Yesterday, we took a look at the bright side of this season. If everything breaks right, what COULD happen, including a possible division title and beyond. Today, we’re going hard negative.
If you played this season 100 times, probably 90 of them will be about the same: the Seahawks will finish somewhere between 7-9 and 9-7. The ceiling, while remote, is a division-winning playoff team (likely requiring the Rams to fall apart completely). The floor, while also remote, is an 0-16 team pushing for that #1 draft pick in 2019. How does that happen? Well, if Russell Wilson has a season-ending injury in the first game of the year, then I’m sorry, but it’s Tank City. While I don’t expect him to get injured, I’m not completely ruling it out. Make no mistake, this year – as well as the foreseeable future – it’s going to be all about Mr. Wilson. We go where he takes us.
A couple teams come to mind as comparable to the Seahawks. For the purposes of this argument, throw out the New England Patriots. Our coaching staff isn’t on par and Russell Wilson isn’t Tom Brady. Not yet, anyway. No, for this exercise, I’m thinking about the Green Bay Packers and the New Orleans Saints.
See, most years (in the Aaron Rodgers regime), the Packers boil down to an elite QB, some nice skill guys on offense, and a bunch of trash on defense. Ditto the Saints under Drew Brees. You could argue the Saints’ defense has been much more maligned, but I’ve seen more than my fair share of terrible Packers defenses. And yet, the Packers are always seen as a potential division winner, solely because they have Aaron Rodgers at the helm; yet, the Saints more often than not are seen as a .500-ish ballclub, only being held afloat by the will of Brees.
So, where do these Seahawks fall? One could make the argument that right now, Russell Wilson is as good as Aaron Rodgers. He’s certainly just as important to the success of this team as A-Rod is to his. Yet, me and most everyone else feels this team more closely resembles those mediocre Saints teams we’ve seen for much of the last decade. I don’t know about you, but I don’t see a whole helluva lot of difference between Brees, Rodgers, and Wilson, so what gives?
Well, for starters, I think this defense is a lot closer to the bottom of the NFL than it is to the top. I see a defense without a pass rush. I see a defense that can’t force any turnovers out of its secondary. I see a defense that’s just sort of okay at stopping the run. And, I see a defense that’s tissue paper-thin. If we start losing too many starters, there will be a tipping point, and we’ll be talking about the 32nd ranked unit in the NFL before too long.
So much has to go right just for this defense to be middle-of-the-road! If we just talk about health, we’re already talking about a team with an injured K.J. Wright who’s missing at least Week 1, if not more. Also, not for nothing, but when he was out there this pre-season, Wright wasn’t looking like his usual self; has he started the downside of his career? There’s Dion Jordan, who’s supposed to be one of our main pass rushing ends; he missed the entire pre-season, has a lot of degenerative issues, and probably shouldn’t be counted on to finish more than 6-8 games this year (forget starts; anyone can start a game and go out after one series; I want to know how many games this guy can FINISH). Even if Jordan is healthy, do we know if he’s actually good? Sure, he looks the part, but looks don’t pressure opposing QBs. Our other main rush end is Frank Clark; are we sure HE’S good? He’s looked pretty good so far in his career, like a guy about to earn a big contract extension. But, is he WORTH that kind of money? Or, is he just going to get that money regardless of whether or not he takes another step in his development? My main question with Clark is: does he even WANT to be great?
It seems to me like this entire defense is being held together by Bobby Wagner and duct tape. While he’s one of the best middle linebackers in the league, he can’t do literally everything.
It might be different if we had one more year of Earl Thomas in his prime, but that ain’t happening. We’ve seen countless times how this team looks without Earl and Kam in the defensive backfield; now we start an entire era of football without those guys! It’s not going to be pretty!
I’m curious to see the impact of potentially having Earl Thomas back for one more year. He’s certainly a game-changer for this secondary, as the significant improvement of ET over TT could be a 2-3 game improvement in overall wins. But, will his heart be in it? Will the team still find a way to trade him midway through the season? And, maybe most importantly, will he be able to stay healthy? Without a training camp or a pre-season, how many times have we seen guys return from holdouts only to immediately twist an ankle or tweak a hammy or something? I’ll believe he’s The Real Earl Thomas when I see it.
We’re all hanging our hats on Pete Carroll being a defensive-minded football coach whose specialty is the secondary, while we clap our hands and blindly say into the shadows, “We’ll be fine.” But, will we? Why? Because Shaquill Griffin looked better than expected as a rookie? How many career interceptions does he have? One. He has one. Sure, he’s a fine cover corner, but he can’t cover literally everyone, and he’s not what anyone would call a “lockdown” corner, so he’s going to give up a good number of catches and yards. He feels a lot closer to Marcus Trufant than Richard Sherman, and that’s a problem, because he’s supposed to be far and away the best corner on this team, which means the drop-off is significant. Justin Coleman, almost certainly, is the actual best cornerback on this roster, and he’ll do well in his role covering slot receivers, but those guys don’t play every single down. We have some schlub playing opposite Griffin who will almost certainly be the bane of our existence as early as the very first game of the season.
