The 3rd Most Important Seahawks Player After Russell Wilson: Bradley McDougald

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We’re getting down to the wire here! There are pretty easy arguments to make that any of the top three guys could be #1 on this list. Here’s my case for Bradley McDougald.

The Seahawks started off pretty hot from a defensive backfield perspective in 2018, which of course coincided with the team having a healthy Earl Thomas to go along with a healthy McDougald. But, then Earl was lost for the year (and his Seahawks career), and while McDougald played in all the games, he was clearly banged up towards the end of the season. He had 2 INTs and 5 passes defensed in the first month of the season, then only 1 INT and 4 PDs the rest of the way.

After that Arizona game, so much more went on McDougald’s shoulders, and while he was certainly up to the task, the drop-off from Earl to T2 or Hill ended up being a lot. The pass defense severely went in the tank (doesn’t help that we played the Rams twice without Earl), and while McDougald was the best of a bad position group, he wasn’t enough to lift everyone else up.

Well, for 2019, the Seahawks will have Earl Thomas for zero games. Thompson and Hill both return, and both will fight for one of the starting safety spots, but neither inspire much (if any) confidence. Beyond them, Ugo Amadi and Marquise Blair were selected in this year’s draft, but Amadi figures to get more playing time in the nickel spot, while Blair (who was already an injury worry due to his slight frame and hard-hitting style) is starting Training Camp on the PUP list. That doesn’t mean he can’t come off of it at any time before the regular season, but it would be foolish to expect him to be healthy for all 16 games.

So, once again, McDougald is going to be The Man in the secondary. The Seahawks need him to not just play in all the games, but they need him at the top of his game. When he’s going good, it almost makes you forget that the L.O.B. is no more. But, when he’s not right, you don’t really notice him at all (and that’s not a good thing, because that means he’s not really making any impact plays).

For a while now, the Seahawks’ defense has had a turnover problem. Specifically: generating interceptions. Before, when the L.O.B. was ruling the NFL, that was because teams were afraid of throwing deep on us; they settled for the dink & dunk because those are safer passes. Now that the L.O.B. Seahawks’ secondary is mediocre, teams are hitting on deep passes a lot more because our guys just aren’t good enough to make plays on those balls in the air. The defense in general makes its hay in forcing fumbles, but that’s a tough one to hang your hat on, because fumble luck is so screwy.

While it’s still vitally important for our starting cornerbacks to make a leap in their development, this pass defense is going to hinge on the play of its safeties (particularly when you factor in the uncertainty around the pass rush). Breaking up passes and generating turnovers will be the mark of how well the safeties perform, at least in my mind. Considering there’s just as much uncertainty around the rest of the secondary as a whole, having a healthy and productive McDougald will make all the difference in the world.

If he goes down, it could get ugly.

The 5th Most Important Seahawks Player After Russell Wilson: Bobby Wagner

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HOT TAKE ALERT!

So, you’re trying to tell me there are four more important players to the Seahawks’ chances of success in 2019 than our defensive captain and All Pro middle linebacker? The glue that keeps the defense together, who busts his ass day-in and day-out to ensure we’re always in the game and that we win more than we lose?

Look, that’s what I’m telling you. And I’ve got my reasons!

First and foremost, I know I’ve said this a lot over the years, mostly because the Seahawks have been super stacked over the years at linebacker, but this might be THE MOST stacked I’ve ever seen this team at one position. I pray to our lord and savior Jesus Christ every single day that we get to see this team with its full complement of linebackers healthy and in tip-top shape, because I’m excited to see what they can all do together.

But, since I never get what I really want, I’m fully expecting one or more injuries to derail this dream, just as so many have been dashed before in my sports fandom. Thankfully, the Seahawks are better able to weather a linebacker injury storm than at any time in this franchise’s history.

The starting three figure to be Bobby in the middle, K.J. Wright in his usual weakside linebacker spot, and Mychal Kendricks on the strong side. If Bobby were to go down, then Kendricks could slide over to the middle and we wouldn’t drop off nearly as much as we have at other spots. I would argue the dropoff from Wagner to Kendricks is less than the dropoff from Earl Thomas to Bradley McDougald! It wouldn’t shock me in the slightest if we didn’t miss a beat!

Besides that, our depth at linebacker is insane. The word on Cody Barton is that he could be someone really special. Which is where things get a little tricky for me. As we all know, Bobby’s on the final year of his deal, and the team is trying to get a long-term extension done. As we’ve found out in recent years, the team has grown ever more reluctant to give non-quarterbacks a third contract. I’m a little more flexible, in that I’m okay with the right deal at the right price, but as Wagner is the best middle linebacker in the game (who is representing himself for some reason), I don’t think that’s something that’s on the table.

Nevertheless, it shouldn’t be too difficult to add two more guaranteed years on top of this one and get it over with. But, I can also see why people might not be as excited about paying both a quarterback and a linebacker at the top of their respective markets. Linebacker always seems to be a position you can get good value from young guys, and it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest if Barton was able to start from day one, and be a quality player in the middle for years to come.

Blasphemy, I know. The truth of the matter is, for 2019, this team is CLEARLY better with a healthy and happy Wagner in the middle. And, indeed, with all the struggles I anticipate in both the pass rush and our secondary, it’s those linebackers (Wagner in particular) who are going to keep things afloat. When you factor in how well he’s able to blitz and put the occasional pressure on opposing QBs, that’s just something I don’t want to miss. Better safe than sorry, let’s get this thing done, huh?

The 12 Most Important Seahawks (After Russell Wilson)

With the Mariners being who they are, it’s not easy to want to write about sports in Seattle during these lean summer months. So, here’s a contrived excuse to write about the Seahawks! You’ve seen these everywhere else, and now I’m doing it as well: let’s rank the most important Seahawks as we head into the 2019 season!

It’s all subjective, so take my rankings with a grain of salt. The idea is: I’m not ranking them by who’s BEST, but rather who needs to be healthy and on top of his game for this team to exceed expectations. Obviously, if I were simply ranking the best Seahawks, Bobby Wagner would be listed in the top 2, instead of where he ended up (spoiler alert: the Seahawks are more stacked at the linebacker position than any other, so it’s not necessarily a must that he be in there at all times, though obviously I would never wish ill on our defensive captain).

And, since I’m doing this as a countdown, there would be no suspense whatsoever if I didn’t get Russell Wilson out of the way from the jump. We all know what the quarterback means to the game of football, and we all know how much Russ in particular means to the success of this team.

But, in case you didn’t, I’ll get into it here.

Russell Wilson isn’t just the most important Seahawks player, but he might be more important to our team than any player is to his respective team in the entire league. I know that wouldn’t make a lot of sense to fans outside of our Seattle bubble, when you factor in how little he actually throws the ball. But, as we ’round these parts know, that makes Wilson’s accuracy and big play ability all the more vital. If he weren’t as efficient as he is, this offense would be a total disaster!

Now, once you take into account the holes on this roster – primarily in the pass rush – I’m firmly of the belief that the offense will need to carry a bigger share of the burden. And, while we’re still talking about a run-first game plan, Wilson will still be the one running the show. After all, we’re going to need SOMEONE to convert all those third downs after we run it on first & second down!

