Dominant Seahawks Victory Harkens Back To A Simpler Time

The Seahawks were favored and covered a spread, you say?

This was classic Seahawks, for the most part.  The defense shut out the 49ers for most of the first half, until they got a field goal on their final drive.  Not for nothing, but the defense also accounted for the 7 points the Seahawks had at halftime, by picking off a pass deep in 49ers territory.  It was 7-3 at the break, but it felt like 70-3.

The 49ers got another field goal on their first drive of the second half, but after that the offense picked it up.  The 49ers wouldn’t score again until the final play of the game, hitting on a garbage-time touchdown against a bunch of reserve defenders, making the final score 24-13.

Russell Wilson had an efficient game, throwing for 228, running for another 25, and accounting for all three touchdowns.  Paul Richardson had a nice little game, catching 4 balls for 70 yards; Jimmy Graham had 3 for 34 and a touchdown; all told, 7 receivers caught passes from Wilson, and all of them had at least 2 receptions.

If there’s a quibble, it’s – of course – the running game, which was decidedly NOT “Classic Seahawks”.  Eddie Lacy led the way – the same way a crash test dummy “leads the way” into a brick wall – with 17 carries for 46 yards.  He showed zero elusiveness, zero ability to push the pile forward, and in general zero ability PERIOD.  But, beggars can’t be choosers, I guess.  J.D. McKissic was more effective, with 22 yards on 4 carries, but it’s unknown at this time how effective he’d be with an increased workload.  We probably use him just the right amount, if I’m being honest (he also had 4 catches for 24 yards).

The real shock was the fact that Thomas Rawls was active, yet didn’t record a single carry, and may have been on the field for just a handful (one?) of plays.  He was ripped by Tom Cable earlier in the week for playing running back like a fucking spaz, so that’s probably part of it, but it was all the more surprising that he didn’t at least get some garbage time touches to see if he could run more effectively.  Considering Mike Davis should be back this week, it’ll be interesting to see what that means for Rawls going forward.  He might not get much play the rest of the season unless guys start getting injured (which, if you’ve seen the Seahawks the last couple years, you’ll know it’s a virtual certainty that he’ll be starting games before too long).

It was nice to see the defense look like its old elite self.  Of course, this is the 1-win 49ers, so it’s not like the task was too big.  Nevertheless, the line got great pressure on the quarterback, Bobby Wagner continued his All Pro calibre play, and we were able to keep Carlos Hyde & Co. in check.

The win brought the Seahawks to 7-4, with a showdown against the Eagles coming up next Sunday night.  The Rams handled the Saints at home to stay a game up at 8-3.  And, the Wild Card teams (Carolina & Atlanta) both won to keep pace.  You could argue the Lions losing on Thanksgiving helps the Seahawks (who currently sit 7th in the NFC), but the real big help will come from the fact that there are currently 3 NFC South teams in playoff contention, and they should all beat up on one another pretty good the rest of the way.

I Have Thoughts: Seahawks Sign Tramaine Brock, Extend Justin Britt

First thing’s first:  veteran cornerback Tramaine Brock (of the 49ers dating back to 2010) has signed a 1-year deal for at or near the veteran’s minimum.

This is unquestionably a good thing, as he’s unquestionably a good cornerback in this league.  So, why was he so cheap?  Well, he has some sort of domestic abuse allegations swirling around him that have apparently been resolved at a legal level, but perhaps not on a league level.  He still could be exposed to NFL punishment, but considering what little I know about this, it sounds like there’s nothing to see here.  Or, if that’s your bag, then by all means, dig into it.  But, I’m here to talk about the football team and how it affects the Seahawks’ chances in 2017.

Depth is depth, and this is some quality depth we were able to bring in.  As we’re only a week into the pre-season, there’s still time for him to get up to speed and at the very least compete for a nickel corner job.  Given Jeremy Lane’s current injury woes (that don’t figure to keep him out of any regular season games, but have kept him out of a lot of Training Camp so far), there’s no way this hurts.  Instead of God Knows What being our backup cornerback behind Shaq Griffin, we’ve got a bona fide NFL starter.

Is Brock elite?  Is he on a Richard Sherman level?  Of course not; if he was, there certainly would’ve been a bigger market for him than the veteran’s minimum (domestic abuse or no domestic abuse).  But, is he on a DeShawn Shead level?  Signs point to yes!  Signs, in fact, point to him perhaps being a little better than Shead, if the advanced metrics are to be believed.  Now, the caveat there is that Shead was doing his thing in our defense, while Brock was on another team, in presumably another scheme.  Cary Williams looked like an okay free agent signing, until he put on a Seahawks uniform and we discovered he couldn’t hack it in our scheme.  Will Brock be another Williams?  I doubt it, but I’m also not yet willing to put this crop of cornerbacks at the top of the NFL heap just yet.  Let’s see them in some games first.  Then, let’s see them in some games that actually matter.

I absolutely love this signing though.  My concern is that there are further moves in the works.  Like, for instance, the team trading away Jeremy Lane.  I don’t get this line of thinking AT ALL.  For starters, he’s not making THAT much money.  Secondly, he’s not THAT bad.  I don’t get you people!  Jeremy Lane wasn’t the reason why the Seahawks failed to advance past the Divisional Round the last two seasons (nor was Jermaine Kearse, but that’s neither here nor there).  You have these scapegoats stuck in your craws and won’t let them go!  Jeremy Lane is a perfectly fine nickel cornerback in this league!  And, by all accounts, when he was healthy at the beginning of Training Camp, he looked better than ever.  So, you know, let’s retract our claws a little bit here.

This team needs as much depth as it can get, particularly in the secondary where we could have up to three rookies on the roster.  I’m a Shaq Griffin believer, and you know I love Sherm, but how does it hurt to have Lane and Brock behind them?  If someone goes down, boom, another NFL starter steps up.  Or, if we face a team like the Packers or Falcons, we can put 4 starting-calibre cornerbacks on the field at the same time and not miss a beat!

Brock’s best attributes are his tackling and his coverage skills.  He gave up less than 50% completions last year, while getting thrown at among the highest rate in football.  Since, ostensibly, teams are still going to avoid throwing at Richard Sherman whenever they can, that’s EXACTLY what I want to hear about my new free agent cornerback.

So, we’ll see.

The other big news of the week is the team signing Justin Britt to a 3-year extension.  3 years, $27 million, looks like $15 million guaranteed.

Listen, I won’t neg this one to death.  I’m just surprised to see the team spend so much on a center as opposed to a left tackle or guard or something.  Now, obviously, in free agency you’re paying a HUGE premium, so it’s not like there were tons of great offensive linemen out there willing to sign a 3 year, $27 million contract.  We get Britt to sign that because he still has another year left on his rookie deal, so there’s a little give and take.  He gets financial security and job security for his family; we get to pay a little less than we would have had we let him play out his rookie deal and tried to extend him after the season.

I’m just glad the Seahawks are spending money on the offensive line finally.  Or, rather, I’m just glad the Seahawks have the OPPORTUNITY to spend money on the offensive line.  I know we all like to bitch about this, but there’s only so much money to go around.  Would you rather have Okung, Sweezy, and Carpenter – and ostensibly have all this continuity in your O-Line (though, all three, I believe, have dealt with injuries since signing elsewhere) – or would you rather have Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Doug Baldwin, and so on and so forth?  For the most part, I understand what the Seahawks have tried to do!  I just think, so far, they’ve gone about it poorly.

While I understand the thinking behind it – you need versatility along the line, considering you can have only so many available on gameday (the 46-man roster cutdown on gameday is another appalling issue for another time) – I really don’t care for Cable’s proclivity for moving guys around from year to year.  Glowinski from right to left to right; Ifedi from guard to tackle; Britt from right tackle to left guard to center.  Yeah, in the case with Britt (and Carpenter, and – God willing – Ifedi this year) sometimes they get it right and it just takes time.  But, you could also argue it stunts their growth and limits their efficiency.

If the whole idea is to save money by drafting linemen and inserting them into games right away, then wouldn’t you want to take advantage of them while they’re on their rookie deals?  We’ve had Britt for 3 seasons, but we’ve only really gotten 1 good season out of him!  Now, for all intents and purposes, his rookie deal is over (2017 sees a cap increase thanks to his signing bonus), and it’s like we’ve lost two years.

I guess my biggest frustration is that the team seems to whiff a lot on determining where these players best fit.  This is a talent evaluation gripe, more than anything.  If they could’ve seen Britt as a center from Day 1 (a position of need when he was drafted, if I’m not mistaken), he’d be going into Year 4 of being a center and we would’ve gotten a lot more value out of him those first two years.

Same goes with Ifedi.  Is he a guard?  Is he a tackle?  If he’s a tackle, why not throw him into the fire last year?  I mean, shit, you let a basketball player man the left tackle position!  And, if Ifedi is neither – if he’s a backup (that’s a funny spelling of the word “bust”) – then you need to make that determination now as well, and get Ethan Pocic in there stat!

