Making Heads Or Tails Of The Latest Seahawks Media Blitz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Potential Players The Seahawks Could Trade For Draft Picks

Today’s the day! Day One of the NFL Draft! And I CANNOT stress this enough: don’t expect the Seahawks to make a pick tonight.

I really put this off until the last minute, so this post pretty much has a shelf-life of 12-36 hours, I’m guessing. I meant to talk about this earlier in the week, but what can I say? I just forgot; issa pandemic!

I keep saying that the Seahawks are bound to make some trades to acquire more draft picks, because they’ve never drafted fewer than eight times in any Pete Carroll/John Schneider draft, and the odds are pretty good that the Seahawks move down from 27th in the first round and get more mid-round picks that way.

But, you never know; there’s an outside chance the Seahawks trade an actual player already on the roster! So, let’s see who’s vulnerable.

Right away, I’m looking at Ethan Pocic. He’s in the final year of his rookie contract, he’s been trained across pretty much the entire offensive line, but for many reasons he’s been unable to secure a starting gig in spite of being a second round draft pick. Those reasons, of course, are: injuries & ineffectiveness (a lethal combo in – I’m gonna say it – pretty much every profession on Earth). Have the Seahawks lost faith in Pocic? Well, given how many street free agents we’ve signed this offseason, the odds are pretty high. Could we flip him for a 6th or 7th rounder? It only takes one team!

I don’t think this is a move anyone in his right mind would advocate for, but once the Seahawks traded for Quinton Dunbar, Tre Flowers’ future appeared to be in serious question with this team. He’s heading into his third year in the NFL, with two full seasons’ worth of starting experience. I’m not saying the Seahawks SHOULD trade Flowers, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s on the block, at the right price. Honestly, I don’t think I’d take anything less than a third rounder for him; he does still have two years left on his rookie deal, after all. That has to be worth SOMETHING! Especially if you believe – like I kind of do – that he’s bound to make a leap in effectiveness in 2020. If it were up to me, I’d rather hang onto him and try him out on the inside (or start Dunbar on the outside in base defense and then move him inside in Nickel situations), but I think you at least have to listen to offers.

Bradley McDougald is another interesting candidate for this thought experiment. He’s in the final year of his contract and will cost approximately $4 million to any team that takes him on. Quandre Diggs looks like a stud, and Marquise Blair wasn’t drafted last year to play backup his entire career. Now, of course, the problem with trading McDougald is your depth at safety takes a SERIOUS hit. What if Blair isn’t ready? What if Blair is injury-prone? What if – *shudder* – we have to start Lano Hill as a result of this (someone I’m sure we’d all LOVE to see traded away, except he sucks so hard he has zero value)? This is another one I wouldn’t advocate for, but again, if the price is right (I’d say a fourth rounder or higher), you’ve gotta consider it.

I’m gonna put this one among the LEAST likely moves – for a variety of reasons – but Chris Carson is in the final year of his rookie deal. He’s an absolute STAR, but he’s had to overcome a lot of injuries in his own short career (and, frankly, I don’t even know if he’s healthy NOW). Nevertheless, if the Seahawks look to be major players in drafting a running back (or two), then they might want to clear the deck of any entrenched starters (particularly if they select a running back in the first couple days of the draft). Trading Carson is, of course, unlikely because running backs are a dime a dozen, as well as those injury issues I talked about. MAYBE we’d look at getting a 6th or 7th rounder in return, but that hardly seems worth it when you consider how dominant Carson can be when he’s on his game. I’d rather just let him play out his deal and let him walk.

Finally, because I could be here all day, I wonder about Jacob Hollister’s future. As has been noted before, the Seahawks have A LOT of tight ends on one-year deals, so you have to figure they’re looking to draft someone for the future. My hunch is, if they select someone early enough, they might flip Hollister for a mid-to-late round draft pick. OR, they could flip him for a pick in the 2021 draft (maybe make it conditional up to a fourth rounder, if he has a great season). I’m choosing Hollister for this exercise because Greg Olsen obviously figures heavily into our 2020 plans, Dissly is too good to give up on just yet (plus his value is low after a second consecutive injury-shortened season), and Luke Willson is really only valuable to the Seahawks at this point (we picked him up off the street partway through 2019 for a reason).

Seahawks Death Week: We’ve Got Holes To Fill On Defense

So, unless things have gone horribly wrong, by now I’ve written about the last Seahawks game of the season, I’ve written about the things that have gone right, and the things that have gone wrong. Now, it’s time to get to work on that all-important roster building.

To start, here are a list of free agents, in some particular order:

Defense

  • Jadeveon Clowney (DE)
  • Jarran Reed (DT)
  • Mychal Kendricks (LB)
  • Ziggy Ansah (DE)
  • Quinton Jefferson (DL)
  • Al Woods (DT)
  • Akeem King (DB)
  • Neiko Thorpe (DB)
  • Branden Jackson (DL)

That’s a lot of our regular defensive line rotation, including starters in Clowney and Reed, as well as significant 2019 role players like Ansah, Woods, Q-Jeff, and Jackson.

Obviously, Clowney is the big name here. He will be 27 years old in 2020, and he’ll be looking for his first real BIG payday. We’re talking $20+ million per season on average, one of the five highest paid defensive people in the league. With his injury and impending surgery, you have to wonder if that’ll scare teams off a little bit. Not a lot; I think he’ll still see a huge payday, but I wonder if extra protections for the team will be built in.

Is he worth it? That’s the ultimate question. This is a guy who had 3 sacks all regular season. Is that a $20+ million a year guy? I’ll tell you this much, SOMEONE will pay him that much, because he’s obviously more than a straight-up sacks guy. He’s elite against the run, and he has one of the highest pressure rates. Also, even though we’re talking about a second contract – and you rarely see the value over the duration of the deal – defensive linemen tend to age pretty well. It’s not inconceivable that he’d live up to the money over the next four years. But, this core injury isn’t the only thing that’s ever happened to him. Coming out of college and through his first couple years, he missed quite a bit of time. On the one hand, fresher legs; on the other hand, there’s a risk of re-injury.

I’m not going to sit here and say the Seahawks HAVE to pay him whatever he wants; I’m sure they’ll make the decision they want to make. If that means we back up the Brinks truck, so be it, I’ll be fine with it. If we let some other team over-pay for an injury risk, I can easily talk myself into that as well.

But, the bottom line is: the Seahawks need to do SOMETHING. I don’t know what the free agent landscape looks like for pass rushers in 2020, but the cupboard is bare here in Seattle. It’s as bare as it gets, and when you consider how horrible we were in 2019 (WITH Clowney), trying to imagine an even WORSE pass rush makes me sick to my stomach.

This brings us to Jarran Reed, who looked like he was on pace for a huge payday as well. 10.5 sacks in 2018, as an interior lineman, is a remarkable achievement. So, we know he has that in him anyway (at least, when the conditions are right). But, then he was suspended for 6 games in 2019, and when he came back he wasn’t quite his old self. He fell all the way down to 2.0 sacks, and with the prior suspension, he now holds the risk of an even bigger punishment if he gets in trouble a second time. So, his value fell pretty far.

I don’t know what he’s looking for, but if we could bring him back on a team-friendly 3-4 year deal, I wouldn’t hate it. I also wouldn’t mind a 1-year prove-it deal, though obviously that’s not as good for our salary cap (unless it’s an insanely low figure with lots of incentives he’s not expected to reach based on his 2019 production). But, it would be asinine to get in a bidding war for his services, considering what he was able to bring to this team in his 10 games plus the playoffs. Ultimately, Reed made next-to-zero impact for this team, when we REALLY needed him to step up and take on more of the pass rushing load.

Ziggy Ansah needs to go. That’s all I need to say about him; he’s finished in this league.

Al Woods is a fine player, and I would assume we could bring him back cheaply if we wanted. He’s also Just A Guy, so whatever.

Q-Jeff is a nice player, and it’s unfortunate he got injured in our game in Green Bay. I would expect maybe a moderate raise, but he obviously doesn’t bring a ton to the table from a pass rushing perspective. So, breaking the bank isn’t necessary here.

Next up is Mychal Kendricks, who ended 2019 on IR. He was fine, but again I don’t really know what he brought to the table. It feels like Cody Barton (or pretty much anyone else) could do what he did and we’d be fine.

