An Appreciation of Sidney Rice

There are rumblings that Sidney Rice will be waived very soon.  This comes as zero surprise.  There’s a $7.3 million boost to the salary cap that comes with this move.  To show you how not-surprising this move is, literally every single time I’ve ever sat down to write about the Seahawks’ impending salary cap situation for 2014 and beyond, the very first thing I’ve done every time is go to Google and type “Sidney Rice overthecap” and hit “I’m Feeling Lucky”.

Ever wondered who uses the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button?  I’m your man!

I have a difficult time bad-mouthing anything the Seahawks have ever done in the Pete Carroll/John Schneider regime, since they went and won us a championship and everything.  But, I have a feeling that people are going to look at the career of Sidney Rice in a Seahawks’ uniform and say, “Well, that was a move that totally backfired!”

The Seahawks signed Sidney Rice coming into the 2011 season.  We were coming off of a 7-9 campaign that resulted in a division championship, a wild playoff victory over the Saints, and a predictable playoff defeat against the Bears.  He signed for 5 years and $41 million, with a $6 million signing bonus.  In his three years with the Seahawks, Sidney Rice earned $23.5 million of his $41 million deal; not too shabby for three years’ work.

The 2010 Seahawks were led in receptions and yards by Big Mike Williams (65 for 751 and 2 TDs), followed by Deon Butler, Ben Obomanu, John Carlson, and Brandon Stokley (all ranging between 30-36 receptions and 318-494 yards).  Suffice it to say, the Seahawks could use some help in their receiving corps.  Golden Tate was on the roster, but he was still a rookie in 2010, and two years away from starting to break out.

There were plenty of holes on that Seahawks team, and thanks to an unlikely Divisional Round playoff appearance, we were rewarded with a low first round draft pick.  Not only that, but the 2011 season came on the heels of the Lockout, so the time to sign players and get them ready for the season was ridiculously short.

And, I don’t know if you remember anything about the free agents in 2011, but here’s a smattering of names that were available:  Mike Sims-Walker, Antwaan Randle-El, Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Torry Holt, Braylon Edwards, Jerricho Cotchery, Chris Chambers, Plaxico Burress, and Steve Breaston (and those are just the names I recognize).  We had our pick of a bunch of nobodies, and a bunch of those aforementioned, over-the-hill losers.

Truth be told, Sidney Rice was the pick of the litter.  Granted, they probably should have just drowned that litter and started over, but that’s neither here nor there.

An interesting name being floated around at the time was Vincent Jackson.  He was franchised by the Chargers in 2011 and was looking to get the hell out of there.  He was a disgruntled, super-talented receiver looking for greener grass, and the Seahawks had their eyes on him.  Of course, he would have cost us a buttload of draft picks on top of what would eventually be a 5-year $55 million deal (that he would go on to sign in Tampa the very next year), and at that point it wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense for that Seahawks team (with that many holes they needed to fill through the draft) to give up draft capital just to bring in a superstar receiver.

So, the Seahawks got Sidney Rice.  And they got Zach Miller.  And those two moves sort of paid dividends, except Rice was injured through most of his first year here and ended up only playing in 9 games.  I would argue that his full participation in 2011 wouldn’t have made much of a difference, because we still weren’t that great of a football team, so I’m willing to overlook all of that.

Rice came back in 2012 and played in all 16 games, leading the team in receptions and yards.  Granted, they weren’t the greatest numbers in the world (50 for 748 and 7 TDs), but on that team, with how much we wanted to run the ball, those were indeed #1 receiver numbers.  I’d say in 2012 we got our money’s worth.

2013 was, once again, a disappointment, as Rice was only able to play in 8 games before tearing his ACL and losing out on our Super Bowl run.  Even in those 8 games, it’s hard to say he was living up to what was expected, as his numbers were WAY down compared to 2012.  That’s essentially while he was playing with the same receiving corps (Harvin and Rice never once played a down together at the same time last season).

If I’m sitting here objectively, looking at his totals over the last three seasons (97 receptions, 1,463 yards, 12 TDs, 33 of a possible 48 regular season games played), then no, there’s no way that type of production was worth $23.5 million.  97/1,463/12 are the type of numbers you’d expect out of a legitimate #1 receiver in a single season, not spread out over three.  And make no mistake, Sidney Rice was getting paid #1 receiver money.

But, here’s the thing:  what else were the Seahawks supposed to do?  Sidney Rice was the best-available option in a free agent class that could best be described as “slim pickin’s”.  We needed offensive firepower, because the previous regime left this team bereft.  And yes, Sidney Rice had injury concerns coming in (which turned out to be valid, given the number of games he missed with the Seahawks), but you have to figure that’s the cost of doing business.

Sidney Rice was never a bona fide #1 receiver for the Seahawks, but he was incredibly valuable in that 2012 run.  Likewise, once we lost him in 2013, our offense suffered tremendously.  Had the Seahawks lost in the playoffs, instead of all this joy in my heart, I would have written endlessly about how losing Sidney Rice was an underrated aspect in this past season falling apart.  Sidney Rice might have never been a true #1, but he made some catches that left my jaw on the floor.  And without him, I don’t think we would have seen near the progress in this offense from Russell Wilson’s first snaps onward.

It all boils down to football being a business.  Some fans feel a little jaded because this team paid all this money to a guy who did relatively little, but as I said before, it’s the price of doing business.  When you’re a bad team looking for a quick fix via free agency, that’s the price you have to pay to bring in talent.  Conversely, some players get upset because teams never honor their contracts.  The price of doing business:  if you’re over-compensated, you’re going to get the ax when your contract becomes too prohibitive.  Had Sidney Rice lived up to his #1 billing, then paying him a little under $20 million for the next two years would have been a relative bargain (or, at least commensurate to what he’s capable of producing).  Since he didn’t live up to his end, he’s gone.  So it goes.

Sidney Rice won’t go down as one of the greatest Seahawks wide receivers of all time, but that’s okay, because in the end we got our championship.  While he didn’t catch any game-winning touchdowns down the stretch, he was still a part of this team.  He was a part of turning around a franchise, from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs.  For that, he’ll always be remembered fondly, at least in my book.

And, with this cap savings, you could say Sidney Rice is the gift that keeps on giving.  With this $7.3 million (not to mention the base salary of $9 million we won’t have to pay next year), we’ll be able to re-sign Michael Bennett.  Or extend Earl Thomas or Richard Sherman.  His sacrifice enables our greater good.  So, don’t kick the man on his way out of town.  Thank him for his hard work and wish him well in his next endeavor.  There’s no sense in being resentful when your team is getting fitted for championship rings as we speak.

Previewing & Predicting The 2013 Seattle Seahawks

Last year, I got to my predictions column late.  Past week 1 late.  It was kind of a sorry development, but what are you gonna do?  The season was already started by this time last year.  Anyway, I didn’t think very highly of the Seahawks heading into the 2012 season.  I didn’t think very lowly of them either, which is how you get to an 8-8 record.  Honestly, I would’ve predicted 9-7, but since I got to my post a week late – and the Seahawks crapped the bed in Arizona that first week – I downgraded to 8-8.

The Seahawks, as everyone knows, finished 11-5, going 7-1 over the second half of the season, and 1-1 in the post-season, ending up in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.  Those last 10 games were as epic of a run as you can get without actually making it to the Super Bowl.

But, enough about last year.  That was damn near a year ago, for Christ’s sake!

This year, the sky is the limit.  At worst, the Seahawks will be 11-5.  At best, I’m sorry, but at best you’ve gotta say 16-0.

Before we get into official predictions, let’s take a look at the make-up of this team:

Part 1 – Roster

How do the Seahawks differ from this time last year?  Well, for starters, our backup quarterback is new (or old, I can never tell).  Tarvar takes over for Matt Flynn, and to be honest with you, it’s probably a downgrade.  Obviously, we don’t know how good Flynn can really be (and, reports indicate that he can’t even win the fucking starting job on the RAIDERS of all teams), but I guess that’s the point.  We know what Tarvar is – he’s a near-.500 quarterback – and we don’t know what Flynn is.  Flynn could be great in small doses, Flynn could be great in large doses, or he could be terrible no matter the serving size.  If you’re a salary cap-head, then you like Tarvar because he saves you money.  So, maybe in the long run this is an upgrade?  Whatever, who cares, moving on.

At running back, Lynch and Turbin return, ostensibly in the same roles they occupied as last year.  Christine Michael replaces Leon Washington, which is an improvement at our #3 running back spot, but hurts us in the return game, as Michael is not a returner.  Derrick Coleman takes over for Michael Robinson, which is a soul-crushing blow.  But, on the flipside, he’s younger, cheaper, and under team control for longer.  Considering Robinson only played somewhere around 30% of our offensive snaps in 2012, I can’t imagine this one little move at fullback is going to make that much of a difference.  Finally, Spencer Ware is either going to be a special teams replacement for Robinson, or he’s going to spend the bulk of the season on the Inactive List on gameday.  We’ll see.

