It’s insane at work right now, so I’m looking for little pockets of time to write this out and get it done on time before the weekend. If it feels disjointed, just blame the scapegoat du jour.
I’ve already written a couple of preview-ish things on the 2017 Seahawks. Back in April, when the schedule came out, I took a preliminary stab at predicting the outcomes. Now that we’re just days away from the start of the season, I’ll update that with the power of new information! Then, back in July, I took a look at the roster as we were barrelling toward Training Camp. I don’t know how much my opinion has changed – from either of those two earlier posts – so if I harp on the same points, forgive me, but I just don’t have the time to re-read all of my blatherings.
I will say this: whereas before I was cautiously optimistic – believing if everything broke right, it wasn’t hard to imagine this team back in the Super Bowl – now I’m a rock-hard, veiny, throbbing erection of populist Seahawks swaggeration! I haven’t felt this confident about my team since the start of 2013! Except, to be honest, I’ll have to walk that back a bit and say I haven’t felt this confident about my team since the start of 2014. I mean, look, that 2013 team was CRAZY deep and CRAZY talented, up and down the roster. On top of that, the 2013 team actually had a competent offensive line, whereas this year’s team is still very much in doubt (in spite of recent improved pre-season play, which I’ll get to in a bit). Frankly, I was still pretty stoked on the Seahawks heading into 2014, and indeed pegged them for a repeat championship, which they had in their grasp one yard from fruition, but it wasn’t as solid a feeling as 2013.
This year is the same, in my mind. The talent is there, no question. In fact, in some areas, the talent is vastly improved (at least on paper). And, the depth is in some ways back to where it was in 2013. But, the last few years of creeping failure is clouding my enthusiasm JUST enough to have this nagging creature of doubt in the corner of my mind-grapes. I’m doing my damnedest to give that guy the finger though, because I want to be ALL IN on the ground floor with this Seahawks team.
TL;DR: WE’RE BACK, BABY!!!
Let’s just take this position by position, to show you how strong this team is, and to show the world how foolish it is to doubt us.
Quarterback – Top 5 in the entire league, fully healthy, in great running shape (the better to compensate for a questionable-to-say-the-least offensive line).
Running Backs – A deep stable of runners of all stars and stripes! Lacy, the power back. Prosise, the speed/pass-catching back. Rawls, the good mix of both. McKissic, the Prosise insurance. Carson, the overall back & everyone else insurance. If you can’t have Marshawn Lynch in his prime, then the next best thing is to stockpile 5 guys who add up to 1 Beastmode.
Wide Receivers – A Top 10 guy in Baldwin. A burner in Lockett. Another burner with outstanding ball skills in P-Rich. A tall red zone threat in McEvoy. And a rookie project in Darboh. Not as deep without Kearse in the fold, but if you throw in McKissic and Prosise, you’ve got a lot of versatility in the passing game.
Tight Ends – A Top 3 guy in Graham. Another tall receiving threat in Willson. And a young blocking tight end with a good pedigree in Vannett.
Defensive Line – Off-the-charts talent all over the place. Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril are proven studs. Sheldon Richardson is the pass-rushing interior force we’ve been looking for since Cortez Kennedy retired. Frank Clark is an up-and-coming dominant force who should look to take a giant step into the spotlight this season. Jones and Reed are young interior talents with a lot to prove. Smith and Bass are young ends with a lot to prove. This could go down as the best D-Line we’ve ever had in Seattle, and yes even better than that 2013 unit that laid waste to the entire league.
Linebackers – More off-the-charts talent in guys like Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright; guys who can cover all over the place, who are dominant against the run, and who can rush the passer on occasion. Depth here is vastly improved over the last couple seasons, with proven vets in Wilhoite & Garvin. Injuries should not be as much of an issue as they would’ve been in years past.
Secondary – The L.O.B. is still here and still as good as ever. Earl, Kam, and Sherm comprise the best threesome of any secondary in the NFL. Jeremy Lane is a solid all-around corner, with emphasis on nickel. Shaq Griffin is the only question mark, but he’s got a good pedigree and should get plenty of safety help in the early going.
Special Teams – Blair Walsh looks like he’s starting to get back on track, but will have to prove it when the games matter. Either way, he shouldn’t be as bad as Hauschka was last year, particularly on extra points. Jon Ryan is still going to keep opposing offenses pinned back inside their 20 more often than not, and overall control the return game with his quality punts. The return game is bolstered with McKissic as insurance for Lockett, should the team opt to bring him back slowly, or otherwise take some of the duties off his plate. And, coverage units look a lot better with Neiko Thorpe, D.J. Alexander, and our rookie secondary guys.