Finally, King and Thorpe are also just regular dudes. Thorpe obviously has value on special teams, but he’ll be 30 years old and in his 8th season in the league. I feel like we’ve successfully replaced what he brought to this team and maybe can move on with younger guys. King won’t be contending for a starting job anywhere, but maybe he’ll want more of a chance to at least compete for a spot. It feels like he’s hit his ceiling in our defense, and he might want a change of scenery.

***

As for the guys who are already under contract, I don’t see a lot of dead weight that we NEED to get rid of for salary cap purposes.

K.J. Wright will be 31 years old and on the final year of his deal. He’s set to count about $10 million against the salary cap, with only $2.5 million in dead money, for $7.5 million in savings. That’s not nothing, especially when we might be paying a lot for Clowney, plus another pass rusher or two.

If we move on from Wright, it probably means he didn’t want to take a pay cut. He was second in tackles on the team with 132 (not significantly fewer than league leader Bobby Wagner’s 159), he played in every game, and he played a high percentage of this team’s overall snaps. If you cut him, it means you believe Cody Barton is ready to start this year (or you draft someone who you can’t afford to sit because he’s too talented). But, also if you cut him then you have to fill two linebacker spots (one, presumably, with Barton, and the other TBD).

Ultimately, I don’t think the Seahawks will release Wright, based on shared history and what he’s meant to the success of this defense since 2011. But, you can’t totally dismiss it given his high salary figure, and the need to improve across the entire D-Line.

The other possible decision the Seahawks need to make is whether they want to give Shaquill Griffin a long-term extension. Do they believe he’s the guy to build around in that secondary? He’s set to earn less than $1 million in 2020, so there would be a considerable discount to be had to make it worth our while in the long term. Think about what we did by extending Tyler Lockett a year early; he’s on a VERY team-friendly deal now, and it’s paying significant dividends.

I thought Griffin really took a big leap forward in his development in 2019. I don’t know where he ranks among all cornerbacks, but I feel like he’s right there in the 2nd or 3rd tier. He’s not a lockdown guy; he’s not among the best of the very best. But, he’s a solid starter, he doesn’t give up a ton of catches or yards, and more often than not teams go away from his side (it helps that Tre Flowers is the guy opposite him, and he gives up practically everything). If there’s a reasonable figure the team can get to with Griffin, I think I’d like to see them do a Lockett-type deal. Something that gives the young player a nice raise, while showing him he’s part of the long term plan and affords the team some future flexibility in their cap from 2020-2022.

***

Big picture for 2020, the defensive line is in shambles, and the secondary needs a huge infusion of talent.

As things stand today, L.J. Collier and Rasheem Green would be your starting defensive ends. Collier was a healthy scratch most of the season (including both playoff games) and Green was our leading sacker with a whopping 4.

Collier can be considered nothing but a huge disappointment. You expect your first round picks – even your late first rounders – to contribute in some way, if not be a starter from day one. Obviously, the starting jobs were taken on this team, but he brought NOTHING to this team as a rookie. That doesn’t mean he’s a bust, necessarily – he’s still got three more years to prove that he’s worth a 5th year option – but he better work his fucking ass off in the offseason and come into camp like a man possessed.

As for Green, as I’ve written about before, he took a moderate step forward. But, as I point out all the time, unless you’re uber-talented, it’s hard for young defensive linemen to make big impacts; it usually takes a few years to grow into your body, bulk up, and learn the nuances of how to play in this league. For so many players who go on to be drafted in the first couple days, the college game is simple. The offensive linemen stink, the schemes are dumbed down, and you can just go out there and kick ass. In the NFL, you need to smarten up quite a bit, or you’ll be left behind.

Along the interior, we’ve got Poona Ford and some scrubs. This team needs to improve its pass rush, but also get better at defending the run. Ultimately, the Seahawks need a whole makeover at D-Line, so there’s work to be done.

In the secondary, Griffin and Flowers figure to return as starters. One can only hope Flowers takes a similar leap in his development between Year 2 & 3 as Griffin did this past season. Diggs and McDougald figure to be your starters at safety, though I would hope Marquise Blair gets a legitimate opportunity to compete and start. It would also be helpful if Ugo Amadi works on his craft quite a bit this offseason to be this team’s nickel corner.

I would LOVE it if we drafted yet another safety, and cut Lano Hill and Tedric Thompson, those wastes of fucking (roster) space. I’d also love it if we maybe made a low-level trade for another nickel corner, if Amadi doesn’t work out. See if we can find the next Justin Coleman.

More than anything, I guess we just need the secondary to improve on their own, because I can’t envision the Seahawks making wholesale changes or putting too many resources into this area, when there are other more-pressing concerns.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at all the holes on offense, where I’m concerned a lot of our free salary cap space will end up going.

Seahawks Death Week: Where the 2019 Season Went Right!

Yesterday, we wallowed in our misfortunes. But, as always, we have to keep things in perspective. This was a Seahawks team that won 11 games and made it to the second round of the playoffs. I’m by no means pleased with the end result, I’m not satisfied just making it into the Final 8. I’m never “just happy to be there” and wishing everyone all the best in their future endeavors. Those fans – rational, sensible, not taking all of this meaningless drivel so seriously – are the absolute worst. My first thought after a final Seahawks loss isn’t, “Well, that was fun while it lasted.” It’s usually, “Fuck this shit, fuck everyone, I’m going to my bedroom and watching something else, alone.”

But, eventually I get there. Eventually I calm down and start appreciating the season for what it was. Usually, it’s about a day (or however long it takes me to write up this post), and then I’m done and I move on to next year. Dwelling on success or failure is bad enough, but dwelling on mediocrity? No thank you.

So, let’s talk about all the cool shit we saw this year, and then let’s never think about it again.

Gotta start with Russell Wilson. I know, quarterbacks are the most important players in all of sportsdom, but he was really something special. He was a different kind of special in 2017 – when he led the team in passing AND rushing yards – but I would argue he was the best we’ve ever seen him in 2019. Even better than the last seven games of the regular season in 2015!

If Lamar Jackson didn’t do what he did, we’d be talking about Russell Wilson as the MVP of the NFL. And, if you actually gave the award to the person who most embodied the phrase “Most Valuable Player”, I think Wilson would not only win it hands down, but he’d be on his third or fourth award at this point. But, the NFL gives it to the guy with the best stats, or the flashiest set of highlights, or the guy who the media gloms onto obsessively for three months; so, clearly Lamar. But, it’s an easy argument to make that Wilson means more to this Seahawks team and their 11 wins than Lamar did to that Ravens team and their 13. Give the Ravens a replacement-level quarterback, and I think they still probably win 9 or 10 games; put a replacement-level quarterback on the Seahawks and I think we’re EASILY playing for a Top 10 draft pick, and maybe even Top 5!

But, even the numbers alone for Wilson are impressive; maybe not compared to Lamar, but still. 4,110 yards on 66.1% completions (8.0 yards average per attempt), 31 touchdowns, only 5 interceptions, and a passer rating of 106.3. And, not for nothing, but Wilson was also tied for the league lead for most sacks at 48. Only three quarterbacks in the Top 10 Most Sacked made the playoffs; the other two were Deshaun Watson and Josh Allen. The rest of the guys in that area are, predictably, on terrible football teams who didn’t win very many games.

And, if you tack on rushing numbers, Wilson came within 29 yards of being the #2 rusher on this team, with 342 yards and another 3 TDs on the ground. Just an outstanding all-around season, and clearly deserving of the Second Team All Pro honor he received.

***

Wilson was so good, he gets his own section. Let’s get to the rest of the offense, because even though he’s great, he can’t do it all.

Chris Carson had a wonderful season. 1,230 yards, 4.4 average, and 7 TDs (plus 37 catches for 266 yards and 2 TDs). He did ultimately get knocked out for the season in his 15th game, but those are numbers I’ll take from my starting running back every damn year. What’s less great, obviously, are the 7 fumbles (4 lost), but we’re focusing on the bright side today.

I thought the rest of the running back room did pretty well too. Rashaad Penny didn’t have many opportunities, but he clearly took a step forward this year compared to his rookie season. It’s unfortunate his season-ending injury sounds so severe that it might cost him some games in 2020, because he really looked like a guy this team could rely on. And even Travis Homer made a decent showing in Week 17 and the two playoff games. He’s not a true #1, but as a 3rd down/2-minute back, I thought he did great!