But, I’m really getting off-topic here.  This is about Britt.  He’s here to stay!  Yay!

I wouldn’t have been surprised if they just let Britt play this year out, then groomed Pocic to be the starting center for next year (and beyond), thereby saving that extra cap space for other spots along the O-Line, but I like this.  I like Britt.  As I’ve said all along, I like knowing that at least I don’t have to worry about 1/5 of my O-Line.  I also like having a center to pair with Russell Wilson for the duration.  And, while it doesn’t look like the center does a whole lot more than help out on double teams with the guards, they’re really so much more than that.

With Britt, you’ve got a natural leader for the O-Line.  You’ve got a guy calling out the protections, making sure guys are lined up, and making sure guys know their responsibilities.  You’ve got a workhorse in the weight room who will whip the rest of the line in shape.  I think it’s no coincidence that George Fant is in such good shape; he’s got a guy in Britt to look up to and model his workouts after.

More than anything, I think the Seahawks were just waiting for the salary cap to increase to the point where they could finally afford to put money into the O-Line.  It just so happened to coincide with Britt going into the final year of his rookie deal, and we’re all the more fortunate for it.

Britt and Brock, two quality signings we should look back on in the years to come as key moves in the continued dominance of the Seattle Seahawks.

Finally Something To Talk About: Seahawks Sign Luke Joeckel

It’s a 1-year deal most likely with incentives built in to get it up to $8 million if he hits them all.

Now, obviously, there isn’t much to get excited about here.  For starters, he has a massive knee injury he’s recovering from, so we don’t even know if he’s going to PLAY this year.  You’d think, with modern medical advances and whatnot, he’ll return to the field in some capacity, but that’s certainly no guarantee.  Beyond that, he’s been a humongous bust since being drafted #2 overall in 2013 by the Jaguars.  In addition to being injured last year, he suffered a massive injury his rookie year to his ankle.  When he was healthy, he was among the worst left tackles in all of football.  He was so bad, they moved him to left guard to try to salvage some value.  With a limited sample size there, it’s tough to say if he’s even worth a damn at a lesser position like that.

As I wrote about yesterday, the Seahawks are pretty limited in what they can do in free agency.  They can’t afford to go out and sign the best free agent left tackle on the market.  Honestly, they can’t really come close to what these other teams are able to dish out.  So, they’ve got to find value in other areas, not unlike the whole Moneyball craze in baseball.  Again, you’d LIKE to think there are guys out there willing to come to a contender on a more reasonable deal, but this is the NFL, and business is booming.

At the same time, it seems like A) this is a bit rushed & B) they could’ve gotten someone better for a reasonable pricetag.  Hell, they could’ve gotten someone with two legs at the very least!

This really smacks of the underwhelming signings of Bradley Sowell and J’Marcus Webb.  This isn’t fishing in the bottom of the barrel, this is skimming the top of the barrel for a fish that’s been dead for a week.  It’s also another sign, to me, that the Seahawks have already made up their minds about the O-Line:  and that is to keep it almost exactly the same as last year’s.  You don’t bring in Sowell and Webb because you think they’re viable starters – those guys have been terrible their entire careers!  You bring them in because you have younger, cheaper guys you want to play, and you want to make them look good by comparison.  You can’t do nothing, even if you’re strapped financially, so you make these nominal moves to make it look like you’re focused on improving the team.  But, in reality, you’re banking on young guys getting better with experience and time together, while the Luke Joeckel’s of the world are there as injury insurance and nothing more.

Part of me wants to at least dream a little bit on the potential of Joeckel.  I mean, he was a #2 overall draft pick for a reason, right?  He must’ve had good measurables and whatnot.  You figure getting him in a new situation, away from all the pressure and disappointment in Jacksonville, let Tom Cable work with him, and maybe we can make it work.  Maybe he can push Gilliam or Fant and give us another solid piece on the line to go with Britt at center.

But, then I go right back to his injuries, and I have to wonder how much athleticism he has left.  Does he have the lateral movement required to be a tackle?  Are we simply plugging holes in our offensive line with TNT and a lit match?

Obviously, we’ll have to see everything the Seahawks do in the offseason before we pass too much judgment.  So far, pretty underwhelmed though.

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Seahawks Released The Kraken (Is That Still A Thing?) All Over The Patriots

I’d handed the keys to the Monday post on this site to the Huskies this season, but the less remembered or said about the game on Saturday, the better.  I’ll get to Husky football later in the week, when I’m better able to handle such rejection.  In the meantime, I’ll kick things off on a much more pleasant note:  a weekend-salvaging victory for the city of Seattle that took place in New England.

I didn’t really give the Seahawks much of a chance to win this game, along with most of the football-watching public, for all the usual reasons:  we were coming off of a short week, they were coming off of a BYE; we were flying across the country, they’d only left the greater northeastern portion of the country one time after week 1; we’re dealing with injuries at many key positions, they’ve enjoyed relative good health for the most part.  And, let’s face it, you never feel comfortable going up against a coach like Bill Belichick, but you ESPECIALLY never feel comfortable when he’s got two weeks to prepare for you.  They’re the best team in the AFC and one of the best teams in all of football, and as such, you not only had the vast majority of America predicting a Patriots victory, but a blowout victory to boot!

To my very minimal credit, I told you that line was too high.  As I mentioned, the Seahawks have only lost twice by more than 7 points since the start of the 2012 season; WE. DON’T. GET. BLOWN. OUT.  If you were smart with your money, you would’ve written that down, pinned it to your shirt, and at the very least bet the Seahawks to cover.  If you would’ve been truly ballsy and bet the Seahawks on the money line, I heard it got as high as +290, which is an absurdly tempting bet when you’re talking about a team like the Seahawks.  Even if I didn’t think they’d win outright, +290 is too good not to at least throw a hundo on!

The Seahawks had a couple things going for them that made all the difference in the world.  First, we got Kam Chancellor back for the first time since we had our BYE week; and second, we finally came to terms with the fact that Christine Michael isn’t a starting-calibre running back in this league.  Well, maybe that’s not fair, but he’s certainly not starting-calibre in this system that we run under Tom Cable.  He might very well thrive under a different scheme, but we’ll never realize that with him in a Seahawks uniform.

The difference between Michael and C.J. Prosise is drastic!  I never really picked up on it until I finally got an extended look at Prosise – like most of the rest of the world – in last night’s game.  Prosise seems to know where the plays are supposed to go.  He seems to hit the appropriate hole more often than not.  When he gets the ball in his hands, I’m not sitting there worried about him running himself into a 3-yard loss.  Michael has a lot of talent in open space, and it often feels like he’s THIIIIIIS close to breaking one for 60+ yards.  But, more often than not, he misses his opportunity to get a decent gain by trying for the home run.

Prosise also avoids a couple of annoying Christine Michael traits that have been driving me crazy this whole year:  1) he doesn’t slip and fall with no one near him, and 2) he doesn’t try to avoid contact by running out of bounds.  The slip & fall thing I just don’t get.  Either Michael isn’t wearing the proper cleats, or he’s literally a fucking character on the old Scooby Doo cartoons whose legs are running faster than the rest of his body.  But, again, last night he found himself on the turf before a defender was anywhere near him, and that shit just needs to stop!  As for the avoiding contact thing, I don’t get that either.  I mean, Marshawn Lynch was JUST HERE last year!  Michael’s been working under Lynch since he came into the league in 2013!  How does NONE of Lynch’s toughness rub off on him?  Has he not been paying attention to how the rest of the team reacts and feeds off of our running backs when they seek out contact instead of running away from it?  Let’s face it, that’s not who we are.  We don’t run away from anything; we get after it!  (unless you play quarterback, and then you do the sensible fucking thing, because we don’t need you missing games).

It’s cool to have last night sort of be the coming out party for a guy like Prosise.  I scoffed quite a bit when – after we drafted him – a few people who were familiar with him in college broached the idea that he could be an every-down type of back.  I still think that’s a little far-fetched, mostly because I have serious doubts about his ability to stay healthy in ANY role, let alone one as a feature running back in this system.  But, I think it’s very reasonable to point out that the Seahawks have added a valuable weapon to our offensive arsenal.  When you think about the Seahawks on offense, you rightly start with Wilson, Graham, and Baldwin; then, if you’re feeling generous, you tack on Tyler Lockett, Thomas Rawls when he’s healthy, and Jermaine Kearse as a bigger, possession-type receiver who’s also capable of going down field and making a big play.  Well, I think you very much have to throw Prosise’s name into that mix, and a lot higher on the list than you might’ve thought coming into the year.  Just imagine what this offense will look like when Rawls comes back in a week or two.