We, as Seahawks fans, have some hard truths to swallow as we head into the 2019 season. First and foremost, the fact that this isn’t a championship team. Even in our best case scenario, we’re probably a year away (at least). I just feel like there’s too much to overcome, which really isn’t what we’re supposed to be thinking. After 2017 was such a disaster (relatively speaking), the Seahawks overcame expectations to make it back to the playoffs last year; as such, you’d think things are trending in the right direction! But, there are lots of arguments indicating the Seahawks overachieved last year, and if regression rears its ugly head, we could be looking at somewhat of a step back. I don’t think this team is any worse than 8-8, but I also worry that a 9-7 or even a 10-6 team might get blocked out of a Wild Card berth with a pretty stacked NFC.

It’s with that frame of mind that I return to the subject of Russell Wilson. For this team to remain good, we’ll need all the magic he’s got. And, who knows? Maybe the Seahawks will shock me again and really take a huge step forward! I mean, we never saw that stretch run in 2012 coming, until all of a sudden we were blessed with the best team in football for about 5-6 weeks. If Wilson plays at an MVP level, then I do think there’s an outside shot at this team vying for another Super Bowl appearance. He’s just that good, and he makes those around him that much better.

So, going forward, I’ll have 12 more posts about the 12 Most Important Seahawks After Russell Wilson. Except, it’s a total cop-out, because I have two players tied for 12th, which means – including Russell Wilson – I’ll have written about the 14 Most Important Seahawks. But, 14 has no relevance whatsoever to our Seahawks fandom (unless you’re a big Rick Tuten fan), so you get what you get. Feel free to bookmark this page, as I’ll update it with links below as those posts are written:

  1. Ezekiel Ansah
  2. Tyler Lockett
  3. Bradley McDougald
  4. Duane Brown
  5. Bobby Wagner
  6. Jarran Reed
  7. Chris Carson
  8. Rasheem Green
  9. Jason Myers
  10. David Moore
  11. Jacob Martin
  12. Shaquill Griffin & Tre Flowers (tied)

SEARCH: Seahawks OTAs 53-Man Roster Projections 2019

For as mediocre as I’ve been decrying the Seahawks’ defensive line heading into this season, there’s actually a pretty interesting battle going on. While this team lacks star power – particularly in the pass rush – there’s tremendous depth across the entirety of the front seven. You could argue – aside from Bobby Wagner and Jarran Reed – that it’s ALL depth, but that’s neither here nor there.

The rest of the roster shakes out pretty easily, but I cannot stress this enough: doing a 53-man roster projection in the middle of June is as worthless as it gets. I can’t even describe how wrong I’m going to be by the time Week 1 rolls around; there will be countless injuries and a number of players who make the team that aren’t even on the roster right now!

But, based on the players we have today, here are my thoughts:

Quarterbacks

  • Russell Wilson
  • Geno Smith

This feels like the easiest of the non-Special Teams specialist spots to predict. Paxton Lynch just isn’t an NFL quarterback, period. The only reason he’s here is because he’s tall and a former first round pick. Not that Geno Smith is any great shakes, but at least he’s started; he’s taken the more traditional route to being a career backup.

Running Backs

  • Chris Carson
  • Rashaad Penny
  • Travis Homer
  • C.J. Prosise
  • J.D. McKissic

Already, I don’t feel great about my prediction. If you’d asked me coming out of 2018, I would’ve GUARANTEED that this team takes one of either Prosise or McKissic, but not both. But, I’m just not super sold on the back-end of this group. If Prosise continues to ball out like he’s been doing during these OTAs, I don’t think there’s any way this team can just cut him for nothing. The guys I left off the roster are guys I feel like will be available on the scrap heap if the need arises. The only monkey wrench is the fullback, Nick Bellore. We all know the team likes to run a lot, and having a competent fullback is always a Pete Carroll desire. If he makes the team, probably cross off one of Prosise or McKissic.

Tight Ends

  • Ed Dickson
  • Nick Vannett
  • Will Dissly
  • Jacob Hollister

I don’t have a real strong belief that the team is going to keep four tight ends PLUS George Fant, but I don’t know where the cut comes from! Dickson was our best tight end when he was healthy in 2018, and is our most veteran all-around player at the position. But, at the same time, there is money to be saved by cutting him. Vannett has continued to improve year to year and had sort of a mini-breakout last year (particularly in the endzone). But, at the same time, he’s on the last year of his rookie deal, and I don’t know if he brings anything to the table that’s super special. Dissly looks like a stud, so if he’s healthy by the time the regular season starts, he’s a lock. I think the other lock is Hollister, and not just because we traded for him; clearly based on our history, we have no quibbles with cutting guys we’ve traded for. He sounds like a super stud on special teams and a guy we’d like to hang onto for a while.

Wide Receivers

  • Tyler Lockett
  • D.K. Metcalf
  • David Moore
  • Jaron Brown
  • Keenan Reynolds

Lockett, Metcalf, and Moore are all locks, assuming they stay healthy. I think Brown is about as close to a lock as possible, considering there isn’t a ton of veteran presence in this room. Finally, I think we only hang onto 5 receivers due to the need to have a 4th tight end. With that in mind, the fifth receiver spot is going to be a HUGE battle. I know there’s a prevailing thought that the Seahawks just HAVE to keep all of their rookie drafted receivers, but unless they prove to be special – and healthy – the Seahawks have no problem cutting them and stashing them on the practice squad. For starters, I don’t expect both Jennings and Ursua to be healthy throughout Training Camp; if they are, then we’re having a different discussion. But, in reality, I think the final receiver spot is going to go to one of those two guys or Keenan Reynolds, and I’m giving Reynolds the advantage based on his being in the system for a full year, and actually seeing some playing time last year. With his experience, and his Baldwin-esque build and skillset, I think he’s perfect to slide right into that dependable slot receiver role.

Offensive Line

  • Duane Brown
  • Mike Iupati
  • Justin Britt
  • D.J. Fluker
  • Germain Ifedi
  • Ethan Pocic
  • Jordan Simmons
  • George Fant
  • Jamarco Jones

I’m pretty secure in this prediction. The only way it changes is if there are injuries. Look for Joey Hunt or Phil Haynes to maybe sneak in there if there are any surprises to the core nine I’ve listed above.

Punter/Kicker/Long Snapper

  • Michael Dickson
  • Jason Myers
  • Tyler Ott

Enough said.

Secondary

  • Shaquill Griffin
  • Tre Flowers
  • Akeem King
  • Neiko Thorpe
  • Jeremy Boykins
  • Tedric Thompson
  • Bradley McDougald
  • Ugo Amadi
  • Marquise Blair
  • Delano Hill

I’m not super sold on Boykins. Amadi is also not totally a lock, but Boykins is really just a stab in the dark. I think, if it comes down to a young guy and a veteran, this team keeps the young guy. Boykins was here last year, so he has a leg up, but whatever. This post isn’t really about the secondary.

Defensive Line

  • Ziggy Ansah
  • L.J. Collier
  • Rasheem Green
  • Jacob Martin
  • Jarran Reed
  • Poona Ford
  • Al Woods
  • Quinton Jefferson

Linebackers

  • Bobby Wagner
  • K.J. Wright
  • Cody Barton
  • Ben Burr-Kirven
  • Mychal Kendricks

Linebacker/Ends

  • Shaquem Griffin
  • Barkevious Mingo

You kinda gotta lump all these guys together, because there’s a lot of crossover. I’m pretty secure in my prediction of the 8 linemen and 5 linebackers I’ve listed above. But, just as there will be an interesting battle among the final wide receivers, I think there’s going to be a tremendous battle among the SAM linebackers/defensive ends we’ve got on this roster. I mean, just look at the list of guys I’ve left off of this team:

  • Branden Jackson
  • Cassius Marsh
  • Demarcus Christmas
  • Naz Jones
  • Austin Calitro
  • Jamie Meder

For what it’s worth, I think Christmas is a guy we can stash on the Practice Squad. Jackson is a guy who has hung around for a few years that I know the team likes, but he isn’t really elite at anything. Naz Jones was a healthy scratch for a lot of weeks last year and it appears his time has run out with the Seahawks if he doesn’t seriously flash in Training Camp. Meder is a veteran, but hasn’t really done anything in his career.

