Who Cares: The Seahawks Shut Out The Chargers In The Pre-Season Finale

I don’t even know why I’m writing about these pre-season games. There’s nothing even remotely noteworthy to discuss.

No Russell Wilson. No … most of the other good starters you know and love. And, clearly, nobody good for the Chargers either. Here are some things I noticed:

Cody Barton looks good! People are worried about the linebacker depth on this team – especially with the injury to BBK – but he was all over the place in this game (and, really, all pre-season); he looks like a completely different player than we’ve seen so far in his pro career! God forbid, if he were to have to replace Bobby Wagner, I don’t think it would be as significant of a drop-off as most people might believe.

Nick Bellore looks … serviceable! I’ll be honest, I never gave him a second thought when I heard they were playing him at linebacker. That sounded like usual Training Camp nonsense that you hear about whenever there are injuries to depth at a certain position. He’s no K.J. Wright. He shouldn’t be starting for anyone. I’m glad his special teams skills are able to translate to him being competent at defense. If he were to play some snaps in a pinch on gameday, I’d be okay with it.

It was nice to see Marquise Blair back in action. With this Quandre Diggs hold-in situation brewing, I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t mind sticking to our guns and seeing what Blair has to offer as a starting free safety. Is Diggs really in a position to hold out? Is he willing to lose game checks over it? I think I’d call his bluff and see what happens with Blair in the meantime.

Darrell Taylor looks like he’s making progress! I don’t think he’s a complete player by any means. There will be growing pains, if indeed he enters the regular season as our starting SAM linebacker. But, he’s flashing some good attributes in the meantime and that’s encouraging. I think by season’s end – if he can stay on the field – he’ll be MUCH better than where he is now.

Alton Robinson looks like he’s also making progress! We all liked what he did as a rookie last year, and it appears he’s making the next step. It’s not a huge leap forward or anything, but if indeed he’s better than he was last year, that’s going to help our defense tremendously.

On offense, clearly Alex Collins did everything he needed to do to make this team. 37 rushing yards and a TD; 7 catches for 52 yards. Essentially, he did what DeeJay Dallas did the first two games of the pre-season (Dallas didn’t play at all, seeming to secure his spot on the 53-man roster). Rashaad Penny, on the other hand, looked disappointing. I don’t think Penny will be cut, because there’s apparently no cap savings in it, but the Hawkblogger article on this game talked about the Seahawks maybe listening to trade offers. I’d be ALL FOR that, even if it’s just a sixth or seventh rounder. Penny is a bust, that much is clear. Taking what you can get for someone who isn’t in your future plans is all you can really hope for.

We saw our first Dee Eskridge action of the pre-season, in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it performance (which I apparently did, because I don’t remember him at all; to be fair, I was hardly paying attention as I fast-forwarded through the bulk of this game on DVR the next day). Everyone’s raving about him, so that’s exciting. Otherwise, not a lot from the receivers in this one.

It was a 27-0 laugher where no one of note got hurt. I’ll take it. I’m not bothered whatsoever by the starters sitting out the pre-season, because I think they get the bulk of their work done in practice anyway. These are veterans, we know what they’re capable of when the games matter. It’s idiotic to want to expose them to injuries in games that don’t count.

When compared to previous years, this might be the healthiest the Seahawks have ever been heading into the regular season! Now, obviously, guys could come up lame in weeks 1 and 2; that won’t shock me at all. But, hopefully reducing the number of hits in the pre-season is a net positive. All we can do is cross our fingers and hope.

Now, there’s a pointless off-week for the entire NFL before the season starts. I don’t know why this exists, I don’t know who had the bright idea to increase the regular season by a week – but not add an extra BYE week – but that’s life: it’s not always to our liking, and it’s run by people who lack common sense.

Nobody Wants To Hear About My Fantasy Team 2021: Return Of The Splinter League

My fantasy column (which is really just an excuse to complain about my fantasy teams, but also lets me provide my analysis on a variety of players and matchups on a weekly basis) has been a regular feature on my blog since 2018. You can catch up on the types of leagues I’m in HERE. I mostly just talk about my Main League, one I used to be commissioner of since its infancy back in the 2003-range. I’m still in it – with a group of my oldest friends – though I’m no longer in charge. I went and started my own Splinter League with some friends who are in the Main League, as well as some other friends, and it’s much more lowkey and casual. Both are 2-QB leagues that heavily skew towards more points for the quarterbacks (since they’re the most important players in the real NFL, I feel this is valid for fantasy as well).

The Splinter League is much more QB-friendly (15 yards per point, compared to 20 in the Main League; both are 6-point touchdowns and -4 points for INTs). Anyway, I’ll have more to say about the Main League at another time, but my Splinter League team just had its draft on Sunday night, so let’s get into it!

This year’s Splinter League team name is BUCK FUTTER, from the infamous SNL Jeopardy! sketch. It’s an okay name, but I didn’t have a lot of inspiration this year, especially after trying to compete with last year’s Pound Some Cunth, which was *chef’s kiss*.

I’m mostly just excited because I drafted a really good team. I’m not the only one who thinks so, as Yahoo – on draft day – pegged me for a 14-1 record this season. Just a day removed – even though Yahoo has tinkered with the projected standings of other teams – I remain with that 14-1 prognostication. I was also the only team to get an A grade by Yahoo (the next-highest was a B; then there’s a B-, with everyone else in the C-range in our 10-team league).