There were a lot of questions about the Seahawks’ receivers heading into 2019. Doug Baldwin retired, the team drafted three guys, and Tyler Lockett was the unquestioned #1 option. My biggest concern was that last one: how would Lockett respond? Well, how do you like 82 receptions for 1,057 yards and 8 touchdowns? In THIS offense?! That’s elite! But, maybe even more importantly was the emergence and growth of D.K. Metcalf, who finished the season with 58 catches for 900 yards and 7 TDs. The two of them each hit triple digits in targets, which really bodes well for the future of the position. Metcalf saved his best for second-to-last in that Wild Card game, so we know he has it in him in the big moments; it’ll be fun to see him continue to grow and start to dominate in the years to come.

And, even though they were largely banged up, I was really impressed with what we got from our tight ends. Dissly is a stud who just can’t stay on the field. We were able to bring Luke Willson back and he was able to do Luke Willson things. But, the biggest find was Jacob Hollister, who became the de facto #3 receiver on this team. He had 41 catches for 349 yards and 3 touchdowns over 11 games, which doesn’t sound like much, but he was always getting open and was a nice security blanket/outlet for Wilson when plays broke down or we needed to convert a first down.

Finally, for the offense, I know the O-Line wasn’t the best, but I feel they deserve some credit for not being as bad as they were from 2015-2017. I was particularly impressed with Joey Hunt stepping in for an injured Justin Britt. I was REMARKABLY impressed with Duane Brown continuing to be ageless (and returning from a knee surgery to start that Green Bay game). I don’t think I ever fully appreciated Mike Iupati for what he brought to this team’s run game until we hit the playoffs and he was out. And, I thought Ifedi continued to make progress while playing presumably all the snaps this season (or at least a very high percentage). Fluker was a little hit or miss, but he was able to play most of the season, which I’ll take as a win.

***

I’m obviously less high on the defense than I am the offense. Offensively, we were top 10 in yards and points; I can’t ask for much more than that. I thought the playcalling was – for the most part – superb, and I thought our execution was spot on (until the first half of that Green Bay game).

Defensively, on the other hand, we were in the bottom 10 and bottom 11 in yards and points, which just can’t happen. Nevertheless, there were a few bright spots.

How much further would we have sunk without Jadeveon Clowney? I know the sack numbers aren’t there, but his pressure rate was among the highest in the league. When he was in the game, he was a difference maker throughout. He needs help around him, but he’s an elite foundational piece to any defense.

I think you’ve got to give some credit to the linebackers. They were steady. Wagner and Wright played in all 16 games plus the playoffs. Their age may be showing at times, their instincts might be a little diminished compared to their peaks, but they were really holding this defense together with duct tape and twine, considering our faulty secondary and even faultier pass rush.

I was happy to see Shaquill Griffin take the next step towards being a reliable cornerback. I still don’t think he’s a true #1, lockdown guy, and I don’t think he ever will be; but as a #2 he’s solid.

The defense took a considerable leap in effectiveness when Quandre Diggs came to town. Paired with Bradley McDougald, this defense looked downright respectable (again, until the Green Bay game).

***

Finally, I’ll talk about the Special Teams.

Jason Myers is a scary individual, but in reality he only missed 5 field goals in the regular season. The 4 missed extra points are pretty annoying, but all in all we didn’t lose any games because our kicker fucked us. So, I’ll take the slight win and hope he improves in 2020. For what it’s worth, I know he was a Pro Bowler in 2019, but kickers are wonky. Like relievers in baseball, they go from good to bad to good again with no rhyme or reason. I have no reason to believe that Myers can’t turn it around. He’s got the leg, he’s young enough, he’s had success in the past; hopefully, he’ll be fine.

Michael Dickson – coming off of a rookie All Pro/Pro Bowl season – had a really tough start to his 2019. But, after a few games, he settled down and finished pretty strong. No notes.

I thought the coverage units took a big step forward in 2019, after being a legitimate problem in 2018. So, looks like those young guys we brought in made a difference!

I’m No Good At Titles & The Seahawks Won Their Wildcard Matchup Against The Eagles

I had this weekend ALL wrong!

I’ll tell you this much: I legitimately thought the Saints were one of the top two teams in the NFC and that they were going to KILL the Vikings. For what it’s worth, if that was Vikings at Seahawks, I still think Seattle prevails, but the outcome has me thinking twice a little bit. Maybe the Saints are Playoff Cursed?

No matter, because the Seahawks went into Philly and came out on top, just like we all knew they would, right guys?! We’re all on the right side of history in this argument!

I will say this much: I’m VERY happy that the Vikings did win, because I would MUCH rather they be cannon-fodder for the 49ers next week over us. I think the 49ers win that game by three scores EASILY; they’re super healthy across the board, well-rested, and have a team flying halfway across the country on a short week with a quarterback who is 1 for a million in big games (happy for Cousins and all that, but one win doesn’t automatically wipe out his entire broken reputation).

Anyway, let’s tarry no further and talk about this Eagles game. In a lot of ways, it went according to expectations; but a few key spots were totally unpredictable.

Let’s start here; I feel like I need to get an “I Told You So” out of the way to boost my confidence: the Seahawks’ rushing attack was truly abysmal. If you take away Wilson’s scrambling (which he could have in most every game if he really wanted), the Seahawks’ running backs (Homer primarily, Lynch secondarily, and Turbin never) ran 17 times for 19 yards and a touchdown. Homer had one 12-yard rush; his other 10 carries went for a combined 0 yards. Lynch had that one MAMMOTH 5-yard TD rush, but even Beastmode could only muster 2 additional yards on his subsequent 5 carries.

Fletcher Cox easily made the biggest impact for the Eagles and it’s not even close; he was the second-most important player in this game behind Jadeveon Clowney (who we’ll get to later). It obviously hurt the Seahawks to be out Duane Brown (replaced by George Fant), Mike Iupati (replaced by Jamarco Jones), and Justin Britt (replaced by Joey Hunt), but even D.J. Fluker was getting pushed around (or, at best, stonewalled) by Cox and his wrecking crew on that front four. I’ve always known Cox was great, but MAN was he impressive in this one; he was a man possessed, and he didn’t seem to take a single play off. As a Seahawks blogger, I don’t tend to write a lot about opposing players, but I have to tip my cap to him; he almost single-handedly ruined the Seahawks’ season.

The Seahawks scored 17 points, so obviously the offense didn’t do a whole helluva lot, but there were three key aspects to the Seahawks’ success:

  1. The Seahawks didn’t turn the ball over
  2. The Seahawks were 8/15 on third down
  3. Russell Fucking Wilson

There were actually no turnovers in this game, period (which was odd, considering the start, where both offenses put the ball on the turf only to recover their own fumbles), so even one bad throw or mis-handled snap could’ve really swung the entire season. I hate to say it (especially considering Homer almost bonered it in the first possession), but NOT having Chris Carson might’ve made all the difference! Look, I love the guy as much as anyone, but he CLEARLY never fixed his fumbling problem (he had three in his first three games of the season, was clean for a while, then had a 3-game stretch where he lost the ball 4 times – but the opposing team only recovered 1 of them, which is pretty fortunate).

The success on third down was doubly-great because we were in 3rd & Long so many times! Some of that was luck/poor tackling on the Eagles’ part, but most of that was Russell Wilson flat out making plays. So, let’s get to him.

325 yards on 18/30 (for a 10.8 average) with a TD and a 108.3 passer rating. Add on 45 rushing yards on 9 scrambles, and we’re talking about the guy who was once the frontrunner for the MVP this season. He wasn’t perfect; there was an overthrow here and there, but he was as close to it as you can get.

It really sunk in as you watched some of these quarterbacks this weekend (and ESPECIALLY throughout the season): if it’s 3rd & 18 or whatever, and the Seahawks have Josh Allen or Ryan Tannehill or maybe 85% of the mediocre-to-crappy quarterbacks in this league, they’re either running a draw play or a screen pass to the running back, getting anywhere from 5-10 yards, and punting. Now, say what you will about the play calling (it was growing more and more alarming every time the Seahawks ran the ball after a penalty on 2nd & 20, I’ll admit it), but we’re not afraid to put the ball in Wilson’s hands when we’re behind the sticks, our backs are against the wall, and we need an incredible play. He’s the reason why you pay a quarterback $30+ million per season. He’ll get the job done when 90-95% of the rest of the league will fail in those same situations.

