Seahawks Death Week: We’ve Got Holes To Fill On Defense

So, unless things have gone horribly wrong, by now I’ve written about the last Seahawks game of the season, I’ve written about the things that have gone right, and the things that have gone wrong. Now, it’s time to get to work on that all-important roster building.

To start, here are a list of free agents, in some particular order:

Defense

  • Jadeveon Clowney (DE)
  • Jarran Reed (DT)
  • Mychal Kendricks (LB)
  • Ziggy Ansah (DE)
  • Quinton Jefferson (DL)
  • Al Woods (DT)
  • Akeem King (DB)
  • Neiko Thorpe (DB)
  • Branden Jackson (DL)

That’s a lot of our regular defensive line rotation, including starters in Clowney and Reed, as well as significant 2019 role players like Ansah, Woods, Q-Jeff, and Jackson.

Obviously, Clowney is the big name here. He will be 27 years old in 2020, and he’ll be looking for his first real BIG payday. We’re talking $20+ million per season on average, one of the five highest paid defensive people in the league. With his injury and impending surgery, you have to wonder if that’ll scare teams off a little bit. Not a lot; I think he’ll still see a huge payday, but I wonder if extra protections for the team will be built in.

Is he worth it? That’s the ultimate question. This is a guy who had 3 sacks all regular season. Is that a $20+ million a year guy? I’ll tell you this much, SOMEONE will pay him that much, because he’s obviously more than a straight-up sacks guy. He’s elite against the run, and he has one of the highest pressure rates. Also, even though we’re talking about a second contract – and you rarely see the value over the duration of the deal – defensive linemen tend to age pretty well. It’s not inconceivable that he’d live up to the money over the next four years. But, this core injury isn’t the only thing that’s ever happened to him. Coming out of college and through his first couple years, he missed quite a bit of time. On the one hand, fresher legs; on the other hand, there’s a risk of re-injury.

I’m not going to sit here and say the Seahawks HAVE to pay him whatever he wants; I’m sure they’ll make the decision they want to make. If that means we back up the Brinks truck, so be it, I’ll be fine with it. If we let some other team over-pay for an injury risk, I can easily talk myself into that as well.

But, the bottom line is: the Seahawks need to do SOMETHING. I don’t know what the free agent landscape looks like for pass rushers in 2020, but the cupboard is bare here in Seattle. It’s as bare as it gets, and when you consider how horrible we were in 2019 (WITH Clowney), trying to imagine an even WORSE pass rush makes me sick to my stomach.

This brings us to Jarran Reed, who looked like he was on pace for a huge payday as well. 10.5 sacks in 2018, as an interior lineman, is a remarkable achievement. So, we know he has that in him anyway (at least, when the conditions are right). But, then he was suspended for 6 games in 2019, and when he came back he wasn’t quite his old self. He fell all the way down to 2.0 sacks, and with the prior suspension, he now holds the risk of an even bigger punishment if he gets in trouble a second time. So, his value fell pretty far.

I don’t know what he’s looking for, but if we could bring him back on a team-friendly 3-4 year deal, I wouldn’t hate it. I also wouldn’t mind a 1-year prove-it deal, though obviously that’s not as good for our salary cap (unless it’s an insanely low figure with lots of incentives he’s not expected to reach based on his 2019 production). But, it would be asinine to get in a bidding war for his services, considering what he was able to bring to this team in his 10 games plus the playoffs. Ultimately, Reed made next-to-zero impact for this team, when we REALLY needed him to step up and take on more of the pass rushing load.

Ziggy Ansah needs to go. That’s all I need to say about him; he’s finished in this league.

Al Woods is a fine player, and I would assume we could bring him back cheaply if we wanted. He’s also Just A Guy, so whatever.

Q-Jeff is a nice player, and it’s unfortunate he got injured in our game in Green Bay. I would expect maybe a moderate raise, but he obviously doesn’t bring a ton to the table from a pass rushing perspective. So, breaking the bank isn’t necessary here.

Next up is Mychal Kendricks, who ended 2019 on IR. He was fine, but again I don’t really know what he brought to the table. It feels like Cody Barton (or pretty much anyone else) could do what he did and we’d be fine.

Finally, King and Thorpe are also just regular dudes. Thorpe obviously has value on special teams, but he’ll be 30 years old and in his 8th season in the league. I feel like we’ve successfully replaced what he brought to this team and maybe can move on with younger guys. King won’t be contending for a starting job anywhere, but maybe he’ll want more of a chance to at least compete for a spot. It feels like he’s hit his ceiling in our defense, and he might want a change of scenery.

***

As for the guys who are already under contract, I don’t see a lot of dead weight that we NEED to get rid of for salary cap purposes.

K.J. Wright will be 31 years old and on the final year of his deal. He’s set to count about $10 million against the salary cap, with only $2.5 million in dead money, for $7.5 million in savings. That’s not nothing, especially when we might be paying a lot for Clowney, plus another pass rusher or two.

If we move on from Wright, it probably means he didn’t want to take a pay cut. He was second in tackles on the team with 132 (not significantly fewer than league leader Bobby Wagner’s 159), he played in every game, and he played a high percentage of this team’s overall snaps. If you cut him, it means you believe Cody Barton is ready to start this year (or you draft someone who you can’t afford to sit because he’s too talented). But, also if you cut him then you have to fill two linebacker spots (one, presumably, with Barton, and the other TBD).

Ultimately, I don’t think the Seahawks will release Wright, based on shared history and what he’s meant to the success of this defense since 2011. But, you can’t totally dismiss it given his high salary figure, and the need to improve across the entire D-Line.

The other possible decision the Seahawks need to make is whether they want to give Shaquill Griffin a long-term extension. Do they believe he’s the guy to build around in that secondary? He’s set to earn less than $1 million in 2020, so there would be a considerable discount to be had to make it worth our while in the long term. Think about what we did by extending Tyler Lockett a year early; he’s on a VERY team-friendly deal now, and it’s paying significant dividends.

I thought Griffin really took a big leap forward in his development in 2019. I don’t know where he ranks among all cornerbacks, but I feel like he’s right there in the 2nd or 3rd tier. He’s not a lockdown guy; he’s not among the best of the very best. But, he’s a solid starter, he doesn’t give up a ton of catches or yards, and more often than not teams go away from his side (it helps that Tre Flowers is the guy opposite him, and he gives up practically everything). If there’s a reasonable figure the team can get to with Griffin, I think I’d like to see them do a Lockett-type deal. Something that gives the young player a nice raise, while showing him he’s part of the long term plan and affords the team some future flexibility in their cap from 2020-2022.

***

Big picture for 2020, the defensive line is in shambles, and the secondary needs a huge infusion of talent.

As things stand today, L.J. Collier and Rasheem Green would be your starting defensive ends. Collier was a healthy scratch most of the season (including both playoff games) and Green was our leading sacker with a whopping 4.

Collier can be considered nothing but a huge disappointment. You expect your first round picks – even your late first rounders – to contribute in some way, if not be a starter from day one. Obviously, the starting jobs were taken on this team, but he brought NOTHING to this team as a rookie. That doesn’t mean he’s a bust, necessarily – he’s still got three more years to prove that he’s worth a 5th year option – but he better work his fucking ass off in the offseason and come into camp like a man possessed.

As for Green, as I’ve written about before, he took a moderate step forward. But, as I point out all the time, unless you’re uber-talented, it’s hard for young defensive linemen to make big impacts; it usually takes a few years to grow into your body, bulk up, and learn the nuances of how to play in this league. For so many players who go on to be drafted in the first couple days, the college game is simple. The offensive linemen stink, the schemes are dumbed down, and you can just go out there and kick ass. In the NFL, you need to smarten up quite a bit, or you’ll be left behind.

Along the interior, we’ve got Poona Ford and some scrubs. This team needs to improve its pass rush, but also get better at defending the run. Ultimately, the Seahawks need a whole makeover at D-Line, so there’s work to be done.

In the secondary, Griffin and Flowers figure to return as starters. One can only hope Flowers takes a similar leap in his development between Year 2 & 3 as Griffin did this past season. Diggs and McDougald figure to be your starters at safety, though I would hope Marquise Blair gets a legitimate opportunity to compete and start. It would also be helpful if Ugo Amadi works on his craft quite a bit this offseason to be this team’s nickel corner.

I would LOVE it if we drafted yet another safety, and cut Lano Hill and Tedric Thompson, those wastes of fucking (roster) space. I’d also love it if we maybe made a low-level trade for another nickel corner, if Amadi doesn’t work out. See if we can find the next Justin Coleman.

More than anything, I guess we just need the secondary to improve on their own, because I can’t envision the Seahawks making wholesale changes or putting too many resources into this area, when there are other more-pressing concerns.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at all the holes on offense, where I’m concerned a lot of our free salary cap space will end up going.

Seahawks Death Week: Where the 2019 Season Went Wrong

Well, you can start by the Seahawks losing to Green Bay in the playoffs, but let’s dig a little deeper.

The talking points among the veterans on this team (well, at least the vets who are under contract beyond 2019) have revolved around there being a lot of hope for the future. We’ll get around to that tomorrow, but for now I’m still in a bit of a mood, and that mood subsists on a diet of negativity and self-loathing.