Rice, Tate, Baldwin, and Kearse are all hold-overs from last year.  Kearse, of course, spent most of 2012 on the Practice Squad, but came on late in a special teams capacity.  I wouldn’t expect a TON out of him, but then again he is going to be our starting kick returner, so buttons.  He did, after all, return that one kick in the pre-season for a touchdown.  If he turns out to be a monster in that aspect of the game, I might cream in my pants.  Harvin starts out the season on the PUP list and will hopefully return sometime in November.  Stephen Williams – the pre-season phenom – is holding his seat for the time being.  It’s hard to see this team keep five active receivers going every game (remember, you can only play 45 of your 53 guys every gameday), but then again, can you really keep this guy off the field?  I’d like to see the Seahawks throw one long bomb jump ball to him every half; I bet he comes down with half of them, and in so doing earns his weekly paycheck.

This year, we’re only keeping the two tight ends, instead of last year’s three.  The lone holdover is the uber-talented Zach Miller.  He’s our starter and our muse (our flame).  Anthony McCoy, as you’ll recall, is lost for the season on IR.  Evan Moore, thankfully, is no more.  In his place, we actually have a guy worth a damn in Luke Willson.  Even though Willson is a rookie, he looks like the real deal and the future at the position we’ve been trying so hard for so long to draft.

Our starting O-Line remains intact, which is probably the most important thing outside of quarterback you want to remain intact.  Okung, McQuistan, Unger, Sweezy, and Giacomini are the guys, with James Carpenter getting worked in (over time, to be the full-time replacement at left guard).  Lemuel Jean-Pierre returns as our backup center, Mike Person returns as our backup … something.  Michael Bowie and Alvin Bailey are a couple of rookie projects who came on strong this pre-season.  Gone is John Moffitt, traded to Denver for being not worth the time or effort.

On the D-Line, Clemons, Bryant, and Mebane all return.  Clemons avoided the PUP list, as he is a specimen of the gods and will hopefully start practicing within the next couple weeks.  Everyone else is brand new.  Avril & Bennett are our two big free agent splashes.  Both are kinda hurt, but both should be okay to play out of the gate (if not, then expect one or both to be Inactive right along with Clemons for Week 1).  Tony McDaniel is a less-heralded signing, but his impact will be just as important as he will be our starting 3-technique defensive tackle.  Jordan Hill is a rookie who survived pre-season mostly healthy.  He’ll get regular playing time in the defensive tackle rotation.  Jesse Williams, unfortunately yet predictably, landed on IR with his bum knee.  O’Brien Schofield and D’Anthony Smith are cast-offs from other teams who we know little about.  Schofield spent most of the pre-season in Seattle and was fine, I guess.  Smith came over after the cut-downs to 53 and has been injured most of his career.  Questionable move to say the least, but obviously John Schneider and Pete Carroll know something we do not.  Rounding out the group, we have Benson Mayowa, an undrafted rookie out of Idaho who led the team in sacks in the pre-season.  He looks like he’s got some real moves, but unless injuries deplete this team early, it’s hard to see him getting a lot of playing time.

At Linebacker, K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner return, ready to kick some more ass.  Malcolm Smith also returns and figures to get some playing time at the strong-side spot.  Bruce Irvin has converted to the strong side, but of course he’s suspended for the first four games.  It’ll be interesting to see – A. whose spot he takes upon returning in week 5, and B. how he fares as a pass-rushing linebacker.  The team found room for special teams lord & savior Heath Farwell, so look for that unit to continue demolishing other teams.  Allen Bradford was around last year, but never played.  Now, he’s our backup middle linebacker and might find a way to work himself into a rotation if he keeps up the good work.  Rounding it out, we have John Lotulelei, who will probably never play unless he stands out on special teams.

In the secondary, Marcus Trufant has been replaced by Walter Thurmond, who was injured for most of his career.  Antoine Winfield was let go because our younger guys were just plain better.  Jeremy Lane and Byron Maxwell could be starters for other teams, which is what makes this unit the best in football.  At safety, Winston Guy was let go.  He was kinda flashy, and he blitzed a lot last year, but he didn’t really do a whole lot and shouldn’t be missed.  Chris Maragos is super fast, so he shouldn’t be too much of a step back if Earl Thomas can’t play.  Kam Chancellor and Jeron Johnson round out the group of safeties; Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman complete the set.

Kicker, punter, and long snapper all return.

Part 2 – Analyzing The Roster

Working our way backward, the Special Teams looks as good as it ever has.  Steven Hauschka, as I’ve mentioned before, has been a man possessed this pre-season.  Jon Ryan is Jon Ryan, putting in consistent MVP-quality work.  Clint Gresham hasn’t botched any snaps that I can recall, so bully for him.

In the secondary, you can’t help but be excited for Walter Thurmond.  He’s finally healthy and finally able to show what he can do for this team.  He’s a HUGE upgrade over an aging Marcus Trufant, and that’s important because nickel corner was one of our main areas of concern going into 2013.  To be fair, this team could play a Dime package all day every day and I wouldn’t lose sleep.  Maxwell looks like he could make the Pro Bowl THIS year if he was given a chance to start.

At linebacker, you have to believe this team also improved.  Leroy Hill is gone and they’ve done some shuffling.  K.J. Wright moves to his old spot at the weak-side, so that’s great.  You always want more speed, especially at the linebacker position.  Wagner, with a year under his belt and a chip on his shoulder to prove he doesn’t belong in Luke Kuechly’s shadow, also looked like a man possessed this pre-season.  I expect a huge jump in his play in 2013, rivalling the jump Richard Sherman made from his rookie to his second year.  On the strong side, replacing Wright, we’ve got the combo of Malcolm Smith and eventually Bruce Irvin.  It looks like the team wants the strong side ‘backer to be more of a pass-rush threat, hence the Irvin move.  I love the idea.  Any way this team can get more pressure on the QB that isn’t just sending a safety on a blitz that takes forever to materialize, I’m all for it.  The depth at this position is infinitely better than it was last year too.  Bradford could start on almost any other team, and Lotulelei looks like he could develop into a force if given the chance.

Along the D-Line, you have to have concern, I’m not gonna lie.  Can McDaniel and Hill make up for the loss of Alan Branch and Jason Jones?  When he was healthy, Jones was fairly effective.  And Branch was a starter for the past couple years.  If they can just maintain and not take a step back, I’d be happy.  Also, how long will Mebane be able to stay healthy?  He’s no spring chicken.  Depth at tackle is also a concern.  The Seahawks gave away a couple of decent depth guys in Jaye Howard and Clinton McDonald.  In their place, we have newcomer D’Anthony Smith, and Michael Bennett on passing downs.  Bennett should be solid, but I just don’t know.

On the ends of the line, it’s just as concerning.  Red Bryant returns, and he looks as healthy as ever, so that’s good.  But, he’s still a mountain of a man, and those guys don’t tend to stay healthy for very long.  Clemons we’ve talked about, but it’s still encouraging that he’ll be back soon.  Avril is a little less encouraging, as he hasn’t played at all in pre-season.  The Seahawks robbed Peter to pay Paul a little bit by moving Irvin out of the LEO end spot.  Unless Clemons and/or Avril return soon, this could be a real weakness for the team.  Remember, Greg Scruggs could play both inside and outside, and he’s gone for the year too.  Unless Schofield or Mike Morgan (who I failed to mention above in the roster section) step up in a big way, I think this team is going to be hurting for sacks.  Then again, the first two games are against Carolina and San Francisco, so we should probably worry less about sacks and more about contain.  Either way, it could be rocky for this unit early.

I’m not worried about the O-Line.  If there’s anything I’m rock solid on this year, it’s that.  Even the injury bug doesn’t concern me, because the depth looks good, and Tom Cable is a wizard.

Seeing Luke Willson perform the way he did in the pre-season makes me a LOT more comfortable about the tight end position.  Let’s see if Zach Miller has what it takes to stay on the field for the full go.  If not, then I’m probably going to spend the rest of the season hyperventilating.

I absolutely LOVE what we’ve done with the wide receivers on this team.  Braylon Edwards was never going to be a player worth having.  I’d take Stephen Williams over him any day.  Ben Obomanu was solid on special teams, but he’s worse than Jermaine Kearse.  And when Harvin returns, he’s like a million billion times better than Charly Martin.  Most improved lineup on the team by FAR.

