The Seahawks Are Losing A Jarran Reed, But Gaining A Carlos Dunlap

Spring is the time for new beginnings. Nowhere* is that more clear than in sports.

* – that’s not even remotely true

There was a flurry of action last night in the 6pm hour, as Jarran Reed tweeted out he’d be gone by today. This was apparently because the Seahawks wanted to do a restructured deal to save money under the salary cap, while Reed wanted a long-term extension. I don’t know how you restructure a guy going into the final year of his deal; like, were they going to keep it the same but convert his guaranteed money into bonus money to split it up over 2021 and a ghost year? That, honestly, sounds kinda fucked.

Jarran Reed has proven himself to be a very good defensive tackle, with valuable pass-rushing skills. He had 10.5 sacks in 2018, had a down year in 2019 due to a 6-game suspension to start the season (that he was never able to recover from, with regards to the training camp/practice reps early on), and bounced back in 2020 with 6.5 sacks, while spending half the season on a defensive line that was one of the worst in the league at rushing the passer.

Now, it’s entirely possible that Reed was looking for a deal in some stratospheric realm that the Seahawks – and anyone else – would be foolish to sign him to. He’s not THAT valuable, not a Top 5 kind of guy. But, you know, he’s good. He’s in a second or third tier.

The problem all along was only signing him to the 2-year deal before 2020. It seemed short-sighted at the time, with very little chance to recoup on value; THAT was the time to extend him 3-4 years, at a more managable figure. But, for whatever reason, there was an impasse, and now here we are.

Then, almost immediately after word came down about Reed, it was announced that Carlos Dunlap would be re-signing! Two years, $16.6 million, with $8.5 million guaranteed! The Seahawks will save about $8 million by shedding Reed (still on the hook for a $5 million dead money figure) and are investing in Carlos Dunlap!

It’s bittersweet, because I really REALLY like Jarran Reed. But, I think the Seahawks have a better chance for success with someone like Carlos Dunlap anchoring one of the defensive end spots. We’re going to get more out of Dunlap – at least in the short-term – than we would have out of Reed, even though he’s obviously a better long-term prospect for sustained success.

Of course, now the Seahawks need to probably snag another DT. Poona Ford obviously signed an extension. Is Bryan Mone the other starter? The team really likes him, so that seems to be the way things are trending, but I imagine there’s a bargain-basement tackle out there for the Seahawks to grab.

Now, the primary pass rushing rotation includes Dunlap, Mayowa, Hyder, Alton Robinson, L.J. Collier, Rasheem Green, and 2nd year rookie Darrell Taylor (not to mention Jamal Adams, of course, blitzing from every which way). Not a bad little unit! I’m MUCH more confident in this group than I was heading into 2020, or even 2019 for that matter.

The Seahawks Made A Lot Of Smallish Deals While I Was On Vacation

All right, let’s run through the list, because I got a lot to do today.

  • Nick Bellore (FB) signed a 2-year, $4.45 million deal that’s probably just a smallish 1-year deal with no guarantees in year two, to spread out the salary cap burden
  • Chris Carson (RB) signed a 2-year, $10.425 million deal with a void-year tacked on to spread out the salary cap burden (only 2021 is guaranteed)
  • Ethan Pocic (C) signed a 1-year, $3 million deal with a void-year tacked on to spread out the salary cap burden
  • Benson Mayowa (DE) signed a 2-year, $8 million (approx.) deal with two void-years tacked on to spread out the salary cap burden
  • Kerry Hyder (DE) signed a 3-year, $16.5 million deal
  • Jordan Simmons (OG) signed a small 1-year deal
  • Cedric Ogbuehi (OT) signed a 1-year deal

Okay, that’s all I know about right now. In addition, David Moore signed a 2-year deal with the Panthers; he was solid, I’m sure we all wish him well. He greatly outperformed his 7th round draft status.

The Seahawks had one of the best Special Teams units in 2020, and Nick Bellore was a major reason why, so it’s great to have him around covering kickoffs and punts. He doesn’t do much as a fullback, and I don’t expect that to change.

Chris Carson, I will admit, is a bit of a surprise to me. I don’t know if this changes the Seahawks’ needs to go out and find a long-term replacement, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see. That means we essentially have the same running back room as 2020, minus Carlos Hyde (but, hopefully, with a full season of Rashaad Penny). I don’t think anyone was excited about Penny as this team’s lead back, but obviously we all know the risks with Carson and his injury-prone style of play. He’s elite when he’s healthy, and it’s a continual struggle to keep him healthy. The money isn’t terrible though. There’s an out after 2021, or if he stays healthy and kills it, we have him at a reasonable number for 2022.

Ethan Pocic is an okay center. The Seahawks have had a run of okay centers for a while now. My hope is that either we look to solidify this position with one of our few draft picks, or the addition of Gabe Jackson on the left side, with the continued emergence of Damien Lewis on the right side, will mitigate Pocic’s limitations.

Love having Benson Mayowa back! Great deal for a solid player! When he was healthy last year, he really wreaked havoc, and I don’t see him as one of those injury-prone type of guys, so there’s no reason why he couldn’t bounce back to play a full 16-game season. Locked in at two years for such a low number is incredible if he reaches his full potential!

I’ll skip over the real prize of this haul and talk about Jordan Simmons. He was let go, as opposed to being tendered, and is back at a presumably-lower salary figure. He’s a depth piece, and it’s always important to have depth. I thought he played pretty well when he had to fill in for Mike Iupati, so this feels like a no-brainer.

Same thing with Ogbuehi. He struggled at first in filling in for Brandon Shell, but I thought he came on towards the end of the season. I hope to Christ that right tackle isn’t a revolving door again this year, otherwise the Seahawks are going to have to get their asses in gear for 2022. The rest of the defensive lines in the NFC West aren’t getting any WORSE, I can tell you that much!

Okay, with all of that out of the way, let’s talk about Kerry Hyder.

I’ll be honest, I don’t know this man. They say he was on the 49ers last year and had 8.5 sacks, but that all flew well below my radar. He will be 30 years old this year and some have compared him to a Michael Bennett type (boy do I loathe hearing that comp after years of the Seahawks trying to draft guys to fit that mold).

It doesn’t look like Hyder has done a TON in his career. He had 8.0 sacks with the Lions in 2016, otherwise he has 2.0 sacks combined in his other four years. But, people are saying this is a great signing for the Seahawks, so I’m willing to listen to them. They’re the experts, I’m some jagweed sitting at a laptop, writing on a blog no one reads.

I think we’re all a little concerned that this means the Seahawks aren’t bringing back Carlos Dunlap. I read somewhere that the Seahawks are technically OVER the cap already, and will need to make some moves to get back down under it. But, I also read that the signing of Hyder doesn’t necessarily preclude the Seahawks from also going out and getting Dunlap, as they play different defensive end spots. I don’t know if any of this is true, I haven’t done the research; I’m still mostly on vacation-mode.

With it appearing that Bruce Irvin won’t be coming back, and the salary cap what it is, this COULD be it for the major moves. How do we feel about essentially the same D-Line as last year, with Hyder in for Dunlap? Well, that puts Mayowa back in a role where he’s more of an every-down lineman, which he did notably struggle with early in the season. He blossomed when his snap counts went down and he was free to get after the quarterback at a higher rate.

It would be FUCKING AMAZING if we could also get Dunlap back in the fold, but that’s looking mighty grim, all things considered. We also have to extend Jamal Adams, after all. Maybe this is a good sign for Alton Robinson, or Darrell Taylor? We’ll see, I guess.

It’s still early, so obviously there’s a lot to go down between now and the start of the regular season.

Looking At Some Of The Impactful 2020 Seahawks Additions

Football teams have a number of players who carry over from year to year – you always try to do whatever you can to keep your very best players at your most important positions – but for the most part teams are constantly evolving. You need an influx of fresh blood every season if your goal is to improve; rare is the team that just tries to hold onto the players they’ve already got (even then, that only lasts about a year or so before the salary cap constraints force you to start the inevitable churn). So much of a team’s success depends on the quality of those incoming players (and the relative health of your best guys), that it can be easy to overlook their accomplishments.

The 2019 Seahawks were a pleasant surprise that made the playoffs, but they were never really serious contenders for the Super Bowl. The 2020 Seahawks have been a pleasant surprise that has already locked up the NFC West; it’s debatable if this team can contend for a Super Bowl, but it’s inarguable that these Seahawks are better than the ones from a season ago. So, let’s take a look at – and try to rank in order of their impact – the new guys who have pushed us a little further over the hump.

In honor of the 12’s, let’s talk about the Top 12 most impactful newcomers. As you’ll see, they’re not all technically new to the team, but I’m also including guys who were holdovers who hardly played at all before this year. Before we get to the Top 12, here are a few honorable mentions:

Snacks Harrison was a guy a lot of people talked about in the run-up to the season, as a potential free agent signee. But, run defense has never really been our problem, and that’s what he does best as a run-stuffing defensive tackle. Yet, we got him back into shape midseason, and he played quite well in Bryan Mone’s absence. With Mone back, Snacks sadly asked for his release; it’s a shame there wasn’t room for him in the rotaton. Freddie Swain is a rookie 6th round wide receiver I had ZERO expectations for, but he’s had a quietly nice season (13 catches, 159 yards, and 2 TDs). As a fourth receiver new to the NFL, I’ll take it. Greg Olsen is an overpaid veteran tight end who has nevertheless been a contributor. He’s still not worth the money it cost to get him here, and he did miss a few games with a foot injury, but he worked his way back for the playoff run, and has had some nice catches on third downs to keep the chains moving (24 for 239 on the season, with 1 TD). Finally, Ugo Amadi just misses the cut. He was a rookie last year, but he wasn’t trusted with much playing time on defense. He’s stepped into a nickel cornerback role we all figured he’d be well-suited for, and he’s been great! With two more years of team control on his rookie deal, Amadi is looking like a real find for us.