The two hardest cuts for me were Marsh and Calitro. Marsh is such an ace at Special Teams, that it wouldn’t surprise me if the team finds a way to keep him. But, he’s essentially a journeyman at this point, so he probably only makes the team if there are injuries at defensive end. He feels like Ansah insurance, which brings me zero comfort. Calitro, on the other hand, was a rookie last year who I thought played pretty well in an injury-ravaged unit. It’s hard for me to see him go, but he’s not really playing the same position as Griffin or Mingo. He’s more of a backup to Wagner/Wright, which they went out and drafted in BBK and Cody Barton. If the team liked Calitro so much, would they have used two moderately high draft picks on guys who can easily replace him? At this point, Barton sounds like he’s a stud, and the guy putting the final nail in Calitro’s coffin.

All of that having been said, I don’t think Griffin or Mingo are locks by any stretch of the imagination. While both are being used in pass rush situations, neither have really excelled at the professional level at that job. Nevertheless, both seem like pretty key guys to our Special Teams, which is why I have them making the 53-man roster. If it comes down to Special Teams or Pass Rush, and the team feels it needs more help with the latter, then don’t be surprised if Marsh takes the spot of Mingo (I can’t imagine the team keeps both Marsh AND Mingo in lieu of waiving Griffin, because why wouldn’t you keep the cost-controlled guy with upside?).

I’m telling you, I’m utterly fascinated with how this whole portion of the team is going to shake out. I’ll be out of town for the entirety of the Pre-Season, which is kind of a bummer, but it’ll still be interesting to follow from afar.

Russell Wilson Will Be The NFL MVP For The 2019 Season

SCORCHING MOLTEN LAVA TAKE ALERT! This is one of those things where if I’m right, I’ll be crowing like a jackass for the rest of my life. And, if I’m wrong, then it’ll never be spoken of again.

Remember the time I predicted the Seahawks would beat the Broncos in the Super Bowl before the season started?

Remember the time before that when I predicted the Ravens would beat the 49ers in the Super Bowl just 1 week into the regular season?

I’ll leave it to the rest of you to find all the times I’ve been wrong, and go out on a limb to say I’m the greatest sports mind of our generation.

I don’t often do a lot of prognosticating on the NFL’s MVP award – or ANY MVP award, really – because I kind of don’t care about it. The only time a Seahawk has won was in 2005, when Shaun Alexander ran for 1,880 yards and 27 touchdowns in leading the Seahawks to their first-ever Super Bowl appearance in a 13-3 regular season. I argued this at the time and maintain it to this day: the most important player to the Seahawks’ success that year was actually Matt Hasselbeck (we NEVER would’ve gotten anywhere without him), but since he didn’t have insanely gaudy stats (3,459 yards, 65.5% completions, 24 TDs, 9 INTs) he didn’t stand a chance.

Which brings me right back to this year and begs the question: if gaudy stats are a precursor, WHY IN THE HOLY HELL WOULD I PREDICT RUSSELL WILSON FOR THIS AWARD?

Look, it’s not the most thought-out opinion I’ve ever had. 99% of everything I say on here I pull straight from my gut, which has been notoriously inconsistent over the years. But, I’ll try to make an argument and you take it with however much salt you want.

Last year, Wilson had a pretty impressive season: 3,448 yards, 65.6% completions, 35 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, and a 110.9 passer rating. Of course, that was nothing compared to Patrick Mahomes’ season (the actual MVP): 5,097 yards, 66.0% completions, 50 TDs, 12 INTs, and 113.8 rating. Every step of the way (except for INTs) he was better than Wilson.

Well, the first part of my argument is that I believe Mahomes takes a step back in his second full year as a starter. I think he’ll come down to Earth and be more in the middle of the pack. He’ll almost certainly throw for over 4,000 yards, but I don’t think he’ll approach 50 TDs again, and I think his INTs will increase. I would also argue that whenever someone wins as thoroughly as he has, there’s inevitably a backlash among voters, who are constantly looking to give the award to someone different. If you don’t believe that to be true, then please explain to me why LeBron James has zero MVP awards since the 2012/2013 season, in spite of the fact that until this year, he carried his teams to every single NBA Championship series in that span. Also, while you’re at it, tell me why Bill Belichick hasn’t won since 2010 and yet Bruce Arians and Ron Rivera have both won twice in that span.

So, if you bet Mahomes at +400, you’re throwing your money away. Which brings me to the current betting odds:

  • Patrick Mahomes +400
  • Drew Brees +700
  • Aaron Rodgers +800
  • Andrew Luck +800
  • Tom Brady +1000
  • Baker Mayfield +1400
  • Russell Wilson +1600
  • Carson Wentz +1900
  • Philip Rivers +2200
  • Deshaun Watson +2500

That’s just the top 10. Some things stand out. All of those guys are quarterbacks (the most important players in the game) and all of those guys are projected to be in the playoffs (or at least contending for the playoffs). While being a quarterback isn’t a MUST, it’s certainly the safest bet. For a non-quarterback to win it, he has to do something REALLY special. Like Shaun Alexander’s touchdown totals. The last non-quarterback to win it was in 2012 when Adrian Peterson came within 8 yards of the all-time rushing yards record in a single season. The time before that, it was LaDainian Tomlinson the year after Alexander, when he ran for 1,815 yards and broke Alexander’s rushing touchdown record with 28.

If I were going to pick a non-QB in 2019, I’d lean towards Saquon Barkley (at +4000), but the Giants are so bad that he would literally have to break every single rushing record for it to happen.

Anyway, as you can see, Wilson is firmly in the Top 10 (shamefully behind Baker Mayfield, which is just a crime against humanity at this point), so Vegas likes his chances. With his new contract extension, Wilson’s name is in the zeitgeist. And, at this junction in his career, I believe there are enough fervent Wilson believers out there to really help make his case and keep his name alive.

Now, he can’t do it alone. It’s going to require the Seahawks to get back to the playoffs. It’ll probably even require the Seahawks to win the NFC West, which I believe this team is capable of. Ideally, the Seahawks will be a top 1 or 2 seed and have a BYE in the playoffs. Something like 12-4 could accomplish this, if everything breaks right. The Rams, you figure, are in for a Super Bowl hangover. The Saints and Bears figure to be our biggest obstacles, as I believe the NFC East will feast upon itself to keep their records down.

Playing well in marquee games is also a must. The Seahawks have five primetime games scheduled, including three in a row late in the season, right in that window where we separate the men from the boys in races like these. Wilson has traditionally stepped up big in these games, so I don’t see that as being an issue either.

With the team playing well, and with his reputation intact, that just leaves his biggest hurdle: his numbers.