I logged on 30 minutes prior to find I was drafting 9th. That means that – again, with our scoring system being what it is – most of the top tier quarterbacks would be taken. The guy with the first draft pick never showed and had his team auto-drafted by Yahoo; as a result, Yahoo drafted him a team the way it would in any old league (i.e. eschewing quarterbacks early for running backs and receivers). CMC was the first overall pick. Then it went: Mahomes, Allen, Brady, Dalvin Cook, Wilson, Kyler, and Lamar (the Cook guy also temporarily forgot about the scoring system, but that’s not a bad alternative for him).

So, I was left with the guy I picked – Aaron Rodgers – among players like Tannehill, Dak, Herbert, Hurts, Stafford, and Lawrence. The 10th pick in the snake went with Zeke Elliott and Tannehill back-to-back, which left me in the illustrious position of getting Alvin Kamara with my second round pick. Outstanding! I’ve never had him on a fantasy team before and I couldn’t be more thrilled that he’s with me now (with no Brees, and lots of question marks on that Saints offense).

I had the usual LONG wait before I got to my third and fourth picks. I opted for Matthew Stafford over Trevor Lawrence to close out the third round (I never considered for a second going with either Baker Mayfield or Matt Ryan, who both went later in the fourth round). I’ll say this: if the Splinter League were a keeper league, it would’ve been Lawrence all day. But, we do full redrafts here, and I’m not willing to jump on the Lawrence bandwagon if there’s no long-term benefit for me. There will be lots of yards thrown, but I also anticipate lots of turnovers that will hurt him. I also wanted to go with Stafford because – like Rodgers – he’s on a team that’s going to be in the running with the Seahawks for the top seed in the NFC. If I have any bad mojo on me, and it carries over to those guys, all the better for my beloved Seahawks. Otherwise, if they play as well as I expect them to, I should have no problems at the quarterback position in 2021 (for this league, anyway).

With my fourth round pick, I nabbed Najee Harris. This is a guy I LOVED in college, and desperately wished my Seahawks could’ve somehow gotten in the real NFL draft. I was burned last year in my Main League with rookie running back CEH, but Harris seems like a slam dunk as long as he stays healthy. I can’t remember the last time I had two running backs I was so fond of! If you let me hand-pick any two running backs for my fantasy team, it would’ve been Kamara and Harris. I know guys just say things like that all the time, but for me it’s true. I think both will be durable, as well as points hogs both in the running and passing games. Plus, they’re just fun players to watch (unless they’re going against your team, then you’re never more miserable, particularly when they’re going off).

With another long wait between picks, a lot of good receivers were going off the board. I had no shot at the upper tier guys (Tyreek, Davante, Kelce, D.K., Hopkins, Diggs, and Ridley all went in rounds 2 and 3 between my picks), and players I was potentially eyeballing for the end of the fifth round, like Keenan Allen, Allen Robinson, and particularly CeeDee Lamb, were all swiped from me (Lamb one spot prior). I could’ve gone after the Rams guys – Kupp & Woods – to pair them with my quarterback; I could’ve had Tyler Lockett, Amari Cooper, or even Julio for that matter. But, inspiration struck, and I decided to ride the bandwagon of another prominent Seahawks opponent in the NFC in the Tampa Bay Bucs. I got Chris Godwin in the 5th, and swung around and took Mike Evans in the 6th. People are down on Evans, but I still like his touchdown potential if he stays healthy. Godwin is playing for a new contract next year and I expect him to be fired up to make a big splash this year, statswise. I’ll put both of them in my starting lineup together and hope Tom Brady can give it another run (big “if”, I know).

With my next two picks, I was looking for Best Skill Position Available, as the Splinter League has two flex spots (and no mandatory tight end spot, though you could play TE at either/both flex spots if you wanted). Adam Thielen was sniped from me one pick prior, so I settled for Tee Higgins, who is a guy I really like anyway. I had a chance to make him a keeper in my Main League, but was ultimately scared off by the two other quality receivers they have in that offense. Nevertheless, I expect Higgins to continue to produce as long as Joe Burrow is healthy. When the draft whipped around, I got the other running back I wanted: Darrell Henderson. With Cam Akers out for the year, Henderson seems like a strong bet to break out in the Rams’ offense. There’s a chance Sony Michel takes some of his carries (particularly at the goalline), but there’s a reason why the Patriots gave up on Michel: he stinks. I might end up handcuffing the two at some point, but for now Henderson is the safer bet.

I opted to continue going Best Skill Position Available in the 9th & 10th rounds, settling on Mark Andrews first. I’m already iffy on that, but Gus Edwards was sniped from me one pick prior (seriously, that guy who drafted 8th fucked me no less than three times). I also didn’t love the value I was getting on defenses at that spot (the elite defenses were already taken, meaning I had some questionable ones left over), nor did I love the value on a backup quarterback (which I’ll talk about later). Andrews gets a lot of looks around the goalline with the Ravens, so he’s very TD-dependent; he also can get a case of the dropsies which is frustrating. Nevertheless, he’s a fringe flex guy for me until I can find someone more dependable. When we whipped around to the 10th round, Michael Thomas was still sitting there and I jumped on him.

Michael Thomas is one of the biggest question marks of this year’s fantasy football drafting world: when do you take a chance? He’s injured, he’s unhappy with the Saints, and they have a non-Brees starting quarterback heading into a season for the first time in forever. When will he be healthy enough to play again, and how will he fit into the offense? I’m hoping he’ll be back by October, and I’m hoping he returns to being one of the most dominant players in football. For a 10th round flier? Absolutely! Plus, I can stash him in my IR spot until he plays again. No brainer whatsoever.

By the 11th and 12th rounds, it was time to get a defense and a third quarterback. Somehow, the 49ers’ defense was still there, so I grabbed them. But, waiting until the 12th round meant I had slim pickins for QB. I opted for Zach Wilson, not because I believe in the Jets rookie, but because he seemed to be the best of a bunch of terrible options (including Sam Darnold, Jared Goff, and Jimmy G).

