The Seahawks Signed Brandon Marshall

This feels like more of a news story than it is, I think.  Brandon Marshall is a fringe Hall of Famer who frequently elevated the play of the sub-par quarterbacks around him.  If you had paired him with a Hall of Fame quarterback for the majority of his career – if, for instance, he had played his 12 years with Tom Brady – we might be talking about one of the very best wide receivers of all time.  But, I guess teams didn’t want to deal with his personality or whatever, so he never really stuck with any one team.  Not for longer than 4 years, anyway.

The Seahawks would be his 6th NFL team.  Up until last year’s injury-riddled stint with the Giants, Brandon Marshall had racked up at least one 1,000-yard season everywhere he went, with guys like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jay Cutler, Josh McCown, Matt Moore, Chad Henne, Kyle Orton, and Jay Cutler (again) throwing to him.  Just like Russell Wilson is the best quarterback Brian Schottenheimer has ever had, Russell Wilson is the best quarterback Brandon Marshall will have ever had.

Of course, that’s assuming he sticks.  It’s just too bad he’s 34 years old instead of 24 years old.

It’s a 1-year deal, for up to $2 million with incentives.  I can’t imagine much of it – if any – is guaranteed.  This has the feel of a guy we bring into Training Camp and see if he has anything left in the tank, a la Terrell Owens and Braylon Edwards.

Obviously, Doug Baldwin is your #1 and Tyler Lockett is your #2.  The Seahawks brought in Jaron Brown to be the team’s #3, so if anything, this looks like it’s Jaron Brown Insurance.  Brandon Marshall can walk onto this team right this moment (assuming he’s fully healthy from last year’s injury) and be the 5th or 6th best receiver on this roster.  That would take very minimal effort from a fringe Hall of Famer, but you don’t bring in a Brandon Marshall to be this team’s 5th or 6th receiver.  Because, in all honesty, you need more from those guys; you need those guys to be standout special teamers, and that’s absolutely not in the cards for Marshall.  The only way Marshall makes the team is if he’s so much better than you’d expect him to be.  If he’s simply AS good as Amara Darboh, David Moore, or Marcus Johnson, then guess what:  you’re going to keep the younger guys with more cost control and less miles on their legs!  Is he better than those guys right now?  Almost certainly, but that’s not enough.

Brandon Marshall isn’t fighting for a spot against all the other wide receivers on this 90-man roster; he’s fighting for a roster spot against Jaron Brown.  He essentially needs to be BETTER than Jaron Brown to make this team.  I should point out that it doesn’t preclude the team from keeping both; in that hypothetical scenario, it just means both Brown and Marshall will have impressed the coaching staff enough to make a difficult decision (also in that hypothetical scenario, figure that means the team keeps 6 receivers, which – if I have to guess – is not something they want to do; I bet they opt to keep 5 and one of those veteran receivers gets the ax; most likely Marshall, but that’s neither here nor there).

In the end, figure it’s much ado about nothing.  It’s hard to imagine a scenario where Marshall is good enough to make this team, aside from some pretty serious injuries to the wide receiver unit.

I Feel Renewed Excitement About The Seahawks: So Why Am I So Down On Them?

I’m on record as having the world’s biggest hard-on for the draft haul the Seahawks just brought in.  There are – what appears to be – fantastic players and inspiring stories up and down that list of players.  Rashaad Penny looks like he could potentially come in and start right away at running back – a position of tremendous need for this team.  Will Dissly looks like he can come in and contribute right away as a blocking tight end – another position of tremendous need for this team.  Michael Dickson looks like he can come in and not only be our starting punter, but be a remarkable improvement at that spot.  Tre Flowers looks like a guy who could develop into a viable starting cornerback opposite Shaquill Griffin as early as maybe midseason in his rookie year.  Shaquem Griffin looks like he can make an immediate impact on special teams, with an outside chance of contributing in various sub packages on defense as a linebacker/safety/pass rushing hybrid.  Guys like Rasheem Green and Jamarco Jones look like they have tremendous upside and while they’ll likely need a year to develop, it’s not outside of the realm of possibility that they do develop into eventual starters as a defensive lineman and a left tackle respectively.  And that’s not even getting into the countless undrafted guys I don’t know about; you figure one or two of them have a chance of turning into something really useful.

It’s really a lot of fun to think about.  Obviously, not all of them are going to pan out, but that’s not the point.  Right now, the sky is the limit for each and every one of them!  And, what’s more, we’ll get to enjoy a year where more young guys are going to get an opportunity on this team than they have since 2011 and 2012!  We might not be a championship-calibre team today, or at all this year, but if things go right, it’s not crazy to say that we’re close to being right back to the team we were from 2012-2014.

So, why am I so down on 2018?  Why am I sitting here talking about 8-8 this and 8-8 that?  Well, let’s break it down.  Am I wildly off base?  Have they done enough to fill the holes they needed to fill?  The holes that rendered this team a 9-7 embarrassment in 2017?

I’d start by saying on offense, they’re about the same as they were last year.  Let’s start with the skill positions.

Quarterback – Obviously, Russell Wilson is here.  He’s a Top 5-calibre quarterback in this league, and as a result your team is never really out of any game.  As long as he’s healthy, this team will never truly bottom out.  8-8 or 7-9 feels like the floor, like many of those middling New Orleans Saints teams back when their defense was a disaster, their running game was so-so, and it all fell on Drew Brees’ shoulders.

Wide Receiver – Your top two guys are back:  Doug Baldwin & Tyler Lockett.  Doug is Doug, he’s amazing.  Tyler is not coming off of an injury (which is good) and he’s playing for a new contract after the season’s over (which is even better).  If there was ever a chance to see Lockett at his best, this is the time.  Paul Richardson is gone, replaced by Jaron Brown.  You figure the speed is there, but this still feels like a downgrade to me.  Can Brown win those 1-on-1 battles that Wilson so often puts his receivers in?  Those jump balls that P-Rich or Golden Tate used to come up with, as if out of a science fiction movie?  Wilson has never been the type of quarterback to launch balls deep down field and take advantage of his receivers’ over-the-top speed, and I don’t see why that should change now.  Beyond the top 3 guys, it’s a real smorgasbord of question marks.  Amara Darboh?  David Moore?  Tanner McEvoy?  Marcus Johnson (who we got in the Philly deal for Michael Bennett)?  One of the litany of undrafted guys and holdovers we’ll have in camp?  I’m not super impressed, but maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Tight End – In the WR group, I think you have to include Jimmy Graham, because for all intents and purposes, he WAS a wide receiver.  You take a BIG hit, particularly in the red zone, with the loss of Jimmy Graham.  Say what you will about the other areas of his game (and believe me, I have and I will continue to do so), but he was a beast in a 1-on-1 situation near the goalline when Russell could just chuck it over there and more often than not come up with a TD (yes, there were more than his fair share of drops, but 10 TDs in 2017 is 10 TDs; I don’t care how long it took for this offense to finally figure out how to use him).  Who’s going to make up that deficit?  As for our other tight ends, we have Nick Vannett (who has shown you nothing in 2 years), Ed Dickson (pretty much Just A Guy, brought in via free agency; he’s essentially a Luke Willson replacement, as far as offensive production is concerned), Tyrone Swoops (who might not even make the team; still feels like a project to me), and newly drafted Will Dissly (who I believe will eventually turn into a useful offensive weapon, but not as a rookie, and nowhere near the league of a Jimmy Graham, from a pass-catching threat).  I expect these guys to be vastly improved blockers over someone like Graham, though, which brings me to my next point.

Running Back – To make up for the loss of Jimmy Graham, it’s going to have to come from the running game.  For what it’s worth, I do think this will be improved over 2017, because how much lower can you go than rock bottom?  The question, as always, will be who stays healthy.  Penny looks like a potential stud.  Chris Carson is there to push him every step of the way, but he’s coming off of a pretty devastating injury, and who’s to say he won’t get injured again this year?  C.J. Prosise is even more injury prone, and in my opinion far from a lock to make this team.  Mike Davis and J.D. McKissic are just guys.  Reliable, dependable guys, but just guys.  Nothing special.  Nothing really explosive about them (McKissic is obviously a faster guy, better in open space – more of a receiving back than a real, physical running back).  We need Penny or Carson to pan out here, right away, otherwise we’re in a MUCH worse position offensively than we were in 2017.

Offensive Line – And, last but not least.  Or maybe it is least.  Tough to say.  The obvious outcry from most fans and pundits alike, is how this team has neglected the offensive line this year, the bane of 2015-2017’s existence.  I’m on record as not seeing this as huge of a deal as in years past.  Maybe it’s fatigue over obsessing about them every year.  But, I like Duane Brown.  I think starting from Day 1 with him in the fold is nothing but an improvement, over trying to learn the system on the fly in mid-season 2017.  I hear Ethan Pocic is bigger and stronger than last year.  As a rookie, he got valuable experience.  Now that it’s not all new and insane for him, he should be able to settle in and anchor this line at the left guard spot for the foreseeable future.  My hopes are high for this kid!  Justin Britt is a fine center.  I’m sure he’ll continue to be the rock and the leader this line needs.  D.J. Fluker looks like a formidable run blocker at right guard, as well as someone with a lot to prove, with a high pedigree.  Obviously, Luke Joeckel had a lot to prove, with a high pedigree as well, but I dunno.  He’s cheaper, for one.  For another, he’s not coming off of an ACL.  Hopefully, he won’t miss a huge chunk of games in the middle of the season for a bogus cleanup surgery.  I don’t know if this team will ever have an elite pass-protecting O-Line, but if Fluker can open up some running lanes, then fuck it.  Germain Ifedi is an obvious source of frustration for most fans, but I’ll say this:  a second year at the same position – that continuity – should do wonders for him.  And, if not, well this team has plenty of guys to push him for that starting job.  I like the depth along the O-Line an awful lot; there has to be SOMEONE on this team who will be an improvement over our right tackle performance of 2017.  Maybe that someone is 2018 Ifedi; I’ve heard of crazier things before.

Bottom line on offense is:  if the O-Line can’t get the running game going, we’re fucked any way you slice it.  If it can’t do that, it sure as shit won’t protect well for Russell Wilson, and if that’s the case, it’s pretty easy to write off this year as an 8-8 of a disaster.  However, if Pocic & Ifedi take leaps forward in their development, if the veterans can stay healthy, and if we can get this running game going again, there’s reason for optimism that the offense could be vastly superior to what it’s been in recent post-Marshawn Lynch seasons.  A lot of “ifs” there, but that’s what we have to work with.

That all having been said, I’d say the bulk of my concern rests on the defensive side of the ball.  Richard Sherman, gone.  Michael Bennett, gone.  Cliff Avril, gone.  Kam Chancellor, likely gone.  Sheldon Richardson, gone.  Malik McDowell, idiot.  Earl Thomas, disgruntled (but playing for a new contract, so you never know).  I’ll say this:  the defense wasn’t a total and complete disaster last year, but the more we lost our star players, the worse it was.  This year, we’re looking at a lot of new blood, and we have to find out if these guys are going to mesh, or if there’s going to be a lot of growing pains.