Wilson has thrown for over 4,000 yards only twice in his career (though he was 17 yards away in 2017 from making it three times), and last year he was obviously limited by the offense’s design. Part of that was a backlash against the losses in our first two weeks, when the coaching staff had to re-set everything. But, ultimately this team was so successful running the ball that there wasn’t always a serious need to get things done through the air. While the plan heading into the season will be more of the same run-centric style, it wouldn’t totally shock me to see our effectiveness on the ground weaken (much in the same way that I see Mahomes’ numbers taking a dive). Opposing defenses will game plan better. And, I figure injuries will play a more significant role (Carson played in 14 games; I could see that dropping as he doesn’t seem like a guy who can stay healthy for the duration) with both the running backs and the O-Line. There’s no Mike Davis, who was a solid contributor, and I seriously question whether Penny will be up to the task if he’s thrust into the #1 role. There should be just enough of a dip in the running game to add a few hundred more yards to Wilson’s passing total.

On top of that, Wilson’s rushing yards are going to continue to go down with every year. He’s a quarterback, and an elite one at that. Elite quarterbacks throw the ball or hand it off, period. He’s heading into his 8th season, which puts him squarely in his prime. He’s had a Hall of Fame trajectory to this point in his career, and I don’t know a whole lot of Hall of Fame quarterbacks who haven’t won an MVP award. With that in mind, it sort of feels like it’s his destiny to win this award at least once. If we get to the end of the season, and no one has really stood out with awe-inspiring numbers at any position, maybe the voters will look around, see Wilson sitting there with 0 career MVPs, and figure he’s due. People have voted for things based on dumber logic before (say hello to every politician who ever seemed like a guy you’d want to have a beer with).

Getting back to the numbers, though, Wilson’s best chance seems to be with his touchdowns. While he was a far cry from Mahomes’ 50 last year, Wilson was still tied for third with 35. In 2017, he led the league with 34. In 2015, he came in sixth also with 34. I could easily see that number jump up into the 40’s, which should put him well within range. More than that, he’s usually very careful with the ball. Last year he tied a career low with only 7 INTs. I feel with his ability, he can shave that down even further. If he has an insane TD:INT ratio of something like 40:3, that’s the sort of stat that could push him over the top.

Finally, if we’re truly talking about the Most VALUABLE Player, then who has had more value to his team than Russell Wilson in his career to date? The knock against him has always been that he’s had an elite defense (except for last year) or an elite running game (except for a few years there post-Beastmode). Well, I’ve already argued that I don’t believe the running game will be as exceptional as it was in 2018, and as for the defense, it was already middle-of-the-road last year; this year, I think middle-of-the-road will be this unit’s CEILING. I think the defense could be truly terrible this year. We’ll likely rank in the bottom third or bottom quarter in the league in sacks and turnovers.

In 2018, the Seahawks had 43 sacks, 13 of which belonged to Frank Clark. 43 put us 11th in football; 30 would’ve been tied for 30th. Ziggy Ansah figures to mitigate some of that, but I highly doubt he’s going to get us all the way there. In fact, I don’t think he’ll even get us halfway there (yes, I’m putting Ansah’s over/under of sacks at 6.5, and I’ll bet the under). With no one else coming in to help account for the loss of Clark’s production (both in sacks, and in the help he provided someone like Jarran Reed, who saw his numbers skyrocket playing with Clark on the outside next to him). If Reed is our only pass-rushing threat (assuming Ansah misses multiple games, or plays through injury and is ineffective as a result), he can be easily neutralized, sending the D-Line tumbling towards the bottom of the league.

In 2018, the Seahawks had 12 interceptions, 5 of which belonged to Earl Thomas, Justin Coleman, and Frank Clark. 12 put us tied for 18th in football; 7 would’ve been tied for 29th. Bradley McDougald had 3 of his own last year, but he’s also an injury waiting to happen. Of our younger core in the defensive backfield, Shaquill Griffin, Tedric Thompson, Delano Hill, and Tre Flowers all combined for 3 total INTs (Hill and Flowers combining for 0). Who did we add to this group? A couple of rookies, and presumably whatever veterans we bring into Training Camp later this summer. There just isn’t a lot of turnover production in this unit. With the D-Line unable to get pressure, that puts more of the onus on the secondary, which is not NEARLY as talented as the Legion of Boom in its prime.

Now, of course, the Seahawks tied for the league lead in fumble recoveries in 2018, but as we all know, that’s largely based on the luck of the bouncing ball. We did tie for third in forced fumbles, which you’d hope would translate, but again our leader in that category – Frank Clark – is gone.

My point with all of this is to further indicate that I think the Seahawks’ defense will be bad. Our only hope is that we hold teams to an inordinate amount of field goals. But, my expectation is, for the Seahawks to win a lot of games, we’re going to rely exclusively on our offense. That means Russell Wilson will have to do considerably more than he had to do in 2018.

All that being said, it still doesn’t feel like a strong argument, and I get that. All I can say is, with this being the second season with a new offensive coordinator, you have to figure Brian Schottenheimer has had a full year to work with this team, and a second full off-season to tinker with his scheme. While it’ll be foolish to expect the running game to take a complete back seat, I think his ability to adjust in games will improve. With the defense putting us into more passing situations – based on game score alone – I think it’ll open things up for Wilson to really shine like he’s never quite shone before.

Wilson has had spurts. The back-half of his 2015 was as brilliant as it gets; if he had a full season of that, he’d be a hands-down winner of the MVP. I also thought 2018 was his best year yet, particularly from an efficiency standpoint. If we keep the efficiency (or even improve upon it slightly), increase touchdowns, decrease turnovers, and boost up those yards, there won’t be any other excuses to keep him from his due. ESPECIALLY when you consider Baldwin retired, and Lockett is his only quality veteran receiver heading into this season. Voters won’t have the L.O.B. to fall back on, nor will they have as dominant of a running game. They’ll have 8 full years’ worth of elite game play, with 2019 as a coronation of sorts.

In a muddled year of MVP candidates, Wilson will win it in a close voting battle. Mark my words (unless I’m wrong, then forget this ever happened).

Who Do The Seahawks Have On Roster Right Now Who Could Step Up In 2019?

Boy, is that ever a clunky mouthful of a title?

So, anyway, yesterday I wrote about where the Seahawks are lacking in star power. Today, we’ll take a look at who could potentially step into bigger, more impactful roles. Let’s face it, while the Seahawks can do a lot with the draft and free agency, it’s still a total motherfucking crapshoot, so it would be ideal for guys we have currently to step their games up and help fill some of these holes.

Shaquem Griffin

I’ll be honest with you, the inspiration for this post came from this ESPN article. I’ve been largely discounting Shaquem Griffin mostly due to his disasterous start back in Week 1 against the Broncos. I’ve also gotta say, I expected more of an impact on special teams out of the rookie linebacker. Maybe that’s unfair; maybe I built him up too big heading into the regular season (after a whirlwind period post-draft, through an exciting pre-season). Some guys just need a little bit more time to have everything click; maybe Year 2 is when we see his growth as a professional.

Or, maybe he’s more hype than substance. Maybe the Seahawks are playing him outside of his natural position due to his lack of size. Maybe his focus is being pulled in all these other directions outside of football and his heart isn’t totally in it. These aren’t things I question lightly, but they’re nagging concerns in the back of my mind that I feel like are on a lot of other people’s minds too, but no one is saying anything about it. Does he want to be a professional football player? Or, does he want to be an inspirational story to a lot of kids out there? That’s okay; I’m not blaming him if the NFL isn’t his bag.