The only real area of uncertainty is, obviously, the offensive line. Everywhere else, the Seahawks have elite, top-shelf talent and depth. So, let’s dig into this.
An argument can easily be made that past seasons’ O-Line groups were made to look better than they actually were because Marshawn Lynch was so money, and I’m hard pressed to go against that line of thinking. Can any of the runners we have now live up to that and make this group of guys look better than they are? I think, maybe, in small doses, Lacy can be that type of runner who limits negative rushes and falls forward for impressive gains. I also think, in between injuries, Rawls can certainly be a Baby Beastmode with his style, but the question with him is how long will those healthy stints last? Prosise has the speed to get around the edge and through holes before they close, but he’ll have to prove he can stay healthy too.
Indeed, even in the pass-protection portion of the O-Line game, the major concern is health: can they keep Russell Wilson from getting injured? Obviously, Wilson can help out his own cause by getting the ball out quickly and eluding pressure before it’s right on top of him; but they’re going to have to drastically reduce the amount of free runners at the quarterback if this thing is going to work.
In a lot of ways, injuries are a matter of luck, and the Seahawks were pretty fucking unlucky last year. Not 2017 Mariners unlucky, but not too far off either. What are the odds that Wilson will spend the entire season hobbled again? In a vacuum, I’d have to say not very good; but with this line I think you have to consider it a coin flip at best. Luck is one thing, but there are things a team can do to limit the amount of bad luck that comes your way. Getting improved O-Line play is one of them.
For what it’s worth, I do think this line will be better than last year’s, and I think it’ll be better right from the start. This is key, as there are a lot of important games early in the season, and we can’t afford to slog through 10 weeks of growing pains before we go on our annual year-end hot streak.
I think Odhiambo, with a year under his belt, will be better than Brad Sowell and 2016 George Fant. Since Fant, last year, was about as bad as you can get, I’d say that’s a huge upgrade (and Odhiambo doesn’t even have to be GOOD to achieve this level of improvement!). Now, obviously losing 2017 Fant to injury is about as devastating as it can get, because he really did look like he was going to take a huge step forward in his development, but I’ll take baby steps at this point over what we had last year.
Luke Joeckel looks like a solid upgrade over Glowinski at left guard. Paired with Britt at center, I think that side of the line will be just fine.
Glowinski slides over to right guard, which appears to be his better side. He’s been playing somewhat evenly with free agent Oday Aboushi, so it’s good to know at least the right guard spot should be adequate (and probably a step above 2016 Ifedi).
My biggest concern is 2017 Ifedi, having moved back to right tackle (where he played in college and was projected to play in the NFL). I’ve seen this movie before, but usually it’s a right tackle who gets moved to one of the guard spots, and not the other way around. The consensus being: tackle is a harder position to play than guard (which is a harder position to play than center … hi Justin Britt!). So, the rationale ends up as: if Ifedi was pretty terrible at right guard last year, what hope is there for him as a right tackle? Indeed, I don’t have a good answer for you there. Again, I suppose I’ll bring up the experience angle. The leap from rookie to second year player, particularly along the O-Line, is pretty pronounced. You gotta figure he’s at the very least more comfortable in his assignments. And, at his size, you’ve gotta give him the power advantage over what should be smaller defensive end/linebacker types going up against him (whereas when he was a guard, he was going up against mammoth D-tackles). His limitations are obviously in the speed game, where his footwork comes into play. I have very few concerns about Ifedi the run blocker, but I have a SHITLOAD of concerns about him in pass protection, as I think some of the better pass rushers can rope-a-dope the shit out of him. We’ll see I guess.
Overall, as I said, I have hopes that instead of being the 32nd-rated offensive line, the Seahawks can jump up to the 25th-best. Even that modest increase could prove to take this offense to as-yet-unseen heights of efficiency and scoring prowess.
Things to watch this season on offense will be:
- 3rd down efficiency
- Red zone efficiency
- Yards per rush
In 2016, it seemed like the Seahawks were more prone to mistakes (penalties, missed blocking assignments) on third down, which is just a ball-buster. No one is expecting the Seahawks to cut out the penalties entirely (indeed, some of their very best teams were among the most penalized in the league), but they’ve got to do a better job of not holding on long rushing plays, not getting called for offensive PI on pick plays, and not setting themselves back with third & long nonsense.
For the red zone, it’s simple: find a way to get Jimmy Graham the ball. Full stop. He was the man in New Orleans and he had 9 or more TDs in all but one season there. That needs to happen again, here, this season (and I’m not just saying that because he’s on one of my fantasy teams, but I’m also not NOT just saying that either, I think).