The thing with quarterback for me was: Stafford has a BYE in week 11, and Rodgers has his in week 13. Some of these guys – like Jimmy G – might not have their starting jobs that late into the season! Zach Wilson isn’t going anywhere, unless he gets injured or is supremely inept. If he’s halfway competent, he’ll give me the two games I want out of him. Teddy Bridgewater would’ve been a perfectly fine option, but he has a week 11 BYE as well, so that defeats the purpose. I didn’t have room to keep a fourth QB, nor would I want to if I did. I’d rather have a second defense, if anything, just in case!

The guys who ended up on the free agent scrap heap include Cam Newton, Tyrod Taylor, the aforementioned Jimmy G, Andy Dalton, and, of course, Taysom Hill. Rookies who aren’t even starting yet were drafted ahead of all these guys! It’ll be interesting to see how it all shakes out. I have zero faith whatsoever in Zach Wilson, though. If anyone else even remotely interesting becomes available, I won’t hesitate to waive him.

In the 13th round, D.J. Chark was still available; that’s excellent value, in my book. That meant I missed out on snagging the Patriots’ defense (which I think will be good this year), who was taken with the very next pick, but oh well. With my 14th and final selection, I took a flier on a lottery ticket in Darnell Mooney, wide receiver for the Bears. He has strong sleeper potential in an offense that could be better than we give it credit for. I don’t know if he’ll be long for my roster either, but that’s okay. You can’t make an omelette without scrambling some eggs, or some damn thing.

One thing that leaps out about this team is how razor thin I am in my depth at quarterback and running back. Rodgers and Stafford just can’t get hurt, period, end of discussion. If they go down for any length of time, I’m probably screwed. Similarly, I only have Kamara, Harris, and Henderson. I need to play a minimum of two running backs every week. Thankfully, they all have different BYE weeks, but what are the odds they play every single game? Slim-to-none. So, I’ll have to work my magic on the waiver wire at some point (I have #2 priority after the draft, so I’ll want to use that to my advantage).

I get an extra roster spot with Michael Thomas on IR, so that helps. I have a couple players in mind as we get into the week that I’ll be looking to snag. Then, it’s just the long wait until the regular season starts!

I don’t know how this column is going to look this year, but I imagine it’ll be heavily discussing my Main League. However, I’ll also devote a section in each one to my Splinter League team. It’s too good and interesting to just ignore completely!

I’m also joining a third league – ran by my brother’s friend – but it’s going to be too confusing if I bring a third into the mix, so we’ll let that one go, unless I absolutely get a bug up my ass about it.

The Mariners Mind-Bogglingly Fucking Blow Their Postseason Chances To The Royals

What a predictable fucking clusterfuck. How did we not see this coming from fifty fucking miles away?

If you didn’t anticipate the Mariners dropping 3 of 4 to the lowly Royals – at home, in the middle of a wild card chase – before the first game of the series, it became clear from the very first inning. The Royals trotted out some dud by the name of Brad Keller – who has a name like a villain in an old 80’s ski movie, but who looks like that villain’s pool cleaner – and he IMMEDIATELY started shitting all over himself. Leadoff walk, fielder’s choice, Seager double (which required an amazingly perfect throw by the short stop to cut down Haniger at the plate), walk, infield single, RBI walk. That’s the first six batters of the game, yet somehow we were down to our final out of the inning with the bases loaded; of course, Kelenic struck out looking.

WE SHOULD HAVE KNOCKED KELLER OUT OF THE GAME RIGHT THERE! It should’ve been 5-0 before the second inning, and we only had a 1-0 lead. Yusei Kikuchi was dealing through five innings before completely falling apart in the sixth. We were finally able to knock Keller out of the game in the fifth, but that was after a Kyle Seager solo homer, and only because he came up with a tricep injury. The Mariners had all of a 2-0 lead at that point (increased to 4-0 on a Fraley homer in the fifth against the reliever who came in), and of course it was gagged away in the sixth, when Kikuchi started getting pounded, and Joe Smith – tasked with cleaning up the mess – gave up an immediate grand slam to Salvador Perez. That made it 5-4 Royals (it would be extended to 6-4 in the seventh inning), and the Mariners had absolutely no fight left against the rest of the Royals’ bullpen.

The series went to shit from there. Logan Gilbert is fading HARD; he gave up 5 runs in 4 innings and can’t seem to be counted upon to keep us in games anymore. We were able to put up 5 runs of our own in the first two innings, but failed to add on until the game hit extras and we added a couple of unearned ghost runs to our score. But, we lost 8-7 in the 12th inning after totally depleting our bullpen.

Then, for good measure, we wasted a quality Tyler Anderson start on Saturday, who went 7 innings, giving up 3 runs, because the offense couldn’t do jack shit. That was a 4-2 defeat.

Only on Sunday – thanks to a rejuvenated Marco Gonzales (who went 7 innings, giving up 2 runs) – did we managed to salvage one game, getting a 4-3 win (almost blowing THAT in the process, because Salvy Perez is an unstoppable killing machine).

You want to know the story of this series?

  • Game 1 – 2/8 with RISP
  • Game 2 – 5/17 with RISP
  • Game 3 – 1/7 with RISP
  • Game 4 – 1/4 with RISP

This series should’ve been a fucking laughingstock, with the Mariners easily winning all four. Instead, it was a laughingstock of inept hitting, which I know sounds ridiculous to complain about – because the Mariners have been abnormally on fire all season when it comes to clutch hitting – but when your hitters are so bad under regular, non-clutch circumstances, this is the kind of outcome you’re going to come across eventually. It’s called Regression To The Mean, and I know we all know what that … means. This shit is inevitable when a team is that unsustainably hot at a certain flukey aspect of the game.