Defensive Line – Frank Clark and Dion Jordan are your starting ends, for all intents and purposes.  You can play them anywhere, but those are essentially your replacements for Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett.  I like Clark, but I liked him a lot more as a #3 option behind those two proven studs.  Will he have another level to his game when he’s the #1 dude?  I sure hope so.  I also liked what little I saw from Dion Jordan last year, but will he be able to carry that over?  Not only what he did then, but a lot more considering the presumed increase in snaps?  Beyond those guys, Green is a rookie (and he’s green) who probably won’t play more than on a rotational basis, in obvious passing situations.  The other rookie is a late-round project.  Marcus Smith was a nice player last year, but is he really a #3 guy?  That feels like a STEEP drop-off from Frank Clark last year.

As for the tackles, it looks like the bulk of our talent resides there.  I love Jarran Reed and Naz Jones; I particularly think the sky is the limit for Jones.  We brought in those two vets from the Vikings who should be fine pros.  There’s an undrafted rookie whose name I forget – out of Texas – who looks like a run-stuffing prodigy.  Then, there’s Quinton Jefferson, who is playing for a job and might be axed out based on the level of talent here.  I think the D-Line will be great when it comes to stuffing the run (which is important, in case anyone forgets the 3rd & 11 against Jacksonville last year, as well as all the yards Todd Gurley got against us).  But, I have a lot of doubts about their ability to rush the passer.  Hopefully a tighter rotation – fewer snaps all around – will keep guys fresher and more prone for late-game success, but I dunno.

Linebacker – The obvious best position group of the bunch.  Bobby Wagner is an All Pro, K.J. Wright is a Pro Bowler.  They won’t leave the field – barring injuries – and they’ll be the glue that holds this defense together.  The big question is:  can they help out in pass rushing?  Both of those guys are quality blitzers, but they predominantly play out in the receiving routes.  Can Barkevious Mingo or Shaquem Griffin – on the strong side – contribute to moving the quarterback off his spot, hitting him, and otherwise leading to more turnovers?  That’ll be huge, but again, I have my doubts for 2018.

Safety – Earl Thomas and Bradley McDougald figure to be your starters.  Earl is amazing, Bradley is fine.  Tedric Thompson and Delano Hill are the rookies from last year, so hopefully we’ll see a big jump from them, as you figure we’re going to need them.  There are others on the roster, but I don’t know much about them, and therefore don’t expect much from them.  Shaquem Griffin is a wild card here too, as it would be interesting to see him in a run-stuffing/Kam Chancellor type role.

Cornerback – Shaquill Griffin and Byron Maxwell figure to be your starters on the outside, with Justin Coleman as your primary nickel corner.  We all liked what Shaquill did for us last year, but I’d still like to see some improvement in his Sophomore campaign.  I’d like to see more in the way of turnovers, and more in the way of just eliminating his side as an option for opposing quarterbacks.  They’re going to continue to test him this year, so he needs to prove to them that it’s a bad fucking idea.  Maxwell, on the other hand, is another year older, and while he knows the system, he’s nobody’s idea of a long-term solution.  He’s not a lockdown corner, he never really was.  In this system, opposite Richard Sherman in his prime, with Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor in their primes, Byron Maxwell was a decent option as a 4th member of the LOB.  But, in this mishmash we’ve got now, I don’t know if a disgruntled Earl Thomas and a Bradley McDougald have what it takes to compensate for Maxwell’s weaknesses.  If he’s not punching the ball out of receivers’ hands for fumbles, what good is he?  I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if he loses his job at some point, or even gets cut at the end of the pre-season.  I’d like to see some of the younger guys win that job right now, than deal with a guy in Maxwell who isn’t going to get any better.

Bottom line on defense is:  there’s very little certainty.  Fortunately, Pete Carroll is a defensive-minded head coach, and one of the best going in the game today.  So, if anyone can whip these players into stars, it’s him.  But, make no mistake, this team can’t win without a really good defense.  I’ve been waiting for the offense to take the next step and start carrying this team, but I don’t think it’s ever going to happen.  And, quite frankly, with Pete Carroll at the helm, he’d never stand for that in the first place.  He’s going to live and die by his defense, his running game, and his desire to dominate time of possession.  Period.  You can say all you want about Russell Wilson being elite and all the rest, but Pete Carroll is never going to allow this team to be a 1-man show.  Ergo, if this team – in 2018 – is going to make the playoffs or win the division, we’re going to need to see a lot of production from a lot of defensive players we’re not very familiar with just yet.  Yeah, Clark and Jordan and Wagner and Wright and Griffin and Earl are going to have to play to the utmost of their abilities, but all those other guys I talked about – and a lot of other guys I didn’t mention – are going to have to step up and make big impacts seemingly out of nowhere.  How much faith do I have in that happening?  I dunno.  Seems to me, if it does happen, it’ll happen gradually.  I think best (realistic) case scenario is that this team is MUCH better in the second half than it is in the first half.  I think there’ll be a lot of early-season kinks to work out, and I don’t know if this team is talented enough – from top to bottom – to overcome a big early-season deficit in wins & losses.

Special Teams – One area I think this team has drastically improved is on the special teams.  I think there’s nowhere to go but up in the field goal kicking game, and if Janikowski can prove himself, he’ll be a welcome edition.  Otherwise, I have no problem with the younger Jason Myers; I’m adopting an Anyone But Blair Walsh mentality, and stocks are SOARING!  In the punting game, we have the opportunity to not only get younger, cheaper, and better, but possibly REMARKABLY better.  If this guy is the best punting prospect to come out of college in years, we could be talking about a Top 5 punter in this league.  Which, yeah, not enough to get my panties into a total wad, but little by little a guy like that can make a dramatic difference over the course of a season.  And, in our coverage units, while I don’t think they were terrible last year, I see the influx of speedy, athletic guys as only a plus in this area.  Someone like Neiko Thorpe – who has been a necessity in recent years – might be a luxury here, who could either help put this team’s coverage unit over the top, or be a cap casualty because we have so many other guys just as good as him!  I hope he gets better as a cornerback on defense, because he might need it to keep a job.

To all those people who said we were just a couple shitty kicks away from being 11-5 last year, I’d like to point to all those defensive breakdowns and the complete and utter lack of a running game as to the REAL reasons why that team underachieved.  If we’re going to get back to being that 11-5 type of team, it’s going to require vast improvements in those areas to succeed.  That having been said, it couldn’t hurt to have a kicker who can actually make the kicks he’s supposed to make, could it?

My Big Fat Seahawks Preview 2017

It’s insane at work right now, so I’m looking for little pockets of time to write this out and get it done on time before the weekend.  If it feels disjointed, just blame the scapegoat du jour.

I’ve already written a couple of preview-ish things on the 2017 Seahawks.  Back in April, when the schedule came out, I took a preliminary stab at predicting the outcomes.  Now that we’re just days away from the start of the season, I’ll update that with the power of new information!  Then, back in July, I took a look at the roster as we were barrelling toward Training Camp.  I don’t know how much my opinion has changed – from either of those two earlier posts – so if I harp on the same points, forgive me, but I just don’t have the time to re-read all of my blatherings.

I will say this:  whereas before I was cautiously optimistic – believing if everything broke right, it wasn’t hard to imagine this team back in the Super Bowl – now I’m a rock-hard, veiny, throbbing erection of populist Seahawks swaggeration!  I haven’t felt this confident about my team since the start of 2013!  Except, to be honest, I’ll have to walk that back a bit and say I haven’t felt this confident about my team since the start of 2014.  I mean, look, that 2013 team was CRAZY deep and CRAZY talented, up and down the roster.  On top of that, the 2013 team actually had a competent offensive line, whereas this year’s team is still very much in doubt (in spite of recent improved pre-season play, which I’ll get to in a bit).  Frankly, I was still pretty stoked on the Seahawks heading into 2014, and indeed pegged them for a repeat championship, which they had in their grasp one yard from fruition, but it wasn’t as solid a feeling as 2013.

This year is the same, in my mind.  The talent is there, no question.  In fact, in some areas, the talent is vastly improved (at least on paper).  And, the depth is in some ways back to where it was in 2013.  But, the last few years of creeping failure is clouding my enthusiasm JUST enough to have this nagging creature of doubt in the corner of my mind-grapes.  I’m doing my damnedest to give that guy the finger though, because I want to be ALL IN on the ground floor with this Seahawks team.

TL;DR:  WE’RE BACK, BABY!!!

Let’s just take this position by position, to show you how strong this team is, and to show the world how foolish it is to doubt us.

Quarterback – Top 5 in the entire league, fully healthy, in great running shape (the better to compensate for a questionable-to-say-the-least offensive line).

Running Backs – A deep stable of runners of all stars and stripes!  Lacy, the power back.  Prosise, the speed/pass-catching back.  Rawls, the good mix of both.  McKissic, the Prosise insurance.  Carson, the overall back & everyone else insurance.  If you can’t have Marshawn Lynch in his prime, then the next best thing is to stockpile 5 guys who add up to 1 Beastmode.

Wide Receivers – A Top 10 guy in Baldwin.  A burner in Lockett.  Another burner with outstanding ball skills in P-Rich.  A tall red zone threat in McEvoy.  And a rookie project in Darboh.  Not as deep without Kearse in the fold, but if you throw in McKissic and Prosise, you’ve got a lot of versatility in the passing game.

Tight Ends – A Top 3 guy in Graham.  Another tall receiving threat in Willson.  And a young blocking tight end with a good pedigree in Vannett.

Defensive Line – Off-the-charts talent all over the place.  Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril are proven studs.  Sheldon Richardson is the pass-rushing interior force we’ve been looking for since Cortez Kennedy retired.  Frank Clark is an up-and-coming dominant force who should look to take a giant step into the spotlight this season.  Jones and Reed are young interior talents with a lot to prove.  Smith and Bass are young ends with a lot to prove.  This could go down as the best D-Line we’ve ever had in Seattle, and yes even better than that 2013 unit that laid waste to the entire league.

Linebackers – More off-the-charts talent in guys like Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright; guys who can cover all over the place, who are dominant against the run, and who can rush the passer on occasion.  Depth here is vastly improved over the last couple seasons, with proven vets in Wilhoite & Garvin.  Injuries should not be as much of an issue as they would’ve been in years past.

Secondary – The L.O.B. is still here and still as good as ever.  Earl, Kam, and Sherm comprise the best threesome of any secondary in the NFL.  Jeremy Lane is a solid all-around corner, with emphasis on nickel.  Shaq Griffin is the only question mark, but he’s got a good pedigree and should get plenty of safety help in the early going.

Special Teams – Blair Walsh looks like he’s starting to get back on track, but will have to prove it when the games matter.  Either way, he shouldn’t be as bad as Hauschka was last year, particularly on extra points.  Jon Ryan is still going to keep opposing offenses pinned back inside their 20 more often than not, and overall control the return game with his quality punts.  The return game is bolstered with McKissic as insurance for Lockett, should the team opt to bring him back slowly, or otherwise take some of the duties off his plate.  And, coverage units look a lot better with Neiko Thorpe, D.J. Alexander, and our rookie secondary guys.

The only real area of uncertainty is, obviously, the offensive line.  Everywhere else, the Seahawks have elite, top-shelf talent and depth.  So, let’s dig into this.

An argument can easily be made that past seasons’ O-Line groups were made to look better than they actually were because Marshawn Lynch was so money, and I’m hard pressed to go against that line of thinking.  Can any of the runners we have now live up to that and make this group of guys look better than they are?  I think, maybe, in small doses, Lacy can be that type of runner who limits negative rushes and falls forward for impressive gains.  I also think, in between injuries, Rawls can certainly be a Baby Beastmode with his style, but the question with him is how long will those healthy stints last?  Prosise has the speed to get around the edge and through holes before they close, but he’ll have to prove he can stay healthy too.

