Are The Seahawks Progressing Faster Than Usual This Season?

The Seahawks under Pete Carroll have a certain reputation, that I don’t think is actually warranted anymore. They’re a team that starts slow, but then comes together and improves as the season goes along, until they slam into a home stretch that puts them over the top by playoff time. The biggest lament of this scenario is the fact that the Seahawks usually dick around too much early in the season – losing too many games – and are unable to qualify for a divisional title or a top seed in the conference. We might be playing the best ball by the end of the regular season, but we’re going to be playing that ball on the road, and it makes a big difference in the playoffs.

Anyway, that’s the reputation, but again, if you go back season-by-season, I don’t know if it’s really true anymore. It probably hasn’t been true since 2018. But, just go with me on this.

If we focus exclusively on the defense – and, spoiler alert, that’s what the title of this post is referring to – then I think you very much CAN make that argument, across a long span of time. Probably dating back to 2016. As the L.O.B. aged out and went their separate ways, the Seahawks have failed in trying to replenish this team with defensive stars. It’s been nothing but middling players, with an occasional splash trade for an overpriced veteran who isn’t able to do enough to bring this unit back to its former glories.

So, what happens? Well, we start each and every season looking like the worst defense in all of football. We look like that, because we ARE that. Doesn’t matter if it’s Kris Richard, Ken Norton Jr., or Clint Hurtt; this side of the ball is going to massively struggle early, Pete Carroll is going to assert his will to get things more in line, and it’s eventually going to look somewhat better. But, that never lasts, because there’s a major talent shortage, and you can only hold the dike together with scotch tape and bungee cords for so long before it bursts.

Why does this year look different? How did we – in one offseason – go from looking like one of the worst defenses in football, to potentially looking like one of the best? Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying we’re the 49ers or the Jets or something. But a difference from being Bottom 10 to Top 10 is certainly massive.

Well, let’s start with the guys we brought in. Dre’Mont Jones, Bobby Wagner, Jarran Reed, Devon Witherspoon, Julian Love, Mario Edwards, Derick Hall, Devin Bush, and Cameron Young are the major culprits. Then, there’s the return of Jamal Adams, Tre Brown, and Jordyn Brooks from injury. And maybe the biggest catalyst is the improvement of Boye Mafe from year one to year two.

Now, let’s look at who’s NOT here. Cody Barton, Ryan Neal, Shelby Harris, Al Woods, Poona Ford, Quinton Jefferson, Bruce Irvin, L.J. Collier, and Bryan Mone (still on the roster, but injured). There’s a lot of addition by subtraction going on here. Neal is probably the best player in this group, but the combo of Love and Adams certainly more than makes up for his loss. Barton is one of the worst linebackers in football. Poona has hardly even played. Collier is who we thought he was. The rest of them are role players at best. And maybe the biggest catalyst here is the fact that Mike Jackson’s role has been severely diminished with Brown and Woolen healthy. Rather than being this team’s 2nd corner, he’s now the 4th or even 5th option, which is probably where he belongs (and as far as 4th or 5th corners goes, he’s pretty good at that).

So, it definitely looks like the Seahawks pulled all the right strings in this past offseason.

Witherspoon is obviously getting the lion’s share of attention, for good reason. He’s wonderful! We’ve never seen someone quite like him, and he’s quickly proving why he was deemed to be the #5 overall pick, and the best DB in the draft. I would say, however, that the biggest surprise has been Jarran Reed. The NFL more or less left him for dead after he left the Seahawks the first time, since he hasn’t done a whole lot with the Chiefs or Packers. He’s back and he might be better than ever!

The combo of Reed and Jones is better than any interior option we’ve had since the L.O.B. days. Jones got off to a bit of a slow start, but he’s beginning to assert himself, and it’s really paying dividends. You can see it in the VAST improvement of our run defense, but they also have 5 sacks between them after 5 games.

Having Wagner and Brooks together again has also been a breath of fresh air. I am in awe over Brooks’ ability to return so quickly from ACL surgery. Not just to play since week 1, but to play at a high level. You also want to lump in Witherspoon and a healthy Adams into this mix, because they’re wreaking havoc near the line of scrimmage.

We talk about depth a lot with the Seahawks’ defense. They don’t seem to have – on paper – the kind of front-line stars that teams like the 49ers, Jets, and Eagles have. Those teams, as we’ve seen, also have lots of depth, but I think that’s easy to come by when you have so many superstars. Put anyone with a pulse around Nick Bosa, Fletcher Cox, and Quinnen Williams, and you’re bound to look good. But, the Seahawks – 1 through 25 – look pretty rock solid, and it’s making all the difference.

Nwosu is still playing like he did last year. Mafe, again, has taken a clear step forward in his progression (tied for the team lead in sacks with Reed). Hall and Darrell Taylor are still valuable rotational pieces in the pass rush. Even Edwards and Young have plugged holes and made some noise.

Thus far, the secondary – the unit we all expected to be among the best in the game – has been the biggest disappointment. But, I would argue they’ve also been the most banged up. Adams, as per usual, has only played in a game and a quarter. Woolen was injured before the season and came late to the party. Ditto Witherspoon. Brown has been in and out. Now, we’re down Coby Bryant with a toe injury (currently on IR). We’ve had to use Love more than we would’ve liked, and probably in areas where he’s not best utilized. Jackson, in spite of a promising 2022, and a highly-regarded training camp, has not looked good. Diggs has had everything on his plate, and hasn’t been able to just let it rip the way he does best (as a turnover machine). With our stars returning, though, everyone else can settle into the roles that best maximize their talents, and you get what we’ve seen the last two games: the Seahawks shutting down opposing passing games (including the vaunted Bengals) the way we all expected heading into the season.

We can’t claim the Seahawks are up there with the true elites, simply because when injuries start to crop up again, we won’t have enough behind them to keep us in that upper echelon. But, if we can avoid truly devastating injuries, and somehow cobble together the rest of this season with Adams involved ON the field, I think there’s real potential here.

The offense won’t always be as bad as they were against the Bengals. I wouldn’t even say they were truly bad, just inept in the red zone. They should keep us in most every game the rest of the way. But, that’s a two-way street. I firmly believe this defense can also keep us in every game the rest of the way. Then, it comes down to execution, and a little luck.

We’re not in an insurmountable hole, even though a 3-2 record – after losing a very winnable game – is far from ideal. Having the defense seemingly figured out only a month into the season is a big boost for this team, though! Now, I could be dead wrong, and this unit will revert back to giving up tons of yards and points this very next game. But, I don’t think I’m off here. And that will mean big things for this team the rest of the way.

We have 12 games left. 6 at home, 6 on the road. If we break it up, three of our next four are at home (Arizona, Cleveland, at Baltimore, Washington). Two of those games should be wins, if we expect to be a playoff team. With the other two, I would say both are winnable, and you’d like to come away from this stretch at least 3-1. That makes us 6-3 as we head into the gauntlet of the schedule.

At the Rams (didn’t have this one pegged as part of the gauntlet heading into the season), 49ers on Thanksgiving night, at Dallas also on Thursday, at 49ers, home for the Eagles. I would like to believe we can compete with L.A., but I dunno. If we manage to win that one, it’ll likely have to be a shootout. Dallas seems like a game we might be able to steal. The Eagles don’t look quite as dominant as they did last year. That leaves us with two against our direct rivals, the 49ers. If we can split those two, and win 2 of 3 against the rest, that puts us at 9-5 heading into the stretch run. Seems far more likely we’re 8-6, and still clinging to wild card hopes, but we’ll see.

The final three games are at Tennessee, home for Pittsburgh, and at Arizona. You’d like to think, by that point, those teams will have nothing to play for. Regardless, all are incredibly flawed. Still, when have we ever managed to be perfect in the final month against incredibly flawed teams? Seems like we always bungle one of these types of games. 3-0 would put us at 11-6 or 12-5, with a puncher’s chance at the division (but, almost certainly falling short, because the 49ers seem destined to make the Super Bowl). If we go 2-1 (which is my official prediction), that still puts us at 10-7 or 11-6, which is almost assuredly a wild card spot.

I will say that – other than Washington and Arizona – there’s a lot of high-end defenses on this slate. So, of course, now that we’re feeling good about our defense, it’ll be the offense that we have to worry about (the one thing we were all feeling pretty great about heading into the season). Isn’t it always the way? We just can’t have nice things.

