Not Winners & Losers Of The Seahawks’ Second Pre-Season Game 2018

The Seahawks had the rare Saturday night pre-season game over the weekend, a 24-14 loss to the Chargers down in Los Angeles.  We saw our starters through the entire first half, watching many a promising drive end in futility, with a late comeback attempt for naught.  The only injury was to D.J. Fluker’s finger, which is a good sign.  Without further ado, let’s get into it.

What I’m Geeked Out About After Two Meaningless Pre-Season Games

Russell Wilson and Chris Carson look absolutely phenomenal.  Unfortunately, due to mistakes around them, we haven’t seen the fruits of their labor translating into a ton of touchdowns, but words can’t express how excited I’ll be when we finally get to see full games out of these guys.  This offense has the potential to really be something, and a lot of that production is going to fall to these two guys.

I think the receiving corps is in good shape.  We haven’t even seen Doug Baldwin yet, and as long as his injury isn’t worse than expected, we’ll get him back for the regular season (you know, when the games actually matter).  Tyler Lockett was given this game off, but he looks fast and ready to break out this year.  The real question marks come when you look beyond our top two guys, and it’s there that I’m really happy.  Jaron Brown had a couple of really nice catches for 74 yards, and David Moore had a couple of his own, for 71 yards.  With Brandon Marshall drawing the attention he draws (and as a weapon in the red zone), I think these five guys should all make the opening day roster, and I think they should all prove to be pretty productive (Moore in particular, as his role could expand even further after this season, if Lockett signs elsewhere).

Also, how do you not freak the fuck out about Rasheem Green?  One week after he netted 1.5 sacks and a tackle for loss against the Colts, he came back with 1.5 sacks and 2 tackles for loss against the Chargers!  Requisite grain of salt and all that, this is a guy who without question can play in this league and be productive for this team right out of the gate.  Never a better sight for these sore eyes have I seen in quite some time.

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

Quinton Jefferson looks like the real deal (and just in the knick of time, too).  He might never be a Pro Bowler, but just being a viable member of a D-Line rotation is all I’m looking for.

Naz Jones, however, may indeed one day be a Pro Bowler!  He needs to stay healthy first, and if he does, watch out NFL!  He could be one of the surprises of this season.

C.J. Prosise wasn’t especially effective, but he played most of the second half of this game and didn’t have to leave due to injury.  That’s something!  Now, we don’t know how his body responded – I’m still holding my breath, in case you couldn’t tell – but all signs point to him being okay.  Let’s keep this going!

Finally, while still raw-looking, Alex McGough looked better.  He had a nifty little touchdown drive late in the game, with a nice touch pass to the back of the endzone.  Still more checkdowns than you’d like to see in a game if it actually mattered, but as far as a rookie backup quarterback is concerned, as long as he’s avoiding mistakes, he’s okay in my book.

Let’s Talk About Competitions

It’s time for the punter competition to end.  John Schneider needs to take Old Yeller Jon Ryan out back behind the barn and put him out of his misery.  It’s been a good run, MVP, but it’s time to go in another direction.  Michael Dickson is the future, and by God, might indeed be the next Seahawks jersey I end up buying!

The kicker competition is still alive and well, and honestly probably too close to call.  They both made some pretty short-range kicks, and no one attempted a PAT due to the score being what it was.  It’s unfortunate that the #2 and #3 offenses are so fucking inept, as it’s seemingly impossible for these guys to get us into scoring position at all!  Heading to Minnesota this week, obviously, isn’t a great opportunity to allow the offense to bust out, as that’s one of the deeper teams in the league.

Finally, as I alluded to, a pretty mixed bag when it comes to the QB2 spot.  Austin Davis had two drives and went nowhere.  He sucks.  That having been said, I don’t know if I’m willing to throw this competition away just yet and hand the keys to McGough.  Obviously, the team is pretty confident that they know what they’ve got in Davis, so they’re giving the bulk of the free time to McGough to gauge his development.  As he is a 7th rounder, you know the team isn’t expecting a lot from him, hence the rumors about the Seahawks offering a 2nd rounder to acquire Indy’s backup.  That’s obviously a terrible idea – as why would you give up something so valuable just for a guy who ideally will never see the field in the regular season? – especially when you consider we don’t even have another 2nd round pick until 2020!  I think that rumor ended up being false, but nevertheless I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Seahawks in the market for a new backup as teams start cutting guys later this month.

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

This section could also be called, “God Damn It Germain Ifedi”.

What the fuck is wrong with this guy?  Seriously!?  I mean, it’s pretty plain to see that we’re not going to get even a minimal amount of improvement out of him compared to a season ago, which is just a disaster.  Hell, at this point I can’t even promise he won’t get WORSE!  His play, in EVERY facet of the game (but in particular his pass protection), is just the fucking worst.  Now, obviously, the other four starting linemen look pretty okay, so if Russell Wilson just has to avoid one free rusher per play (as opposed to the usual 4 or 5 we’d let run wild in prior seasons) we should still be able to move the ball.  But, this nevertheless puts our most important player in a precarious spot, and the odds of Wilson suffering an injury because of Ifedi’s ineptitude increases tenfold.  We may look back on the right tackle injuries in that Indy game as a serious turning point in our season, on par with the George Fant injury a year ago.

Obviously, you have to hate that Will Dissly penalty, and you just hope it’s something he’ll correct going forward.  This team can’t afford mental errors, as it’s less able to overcome them than in years past when we had more star players.