Indeed, even in the pass-protection portion of the O-Line game, the major concern is health:  can they keep Russell Wilson from getting injured?  Obviously, Wilson can help out his own cause by getting the ball out quickly and eluding pressure before it’s right on top of him; but they’re going to have to drastically reduce the amount of free runners at the quarterback if this thing is going to work.

In a lot of ways, injuries are a matter of luck, and the Seahawks were pretty fucking unlucky last year.  Not 2017 Mariners unlucky, but not too far off either.  What are the odds that Wilson will spend the entire season hobbled again?  In a vacuum, I’d have to say not very good; but with this line I think you have to consider it a coin flip at best.  Luck is one thing, but there are things a team can do to limit the amount of bad luck that comes your way.  Getting improved O-Line play is one of them.

For what it’s worth, I do think this line will be better than last year’s, and I think it’ll be better right from the start.  This is key, as there are a lot of important games early in the season, and we can’t afford to slog through 10 weeks of growing pains before we go on our annual year-end hot streak.

I think Odhiambo, with a year under his belt, will be better than Brad Sowell and 2016 George Fant.  Since Fant, last year, was about as bad as you can get, I’d say that’s a huge upgrade (and Odhiambo doesn’t even have to be GOOD to achieve this level of improvement!).  Now, obviously losing 2017 Fant to injury is about as devastating as it can get, because he really did look like he was going to take a huge step forward in his development, but I’ll take baby steps at this point over what we had last year.

Luke Joeckel looks like a solid upgrade over Glowinski at left guard.  Paired with Britt at center, I think that side of the line will be just fine.

Glowinski slides over to right guard, which appears to be his better side.  He’s been playing somewhat evenly with free agent Oday Aboushi, so it’s good to know at least the right guard spot should be adequate (and probably a step above 2016 Ifedi).

My biggest concern is 2017 Ifedi, having moved back to right tackle (where he played in college and was projected to play in the NFL).  I’ve seen this movie before, but usually it’s a right tackle who gets moved to one of the guard spots, and not the other way around.  The consensus being:  tackle is a harder position to play than guard (which is a harder position to play than center … hi Justin Britt!).  So, the rationale ends up as:  if Ifedi was pretty terrible at right guard last year, what hope is there for him as a right tackle?  Indeed, I don’t have a good answer for you there.  Again, I suppose I’ll bring up the experience angle.  The leap from rookie to second year player, particularly along the O-Line, is pretty pronounced.  You gotta figure he’s at the very least more comfortable in his assignments.  And, at his size, you’ve gotta give him the power advantage over what should be smaller defensive end/linebacker types going up against him (whereas when he was a guard, he was going up against mammoth D-tackles).  His limitations are obviously in the speed game, where his footwork comes into play.  I have very few concerns about Ifedi the run blocker, but I have a SHITLOAD of concerns about him in pass protection, as I think some of the better pass rushers can rope-a-dope the shit out of him.  We’ll see I guess.

Overall, as I said, I have hopes that instead of being the 32nd-rated offensive line, the Seahawks can jump up to the 25th-best.  Even that modest increase could prove to take this offense to as-yet-unseen heights of efficiency and scoring prowess.

Things to watch this season on offense will be:

  • 3rd down efficiency
  • Red zone efficiency
  • Yards per rush

In 2016, it seemed like the Seahawks were more prone to mistakes (penalties, missed blocking assignments) on third down, which is just a ball-buster.  No one is expecting the Seahawks to cut out the penalties entirely (indeed, some of their very best teams were among the most penalized in the league), but they’ve got to do a better job of not holding on long rushing plays, not getting called for offensive PI on pick plays, and not setting themselves back with third & long nonsense.

For the red zone, it’s simple:  find a way to get Jimmy Graham the ball.  Full stop.  He was the man in New Orleans and he had 9 or more TDs in all but one season there.  That needs to happen again, here, this season (and I’m not just saying that because he’s on one of my fantasy teams, but I’m also not NOT just saying that either, I think).

And, look for the Seahawks to get back to their rushing roots.  Beastmode may be gone, but the running backs we have now are more than capable of picking up that slack.  I’d also like to see a moderate return to the zone read, with Wilson pulling the ball back on occasion to keep defenses honest.  Also, not for nothing, but I’d like to see Wilson do this EARLY in games, to put that in other teams’ minds from the get-go.

On defense, watch for:

  • Turnovers
  • Late-game heroics
  • Quarterback pressure, hurries, hits, sacks

To get back to where we were in 2013, we’re going to have to force turnovers.  That goes hand-in-hand with pressuring the quarterback into bad decisions, as well as knocking the ball from his hand for fumbles.  That also goes hand-in-hand with the late game heroics, as we need to prevent those breakdowns we’ve seen in 2015 & 2016, and instead force turnovers to slam the door on those close games.  It’s a team game, and nowhere is that more apparent than the symbiotic relationship that is an NFL defense.

As for this year’s record, I’ll go through the schedule again, briefly.

  • Week 1 – I like the Seahawks to go into Green Bay and shock the world.  It’ll be our official announcement to the rest of the league that the Seahawks are here, they’re for real, and they’re going to stomp all over the lot of you!
  • Week 2 – A comfortable home victory against the young, rebuilding 49ers team.  Maybe not as dominant as we’d like, as they do have some young and talented pieces (particularly on defense), but a win is a win.
  • Week 3 – The Seahawks under Pete Carroll always seem to lose one road game to an AFC opponent that we’re all pretty unfamiliar with (except for last year, randomly, although we almost blew one at home against the Dolphins in week 1).  I think the Titans are really good and I could see the combination of their dominant rushing attack, and efficient passing game (particularly in the red zone) to just nip us for our first loss of the season
  • Week 4 – I like the Seahawks to get back on track at home, in primetime, against a weak Indy team.  With or without Luck, I like the Seahawks to roll.
  • Week 5 – No more losing to the Rams!  Jeff Fisher is dead, and with him so is the Rams’ proclivity of beating us for no good God damned reason.
  • Week 6 – BYE
  • Week 7 – I’m not particularly afraid of the Giants’ running game.  While they’ve got some good receivers, I think we can hold them in check and put enough pressure on Eli into forcing some mistakes.  Their defense is legit, but I like the Seahawks to do just enough in this one and win a close game by 3 in overtime.
  • Week 8 – The Texans come to town and will be sent packing.  I could see this one as a battle of defenses, with the Seahawks pulling away late.  Something in the realm of 16-3 or 16-6.
  • Week 9 – The Redskins come to town and they feel like just the sort of team who should be held in check by us.  Force Kirk Cousins into the worst game of his season, eliminate all threat of a rushing attack, and really take it to their porous defense.
  • Week 10 – Thursday Night in Arizona.  By this time, I wonder if Carson Palmer will even be playing.  Either way, he showed his age in 2016, and I can’t imagine he’ll be in for a fountain of youth situation this year.  No Calais Campbell, no monster in the middle to defend.  I think this is another game where the 12’s will make themselves heard on the road, and the Seahawks take the game comfortably in the fourth quarter.
  • Week 11 – Monday Night in Seattle against the Falcons.  I know the Seahawks took them out in the regular season last year, and I know we’ll be coming off of a Thursday game (and thus have all this extra time to prepare), but I can’t help but be concerned about this one.  I think it’ll be exciting and I think it’ll be close, but I could also see the Falcons just having our number and being able to score in bunches.  Rare home Monday Night loss for the Seahawks here.
  • Week 12 – At San Francisco, again, I think they should be relative push-overs.
  • Week 13 – Home night game against Philly.  I don’t see enough out of their offense to hold a candle to our defense.  Another comfortable, boring win at home at night.
  • Week 14 – I could see the Seahawks getting off to a sloppy start on the road, in a 10am start, in Jacksonville.  But, by the second quarter, the tide should turn and the Seahawks should take this one running away.
  • Week 15 – I SAID NO MORE LOSING TO THE RAMS!!!
  • Week 16 – Here we go!  Christmas Eve in Dallas!  In what could very well be a matchup that decides the NFC’s #1 seed!  I can’t imagine the odds of the Seahawks sweeping the NFC East are very good, but I dunno.  I just got a feeling that the Seahawks are going to sweep this road slate of impossible NFC teams (Packers, Giants, Cowboys).  This one could be another barnburner, with a late turnover keying the Seahawks to victory.
  • Week 17 – At 13-2 headed into the final week, I think the Seahawks rest a lot of guys after a quarter or two and drop the season finale, with the #1 seed all wrapped up.

13-3 is my official prediction.  The Seahawks cruise through the playoffs into the Super Bowl where they await the darlings of the NFL:  the Oakland Raiders.  Everything about that game gets my loins all a-tizzy.  Also, the idea of sticking it to the Raiders brings me tremendous joy.

The Seattle Seahawks, Super Bowl LII Champions!

Okay, that’s all for now.  Let’s get this season in gear!

The 2017 Seahawks Have A Roster

So, last Thursday happened, and everyone rejoiced because the Seahawks got through their final pre-season game mostly unscathed.  Then, Friday happened, and shit started hitting the fan all over the place!

Five trades were made, countless players were shockingly waived, and when the dust settled, it appears the Seahawks are better in the short term and the long term than they were at this time last Thursday.

Let’s run down the trades in brief:

  • Trade with Jets:  Jermaine Kearse & a 2018 Second Round Pick for Sheldon Richardson and a swap of 2018 Seventh Round Picks
  • Trade with Patriots:  a 2018 Seventh Round Pick for Justin Coleman
  • Trade with Patriots:  Cassius Marsh for a 2018 Fifth Round Pick and that Seventh Round Pick we gave them for Coleman
  • Trade with Vikings:  Tramaine Brock for a 2018 Seventh Round Pick
  • Trade with Chiefs:  a 2018 Conditional Seventh Round Pick for Isaiah Battle

Now, let’s discuss these trades in reverse order:

Isaiah Battle is an offensive tackle who has never actually played in an NFL game.  From something I saw on Twitter, if you think back to the third pre-season game, Battle was getting abused on the reg by our defensive linemen.  He’s got the size you want, but at three years into his professional career, you have to wonder if he has the talent.  It looks like the Seahawks could get that draft pick back if they just waive him, but the question remains:  how long of a look do we get at Battle before making that happen?

On Friday, as the Jermaine Kearse rumors were swirling, there were a similar number of Jeremy Lane rumors swirling.  Where there’s smoke, there’s fire this time of year, and usually when it leaks out that a team is shopping someone, that means if they find no takers, they’re just going to cut that player later.  So, as we all prepared to say goodbye to Lane, it turns out Tramaine Brock was getting the ax (and just when I learned how to spell his name without looking it up!).  I guess Brock became expendable when Coleman was brought in.  Coleman is more of a prototypical nickel corner, while Brock has played more on the outside in his career.  With Shaq Griffin more of an outside guy (who will force Lane inside in nickel situations), and with Griffin proving to be competent with lots of upside, Brock was redundant.  It’s too bad, but at least the Seahawks got something for him.