The Seahawks Probably Had A Pretty Good 2023 NFL Draft

Look, I’m not going to sit here and pretend I know a lot about these college guys we selected over the weekend. Or how well they’ll develop or fit into our particular scheme. It’s the great unknown! We’ll just have to wait and see.

  • 1st Round (5th overall) – Devon Witherspoon (CB)
  • 1st Round (20th overall) – Jaxon Smith-Njigba (WR)
  • 2nd Round (37th overall) – Derick Hall (OLB)
  • 2nd Round (52nd overall) – Zach Charbonnet (RB)
  • 4th Round (108th overall) – Anthony Bradford (G)
  • 4th Round (123rd overall) – Cameron Young (DT)
  • 5th Round (151st overall) – Mike Morris (DE)
  • 5th Round (154th overall) – Olu Oluwatimi (C)
  • 6th Round (198th overall) – Jerrick Reed (S/CB)
  • 7th Round (237th overall) – Kenny McIntosh (RB)

My overarching opinion of the first round picks is that we got some good (maybe great) players, but neither one are guys who are in the stratosphere of a Sauce Gardner or a Ja’Marr Chase (players who, from day one, were destined for the Hall of Fame). They were considered “best players available” while also being at positions of need, but not the BIGGEST position of need.

That would be the defensive line. Naturally. As always. Where we left off from there is that we’d wait and see what the rest of the draft gave us before rendering judgment. But, that comes with diminishing returns. The further you get away from the first half of the first round, the less likely it is you’ll find truly impactful players. Of course, there’s always the possibility that you hit on someone on the second or third days. But, for every Tyler Lockett or Tariq Woolen, there are hundreds of Demarcus Christmases.

To try and replenish that BIGGEST position of need, we used our top second round pick on Derick Hall out of Auburn. You love the school, you love the conference, but his body frame harkens to a guy we just took last year – Boye Mafe – and countless guys with that frame before him, who we’ve tried to turn into effective pass rushers. Best case scenario, Hall is another Bruce Irvin type who might get you 8-10 sacks, and be somewhat competent against the run. But, this is the type of guy we get every year. As a rookie, I wouldn’t bet on any more than 3-4 sacks, and even that might be too high. The hope is, he’s part of the rotation, but you don’t need to rely on him being the starter (those jobs should still belong to Nwosu and Darrell Taylor). Let him get his feet wet, gain some experience, pop a few times, and hope he develops into a starter in year 2 or 3.

Unfortunately, we used our other second round pick on another running back. By all accounts, Charbonnet is a fine back. People have him rated as high as the second or third best in this class. I don’t know if that says more about him or the quality of this class. I’m not going to get super bent out of shape about this, but if it were up to me – after already taking a running back in the second round the previous year (and having him turn into Kenneth Walker, superstar), I would’ve waited in this draft. From what I was reading, there were quality running backs throughout the draft. See: the guy we took in the seventh round. While I get that we needed to replenish the running back room (after losing Rashaad Penny and Travis Homer in free agency), we didn’t need to use our second round pick on him.

That being said, Kenneth Walker did get banged up as a rookie. Running backs, in general, are pretty injury prone, with all the hits they take. The Seahawks, in particular, not only utilize the running back position more than most, but also seem to suffer an inordinate amount of injuries (see: Rashaad Penny and Chris Carson in recent years). So, if Charbonnet turns into a high-quality player in this league, it would stand to reason he’ll find himself in the starting lineup sooner rather than later.

That was it for Friday, as the Seahawks ended up trading back with their third round pick (with the Denver Broncos of all teams). We got another fourth rounder in return, but also a 2024 third round pick (meaning: we get to root against the Broncos for another year!). It sounds like we got tremendous value in this deal, so I’m not complaining.

We started beefing up our trenches in the fourth round, taking a guard and a defensive tackle. The guard is interesting, and could very well find himself starting for us as early as 2024 (if not sooner, if we suffer injuries, and he finds himself next up on the depth chart). The DT seems like he’s Just A Guy. Don’t expect any sort of pass rush whatsoever, and just hope he’s competent as a rotational run stuffer/guy who can take on blocks while freeing up our linebackers behind him to make plays.

Then, we continued picking for the trenches by taking a couple of Michigan players in the fifth round. The defensive end also seems like he’s Just A Guy, albeit with a fairly interesting body type for the position (6’5, 295 pounds), who could play along the outside or the interior. Does that make him L.J. Collier? Probably, but at least we didn’t waste a high draft pick on him. The center, however, also seems interesting as a potential starter as early as 2024 (if not sooner, again, due to injury and his standing on the depth chart).

I’m not buying the safety we took in the sixth round will remain at safety. For starters, he’ll need to excel at special teams if he wants to make the roster at all. Secondly, he seems a tad undersized, and they’re already talking about him being a nickel or dime corner. Odds are he doesn’t play much at all on defense this year. Odds are also that he doesn’t ascend in year two to be a starter replacing Jamal Adams. For that, we’ll probably look to next year’s draft (and a lot higher than the sixth round).

I’ll believe it when I see it that the seventh round running back also makes the roster. It sounds like he’s a good pass catcher, and also plays special teams, so crazier things have happened. But, that means you’re going into a season with three running backs having 1 or 0 years of experience, and only DeeJay Dallas (so far) as any sort of veteran (heading into his 4th season). My guess is we never see Kenny McIntosh hit the football field, and he suffers a very serious injury before the regular season. Can’t you picture the name “Kenny McIntosh” as someone we never hear from again? Remember Zac Brooks, who we took in the seventh round in 2016? Doesn’t Kenny McIntosh remind you of Zac Brooks?

While last year’s draft felt vital, and rife with quality players throughout, this year’s draft feels like depth replenishment. We boosted some positions into the elite realm (corner, wide receiver, and probably running back), while helping fill out other spots (offensive line and special teams). But, I’m not getting the sense there are any late-round gems in this draft class. Tariq Woolen has been an interesting player since the moment his name was selected. From that point on, he was a tantalizing prospect who – if he put it all together – could be a monster. And, it turns out, he put it all together extremely quickly!

But, who is getting those kinds of comparisons in this draft class? Unless one of those defensive linemen shows flashes in rookie minicamp, I don’t think there’s going to be a third-day stud in the bunch. Hopefully, in time, one (or both) of the interior offensive linemen pan out into capable starters; that might help us save a shekel or two. But, if we’re going to be wowed by this influx of players, it’s going to come from the very top.

We’ll see, though. I’m not going to say it’s going to take 3-5 years for us to figure out if this weekend was a bust. We should know in year 1 whether or not guys project to be impactful in the NFL. So, I can’t wait to hear about how they develop over the next few months!

What If The Seahawks Draft Jalen Carter?

I don’t involve myself with a lot of mock drafts and whatnot. It’s fine if that’s your thing, but it’s just not my thing. I don’t like to devote a lot of brain power to what college players the Seahawks might bring in, because 99.99999% of them won’t actually ever be Seahawks and/or worth a damn (figure is approximate).

Even if we just limit discussion to who the Seahawks could take at #5, I don’t really have much to say. I want Will Anderson more than I want any other player in this draft. Either the Seahawks get him – because the top four picks were all quarterbacks, or otherwise someone went off-script – and I’ll be elated, or we won’t, and I’ll be disappointed. But, I won’t be shocked if he goes to another team before we pick.

I will be shocked if he goes to another team before we pick … because we traded down, but I’ll also be irate and looking for the nearest oven to stick my head in. But, that’s neither here nor there.

I don’t think we’ll take a quarterback, but if we did, it would probably be Anthony Richardson. I’d be fine with that. I’d be excited, because that means the Seahawks REALLY believe he’s the next great superstar, and because we have the coaches and players to put around him to really foster that kind of development. I would also be justifiably nervous, because quarterbacks are always a gamble, and one picked so high would be given every opportunity (for good or for ill) to become our next Franchise Quarterback. But, I’m not holding out much hope for that, and really think the chances are slim-to-none that he’s even available anyway.

The guy I think we’re going to get is Tyree Wilson. I think that’s because – again – Will Anderson is already off the board, and the Seahawks don’t believe in any of the remaining QBs. I’ll talk myself into Wilson, because he’s a high-level prospect with incredible upside, but ultimately it’ll be a disappointment, because part of me will be convinced we could’ve traded down a few spots and still gotten him, but also because he’ll be kind of a Bruce Irvin type. Someone who’s good, but not an elite, perennial All Pro you hope to get with the #5 pick. He’ll get you around 10 sacks on a good year, but otherwise isn’t someone opposing offenses really have to gameplan too much around. Someone between an Aaron Curry and a Bruce Irvin, I guess. Either a bust, or a fine athlete who needs other, better players around him to shine.