I’ve got a list of players to rant about today, split into two groups. Before we get to the truly egregious offenders of our misery, let’s start with the mediocre players who didn’t totally kill our hopes and dreams, but also did very little in helping us achieve them.

Where It All Went Meh

I could talk about pretty much everyone in the back quarter of the roster/practice squad/scrap heap, but here are a few names worth mentioning.

Jarran Reed was suspended for the first six games of the season. Why it took the league so long to get around to this – when the incident apparently happened years ago – is beyond me, but the conspiracy nut in me feels it’s a plot against my beloved Seahawks. Regardless, it was a hefty punishment, but in the grand scheme of things it arguably only cost us a single game. Nevertheless, missing out on that time must’ve done something to negatively impact the rest of his season, because he ended the year with a whopping 2 sacks. That’s 8.5 fewer than 2018. Was he out of shape? Did the layoff force him to take longer to ramp back up, as if he needed a second “pre-season” to get going again? Whatever it was, he hardly made an impact.

Sticking with the theme, our other starting DT, Al Woods, ended the season with a suspension. That cost him the last two regular season games (both losses) as well as our two post-season games. Had we prevailed in Green Bay, we would’ve had him back for next week, but obviously that’s down the shitter, and now he’s a free agent. At the most crucial time – when we were at our most injured – we could absolutely not afford to lose another important player, particularly on defense.

Tre Flowers took a lot of heat after our loss to the Packers and I know a lot of fans are killing him in the fallout, but over the course of the season he was … whatever. With him, it always feels like two steps forward, two steps back. I think we were all quite impressed with him as a rookie, especially since he was converting from his safety spot in college, but the total lack of growth this year was pretty grim. I guess we were saying the same thing about Shaquill Griffin this time last year, and he really showed out in his third season, so that’s the only reason why I’m not completely off the bandwagon. But, I’ve got one foot out the door; I’m going to be very suspicious until I see real improvement on the field.

The tough part about rooting for the Seahawks is that so many of our hopes are tied into the younger guys, and if they’re not coming out right away and blowing our minds, it feels like our tires are going to continue to spin in the mud. With so much of our salary cap tied into Wilson, the O-Line, and our linebackers, we really need cost-effective younger guys to step into major roles on this team earlier and earlier. Which makes the rookie seasons of Ugo Amadi and Marquise Blair so frustrating. The fact of the matter is, we don’t know what those guys can bring to the table, because they spent so much of the season buried behind inferior veterans (who I’ll talk about later). Particularly with Blair, who actually looked decent in his appearances this season; why wouldn’t this coaching staff go with the higher-upside talent over the veterans who have proven time and time again that they stink?

Finally, a few words on Rasheem Green. He was as disappointing as it gets as a rookie in 2018. Going from that to leading the Seahawks in sacks in 2019 sounds fucking phenomenal! You’re telling me this team had Jadeveon Clowney, Ziggy Ansah, and Jarran Reed, and second-year prospect Rasheem Green led the team in sacks?! Wahoo! Except, oh yeah, he had exactly 4 sacks, and this unit was absolutely abysmal at getting to the quarterback. Steady progress is still progress, but from the looks of things, we’re going to need Green to make a bigger leap in 2020.

Where It All Went Completely Fucking FUBAR

Let’s get this out of the way now (speaking of the D-Line): Ziggy Ansah was a total fucking atrocity. 2.5 sacks in 11 games. Of course, he was never going to be a sure thing, coming off of injury and settling for a prove-it deal to build his value back. And, the Seahawks (as beggars) weren’t in a position to be choosers when it came to building a pass rush on the fly. We were cash-strapped and still dealing with the fallout of losing Cliff Avril and Malik McDowell to career-ending injuries. It’s taken 2018 & 2019 just to get things right again (moneywise), but in that time we failed to develop any semblance of a competent defensive line on our own, so we had to go dumpster diving, and in walks Ansah. While it was always a risk, given his track record, the HOPE was that at some point he’d return to maybe 75% of his old, dominant self. Instead, we got a washed-up 30 year old who really doesn’t seem to be all that invested in his football career. Ansah sounds like he’s not really passionate about the game, and on this team, that’s just not gonna fly.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, L.J. Collier was a first round pick this season. He got hurt in August, missed the pre-season, and was only active for 11 games this year (being declared a healthy scratch more times than I can count on one hand, on a team that – as I’ve mentioned repeatedly – was one of the worst in the league at getting to the quarterback. He was deemed to be a reach by most experts at the time of the selection, and he’s looking like a bust now. We’ll see where he goes from here.

Normally, I wouldn’t even bother to mention someone like Ed Dickson in a post like this. He’s a veteran tight end who has been out with injury more than he’s played in his two seasons in Seattle. But, considering all the turnover we had to endure at the tight end position (including yet another tragic injury to Will Dissly, this time after only 6 games; as well as trading Nick Vannett to the Steelers), there were times we REALLY could’ve used Dickson. I remember a couple weeks there where we might not have had as many as TWO healthy tight ends on the roster, which is big for a team like the Seahawks, who feature the position immensely. Look for Dickson to be cut, saving us $3 million in the process.

Sticking with the offense for a bit, David Moore sure disappointed. He missed the early part of the season with an injury, then came back but could never get in sync with Wilson, in spite of what appeared to be WAY too many attempts. Moore was targeted 34 times and only managed to catch half of them, for all of 2 touchdowns. Sure, a lot of those were contested, but Moore was simply incapable of making a play on the ball when the team needed him.

So, we brought in Josh Gordon, and right away he made a difference. He only caught 7 passes for 139 yards in his 5 games here, but it seemed like all of them were either for significant yardage or to convert third downs. Then, he was suspended again, and that shining light was taken away from us. The ramifications were pretty great. For starters, we clearly could’ve used him down the stretch in the regular season (where we lost our last two games), and we DEFINITELY could’ve used him in Green Bay (where we were stuck with Malik Turner dropping a critical pass in our final possession of the season). On top of that, when we first picked up Gordon, he was our 8th wide receiver, meaning someone had to go. We eventually waived our rookie draft pick Greg Jennings. We were unable to sneak him onto our practice squad, as Miami ended up grabbing him. He hasn’t done anything yet, but if he turns into a stud, it’ll look really bad for us.

Finally, let’s talk about where it went the MOST wrong: the secondary.

The Seahawks could never get the nickel corner spot figured out. Justin Coleman had it locked down previously, but with our cap situation – and his considerable value on the open market – we couldn’t dream of matching his 4-year, $36 million deal with the Lions. So, we cheaped out. A slew of veterans – including notoriously-terrible Jamar Taylor – stunk up the joint so bad, we were hands down the team to spend the most time in base defense. It was okay for the most part, but it still meant seeing our linebackers getting beat on a regular basis.

Ultimately, the biggest downfall of this team came at the safety position (once our very strongest spot, only a few short years ago), specifically Tedric Thompson and Lano Hill. I can’t say enough terrible things about those guys. Aside from Ansah, the 2017 draft picks were far and away the biggest disappointments of this season. The worst part is, they’re under contract for 2020. The second-worst part is, this coaching staff keeps giving them ample opportunities over younger guys who almost certainly have higher upsides. I can’t stand how devoted this staff is to these two terrible players; someone please put me out of my misery by taking their jobs permanently!

These Seahawks Are Hard To Watch

You can call them exciting – the 2019 Seahawks as a whole – but as you can see from last night’s 26-21 defeat, when you have to rely on winning nothing but close games, so much of the outcome is predicated on luck. Jacob Hollister was mere inches away from scoring the game-winning touchdown. The refs – both in the stadium and those watching from New York – totally botched what should’ve been a pass interference penalty in the endzone. The Seahawks were so discombobulated – and so out of time outs – that they were unable to properly get a play called with the ball at the one yard line, resulting in a delay of game. To even get to that point, the Seahawks had to prevent the 49ers from converting a 3rd & 17 and came within one yard of even botching THAT modest task!

When every single little thing has to go your way for you to win a football game, it’s easy to see why – over the long haul – these 1-score games tend to even out over time. The fact of the matter is: the Seahawks peaked with that Monday Night victory over the Vikings. We’ve gone on to lose three out of our last four games. I would argue we were really only competitive in 4 quarters out of those 4 total games, and 3 of those quarters took place in Carolina, before everyone got injured and everything went to shit for this team.

Heading into the game last night, it was firmly decided that the Seahawks would have to play on Wild Card weekend. Had we won, we would’ve been the 3-seed and hosted the Vikings. I know I’m probably in the minority here, but that’s the game I’d rather have, 100%. Going on the road for three straight games – even for a great team, even in a flawed conference – is as hard as it gets in professional sports. But, the Seahawks are NOT a great team. And the NFC isn’t very flawed at the top. The 49ers are elite, the Saints are right up there, and say what you want about the Packers, but they’re – at the very least – hosting a game in January after their BYE week. With Aaron Rodgers at the helm, that’s never an easy task (also, not for nothing, but the 2019 Packers have to be the most under-the-radar playoff BYE team in the last decade, which is exactly the position I was hoping the Seahawks would be in).

But, that’s what you get for losing at home to the Cardinals the week before. You lose any right to a first round BYE. The Seahawks don’t deserve it; they probably never did.