There were a lot of huge plays in this game.  Baldwin’s three touchdowns were all impressive, there was a pretty dime to Lockett early on to jumpstart things, and I seem to remember at least one really important conversion to Jimmy Graham to keep a drive alive (was it at the end of the first half, maybe?).  But, do you want to know what my favorite play was in that game last night?  I should really say “plays”, because the Seahawks went to this well more than once, to almost universal positive results; and, quite frankly, it was something I don’t remember the Seahawks running all that much to this point in the season.  It’s that play where the Seahawks allow the opposing rusher to run free at the quarterback off the edge, and as he runs past a running back (mostly Prosise) who spills out into an open flat, Wilson lobs the ball over the rusher to the wide open running back for an easy gainer.  The Patriots defended that play correctly only once all game, but the Seahawks gashed ’em repeatedly, as they kept forgetting to have a backup defender peel out on the running back.  These weren’t just checkdowns, either.  This was something they likely saw on tape as a way to beat this defense, and it almost always worked for either first downs or big yards.  And, the thing about it is, it’s easy to defend, so I’m sure other teams will take note and try to take that away from us, but you know what happens then?  It re-opens the middle of the field for Jimmy Graham to take over.  WE GOT YOU ASSHOLES COMING AND GOING!!!

And, make no mistake, New England’s #1 gameplan was to Stop Jimmy Graham.  To their credit, they did the job.  Graham only had 48 yards on 4 receptions and no TDs.  You know what you’re going to get with a team like New England:  they’re going to take away what you do best, and you’ve got to find other ways to beat them.  To Russell Wilson’s credit, he didn’t try to force the issue by targeting Graham unnecessarily (if anything, he probably targeted Kearse too much, especially in the early going, but it’s not necessarily his fault that Kearse’s stone hands have returned).

Russell Wilson really played a fantastic game.  He was far from perfect – he missed repeatedly on the goalline when we were trying to turn some of those field goals into touchdowns, often overthrowing guys too far to the outside in what looked like an effort to be extra-cautious and not have his routes jumped – but even in a game where he left some throws on the field, he showed he was the best offensive player in that game.  Oh yes!  Even better than Mr. Tom Brady himself!  To be fair, Brady had a pretty good game in his own right, but his interception was VERY uncharacteristic, and he was held without a TD pass (which really screwed over a lot of fantasy teams like mine, I’m sure).  I actually thought he was going to beat us on yet another quarterback sneak, as that play might be the most deadly play in football.  But, he went up against a very talented and very fired up defense, who got the better of him in the end.

This game as a whole was reminiscent of the Super Bowl these two teams played, and not just because NBC made no bones about bringing up that game, and that fateful pass, what felt like every 30 seconds (as was expected going in).  Tom Brady, for the most part, took what the defense gave him, as he did two years ago, and it was successful throughout the game, until the final drive.  It was entertaining as all get-out, to be sure!  Seven lead changes in that game, just hours after another game (Cowboys at Steelers) had seven lead changes of its own (leading to pundits and NFL lackeys to hyperbolically dub yesterday The Day That Saved The NFL).  But, there was one key difference in last night’s game that swung it to the Seahawks:  health, particularly on defense.

See, New England’s defense is garbage, and I didn’t really have any fears about moving the ball on them.  When we started off the game settling for field goals, I was a little nervous.  You can’t be an underdog, on the road, trading field goals for touchdowns against a player like Tom Brady.  So, while I was fairly confident in the Seahawks scoring points in this one, my main concern was:  could we score ENOUGH?  In other words, how big of a hole would our defense dig us into?

Probably an unfair fear on my part.  I mean, I’ve been watching this team and following it pretty closely for a while now.  Years and years and years now.  All I needed to do was go back, reflect on that Super Bowl, and think about how that team differed from this one.  What was the main reason (aside from not handing it off to a certain running back at a certain goalline) the Seahawks lost that game?  A game that, if you’ll recall, we had been leading by two scores going into the fourth quarter.  Why did we blow such a lead?  Because of injuries in our secondary.  Jeremy Lane literally died in the first quarter when he intercepted Brady.  LITERALLY DIED!  Richard Sherman, I’m pretty sure, lost an arm.  He got a bionic one in the offseason though, so he’s fine now.  Kam and Earl contracted leukemia for that game, then cured it organically afterwards through their sheer badassery.  I may be misremembering things here a bit, but rest assured, the entirety of our secondary was dealing with pretty savage injuries in that game, and it reflected in our play on defense when we were trying to hold a lead against a surging Patriots offense led by the eventual MVP.

Last night, not only were our guys healthy, but Kam was making his first appearance in over a month.  And look, I like Kelcie McCray, you like Kelcie McCray, but this defense just isn’t the same with him back there.  Bam Bam is the heart & soul of this defense and this team, but don’t forget he’s also a REALLY fucking good football player!  REALLY good.  Like, I don’t know what this team looks like without Richard Sherman or Earl Thomas, and I hope I never have to know, but from what I’ve seen out of this team without Kam Chancellor back there, I’m starting to wonder if he isn’t the best player on this defense.  Not even joking.  He’s that good.  He’s that much of a difference maker out there.  There’s no other player on this defense like him, and quite frankly, there’s no other player in this LEAGUE like him.

Lots of teams (I’m really just thinking about the Falcons here, with their drafting of Keanu Neal in the first round this year; though, I’m sure every other team feels the same way) are trying to get a Kam Chancellor of their own.  But, there’s a big difference between drafting an over-sized safety who hits hard.  Granted, Kam is that, but he’s also so much more!  He’s technically sound, he’s just as good against the run as he is against the pass, he helps ensure everyone is lined up correctly and that everyone in the secondary knows their assignments, he’s instinctive, he picks up on things and acts upon them that don’t necessarily have to be said to those around him, and he’s probably the only guy in this league who can body up on Rob Gronkowski and not just hold his own, but absolutely make him his bitch.  Yeah, I should say that every team wants to have their very own Kam Chancellor, but the dude is one of a kind, and he’s ours, and you can’t God damn have him!

Which is why I’m always so flabbergasted whenever I see 12’s out there trashing him.  They write to the beat writers on Twitter, asking about trading him for draft picks or cutting him after the season’s over.  ARE YOU INSANE?  Do you just not watch the games when he’s in there?  Do you not see the difference between when he’s in there and when he’s not?  I know the hold-out left a bad taste in our mouths as fans last year, and yeah, he’s been knicked up a little bit the last couple seasons.  He plays football, it’s a violent sport, let’s try to have some understanding here.

I’ll just spell it out so everyone understands my position:  the Seahawks should not, under any circumstances, be looking to rid themselves of Kam Chancellor, now, in the offseason, or ever.  In reality, they need to keep him for the life of his contract, and when the time is right, they need to be looking to see how they can extend him and ensure he retires as a Seahawk.  Kam Chancellor is as important to this team’s ongoing success as Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, Doug Baldwin, Bobby Wagner, and yes, even Russell Wilson.  If you’re looking to get rid of Kam, you’re doing it wrong as a fan.

As this post has gone WAY beyond the realm of decency in its word count, let’s get to the kudos now before it’s too late.

  • That hit by Earl Thomas on Gronk that knocked the wind out of him (and knocked him out of the game for a while), was one of the hardest hits I’ve ever seen.  How he caved in his chest like that on the slow-mo replay is painful just to watch.
  • My favorite play on defense goes to Kam for stripping the ball from Edelman’s hands.  I fucking hate that guy, so any time he fucks up (which led to a TD on Seattle’s subsequent drive) it’s really entertaining in my book.
  • Again, can’t say enough about Prosise.  He led the team in rushing with 66 yards on 17 carries, AND receiving with 87 yards on 7 catches.  He won’t be as featured when Rawls gets back up to speed, but like I said before, that’s quite a weapon to have out of the backfield.  Pencil us in for points on every 2-minute drill when Prosise is in the game.
  • Can’t say the same for Alex Collins, who fumbled on his only carry.  You hate to give up on draft picks too early, particularly when they were so vital in college, but he has a real Spencer Ware vibe for me.  Like a guy who’s destined to be cut next year, who will be picked up by Kansas City to be an every-down player.
  • Frank Clark had a great game, including a 1-handed sack where he grabbed a fistful of Brady jersey and yanked him to the ground while still engaged with the block from the left tackle.  Outstanding!
  • The interior of the line – Reed, McDaniel, Siliga, Rubin, and newcomer Damontre Moore – all had outstanding games!  Granted, LeGarrette Blount ran for three TDs, but those guys combined for 1 sack and 2.5 tackles for loss, as well as held the Pats to under 3 yards per carry, and were critical in stopping them at the goalline at the end of the game.
  • Finally, big ups to Tyler Lockett in the return game.  He ran his only kickoff back 32 yards, and was a big reason why they kicked the ball out of bounds on another, as they were trying to avoid him getting the ball at all costs.

Part 2: Why The Seahawks Will Win The Super Bowl This Year

We got into the Glass Half Empty side of things yesterday.  Today, it’s all about Glass Half Full.

