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.

Filling The Gaps On The Seahawks’ Roster

For starters, this isn’t going to be the most comprehensive thing you’ve ever read in your lives.  I’m not getting into the 90-man roster so much as the 53-ish man roster.

When I list the “2013 Roster”, I’m talking about the 53-man roster we had for the Super Bowl, with a small handful of extras tacked on who made a somewhat big impact in the 2013 season.  That having been said, let’s take a look at where we are and where we were.

I more-or-less already got into this subject a few weeks ago, but I thought I’d make it a little more visual-friendly (for my own sake, if nothing else).  In essence, this is another call to Seahawks fans out there that this offseason hasn’t been as devastating as it seems.

2013 2014
Def Line Michael Bennett Michael Bennett
Cliff Avril Cliff Avril
Brandon Mebane Brandon Mebane
Chris Clemons
Red Bryant (Jesse Williams)
Tony McDaniel Tony McDaniel
Clinton McDonald (Greg Scruggs)
O’Brien Schofield
Jordan Hill Jordan Hill
Benson Mayowa Benson Mayowa

As you can see, there aren’t a crazy amount of holes here.  Red Bryant’s spot will most likely be filled by Michael Bennett, with a little help coming from Jesse Williams (if he’s recovered from his IR stint as a rookie in 2013), Greg Scruggs (who also found himself on the IR, though has bulked up considerably in anticipation of his return to the playing field), or a rookie/someone from off the scrap heap.  I’m not TOO worried about replacing Red Bryant, because I believe Michael Bennett is a capable run defender, and other big bodies aren’t all that difficult to come by.

Also, I would anticipate Jordan Hill to improve and earn MUCH more playing time in 2014.  He saw almost no action as a rookie in 2013, but with these holes in the line (specifically the Clinton McDonald-sized hole in our D-Tackle rotation), I expect Hill to pick up the slack admirably.

The real thing to worry about is finding that third pass rusher.  I’m not so worried about the O’Brien Schofield spot, as that could be literally anybody at this point.  But, who will replace Chris Clemons?  That’s the most important question of the off-season, if you ask me.  We carried Benson Mayowa for the entirety of 2013; you’d have to think he’s learned all he could and is ready to apply that knowledge.  Mayowa had an impressive pre-season last year; let’s hope he carries that over.  If not, I fully expect the Seahawks to hit the draft for a pass rusher, as well as hit HARD the free agent scrap heap as the season approaches and teams have to cut their rosters down to 53.

2013 2014
Linebackers Bobby Wagner Bobby Wagner
K.J. Wright K.J. Wright
Bruce Irvin Bruce Irvin
Malcolm Smith Malcolm Smith
Heath Farwell Heath Farwell
Mike Morgan Mike Morgan

As you can see, we’ve got everybody back from this position group.  That doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to keep it EXACTLY the same.  My hunch is:  the top four guys come back, and the team pushes HARD for the final two spots to be rookies, or otherwise cheaper replacements.  Maybe not so much Mike Morgan, but certainly Farwell, whose cap number is around $1.67 Million.  For a guy who only plays special teams (albeit, really fucking well), that’s kind of a high number.  And, aside from that, you gotta figure this team will want to groom at least one future starter at this position, as it won’t be able to pay Wagner, Wright, AND Smith the type of money they’d command on an open market.  I don’t see Farwell or Morgan as a starter type, so their jobs are probably in jeopardy.

2013 2014
Secondary Earl Thomas Earl Thomas
Kam Chancellor Kam Chancellor
Richard Sherman Richard Sherman
Byron Maxwell Byron Maxwell
Brandon Browner (Tharold Simon)
Walter Thurmond (Phillip Adams)
Jeremy Lane Jeremy Lane
Chris Maragos
DeShawn Shead DeShawn Shead
Jeron Johnson Jeron Johnson

As you can see, there aren’t any holes where it counts!  The Legion of Boom (Byron Maxwell Edition) is entirely intact.  We lost Browner, but we lost Browner last year too.  We also lost Thurmond, but you figure that Jeremy Lane (who returns) is still here and did just as well, in my book anyway.  Tharold Simon was a draft pick last year who spent 2013 on the IR.  He COULD be a Browner replacement/depth guy, but that all depends on how seriously he takes his job and how much he’s grown as a player since his lost rookie season.  I’d expect the team to look to the draft for one or two secondary guys.  We lost reserve safety (and special teams whiz) Chris Maragos, but DeShawn Shead and Jeron Johnson both return.  Phillip Adams was also re-signed by the Seahawks this offseason, so at least for 2014 we’ve got another experienced body to play on the inside.