12 – Ryan Neal

If I wanted to pull a cop-out move, I would’ve had Amadi and Neal tied for 12th, but then that would’ve made this a Top 13 list, and that’s just … unlucky! I put Neal just inches higher than Amadi because he REALLY came from out of nowhere to help this team out when we were in a real jam! Allegedly, Neal was on the Seahawks in 2019, but I couldn’t tell you a single thing about what he accomplished. I think he was either a practice squad guy, or one of the very lowest men on the totem pole, and that continued into the 2020 season. But, then Marquise Blair and Lano Hill – our #3 and #4 safeties – went out with injury early this season. That bumped Neal up to #3 on the depth chart, which ultimately thrust him into a starting role when Jamal Adams (spoiler alert, he ranks VERY high on this list) was out for his own injuries for a few weeks. Neal not only held his own, but he has made huge impactful plays nearly every game he’s stepped onto the field! He had picks in back-to-back games and has had lots of huge hits. It’s comforting knowing he’s around to fill in as needed.

11 – Alton Robinson

Speaking of another rookie I didn’t expect ANYTHING out of, let me introduce you to our 5th round defensive end. Remember how everyone thought Darrell Taylor (our 2nd rounder) would be the guy from this draft class to step in immediately to make an impact? Well, Taylor has yet to get healthy enough to play (and almost certainly will be held out for the entirety of his rookie season); meanwhile, Robinson has been thrust into a reserve pass rush role and has 4 sacks on the season! That’s great! Not for nothing, but our leading sacker in 2019 also had 4 sacks, which gives you an idea of what we thought of our pass rush heading into this year.

10 – L.J. Collier

Here’s another holdover who did nothing as a rookie last year. Collier has gotten plenty of snaps at both defensive end and tackle, and while he hasn’t flashed as you’d hope a first round draft pick might, he has 3 sacks on the year and a number of other impactful plays along the line of scrimmage, to be significantly better than the bust I was ready to label him as. I can’t say the sky is the limit, but getting even just competent play out of him is better than nothing.

9 – Carlos Hyde

With Rashaad Penny starting the year on the PUP list, and with Chris Carson as our injury-prone starting running back, the Seahawks were in need of a quality backup. Hyde was on the market and got a fair market value. I don’t know if he’s exceeded expectations – because he’s always been a pretty good and underrated running back – but he’s met them, and that’s enough. 356 rushing yards (4.4 average), plus another 93 receiving yards on 16 receptions (and 4 touchdowns) is everything I wanted out of him, especially since he was solid while Carson was out with his annual injury.

8 – Ethan Pocic

Here’s another guy who hadn’t done ANYTHING with the Seahawks since we drafted him in the 2nd round in 2017. Finally healthy, and finally playing his strongest position – center – he was a surprise winner of the job over incoming free agent B.J. Finney. Not only has he taken the job and ran with it, but he afforded the Seahawks an opportunity to trade Finney away for even more talent (coming up later in this post).

7 – Jordyn Brooks

Our top draft pick this year was a surprise to many. No one thought the Seahawks needed a weakside linebacker, especially considering we’ve had one of the best in K.J. Wright since the 2011 season. Nevertheless, Wright is getting up there and is in one of his final seasons. In spite of that, the first round seems kinda high to draft a linebacker, but Brooks has quietly been one of the best rookie linebackers in the league, and he’s really thrived of late now that he’s starting. On top of which, he’s allowed the team to move Wright to the strongside linebacker spot, where he has been KILLING IT! That’s been vital since Bruce Irvin – brought in to fill that role – has been lost for the season. Brooks looks like a solid starter for us for years to come, which is very encouraging to see as a rookie.

6 – Benson Mayowa

He would be higher if he hadn’t missed those games with his injury, but he has 4 sacks on the year and as part of this MUCH improved pass rushing rotation, his pressure rate is off the charts. When he was forced to play a high percentage of defensive snaps early in the season, he was far less effective, but with the emergence of those around him, they’ve afforded the Seahawks the opportunity to keep Mayowa to his part time role where he’s best suited.

5 – D.J. Reed

He would also be much higher if he hadn’t missed so many weeks with his offseason injury. But, the Seahawks are INCREDIBLY lucky to have him, and if we were basing these rankings off of the last month alone, he’d probably be second overall. Reed was a castoff from the 49ers whose season almost ended before it began. We claimed him, kept him on the NFI list, and worked him back slowly as he recovered. His return coincided with injuries to both Quinton Dunbar and Tre Flowers (as well as Shaquill Griffin, briefly); Reed has taken over that right cornerback spot and is absolutely DOMINATING! He’s the best RCB we’ve had since Byron Maxwell in his prime; on top of which, Reed can return punts! What a godsend!

4 – Carlos Dunlap

He’d be higher on this list if we had him to start the season. But, it took a rebuilding Bengals squad to take their veteran for granted, and a nifty little mid-season trade to get him here, and he has single-handedly made everyone around him on that side of the ball better. Our pass rush went from one of the very worst in all of football to 7th in the league in sacks! Even with nagging injuries slowing him down, he’s helped transform the defense as we head into the playoffs, into a unit that can actually win us games, instead of holding us back. He’s also accumulated 5 sacks in 7 games, which is phenomenal; imagine what he could do if he was fully healthy!

3 – Brandon Shell

We’ve seen what he means to the right side of this offensive line, both via the improvement over Germain Ifedi from last year, as well as via the dropoff from the guys filling in for him while he deals with his ankle sprain. This offense was never better than when we had all five of our offensive linemen fully healthy; the offense (and Russell Wilson specifically) has struggled as guys have gone down. But, Shell should be back for the playoffs, and we’re all hoping that makes all the difference.

2 – Damien Lewis

This was the rookie we were all banking on as being our biggest contributor, and he HAS exceeded expectations! I think we all expected a lot more growing pains with Lewis, but he’s stayed mostly healthy throughout the year and there have been very few breakdowns in protection where he’s concerned. And, unless I’m mistaken, I think he’s been rated quite high in the offensive line rankings on PFF (I haven’t checked myself, but I see glimpses on Twitter every once in a while). Either way, getting a starting lineman who’s actually worth a damn as a rookie is pretty rare for this team, and I’m giving him props accordingly.

1 – Jamal Adams

As if there could be any doubt. The dude is leading the team in sacks from the safety position with 9.5! He’s a generational talent and the catalyst for this defense being as special as it’s been. Yes, we gave up a ton to get him here, and we’ll have to pay him a ton to keep him here, but the dude is special. Now, if only he would start catching some of these interceptions that keep hitting him in the hands (granted, he is playing with multiple broken fingers, but still), we’d be looking even better with this guy!

I’m As Excited As I’ll Probably Ever Be For A Seahawks/Bills Matchup

My all-time favorite memory of the Seahawks playing the Bills is from 2012, when we went into Buffalo Toronto and stomped them into the ground by a score of 50-17. Obviously, that was Russell Wilson’s rookie season, and the real Seahawks fans remember this period as the beginning of the Great Seahawks Renaissance.

My memories of this period have to be akin to what it feels like for fathers remembering the days of their children’s births; I feel such PRIDE! And a longing to return to those sweet and innocent times!

Two weeks prior, the 2012 Seahawks were 6-5 and coming off of a disappointing loss to the Dolphins. They needed a spark. They needed their rookie quarterback to take a big leap forward in his development. And, he did just that in an overtime victory in Chicago. From there, the Seahawks dismantled the Cardinals 58-0. In combination with the aforementioned Bills victory, and the subsequent throttling of the eventual Super Bowl losers (the 49ers) by a score of 42-13, you still won’t find a more dominant three-game stretch in all of Seahawks history. In those three victories, we won by a combined score of 150-30; those are insane college football numbers!

That was also in the middle of a 5-game winning streak to close out the season. The damage had been done – we had to settle for a Wild Card spot, as the 49ers took the division that year by half a game – but in spite of our loss to the Falcons in the Divisional Round, hopes were never higher for Seahawks fans. Had we managed to nail our comeback in Atlanta, I think we’re all in agreement that we would’ve taken the 49ers out in the NFC Championship Game, with a victory against the Ravens in the Super Bowl all but assured.

While it’s a stretch to say the 2012 Seahawks were better than the 2013 version that DID manage to win it all, I seem to remember there being advanced metrics out there that showed those Seahawks were quite the force to be reckoned with.

These 2020 Seahawks aren’t the same (clearly), so I’ll temper my expectations accordingly. Nevertheless, through seven games, these 2020 Seahawks are still legitimate Super Bowl contenders. And, as chance would have it, we have another road date against the Bills on the schedule (this time in their actual hometown).

I’m weirdly excited for this game! When you factor in divisional/playoff tie-breakers, this game – a road contest against an opposite-conference opponent – is among the least important. But, since there are only 16 regular season games, that’s a relative statement, because ALL games are important in football!