I just kinda like what they did with the running backs.  In a perfect world, football teams would keep 54 players and Michael Robinson would still be on this one.  But, you know, you’ve gotta move on.  Hopefully Derrick Coleman is the next Michael Robinson.  If that’s the case, then we truly are the king of kings.  Also, look for Christine Michael to supplant Turbin before season’s end.  And in a couple years, when Michael is our starting back and Ware is our big tough guy backup, we’ll continue to suck the dicks of John Schneider and Pete Carroll for their foresight and vision.

Russell Wilson.  All you gotta say about the quarterback position.  Stud.  Winner.  Champion.

Part 3 – The Schedule

Week 1 – @ Carolina, 10am:  This is where it pays off having played Russell Wilson the full season last year.  He (along with some shaky late-game defense) cost us that first game in Arizona.  This year, with that in mind, count on Wilson not letting us lose in week 1.  Honestly, I don’t think this will even be close.  Maybe the offense starts out sluggish early, but I think the defense comes to play and we lean on them all game long.

Week 2 – vs. San Francisco, 5:30pm:  Home opener, Sunday Night Football on NBC, the crowd absolutely fucking INSANE … this is where the Seahawks show the 49ers what power football is all about.  Another one I don’t think is all that close.

Week 3 – vs. Jacksonville, 1pm:  Can you say 3-0?  Anyone who has the Seahawks defense in fantasy football can bank on scoring anywhere from 30-60 points, depending on how you score it in your league.  This is the reason why we all drafted them at least three rounds too early.

Week 4 – @ Houston, 10am
Week 5 – @ Indianapolis, 10am:  I’m lumping these together because I’m a coward.  The Seahawks will go 1-1 in these two games, but I just can’t figure out which they’ll win and which they’ll lose.  If you look at it objectively, Houston has a great running game and an okay passing game.  When you figure that our defense is great against the pass, but only so-so against the run, you have to look at that game and figure it’s the loss, right?  Meanwhile, Indy can’t run for shit and they pass 50 times a game.  Nevertheless, my gut is telling me we beat the Texans and lose to the Colts.  Luck is a gamer, he gets better as the game goes on, and I could see this being one of those games like we had against the Lions last season.  High scoring, little defense, and Indy pulls it out at the end with a late TD.  Meanwhile, the Seahawks win ugly in Houston, something like 14-10.

Week 6 – vs. Tennessee, 1pm:  Another easy win.  This will be the game I attend this year, because tickets were reasonably easy to get, weren’t prohibitively expensive, and honestly I don’t care if I go to any games, so what does the opponent matter?  No reason to expect Russell Wilson to play beyond the 3rd quarter in this one.

Week 7 – @ Arizona, 5pm:  Thursday night game, the bane of my existence.  But, I promise to not bitch about them as much this year (unless the games are so ugly and boring, the NFL forces my hand).  Normally, I’d be concerned, but not this year.  Carson Palmer will spend more time on his back than he will on his feet (if he’s even still healthy at this point in the year).  The Seahawks win ugly, but they win, and the defense scores another touchdown.

Week 8 – @ St. Louis, 5:30pm:  Monday Night Football!  Why does the league even schedule the Seahawks to play on the road on nationally televised games?  It’s like they’re tired of showing the rest of the world what real fans look like.  I guess St. Louis could pose a challenge, but I just don’t see it.  Look for something like 24-19, with the Rams scoring late (missing the 2-point conversion) to make it semi-close.

Week 9 – vs. Tampa Bay, 1pm:  I think Tampa looks good this year, but I think they look bad in this game.  Think of it as something like the game vs. Minnesota last year and you’ll be on the right track.  The Bucs are going somewhere, but they’re not contenders.

Week 10 – @ Atlanta, 10am:  Revenge Game!  Still, at this point the Seahawks will be 8-1 coming in.  And Atlanta (and Matt Ryan) just don’t lose at home.  I could honestly see something of a carbon copy of last year’s game, with Atlanta pulling it out at the end.

Week 11 – vs. Minnesota, 1pm:  Total destruction.  No contest.  YOU think YOU can get soup?  Please!  You’re wasting everyone’s time!

Week 12 – BYE:  finally.

Week 13 – vs. New Orleans, 5:30pm:  Monday Night Football #2!  This one is a little scary.  You can’t shut down Drew Brees forever.  Then again, he does take a lot of unnecessary risks, and his receivers really don’t scare anybody.  I think we all get a little nervous for this one, but I think the Seahawks handle them pretty easily.  33-13.

Week 14 – @ San Francisco, 1pm:  Man, what a showdown THIS game will be.  Last year, the Seahawks caught the 49ers at home late.  This year, the tables are turned.  Everyone and their grandmothers are giving this game away to the 49ers, forgetting that the Seahawks last year – in San Francisco – nearly came away victorious.  There were mistakes in the first half that I just don’t think this team makes again.  I think it’s a slug-fest, but I think the Seahawks take the season series and effectively clinch the division right here.  At this point, the 49ers won’t be mathematically eliminated, but they’ll be a couple games back and they’ll have lost the tie-breaker.  Week 14 is where the Super Bowl berth is earned, because week 14 is where the Seahawks make their statement that the #1 seed won’t be denied.

Week 15 – @ New York Giants, 10am:  Another east-coast trip, another 10am start.  Coming after the insane high that was the victory in San Francisco, I see this as a total let-down game.  The Seahawks get off to a slow start and the Giants pull too far ahead.  Russell Wilson tries to engineer a comeback, but too many turnovers seal our fate.

Week 16 – vs. Arizona, 1pm:  At this point, the Seahawks will be 11-3 going into this game.  The #1 seed won’t yet be won, but we’ll have the inside track, at least a game up and also with tie-breaker advantages.  This is a TCB type of game.  It won’t be a massive 58-0 obliteration like last year, but it’ll be comfortable.  We won’t worry for one second about losing this game.

Week 17 – vs. St. Louis, 1pm:  I’d like to say that this has a chance to be flexed, but at this point, with nothing to play for, I just don’t see it.  Russell Wilson will play for a quarter, maybe a half, but then Tarvar will come in and finish it off.  He’s no Charlie Whitehurst, but he’ll do.

Part 4 – Conclusion

13-3.  Number 1 seed in the NFC, with home field all the way to the Super Bowl.  It’s not the easiest schedule in the world, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that you don’t necessarily WANT an easy path to the Super Bowl.  The 2005 Seahawks had one of the easier paths to Super Bowl XL and look at what happened when a team finally posed a challenge.  You want a little trial by fire in this league.  If a schedule is too difficult, that means your team wasn’t good enough.  Bottom line.  Don’t fear this schedule.  A famous writer said that the strongest steel is forged by the fires of Hell.  That’s what we’ll be come playoff time, and that’s what we’ll be in the Super Bowl.

Seahawks Mid-Season Review

It was either write this, or go out in the cold and the rain (on Halloween night; yes, I wrote this ahead of time because I’m out of town all weekend) and engage in socializing with actual human beings.  I think I made a huge, crippling mistake with my life the right choice.

Some people like to hit up a Position-By-Position breakdown, some people like to bust out with a bunch of graphs and .gifs, some people like to give out arbitrary grades to players.  I like to ramble and throw everything on the page in an incoherent gumbo.  And I like to revert back to my pre-season predictions to see where I went right, and usually where I went horribly, horribly wrong.

To start, I think I was spot on about this defense:  they thrive on leads.  Big leads!  Big double-digit leads where the other team is scrambling to get back into it.  If you can figure out a way to get a 3-score lead on another team, they become desperate:  not only do they have to score three times, but they have to stop you three times.  The more we let teams hang around (like San Francisco, like Detroit), the more they’re able to walk us down.  Dinking and dunking, converting third downs, finding holes in our defensive line, finding holes in our secondary.  It allows the other team to maintain their gameplans:  short, quick passes so our fast, athletic defensive ends don’t have enough time to get around the edge and harass the quarterback.  I don’t care how great your secondary is:  if you can’t pressure the quarterback, you’re going to get beat.

So, that’s one thing you notice.  The Seahawks haven’t had any great leads.  Make no mistake, the Seahawks have had a lead in every single game.  Here are the biggest leads the Seahawks have had in each of their first eight games:

  1. @ Arizona – 3 points
  2. vs. Dallas – 20 points (but their biggest 1st half lead was only 10 points)
  3. vs. Green Bay – 7 points
  4. @ St. Louis – 7 points
  5. @ Carolina – 6 points
  6. vs. New England – 3 points
  7. @ San Francisco – 3 points
  8. @ Detroit – 10 points

Aside from that Dallas game (which was only a 6-point game at halftime, which turned into a rout in the second half), the Seahawks have either been frantically coming from behind or holding tenuous leads.  Which means our defense has either needed to get a huge stop to hold the lead, or they’ve needed to force a turnover to try to shift the momentum our way.  We have yet to see the full potential of this defense, because we have yet to really impose our offensive will and let our defense put their feet down on the other team’s necks.