I also think we’re going to get Tyree Wilson because we’re going to pass on Jalen Carter.

This, in spite of the fact that most projections have Carter going to the Seahawks. That’s part of the reason I’m writing about him today. The other part is the fact that there’s so much to discuss around what’s going on with Carter.

He, obviously, was involved in that alleged street racing incident where the opposing vehicle crashed, killing a teammate and team associate. There was obviously the unfortunate timing of his arrest warrent coming down while the NFL Combine was happening. Of course, he didn’t really participate in the Combine – other than maybe some interviews – which is never a good sign. Then, he had his pro day, where he didn’t participate in everything, and couldn’t finish that which he tried to do (he was also something like 9 pounds heavier than he was at the Combine, speaking to his level of conditioning).

For some people, the legal issues are enough to write him off. For others, the final nail in the coffin was his being so out of shape at an all-important pre-draft event like his pro day (when, again, he refused to do anything athletic at the NFL Combine). Is he a suspension waiting to happen, for off-field shenanigans? Does he care about his body and being in shape? Does he care about the game of football and what it takes to be among the best in the world? And also, what does that say about his decision-making? Not just the road racing incident (which, come on, is more of a Boys Will Be Boys sort of thing; who hasn’t driven fast and raced around in their cars when they were younger?), but going against the wishes of his representatives who allegedly cautioned against him having his pro day so soon after all of those legal things came to light. He should’ve waited, until that was behind him, and he could devote his time full-boar to working out.

And then there’s the whispers. The rumors swirling around. He doesn’t practice hard; he only shows up for games. He takes plays off. For whatever reason, he was largely hidden from the media during his entire college tenure. And, of course, he played for a bigtime SEC program, and therefore is both mostly a finished product, and probably a beaten down one given the way they play and the number of games in which they participate (including playoffs and whatnot). He seems like just a guy who has gotten by on his natural ability his whole life, who has been Yes Manned to death and been handed everything he could’ve ever wanted thanks to those natural abilities, and once he gets to the NFL, he’s going to have a serious wake-up call. Everyone in the league has natural ability, but they also have the drive to want to be the best, and work at it day-in and day-out.

If Jalen Carter doesn’t have that drive, then he’s not just some so-so outside linebacker who might end up being a so-so pro; he could range from being that perennial All Pro DT, all the way down to a fucking disaster of a bust that sets your team back another five years (the way Malik McDowell did, only times a million because of where you selected Carter vs. McDowell being a second rounder).

All that being said, you have to consider it, because he does have that upside. What if the rumors are blown up out of proportion? What if those rumors only exist because NFL teams want him to fall in the draft? Or, what if this whole last half year has been a huge wake-up call for Carter? What if he’s more susceptible to coaching, and if he’s in the right system, with the right coaches and players around him, we’re able to unlock his fullest potential?

What if he’s the next Aaron Donald?

Aaron Donald had a great college career and everything, but he wasn’t yet AARON DONALD. He was the 13th overall pick. Defensive tackles don’t usually go in the top five unless they’re REALLY special. The fact that Jalen Carter was once considered to be the best and most elite defensive prospect in this draft is something you can’t ignore. Even with all these issues we’ve talked about ad nauseam, he’s still a consensus second or third defensive player off the board after those other two guys I referenced. What does that tell you about Jalen Carter, the football player? What does that tell you about the man after he puts on pads and you get him on the field with the clock running?

That tells me he’s a fucking monster. And, yeah, there’s a risk. There’s a risk with literally everyone. There’s injuries, there’s ineffectiveness, there’s being mishandled, there’s being in the wrong scheme, or with the wrong set of coaches, or just random bad luck and you fall off a fucking ATV without wearing a helmet.

You might tell me Tyree Wilson has untapped potential he was never going to realize in college. That he has a frame he can grow into, to be an elite player both inside and outside, both on the line and off the ball. But, the way I see it now, Jalen Carter has the highest upside in this draft. And if we can’t get Will Anderson, I would gladly take Carter, and just cross my fingers and hope for the best.

Nothing changes your defense like having a super-human at defensive tackle. Those guys wreck games all by themselves. Those guys have to be reckoned with by opposing offenses. Those guys open up things for everyone else, either next to him on the line, or behind him at linebacker and safety.

If you’re like me and you’re DESPERATE for the Seahawks to be elite on defense, I think the quickest way to that end is either Will Anderson or Jalen Carter, full stop. Anyone else – either in this draft, or in free agency – is going to be a colossal disappointment.

Seahawks Death Week: Throw All The Free Agents In A Fucking Dumpster

I have chosen to just base this blog post on the list compiled over at Field Gulls, because I’m a lazy, lazy man. At least I linked over there; credit where it’s due and all that.

I want to say I read this in the Dallas/Fort Worth airport the day after the Seahawks’ season ended, hungover as all get-out after a Saturday night wedding that lasted until the wee hours of the very day we were supposed to return home to SeaTac. So, off the top of my head, I couldn’t possibly recount all the names from memory, but I remember my thoughts at the time revolved around: what a collection of trash!

Are any of these guys worth keeping or bringing back? I dunno, man. I guess you gotta have 53 guys on your roster – and 90 heading into Training Camp – so we’re bound to see some return names. But, I didn’t see a lot of tremendous impact from these players (save one very big and obvious name) that couldn’t be replaced with superior draft picks, free agents, and other guys from the scrap heaps of other teams.

Myles Adams is the only SOMEWHAT interesting name from the Exclusive Rights Free Agents list; that seems like a paltry amount to pay to bring back a depth/rotation defensive tackle. He always seems to flash in the pre season, anyway.

There’s usually more meat on the bone among the Restricted Free Agents, but I only see one guy worth bringing back – likely on a 2nd round tender – and that’s Ryan Neal. He played at a pretty high level at safety this year. He’s a quality backup at a position of need. Assuming Jamal Adams returns (as crazy as it sounds, we’re financially stuck with him through 2023 in all likelihood), safety is GOING to be a position of need. Because there’s no point in wondering IF Jamal Adams is going to get injured, but WHEN. Can he beat going down in the very first regular season game? Has anyone babyproofed his house lately?

Beyond that, I guess you could make a case for Mike Jackson, but I wouldn’t offer him anything higher than an original round tender. He’s not a surefire starter, in spite of all the starting he did in 2022; I’d take a 5th round draft pick for him, absolutely. No one else needs to be bothered with. Penny Hart and Tanner Muse are both fine special teams guys, but they can be had without going through the whole tender rigmarole.

Most of the guys you know and “love” are unrestricted free agents. I’ll save the quarterbacks for a separate post.

Rashaad Penny and Travis Homer are both up for contracts. Penny got a nice little payday before this past season, but clearly he’s not over his injury issues. Kenneth Walker has proven to be a starting running back in this league, and while every team needs backups, I don’t see the point in making Penny one of them. For a handful of games? Let him take his talents elsewhere. As for Homer, I thought he came into 2022 in much better shape, but he’s still Just A Guy; we could draft someone in the last couple rounds and more than make up for his lost production. We still have DeeJay Dallas, and I’d take him over Homer anyday.

Marquise Goodwin and Laquon Treadwell combine to just be okay (Goodwin is solid when healthy; Treadwell is a bust). We can do better, in spite of the fact that wide receiver is very much a position of need heading into 2023.

Austin Blythe, Kyle Fuller, and Phil Haynes are the offensive linemen we’re set to lose. I’d be fine bringing none of them back, though I do see Haynes as a solid rotational guy/backup. He might want to test the waters elsewhere. Blythe and Fuller can suck it, though. Go out in the draft and pick up a bona fide starting center!

Poona Ford, L.J. Collier, and Bruce Irvin are the defensive linemen on this list. I never thought I’d see the day where I’d be okay losing Poona Ford, but he in no way, shape, or form lived up to his contract, having a particularly anonymous 2022 season. I don’t know if he’s cut out for the 3-4 defensive scheme. I also don’t know if Collier is cut out for the NFL period! Now that we have the XFL and the USFL, he should have no shortage of suitors. As for Bruce Irvin, I’d be okay bringing him back late in the pre-season as a depth piece. He shouldn’t be starting – like he was towards the end of 2022 – but as a rotational veteran, you could do a lot worse.