I’ll start here where I started yesterday:  the offensive line.  In this run of dominance the last four years, the Seahawks have never really had a world-beating O-Line.  Sure, Okung was a nice player and a talented first rounder, but he also often found himself injured and being replaced by the likes of Alvin Bailey.  Has that stopped us from winning ballgames or running the ball among the best teams in the league?  Absolutely not!  We’ve gotten by with the likes of James Carpenter, J.R. Sweezy, Breno Giacomini, and Patrick Lewis – all fine players in their own rights, but ultimately all replacement level players who made their money on the back of this team’s success.

People like to denigrate Russell Wilson, saying he’s just a “system quarterback”, and that had he been put into the wrong situation, he’d be another nobody right now.  Well, by the same token, this is a “system” offensive line, behind Tom Cable’s vision for what this unit should do and do well:  run the football.  It’s always going to struggle somewhat in pass protection – it has the last four years anyway – but like I said before, that hasn’t stopped us yet.

Because we DO have Russell Wilson!  And while he might want to thank his lucky stars the Cleveland Browns didn’t draft him, I think he’s pretty great, and fully capable of making up this O-Line’s shortcomings.  Will he be perfect?  No.  He’ll occasionally run himself into some sacks.  He’ll hold onto the ball too long when he should’ve just thrown it away.  But, he’s also going to do some truly amazing things that only he can do.  And, in the end, that’s going to be more than good enough to make up for the O-Line.

I like our ability to run the ball.  I like the continuity of our receiving corps.  And while I don’t necessarily think Russell Wilson is going to double his second half of last year and turn it into a full season this year, I think he’ll certainly take another step in his progression and by season’s end have had his best year ever.  I don’t know if the offense is going to be the dominant Seahawks unit over the defense, but I think we’ll have put up the most points in franchise history when all is said and done.

I also don’t know if the defense will be able to make it 5 straight years with the fewest points allowed, but if not, they’ll still be close to the top.  I just think, at this point, you know what to expect from this defense.  With everyone here, happy, and healthy to start the season, I think that puts us in the driver’s seat compared to last year, where we had so many issues.  Just having the vets around, practicing, playing, is going to be great for our younger guys.  The kids won’t have to play right away, they can soak in more of the system, more of the game plans, so by the time they ARE pressed into duty, because of injuries or whatever, they’ll be that much better than if they had to start right away and be thrown into the fire prematurely.

Finally, I like what the schedule has to offer.  Let’s break it down, week by week:

Miami, to kick things off on Sunday.  I think this game starts off a little too close for comfort in the first half, but ultimately I think the Seahawks start to blow it out in the second half for a double-digit victory.

At Los Angeles, for their regular season home opener.  By all rights, I’d be a fool to lock this one down as a win.  The Rams, particularly under Jeff Fisher, have had our number in ways I’m not even comfortable thinking about.  With this being their first game back in L.A., with upwards of 90,000 fans in a rabid froth, it won’t be easy.  I think this game is a slog, but I also think the Rams are remarkably worse than they’ve ever been, and I think we take this by a field goal to start 2-0.

San Francisco in week three.  Absolute pushovers from top to bottom.  Nothing about this team scares me.  I think we beat them by three touchdowns.

At New York, to play the Jets before our BYE week.  A lot of people have this down as a loss for the Seahawks.  I can see why.  You’ve got a cross-country trip and a 10am start.  You’ve got a team with an excellent defense, some strong weapons on offense, a savvy veteran quarterback, and one of the better up & coming head coaches in the NFL.  But, at the same time, I think you’ve got a team that doesn’t match up with us very well.  Sure, they’ve got Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, but we’ve got one of the top secondaries in the league.  I think we easily shut down their passing attack, and just as easily shut down their mediocre rushing attack.  This game will depend on how well the Seahawks can move the football.  The Jets’ D-Line is ferocious, so it’ll be tough sledding for our O-Line.  They’ve also got Revis, but I think we have what it takes to beat him.  If he clamps down on Doug Baldwin, I think Tyler Lockett has a big game.  I also think the Seahawks take advantage of Kearse’s size in this one and he leads the team in receptions.  I also think our tight ends will be a huge factor, as Jimmy Graham should have played his way back into the #1 role.  It’ll be a dogfight, but I’m seeing something like 17-13, with the Seahawks on top.

Atlanta at home, after the BYE.  I just don’t think the Falcons are very good.  At all.  Matt Ryan has been a mistake-prone mess ever since Tony Gonzalez – his security blanket – retired, and ever since Roddy White’s aging body turned him into a nobody.  Sure, he’s still got Julio Jones – making Jones one of the most valuable receivers in the game, for fantasy purposes – but we’ve got Richard Sherman.  Beyond that, good fucking luck.  I think the Seahawks steamroll in this one by a good 2-3 touchdowns.

The next two weeks are at Arizona and at New Orleans.  The Arizona game is a Sunday Night game, the Saints game is a 10am start.  I think the Seahawks go 1-1 in this set of games, but I’m not going to commit to which game they win and which one they lose.  What does that mean?  Well, USUALLY it means I think the Seahawks will win the game they’re supposed to lose, and lose the game they’re supposed to win.  It’s probably idiotic, but even at Arizona’s best, we’ve been able to handle them pretty savagely on their home turf.  Combined with the fact that we’ll be out for revenge after they embarrassed us on Sunday Night in 2015, and the opinion that I secretly hold – which is that the Cards are due for some regression in 2016 – and I could see the Seahawks walking all over the Cards and solidifying our hold on first place in the division.  As for the Saints game, I’ve seen this one play out too many times before.  It reminds me of the Chargers game in 2014, the Lions game of 2012, and ESPECIALLY the Colts game of 2013.  They have a dominant offense, with a Hall of Fame quarterback who will put up 30+ points against us.  Meanwhile, we’ll probably make one too many mistakes on offense – against a shitty, but improved Saints defense – and gag it away at the end.  Saints 35-27, to put our record at 6-1.

Buffalo on Monday Night to close out the first half of our schedule.  This one should be another home walk-over.  We’ll be jacked up for a home Monday Night game, and the Bills – who have no experience in our environment – won’t know what to do with themselves.  7-1 to close out the first half.

At New England on Sunday Night to kick off the second half.  I try to run this game through any number of scenarios, and I just can’t find a way the Seahawks win, short of Tom Brady being injured.  Another cross-country trip.  All the hype from it being a Super Bowl XLIX rematch.  And, let’s face it, if any team is going to put into use the main strategy of beating the Seahawks – dink & dunk, then try the seams on double moves with their taller receivers – it’s the Patriots.  On the plus side, I think the Pats’ defense is much worse than two years ago.  So, if the Seahawks DO win this game, it’s almost certainly going to require this game being a shootout like last year’s Steelers game.  But, I don’t see that happening.  Patriots by a single score.

Home for Philly and another walkover.  You’ve got a team starting a rookie quarterback, but more than that, you’ve got a team clearly playing for next year.  They’re stocking up on draft picks and kicking out all the old players on the roster, compiled by Chip Kelly.  I don’t see this one being particularly close either.

At Tampa in yet another cross-country flight.  We really got hosed by playing the AFC East and NFC South (which are all pretty much in the East anyway).  This game strikes me as one of those traditional slow starters for the Seahawks.  I think we have to overcome a double-digit deficit, and perhaps have to win this one in overtime, just like the last time we played the Bucs, back in 2013 (except that game was in Seattle).  Ultimately, I think we have just enough to pull this nailbiter out.

Home for Carolina in another Sunday Night game.  If both teams are at full strength, we could be looking at the best game of the regular season.  I just love how these teams match up.  I also wonder how healthy Cam Newton will be, considering all the hits he took in last night’s game.  Will his recklessness in taking hits finally catch up to him?  I kinda, sorta have a feeling this game will come down to who’s actually playing, and for whatever reason I have a feeling Cam will be out for this game.  Either way, I like our chances at home, on Sunday Night, trying to rectify the disaster that was our 2015 season against the Panthers (going 0-2 in two games).  It’ll be a nailbiter, but Seahawks win.

At Green Bay in December.  I think this is another one of those games we’re supposed to lose, but in fact we turn the tables and steal one.  Is it weird for the Packers and their fans to hate Seattle more than teams in their own division?  Well, when we keep ruining their playoff hopes, I guess it’s not!

Home for the Rams and Cardinals the next two weeks.  I think we go 1-1 here too, and while I’m not yet ready to commit, I will say that I feel it’s more likely we beat the Rams and lose to the Cards.  I still think this is the year the Rams go 6-10 or 5-11 and Jeff Fisher gets fired.  A girl can dream, can’t she?

Finally, at San Francisco to close it out.  If we’re playing for anything, I think we win easily.  If we’ve somehow got the #1 seed wrapped up, I think we let the kids get the majority of the snaps and probably lose it in the end.  Let’s just say we win and call it a day.

