Trying To Predict A 2020 Seahawks Roster

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

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

Quarterback

  • Russell Wilson
  • Geno Smith
  • Anthony Gordon

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

Running Back

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

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

Wide Receiver & Tight End

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

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

Offensive Line

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

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

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

Cornerback & Safety

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

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

Defensive Line

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

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

Linebacker

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

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

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

The Seahawks Made Some Interesting Cuts After Trading For Jamal Adams

We’re all looking for a little bit of meaning to this thing called life. What are we here for? What’s the point of it all?

As sports fans, we’re also looking for a little bit of meaning to certain roster moves our teams make. Over the weekend, the Seahawks traded for Jamal Adams. Not long after that, it was announced the Seahawks cut Branden Jackson and Joey Hunt, saving a combined just-over $4 million. There were other cuts made – teams have to trim rosters from 90 to 80 players, thanks to COVID-19 concessions due to less money coming in on the season – but the only real notable player among that group was guard Jordan Roos, who’s just a guy.

They’re all just guys, really. Jackson and Hunt were both on restricted free agent deals which are not guaranteed. They were also, at best, here to compete, but not very likely to earn starting jobs with this team. The Seahawks spent big money to bring in B.J. Finney to be this team’s center (money that IS largely guaranteed), so that ruled Hunt out. You don’t mind keeping a guy like Hunt around to get through training camp and pre-season, but with no pre-season, and with roster cuts needing to be made relatively soon, it no longer makes as much sense to string him along. As for Jackson, he’s never been anything but a back-of-the-roster depth piece. The Seahawks have invested in a lot of younger players – as well as a couple of key veterans in Bruce Irvin & Benson Mayowa – so they’re not going to devote significant snaps to someone with little upside and little actual talent.

Plus, this way, these guys get a chance to catch on with another team ahead of the start of the season (apparently, Jordan “Just A Guy” Roos has already been claimed by the Raiders).

I wrote those first three paragraphs two days ago in hopes that we’d have a little more clarity on this front, but all has been pretty quiet since then. The 2020 draft picks are all signed, which was a mere formality anyway. I had sort of hoped we’d hear something about David Moore – who’s also a restricted free agent playing on a similar tender as Hunt and Jackson – either related to a restructured deal or a cut for salary relief, but so far nothing.

Similarly, I had sort of hoped we’d hear about a free agent signing along the defensive line. I’ve given up the dream on Clowney – shit man, he might not sign ANYWHERE given how this free agency period has gone for him! – but I thought maybe another defensive tackle, at the very least! There is, of course, still plenty of time, as this week is being devoted to COVID-19 testing before the players are allowed to meet in person (three negative tests by this weekend for that to be a reality), but you don’t want to let things drag on too long, with so many solid names still available in free agency.

In more unpleasant news, Quinton Dunbar was placed on the Commissioner’s Exempt List, which means he is not allowed to join training camp, presumably until his outside legal issues have been worked out. I think this is the NFL’s way of saying he’s likely up shit’s creek with a turd paddle and that he’s going to be suspended eventually for his crimes (as if, you know, going to PRISON isn’t punishment enough).

So, HEY, Tre Flowers! No hard feelings, huh?! We always believed in you; you’re the BEST!

Why Can’t The Seahawks’ Pass Rush Be Improved Without Clowney?

I’ve been on here pretty regularly lamenting the state of the Seahawks’ pass rush as we head into the 2020 season. I’ve also been hoping that the Seahawks could find a way to bring Jadeveon Clowney back under the salary cap, at a reasonable number (either in a 1-year or preferably a multi-year deal) that accounts for the injury risk he’s pretty clearly proven to be throughout his career, dating to his college days.

Look, we all know he’s one of the most talented defensive linemen alive, of that there’s no debate. And while the number of missed games isn’t TOO alarming – particularly after his rookie season that was cut short to only four games – in his professional career he’s only made it through a full 16-game season one time. And, I would argue – based on the fact he’s never had a double-digit sack campaign – that his effectiveness is DRASTICALLY reduced when he’s forced to play through injuries. While it remains to be seen – and likely could never be proven – in general one would assume a player on his rookie deal is most likely to try to play through injuries (as opposed to someone on his second or third deal), to show his value and better earn that mega-second contract. You can damn me all you want for putting as much emphasis in the sack statistic – as opposed to more advanced metrics that show the overall value of a pass rusher’s productivity (QB hurries and hits and whatnot) – when you think of the game’s best pass rushers, you always think of guys with lots and lots of sacks. That’s just the way it is. So, if I’m granting you the fact that Clowney is one of the best defensive linemen in the game of football – and the mark of a great defensive lineman is how well he performs in passing situations (since, by and large, passing is the most effective way to move the ball down the field for opposing offenses) – then it would stand to reason that nagging injuries (that he has, for the most part, played through; credit where it’s due) have severely limited him. A mostly-healthy Clowney through his career would have – CONSERVATIVELY – at least twice as many career sacks as he has now (32 over six seasons).

Ergo, the injury risk is real, NFL teams believe this pretty much across the board, and any team that signs him to a multi-year deal is invariably going to have to account for this at one time or another through the duration of the guaranteed portion of his contract (if not moreso, because again – I would assume – guys on a second contract are probably not as likely to want to play through injury). If that were false, then he would’ve been signed by now, because as I said, he’s one of the best in the game today.

So, it doesn’t make sense – and really, it NEVER made sense – for the Seahawks to commit max money to keep him around. It would be NICE to have him around, but clearly that doesn’t appear to be our inevitability. Seahawks fans have come to understand this and are lamenting it accordingly. The rationale being: if we had one of the least-effective pass rushing units in the entire league in 2019 WITH Clowney, how much worse is it going to get WITHOUT him?

To which I ask: why does it have to be worse?

What we have to do is take a look at the whole pass rushing stew the Seahawks have to offer as compared to what we had in 2019. It’s idiotic to simply point to Bruce Irvin & Benson Mayowa vs. Clowney and call it a day. I don’t know if either of them are necessarily playing the same particular position that Clowney played, so it’s apples and oranges anyway.

Let’s start with Quinton Jefferson, who a laughably-large portion of Seahawks fans are listing as one of our key defectors. He was OKAY, but some fans talk about him like we just lost Michael Bennett in his prime or something! Quite frankly, he’s not a starting defensive end in this league, but he was playing a starter’s portion of snaps last year out of necessity. They’re criticizing the team for keeping Branden Jackson when BASICALLY they’re both the same player, only Jackson is significantly cheaper (he’s also not necessarily guaranteed a spot on this roster, so maybe calm down a little bit). I’m as down on L.J. Collier as anyone around these parts, but if he can stay healthy through Training Camp and the pre-season, I don’t see why he couldn’t give you everything we had from Jefferson this very minute; with, I might add, a considerable upside to be significantly better (and conditions don’t even have to be perfect for this to be true).

Next, let’s look at Mychal Kendricks, our former strong-side linebacker. He had a 2-sack game in Arizona in September last year and I think we all got a little too excited; he ended up with one more sack the rest of the way. Bruce Irvin is his direct replacement and I have to believe that’s an upgrade for a number of reasons. For starters, I don’t think the Seahawks will be in as much Base Defense as last year (again, out of necessity). Our nickel corner spot should be vastly improved, meaning we won’t need Irvin to play out in coverage nearly as much. I would expect him to be, effectively, a fifth pass rusher on a lot of downs (at least, a lot more than Kendricks ever was).

It’s unfair to consider Mayowa as Clowney’s de facto replacement – though their measurables match up fairly well, sizewise – as Clowney obviously does a lot more than the Seahawks would ask of Mayowa. They’re not going to ask Mayowa to play along the interior of the line, for instance, which Clowney was more than capable of doing at times. I would argue that less-is-more with Mayowa, so limiting him strictly to obvious pass rushing situations is likely to keep him fresh and more effective than he would be if he played every down like Clowney. As such, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Mayowa with more sacks in 2020 than Clowney (he had four more than Clowney in 2019, while playing in only two more games).

