but he’s full of shit this season.  The team has complained this year about how the running game isn’t where we want it, and I agree, but all too many times I’ve seen this team abandon the run.  Sometimes it works, and we’re able to take care of business against the likes of the Jets and Falcons.  But, sometimes we get what we had in the Rams game, or last night.  I mean, it’s fine if you want to hand over the team to Russell Wilson and put it all on his arm, but if you’re going to do that, you’re going to have to start devoting more resources to the O-Line!  And quit bullshitting us about being dedicated to the run when you clearly aren’t.

I’ll also say, to be fair, that there were plenty of flags thrown that I thought were ticky-tack bullshit.  First and foremost would be the offensive pass interference on Jermaine Kearse.  He didn’t do anything worse – or even DIFFERENT – than what the defender was doing.  But, because his arm was extended (even though it afforded him no advantage over his opponent, and it’s something every other wide receiver gets away with on every single passing play) he gets to wear it.  On the one hand, it’s enraging, but on the other hand, this is the difference between someone elite like Richard Sherman (who last week I talked about how he was subtle in his pass interference on Julio Jones, and that’s why he got away with it) and someone average like Kearse (who has, on more than one occasion this year, been called for a similar bogus “push-off”).  Kearse needs to recognize that difference, and stop making his arm fighting look so obvious.

Aside from that, I’ll go back to the holding calls.  I mean, really, the refs were just picking and choosing from infractions that happen on literally every play.  What’s the difference between some of those flags on our O-Line and the countless times Michael Bennett gets held and the flag isn’t thrown?  At some point – particularly in primetime – you’ve got to let the players play, because the viewing public didn’t tune in to watch the referees.

All my kudos this week go to the defense.  Let’s run ’em out and say a little bit on each:

  • Bobby Swagner – 13 tackles, 12 solo tackles, 1 QB hit, and 1 HUGE blocked field goal when he pulled a Kam Chancellor
  • K.J. Wright – 10 solo tackles (including countless times stopping David Johnson in his tracks out in space), 1 tackle for loss, 1 pass defensed
  • DeShawn Shead – 9 tackles, 8 solo tackles, 1 pass defensed
  • Jeremy Lane – 7 tackles, 6 solo tackles, 1 pass defensed
  • Kelcie McCray – 7 tackles, 6 solo tackles, including the game-saving one in overtime that preceeded the Arizona missed field goal
  • Frank Clark – 5 tackles, 4 solo tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2.5 tackles for loss, 3 QB hits
  • Cliff Avril – 4 tackles, 3 solo tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2.5 tackles for loss, 2 passes defended, a whopping 6 QB hits!  He’s hands down my player of the game.
  • Richard Sherman – 3 solo tackles, 1 pass defensed
  • Earl Thomas – 2 tackles, 1 solo tackle, 2 passes defensed
  • Michael Bennett – 3 tackles, 2 solo tackles, on an almost-constant stream of double-teams
  • Tanner McEvoy – 1 HUGE blocked punt to set up our first score of the game

For as stupid as that game was – and make no mistake, that was probably the dumbest football game I’ve ever cared about – it doesn’t hurt us too much.  We didn’t let our main divisional rival gain any ground, and the next time we play them will be in Seattle.

I’ll admit, I was at my dad’s house in Tacoma for this one, and left as soon as they nailed that long play to get inside the 10 yard line in overtime.  So, I missed the attempts at getting the touchdown, I missed the missed field goal, I missed the subsequent long Seahawks drive, and I missed the subsequent missed field goal just before the end of the game.  When I left my dad’s house, I was convinced the Seahawks had lost, so I didn’t listen to any sports radio all the way back to Seattle.  As such, when I walked into my apartment, turned on the Twitter, and discovered the game ended in a tie, I was overwhelmed, and mostly in a positive way.  The moment the Cardinals got inside the 10 yard line, if you would have offered me a tie game, I would have shaken your hand and gladly accepted!  Of course, when I saw just how easy Hauschka’s field goal attempt was, and just how badly he missed it, I couldn’t help but feel a pang of regret for what could’ve been (another infuriating Seahawks victory for all the haters all across the land), but the more this game sits with me, the happier I am with the tie.  Stupid, this game was.  But even stupider it is that we didn’t lose.  And, that’s the kind of stupid I can get behind!