It was a low-key special performance by Wilson that will largely be forgotten to the sands of time, especially when you factor in this was D.K. Metcalf’s Coming Out Party.

I’ve been extremely high on Metcalf ever since we drafted him. Most talent evaluators (including the other 31 teams in the league) focused on the negatives in his repertoire, but I’ve known all along that his skillset fits this team and this quarterback perfectly. As has been discussed, his rookie season was largely a success, but there have been plenty of ups & downs. This was the first time he really put everything together and showed a glimpse of what he could become: a flat-out superstar in the NFL. 7 catches on 9 targets, 160 yards and a touchdown. The TD was incredible – a 53-yard catch, stumble, get-back-up, and barrel into the endzone – but his game-sealing 36-yard reception on 3rd & 10, with the Eagles holding only 1 time out on the wrong side of the 2-minute warning, was the reason you brought him in here in the first place. One-on-one coverage, no safeties deep, you absolutely need to convert that to win the game, otherwise you punt it away for the chance to tie, and he high-pointed the ball and came down with the W. Simply outstanding.

I was probably least-sure about the Seahawks’ defense in this one, but this was a classic performance by these guys.

Clowney was a total difference-maker; we haven’t seen him play this well since the 49ers game in Week 10. He filled up the stat sheet with 5 tackles, a sack, 2 tackles for loss, and one very memorable quarterback hit.

You can’t talk about this game without talking about Carson Wentz getting injured in the first quarter, leaving the game with a head injury, being replaced by a 40 year old Josh McCown who came out of retirement to be this team’s backup. We’ll never know if the Eagles would’ve won with Wentz in there for the full game, but I have to imagine at the very least that he would’ve found a way to at least get them in the endzone one time. As it stands, McCown was okay, but he was clearly over his skis; he threw for 174 yards on 18/24 passing and most importantly 0 turnovers. But, he also suffered 6 of the 7 sacks the Seahawks got in this one (after we had the second-fewest in the league in the regular season) and was clearly a little gimpy, having to run for his life most of the day.

The Seahawks’ pass rush really showed up on a day the team desperately needed it. It wasn’t any one man, either, as 6 different guys combined for the 7 total. Of course, that was a byproduct of the Eagles also suffering a number of injuries on their O-Line, but clearly the Seahawks were better able to cope (as Wilson only had the one).

Seattle has Wilson and that’s a definite leg up over the rest of the NFC, but we’ll only go as far as this defense can take us, and that means having all of our key guys healthy and playing at the top of their games. Clowney sure showed up. Bobby Wagner showed why he’s yet again an All Pro this season. And, Quandre Diggs – first game back since his high ankle sprain – showed why he’s so important to this defense. The longest reception by an Eagles player went for 32 yards to Ertz, but there was nothing over the top, and obviously they never saw the endzone. We’ll never know for sure how many of the sacks were due to tight coverage, but it’s definitely a non-zero number. Diggs allows McDougald to play more closely to the line of scrimmage, to help out in defending the run as well as covering those two great tight ends.

I want to shout out Cody Barton, as he was a guy I highlighted as a major concern before the game. For as much as this team plays base defense – and indeed, he was in there for 75% of the Seahawks’ snaps – he showed why this team loved him throughout the pre-season. He had a sack, 1.5 tackles for loss, and two passes defended in this one as well as an additional QB hit. I saw him do nothing but make play after play, as he finally had a full week to practice at one spot, and this team coached him up to their fullest abilities. If he continues to show out like he did in this one, there’s no doubt he’ll be starting for this defense in 2020.

As I said before, this was a classic defensive performance: bend, don’t break, lots of aggressive penalties, but ultimately keeping the inferior offense out of the endzone and keeping them at 0 for 2 on fourth down (both deep in Seattle territory, on back-to-back possessions in the fourth quarter). This is a similar (but obviously not the exact same, due to injuries) defense that let Brett Hundley march down the field on them in that fakakta Cardinals game, so it was nice to see them stand up when it mattered most.

It all sets us up for the best-possible scenario for the Seahawks, given the circumstances. We avoid the 49ers in the Divisional Round, which I’ve argued all along is of utmost importance. Now, Green Bay is obviously no slouch – and certainly the talking points around Seahawksland will be their terribly-easy schedule this season – but with Aarons Rodgers & Jones, Davante Adams, and a better-than-you’d-think defense, that team is balanced and experienced and, most importantly, at home.

I’m still pretty convinced that the Seahawks will lose in this one, but I’m more willing to give us a chance to score the upset than I would be if we’re going to Santa Clara. Make no mistake, I obviously believe the Seahawks COULD beat the 49ers (we obviously did it once on their home field, and should’ve beaten them twice this season), but it would be too difficult in this particular round of the playoffs: the 49ers are at full strength, with a week off, while we just played a brutal game against a very physical team all the way across the country. If we were to shock the world and upend the Packers, I’d give us a 50/50 shot at beating the 49ers in the Championship Game.

But, to get there, we have to beat a different very good, healthy, well-rested team at home. It’s never easy to win in Green Bay, and it’s especially not easy to beat them there in January. Knocking Aaron Rodgers out of the game almost certainly won’t be on the table, so here’s to hoping there’s a little Russell Wilson Magic left in the tank (we hopefully didn’t need to use it all up in that Eagles game).

How Did The Seahawks Rookies Do In 2019?

Teams who do it the right way tend to acquire their best pieces through the draft, and fill in where they have to through trades and free agency. The trades and signings can be flashy and exciting, but we’ve been burned by those enough times to be wary. If the hopes of a fanbase could be dished out in a pie chart, I’d argue the bigger slice of our hope lies in the team’s draft picks. Sure, it’d be nice if that free agent signing panned out, but more often than not the Seahawks are picking guys from the fringes, so the names are less sexy and the chances of them really blowing us away are reduced. We NEED these draft picks to turn into something useful, because we know that’s the way the Seahawks roll.

The trouble with draft picks is pretty obvious. They’re young. They’re inexperienced. They’re often overwhelmed by the size and speed and talent disparity between the pros and college. And, the main pitfall – when it comes to the fans – is projecting newly made draft picks into significant roles. High profile home runs tend to skew our thinking. Bobby Wagner and Russell Wilson came in right away and played HUGE roles in turning this franchise around! Ergo, every rookie picked in the first three rounds should start right away and light the league on fire! And, particularly with the Seahawks, and their success rate with guys picked on the final day of the draft, we see some names and hear some stories from mini camp, and we automatically start penciling guys in for Pro Bowls and All Pros before they’ve played a real down in anger.

I don’t have a great read on how Seahawks fans feel about the 2019 class. On the one hand, you could paint a very rosy picture based on D.K. Metcalf alone. He was selected at the very end of the second round, he came in and started right away, and he was a hit! 900 yards on 58 receptions, with 7 touchdowns. Hell, he was the second-most targeted receiver on this team with 100 (Lockett had more targets, but only by 10)! There were obviously some tough games for Metcalf this year, but the good FAR outweighs the bad, and his arrow is pointed straight up going forward. The sky is the limit for this kid; he’s been the young, big receiver we’ve been looking for since Pete Carroll got here in 2010.

So, that’s fantastic, right? Particularly in a season where we had to learn to live without Doug Baldwin. But, what about the rest of the class?

I don’t know about you, but the first thing I think of when I think of a rookie draft class is the first round pick. For this one, that’s L.J. Collier, and he’s brought absolutely nothing to the table. He’s officially listed as having played in 11 games this year, but even that number feels high. He hasn’t had any significant injuries during the regular season (that I can recall, anyway), but he did have an ankle injury in the pre-season that cost him a considerable amount of practice time. Which effectively cost him his entire rookie year, because when he hasn’t been a healthy scratch on gameday, he’s been so buried on the depth chart that he hasn’t made any impact whatsoever. 3 tackles. That’s his 2019 stat sheet.