As a quick interlude, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the BIGGEST “addition by subraction” candidate, which would be Ziggy Ansah. Given our cap situation last year, the Seahawks had a lot of eggs in the Ansah basket on his 1-year prove-it deal, and all he managed to prove was that he’s finished as a viable NFL player. Giving his number of snaps to ANYONE who isn’t a corpse is bound to be a vast improvement, and indeed probably the single biggest upgrade on the entire roster from 2019 to 2020!

Moving inside, I will be VERY interested in what the defensive tackles bring to the table in 2020. One of the strangest contracts in recent memory is Jarran Reed’s 2-year, $23 million deal. The Seahawks appeared to get very little savings on a short-term basis (for a player who was suspended for six games in 2019 for a domestic violence charge), nor any savings under a longer-term contract (with it being only two years). Were the Seahawks swindled worse than when they dealt for Percy Harvin and gave him all that loot? Or is this a “crazy like a fox” situation? I’m probably focused on motivation more than I should be, but here we have a player heading into his age-27 season, who was drafted by the Seahawks and knows our scheme well, and who already has a double-digit sack season under his belt. You can argue there’s a risk of him landing in more hot water, but I doubt it (and, if he does get in trouble again, it’s not a prohibitive cost to cut him after 2020). I believe very strongly that him missing so many games last year set him back in a way that he’d never recover from. It’s essentially like having your pre-season taken away from you, then being thrown to the wolves mid-stream; that’ll hamper anyone, even a 4-year vet. At that point, either you believe his 2018 season was a fluke, or it’s more in line with who he is as a player. If the latter is true, then the Seahawks could be VERY happy the next two years. Getting back to motivation, he’ll be heading into his age-29 season as a free agent. If he kills it these next two years, then he’ll have set himself up for a mega-deal, so he has every reason to try his very best.

In keeping with our defensive tackles, Poona Ford is heading into his third year as a pro. You might poo-poo him as a pass-rushing threat, with just half a sack to his name; but Jarran Reed was a MUCH higher-rated lineman coming out of college, and he only had three combined sacks in his first two years before blowing up (and he played MANY more snaps in his first two seasons by comparison). Could we see a similar spike from Poona? Maybe not double digits, but in the 5-6 sack range? And, speaking of third-year pros, we haven’t even mentioned the Seahawks’ sack-leader in 2019, Rasheem Green. I know four sacks is nothing to write home about, but Green is also only 23 years old. If ANYONE is poised to make a big jump, it’s Green. I would argue this season largely hinges on him and Collier, but mostly Green. Figure he’ll play a lot of defensive end in base, then slide inside to rush the passer on third downs; I, for one, am excited to see what he can do, and if he can put it all together. He won’t be what Clowney can be at full health, but even if he’s 75% Clowney, that’s still better than most of what we had going for us last year!

Then, that brings us to our two wild cards: rookie Darrell Taylor, and likely bubble candidate Shaquem Griffin. We traded up (at a hefty cost, I might add) to select Taylor in the second round, which means he figures to get a considerable look at earning some playing time as a rookie. I’ll never put much confidence in a rookie, but it’s okay to hope a LITTLE bit. The Seahawks seem to know what they’re doing when they go to the trouble of trading up in the draft to get someone. My (safe) hunch is, Taylor will be a better pro in future seasons, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility for him to bring something worthwhile to the table as a rookie. As for Griffin, he had his first career sack as a pro in the playoffs against Green Bay in the fourth quarter (that very nearly helped us come back and win that game). It took us a while, but we finally got him in on some sub-packages late in 2019, and he figures to have a similar role as we head into 2020. If he balls out in the pre-season and earns a job on the roster, I think it’s safe to assume he’ll be moderately effective in his third year as a pro. Every little bit helps!

And this doesn’t even get into the likelihood that the Seahawks will go out and sign another free agent or two. None of them will be Clowney, but taken as a whole, I don’t see why this pass rushing unit can’t improve over 2019! For starters, that seems like a low bar to clear. Secondly, it won’t be on any one man’s shoulders. That means a lot of guys will have to step up – to either have career years, or perpetuate their recent career years – but I think that’s a healthier way to go about it, over trying to find some savior to come in and grace your team with his dominance.

The real question is: can this pass-rushing unit be even middle-of-the-road? It’s one thing to go from 29th in the league to 25th; but can the Seahawks get into the teens? That might make all the difference in the world! With a solid linebacking unit, and what appears to be a vastly improved secondary, that could be the difference between the Seahawks eking in as a Wild Card team vs. winning the NFC West or – lord help us – snatching the NFC’s #1 seed.

Making Heads Or Tails Of The Latest Seahawks Media Blitz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Seahawks Drafted Seven Other Guys Besides Jordyn Brooks

Did you read my uninformed take on the Seahawks’ first round draft pick last week? Well, stick around for my uninformed takes on the rest of these guys I’ve never heard of!

Here’s the full list:

  • First Round – Jordyn Brooks (LB)
  • Second Round – Darrell Taylor (DE)
  • Third Round – Damien Lewis (G)
  • Fourth Round – Colby Parkinson (TE)
  • Fourth Round – DeeJay Dallas (RB)
  • Fifth Round – Alton Robinson (DE)
  • Sixth Round – Freddie Swain (WR)
  • Seventh Round – Stephen Sullivan (TE)

The Seahawks had a lot of holes to fill on an underperforming defense, so OF COURSE they spent 5 of their 8 draft picks (including trading away a pick in 2021 just to jump back into the seventh round this year) on the offense! And yet, honestly? I don’t think I can fault their logic here.

The last couple of Seahawks drafts felt like we were bolstering our depth. They made 20 picks in 2018 & 2019, at a period in this franchise’s history where depth was at its thinnest. Properly replenished, it’s now time to start taking some chances on drafting starters and stars again. And, I get the feeling here – more than I have in recent seasons – that the Seahawks are going to give these guys every opportunity to win jobs very soon.

Brooks, we’ve discussed. No one believes he’s muscling Bobby Wagner out of his job anytime soon, but clearly K.J. Wright is on notice. No one would be shocked if he gets cut before the season, but regardless 2020 is a mortal lock to be Wright’s last year in a Seahawks uniform.

I’m going to lump Darrell Taylor and Alton Robinson together here, because they’re essentially the same guy from a body-type point of view (6’4, 267; 6’3, 264 respectively) and both figure to vie for the LEO defensive end spot. I mean, yeah, IDEALLY both of these guys are future Hall of Famers; but realistically, the Seahawks are hoping for one of these guys to pan out as a respectable starter for the next however many years. Taken in context with who the Seahawks have on the roster right now, their direct competition appears to be Benson Mayowa (the entrenched starter at the moment) and Bruce Irvin (who will play SAM linebacker and shift to defensive end on passing downs), neither of whom are longterm options for this team. So, there’s your 2020 rotation for the LEO end spot; both of these rookies will get a chance to compete and it’s just a matter of staying healthy and learning the defense.

Damien Lewis might have the clearest path to starting for this team (especially with the moves the Seahawks made last night, which I’ll get to later in the week). He’s a right guard, so right away there’s no confusion about where he’s going to stick. He’s not a guard/center, or a right tackle that projects as a guard; he’s just a fucking GUARD! Isn’t that wonderful? To boot, he was the second guard taken in the entire draft! That (and the fact that Tom Cable is nowhere near this decision) should tell you everything you need to know: Lewis is almost certainly ready to start from Day 1. He played for National Champion LSU, on the college world’s greatest offensive line, and has played a signifiant number of games from junior college through his two years with the Tigers, so this isn’t some project who needs seasoning to learn the game. He’s a powerful run blocker – obviously a trait the Seahawks appreciate more than most NFL teams – and his pass protection numbers aren’t bad at all. At this point, it would be an upset (and deeply upsetting) if he didn’t start as a rookie.