An astute quote from my pre-season analysis:

As for Detroit, the good news is we get 10 days to try to figure out how to stop them.  The bad news is, they still have Calvin Johnson and there’s no way we stop them with Calvin Johnson.  This is where we really question whether or not our defense is as good as advertised, as we give up another over-30 game and lose 31-24.

Just substitute “Calvin Johnson” for “Titus Young”, and I’m damn near perfect with that whole series of words.  Because that’s ALL we’ve been doing this week is questioning whether or not our defense is as good as advertised.  Granted, the Seahawks haven’t given up 30+ points yet this season, but the actual score of that Detroit game was 28-24, so there.  I was off by 3 points.

Funny thing about my predictions, I’m ALMOST there.  Obviously, that particular post happened after the Arizona game (which I incorrectly guessed the week prior), but after that I had us beating Dallas and I even said this about the Green Bay game:

… I like us every time we play on Monday Night, no matter the opponent.  I think that’s one where we can sneak up on Green Bay and pull it out at the last second.

How about THAT?  Damn right we pulled it out at the last second!  Of course, I thought for sure we would lose to New England (and it damn near happened).  I had us losing in St. Louis but beating Carolina, and I had us losing both San Fran and Detroit.  Had I written that post in a timely fashion, I would’ve had us 4-4 anyway.  It just turned out that we lost the Arizona game we should’ve won and we won the New England game we probably should’ve lost.

For the record, I thought we’d win the next two (vs. Minnesota and the Jets) and I still do, but that’s a thought for the end of the season.

Now, the big numero uno major high-five super special story of this season has been and will continue to be Russell Wilson.  You can’t talk about 2012 Seahawks without talking about this guy and pretty much ONLY this guy.  He’s the future of the franchise!  Now, that future can be bright, filled with Super Bowls and Lombardi Trophies, or that future can be a desolate, Jacksonvillian wasteland where Pete Carroll gets fired and we’re drafting another quarterback (this time in the first round) in 2-3 years.  In the pre-season post, I’m on record as having drunk the Kool Aid.  So far … I’ve managed to hold the Kool Aid down, but it’s been trouble.

Because I fucking love lists, here are Russell Wilson’s passing totals through eight games:

  1. 18/34 (52.9%), 153 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 62.5 rating (Loss)
  2. 15/20 (75.0%), 151 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 112.7 rating (Win)
  3. 10/21 (47.6%), 130 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INT, 99.3 rating (Win)
  4. 17/25 (68.0%), 160 yards, 0 TD, 3 INT, 45.8 rating (Loss)
  5. 19/25 (76.0%), 221 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT, 82.2 rating (Win)
  6. 16/27 (59.3%), 293 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INT, 133.7 rating (Win)
  7. 9/23 (39.1%), 122 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 38.7 rating (Loss)
  8. 25/35 (71.4%), 236 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 96.8 rating (Loss)

Aside from Game #7 (which was at San Francisco – probably the greatest defense in the NFL – and which featured a number of high-profile drops by receivers which drastically shifted the complexion of that game), you see a guy who has improved dramatically from his first four games to his last four games.  Here’s the official breakdown:

  • First Four:  60/100 (60%), 594 yards, 4 TDs, 4 INT
  • Last Four:  69/110 (62.7%), 872 yards, 6 TDs, 4 INT

Look, it’s not the MOST dramatic growth spurt you’ve ever seen, but he’s gone from averaging 148.5 yards per game to 218 yards per game.  It’s not NOTHING!  If he maintains this trajectory, he’ll finally be reliably good over the next four games and he’ll be elite in the last four games of the season!

If you’re like me and you came from a position of believing this team would PROBABLY be 8-8, then what did you really want to see?  You wanted no grotesque injuries (which have thus far been avoided, apologies to Obomanu) and you wanted to have a belief in Russell Wilson.  That he will get better as the season progresses and that he can show you he will someday be an elite quarterback in the NFL (and not the CFL).  Preferably someday soon.  Preferably next year.

You wanted this team to be 8-8 because that would likely mean next year the Seahawks could contend for 12-4.  Anything less than 8-8 would likely be a disappointment; anything better than 8-8 would be gravy.

I think if you look at this team now and what it has accomplished thus far, 8-8 would be a huge disappointment.  But, is it still unrealistic?

I think the Seahawks can still lose that game against the 49ers.  I think the Seahawks go into Miami and Chicago after the BYE and come back home 0-2 from those trips.  That leaves one other stumbling block.  Do the Seahawks lose this weekend to Minnesota?  Do the Jets figure out some crazy gameplan and pull it out in the end?  Do the Seahawks continue their pathetic road play in Toronto against the Bills?

It’s not impossible, is what I’m saying.  At this point, probably the worst-case scenario is still 8-8.  Best case?  The Seahawks go into the BYE 6-4, they win 1 of 2 against Miami/Chicago to be 7-5, then they win out to go 11-5.  If I had to bet my life savings (which isn’t all that much, honestly; mostly a Roomba, a 1980 Camaro, and a flat-screen TV I use as a computer monitor), I say the Seahawks finish 9-7 and miss out on the playoffs by one game.

Still, for THIS team, 9-7 is fucking fantastic!

On an individual basis, I love what Beastmode has done thus far.  He’s averaging almost 95 yards a game with nearly 5 yards per carry.  You probably like to see more than 3 TDs out of your running game combined, but this team has been breaking in a rookie quarterback.  Other teams are going to load the box and make you beat them through the air.  The fact that this running game has done as well as it has says remarkable things about Beastmode and Tom Cable.  And don’t forget Guns Turbin!  You don’t ask a lot out of your rookie change-of-pace back; he’s delivered and then some.  Over 4 yards per carry, no turnovers, and what I can only assume is some decent blocking (otherwise, would he play as often as he does?).

Where I think this running game could improve is in two areas.  I think we need to utilize it more in short-yardage situations.  We currently sit 6th in the league in rushing for first downs, but I feel like that could be a little higher if we just committed more.  I’m not saying that because I want us to shelter Wilson; just the opposite, I want him to experience as much as he can in his first year so he’s ready to come out on fire in Year 2.  I just feel like instead of trying to pass on all these third and shorts, we could be running for them and MAKING them.  The other area involves Wilson himself:  I think he could be tucking the ball and running more.  Not around the end on the right side, going backwards ten yards before trying to head up field; I mean going up the gut.  Be smart about it!  Slide whenever you can.  But, there’s a reason why Pete Carroll covets mobile quarterbacks to run his football teams:  because they can RUN.

The receivers obviously aren’t elite, but I think they’re working their asses off and I think they get too much of a bad rap.  People like to blame them constantly for Wilson’s struggles when, in reality, they’re actually wide open, we just can’t see it because we’re watching Wilson check down or run wildly for his life around the pocket.  Granted, that 49er game was terrible.  But, aside from that, and MAYBE one or two passes in the Arizona game, I don’t think drops have been as big of a deal as people make them out to be.

What I like is all the times we’ve tried to go down field.  Even though this passing game is in its infancy with Russell Wilson (and even though they started the season with the clamps firmly in place on the playbook), we’ve still been able to connect on a significant number of deep balls.  Now, once he starts nailing those intermediate routes with more consistency, then we’ll know we’ve got something.  But, it’s a good sign that things are starting to open up more and more.  I would expect a lot of improvement out of the receivers (provided they can stay healthy) in the second half.

Another thing you like to see is the reduction in penalties over the last three games (two of which were on the road, one of which came after Crybaby Harbaugh whined to the NFL about how rough we play defense).  Here’s the breakdown:

  1. 13 for 90 yards
  2. 5 for 35 yards
  3. 14 for 118 yards
  4. 5 for 55 yards
  5. 7 for 65 yards
  6. 4 for 35 yards
  7. 3 for 20 yards
  8. 2 for 10 yards

Now, I wouldn’t expect that number to ever get down to zero for zero yards – because no matter how disciplined they can be, this defense will still get some calls to go against them – but I think it’s a good sign that we’re seeing less of those UNdisciplined penalties.  Offsides, false starts, offensive holding, delay of game, personal fouls.  The one huge worry about a Pete Carroll team is a perceived lack of discipline.  It’s nice to see, in these last three games, that Pete can coach a brand of football where his players respect the rules.  Offensive penalties kill more drives than inept play for this team.  And defensive penalties kill this team that already has a problem getting off on third down.