2013 2014
Quarterbacks Russell Wilson Russell Wilson
Tarvaris Jackson Tarvaris Jackson
Terrelle Pryor

As you can see, we’re solid at quarterback.

2013 2014
Kicker Steven Hauschka Steven Hauschka
Punter Jon Ryan Jon Ryan
Long Snapper Clint Gresham Clint Gresham

As you can see, we’re solid at kicker, punter, and long snapper.

2013 2014
Receivers Percy Harvin Percy Harvin
Golden Tate
Doug Baldwin Doug Baldwin
Jermaine Kearse Jermaine Kearse
Sidney Rice Sidney Rice
Ricardo Lockette Ricardo Lockette
Bryan Walters Bryan Walters

As you can see, we’ve got just a Golden Tate-sized hole in our receivers unit.  Of course, one could argue that since Harvin only appeared in three games last year, it’s kinda like we replaced Tate with Harvin going into 2014.  Nevertheless, I fully expect a wide receiver to be drafted (and probably pretty high), and I expect a fierce battle among the undrafted free agents and other younger guys already on this roster.  In short, I expect Lockette and Walters to be replaced by two guys not even on our radar right now.  Also, I don’t expect this team to hold onto seven receivers, so disregard the table in that respect.

2013 2014
Backs Marshawn Lynch Marshawn Lynch
Robert Turbin Robert Turbin
Christine Michael Christine Michael
Michael Robinson
Derrick Coleman Derrick Coleman
Spencer Ware Spencer Ware

As you can see, our running backs are intact.  Michael Robinson is always an option, but probably won’t make the opening day roster unless there are some injuries we’re dealing with.  Expect Lynch, Turbin, Michael, & Coleman to be locks to make the roster.  Ware will probably have to win a job (doesn’t help his cause that he had that DUI last year).  There’s maybe an outside chance that the team trades Turbin for a low-end draft pick, but that’s only if the team is confident in Michael’s ability to block for the quarterback.

2013 2014
Tight Ends Zach Miller Zach Miller
Luke Willson Luke Willson
Kellen Davis (Anthony McCoy)

As you can see, we’re good at tight end.  Anthony McCoy re-signed after being on IR all of last year.  If he’s healthy, he’s a pretty sure bet to be this team’s third tight end and REALLY give us some versatility.  McCoy is probably a better blocking tight end than Willson, and he’ll give us some better hands in the passing game than Kellen Davis.

2013 2014
Off Line Max Unger Max Unger
Russell Okung Russell Okung
J.R. Sweezy J.R. Sweezy
Breno Giacomini
James Carpenter James Carpenter
Paul McQuistan
Lemuel Jeanpierre Lemuel Jeanpierre
Michael Bowie Michael Bowie
Alvin Bailey Alvin Bailey
Caylin Hauptmann Caylin Hauptmann

As you can see, just a tiny bit of work to do along the offensive line.  Max Unger, Russell Okung, and J.R. Sweezy have all locked down their respective spots (Center, Left Tackle, Right Guard).  Left guard is still up for grabs, but James Carpenter probably has the early lead in that battle.  Right tackle will be brand new, and maybe Michael Bowie or Alvin Bailey wins that job.  Maybe one of them wins the left guard job.  Maybe this Caylin Hauptmann guy who was on the roster for most (if not all) of 2013 will shock the world and steal a spot somewhere.  Regardless, I like our line, and I like our depth.  By my count, I’ve got 6-7 guys in that roster who can start for me and not give me any gray hairs

So, when you look at it, there’s not a lot of places where we have to plug guys in.  Depth might be a little bit of an issue, but that’s what’s going to make this training camp and pre-season so interesting.  Who’s going to fill out in the back-end of the secondary and offensive line?  Who’s going to assume that third pass-rusher role?  With new, bigtime deals for Sherman and Thomas (presumably), one would figure that their roles in special teams will go away; who picks up that slack?

I’ve got, in my head, somewhere around 44-46 players listed above who are locks to make this team (and another handful that are on the bubble).  That means there could be upwards of 7-9 guys on the 2014 opening-day 53-man roster that we’ve never heard of!  On a Super Bowl champion, no less!

Again, these are merely depth positions, but who knows?  You could be talking about the next stars on this team starting with 2015 and beyond.