And, sure, I’m excited because the Bills are a quality opponent (we are 1-1 against teams with winning records, with the lone victory being against a rebuilding Dolphins team), but the opponent is irrelevant. I’m mostly excited because we’re starting to get healthy again!

Jamal Adams and Benson Mayowa both figure to return this week. And sure, we’re down Shaquill Griffin, but D.J. Reed returned last week and looked phenomenal! Jordyn Brooks made it through unscathed. AND, we get to see Carlos Dunlap for the first time since we traded for him!

I’ll be honest, 75% of my hype is devoted to Dunlap. I am SO READY for a competent defensive end to grace us with his presence! I would put my feelings on par with how I felt about Jadeveon Clowney last year. In a vacuum, I’d prefer 2019 Clowney to 2020 Dunlap, but considering just how atrocious our pass rush has been this year, I feel like I’m even MORE starving for … ANYTHING! The fact that he took a pay cut to come here – converting $3 million of what he was owed into a roster bonus next season (meaning, if we cut him before then, he gets none of it, but immediately becomes a free agent; or if we keep him, we likely look to extend him an extra year or two beyond 2021) means he might be the most motivated player on this roster right now! I LOVE that!

I need to be ready to be underwhelmed, of course, but this feeling is more than just about this one game. The Seahawks as a whole are getting healthier. Shaquill Griffin will eventually return to full strength. Rasheem Green is on his way back from his stinger. Alton Robinson is already blowing away expectations as a rookie defensive end. We’ll actually have a defensive line ROTATION for once, where we can keep everyone fresh and hopefully maximize their effectiveness (rather than running the same two guys into the ground as they continue to get stonewalled).

The defense will be a work in progress all year. BUT, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t expect to see improvement if we can get these guys healthy and (more importantly) keep our key guys healthy. And, hopefully, it won’t require us to blitz over 50% of the rest of our snaps to do it.

Now, all of that being said, just because I’m excited for this game doesn’t mean I actually believe the Seahawks will win. This isn’t just one of those deals where Steven Isn’t Allowed To Have Nice Things In His Life, but it’s a weird fucking thing about the Seahawks and AFC games (particularly against the better AFC opponents we face, usually on the road).

Since 2012, the Seahawks – I think we can all agree – have been pretty good-to-great. And yet, we’ve managed to stumble against at least one AFC opponent in every season except one (randomly, in 2016, when we also played against the AFC East). We’ve lost an AFC road game at least once in six of those eight seasons. It’s not even that we get blown out or look particularly bad; weird shit just seems to happen when we least suspect it!

Now, the saving grace here is the fact that most of us – when we were going through the schedule when it was initially released – marked this game down as a likely defeat. Until the Seahawks got off to this remarkable start, most of us kind of wrote this game off. The Bills were projected to be a very good team this season, and low and behold – at 6-2 – they are! I would argue, however, even that hasn’t gone according to plan. Josh Allen looks much better than any of us expected (particularly in engineering a comeback victory over the Rams back in Week 3), but also the Bills’ defense looks much worse than any of us expected (when many projected them to be at least in the Top 3 in the NFL). The Bills have given up 26 or more points in half of their games (including a whopping 42 in a loss to the Titans). Fantasy owners are dropping the Bills’ defense left and right, and for good reason!

That’s why I think lots of Seahawks fans are predicting a Seahawks victory this week. Our defense just produced its best game of the season last week, we’re getting a lot of key additions to that side of the ball, AND the Bills have shown they’re weaker than their record might suggest.

To me, that puts me back on edge, coming around full circle to think that we WILL lose this game, as unexpectedly as we have in years past. If and when that does happen, it shouldn’t reduce our excitement for the rest of this season!

It might take a week or two for these new/returning stars to gel. The team might be looking ahead to our date in L.A. against the Rams next week (which will be a HUGE showdown for NFC West supremacy). Or the Bills just might be better on this particular given Sunday! I’m not going to sweat the outcome of this one, even though it would be fantastic to win and keep our cushion against the rest of the division for one more week.

I expect the Seahawks’ defense won’t look as good as it did a week ago. I expect a lot of Bills yards through the air. I expect the Seahawks on offense will need to rack up lots of points like it has all season. And … I expect weird, freaky mistakes might prevent us from accomplishing what we want to accomplish.

But, it won’t be the end of the world (even though it’ll be infuriating in the moment). I’m mentally preparing to be 6-2 at this time on Monday morning. I’m also already ready to flush this game and move on to the next one as soon as humanly possible. The Rams are on a BYE this week, meaning they’ve got two weeks to prepare for a home date against us that will be our biggest game of the season (so far). My mind is already in Los Angeles.

Well, technically, my mind is in Vegas for our early December trip, but close enough.

The Seahawks Needed A Win Like That

When the best thing the Seahawks have going for them in the run-up to a game is my gut telling me the other team is bound to be victorious, it’s never really a great sign. And yet, my gut has literally never failed me (by, ironically enough, always being wrong)!

I don’t really know how you see a game like that coming, though. I know a 37-27 victory doesn’t LOOK like the defense was worth a damn, but 20 of those points happened in the fourth quarter when Nick Mullens came in for Jimmy G and ate up a good amount of garbage-time yards and points. For the first three quarters of that game, the Seahawks’ defense properly dominated – taking a 27-7 lead into the final frame – and while giving up 20 points and however many hundreds of yards at the end doesn’t look great, if you gave me a 20-point lead heading into every single fourth quarter, I would gladly accept no questions asked.

I read somewhere that the Seahawks blitzed on over 50% of their plays in this one, which is pretty crazy for anyone, but especially for this team! Given that Jimmy G is a little hobbled, it made sense, as he really wasn’t going to get away from us. That translated to three sacks, an interception, eight quarterback hits, and somehow 6.5 tackles for loss (how do you end up with a fractional tackle for loss? Your guess is as good as mine).

Bobby Wagner was a man possessed in this one, and that’s saying something (that he’s the lead story for this game) considering Russell Wilson threw four touchdown passes. He led the game in tackles (11, 3 for loss) and had two of our sacks (while hitting the quarterback two more times). This was, honestly, the first time Wagner really flashed in a game this season, and was his single-greatest performance in YEARS. I dunno, that could be an exaggeration; for all I know he could’ve had a similar game in 2019 sometime. But, nothing really stands out to me; these games have been the exception, not the rule, in recent seasons. And, when you factor in all the injuries (Benson Mayowa, our best defensive line pass rusher, was out; Jamal Adams couldn’t make it back; Shaquill Griffin and Ugo Amadi also had to sit), that made it all the more impressive. We’ve been lamenting the lack of talent around Bobby Wagner as the main reason for his decline, but this game showed he still has some of the good stuff left in him (and we needed every bit of it).

The injury bug didn’t stop there, as our top two running backs couldn’t make it back either; Chris Carson is week-to-week with a foot injury, and Carlos Hyde apparently pulled something while celebrating last week? Jesus Christ. That meant that DeeJay Dallas got the lion’s share of the carries; he did what he could, but the 49ers seemed to be particularly stout against our inside rushing game in this one (he finished with 41 yards on 18 carries, but did score two TDs, including one through the air while catching 5 balls for 17 more yards).

As such, this game was always destined to be a Russell Wilson-heavy affair, and he didn’t disappoint. 27/37 for 261 and 4 touchdowns. This one didn’t have a ton of razzle dazzle, but the MVP Hype Train is chugging full steam ahead.

The offense struggled a bit in the first half, as we could only muster a 13-7 halftime lead. But, we really put the game away in the third quarter, and I was impressed by how we attacked them in the fourth when they were mounting their futile comeback attempt. The 49ers pulled it to 30-20 with just over four minutes left, and that could’ve been a drive where we just ran it three times and bled their time outs. Past Seahawks teams might’ve won this game 30-27, needing a stop at the end to prevent a disaster, with no one really coming away feeling good about what transpired. But, we got the ball back near midfield (after a failed onside kick attempt) and proceeded to resume throwing the ball, scoring that back-breaking touchdown while ALSO bleeding their time outs. That’s what championship-calibre teams do.

The fact that I’ve gone this long without mentioning D.K. Metcalf is utter lunacy. He caught 12 balls for 161 yards and 2 touchdowns, and it looked EASY. The 49ers couldn’t do a damn thing with him, and if Wilson had pressed the issue, Metcalf could’ve accounted for the entirety of our offense. Whoever was defending him looked like a 10 year old boy trying to cover a full-grown man. If Wilson hadn’t been just a bit short with one of his deep balls, there would’ve been a third touchdown and closer to 200 yards receiving. Just an all-around dominant performance from one of the most dominant receivers in the game today.

As such, it was a relatively quiet day for everyone else on the offense. On defense, the return of D.J. Reed was a sight to behold! He came up with the interception, plus two passes defended and six tackles. We picked him up this past offseason from the 49ers (who waived him as he was injured at the time) and this was his first game back; the timing couldn’t have been more perfect! It looks like he’ll start taking snaps from Ugo Amadi, but at some point we’ll have to think about him taking snaps from Tre Flowers (who, to his credit, played a pretty strong game from what I saw, though I didn’t see how many of those yards in the fourth quarter he might have given up). Also, it was nice to see Alton Robinson return with a sack. And, look at that! Tight end Stephen Sullivan got some run on the defensive line and had that half-a-tackle-for-loss!