A lot of the frustrations we’ve seen in recent weeks boil down to injuries. You just can’t overcome so many high-profile injuries and hope to compete at the same level as the 49ers or Saints. Duane Brown is a huge loss. Carson, Penny, and Prosise are all huge losses. Quandre Diggs might be the biggest loss of them all. Our entire linebacker corps seems to be banged up and a step slow. Clowney seems to be a shell of the guy who wreaked havoc in the first 49ers game. Ansah never really got going; he was a good idea that never panned out. Al Woods obviously hampers our depth. Tyler Lockett is going through some stuff. Losing Gordon and Malik Turner (and then Jaron Brown) severely weakens our passing game. The drop-off from losing Dissly, Willson, and Ed Dickson (not to mention needing to start Fant on the O-Line, losing his specialness at the tackle-eligible position) has just completely transformed what potential this offense once had. Shaquill Griffin isn’t 100%. I could go on and on, I’m sure.

It’s just gotten to the point where I’m waiting for the season to finally die. Everyone seems to be happier to play the Eagles on the road, but not me. Sure, they’re just as banged up, but are they really that much worse? Given our +7 point differential (vs. their +31), and considering how they came back from the dead to win their last four games and win the NFC East when no one thought they had a chance in Hell, are we really taking that much stock in 2 extra close wins by the Seahawks? Especially when we barely beat them in Philly the last time we played them?

Even if we do get a bunch of our key guys back and somehow prevail, what does that get us? Almost certainly a date in Santa Clara against a rested, healthy, and more importantly BETTER THAN US 49ers team. That’s why this trip to Philly is a death sentence. I don’t care that we went 7-1 on the road this year; that’s an anomaly. That means nothing in the playoffs when you lose and you’re done.

We needed the 49ers to be the 5-seed. We needed them to go on the road. We needed them to almost certainly beat the Eagles and then take out one of the top two seeds, to get one of those teams out of our hair. Hosting the Vikings – who are going nowhere fast – is the obvious better option and it’s asinine that more Seahawks fans don’t realize this.

I would say we’d be better off losing on Sunday, but I don’t know if I could handle the sheer embarrassment of losing to a team as bad as Philly, knowing what I just wrote about how bad the Seahawks have been of late. There’s a way to squint and see the Seahawks get some guys back, gut out a close victory over the Eagles, then go back into Santa Clara to beat the 49ers again. We know them well enough. We’ve beaten them before (we ALMOST beat them twice), we can beat them again. From there, it’s a date with either the Saints or Packers in the NFC Championship Game. At that point, it’s a total toss-up.

As it is every year, the hardest game to win is in the Divisional Round, against superior teams coming off of BYE weeks. Usually – I’d say around 75% of the time – the home teams win in that round, and they win pretty soundly most of the time. Having to go on the road, against the best team in the NFC – who also gave Baltimore everything they could handle – is just not the position you want to be in.

And, that’s why this sucks. Because we’re going to spend the rest of this week – and all of next week, assuming we get over this hurdle – trying to squint our way to an appearance in the Super Bowl, when quite frankly it ain’t gonna happen. We’d almost be better off not making the playoffs at all than being a fucking Wild Card team. This isn’t hockey. This isn’t baseball. This is the NFL, where the Haves beat the Have Nots 9 out of 10 times.

And these Seahawks just don’t have the kind of magic to be one of those 1 out of 10 teams.

The Seahawks Should’ve Killed The Eagles, Had To Settle For A Mild Drubbing

Kind of a weird game, but for the Seahawks that’s normal … so kind of a normal game.

At one point, the Seahawks should’ve been up 21-3, that’s what I do know. The Seahawks gave up the early field goal, then immediately marched right down the field, and four plays later – thanks to a trick play that went toss to the running back, lateral back to Wilson, deep ball to Malik Turner – went up 7-3. Then, a little later in the first half, the Seahawks marched down the field again and got all the way to Philly’s 6-yard line. Wilson scrambled around in the pocket and had Jacob Hollister wide open, but somehow overthrew him with no defenders between the two. That was as easy of a touchdown as you’ll see, but it wasn’t meant to be. Then, right before half, at the Philly 38, Wilson had D.K. Metcalf wide open down the middle, but he dropped the ball and we opted to punt.

This game should’ve been over at halftime, but instead we let them hang around, not really putting it away until there was about 12 minutes left in the game when we scored the TD to put us up 17-3. Even then, it wasn’t REALLY over, but the Eagles couldn’t do anything against our defense, until scrounging up a garbage-time touchdown late to pull it to the final of 17-9 (going for 2 for some unknown reason).

We learned two key things in this game. #1 – we learned that Russell Wilson has effectively played himself out of the MVP race. It’s not totally his fault, but with another pick and that missed connection to Hollister, he’s not off the hook either. Fair is fair, though, and these receivers – mostly just D.K. Metcalf – are dropping way too many highlight reel passes, thus keeping Wilson off of Sportscenter, thus leaving space for other contenders to shine. Ultimately, it’s Lamar Jackson’s award to lose; Wilson had to be as perfect as can be to keep up, and I just don’t know if he has it in him. It’s a bitter pill, to be sure, but sometimes destiny just gets in the way.

The second thing we learned in this one is that the defense might be back, and at the most perfect time!

I’ll be the first to admit, I was medium-worried heading into this one, with the news that Jadeveon Clowney wasn’t going to play with a hip injury. Hip injuries, by the way, are the second-most-annoying injuries an NFL player can have, behind turf toe (and just ahead of oblique strain). The fact that he came out of the 49ers game banged up isn’t really surprising, because that was as tough and physical a game as I’ve ever seen a one-man-wrecking-crew undertake. But, that he’s still injured even after a BYE week is more than a little concerning. I mean, let’s face it, ALL of our games going forward are Must Win; we can’t slip up even a little bit with the 49ers playing as well as they are. So, you know we need him, you know he wants to play, and that he is unable to really makes me wonder how long we’re going to be looking at this.

Also, even if he returns at some point, how much will it affect him the rest of the way?

The cool thing is, the Seahawks didn’t need him in this one, because everyone else showed up in a big way.

This wasn’t a one-man show. Damn near every guy on the defense made at least one impact play. Wright and Kendricks were blankets over the guys they were responsible for; Tre Flowers had 3 passes defended and a pick. McDougald had a pick. Diggs recovered a fumble. I’m pretty sure Shaquill Griffin forced a fumble. Shaquem Griffin had a couple QB hits and was a menace in pass rush. Rasheem Green had a sack and a couple QB hits. Ziggy Freakin’ Ansah finally showed up to play! He had 1.5 sacks and I want to say a forced fumble as well! Jarran Reed had half a sack before going out with an ankle. Poona Ford and Al Woods were in the backfield all day. I mean, you name him, and he made something happen!

The Eagles rushed for 106 yards on 23 carries, but it hardly mattered, because Carson Wentz was the god damned devil. We held him to 256 yards passing (80 of which came on that garbage-time touchdown drive at the end) on 33/45, most of those being of the short-to-intermediate variety. So, in other words, he played right into our hands of what we want to do defensively. We also picked him off twice and sacked him 3 times, but that doesn’t tell the whole story, because we were living in his grill the entire game (10 QB hits total).

Now, obviously, the Eagles are as banged up as can be. Their top three receivers are out, their right tackle was hurt, and their top two running backs were gone. This was a M.A.S.H. unit on offense, and the Seahawks took advantage. You could argue that’s why our defense looked so elite, and make a case that we AREN’T back yet, but I’ve seen this defense look pretty mediocre against a worse set of offensive “talent”, so I’m not buying that at all. The Eagles still boast two great tight ends and they had enough guys to get things done (especially since their defense has also turned a corner after some early-season struggles).

Nope, I’m saying here and now that the Seahawks’ defense will be fine. It won’t be Top 10 or anything, but it will be what we need it to be.

If anything, I think we need to start worrying about D.K. Metcalf. He had at least two or three balls fall off his hands in this one. Granted, they would’ve been remarkable plays, but those are passes he needs to catch if he’s going to be an impact player in this offense. I know he’s a rookie and everything, but this is a team fighting for a Super Bowl opportunity. If he’s hitting a Rookie Wall, that’s going to be dangerous for us heading into the home stretch. I don’t WANT to have to depend on Josh Gordon to be that guy for us (he had 1 catch for 10 yards on 2 targets in this one, as he slowly acclimates into our offense), but we may have no choice. This is two drop-heavy games in a row for Metcalf, I’ll be very interested in how he responds.

Also, Jesus Christ, Chris Carson, you’re killing me! He had back-to-back fumbles in this one (the second one we lost at a key juncture late in the game, when we could’ve put the game away), and this just isn’t going to go away, is it? I will reiterate what I said earlier this season: DO NOT EXTEND CARSON BEYOND HIS ROOKIE CONTRACT! If he holds out next year, so fucking be it. Draft someone to replace him and let’s move on with our lives. Also, he better NOT fucking hold out, because with this fumbling problem (on top of his prior injury problem), he’s going to need a bounce-back season in 2020 just to prove he’s reliable! No team is going to give a fumbler a high-money deal! Not even the Jets!

Rashaad Penny made the notion of benching Carson a lot easier with his 129 yards on 14 carries, with a 58-yard breakaway touchdown in the second half. I do agree with Salk on this one – that Penny isn’t as good out of shotgun as he is in a traditional single-back formation – so I hope that we can introduce more of those plays into our offense. Some of Marshawn Lynch’s best runs came out of plays with Wilson under center, so I don’t know why we can’t bring more of that back into our offense (it also sets up the play-action even better than it does out of shotgun).