It’s exciting to be a Seahawks fan right now.  It helps that we’re coming off of a championship, but still.

Should I Double-Down On The Seahawks Winning The Super Bowl?

I’m sort of what you would call “Bad With Money”.  As a single man, living in a reasonably-priced apartment, no car payment, still on a family plan for my cell phone, without much in the way of expensive hobbies or any sort of sexual allure with the ladies, I tend to have money to burn.  And burn it I shall!  I like eating out, going to bars with friends, going on weekend trips out of state, long walks on moonlit beaches, cuddling by the fire with a big bowl of popcorn and a romantic comedy on the TV (is this working yet?  I will accept nearly any request for dates) …

Anyway, where was I?  Oh yeah, “Bad With Money”.  I spent almost all of my 20s in massive credit card debt, to the point where – after extensive road trips, moving to NYC, and an endless run of music festivals – I had to move back home for a couple years just to get my finances in order.  At this point, I’ve made it my vow to stay out of debt if humanly possible.  But, that doesn’t mean I’m sitting here shovelling money into my savings account or anything.  Aside from my healthy 401K and retirement plan (which, Satan-willing, will allow me to retire just 10 years after I’ve died from colon cancer), I make money and I spend money.  It’s a blessing and a curse, because you only live once, right?  YOLO YOU MOTHERFUCKERS YOLO!!!

One part of being “Bad With Money” is being Impulsive With Money.  I tend to buy a lot of shit I don’t need.  It’s stupid.  Just last weekend, I spent over $100 on compact discs so I can have something to listen to on my drives to and from Tacoma (where my family lives and where I visit them on occasion).  $100 isn’t going to put me in the red or anything, but it’s just stupid, you know?  Stupid shit like that.

I tend to get even stupider when you put me inside of a casino.  I’m not much of a gambler, because I have self-diagnosed adult-onset A.D.D.  It’s boring to me to just sit there slowly losing money for hours on end.  Not only that, but it’s fucking stressful!  I feel great if I can just leave a blackjack table with as much money as I started with; but if I start losing, I start playing shitty, making bigger and bigger bets, until I’ve lost what I came with in a matter of minutes.  I can’t just sit there, roll with the ebbs & flows, and work the game until I get my money back.  If I start losing, I have to get it all back RIGHT NOW, or I don’t feel comfortable.  As such, I tend to avoid these games.  Let my friends play them while I stand there and watch.  Or, let my friends play them while I wander around looking for something else to do.

My game is roulette, but again, I don’t play roulette like others play roulette.  As I said before, I can’t be bothered to sit there for hours on end, spreading my chips around.  Instead, I like to make big bets, on black.  And when I say “big bets”, I mean AH big bet.  And when I say “big”, I mean $500.  On black.  I win, I walk away.  I lose, I walk away.  It’s the ultimate high, and it lasts about 15 seconds (just like my sex life … HI-YO!).

Just my writing about this is probably going to jinx the fuck out of my trip to Tahoe next week, but I will admit:  I somehow find a way to win more than I lose.  The odds are a tad under 50/50, but I think only once have I come away from a casino having lost my shirt.  I tend to play it smart:  carry all the cash I plan on gambling, leave the ATM card at home.  Last year in Tahoe, I think I walked away up somewhere around $1,500-$2,000 richer, just by making a few big bets on roulette.  I gave some of that back in drinks, and black jack, and slots, and sports gambling, but I still made it back home with more money than I left with.

I also made it back with a ticket on the Seahawks to win the Super Bowl.  $100, at 7-to-1 odds.  This time next week, I’m going to take that ticket to the sportsbook where I purchased it and I’m going to collect $800.  And, if you couldn’t tell where this is going, I’m going to ask it again:  should I let it ride on the Seahawks?

Since I’m “Bad With Money”, I’m legitimately considering this.  I highly doubt I’m looking at 7-to-1 odds again, but I might get something like 4-to-1 odds.  $800 with that kind of action would win me $3,200.  Now, I’m not trying to make it a habit of throwing away $800, so I wouldn’t even consider it if I didn’t think I had a pretty good chance of winning.  At this point, I have to ask myself:  do I feel lucky?