I won’t call Collier a disaster, because quite frankly we don’t know what he is yet. He wasn’t particularly lauded for his pass rushing ability out of college – noted more for his run defense – but it’s discouraging that he still wasn’t able to do anything with even the few opportunities he was given. That’s not a good sign for things to come! Also, this Seahawks defense has really struggled against the run – especially towards the end of the season, when you might have expected someone like Collier to make a jump in his development – so the fact that he’s not helping in this area is ALSO not a good sign for things to come.

The one caveat I’ll pull out here is that Pete Carroll and Co. tend to have a blind spot when it comes to some of the younger guys. Remember in 2018, when the team was slow to realize that Chris Carson should be the bellcow back for this team? And it took some time to make the shift in their scheme? I would argue that Carroll is like most coaches, he’s going to go with the known quantity all things being equal. Yes, “Always Compete” and all that, but sometimes you can’t see what’s right in front of you if you’re not expecting anything to be there.

Even that, though, falls somewhat on the player. Collier obviously isn’t flashing. He’s not making any huge impact plays in practice, so he’s not as involved in games, and it’s a continuous cycle of disappointment. These same points could be made for the rest of the guys I’m going to write about below.

Let’s move on to Marquise Blair, the second round safety picked ahead of Metcalf. He might go down as one of the more frustrating aspects of the 2019 season. The fact that he hasn’t played more – he was originally behind Tedric Thompson, and of late has been bafflingly sat in favor of Lano Hill – is particularly galling. It’s not even an argument that Blair has the brighter future and higher upside than either of those two draft busts from 2017, but I would also argue that he’s better than them RIGHT NOW. Or, at the very least, he couldn’t be any worse, while actually having the capability to make real impactful plays on the field (rather than giving up huge chunks of yardage to opposing receivers). I know the best two safeties on this roster are McDougald and Diggs, but Blair should be #3 on that list and it’s ridiculous the longer he’s not.

Cody Barton was a third round pick. As a linebacker, he was brought into a situation where the Seahawks were arguably strongest on paper. Three quality veterans sat ahead of him, and we always knew it was going to be a challenge to get him on the field. It’s not a bad consolation prize to sit, learn from the best, and get your feet wet on special teams. Considering the age at the position, we all had him pegged as someone to compete for a starting job in 2020. And, with the talk out of camp being nothing but glowing praise for this kid, I think we all expected to get someone really special in Barton. Every time I turned around in August, I was reading about Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright talking about how smart and instinctual Barton is; they made it sound like if he were on any other team, he’d be starting immediately.

In recent weeks, as some of our starters have worn down, we’ve seen Barton in there on defense. And … ehh, he’s been all right, I guess. I dunno, I haven’t seen any quality plays out of him yet. To be fair, he’s effectively had to be the understudy for all three linebacker spots – as opposed to specializing at his best spot, which is probably weak-side – so I could see how that might stunt one’s growth. But, again, not a great sign. Also, not for nothing, but I remember in 2018 hearing nothing but good things out of the mouths of Wright and Wagner when it came to Tedric Thompson in training camp, and look at how he turned out. Either these guys will say they love everyone, or they have no concept of who is actually going to pan out.

Fourth round receiver Gary Jennings was one of three receivers we drafted in 2019; he was a healthy scratch for a number of weeks, until we signed Josh Gordon and had to waive one of them. Jennings was the odd man out. We were hoping to sneak him onto the practice squad, but the Dolphins swooped in and claimed him. It doesn’t look like he ever made it into a game, and ended up getting placed on IR.

Fourth round guard Phil Haynes hasn’t played either, to my knowledge. He’s had injury issues to get over, and now looks to be a backup at an oft-injured O-Line spot. So, he gets an incomplete, but to be fair, no one was expecting him to play a lot as a rookie lineman.

Fourth round DB Ugo Amadi is another guy where it’s frustrating how little he’s played, especially when you consider how lights out he’s been on special teams. And ESPECIALLY when you consider how poor our pass defense has been at times this year. To be honest, I still don’t have a good handle on whether he’s a safety or a nickel corner or both. He was SUPPOSED to be converted to a nickel corner from safety, and that just so happened to be an area of need for this team heading into the season. But, instead we opted to play an unsustainably high percentage of plays in base defense, with Kendricks over anyone else. And, when we HAVE played nickel, we’ve opted for duds like Jamar Taylor over Amadi. Again, I don’t know what that says about Amadi’s skill vs. the coaching staff’s blind spot, but it’s not encouraging.

Ben Burr-Kirven was pegged coming in as a special teamer, so in that sense he’s lived up to his billing. When we already drafted a similar linebacker in the third round, you had to figure Barton always had a leg-up to be the next guy on the field in base defense, so there’s nothing surprising or really noteworthy here. Also, not for nothing, but Demarcus Christmas was always pegged as a longshot project as a sixth round defensive tackle. He’s been hurt most of the year and ended up on IR, so we’ll see if he has anything in the tank for 2020.

Travis Homer was another sixth round pick, and someone I had kind of hoped we’d see more of. But, the Seahawks had room on their roster to house C.J. Prosise (who, to his credit, stayed relatively healthy for MOST of the season, before going out in that Arizona game), and when you’re talking about a team like the Seahawks (where offensive possessions are at a premium), you’re not going to find many opportunities to get a fourth-string running back any snaps.

However, as the top three guys all went down, Week 17 ended up being the Travis Homer Show! Against the 49ers, he had 10 carries for 62 yards and another 5 receptions for 30 yards. He’s also been – as expected – another standout on special teams. I don’t think he’ll ever be a bellcow type back for this team, but as a #2, and a 3rd down/2-minute back, he would seem to fit right in. Honestly, behind Metcalf, Homer has been the second-best 2019 draft pick so far and it’s not particularly close. I can legitimately envision a role for Homer going forward; I don’t know if I can say that about anyone else besides Metcalf.

Finally, we have John Ursua. The seventh round wide receiver out of Hawaii where we actually traded a 2020 draft pick to get back into the 2019 draft and get him. He was never going anywhere; when we had that receiver crunch (at one point, rostering 8 of our 53 players at the position, which is insane), I knew it would be Ursua over Jennings. You can’t give up that much and let the guy go to another team. Anyway, he’s been a healthy scratch for 15/16 games. Due to attrition, he finally made it into a game against the 49ers, catching his only target for 11 yards. It’s kind of a shame he hasn’t gotten more play than he has, especially when we’ve seen plenty of targets go to David Moore, Jaron Brown, and Malik Turner; but Ursua doesn’t play special teams, so it’s honestly surprising he made it onto this roster in the first place.

That would lead me to believe we have someone potentially special in Ursua. Here’s to hoping he gets more of a shot in 2020.

When you lay it all out like that, the 2019 Draft Class feels like a bust … when you ONLY count the 2019 season. There’s obviously limitless potential in the future for any number of these guys, and we’ll all be pegging our hopes and dreams on significant leaps in development in Years 2, 3, & 4. But, as far as the impact they’ve had AS rookies, it’s been D.K. Metcalf and that’s about it.

Which is why, in recent seasons, I’ve drastically reduced my expectations for incoming rookies, and I’d suggest everyone else do the same. It’s just too hard to make that jump in a vacuum. Then, add into it where the Seahawks usually draft (toward the ends of rounds, because we usually make the playoffs), and the fact that we’re always in contention for playoff spots (meaning we don’t have a lot of opportunities to showcase our rookies, because we don’t have very many holes on our roster), and it’s a tough situation to break into. The fact of the matter is – regardless of team – most rookies won’t out-play healthy veterans. The bad teams tend to play a higher percentage of rookies right away because they’re looking to rebuild, and they don’t have any expectations to make the playoffs right away. The Seahawks aren’t one of those bad teams, which is a very good thing.

The final question I have to ask myself is: where do I see this class going in 2020-2022?

It’ll certainly be known as the D.K. Metcalf class, but will anyone else step up? I have no real expectations for Collier. They tried to put a Michael Bennett comp on him coming out of college, but that sounds as far-fetched as it gets. Even Frank Clark is too high a bar to place on him. Could he be the next Quinton Jefferson? Maybe, but even that might be too good; and remember, Q-Jeff was selected in the fifth round, not the first. Lawrence Jackson is probably the floor here, and it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest if Collier is Lo-Jack 2.0.