Seahawks Throttle Jets Before Well-Deserved BYE Week

The lasting image I’ve taken away from this game – the first thing that’ll come to mind as the season goes on and I’m reminded of the week we went to New Jersey to play the Jets – isn’t Russell Wilson’s heroism, or Jimmy Graham’s demolition of everything in his path, or even the fact that we flew across the country and dominated in a 10am west coast start time that would’ve been unheard of 10 years or even 5 years ago.  While those are all great storylines that I’ll gladly talk about below, the really fascinating part of this game was the Brandon Marshall vs. Richard Sherman matchup, and Ryan Fitzpatrick’s fearlessness in trying to exploit it.

Richard Sherman doesn’t follow the other team’s #1 receiver every game.  Part of that is many teams don’t have a TRUE #1 receiver worthy of all the attention, part of that is our scheme is so sound and our other cornerbacks are pretty good in their own rights.  So, when Sherm does the unusual, like he did on Sunday, it’s noteworthy.  Hell, it’s appointment television!  And, this matchup didn’t disappoint.

Brandon Marshall IS a true #1 receiver.  He is, indeed, probably one of the top five most gifted and dominant receivers in all of football.  People don’t usually throw his name into the mix as much as they should because he’s 32 years old, he’s bounced around to now his fourth team in a tumultuous career, and he’s rarely – if ever – had a really elite quarterback throwing him the ball.  But, I’ll tell you this much, he’s had eight 1,000+ yard receiving seasons (including at least one with four different teams, which I believe is an NFL record), and he’s had 6 seasons with 100+ receptions.  This is a bona fide NFL Hall of Fame talent, and maybe a first ballot guy at that.

I mean, just look at the list of quarterbacks he’s made look like Pro Bowlers:

  • Jay Cutler
  • Kyle Orton
  • Chad Henne
  • Matt Moore
  • Jay Cutler again
  • Josh McCown
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick

If that isn’t a who’s who of utter crap, I don’t know what to tell you!

So, when I caught on to what Richard Sherman was trying to do, that game took on another level of intrigue.  Now, it didn’t hurt that Eric Decker was out with injury.  While Decker isn’t in Marshall’s league, he’s still a quality, veteran receiver and a consummate #2 guy who will do his share of the damage if the opposing team focuses too much on Marshall.  I wonder, with a fully healthy Decker, if Sherm still would’ve followed Marshall, or if we would’ve played it straight.

Either way, he did follow Marshall around, and it was absolutely the right thing to do.  There’s no doubt in my mind – with the way Fitzpatrick was already trying to pick on Sherm, because we left him out there on an island (so to speak) – that had we stuck with our regular defense, Marshall would’ve lined up against Shead probably 80% of the game, and he would’ve destroyed us for 200+ yards and maybe a couple more touchdowns.  And, believe me, I like Shead!  I just think there’s another class of cornerback above Shead (a class that Richard Sherman is in), and it takes a guy IN that class to try to shut down a quality receiver like Marshall.

I mean, hell, as it was, with Sherm on him all day, Marshall STILL caught 4 balls for 89 yards and the first receiving touchdown this defense has given up this season!  You’re telling me those numbers wouldn’t EASILY be doubled with Shead guarding him predominantly throughout the game?  Unless we would’ve shaded our safeties to his side on the reg, which isn’t really the way we like to play defense.

Anyway, it looked like it was going to pay off for the Jets.  Marshall got the lion’s share of his catches and yards in the first half – including the touchdown right before halftime that looked very un-Sherm, as he was unable to get his head turned around to look for the ball – but after a VERY bullshit pass interference call on Sherm in the second half, Fitz was caught with his hand in the cookie jar one too many times, and Sherm cut it off at the wrist with the first of two interceptions for him on the day.  EASILY the most satisfying interception I’ve seen him catch, probably since the 2013 game at Houston, as it came immediately after the bullshit flag.

In the end, the Sherman vs. Marshall matchup went about as well as you’d expect.  Marshall got his licks in early – because you’re not going to COMPLETELY eliminate a guy of his calibre – but ultimately Sherman won the day, and not just because the Seahawks came away with a victory.  Yes, Marshall had 4 receptions, but he was targeted 12 times.  Yes, Marshall got the TD, but Sherm got 2 INTs.  Yes, the Jets were able to exploit that matchup a little bit in the first half, but Sherman put Marshall on lock in the second half, and that was all she wrote.