Ditto the Chris Carson fumble at the goalline.  We need touchdowns, not field goals; and we need points, not turnovers.

Predictably, Philip Rivers carved us up early in the game.  I thought the defense did a better job of settling down after that first drive, but the run defense was as sorry as I’ve ever seen it.  There’s a slight chance this team’s pass rush will be better than I expected, but there’s a very good chance this team’s run defense will be much worse.  What worries me is if the pass rush is indeed terrible, and so is the run defense.  Could be a LONG season for that side of the ball.

I’m also going to bemoan the lack of turnovers the Seahawks generated, because I still think this team will need them to thrive.  The secondary in particular looked far from impressive.  Just a lot for this defense to work on, and not a lot of time left to do it.

Rashaad Penny Broke A Finger

On the one hand, I love a pre-season game on a Saturday because I don’t have to worry about work the next day and being tired from staying up until all hours of the night; but on the other hand, WAITING UNTIL SATURDAY just feels obscene to me.  I WANT FOOTBALL RIGHT NOW GOD DAMMIT!

So, we had a good-news/bad-news situation this week.  The bad news, obviously, is that our first round pick Rashaad Penny broke his finger in practice and had to have surgery this week to repair it.  This means that he’s going to miss essentially the rest of the pre-season, which is prime development time for a rookie who we all figured would have a significant role in this offense right out of the gate.

Now, the good news is that assuming there are no setbacks, he should be ready for week 1 (or, at the very least, the first month of the season), but I dunno.  I feel like the bad outweighs the good in this case.  He’s not going to get this time back!  Sure, he can keep his conditioning on point, and he can shove his nose in the playbook and do all that, but the best way to develop as a player in the NFL is through reps on the field.

On top of that, this injury re-opens my concern about the depth at this position.  A position of tremendous need, I might add, and one where this team struggled heavily in the last couple seasons.  Heading into training camp, running back was one of the positions I was most confident in on this team.  That’s because we had Chris Carson back to full health and looking like a beast, and that’s because we had a bona fide first round talent in Rashaad Penny, who had never really shown a proclivity to being injured in college.  Beyond those two guys, we had a winner-takes-all grudge match among the 3rd down backs, as well as a guy in Mike Davis who’s probably the most reliable, dependable workhorse of the bunch (whose spot was far from guaranteed until this injury cropped up).

When you take out one of the top two guys, things get a lot more tenuous.  Chris Carson was already the leader of the pack heading into the second game of the pre-season, but now his importance is amplified tenfold.  He’s also someone – based exclusively on what happened in his rookie season a year ago – I have very little confidence in staying healthy.  That could’ve been just a freak injury, or it could’ve been a sign of things to come; we have no idea, and that unknown is what scares me the most.  Beyond him, C.J. Prosise is obviously a walking injury bug waiting to strike, so even though he might have the talent to be an every-down back (should the unthinkable happen ahead of him on the depth chart), there’s no WAY I’d be confident in him being available.  And J.D. McKissic is a good player, but he’s not my idea of someone who would succeed with runs inside the tackles.

That leaves, again, Mike Davis.  At this point, I think he’s a guy you HAVE to keep on the 53-man roster, when we get to the cut-downs.  I don’t think he has the dynamic play-making ability of the guys ahead of him in the position room, but behind what’s looking like an improved offensive line, I think he’s good enough to be a 1,000-yard back in this offense, which is all I’m asking for at this point.

So, all in all, kind of a bummer of a week, but not as bad as it could’ve been.  In all likelihood, Penny will make a full recovery and he’ll start out as this team’s backup to start the season.  If he can stay healthy from here on out, he should have plenty of time to catch back up during the regular season.  At least it’s not a knee, or a quad, or a hamstring, or a shoulder, or a head, or a toe, or literally any other body part.  Fingers heal.  Broken fingers can still be played with.  This is fine, everything is fine, I’m fine.  Let’s all go about our business and enjoy our Friday.

Not Winners & Losers Of The Seahawks’ First Pre-Season Game 2018

Winners & Losers posts are fucking played out, so fuck it, I’m doing something different (that’s really sort of the same, but whatever).

Last night, the Seahawks played in their first pre-season game of the year and lost to the Colts 19-17.  The game was efficiently played through the first half, we saw a ton of different guys get out there and mix it up, and then the second half was a slog of mistakes, penalties, and absolute tom-fuckery that ended with a 3rd & 1 play just before the 2-minute warning.  The Seahawks used their final time out in an attempt to get the ball back for a come-from-behind opportunity.  The Colts ran the ball up the middle, Delano Hill (I believe) had a chance to stuff the running back for no gain, but he ultimately missed the tackle, leading to an Indy first down and a victory formation coming out of the 2-minute break.  So, let’s get to the premise of this post.

What I’m Geeked Out About After One Meaningless Pre-Season Game

Okay, so first of all, caveats galore:  it’s pre-season, it’s the first game of the pre-season, it’s against an Indy defense that probably isn’t all that good and probably wasn’t playing all their best players and probably wasn’t running anything but a vanilla scheme.

That having been said, I’m pretty fucking geeked out about the Seahawks’ #1 offense.  All of it!  Russell Wilson was on point!  The running game looked strong!  The offensive line gave Wilson all day to throw and opened up huge holes!  Receivers and tight ends got open!  The offense was crisp and efficient and was even able to overcome a penalty or two!  It culminated in a touchdown pass to Nick Vannett and the major players were done for the night.