I’m going to lump the two deals with the Pats together.  It essentially boils down to a swap of players (Cassius Marsh for Justin Coleman) with the Seahawks getting an additional fifth round pick as a cherry on top.  Marsh was going to be a free agent after this season.  Coleman will be a restricted free agent in 2018, meaning if the Seahawks like him, odds are they’ll be able to keep him.  Coleman figures to be our dime corner, and probably adds something to special teams.  Marsh, honestly, is what he is.  Every year, we go into the Seahawks’ pre-season hoping that THIS will be the year that Marsh finally makes the big leap forward in his productivity as a rush end, but every year it’s just baby steps (if it’s any steps at all).  He’s better at defending the run than he is getting to the quarterback, and he’s better on special teams than he is at defense.  While that’s nice, it’s not really game-changing, and if you can get a fifth round pick for that, you absolutely do it!  Marsh might end up being a late bloomer, and I wish him all the best (when he’s not playing against the Seahawks), but he won’t be doing his blooming here.

Finally, the big news of the weekend – indeed, of the season so far – is the trade for Sheldon Richardson.  We gave the Jets Jermaine Kearse (I guess they’re desperate for wide receiver help) and a second round pick in compensation.  It’s sad to see Kearse go, and I’ll always think of him fondly for all his huge catches through the years, but if you have a chance to bring in Sheldon Richardson, and you need to clear up some cap space to do it, I’m more than happy to part with Kearse now.

Richardson is a monster.  He can play DT or DE, he can rush the passer from the inside and out, he can stop the run from the inside and out.  He fits seamlessly on this D-Line and could very well prove to be a game-changer for this defense as a whole.  He takes the Seahawks from Contender to Favorite in the NFC.  He makes this defense SO MUCH BETTER it’s insane!  I mean, we’re talking 2013/2014 levels of Seahawks defense.  Shit just got real.

***

There were some interesting, tough cuts made over the weekend as well.  In no particular order, here’s a list of some of the big ones:

  • Ahtyba Rubin
  • Trevone Boykin
  • Kasen Williams
  • Mike Morgan
  • Marcel Reece
  • Pierre Desir
  • Alex Collins
  • Mike Davis
  • Joey Hunt
  • Quinton Jefferson
  • Kenny Lawler
  • David Moore
  • Will Pericak
  • Garrison Smith
  • Tyrone Swoopes
  • Mike Tyson
  • Cyril Grayson

Rubin is obviously a tough one to see go, but he became expendable with Richardson in the fold.  Boykin being let go means that Austin Davis won the backup QB job, which makes sense.  I don’t see why Boykin couldn’t land on the Practice Squad; I can’t imagine another team wanting him.  Morgan and Reece are a couple of vets we could have at any time, I imagine.  The writing was on the wall for Collins and Davis, considering the depth at running back.

But, I’m really just dancing around the obvious here.  The Seahawks didn’t keep Kasen Williams and I’m pretty pissed about it.  If he didn’t win a job on this roster with all that he did this pre-season, then what the fuck more did he have to do?  He made just about every single catch you could’ve asked of him, he balled out on special teams, and with Kearse gone, wouldn’t you want someone intimately familiar with our system to be our fourth receiver?  You know, in case guys like Lockett or P-Rich get injured again like they always do?

And you know who snapped Kasen up?  The Cleveland Browns!  Who just so happen to be at the very tip top of the waiver priority list.  If the player you just gave up goes to the very first team that could claim him, you probably done fucked up.

To a lesser extent, I’m also pissed that the Seahawks let Pierre Desir go, because he was far and away one of the top two cornerbacks on this team this pre-season.  This one is more of a numbers game than anything.  Sherm isn’t going anywhere.  Griffin isn’t going anywhere.  With Brock gone, Lane isn’t going anywhere.  And the Seahawks just traded for Justin Coleman.  This one came down to Desir and Neiko Thorpe, and Thorpe JUST signed a 2-year deal this past offseason.  Thorpe isn’t anywhere NEAR the cornerback that Desir is, but he’s a fundamental member of the Special Teams, and it’s clear the Seahawks have made Special Teams a top priority this season.  So, that’s that I guess.

***

Without further ado, let’s get into the guys we decided to keep.

Quarterback

Russell Wilson
Austin Davis

In this one, it came down to what do you want more:  someone who has real, significant NFL experience?  Or someone who can do the best Russell Wilson impression (minus all the accuracy, decision-making, and smarts)?  Considering, again, I think Boykin can be had for the Practice Squad, I’m perfectly fine with this (either way, this team stinks the minute Wilson goes down with injury).

Running Back

Eddie Lacy
Thomas Rawls
C.J. Prosise
Chris Carson
Tre Madden (FB)

Again, no shockers here.  Madden over Reece is a mini-shocker (just the tips), but when you think about it, when was the last time the Seahawks kept an aging veteran fullback on the roster heading into week 1?  You bring those guys in AFTER week 1 and make sure their contracts aren’t fully guaranteed!

Wide Receiver

Doug Baldwin
Tyler Lockett
Paul Richardson
Tanner McEvoy
Amara Darboh

While I don’t believe McEvoy is QUITE as athletic as Kasen Williams, he’s pretty fucking athletic.  He’s tall and can make a lot of the catches Kasen can make.  He’s also, if we’re being honest, probably better on Special Teams.  As for Darboh, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that the team wanted to keep their third round draft pick, even though we’ve seen this team move on from relatively highly-drafted wide receivers before.  It sounds like the Seahawks really like Darboh.

Running Back/Wide Receiver/Kickoff & Punt Returner

J.D. McKissic

I think the reason why I’m not more blinded by rage at the loss of Kasen Williams is that it facilitated the team keeping McKissic.  He’s technically listed as a running back (having switched to Shaun Alexander’s old number, which I don’t know how I feel about just yet), but he does everything.  Most importantly, he spares Lockett from returning kicks, which is huge considering the injury from which he’s returning.  McKissic isn’t elite at any one spot, but I think he could be highly productive, even in a reserve role.  A+ for this move!

Tight End

Jimmy Graham
Luke Willson
Nick Vannett

Again, no surprises here.

Offensive Line

Rees Odhiambo
Luke Joeckel
Justin Britt
Mark Glowinski
Germain Ifedi
Oday Aboushi
Ethan Pocic
Jordan Roos
Matt Tobin
Isaiah Battle

The starters are set, Aboushi sticks around as veteran depth inside, Pocic is our Jack of All Trades, Roos is our rookie project, and Tobin and Battle are tackle insurance.  I can’t imagine we stay with 10 offensive linemen for very long, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see one or both of those final two guys get the ax at some point.

Defensive Line

Cliff Avril
Michael Bennett
Sheldon Richardson
Jarran Reed
Frank Clark
Nazair Jones
Marcus Smith
David Bass

Along the lines of there being too many O-Linemen, there’s probably one fewer D-Lineman than we’d like.  Reed and Jones are the only natural DTs, but obviously Richardson is going to start there as well and play most every down, so that mitigates things.  It’s cool to see Bass make the team, as he really balled out this pre-season as well.  And, you have to like the versatility Smith brings.

Linebacker

Bobby Wagner
K.J. Wright
Michael Wilhoite
Terence Garvin
D.J. Alexander
Dewey McDonald

Obviously, the top two are our studs and will be on the field every down.  The next two are our depth pieces/SAM ‘backers.  The final two are special teams studs and will hopefully never see meaningful snaps on defense.

Cornerback

Richard Sherman
Jeremy Lane
Shaq Griffin
Justin Coleman
Neiko Thorpe

I talked about these guys up top.  Nice group all around, though I still probably would’ve kept Desir.

Safety

Earl Thomas
Kam Chancellor
Bradley McDougald
Tedric Thompson
Delano Hill

Not much to say here.  McDougald mitigates some of the loss I feel for Desir, as he figures to play quite a bit on defense in 3-safety sets, covering tight ends.  Desir was more of a third outside corner/injury depth; McDougald should actually play and play considerably.  Thompson and Hill, the two rookies, were never going anywhere.

Special Teams

Blair Walsh
Jon Ryan
Tyler Ott

Bingo, bango, bongo.

Seahawks Destroyed The Chargers’ Backups

Ahh, the first pre-season game of the year!  Is there anything like it?

If all pre-season games were exactly like this one, I’m sure I’d be sickened, but see, that’s how they get you.  The first one, you’re so starving for football, you’ll sit through anything.  So, yank the starters after one series and go to town with all the backups.  Then, little by little, increase the playing time of the starters to get you to stick around for the next two weeks.  Then, by the fourth week, you’re hooked, and from then on, they’ve got you by the balls!

I dunno.  I do actually like the pre-season.  I like getting to watch all the young guys play, particularly when the games don’t matter.  If I had to watch all these backups out there in the regular season, I’d probably shit myself, but in the sterile environment that is the pre-season, it’s fine.

I’ll just rattle off a bunch of random thoughts in a row, before I’m too swayed by the opinions of others.

I didn’t like anything about the first team defense’s lone drive, but I also know that the Chargers’ offense is the absolute WORST for the Seahawks’ defense to play.  Philip Rivers is more than happy to dink and dunk his way down the field, and some of their receivers (and particularly their pass-catching tight ends) are more than happy to gobble up all those short passes.  They’re big and physical and they can play and play well against this type of defense that encourages underneath throws.  And, when the Seahawks start to make adjustments to take this away (assuming this were a regular season game, for a moment), that’s when Rivers can strike against you deep down field.  It’s the perfect storm, and I’m glad we don’t have to play the Chargers twice a year every year, because I know for a FACT that they would be what the Rams have been against us, only with an offensive bent vs. the Rams’ defensive prowess.

That having been said, I think I was more disappointed by the first unit’s run defense.  I know that sounds stupid – because the Chargers’ longest rush on that first drive was for 5 yards – but here’s my rationale:  you know, with Rivers in there, the Chargers like to throw quick, short passes.  Because that’s what he’s good at, and in this situation, you KNOW they don’t want him holding the ball all that long, in a meaningless first pre-season game.  As such, I would’ve liked to have seen this team be stouter against the run on that drive.  Four out of seven rushes went for 4 yards or more, and one of those shorter runs was to convert a 3rd & 1.  So, really, five out of seven rushes were successful for the Chargers.  Instead of pinning them into multiple 3rd & Longs, more often than not the Chargers had easy conversions to make.  Granted the 3rd & 9 play went for 15 yards, but I just think if you could’ve gotten them behind the chains, you could’ve at least forced a field goal, if not a punt.

But, it was one drive.  It’s not the end of the world.

I liked what I saw out of the offense, particularly the wide receivers.  Paul Richardson picked right up where he left off, by snagging a beautiful diving catch for 25 yards to get the team into field goal range.  Unfortunately, Paul Richardson picked up right where he left off, by getting immediately injured and being forced to sit out anywhere from 1-4 weeks.  Not a great start for a guy entering his first contract season.

Obviously, I was blown away by Kasen Williams, and believe you me, I was not expecting to be.  4 catches, 119 yards, and each one more impressive than the last!  Well, maybe not the one where it looked like he landed out of bounds, but the refs blew the call so all the better!  I couldn’t be happier, for a lot of reasons.  First and foremost, Paul Richardson.  I mean, if we gotta worry about him being healthy – yet again – then there are issues.  I think Doug Baldwin will be fine, but obviously he was out with a strained foot.  I think Tyler Lockett is a valid question mark; I think he’ll play eventually, but will he be back to his usual self at any point this year?  Will he come back only to get immediately re-injured?  And, if THAT’S the case, we’re back to this unit being Baldwin and Kearse and dot-dot-dot.