Fuck right off with Nick Bellore, Cody Barton, and BBK. I want upgrades at all linebacker spots on this roster – ideally through the draft – and if I never see these guys play defense for the Seahawks again, it’ll be too soon. Bring Bellore back as a special teamer if you must, but spare me this fullback playing linebacker.

Artie Burns, Justin Coleman, Josh Jones … Teez Tabor? What the fuck’s a Teez Tabor? They can all go.

Jason Myers is quite an interesting topic of conversation, actually. He came here on a 4 year, $15+ million deal and saw it through to the end. It’s kind of absurd how up and down he’s been in his career. In 2018, he was a Pro Bowler with the Jets. He signed with the Seahawks and wasn’t super great, hitting 82% of his field goals and 90% of his PATs. But, in 2020, he hit all of his field goals and 92% of his PATs. In 2021, he was downright bad, hitting only 74% of his field goals. At that point, I think every Seahawks fan was ready to wash their hands of him. However, in 2022, he jumped back up to 92% field goals made, with a high of 97% of his PATs made.

So, I don’t know what to tell ya. Based on this, he’s due to suck again in 2023. Does he deserve a raise for having another great year in a contract season? Does he deserve a reduction in pay thanks to how bad his 2021 was? Does he deserve the exact same deal? You like to think field goal kickers are easy to find, but they’re really not. Ask any team that’s struggled in this area. They’d probably back the Brinks truck up to bring in Jason Myers. I would say he’s probably worth the going rate of kickers in the top 10 in the league, but I also wouldn’t be broken up about losing him and finding a cheaper option elsewhere.

If I’m being honest, heading into this post, I was ready to declare Tyler Ott the most important Seahawks free agent of the bunch. But, I just remembered he was injured this year and didn’t play a regular season snap. So, maybe Carson Tinker is the way to go? Or maybe any ol’ fucking guy because long-snappers are a dime a dozen. Sign me to be your long-snapper! I’ve got flag football experience, I’m ready to go!

Seahawks Death Week 2022: Looking On The Bright Side

I tend to come on here and do a lot of bitching. It’s my outlet. That way, I don’t have to bombard loved ones with my rantings on draft order, mediocre quarterbacks, atrocious defenses, and the like.

But, today, I’m not going to do that. Today I’m taking off my pissy-pants and looking on the brighter side of Seahawks life.

As an astute commenter recently noted, it’s important to remember where our expectations were heading into the season. Mine were at an all-time low (or close to it) for the Seahawks. I estimated anywhere from 3-4 wins, with the Broncos being division winners. So, still getting that top 5 pick (from those Broncos), while having a better-than-anticipated Seahawks roster full of promising prospects getting lots of valuable experience, is a pretty big win! You could argue this is the best-possible (reasonable) season we could’ve gotten. Obviously, the ACTUAL best-possible season would’ve been Denver having the worst record in the NFL, with the Seahawks winning the Super Bowl. But, we’re bound by the laws of reality, which is still pretty damn good.

I couldn’t be happier with our 2022 draft class.

Kenneth Walker finished 12th in the league in rushing yards, with 1,050. And that’s with two full missed games, and not really taking over lead rushing duties until week five. He averaged 70 yards per game, which was 9th in the NFL, as well as 4.6 yards per carry, which was 9th as well (minimum 200 attempts). Maybe more importantly, he was the best rookie running back in this class, given his ability and durability. We’ll see how long he’s able to hold that title, but regardless that’s a VERY strong start to a career.

I thought Charles Cross and Abe Lucas acquitted themselves quite well as bookend offensive tackles. It’s not easy to find ONE of those positions in the draft, let alone two in the SAME draft. You never want to unfurl the Mission Accomplished banner after one quality season, but I think it’s reasonable to suspect we’re set at those spots for the next few years at least. Were they perfect? Of course not. But, the mistakes appeared to be minimal (for rookies), and the upside looks like it’s substantial.

On the defensive side of the ball, one of the few bright spots was cornerback Tariq Woolen, who finished with 6 interceptions in his first year. He also made the Pro Bowl, which is awesome! When you consider he was expected to be a rough project at corner, the fact that he started every game and played at such a high level is, frankly, phenomenal. It’s too early to start bandying around LOB comparisons, but if anyone deserves to be lumped into that group, it looks like it might be Woolen.

Guys like slot corner Coby Bryant and edge rusher/linebacker Boye Mafe have flashed at times, but have also looked a little rough. I’ll be cautiously optimistic with them, but that’s more than you could say for a lot of Seahawks draft picks over the last few years.

Other bright spots include our top two receivers. D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett both surpassed 1,000 yards receiving, which seemed impossible before the season (1,048 for D.K., 1,033 for Tyler). They combined for 15 of our 30 receiving touchdowns; you can’t really ask for much more than that. We only had one other instance of two receivers catching over 1,000 yards in the same season under Russell Wilson’s leadership, and that was 2020 (with the same guys).

Speaking of the passing game, even though I have my reservations going forward, you can’t deny the numbers Geno Smith put up. He set the Seahawks’ single season passing yards record with 4,282. Granted, he needed 17 games to do it (when all others had, at most, 16 games to play in), but a record is a record. He ranked 4th in yards per game, 7th in passer rating, 1st in completion percentage, 7th in touchdowns, and 1st in both attempts and completions among all Seahawks single-season passers. That’s quite a feat after coming off of Russell Wilson, who wanted nothing more than to be the franchise leader in attempts (he’s actually only 3rd on the list with his 2020 season, behind Matt Hasselbeck’s 2007). By most tangible measures, you could argue Geno Smith had the best season of any Seahawks quarterback ever. Which is why there will be a strong push to bring him back on a multi-year extension.

I would also say we got strong seasons from all three of our tight ends, Noah Fant, Will Dissly, and Colby Parkinson. Nothing too flashy, but they were fine outlets when our other receivers were covered.

Defensively, Uchenna Nwosu was our brightest shining star. He finished with 9.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 12 tackles for loss, and was our best and most consistent source of pressure. He’s one of the rare outside defensive free agents who’s come here and succeeded right away in the last decade.

Darrell Taylor picked up his game significantly late in the year, also finishing with 9.5 sacks. Quinton Jefferson and Bruce Irvin had nice reunions with the team, finishing with a combined 9 sacks. Quandre Diggs also came on a bit late in the season, finishing with 4 interceptions. And Ryan Neal was a sneaky defensive MVP, playing at a high level as our third safety thrust into a starting role early in the season. Also, kudos go to Shelby Harris for his veteran presence along the much-maligned defensive line. And, why not, Mike Jackson had some okay moments in his first year as a starting cornerback (4th year in the league).

There’s a universe where these guys I’ve just referenced are the foundation of the next great Seahawks team. No one is satisfied with a 9-8 record and semi-backing into the playoffs as a 7-seed. But I don’t think there’s any question that a 9-8 team is a lot closer to being at a championship level than a 4 or 5-win team with fundamental problems at multiple important areas. Especially when that 9-8 team has a couple of high selections in the first two rounds of the 2023 draft.

The key will be that draft, though. You can’t just do what we did in 2022 and expect a significant turnaround. It takes multiple consecutive years of nailing drafts and free agent classes to get things right.

But, I will say this: while I have my doubts about the defensive coordinator, I think this coaching staff and front office deserve a ton of credit for keeping this team together and blowing out everyone’s expectations. The organization got it right with Russell Wilson, even if we were a year or two too late in getting rid of him.

You can obviously understand why that trade happened the way it did, when it did. It’s not easy moving on from a franchise quarterback who’s been the best we’ve ever had, while leading us to back-to-back Super Bowls. I think we did the best we could under the circumstances, with Wilson having a no-trade clause and Denver being our only real option.

I would argue given our level of talent and lack of depth (particularly on the defensive side of the ball), it’s a miracle we won as many games as we did! It was also a miracle we stayed as healthy as we did, at our most important positions. I think I read on Twitter that Geno Smith was the only quarterback to take all of his team’s snaps (not counting crazy wildcat plays and whatnot). When you factor in an O-line breaking in two rookies at tackle, and having their issues along the interior, as well as the fact that Geno was tied for the third-most sacks taken, I don’t know how that’s even possible!