Why am I so geeked out about all this, with all those caveats I mentioned?  Because this is what’s SUPPOSED to happen.  This is how your #1 offense is SUPPOSED to look against the dregs of the league in the first pre-season game of the year.  And yet, all too often in years past, under Darrell Bevell & Co., it’s been a fucking SLOG!  Much like in regular season games, this offense tended to take a while to get going even in the pre-season.  So, it was FUCKING refreshing to finally see these guys come out right away and ram it down the other team’s throat.

As always:  Fuck You Very Much Darrell Bevell & Tom Cable.

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

Even though Vannett had a drop (that, on replay, might’ve been a tad thrown behind him, but still, something you should catch), I liked what he brought to the table.  Any sort of production we get from the tight ends should be gravy (so long as they’re doing their jobs blocking), but if he can be a real weapon offensively, that’d be HUGE for our passing game.

There was a nice catch by Stringfellow and a couple good catches by Moore for the back-end of the receiving corps.  All in all, I thought our targets looked good.

Rasheem Green is probably the talk of the day defensively.  This pass rush looks as pathetic as I’ve ever seen it, and I’m sure he did most of his damage against backups, but nevertheless even THIS was more than I was expecting out of Green as a rookie.  I kinda expected him to look lost and overwhelmed even in the pre-season, so to see him really stand out as the best pass rusher on this team last night is an encouraging sign for his first season in the league.

Also promising:  Shaquem Griffin.  He didn’t make every single play, but boy was he all over the place!  He led the game with 9 tackles and had a tackle for loss mixed in as well.

I thought Akeem King really showed out in getting some extended playing time.  He had a nice pass breakup, showed some really good coverage overall, and even though he had that helmet penalty on special teams, I really don’t think it was totally his fault!  You could see on replay, he tried moving his head out of the way and leading with his shoulder, but the offensive guy lowered HIS head and yet it’s the defensive guy’s fault.  I think that’s a collosal load of bullshit and something the NFL really needs to adjust.  I’m with you 100% when it comes to getting rid of helmet-to-helmet hits and avoiding hitting guys in the head overall, but when it’s the offensive guy putting himself in harm’s way, I mean, how is the defender supposed to avoid it?  We’re teaching all these defensive guys to see the play and keep his head up and all of that; why aren’t we teaching the offensive guys the same thing?  I feel like a high percentage of these hits are the fault of the offense, and no one’s doing a damn thing about it.

Let’s Talk About Competitions

You know I love me a good punter competition!  Of course, the main downside is that you’ve got to see the incumbent half the time (to keep up appearances, I suppose) and give him the first opportunity (because he is the veteran and whatnot).  The other big downside is that you kind of have to root for your offense to totally suck, which obviously makes for boring football to watch.

I thought, you know, Jon Ryan was fine.  I wish him well and I hope another team snaps him up and he punts in this league for many more years to come.  But, I’m ready to just hand the keys over to Michael Dickson right now, because he was phenomenal!  He’s got that ball BOOMING and it doesn’t even look like he’s trying all that hard!  I feel like he could punt it the entire length of the football field, and at some point, when we’re backed way up in our own endzone, I want to see him unleash a furious hellscape of a punt that makes us all simultaneously cream in our pants.

As for the kickers, way too early to tell.  I want this battle to go to the bitter end.  Janikowski made both of his extra points; Myers made his 43-yard field goal.

Finally, I’m just going to bypass all the more interesting competitions (I thought all the RBs looked good, except of course for C.J. Prosise who – SUR-PRISE SUR-PRISE SUR-PRISE – missed the game with an injury) and talk about the backup QBs.  Austin Davis is almost certainly going to win that #2 job, and he moved the ball pretty well on his first drive of the game, but GOD DAMN did that interception in the endzone leave a bitter taste in my mouth.  I was thrilled to see him on the sidelines coming out of halftime.

As for Alex McGough, he was definitely Captain Checkdown, but what do you expect from a 7th round QB playing in his first NFL game?  I thought the backup offensive line did him no favors.  He showed good mobility, but all too often I found myself SCREAMING at him, “THROW IT AWAY!”  He ultimately took two too many sacks when he had clear opportunities to throw it out of bounds and live to fight another day, and that’s ultimately on him.

He also had that one scramble play that went for a HUGE gain to Stringfellow (who was erroneously flagged for offensive PI – which, I guess you have to say it was pre-season for the refs too, because they looked pretty bad on occasion), which goes to show you this kid has moxie and a lot of potential to be maybe a Doug Flutie type of player.  I still think Davis has the clear lead, but I’m not TOTALLY going to write off Mr. McGough.

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

I was disappointed in something I thought would be a strength for this team:  its depth.  Coming out of the draft, I thought – even though our top-flight talent wasn’t what it was in this team’s prime – we at least had much better guys on this roster from players 54-90.  But, that proved to be wishful thinking on my part.

Obviously, a number of starters were out injured (notably Frank Clark, Dion Jordan, Byron Maxwell, and Doug Baldwin), but I pegged this as a team that would dominate the 4th quarters of pre-season games (i.e. our third stringers are better than your third stringers), and that just wasn’t the case last night.

I thought the pass defense was a little lacking, for good reason.  Tre Flowers was the starter opposite Shaquill Griffin, and he had predictable rookie mistakes.  He showed some promise, but he was also getting picked on pretty regularly.  The good thing is, he’ll likely have ample opportunities to grow through some of these pains the next three weeks.