I know everyone is just convinced that Amara Darboh is going to make this team, because of his draft position or whatever, but why?  Why is everyone so sure he can have his roster spot written down in pen?  I mean, for starters, he was injured yesterday!  Gotta play in the pre-season if you’re going to make the team, right?  I know there are other factors at play, like team control and all that, but in Kasen Williams you’ve got a guy who’s mature, who knows the system, who’s FINALLY healthy and capable to show his full potential.

If we have to worry about Lockett and P-Rich, it’s nice knowing Kasen is there, because I sure as shit trust him over guys like Darboh, David Moore, Kenny Lawler, and the rest.

That having been said, I did like the upside on guys like Moore and Lawler.  Moore had that nice crossing route that he was able to turn up for a big gain.  He showed good size and speed.  Lawler could’ve made an even bigger impact if he’d reeled in that second TD, but as it stands I like what he brings to the table.  I’ll also be curious to see what Cyril Grayson can do; he had that TD in the corner of the endzone that was overturned on replay because he could only get one foot down.  Great athleticism for a guy who’s pretty raw.

Also, before I move on, I want to see Kasen Williams keep it up.  This game got his name back into the mix when everyone had written him off, but now he’s got to parlay that into an actual 53-man roster spot.  That means not immediately disappearing into the ether after one great game.  You double down on that and you FORCE this team to keep you.  And, if they don’t, you go sign with the Rams and you shove it down our throats for the next five years.  God Awgs!

As for the rest of the offense, I wasn’t thrilled with the running game.  The Seahawks won this game 48-17, and this team couldn’t run for more than 133 yards?  It’s not like the team was avoiding the run; there were 36 carries, for a 3.7 yard per carry average.  It wasn’t great.

Mike Davis was the mop-up runner, leading the team with 33 yards.  Rookie phenom Chris Carson bulled through the line for two goalline TDs.  Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls got some work in, but didn’t do much.  Alex Collins did even less.  Honestly, the best runners by a million miles were the three quarterbacks.  Russell Wilson had a scramble that he ALMOST broke for a first down.  Austin Davis had a huge scramble when the middle of the field totally opened up for him.  And Trevone Boykin was an absolute baller.

Gotta devote more time to the #2 QB, because he earned it.  Boykin’s first drive was absolute garbage; he had a fumble on his first drop back, that he was able to recover, then he looked indecisive on the third down incompletion.  It led me to think, “Here we go again.”  I was fully expecting this to be a LONG day of Boykin holding the ball too long, running around in circles, and not getting anything done until the 2-minute drill at the end of the first half.  When, in reality, Boykin looked GREAT after that drive!  He started to get the ball out on time, he ran when he should have, but he also made some quality throws.  Kasen, obviously, bailed him out quite a bit, but there were some other good decisions mixed in there as well (it’s always a good decision to throw a jump ball to Kasen when he’s being guarded one on one, FYI).  All in all, 12 for 15, 189 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT (on an ill-advised deep ball on his final drive, into double coverage, very badly underthrown due to pressure coming up the middle).

He very well may have solidified his spot on this roster, even though Austin Davis didn’t look bad.  7 for 9 for 108 yards is nothing to sneeze at.  Of course, it was against third stringers, and if you thought San Diego’s the Chargers’ second unit was bad, their third unit was THE WORST.  We’ll know if the Seahawks are serious about its backup quarterback competition if they play Davis with the second stringers and hold Boykin for the third stringers next week.

The question on everyone’s minds was, of course, the offensive line.  Did they look better than they have in the last two pre-seasons?  Yes.  But, I wasn’t really watching them all that closely.  I’m trying to get a sense of the whole game, so I don’t want to sit there and try to focus on just the lines.  But, you could tell the quarterbacks had a lot more time to throw; they weren’t being immediately bombarded with defenders in their faces, which is a huge improvement over 2015 and 2016.

It’s hard to get a sense of the best individual players, but I’m sure we’ll learn that as we read the deep dives this week on the various Seahawks blogs and Twitter and whatnot.  Fant looked better, Joeckel looked solid, Britt was Britt.  It seemed like Glowinski and Aboushi were battling pretty good on the right side.  And, it looked like Ifedi will certainly have some growing pains, but is also vastly improved over his rookie year.

As for the backups, I can’t even begin.  Pocic got a ton of playing time and looks solid.  I think we’ll be calling for him to be a starter on this team before too long.  Jordan Roos got a lot of playing time as well and could be a nice little project for this team long term.  I wasn’t blown away by Odhiambo, but I was encouraged to see him play both left guard and left tackle.  I hope the deep divers have some positive reviews for these guys, because overall I came away encouraged.

I will say that I’d like to see these guys improve on the run blocking side of things.  Seems like every big run was called back due to a clipping penalty, which is beyond frustrating.

On the defensive side of the ball, I’ll just say that I’m glad no one of import got hurt.  The starters made it through their series unscathed, on to Minnesota.

That’s really it!  I mean, we know what this defense is going to look like; there aren’t a lot of spots up for grabs.

I thought Shaq Griffin looked solid.  It’s very encouraging to see our rookie play as well as he did, particularly when you factor in how important this rookie class is going to be to our depth for the next few years, and when you factor in Malik McDowell’s idiocy.  We need SOMEONE to pop, and who better than a guy who could be starting opposite Richard Sherman a month from now?  I’ll be glad to see him get more play with the #1 defense in the coming weeks.

I thought Naz Jones looked solid.  Again, I wasn’t there close-watching the lines, but he had that tipped ball, and he looked like he got some pressure up the middle at times.  Without McDowell, that interior pressure is going to need to come fromm somewhere.  I would’ve liked to have seen more from Jarran Reed – because I’ve heard he’s been awesome in Training Camp so far – but the pre-season is young.

Obviously, I thought Michael Wilhoite and Terence Garvin looked outstanding.  Wilhoite with the hit on the intended receiver to pop the ball up in the air; Garvin with the INT returned for a TD.  But, these guys got a lot of play and really showed up.  It’s nice having backup linebackers who aren’t just Special Teamers.  Brock Coyle is an okay story, but he was never a guy I was comfortable counting on in a base defense.

Cassius Marsh had a great tackle for loss.  Some of the deeper D-Linemen had some nice pressure numbers.  Tedric Thompson was the single-high safety who gave up the 74-yard touchdown from Kellen Clemens of all people, and honestly Thompson looked slow.  Maybe that’s being a rookie and he’ll improve when the mental aspect of the game catches up to him, but it was discouraging when you consider the Seahawks are a team that wants to eliminate the deep ball above almost everything else.

In the Speical Teams, J.D. McKissic got a lot of the return duties – both kickoffs and on punts – and looked okay.  He didn’t break anything, but he looked natural and like he COULD have broken something if he’d just gotten a key block.  I, for one, hope he makes the team as a sixth receiver, and as a guy who could fill in for C.J. Prosise if and when he gets injured.  I mean, a guy who can play receiver (most likely a slot guy), a guy who can run the ball, AND a guy who can handle all return duties if we want to save Lockett from that sort of exposure, is a guy I want on this team!

Finally, Blair Walsh made all his kicks.  2 field goals, 6 extra points.  Keep it up, kid!

Overall, I came away pretty impressed.  I know this is the pre-season and blah blah blah, but this team looked talented, looked deep, looked fired up, and honestly looked like the team from 2013.  We’ll see what we’re thinking this time next week, after the Minnesota game, but for now I’m encouraged.

Taking A Pre-Training Camp Look At The 2017 Seahawks Roster

Going into the 2013 season, I was as high on the Seahawks as I’ve ever been.  Indeed, there have been a number of years where I’ve predicted a Seahawks championship, but I’ve never been as certain as I was before that fateful season.

This year, on the other hand, I dunno.  You’ve got a lot of the same players, which should inspire confidence that – at the very least – this Seahawks team will give us another playoff appearance and probably another division title.  But, there are also question marks up and down the roster, where there weren’t any going into 2013.  Even the positions of strength are causes for concern, as we’ve discovered in the last few years that injuries can hit anywhere, at anytime, for any reason.

Let’s just start at the Safety position, for instance.  The Seahawks feature two of the very best in the game of football today in Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor.  No sweat, right?  On a scale from 1-10, you write in a 10 for Most Confident and you call it a day!  Except, Earl is coming off of a horrendous injury and might not have his usual impact (particularly early in the season).  Is it appropriate to expect Earl to be as dominant as he’s always been?  Or will the injury – and subsequent rehab eating into his regular workout routine – mean we get just 75% of Earl or less?  And, quite frankly, there’s an honest concern that both of these guys will get re-injured at some point.  Both are another year older, and Kam has proven to be pretty injury prone over the last few seasons.  When they’re healthy, they’re the best in the game; but all I’m going to be doing whenever they’re on the field is worrying about their next injury.

And, honestly, this is the same issue we can run out there for a lot of position groups.  Cornerback?  Check.  Wide receiver?  Check.  Running backs?  Bigtime check.  So, as it was last year, the issue is going to come down to depth.  Because while the Seahawks have one of the most talented rosters in the league, they’ve also been the most snakebitten of late.

On paper, it’s really a tremendous group.  If you could sit here and promise me 100% health out of all of our starters, I’d tell you that I have the utmost confidence in this team making a deep run in the playoffs, up to and including a Super Bowl victory.  Very briefly, let’s scan the starters:

Russell Wilson, in spite of last season’s quasi-regression, is still a Top 10 quarterback in this league, and probably closer to Top 5 than a lot of people are willing to admit.  When he’s healthy, he’s as dangerous as they come.  At running back, we may not have Beastmode, but a healthy Thomas Rawls has proven to be wildly effective.  Eddie Lacy is a nice, big back who will get the tough yards and wear down defenses late.  And C.J. Prosise is as unique a talent at the running back position as there is in the league.  At wide receiver, Doug Baldwin is as good as they get.  Lockett is a speedster with great hands.  P-Rich really came on strong in the playoffs last season and has a lot of talent at making the difficult catches.  And Kearse is a fine #3 or #4 possession receiver with good blocking abilities.  Tight end might be our strongest position on offense, with the combo of Graham and Willson making life difficult for opposing defenses.  I won’t go crazy about the O-Line, but there are a lot of returning pieces who should improve by virtue of ending the 2016 season healthy, bulking up, and having that experience in their back pockets.  You have to like a lot about the D-Line, that killed it in run blocking, and has a lot of great pass rushers.  Avril & Bennett obviously anchor that line and are great in all facets of the game.  Rubin and Reed are solid run stuffers.  Frank Clark is coming on like gangbusters.  Malik McDowell has all the talent in the world at pass rushing from the tackle spot.  You can mix and match those guys in all sorts of different formations and should come off in a good spot.  At linebacker, we return Bobby Wagner – the team’s MVP of a season ago – and K.J. Wright, two of the league’s best.  When we’re not in nickel, you’re looking at any number of talented free agent signees to play that SAM spot and play it well.  At corner, we return Sherm and Lane; Sherm is still his wonderful self, and Lane is still good enough.  Shead will hopefully be back at some point to add to this team’s depth, and in the meantime a number of rookies will vie for that nickel corner spot (or the opposite outside spot, thus pushing Lane inside), including 3rd rounder Shaquill Griffin.  Tack on the aforementioned safeties, and I’m telling you, that’s a starting roster that can hang with the best of ’em, including the vaunted New England Patriots.

I don’t think anyone is questioning that, necessarily, but from a national perspective it’s a lot like that famous Eminem chorus:  motherfuckers act like they forgot about Dre.