The thing is, I believe in his talent; he just needs to put in the work and study his craft and he’ll be right there. He has the potential to fill K.J. Wright’s shoes ably. So, maybe now that everything has died down from a media perspective, he can just relax and focus on football and everything will be better in 2019. That’s MY hope. Because if he can take over that weakside linebacker spot, that’s a HUGE hole the Seahawks won’t have to worry about.

Tedric Thompson

There’s a big ol’ Earl Thomas-shaped hole in our secondary that needs filling. Of the three options, none seem realistic or all that enticing. The first option is to re-sign Thomas; but clearly the team has made it clear they don’t want to pay what he’s worth (I tend to agree, but I’ve been decidedly scared off by the third contract to Kam Chancellor). The second option is the draft; but I’m told this year’s draft lacks in quality safeties. On top of which, the team has precious few selections this year, and can ill-afford to use its first rounder on one of the few true elites, as we’ll need to trade down to build a bigger cache. The third option is free agency; but we’ve seen what happens when the Seahawks go dumpster diving for secondary players (see: Cary Williams).

It’s been my contention all along that safety is this team’s #1 need this off-season (even more than pass rush; come at me broseph). It’s also been my contention all along that the team never sees things the same way I do, and will almost certainly stick with what they’ve got (while maybe taking a flier on a late-round project to mold into the type of player they like). Bradley McDougald is a fine player, and I’m glad he’s here to fill in for some of the void. But, can he last a full season? He barely made it out alive in 2018, and his play dropped off considerably as he fought through nagging injuries. The point being: he’s not really a long-term solution.

If there’s a guy on the roster this very second who has a chance to take a step forward in his development, it’s Tedric Thompson. I know the bloom has come off the rose, since 2019 will be his third year in the pros. But, 2018 was really his first year as a starter; he stuck almost exclusively to special teams as a rookie. Now, obviously, the concern is that there’s little evidence of his play improving over the course of last season, but I don’t sit there and watch all the tape, so I’m not really one to judge. I’ve heard both good and bad things; he made a few plays, and he bungled a few plays.

More than anything, I guess I’m encouraged by what I heard about him heading into the 2018 season. His teammates seemed to be really high on him last summer, right before Earl Thomas returned to start in week 1. Maybe that rattled him a bit? Maybe it set him back? Obviously, you don’t want to just hand him the starting job, but if he heads into 2019 as the presumptive favorite, maybe that boost of confidence sends him to the next level. He’s got a lot of good experience, now it’s time to put it all together and hope things gel in Year 3. If so, that could be a real game-changer for this defense.

Tre Flowers

Talking about the bloom coming off the rose … Shaquill Griffin’s bloom is looking pretty wilty. Maybe, again, it’s a matter of too much expectation too soon; or maybe that switch from right cornerback to left is a huge deal that needs more than an offseason to perfect. As I say all the time, I’m no expert. But, I’ll tell you what my eyes tell me: they say that Tre Flowers looks ahead of where Shaquill Griffin was at this point in his career the previous year.

I’ll go a step further: I think Tre Flowers today might be better than Griffin, and I think he looks like a better fit for that left cornerback spot.

Now, the last thing you want to do is go and jerk everyone around. Moving Griffin from right to left to right again (saying nothing of where he ended up as a college player in his final year with UCF) is going to stunt his growth, so it’s probably better to see what he’s capable of with a little continuity. Nevertheless, I’ll be extremely interested in how Tre Flowers looks in his second season. If he does, indeed, surpass Griffin in ability, that could be another game-changer for this defense as it searches for playmakers in the secondary. This defense has proven time and again that it needs turnovers to truly thrive. So, let’s hope it comes from someone currently on this roster!

David Moore

While he’s technically an exclusive-rights free agent, for all intents and purposes, David Moore will be back on the Seahawks in 2019. It was hard not to be dazzled by his exciting plays in 2018. There were a number of big catches down field early in the season to not only have him on the local radar, but also had many fantasy gurus looking to him as a potential mid-season sleeper. Then, his numbers mysteriously faded down the stretch. It looked like Wilson lost confidence in him, as he relied on more veteran pass-catchers to come through in the clutch. In short, Jaron Brown stole David Moore’s chick.

2019 will be his third season, and wide receivers notoriously start their careers slow (especially in Seattle). I would expect, if he’s going to pop, now will be the time. The best part here is the team doesn’t really NEED him to be a true #1. Doug and Tyler are still firmly entrenched ahead of him. But, as a change of pace, or as a big body down field, Moore does fill a role in this offense. Coming up with more 50/50 balls and being a big endzone target will be his niche on this team. It’d be cool to see him earn that trust, so the team can divert resources away from this position.

Jamarco Jones

While his combine numbers precipitated his draft plummet, Jamarco Jones was reported to be a gamer in college, who shows out on tape more than in shorts amid cones. Unfortunately, his rookie season ended before it really began, so we never got a chance to see him compete with Ifedi for that starting right tackle spot. We’ll never really know how serious that competition would’ve been, but here we are, in the fourth year of Germain Ifedi’s rookie deal.

The team has between now and the start of the league year to activate the fifth-year option on Ifedi and it would reportedly be worth over $8 million. Given his overall play to date – as one of the lowest-rated tackles in the NFL – it seems highly unlikely that the Seahawks would go that route. However, you’ve gotta give him credit for MUCH improved play in 2018; it appears the switch to Mike Solari, with the addition of D.J. Fluker to his left, has worked wonders for Ifedi’s growth. As the fifth-year option is only guaranteed for injury, I won’t rule it out, as the team could still cut him without penalty before the start of the fifth year, if we decided to go in another direction. My gut says we won’t even risk it; if we wouldn’t use it on Bruce Irvin back in the day, I find it hard to believe we’d use it on a right tackle.

The team also faces the prospect of losing George Fant to free agency, depending on what sort of tender we choose to offer him. He could walk with zero compensation, which opens up a very legitimate spot on this team, when you figure how often we use a 6th lineman in a run-heavy offense. Maybe – assuming Jones fully recovers from his high-ankle sprain injury – he takes over that role (though I find it hard to believe he’ll see any sort of tight end routes like Fant routinely enjoyed), with the outside chance that he pushes Ifedi for the starting right tackle job (or, at the very least, making it clear the team has a replacement in place for 2020 and beyond).

I actually really like many of our O-Line prospects. Jones, of course, but also Jordan Simmons (who is another exclusive-rights free agent we should see again), and even Ethan Pocic (though I tend to prefer him as a possible center replacement for Britt, though I don’t think the cap situation works at this juncture). Ideally, the Seahawks run back the starting five from 2018 and we go to work. But, the younger guys have flashed potential and competency at spots over the last season, and could have bright futures in this league if they continue to develop.

The Seahawks Need More Stars

Brock and Salk had an interesting conversation recently about the Seahawks and how close they are to contending for another Super Bowl. My takeaway (I tend to agree with Salk here) is that the Seahawks are short on stars. There are a lot of good players on this team, but not necessarily a lot of GREAT players. So, I decided to quickly do a comparison between the 2018/2019 Seahawks against the 2013 Super Bowl Champs.