I’m not going to lump the two listed tight ends for reasons I’ll talk about later, so for now let’s discuss the unfortunately-named Colby Parkinson. He’s a 6’7, 251-pound pass-catching tight end out of Stanford. This is an interesting pick for a variety of reasons. The Seahawks are clearly a power-rushing offense that likes to take deep shots down field. The tight ends who work best in this offense are the heavy, run-blocking bulldozers who are able to take advantage over slower linebackers in the passing game. Yet, the Seahawks seem to have a perpetual hard-on for these elite pass-catchers in the Jimmy Graham mold, of which Parkinson would seem to emulate.

Here’s the deal: how great would it be to have the next Gronk, or George Kittle, or Travis Kelce? Who WOULDN’T want a big, tall guy who plays like a receiver, but can also blow you up like an offensive lineman? Who WOULDN’T want the type of offensive mismatch who is too fast to be covered by a mortal linebacker, but is also too big and overpowering for any cornerback or safety you try to throw his way? But, these guys are rarer than a unicorn steak on top of a bed of four-leaf clovers with a side-order of dodo egg stew! More often than not, you pick a guy with an obvious flaw and hope they’re able to develop it sooner rather than later. So, which is a better starting-off point to come from when trying to reverse-engineer one of these studs? The quality blocking tight end with stone hands, or the pass-catching phenom who blocks like a matador’s cape?

Fun fact: a matador’s cape is called a muleta! Seattle Sports Hell: come for the half-assed sports commentary, stay for the half-assed dictionary lesson!

I’m kind of on the side of thinking that it’s better to have the guy who knows how to block well and have him develop the ability to catch, because blocking seems like more of a “want-to” attitude, and if you have a good-enough quarterback, he should be able to throw catchable balls to a tall guy in traffic. But, clearly the Seahawks are hoping this way works as well. We’ll see. I’ll say this much: drafting a guy and teaching him how to block is WAY more preferable to trading for a guy (Jimmy Graham) after he’s an established offensive star in the league and just hoping he’ll stop crumpling into a paper ball at the first sight of contact.

I can’t say my hopes are super high on Parkinson, but at the same time – getting back to my original point, what feels like thousands of words ago – look at his competition. Greg Olsen, Luke Willson, and Jacob Hollister are all on 1-year deals; while Olsen isn’t going anywhere, nothing is guaranteed to the other two. All Parkinson has to do is beat a couple of dime-a-dozen guys and he’s locked in behind Olsen and Dissly (when he’s healthy). If he manages that simple feat, he’ll figure pretty prominently in any red zone situation. AND, if he does develop into even a passable blocker, he could be a fantasy god for years to come!

Boy, do I love a guy who spells out his name DeeJay! DeeJay Dallas is such a perfect running back name, I can’t even stand it. Also, if you think I’m not calling him DeeJ, you’re crazy!

So, DeeJ is kind of on the bigger, slower side, but that slow stuff is more about how he tests; his game speed appears to be fine. He’s a converted wide receiver, which makes him an ideal candidate to play on third downs, and he also apparently has kick returning experience. So, this jack of all trades looks like a lock to make the team, with a high probability of seeing significant playing time behind Chris Carson. Is he a future starter for this team? I guess we’ll find out, but he’s got a lot going for him to get his foot in the door, which is all you can ask for. Plus, considering the Seahawks’ poor track record of drafting guys in the fourth round, I don’t mind them going with a running back so early. Unless he’s simply incapable of finding a hole to run through, this feels like a can’t-miss, with some obvious high upside because it’s the running back position: as long as the O-Line is doing its job, anyone should be good here!

Finally, let’s lump in the last two guys: receiver Freddie Swain and tight end/receiver Stephen Sullivan. Sullivan is 6’5 and was a tight end in college, but the Seahawks are listing him as a receiver, which is all you need to know: slow, tall receiver. After all that talk about Parkinson, you’d think I’d be alarmed about Sullivan’s blocking skills, or lack thereof. But, the Seahawks ask a lot out of their receivers in blocking, so if he can’t at least manhandle some cornerbacks, I don’t think there’s much hope for him to stick here. The good news is: he’s a seventh round pick. You’d think we could stash him on the practice squad and let him do nothing but learn for a year. This guy is the epitome of a capital-p Project; best case scenario is – in a year or two – he’s starting opposite D.K. Metcalf in a potent offense full of huge pass-catchers during many multiple MVP seasons by Russell Wilson.

The real interesting guy is Freddie Swain, who is a prototypical slot receiver. Unless the Seahawks go out and sign another free agent, it’s pretty safe to say the top four receivers are Lockett, Metcalf, Dorsett, and David Moore. John Ursua looks to have a leg up as another slot guy for this team, but there’s a pretty clear path for Swain to be a fifth or sixth receiver on this team (especially if he can add anything on special teams). There’s also a chance for Malik Turner to rejoin the team, who will be nice as competition fodder. Bottom line is – between Swain and Ursua – we should be pretty set at slot receiver (especially when you figure Lockett is more than comfortable there as well).

My initial impression is: I like Lewis an awful lot to start right away. But, I think there’s more higher-upside guys in this draft class than in any year since maybe 2012! Now, obviously, the guys still have to pan out – which is FAR from a guarantee – but if we manage to hit on even half of these guys (particularly one of the defensive ends), the Seahawks should be in good shape for a while.

The Seahawks Signed Benson Mayowa

We can’t wait around forever for Clowney to make up his G.D. mind! The Seahawks have places to go, people to see, and motherfuckin’ ASSES to kick!

You know, assuming we’re ever allowed to kick asses again (thanks Obama corona).

Benson Mayowa was signed to a 1-year, $3 million deal (with incentives possibly taking it up another mil). You might remember him as the last man on the defensive line depth chart in 2013, when he played in just 2 games and generated all of 2 tackles. He’s bounced around from Oakland to Dallas to Arizona and back to Oakland again in his career, playing mostly part-time roles in pass rushing situations.

He’s not, what you would call, a particularly sexy signing (you get what you pay for, of course), but HONESTLY? I mean, he had 7.0 sacks last year in 302 total snaps for the Raiders; by comparison, Bruce Irvin had 8.5 sacks in 608 total snaps. So, you know, do the math (please do the math, I was an English major; my brain isn’t equipped to handle such complex equations).

This is a depth piece.

We hope.

PLEASE GOD LET THIS BE A DEPTH PIECE AS OPPOSED TO THE WHOLE FUCKING ENCHILADA!

No, it’s fine. We’re all fine. He’ll be good.

Real talk though, as it stands, our starting four (if the season started this morning) would be Irvin, Jarran Reed, Poona Ford, and Mayowa. If that sounds UNDERWHELMING AF, then I warn you: don’t look at the depth chart behind those guys.

Are you ready? Don’t say I didn’t warn you:

  • Rasheem Green (5 sacks in 2 years)
  • Branden Jackson (3.5 sacks in 4 years)
  • L.J. Collier (0.0 sacks in 1 year)
  • Bryan Mone (0.0 sacks in 1 year)

I dunno, there might be more under futures contracts or whatever, but you get the idea.

I read in the Seattle Times this morning that there are reports the Seahawks are offering somewhere in the $13-$15 million per year range to Clowney, who has since lowered his asking price (from over $20 million per year) to the $17-$18 million range. He previously stated that he wanted to play for a contender, but it looks like only the shitbird teams are interested in paying him what he’s looking for.