The NFL is very much a What Have You Done For Me Lately league, particularly with the fickle media.  If you scan around at some of the Power Rankings, NFL.com has the Seahawks ranked 10th (behind the likes of the Bucs, Chiefs, and Giants).  I mean, what do those teams have that the Seahawks don’t?  Last I checked, Tampa has a very young QB who has yet to prove he’s a winner at this level, the Chiefs are staring down the barrel of a quarterback controversy after trading up to pick one in the first round, and the Giants still employ Eli Manning.  ESPN.com has the Seahawks up at 6th, which feels a little more reasonable, but still behind the likes of the Steelers and Falcons.  The Steelers have a lot of fantasy football talent on the offensive side of the ball, but they’ve yet to really prove they’re ready to make the leap and challenge for the AFC Championship; and I think the Falcons are in for a rude awakening when they kick off this season with the COLLOSAL downgrade at offensive coordinator (Sark, stepping in for Kyle Shanahan).  Peter King, in all his infinite wisdom, has the Seahawks at 9th, behind the Chiefs again, as well as the Titans (in his Top 5!).

If you want my opinion, I think the Top 5 should look something like this:

  1. New England
  2. Green Bay
  3. Oakland
  4. Seattle
  5. Dallas

New England was the best team last season, and it looks like they’ve only gotten better with their offseason moves.  Green Bay is as good as they get as long as they have Aaron Rodgers (similarly to the Seahawks, they just need to stay healthy to reach their potential).  I’m in love with everything that Oakland has done this offseason (aside from abandoning their city and moving to Vegas); they remind me a lot of the 2013 Seahawks with how young and talented they are (though, maybe tilt it in the offense’s favor as opposed to the Seahawks’ defense in 2013).  And, you could go either way with Dallas/Seattle in the 4th/5th spot, with Seattle having the edge by virtue of Dallas crumbling in big game after big game.  Let them prove they belong to a higher ranking rather than just handing it to them with their so-so defense and injury-prone receiving corps.

But, as always, it comes down to depth.  Will the Seahawks need it and do they have enough of it?  And, can their remaining healthy starters do enough to compensate for where they’re lacking?

Let’s take quarterback out of the equation because without Russell Wilson, this team doesn’t work.  Trevone Boykin is cool and everything – and I fully expect him to win the backup job again – but he’s not even close.

Can the three-headed hydra of Lacy, Rawls, and Prosise make it through 16 regular season games plus the playoffs?  As much as I want to gnash my teeth about this position group, I think the Seahawks are okay here.  Yeah, Rawls will probably have some nagging injuries that cause him to miss a few games.  Yeah, Prosise will be banged up.  Heck, Lacy might even roll an ankle or something.  But, what are the odds that all three of them go down at once?  Even still, I thought Alex Collins looked okay in spurts in his regular season duty and should be able to fill in okay as an emergency backup.  Beyond that, I mean, I’m not going to sit here and predict another running back apocalypse like last year, so let’s move on.

The wide receiver group looks a lot different if Lockett has trouble and isn’t able to make it back.  I think that pushes Kearse back into the #2 role, which is less than ideal.  Also, while P-Rich was great in the playoffs, he’s yet to do that over the long haul.  Granted, he hasn’t really been given the opportunity, so here’s to hoping he makes the most of it this year.  Beyond those guys, Darboh is a rookie and I fully expect him to be a last resort type.  That leaves Tanner McEvoy and/or Kenny Lawler; both have their strengths, but gametime experience really isn’t one of them.  Continuing with tight end, the starters may be the most talented of any group on offense, but the reserves are the biggest question marks.  Nick Vannett was a draft pick in 2016, but never really played.  Beyond that, we have guys I’ve never heard of before, one of whom will surely win a job in the pre-season.

The one place the Seahawks tried their damnedest to improve depth – in their own Seahawky way, i.e. on the cheap – was along the O-Line.  Fant, Glowinski, Britt, and Ifedi all return, though with some projected shuffling of spots.  Britt is the leader and best of the bunch; Ifedi returns to his more natural right tackle spot (until he proves he can’t handle it and is moved back to guard); Fant is the key to the whole thing, as he needs to prove he’s capable of holding his own at left tackle, so we can slot our main competition into the guard positions (Joeckel vs. Odhiambo on the left; Aboushi vs. Glowinski vs. Pocic on the right).  Let the best men for the job go to town and hope for the best, I suppose.  What I would say is that the Seahawks are probably in a better position for success with this unit than they were at this time a year ago.  We know Britt is a bona fide starter in this league at center.  Fant, Glow, and Ifedi all have a year of starting experience.  Odhiambo has a little bit of experience, but he’s also being put into a better position to succeed by getting his shot on the left side of the line (as opposed to the right, where he struggled in limited action last year).  And Joeckel and Aboushi are a couple of serviceable veterans who by no means allow us to say, “Problem Solved!”, but they provide better depth than we had a year ago.  And, Pocic appears to be a talented, highly rated rookie, who could step in in a pinch, but will probably be better served in sitting and watching for a year to bulk up and learn the system.  If he’s as good as people say he can be, he could be filling in for any number of guys who win a job out of Training Camp.

The Seahawks are strongest along the D-Line, but you still wonder about their ability to get pressure up the middle.  With the emergence of Frank Clark, I think we’ll still see a lot of Michael Bennett sliding inside, but we had that for the most part last season and still didn’t wreak enough havoc to make much of a dent.  As such, it’s really do or die with Malik McDowell, as if he doesn’t make an impression as a rookie, you’re hoping for Quinton Jefferson to do something in his second season in the league, or one of the bigger guys – Reed, or Nazair Jones perhaps – to step up and do something they’ve yet to prove they’re capable of doing.  Also, not for nothing, but with the loss of Tony McDaniel, did the Seahawks sacrifice their run defense for the sake of interior pass rush?  That might not be the worst thing in the world if we only fall from Best In The NFL to something like 7th-best in the NFL.  But, if we take a deep hit, because of injuries or ineffectiveness, other teams’ abilities to run the ball at will could hinder our ability to put in the ol’ NASCAR package and really do damage to opposing quarterbacks.

I absolutely don’t want to think about what life would be like without the likes of Wagner or Wright, but it won’t be pretty.  As things stand, it’s a huge unknown what these new additions will bring to the table.  I hear good things about Wilhoite and Brown, but that’s just chatter; it means nothing until I can see them in games and see how they mesh with the scheme.

I also absolutely don’t want to think about what life would be like without our studs in the L.O.B.  Bradley McDougald, Neiko Thorpe, and a whole bunch of rookies and young guys.  Without Shead in the mix, it’s hard to say we’re all that improved depthwise, so here’s to hoping they can just hold their own until he’s good and ready (and here’s to hoping the pass rush is as advertised, as they could REALLY help ease this transition period in the L.O.B.).

I really want to like these guys.  I really want to be confident about this season.  I want to believe that we’re better than we were in 2015 and 2016, that we won’t have those fatal flaws that prevented us from getting past the Divisional Round in the playoffs.  Ultimately, it’s going to come down to getting the job done in the regular season, getting that playoff BYE week, and playing clutch football when it matters most.  To get to that spot, it’s going to come down to a lot of injury luck and certain guys stepping up in a big way over the production (or lack thereof) that we got last year.

Projecting Where The New Seahawks Fit

I think it’s always helpful to remind ourselves that the Seahawks are a good football team.  They’ve won at least 10 games every year for the last five seasons, and have won at least one playoff game each year to boot.  Only the New England Patriots have been more successful in this stretch by those parameters.  When they grab the #1 seed, they go to the Super bowl; when they don’t, they lose in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.  But, I think panic is starting to set in as this team’s championship window starts to close.  No Super Bowl in the last two seasons?  BLOW IT UP!

While there have been flaws in this team that have done the Seahawks in the last two years, they can also be corrected.  The offensive line has always been a matter of concern for this team, even as far back as 2012 and 2013; the only difference is those teams had so-so O-Lines, while the last two years, the O-Line has been one of the very worst in the league.  Also, I think it’s safe to say while opposing teams haven’t “figured out” the Seahawks’ defense, they’ve definitely made some inroads into not being thoroughly dominated on a regular basis.  Injuries – and a lack of proper depth – torpedoed our season last year, particularly following the loss of Earl Thomas.  But, when this team is healthy, this defense is still near the top in all of football, simply based on talent alone.

What those great Seahawks teams had, that these recent Just Okay Seahawks teams have lacked is what I pointed out in that previous paragraph:  league average O-Line play, and proper depth in the defense.  With the moves the Seahawks made this offseason, the hope is that they’ve done enough to right those wrongs, without creating holes elsewhere.

So, let’s start with the offensive line, because that’s ONCE AGAIN going to be the topic du jour not only from the national pundits when referencing the Seahawks, but very much from the local guys as well.  Last year, the primary configuration of the line looked like this:

  • Fant – Glowinski – Britt – Ifedi – Gilliam

Right off the bat, we know Gilliam is gone, having signed with the 49ers.  On the way in, we’ve got Luke Joeckel, Oday Aboushi, Ethan Pocic, and Justin Senior (along with various holdovers from last year, and undrafted free agents).  We know Britt is safe, for at least this year, if not for many years to come.  But, the other four spots are very much up for grabs at this point, ostensibly with the best man winning the job.

It’s impossible to project the exact battles until we get into OTAs and Training Camp and our trusty beat writers give us the scoop.  For now, we know Fant will battle for left tackle.  I’m pretty sure Glowinski will battle exclusively for the left guard spot, though I suppose it’s possible he could flip over to right guard (but, for the purposes of this post, I’m going to keep him on the left side).  Fighting with them will be Luke Joeckel, who has $7 million guaranteed on a 1-year $8 million deal; he will be considered for both the LT and LG spots.  Also being considered at LT and LG is Rees Odhiambo, 3rd round pick in 2016.  Four guys for two spots; I’ll put the early favorites as Joeckel and Glowinski, but absolutely nothing will shock me with the way this team operates.

On the right side, 2nd rounder Ethan Pocic will get a hard look, along with 2016 first rounder Germain Ifedi.  Ifedi was the RG last year, but was a RT in college, and word around the team is that they’re going to put him back outside.  That would seem to jibe with the selection of Pocic, who has extensive experience at center, and projects more as an interior lineman.  Aboushi is a guard who will also be in the mix on the right side, as well as 6th rounder Justin Senior, though he feels more like a project the team would want to redshirt.

So, how does that strike you?  The best two left-side guys, Britt, Pocic and Ifedi?  Will that formation ultimately be better than what we got in 2016?  I would assume yes, but that’s not saying much.  ANYONE will be a better left tackle than 2016 Fant, up to and including 2017 Fant.  I didn’t see Gilliam as the line’s biggest issue last year, but obviously he can be improved upon as well.  Will moving Ifedi back to his natural spot at right tackle help things click for him?  I’ve yet to see Pocic play, but I have to believe he’ll be better than any of the guards we had going for us last year.  And, I know the team really likes Odhiambo, so I hope he’s been working his ass off to win that job on the left side.

It’s going to be critically important for the line to at least be functional, because once again this team failed to address backup quarterback.  I don’t blame them, as I mentioned earlier, this team has a lot of holes and a lot of depth to replenish, and the worst thing you can do is reach for a quarterback you don’t necessarily want, but that just means the onus is on this team to protect its most important asset:  Russell Wilson.  I’m through trying to parse out blame on sacks, by the way.  Sure, Wilson might run himself into some pressure, but as long as the O-Line keeps letting guys get uninterrupted runs at our quarterback, I’m placing the blame squarely on them to fix that issue.