Offensive (and Special Teams) Stars

Now

  • Russell Wilson – QB
  • Chris Carson – RB
  • Doug Baldwin – WR
  • Tyler Lockett – WR
  • Duane Brown – LT
  • Michael Dickson – P

Then

  • Russell Wilson – QB
  • Marshawn Lynch – RB
  • Golden Tate – WR
  • Doug Baldwin – WR
  • Russell Okung – LT
  • Max Unger – C
  • Jon Ryan – P

Right there, you’d have to say pretty comparable. Beastmode is better than Carson, the receivers are pretty close to the same, and 2018 Russell is better than 2013 Russell. Where we start to see some breakaway is on the other side of the ball.

Defensive Stars

Now

  • Frank Clark – DE
  • Jarran Reed – DT
  • Bobby Wagner – LB
  • (K.J. Wright – LB)

Then

  • Cliff Avril – DE
  • Michael Bennett – DT
  • Bobby Wagner – LB
  • K.J. Wright – LB
  • Earl Thomas – FS
  • Kam Chancellor – SS
  • Richard Sherman – CB

I’d say the Seahawks have a good start here, but I’d also say the combo of Bennett & Avril were better than the combo of Clark & Reed. Now, there’s obviously still room for both of the younger guys to grow, so in theory they could be even more dominant than they were in 2018, but as it stands right now that’s where we’re at. 2018 Bobby is better than 2013 Bobby, and while 2018 K.J. is better than 2013 K.J., the 2018 version was also injury prone, and is far from a lock to be re-signed to this team in 2019.

Then, there’s the secondary. The 2013 Seahawks not only had 3 superstars in the secondary, they had 3 ALL TIMERS. The 2018/2019 Seahawks don’t have anything CLOSE, and that’s ultimately their biggest hole to overcome (I won’t say “fill”, because I think we’re pretty much stuck with the guys we’ve got, which means we have to compensate in other ways defensively and as a team as a whole).

So, digging down further, let’s list the players who are just good starters/role players.

Now

  • Mike Davis – RB
  • Rashaad Penny – RB
  • All our Tight Ends
  • Justin Britt – C
  • Both starting Guards
  • Poona Ford – DT
  • Mychal Kendricks – LB
  • Justin Coleman – CB
  • Tre Flowers – CB
  • Shaq Griffin – CB
  • Bradley McDougald – SS

Then

  • All our Tight Ends
  • Sidney Rice – WR
  • Steven Hauschka – K
  • Chris Clemons – DE
  • Tony McDaniel – DT
  • Clinton McDonald – DT
  • Brandon Mebane – DT
  • Bruce Irvin – LB
  • Byron Maxwell – CB
  • Walter Thurmond – CB
  • Jeremy Lane – CB

I think our running back room now is stronger than it was then (but it didn’t matter in 2013 when Beastmode was all you needed). I think our offensive line as a whole is better now than it was then, even though the 2013 version was more top-heavy (Sweezy in 2018 is MUCH better than Sweezy in 2013, for instance; Fluker is better than Carpenter; and I would argue Ifedi is on par with Giacomini). I think both tight end rooms are a wash. But, as you can see, while the Seahawks of today have a so-so secondary, the BACKUPS in 2013 were on par with what we have now (and, I would argue, probably a little better). And, the other big difference is up front. Look at all the beef we had on the D-Line in 2013 compared to today! It’s no contest!

Also, not for nothing, but a few of those guys I listed might not be back in 2019, which is yet more work for the Seahawks to do this offseason.

As you can see, the talent disparity is pretty big. I wouldn’t say it’s insurmountable, but you have to wonder where we’re going to pick up the slack. With 4 draft picks and a bunch of our own stars we need to extend, it’s not like we have unlimited resources.

The good news is, the Seahawks of 2019 don’t need to beat the Seahawks of 2013. I would argue the 2013 Seahawks were one of the most talented teams of all time (especially on defense); we won’t see anyone like that in the NFL in 2019. We just have to get past the Rams and the rest of the NFC, then let the chips fall where they may.

It would HELP if we could develop a couple of those good starters into superstars, but this draft and free agency period will be pretty big. No whiffing, lest we middle our way to another Wild Card finish.

Seahawks Death Week: Ranking The Holes To Fill

It’s not all sunshine and puppydog noses in Seahawksland after an unexpected playoff berth in 2018. True, the floor was not as far down as we all thought coming off a disappointing 2017, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of work to do. Here’s my ranking of the holes the Seahawks need to fill heading into the 2019 season, from most important to least.

#1 – Safety

Bradley McDougald is locked up through 2020, at a relative bargain for what he brought to the table when he was healthy the last couple years. The best part about B McD is he can play either strong or free safety, which is crucial because I’m making this position not only the most important to shore up in the offseason, but the biggest priority for the upcoming NFL Draft. That doesn’t NECESSARILY mean I need the Seahawks to use a first round pick on one; but I need for whoever they do end up drafting to hit and hit big for this defense to work. Ideally, we’d find a more capable Earl Thomas replacement at free safety, and slide McDougald over to strong safety, where he’s probably better suited to play. Sure, keep Tedric Thompson and Delano Hill around as depth/competition, but we can’t be counting on them longterm, not with what little improvement we saw over the course of the 2018 season.

#2 – Defensive End 2

DE 1 is obviously Frank Clark, and he’s coming back one way or another (either via a longterm extension, or a franchise tag). The real need is at that end spot opposite Clark. I like Jacob Martin an awful lot based on what he was able to do as a rookie, but at this point in his career he’s more of a rotational guy, and this team needs veteran stability at the other pass rusher spot. Ideally, there will be a stud free agent or two out on the open market, like in 2013 when we were able to sign Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. I don’t know who the 2018 equivalent is, but that’s my idea.

#3 – Guards

This is most easily remedied by re-signing Fluker & Sweezy. I could see one of them maybe moving on, but losing both feels unrealistic. Behind them, we have Pocic and Simmons, a bust and an injury waiting to happen. I like Pocic and Simmons as depth right now more than I like handing them the job out of Training Camp, even though both are younger and with higher ceilings. Could the Seahawks get by with those two? Sure, but I don’t want to know what kind of growing pains this offense needs to go through to make it happen. Just bring back Fluker & Sweezy.

#4 – Weakside Linebacker

K.J. Wright is as good as gone, so this spot could certainly use some shoring up. At this point, we don’t know if Kendricks slots better at this spot or the strong side, but that’s certainly an option. Austin Calitro, I thought, acquitted himself well in his fill-in duty. The draft could also be an option, though obviously not with a high pick. Regardless, there’s going to be an immediate drop-off from the longtime quality we got from Wright; the idea is to not fall too far off his level.

#5 – Kicker

It’s time to do it up right. Ideally, we would’ve solved this puzzle in 2018 with Jason Myers, but we opted to go for the old man, which was fine for the short term, but a disaster overall. Kicker is a tricky thing to fix, as they’re so varied from year to year. Is there an elite leg coming out of college like Michael Dickson last year? God, I hope so.

#6 – Defensive Tackle 2 (or 3)

Jarran Reed has distinguished himself as a bona fide every-down DT in this league. Given his pass rush ability, he has certainly proven he’s more than just a widebody nose tackle. And, with the emergence of Poona Ford as a run stopping machine (and ostensibly the only one on the entire line), you could easily slide him into the starting nose tackle spot, meaning we need a third guy who can sort of do both, stop the run and maybe rush the passer a little. Really, we’re looking for a cheap, veteran, Tony McDaniel type, but GOD DAMMIT we need to fix the run defense from day 1!