13-3, number one seed in the NFC, and an inside track for another Super Bowl.  This year, we get back to it, and this year we win the whole fuckin’ thing.  Mark it.

The Justin Britt Experiment

Last year, during the entire offseason, I wrote exactly three posts dedicated to speculation on the Russell Wilson contract negotiations, before he finally signed it and we could all move on with our lives.  Around Seattle, that was a pretty huge story; you couldn’t turn on any of the sports radio stations without hearing talk of it.  You couldn’t go on Twitter without being bombarded by a thousand articles a day.  It was THE story, until it wasn’t.

This year, we’re just past the draft – we’ve got MONTHS before we get to real football – and yet I feel like almost every post I write has something to do with the offensive line.  I’d think I’m running this story into the ground, but part of me feels like this is the difference between REAL football fans, and everyone else.  Everyone else is interested in the daily speculation on a quarterback contract you 100% should know is going to get done (Russell Wilson was never going anywhere); real fans obsess over the real aspects of their football team that’s going to make a difference between winning a championship and coming up a little short.  In this case, if you’re not obsessed with the daily goings-on of the Seahawks’ O-Line, you need to hop aboard the train and ride with me a while.

Does anyone else get the feeling the Seahawks don’t know what in the fuck they’re doing with Justin Britt?

Add this name to the long list of reasons why the organization crippled itself by trading for Percy Harvin (2013 first rounder & seventh rounder, huge contract preventing the team from re-signing Golden Tate, making the 2014 offense too much about him, getting off to a slow start in the process, losing that 2014 third rounder).  Know why Britt is a member of the Seattle Seahawks?  Look no further than not having a draft pick in the third round in the 2014 NFL Draft.  The Seahawks ended up trading back a couple times, before drafting Paul Richardson at #47; we would pick again at the end of the second round – #64 – and then we wouldn’t pick again until the fourth round, #108 overall.  With 44 picks in between, the Seahawks had a need along the offensive line (specifically right tackle, with Breno Giacomini signing a big free agent contract with the Jets).  Per their draft chart, they noted a significant drop-off in talent after Justin Britt, who obviously was still available, but likely wouldn’t have been at pick 108.

Had the Seahawks still had their third rounder, would they have passed on Britt, and landed on someone in the third round (perhaps using their surplus of picks to trade up in the third round to get him)?  Tough to say.  It’s not out of the realm of possibility that regardless of whether or not the Harvin trade happened, by virtue of drafting last in every round, the Seahawks would’ve been stuck with him either way.  The point is, they ARE stuck with him now, and he’s seemingly a riddle the coaching staff is unable to solve.

He started every game as a rookie at Right Tackle.  He had growing pains early, but was ultimately a disaster in pass protection.  He went into last season as the incumbent, but after a disastrous first pre-season game, Tom Cable hit the re-set button on the whole line, bumping Britt over to left guard, where he would go on to start all 16 games.  Again, he had growing pains early, but was ultimately a disaster in pass protection.

The allure of a Justin Britt is that he’s big and powerful and nasty and will run block the hell out of you.  And, for all the crap he gets, he was still a second round pick (at probably a third round value) and a starter from Day 1 for a reason.  He was never a project like Glowinski or Gilliam, who had to sit for the most part during their rookie seasons.  Britt has starting-calibre stuff, but it’s the technical details he’s lacking.  On top of that, he’s sort of gotten a bum go of it from Day 1.

Britt was brought in because the Seahawks had an immediate need that they couldn’t fill from among their reserves on the roster or in free agency.  The Seahawks probably knew from the minute they drafted him that Britt’s best position was going to be along the interior of the line, and NOT right tackle (in spite of the fact that tackle is where he played most in college; again, at the college level, you put your best linemen on the outside, even the ones who project to be guards at the NFL level).  But, the Seahawks never had the luxury to bring Britt along slowly, or to immediately convert him to guard/center as a rookie, so he could have more time to adjust and learn the intricacies of the position.  They NEEDED a right tackle, and he was the best man for the job.  Then, they NEEDED someone to replace James Carpenter at left guard, and again, Britt was the best man for the job.  He may not be suited to play either position, but we’ll never know, because he’s been jerked around more than Brandon Morrow during the Bavasi/Zduriencik transition years.

Now, here we are, in 2016, and once again the Seahawks have a huge hole to fill, this time at the center position.  They just used a draft pick on a tackle-turned-guard in Ifedi, who is getting immediate play on the right side in place of Sweezy.  Free agent Webb is filling in at tackle on that side, at least to start, where best-case scenario has him playing all 16 games reasonably well, while at the same time helping guide Ifedi along and show him the ropes.  We all pegged Glowinski to be Sweezy’s replacement, but Ifedi has only really succeeded on the right side of the line, so it’s looking like Glow will be gunning for the left guard spot.  Again, this could all change once the season starts, but I know the team really likes Glow as a guard, and he should lock up one of those spots for the next three years if he stays healthy.

That leaves the obvious opening at center.  Yeah, Patrick Lewis came in and the line as a whole improved over the second half of last season, but Lewis is far from a polished or perfect line captain.  He’s what you’d consider Replacement Level in baseball.  Britt has a size advantage over Lewis, as well as probably a greater skillset overall.  With his run blocking ability, sandwiched between Glowinski and Ifedi, you’re looking at some serious beef in the interior.  Likewise, as a pass protector, there are fewer instances of the center going 1 on 1 against a defender, which would hopefully mean Britt would be on the hook for fewer hurries and sacks allowed.  And, he apparently does have some experience snapping the ball, so it shouldn’t be 100% foreign to him.

What it all ends up meaning is anyone’s guess (what it tells us right now is rookie center Joey Hunt is all but assuredly not ready to start as a rookie).  I think what it shows is that the incarnation of Justin Britt that we have now is probably more of a solid backup than a true starter.  You’d think, barring injury, sticking at center is going to be his best bet to make it to a significant second contract in the NFL.  What we know for sure is that this is his third year in the league, and he’s already proven he’s not fit to start at either of the tackle or guard spots.  He’s got this offseason to prove he’s got what it takes to play center, and if he wins the job, he’s got this one year to prove he’s got what it takes to be a starter at the position going forward (ideally, Hunt will be ready to assume the starting duties in 2017).

Not that it’ll really matter, for what the Seahawks are doing.  One thing I think a lot of fans need to start wrapping their brains around is that when the Seahawks draft an offensive lineman, it’s generally not so they can draft a lifelong Seahawk.  Hell, Russell Okung was a Pro Bowl-quality left tackle, and even HE couldn’t get a second contract out of this organization!  Anyone who has proven to be a starter for this line, from Giacomini to Carpenter to Sweezy to Okung, has ultimately gotten paid elsewhere when the Seahawks were finished squeezing as much value out of them as humanly possible.

Bouncing Britt around from tackle to guard to center isn’t about finding a place where he’ll land for the next 8-10 years; it’s about maximizing his second round value until his four years are used up and they can replace him with the next hot, young rookie prospect.

It’s why we saw so many offensive line projects being drafted in the 4th round and later last year.  We ultimately didn’t have any holes for them to fill in 2015, but we had our eye on 2016 when we knew we probably couldn’t re-sign Okung and Sweezy.  Now, we have Glow and Sokoli and to a lesser extent Poole on the roster, competing with the likes of Ifedi and Britt and whoever else, to really nail down the five best linemen possible.

That’s why you shouldn’t look at a guy like Ifedi as this project or this huge risk.  The Seahawks drafted a guy at the end of the first round who they know, right now, can step in and be a starter.  He may not be perfect, but he’s good enough right now to get the kind of value we want out of the position.  Then, in 4-5 years, when his contract is up, he’ll also move on to another team, as the Seahawks should have hopefully figured out who his successor will be.

It’s not a perfect system, but it’s the Seahawk Way.  Value over quality, at least when it comes to the offensive line.

Seattle Seahawks 2016 Draft Spectacular!

I watched all of the first round, while in my apartment, reading from Twitter, and sending out the occasional text.  I had the draft on in the background for rounds two & three as I visited with my dad and brother, occasionally muting the commercials so I could listen to the local coverage on KJR AM, until I ultimately lost interest as we started drinking and playing Yahtzee.  I missed most of the last four rounds entirely, as I was helping friends move some stuff, then ate lunch at The Eleven Eleven in Tacoma, before catching the tail end of the draft.  It was a fun-filled weekend of sun and laughs that I shall cherish for always.