Everything about this game smacked of 2013 Seahawks: low scoring, defense-heavy, grind it out and get the W any way you can. We’re 9-2, still a game out of first, with a Monday Night contest against the Vikings (coming off of their own BYE) to look forward to at CenturyLink Field. I can’t think of a better way to kick off December 2019.

The Seahawks Can Be Legitimate Super Bowl Contenders

Last week, I prattled on and on about why the Monday Night game would be so important for the Seahawks’ chances. Ultimately, I believed that the Seahawks SHOULD be making a push for an NFL championship, but their defense would be their downfall.

What this blog post presupposes is … maybe the defense is okay?

It’s a lot more fun living in a world where the Seahawks are 8-2. It’s not ideal, but when have we ever had an ideal Seahawks season? Even in 2013, our biggest obstacle was right in our own (relative) back yard with the 49ers; here we go again.

The best part is, everything I wrote about the 49ers last week is still true; they’re still heading into – BY FAR – the toughest stretch of their schedule. And, now they’re heading into it with a loss under their belts. It’s not remarkably easier for the Seahawks, so I’m not clapping my hands together in a job well done – there’s still a lot of work to do in our own garden – but it’s far easier to foresee a scenario where the Seahawks and 49ers are playing for both a division title and a Top 2 seed in the NFC in Week 17. In a game that Seattle will host, that will almost certainly be flexed to the 5pm time slot.

There’s still so much to unpack from that Monday Night game that I didn’t really touch on. For starters, either team would’ve been lucky to come out of there with a win; really, if a game ever deserved to end in a tie, it was probably that one. I tend to focus on all the things the Seahawks did to try to throw that game away – Wilson’s interception, D.K.’s fumble, Penny’s fumble, Wilson’s fumble-turned-Ifedi’s-fumble-turned-49ers’-touchdown, the interceptions Wright and Wagner and Flowers (off the top of my head) dropped that could’ve sealed the victory – but there were tons of things the 49ers did wrong that should’ve sealed the deal (and eventually DID seal the deal) for the Seahawks (again, those near-picks, Clowney’s fumble return for a TD, the other Jimmy G fumble, the countless drops from his receivers who were afraid of getting punished by our hard-hitting safeties, and of course the missed field goal in overtime). One thing that’s tough to shake is what that game would’ve looked like if Kittle was healthy, or if Sanders had played the entire game (take nothing away from the Seahawks on that one, because our guys were hitting HARD on defense).

And that gets me back to the point of this BYE-week post. The Defense. My personal whipping boy pretty much all year. From the beginning, I’ve held the opinion that this side of the ball would get better as the season progressed, and that when we get into this very stretch we’re in right now, we’d be looking at something downright respectable! Well, if I’d only listened to September-Me, I wouldn’t have to backtrack so much abuse I’ve heaped upon these guys in the last few weeks.

Now, of course, some of them deserve it. Ezekiel Ansah looks beyond washed up. I think Pete Carroll said he’s undersized from the weight he was at in his prime, but he looks overweight and slow to me, so something doesn’t check out. Clearly, he wasn’t able to work out the way he would’ve liked this past offseason, with the injury he was recovering from, and it shows on the field. He’s a ZERO, bringing absolutely nothing to the table. At this point, he’s blocking someone like Shaquem Griffin, who HAS to have a higher immediate upside in the pass rushing department.

I loved that move, by the way. I thought it was the most inspired thing the Seahawks have done on defense all year. Jadeveon Clowney was a man possessed against the 49ers, and an obvious choice for Defensive Player of the Week; that might be the best single defensive performance we see in the NFL all year! But, he’s been rock solid all season; he’s also been the benefactor of near-constant double teaming by opposing offenses, and rightly so. He’s obviously the only guy on the Seahawks’ D-line that anyone has to worry about, so shifting protection his way SHOULD be priority number 1 for most teams. With Ansah doing nothing, combined with Rasheem Green, Quinton Jefferson (who’s also been battling injuries most of the year), and anyone else you’ve put opposite Clowney (L.J. Collier, where you at?), I mean, the Seahawks had to do SOMETHING. Shaquem Griffin has been languishing on Special Teams his entire career, he was a primary pass rusher in college, why not at least give him a shot?

And, I get it, he’s probably a liability against the run. So, don’t put him in those situations. I hate to say it, but maybe be a little more predictable! Just use Griffin on 3rd downs and in otherwise obvious pass rushing situations. Let him use his speed off the edge to try to – if not get to the quarterback – at least redirect him in the pocket. Make him move around, get off his spot, delay his throw, and hopefully miss his intended target. Sacks aren’t the be-all, end-all in pass rushing.

Anything is better than what we’ve been seeing out of this defense, which has been a lot of quarterbacks with enough time to make giant party subs in their respective pockets!

I don’t know if Griffin is the solution, but he’s a step in the right direction. With Clowney playing at a D-POY level, I don’t think you NEED the other guys to be superstars; you just need them to be competent and improve week-by-week. Jarran Reed coming back and getting into the swing of things certainly helped against the 49ers. That, in turn, helped the play of Poona Ford and Al Woods; the more teams have to worry about Reed, the more that’s going to open things up for the other tackle next to him. Hopefully, this will all lead to the younger guys opposite Clowney to incrementally improve, to the point where they’re making an actual noticeable impact by season’s end.

Another one of my whipping boys has been Bobby Wagner, and the linebackers in general. Mostly, I’m lamenting the lack of huge impact plays by these guys. They’re doing everything else they’re supposed to do, but we haven’t really seen them flash all too often. There’s been a play here and there from Kendricks. Wagner finally started to assert himself more against the 49ers. Wright still looks like someone who’s probably on his final legs, and I’d like to see Cody Barton mixed in there a bit more to at least see what we have in him. But, for the most part, Wright is one of this team’s primary leaders, and he’s not going anywhere, at least not this year.

And, for the first time all year, there’s actual reason for hope when it comes to the secondary. Shaquill Griffin is still playing at an elite level, so no worries there. Quandre Diggs made his debut and looked fantastic! I guess he got the start at free safety, but he was hitting dudes out there like a strong safety. Combined with a healthy Bradley McDougald, I think that could really settle things down in the defensive backfield; here’s hoping they can just stay out there. Tre Flowers still has room to improve, and I keep feeling like it’s going to break out for him any game now. The nickel is still a huge area of concern, so the team is going to have to coach guys up and scheme this problem into irrelevance.

All year, everyone’s been saying that we don’t expect this defense to return to its L.O.B. roots. With how great the offense is, just Middle of the Road would be fine! Teams constructed like this – with a smart coaching staff behind them – can ABSOLUTELY win championships! We’ve seen worse defenses than this one go all the way. But, a little improvement never hurt anyone.

The 49ers game was the best this defense has played all year; if we can stay right around that level, the sky is the limit.

There were calls from the more optimistic sect of Seahawks fans prior to the 49ers game calling for fans to lighten up. I believe Hawkblogger himself said it’s okay to believe. I wasn’t there with him; the 49ers looked too daunting. Turns out they’re human, like all the teams in the NFL. In that respect, the Seahawks are as good as any of the contenders out there. I’m ready to finally start believing. I won’t make us frontrunners; but we’re as good or better than the 49ers, Saints, Packers, Cowboys, and any other NFC team you throw our way.

The Seahawks are IN this thing! It’s gonna be a fun final six weeks.

Seahawks Won A Stunning, Classic Monday Night Game In Santa Clara

This game was NUTS! This game was so intense and fun and nerve-wracking and painful and deliriously wonderful that I’ve done nothing but watch clips and read articles since it ended (with a little sleep and a little breakfast mixed in). I want to do nothing more than go back and re-live every single minute, so that’s what I’m gonna do here. Let’s re-live the shit out of it!

49ers’ 1st Drive – Every time the Seahawks had them nailed down, the 49ers were bailed out by the refs. Shaq Griffin looked like he had a pick to really turn the tides early, but a ticky-tack defensive holding penalty eliminated it. Then, on the very next third down, it looked like we had them stopped short and ready to punt, except for another lame PI call to give them another first down. We eventually held them to a field goal with their rookie kicker (signed off of the scrap heap this week to replace an injured Robbie Gould) who was making his first start for the 49ers, but the tone was set for an iffy game (to say the least) from the refs.

49ers’ 2nd Drive – After a quick Seahawks’ 3 & Out, the 49ers gashed their way down the field for a touchdown and a 10-0 lead. Now, I know the Seahawks almost always start out slow like this, but at this point I was pretty concerned there was going to be TOO much to overcome. The subsequent Seahawks 3 & Out did little to allay my concerns.

49ers’ 5th Drive – The teams traded a few punts back and forth and we finally settled into something of a routine, which was smashed apart with a perfectly-timed pass rush to knock the ball out of Jimmy G’s hands for a fumble-return touchdown by Clowney. Clowney’s been the team’s obvious defensive MVP this year, but he took his game to another level in this one. I think he ended up with 10 pressures, 5 QB hits, 1 sack, and the touchdown on this drive to pull the game to 10-7. This was a definite “sigh of relief” moment where it finally felt like things could turn around.