I like that the Seahawks are sticking to their guns here. He’s got an injury history, and while he can certainly be disruptive – even world-wrecking at times – he just doesn’t have the sack numbers to make it enticing for teams to want to re-set the defensive end market with him. He’s not Khalil Mack. He’s not Von Miller. He’s not Aaron Donald. He’s GOOD, don’t get me wrong; he would easily be the best defensive lineman on the Seahawks by a million miles! But, there is simply too much risk in guaranteeing him an insane amount of money, when I’ve kinda sorta been saying all along that I think we can get similar production from a collection of 2-3 mid-tier guys for the same amount of money.

And, that’s the whole point of the Mayowa signing. It’s in Clowney’s best interests to wait out this market – wait out this virus – and hopefully show out for interested teams in a tryout of sorts. But, that is in direct conflict with the Seahawks’ needs. We can’t wait for him to ultimately settle for whatever deal comes in at the last minute; we need to fill in this roster around him. Waiting for him to maximize his value will only serve in the rest of the league taking all of the other next-best options off the table.

At this point, I say just get Everson Griffen signed, maybe another mid-tier guy, and call it a day until the draft. If Clowney wants to play ball for a winner, he knows where to find us.

Your Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl XLIX Roster

I did this last year, albeit in a different format.  It’s nothing fancy, no real analysis or anything, but it’s just something I’d like to look at (and later, look back on and reflect).

Last year, it was more a reflection of how we crafted our Super Bowl roster (mostly via draft & undrafted free agents).  This year, I thought I’d take a gander at who’s on the team now as it compares to last year’s Super Bowl roster.  As with last year’s post, I’m not including guys who are on IR, or who were on the team earlier in the year and were released or traded.  I’m specifically looking at the guys on the 53-man roster RIGHT NOW.

I reserve the right to come back and adjust this if the Seahawks make any minor moves between now and February 1st.

Let’s start with the offense:

2014 2015
Quarterback 1 Russell Wilson Russell Wilson
Quarterback 2 Tarvaris Jackson Tarvaris Jackson
Quarterback 3 B.J. Daniels
Running Back 1 Marshawn Lynch Marshawn Lynch
Running Back 2 Robert Turbin Robert Turbin
Running Back 3 Christine Michael * Christine Michael
Fullback 1 Michael Robinson Will Tukuafu
Fullback 2 Derrick Coleman
Wide Receiver 1 Golden Tate Doug Baldwin
Wide Receiver 2 Percy Harvin Jermaine Kearse
Wide Receiver 3 Doug Baldwin Ricardo Lockette
Wide Receiver 4 Jermaine Kearse Bryan Walters
Wide Receiver 5 Ricardo Lockette Chris Matthews
Wide Receiver 6 Bryan Walters * Kevin Norwood
Tight End 1 Zach Miller Luke Willson
Tight End 2 Luke Willson Tony Moeaki
Tight End 3 Kellen Davis * Cooper Helfet
Left Tackle Russell Okung Russell Okung
Left Guard James Carpenter James Carpenter
Center Max Unger Max Unger
Right Guard J.R. Sweezy J.R. Sweezy
Right Tackle Breno Giacomini Justin Britt
Guard/Tackle Alvin Bailey Alvin Bailey
Tackle Michael Bowie * Garry Gilliam
Center Lemuel Jeanpierre Lemuel Jeanpierre
Offensive Line Paul McQuistan Patrick Lewis
Offensive Line Caylin Hauptmann * Keavon Milton

* denotes Inactive for Super Bowl

As you can see, from a roster standpoint, we’re carrying the third quarterback for some reason (even though he was inactive for the NFC Championship Game, and will most likely be inactive again for the Super Bowl), whereas last year we carried the extra fullback.  Obviously, Robinson is retired and Coleman is injured, so that’s what happened there.

What stands out the most is the drop-off in quality in the wide receiver department.  The 2015 Seahawks are essentially chopped off at the knees at this position, with Golden Tate and Percy Harvin playing elsewhere.  Baldwin, Kearse, Lockette, and Walters each move up two spots respectively, severely weakening our passing game.  Rookie Norwood was active for the NFCCG, but I would expect him to be inactive if Helfet is healthy.

Speaking of tight ends, another big blow is the loss of Miller.  I like Willson a lot and think he’s taken a big step forward this year (in spite of some infamous drops), but it’s pretty clear we’re hurting.  Moeaki is a fine stand-in, but he’s no Zach Miller.  I’ll be looking forward to all three tight ends as being active – again – if Helfet is healthy.  I think this can be a real mismatch in our favor against the Patriots.

The offensive line is largely the same as last year.  Britt sat out against the Packers with an injury, but I have to figure he’ll be back with the two weeks off to recover.  I think Britt is more-or-less a wash compared to Giacomini (MAYBE a slight downgrade, but in the long run will be a big improvement).  Our depth is pretty solid as well, as four of our reserves have played significant minutes this year.  I’ve still never heard of this Milton guy, so expect him to be inactive.

Now, let’s go with the defense:

2014 2015
Defensive End 1 Chris Clemons Michael Bennett
Defensive End 2 Red Bryant Cliff Avril
Defensive End 3 Michael Bennett O’Brien Schofield
Defensive End 4 Cliff Avril Demarcus Dobbs
Defensive End 5 O’Brien Schofield David King
Defensive End 6 Benson Mayowa *
Defensive Tackle 1 Brandon Mebane Kevin Williams
Defensive Tackle 2 Tony McDaniel Tony McDaniel
Defensive Tackle 3 Clinton McDonald Landon Cohen
Defensive Tackle 4 Jordan Hill *
Outside Linebacker K.J. Wright K.J. Wright
Middle Linebacker Bobby Wagner Bobby Wagner
Outside Linebacker Bruce Irvin Bruce Irvin
Linebacker 4 Malcolm Smith Malcolm Smith
Linebacker 5 Mike Morgan Mike Morgan
Linebacker 6 Heath Farwell Brock Coyle
Cornerback 1 Richard Sherman Richard Sherman
Cornerback 2 Byron Maxwell Byron Maxwell
Cornerback 3 Walter Thurmond Jeremy Lane
Cornerback 4 Jeremy Lane DeShawn Shead
Cornerback 5 DeShawn Shead Tharold Simon
Cornerback 6 Marcus Burley
Free Safety 1 Earl Thomas Earl Thomas
Free Safety 2 Chris Maragos Steven Terrell
Strong Safety 1 Kam Chancellor Kam Chancellor
Strong Safety 2 Jeron Johnson
Long Snapper Clint Gresham Clint Gresham
Punter Jon Ryan Jon Ryan
Kicker Steven Hauschka Steven Hauschka

* denotes Inactive for Super Bowl

As you can see, we’re carrying two fewer linemen and two more defensive backs.  Injuries have hurt us bigtime in the defensive line department, but depth has been an issue all year with our DBs, as it seems like we’re dealing with nagging injuries on a weekly basis in our secondary.

Along the line, we’re hurting bad.  Clemons and Bryant are obviously gone, so Bennett and Avril moved up into their places.  From a quality of play standpoint, this is an improvement.  But, from a depth standpoint, it’s not pretty.  Jordan Hill was a positive contributor this year until he got hurt.  Kevin Williams has been a godsend with Mebane going down.  McDaniel is as steady as they come.  And, Cohen is a widebody who played some key snaps against the Packers in our goalline package.  It’s our pass rush that I’m most concerned about, with Schofield essentially replacing Clemons from last year, which is indeed a step down.  Bruce Irvin will be key in this regard, as he’s looking a lot better when he rushes the passer.

Our linebackers are largely intact, as our top 5 are all holdovers from last year.  Coyle replaces Farwell, and from my naked eye, I haven’t seen a huge downturn in our special teams coverage.

Our secondary is still our strongest unit.  The only real change is Simon for Thurmond.  Thurmond was more versatile, but Simon is cheaper, under team control for longer, and is better on the outside.