What to look for in the second half:

  • Fix that third down problem I was just talking about.
  • Overall as a defense, be better.  Show this league you belong in the discussion as a Top 5 unit.  Don’t just be brash and headline-grabbing with your mid-week antics; go out there on Sunday and ram it down the other team’s throat!
  • A steadily improving Russell Wilson.  He IS improving.  Remember this season, because in the years to come you’ll wonder how you got to be so lucky.
  • A steadily improving running game.  That’s just a byproduct of a steadily improving Russell Wilson, but it’s bound to be there.
  • More points.  This team has averaged 17.5 points per game through the first half.  For the record, that’s exactly 17.5 points in the first four games and exactly 17.5 points in the last four games.  I would look to see this team around 20 points per game average by season’s end.
  • More close games.  There are opportunities for blowouts here and there, but for the most part this team isn’t going to turn it on like the flip of a switch.  You’re still going to see Russell Wilson driving in the fourth quarter needing a touchdown.  That’s good.  The more he accomplishes now, the better he’ll be in the future.

Try not to let this team drive you crazy.  Obviously, in the moment, this team WILL drive you crazy.  But, always keep this thought in the back of your mind:  the Seahawks won’t win the Super Bowl this year.  The Seahawks WON’T win the Super Bowl this year.  It’s fun to dream once in a while, but it’s better for your sanity to be realistic.  You can start thinking about Super Bowls next year.  This year, just focus on improvement.  This isn’t like what we were doing with the Mariners this past season; this is TANGIBLE improvement.  Guys actually getting better, not guys you hope MIGHT get better in a year or two.  Guys getting better before our eyes.  Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright and Guns Turbin and Golden Tate and Richard Sherman (as scary as that sounds, since he was already pretty great last year) and Earl Thomas (again, scary, for the rest of the NFL that is) and Bruce Irvin and Pancakes Carpenter and Brandon Mebane (who, if he isn’t a Pro Bowler this year, will suffer the greatest injustice since Brendan Ryan not winning the Gold Glove for short stop).

All of those guys and more make up the core of a dynamic team that will be great probably for the next decade.  A team that will steadily compete for NFC West titles and Super Bowl Championships.  It’s not meant to be in 2012, but lucky for me and you the world won’t end in 2012.  And if it does, what have we really missed out on?  The next Super Bowl is in 2013 anyway!

Seattle Sports Hell NFL Power Rankings, Vol. 7

I guess I understand why this is a story:  the Seahawks are having injury issues at wide receiver, Kansas City is terrible, Dwayne Bowe is reasonably good, the trade deadline is this week … it’s not unfathomable that the Chiefs would trade him to us for the right price.  Plus, you know, this is a story because media types need to write stories during the week.  They need to talk about shit on the radio.  Bloggers have to endlessly write and produce content in order to survive (to not produce content is to die starving in a ditch, ravaged by spinal meningitis).

You’ll hear every side of the argument, because nowadays everyone has to present every fucking side of the argument; but I’m going to tell you right now:  trading for Dwayne Bowe is a bad fucking idea.

First and foremost, it just never works.  Trading for ANYONE in the middle of the season, but particularly wide receivers, just doesn’t work.  It takes weeks and weeks of reps in practice to understand the intricacies of a new offense.  By the time Dwayne Bowe would be worth a damn, it would damn near be time for the playoffs; only in the meantime he would constantly be out on the field underperforming because he hasn’t acclimated himself to the scheme, thereby causing us to miss out on the playoffs anyway!

What I want to see the Seahawks do is exactly what they’ve done:  promote Jermaine Kearse.  A guy who has been with the team since just after the draft.  A guy who should know the playbook inside and out.  A guy who has gotten some valuable experience on the practice squad.  A guy who’s over 6-feet tall with reasonably good hands (I know we liked to complain about him with the Huskies and his drops, but look at how much they miss him now).

Is it an ideal situation?  No, of course not.  But, it’s not like we’re replacing a hall of famer here.  I like Ben Obomanu as much as the next guy.  He’s an asset on special teams, he’s pretty much average everywhere else.  He might be the embodiment of “Replacement Level”.

What’s fuelling the speculation is this particular week.  Doug Baldwin is another week away (at least) from returning.  Braylon Edwards has some mystery malady that’s keeping him off the field.  We’re down to Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, Charly Martin … and the rest.  It’s scary!  It’s absolutely frightening out there.  But, look at it this way:  even if the Seahawks were able to bring in a Dwayne Bowe tonight, that would give him the rest of the evening to learn the playbook.  He’d have a practice tomorrow, a practice Thursday, and a walk-thru.  That’s not NEARLY enough time to be game-ready by Sunday.  I’m sorry, but you’re better off going with the practice squad guy and hoping that Edwards and/or Baldwin comes back the following week.

On to the rankings:

  1. Atlanta Falcons (7-0):  4-0 on the road.  That’s what you’re looking at.  A powerhouse the last few years at home has figured out how to be dominant on the road.  Yeah, the Eagles are a mess, but that win was still pretty impressive.  (Last Week:  1)
  2. Houston Texans (6-1):  Houston leapfrogs the Bears while not playing a game.  A – because of how impressive they looked against the Ravens the week before.  And B – see below.  (Last Week:  3)
  3. Chicago Bears (6-1):  Jesus, Chicago!  You almost got taken out by the Panthers!  On your home turf no less!  A great defense is pretty great, but you gotta be able to score or you’re going nowhere in the playoffs.  (Last Week:  2)
  4. New York Giants (6-2):  Huge win by the Giants in Big D.  Huge.  They’re now 2-2 in their division, AND they’ve got a 3-game lead over the rest of the pack.  I don’t there’s much left to do but hit the cruise control button and wait for the Bears to stumble so you can glide on home as the #2 seed in the NFC.  (Last Week:  4)
  5. San Francisco 49ers (6-2):  Granted, the 49ers have a little something to say about who gets the #2 seed, but as we’ve seen, they tend to stumble at inopportune times.  Plus, the Giants have the head-to-head tiebreaker.  It’s easy to see how both of those teams could end up 12-4 and the 49ers getting the shaft.  (Last Week:  5)
  6. Baltimore Ravens (5-2):  Perfect time for a BYE.  After that Texans loss, I’m sure Harbaugh has them in a lather.  Bad week to be a Browns fan (but, then again, when ISN’T it a bad week to be a Browns fan?).  (Last Week:  6)
  7. Green Bay Packers (5-3):  Yeah, it was another win, but it was another uninspired win.  Aside from that week they dominated the Texans, it’s hard to get the taste of that Colts game out of your mouth.  I would expect more of the same, a ho-hum win this week over the Cards.  (Last Week:  7)
  8. New England Patriots (5-3):  These London games are so fucking stupid.  Really?  This is how you promote your product to an international audience?  You should be ashamed, NFL.  You should also be ashamed that the Rams now only have 7 home games this season.  Not that I’m complaining.  (Last Week:  10)
  9. Miami Dolphins (4-3):  The Dolphins couldn’t be more highly regarded in my book thanks to that drubbing they posted on the Jets.  A 7-spot increase is about as good as it gets in my rankings.  It’s not unreasonable either.  I vastly underestimated the Dolphins, which has me utterly concerned for the Seahawks’ week 12 matchup.  A surefire win is now a huge question mark (who am I kidding, as it stands now that should be counted as a loss in any rational fan’s mind).  (Last Week:  16)
  10. Denver Broncos (4-3):  Nice win over the Saints.  I’m not going to fall all over myself lavishing praise upon Manning, but he does look like someone who’s getting stronger by the week (as I think a lot of us predicted).  The next two weeks will be interesting.  @ Cincy and @ Carolina.  That Cincy game especially.  Any conference win is a good conference win.  (Last Week:  12)
  11. Seattle Seahawks (4-4):  Is it a brief bump in the road for this supposedly top-notch defense?  I don’t think the next two weeks are going to tell us much of anything, because they’re home games against unimpressive offenses.  Truly GREAT defenses will stop anyone, including elite quarterbacks.  They don’t let Titus Young score two touchdowns on them; they don’t let Detroit score 28 points.  Anyone can coast against the scrubs of the league, but I want to see this defense work hard and shine all 16 games plus playoffs.  Until that happens, you won’t see a Super Bowl Championship in Seattle anytime soon.  (Last Week:  9)
  12. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3):  Is it just me, or did those Steelers jerseys make the Seahawks’ old lime green jerseys look terrific?  I know I’m coming from a position of resentful Seahawks fans, but I can’t imagine even the most ardent of Steelers fans thought those were remotely okay.  (Last Week:  13)
  13. Minnesota Vikings (5-3):  They got bit by the Thursday bug and a fired-up Bucs team.  Now they go into Seattle, a place where they absolutely CANNOT win.  Quite a way to blow all the goodwill they built up with victories over San Francisco and Detroit.  Suddenly, seeing the Vikings make the playoffs isn’t such a sure thing.  (Last Week:  8)
  14. Dallas Cowboys (3-4):  They moved up in my rankings even though they lost to the Giants.  Hmm.  Well, they did show a lot of moxie in coming back from 23-points down.  On the flipside, there’s a reason why they were 23-points down in the first place.  It’s the same reason why they won’t make the playoffs this year.  I’ll give you a hint:  his name rhymes with Everyone, From The Ownership Group On Down To The Towel Boy.  (Last Week:  17)
  15. Washington Redskins (3-5):  Ah HA!  Last year’s Cam Newton (Cam Newton) faces this year’s Cam Newton (RGIII).  There can only be one … (Last Week:  18)
  16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4):  It’s never too late to get back into the playoff race (until it’s too late, that is), but they better go on quite the tear.  A good start would involve beating the Raiders and Chargers.  (Last Week:  24)
  17. Detroit Lions (3-4):  Yeah, they beat the Seahawks, but I just can’t see it for this team this year.  9-7 is my best-case scenario, and I just don’t see that giving you the playoffs for this NFC.  They still play Green Bay twice, in Minnesota, vs. Atlanta, vs. Chicago, and vs. Houston.  Even if they win the other three, can you honestly tell me they’re going to win four of those games I just listed?  (Last Week:  25)
  18. Indianapolis Colts (4-3):  Fuck, man, I don’t know!  They seem to beat the bad teams, except they get killed by Jacksonville and the Jets.  Their schedule gets a lot tougher in the second half (including a 3-week stretch where they play the Texans twice).  But, for now, I guess you tip your cap and avoid betting on their games like the fucking plague.  (Last Week:  21)
  19. Cincinnati Bengals (3-4):  In the next five weeks, they play the entire AFC West.  Given their conference record, and the fact that they have Pittsburgh and Baltimore ahead of them in the standings, they probably need to win all four of those games to stay alive.  Denver this week will be HUGE.  I anticipate Denver still winning their division, but the psychological edge it would give the Bengals is far greater.  After humbling defeats to Miami, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland in consecutive weeks, Cincy needs something to hang its hat on.  Lose to Denver and you might as well start shopping for a new head coach right now (just, whatever you do, stay the fuck away from Norv Turner!).  (Last Week:  22)
  20. St. Louis Rams (3-5):  It’s all falling apart for the Rams.  They must have hated playing Green Bay and New England after the Seahawks embarrassed them both.  I imagine, even if the NFC West is improved, teams outside our division still can’t STAND losing to us.  (Last Week:  14)
  21. Philadelphia Eagles (3-4):  Sorriest fucking dream team I’ve ever heard of … (Last Week:  15)
  22. Arizona Cardinals (4-4):  Talk about your pieces of crap.  From 4-0 to 4-4 with no end to the losing in sight.  @ Green Bay, BYE, @ Atlanta.  Say goodnight, Alice.  (Last Week:  11)
  23. San Diego Chargers (3-4):  Remember when the Seahawks went into Cleveland and lost 6-3 last year?  We had Charlie Whitehurst as our starter; what’s YOUR excuse?  My guess:  Whitehurst is just plain bad luck when he’s on your roster, and you’re playing in Cleveland.  (Last Week:  19)
  24. Oakland Raiders (3-4):  Two wins against two shitty opponents (Jax & KC), don’t get your panties in a bunch about Oakland contending for a playoff spot.  It’s NOT fucking happening.  (Last Week:  28)
  25. Tennessee Titans (3-5):  Tennessee, what HAPPENED?  It wouldn’t have made any sense to put any stock in that Thursday night win against the Steelers, but that showing against the Bills inspired some hope!  Then, you lay a 13-point egg against Indy?  For shame, Doc!  (Last Week:  20)
  26. New Orleans (2-5):  I’m counting two, maybe three more wins for this team, tops.  2012 can’t end fast enough for the Saints.  (Last Week:  23)
  27. Buffalo Bills (3-4):   Hahahahaha, the Bills go to Houston and then to New England in back-to-back weeks.  I wish I was still alive in my Suicide Pool so I could pick against them in successive weeks.  Whatever the spread, I don’t care, BET AGAINST THE BILLS the next two weeks!  (Last Week:  27)
  28. Cleveland Browns (26):  Yeah, you beat the Chargers, BFD.  (Last Week:  31)
  29. New York Jets (3-5):  The Jets get a BYE before they come to Seattle.  Will they officially make the switch to Tebow full time?  If not, why in Christ’s name not???  (Last Week:  26)
  30. Carolina Panthers (1-6):  Dead Head Coach Walkin’ … (Last Week:  29)
  31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6): So … they’re drafting another first round quarterback again next year, aren’t they?  WHY didn’t you just trade for Tebow, you stupid fucks???  I guarantee you’d at least have 2-3 more wins at this point!  (Last Week:  30)
  32. Kansas City Chiefs (1-6):  At least they’re not actively choosing to start Brady Quinn anymore.  Baby steps … (Last Week:  32)

Pre-Season Analysis 2012: Seahawks vs. Raiders

There’s going to be a lot of warnings today.  REMEMBER 2009!

Yes, the Seahawks were 4-0 in the pre-season in 2009.  Yes, the Seahawks were 5-11 in 2009.  Yes, bad teams can be perfect in the pre-season and then go on to stumble in the regular season.  Yes, good teams can go 0-4 and end up winning the Super Bowl.

A 4-0 pre-season is nothing to hang your hat on, believe me, I get it.  But, I don’t think this is your run-of-the-mill 4-0 pre-season.

I think it’s funny that anti-Seahawks fans can only point out that we essentially over-paid for a backup quarterback.  Really?  That’s all you got to make fun of us for?  I know you’re big Pete Carroll haters, SURELY you can come up with something better than that!

Yes, Matt Flynn is making whatever he’s making, and yes that’s a lot for a backup quarterback.  But, it’s peanuts for a starting quarterback!  No one would be saying a got-damn word about his salary if he were starting.  And, make no mistake, he’s good enough TO be starting.  In this case, he was just out-played by someone with a higher ceiling.  It happens.  If you take their combined salaries, the Seahawks really aren’t paying their quarterbacks all that much compared to the rest of the league.

I’m getting off track from my bigger point here, which is that this team isn’t quite flawless, but it’s damn near.

I’m not totally sold on any of the quarterbacks we have on our roster, but that’s just because I’ve yet to see them play in the regular season.  I would feel the same sense of unease regardless of who we brought in; until they do it in a Seahawks uniform, there’s no feeling of comfort.  But, that doesn’t mean I don’t have faith.  I think Russell Wilson can be a great – even an elite – quarterback.  And he’s got to start somewhere.  Might as well be as a rookie.  Might as well get the growing pains out of the way early.

This post is starting to quickly turn into a Regular Season Preview, so let me stop any and all analysis of that kind here and take a step back.

The Seahawks killed this pre-season.  They killed it because they’re deep at just about every position, except wide receiver I guess.  And, this 4-0 isn’t like the last 4-0 we saw ’round these parts, because that 4-0 was largely won in the second halves of games, by reserves who wouldn’t see the light of day in the regular season.  THIS pre-season saw dominance in all quarters, by all players, and that’s encouraging.

The Raiders, yesterday, never stood a chance.  They may not stand a chance in the regular season, but let’s face it, last night they ran into a buzzsaw.  This defense has been ready for primetime since the moment they stepped onto a training camp field.  This defense is legit.  And with Arizona having QB troubles, and with Arizona having offensive line troubles, and with Arizona having only one good receiver … they’re just asking for a beatdown.  I think we can leave the offense at home in week 1 and still come away with a W.

But, that’s me getting ahead of myself again.

Can you blame me?

I thought Flynn looked okay, but again he didn’t really wow anyone, and that’s why he’s not starting in week 1.  I’m not going to say that he’s the white second-coming of Tarvar, because I still think he’s a better decision-maker.  I think if we had this Flynn on our team last year starting games, we would’ve had a winning record and an outside shot at the playoffs.  But, you can clearly see the difference between him and Wilson.  I’ll get more into this a little later, but let’s just say Flynn looks like he’s afraid to make a mistake, while Wilson is damn near fearless.

I thought all of our running backs looked good, but then again, I always think that because Tom Cable.

I thought the receivers didn’t really do much to save themselves, and I have an itching suspicion that Obomanu, Lockette, and Butler have all played their final games as Seahawks.  I could easily see the receivers shaking out like this:  Rice, Edwards, Baldwin, Tate, and Charly Martin.  Yeah, five, not six.  Because there are so many good tight ends on this roster, I think you consider Kellen Winslow as a sixth receiver in a sense.