It’s hard to know what this game means in the grand scheme of things. We looked great against the 49ers starters, but then their quarterback, running back, and all-world tight end all got injured and they ran up 20 points against our prevent defense. While I’m sure we were playing it safe there towards the end, you also KNOW we really wanted to keep the score down and crow about this being the start of something big. As it stands, I think we should feel very good about what we did in this game as a whole. But, obviously, it’s not as great a day as it should have been.

Ultimately, it was nice to see no hangover whatsoever from that Arizona game. At 6-1, we’ve taken back our spot as the top team in the NFC (thanks to a Packers loss, everyone else has at least two defeats). Now we get to look forward to as meaningless of a regular season game as it gets when we go to Buffalo next week.

The Seahawks Can’t Stop Winning & Getting Injured

The Seahawks won 38-31 and it pretty much went how I thought it would. In retrospect, I should have looked at the over/under for total points in this one, because the over was a MORTAL lock; the Taylor Family Farm never would’ve been more secure had I jumped on that one when I had a chance!

I was even right about the turnovers being key! Once again, had the Seahawks played a clean game in this respect, we might’ve won by double digits. But, with the defense being as bad as it is – on top of now being as banged up as it is – it’s fair to ask if the Seahawks would’ve won this game at all had they not gotten the two picks and one fumble from Dak Prescott.

I don’t have the energy to go through the entire game beat by beat, so let’s start where we’re supposed to start: Russell Wilson. 315 yards on 27/40 passing. Not his most crisp game of the season, but it’s tough to beat the really sparkling efforts leading up to this one. The only number that matters is his 5 touchdown passes (and 0 picks), which puts him at 14 touchdowns in the first three games, which is a new NFL record. I mean, obviously he’s playing better than he ever has before. But, now we have to seriously talk about him playing not only among the all-time greats, but among the PEAKS of the all-time greats. Is he, right now, at this moment, the greatest quarterback who ever lived? If you could pick any quarterback at any time in history and start them for one game, would you not at least have to think about rolling with Russell Wilson? Given how much of the offense he’s accounting for, on top of the fact that the defense is giving up yards and points on just as high of a rampaging pace? I mean, if Wilson leads the Seahawks to the top of the NFC this season, we’re not just talking about the NFL’s MVP award, but we’re talking about maybe the MOST valuable player the NFL has ever seen! It’s in play, is all I’m saying.

I want to get back to the turnovers here, because this game was all over the place. The Seahawks took a 7-3 lead on a 43-yard touchdown to Tyler Lockett (who was WIDE open all day, but particularly on this play, where it seemed like there wasn’t anyone within 20 yards of him; he finished the game with 9 catches for 100 yards and 3 touchdowns), then kicked off to the Dallas goalline. The return man muffed it at the 1-yard line, didn’t know what he should do for a second (if he could bring it back into the endzone for a touchback or not), and ultimately had to fall on it at the 1-yard line, which immediately led to a safety and a 9-3 lead for the Seahawks. I’m counting that as a turnover in the Seahawks’ favor, which – along with Dallas missing two extra points – dictated a lot of the scoring actions for the rest of the game.

Dallas ended up tying it at 9-9 not long after that (thanks to one of those missed PATs), which led to one of the craziest plays I’ve seen in a while. Russell Wilson threw a deep ball to D.K. Metcalf that ultimately went for 62 yards, almost all of which was air yardage. He threw that ball like most guys punt: high and arcing and with a hangtime unlike any pass I’ve ever seen before! Like Lockett earlier, Metcalf had a good ten yards or so on the nearest defender, but it was made up for due to the length of time the ball was in the air. D.K. came down with it easily, but proceeded to saunter towards the endzone, with the football being held in his right hand near his waist like he was carrying a suitcase or something. So, of course, you know what happened next: as he got to the 1-yard line, the defender came up and punched the ball out, into and through the endzone, for a fumble/touchback for the Cowboys. That play loomed pretty large and looked like it might define the day for D.K.

After trading some punts, the Seahawks finally went up 16-9, before the Cowboys returned the favor (sans extra point) to make it 16-15. A clock-churning Seahawks drive that ultimately led to a punt gave Dallas the ball back with just over a minute left, and you had to wonder if they weren’t going to take a lead before halftime. Instead, a great play by Shaquill Griffin led to an interception deep in Dallas territory! It was one of the few great plays by Griffin all season, who has been among the worst cornerbacks in the NFL through three games (coming off a Pro Bowl season, and heading into free agency in 2021, not a great sign for a guy who might’ve been on the hunt for a max-salary contract). Thanks to a pass interference penalty in the endzone, the Seahawks were able to convert that drive into a touchdown, for a 23-15 lead going into halftime. BIG swing in a game that finished within a single score!

Almost just as big was the sack/fumble on Dallas’ opening drive of the second half, which led to the Seahawks going up 30-15! The game felt out of reach by that point, but of course, never rule out this Seahawks defense. To be fair, the Seahawks’ offense also went pretty cold in the second half, with three consecutive drives ending in punts. Two TD’s and a field goal gave Dallas a 31-30 lead late in the fourth quarter, before Seattle mounted a game-sealing drive, culminating with a 29-yard touchdown to D.K. Metcalf (he ended up leading the Seahawks in receiving yards with 110 on 4 receptions), who went from potential goat to G.O.A.T. The lowkey play of the game, however, might’ve been the 2-point conversion to Jacob Hollister to give the game its final score. One more turnover by Dallas would seal the deal though, as Dak threw a de facto hail mary ball from the Seahawks’ 26-yard line that was intercepted.

Given how good Dallas is offensively, and the fact that we’re now 3-0 and leading in our division, I don’t really care how the result came about, as long as we won. But, that doesn’t mean there isn’t cause for concern.

The defense, in particular, suffered a rash of injuries the consequences of which we’re still trying to suss out. Jamal Adams was, of course, the biggest, with a groin injury that took him out for much of the second half. It’s hard not to feel that was a big reason why Dallas was able to come back the way it did. On top of which, Quinton Dunbar didn’t suit up in this one, with a knee injury that flared up before the game; we’ll see how long that hampers him. With the loss of Marquise Blair last week, that left us mighty thin in the secondary, and it showed. Shaquill Griffin, as I mentioned, got beat up pretty good in this one. Tre Flowers looked marginally better on the other side of the field – returning to the starting role he’d held the previous two seasons – but he still got beat on a fair number of demoralizing deep balls to remind everyone why he lost his starting job in the first place. Honestly, Ugo Amadi – the forgotten man in the nickel cornerback rotation – was the best defensive back we had on the field once Adams went down! He was all over the place, finishing with 2 passes defended officially, but I don’t remember him being challenged all that often either.

Lano Hill also didn’t suit up in this one, with a new injury this week. Then, linebacker Jordyn Brooks – making his first NFL start – left the game as well. I didn’t get a chance to see what he was up to, but we finished the game with Shaquem Griffin seeing his first action of the season, and making a number of impact plays in very limited time. If he isn’t officially on this team’s 53-man roster this week, then I don’t know what they’re seeing, because he looks good to me!

Injuries weren’t exclusive to the defense, though, as the three interior linemen for the Seahawks all got dinged pretty good. Damien Lewis is the big scare, with an ankle injury that prevented him from returning. Mike Iupati missed a few plays as well, and it sounded like Ethan Pocic was thought to miss some time as well, but I don’t know if that ended up coming to fruition or not. Then, there was Chris Carson, who had his knee twisted while being tackled on what looked like a VERY dirty play. The guy clearly had Carson on the ground, but he kept rolling over and twisting that leg until Carson succumbed. If that guy isn’t at least fined, that’s a fucking travesty, because that was beyond unnecessary.

On top of Ugo Amadi looking good on defense, Alton Robinson – our rookie fifth rounder – made his first NFL appearance and got a sack! He’s mostly filling in as a pass rusher for the injured Bruce Irvin, but he looks like the real deal a little bit! Small sample size, obviously, but considering I never expect anything out of rookie defensive ends, I’ll take it!

In general, the injury issues for this team are VERY concerning. We’re pretty deep in a lot of positions – secondary and offensive line, particularly – so it’s not time to panic just yet. But, obviously, you never like to see your starters go down for any length of time. It doesn’t sound like Carson’s injury is too bad, and I wouldn’t think Adams will be out for too long, but we talk about Injury Luck every year when we talk about the teams that end up in the Super Bowl. Clearly, the Seahawks – as long as we have Russell Wilson – should be talked about in those terms, but if we can’t keep everyone else on the field, it won’t matter how great Wilson is.

Two more games, then a Week 6 BYE, which honestly couldn’t come at a more opportune time given the injury bug. We just gotta get to 5-0 in the meantime, which shouldn’t be too difficult given our opponents.

Hindsight Is … The Seahawks Season Preview Extravaganza!

I write about the Seahawks on here pretty extensively, so you probably know my thoughts on the matter already. This is more or less just a one-stop-shop for all of my thoughts as we head into the 2020 regular season.

As I alluded to last week, I’m cautiously optimistic. Earlier in the offseason, I think I was rather too optimistic, so it’s probably smart to ratchet those expectations down a tick or two. In general, I want to say that I think the Seahawks’ offense will be better than it was in 2019, and that the defense will be about the same. There is, however, a very legitimate chance that the offense is about the same and the defense is worse. So, let’s start there as a jumping-off point.