I saw a ball get completed in front of Shaquill Griffin that I can guarantee you Richard Sherman (if healthy) would’ve broken up.  Look, right or wrong, I’m going to be comparing every play that goes his way to Sherm in his prime; I’m sorry, that’s just what happens when you replace a legend.  What’s His Name had to replace Dan Marino when he retired, and look at where he is now!  (forgotten).  Other than that one catch, I thought Griffin looked fine, but it’s something I’m going to monitor very closely.

I thought our linebackers looked pretty terrible in that first quarter, as you saw the Colts throwing to WIDE OPEN running backs on the regular.  K.J. Wright got beat, Bobby Wagner got beat; guys looked like they were out of position; and quite frankly guys looked like they were ill-prepared for a quarterback coming off of a year-plus out of football for a shoulder injury.  I mean, what did you expect?  Andrew Luck to sling the ball 50 yards down field?  OF COURSE he was going to throw quick, short passes!  We should’ve been on top of that.

I also didn’t love what I saw out of Austin Calitro, backing up Bobby Wagner, but you know, he’s an undrafted rookie playing behind an All Pro, so I won’t get my panties all in a wad.  He has a long way to go; I just pray to the high heavens that Wagner never gets injured.

As I predicted, this team kind of got pushed around on 3rd/4th downs early in the game.  The Colts were ultimately held to field goals most of the time, but nevertheless they were able to put up some pretty sustained drives throughout (especially their starters).  Need to find a way to get off the field.

The backup O-Line looked as miserable as I remember from the last three years.  While the starters looked GREAT, the backups leave a lot to be desired.  It also doesn’t help that our two backup right tackles – Jamarco Jones and Isaiah Battle – left the game with some serious-looking injuries.  One to the knee, one looking to be a high ankle sprain.  These were the two guys pushing Germain Ifedi for that starting right tackle spot, so this is probably the worst news of the night.  Ifedi might be better than he was last year, but I still don’t like the idea of him winning the job by default.

Pre-Pre-Season Preview: Seahawks Running Game

Aside from digging into the various news stories, I’ve largely neglected talking about the Seahawks by design:  2017 was a bitter pill to swallow.  After such a sustained stretch of brilliance, this team was a slog to cover last year; but, they’ve jettisoned a lot of aging veterans, brought in fresh blood throughout the organization, and I would argue there’s some reasons to be optimistic (even though my default prediction is that this team will win anywhere from 7-9 games; everything would have to go perfectly in our favor to get to 10 wins or more, and when does THAT ever happen?).

So, with precious few weeks remaining until the pre-season games kick things off, I’ve got a quickie series of posts where I’ll look at the 7 areas of this team as they’re set up right now:

Without further ado, let’s talk about the Seahawks’ running game.

Running Backs

As I got into yesterday, I’m pretty stoked on the running backs we’ve got in camp.  And, as I got into yesterday, I don’t think any of them are on the level of Marshawn Lynch in his heyday, but I do think as a collective, this is the best group we’ve had in a very long time.  Maybe ever!

I keep waffling on Rashaad Penny.  I want to like him.  I DESPERATELY want him to be great.  I think with his speed and overall talents, he has the potential to be great.  But, there are plenty of running backs with good speed and skills, but it takes a special, intangible something that separates the good backs from the elites.  And, we won’t know if he has THAT until we see him in action.

I think it’s safe to say Penny is the player I’m most looking forward to seeing in the pre-season (and that’s saying something, now that we’ve got both Griffin brothers on defense).  Everything hinges on returning the running game to dominance.  This team had no running game whatsoever in 2017 and failed to make the playoffs as a result.  If we continue to sputter, it’s going to be a LONG 2018.

The good thing is, if nothing else, I think Penny has a high floor.  Also, with Chris Carson as his running mate, we shouldn’t see any sort of drop-off in ability or production.  Of course, if BOTH of those guys get injured, I don’t know what to tell you.  At that point, I’d have to legitimately believe in the realness of curses and start investing in crucifixes or something.

Behind them, from strictly a rushing perspective (i.e. not pass-catching), we have Mike Davis, then C.J. Prosise, then J.D. McKissic.  Davis is just a guy, a competent all-around running back who is never going to wow you and is never going to be a bona fide starter in this league.  He’s nice insurance to have, if indeed the injury bug keeps on biting this team, but he’s not essential to keep on the 53-man roster.  With everyone being healthy, even if you did roster him into the regular season, I can’t imagine he’d be active very often, if at all.  He also strikes me as a guy you’d be able to pick up off the waiver wire in the event of an emergency.  I mean, what teams out there are clamoring for the services of Mike Davis?

The real #3 running back battle falls to Prosise vs. McKissic, as I talked about yesterday, and it boils down to whether or not Prosise can stay healthy.  If healthy, I think the team looks to keep Prosise, because all things being even, I think he’s the better all-around running back over McKissic.  I think both are valuable pass-catching backs, but I think Prosise has the edge in the running game.  Of course, durability is the key, and for that reason alone I believe McKissic will make the team; but if you’re counting on McKissic to be your every-down back, something has gone seriously wrong.

So, I’m just going to cross my fingers and hope our top two guys stay healthy.  I’d really like to see how an honest running back battle shakes out, as I feel like both Penny and Carson could push each other to remarkable heights.

As for the fullback position, I have no opinion.  Outside of the blocking game, can you get a yard on 4th & 1 with a dive up the middle?  That’s all I care about.  Hell, I don’t think the Seahawks even HAD a true fullback last year, so it can’t be that important.

I give this position an A-.