Winslow and Miller are locks.  McCoy has had a strong pre-season.  And Sean McGrath and Cooper Helfet have both made cases for their remaining on this team.  This might be the strongest position on the entire offense (and one that no one is talking about).

As for everything else, ahh fuck it, it’s pre-season.  And pre-season is over (FINALLY).  Bring on the games!  I wish to be entertained, feeble peasants!

#7 – Doug Baldwin

To see the full list of the 30 most important Seahawks in 2012, click here.

I’m on record as believing that Doug Baldwin could be quite the fantasy football sleeper this season.  My rationale was sound!  The guy – as an undrafted rookie – was easily the best receiver on this football team last season.  He caught 51 balls for 788 yards and 4 TDs.  He’s smart, he’s quick, he’s got good hands, he has the ability to get open; on talent alone, he should be able to put up the kind of season where he catches 90+ balls for 1,100+ yards and 8 or 9 TDs.

That’s one.

My second point of emphasis has to do with the receivers around him.  Those receivers?  They’re a bunch of fucking jokes!  Golden Tate seemingly has all of the ability in the world to be a top-flight receiver, but for whatever reason hasn’t figured it the fuck out and probably never will.  2012 is do-or-die for him and I would expect to see him off the team by Week 1 of 2013 if he doesn’t get his shit together.

Sidney Rice is SUPPOSED to be our Number 1 receiver, but you know as well as I that counting on him to stay healthy for a full is an exercise in whiskey-dick masturbation.

Ricardo Lockette, listed previously in my Top 30, has fallen off the face of the Earth since the organization went out and brought in some hired goons to compete for his job.  Of course, it would help if he could stay healthy too …

Ben Obomanu is the cockroach of this group; the organization keeps dropping nuclear bombs all around him but he just won’t die!  It helps that he plays Special Teams, making him a valuable dual-threat.  Unfortunately, the “wide receiver” part of that dual-threat isn’t all that exciting.  Obo isn’t taking too many passes away from someone like Baldwin, let’s put it that way.

And, of course, Obo’s job is in jeopardy thanks to guys like T.O. and Braylon Edwards.  Both are considerably older than Doug Baldwin and at this point in their respective careers, neither are even CLOSE to Baldwin’s level.

Doug Baldwin is the best receiver on this team.  Stop.  Not only is he the best receiver, but he’s probably the best player on this team that no one is talking about!  He’s almost an afterthought even though he was clearly fantastic as a rookie last year!  Yeah, I understand the cachet that comes with a guy like T.O.  But, you need to start looking at what you have right here in Baldwin!

Of course, like Lockette and Rice, Baldwin has been hampered by injuries this pre-season.  Pete Carroll doesn’t seem to be too concerned, but considering he hasn’t played to date and likely won’t play again this Friday, I’d say there’s cause for pause.  If Doug Baldwin loses this season to injury, I’d say kiss this passing game goodbye.  At that point, you might as well start Russell Wilson, because you’re going to need a quarterback who can run since he won’t have anyone worth a damn to throw to.

But, if Doug Baldwin proves he’s ready by week 1, he wouldn’t be a bad late-round draft pick on your fantasy team.  Stash him on your bench if you want, but I bet you end up starting him more often than not.  And I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you do.

Pre-Season Analysis 2012: Seahawks vs. Titans

The Seahawks beat the Titans 27-17.  Since that’s not important, let’s get that out of the way at the top.

The thing on everyone’s mind is:  how did Matt Flynn look?  On the surface, I think you’d look at his numbers and say they look okay:  11 for 13, 71 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT.  But, I mean, come on.  Look at the yardage.  The INT was a tough one because the linebacker kind of came out of nowhere to drop back and snatch a slightly under-thrown ball he was trying to get to an open receiver.  His best completed pass of the night was a 14-yarder to Zach Miller.  Unfortunately, while the pass was zipped in there pretty good, Flynn led Miller right into a hit that left him with a concussion and will likely cost him some practice time this week.  All the other passes were of the short, check-down variety.

Now, there are things we don’t know, obviously.  How vanilla was the offensive gameplan, for instance?  Flynn noted in his in-game interview with Curt Menefee and Warren Moon that he was just taking what the defense gave him.  If that’s the case, then I guess the defense was in a cover-2 zone all first half.  You’ll note, if you watched, that the offense seemed to really open up in the second half.  I’m thinking adjustments were made as they wanted to see what the rookie could handle.

I’m sure the local beat writers are going to play up the quarterback competition battle as being fierce right now, but I’m here to tell you all Russell Wilson’s play showed us yesterday is that we might be one step closer to Tarvar’s release.  After that, I mean, come on, let’s get real here.  He was largely playing against the Titans’ third string defensive unit.  Of COURSE he was going to go 12 for 16 with 124 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT (with another rushing TD at the end to clinch it).

The TD pass was a thing of beauty.  On the first possession of the second half, with 2nd & 5 at the Titans’ 39 yard line, Wilson launched the ball high and a couple yards short of the endzone.  Braylon Edwards had to stop, come back a little bit, get around the defender playing him one-on-one, and jump high in the air.  He caught the ball flawlessly and fell down into the endzone for the touch.  To be truthful, it wasn’t a reckless decision by Wilson as he did have one-on-one coverage and his target was an athletic Braylon Edwards.  But, really, this was a feat of sheer beauty by the receiver.  One, as I’ve mentioned before, that will get your hopes sky-high only to be dashed during a big moment of a big game in the regular season.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

After that, not a whole lot of great work by Wilson, short of a couple of really nice scrambles.  Wilson ran for 59 yards on the night, 32 of which came on a naked bootleg against the perfect defense (or lack thereof) for our final TD.  When you combine the wheels, the smarts, and the arm strength, you can see why a lot of people really like this kid.  But, let’s not start sucking each other’s dicks quite yet.  He’s still a rookie playing against a third string defense.

That all having been said, I’m not ready to name a starter just yet either.  It’ll be interesting to see how the Seahawks go next week.  Will they give Tarvar a shot to show what he can do?  Or, will they give Flynn the nod to see how he bounces back?  Will we actually get to see Flynn attempt a pass longer than 20 yards?  Will they put even MORE on Wilson’s plate by giving him the start and see what he can do against a very fearsome starting defensive unit in Denver?  I honestly couldn’t be more intrigued.

As for other players, I guess the … Turbinator (*sigh*) had an all right debut.  Nothing special about his 24 yards on 10 attempts.  It was interesting to note that Leon Washington was given some carries on that first drive; he looked damned impressive averaging over 5 yards per carry.  Hopefully Guns will get more of a chance to run behind the starting line before he gets eaten alive next week.

As far as the receivers are concerned, the only guy who really helped his cause was Braylon Edwards.  He caught just the 2 balls, but he was easily our best receiver of the night.  Granted, I don’t remember him playing much (if at all) in the first half, so take from that what you will.  Golden Tate had 2 grabs for 13 yards, Deon Butler had 1 for 10.  Obomanu and Kris Durham both had 0 catches and only 1 target apiece.  But, like I noted, not a whole lot of receiving yards period in this game.

On the defensive side of the ball, you saw a WHOLE lot of vanilla.  Of course, that vanilla was still good enough to shut down their running game for most of the first half.  It looked like our starters were in there for the entire first quarter, which was nice.  On the first play of the game, you saw a very opportunistic interception by Browner returned for a touchdown thanks to a crazy bobble by the receiver as he was falling to the ground.  At first, it was tough to tell if the ball hit the ground or not, but replays made it look obvious.  Seek that play out online, it’s worth your time.

Not a lot of sacks or pressure, but as I said before, this was a vanilla gameplan.  There weren’t a whole lot of blitzes or weird schemes being thrown the Titans’ way.  I thought rookie middle linebacker Bobby Wagner looked really good, active, and around the play at all times.  I thought Irvin had a so-so effort.  He’s got some get-off, he just didn’t have a whole lot of opportunities to make any plays.  Still, you could see him a few times getting in the QB’s face, causing him to get rid of the ball before he was ready.  He should be a menace for QBs for years to come.

As for the Titans, Hasselbeck didn’t look great.  He played just into the 2nd quarter and had 45 yards passing with 2 interceptions.  One, on the opening play, and one on his very final play, which served as a defacto punt deep in Seahawks’ territory.

Jake Locker looked much better, but then again he didn’t have to deal so much with the rabidness of the fans (who got progressively quieter as the game went on), nor the Seahawks’ number 1 defense.  Still, I was shocked to find out he wasn’t still playing in the 3rd quarter.  Made the second half of this game much less enjoyable.

If I had to guess, I’d say that Locker ends up winning this job by the time the season starts.  He was strong, decisive, and looked to throw first rather than tuck and run.  He was bitten by some drops, but I don’t think they’ll hold that against him.