I’m still pretty high on Blair; I’d like to see him get a legitimate shot to start in 2020. I’m less high (but still fairly high) on Barton; I’d like to see what he looks like when we stick him at just one linebacker spot and let him work on his craft there. I think Homer can be a very solid #2 running back for this team (what that means for Penny and Carson, I have no idea, but both are coming off significant injuries, so the opportunity should be there regardless). And, I still like Ursua as a dark-horse #3 receiver in the near future; here’s hoping he hits it off with Russell Wilson in the offseason.

Beyond those guys, I have no real expectations. Ugo Amadi should fight for a nickel cornerback spot. The rest feel like depth pieces.

Thankfully, your fate isn’t determined by your rookie season alone. A lot can change in the next three years. It’ll be fun to see who steps up. Sometimes it takes three full years of fighting before you bust through in your final season on the rookie deal! Those scenarios aren’t ideal, of course, as you’re really only getting one season of cheap production before you either have to pay them a lot of money or watch them walk to another franchise. But, it’s better than nothing I guess.

My Gut Tells Me The Seahawks Are Losing Against The Rams

The easy analysis for this game is to simply point to the previous meeting against the Rams – at home, in primetime – and note the fact that we probably should’ve lost that game, if one of the best long-distance kickers in all of football didn’t miss a last-second field goal by a couple of feet. This game’s in L.A., ergo a lucky 1-point victory at home turns into a heartbreaking 2-point defeat on the road. Case closed.

The most important argument AGAINST that line of thinking is that we’re not talking about the same Seahawks team that played the Rams in Week 5. Sure, it’s a very SIMILAR team, but there are key differences to Week 14 Seahawks.

Like, for instance, the receiving corps have improved with the addition of Josh Gordon. He hasn’t made a HUGE impact yet, but he’s definitely shown – in his limited snaps – to be a trusted target on third down slant passes. I don’t know how many of his catches have moved the chains, but I think it’s an unsustainably high percentage. I’d also argue that David Moore is finally coming around, and assuming Lockett is finally healthy and feeling well again, it’s a no-brainer that this passing game is even scarier than it already was when Russell Wilson was still an MVP candidate.

You can also point to the emergence of Rashaad Penny – providing invaluable depth to our rushing attack – and Jacob Hollister – helping us not miss the loss of Will Dissly one iota – as further proof that this offense is better than it was, and should continue to grow in exciting ways as we head into the playoffs.

But, the biggest difference is obviously on the defense. Jarran Reed is back and wreaking havoc. Ziggy Ansah has finally shown up and was starting to make an impact, until his offseason injury was aggravated last week (fingers crossed he’ll be good to go). Then, there’s the addition of Shaquem Griffin to our pass rushing unit, which hasn’t overwhelmed in the sack department, but he’s certainly making an impact to our pass rush as a whole with his speed off the edge. Ever since the 49ers game, our front seven has taken it up another few notches, which is exactly what the doctor ordered.

And last but certainly not least, we have the addition of Quandre Diggs in the secondary, who has REALLY solidified our pass defense, bringing an element we haven’t had back there since the Kam & Earl heyday. Diggs paired with McDougald doesn’t only bring back that veteran presence we’d sorely been lacking, but the talent disparity between them and T2 or Lano Hill or any of the other guys we’ve trotted out there the last couple seasons is truly remarkable.

The defense isn’t perfect, but it’s a far cry better than it was the last time we saw the Rams. We’re on a 5-game winning streak, we’ve beaten at least 2 (if not 3, if the Eagles figure it out) serious playoff contenders in that span, and we JUST recaptured the lead in the NFC West. Finally, this game is in primetime, and you KNOW how good we are at night. Just about EVERYTHING is pointing to a Seahawks victory over the Rams this Sunday.

So, why is my gut going against everything I hold dear?

If I wanted to pile on even more, I’d talk about the Rams. For starters, this is NOT the same team that plowed through the NFL last year and made it all the way to the Super Bowl. Call it a hangover all you want, but a lot of people feel that the rest of the league has finally started to figure this team out. The Rams are 7-5, and haven’t looked particularly good at all. They’ve looked especially poor on offense, and that’s supposed to be this team’s strength!

The Rams are 2-2 in their last 4 games, with wins over the lowly Cardinals and Bears. Even against the Bears, they could only muster 17 points; meanwhile they were absolutely ROUTED by the Ravens, and lost to a VERY banged up Steelers team. The Rams also looked pretty inept against the 49ers, and their defense might as well have not shown up at all against the Bucs in giving up 55 points.

It’s just been an up-and-down year for this team, and nothing has gone right since that Bucs loss at home. After a 3-0 start, they’ve gone 4-5, exclusively beating up on the dregs of the NFL. Do I REALLY need to go on?

All right, I will. Jared Goff has been ATROCIOUS! Their defense is clearly overrated (especially in stopping the run). And they’re pretty banged up across the board on offense as well, especially on the O-Line (which speaks volumes towards Goff’s struggles).

So, I mean, am I REALLY that impressed by a 27-point victory over the failing Arizona Cardinals that my gut would go out on this limb?

What can I say? The gut wants what the gut wants.

I’ll say this: the Rams always play us tough. I’m less concerned about their defense; I think we won’t have too much trouble scoring points in this one (though, I am worried – and rightfully so – about our fumble-itis). I’m VERY concerned about the Rams’ offense, as I think they can look pedestrian and beatable against a lot of quality teams, but for whatever reason they know how to move the ball at will against our defense.

Also, not for nothing, but I kinda think we’re just due for a loss. It’s been a while! I can’t really see us losing to the Panthers or Cardinals (though, if squint hard enough, I could see that Arizona game being wild at the end), and for whatever reason I just can’t see us being undefeated through that 49ers game. Something’s gonna give between now and then, and I think this week is it.

The Rams are one of the six best teams in the NFC. My hunch is: the Rams eventually overtake the Vikings for that final wild card spot. They’ve got a long, hard road to get there, but if it’s meant to be, it’ll happen for them this Sunday.

Conversely, the Seahawks could effectively dash their hopes and dreams in our toughest game remaining before the big Week 17 showdown. I pray we’re able to make that happen, but as usual I have my doubts. So much so that I’ve selected the Rams to win in my weekly pick ’em game this weekend. If I’m wrong, then great!

If I’m right, then God help us all …

The Seahawks Are Leading The NFC West For Now

The Seahawks can’t seem to win a normal, run-of-the-mill blowout game. I guess that’s okay as long as we keep winning, but …

Before the game, I called a score of 34-13, and for a brief moment there early in the fourth quarter, it was 34-17 and I thought I was a genius. Then, the Vikings almost immediately scored a touchdown to bring it to 34-24 and the comeback was officially on.

Things got tight in that fourth quarter and it started to look like one of those stupid games we used to lose in 2015 or 2016, where we’d get a seemingly-insurmountable lead and cough it up in some mindboggling way. After that breakdown in coverage gave the Vikings a 58-yard touchdown, our fumbling problem returned. When you’re talking about Seahawks and fumbles, you’re usually talking about Chris Carson, but he was great in this one. The second person you think of when you think about fumbles with this team, it’s not even that long of a pause: D.K. Metcalf. This game is actually a decent microcosm of his season: he’s had a lot of positives this year (6 catches for 75 yards, to lead the game), but just enough negatives (the lost fumble on a crucial 3rd down conversion that would’ve extended the drive and killed some more clock) to remind you that he’s a rookie. He’s a work in progress, it’s fine.

The Vikings proceeded to drive it 72 yards – aided considerably by a 3rd down pass interference penalty on Tre Flowers that was exclusively due to Kirk Cousins throwing a terrible, underthrown ball – but missed the extra point to make it 34-30. The Seahawks were once again limited in what time they could take off the clock, and the game hinged on the Vikings’ next drive.

They quickly got it out of the shadow of their own red zone, but the drive stalled at that point, ultimately turning it over on downs.

In spite of the score, the Seahawks’ defense was pretty solid. Sack numbers never tell the whole story, as it appeared the Seahawks were able to get consistent pressure on Cousins from a variety of players. Rasheem Green stood out in a big way, really proving his worth these last few games. He ended up forcing a fumble and generally being a presence in the backfield. Ziggy Ansah – before suffering a stinger that took him out – ended the game with 3 QB hits and a batted pass. Clowney returned from his injury to hit Cousins and get a tackle for loss. Jarran Reed also returned from injury and hit Cousins a couple times. All in all, 7 QB hits were recorded for the Seahawks.