#7 – Wide Receiver 3 (or 4)

David Moore could assert himself into this role, but he really disappeared toward the end of 2018 after a delightful start, so everything is up in the air with him right now. Jaron Brown picked things up in his place, but honestly he finished the year with 14 receptions on 19 targets, and his cap hit goes up to nearly $4 million in 2019, which is too much for what he’s bringing to the table. Better to get out from under that and bring in someone cheaper and better if we can.

#8 – Strongside Linebacker

Barkevious Mingo is signed through 2019, at a cap hit of $4.4 million, which isn’t outrageous, but he was another guy who disappeared toward the end of the season. I feel like his spot could be better filled by someone younger and cheaper, probably in the draft.

#9 – Cornerback 3 (or 4)

You’d think I’d have this higher, since I’m essentially begging the team to re-sign Justin Coleman. But, the Seahawks always seem to find a way to get by with whoever they put over there. Ideally, Coleman is extended while they also draft (late) his future replacement. Akeem King should be back too, which gives us nice depth, as I thought he played pretty well down the stretch.

#10 – Running Back 3

Figure Carson is your RB 1 and Penny will elevate to RB 2, this is your Mike Davis spot, only probably younger and cheaper.

#11 – Quarterback 2

Don’t go breaking the bank on Brett Hundley, that’s all I’m saying. Really, don’t break the bank on anyone. In any scenario where Russell Wilson goes down, it’s tank-city.

#12 – Tight End

Vannett is still on his rookie deal through 2019 and he’s fine. Dissly should be back to 100% by Training Camp, so he’s also fine. Ed Dickson, however, sees his cap hit triple over the next two years. He’s ostensibly TE 1, but he had only 12 catches on 13 targets, so I’m not convinced that’s worthy of over $4 million per year, regardless of what he brings to the table with his blocking. Seems like we could get by with the other two and bring in another cheap vet.

Seahawks Death Week: What Did We Figure Out?

Heading into 2018, there were question marks across the board with the Seahawks. Could we develop a running game outside of Russell Wilson? Could we develop a pass rush? Would our secondary hold together? How would our new coordinators fit in? Could we develop enough young talent to push this team in the right direction for 2019 and beyond?

It felt like at least a 2-year project before we’d see the playoffs again, so to make it back in Year 1 feels like playing with house money at this point. So, let’s take a look at what went right, in no particular order:

Running Backs

In 2018, infamously the leading running back for this team was Russell Wilson with 586 yards. The next-closest back was Mike Davis with 240. The only player to run for a touchdown not named Russell Wilson was J.D. McKissic, who had 1 all year. So, you can understand why the Seahawks put so much into re-emphasizing this part of the game.

In 2019, Russell Wilson was 4th on this team in rushing yards, much more in line with where he SHOULD be. We used a first round draft pick – after trading down to acquire more picks – on Rashaad Penny, who had an underwhelming rookie season with only 419 yards (3rd on the team), but he also had the third-most attempts and actually led the group in yards per carry with 4.9. Penny didn’t come out of the gates guns blazing, as there was more of a learning curve for him as he adjusted to the NFL, but he did show flashes of brilliance and that big-play ability we brought him in here for. I don’t know if he’ll ever be a Pro Bowler, or just a nice role player, but his Sophomore campaign should tell quite a bit about where his pro career is headed.

Returning as this team’s #2 running back was Mike Davis, who showed his usual reliability and professionalism. This is a rock-solid #2 guy that I’d never have any qualms about making the occasional spot start for an injured player; he’s a huge upgrade over Robert Turbin, for instance. He ended up with 514 yards on a 4.6 average. It appears Davis will be a Free Agent next year, so hopefully we can bring him back at the right price. Though, I guess we’ll see; with the money we have in Penny, we might want to spend the minimum at a spot where there’s a 3-headed monster.

Chris Carson returned from an injury in 2018 and should really be in the running for Comeback Player of the Year. He led the Seahawks with 1,151 yards on a 4.7 yard average with a whopping 9 touchdowns. He’s the first 1,000-yard rusher for the Seahawks since Beastmode in 2014, and let me tell you, he looked A LOT like our future Ring of Honor stud. We were a different team with Carson on the field, as he bowled and jumped over opposing players with regularity.

Overall, I’d say the position is set for 2019, though it’ll be ultra-set if we bring back Davis.

Pass Rush

The Seahawks were tied for 13th in 2017 with 39.0 sacks (league-leading Pittsburgh had 56.0), which was okay, but obviously not great. We improved to being tied for 11th in 2018 with 43.0 sacks (league-leading Pittsburgh & Kansas City had 52.0) which is a step in the right direction, though we could always be better.

Frank Clark led the way with 14.0 sacks; he’s also set to be a free agent in 2019. The Seahawks are saying all the right things about bringing him back on a long-term extension, though they’re also looking to re-up Wilson and a few others, so they’ve got their work cut out for them. Regardless, the franchise tag is in our pocket, and Clark’s already on record as saying he’d welcome the challenge of playing on the tag, thereby having his value skyrocket if he stays healthy and performs as he did this year. He also could, theoretically, still improve, particularly with better pieces around him, so we may just be scratching the surface with him. Either way, this was a HUGE step forward for a guy a lot of people wondered about. I don’t know if I ever expected him to perform at this level, so it’s great to see!

Even more shocking was what Jarran Reed was able to do in his third season as an interior lineman. He went from 1.5 sacks in each of his first two years to a whopping 10.5 sacks in 2018, which is just an astronomical leap! That’s Cortez Kennedy-level ball-busting! He’s another guy this team needs to keep around for the long term.

After those two, it drops off considerably. The next-highest guy was Quinton Jefferson with 3, and he’s just a rotation guy at best. Rookie Jacob Martin also had 3 sacks, which is encouraging for a high-motor guy still developing his NFL body. It’ll be interesting to see what strides he’s able to make between Year 1 and Year 2.

Rasheem Green was the other highly-touted rookie who had only 1 sack this year, and often found himself as a healthy scratch by season’s end. He was always going to be something of a project, so it’s not surprising, but it is a little disappointing. He was never going to have as much opportunity as 2018, considering you have to figure the Seahawks are planning on pouring big money into the area for next year.

Overall, we’ve got two studs, one maybe, and a lot of filler. While this area was better than I expected heading into the year – as I expected this team to totally fall off the cliff – our stars stayed healthy and produced. Now, it’s just a matter of filling in with better talent around those stars.

Secondary

This was always going to be a challenge, with Kam essentially forced into retirement, with Earl holding out, then playing disgruntled, then being lost for the year to injury. And, of course, the Seahawks waived Richard Sherman, which pushed Shaquill Griffin over to his side of the field as the team’s primary cornerback. For all the grief I gave him about that playoff game, I thought Griffin was fine. At times he was a solid tackler, but he also appeared to be out of position every so often, and took bad angles on tackles. He also finished with only 2 interceptions, which is pretty weak for the team’s primary corner. He’s not going anywhere in 2019, so let’s hope he makes a major jump in his performance in Year 3.

The other cornerback spot appeared to change hands multiple times heading into the 2018 season. Byron Maxwell looked to have the inside track, but he came in injured and never made the team. Other veterans were vetted, but the job ended up in the hands of rookie Tre Flowers, who took it and ran with it. There were the expected growing pains, but he really picked it up over the second half of the season, and looks to be a solid cog in this secondary. He didn’t get any picks, but you have to figure those will come with experience.