As always, the good news for this team is Russell Wilson. He’s the best quarterback in the NFC and one of the top two or three in the entire NFL; the only guy I would RATHER have over Wilson is Patrick Mahomes, so in my mind he’s right there at #2 (honestly, and not for nothing, Lamar Jackson is probably #4 or #5, behind the likes of Deshaun Watson and probably Dak Prescott, if we’re talking about quarterbacks I’d choose to build my franchise around today). Wilson is currently in the window known as his “prime” and should remain there for another few more years, which means he’s at his peak of being able to carry this team on his back into the playoffs. Of course, even the best quarterbacks need talent around them to succeed (in spite of the fact that the very best quarterbacks will always make that talent around them better).

Wilson’s weapons – as a collective – are better than they were in 2019. Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf are back as this team’s top two receivers; and while Lockett is squarely in his own prime as an elite (and vastly underrated) threat both downfield and in the intermediate game, the Seahawks should see a signifiant boost in Metcalf’s production now that he’s entering his second season in the pros. Metcalf was already one of the very best rookie wideouts a year ago, and he’s done nothing but work on his body and his craft this offseason; if he stays healthy, I fully expect him to make the leap as one of the NFL’s brightest stars. To complement these two, the Seahawks brought in Phillip Dorsett (a guy who’s also quite fast and can compete for deep balls), and they brought back guys like Josh Gordon (a stud when he’s not suspended for doing drugs) and David Moore (who is in a contract year and should be motivated to produce at a high level for his own livelihood in this league). All of these guys seem to be in tremendous shape and should be great assets for Wilson to chuck the ball to.

Then, there’s the tight end room. We get another crack at guys like Dissly (one of the best in football, when he’s able to stay healthy), Hollister (a wide receiver in a tight end’s body) and Luke Willson (an everyman who can help in a variety of ways). Plus, we added a likely future hall of famer in Greg Olsen. And, if the group is decimated with injuries like it was last year, the Seahawks brought in some promising young guys on the NFI list and the Practice Squad to fill in around the margins should the need arise.

Then, there’s the running backs. Chris Carson still figures to be the bellcow. Carlos Hyde will provide solid veteran production behind him. Rashaad Penny should be back halfway through the season (he looks good in the limited video footage that’s been released to the Internet of him running sprints following his ACL surgery) as a possible boost to this group. DeeJay Dallas already sounds like the real deal as a rookie. And, Travis Homer was fine last year in his limited snaps at the end of the season when everyone else was injured. I have the utmost confidence in all of these guys to be able to do what this team needs to do.

All of that sounds great! Why aren’t I 100% confident in the Seahawks’ offense improving over last year?

Well, the offensive line, of course! I’ll say this: I’m relatively optimistic about the O-Line at least being AS good as last year, if not actually better. But, I mean, let’s face it: there’s a lot of question marks. Duane Brown is old and his legs could give out at any time. Mike Iupati is also old and his everything could give out at any time. Ethan Pocic has been injured throughout his brief NFL career and has never started at center in the pros. Damien Lewis is a rookie, and a rookie who hasn’t even played in a pre-season game yet! Also, he’s essentially “won” his job as this team’s starting right guard by facing off against this team’s interior defensive linemen, who aren’t really a who’s who of outstanding stud-muffins when compared to the rest of the NFL; I mean, I’m pretty sure I could win a starting O-Line job if all I had to do was block this inept D-Line! And, while reports indicate Brandon Shell has been great as this team’s big right tackle free agent acquisition, the statheads who’ve monitored his career up to this point have indicated that he SUCKED at his job previously. So, you know, again take what he’s done in Training Camp against this Seahawks D-Line with a grain of salt.

The lack of a pre-season is the most concerning aspect, because offensive lines need continuity and actual game reps to get used to working together as a unit. As such, I would expect this first month’s worth of games to be a little rough to watch. It’ll be nice that they won’t have to deal with real-life crowd noise when we play in Atlanta this week (the packed stands would be significantly louder than the decibels the NFL is allowing teams to pump into their stadia), but I’m more concerned with our actual opponents, and how quickly they’re able to snuff out Russell Wilson’s pocket passing and scrambling.

The bright side is, if Duane Brown stays healthy, he’s a Pro Bowler. Mike Iupati – same deal – is at least a viable starter, if not a Pro Bowler. Pocic won the center’s job for a reason, he played the position in college, so maybe he’s turned a corner in his career. Lewis was an absolute mauler in college and it’s a great sign that the coaches are already confident in his ability to start at this level in game one. And, at least Shell isn’t Germain Ifedi (YOU get a silver lining, and YOU get a silver lining, and YOU get a silver lining!).

My hunch is, the O-Line will be fine, after a while. I just hope the rest of the offense is able to overcome these first few games on the schedule; I don’t like our chances if we start the season in a big hole respective to the rest of our division. But, if the O-Line turns out to be … *gulp* legitimately good? The sky will be the limit for this offense, even as conservative as it is!

***

The defense is significantly better in the secondary than it was to start the 2019 season. The defense is marginally better in the linebacker corps than it was in 2019.

And, the defensive line is the biggest question mark on this team, though I think it’s safe to say we all believe it’ll be significantly worse than it was in 2019 (which, itself, was already pretty bad).

So, the question is: can the vastly improved secondary make up for everything else? I think there’s a chance!

The 2019 Seahawks famously played somewhere over 60% base defense, which means having all three linebackers on the field. In a league that increasingly uses nickel defense (a fifth man in the secondary, to replace one of the linebackers, thus providing better coverage for offenses who trend toward using more 3- and 4-wide receiver sets), that was an unsustainable anomaly for the Seahawks to continue into 2020. That brings us to Quinton Dunbar – the troubled youth from the Florida area who was arrested, then ultimately not charged, and now rumors are swirling that he may still be in trouble for that house party robbery – taking over for Tre Flowers (who has struggled mightily in one-on-one coverage in his two-year career), who could slide inside to play that nickel role. That also brings us to Marquise Blair – the safety we drafted last year, who hardly played, even though he seemed to be more gifted than the duds we were rolling with – who has flashed during Training Camp as a bigger nickel corner that this team can use against slower/bigger receivers and tight ends. That also brings us to Ugo Amadi – another rookie corner/safety from last year – who has another year’s experience exclusively in the nickel corner role. All of these guys combined with our Pro Bowl corner in Shaquill Griffin, and our two stud safeties in Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs, make it almost impossible for the Seahawks to not constantly run out the nickel defense we were so bad at a year ago!

That should, in turn, leave Bruce Irvin (a hybrid strong-side linebacker/pass rusher) in more situations where he can line up along the line of scrimmage and rush the passer. That should also free up Bobby Wagner to do some more blitzing from his middle linebacker role (a trait he is quite good at, but wasn’t able to do as much of last year, because he was forced into coverage so often with this team always in base defense). The addition of Jordyn Brooks could also free K.J. Wright up to rush from the other linebacker spot, so long as he proves he’s ready to take over at weak-side linebacker. And, of course, there’s Jamal Adams’ ability to blitz from the strong safety spot, where he had 6.5 sacks a year ago.

If you want to know where our pass rush will come from with Jadeveon Clowney now in Tennessee, don’t just look at Benson Mayowa (who is a fine situational rusher, but obviously nowhere NEARLY as talented as Clowney as an every-down defensive end), look at the linebackers who will be freed to run up field more, thanks to the secondary that will finally have everyone’s backs … in the defensive backfield. And, if Jarran Reed from the interior felt like returning to his 2018 level of production (when he had double-digit sacks), all the better.

That’s sort of the best-case scenario from this side of the ball (failing the Seahawks going out and signing one of the free agent veterans (like Clay Matthews) that are sitting out there). How realistic is it that we’ll see it play out the way I’ve described? That’s tough to say. I do believe the secondary will free things up for the rest of the guys, but I have my sincere doubts about the coaching staff’s willingness to blitz more from the linebacker position. We like to get by with our front four on most downs, and with a front five on passing downs. That has proven, in recent years (without the likes of Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril), to be a pretty futile endeavor. I would LIKE to think we’ve refrained from excessive blitzing because we’ve been worried about being beaten deep – and now that we have talent back there to prevent this, the coaches will be more emboldened to take more chances – but I know that this team was reluctant to blitz a ton even when we had the Legion of Boom in its prime.

If my hunch is accurate, then we’re banking on A LOT of unproven young defensive linemen to take significant leaps in their level of production, and I just don’t see that happening. I have no faith in Rasheem Green, L.J. Collier, Alton Robinson, or any of these other guys doing anything in the league outside of being rotational backups. The only guy I DO like – Darrell Taylor – is still working himself back from injury and, without a proper Training Camp or pre-season, likely won’t produce much of anything this year as a rookie.

There’s ultimately two schools of thought: either the secondary will be so good that it’ll give the defensive line enough time to get to the quarterback … or the defensive line will be so bad that eventually the opposing quarterback will find SOMEONE who manages to get open, after he has all day to stand there and survey the field. Undoubtedly, both of those events will be true at various points throughout the season (there will also be the infrequent instances where the secondary just gets beaten, or someone on the D-Line manages to beat his man and gets the opposing QB on his ass), but how good this defense will be depends on which scenario happens more often: the secondary dominating, or the D-Line underwhelming. I’m guessing we end up blaming the D-Line for their ineptitude more than we end up praising the secondary, and we’ll ultimately come to the conclusion that if this mediocre defense didn’t have that secondary, we’d be giving up 35+ points per game. Chances seem remote that this defense creeps up towards the Top Ten; my guess is it lands ultimately in the low twenties.