The secondary – aside from a couple lapses – has started to come together. McDougald and Diggs continue to prove they’re the best safeties on this roster. Tre Flowers had a BEAUTIFUL interception on a pass intended for Stefon Diggs. And we saw a lot of tight coverage from the linebackers outside of that first Vikings TD drive.

The first half was a little frustrating, but the Seahawks did what they always do: they kept it close. Then, for a change of pace, we came out on fire after halftime, scoring 17 in the third quarter and going on a 24-0 run overall in the second half.

The Vikings’ defense was absolutely baffling to me. I kept looking at what they were doing pre-snap and it didn’t make any sense. They came into the game – I want to say – top 5 in rush defense, but they consistently loaded the box with anywhere from 5-7 guys, like they were daring us to ram it down their throats. Or, at least believing that just their front four would frustrate us enough into throwing more. Hell, on that huge 25-yard run by Carson early in the third quarter, they had a 7-man box against Seattle’s 7-man front; do the math! That’s a hat on a hat with a free Carson chugging towards the endzone!

It was like this all night! I usually finding myself calling out for more passing when I see our offense, but this was one of those rare games where I was begging Wilson to check to more run plays! Carson led the way with 102 yards on 23 carries, but Penny wasn’t far behind with 74 yards on 15 carries. The team totalled 218 yards on the ground on a 5.1 yard average with 2 TDs.

A good chunk of that came on the fake punt in the fourth quarter by Travis Homer (on that same drive that ended in a Metcalf fumble). With the way we were running all night, I kept expecting one of those patented Seahawks clock-churning drives to gobble up all the wind from their sails. That fake punt was a thing of beauty to keep the dream alive for a wee bit longer. From one conservative head coach to another, there was no way Mike Zimmer was expecting that from Pete Carroll in that situation, not with our 10-point lead and Carroll’s devotion to his defense! Yet, there it was, and it came at the best time possible. It’s just too bad we couldn’t finish the job right there.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the game that would vault Wilson back into the MVP conversation. He’s still a very large distance behind Lamar Jackson, and 240 yards and 2 TDs (against 1 fluke INT following two batted passes) isn’t going to cut the mustard. If anything, he’s continuing to let other contenders reach his level, which can’t be good. He’s sitting at a 26:4 TD:INT ratio and a 111.1 passer rating; Jackson is at 25:5 with a 109.6 (plus another 7 TDs on the ground and almost 1,000 rushing yards, which is insane). Luckily, Wilson just cares about winning (not that Jackson doesn’t), and that’s all the Seahawks have been doing of late.

It feels great to finally get over that 49ers hump. With four weeks left in the season, let’s see how long that lasts!

The Seahawks Should’ve Killed The Eagles, Had To Settle For A Mild Drubbing

Kind of a weird game, but for the Seahawks that’s normal … so kind of a normal game.

At one point, the Seahawks should’ve been up 21-3, that’s what I do know. The Seahawks gave up the early field goal, then immediately marched right down the field, and four plays later – thanks to a trick play that went toss to the running back, lateral back to Wilson, deep ball to Malik Turner – went up 7-3. Then, a little later in the first half, the Seahawks marched down the field again and got all the way to Philly’s 6-yard line. Wilson scrambled around in the pocket and had Jacob Hollister wide open, but somehow overthrew him with no defenders between the two. That was as easy of a touchdown as you’ll see, but it wasn’t meant to be. Then, right before half, at the Philly 38, Wilson had D.K. Metcalf wide open down the middle, but he dropped the ball and we opted to punt.

This game should’ve been over at halftime, but instead we let them hang around, not really putting it away until there was about 12 minutes left in the game when we scored the TD to put us up 17-3. Even then, it wasn’t REALLY over, but the Eagles couldn’t do anything against our defense, until scrounging up a garbage-time touchdown late to pull it to the final of 17-9 (going for 2 for some unknown reason).

We learned two key things in this game. #1 – we learned that Russell Wilson has effectively played himself out of the MVP race. It’s not totally his fault, but with another pick and that missed connection to Hollister, he’s not off the hook either. Fair is fair, though, and these receivers – mostly just D.K. Metcalf – are dropping way too many highlight reel passes, thus keeping Wilson off of Sportscenter, thus leaving space for other contenders to shine. Ultimately, it’s Lamar Jackson’s award to lose; Wilson had to be as perfect as can be to keep up, and I just don’t know if he has it in him. It’s a bitter pill, to be sure, but sometimes destiny just gets in the way.

The second thing we learned in this one is that the defense might be back, and at the most perfect time!

I’ll be the first to admit, I was medium-worried heading into this one, with the news that Jadeveon Clowney wasn’t going to play with a hip injury. Hip injuries, by the way, are the second-most-annoying injuries an NFL player can have, behind turf toe (and just ahead of oblique strain). The fact that he came out of the 49ers game banged up isn’t really surprising, because that was as tough and physical a game as I’ve ever seen a one-man-wrecking-crew undertake. But, that he’s still injured even after a BYE week is more than a little concerning. I mean, let’s face it, ALL of our games going forward are Must Win; we can’t slip up even a little bit with the 49ers playing as well as they are. So, you know we need him, you know he wants to play, and that he is unable to really makes me wonder how long we’re going to be looking at this.

Also, even if he returns at some point, how much will it affect him the rest of the way?

The cool thing is, the Seahawks didn’t need him in this one, because everyone else showed up in a big way.

This wasn’t a one-man show. Damn near every guy on the defense made at least one impact play. Wright and Kendricks were blankets over the guys they were responsible for; Tre Flowers had 3 passes defended and a pick. McDougald had a pick. Diggs recovered a fumble. I’m pretty sure Shaquill Griffin forced a fumble. Shaquem Griffin had a couple QB hits and was a menace in pass rush. Rasheem Green had a sack and a couple QB hits. Ziggy Freakin’ Ansah finally showed up to play! He had 1.5 sacks and I want to say a forced fumble as well! Jarran Reed had half a sack before going out with an ankle. Poona Ford and Al Woods were in the backfield all day. I mean, you name him, and he made something happen!

The Eagles rushed for 106 yards on 23 carries, but it hardly mattered, because Carson Wentz was the god damned devil. We held him to 256 yards passing (80 of which came on that garbage-time touchdown drive at the end) on 33/45, most of those being of the short-to-intermediate variety. So, in other words, he played right into our hands of what we want to do defensively. We also picked him off twice and sacked him 3 times, but that doesn’t tell the whole story, because we were living in his grill the entire game (10 QB hits total).

Now, obviously, the Eagles are as banged up as can be. Their top three receivers are out, their right tackle was hurt, and their top two running backs were gone. This was a M.A.S.H. unit on offense, and the Seahawks took advantage. You could argue that’s why our defense looked so elite, and make a case that we AREN’T back yet, but I’ve seen this defense look pretty mediocre against a worse set of offensive “talent”, so I’m not buying that at all. The Eagles still boast two great tight ends and they had enough guys to get things done (especially since their defense has also turned a corner after some early-season struggles).

Nope, I’m saying here and now that the Seahawks’ defense will be fine. It won’t be Top 10 or anything, but it will be what we need it to be.

If anything, I think we need to start worrying about D.K. Metcalf. He had at least two or three balls fall off his hands in this one. Granted, they would’ve been remarkable plays, but those are passes he needs to catch if he’s going to be an impact player in this offense. I know he’s a rookie and everything, but this is a team fighting for a Super Bowl opportunity. If he’s hitting a Rookie Wall, that’s going to be dangerous for us heading into the home stretch. I don’t WANT to have to depend on Josh Gordon to be that guy for us (he had 1 catch for 10 yards on 2 targets in this one, as he slowly acclimates into our offense), but we may have no choice. This is two drop-heavy games in a row for Metcalf, I’ll be very interested in how he responds.