Seahawks’ 5th Drive – We held the 49ers to a 3 & Out to take it to the 2-minute warning, and the table was set. Apparently, the 49ers had never given up a score in the final two minutes of a half (or maybe just a first half?), but there the Seahawks were, driving after a 20-yard punt return from Lockett (who ended up leaving the game injured in overtime, with a possible serious injury). It was all going according to plan, until it wasn’t: we were moving the proper direction, we were running the clock out, and there was D.K. Metcalf with a quick out that he somehow managed to take all the way to the 1-yard line, pulling multiple defenders with him. Except, the one guy re-established himself in bounds, ripped the ball from Metcalf’s hands, and recovered the ball at the 2-yard line to preserve the 49ers’ streak of good fortune inside of two minutes. The Seahawks should’ve been up 14-10 at halftime, but the 3-point deficit was preserved.

Seahawks’ 6th Drive – One thing I’ve grudgingly accepted is that these Seahawks – for whatever reason – start games slowly, pretty much on both sides of the ball these days. But, what really irks me is starting slow in the second halves of games, especially when we win the coin toss and defer to get the ball out of halftime. It almost shifted in this one, as the Seahawks looked to establish the run, with Carson moving the chains after three straight runs, followed by a D.K. reception to take us near midfield. Then, Penny entered the game for what I have to assume was the first and last time. He had 2 carries on the day, both on this drive: the first went for 2 yards, the second went for no gain and a fumble. He didn’t see the field again after that.

49ers’ 9th Drive – The Seahawks forced the 49ers to turn the ball over on downs following the Penny fumble, then ended up kicking it back 5 plays later. The game turned in a big way here on this drive, with a wild pass eluding the grasp of a Niners receiver for Quandre Diggs’ first interception in a Seahawks uniform. He got the start at free safety, with Bradley McDougald playing his preferred strong safety spot, and the Seahawks were immediately rewarded with his veteran presence. He had a couple other bigtime hits (one to prevent a bobbled catch for a big gain) and looks like he’ll fit in beautifully in this defense.

Seahawks’ 8th Drive – First play – from the San Francisco 16-yard line after the Diggs return – was a Carson run for 4 yards that turned into a fumble (thankfully recoverd by Hunt) for negative one yards. At that point, I mean, how do you not just put this game entirely on Russell Wilson’s shoulders? Before the game, all the ESPN analysts were calling the Seahawks a one-man show, which – have you met Chris Carson and Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf? But, Carson never really busted out, Lockett was held to 26 yards on only 3 receptions, and Metcalf had a tough one in catching only 6 out of 10 targets, with a few 50/50 balls batted away (and, of course, the fumble before halftime). So, after a Wilson scramble to the 3-yard line, he fudged around in the pocket until Hollister willed his way open in the back of the endzone for the go-ahead touchdown. 14-10.

Seahawks’ 9th Drive – The defense made their presence felt in Jimmy G’s face immediately following the touchdown, with Q-Jeff swallowing him up for a sack. The refs called him on what initially appeared to be a bogus lowering-the-head penalty until you saw the replay from the other angle. I still don’t love the rule – what are you supposed to do when the offensive guy lowers HIS head first? – but it is what it is (now, if only the refs would’ve called the same thing when the 49ers defender lowered HIS head on a Wilson run-and-slide later in the game). Anyway, in the first of many BALL DON’T LIE moments, the Seahawks got their sack 3 plays later, which forced a fumble to be recovered by the good guys. Once again deep in enemy territory, it took the Seahawks 4 plays to take a commanding 21-10 lead.

Seahawks’ 10th Drive – I’m still fucking irritated about this drive. This should’ve been the back-breaking, suck-out-their-souls drive to put the game away. The Seahawks forced a punt on the 49ers’ previous drive and at the top of the 4th quarter, looked to embark upon one of those 8-minute, game-killing drives where we ram it down the other team’s throats. And it started out promising enough! Three consecutive runs left us with 2nd & 7 and only 12 minutes left in the game. I know Seahawks fans around the world lament our run-heavy approach, but in this instance I don’t know why we didn’t keep pounding the rock. Instead, Wilson dropped back and was immediately overwhelmed by 97 guys (approx.) in his face. He lost control of the ball, it landed in Ifedi’s open arms (open because he was conveniently blocking NO ONE), who did his best Seahawks Running Back impression by holding it like a loaf of bread, only for the ball to be punched out for a 49ers’ defensive touchdown. They hit the 2-point conversion thanks to very weak coverage by Tre Flowers (who, along with Jamar Taylor, had games they’d largely love to forget, save the end score), and there we were, 21-18.

Seahawks’ 12th Drive – As soon as that disaster sequence hit, I knew this game had completely shifted. And, look, I know momentum isn’t a real thing that you can quantify or whatever, but tell that to a fighter who’d been dominating only to take a surprise pop to the chops. It sets you back! It knocks you on your heels. And sometimes it takes a while to recover. When the Seahawks got the ball back for their 11th drive, they went 3 & Out; at that point, it was only a question of whether the 49ers would re-take the lead or just tie it up. They drove down, stalled just outside of the redzone, and their rookie kicker split the uprights right down the middle. With a little over 6 minutes left in the quarter, I’ll be honest, I knew the Seahawks COULD drive it back for a go-ahead score, but they also could’ve just-as-easily coughed it up and gagged this one away. Thankfully, we converted a couple third downs to take this game down under 2 minutes. So, to set the stage: 3rd & 1, 1:55 left in the quarter, the 49ers just used their first time out of the half. Carson ran for 9 yards on the previous two plays, so I understand the impulse to continue to hand him the rock, but you knew we were gonna run it, I knew we were gonna run it, and as such the 49ers sure as SHIT knew we were gonna run it! I desperately wanted the Seahawks to put this in Wilson’s hands, and was severely disappointed when we didn’t do it. Now, I get it, if you can’t pick up 3rd & 1, then how much of a damn are you worth? But, at the same time, HE’S THE MVP MAN! Let the chef cook! There was still a chance the Seahawks might go for it on 4th & 1 – we even lined up in a half-hearted attempt to get them to jump offsides – but we kicked it instead. Now, in the longterm, I’m sure that move will work gangbusters for Jason Myers’ confidence, but you know as well as I do that the LAST thing anyone wanted was to put the game on his leg, especially after his performance against the Bucs last week. To his credit, he nailed it.

49ers’ 13th Drive – All I can really remember about this drive are the multiple dropped game-sealing interceptions (at least one by K.J. and Bobby each), and the Ansah offsides penalty that I’m pretty sure saw him benched for the rest of the game. Jimmy G was sloppy as all get-out in this game – he probably should’ve had 4 or 5 picks in total – but they somehow found themselves in field goal range with a chance to send it to overtime. The rookie kicker made the kick of his life and there we were, headed to overtime.

Seahawks’ 14th Drive – Geno Smith won the coin toss. Either he said “tails” and the ref heard “heads”, or his accent made his call SOUND like tails, but either way it felt like a gift, as for the second week in a row, the Seahawks won the overtime coin toss. And, for the second week in a row, it looked like the Seahawks would drive down for a game-winning touchdown without allowing the other team to touch the ball. The Seahawks are conservative in many infuriating ways under Pete Carroll, but I love how aggressive we are in these situations, where it really makes zero sense to settle for three. In the end, this drive almost killed me. For starters, on 2nd & 10 at our own 46 yard line, Russell Wilson was nearly swallowed up once again, except he kept his legs churning and busted free for a significant gainer … only for the refs to call him “in the grasp” of the defender for a 6-yard sack. I mean, I was irate. Irate isn’t even a strong enough emotion! I hadn’t spoken a word since that 49ers’ fumble return for a touchdown, but I was cursing up a storm after that play! Vindication came in the conversion of 3rd & 16 to Malik Turner, who had a GREAT game and helped us overcome the loss of Lockett. Unfortunately, as we closed inside the redzone, Wilson lofted a ball short to Hollister on a wheel route that was picked off and returned to midfield (Lowkey Play of the Game #1 – Duane Brown hustling his ass down field to knock him out of bounds, as they had a convoy ready to take him into the endzone).

49ers’ 14th Drive – At this point, I closed out all the windows on my laptop. I was THIS close to rage-quitting on the game entirely and going to bed. I stuck it out only to see the 49ers get into field goal range. On 4th & 1 at the Seahawks’ 29-yard line, the 49ers lined up for the game-winner. I’m usually not one for icing the kicker; I generally think it’s stupid and pointless and a waste of time (also, it seems like the kicker – if he gets a chance to get a practice shot off before the play is whistled dead – always misses his first try before hitting the second). BUT, if icing the kicker was EVER going to work out, this was the situation: rookie kicker, his first start for a new team, Monday Night Football, a perfect season on the line, against Russell Wilson and the division-rival Seahawks. We weren’t able to ice him before overtime because we didn’t have any time outs, but this time we did, and I’m GLAD we made him think about it a couple minutes longer. He shanked it about as badly as you can shank a ball, and the Seahawks had new life!