The Mariners have dropped to 70-61, 7.5 games out of the division lead, and what’s worse: 4.5 games behind the Red Sox for the second wild card spot (2 games behind Oakland, for what that’s worth). It’s an unforgivable sin the Mariners just exposed us to over the long weekend. And for our reward: three games against the Astros, a team we are 5-8 against on the season, and have traditionally struggled against since they joined the A.L. West. I would also argue – if memory serves – that a number of those victories earlier this season came when they had a bunch of players on the IL for actual injuries or COVID issues; the Astros have since returned to mostly full-strength.

The next three days are going to suck, is what I’m getting at. To salvage this homestand, the Mariners will need to do the impossible: they’ll need to sweep the Astros in a 3-game series. That’s literally never going to happen, in any alternate universe, nor in this one we’re in now. The best we can hope for is just a regular ol’ series win, but even that seems totally unlikely.

We were always expecting a Mariners swoon this season; there was one relatively early on, but otherwise the M’s have continued to pleasantly surprise us. I think Cinderella’s coach is turning back into a pumpkin as we speak, though. It’s a shame. In spite of the frustrations of this abysmal Royals series, this has been a fun team to watch and root for. I’m not ready for the good times to end.

Seahawks Position Breakdown 2021: Safeties

There’s a teensy bit of flux going on with the Seahawks roster, so I’m trying to get to the units I’m confident won’t change dramatically between now and the start of the regular season. I haven’t been burned too bad yet (although this potential Quandre Diggs holdout is annoying beyond all comprehension), in spite of John Ursua getting injured, and Alex McGough getting waived. But, trades are starting to happen, last minute free agents are looking to be signed. It could get hectic over the next couple weeks!

We’re pretty solid at safety, though. Jamal Adams signed his extension. Diggs is here and playing at a pretty high level. Ugo Amadi is still listed as a safety for some reason, even though he’s mostly a nickel cornerback. Marquise Blair is back from injury and looking to make his mark on this league. Ryan Neal came out of nowhere last year and filled in quite well for various injured guys.

It’s obviously not the L.O.B. days, of course. If you rate those guys an A++, you probably have to rate this group an A or A-. Diggs is a step down from Earl Thomas in his heyday, but it’s hard to quantify where he compares to free safeties around the league in 2021. I think he’s fine. Maybe he’s even good! I dunno. He had 5 interceptions last year, a career high, and he’s had at least 3 interceptions each of the last four seasons. Not great. He’s no Hall of Famer or anything. But he’s good. I guess.

Jamal Adams is the special player in this unit, and really the top guy on this side of the ball. What can you say about a guy who gets as close to double-digit sacks without actually getting double-digit sacks? Well, you can say, “Hey, stop dropping all of those interceptions!” I’ll buy his injured hands holding him back, but he’s had them surgically repaired and now there should be no excuses. He needs to be better in coverage and not give up as many big plays as he did in 2020. With a full year – plus a full offseason – under his belt, he should know this defensive scheme backwards and forwards.

There’s a lot to like about the depth. Marquise Blair might already be starting for this team had he not lost almost all of his 2020 season to injury. He’s got a phenomenal skillset, now he just needs the reps to show them off. He might be the second or third-best coverage guy in the entire secondary, so I hope we utilize him against every competent tight end and bigger receiver we face.

Ryan Neal is just a nice jack of all trades to have as part of your depth. I’m a big fan of what he has to offer. It’s hard to sustain a full season without injury; I fully expect Neal will have to start some games. It’s nice to have that veteran leadership and that kind of talent as a backup.

I’m ready to give this group a solid A. Injuries are really the only thing that might derail us here, but I feel like we’d REALLY have to be decimated (therefore supremely unlucky) to feel the effects. I do expect Adams will get some picks. I think Diggs will continue to be solid. And, I think we’ll have positive contributions from our depth pieces. I have no worries about the Seahawks’ safeties whatsoever, which is a far cry from how I feel about the cornerbacks.

Seahawks Position Breakdown 2021: Special Teams

You’re looking at, probably, hands down the most dominant aspect of the Seattle Seahawks in 2020. Michael Dickson had the second-highest average punt by gross, the third-highest by net, led the league in punts inside the opposing 20 yard line, and had zero punts blocked. As a result, he earned a new contract this past offseason, making him the second-highest paid punter in the league. Also, he’s only 25 years old.

Meanwhile, Jason Myers was one of only two kickers to be perfect on field goals, making 24 out of 24 (the other was Mason Crosby of the Packers, who hit 16 of 16). Among them, he made all 15 of 40 yards or more. Now, sure, he did miss 4 extra points, which isn’t ideal, but none of those cost this team any games, so it’s hard to be mad at four points.

The coverage units on both kickoffs and punts were, anecdotally, among the best in the league as well. I can’t point to anything specifically, other than I don’t really remember any instances of opposing teams killing us in this aspect of the game. Plus, Nick Bellore made the Pro Bowl NOT as a fullback, but as a special teamer tackling guy. He’s still here, and doesn’t figure to be going anywhere.

It’s hard to imagine Myers will continue to be perfect at field goals, but overall I like his repertoire. He’s steady. He doesn’t appear to be a head-case (now watch me jinx the everliving shit out of him).

Dickson is absolutely one of the best punters in the game and should continue to be so through the duration of his existing contract and beyond.

And don’t even get me started about how great Tyler Ott is at long-snapping!