This time last year, I was more confident than I’ve ever been in the Seahawks winning the Super Bowl.  I was so confident, I honestly don’t know why I didn’t bet MORE than $100 with those 7-to-1 odds (especially considering the killing I’d made on roulette that weekend).  Because at this time last year, the Seahawks were returning damn near everyone from a dominant 2012 team that had come OH SO CLOSE to the NFC Championship Game.  It was a foregone conclusion.  Beef up the defensive line (which we did, by signing Bennett and Avril), get some help for our receivers (which we did, by trading for Harvin), and we’d be good to go.  More importantly, we didn’t lose ANYONE who was important in our 2012 run.  That was key.  Right down to Heath Fucking Farwell and Michael Robinson (eventually, getting him back mid-season after his mystery illness).

This year, while I still consider the Seahawks as favorites, you can’t deny that we’re missing some key guys.  Golden Tate, Red Bryant, Clinton McDonald, Breno Giacomini, Walter Thurmond, Brandon Browner, Chris Clemons, Chris Maragos.  These are starters and depth guys.  Whereas last year, we had the best talent and the best depth in the league, now we’ve got some real question marks.

Our depth along the D-Line has been wounded to say the least.  The team (probably wisely) is avoiding any major splashes for veteran free agents, instead scouring the wire looking for bargains (because we’ve got bigger fish to fry with Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman).  We’re down a couple of receivers (not to mention a punt returner), unless the team brings Sidney Rice back on a small, prove-it deal.  All of our depth at cornerback is thrust to the fore with Maxwell starting and Lane as our primary nickel corner.  Behind them, we’ve got … nothing.  And, I know we kind of like Bowie and Bailey, but are they capable starters along our O-Line?

The Seahawks didn’t get a whole lot out of last year’s draft because they didn’t NEED to get a whole lot out of last year’s draft.  This year, it’s different.  This year is HUGE.  This year will go a long way in determining if whether this is truly a dynasty, or just a couple/few years of dominance.  This draft needs to produce future starters and key depth pieces.  The time is now; we’ve got to find cheap talent as our stars start getting motherfucking PAID.

All of this is enough to give me pause.  Then, I see what the other teams around us are doing.  Teams in our division getting better.  Teams in the NFC South getting better.  The Eagles bulking up their offense.  The Lions bulking up THEIR offense.  The Patriots and Broncos in an arms race over in the AFC.  The rich are getting richer in a way that you just don’t see very often in the NFL (the rich tend to get richer in the NBA or MLB more often), thanks to the salary cap bump for all teams.

We all know how difficult it is to repeat as champs.  It almost NEVER happens.  If ever there was a team that could do it, you’d think the Seahawks would be th at team, but I dunno.  The NFC is STACKED.  This isn’t like back in the day when the Cowboys could hack through the NFC like warm butter before beating up on the Bills in the Super Bowl.  There are five or six other legitimate contenders in the NFC, with another small handful that could surprise.

That’s enough doubt to play it straight, accept my $800, and blow it some other way (I’ve always wanted to learn how to play craps).

But, then I get to thinking:  why CAN’T the Seahawks win it all?

Let’s get into this.  Everyone is SO FUCKING FREAKED OUT about all the guys we’re losing.  But, you know what?  Who have we lost, really?  I’d say, we lost three guys:  Tate, Bryant, and Clemons.  The rest of them were backups or were beat out by better players.  So, why don’t we focus on who’s still here?

Russell Wilson, for starters.  With Tarvaris Jackson as his backup just in case.  I’d say the depth and talent at the quarterback position is championship calibre.

Marshawn Lynch.  With Turbin and Christine Michael as his backups.  Lynch still has what it takes to play at a high level.  And, if he gets hurt or starts to fall off, we’ve got the crazy-talent of Michael to step up to the streets.

Percy Harvin.  With Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse.  And some other fringe roster guys to battle it out.  And a whole draft full of guys who could step up and be the next Golden Tate.  And who knows?  Maybe Sidney Rice comes back and wins a job.

Okung, Unger, Sweezy.  These three guys have been your starting left tackle, center, and right guard for the better part of the last two years.  We’ve also got the aforementioned Bowie & Bailey who looked solid, as well as James Carpenter, who has a lot of starting experience.  And, most importantly, we have Tom Cable.  I’m not worried about right tackle or the guard spots in the least.

Zach Miller.  With Luke Willson and Anthony McCoy.  Maybe the Seahawks go out and get another tight end in free agency, maybe they select one high in the draft.  Or, maybe we just stick with Zach Miller because he’s awesome.

Aside from Tate, we’re really not missing much of a beat on offense in 2014.  Tate can be replaced.  Look for Kearse to keep making an impact.  And, if we sign a Jermichael Finley, then we’ve just upgraded at a position that hasn’t been known to be all that offensively-minded around these parts.