The Seattle Seahawks picked up some new guys in the process.  These are those guys:

  • First Round (31st overall) – Germain Ifedi, RT
  • Second Round (49th overall) – Jarran Reed, DT
  • Third Round (90th overall) – C.J. Prosise, RB
  • Third Round (94th overall) – Nick Vannett, TE
  • Third Round (97th overall) – Rees Odhiambo, G
  • Fifth Round (147th overall) – Quinton Jefferson, DT
  • Fifth Round (171st overall) – Alex Collins, RB
  • Sixth Round (215th overall) – Joey Hunt, C
  • Seventh Round (243rd overall) – Kenny Lawler, WR
  • Seventh Round (247th overall) – Zac Brooks, RB

Some potentially interesting undrafted guys include:

  • Steve Longa, LB
  • Tre Madden, RB
  • Trevone Boykin, QB
  • Tyvis Powell, S
  • Vernon Adams, QB (tryout basis)

I dunno, there could be other interesting guys, but that’s what I’ve gleaned from Twitter and various websites.  Anyone who I didn’t list is either an oversight, or is merely camp fodder.

Among the guys I like to produce for the Seahawks right away include Ifedi (who I talked about last week as a guy who should most certainly win a spot somewhere on the offensive line), Reed (who projects to be Brandon Mebane’s replacement), Prosise (who looks to have the inside track for that 3rd down running back job), and Vannett (who looks to be pushing Cooper Helfet out of Seattle, barring injury somewhere else).  Since we’re looking at those four players as having the best chance to make the team better, let’s talk about them first (as I just mentioned, you can read about Ifedi in the link above).

Jarran Reed was noted to be the best run-stuffing tackle in the draft.  One of 25 players invited to sit in at the draft live, he was the 25th of those man taken as he slid into the middle of the second round.  The Seahawks talked about him as being among the guys they considered in the first round at pick #31, so it’s certainly awesome to see the Seahawks technically got two first round-graded players.  When you think about why a player this good might have slipped into the second round, I think you can look no further than how the NFL has devalued the running game.  Running backs aren’t being given the huge contracts they once were, they’re not being taken as high as they once were (even though the Cowboys went rogue and took one with the 4th overall pick), and more and more often you’re seeing rookies step right in and produce, for pennies on the dollar.  A byproduct of this line of thinking is that stopping the run has also become devalued.  Most offenses don’t feature the run like we do.  As such, most teams don’t feel the need to put a large amount of resources into stopping the run, when there are bigger fish to fry in the secondary and in the pass rush.  The Seahawks, by their nature, feature an elite secondary and a pretty great pass rush.  Other teams know that and might think they could run on us as a result, but that’s why – unlike most teams – the Seahawks don’t neglect stopping the run.  They coach it, and they put resources into it.  Up until this year, they’ve had Brandon Mebane under contract and filling that void.  With Mebane off to sunny San Diego, the Seahawks had another void to fill, and Reed figures to be it.  That’s no knock to Sealver Siliga – he’ll definitely be great to have around as depth, and as a veteran presence, not to mention any goalline packages against jumbo offensive sets – but he’s on a 1-year deal.  Reed is our nose tackle of the future, and we got him at a second round discount.

I know it’s not sexy, I know he probably won’t make any Pro Bowls (because, again, the elite run stuffers never get the attention they deserve; it’s all about sacks at the defensive tackle position that make them stand out), but Reed is a starter, plain and simple.  The Seahawks just drafted a quality 4-year starter who should help us maintain our dominance in stopping the run defensively.

You want to know what IS sexy?  Running backs!  Running backs are sexy as hell!  C.J. Prosise is a DB that was converted to a linebacker for a short period that was converted to a wide receiver that was THEN converted to a running back.  The kid’s got hands, he can run the entire route tree, but he’s also big enough (6′, 220 lbs), that he could theoretically run up inside and one day possibly be an every-down back for this team.  I don’t know if I want to project all of that upon him right now, but I LOVE his third down potential for this team.  I love thinking about the 1-back shotgun sets we like to run (zone read, play action, and so on), and I love thinking about the no-back/5-wides shotgun sets we like to run.  Normally, I HATE it when we go empty backfield, because I have these visions of Russell Wilson being chased around by bad men out to harm him.  And, while Marshawn Lynch had pretty good hands for a running back, he was never someone I was 100% confident in (but, maybe that’s more on me than a reflection of his abilities), but either way, he’s gone now, and there’s a void to fill there too.  When you look at someone like Thomas Rawls, you see a guy who really struggled in the pass-catching part of the game, which is pretty huge.  Wilson’s not a guy who likes to check the ball down to the running back often, but when he does it’s either because he has no other choice and he’s about to be flattened, or it’s because he sees potential for the running back to get a lot of yards, with a ton of green field around him.  So, losing those modest and potentially huge gains because the running back has stone hands is something that may ultimately hurt Rawls in the long run, and lead to an opening for Prosise to take over the job on an every-down basis.

Right now, the only thing standing in Prosise’s way is his ability to hold up in pass protection.  Regardless of how talented, or athletic, or fast you are; you could have game-breaking ability and be seen as The Next Fill-in-the-Blank-Superstar, but if you can’t pick up the blitz, you’re not even going to SNIFF the field.  Don’t believe me?  Ask Christine Michael how his professional career has gone so far, after being a highly-coveted second round pick and potential Marshawn Lynch replacement.  If Prosise has that in him, or at least the want-to to learn how to do it, then he’s light years ahead already.

Nick Vannett is a guy I find REALLY interesting.  Depth at the tight end position has been seriously lacking since Pete Carroll and John Schneider took over.  Usually, we have one good one, and then a huge drop-off.  Zach Miller was the guy initially, and he was great when he was healthy.  He helped out tremendously when this offensive line was in its infancy, as an extra blocker to try to reduce some of the pressure on the quarterback.  He also did just enough in the passing game to keep defenses honest, as his soft hands made up for his inability to really run away from defenders down the seam.  The Seahawks went and drafted Luke Willson in 2013, but he was always more of a project.  The speed was there, and his height made him a nice little weapon in the passing game, but he’s never been known for his blocking ability.  Make no mistake, he’s made great strides in that area, as he’s been a hard worker for the Seahawks.  But, he is and always will be more known for his offense.  Plus, let’s be honest, he’s really more of a nice #2 option, which is why the Seahawks went out and got Jimmy Graham.  But, again, you’re talking about more of a wide receiver than a tight end.  No matter what he says, no matter how hard he tries, he’s never going to be a good blocker.  It doesn’t mean he doesn’t have value, but there are going to be times where he’s in there, and the Seahawks run the ball, and they don’t get anything out of it because Graham messed up on his assignment.  That’s just the way it’s going to be.

Now, though, we’ve got this Vannett guy, who right away comes with visions of Zach Miller.  Not in that he’s just a “blocking tight end”, but that he’s an “all-around tight end”.  Something this team has been lacking since Miller’s injuries finally forced him out of the league.  And, not for nothing, but Vannett’s confidence in interviews makes me think he’s got just the type of personality that’s going to thrive on a team of alpha dogs.  He’s 6’6, so there’s the height you look for; it doesn’t sound like he has great speed, so he’s not going to be a guy who burns it up the seams either.  But, by some accounts, he has some of the best pass-catching hands in the draft, which leads me to believe this guy is going to be super reliable and a secret weapon.  I mean, think about it, on a team with the wide receivers we’ve got, with Jimmy Graham, and with Luke Willson both as more like tall wide receivers than tight ends, someone like Nick Vannett isn’t going to attract the team’s best defender.  He’s going to get some slow linebacker or maybe even a defensive end on him, which means you should just throw to an area and be able to hit Vannett for a nice gain.  He’ll never be this team’s number 1 option or anything, but with other guys potentially covered, I like the potential this guy has to be a nice outlet for Wilson.  Plus, he should figure to be a quality option in the red zone too (assuming the team uses him properly, which is always a questionmark).

***

That brings us to the project half of the draft.  Guys who are interesting, but whose spots on this team are by no means guaranteed.

Let’s keep going down the line with Rees Odhiambo, a guy whose name I’m going to need to look up to remember how to spell for the first couple years at least.  He was a starting left tackle in college, but his frame suggests he’s going to be a guard in the NFL.  Which, when you think about it, most guards in the NFL are converted tackles anyway, who were only playing on the outside in college because that’s where teams put their best linemen.  With the shorter arms, and less athletic ability, you get bumped inside.  Odhiambo does have good size, though (6’4, 314 lbs), which suggests he may one day compete for the left guard spot (where Cable likes his bigger guards, compared to on the right side, where he likes them lighter and more athletic).  Considering Odhiambo was taken at the end of the third round (probably projected as more of a fourth or early fifth rounder, except the Seahawks had traded away their fourth rounder to move up in the second round), you figure he’s going to need a year to develop.  Depending on his skill-level right now, that either means the team stashes him on the practice squad (if he’s more raw in his skills) or is forced to carry him on the 53-man roster, and make him inactive every week (if he projects to be a future starter; see:  Mark Glowinski last year).

When you figure the Seahawks needed to upgrade along the offensive line, and needed to boost the level of competition among our reserves (with Alvin Bailey moving on), grabbing Ifedi and now Odhiambo gives us a couple of up-and-coming young players who may one day share jobs on the same O-Line.  Odhiambo, with his experience as a left tackle, should be more technically sound in the pass protection game, but we’ll see how he does in camp before we pass any judgment (good or bad) his way.