If there’s one area where you’d hope the Seahawks could improve, it’s probably the return game. I don’t know if they’ve done that, but DeeJay Dallas had a couple good returns against the Broncos. On top of that, Dee Eskridge – I’m told – could be an elite-level returner. I just think that the return game has largely been legislated out of the game because it’s so dangerous. The era of a Devin Hester-type absolutely dominating the league is probably a thing of the past. I’ll take a guy who doesn’t fumble and who makes smart decisions about when to take it out of the endzone (i.e. rarely, and only when they’re able to get beyond the 25-yard line).

Losing BBK is a huge blow, no doubt about it. Like Bellore, he’s one of our primary coverage guys. I don’t know who’s going to fill that void. But, I’m pretty confident in our special teams coaches and their ability to get the most out of these types of undervalued guys. I mean, we kept Neiko Thorpe around forever and had to finally find a way to replace him in recent seasons; I’m sure there’s another diamond in the rough I’ve yet to hear about, who will come in and take this unit by storm.

The Seahawks’ special teams probably tops out at an A-. The only way we’re getting into the A or A+ range is if we actually have a return man on this roster who can be a difference-maker. Considering there will likely be growing pains on offense, as the players get acclimated to the new coordinator, getting all the help we can get by this unit flipping field position will be HUGE, especially in the early going.

The Mariners Swept The Athletics; This Is Getting Very Interesting

Sure, it was a 2-game sweep, but that’s two games we picked up on the Athletics! We’re still three games out of the wild card spot, but now we’re only one game behind Oakland, one of the two teams that stands in our way going forward.

Monday’s game was another Mariners Special. Marco Gonzales got the start and had a very Marco Gonzales kind of performance. He gave up a run in the first and a solo homer in the fourth. The offense got off to its usual slow start, which means the Mariners were down 2-0 heading into the sixth. That’s when we FINALLY got to the A’s starter on a Mitch Haniger 2-run home run to tie it up.

Then Marco did the unforgiveable. With new life, with a low pitch count, he lazily tried to sneak a Get Me Over curveball to one of the best power hitters in the game, Matt Olson, who jacked it out to right for a 3-2 Oakland lead. What are you doing, man?! You’re the leader of this pitching staff! You’ve been the Opening Day starter for the last few years! And this is how you respond to your offense climbing back into the game? When you’re just an inning away from handing it over to the bullpen; a unit that’s been so dominant this year. It’s really infuriating. If this was earlier in the game, I could understand it. You’re trying to conserve your pitch count and whatnot. But, this is late-enough in the game where you know you’re probably only going to be given three more outs to get. You need to be EXTRA careful in this situation, especially against the Athletics’ best hitter!

Marco got through the 6 innings, giving up just the 3 runs, so technically it was a Quality Start. And, yeah, the Mariners won, so how upset can I really be? But, that game really looked grim from there, and if we’re all being honest, that’s a game we lose 9 times out of 10 in a normal season.

This is not a normal season, though! The A’s had some lockdown bullpen work through the 7th and 8th innings, where the Mariners just had no chance against such filth. Thankfully, our own bullpen was able to hold serve with the D-Squad of Erik Swanson and Anthony Misiewicz. That got us to Oakland’s closer, Lou Trivino. He’s blown four saves all year, now two of them against Seattle.

Things immediately got off to a bad start for him, with Ty France hitting yet another game-tying solo homer, this time in the first at-bat of the inning. This was followed up by a Toro single and a Fraley double to put two runners in scoring position for the bottom of the lineup. Unfortunately, Kelenic and Raleigh failed to even make contact, as both struck out swinging. But, unlikeliest of heroes Jake Bauers came through with a solid single to left to put the Mariners up 5-3.

Thankfully, we did it in that spot, because I don’t want to know what this game would’ve looked like had it gone to extras. Paul Sewald was tasked with coming into the game, and you could tell right off the bat that he was fatigued and didn’t have his usual stuff. He managed to get all three hitters out that he faced, including one strikeout, to get the save. Impressive stuff!

Tuesday’s getaway day game was much more relaxing, though no less entertaining. Chris Flexen did what he does best: get deep into the game with a relatively low pitch count. He couldn’t quite get through the seventh, but he finished with 6.2 innings pitched, giving up just the one run on 6 hits and a walk, with 5 strikeouts. Drew Steckenrider came in to get the last out of the seventh … and all the remaining outs of the game! The rare 2.1-inning save!

We chased the A’s starter after three innings; he gave up an RBI single to Kelenic and a 2-RBI single to Torrens, to give the Mariners an early 3-1 lead. Then, for good measure, Kelenic and Dylan Moore both hit in an insurance run apiece in the eighth to give the game its 5-1 final.

VERY good road trip all around for the Mariners, at the best possible time. We swept the Rangers, lost two of three to the Astros, but then swept the A’s to make it 6-2 overall. That’s what REAL contending teams need to do to get over the hump!

Our reward is that we got out of Oakland early yesterday, we have all of today off, before starting a 4-game series against the lowly Royals. I’m not going to make any guarantees, because the Royals have been weirdly hot lately (winning 6 of 8 against the Astros and Cubs, at the time of this writing), but this is a team you SHOULD beat. Hopefully their magic is starting to run out by the time they get to Seattle.

The bummer of this upcoming stretch is that we play our six remaining games against the Astros in a little over a week; hopefully there will be some revenge factor on our side. That just means we MUST take advantage by beating the bad teams on the slate. Between now and September 12th, we have those six games against the Astros, but we also have 10 games against the Royals and Diamondbacks (the 9th-worst and 2nd-worst teams, by record, in the Major Leagues). Ideally, you want to be 10-6 in those games AT A MINIMUM. You should probably win 11 or 12 of those games, if you really want to make the playoffs.

This is something though, isn’t it? Meaningful baseball INTO September, who’da thunk it?!