I would argue we’re actually stronger in the secondary this year compared to last year.  Linebacking, offensive line, running backs, quarterbacks, and specialists (kicker/punter/long snapper) are all a wash.  We’re a bit worse in our tight ends and at fullback.  And, we’re A LOT worse along the defensive line and in our wide receiver group.  I may come back to this when the season is over, to compare & contrast 2013’s overall roster to 2014’s, but suffice it to say, we’re not as good of a team as we were last year.  That was to be expected, so it’s not like I’m telling you anything that’s untrue or shocking.  How much worse, I guess, depends on how the Super Bowl turns out.

Either way, as the years go on, we’re REALLY going to marvel at how good that 2013 team was.  To run out a squad with that amount of talent and depth is about as awe-inspiring as it gets.

For the Super Bowl, unless injuries are a factor, here’s my prediction for the seven inactives:

  1. B.J. Daniels – QB
  2. Christine Michael – RB
  3. Kevin Norwood – WR
  4. Keavon Milton – OL
  5. Patrick Lewis – C
  6. David King – DE
  7. Marcus Burley – CB

It was a struggle down there at the bottom.  In theory, you’d want to keep King active to give yourself another pass rusher, but really, how many can you have on the field at once?  I think Cohen gives you more value, especially if the Patriots make a concerted effort to run the ball with Blount.  I thought about keeping Burley active as well – what with Sherman and Thomas playing through injury, you may want more depth in the secondary – but he seems to be the low man on the totem pole right now.

Obviously, this changes as the injury reports start coming out.  Guys to watch out for here are obviously Britt and Helfet, as well as Terrell and Johnson in the secondary.  But, for now, my official guess at the inactives is what I’ve listed above.

Looking Ahead To YOUR 2014 Seattle Seahawks

This was me last year.  I predicted the Seahawks would go 13-3, take the #1 seed in the NFC, and beat the Broncos in the Super Bowl.  Last year’s NFL season was so easy to predict, I actually managed to correctly guess 2 of the Seahawks’ 3 losses (Indy & at SF, with my lone boner being the Atlanta game).  Of course, when you’re predicting the fortunes of a team this good, it’s hard to be wrong.  Just pick the Seahawks to win every game and you’re bound to be mostly right!

These Seahawks aren’t too different from the 2013 Seahawks.  Off the top of my head (so, forgive me if I forget a few), here are the players no longer on the roster, who had at least a minor impact on last year’s championship squad:

  • Golden Tate (#1 receiver)
  • Michael Robinson (fullback)
  • Paul McQuistan (guard/tackle)
  • Breno Giacomini (starting right tackle)
  • Kellen Davis (3rd tight end)
  • Sidney Rice (receiver)
  • Michael Bowie (guard/tackle depth)
  • Chris Clemons (starting LEO defensive end)
  • Red Bryant (starting 5-tech defensive end)
  • Brandon Browner (starting cornerback)
  • Walter Thurmond (nickel cornerback)
  • Clinton McDonald (backup defensive tackle)
  • Chris Maragos (backup safety)
  • Heath Farwell (IR) (backup linebacker)

On paper, that looks like a lot.  But, it’s pretty easy to spot which players were REALLY important to our success in 2013, and which players were sort of along for the ride.

Golden Tate is obviously the biggest blow.  He was our top receiver and punt returner.  He’s playing for Detroit now and should put up monster numbers while playing alongside Calvin Johnson.  His loss is mitigated somewhat by having a fully healthy Percy Harvin.  If Harvin can play all or the majority of games in 2014, it’s pretty easy to make the argument that our passing game (and offense as a whole) should actually IMPROVE.  Yes, Tate is a good player, but Harvin is on a completely different level of greatness.

Our offensive line depth took some big hits, and that’s going to be a concern.  No doubt about it.  I’d go out on a limb and say losing Paul McQuistan is addition by subtraction, though.  He’s getting up there in age and probably shouldn’t be an everyday starter going forward.  His best position is guard, but he was also our backup left tackle last year when Okung went down.  As a tackle, McQuistan is THE WORST.  So, not having him around to tempt the coaches into starting him when Okung ultimately gets hurt again is probably for the best.

Michael Bowie was always a depth guy last year, who got some serious playing time with all the injuries we suffered.  He was going to contend for the starting right tackle spot this year – and many had penciled him in as the favorite coming into Training Camp.  But, what no one expected was Bowie coming into camp overweight and/or out of shape, as well as injured.  He was ultimately released and the starting right tackle job has been given to rookie 2nd rounder Justin Britt.  In the long run, going with Britt now hopefully will prove to be the smart choice.  But, in the short term, we’re probably going to feel the sting of losing Giacomini.  I really liked him and thought he was solid when healthy.  But, again, you can’t afford to pay everyone, and you’ve got to get younger whenever possible to keep the roster fresh and vibrant (and to be able to afford expensive extensions to your stars).  I think by season’s end, Britt will have made us all forget about Giacomini’s reign of terror.  But, in the early going, it could be rough.

No one is worried about losing Sidney Rice, because he never really impacted this roster to the extent his contract would have dictated.  Jermaine Kearse is more than capable of picking up the slack.  Michael Robinson was on his last legs, plus fullback isn’t an important position.  Ditto the third tight end spot.  So, that rounds out the losses to our offense.

Defensively, our line took a big hit.  Clemons and Bryant were both starters and were both critical to stopping opposing offenses from running the ball.  McDonald was a pleasant surprise, capable of generating good pressure on the quarterback with our second unit.  Being able to interchange our linemen so frequently ultimately helped keep everyone fresh and healthy when it came time to make our playoff run.

In their place, Michael Bennett was extended; he’ll play a bigger role.  Cliff Avril will move into the starting LEO spot.  Kevin Williams was signed as a free agent.  In his prime, Williams was one of the best defensive tackles in the league.  He’s older now, but with reduced snaps – and playing alongside the elite talent we’ve got – he should prove to at least be as effective as McDonald.

Where we’re really going to be tested is in our depth.  Last year, our second-unit defensive line featured Bennett and Avril (it was truly an embarrassment of riches).  This year, they’re starting, and we’ve got to find replacements.  Cassius Marsh is a promising rookie out of the 4th round who can play on the end and on the inside.  But, he’s been dinged up quite a bit in the pre-season, so durability is in question.  Greg Scruggs is back and healthy this year, but he didn’t show a whole helluva lot in the pre-season.  It looks like he can play both outside & inside as well, but I don’t know if he’s any good at either.  O’Brien Schofield was one of the biggest surprises in camp, as he fought off Benson Mayowa for one of the final roster spots.  Schofield was on the team last year, but didn’t get a whole lot of playing time (and didn’t really deserve a whole lot of playing time, considering the talent around him).  He was signed away by the Giants in the offseason, but they ended up backing out of the deal, worried about possible injuries.  So, the Seahawks swooped in and re-signed him to a small number; he could be the steal of the off-season!  I have to imagine he’s the backup LEO behind Avril at this point, with the potential to join our NASCAR defense and play on the same line as Avril, Bennett, and either Marsh or Williams, with Irvin coming from the linebacker spot.

No, we’re not as deep as we were last year, but it could be close enough if Schofield shows up to play.

We have similar depth issues with our secondary as well.  We ultimately lost Browner and Thurmond for long stretches late in the season last year, but we found that Byron Maxwell was more than up to the task of being the starting cornerback opposite Richard Sherman.  Maxwell is back – on the last year of his deal – so we should be okay there.  But, again, the depth has taken a hit.