So, if you want, feel free to be optimistic about the future. I don’t blame you! I’m naturally skeptical about my Seattle teams, so I’ll be over here pouting in my little corner of the Internet. But, I’ll tell you this much: I’m extremely excited for all the moves the Seahawks end up making this upcoming offseason. I know I won’t agree with all of them, but there should be enough positives to rope me into a Glass Half Full assessment heading into this September. I can’t wait to be wildly disappointed at the conclusion of next season!

Seahawks Position Breakdown 2021: Linebackers

You hear a good amount of comparisons to the 2012-2014 Seahawks defenses around these parts. When things are looking bad, people lament the good old days. When we get a new member of the secondary, people instinctively compare them to the Hall of Famers of that era. And, when the defense as a whole looks good, people like to say, “This is the best Seahawks defense since 2013!” In fact, people are saying that about the depth along the defensive line – particularly from a pass rush standpoint – right this very season!

You know what those 2012-2014 Seahawks had that we might also have again in 2021? Some elite-level linebackers that are criminally overlooked.

What did we talk about in 2013? We talked first about the L.O.B. Of course. Two of the best safeties in the game, probably the best cornerback alive at the time, and whoever else was on the other side keeping up his end of the bargain. Next, we talked about the NASCAR pass rush, led by the likes of Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, but continuing on down to the last DL on the roster, as everyone contributed! But, who was overlooked? The dynamic duo of Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright, in their second and third seasons, respectively.

Well, Bobby Wagner is still here, and he’s no young pup anymore, but he’s still playing at a high level. Maybe not the same level he was in his prime, but the dropoff hasn’t been too severe. Unfortunately, there’s no room at the inn for K.J. Wright, as he just signed with the Raiders. In his place, we have first round draft pick Jordyn Brooks, who looked good as a rookie, got a lot of playing time towards the end of the season, and appears to have taken the next step in – this – his second season.

Jordyn Brooks is exciting! He’s fast and instinctive and looks like the real deal. He might be the best linebacker in his draft class (who isn’t exclusively a pass rusher). I’m thrilled the Seahawks gave him the starting job – even though it sucks to see K.J. Wright go, because he was still playing at a high level and it’s criminal he was unemployed for as long as he was – and I can’t wait to see what he does.

Then, there’s Darrell Taylor, getting a shot to be this team’s SAM linebacker. I don’t know if he’s the best man for the job right now (again, when K.J. Wright was still just sitting there for the entire offseason, having exceeded expectations at SAM last year), but he very well could develop into a force for this defense. At the very least, it’s easy to see from the pre-season games alone why the Seahawks have been so high on him. His build and athleticism appear to be off the charts; when he gets his first sack in a Seahawks uniform, the Pacific Northwest might explode.

There’s no doubt about it, though, the linebacker depth took a hit. Losing BBK costs us not only a valuable special teams ace, but also a cheap veteran who’s been in the system since his rookie year and could’ve very capably filled in for injuries, should they have come up (which they always do).

Cody Barton, however, has ascended into a fringe-level starter who we have the luxury of being our backup at every linebacker spot. He, as with BBK, has been in the system since his rookie season, and he’s always been a step or two ahead of BBK the entire way. This pre-season, he looked like he was playing a different game than the rest of the backups around him, making plays all over the field. This bodes well if we have ONE injury in our starting linebacker corps. But, if we have TWO or more injuries, I don’t know if I trust anyone behind him at this point.

Nick Bellore is our hybrid fullback/linebacker, and he looked okay. But, I don’t think you want him starting an extended number of games for you. If he has to go in for a few plays here and there, he’d probably be fine. But, I think his lack of athleticism would get exposed the more teams can game-plan against him. If BBK were still here, I wouldn’t mind Bellore as a sixth guy. But, as the fifth guy? That’s a little scary.

I’ve also heard reports of Alton Robinson getting some snaps at SAM linebacker. Both he and Taylor seem better suited to strictly being the defensive end, but you can only have so many DE’s on the field at one time, and SAM is a way to fudge that a little bit. Sometimes SAM linebackers rush the passer, but usually more often they have to go out in patterns and cover running backs or maybe even tight ends. Nothing I’ve seen leads me to believe Robinson or Taylor are going to be as good as Bruce Irvin was in the role. But, we’ll see! Both are young and athletic enough, maybe they can grow into the position!

If healthy, I think the linebackers are an A-, with the potential to elevate to an A grade if Taylor really explodes onto the scene. This group probably falls to a B- or so if there are any injuries to Wagner or Brooks. Further injuries, obviously, plummet the grade even deeper. Mostly, my feeling on the linebackers is that I don’t have to worry about them too much. Packaged with the defensive line (which I’ll write about next week), I think this front seven will be among the greatest in the NFL. That’s all I can really ask for.

The Seahawks Made A Lot Of Smallish Deals While I Was On Vacation

All right, let’s run through the list, because I got a lot to do today.

  • Nick Bellore (FB) signed a 2-year, $4.45 million deal that’s probably just a smallish 1-year deal with no guarantees in year two, to spread out the salary cap burden
  • Chris Carson (RB) signed a 2-year, $10.425 million deal with a void-year tacked on to spread out the salary cap burden (only 2021 is guaranteed)
  • Ethan Pocic (C) signed a 1-year, $3 million deal with a void-year tacked on to spread out the salary cap burden
  • Benson Mayowa (DE) signed a 2-year, $8 million (approx.) deal with two void-years tacked on to spread out the salary cap burden
  • Kerry Hyder (DE) signed a 3-year, $16.5 million deal
  • Jordan Simmons (OG) signed a small 1-year deal
  • Cedric Ogbuehi (OT) signed a 1-year deal

Okay, that’s all I know about right now. In addition, David Moore signed a 2-year deal with the Panthers; he was solid, I’m sure we all wish him well. He greatly outperformed his 7th round draft status.

The Seahawks had one of the best Special Teams units in 2020, and Nick Bellore was a major reason why, so it’s great to have him around covering kickoffs and punts. He doesn’t do much as a fullback, and I don’t expect that to change.

Chris Carson, I will admit, is a bit of a surprise to me. I don’t know if this changes the Seahawks’ needs to go out and find a long-term replacement, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see. That means we essentially have the same running back room as 2020, minus Carlos Hyde (but, hopefully, with a full season of Rashaad Penny). I don’t think anyone was excited about Penny as this team’s lead back, but obviously we all know the risks with Carson and his injury-prone style of play. He’s elite when he’s healthy, and it’s a continual struggle to keep him healthy. The money isn’t terrible though. There’s an out after 2021, or if he stays healthy and kills it, we have him at a reasonable number for 2022.

Ethan Pocic is an okay center. The Seahawks have had a run of okay centers for a while now. My hope is that either we look to solidify this position with one of our few draft picks, or the addition of Gabe Jackson on the left side, with the continued emergence of Damien Lewis on the right side, will mitigate Pocic’s limitations.

Love having Benson Mayowa back! Great deal for a solid player! When he was healthy last year, he really wreaked havoc, and I don’t see him as one of those injury-prone type of guys, so there’s no reason why he couldn’t bounce back to play a full 16-game season. Locked in at two years for such a low number is incredible if he reaches his full potential!

I’ll skip over the real prize of this haul and talk about Jordan Simmons. He was let go, as opposed to being tendered, and is back at a presumably-lower salary figure. He’s a depth piece, and it’s always important to have depth. I thought he played pretty well when he had to fill in for Mike Iupati, so this feels like a no-brainer.

Same thing with Ogbuehi. He struggled at first in filling in for Brandon Shell, but I thought he came on towards the end of the season. I hope to Christ that right tackle isn’t a revolving door again this year, otherwise the Seahawks are going to have to get their asses in gear for 2022. The rest of the defensive lines in the NFC West aren’t getting any WORSE, I can tell you that much!

Okay, with all of that out of the way, let’s talk about Kerry Hyder.

I’ll be honest, I don’t know this man. They say he was on the 49ers last year and had 8.5 sacks, but that all flew well below my radar. He will be 30 years old this year and some have compared him to a Michael Bennett type (boy do I loathe hearing that comp after years of the Seahawks trying to draft guys to fit that mold).

It doesn’t look like Hyder has done a TON in his career. He had 8.0 sacks with the Lions in 2016, otherwise he has 2.0 sacks combined in his other four years. But, people are saying this is a great signing for the Seahawks, so I’m willing to listen to them. They’re the experts, I’m some jagweed sitting at a laptop, writing on a blog no one reads.