I think the defense is going to be very, very bad. What’s worse, I’m afraid we won’t see the type of improvement over the course of this season to give us any hope for the future. The L.O.B. is dead. And it’s never coming back.
As I wrote about yesterday, the season hinges on the offense, and the offense hinges on Russell Wilson, so getting back to my point at the top, can he single-handedly carry this beached whale of a team into the playoffs?
I’m gonna guess probably not. I do think he’s closer to Drew Brees than Aaron Rodgers (as I think this defense is closer to the very worst Saints defenses than it is to the Packers). I also think the challenges presented within our division, within our conference, and with the schedule we’ve been saddled with, all conspire against us doing a damn thing in 2018.
The Rams are flat out better than the Seahawks, end of story. You can question their long-term viability. You can look at all the superstars they acquired the past couple seasons and think an implosion is on the horizon. Indeed, even if the chemistry is top notch, they won’t be able to pay everyone forever, so EVENTUALLY things will break apart. But, not in 2018. In 2018, they’re going to be one of the 2 or 3 best teams in the entire NFL (hell, maybe THE best team). Barring a multitude of injuries to the Rams, there’s no way we beat them in either game we play against them.
The 49ers are at least as good as the Seahawks, with a MUCH higher upside in the near future. The 49ers could be a playoff team as early as THIS year, if Jimmy G continues to shred defenses like he did last year. I have my doubts; I’m not nearly as high on them as some people – who have them as their dark horse darlings – but they’ll still be tough. I can’t guarantee 2 wins against them; I can’t even guarantee 1!
Then, there’s the Cards. They seem like they’ll be pretty bad. But, that’s no guarantee that they’ll necessarily be bad against the Seahawks! Sam Bradford is usually pretty careful with the ball; as long as he’s healthy, that’s a viable offense that should have zero trouble moving the ball against our defense. And, they have just enough veterans on the defensive side of the ball to get stops and make our lives miserable. The Seahawks probably SHOULD beat the Cardinals twice, but would it shock you to see us slip in either of these games? Shit, at our very best, we still managed to lose to Jeff Fisher’s Rams more times than I care to count!
We catch the Broncos on the road; they have savvy vets all over the place. We catch the Bears on a potential upswing (their defense looks like it could give us fits in week 2). We play the Cowboys with their awesome rushing attack. We have to go all the way to London for some stupid reason; who knows how that Raiders game turns out? We go to Detroit who has an offense that should shred us no problem. We host the Chargers, whose quarterback ALWAYS shreds even the very best versions of our defense. We host the Packers on a short week, they’re expected to compete for a Super Bowl. We go to Carolina, that feels like a demoralizing loss waiting to happen. We host the Vikings on Monday night; they’re also expected to compete for a Super Bowl. And, we host the Chiefs, who are always good and solidly coached under Andy Reid.
I’ve spent the entirety of this pre-season being pretty impressed by our starting units on both sides of the ball. I think both our offense and defense have looked better than I anticipated (while our depth is non-existent). My thought process all along has been that maybe the Seahawks can hang around, but once injuries mount, we’ll be toast. But, the more I look at the schedule, at the crop of QBs we have to go up against, and everything else, I can present an easy argument on why the Seahawks might lose each and every one of those games! Yet, the only argument in our favor is Russell Wilson. Russell Is Magic, but he’s not THAT much magic!
I’m still of the belief that the O-Line will be much better than people think, but they’re still not going to be perfect. They’re probably not even going to rank in the top 10! When compared to past Seahawks O-Lines under Tom Cable, they’ll look like world-beaters, but that’s not saying much. The point is, they should open up some holes to run through, and they should give Russell Wilson plenty of time to throw.
But, do we trust Wilson to always do the right thing?
I believe the Seahawks will be behind in a lot of games. That’s going to put more of the burden on Wilson to pull our asses out of the fire. He’s pretty great, but he still makes a good number of mistakes, trying to prolong plays, keep drives alive. He’s always looking down field for the big play, and as a result misses a lot of positive plays around the line of scrimmage. He takes too many sacks, and he puts a lot of balls in harm’s way. I mean, we saw the Seahawks behind in a lot of games back when the defense was good; why was that? A lot of times because Wilson turned the ball over or otherwise couldn’t get the fucking offense moving in the first quarter. How much of that was on the O-Line vs. on Wilson himself?
Well, I guess we’ll find out this year. Because the O-Line WILL be better. And, when it is, if we still find Wilson making similar mistakes, then we have to admit that he’s not the be-all, end-all. He’s good enough to take even the worst teams to an 8-8 record, but he’s not good enough to single-handedly get us into the playoffs. He’s like almost every other quarterback in the league (particularly every other quarterback who doesn’t spend his entire career in the AFC Least); he needs help. And the Seahawks don’t have enough help around him to get this team to where it wants to go.
The Seahawks won’t make the playoffs this year. I know I predicted the Seahawks to go 9-7 in my season picks, but if I were you I’d bet the family farm on under 9 wins. I’d even be inclined to take under 8 wins.