***

The 2019 Seahawks participated in 14 games that were decided by 8 points or less, including our playoff win and defeat, and the regular season finale that ultimately cost us the NFC West (and forced us to go on the road throughout the post-season). Including the playoffs, the 2019 Seahawks were 11-3 in those games (prior to that, in the Russell Wilson era, I believe we were somewhere around .500 in such games). That has been pointed out by much smarter people than me to be quite an unsustainable winning percentage (most teams, over the long-term, finish around .500 in one-score games).

Given what we know – the offense will be better or the same, the defense will be the same or worse – it’s a VERY safe bet that the 2020 Seahawks will be involved in a high number of one-score games yet again (only in the very unlikely best-case scenario – where both the offense and defense are better than they were last year – would this not be true, because the Seahawks would likely be very nearly undefeated). And, given what we know about regression, I think it’s pretty safe to bet that the Seahawks won’t repeat as winners of nearly 79% of those games.

However, people much smarter than me also love to quote the Gambler’s Fallacy, and I think this applies here as well. Just because the Seahawks won 11/14 one-score games in 2019, doesn’t mean the 2020 Seahawks can’t win a similar amount; what happened in 2019 has little-to-no bearing on what happens in 2020. If anything, you could argue that by participating in so many of those close games – where the importance of executing down the stretch in the fourth quarter and overtime is of the greatest necessity – and by bringing back so many of the players who were involved in those games, this team is uniquely qualified to perform better in these situations given their level of experience.

So, are you an optimist or a pessimist? I probably land somewhere in the middle.

I will say this: much has been made of Letting Russ Cook and whatnot. In effect: allowing Russell Wilson to throw the ball more early in games, rather than forcing the establishment of the run and waiting until we’re down two scores in the second half before we let our All Pro quarterback do his thing. While it’s true, the Seahawks love a balanced offense between the run and pass, it’s not like they’re doing nothing but handing the ball to Carson and handcuffing Wilson in the process; he has PLENTY of first half opportunities to throw the ball. It just so happens – and I don’t mean to alarm you or anything – but he tends to be WILDLY off-target early in games! This is nothing we haven’t seen for YEARS now, yet most fans seem to forget this for some reason! I’ve lost track of the number of times Wilson has overthrown wide open receivers early in games, because he isn’t warmed up or hasn’t gotten into the flow of the game. There are also drives where the Seahawks don’t run the ball at all! Those tend to be of the 3 & Out variety, because again, it’s early and Wilson isn’t quite his usual self.

Russell Wilson is great – I said before, he’s #2 in the league for me, which is a great compliment – but he’s NOT perfect! And, it’s not ALL on the offensive coordinator or Pete Carroll holding him back; some of these wounds are self-inflicted. If Wilson were more on-target from the very first drive of the game, we wouldn’t be having this discussion about always needing to make big plays in the fourth quarter, or otherwise always playing from behind. This isn’t to delegitimize Wilson’s greatness, but it is a knock, and more fans need to recognize it. And, instead of being increasingly vocal about wanting to cook more, Wilson needs to admit that some of this is on him too. Be better in the first quarter, and you’ll have all the cooking opportunities you can handle!

***

Before I go, let me take another quick look at the schedule. It looks … scarier than I remember.

The NFC West is obviously the best division in football from top to bottom; there isn’t an easy game in the bunch. So, right there, that’s six hard-fought grudge matches. The AFC East is no cakewalk in itself. Buffalo (on the road) is an elite team; New England (at home) with Cam Newton shouldn’t drop off too much from the playoff team it was a season ago; Miami (on the road) finished 2019 strong and has a lot of young up-and-comers, with a great coaching staff; the only easy game in the bunch is probably against the Jets (at home). Everyone else in that division is – at best, for the Seahawks – a 50/50 affair.

The NFC East looks less potent, but Dallas (at home) should be strong, the Eagles (on the road) should at least contend for a playoff spot, the Giants (at home) could be frisky if we’re not careful (but we should still win that one pretty easily), and the Washington Football Team (on the road) should be a disaster. Then, there’s the Minnesota Vikings (who I am VERY high on, per my prediction that they’ll win it all this season), and the Atlanta Falcons this upcoming Sunday.

The Falcons are probably a team we should beat, but they’ve got a good offense and a lot of continuity in general. They might not need a whole lot from their defense to keep us in check out of the gate. I’m a firm believer that this will be a true 50/50 game that comes down to some key moments in the fourth quarter. And, honestly, I have my doubts that we can go down to Atlanta and prevail. I think, like many of our games down there in recent years, we’ll come up short in the final minute.

This game could be a real tone-setter for the Seahawks in 2020. Win convincingly, and I think the Seahawks could contend for a division title and more. Win a squeaker, and I think we’re looking at MAYBE contending for a division title, but more likely just a wild card spot and maybe a playoff win before being ousted. Lose a squeaker, and I think the division is probably out of reach by a game or two, with an outside possibility that we’re boxed out of the playoffs entirely. Lose convincingly, and we might be in for an 8-8 type of season, or maybe worse.

I say this because, in looking at our first five games before the BYE week, we go on the road to Atlanta and Miami, and we host three really strong teams in the Pats, Cowboys, and Vikings. Lose to Atlanta, and there’s a very real chance that we could be in a 1-4 hole to start the season (and that’s before we’ve played a single divisional game). When you figure over half our remaining games will be those aforementioned grudge matches, and we’ve also got road games against the Bills and Eagles to contend with, that’s a pretty scary picture. If we start out at 1-4, we have to go 9-2 the rest of the way to get to 10 wins (which you would assume is safe for a wild card spot). I’m not saying that’s impossible; I’m not even saying that’s something we haven’t seen from these Seahawks before. But, how many times do you want to tempt fate like that?

Of course, we’ll know more about the rest of the league after we get a few weeks into the season. Under normal circumstances, I’m far from the best pre-season judge of NFL talent; without any pre-season games or stories to read about, I have even less of a clue! But, I do hear analysts talking about how “easy” of a schedule the Seahawks have this year, and I’d look to shy away from comments like those until we’ve actually seen these teams play ball. Until we’ve seen the Seahawks play ball!

Ultimately, as I said before, I think the Seahawks will be a 7-seed in the NFC. They might win a game in the Wild Card round, but I think that’ll be as far as we go. In that sense, with this being squarely in the window of Russell Wilson’s prime, what I’m telling you is that I’m predicting another disappointing season from the Seattle Seahawks in 2020.

And, since my two biggest concerns are the defensive and offensive lines, what I’m also telling you is that our long-term prospects probably aren’t all that great either. We might end up squandering ALL of Russell Wilson’s prime, before we somehow luck into another legitimate championship run before he closes out his Hall of Fame career.

Has the year 2020 made you insanely unhappy and/or depressed? Well, WELCOME to my Seahawks Season Preview Extravaganza! Abandon all fucking hope!

The Seahawks Have A Roster & It’s Not Too Terribly Surprising

I should also point out that, obviously, this isn’t set in stone. This is just the 53-man roster as it stands at this moment; it very well could change anytime this week, or after the first game, or at any other point in the season. So, let’s hop to it, we’re burning daylight!

Quarterbacks

  • Russell Wilson
  • Geno Smith

Yawn. This was never in any doubt. Especially in a season like this, you want a veteran backup over a rookie. The biggest surprise is that the Seahawks opted to go with Danny Etling over Anthony Gordon on the practice squad, but we’ll see how long that lasts.

Obviously, you have to be happy with what the Seahawks have done here. Russell Wilson is one of the top two quarterbacks in all of football. And Geno Smith … is fine. If Wilson was ever seriously injured I would not want to live in this world any longer our chances at a championship would go down the tubes, but if we needed a spot start out of a guy for a week or two, you could do a lot worse than a game manager like Geno.

Running Backs

  • Chris Carson
  • Carlos Hyde
  • Travis Homer
  • DeeJay Dallas

Contain your glee, because while fullback Nick Bellore isn’t on this list, I wouldn’t expect that to last long. Just try to prevent the Seahawks from keeping a stupid fullback on their roster, I dare you! Bellore will be back. We just have to do that thing where we re-sign someone after the first week of the season, so their full year’s contract is no longer guaranteed (meaning they’re essentially week-to-week players who can be cut at any time with no financial consequence to the organization). It’s kind of a shitty thing to do to someone, but it’s not like fullback is a high-demand position in the NFL anymore.

If the hype around Dallas is as legitimate as it sounds like, we could be talking about the best running back room in the entire NFL. Chris Carson has Top Ten running back talent when he’s healthy. Carlos Hyde could start for any number of teams right now. Travis Homer proved his worth quite well as a late-round draft pick last year. Plus, on top of this embarrassment of riches, we still have Rashaad Penny coming back from the PUP list after six weeks (another guy who, when healthy, has proven to be quite good).

Wide Receivers

  • Tyler Lockett
  • D.K. Metcalf
  • Phillip Dorsett
  • David Moore
  • John Ursua
  • Freddie Swain

One of the bigger surprises that probably shouldn’t have been once you heard Pete Carroll talk about him: Paul Richardson was cut. It was a fine idea, but considering we didn’t immediately jump on him as soon as he was waived by his previous team, you could sorta tell that we weren’t feeling it. He was an insurance policy until someone better came along. As our home-grown guys started getting healthy again, P-Rich was no longer needed. I wonder if he’s lost a step? It’ll be interesting to see if he gets another chance somewhere else, or if this is the end of the road. Obviously, whenever Josh Gordon is reinstated, he’ll take the spot of one of these guys (probably Swain). Also of note: the team renegotiated Moore’s contract over the weekend to lock him in place. He’s earning less than the just-over-$2 million he would’ve gotten on his tender, but it’s guaranteed, and it guarantees his spot on this roster now.