The Seahawks Looked Dreadful In A Pre-Season Loss To The Broncos

In yet another game where no starters played, we saw an offense that couldn’t do a God damn thing, and a defense that was somehow both better and worse than it was a week ago. Again, I don’t know what you can glean from a performance like this, other than the depth on the Seahawks might be a HUGE problem. Don’t get injured, good starters!

On top of Wilson taking another week off, the Seahawks also kept Geno Smith safely stashed on the sidelines. Alex McGough got the start and had three horrific turnovers in his half of play; clearly not a great way to stay on this particular team. Sean Mannion looked marginally better by comparison, but averaged a measly 5.1 yards per attempt against Broncos 3rd and 4th stringers, so …

Still nothing from the running game. 74 total yards on 24 carries. Still no real standouts in the passing game, as the ball was spread to 12 different receivers.

On defense, I don’t know how you can heap too much praise on a unit that gave up 30 points. Sure, McGough (and some shaky O-Line play) put us behind the 8-ball in some of those drives. But the Broncos were allowed to convert 3/4 fourth down plays; the Seahawks, by comparison, converted 0/4 fourth downs.

I saw Jordyn Brooks make some nice plays. Nick Bellore is a fun story: a fullback playing significant linebacker minutes. Rasheem Green had another sack and looked pretty active. I think our defensive tackle rotation – particularly from a run stuffing perspective – will be a big strength when we settle on the three or four primary guys.

The secondary looked pretty weak. That’s, obviously, a big concern. It’s less of a concern when our defensive line does its job and harasses the quarterback. But, when our guys get stuffed, we’re going to need the cornerbacks to actually cover guys and make plays on the ball. I don’t know if they’re talented enough to do that. I don’t think any of the cornerbacks who played on Saturday are starting calibre. Considering D.J. Reed appears to be the only guy worth a damn – and he’s out with injury – that’s pretty scary as a Seahawks fan. Are we SURE Richard Sherman is a no-go this season? We couldn’t sign him to an incentive-laden deal based on games played?

The Player of the Game, non-Michael Dickson Edition, was DeeJay Dallas. He had two phenomenal kickoff returns, including one that went 45 yards. When you combine that with his 3 catches for 27 yards, he looked like one of the VERY few players on the Seahawks who belonged on an NFL field. He looked fast! So much improvement over a season ago! It makes me wonder if he hasn’t earned a leapfrog over Rashaad Penny (who managed all of 8 rushing yards on 5 carries).

As for Dickson himself, the turnovers prevented us from punting as much as we’d like (WHAT A SENTENCE TO WRITE!), but he had a long of 61 yards and landed both of his kicks inside the 20 yard line. MVP, baby!

A Bummer Of A Mariners Series In Houston Could’ve Been Worse

We didn’t get swept! That’s something, anyway. Of course, losing the two games the way we lost them was pretty demoralizing, and it took us 11 innings to get that lone win, but I’ll take what I can get.

The Mariners lost 12-3 on Friday, giving up all of those runs in the first five innings. Yusei Kikuchi had easily his worst game of the season, 2.2 innings, giving up 7 runs. It’s a shame for him that he didn’t get to appear in the All Star Game this year, because I don’t know if he’ll ever get a chance again. Through July 1st – just before he was named to the All Star team – he was 6-3 and had a 3.18 ERA. Since then, he’s had two Quality Starts out of eight. His last two appearances in particular have been pretty brutal. We’re in the stretch run here! We need to win every game we can possibly win! He failed to go five innings against the Blue Jays, then couldn’t even make it through three against the Astros (his overall record has fallen to 7-7). The Mariners have a HUGE decision to make on Kikuchi after this season, whether or not they pick up his remaining option years. Before the All Star Break, I would’ve said it’s a no-brainier to keep him around. But, if he continues to lay eggs the rest of this season, I don’t think it’s smart to sign on for more at that salary. If he can’t handle THIS pressure, what makes you think he’d handle the pressure of being on a team in an actual pennant race (which is our stated goal) in the next 2-3 years?

Kikuchi wasn’t the only bad thing about Friday’s game. Wyatt Mills (a guy presumably only up here to eat innings in these very types of situations) gave up 3 runs in 1.1 innings of work (he has an ERA over 10 in his 10 appearances). Erik Swanson continued his slide by giving up another 2 runs in his 1 inning of work (looking much more like the Erik Swanson we’ve been used to the last couple years). The only pitching bright spot on Friday was Yohan Ramirez’s two innings of shutout ball, striking out 4.

The offense didn’t stand a chance, obviously. Ty France had 3 hits (including a solo homer). Kyle Seager had a solo homer, and Abraham Toro had an RBI single.

If you thought 12-3 was bad, wait until you get a load of 15-1!

Logan Gilbert had to wear this one. 4.2 innings, 9 runs on 8 hits (including 2 homers) and a walk, with 5 strikeouts. Obviously, he’s in a very different point of his Major League career than Kikuchi, but he’s nevertheless been just as up-and-down in his rookie campaign. He just needs to work, to refine his breaking pitches, and to get used to the talent at this level. I think he’ll be fine, but it would be encouraging for him to take a step or two in his development over the next few weeks. We need him to be a foundational starter for this team in 2022 and beyond.

Thankfully, we were able to save the rest of the bullpen by calling up Robert Dugger and getting him to mop up the remaining 3.1 innings. He, nevertheless, gave up 6 more runs and was immediately DFA’d before Sunday’s game.

The only run for the Mariners came on a Haniger solo homer in the sixth.

For all of the pointlessness of the first two games, Sunday’s was quite a thriller!