With Thurmond gone, Jeremy Lane steps up.  I like Lane and think he has the potential to be as good or better than Thurmond; but, right now Lane is injured, so that’s troubling.  Tharold Simon was a rookie last year and never played thanks to injuries.  He looks to be back and healthy now (though, like Lane, he’s suffering through some nagging something or other at the moment), and he also looks capable of being another in a long line of productive outside cornerbacks.  Where we’re light is in the nickel corner spot, which is why we recently traded for Marcus Burley for a 6th round pick in next year’s draft.  I know pretty much nothing about him, but apparently he had a pretty good camp this year.  And, apparently he’s pretty fast and super athletic.

I’m less inclined to worry about the secondary than the D-Line, because our starters are intact.  And our backup safeties are top-notch, with DeShawn Shead and Jeron Johnson.  Shead, especially, can play both the safety and corner spots, so in a pinch we can totally put Shead in the nickel and be fine.

With our linebackers healthy and peaking at the right time, we should be just fine on defense.  Yes, we lost Farwell – who was our special teams captain – but we picked up Brock Coyle, an undrafted rookie, who could be Farwell 2.0.

***

So, those were the primary changes between 2013 and 2014.  Next, we’ll look at what’s the same.

When I was younger, I would’ve taken the position that:  if you’ve got a championship team, just keep that team together for as long as possible.  Indeed, the 95/96 Supersonics were a championship-calibre team (they just ran into the buzz-saw that was the greatest team of all time, with those Jordan/Pippen/Rodman 72-win Chicago Bulls).  If the 96/97 Sonics wouldn’t have tinkered so much (like signing Jim McIlvaine to a monster contract), they could’ve made serious runs at a title for the next 2-3 years.  Same goes for the 1995 Mariners.  Just keep that team together and make some moderate improvements to the pitching staff.  DON’T trade Tino Martinez and Jeff Nelson to the fucking Yankees and hand them a million championships!

But, there’s one main difference between the NBA/MLB and the NFL:  keeping the team intact for too long will ultimately kill your franchise in football.  The shelf life for good-to-great baskeball and baseball players is WAY longer than it is in football.  In the NFL, if you’re approaching 30, you’re approaching retirement.  The ideal scenario in the NFL is to get young, coach those young players into being stars, and then constantly churn about 20% of your roster every year, where you’re shipping off the older players and infusing with young talent through the draft (or among the undrafted).

Could the Seahawks have retained Golden Tate, Chris Clemons, Red Bryant, and Breno Giacomini?  Yeah, I think I can envision a scenario where we make it all work for at least one more year.  But, then we wouldn’t have gotten the team-friendly extensions for Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, and Doug Baldwin.  We wouldn’t be in a position to make Russell Wilson one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the league next year.  Getting those guys done early (not counting Bennett, who was an unrestricted free agent at the time) is supremely important (as you can see by the subsequent cornerback deals for Patrick Peterson and the like, which were higher than what we ended up giving Sherman).

Yes, there were some losses to the roster.  There will always be losses to the roster.  Teams have to make important decisions each and every year.  Next year, we’re looking at the possibility of not having Marshawn Lynch, Zach Miller, James Carpenter, K.J. Wright, Malcolm Smith, and Cliff Avril around.  I would anticipate at least a few of those players WILL be here, but that’s life in the NFL.  You never know.

Most importantly to the Seahawks chances in 2014 will be who is still around.  This is still a MONSTER of a lineup:

  • Russell Wilson (QB)
  • Marshawn Lynch (RB)
  • Percy Harvin (WR)
  • Doug Baldwin (WR)
  • Jermaine Kearse (WR)
  • Zach Miller (TE)
  • Luke Willson (TE)
  • Robert Turbin (RB)
  • Christine Michael (RB)

And those are just the skill position players!  Our offensive line is 4/5 intact (and looking MUCH improved at the guard positions, with Carpenter in the “best shape of his life” and with Sweezy having bulked up while still retaining his athleticism).  And, we’ve got a couple rookie receivers who may not make much of an impact this season, but who should prove to be important for many years to come.

Then, on defense, you’re looking at:

  • Michael Bennett (DE/DT)
  • Cliff Avril (DE)
  • Brandon Mebane (NT)
  • Tony McDaniel (DT/DE)
  • Bobby Wagner (MLB)
  • K.J. Wright (OLB)
  • Bruce Irvin (OLB
  • Malcolm Smith (OLB)
  • Richard Sherman (CB)
  • Earl Thomas (FS)
  • Kam Chancellor (SS)
  • Byron Maxwell (CB)

I’d still put that defense up against any other defense in the NFL.  Depth will be an issue, but depth is an issue pretty much everywhere, every year.  This is still a Top 5 defense unless we just get absolutely crushed with injuries.

***

Now, it’s time for my favorite part of any preview post:  predicting the schedule results.

Week 1, vs. Green Bay, 5:30pm (Thursday Game)

I go back and forth on this one.  Like, 85% of me believes this will be a comfortable Seahawks victory.  14% of me believes this will be a nailbiter of a Seahawks victory.  And, that last 1% seems to think that Green Bay can come in here, withstand all the craziness, and pull off a huge upset.

Are you kidding?  A week’s worth of build-up.  The city shutting down large areas of SoDo and Pioneer Square.  A pre-game concert.  THE UNVEILING OF THE CHAMPIONSHIP BANNER!  All of that alone would be enough to have the loudest 12th Man presence in the history of the world, but I expect there to be a hidden edge to this game.  The NFL cursed us with this game being the only home game played at night.  They’d have you believe that’s just the way it shook out, but I’m CONVINCED it’s because we keep crushing our opponents whenever we have a night game at home, and they’re tired of televising blowouts.  With this being our only chance to shine on a national stage (unless we somehow have one of our late-season games flexed), I think the 12th Man is going to take it to another level.  Look for this to be somewhere in the range of 38-17, Seahawks.

Week 2, at San Diego, 1:05pm

The schedule this year will be famous for the difficult first three games and the difficult final five games.  This has “Trap Game” written all over it.  Hangover from our season-opening win, combined with a rematch of the Super Bowl NEXT week back at home.  Considering the Chargers should be plenty good this year, I’m not calling this one a walk-over by any stretch.  In fact, I could see this being pretty high-scoring.  In the end, I think the Seahawks are able to do just enough to pull out a 33-30 victory.

Week 3, vs. Denver, 1:25pm

No chance.  No way, no how we lose this game.  I do think we’re looking at a closer contest, but that’s only because I think the Broncos’ defense has improved enough to warrant it.  Losing Wes Welker to suspension certainly hurts the Broncos.  Indeed, I think they’ll try to lean on their running game like they did in the pre-season.  How our defense responds will be key.  The Seahawks still win, but we’re looking at a 24-20 type game.

Week 4 – BYE

Bullshit.  Complete and utter bullshit.  I would’ve rather had the alternate NFL schedule that put the Seahawks on the road for three straight weeks over having a BYE in September.  For the record, NO team should have a BYE week in September.  They should all be clustered in late October and early November, to make it fair for everyone.  Either that, or break down and give every team two BYE weeks per year, because this shit is ridiculous.

Week 5, at Washington, 5:30pm (Monday Night)

If the NFL didn’t want to televise blowout Seahawks victories, they probably shouldn’t have put this game on the schedule.  Indeed, there appears to be a lot of dogs when it comes to the Monday Night slate this year; don’t know how that worked itself out, but I’d be pissed if I ran ESPN.  The Redskins don’t have a defense that can anywhere REMOTELY hang with our speed.  44-10, Seahawks victory.

Week 6, vs. Dallas, 1:25pm

This game is my wet dream.  A pass-first offense without a bona fide slot receiver and a shaky quarterback who takes too many chances?  If Richard Sherman doesn’t get his hands on at least 8 balls (interceptions, tips, etc.), I’ll be shocked.  35-17 Seahawks (and that’s only because it’s going to be 28-3 at halftime and we end up running out the clock in the second half; we could probably drop 50 on them if we tried for the full game).