With both of our starting safeties out, Bradley McDougald really held this whole thing together. He’s a solid veteran who was playing at a Pro Bowl level for a while, but appeared to break down by season’s end. With him, Tedric Thompson and Delano Hill got their chances to make their marks on this team in their second seasons, but both of them were pretty hit or miss. You have to think the experience was nothing but a positive for them, but they’ll still have to parlay it into 2019 and make significant jumps if they want to be here long term.

I have to think the Seahawks will be looking in the draft for another primo safety. While we’re not set yet, it’s good to see the secondary playing as well as they did this season. They might not have showed out with the turnovers as the L.O.B. did when they hit the scene, but they limited big plays and kept this team in ballgames, which is all you can ask for. I’d also like to see the team extend Justin Coleman long-term, as he’s still one of the better nickel corners in this league.

Tight End

Jimmy Graham was thankfully sent packing, and in his place the team actually improved. Who knew?

Oh yeah, we all knew.

Will Dissly made a HUGE impact in Week 1, then got hurt and was lost for the season. Considering he was the best blocking tight end in the draft last year, and with his offense being better than anticipated, he looks like he’ll be an awesome weapon next year, assuming he returns from injury okay.

Nick Vannett really stepped up in his absence, in his 3rd season in the NFL. He had career highs in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. They weren’t super-amazing or anything (29, 269, 3), but this team doesn’t NEED a Jimmy Graham-like tight end to be effective offensively. I am perfectly happy with those numbers from our 2016 third round draft pick.

Ed Dickson was a free agent signee, and he didn’t make a huge impact either – actually finishing with fewer yards than Dissly, thanks to his own injury issues to start the season – but he had some big plays here and there, and still chipped in 3 TDs of his own. Combined, the TE position had 8 touchdowns on the season (51 catches for 600 yards, if you count George Fant, which I absolutely do!), which is perfectly fine for what little resources we’ve pumped into the position. You don’t need superstars at tight end to have a winning offense.

Tight end is set, assuming Dissly is back to 100%.

Offensive Line

The O-Line was the biggest question mark heading into the season, and thankfully it eventually turned into one of this team’s biggest strengths. Duane Brown was a Second Team All Pro at left tackle, Justin Britt brought his usual solidness at the center position, and Germain Ifedi made a big leap in his third year to finally become a passable right tackle. There were some growing pains at the guard spots – arguably the most important spots on the entire O-Line for a team with a Russell Wilson at quarterback – but after the second game, when J.R. Sweezy took over on the left side and D.J. Fluker took over on the right, they finally morphed into a cohesive, solid unit.

The downside is both Sweezy and Fluker are free agents heading into 2019. They’re also getting up there in age, and seemingly always face a litany of injuries. While that should theoretically keep their costs down, it’s hard to ignore the strides this team made when both of them were healthy. As such, you have to figure they’re in store for raises over the $1.5 million each of them made in 2018.

Beyond those two, Ethan Pocic was a disaster. He started those first two games we lost (when couldn’t do a damn thing offensively), and every time he took the field late in the season, the offense took an immediate step back. I don’t know if he’s undersized, incompetent, or both, but he’s got A LOT of work to do if he’s aiming to return to the starting five. As a second round pick already in his second year, with plenty of experience under his belt already, this is NOT trending well.

Jordan Simmons, however, was a revelation when he stepped in for Fluker! He’s a big ol’ mauler in Fluker’s image, but his season ended prematurely with injury. Combine that with the fact that he spent most of his college career injured, and I don’t think he’s someone we can count on long term. As a fill-in, backup type guy, though, it’s nice to know he’s around.

Joey Hunt is heading into free agency; he’s not someone I’d mind if we kept around or not. He looks undersized, and at this point Pocic might only be able to salvage his career if he backs up Britt at center, so Hunt is probably a luxury this team doesn’t need. He could still develop into a quality starter somewhere, but probably not here.

Finally, the aforementioned George Fant had quite a bit of playing time. He was often a sixth lineman this team implemented when we wanted to pound the rock, and once in a while found himself running routes (with his lone catch being a highlight of the season). He filled in for Ifedi late in the year – with Ifedi sliding over to guard for an injured Fluker – and that didn’t go so great. But, I would still expect him back, as I can’t imagine there’s going to be a huge bidding war for Fant.

Conclusion

With an elite quarterback, an elite middle linebacker, two elite wide receivers, and some nice pieces noted above, this is a team that’s heading in the right direction for another playoff run in 2019. How they spend their money in free agency will ultimately determine if this team’s going to contend for a division title. There are still quite a bit of holes left to fill, so it should be interesting.

Not Winners & Losers Of The Seahawks’ Game Against The Chiefs

Thanks to the Redskins losing on Saturday, the Seahawks clinched a wild card spot with their win over the Chiefs Sunday night. It was a 38-31 thriller that saw the Seahawks play as efficiently on offense as they have all season, with just enough in the tank defensively to keep the Chiefs at bay. There’s a lot of praise to throw around, so let’s get to it!

What I’m Geeked Out About After Fifteen Games

I don’t know if you’re going to find a better example of how elite the Seahawks’ passing game can be than in this one. Again, as usual, the numbers aren’t mind-blowing. Russell Wilson threw for only 271 yards, but that’s also on only 18 completions and 29 attempts (for a 9.3 yard average). There were too many deep throws to count, and seemingly everything was with the precision of an all-time great. Wilson was absolutely phenomenal, and that game was yet another showcase of why he deserves to be in the MVP discussion. Also, Doug Baldwin was a man possessed! And Tyler Lockett continues to be one of the most underrated receivers in the league, both with his big plays, but also his ability to draw flags that help move the chains. The Seahawks were 7/14 on third down, and so much of that had to do with the passing game coming up HUGE on some long-distance third downs.

Other Things That Caught My Eye (In A Good Way)

Chris Carson: 27 carries for 116 yards and 2 TDs. Ed Dickson with a TD and an 18-yard reception on third & long to keep the team going. Russell Wilson’s legs, which ran for 57 yards on 8 carries.

Defensively, again, Bobby Wagner was all over the place with 12 tackles. Bradley McDougald stepped up huge with Tedric Thompson on the shelf, while nursing injuries of his own. Dion Jordan flashed on a bunch of plays, coming up with a sack, a forced fumble, 5 tackles (2 for loss), and a couple quarterback hits.

I thought the secondary really stepped up. You’re never going to stop a team like the Chiefs from doing what they want to do, but if you can make it difficult on them, that’s all I can really ask for. Tyreek Hill is such an explosive weapon, so to hold him to 4 catches for 74 yards is pretty great. Even better was holding Travis Kelce to 5 catches and only 54 yards. Sure, Mahomes had 273 yards and 3 TDs, but he had to throw it 40 times to Russell’s 29, while completing 23 to Russell’s 18. The Seahawks are doing more with less, and that’s why we’re so tough to beat.

Other Things That Caught My Eye (In A Bad Way)

It’s Christmas Eve and I shouldn’t have to be at work today, so I’m wrapping this up soon. I’ll say this: the rush defense wasn’t spectacular, and I worry about that in the playoffs. I’m sure I’ll have more to say on that topic another time.

Also, the special teams gave up another monster return, and Janikowski missed a field goal and got hurt on another missed field goal (that was converted to a first down on a roughing the kicker penalty). I hope between now and next week, Janikowski gets ALL the shitty kicks out of his system, so he can have a perfect post-season, otherwise I might lose my fucking mind.