Seahawks’ 16th Drive – Then, the Seahawks went 3 & Out, followed by the 49ers ALSO going 3 & Out. Those two drives combined took up less than 2 minutes of game clock, leaving Seattle with 1:25 to get down in range. This time, yeah, you kinda have to settle for the field goal, and either he makes it and totally redeems himself, or he doesn’t and we settle for the fallout of a tie and all the kicker jokes from a national audience. That doesn’t mean Wilson didn’t have another trick up his sleeve, eluding the pass rush on 3rd & 3 (avoiding yet another consecutive 3 & Out) to scramble for 18 yards. From there, it was 8 yards to D.K. and another 7 on the legs of Carson to get it to the 24-yard line. You can’t do much better than that with no time left. Jason Myers made us sweat – as it was about a foot or two away from sailing wide right – but he did it, and we were all able to rejoice!

There were so many wild swings in this game; it was truly almost too much to endure. I had about 15 heart attacks in total, but in the end the Seahawks are 8-2 and have positioned themselves perfectly to make a legitimate run at the NFC West and a Top 2 seed in the conference.

I can’t say enough about the defense. I won’t say I was wrong about what they WERE leading up to this game, but I was absolutely DEAD WRONG about what they’re capable of going forward, starting with last night. Clowney is a force to be reckoned with. He deserves Frank Clark money and THEN some. The biggest stars shine the brightest on the biggest stages, and Clowney proved he’s one of the NFL’s best defensive linemen, period.

But, there were others. Shaquill Griffin had the Lowkey Play of the Game # 2 on that final 49ers 3 & Out, when he recovered deep down field on 3rd down to swat the ball away. That thing – if caught by Deebo Samuel (who dominated, with 8 receptions for 112 yards) – was destined to go for a touchdown, and Griffin just BARELY got hands on it to keep the game alive.

Jarran Reed was all over the place with 1.5 sacks and the forced fumble. Poona Ford was in the backfield all night. Al Woods cleaned up a would-be Clowney sack. Wagner and Wright were warriors. We had competent safety play from BOTH safety positions for the first time all year. Just when I expected this defense to crumble late in the game – exhausted and bruised and worn down – they found ways to keep this team in it and make Jimmy G’s life a living hell. He’s going to have nightmares about this game for weeks!

Meanwhile, after our most difficult game of the season, the Seahawks get a BYE week at the perfect time. Hopefully Lockett will be okay. Hopefully Willson won’t miss any time. Hopefully Ed Dickson will be back. Hopefully everyone else is able to rest and recover and enjoy the time off before a HUGE stretch run that will ultimately see this team competing for a Super Bowl!

Shit’s getting real now. This is gonna be fun.

The Seahawks Won One Helluva Game Over The Rams

That was IN-credible! I mean, where do you begin?

I don’t want to make this a total recap post, but that’s exactly what I’m gonna do let’s start with losing the toss, getting the ball first, then fumbling on that first possession. Just … not the way you want to start against the Rams, or ANY good team. Yet, somehow, after two drives of 23 total yards, the Seahawks were only down 6-0. What could be better than holding the Rams to field goals?

Well, forcing them to go scoreless the rest of the first half, until a 2-minute drive finally broke the string.

Before we get to that, we can’t talk about that game without talking about that throw to Lockett in the back corner of the endzone. Everyone on the planet thought Wilson – scrambling for his life, like he would do most of the evening – was throwing that ball out of bounds. But, he does this from time to time: he puts the ball in a spot where either our guy is going to make a highlight-reel catch, or it’s going to fall harmlessly out of bounds. It’s his way of taking a chance without REALLY taking any chances. If it connects, then great! He looks like a wizard and he makes his receiver look superhuman. If it doesn’t, then whatever, he was just throwing the ball away and the receiver still almost made an amazing play. From running to his left, throwing on the run – on a rope – to the dive, the extension, and getting both feet down clearly for the replay video to see, it was the best throw & catch of the season by far, all due respect to whatever Mahomes is doing in Kansas City.

The next touchdown was pretty special in its own right. The Seahawks did a good job of working the ball down to the Rams’ 40-yard line on a 2nd & 7. It was the perfect time to take a deep shot: you knew it, I knew it, the crowd knew it, even the Rams knew it. Play action, D.K. Metcalf gets beyond both defenders on his side, 40 yards in the air, wide open touchdown. Outstanding.

After that Jaron Brown fumble, I never would’ve believed the Seahawks would’ve been up 14-6 at one point in this game, with a chance to extend it. But, there you have it.

The Rams finally started to get their offensive mojo back on the drive after that Metcalf touchdown, but it was a remarkable play to strip Gurley of the ball deep in Seahawks’ territory. At that point, I was wondering if the Seahawks might put the game away in the first half and coast to a lopsided victory!

Indeed, we used a lot of rushes and chunk plays through the air to get into Rams’ territory, where we had 3rd & 1 at the 30-yard line at the 2-minute warning. The play was stuffed, but it was also a play I didn’t really love. The O-Line’s banged up and not totally recovered from the previous game, it was a long stretch play to the right side, giving the Rams a lot of time to fill the gaps. I would’ve loved to have seen a zone-read there, maybe one of those things where you go from the huddle, run up really fast and quick-snap it before they have a chance to really dig in on the other side of the line of scrimmage. But, whatever, it was still 4th & 1, and while I understand why we went for the field goal, I definitely feel like that was the time to go for it and REALLY put them away. Convert there, you get to run the clock down as far as you want, and you either get a better field goal opportunity (with no time left for the Rams to do anything), or you score a touchdown to go up 21-6 at half. Pete likes to get hormonal from time to time, but it’s never the times you WANT him to be hormonal; usually he does it and compounds the bad times we’re already experiencing, it’s rarely at a time to stomp on another team’s throat to really put them away.

As you could’ve seen coming a mile away, we missed the field goal, and the Rams went right down the field to bring the game to 14-13 at half. Just too easy, and a harbinger of bad things to come in the third quarter.

By winning the toss, the Rams got the ball after halftime, and what do you know? They went right down and scored ANOTHER touchdown, to go up 20-14. From there, you knew the shootout was on, and if we didn’t get an All Pro punt out of Dickson to pin them back at the 1-yard line (and if Goff wasn’t a mediocre quarterback who missed a potential 98-yard touchdown pass to Robert Woods), the Rams would’ve definitely scored more points in this one. As it stood, they scored on 4/5 drives starting with that one just before halftime.

Fortunately, after the Rams punted from their 2-yard line, the Seahawks drove down to re-take the lead at 21-20. That couldn’t stop the Rams from going right back the other way to make it 26-21 (failing on the 2-point conversion, in a game they’d go on to lose by 1 point).

Both teams traded field goals before the Seahawks went on another one of their long, clock-chewing drives. With over 9 minutes left in the game, the Seahawks took it 75 yards for a touchdown, leaving just over 2 minutes left to play. The failed 2-point conversion attempt on our end was just a fantastic play by the defender (on first glance, it looked like Metcalf should’ve had it, but no).

At 30-29, no one felt safe. The problem with missing the 2-pointer there is that we couldn’t quite eat up ALL of the clock, but we also very well could’ve shot ourselves in the foot. MAYBE, if we got lucky, and they drove down too quickly to kick the field goal, we could get one more crack at it.

Then, the Tedric Thompson interception happened. It was a spectacular play by him, tipping the ball with one hand on the turf, keeping it airborn long enough to corral it, then having the smarts to get back up and start running it back. Of course, this was a Rams game, and that means the refs made the WRONG call once again. For the second time in, what, four weeks? Saying nothing of the NFC Championship Game last year, but come on! They blew a fumble dead against the Saints that would’ve given them 7 points; who’s to say what the Seahawks could’ve done with a proper run-back of that INT? Who’s to say, at the very least, what we could’ve done with the extra yards?!

Do all the NFL referees own equity in the Los Angeles Rams or something? This is kind of becoming suspicious at this point. I mean, why are they getting ALL the calls?

Anyway, that INT was a blessing and a curse. It happened just before the 2-minute warning, and the Rams still had 2 time outs. The Seahawks ran the ball twice – which was the right thing to do – and got 8 yards out of the deal. The 3rd & 2 play, however, was probably dumber than not going for it on 4th down in the first half. An option play? When was the last time that ever worked in a big moment in the NFL? I like having the ball in Wilson’s hands, and I like there BEING options for a play, but there really should’ve been a passing element to that one. RPO baby! When he’s rolling out, fine, have Lockett there behind him as a possible pitch man. But, also run one of the tight ends out there in a route – maybe fake a block at first to throw them off the scent, or fall down or something – but when he was out in the open, he knew he wasn’t going to convert, and he pitched it: right there, we should’ve had someone leaking out for him to throw it to down field. It was ALMOST the perfect play, but it turned into a near disaster.

Luckily, I guess, we stayed in bounds and forced them to use their final time out. It’s always a different ballgame in a 2-minute drill when you don’t have any time outs left.

Nevertheless, it’s never ideal to give the Rams the ball with 98 seconds left, down a single point. Even if it is on their own 7-yard line.

True to form, the Rams marched right down the field. I liked the aggressiveness the defense showed; I didn’t see too many 3-man fronts. But, I wish they’d gone to the well more with blitzes straight up the middle, as opposed to those corner blitzes that take so long to develop. You really don’t have a lot of time against a Rams offense; by the time the corner blitz comes home, he’s already released the ball.

I honestly thought we were going to lose on that field goal. My worst nightmare would’ve been Pete Carroll calling time out right before Zuerlein’s miss, only to give him a second chance where he nails it. He was sort of kicking to that upright a lot; there was a field goal earlier in the game that just squeaked in on that side. Any way you slice it, that’s a kick he makes probably 95 times out of 100, so I feel VERY fortunate right now.