Week 7, at St. Louis, 10am

The League did do us one favor with the schedule:  we’ve only got three 10am starts this year.  This is the first one.  No Sam Bradford, no win for the Rams.  Last year, we were lucky to come away from this game with a victory, needing a last-second goalline stop to preserve it.  This year, I’m expecting more of an easier go.  We’re not going to be perfect; they do still have a solid defensive line.  But, 27-13 is in order.

Week 8, at Carolina, 10am

Back to back road games starting at 10am Pacific time.  I’m already on record as saying that I think Carolina is going to struggle mightily this year.  But, this is still a road game on the East Coast, so a victory won’t come easy.  I’m looking at something like 19-9, with a LOT of field goals.  Seahawks improve to 7-0.

Week 9, vs. Oakland, 1:25pm

I like catching Oakland here.  Derek Carr will have had some bumps in the road by now, so his confidence will likely be shaken.  Their veterans on defense will be wearing down and/or injured by this point.  I’m expecting an easy victory, if maybe a sloppy one.  Still, we should take it going way, 27-6.

Week 10, vs. NY Giants, 1:25pm

Give me Eli, give me a nothing defense, and give me no weapons on offense.  Is it possible to shut out a team in back-to-back years?  I think so!  44-0, Seahawks.

Week 11, at Kansas City, 10am

Final morning game.  Kansas City is sure to come back to Earth this year, as their defense is worse and they still did nothing to improve the offense around Jamaal Charles.  Nevertheless, I got a feeling this one will be closer.  I’m looking at a 34-28 victory for the Seahawks.

Week 12, vs. Arizona, 1:05pm

There will be no repeat of last year’s fluke Cardinals victory in Seattle.  The defense is remarkably worse and Carson Palmer is remarkably a year older.  I’m sensing a 33-7 Seahawks victory.

Week 13, at San Francisco, 5:30pm (Thanksgiving)

The Seahawks will be the talk of the nation coming into this game, as their 11-0 record is the best in football.  However, their relatively tame schedule to this point (highlighted by poor seasons out of the teams they’ve played in recent weeks) will give pundits cause for concern:  is this team really as good as their record?

It will be at this point that I will give just about anything to steal a win in Santa Clara.  EVERY YEAR I keep thinking:  this will be the time.  And every year, the 49ers end up finding a way to pull it out.  I can’t remember the last time we won down there, but I’m sure it was the best day of my life.

Unfortunately, this year will be no different (prove me wrong, Seahawks!), as the underwhelming 49ers find a way to pull it out.  I’m thinking 28-24, Seahawks lose to go to 11-1.

Week 14, at Philadelphia, 1:25pm

Many pundits are eyeballing this as a defeat for the Seahawks.  The Eagles were pretty good last year; their offense is and was on point.  Could be looking at another Trap Game, as this one is sandwiched between the two games against the 49ers on our regular season schedule.

I don’t see it, though.  I think the Seahawks’ offense is the story of this game.  I’m looking at something around 44-34, Seahawks win.

Week 15, vs. San Francisco, 1:25pm

And here is the game where we kill the 49ers, like we do every time they come to town.  Nothing fancy, just making Kaepernick our bitch.  31-13, Seahawks.

Week 16, at Arizona, 5:30pm (Sunday Night)

By this point, I’m expecting to see the Cardinals in full give-up mode.  Carson Palmer will be either benched or injured, and their backup will be some lame-ass.  Their defense will still be terrible and the Seahawks will roll, 38-10.

Week 17, vs. St. Louis, 1:25pm

At this point, we’ll be 14-1 and we will have wrapped up home field advantage.  So, it’ll come down to a couple things:  how long will our starters play in this game, and how well will our backups hold the fort?

For the record, I DO think our starters will get at least some play.  My guess is, anywhere from 1 to 2 quarters.  Yes, Seahawks fans will lose their God damn minds (as, again, the Rams have the best defensive line in football, and the last thing we need is for Russell Wilson to take unnecessary hits).  I don’t think we’ll be necessarily all that sharp though.

In the end, the backups come in and they’ll get pushed around a little bit.  The Rams will make a late-game comeback, and the Seahawks will lose.  Something like 24-17.

The Seahawks will be 14-2, and in spite of the final-week defeat, will be on fire as a football team heading into the playoffs.  I think ultimately the schedule will prove to be easier than last year’s, as a lot of the teams we THINK will be good are ultimately not.  I think the 49ers start to decline, even though they’ve got enough talent to still be pretty okay.  In the end, I think the Seahawks are just too good.  They’re too talented, they’re strong at every position group, and they’ll have enough depth to push through and overcome any injuries in their way (except for the quarterback position, of course).

Yes, repeating as world champions is one of the most difficult things to do.  Hell, just winning ONE championship is one of the most difficult things to do!  But, we’re in a once-in-a-lifetime window here where the Seahawks are the best team in football.  Now, it’s time to go out and show the world just how great we truly are.

Seahawks Trample Chargers In Second Pre-Season Game

For starters, the offensive line looked MUCH better, especially running the ball, as the Seahawks piled up 243 yards on 37 carries.  Granted, 99 of that was from the quarterback position, but still, they were consistently producing wide-open holes for everyone to run through.  You can see it clear as day that James Carpenter is a completely different animal out there.  He came into camp in excellent shape, which I feel a lot of people are attributing to his being in a contract year.  But, what gets glossed over is the fact that this is the first off-season where he’s been predominantly healthy.  Instead of rehabbing a knee or something, he’s had a chance to get his body right and it looks like he’s readying a big step forward.  The question with him will always be:  can he STAY healthy?  But, as long as he does, this offensive line is going to benefit quite a bit.

J.R. Sweezy also looks like he’s going to take another step forward.  He might have been the best player on the field on Friday as he was punishing fools.  Okung and Unger were still out, as a precaution, but we didn’t appear to suffer for it.  This unit will only get that much better in the regular season when they’re ready to go.  Lastly, Justin Britt appeared to improve, but it was by no means a perfect night for him.  It’ll be interesting to see if he can continue this upward trajectory in the next couple games.

Russell Wilson was legit in control of this game from the get-go.  He was nearly flawless in his decision-making and execution.

Marshawn Lynch started, but hardly played, and didn’t get a carry.  Robert Turbin more than picked up the slack, as he looked like a beast with that stiff-arm on his 47-yard rumble.  The Seahawks might have to worry about depth at certain positions, but running back appears to be hands down the deepest spot on this team.

Percy Harvin gave us yet another glimpse into how this offense is going to function with him on the field.  He caught 4 passes for 31 yards, but he was also single-handedly responsible for Zach Miller being WIDE OPEN down the middle of the field for his 37 yard catch down to the goalline.  The safety was clearly cheating to Harvin’s side as he lined up out wide, and that was all Miller needed as he ran past the linebackers in the middle for nothing but green grass ahead.

Defensively, the first unit looked good, as San Diego didn’t end up scoring until late in the second quarter, after the Seahawks had already raced out to a 24-0 lead.  Hard to say how much of that was us being in sync (in spite of a number of starters not suiting up, including Bennett, Wagner, Smith, and Chancellor), or how much of it was Rivers only playing a single series.  San Diego certainly didn’t put a lot into this game, compared to the Seahawks who saw Russell Wilson playing late into the second quarter, running a hurry-up style offense that led to a touchdown with four minutes to go.

O’Brien Schofield looked particularly dominating as he battles Benson Mayowa for the final defensive end spot.  Going into the pre-season, you had to give Mayowa the advantage, considering he’s got more team control, while Schofield is on a 1-year deal.  However, it’s pretty apparent in the early going that Schofield is the better player right now, and looks to be someone who could make an impact in a rotation with Avril and Co.