As for the Seahawks, more questions than answers.  None of the receivers on the bubble really helped their cause.  None of the QBs really hurt their cause.  We’ll see what happens next week.

Seahawks vs. Titans, Pregame

I am irrationally excited about this game tonight.  You’re not supposed to look THIS forward to a pre-season game.  But, this game has it all!  Jake Locker, Matt Flynn, Matt Hasselbeck, Russell Wilson.  And, most importantly, no Tarvar!

You know who I’m most looking forward to seeing?  Bruce Irvin.  All I’ve been hearing about is how fast this kid is; if he comes out in his first pre-season game and throws down a couple sacks, I may just lose my shit.  If there was ever going to be a current Seahawks jersey I was going to buy, it just might be a rookie defensive end who gets a billion sacks.

Other than that, I’m going to have all eyes on our wide receivers.  It doesn’t sound like T.O. is going to play.  I heard Lockette and Baldwin might be out too.  And, of course, Sidney Rice won’t be anywhere NEAR this field.  So, this is the time for Obomanu, Butler, Tate, Durham, Edwards, and all those undrafted guys to get a crack at possibly making this team.  Jobs could be on the line!  When do you ever say that about a first pre-season game?

The Bud Light is going to be flowing like wine at the Taylor household tonight.  Look for me blowing Twitter’s shit up starting at 7pm Pacific.

Terrell Owens, the Seattle Seahawks, and the Revolting Receiving Problem

When teams bring in these aging egotistical troublemakers – and in this case, I’m talking about guys like Braylon Edwards and Terrell Owens – I usually have the same thought:  “Damn, those teams must be TERRIBLE at wide receiver!”

I don’t necessarily think that the Seahawks are terrible at wide receiver, but that’s probably because I’m too close to the situation.  When I look at other teams – the 49ers, the Bengals, the Jets, the Bills – who have employed guys like Edwards & T.O., I see the dregs of the dregs.  Teams so depleted, they’re practically FORCED to try these guys out.  I mean, I can see no other reason to surround your team with these perpetual headaches.

Which is why I have to take a step away from the Seahawks for a moment and REALLY look long and hard at this team:  how bad ARE they at receiver?

Instead of trying to pinpoint their greatest attributes and their potential for greatness, let’s look at them for what they really are right now.  And, right off the bat I can tell you that there are no sure things.  Sidney Rice might be, except the only thing you can be sure of with Sidney Rice is that he’s going to be injured and miss time this season.  Doug Baldwin had a nice rookie campaign, especially for someone who came in undrafted, but how much of that is true ability and how much of that is him looking particularly good in comparison to the other duds we’ve got around him?  In other words, if Doug Baldwin was a member of the 1988 Houston Oilers, would he even be their 5th receiver?

There’s quite a drop-off from there.  Ben Obomanu is the Jason Vargas of the Seattle Seahawks.  Un-exciting, un-spectacular, un-sexy.  Deon Butler is the Blake Beavan of the Seattle Seahawks, in that both of them do one thing well and ONLY one thing.  For Beavan, it’s throwing strikes.  For Butler, it’s his speed.  Ricardo Lockette also flashes a lot of speed and a lot of promise with his size, but the fact of the matter is he has only caught 2 balls in his professional career (and I keep reading about how he’s always dropping balls in camp).  And until Golden Tate proves it with a 1,000-yard receiving year, he has yet to prove he’s more worthy of playing time than guys like Edwards and T.O.  Guys who have done it at least once before (and, in the case of T.O., have done it repeatedly throughout a Hall of Fame career).

On the whole, this batch of receivers looks pretty shitty on paper.  I don’t have a great handle on the rest of the NFL and how they stack up at the position, but I would have to bet that the general consensus from fans across the country is that Seattle has the worst, if not one of the top five worst receiving corps in the entire NFL.  So, really, it’s no surprise that the agents for Edwards and T.O. have been pounding on our door.

Why would they want to come to Seattle?  Because no other team would have them.  Pete Carroll has proven to be open-minded about everyone who crosses his path.  He will give everyone a chance, no matter how old, or how long it has been since they’ve played in a live-action football game.  But, even if Seattle ISN’T their only option, I’m sure it’s their best option.  Because they love being in the limelight.  And that limelight will even reach to the farthest corner of the NFL (Seattle), because there is no one else in this market who could POSSIBLY outshine them.

This morning, and for the rest of the day, people will be talking about Seattle because Seattle is talking to T.O.  And, if Seattle signs him to a contract, these same people will continue to bring up Seattle in conversation.  And, if T.O. makes the team for opening day, Seattle will have relevance for as long as he’s healthy and playing regularly.  If you’re trying to “build up a program” as Carroll has so often said, getting the rest of the country to talk about your program is pretty important.  Because it means that you’ve arrived.  And, if you’ve arrived, then that means you’re going places.  And, with teams that are going places, you’ll have players who want to come here.

But, it’s a double-edged sword.  Because these same people will be talking about you whether you win or lose.  And, if you lose with T.O., you’d better be ready for the backlash of second-guessing.  Head coaches can survive the T.O. Experience, even if it fails.  But, if it DOES fail, it will be a fiery, spectacular failure that will be on your permanent record for the rest of your career.

My first impression of T.O. coming to Seattle was a resounding:  NOOOOOOOOO!  But, now I have to wonder:  if we’re so bad that we’re resolving ourselves to trying out 38 year old prima donnas who haven’t played in the league for over a year, are we really as settled at receiver as I once thought?  I mean, if these guys can come in out of nowhere and win starting jobs, then just how fucked ARE we?

Don’t Expect Much Out Of Braylon Edwards

Braylon Edwards is the definition of disappointment a complete fucking waste of perfectly good talent.  He’s Plaxico Burress without the arrest record.  He’s Randy Moss without the Hall of Fame numbers.  He’s Chris Chambers without a chip on his shoulder.

He is every wide receiver you hate:  extremely, freakishly talented and also lazy, soft, and a complete moron.  He is, in short, a douche.

Have you ever taken a flyer on Edwards in one of your fantasy football leagues?  Then you know what I’m talking about.  “Oh, no worries, THIS will be the year Edwards puts it all together!  For an 8th round pick?  I’d be an idiot NOT to draft him!”  And then you start him, and start him, and start him, and he gets you a couple catches for 20 yards, four catches for 50 yards, one catch for 13 yards … then you pick up someone off the free agent scrap heap with the hopes of replacing Edwards in your lineup, but guess what?  Another receiver on your roster just got injured, and this week Edwards is playing against the Lions.  SURELY he’ll have a good week against the Lions.

Zero catches, three drops.

Oh the drops.  OH THE DROPS!!!  “Braylon Edwards, streaking down the sidelines, the quarterback throws it deep … no one to beat … OH, HE DROPPED IT!  A sure touchdown and it fell right through his hands!”  How many times have we heard that?  Too many.

Too many to think that we can count on this guy to be anything but a complete nuisance.  He’s only a reasonable signing if you have him for the pre-season as Sidney Rice insurance.  Except, the Seahawks have made it perfectly clear that they’re willing to keep Rice encased in bubblewrap for the next six weeks, so what’s the point?

Do we need a slow, over-sized, erstwhile superstar who’s going to wear the number 17 and drop a bunch of passes?  We just had a guy who fit that EXACT description!  And I don’t want to hear how good Edwards looks in practice!  Not a game, not a game, not a game!  Not a game where Edwards will be out on the field dropping sure-catches on third down, single-handedly transforming a once-promising drive into a punting or field goal situation.

Show it to me in real life, Edwards.  Show me in a game situation, when the money’s on the line, that you give two shits about the game of football.  That you’re not some prima donna cashing a paycheck because you wasted all the millions of dollars you’ve accrued over the years.  Don’t show me highlight catches in practice.  Because I don’t want to see it.  Because I’ve seen it all before.  Because it’s totally and completely meaningless.

Right now, I would take every single one of the receivers we have on this roster over Braylon Edwards.  Because I know they’re going to try.  I’d rather watch guys TRY and fail than watch some jackass dog it and still fail.

You know who’s better than Braylon Edwards right now, strictly from a talent standpoint?  Sidney Rice, Doug Baldwin, Golden Tate, Ricardo Lockette, Ben Obomanu, and Deon Butler.  Right now, six guys are better than Braylon Edwards.  NFL teams don’t keep any more than six receivers on a roster.  So, fine, bring him in on a one-year deal as pre-season insurance.  But, when all six of those guys are still healthy come Week 1 of the regular season, you say, “Thanks for everything,” and you kick his ass off the team.

A young, rebuilding franchise doesn’t need a guy like Braylon Edwards unless it has absolutely no other choice.  These Seattle Seahawks are riddled with other choices.