Also, Jesus Christ, Chris Carson, you’re killing me! He had back-to-back fumbles in this one (the second one we lost at a key juncture late in the game, when we could’ve put the game away), and this just isn’t going to go away, is it? I will reiterate what I said earlier this season: DO NOT EXTEND CARSON BEYOND HIS ROOKIE CONTRACT! If he holds out next year, so fucking be it. Draft someone to replace him and let’s move on with our lives. Also, he better NOT fucking hold out, because with this fumbling problem (on top of his prior injury problem), he’s going to need a bounce-back season in 2020 just to prove he’s reliable! No team is going to give a fumbler a high-money deal! Not even the Jets!

Rashaad Penny made the notion of benching Carson a lot easier with his 129 yards on 14 carries, with a 58-yard breakaway touchdown in the second half. I do agree with Salk on this one – that Penny isn’t as good out of shotgun as he is in a traditional single-back formation – so I hope that we can introduce more of those plays into our offense. Some of Marshawn Lynch’s best runs came out of plays with Wilson under center, so I don’t know why we can’t bring more of that back into our offense (it also sets up the play-action even better than it does out of shotgun).

Everything about this game smacked of 2013 Seahawks: low scoring, defense-heavy, grind it out and get the W any way you can. We’re 9-2, still a game out of first, with a Monday Night contest against the Vikings (coming off of their own BYE) to look forward to at CenturyLink Field. I can’t think of a better way to kick off December 2019.

The Seahawks Can Be Legitimate Super Bowl Contenders

Last week, I prattled on and on about why the Monday Night game would be so important for the Seahawks’ chances. Ultimately, I believed that the Seahawks SHOULD be making a push for an NFL championship, but their defense would be their downfall.

What this blog post presupposes is … maybe the defense is okay?

It’s a lot more fun living in a world where the Seahawks are 8-2. It’s not ideal, but when have we ever had an ideal Seahawks season? Even in 2013, our biggest obstacle was right in our own (relative) back yard with the 49ers; here we go again.

The best part is, everything I wrote about the 49ers last week is still true; they’re still heading into – BY FAR – the toughest stretch of their schedule. And, now they’re heading into it with a loss under their belts. It’s not remarkably easier for the Seahawks, so I’m not clapping my hands together in a job well done – there’s still a lot of work to do in our own garden – but it’s far easier to foresee a scenario where the Seahawks and 49ers are playing for both a division title and a Top 2 seed in the NFC in Week 17. In a game that Seattle will host, that will almost certainly be flexed to the 5pm time slot.

There’s still so much to unpack from that Monday Night game that I didn’t really touch on. For starters, either team would’ve been lucky to come out of there with a win; really, if a game ever deserved to end in a tie, it was probably that one. I tend to focus on all the things the Seahawks did to try to throw that game away – Wilson’s interception, D.K.’s fumble, Penny’s fumble, Wilson’s fumble-turned-Ifedi’s-fumble-turned-49ers’-touchdown, the interceptions Wright and Wagner and Flowers (off the top of my head) dropped that could’ve sealed the victory – but there were tons of things the 49ers did wrong that should’ve sealed the deal (and eventually DID seal the deal) for the Seahawks (again, those near-picks, Clowney’s fumble return for a TD, the other Jimmy G fumble, the countless drops from his receivers who were afraid of getting punished by our hard-hitting safeties, and of course the missed field goal in overtime). One thing that’s tough to shake is what that game would’ve looked like if Kittle was healthy, or if Sanders had played the entire game (take nothing away from the Seahawks on that one, because our guys were hitting HARD on defense).

And that gets me back to the point of this BYE-week post. The Defense. My personal whipping boy pretty much all year. From the beginning, I’ve held the opinion that this side of the ball would get better as the season progressed, and that when we get into this very stretch we’re in right now, we’d be looking at something downright respectable! Well, if I’d only listened to September-Me, I wouldn’t have to backtrack so much abuse I’ve heaped upon these guys in the last few weeks.

Now, of course, some of them deserve it. Ezekiel Ansah looks beyond washed up. I think Pete Carroll said he’s undersized from the weight he was at in his prime, but he looks overweight and slow to me, so something doesn’t check out. Clearly, he wasn’t able to work out the way he would’ve liked this past offseason, with the injury he was recovering from, and it shows on the field. He’s a ZERO, bringing absolutely nothing to the table. At this point, he’s blocking someone like Shaquem Griffin, who HAS to have a higher immediate upside in the pass rushing department.

I loved that move, by the way. I thought it was the most inspired thing the Seahawks have done on defense all year. Jadeveon Clowney was a man possessed against the 49ers, and an obvious choice for Defensive Player of the Week; that might be the best single defensive performance we see in the NFL all year! But, he’s been rock solid all season; he’s also been the benefactor of near-constant double teaming by opposing offenses, and rightly so. He’s obviously the only guy on the Seahawks’ D-line that anyone has to worry about, so shifting protection his way SHOULD be priority number 1 for most teams. With Ansah doing nothing, combined with Rasheem Green, Quinton Jefferson (who’s also been battling injuries most of the year), and anyone else you’ve put opposite Clowney (L.J. Collier, where you at?), I mean, the Seahawks had to do SOMETHING. Shaquem Griffin has been languishing on Special Teams his entire career, he was a primary pass rusher in college, why not at least give him a shot?

And, I get it, he’s probably a liability against the run. So, don’t put him in those situations. I hate to say it, but maybe be a little more predictable! Just use Griffin on 3rd downs and in otherwise obvious pass rushing situations. Let him use his speed off the edge to try to – if not get to the quarterback – at least redirect him in the pocket. Make him move around, get off his spot, delay his throw, and hopefully miss his intended target. Sacks aren’t the be-all, end-all in pass rushing.

Anything is better than what we’ve been seeing out of this defense, which has been a lot of quarterbacks with enough time to make giant party subs in their respective pockets!

I don’t know if Griffin is the solution, but he’s a step in the right direction. With Clowney playing at a D-POY level, I don’t think you NEED the other guys to be superstars; you just need them to be competent and improve week-by-week. Jarran Reed coming back and getting into the swing of things certainly helped against the 49ers. That, in turn, helped the play of Poona Ford and Al Woods; the more teams have to worry about Reed, the more that’s going to open things up for the other tackle next to him. Hopefully, this will all lead to the younger guys opposite Clowney to incrementally improve, to the point where they’re making an actual noticeable impact by season’s end.

Another one of my whipping boys has been Bobby Wagner, and the linebackers in general. Mostly, I’m lamenting the lack of huge impact plays by these guys. They’re doing everything else they’re supposed to do, but we haven’t really seen them flash all too often. There’s been a play here and there from Kendricks. Wagner finally started to assert himself more against the 49ers. Wright still looks like someone who’s probably on his final legs, and I’d like to see Cody Barton mixed in there a bit more to at least see what we have in him. But, for the most part, Wright is one of this team’s primary leaders, and he’s not going anywhere, at least not this year.

And, for the first time all year, there’s actual reason for hope when it comes to the secondary. Shaquill Griffin is still playing at an elite level, so no worries there. Quandre Diggs made his debut and looked fantastic! I guess he got the start at free safety, but he was hitting dudes out there like a strong safety. Combined with a healthy Bradley McDougald, I think that could really settle things down in the defensive backfield; here’s hoping they can just stay out there. Tre Flowers still has room to improve, and I keep feeling like it’s going to break out for him any game now. The nickel is still a huge area of concern, so the team is going to have to coach guys up and scheme this problem into irrelevance.

All year, everyone’s been saying that we don’t expect this defense to return to its L.O.B. roots. With how great the offense is, just Middle of the Road would be fine! Teams constructed like this – with a smart coaching staff behind them – can ABSOLUTELY win championships! We’ve seen worse defenses than this one go all the way. But, a little improvement never hurt anyone.

The 49ers game was the best this defense has played all year; if we can stay right around that level, the sky is the limit.

There were calls from the more optimistic sect of Seahawks fans prior to the 49ers game calling for fans to lighten up. I believe Hawkblogger himself said it’s okay to believe. I wasn’t there with him; the 49ers looked too daunting. Turns out they’re human, like all the teams in the NFL. In that respect, the Seahawks are as good as any of the contenders out there. I’m ready to finally start believing. I won’t make us frontrunners; but we’re as good or better than the 49ers, Saints, Packers, Cowboys, and any other NFC team you throw our way.

The Seahawks are IN this thing! It’s gonna be a fun final six weeks.