Quarterbacks

Can’t talk about the running game without talking about Russell Wilson.  He led the team last year with 586 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns.  Outside of 2016 – where he was injured from game 1 – his season low in rushing has been 489 yards, which when you pair it with a competent attack from the running backs, makes for a nice chunk of change.

However, when you have what we had last year, defenses only had to focus on shutting down the passing game and containing Wilson in the pocket.  It speaks to his greatness that he was still able to run for 586 when the Seahawks had literally no other threats on the team, when the O-Line was as wretched as it was, and when every defense focused solely on keeping him contained rather than attacking him like normal pocket passers.

When you compare him to other duel-threat quarterbacks who are actually quality passers, Wilson is probably in the Top 2 with Cam Newton.  From purely a rushing perspective, you’d give the nod to Newton, but I’d still rather have Wilson if for no other reason than he doesn’t take all the savage hits that Newton endures.  At some point, it’s going to catch up to Cam, and he’s going to hit the IR sooner or later.  Wilson does an excellent job of getting what he needs to get and then getting out of harm’s way.  Give me that all day.

A+ for Wilson!

Of course, it feels incomplete talking about the running game (OR the passing game, for that matter) without talking about the offensive line.  I’ll get into that tomorrow.  The first two posts in this series are strictly a reflection of the talent among the skill position groups.  With an A+ offensive line, I think the Seahawks would have one of the most potent offenses in all of football.  As you’ll read about next time, I absolutely do not think the Seahawks have an A+ offensive line.

But, I also don’t think it’ll be as bad as everyone expects.

Pre-Pre-Season Preview: Seahawks Passing Game

Aside from digging into the various news stories, I’ve largely neglected talking about the Seahawks by design:  2017 was a bitter pill to swallow.  After such a sustained stretch of brilliance, this team was a slog to cover last year; but, they’ve jettisoned a lot of aging veterans, brought in fresh blood throughout the organization, and I would argue there’s some reasons to be optimistic (even though my default prediction is that this team will win anywhere from 7-9 games; everything would have to go perfectly in our favor to get to 10 wins or more, and when does THAT ever happen?).

So, with precious few weeks remaining until the pre-season games kick things off, I’ve got a quickie series of posts where I’ll look at the 7 areas of this team as they’re set up right now:

Without further ado, let’s talk about the Seahawks’ passing game.

Quarterbacks

It’s easy to write in Russell Wilson’s name here and call it a day.  A+.  Next position group.  I mean, we’re talking about a guy firmly in the prime of his career.  This will be his 7th season in the NFL, he’s worked his way up the quarterback rankings – I think most would put him in the Top 5, and if you don’t, I think you’re idiotic – and if you had to rank all the guys currently on the Seahawks, he’s not only the most important player, but he’s also the BEST player.

And sure, there isn’t a whole lot backing him up.  This isn’t a Philadelphia Eagles situation; if we lose Wilson, we don’t have a Nick Foles there backing him up with steady leadership and ability.  We have Austin Davis and a rookie; neither excites me to any degree.  Maybe the rookie develops into a competent backup one day, maybe not; but as a 7th round draft pick, I feel it’s pretty safe to say he’s a non-factor in 2018.

But, that’s pretty much been the case since Wilson was drafted.  Sure, MAYBE in 2013 – if Wilson had been injured – Tarvaris Jackson could’ve guided the team into the playoffs.  And MAYBE the rest of the squad would’ve been so great, it wouldn’t have mattered who was under center.  I don’t believe that; I don’t think the Seahawks had a chance in hell of GETTING to the Super Bowl that year, let alone winning it without Russell Wilson.  But, you believe what you want to believe.  I’ll believe that the Seahawks have never had anyone worth a damn backing up Wilson, and that any of our seasons since 2012 would’ve been absolutely destroyed if he’d suffered any sort of significant injury.

So, that’s nothing new in my mind.

That having been said, I can’t give Wilson a free pass either.  I know a lot of people will overlook at lot of his faults because the O-Line has been the worst in all of football, but to me that’s a 2-way street.  Yes, of course, there are too many instances of times where Wilson has no time to function; but, there are also a good number of boneheaded decisions on Wilson’s part, trying to do too much, ignoring the obvious check-down that would’ve gone for a significant gain.  Also, the team was constructed around his talents; they felt they could skimp on the O-Line because of Wilson’s running ability.  Considering all the money that was being paid elsewhere (as well as all the money going to Wilson himself), the team couldn’t pay everyone.  Where everyone is at fault, I believe, is OVER-estimating Russell Wilson’s abilities.  We saw him pull our asses out of the fire with magical play after magical play so many times, we thought he could walk on water.  When, in reality, Wilson is like most any other quarterback in the sense that he needs to be protected just like everyone else.

He’s human, despite what all the memes will tell you.

Now, he’s still a great human.  Elite even!  But, human nevertheless.  He’s a net gain, all things considered, but he’s also going to dig his share of holes that he then has to try and lift this team out of.  A lot of times, he’ll be successful.  But, not EVERY time.

So, to me, until I see a little more on-field maturity in his decision-making, it’s not an A+, but more like just a regular ol’ A, or even an A-.  He’s still in the 90th-percentile, and in that sense the Seahawks are one of the very, very lucky ones.

Wide Receivers

It’s almost refreshing to see the overwhelming majority of the public bash on the Seahawks’ receivers.  Feels like 2012 again!

I don’t have nearly the problem with the Seahawks’ receivers as everyone else seems to.  ESPN, for instance, ranked the Seahawks among the bottom quarter of the league in offensive weapons, but I don’t think it’s so dire.