I know this group doesn’t look like much, especially from a national perspective. But, Tyler Lockett is legit, and will likely be criminally underrated his entire career. Metcalf looks poised to be the next Julio Jones. Dorsett, when healthy, should fit in quite nicely with what this team likes to do with its deep passing. When Josh Gordon comes back, that’s another elite-level receiver in our arsenal. David Moore, by all accounts, has looked like a true professional in camp this summer. And, I still have high hopes for John Ursua being a slot receiver for this team (so, watch the Seahawks cut him as soon as Gordon is reinstated). I know nothing about Swain, except he’s a rookie and I think he can also return kicks, which gives him an obvious edge over Ursua, who does nothing on Special Teams.

Tight Ends

  • Greg Olsen
  • Will Dissly
  • Luke Willson
  • Jacob Hollister

Both Stephen Sullivan and Tyler Mabry are on the Practice Squad right now, and Colby Parkinson is on the Non-Football Injury List, so we’ve got all of our guys! Luke Willson making the team is a wee bit of a shocker, but I think he can do double-duty as this team’s fullback for the time being, so I kinda hope that just makes him our full-time fullback going forward. A guy can dream, can’t he?

Like our running backs, I think this could be the best group of tight ends – from top to bottom – in the league. Olsen is on his last legs, but he was still highly productive last year. Dissly is a superstar waiting to not get severely injured every year happen. Willson is a true every-man who is a joy to have on the team and can do a little bit of everything. And Hollister is more like a wide receiver in a tight end’s body.

Offensive Line

  • Duane Brown
  • Mike Iupati
  • Ethan Pocic
  • Damien Lewis
  • Brandon Shell
  • Cedric Ogbuehi
  • Phil Haynes
  • B.J. Finney
  • Jordan Simmons
  • Jamarco Jones

The only semi-surprise is the fact that we kept ten offensive linemen, but considering how hard the Seahawks went after this position group in free agency, it makes sense.

I’ll admit, I’m a little nervous here. I think this group will gel at some point; I just hope it isn’t too horrific in the early going. I’m glad we’ve got Brown and Iupati locking down the left side. I find it endlessly fascinating that Pocic was able to beat out Finney for the starting center job (even though we gave Finney all of that guaranteed money over the next two seasons). And, I’m encouraged that Lewis and Shell were able to step right in here and win their jobs immediately. If nothing else, I really do love the depth at this spot; they won’t be the best in the league, but they should be far from the worst.

Defensive Line

  • Rasheem Green
  • Jarran Reed
  • Poona Ford
  • L.J. Collier
  • Bryan Mone
  • Benson Mayowa
  • Alton Robinson
  • Damontre Moore

The only surprise here is that the Seahawks have yet to make a surprise last-minute free agent signing! Even for a run-stuffing tackle, if not another pass rusher! Unless you count Damontre Moore, which I do not, because I don’t even know who that guy is, other than he’s one of an endless string of ex-Seahawks we like to keep around to pad out the back-end of our roster. In non-Seahawks news, Jadeveon Clowney finally made up his mind; he’s on the Tennessee Titans (1 year, $12 million, worth up to $15 million with incentives … or what the Seahawks previously offered to him months ago to re-sign here). It’s a bit of a bummer; apparently the Seahawks were still in the picture up to the moment of signing, but not in the top two or three. I’m just glad he didn’t sign with New Orleans; keep him out of our conference and out of our hair, thank you very much!

Look, I’ll just say this: I hope the Seahawks know what they’re doing. They seem to be pretty satisfied with what they’ve done here, and are not freaking out like the rest of the fanbase. That’s a good sign, but by the same token, it’s still interesting that we continued to push to sign Clowney even after he turned down our earlier offer. I’m an “I’ll Believe It When I See It” kind of guy, so …

Linebackers

  • Bobby Wagner
  • K.J. Wright
  • Bruce Irvin
  • Cody Barton
  • Ben Burr-Kirven
  • Jordyn Brooks
  • D’Andre Walker

The bummer of the weekend was seeing that Shaquem Griffin didn’t make the cut. He is on the Practice Squad though, so all hope is not lost! I would expect him to play again this year – once someone goes down with an injury – and to make a solid contribution to the team. D’Andre Walker was the only guy the Seahawks picked up from another team after cut-downs on Saturday. He was drafted by the Titans in the fifth round last year and has yet to play in the pros; he did get a good number of sacks in college though, so maybe he’s a little diamond in the rough project for us?

We’re in good hands with this group. Wagner and Wright are still top shelf. Brooks looks like he’s ready to start immediately. Irvin is still looking to prove himself. Barton, by all accounts, has looked tremendous in his second year. And BBK still figures to be a stalwart on Special Teams.

Secondary

  • Jamal Adams
  • Quandre Diggs
  • Marquise Blair
  • Lano Hill
  • Shaquill Griffin
  • Quinton Dunbar
  • Tre Flowers
  • Neiko Thorpe
  • Ugo Amadi

Linden Stephens was the guy we cut when we claimed D’Andre Walker; what a rollercoaster for Stephens! He thought he made the team – at a pretty deep position, all things considered – and then he had it yanked out from under him within a day! By all accounts, the Seahawks want him on the Practice Squad (he just has to clear waivers first), so I wouldn’t expect him to be going too far.

Best Secondary in football. Period. I can’t wait to see these guys do their thing! And, as chance would have it, we get to see it right away when we play the Falcons on Sunday!

Special Teams

  • Tyler Ott (long-snapper)
  • Jason Myers (kicker)
  • Michael Dickson (punter)

No surprises whatsoever here.

Trying To Predict A 2020 Seahawks Roster

I do one of these every year; they’re a waste of time, but they’re fun. There are, as with every new season, a number of intriguing battles coming up in training camp. It’ll be interesting to see who makes the cut (either because they’re going to contribute, or because we don’t want them poached by other teams), who is able to slide onto the expanded practice squad (however big it ends up being), and who washes out completely.

Mostly, I’m just interested in seeing if there’s a legitimate way for Shaquem Griffin to make this team, or if he has to beat out a significant role player from a year ago. I think we’ll be pleasantly surprised!

Quarterback

  • Russell Wilson
  • Geno Smith
  • Anthony Gordon

This will be more interesting than it’s been in a LONG time, because for the first year since Wilson became entrenched as this team’s starter, I think there’s a legitimate chance this team keeps a third quarterback. Anthony Gordon comes as highly-touted as an undrafted quarterback gets, so the risk of trying to pawn him off on the practice squad could be too high. Also, given COVID concerns, it will be prudent to keep an extra one laying around just in case we’re short-handed for a week or two. The argument against that is, obviously, depth on this team is pretty great (with lots of young guys we’d prefer to keep around to fill starting roles in upcoming seasons), and it’s hard to justify having TWO quarterbacks who – if all goes according to plan – will never see the light of day. Also, without a preseason, there’s less of a chance for Gordon to shine. I’m leaning towards he makes the roster, but we’ll have to see what other teams do with their own cuts (the more injuries to the quarterback position around the league, the likelier it is that Gordon would get claimed).

Running Back

  • Chris Carson
  • DeeJay Dallas
  • Travis Homer
  • Carlos Hyde
  • Matt Nick Bellore (FB)

It is with a very reluctant and annoyed sigh that I include the fullback (whose first name I had to look up to confirm is NOT Matt) on this list. I put up with a lot as a Seahawks fan – first and foremost, the utter lack of cooking we let Russ participate in – but rostering a fullback is one of the more galling. He participates in a VERY small handful of offensive snaps per game, and otherwise is a Special Teams guy of no note (to me anyway, who – granted – doesn’t follow the Special Teams goings on all that closely). The rest of these running backs listed are self-explanatory (Rashaad Penny will start on the PUP list).

Wide Receiver & Tight End

  • Tyler Lockett
  • D.K. Metcalf
  • Phillip Dorsett
  • David Moore
  • John Ursua or Freddie Swain
  • Will Dissly (TE)
  • Greg Olsen (TE)
  • Jacob Hollister (TE)
  • Cody Colby Parkinson or Luke Willson (TE)

I’ll be the first to admit, these spots are mostly a mystery to me. From a numbers standpoint, I think we’re looking at nine of these guys, with some very tough cuts to be made. I’m leaning towards Ursua given his experience, and Colby “don’t call me Cody” Parkinson (I really need to stop trying to do this based off of memory) over Willson only if Parkinson is healthy. Really, I could see a 3-way battle for two spots by throwing Hollister in there, but I think his overall effectiveness down the stretch last year as this team’s starter gives him the edge. Also, someone like Josh Gordon definitely throws a wrinkle into this mix (if he’s reinstated by the league), but in that case I would expect David Moore to get chopped, because they essentially play the same receiver spot, while Ursua/Swain are both projected to be slot guys.

Offensive Line

  • B.J. Finney
  • Duane Brown
  • Phil Haynes
  • Mike Iupati
  • Damien Lewis
  • Cedric Ogbuehi
  • Brandon Shell
  • Ethan Pocic or Kyle Fuller
  • Jamarco Jones or Jordan Simmons

I’m pretty sold on these being your nine to eleven offensive linemen, depending on what the team wants to do (and how big the rosters actually are this season). Of the projected “safe” bets, Iupati is probably on the shakiest ground – considering his age and likelihood of wearing down over the course of the season – but I like him to make it and be a starter out of the gate since there won’t be any pre-season games (and the team will likely want to settle on an official Starting Five relatively early in camp, to give them the most reps and allow for the most continuity as possible).