Houston got two runs off of Tyler Anderson in the second inning, but that was it, as Anderson went 5.1 innings to at least give us a chance. The bullpen was pretty lights out from there. Joe Smith closed out the sixth. Anthony Misiewicz got four outs in a nice comeback for him. Steckenrider got five outs, and Paul Sewald had the greatest inning of relief I’ve seen all year! More on that in a moment.

The Astros starter, Framber Valdez, went 7 shutout innings, giving up only 3 hits and a walk, striking out 6. This one looked grim, especially with Kendall Graveman taking the hill in the 8th. BUT, we scratched a run off of the ex-Mariner to make the game 2-1 in the ninth inning. It’s only the second run he’s given up since we traded him over there at the deadline, but the first time he actually contributed to an Astros loss. That run meant a lot when Ty France hit the game-tying solo homer in the ninth to eventually send this game to extras.

The M’s botched their chance in the 10th, as Torrens – the ghost runner – got taken out at third base on a running error with the ball being hit to the short stop. Cal Raleigh’s double managed to get Fraley to third, but would’ve scored Torrens had he done his job. J.P. Crawford struck out to end the threat, in spite of some questionable umpiring that went his way.

Sewald came in to pitch the 10th and immediately gave up a single to Altuve to put runners on the corners. We intentionally walked Michael Brantley to load ’em up and get a play at any base. Sewald struck out Correa looking (on yet another terrible call by the home plate ump) for the first out, then overpowered the next guy at the top of the zone to get another strikeout. That brought up Yuli Gurriel, a notorious Mariners killer. He wasn’t biting on the slider, but fouled off two high fastballs to make the count even. Sewald threw a perfect slider on the low-and-outside corner for what should’ve been strike three, but the umpire AGAIN blew the call. The count was full, with Gurriel fouling off the next two fastballs, before swinging through the last one – the 8th pitch of the at-bat – to end the inning. What a performance!

In the top of the 11th, Haniger walked before Ty France hit a single the opposite way to take a 3-2 lead. Kyle Seager promptly extended the lead to 6-2 with a 3-run home run, his 29th of the season (his career high is 30). It turns out, we needed all of these runs, because now we were getting back into the dregs of our bullpen.

Keynan Middleton started the bottom of the 11th, getting a first-pitch groundout to Seager. He then gave up a first-pitch single to the next guy to make it 6-3. The bases ended up loaded after the next two guys singled and walked respectively (the walk, of course, being helped greatly by a CLEAR strike being called Ball 4). Servais had to pull Middleton, who clearly didn’t have it. The only other alternative was Yohan Ramirez, who struck out Altuve on a nasty slider at the bottom of the zone. Michael Brantley – the leading hitter in the American League heading into the game – lined out to center to end it.

This was the first save of the season for Ramirez – the Rule 5 guy we took from the Astros prior to the 2020 season – and it’s nice to see him starting to develop into someone we might be able to trust in higher leverage situations. His problem has always been his control; he has a live fastball and a nasty slider. If he can rein it in a little bit, that’s another diamond in the rough reliever who could be good for us for a good, long time (or, at the very least, a nice little trade chip in the offseason).

Now, we’re off to Oakland for a quick 2-game series. We’re three games behind them in the standings, so it would be nice to get the series win here.

The Mariners Almost Didn’t Sweep The Rangers

The M’s have been on a nice little tear since the last time we lost a game to the Rangers, having won 7 of 8 games to improve our record to 66-56. We’re 3 games behind Oakland for the second wild card spot. Not ideal, but considering what this team is, it’s where you want to be. Or, at least, you don’t want to be any further behind at this point in the season.

It’s a little disconcerting how close these games against the Rangers have been this season. The Mariners went 13-6, which is good, but 14 of those games have been decided by 2 runs or less. I guess a win is a win is a win, but like most of this season for the M’s, there seems to be an inordinate amount of good luck at play.

Tuesday’s 3-1 win went completely according to script. Tyler Anderson pitched 6 innings, giving up one run, and our top three bullpen guys shut it down from there (Steckenrider, Castillo, Sewald). All told, our pitchers gave up 6 hits, 0 walks, and struck out 8. And, as per usual, the offense did just enough. Two sac flies gave us a 2-1 lead, and a Torrens homer in the 9th gave us an insurance run. Bingo, bango, bongo.

Wednesday’s 3-1 win was a little more strenuous. Marco Gonzales continued his dominant run of pitching – giving us 5.1 innings of shutout ball – and was really only hampered by the Rangers inflating his pitch count just a few days after he’d gone a complete game against them. He was able to spread out 6 hits and a walk, getting out of jams, and handing the game over with a lead intact.

Kyle Seager gave the M’s a 2-0 lead with his homer in the first. The only blip against us was Erik Swanson giving up an RBI double in the 7th. But, J.P. Crawford hit a sac fly in the 8th to give us another insurance run. We needed five bullpen guys to lock the game in place, with Steckenrider getting the save and Sewald getting a hold in the 8th.

The season finale was another one of those great rallying moments by the Mariners. The offense grabbed the bull by the horns early, scoring six runs in the first 3 innings of play, knocking out the Rangers’ starter in the process. Guys were getting on base throughout, but the top half of the lineup really carried the mail, with all 9 RBI coming from Haniger, Seager, France, and Toro; Crawford and Bauers also chipped in with 2 hits and 2 runs apiece.

With Chris Flexen pitching 7 innings, giving up 2 runs (1 earned), this one was a laugher heading into the bottom of the 9th, with the M’s up 7-2. Even though the offense exploded in this one, there were still plenty more runs left on the table (4/14 with RISP), and that ultimately came to bite us in the ass when the bullpen unraveled in the bottom of the 9th.