For starters, we still have Doug Baldwin.  He’s going to command the lion’s share of the targets in the passing game, and he’s one of the 5 or 10 best (and most talented, dependable, dynamic, and fun-to-watch) receivers in the league.  Now, if we assume this is going to be a return to form for the Seahawks’ offense – with a run-first mentality – then we have to assume targets will once again be tough to come by.  In that sense, do the Seahawks really NEED three or four top-line wide receivers?

I argue: no.  We have one top-line guy in Baldwin, and another very good receiver in Tyler Lockett.  I think that’s enough.  Beyond that, I think the team will figure it out.

I think what goes in this team’s favor is that we don’t have this beast we have to constantly feed, like we did with Jimmy Graham (or previously with Percy Harvin).  We can simply focus on the best man available.  Instead of constantly dialing into one guy – particularly in the red zone – Wilson can just throw to whoever’s open.  IMAGINE THAT!  He can take advantage of natural mis-matches.  Guys we haven’t even considered could step up and be unlikely heroes, like in the good ol’ days of Seahawks football!

I think we’re also underestimating Doug’s abilities in the red zone, which are elite, and were heavily over-shadowed over all the hand-wringing it took to get Jimmy Graham his touches.  If the over/under is 8.5 TDs for Doug, I’m betting heavy on the over.  After that, you’re going to see a ton of guys catching anywhere from 2-4 TDs, we just can’t see exactly who just yet.

My grade is a solid B.

Tight Ends

Of course, something had to suffer with the loss of Jimmy Graham, and that’s in the pass-catching ability of our tight ends (I’ll discuss our VAST improvement in run blocking tight ends when I discuss the running game in a separate post).

Not only did we lose Graham’s production – not to mention the THREAT of his production, in how defenses schemed us – but we also lost Luke Willson, both of whom I would argue – strictly from a passing game perspective (taking all of their blocking ability out of it) – are better than what’s remaining on the Seahawks.

I guess you start with Ed Dickson, who I think will be good for – at best – a 2 catches per game average.  But, again, I would argue that’s all you need.  When our offense was really humming, we had Zach Miller at the helm.  He was great, but he was far from a focal point in the passing game.  Nevertheless, if you stuck a slow linebacker on him, he was liable to get by him for one or two big gains a game.  THAT’S what I want out of my tight ends in the passing game:  just one or two surprise plays that will move the chains.  Anything beyond that – up to and including any touchdowns – is gravy.

It gets even leaner from there, as Will Dissly was drafted primarily to be another blocking tight end for this team.  While I do believe in his ability long term, and think he will one day develop into a Zach Miller-ish catching tight end, I don’t think he’ll ever be a dominant offensive force.  And, again, I think that’s okay.  I think that’s just what this team needs to be productive.

My grade is a C-.

Running Backs

The real wild card in all of this is how our backs take to the passing game.  Under Russell Wilson, this has never really been an offense that took advantage of its running backs in the passing game.  There are occasional dump-offs, but really nothing to write home about.

However, as I’ll write about next time when I write about the running game, I couldn’t be any higher on this group of running backs.  It’s easy to say this is the best group we’ve had since Marshawn Lynch was in town, but I think these guys can REALLY start to approach – as a collective – the Beastmode’s greatness.

Considering what was always the drop-off from Lynch to whoever was next in line, this is the best 1-2 punch the Seahawks have had at running back maybe ever.  No one owns the #1 job just yet, but you figure with Rashaad Penny’s first round draft status, he has to be 1-A heading into Training Camp.  But, with how Chris Carson looked last year, and particularly how he looked in the mini camps, it’s really anyone’s race.  If they develop and take to the new offense the way I believe they can, we’re talking about two guys who could start on any number of teams in this league.  As it is, we’re talking about two guys who will get every opportunity to win increased snaps.

That doesn’t even get into the depth of this unit.  While I believe Carson and Penny have the chops to be great pass catchers (particularly Penny, with his speed, and his abilities in the return game), behind them we have whoever emerges in the C.J. Prosise vs. J.D. McKissic battle.  One of them will make this team; Prosise if he stays perfectly healthy, or McKissic as a fall-back whenever Prosise rolls an ankle or bruises a toe.  Either one would be a perfectly fine complement to our two starters, and will likely be a featured back on 3rd downs and in 2-minute situations.  They both have wide receiver backgrounds, so not utilizing them would be a huge error.  At that point, it’s up to Wilson to take advantage.

My grade is a B (with room to advance to an A if the offense makes good use of them).

The name of the game is spreading the ball around.  It’s what Russell Wilson does best.  If the Seahawks are going to have a successful passing game this year, it’s going to be with a lot of different heroes stepping up game-in and game-out.  Doug will get his, but sometimes he won’t, and sometimes it’ll be a guy from out of nowhere.

My overall grade:  B (again, with room to advance to an A if players gel and buy into the new system).

I Feel Renewed Excitement About The Seahawks: So Why Am I So Down On Them?