Let me go ahead and skip over a few guys, as I keep with the offensive line theme.  In the sixth round, the Seahawks took Joey Hunt, a center out of TCU.  As you may know, I (along with most everyone else) really wanted to see Ryan Kelly fall to the Seahawks.  Instead, the Colts took him with the 18th pick, to pair him with Andrew Luck for the next decade; can’t say I blame them.  Seeing a center go that high is beyond rare; you’ve got to be a special, once-in-a-generation type of talent (which is pretty sad, since he’s the Andrew Luck of centers, and he only went as high as 18th in the draft).  With three picks in the third round, you figured the Seahawks would grab one of the better ones there, but there was a little mini-run on centers earlier in the third round, so the position never really felt appropriate for the Seahawks to pick until the sixth.

Hunt was a guy in college who was an elite pass protector, which is something this team desperately needs in the middle.  If, indeed, we’re going with the types of guards Tom Cable likes to employ, they’re more maulers than they are protectors.  The Seattle Seahawks like to run the ball a lot, often to the detriment of the passing game, when it comes to the offensive line.  If we could manage to sneak just ONE elite pass protector in there, in a guy like Hunt, I think it would help out a great deal.  Now, he’s a bit under-sized, at anywhere from 295-299 lbs, which means there’s a chance he could get bullied in the running game.  But, when you look at centers, oftentimes they’re there to help double team with one of the guards.  As such, I don’t know if you expect a lot of 1 on 1 blocking out of your center.  What you NEED is a guy who is smart, who can call out the protections and assignments, and keep everything and everyone around him running smoothly (with the occasional burst up field to knock out linebackers at the second level).  I think Hunt can very much be that guy.  He may need some seasoning.  He may need a year to bulk up a little bit, to ensure he’s ready for the rigors of playing 16 games plus playoffs.  Which is why we have Patrick Lewis on board for one more year.  Let Lewis run the show in 2016, with an eye towards Hunt in 2017 and beyond.  Could be a GREAT value pick for the Seahawks if it pans out the way I’ve decided it should.

On the other side of the ball, the Seahawks took a second defensive tackle, this one with more of an eye towards rushing the passer.  Quinton Jefferson, whom the Seahawks traded up in the fifth round to get (giving up a 4th rounder in the 2017 draft in the process, but we should be getting a compensatory pick there, so it’s not all bad).  With Jordan Hill going into the final year of his rookie deal, you may be looking at his replacement right here.  Probably unreasonable to expect much out of him as a rookie, you nevertheless like the potential for him to slide into that rotation in pass rushing downs.  There’s going to be a significant numbers game going on with the D-Line this year, though, so we’ll see if he makes the cut.  Considering the Seahawks did trade up to get him, you think they’ll do everything they can to ensure he sticks with the team through the year.

Towards the end of the draft, the Seahawks picked up Kenny Lawler, a 6’2 wide receiver out of Cal, to throw onto the pile.  That gives us 12 officially on the roster, with, I’m sure, another few coming via tryouts and whatnot.  This is a stacked position, with Baldwin, Kearse, Lockett, and Richardson all figuring to be locks to make the team.  Then, you’ve got experienced guys in Kevin Smith and Kasen Williams back in the fold, and other guys from our ghost roster who are familiar with the system and our training camps.  By all accounts, Lawler has great hands, and is superb in the endzone, but he’s a seventh round pick for a reason.  He’s probably not all that fast, and in the NFL, he’s going to have to make his mark by winning the 50/50 balls.  Not dropping anything in sight is a great way to get your name remembered, but making highlight reel catches in practice will get you on the team in some capacity.  If he doesn’t have that in him, he might be practice squad fodder, or among the legion in our ghost roster, at the ready when the team needs someone off the streets.

I saved the other running backs for last, because I find it so fascinating that the team went with the Ball So Hard route at this position.  With Marshawn Lynch retired, the team has a serious void, and is apparently not fucking around.  Thomas Rawls returns, and has the inside track on the starting position, but he’s also returning from a serious injury, and the team doesn’t want to be left holding its collective dick if he has a relapse, or is otherwise not ready for the regular season.  Christine Michael is back on a 1-year deal, but that’s by no means guaranteed.  You figure he’s going to need to REALLY explode in camp if he’s going to stick around.  I think, more than anything, the team has put him on notice with the three draft picks it’s used, not to mention the undrafted guy from USC who’s coming in.

Alex Collins, the fifth rounder, looks to be a bigger, bruising type of back.  He shouldn’t be a threat to Prosise for the third down job whatsoever, but could theoretically knock Michael out of the game.  Zac Brooks, on the other hand, is a smaller guy, who should come in to compete for the scat-back type of role.  Given the resources the team has devoted to the position, I think it’s safe to say they didn’t draft all of these guys with the intention of keeping each and every one of them.  With Rawls pretty much guaranteed a spot, I suppose you could theoretically keep four non-fullback type running backs (if, indeed, the team cuts Michael as we head into the regular season), but I don’t know if I believe that’s a given.  I think it’s entirely possible that Michael beats out one of these two late round backs to be that third or fourth back (with Rawls the projected starter, and Prosise the projected #2).  Whoever proves to be more essential to special teams (either Collins or Brooks) could make that the tie-breaker in who wins a spot on the 53-man roster.  In that sense, I wonder if Alex Collins is the next Spencer Ware (i.e. squeezed out in a numbers game, doing it for the Kansas City Chiefs in a couple years).

All in all, this is a draft I really like for the Seahawks.  Could be the best one we’ve seen since 2012.  I see lots of starting and reserve potential for most of these guys.  I could also see some of these guys getting cut and immediately snapped up by other teams around the league.  Who knows?  In five years, I might be writing about how this is another one of those drafts where most of the guys got paid big money in their second contracts.  I can see the compensatory picks from here!

In The First Round, Seahawks Draft An Extra Third Round Pick & An O-Lineman

MOTHER OF GOD does the draft take for-fucking-ever!

Hey so funny story, the Seahawks traded back from 26 to 31, to allow the Super Bowl champion Broncos to draft their quarterback of the future, Paxton Lynch.  It made a long day that much longer for Seahawks fans itching for their favorite team to draft Myles Jack make its selection finally.

And then they did.  Germain Ifedi, offensive lineman, Texas A&M.  He’s apparently played right guard and right tackle, and is apparently super athletic.  6’6, 324 pounds, long arms.  So, yeah.  Seahawks see him as a right tackle at the moment, so I guess we have some competition for free agent signee J’Marcus Webb.

On paper, this looks like the Seahawks just re-drafted James Carpenter.  I would say probably a higher upside, someone who should hopefully fare better in pass protection should he manage to stick at right tackle, but in the end a really big body who’s a little raw and in need of some coaching up of his technique.  If he can come in, start right away, make a positive contribution AS a tackle (and not a guard), and most importantly stay healthy, then I think we’ve got a winner.  But, if he comes in all broken down, has to miss half his rookie year due to injury, and is forced to play catch-up in year two like Carpenter was, then I think it’s safe to think, “Here we go again.”

But, you gotta look at it like this:  #1 need for the Seahawks coming into this draft, without question, and by a million billion miles, was and is offensive line help/depth.  Coming in, we were looking at Gilliam, Britt, Lewis, Glowinski, and Webb.  Also known as:  “Never Started At Left Tackle”, “Turnstile Everywhere He’s Played”, “Projects As Career Backup Center”, “One Career Start To His Name”, and who can forget ol’ “Mediocre-To-Terrible Everywhere He’s Played”?  So, if you’re a Seahawks fan, and you’re mad at this pick … I mean, are you blind?  Are you mentally ill?

This draft pick makes Simple Jack's eyes rain ...

This draft pick makes Simple Jack’s eyes rain …

What do you want?  Do you want the Seahawks to address their weakest position – a position that Seahawks fans ACROSS THE BOARD have bitched about non-stop for the last four-plus years – or do you want them to take “Best Player Available” even though they’re kinda set on that position and that side of the ball.

Yes, yes.  I watched the draft like you did.  I saw Myles Jack fall and fall and fall.  It was a little shocking and a little sad, but then again he did pick UCLA over UW, so fuck him!  He doesn’t even really play Bruce Irvin’s position anyway; we would’ve had to move K.J. Wright over to make the whole thing work, and on top of it we’d still be in this pickle with our O-Line.

No, you gotta draft for need.  That’s what the draft is for, to fill NEEDS!  Will Ifedi be good?  Will he start as a rookie?  That remains to be seen.  Given his pedigree, his draft slot, and his build, I’d say there’s a very good chance Tom Cable is able to coach him up to his satisfaction, to where if he’s not our starting right tackle, then he’s at least a starting guard.  Regardless of the details of where he ends up, you know the Seahawks are going to go with the five best offensive linemen that we have.  I think it’s a LOCK that, if he stays healthy, Germain Ifedi will be one of those five linemen.