I think we’re all a little concerned that this means the Seahawks aren’t bringing back Carlos Dunlap. I read somewhere that the Seahawks are technically OVER the cap already, and will need to make some moves to get back down under it. But, I also read that the signing of Hyder doesn’t necessarily preclude the Seahawks from also going out and getting Dunlap, as they play different defensive end spots. I don’t know if any of this is true, I haven’t done the research; I’m still mostly on vacation-mode.

With it appearing that Bruce Irvin won’t be coming back, and the salary cap what it is, this COULD be it for the major moves. How do we feel about essentially the same D-Line as last year, with Hyder in for Dunlap? Well, that puts Mayowa back in a role where he’s more of an every-down lineman, which he did notably struggle with early in the season. He blossomed when his snap counts went down and he was free to get after the quarterback at a higher rate.

It would be FUCKING AMAZING if we could also get Dunlap back in the fold, but that’s looking mighty grim, all things considered. We also have to extend Jamal Adams, after all. Maybe this is a good sign for Alton Robinson, or Darrell Taylor? We’ll see, I guess.

It’s still early, so obviously there’s a lot to go down between now and the start of the regular season.

Seahawks Death Week: Guys To Keep Around & Holes To Fill

Yesterday, I talked about the guys who need to go; today I’ll get into the guys who should stay!

In that post, you’ll find my thoughts on Carlos Dunlap and Duane Brown. My thoughts on them haven’t really changed; long story short: I think the Seahawks need to keep them, but will probably have to restructure their contracts by extending them to make the money work.

The good news is, assuming both are back, there really aren’t THAT many glaring holes on this roster. Which is awesome, because in addition to how strapped we are from a salary cap standpoint (as, again, I discussed in yesterday’s post), we also currently have only four draft picks in the 2021 NFL Draft:

  • Second Round
  • Fourth Round
  • Fifth Round
  • Seventh Round

There apparently might be a chance we get another seventh rounder back, but I’m not holding my breath. Obviously, the first and third round picks belong to the Jets from the Jamal Adams trade, so let’s start there.

Jamal Adams currently counts nearly $10 million against our 2021 salary cap. That’s actually good news! He is, of course, going to demand a contract extension that makes him one of the (if not THE) highest paid safeties in the NFL. As a player with his unique skillset (read: 9.5 sacks in 2020; 21.5 sacks in his 4-year career to date), he deserves to be paid as such. He was the best, most impactful player on our defense last season, and we gave up a bundle to acquire him; we NEED him here and happy. Thankfully, as I’ve mentioned repeatedly, the first year of a new deal is always relatively cheap. So, if we tear up his 2021 portion, sign him to a 5-year contract and spread his bonus over the life of it (with fully guaranteed years in 2022 and 2023), that should make the money work and still allow us to have room to maneuver. We could also leave his 2021 as is, and just add onto it with an extension, which would have a similar effect (not saving us as much now, but also not making it so onerous in the future). It’ll be interesting to see where we go with him.

Benson Mayowa only counted a little over $3 million against us in 2020; I’d love to see him back at around that same number. When he was healthy – and not tasked to be this team’s every-down defensive end – he was extremely productive! I know we have a number of young guys along our defensive line, but it’s always a rotation of guys, and Mayowa plays a unique role that’s well-suited to him and our scheme.

Carlos Hyde earned a little under $3 million. If we let Carson walk, we’re going to need to pair SOMEONE with Rashaad Penny. Hyde was good-not-great. I would argue we could bring him back for the same or even less money; odds are he’d return in this scenario given the amount of playing time he could be looking at.

Given the news that Bruce Irvin just had to have a second surgery for his knee injury, you’d be shocked to see him on this list! But, he earned less than $5 million in 2020, and obviously he would be on the hook for significantly less money in 2021. I would bring him back on a minimum deal, with his salary tied to games played, and hope he can return by mid-season to give the defense a boost. What harm could it do? If he makes it back to form, that’s a fine addition to our linebacker/pass rush units.

Similarly, I think the Seahawks should re-sign Josh Gordon, hope he somehow gets his shit together (read: stops doing drugs, allegedly), and is allowed by the league to play again. He would also sign for the minimum, with his contract tied to games played, and would be a HUGE boost to our offense if things break right.

Cedric Ogbuehi earned a little over $2 million as a backup right tackle for us. He had a rough go when he first filled in for Brandon Shell, but improved as the weeks went on (including a nice game against the fearsome pass rush of the Washington Football Team). You can’t have enough quality backup linemen on a team (especially if my prediction for a Duane Brown injury comes true); so I’d bring Ogbuehi back on a similar deal.

***

If this more-or-less comes to pass (along with the outgoing guys I outlined yesterday), as I said up top, there aren’t a lot of holes to fill. Mike Iupati was already mostly replaced by Jordan Simmons in 2020, so we could just give Simmons the starting job out of Training Camp in 2021. We have other young linemen to fill in our depth. It’s just a matter of filling the center job (which, if I’m being honest, will probably be Ethan Pocic on a cheap extension).

I do think one of the draft picks will probably have to go to a running back, if the right guy falls to us. I’m not sure if Penny will ever return to form, and I’m not even sure if he’s the guy for our offensive scheme. At some point, he’s a sunk cost and we’ll have to move on; that being said, I don’t think Travis Homer or DeeJay Dallas are the answer either. That’s a BIG hole to fill, especially if we let Hyde walk.

I think we can get by with cheap receivers and tight ends behind the guys I’ve already talked about. And, sure, bring back Geno Smith to be our second string quarterback if you must.

Defensively, we’re pretty strong at all levels. The young linemen should only improve as we head into next season. We have plenty of linebacker depth. And, we still have three decent-to-good cornerbacks and three good-to-great safeties. It’s all depth from there.

So, again, I think running back will be our biggest hole, but I also think that’s the hole easiest to fill. I’m sure – as a team that prefers to draft 8-11 times per year – we’ll look to trade down and accumulate more picks in the later rounds. If we can come away with a running back, a center, a strong-side linebacker, and maybe another offensive tackle project (a Left Tackle Of The Future, if one exists), I’ll be thrilled. We won’t have the money to make any big outside free agent splashes, so hitting on these guys in the draft will be VITAL.

Looking At Some Of The Impactful 2020 Seahawks Additions

Football teams have a number of players who carry over from year to year – you always try to do whatever you can to keep your very best players at your most important positions – but for the most part teams are constantly evolving. You need an influx of fresh blood every season if your goal is to improve; rare is the team that just tries to hold onto the players they’ve already got (even then, that only lasts about a year or so before the salary cap constraints force you to start the inevitable churn). So much of a team’s success depends on the quality of those incoming players (and the relative health of your best guys), that it can be easy to overlook their accomplishments.

The 2019 Seahawks were a pleasant surprise that made the playoffs, but they were never really serious contenders for the Super Bowl. The 2020 Seahawks have been a pleasant surprise that has already locked up the NFC West; it’s debatable if this team can contend for a Super Bowl, but it’s inarguable that these Seahawks are better than the ones from a season ago. So, let’s take a look at – and try to rank in order of their impact – the new guys who have pushed us a little further over the hump.

In honor of the 12’s, let’s talk about the Top 12 most impactful newcomers. As you’ll see, they’re not all technically new to the team, but I’m also including guys who were holdovers who hardly played at all before this year. Before we get to the Top 12, here are a few honorable mentions:

Snacks Harrison was a guy a lot of people talked about in the run-up to the season, as a potential free agent signee. But, run defense has never really been our problem, and that’s what he does best as a run-stuffing defensive tackle. Yet, we got him back into shape midseason, and he played quite well in Bryan Mone’s absence. With Mone back, Snacks sadly asked for his release; it’s a shame there wasn’t room for him in the rotaton. Freddie Swain is a rookie 6th round wide receiver I had ZERO expectations for, but he’s had a quietly nice season (13 catches, 159 yards, and 2 TDs). As a fourth receiver new to the NFL, I’ll take it. Greg Olsen is an overpaid veteran tight end who has nevertheless been a contributor. He’s still not worth the money it cost to get him here, and he did miss a few games with a foot injury, but he worked his way back for the playoff run, and has had some nice catches on third downs to keep the chains moving (24 for 239 on the season, with 1 TD). Finally, Ugo Amadi just misses the cut. He was a rookie last year, but he wasn’t trusted with much playing time on defense. He’s stepped into a nickel cornerback role we all figured he’d be well-suited for, and he’s been great! With two more years of team control on his rookie deal, Amadi is looking like a real find for us.