I’m on record as having the world’s biggest hard-on for the draft haul the Seahawks just brought in.  There are – what appears to be – fantastic players and inspiring stories up and down that list of players.  Rashaad Penny looks like he could potentially come in and start right away at running back – a position of tremendous need for this team.  Will Dissly looks like he can come in and contribute right away as a blocking tight end – another position of tremendous need for this team.  Michael Dickson looks like he can come in and not only be our starting punter, but be a remarkable improvement at that spot.  Tre Flowers looks like a guy who could develop into a viable starting cornerback opposite Shaquill Griffin as early as maybe midseason in his rookie year.  Shaquem Griffin looks like he can make an immediate impact on special teams, with an outside chance of contributing in various sub packages on defense as a linebacker/safety/pass rushing hybrid.  Guys like Rasheem Green and Jamarco Jones look like they have tremendous upside and while they’ll likely need a year to develop, it’s not outside of the realm of possibility that they do develop into eventual starters as a defensive lineman and a left tackle respectively.  And that’s not even getting into the countless undrafted guys I don’t know about; you figure one or two of them have a chance of turning into something really useful.

It’s really a lot of fun to think about.  Obviously, not all of them are going to pan out, but that’s not the point.  Right now, the sky is the limit for each and every one of them!  And, what’s more, we’ll get to enjoy a year where more young guys are going to get an opportunity on this team than they have since 2011 and 2012!  We might not be a championship-calibre team today, or at all this year, but if things go right, it’s not crazy to say that we’re close to being right back to the team we were from 2012-2014.

So, why am I so down on 2018?  Why am I sitting here talking about 8-8 this and 8-8 that?  Well, let’s break it down.  Am I wildly off base?  Have they done enough to fill the holes they needed to fill?  The holes that rendered this team a 9-7 embarrassment in 2017?

I’d start by saying on offense, they’re about the same as they were last year.  Let’s start with the skill positions.

Quarterback – Obviously, Russell Wilson is here.  He’s a Top 5-calibre quarterback in this league, and as a result your team is never really out of any game.  As long as he’s healthy, this team will never truly bottom out.  8-8 or 7-9 feels like the floor, like many of those middling New Orleans Saints teams back when their defense was a disaster, their running game was so-so, and it all fell on Drew Brees’ shoulders.

Wide Receiver – Your top two guys are back:  Doug Baldwin & Tyler Lockett.  Doug is Doug, he’s amazing.  Tyler is not coming off of an injury (which is good) and he’s playing for a new contract after the season’s over (which is even better).  If there was ever a chance to see Lockett at his best, this is the time.  Paul Richardson is gone, replaced by Jaron Brown.  You figure the speed is there, but this still feels like a downgrade to me.  Can Brown win those 1-on-1 battles that Wilson so often puts his receivers in?  Those jump balls that P-Rich or Golden Tate used to come up with, as if out of a science fiction movie?  Wilson has never been the type of quarterback to launch balls deep down field and take advantage of his receivers’ over-the-top speed, and I don’t see why that should change now.  Beyond the top 3 guys, it’s a real smorgasbord of question marks.  Amara Darboh?  David Moore?  Tanner McEvoy?  Marcus Johnson (who we got in the Philly deal for Michael Bennett)?  One of the litany of undrafted guys and holdovers we’ll have in camp?  I’m not super impressed, but maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Tight End – In the WR group, I think you have to include Jimmy Graham, because for all intents and purposes, he WAS a wide receiver.  You take a BIG hit, particularly in the red zone, with the loss of Jimmy Graham.  Say what you will about the other areas of his game (and believe me, I have and I will continue to do so), but he was a beast in a 1-on-1 situation near the goalline when Russell could just chuck it over there and more often than not come up with a TD (yes, there were more than his fair share of drops, but 10 TDs in 2017 is 10 TDs; I don’t care how long it took for this offense to finally figure out how to use him).  Who’s going to make up that deficit?  As for our other tight ends, we have Nick Vannett (who has shown you nothing in 2 years), Ed Dickson (pretty much Just A Guy, brought in via free agency; he’s essentially a Luke Willson replacement, as far as offensive production is concerned), Tyrone Swoops (who might not even make the team; still feels like a project to me), and newly drafted Will Dissly (who I believe will eventually turn into a useful offensive weapon, but not as a rookie, and nowhere near the league of a Jimmy Graham, from a pass-catching threat).  I expect these guys to be vastly improved blockers over someone like Graham, though, which brings me to my next point.

Running Back – To make up for the loss of Jimmy Graham, it’s going to have to come from the running game.  For what it’s worth, I do think this will be improved over 2017, because how much lower can you go than rock bottom?  The question, as always, will be who stays healthy.  Penny looks like a potential stud.  Chris Carson is there to push him every step of the way, but he’s coming off of a pretty devastating injury, and who’s to say he won’t get injured again this year?  C.J. Prosise is even more injury prone, and in my opinion far from a lock to make this team.  Mike Davis and J.D. McKissic are just guys.  Reliable, dependable guys, but just guys.  Nothing special.  Nothing really explosive about them (McKissic is obviously a faster guy, better in open space – more of a receiving back than a real, physical running back).  We need Penny or Carson to pan out here, right away, otherwise we’re in a MUCH worse position offensively than we were in 2017.