Tharold Simon had a 105-yard interception return for a touchdown called back due to a bogus illegal contact penalty.  The refs are REALLY going to need to pull their heads out of their asses when the regular season starts.  Otherwise, you’re going to see nothing but wide receivers running right into defenders and getting these lame-ass calls on every play.

Hard to say if we learned much more about this team or the upcoming season in this game.  We’ll play San Diego again in week two on the road, and that will certainly be a different game.  Still, the Seahawks are going to be absolutely unstoppable at home this year, you can take that to the bank.  Also, against any teams that might not be so good – I’m looking at you, Oakland, New York, Dallas, and probably Washington – we should expect routs just like this.

Next week, we play against Chicago, again at CenturyLink.  I’ll be gone, camping with the family, but I would expect more of the same in that game as well:  a dominating Seahawks romp.

Part 1, Defense – Which Seahawks Players Can Get Even Better?

Coming into a season, analysts look at a variety of factors to determine whether a team is going to be good or not (or improved or not).  They look at which players leave for other teams (or retirement), they look at which players are brought in (either via trade, free agency, or draft), they look at the strength of schedule and that of the teams in their division, they look at the injury situation and the potential injury situation based on player histories, and they look at which players are over the hill and due to start their slide into mediocrity.

There’s one aspect that’s often overlooked:  which players are still at the point in their careers where they’re getting better?

All too often, we look at rookies – whether good or bad – and think we’re looking at those players as they’ll be for the rest of their careers.  But, no one enters the league as a finished product.  Yes, some flame out, but even the really good ones still have room for improvement.

Take Golden Tate, for instance.  He didn’t really get a handle on all the intricacies of the wide receiver position until his third year in the league.  On the downside, that meant we only had two good years with Golden Tate before he left for richer pastures.  But, on the upside, it means there’s still hope for players who haven’t done a whole lot yet in their careers.

Secondary

How long did it take Byron Maxwell before he was able to make an impact on the Seahawks outside of special teams?  Try a little over 2.5 years.  He was one of our most important players when he was thrust into the starting cornerback spot across from Richard Sherman; now he’s entering a contract year where he could get even BETTER.  You have to think Maxwell has dollar signs in his eyes after seeing the deals Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman got this past offseason.  Granted, it probably won’t be with the Seahawks – as who can afford to pay four studs in one secondary? – but at least we’ll have this last year of greatness before he moves on.

In keeping with this section of the team, what about Jeremy Lane?  He was taken late in the 2012 draft, so we’ve got two more years of his services.  He’s always been a special teams standout, but this year he’s going to get his first real shot at the nickel cornerback spot.  He had some time in that position late last season and seemed to do all right.  If he manages to take a step forward and help us all forget about Walter Thurmond, it could be a boon for an already-outstanding secondary.

I’d also like to shine some light on Tharold Simon.  He spent the entirety of his rookie season injured last year.  In the spring camps, he apparently looked really good.  No one is expecting him to start, or take over anyone else’s job in 2014, but it’s nice knowing we’ve got some quality depth.  As mentioned before, we lost Thurmond.  We also lost Browner.  Maxwell took over that job, but he’ll be gone after this year.  If Simon can keep our momentum going in the secondary, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t have the best secondary in the league for many years to come.

Now, before I move on, I’ll talk briefly about the rest of the L.O.B.  Normally, when people write about the Legion, these are the first names they talk about.  But, when you’re talking about players improving, it’s hard to see a lot of room for improvement in guys like Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, and Richard Sherman.  Nevertheless, I think all three of these players have another gear in them.  This is the fun part about having such a young team – even the All Pros have room to grow!  Earl Thomas, before all is said and done, will win a Defensive MVP award.  Chancellor – already an enforcer – can still be a better all-around safety.  And, at this point, I have to imagine the only way Richard Sherman can get better is to completely eliminate the number of attempts to his side of the field.  I didn’t say there was a TON of improvement in these guys, but what if they’re able to squeeze just a little bit more?

Linebackers

I’ve heard people talking about K.J. Wright taking it up another notch, but I have my doubts.  I’ll be the first one to admit, however, that I know very little about the linebacking position outside of:  tackle the guy with the football.  I think Malcolm Smith is probably at the height of his powers.  I still like him as our weakside linebacker, and think he’s a quality playmaker on the outside, but I don’t see a lot of room for growth.  He’ll probably parlay his Super Bowl MVP (and whatever he does for us in 2014) into a nice little long-term deal with another team.  Like I’ve said many times:  you can’t keep everyone.

Bobby Wagner looks like he’s got another level in him, however.  I expect GREAT things in his third year as a starting middle linebacker.  I think 2014 is the year he finally gets his due as a Pro Bowler in a very tough conference for linebackers.  Also, keep an eye on Korey Toomer.  Along with Simon, Toomer was singled out as having an amazing spring camp.  He’s always had the athleticism and the speed, but he hasn’t been able to stay healthy.  This year, he could be a real terror on special teams (perhaps helping us ease the blow of inevitably waiving Heath Farwell to save some money on our cap).

Bruce Irvin is one of the biggest question marks on the team.  Yes, he certainly has ROOM to improve, but is it safe to EXPECT improvement?  If he does reach his full potential, he could be a wrecking ball on opposing quarterbacks.  Suffice it to say, I’ll be watching him closely in pre-season games, to see how he’s used, and to see how he bounces back from his hip surgery.  Obviously, if that hip is giving him problems, I won’t be watching him at all in pre-season games, so let’s hope that’s not the case.

Finally, a couple more under-the-radar fellas.  Mike Morgan will be entering his fourth season with the Seahawks.  He has primarily been a little-used depth guy and a full-time special teamer.  I never really had a lot of expectations out of him – especially when Malcolm Smith passed him on the depth chart – so it’ll be interesting if he’s even able to hold down a spot on this team in 2014.  The Seahawks just drafted Kevin Pierre-Louis, who looks like an absolute freak of nature.  The safe bets on this team are:  Wagner, Wright, Smith, and Irvin.  The bubble guys are:  Toomer, Morgan, Farwell, and KPL (among lesser-known guys).  You can forget about stashing KPL on the practice squad, as that’s just a non-starter.  Not only will he get snapped up by another team immediately, but putting him on there would actively reduce the talent level of this team’s special teams.  Morgan is in the fight of his life right now with those other bubble guys.  I’ve heard good things about his spring as well, so it’ll be interesting to see who shakes out.  Obviously, injuries would settle this thing real quick, but that’s neither here nor there.

Defensive Line

Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril are veterans.  They’re as good as they’re going to be.  You could see incremental improvements (particularly with Avril, who is going into a contract season), but I wouldn’t expect huge steps forward.  Same goes for Mebane, McDaniel, and recently-acquired Kevin Williams.  You’d be safer in assuming that these three tackles are closer to getting worse than they are getting better.  You just hope they have another year in the tank.

The room for improvement is ALL dedicated to the very young and unproven.  Jordan Hill, Jesse Williams, Benson Mayowa – none of whom played all that much at all in their rookie years.  Greg Scruggs, who was okay in his rookie year, but was injured all of last year.  He has apparently been spending all of his free time bulking up and becoming more beastly, so I’ll be VERY interested to see how he looks, and if he’s ready for a tough rotation.  Then, we’ve got the rookies:  Jackson Jeffcoat, Cassius Marsh, and Jimmy Staten (among others, presumably).  Hard to expect much out of any of these three, unless we’re decimated by injuries and they’re thrust into more minutes.

Very volatile group, this defensive line.  We’ve got enough sure things (so long as they stay healthy) to be able to maintain at least a high percentage of our effectiveness of last year, and a good number of wild cards who will duke it out in Training Camp and the pre-season, to see if we can somehow BEST last year.

In any given year, THAT’S what I’m most looking forward to when it comes to this time of the football season.  Tomorrow, I’ll look at the offense.