On defense, we’ve got Mebane, Bennett, Avril, McDaniel and Jordan Hill.  I know Hill didn’t play much, but I would argue that’s because the guys ahead of him were lights out.  Hill has talent.  I have faith he’ll be around here and producing for a long time.  Also, we kept Benson Mayowa around for a reason:  he’s got some pass-rushing chops.  With a year in our system, he could really take a big step forward in Training Camp and earn himself some playing time.  AND, don’t forget Greg Scruggs.  He got some snaps in as a rookie.  I know he missed all of last year due to injury, but by all accounts he’s been working his ass off to get back into playing shape.  I would expect he makes a big impact this year.  We’ve got other depth type guys, as well as the draft, as well as any gems we’re able to pluck from free agency.  I think we’ll be fine.

As for our linebackers, we will have EVERYBODY BACK.  Well, everybody who matters anyway:  Wagner, Wright, Smith, and Irvin.  Heath Farwell will probably be a casualty, but then again, maybe not?  This team values special teams like no other, and he’s the king of special teams for the Seahawks.  We managed to keep him last year, I don’t see why we don’t try to keep him again.

And, in the secondary, we have a full Legion of Boom:  Sherman, Thomas, Chancellor, and Maxwell.  With a rock-solid Lane as our nickel corner.  Nobody likes losing Maragos (who was another special teams standout and backup safety), but we’ve got Shead who had some playing time last year as a capable backup.  Jeron Johnson is also a capable backup, if he can just stay healthy.  Beyond that, it’s a crapshoot.  Depth in the secondary is a REAL concern, especially if we’re talking about any extended injuries to our starters.  That having been said, I will counter with this:  these Seahawks coaches – if they know ANYTHING – know how to coach up the secondary.  Where have all of these guys come from?  The 4th & 5th & 6th rounds of the draft.  The CFL.  The scrap heap.  All of them (aside from Earl Thomas, a first rounder) would be considered diamonds in the rough who have made their mark because this coaching staff has worked its magic.

So, you see what I’m talking about, right?  This team is intact!  This team is solid!  And, as long as we don’t dick around with the kicker, we should be intact and solid from top to bottom.

I think I’m going to do it!  Yeah!  Well, how about this:  I’ll save my $800 ticket for a rainy day.  If I lose all the money I come down with in the first couple of nights, then I’ll cash the $800 and use it to have fun.  But, if I have somehow managed to not jinx myself and come away somewhat even by the time Saturday night rolls around, I’m going to take that ticket, I’m going to get a picture of me with my money (as it may be the last time I see it), and I’m going to turn around and put it BACK on the Seahawks to win it all!

Maybe I can just do this ever year.  Keep going to Tahoe in March, keep putting money on the Seahawks to win it all, and keep generating championship parades for the city of Seattle.  All the while increasing my next year’s Tahoe bankroll by leaps and bounds!

I Think The Seahawks Should Keep Red Bryant

Yes, I know it’s been less than a week since we put the pussy on the chainwax, but already you’re starting to see articles and posts looking forward to next year.  How can we keep the good times going!?

Well, we gotta work around that salary cap for starters.  We need to clear up some money for guys like Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, and Michael Bennett (and eventually Russell Wilson).  Those guys won’t come cheap, so we’ve really got our work cut out for us.

Fortunately, the easy moves are there.  Sidney Rice probably doesn’t need to come back.  That’s a healthy chunk of change.  And, based on his output (and how he was outplayed by guys like Bennett and Avril), Chris Clemons probably shouldn’t be making as much as he’s set to next year.  You cut both of those guys, and you’ve got a nice head start on keeping this team together without losing too much.  Rice missed half the season, and Clemons played like half of his usual self.  We can get by without those two and not skip a beat.

Now, by all means, you can’t just cut those two guys and expect to have enough money to bring back all of our free agents.  They are many, and for the most part, they’re due to get raises.  We’ll have to pick and choose who we want to bring back, and that will open up some more money to extend the superstars.

But, one name I’ve been reading about (and, to be honest, writing about) is Red Bryant.  His cap number peaks in 2014 at $8.5 million.  It drops to $7 million in 2015 and bumps back up to $8 million again in 2016.  That’s a lot of money.  If we were to cut him before his roster bonus comes due, we’d save $5.5 million in 2014 (not to mention his base salaries in 2015 and 2016).