As for Wilson’s weapons, the only real major addition is Eddie Lacy at running back.  Between him, Rawls, and Prosise, the hope is that at least one of them will be healthy each and every game.  I like what they all bring to the table, aside from the fact that they seem to be on the trainer’s table more than the field (table).  Table.  I’m also not buying the seventh rounder we drafted, unless it comes to a point where there are a barrage of injuries at the position, at which point he’ll probably still be blocked by 2-3 guys.

At tight end, the Seahawks were conspicuously absent in the draft.  Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson are both on the final years of their deals, with Nick Vannett on the second year of his rookie deal.  I can’t imagine the team is ready for Vannett to jump to the #1 tight end spot in 2018, which would lead me to believe that they’re looking to extend one of Graham or Willson.  It might not be the worst idea to let the season play out before making your decision on this, as I can’t imagine the market for either will be out of our range heading into 2018.  If one of them has a serious injury this year, then your decision has effectively been made and you can extend the other guy.  Considering there really isn’t much left on the free agent market (and the Seahawks were able to save some pennies by trading out of the first round), it doesn’t make a ton of sense to extend Graham now just to lower his cap hit.  The time to do that would’ve been BEFORE free agency started, when there was still an opportunity to get a great player with the money saved.

At receiver, Baldwin and Kearse are back, Tyler Lockett is coming back from an injury, Paul Richardson is going into the final year of his deal, and the Seahawks drafted Amara Darboh in the third round.  On top of that, we’ve got Kenny Lawler (7th round draft pick in 2016), Tanner McEvoy (our 5th receiver for most of last year), and Kasen Williams (among others) fighting to make the final roster.  Last year, the team mostly just kept 5 receivers, opting to go with an extra tight end, but I think this year the Seahawks will look to keep 6 receivers.  They’ll obviously want to keep Darboh around (who can justify his roster spot by owning a special teams role), leaving Lawler, McEvoy, and Williams fighting it out for the final spot.  Lawler should still be able to pass onto the Practice Squad for another season, but I think it’s do or die for Williams at this point.  Considering this is Kearse’s last year, I’ll be really interested in what the team decides to do come training camp.  Also, let’s not forget, Paul Richardson really came on in the playoffs last season; he could be in for a HUGE breakout year (which, not for nothing, has been long overdue).

My hunch is, the Seahawks let Kearse go AFTER this season, they reward Richardson with a Kearse-like 3-year deal (because, while he could be in for a “HUGE breakout year”, that’s all relative to the fact that these are the run-first Seahawks, and Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham are still going to command the lion’s share of the targets), and in 2018 the Seahawks go in with a receiving corps of Baldwin, Lockett, Richardson, Darboh, and a couple of TBDs, but that’s over a year away and neither here nor there.

With the bulk of the offensive weapons returning from last year, all that matters is getting even marginal improvement out of the O-Line, and I think you can expect better things over last year.

Which brings us to the defense.

My #1 priority coming into this offseason was seeing the Seahawks bring in top notch talent in their secondary.  While they didn’t necessarily overlook the position, they obviously had their priorities set elsewhere.

For starters, they signed a grip of backup linebackers in free agency, to bolster the strong-side linebacker spot, as well as our depth and special teams.  They also took a flier on Dion Jordan to see if he has anything left in the tank after busting out in Miami.  More than anything, though, they made D-Line their #1 priority in the draft, which will be a big key heading into the season.

Malik McDowell is an interior lineman adept at causing pressure up the middle.  Aside from Michael Bennett – who more often than not finds himself in the defensive end spot – we really haven’t had anyone to bring the pressure up the middle since Clinton McDonald, and even then we’re talking about a part-time player.  McDowell’s ceiling is MUCH higher than McDonald’s, and if everyone manages to stay relatively healthy, he could be the key to making the lives of opposing quarterbacks miserable.

Just picture a line that looks like this:

  • Avril, McDowell, Bennett, Clark

Or, you know, some variation of that order.  Those are some rabid dogs!  That’s a 4-man defensive line that can get home, allowing the other 7 guys on defense to help out in coverage.  That’s a line that will not only generate a bunch of sacks and hits, but also a TON of hurries, that will hopefully lead to some bad decisions from those QBs.

The Seahawks have always been pretty solid in their sack numbers since bringing in Avril and Bennett, but the defense as a whole hasn’t been able to generate a lot of turnovers since 2013, when they were getting the most pressure with their 4-man front.  If McDowell hits, we could be talking about the best 4-man line we’ve seen since our championship season.

Which will hopefully make the lives of our secondary a lot easier and more fulfilling.  Shaquill Griffin looks like he can start right away, which is good, because odds are we’ll need him to.  Between him, Lane, and Sherman, I like our cornerbacks.  I’ll like them a lot more whenever Shead gets off the PUP list.  And, I’ll like them even more still if some of these other guys manage to surprise us!

Neiko Thorpe is a name to watch.  He has a year in our system and just re-signed.  He’s obviously here for his special teams prowess, but he’ll definitely be given a shot to compete for a spot on the defense from Day 1.  Then, we have the other three draft picks, who were all safeties coming out of college, but who all will get a look at corner as well.  I mean, let’s face it, no one in this draft was ever going to take the place of Kam and Earl.

In watching some of the highlights of these guys – Delano Hill, Tedric Thompson, and Mike Tyson – they all look the part.  If I had to guess, I’d say Thompson projects as the best of the three in coverage.  Hill very much looks the part of a downhill strong safety a la Kam Chancellor.  Tyson also looks pretty solid in coverage, but is probably behind Thompson and Griffin.  They all look like great tacklers and they all look like HUGE upgrades over our secondary depth in 2016.

This is what I was banking on.  I was hoping we’d go to the secondary early and often in the draft (as opposed to the third round and later), but when you’re right, you’re right:  everyone was saying how this draft was super deep in the secondary, and that very much looks like the case.  I think Hill will ultimately be a better long-term option behind Kam than Kelcie McCray ever was, and I think dropoff from Earl to Thompson is a lot smaller than the dropoff from Earl to Steven Terrell.  Bottom line:  assuming these rookies don’t get injured or hit a wall, I think our secondary depth is leaps and bounds improved over last year.  Particularly with the promise that our pass rush will be able to generate extra QB pressure.

So, will the 2017 Seahawks be better than the 2016 Seahawks?  We’ll have to see these guys prove it in Training Camp, while ultimately staying a lot healthier than they did last year.  In the early going, I’m leaning towards yes, the Seahawks will be better.  At which point, we have to ask:  are the 2017 Seahawks good enough to get back to contending for the #1 seed?  I mean, I don’t see why not.  They can’t be any unluckier than they were last year, with respect to injuries.  It looks like the rest of the NFC West (aside from maybe Arizona) will be rebuilding.  But, it’s really now or never with this group.  Our core guys are all getting into their late 20’s.  Which means they’re as good as they’re ever going to get, in all likelihood.  The odds of these guys getting injured only increases.  And, with some, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a drop-off in production due to the natural aging process.

We very well may look back at the 2017 season as the last year where we had everyone in the primes of their careers.  It might all be downhill after this year, for all we know.  So, the team needs to see this and use it to increase their sense of urgency.  Pete Carroll and John Schneider have done their part:  they’ve kept the core intact (not panicking, not blowing it up, not trading Richard Sherman for pennies on the dollar and creating extra holes where you didn’t need to have them before), while filling in admirably along the edges of the roster, hopefully bolstering its depth.  At this point, it’s on the players to do their jobs, and the coaches to get everyone ready to take advantage of this unique opportunity.

I can’t wait for the off-season to start ramping up.  It’s going to be fun hearing about how the new players are fitting in.

The Seahawks’ 2017 Draft Was Unsexy & Pivotal

I don’t think we’re going to see a lot of national coverage on what the Seahawks did in this draft, and I’m okay with that.  You can see it as disrespect all you want, and I’m okay with that too, but that just means we can sit here in our little corner of the United States and just focus on football.  We’re not one of these teams who needed to draft a quarterback in the top third of the first round; we didn’t select any of these woman-beaters or drug users.  Hell, most of our guys have really uplifting and tearjerking stories of how they got to where they are today!  Good character guys, who at the very least won’t distract us from what’s most important:  the quality of play on the field.  I can’t tell you how sick and tired I was of all the Frank Clark stuff when we brought him in a couple years ago.  I thank my lucky stars we didn’t get Joe Mixon, or some of these other guys, so I don’t have to read 5,000 thinkpieces on why the NFL hates women (they do, or at least they don’t give a shit about women, so long as you can score touchdowns or sack quarterbacks on the reg, but it doesn’t mean I want to spend the whole offseason reading about it over and over again).

I know I don’t know much about the players the Seahawks drafted, so I can’t really give an informed opinion.  I like the thought process behind the positions the Seahawks targeted, even if it’s not necessarily the order I would’ve picked them in (I’ll have a separate post written at some point, lamenting the lack of Huskies and further lamenting where most of them ended up).

As always, it’s going to take a few years to see where we’re at with this class, so I’ll forego grading this thing:

  • 2nd Round – Malik McDowell – DT/DE
  • 2nd Round – Ethan Pocic – OL
  • 3rd Round – Shaquill Griffin – CB
  • 3rd Round – Delano Hill – SS
  • 3rd Round – Nazair Jones – DT
  • 3rd Round – Amara Darboh – WR
  • 4th Round – Tedric Thompson – FS
  • 6th Round – Mike Tyson – S/CB
  • 6th Round – Justin Senior – OT/G
  • 7th Round – David Moore – WR
  • 7th Round – Christopher Carson – RB

After trading down twice – from 26 to 31 (to get an extra 3rd & 7th), then from 31 to 34 (to get a 4th rounder) – the Seahawks traded down from 34 to 35 with Jacksonville, picking up an extra 6th rounder.

With the 35th pick, the Seahawks finally selected Malik McDowell.  This guy will play right away, particularly in obvious passing situations, as a pass rushing defensive tackle.  He can also play on the end, as I’m sure he and Michael Bennett will be interchangeable.  From the tape I watched on him after we made this pick, he looks like he can be quite the disruptive force in getting upfield.  I don’t know if he’s too great at stopping the run, so that might be something for him to work on.  He’ll need to stay extremely disciplined if he plays for the Seahawks, minding the gaps he’s supposed to mind and so on.  There’s also people who greatly question his effort, which is obviously concerning, because I keep hearing reports that McDowell is a Top 5 talent if not for his effort concerns.  I have to wonder if that just means going all out every play, or if that encompasses his entire life.  Like, is he going to keep up with offseason workout programs?  Am I going to have to worry about him showing up overweight and out of shape?

What I don’t buy is McDowell falling because of poor interviews.  I don’t care if my stud D-Linemen are great orators; quite frankly, with guys like Bennett, Sherman, Doug Baldwin, and so on and so forth on this team, I wouldn’t mind the Seahawks drafting a fucking mute.  Who cares if McDowell gives boring, one-word answers?  He’s not getting paid to give great interviews; he’s getting paid to kill the quarterback!

What I also don’t buy is knocking McDowell for poor effort on a bad Michigan State team in his senior season.  They keep saying his effort went downhill as they kept losing as the season wore on.  Well, so what?  If I only have to worry about his effort when he’s on a bad team, then I shouldn’t have to worry very much, because the Seahawks are VERY good still!  He’s coming onto a championship contender, so I would expect the effort will be there.  And, if it’s not, or if he’s injury prone or whatever, then we obviously have huge problems.