12 – Ryan Neal

If I wanted to pull a cop-out move, I would’ve had Amadi and Neal tied for 12th, but then that would’ve made this a Top 13 list, and that’s just … unlucky! I put Neal just inches higher than Amadi because he REALLY came from out of nowhere to help this team out when we were in a real jam! Allegedly, Neal was on the Seahawks in 2019, but I couldn’t tell you a single thing about what he accomplished. I think he was either a practice squad guy, or one of the very lowest men on the totem pole, and that continued into the 2020 season. But, then Marquise Blair and Lano Hill – our #3 and #4 safeties – went out with injury early this season. That bumped Neal up to #3 on the depth chart, which ultimately thrust him into a starting role when Jamal Adams (spoiler alert, he ranks VERY high on this list) was out for his own injuries for a few weeks. Neal not only held his own, but he has made huge impactful plays nearly every game he’s stepped onto the field! He had picks in back-to-back games and has had lots of huge hits. It’s comforting knowing he’s around to fill in as needed.

11 – Alton Robinson

Speaking of another rookie I didn’t expect ANYTHING out of, let me introduce you to our 5th round defensive end. Remember how everyone thought Darrell Taylor (our 2nd rounder) would be the guy from this draft class to step in immediately to make an impact? Well, Taylor has yet to get healthy enough to play (and almost certainly will be held out for the entirety of his rookie season); meanwhile, Robinson has been thrust into a reserve pass rush role and has 4 sacks on the season! That’s great! Not for nothing, but our leading sacker in 2019 also had 4 sacks, which gives you an idea of what we thought of our pass rush heading into this year.

10 – L.J. Collier

Here’s another holdover who did nothing as a rookie last year. Collier has gotten plenty of snaps at both defensive end and tackle, and while he hasn’t flashed as you’d hope a first round draft pick might, he has 3 sacks on the year and a number of other impactful plays along the line of scrimmage, to be significantly better than the bust I was ready to label him as. I can’t say the sky is the limit, but getting even just competent play out of him is better than nothing.

9 – Carlos Hyde

With Rashaad Penny starting the year on the PUP list, and with Chris Carson as our injury-prone starting running back, the Seahawks were in need of a quality backup. Hyde was on the market and got a fair market value. I don’t know if he’s exceeded expectations – because he’s always been a pretty good and underrated running back – but he’s met them, and that’s enough. 356 rushing yards (4.4 average), plus another 93 receiving yards on 16 receptions (and 4 touchdowns) is everything I wanted out of him, especially since he was solid while Carson was out with his annual injury.

8 – Ethan Pocic

Here’s another guy who hadn’t done ANYTHING with the Seahawks since we drafted him in the 2nd round in 2017. Finally healthy, and finally playing his strongest position – center – he was a surprise winner of the job over incoming free agent B.J. Finney. Not only has he taken the job and ran with it, but he afforded the Seahawks an opportunity to trade Finney away for even more talent (coming up later in this post).

7 – Jordyn Brooks

Our top draft pick this year was a surprise to many. No one thought the Seahawks needed a weakside linebacker, especially considering we’ve had one of the best in K.J. Wright since the 2011 season. Nevertheless, Wright is getting up there and is in one of his final seasons. In spite of that, the first round seems kinda high to draft a linebacker, but Brooks has quietly been one of the best rookie linebackers in the league, and he’s really thrived of late now that he’s starting. On top of which, he’s allowed the team to move Wright to the strongside linebacker spot, where he has been KILLING IT! That’s been vital since Bruce Irvin – brought in to fill that role – has been lost for the season. Brooks looks like a solid starter for us for years to come, which is very encouraging to see as a rookie.

6 – Benson Mayowa

He would be higher if he hadn’t missed those games with his injury, but he has 4 sacks on the year and as part of this MUCH improved pass rushing rotation, his pressure rate is off the charts. When he was forced to play a high percentage of defensive snaps early in the season, he was far less effective, but with the emergence of those around him, they’ve afforded the Seahawks the opportunity to keep Mayowa to his part time role where he’s best suited.

5 – D.J. Reed

He would also be much higher if he hadn’t missed so many weeks with his offseason injury. But, the Seahawks are INCREDIBLY lucky to have him, and if we were basing these rankings off of the last month alone, he’d probably be second overall. Reed was a castoff from the 49ers whose season almost ended before it began. We claimed him, kept him on the NFI list, and worked him back slowly as he recovered. His return coincided with injuries to both Quinton Dunbar and Tre Flowers (as well as Shaquill Griffin, briefly); Reed has taken over that right cornerback spot and is absolutely DOMINATING! He’s the best RCB we’ve had since Byron Maxwell in his prime; on top of which, Reed can return punts! What a godsend!

4 – Carlos Dunlap

He’d be higher on this list if we had him to start the season. But, it took a rebuilding Bengals squad to take their veteran for granted, and a nifty little mid-season trade to get him here, and he has single-handedly made everyone around him on that side of the ball better. Our pass rush went from one of the very worst in all of football to 7th in the league in sacks! Even with nagging injuries slowing him down, he’s helped transform the defense as we head into the playoffs, into a unit that can actually win us games, instead of holding us back. He’s also accumulated 5 sacks in 7 games, which is phenomenal; imagine what he could do if he was fully healthy!

3 – Brandon Shell

We’ve seen what he means to the right side of this offensive line, both via the improvement over Germain Ifedi from last year, as well as via the dropoff from the guys filling in for him while he deals with his ankle sprain. This offense was never better than when we had all five of our offensive linemen fully healthy; the offense (and Russell Wilson specifically) has struggled as guys have gone down. But, Shell should be back for the playoffs, and we’re all hoping that makes all the difference.

2 – Damien Lewis

This was the rookie we were all banking on as being our biggest contributor, and he HAS exceeded expectations! I think we all expected a lot more growing pains with Lewis, but he’s stayed mostly healthy throughout the year and there have been very few breakdowns in protection where he’s concerned. And, unless I’m mistaken, I think he’s been rated quite high in the offensive line rankings on PFF (I haven’t checked myself, but I see glimpses on Twitter every once in a while). Either way, getting a starting lineman who’s actually worth a damn as a rookie is pretty rare for this team, and I’m giving him props accordingly.

1 – Jamal Adams

As if there could be any doubt. The dude is leading the team in sacks from the safety position with 9.5! He’s a generational talent and the catalyst for this defense being as special as it’s been. Yes, we gave up a ton to get him here, and we’ll have to pay him a ton to keep him here, but the dude is special. Now, if only he would start catching some of these interceptions that keep hitting him in the hands (granted, he is playing with multiple broken fingers, but still), we’d be looking even better with this guy!

The Seahawks Have Overcome A Lot Of Injuries To Get Here

File this under: No Shit, Everyone’s Got Injuries, Sherlock.

Still, not everyone is 7-3 and tied for the lead in their division, with a reasonable path to getting the #1 seed in their conference. If you take a step back and see what the Seahawks have been able to accomplish with all that’s gone against them, there’s reason to be amazed, as well as encouraged (if guys return and play well the rest of the way).

Let’s start with the guys who are lost for the season; pour one out for what could’ve been:

  • Bruce Irvin (LB/DE)
  • Marquise Blair (S)
  • Lano Hill (S)
  • Neiko Thorpe (CB)
  • Greg Olsen (TE)

I know there are teams who have lost bigger stars for the season, but I would argue these are pretty significant hits for the Seahawks. Given what we did in the offseason, this represents a pretty large portion of our free agent dollars (dollars that were – and still continue to be – in very short supply). Irvin accounted for over $5 million on a 1-year deal, and Olsen was another $7 million on a 1-year deal. Four our trouble, we got 10 games out of Olsen (he’s our 4th leading receiver at the moment, with just one touchdown), and only 2 games out of Irvin (he was supposed to be one of our top pass rushers, and ended up getting zero sacks). Money poorly spent, I’d say (the caveat being, if we make it deep into the playoffs, Olsen might be able to return, but I won’t be counting on that).

A big shame when it comes to the Olsen injury is the fact that we recently waived Luke Willson, who was picked up by the Ravens. It sounds like he’s on their practice squad – so we COULD get him back if we wanted to – but I don’t know if he’d want to return and continue to get jerked around (since it’s clear he’s our first option when we have someone we need to cut).