Now, if you’re telling me it’s going to come down to:  you can either have Red Bryant or Earl Thomas, then fine, I’m going to pick Earl Thomas.  But, I have a hard time believing that we’ve painted ourselves into this corner so soon.  There HAS to be a way to keep both.

Obviously, if Red agrees to a restructured contract, then fine.  Everything will be hunky dory.  But, even if he doesn’t, we MUST find a way to keep him around.

Red is too important in our run-stopping game to just cut loose.  There is no one else on the roster who comes CLOSE to measuring up to the impact he has on this line.  And, I doubt we’d be able to find anyone on the free agent scrap heap either.  What it would come down to is drafting someone and hoping that either he or Jesse Williams can be productive enough and stay healthy enough to fill the man’s shoes.  I’m just not buying it.

Guys like Red Bryant, with his size and his strength and his passion don’t just fall out of the sky.  And when they do, they tend to arrive with knee problems that prematurely end their careers.  The very fact that Bryant has been as healthy has he’s been, and has played as long as he’s played, shows you that he’s a special type of football player.

Now, he may not have too many more healthy seasons left.  A body like that, playing the position he plays, doesn’t have the longest shelf life in this game.  But, I would ride this horse as far as he’ll take me.  Meanwhile, you try to draft with an eye towards replacing him once his legs go out, but you DON’T cut him when he’s still got good mileage left.

Regardless of what people might say, there IS a blueprint if you want to copy what the Seahawks do on defense.  I’m not saying it’s going to be easy for these other teams.  It’s like putting together a child’s swingset when the directions are all in Japanese (assuming, of course, the hypothetical person in this scenario can’t read Japanese).

It starts with the secondary.  You get some tall, athletic corners and put them on the outside.  You fill in your nickel corners with shorter, faster guys.  You get a speedy, tall linebacker and put him at strong safety, then you draft the best free safety in football.  With me so far?

Then, at linebacker, you go for a combination of height and speed, finding guys who can rush the passer just as well as they can cover the league’s best tight ends.

Finally, along the line, you rotate like a madman to keep everyone fresh and healthy all season.  Get yourself a big, beefy nose tackle, a do-everything defensive end, a do-everything defensive tackle, and a big bad man to play the other end.  That big bad man on the Seahawks, of course, is Red Bryant.  This particular line combination doesn’t get the best pass rush, but it shuts down the run like nobody’s business.  Then, behind them, you fill out with pass rushers at both the end and tackle positions.  Interchange them at will (and as the situation dictates).

The Seahawks really only have two BIG run-stuffing maulers along the defensive line:  Mebane & Bryant.  Clinton McDonald is more of a pass rush guy, Jordan Hill is still a little under-sized, and Mayowa and Schofield are both pass rush ends.  All we’ve got is Jesse Williams, who spent his entire rookie season on IR.

If you ask me, I’d rather retain Red Bryant – who absolutely BLEEDS Seahawks blue – than pick up some questionmark big man who’s never played 5-technique defensive end and try to insert him in there.

Your Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl XLVIII Roster

Assuming nothing changes between now and February 2nd, the following will be the 53 guys on the roster for The Big Game.

For the record, 32 of 53 were either drafted by the organization, or were undrafted rookie free agents.  They include the following:

  • Brandon Mebane – 2007 Draft
  • Red Bryant – 2008 Draft
  • Max Unger – 2009 Draft

2010 Draft

  • Russell Okung
  • Earl Thomas
  • Golden Tate
  • Walter Thurmond
  • Kam Chancellor

2011 Draft

  • James Carpenter
  • K.J. Wright
  • Richard Sherman
  • Byron Maxwell
  • Malcolm Smith
  • Doug Baldwin (undrafted)
  • Ricardo Lockette (undrafted)
  • Mike Morgan (undrafted)

2012 Draft

  • Bruce Irvin
  • Bobby Wagner
  • Russell Wilson
  • Robert Turbin
  • Jeremy Lane
  • J.R. Sweezy
  • Derrick Coleman (undrafted)
  • Jermaine Kearse (undrafted)
  • DeShawn Shead (undrafted)

2013 Draft

  • Christine Michael
  • Jordan Hill
  • Luke Willson
  • Michael Bowie
  • Alvin Bailey (undrafted)
  • Caylin Hauptmann (undrafted)
  • Benson Mayowa (undrafted)

Of course, this list doesn’t include guys on the Injured Reserve or P.U.P. lists.  This is just the 53 players eligible to play on Super Bowl Sunday.