Honestly, more than anything, I was shocked Fitzpatrick kept trying to go that way!  I understand the rationale – in the NFL, you love to go to a 1 on 1 matchup with a hall of fame receiver all day every day – but it just seems like eventually you’re going to get snakebitten.  I kept thinking that throughout the first half:  one of these times, Sherm is going to get his, and it’s going to be glorious.  It also makes sense in the fact that they really didn’t really have anyone else to throw to.  Decker was out.  Quincy Enunwa is a nice story as a second year possession receiver, but he’s not even at Decker’s level, let alone Marshall’s.  Behind him, there’s no one.  The Jets haven’t even completed a pass to a tight end in over a year!  Other than Enunwa, they had the two running backs to throw to.  While Bilal Powell had a nice game, and a couple of catches for first downs, that’s essentially playing right into our hands if they do that all day.  So, really, Fitzpatrick had no choice but to go to Marshall as if he was being guarded by Just Another Guy!  Nevertheless, it doesn’t make him look like any smarter of a person (Harvard education or not), but them’s the breaks in the National Football League.

***

Moving on to other things, Russell Wilson looked phenomenal.  Again, he was hampered by injuries, but I gotta think his ankle – if it’s not back to normal yet – will be fine by our next game in a couple weeks.  And, wearing the brace on his knee, while it slowed him a little bit – and most certainly took away a lot of our zone read plays – still allowed him to move around a little bit when he needed to.  I don’t think we’re going to see Wilson go full Tarkenton for a few more weeks yet (maybe in the second half of the season), but he’s upright, he’s mobile enough, and he’s making enough plays in the pocket to re-introduce the narrative of him taking that next step to Elite status (regardless of what many national pundits think; which, do they even bother watching ANY tape before crafting their hot taeks?).

Wilson completed 23 of 32 passes for 309 yards and 3 TDs.  8 of those 23 completions were of 15 yards or more.  He was, for the most part, on time, and dropping dimes into windows only our receivers could get to.

One of those receivers taking the bulk of the yards in this one was Jimmy Graham, who caught 6 more balls for 113 yards, which puts him on a 2-week run (since we opened him up to the full playbook and the full allotment of offensive plays) of 12 receptions for 213 yards and a touchdown.  He came up particularly huge in yesterday’s game, given the fact that Baldwin was held to just 4 catches for 54 yards.

As usual, Wilson did his thing when it comes to spreading the ball around.  8 different players caught at least one pass, including Tanner McEvoy’s first-ever reception (a WIDE open 42-yard touchdown in the second quarter), and C.J. Spiller’s first-ever Seahawks reception for a touchdown (after having just been signed earlier this week off the streets).

The offensive line did its job against a remarkable defensive line.  It wasn’t able to open up as many rushing lanes as you’d like, but that’s to be expected.  What was awesome was how much time it afforded Russell Wilson to pass the ball.  Sure, there were some pressures, and a couple sacks, but this O-Line isn’t ever going to be perfect.  As long as it can limit the damage as it’s been doing for the most part this season, and (even bigger) avoid excessive penalties that put us behind the chains, we’ll be just fine with this much-maligned group.

Germain Ifedi got his first start in replacing J’Marcus Webb, and had some good times and some bad times, but I have no doubt in my mind that he was better than what we would’ve gotten with Webb against that group.  Furthermore, going forward, we’re in MUCH better hands with Ifedi, as long as we can keep him off the trainer’s table.  We have this week off, which is a godsend to everyone with nagging injuries, but even better:  we face a much more reasonable slate of D-Lines going forward.  In the Nothing Special department, we face:  Atlanta, Arizona, New Orleans, Buffalo, New England, Philly, and Tampa in the next seven games.  The rest of the way, depending on injuries, we only have to be concerned about the D-Lines of Carolina, Los Angeles, and maybe Green Bay, and that’s it!  So, grey skies are gonna clear up, folks.

Great games by Bobby Wagner, Earl Thomas (who got his first pick of the season), K.J. Wright, and our D-Line as usual.  We ended up with 4 sacks on the day, a bunch of QB hits, and we held them to 58 yards rushing on the day.  If it weren’t for a crazy play involving the quarterback being strip-sacked, fumbling the ball about 10 yards forward, where a receiver picked it up and ran it into the endzone while everyone else on the field thought it was an incomplete pass, our points-against number would look a lot better than it does.  With that, and those two garbage time TDs by the 49ers last week, that’s a good 22 points we’re going to have to make up if we want to hold onto our championship belt of fewest points allowed in a season!

This one was fun.  Now, let’s all rest up and get ready to put the whuppin’ on the Falcons in two weeks.