What I saw when I watched McDowell play is a guy with long arms, lots of strength, and lots of quickness.  He’s going to make quick work of single-teams, and if he’s double-teamed (which he probably should be a lot of the time, particularly on the interior of the line), then that just opens up lanes for Bennett, Avril, Clark, and so on.  The upside with this kid is through the roof!  If the veterans are able to keep him in line and he comes in with a positive attitude, we could be looking at the guy who replaces Bennett whenever he’s ready to retire.  McDowell is a potential superstar and long-term player, if we got this pick right.  If we failed, and he turns out to be a diva, he could be a spectacular bust.

***

One of the biggest shocks for me of this Seahawks draft is – after they made all of their trade downs to collect extra draft picks – they didn’t try to trade up (particularly in the 2nd round) and use some of that extra draft capital to pick up a unique talent.  Maybe the right deal never came along, maybe the unique talent didn’t fall far enough, or maybe all the talent at the end of the 2nd round was pretty much the same anyway and the Seahawks just took the best player available (considering their needs, of course).

In this case, that player turned out to be Ethan Pocic, offensive lineman out of LSU.  He checks off a lot of the boxes we like:  pro-style offense, has played multple positions along the line, is very intelligent, is very athletic, played in the SEC, and he absolutely towers over Russell Wilson, so watch out for those sight lines!

I think what flipped out a lot of Seahawks fans about this one is the fact that he primarily played center for LSU.  He does have experience at tackle and guard, but the overwhelming majority of his playing time was devoted to center.  And, obviously, the Seahawks already have their starting center in Britt.  Which means either we picked this guy to be our center after 2017 (in this case, Britt would walk in free agency), or the Seahawks plan to eventually extend Britt long term, and we’ve just drafted yet another guy we’re going to have to convert into something else.  Something that’s NOT his natural center position.  It’s just getting a little frustrating, you know?  Carpenter came in as a right tackle, eventually converted to left guard.  Britt was a right tackle, then a guard, until he finally made it work at center.  Ifedi was supposed to be a right tackle, but last year we made him a right guard, and now it looks like we’re going to move him back to tackle again?  Now, this Pocic guy, who is a center, will be a WHAT in 2017?

Well, for now, it looks like he’ll land on the right side of the line.  He, Ifedi, and Aboushi will all compete to be starters for those two positions, with the loser as backup.  I’ll talk more about my thoughts on the O-Line another time, but for now, I like the pick.  I’ll like Pocic even more if he IS as versatile as they say he’ll be.

***

The next two guys were right in my sweet spot.  Right where I’ve been screaming at the Seahawks to address since the 2016 season ended:  the secondary.

Shaquill Griffin is a cornerback out of UCF.  6′, 194 lbs.  He’s got long arms, is apparently a good tackler, and can play press coverage or off the ball, so he’s exactly what the Seahawks look for in a corner.  He should come in and compete for a starting spot right away, and can likely play inside or outside, which is nice, because the Seahawks need both.

Delano Hill is a strong safety out of Michigan.  Nearly 6’1, 216 lbs.  He strikes me as a Kam Chancellor type.  He likely starts out as a backup safety, playing a lot of special teams, and learning at the feet of the master.  He is good in helping to stop the run, but his coverage skills may be suspect.  Of course, they said the same thing about Kam when he came out in the draft, so we’ll just have to see.  If he can spend the majority of this year just being a promising backup, maybe next year he’ll come in and be twice the player he is now.

***

With the final two picks in the third round, the Seahawks did some very Seahawky things.

First up, Nazair Jones, DT out of North Carolina.  6’5, 304 lbs.  This guy is more of a run-stuffer, likely replacing Tony McDaniel in the interior rotation on base defense.  He should fit in nicely with Reed and Rubin, though you’ll be hard pressed to see him and McDowell on the field at the same time.  They kind of project to play the same spot on the line, with Jones in there on likely run situations, and McDowell there in likely passing situations.  This pick would seem to eliminate the annual last-minute DT free agent signing, and hopefully shore this position up for a few years.

Then, the Seahawks went rogue, picking up Amara Darboh, wide receiver out of Michigan.  6’2, 214 lbs.  Big receiver who likely won’t play much right away (unless he catches on as a special teamer), he does project to have a potentially huge role in 2018 and beyond.  We’re going into a contract year with Paul Richardson, and we’re also going into the likely final year with Jermaine Kearse (as you can cut him after the 2017 season with minimal dead money going against the cap).  While Darboh doesn’t have the speed of a Richardson, he could very well have the ball skills and leaping ability to high point over defenders.  And, while Darboh doesn’t have the experience or toughness of a Kearse, he does appear to have the blocking ability that’s kept Kearse employed for so long.  The question remains:  can he make those big, game-changing catches we’ve seen Kearse come down with throughout the years?  He’ll have to prove that in practice and pre-season games.

That having been said, I have the same concerns for him as I do for all mid-round receivers:  will he ever develop into anything?  A guy like Doug Baldwin can flourish when he came into the league, because the Seahawks were still rebuilding when he signed on.  But, the Seahawks are mostly set everywhere and are just filling in the cracks of the back-end of the roster.  Can Darboh make an immediate impact?  If not, can the Seahawks afford to keep a guy based on potential?  When our championship window continues to close on us?  It just seems like these “big” receivers we keep drafting are never worth a shit.  Hopefully, Darboh is the exception and not the rule.

***

After a pleasant night to think about the final four rounds, the Seahawks were back at it early on Saturday.  They had the 3rd pick of the 4th round, then didn’t pick again until the 3rd pick of the 6th round, but that didn’t stop them from bolstering their secondary with both of those selections.

Tedric Thompson, a safety out of Colorado, kicked it off.  6′, 204 lbs.  While Delano Hill projects as more of a Kam-type safety, Thompson projects as more of an Earl-type free safety.  Generally speaking, Colorado’s secondary was the best secondary the Huskies played all year last year; those guys REALLY impressed the shit out of me, and it obviously translated into those guys getting drafted by the NFL.  Thompson has great coverage and ball skills, producing a lot of turnovers in college, which is exactly what the Seahawks need.  His tackling skills leave a lot to be desired, but I feel like that’s something the Seahawks can coach into him.  The real worry is his history of concussions.  With the way this team likes to tackle – emphasizing shoulder tackling over spearing guys and drawing flags – I wouldn’t think that would be a huge problem.  But, you can never REALLY prevent hits to the head, so it’s going to require a bit of luck to keep Thompson in the league over a long career.

Then, the Seahawks picked up Mike Tyson out of Cincinnati in the 6th round, and everyone had a huge fucking laugh.  6’1, 204 lbs.  He’s very athletic and very raw.  Right now, he’s projected to compete as a cornerback as well as safety, so we could be looking at a guy to help compete at the nickel.  I would anticipate he cracks the special teams, develops behind the scenes, and maybe starts getting rotated into the nickel defense in 2018 and beyond (that is, if he makes the team at all, which is far from a guarantee).

More than anything, I love the strategy here.  The Seahawks saw a need for depth in the secondary, and instead of just drafting a couple 3rd rounders and calling it a day, they went out and threw a bunch of resources into the L.O.B.  All four of these guys won’t make the Opening Day roster, but you seriously improve your chances of hitting on at least one or two of these guys with the more picks you devote to the position.  I think that, more than anything, is the reason why the Seahawks never used their extra picks to move back up in any one round.  They wanted this to be a Numbers Game situation.  You hit on 100 women at the bar, odds are you’ll get at least 1 phone number!

***

The Seahawks had 3 picks in the late 6th and 7th rounds.  All of these guys are projects who I won’t spend much time on.

In the 6th, the Seahawks picked up Justin Senior, offensive tackle out of Mississippi State.  6’5, 331 lbs.  He’s only played right tackle, so that would appear to be his spot.  That having been said, a guy just playing one position has never prevented the Seahawks from pounding a square peg into a round hole.  Even if that position is power forward on the college basketball team, but I digress.  I wouldn’t expect much out of this kid.  Best case scenario is he’s a backup swing tackle.  Again, more depth.

In the early 7th, the Seahawks selected David Moore, wide receiver out of East Central.  6’1, 219 lbs.  He’s from a Division II school, which isn’t a reason to keep him out of the NFL, but obviously you first have to question the level of talent he played against.  His only shot to make the team is if he plays special teams REALLY well.  Odds are, we try to stash him on the practice squad.

In the late 7th, the Seahawks brought in Christopher Carson, running back out of OK State.  6′, 218 lbs.  Another long shot, though with the way Seahawks running backs have been getting injured the last couple seasons, maybe not as long a shot as it would first appear?  He kind of strikes me as a Thomas Rawls type, so maybe he’s a hedge against yet another Rawls injury.

***

All in all, I don’t mind the strategy.  I will say this:  I think the odds of the Seahawks picking up a cornerback who can start right away were MUCH better when taking one with your first pick, as opposed to your third rounder.  They obviously felt that the drop-off from McDowell and the type of pass-rushing DT that would’ve been available to them later in the draft was too much to cope with, when compared to the lesser drop-off of cornerbacks from Kevin King to Shaq Griffin.  But, when I look at a Kevin King (or other, comparable cornerbacks in the late first/early second round), I see a guy who not only starts right away, but plays every down.  When I look at a guy like McDowell, I see a guy who plays situationally, in a rotation.  Now, the ceiling on McDowell is through the roof, so maybe you take the long-term approach to your draft assessment.  If you hit on McDowell, and he plays at a Pro Bowl level, you can argue a disruptive D-line force is more valuable than a starting cornerback in a Cover Three defense.  But, I also think the odds of McDowell becoming that Pro Bowl-type player are longer than they are for someone like Kevin King to be a Pro Bowl corner.  In which case, the Seahawks might’ve forsaken a Pro Bowl corner just to draft a Cassius Marsh-type D-lineman (worst case scenario, obviously).

But, you can’t say the Seahawks are afraid to take risks.  Go big or go home seems to be the motto.  I think this draft, more than any of the drafts since 2013, is the most pivotal to our long-term success.  In that sense, if they’ve failed this weekend, and passed on more sure things to roll the dice on the likes of McDowell, Pocic, and Griffin, it could really spell doom for this franchise and set us back a long time.  I mean, look at the results, we haven’t had a game-changing draft since 2012; it’s been spotty at best ever since.  We need to get back to really hitting on some guys, or this team is going to wither and die at the feet of an aging Russell Wilson in a few years.

If nothing else, though, I like the potential of this draft to do EXACTLY what it was supposed to do:  improve the depth of this ballclub at the back-end of the roster.  The secondary looks like it could be replenished in a big way, the D-line DEFINITELY looks like it’s got some dogs for many years to come, the team didn’t neglect the all-important offensive line (as Pocic looks like he can not only come in to play right away, but he might be the best lineman after Britt on the entire team, without playing a single snap!), and they looked to the future of the wide receiver position and brought in at least one very interesting player who could be productive in 2018 and beyond.

If some of these guys can come in to play right away, it’ll be huge.  You know injuries are coming, and you know some of these guys (particularly on defense) will be pressed into action early and maybe often.  If they can do what some of our crappier reserves from last year couldn’t – and actually mitigate the drop-off in quality of play from starter to backup – the Seahawks might just have another Super Bowl run in them.

That’s a very big IF, of course, but the draft is here to give us hope, so we might as well take a long, satisfying drag from that cigarette.