By the way, would you look at that 2010 draft again?  Holy SHIT!  Three Pro Bowlers, a starting wide receiver, and your nickel cornerback.  In fact, if you look at those first three drafts by John Schneider and Pete Carroll, you’ve got 12 of your 22 starters (sometimes 13, depending on whether Carpenter gets the nod over McQuistan or Bowie), with guys like Thurmond, Smith, Lane, Kearse, and Turbin playing quality minutes.  Just amazing.

Of course, your three elder statesmen are Mebane, Bryant, and Unger, the only three draft picks the team has retained from the pre-Carroll/Schneider Era.

Next up, you’ve got your guys acquired in trade:

  • Chris Clemons (3/16/2010 – with a 4th round pick from Philly for Darryl Tapp)
  • Marshawn Lynch (10/5/2010 – from Buffalo for 4th round pick in 2011 & 5th round pick in 2012)
  • Clinton McDonald (8/29/2011 – from Cincinnati for Kelly Jennings)
  • Percy Harvin (3/11/2013 – from Minnesota for 1st & 7th round picks in 2013 & 3rd round pick in 2014)

Aside from the Harvin trade (which I contend the jury is still out on), I can’t tell which trade worked out best for the Seahawks.  In McDonald, we got a steady rotational inside presence on the D-Line (AND we got rid of a liability in our secondary, for a 2-birds/1-stone type of deal).  In Clemons, we got a guy who averaged double-digit sacks in his first three seasons with the Seahawks.  And, in Lynch, we got an elite, every-down running back.  It’s an embarrassment of riches!  Trading with John Schneider should come with a Surgeon General’s Warning, because it’s seriously bad for your health.

Up next, we have the guys signed as free agents (or claimed off of waivers, denoted with ***):

  • Jon Ryan – 9/9/2008

The only free agent signed prior to the Schneider/Carroll regime still on the team.

  • Clint Gresham – 8/1/2010
  • Michael Robinson – 9/6/2010 (then cut & re-signed 10/22/2013)
  • Lemuel Jeanpierre – 9/6/2010
  • Breno Giacomini – 9/28/2010

Members of the 2010 team, we’ve got our long-snapper, our starting fullback, our backup center, and our starting right tackle.

  • Paul McQuistan – 1/28/2011
  • Tarvaris Jackson – 7/29/2011 (then traded & re-signed 6/14/2013)
  • Zach Miller – 8/3/2011
  • Steven Hauschka – 9/4/2011 ***
  • Chris Maragos – 9/22/2011
  • Heath Farwell – 10/19/2011

Members of the 2011 team, we’ve got our sometimes-starting left guard, our backup quarterback, our starting tight end, our kicker, and two special teams standouts in Maragos & Farwell.

  • Bryan Walters – 12/20/2012
  • Cliff Avril – 3/13/2013
  • Michael Bennett – 3/15/2013
  • Tony McDaniel – 3/28/2013
  • O’Brien Schofield – 7/27/2013 ***
  • Kellen Davis – 9/11/2013

No big free agents left over from the 2012 team (Walters was a practice squad player when he signed originally).  A lot of pieces were already in place by the time we got to our current team, but there is no more important stretch of days (aside from a couple of the drafts, of course) than those two weeks in March when we signed Avril, Bennett, and McDaniel.  Mother of God!  Essentially, you’ve got our pass-rush unit right there in those three guys.  All made possible thanks to our quarterback earning well under a million dollars.

Add ’em all up, and you’ve got your 53-man roster.  Probably the deepest roster in the league.  And if you line ’em all up, our starters look something like this:

  • WR – Golden Tate – Drafted
  • LT – Russell Okung – Drafted
  • LG – James Carpenter – Drafted
  • C – Max Unger – Drafted
  • RG – J.R. Sweezy – Drafted
  • RT – Breno Giacomini – Free Agent
  • TE – Zach Miller – Free Agent
  • WR – Doug Baldwin – Undrafted Rookie Free Agent
  • QB – Russell Wilson – Drafted
  • FB – Michael Robinson – Free Agent
  • RB – Marshawn Lynch – Trade

In our base, 12 offense (1 tight end, 2 backs), you’ve got mostly draft picks/rookie free agents (7 of 11).  In our 21 offense (2 tight ends, 1 back), you’ve got 8 of 11.  In our 11 (1 tight end, 1 back) offense (assuming Harvin is playing), we’re back to 7 of 11.  When we go 4-wides, it’s back up to 8 of 11.