And, look for the Seahawks to get back to their rushing roots. Beastmode may be gone, but the running backs we have now are more than capable of picking up that slack. I’d also like to see a moderate return to the zone read, with Wilson pulling the ball back on occasion to keep defenses honest. Also, not for nothing, but I’d like to see Wilson do this EARLY in games, to put that in other teams’ minds from the get-go.
On defense, watch for:
- Late-game heroics
- Quarterback pressure, hurries, hits, sacks
To get back to where we were in 2013, we’re going to have to force turnovers. That goes hand-in-hand with pressuring the quarterback into bad decisions, as well as knocking the ball from his hand for fumbles. That also goes hand-in-hand with the late game heroics, as we need to prevent those breakdowns we’ve seen in 2015 & 2016, and instead force turnovers to slam the door on those close games. It’s a team game, and nowhere is that more apparent than the symbiotic relationship that is an NFL defense.
As for this year’s record, I’ll go through the schedule again, briefly.
- Week 1 – I like the Seahawks to go into Green Bay and shock the world. It’ll be our official announcement to the rest of the league that the Seahawks are here, they’re for real, and they’re going to stomp all over the lot of you!
- Week 2 – A comfortable home victory against the young, rebuilding 49ers team. Maybe not as dominant as we’d like, as they do have some young and talented pieces (particularly on defense), but a win is a win.
- Week 3 – The Seahawks under Pete Carroll always seem to lose one road game to an AFC opponent that we’re all pretty unfamiliar with (except for last year, randomly, although we almost blew one at home against the Dolphins in week 1). I think the Titans are really good and I could see the combination of their dominant rushing attack, and efficient passing game (particularly in the red zone) to just nip us for our first loss of the season
- Week 4 – I like the Seahawks to get back on track at home, in primetime, against a weak Indy team. With or without Luck, I like the Seahawks to roll.
- Week 5 – No more losing to the Rams! Jeff Fisher is dead, and with him so is the Rams’ proclivity of beating us for no good God damned reason.
- Week 6 – BYE
- Week 7 – I’m not particularly afraid of the Giants’ running game. While they’ve got some good receivers, I think we can hold them in check and put enough pressure on Eli into forcing some mistakes. Their defense is legit, but I like the Seahawks to do just enough in this one and win a close game by 3 in overtime.
- Week 8 – The Texans come to town and will be sent packing. I could see this one as a battle of defenses, with the Seahawks pulling away late. Something in the realm of 16-3 or 16-6.
- Week 9 – The Redskins come to town and they feel like just the sort of team who should be held in check by us. Force Kirk Cousins into the worst game of his season, eliminate all threat of a rushing attack, and really take it to their porous defense.
- Week 10 – Thursday Night in Arizona. By this time, I wonder if Carson Palmer will even be playing. Either way, he showed his age in 2016, and I can’t imagine he’ll be in for a fountain of youth situation this year. No Calais Campbell, no monster in the middle to defend. I think this is another game where the 12’s will make themselves heard on the road, and the Seahawks take the game comfortably in the fourth quarter.
- Week 11 – Monday Night in Seattle against the Falcons. I know the Seahawks took them out in the regular season last year, and I know we’ll be coming off of a Thursday game (and thus have all this extra time to prepare), but I can’t help but be concerned about this one. I think it’ll be exciting and I think it’ll be close, but I could also see the Falcons just having our number and being able to score in bunches. Rare home Monday Night loss for the Seahawks here.
- Week 12 – At San Francisco, again, I think they should be relative push-overs.
- Week 13 – Home night game against Philly. I don’t see enough out of their offense to hold a candle to our defense. Another comfortable, boring win at home at night.
- Week 14 – I could see the Seahawks getting off to a sloppy start on the road, in a 10am start, in Jacksonville. But, by the second quarter, the tide should turn and the Seahawks should take this one running away.
- Week 15 – I SAID NO MORE LOSING TO THE RAMS!!!
- Week 16 – Here we go! Christmas Eve in Dallas! In what could very well be a matchup that decides the NFC’s #1 seed! I can’t imagine the odds of the Seahawks sweeping the NFC East are very good, but I dunno. I just got a feeling that the Seahawks are going to sweep this road slate of impossible NFC teams (Packers, Giants, Cowboys). This one could be another barnburner, with a late turnover keying the Seahawks to victory.
- Week 17 – At 13-2 headed into the final week, I think the Seahawks rest a lot of guys after a quarter or two and drop the season finale, with the #1 seed all wrapped up.
13-3 is my official prediction. The Seahawks cruise through the playoffs into the Super Bowl where they await the darlings of the NFL: the Oakland Raiders. Everything about that game gets my loins all a-tizzy. Also, the idea of sticking it to the Raiders brings me tremendous joy.
The Seattle Seahawks, Super Bowl LII Champions!
Okay, that’s all for now. Let’s get this season in gear!