Sight unseen, I’d be willing to bet at the VERY least he’s better than Justin Britt right this minute.  I also think there’s a better than good chance he’s better than Webb right now, but if not now, he should be come September.  So, there you go, one hole on this team will be filled by this pick.

Weakside linebacker was NOT a hole!  Shit, Myles Jack will probably still be there in the second round for us anyway!  Didn’t you hear?  His knees are about to explode!

The cherry on top of this day ends up being the extra draft pick we got.  For Denver to move up five spots, they had to give us their third rounder, which now means we have three third round picks at the end of the round (our original at 90, Denver’s at 94, and a compensatory pick at 97).  Which means we’re looking at A LOT of action at the end of the day today.  Or, who knows, maybe the Seahawks package something to move up?  Our pick in the second round (56th overall) is pretty nice, but what if you package that with a third rounder to move way up?  Just sayin’ …

Look, yeah, I’ll admit it, Myles Jack was tempting.  That’s a Top 5 talent that just slid all the way out of the first round.  That’s a potential game-changer for whoever has the balls to grab him.  Even on a team like the Seahawks, if they make that pick, you FIND A WAY to get him on the field, regardless of who you’ve already got on your roster.

But, you know what?  I’m not going to rant and rave that he’s not here.  There’s an obvious risk, without an obvious need for his services.  I’m sure he’ll be snapped up by Tennessee with the second pick in the second round and they’ll further be known as The Team That Won The Draft.  You have to admit, trading for a bunch of draft picks, then trading again to move up and grab one of the top left tackles, and THEN having the best defensive talent in the entire draft drop to you in Round 2 is the thing that GM of the Year awards are made for.  So, chin up everyone!

The Seahawks Are Coming Together, As We All Predicted

Whenever a team starts slowly – particularly a football team, for the purposes of this thing I’m writing here – the hope is always that, over time, they’ll figure their shit out and start to gel.  The reasons ultimately boil down to either Getting Guys Back From Injury, or Young Players Making The Big Leap.  Aside from getting Jeremy Lane back, the Seahawks appear to be firmly in the second camp.

I know there were some fairly impressive victories in the first half of the season – the Bears and 49ers games come immediately to mind – but nothing was as all-encompassingly dominant as what we saw yesterday in Minnesota.  The offense has taken a HUGE step forward, as Russell Wilson has been the best quarterback in football over the last three weeks.  The defense rebounded quite well after giving up almost everything to the Steelers.  The only blemish on yesterday’s game was the kickoff return for a touchdown – their only score of the day – and with the way our offense was moving the ball at will, you could say they had a lot of practice at running back kicks.

I know there were a lot of injured Vikings that didn’t play for the majority of the game, so obviously they weren’t at full strength.  But, I’ll counter that with A) Who IS at full strength at this point in the season?; and B) They could’ve had everyone on their roster at their disposal and I still don’t think we would’ve lost to them.  I’ve seen this Seahawks team struggle against MUCH worse this year; but yesterday, we took it to them and repeatedly stomped on their throats until they were dead.

Now, obviously, I can’t say I saw this sort of turnaround coming.  I don’t think a lot of us expected the Seahawks to turn things around so brilliantly.  But, here we are, at 7-5, with three REALLY easy games ahead of us, and an inside track at the 5-seed in the playoffs.  The offense is humming along like we haven’t seen since 2012, but that’s not even accurate, because we’ve NEVER seen THIS offense do what it’s doing.  We’ve never seen Russell Wilson this confident and this accurate in the pocket.  He still hasn’t lost his ability to make people miss and scramble around and whatnot, but he’s added another weapon to his arsenal:  the quick pass.  This is really what we’ve been waiting for all along, since we figured out Wilson was to be our franchise quarterback.

What’s always been the way to defend Russell Wilson?  Keep him in the pocket and use his deficiencies against him.  There are a couple of universal truths about our quarterback since he entered the league:  his offensive line struggles in pass protection, and if he gets to the edge he’s already beaten you.  So, you prevent him from getting to that edge, and you use his primary weakness against him by collapsing the pocket and taking away his throwing lanes.  Usually, Wilson will oblige you on this by holding the ball too long, trying to make the big play all the time.  Since he entered the league, he’s been the slowest quarterback to get the ball out of his hands, and when you combine that with a faulty (at times) offensive line, you get a guy who’s been sacked more than most (all?).

But, if Wilson’s able to shift his game to where he gets the ball out on time more often than not, then how do defenses adjust?  I reckon, they’d adjust by taking more chances on the edges, thereby re-opening those old running lanes, resulting in a Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t scenario that could ultimately make Russell Wilson the most dangerous quarterback in the league.

What we’re witnessing, my friends, is an elite quarterback who is adjusting to all the defensive adjustments other teams have made on him, and thriving accordingly.

This obviously opens up a whole new world to an offense that looks to be transitioning away from Marshawn Lynch.  Not that we have to go completely cold turkey, as we’ve got Beastmode Jr. in Thomas Rawls.  He continues to look like the real deal in his rookie season, taking over the load for a would-be Hall of Famer.  To lose one of the best running backs in the league and not miss a step?  Yeah, I’d say this is a team no one wants to face in the playoffs.

Ultimately, if the season ends up going well, I think we have to give a lot of credit to a couple of really under-the-radar moves the team made, when it appeared that things were going down the toilet:  replacing Cary Williams with DeShawn Shead, and replacing Drew Nowak with Patrick Lewis.  The Cary Williams thing probably should’ve looked a lot more obvious as the weeks went on, but I think a lot of his struggles were camouflaged by, quite honestly, the rest of the defense suffering its share of breakdowns.  But, when you consider the defensive unit as a whole, and that if even one guy isn’t pulling his share of the weight could spell disaster, then it’s pretty easy to see who that one guy was.  The thing is, I don’t think the team would’ve been able to make that change in the first place if Jeremy Lane doesn’t come back from his Super Bowl massacre.  We needed Shead as a primary slot defender (especially with Burley constantly getting injured), so if Lane hadn’t come back, I think we’d still be watching Williams start opposite Richard Sherman, and our defense would be suffering for it.  More than anything, I think we didn’t realize Williams was doing as much damage as he was because of our over-confidence in the L.O.B.  Let’s face it, when you play the style of defense we like to play, where your outside corners are often on an island, you can’t just compensate for one player’s shortcomings when he’s supposed to be one of those guys on the island.  This should also speak to how fragile our current dominance is:  if anyone in the secondary goes down with injury, the whole fucking thing could unravel.  So, save some of those thoughts and prayers for the L.O.B.

As for Patrick Lewis, I think that was a no-brainer.  Honestly, I can’t remember the state of mind this team was in when it decided to go with Drew Nowak at center over the other guys we had in camp.  Was Lewis a little banged up maybe?  It’s hard to see how Nowak would’ve just beaten him straight up.  Maybe Nowak has more club control?  Either way, I’m sure Tom Cable saw something in him.  Something that might blossom.  With Britt moving to guard and Gilliam to right tackle, maybe he thought this was the right time to break in a new center as well, so they could all grow and gel together.  Either way, it was a mistake, and more importantly, the Seahawks recognized it and formally announced it as a mistake.  This front office does a lot of things right, from drafting to development to working contracts and leaving us with cap flexibility.  But, I think the most important thing – and the most underrated thing – is their ability to pivot away from mistakes when it’s obvious that it wasn’t working.  With Cary Williams, it was a good chunk of change, as well as a good chunk of games; with Nowak, it was just the games (as well as a little bit of Cable’s credibility).  BUT, the team made the necessary corrections, and we’re all the better for it.

Now, it’s just a matter of taking care of business.  We go to Baltimore next week, whose only positive attribute is its quality coaching; then we host the Browns and Rams.  All of those teams are playing their worst football right now, so they should all be easily beaten.  That takes us to Week 17 – where we should have 10 wins and probably the 5th seed locked up.

I know all along I’ve talked about the Cardinals having the 2-seed locked up by Week 17, but who’s to say we won’t have that 5-seed locked up as well?  Right now, we’re 7-5, and a game behind the Vikings (who we just beat, and therefore have the tiebreaker edge against).  The Vikings play at Arizona this Thursday, where they should most certainly lose.  When we beat Baltimore, that’ll put us in the 5-seed with the same record as the Vikings.  Assuming we continue to win and get to 10 wins going into Week 17, who’s to say the Vikings don’t lose another one between now and then?  They host the Bears and Giants in back to back weeks; those teams aren’t great, but they’re certainly capable.  Our other concern, of course, would be the Packers.  They host Dallas next week, then go to Oakland; both games they should probably win.  Then, they go to Arizona before hosting the Vikings in the final week.  So, in conclusion, I regret travelling down this line of thinking, as there are WAY too many variables to count right now.

The end.