The team had also carved out a decent role for Blair to be a nickel corner against bigger receivers/tight ends. The second year pro (drafted in the second round) has a lot of talent and promise, so it was heartbreaking to see him also go down in the second game of the season. We’ll never know what we would’ve had in him this year, but given the secondary’s struggles overall (and the injury issues, which we’ll get more into below), Blair’s presence would’ve been a very welcome addition to the team.

Hill and Thorpe are lesser losses, but Hill looked better than he’s ever been in his two games this season. One has to wonder if he turned a corner in his young career. As for Thorpe, he’s been a Special Teams captain and mainstay for YEARS, but this just seems to be the end of the line for him. He hasn’t been able to stay on the field for even double-digit games since 2018 (when he still missed a good month’s worth of games), and I would argue our Special Teams have been fine without him.

Next, let’s look at the short list of players who’ve yet to play a single down:

  • Rashaad Penny (RB)
  • Darrell Taylor (DE)
  • Phillip Dorsett (WR)
  • Josh Gordon (WR) *

Of the four, the odds of Dorsett ever playing for this team seems pretty remote. Foot injuries are never good. Foot injuries for wide receivers are especially damaging. And, foot injuries for wide receivers whose primary weapon is their straight-line speed … well, three strikes and you’re out, I guess. As for Gordon, he gets the asterisk because he’s not actually injured, but rather on an indefinite suspension. But, he’s signed to the team and has yet to contribute, and given the talent of both of these players, I’d say the losses hurt regardless! Gordon especially, as he has #1 receiver-type talent; add him to the elite duo of D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett and you’ve really got something! The absence of these two also meant the Seahawks briefly flirted with the idea of signing Antonio Brown, and the jury is still out as to whether that would’ve been a smart idea or not.

Since the Seahawks, as is, are so strong at wide receiver, it’s hard to make a huge deal out of Dorsett & Gordon not being here. If you had to rank this group based on who we needed most, it’s a toss-up between Penny and Taylor. I’m leaning towards Penny because he’s a proven commodity, and there were a few games there where we REALLY stunk at running back, starting the likes of DeeJay Dallas and Alex Collins. As we saw last week with the return of Carlos Hyde, talent at running back is still important in this league, and Penny is probably the second-most talented running back on this team. It does look like he’ll return soon, which could be a boost (if nothing else, to our depth, but I bet they carve out a role on third downs for him, to get his feet wet).

As for Taylor, you could argue that – until recently – defensive end/pass rush was our biggest issue. But, as a rookie, I don’t know what’s reasonable to expect from a guy (especially when he hasn’t participated in any sort of Training Camp, let alone practices or games). I’m still not holding my breath that he actually returns – based on the number of setbacks he’s had – but the team is saying he’s close, which I find encouraging. Mostly, it’s encouraging that they haven’t yet written him off entirely and shut him down in favor of returning strong next year. Either way, I’ll believe in him when I see him in an actual game.

Next, let’s take a look at the players who have missed games:

  • Jamal Adams (S)
  • Shaquill Griffin (CB)
  • Quinton Dunbar (CB)
  • Ugo Amadi (CB)
  • D.J. Reed (CB)
  • Benson Mayowa (DE)
  • Chris Carson (RB)
  • Carlos Hyde (RB)
  • Travis Homer (RB)
  • Bryan Mone (DT)
  • Rasheem Green (DE)
  • Jordyn Brooks (LB)
  • Mike Iupati (G)
  • Jordan Simmons (G)
  • Ethan Pocic (C)

This obviously isn’t a comprehensive list (I probably should’ve said that at the top, but whatever). Let’s start with the secondary: we have YET to play with our full corps of DB’s at full strength. Griffin has been out the last few weeks with a concussion and a hamstring injury; he just returned to practice this week, but it’s up in the air as to whether he can return for Monday night’s game or not. Dunbar and Adams have both missed games AND played through injuries, with middling results. Obviously Adams leads the team in sacks and is a great weapon as a blitzer, but his coverage skills were never his strongest suit, and I would argue they’ve been further hampered by whatever he’s trying to gut his way through. Dunbar has a bad knee that was never able to fully get right. He tried to step up – particularly in Griffin’s absence – but has been abused by opposing quarterbacks the entire season. He’s finally landed on the IR, in hopes that we can get him back to 100% for the stretch run, so we’ll see. Amadi’s loss was a bad blow in the wake of Blair’s season-ending injury, as Amadi was one of our other nickel corners. Thankfully, D.J. Reed returned right around the same time, to give our secondary a boost (as he missed the start of the season thanks to an offseason injury when we claimed him).

The hope for this defense was that the secondary could prop everyone else up until we figured out the pass rush situation (with guys either improving naturally, or with outside players coming in to contribute), but that sadly hasn’t been the case. It’s been made more difficult by losing guys along the already-shorthanded defensive line. Along with Irvin and Taylor, the line has also missed Benson Mayowa (our OTHER big free agent signing along the D-Line) and Rasheem Green (last year’s leading sacker) for multiple games. Bryan Mone, to his credit, has been stout in the interior of the line, and it looks like it’ll be a while before he’s able to return.

The running backs, as I mentioned, took a serious hit. I won’t dwell on them too much, but thankfully Hyde is now back and Carson is practicing again. Here’s hoping they can stay on the field the rest of the way!

Jordyn Brooks didn’t miss too much time, but as our top rookie draft pick this year, missing ANY time is a disaster for someone learning the defense and learning how to be a professional. He has yet to make too much of an impact (possibly related to missing time early on, possibly not), but it does look like he’s starting to get more comfortable with his role on this team.

Finally, it’s time to talk about the offensive line. As Seahawks fans, we KNOW how important this unit is to the success of the offense. And, for the most part, we’ve been pretty blessed with this unit being as healthy as it’s been. Mike Iupati was a question mark from the start – given his age and the way his body has been breaking down in recent seasons – but we have good depth at guard. That depth was thrown into disarray when Simmons went down, as he’s the best backup guard on the roster. Then, with Ethan Pocic going down with a concussion (after having traded away B.J. Finney to the Bengals in part for Carlos Dunlap), we had to move our rock of a right guard, Damien Lewis, over to center for a game. He made it through okay (because he’s clearly Seattle’s 2020 Rookie MVP), but there were some struggles. Thankfully, it looks like all three are back (or very close to being back), so I don’t foresee any of them missing time long term.

To wrap things up, how about a few words on guys we all suspect are playing through (or HAVE played through) injuries:

  • Brandon Shell (RT)
  • Duane Brown (LT)
  • Tyler Lockett (WR)
  • Russell Wilson (QB)?

Duane Brown is an old man, but he’s also far-and-away our best offensive lineman, at a critical position along the line. He gets regular rest days in practice throughout the season to make sure he lasts, but I cringe EVERY TIME he goes down awkwardly or gets hit down around the knees. I think he’s missed a snap here and there, but so far has yet to miss any actual games (knock on wood); I hope it stays that way. Brandon Shell has proven to be our best right tackle by a VERY large margin. He suffered an ankle injury against the Cardinals, and I still have no idea how bad it is. If it’s a high ankle sprain, he could miss a month or more (which would be a disaster for this line). If it’s just a regular ankle sprain, he could be back as early as Monday night. I’m hoping it’ll be okay.

Lockett hasn’t missed any time that I can recall, but we all remember when he was tackled poorly by the Rams (I want to say?) and D.K. Metcalf almost started a riot in defense of his teammate. That was the second time he’s been nearly-injured, and he’s a little guy as it is! This offense is elite because it has Russell Wilson and TWO top-flight receivers. If you take away one of those receivers, it becomes exponentially easier to defend this team. So, take care Tyler Lockett!

As for Wilson, I don’t think he was ever actually injured, but I do think it’s funny that fans have this rumor that he was concussed and that’s why he struggled in our three losses. It’s the same as saying there’s widespread election fraud happening in America (but, of course, only in the swing states, and really only in the swing states that the president lost … how convenient). Never underestimate humanity’s ability to believe what it wants to believe!

In all seriousness, though, this season will go straight down the shitter if Wilson ever gets seriously injured. He HAS taken a lot of bad-looking hits, so I think it’s wise to incorporate more running (with the running backs) into the gameplan. Let’s get through these next four games with a 4-0 record and then we can start flying by the seat of our pants again!