Kudos to Wilson and Carson, who I’m going up against in my fantasy league. 268 yards (on 17/23) with 4 TDs for Wilson; 118 rushing yards on 27 carries (plus a 5-yard receiving TD) for Carson. They crushed me, but more importantly they crushed the Rams (had they done all that and the Seahawks still lost, I’d be inconsolable right now).

Kudos to Dissly and Lockett, who combined for 132 yards on 8 receptions with a touchdown. Kudos to Al Woods for stuffing Goff at the goalline to prevent that 2-point conversion (also, what were they doing running a QB draw?). Kudos to Tedric again on that fantastic INT after having a rough season so far. Kudos to Clowney and/or Wagner for forcing that Gurley fumble. And Kudos to Poona Ford for that early tackle for loss that easily could’ve saved us 4 points by not allowing the Rams to convert and challenge for a TD on that field goal drive.

There’s a lot to like about this win, and it sets things up remarkably well the rest of the way. I’ve said all along that the Seahawks need to go 4-1 in their first five games, and run it back for the next five. Well, here we are, 4-1, with 10 days until we go to Cleveland (who will be coming off of a Monday Night game). From there, it’s a very reasonable slate until our Week 11 BYE. Let’s enjoy the weekend, everyone!

The Seahawks Beat The Cardinals In A Classic Get-Right Game

Really at no point during the game yesterday was I worried about the outcome. It didn’t even look like the Seahawks had to try all that hard to take care of business; it was the definition of Workmanlike.

Of course, I tried my best to conjure up some things to be concerned about heading into this game, and it was like they all read it down at Seahawks Headquarters and decided to respond with their game play.

For starters, I don’t remember us doing any dumb shit; that’s always a plus! Probably the dumbest thing I saw was David Johnson going off for 8 receptions and 99 yards, but if that’s the worst thing this defense did all day, then that’s certainly something you’ll live with 100 times out of 100. I’d still like to see some of the tackling get cleaned up, but we’re really picking nits at this point.

Next up, the running game was a legitimate concern, and not just because of Carson’s fumbling. He managed to make it through this one unscathed, and led a pretty generous attack with 104 yards on 22 carries (he also caught 4 for 41 for a nice overall day). The O-Line looked better than it has all year, which was nice.

Wide receiver depth is still a work in progress, but Wilson was smart about it in this one. He took advantage of our talent at tight end, with Dissly and newly-re-acquired Willson combining for 83 yards and a touchdown on 9 catches. That was always going to be a strength for us in this one, as the Cardinals had been handing out career games to opposing tight ends like lollipops at a doctor’s office. Also, the criminally-underutilized Jaron Brown made his presence felt in a relatively significant way (3 for 50); until we start getting more consistency out of guys like Moore and Metcalf, I feel like Brown needs to be more involved.

And, finally, there’s the front seven we all know and love! Wagner and Wright were all over the field making plays. Kendricks had 2 sacks and was a general thorn in Arizona’s side all day. Ansah had his first sack in a Seahawks uniform. Rasheem Green had an awesome play to sack Murray for a big loss when it was just the two of them in open field and he didn’t get juked out of his shoes. Collier and Poona and Woods and Q-Jeff all made their presences felt.

But, you can’t talk about this game without talking about the play of the day: Clowney’s one-handed interception-turned-touchdown. Just a tremendous athletic play! It got us out to a 10-0 lead and really set things up for us to step on their throats the rest of the game.

It wasn’t quite the offensive explosion I’ve been waiting for, but I also feel like we left points out on the field, and if we really needed to, we easily could’ve done whatever we wanted. This was a quintessential Get In & Get Out game for us. Lots of time-consuming drives, build up a comfortable cushion, and try to make it through without any more injuries. This was punctuated by our 15-play, 75-yard (technically 80, after a first down penalty pushed us back before it even started) touchdown drive that took over 8 minutes off the clock. The Cards had just pulled the game to 20-10; at that point in the game, the Seahawks had gotten the ball three times in the second half and punted on all three. Another one of those would’ve made this game VERY interesting when it had no need to be. That’s when the Seahawks just leaned on ’em and all that punishment we’d been hitting them with all day finally killed their wills to live. Carson was great all day, but he was particularly brutal on this drive, running over, around, and through the Cardinals’ defenders like they weren’t even there. It’s just a shame he didn’t get to enjoy the reward of scoring the touchdown.

When I say the Seahawks could’ve done whatever they wanted, I mean they had 21 first downs, 340 yards, and converted 4/10 third downs. They took relatively few chances, so no fourth down tries, and not really many (if any) deep balls thrown. I mean, if it weren’t for the Clowney touchdown, there wouldn’t be anything memorable about this game whatsoever. I thought Kyler Murray had a few good plays, but he’s young and has a pretty mediocre offensive line, so it’s gonna be hard at first. I do think that as he gets used to the NFL, he’ll turn into someone special, but he’s not there yet.

Before I go, I’d be remiss if I didn’t shout out Shaquill Griffin. He has REALLY stepped up his game this year. It didn’t look super promising in the pre-season, but he’s taken it up a few notches! He had a great recovery after getting turned around to force an incompletion, and he had one of the most athletic plays I’ve ever seen in leaping around Larry Fitzgerald to bat a ball down without making any illegal contact (or really ANY contact to the body); it’s just too bad the play didn’t count as someone else on the defense was called for a penalty. We haven’t seen the turnovers yet, but we’ve certainly witnessed opposing offenses stay away from his side, and that’s as Richard Shermanesque as you can get! Way to go!

Comparing The Seahawks’ 53-Man Roster To My June Predictions

Right around the time of OTAs, I did a meaningless projection of what the Seahawks’ roster would look like for opening day. So let’s check out how wrong I was!

Quarterbacks

Projection: Russell Wilson & Geno Smith
Result: Russell Wilson & Geno Smith

So, I got the easiest one out of the way. Where’s my cookie?

Running Backs

Projection: Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, Travis Homer, C.J. Prosise & J.D. McKissic
Result: Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, Travis Homer, C.J. Prosise & Nick Bellore

I was THIS close. To be fair, in my projections I did talk about Bellore possibly throwing a wrench into this fight, with either Prosise or McKissic being the odd man out, and you know what they say about horseshoes, hand grenades, and roster predicting, right?

Tight Ends

Projection: Ed Dickson, Nick Vannett, Will Dissly & Jacob Hollister
Result: Nick Vannett & Will Dissly

To be fair, Dickson is on IR (designated to return after 8 weeks) and Hollister somehow made it onto the practice squad, so I’m counting this as a victory. Of sorts. We also have George Fant, who I’ve listed as an O-Lineman for the purposes of this exercise.

Wide Receivers

Projection: Tyler Lockett, D.K. Metcalf, David Moore, Jaron Brown & Keenan Reynolds
Result: Tyler Lockett, D.K. Metcalf, David Moore, Jaron Brown, Gary Jennings, Malik Turner & John Ursua

I was almost WAY off on this one, but the Seahawks did a bit of roster gymnastics this week to slide a couple guys onto the IR, while opening up the likes of Geno Smith and Jaron Brown to free agency (with the wink-wink agreement to bring them back once those IR designations were placed). It turns out the Seahawks CAN keep all of their rookie draft picks! But, Malik Turner is the one who took Keenan Reynolds’ spot (though I fully anticipate Reynolds being in the mix at some point this season, if the injury bug returns). Regardless, I wouldn’t expect this unit to be 7-deep for too much longer, but it’s an interesting group nevertheless.

Offensive Line

Projection: Duane Brown, Mike Iupati, Justin Britt, D.J. Fluker, Germain Ifedi, Ethan Pocic, Jordan Simmons, George Fant & Jamarco Jones
Result: Duane Brown, Mike Iupati, Justin Britt, D.J. Fluker, Germain Ifedi, Ethan Pocic, George Fant, Jamarco Jones & Joey Hunt

This was actually a pretty obvious unit to predict, as the veterans are here to start, and the reserves are too good to part with. Simmons got hit by the injury bug and landed on the IR which is unfortunate, but Hunt can play both center and guard (and even tackle in a super pinch), so he’s good to have around (especially with Pocic being the first guard off the bench in place of Iupati heading into week 1).

So far, with the offense, I predicted 20 out of 25, which isn’t too bad.

Punter/Kicker/Long Snapper

Projection: Michael Dickson, Jason Myers & Tyler Ott
Result: Michael Dickson, Jason Myers & Tyler Ott

Nailed it.

Secondary

Projection: Shaquill Griffin, Tre Flowers, Akeem King, Neiko Thorpe, Jeremy Boykins, Tedric Thompson, Bradley McDougald, Ugo Amadi, Marquise Blair & Lano Hill
Result: Shaquill Griffin, Tre Flowers, Akeem King, Neiko Thorpe, Parry Nickerson, Tedric Thompson, Bradley McDougald, Ugo Amadi, Marquise Blair & Lano Hill

The one I was least sold on was Boykins, and lo and behold he turns out to be my lone blemish in this area. I should’ve probably mentioned something about the Seahawks making a minor trade near the start of the regular season – like they do just about every damn year around this time – but them’s the breaks.