Anthony Misiewicz was tasked with getting the final three outs. Having not pitched at all in this series, he was one of the only relievers we had left who was completely fresh. He proceeded to get exactly zero outs, giving up two singles and a double before being pulled.

Unfortunately, Diego Castillo was tasked with mopping up from there, now with a 7-3 lead and two runners in scoring position. He hadn’t pitched the night before, and we were REALLY trying to save Sewald’s arm since he’d thrown the previous two games. Castillo struck out the first batter he faced, before a walk and a wild pitch made it 7-4. He struck out the next batter, but then the Rangers hit a 3-run homer to tie it and send the game to extras.

Things looked somehow even more bleak in the tenth, when the Mariners failed to score. But, Joe Smith danced around some terrific defense behind him to keep it all knotted up heading into the 11th. That’s when Ty France decided to take matters into his own hands, hitting a 2-run homer. With no other choice, we had to go back to the Sewald well one more time, who did give up the ghost runner, but otherwise locked it down for his sixth save.

This team impressed the hell out of me in getting the sweep. Of course, they absolutely SHOULD have won all three games, because the Rangers are terrible. But, now this gives us a chance. It’s not a great chance, but a chance just the same.

This weekend series in Houston will be huge.

Seahawks Position Breakdown 2021: Offensive Line

This group strikes me as having the highest possible variance of any group on the team. If someone traveled back in time to now – from the season’s end – and told me the Seahawks will have a Top 5 O-Line, I’d believe them. If they told me the Seahawks will have a Bottom 5 O-Line, I’d believe them. I mean, they’ve mastered the technology of time travel, so why wouldn’t I believe them? But, you understand what I’m getting at.

I have a lot of conflicting thoughts about the Duane Brown situation – which you can read about in the bottom half of this post – but the vast majority of that variance lies right here. For the Seahawks to have a good-to-great offensive line, Duane Brown needs to play every game in the regular season and continue playing at the level we’ve seen from him since he donned a Seahawks uniform. He’s special. He’s fucking huge and athletic and one of the best left tackles in football. He’s also getting up there in age, and that cliff is right around the corner. We won’t know he’s fallen off of it until that injury strikes, and when it does, I anticipate it’ll be devastating for all involved.

If Duane Brown holds out, or demands a trade, or suddenly retires, it’s going to be REALLY dark for this unit, this offense, and this team as a whole. The Seahawks just don’t have the depth – particularly at tackle – to overcome such a loss! That has to be a big reason why he’s holding out to begin with: he knows he has the Seahawks over a barrel! Brandon Shell is a right tackle, end of story there. He’s a fine right tackle, when healthy, but you’re not moving him to the other side of the line and getting anything close to competent play. There’s a lot to like about Jamarco Jones’ skillset; I think he does have the talent to play left tackle at this level. But, he’s proven throughout his career that he’s incapable of staying healthy. And, not for nothing, but he’s injured NOW! That’s a bad sign. Cedric Ogbuehi has already told the team he thinks he’s better suited to play right tackle rather than left; the team seems to think he’d be good enough on the left side, at least in a fill-in capacity. But, he too is currently injured and it’s unknown how long he’ll be out for.

That leaves rookie tackles Stone Forsythe and Jake Curhan; one taken in the sixth round, the other an undrafted free agent. Are you ready to hand over the starting left tackle job – arguably the most important spot on the O-Line; we’ve all seen the movie – to a lottery ticket prospect?

I don’t want to shit all over the depth on this team, because there’s actually a lot to like about what we have on the O-Line. Duane Brown and Brandon Shell are quality starters in this league. Cedric Ogbuehi and Jamarco Jones are viable backups in this league, when healthy. I think Forsythe and Curhan are interesting projects that very well could develop into something solid in a year or two. But, when both of your primary backups are injured at the moment, and one of your starters is holding out, that’s a scary proposition!

It’s unfortunate, because there’s a lot to like about the interior. Damien Lewis returns and is being flopped over to left guard. He had a special rookie season last year, starting all his games at right guard. I don’t believe he has much – if any – experience on the left side, but it’s early enough in his NFL career that I’ll buy his ability to learn on the fly. Gabe Jackson is a veteran we brought in who’s proven as a capable right guard in this league. Considering how much we struggled in our interior protection – especially against Aaron Donald and the Rams, our main NFC West rival – this was our most critical upgrade of the offseason. To top it off, we return Ethan Pocic at center, and are having him compete with Kyle Fuller, Phil Haynes, and whoever else. So, the winner of that battle should be pretty well tested; there won’t be a question that man has earned his job.

The great thing is that everyone competing at center can also slide over and play guard in a pinch. On top of that, if Jordan Simmons can stay healthy, he’s flashed true greatness at the guard spot; much like Jamarco Jones, though, he just hasn’t proven he can remain on the field for more than a week or two.

If the Injury Gods are our friends this year, I think the offensive line can be rock solid for us. That’s going to be vital, since we’re breaking in a new offensive coordinator/play-caller. I don’t need Russell Wilson worried about his protection when he’s trying to parse where the ball is supposed to go in a vastly new system. I also don’t need this offense consistently behind the sticks because we can’t run the ball effectively when we want to run the ball. We all have enough to worry about with this offensive system, I’d rather not throw personnel into the mix of concerns.

The talent on this side of the ball, from quarterback on down, is good enough to compete for an NFL championship. But, that won’t matter if we’re saddled with scrubs along the offensive line. We’ve seen that movie TOO MANY TIMES in Russell Wilson’s tenure here.

My grade for this unit probably tops out at an A-, but it can fall all the way down to an F+ if we’re unlucky. Let’s just hope the Duane Brown situation doesn’t go nuclear, because I don’t think anyone’s going to be happy with the results.