The offense, as listed, comes to 26 players. Usually, you like a 25/25 split between offense and defense, but I don’t think it’s been totally settled how big rosters are going to be. If anything, I think I’m one spot low on the O-Line (there will almost certainly be 10 guys kept there), which could mean nothing, or could mean our third quarterback pipe dream goes POOF!

Cornerback & Safety

  • Shaquill Griffin
  • Tre Flowers
  • Neiko Thorpe
  • Ugo Amadi
  • Marquise Blair (FS)
  • Jamal Adams (SS)
  • Quandre Diggs (FS)
  • Lano Hill (SS)
  • Quinton Dunbar or CB TBD

I’m not calling Amadi a safety – even though he’s listed as such – because everyone keeps saying he’s going to be in the running for a nickel cornerback spot. That would, in effect, make Lano Hill’s standing on this team relatively secure, but we’ll see (because I still don’t think he’s very good). Quinton Dunbar, obviously, has a bevy of legal hurdles to clear before he can play again, which could open up a spot for one of our young guys to be a surprise contender. D.J. Reed – recently claimed off of waivers from the 49ers – figures to be injured until late into the season, but could provide a nice boost in November or December, if he recovers okay.

Defensive Line

  • L.J. Collier
  • Rasheem Green
  • Benson Mayowa
  • Alton Robinson
  • Darrell Taylor
  • Poona Ford (DT)
  • Jarran Reed (DT)
  • Bryan Mone (DT)
  • DL TBD

The consensus is: we’re at least one defensive tackle short on this roster. Of course, there are tweeners – like Collier and Green – who can slide inside, but word on the street is the Seahawks are seriously considering a street free agent to be a boost to our outside pass rush (Everson Griffen or even Clay Matthews maybe), which really makes me wonder what this unit is going to look like when it’s all said and done.

Linebacker

  • Bobby Wagner
  • K.J. Wright
  • Bruce Irvin
  • Jordyn Brooks
  • Cody Barton
  • Ben Burr-Kirven
  • Shaquem Griffin

When you factor in Bruce Irvin largely playing defensive end, as well as Shaquem Griffin, that’s a lot of edge rushing on this team. That puts the official number at 25 players for defense (although, again, I’m probably one short on the defensive line, when it comes to the D-Tackle spot specifically). I mean, unless rosters are expanded to a full 55 players (26 offense, 26 defense, 3 special teams specialists), there will be some REALLY difficult cuts to be made here.

We’re still a week away from training camp getting started, so obviously a lot can change between now and then. I’m sure I’ll be off-base in any number of ways! Such is the fun and the pointlessness of an exercise like this.

Making Heads Or Tails Of The Latest Seahawks Media Blitz

General Manager John Schneider has been in the news a lot lately, doing interviews and whatnot. Over the years, it’s hard not to have your ears perk up whenever this happens. It’s obviously not a super-busy time in the football year; once the hullabaloo around the draft is over, things are pretty dead until ramping back up again in August. So, what’s with all the chatter?

The sports media landscape is a lot different nowadays. Players and teams are much more savvy with what they let get out into the world (for the most part). If there’s a news item about a player, it’s generally some bit of information that’s been leaked to a trusted reporter – who is always loathe to reveal his “sources” because he wants to maintain that connect for future stories – for a very specific reason. Depending on the tenor of the story, you can tell if it was the player’s camp or a team camp that leaked it. This is usually done in conjunction with negotiations – the team doesn’t want to pay as much, the player wants to squeeze every last dollar out of his value – so little items are thrown out into the world. It’s the cosmic ballet that is professional sports and … it’s really just a distraction, but ultimately not very important.

It’s all about image. No one wants to be the bad guy in this song and dance. It’s all just business; nothing personal!

You can’t help but start to take notice, though, when instead of leaking messages as an anonymous source, the team sends a prominent representative out into the world to show their hand. Teams don’t have to do any more media appearances than is otherwise necessary to drum up interest in fans and sell season tickets. So, that’s why you tend to see the coach and/or GM in the good times: during/immediately after the draft, and upon signing a quality free agent. These are advertisements – infomercials, if you will – for the Seattle Seahawks Football Club: Catch The Excitement! As draft hysteria has drifted back out to sea, however, we’re still seeing John Schneider pop up to talk about the Seahawks’ offseason plan. With good reason, of course.

There are two universal truths we’ve been harping on since the 2019 season ended: the Seahawks’ pass rush stinks, and Jadeveon Clowney is a free agent. After making a number of moves – signing Bruce Irvin and Benson Mayowa, re-signing Jarran Reed, drafting Darrell Taylor and Alton Robinson – the consensus is: the Seahawks’ pass rush still stinks. Again, I can’t stress this enough: it stunk as bad as could possibly be in 2019 and that was WITH Clowney, one of the most effective defensive linemen in the league (when healthy). As it turns out, that health factor is a lot bigger than we anticipated, as Clowney remains unsigned well into the month of May, with no end in sight.

What has caught a lot of eyes is the fact that the Seahawks – according to Over The Cap – have a little over $16 million in salary cap space at the moment. Of course, it should be noted that this figure doesn’t factor in the rookie salaries we’ll have to pay for our draft picks. Then, you have to set aside some money for minimum-salary guys the team brings in when our regulars get hurt and have to go on Injured Reserve. Also, the Seahawks put a lot of incentives into their deals with players that don’t necessarily show up in cap totals until those players hit those incentives. All these hidden figures ultimately detract from that $16 million. Smart fans know this, but most fans aren’t as into the weeds on these things; so they see a player like Clowney – easily the best-available free agent still on the market – and they see their Seahawks with a need at the very position he fills, and they’re wondering, “What gives?”

I mean, if nothing else, you have to figure that’s what Clowney’s agent is saying in negotiations with the Seahawks!

Beat writers and bloggers can bring up these hidden salary cap expenses until they’re blue in the face, but most fans are only going to sit up and take notice when the team tells them something directly. Enter: John Schneider.

There’s been a definite theme in his recent interviews that Schneider has been trying to get across: the importance of in-season moves.

The Seahawks are no stranger to making roster moves all throughout the year. Why, in 2019 alone, we made a deal for Quandre Diggs in the middle of the season that vastly improved our secondary; on top of taking a flier on Josh Gordon, who had at least one big catch in every game he appeared in. Then, with our rash of running back injuries late in the year, we famously brought back Marshawn Lynch to score us a few TDs in December and January! If I wanted to put in the work, I’m sure I could go back and list a bunch of other in-season moves the Seahawks have made through the years, but just trust me when I tell you that this isn’t a new concept for this organization.

And yet, this is the first time I ever remember the team harping on this fact in interviews. It’s obviously for a reason!

The way I see it, this has everything to do with Clowney, and it can be only one of two things. Either the team truly has moved on from Clowney, and the Seahawks are trying to get fans on board with this decision; or the team actually IS willing to bring Clowney back, but they’re going to remain firm in their lowball offer to him, and he either needs to get on board with it or find employment elsewhere.

This has to be hard for fans AND Clowney to reconcile, because as has been noted repeatedly, the Seahawks have a number of moves they can make to free up some extra money. They can cut certain veterans to free up salary cap space; but, this weakens our depth and probably robs Peter to pay Paul. Sure, our defensive line will be stronger with Clowney, but if that means cutting Bradley McDougald, that likely weakens our secondary and could be a wash in the grand scheme of 2020 things. They can also convert base salaries for guys like Russell Wilson or Bobby Wagner – guys you know aren’t going anywhere – into signing bonuses, to further spread out those figures across the remaining lives of their respective contracts; but, that kicks the can down the road and puts your team’s financial flexibility in jeopardy in a few years. Under normal circumstances, you could argue that’s a no-brainer – especially with Russell Wilson, who isn’t going ANYWHERE, hopefully ever – but with this whole COVID-19 pandemic (and the likelihood of games being played without money from ticket sales/concessions coming in for part or all of 2020), the effects on future salary caps could be dire. The NFL salary cap has gone up by around 10% or so every season since the last CBA went into effect in 2010, but there’s a very legitimate chance that it stays flat or even goes DOWN in the next year or two. Considering Wilson – as is – takes up a considerable percentage of the team’s cap number, boosting that by converting his base into bonus just seems like flirting with disaster.

The thing is, I do believe the Seahawks are being truthful when they talk about the importance of in-season moves. There are always guys being waived, or otherwise floated in trade offers, and it’s nice to have that flexibility to bring on talented players (or at least prevent those talented players from going to your playoff rivals). I also believe that the Seahawks can’t put all their eggs in the Clowney basket. However small it may feel, there’s a non-zero chance that the Seahawks’ pass rush actually manages to IMPROVE (somehow) without him here. It’s going to take a big leap of faith; guys who have never performed at this level are going to have to step up and take some of the load off of mediocre-looking veterans. It’s not IMPOSSIBLE … but, you know, I’ll believe it when I see it, I guess.

The bottom line is: probably don’t count on Clowney being back. Nevertheless, I’d love to see the Seahawks bring SOMEONE in, that’s an actual name who we can count on to give this pass rush a little more zazz.