Defensive Line

Projection: Ziggy Ansah, L.J. Collier, Rasheem Green, Jacob Martin, Jarran Reed, Poona Ford, Al Woods & Quinton Jefferson
Result: Ziggy Ansah, L.J. Collier, Rasheem Green, Jadeveon Clowney, Poona Ford, Al Woods, Quinton Jefferson, Bryan Mone & Branden Jackson

Welp, there was no way for me to see the Jarran Reed suspension coming. Ditto the trade for Clowney. I was probably always a little light on this position in general, so it’s not totally shocking to see Jackson in there, but he’s just a rotational guy who won’t see a lot of playing time, barring injuries. I never would’ve guessed Mone in a million years though.

Linebackers

Projection: Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Cody Barton, Ben Burr-Kirven, Mychal Kendricks, Shaquem Griffen & Barkevious Mingo
Result: Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Cody Barton, Ben Burr-Kirven, Mychal Kendricks & Shaquem Griffen

The main reason why I was so short on the D-Line was because I essentially had Mingo as a rush end for this team. But, as the pre-season wore on, it was becoming increasingly likely that he was going to be cut (if he wasn’t somehow dealt for the best defensive end on the trade block). There was also worry that Griffen wouldn’t make it, but his value on special teams is apparently too high to part with. Nevertheless, quite the solid group.

That’s 21 out of 25 predicted on defense (with Reed coming back after 6 weeks, and a few of my other picks landing on the IR) for a total of 45/53 on the team heading into week 1 (barring any other moves later this week). My biggest stroke of genius was leaving Austin Calitro off; he very nearly made it, but was waived in recent days and picked up by Jacksonville. So, good luck to him I guess.

SEARCH: Seahawks OTAs 53-Man Roster Projections 2019

For as mediocre as I’ve been decrying the Seahawks’ defensive line heading into this season, there’s actually a pretty interesting battle going on. While this team lacks star power – particularly in the pass rush – there’s tremendous depth across the entirety of the front seven. You could argue – aside from Bobby Wagner and Jarran Reed – that it’s ALL depth, but that’s neither here nor there.

The rest of the roster shakes out pretty easily, but I cannot stress this enough: doing a 53-man roster projection in the middle of June is as worthless as it gets. I can’t even describe how wrong I’m going to be by the time Week 1 rolls around; there will be countless injuries and a number of players who make the team that aren’t even on the roster right now!

But, based on the players we have today, here are my thoughts:

Quarterbacks

  • Russell Wilson
  • Geno Smith

This feels like the easiest of the non-Special Teams specialist spots to predict. Paxton Lynch just isn’t an NFL quarterback, period. The only reason he’s here is because he’s tall and a former first round pick. Not that Geno Smith is any great shakes, but at least he’s started; he’s taken the more traditional route to being a career backup.

Running Backs

  • Chris Carson
  • Rashaad Penny
  • Travis Homer
  • C.J. Prosise
  • J.D. McKissic

Already, I don’t feel great about my prediction. If you’d asked me coming out of 2018, I would’ve GUARANTEED that this team takes one of either Prosise or McKissic, but not both. But, I’m just not super sold on the back-end of this group. If Prosise continues to ball out like he’s been doing during these OTAs, I don’t think there’s any way this team can just cut him for nothing. The guys I left off the roster are guys I feel like will be available on the scrap heap if the need arises. The only monkey wrench is the fullback, Nick Bellore. We all know the team likes to run a lot, and having a competent fullback is always a Pete Carroll desire. If he makes the team, probably cross off one of Prosise or McKissic.

Tight Ends

  • Ed Dickson
  • Nick Vannett
  • Will Dissly
  • Jacob Hollister

I don’t have a real strong belief that the team is going to keep four tight ends PLUS George Fant, but I don’t know where the cut comes from! Dickson was our best tight end when he was healthy in 2018, and is our most veteran all-around player at the position. But, at the same time, there is money to be saved by cutting him. Vannett has continued to improve year to year and had sort of a mini-breakout last year (particularly in the endzone). But, at the same time, he’s on the last year of his rookie deal, and I don’t know if he brings anything to the table that’s super special. Dissly looks like a stud, so if he’s healthy by the time the regular season starts, he’s a lock. I think the other lock is Hollister, and not just because we traded for him; clearly based on our history, we have no quibbles with cutting guys we’ve traded for. He sounds like a super stud on special teams and a guy we’d like to hang onto for a while.

Wide Receivers

  • Tyler Lockett
  • D.K. Metcalf
  • David Moore
  • Jaron Brown
  • Keenan Reynolds

Lockett, Metcalf, and Moore are all locks, assuming they stay healthy. I think Brown is about as close to a lock as possible, considering there isn’t a ton of veteran presence in this room. Finally, I think we only hang onto 5 receivers due to the need to have a 4th tight end. With that in mind, the fifth receiver spot is going to be a HUGE battle. I know there’s a prevailing thought that the Seahawks just HAVE to keep all of their rookie drafted receivers, but unless they prove to be special – and healthy – the Seahawks have no problem cutting them and stashing them on the practice squad. For starters, I don’t expect both Jennings and Ursua to be healthy throughout Training Camp; if they are, then we’re having a different discussion. But, in reality, I think the final receiver spot is going to go to one of those two guys or Keenan Reynolds, and I’m giving Reynolds the advantage based on his being in the system for a full year, and actually seeing some playing time last year. With his experience, and his Baldwin-esque build and skillset, I think he’s perfect to slide right into that dependable slot receiver role.

Offensive Line

  • Duane Brown
  • Mike Iupati
  • Justin Britt
  • D.J. Fluker
  • Germain Ifedi
  • Ethan Pocic
  • Jordan Simmons
  • George Fant
  • Jamarco Jones

I’m pretty secure in this prediction. The only way it changes is if there are injuries. Look for Joey Hunt or Phil Haynes to maybe sneak in there if there are any surprises to the core nine I’ve listed above.

Punter/Kicker/Long Snapper

  • Michael Dickson
  • Jason Myers
  • Tyler Ott

Enough said.

Secondary

  • Shaquill Griffin
  • Tre Flowers
  • Akeem King
  • Neiko Thorpe
  • Jeremy Boykins
  • Tedric Thompson
  • Bradley McDougald
  • Ugo Amadi
  • Marquise Blair
  • Delano Hill

I’m not super sold on Boykins. Amadi is also not totally a lock, but Boykins is really just a stab in the dark. I think, if it comes down to a young guy and a veteran, this team keeps the young guy. Boykins was here last year, so he has a leg up, but whatever. This post isn’t really about the secondary.

Defensive Line

  • Ziggy Ansah
  • L.J. Collier
  • Rasheem Green
  • Jacob Martin
  • Jarran Reed
  • Poona Ford
  • Al Woods
  • Quinton Jefferson

Linebackers

  • Bobby Wagner
  • K.J. Wright
  • Cody Barton
  • Ben Burr-Kirven
  • Mychal Kendricks

Linebacker/Ends

  • Shaquem Griffin
  • Barkevious Mingo

You kinda gotta lump all these guys together, because there’s a lot of crossover. I’m pretty secure in my prediction of the 8 linemen and 5 linebackers I’ve listed above. But, just as there will be an interesting battle among the final wide receivers, I think there’s going to be a tremendous battle among the SAM linebackers/defensive ends we’ve got on this roster. I mean, just look at the list of guys I’ve left off of this team:

  • Branden Jackson
  • Cassius Marsh
  • Demarcus Christmas
  • Naz Jones
  • Austin Calitro
  • Jamie Meder

For what it’s worth, I think Christmas is a guy we can stash on the Practice Squad. Jackson is a guy who has hung around for a few years that I know the team likes, but he isn’t really elite at anything. Naz Jones was a healthy scratch for a lot of weeks last year and it appears his time has run out with the Seahawks if he doesn’t seriously flash in Training Camp. Meder is a veteran, but hasn’t really done anything in his career.

The two hardest cuts for me were Marsh and Calitro. Marsh is such an ace at Special Teams, that it wouldn’t surprise me if the team finds a way to keep him. But, he’s essentially a journeyman at this point, so he probably only makes the team if there are injuries at defensive end. He feels like Ansah insurance, which brings me zero comfort. Calitro, on the other hand, was a rookie last year who I thought played pretty well in an injury-ravaged unit. It’s hard for me to see him go, but he’s not really playing the same position as Griffin or Mingo. He’s more of a backup to Wagner/Wright, which they went out and drafted in BBK and Cody Barton. If the team liked Calitro so much, would they have used two moderately high draft picks on guys who can easily replace him? At this point, Barton sounds like he’s a stud, and the guy putting the final nail in Calitro’s coffin.

All of that having been said, I don’t think Griffin or Mingo are locks by any stretch of the imagination. While both are being used in pass rush situations, neither have really excelled at the professional level at that job. Nevertheless, both seem like pretty key guys to our Special Teams, which is why I have them making the 53-man roster. If it comes down to Special Teams or Pass Rush, and the team feels it needs more help with the latter, then don’t be surprised if Marsh takes the spot of Mingo (I can’t imagine the team keeps both Marsh AND Mingo in lieu of waiving Griffin, because why wouldn’t you keep the cost-controlled guy with upside?).

I’m telling you, I’m utterly fascinated with how this whole portion of the team is going to shake out. I’ll be out of town for the entirety of the Pre-Season, which is kind of a bummer, but it’ll still be interesting to follow from afar.