Now, for the defense:

  • DE – Chris Clemons – Trade
  • DT – Brandon Mebane – Drafted
  • DT – Tony McDaniel – Free Agent
  • DE – Red Bryant – Drafted
  • SAM – Bruce Irvin – Drafted
  • MIKE – Bobby Wagner – Drafted
  • WILL – K.J. Wright – Drafted
  • CB – Byron Maxwell – Drafted
  • SS – Kam Chancellor – Drafted
  • FS – Earl Thomas – Drafted
  • CB – Richard Sherman – Drafted

That’s a whopping 9 of 11 in our base defense that we drafted!  Incredible!  Reserves who get frequent playing time are Malcolm Smith, Walter Thurmond, and Jeremy Lane – all drafted.  When we get into our Nascar package, that’s when the number starts to go down (with a line consisting of Avril, Bennett, McDonald, and Clemons).  But, even with that lineup, we’re still talking about 7 of 11 guys who were drafted.

This is how it’s done, people!  Soak it in!  I know we’re not used to having a hyper-competent general manager, but this is what it looks like.  You couldn’t cherry-pick a roster more effective and complete than this one (within the constraints of the salary cap, of course).  Just an overall amazing feat, and it happened (predominantly) in four short years!

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.

2 Down, 21 To Go: Seahawks Crush Pre-Season Broncos

I know it’s pre-season, so I’m not going to go overboard here, but at no point in the last two games have I even been remotely worried about us losing to these teams.  That doesn’t really matter a whole lot, considering the games don’t matter and we’re not really getting the best effort out of our opponents, but I’d like everyone to take a minute and relish what we’re experiencing right now.

Say what you will about the pre-season, but those were the Denver Broncos we just played over the weekend.  For nearly a full half of football, we faced one of the leading Super Bowl contenders out of the AFC and it felt like a cat toying with a mouse.  Yeah, they moved the ball a little bit against our defense – they’re Peyton Manning and Company, you’re not going to completely shut them down – but we were able to do pretty much anything we wanted in that game.  Offense?  How about a couple touchdown drives from Russell Wilson?  Defense?  How about three fumble recoveries, one of them taken from house to house?  Special Teams?  How about Jermaine Kearse clobbering his lone kickoff return for 107 yards?

Honestly, this pre-season couldn’t set us up more perfectly for the regular season.  San Diego, on the road, was a tap-in putt; a nice, soft landing to get our season going.  Denver, at home, is a solid test for our team as a whole; but since we’re at home, you still have to like our chances for success.  That builds us up to the Master Sword of the pre-season:  this Friday’s game in Green Bay; our toughest challenge yet.  If we get by them the same way we’ve gotten past these last two teams, then it’s smooth sailing through our final pre-season game as we rest everyone ahead of the regular season.

That having been said, there are concerns.  There are ALWAYS concerns.  While Russell Wilson improved greatly from last week to this week, he was still a little sloppy on some throws.  That interception into double coverage was as bad as it gets (even if it was called back on an offsides penalty, that’s not the kind of chance I want to see my quarterback taking).  I wasn’t all that impressed by Robert Turbin, which makes Christine Michael’s injury that much more disappointing.  I think he really could have solidified my opinion that Turbin gets the ax with some quality reps playing with the 1’s.  And then, of course, there is the pass rush.

Pre-season games are never more deceiving than when you’re assessing the play along the lines.  You watch the Seahawks struggle to get anywhere NEAR the quarterback in the first half, then you see the Seahawks swarming and decapitating the quarterback in the second half, and you can’t help but wonder what those guys (Benson Mayowa, O’Brien Schofield, Michael Brooks) would look like in our starting unit.  Of course, it never fails when you actually give them a chance to run with the big boys:  they almost always disappoint and then you remember, “Oh yeah, they were playing against second and third stringers when they were making all of their plays.”

All in all, though, there was a lot more to like about this game than last week’s in San Diego.  The starting offense moved the ball well.  More of the starting defense participated (including a lethal-looking Bobby Wagner).  And seemingly everyone got a shot at returning kicks and punts.

I, like everyone else, can’t help but be excited by the pre-season Jermaine Kearse is throwing out there.  He looks like a completely different animal than he did last year and yet another find from the ranks of the undrafted free agent.  I don’t envy these coaches and the choices they have to make in the coming weeks.