Offensive Line – And, last but not least.  Or maybe it is least.  Tough to say.  The obvious outcry from most fans and pundits alike, is how this team has neglected the offensive line this year, the bane of 2015-2017’s existence.  I’m on record as not seeing this as huge of a deal as in years past.  Maybe it’s fatigue over obsessing about them every year.  But, I like Duane Brown.  I think starting from Day 1 with him in the fold is nothing but an improvement, over trying to learn the system on the fly in mid-season 2017.  I hear Ethan Pocic is bigger and stronger than last year.  As a rookie, he got valuable experience.  Now that it’s not all new and insane for him, he should be able to settle in and anchor this line at the left guard spot for the foreseeable future.  My hopes are high for this kid!  Justin Britt is a fine center.  I’m sure he’ll continue to be the rock and the leader this line needs.  D.J. Fluker looks like a formidable run blocker at right guard, as well as someone with a lot to prove, with a high pedigree.  Obviously, Luke Joeckel had a lot to prove, with a high pedigree as well, but I dunno.  He’s cheaper, for one.  For another, he’s not coming off of an ACL.  Hopefully, he won’t miss a huge chunk of games in the middle of the season for a bogus cleanup surgery.  I don’t know if this team will ever have an elite pass-protecting O-Line, but if Fluker can open up some running lanes, then fuck it.  Germain Ifedi is an obvious source of frustration for most fans, but I’ll say this:  a second year at the same position – that continuity – should do wonders for him.  And, if not, well this team has plenty of guys to push him for that starting job.  I like the depth along the O-Line an awful lot; there has to be SOMEONE on this team who will be an improvement over our right tackle performance of 2017.  Maybe that someone is 2018 Ifedi; I’ve heard of crazier things before.

Bottom line on offense is:  if the O-Line can’t get the running game going, we’re fucked any way you slice it.  If it can’t do that, it sure as shit won’t protect well for Russell Wilson, and if that’s the case, it’s pretty easy to write off this year as an 8-8 of a disaster.  However, if Pocic & Ifedi take leaps forward in their development, if the veterans can stay healthy, and if we can get this running game going again, there’s reason for optimism that the offense could be vastly superior to what it’s been in recent post-Marshawn Lynch seasons.  A lot of “ifs” there, but that’s what we have to work with.

That all having been said, I’d say the bulk of my concern rests on the defensive side of the ball.  Richard Sherman, gone.  Michael Bennett, gone.  Cliff Avril, gone.  Kam Chancellor, likely gone.  Sheldon Richardson, gone.  Malik McDowell, idiot.  Earl Thomas, disgruntled (but playing for a new contract, so you never know).  I’ll say this:  the defense wasn’t a total and complete disaster last year, but the more we lost our star players, the worse it was.  This year, we’re looking at a lot of new blood, and we have to find out if these guys are going to mesh, or if there’s going to be a lot of growing pains.

Defensive Line – Frank Clark and Dion Jordan are your starting ends, for all intents and purposes.  You can play them anywhere, but those are essentially your replacements for Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett.  I like Clark, but I liked him a lot more as a #3 option behind those two proven studs.  Will he have another level to his game when he’s the #1 dude?  I sure hope so.  I also liked what little I saw from Dion Jordan last year, but will he be able to carry that over?  Not only what he did then, but a lot more considering the presumed increase in snaps?  Beyond those guys, Green is a rookie (and he’s green) who probably won’t play more than on a rotational basis, in obvious passing situations.  The other rookie is a late-round project.  Marcus Smith was a nice player last year, but is he really a #3 guy?  That feels like a STEEP drop-off from Frank Clark last year.

As for the tackles, it looks like the bulk of our talent resides there.  I love Jarran Reed and Naz Jones; I particularly think the sky is the limit for Jones.  We brought in those two vets from the Vikings who should be fine pros.  There’s an undrafted rookie whose name I forget – out of Texas – who looks like a run-stuffing prodigy.  Then, there’s Quinton Jefferson, who is playing for a job and might be axed out based on the level of talent here.  I think the D-Line will be great when it comes to stuffing the run (which is important, in case anyone forgets the 3rd & 11 against Jacksonville last year, as well as all the yards Todd Gurley got against us).  But, I have a lot of doubts about their ability to rush the passer.  Hopefully a tighter rotation – fewer snaps all around – will keep guys fresher and more prone for late-game success, but I dunno.

Linebacker – The obvious best position group of the bunch.  Bobby Wagner is an All Pro, K.J. Wright is a Pro Bowler.  They won’t leave the field – barring injuries – and they’ll be the glue that holds this defense together.  The big question is:  can they help out in pass rushing?  Both of those guys are quality blitzers, but they predominantly play out in the receiving routes.  Can Barkevious Mingo or Shaquem Griffin – on the strong side – contribute to moving the quarterback off his spot, hitting him, and otherwise leading to more turnovers?  That’ll be huge, but again, I have my doubts for 2018.

Safety – Earl Thomas and Bradley McDougald figure to be your starters.  Earl is amazing, Bradley is fine.  Tedric Thompson and Delano Hill are the rookies from last year, so hopefully we’ll see a big jump from them, as you figure we’re going to need them.  There are others on the roster, but I don’t know much about them, and therefore don’t expect much from them.  Shaquem Griffin is a wild card here too, as it would be interesting to see him in a run-stuffing/Kam Chancellor type role.

Cornerback – Shaquill Griffin and Byron Maxwell figure to be your starters on the outside, with Justin Coleman as your primary nickel corner.  We all liked what Shaquill did for us last year, but I’d still like to see some improvement in his Sophomore campaign.  I’d like to see more in the way of turnovers, and more in the way of just eliminating his side as an option for opposing quarterbacks.  They’re going to continue to test him this year, so he needs to prove to them that it’s a bad fucking idea.  Maxwell, on the other hand, is another year older, and while he knows the system, he’s nobody’s idea of a long-term solution.  He’s not a lockdown corner, he never really was.  In this system, opposite Richard Sherman in his prime, with Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor in their primes, Byron Maxwell was a decent option as a 4th member of the LOB.  But, in this mishmash we’ve got now, I don’t know if a disgruntled Earl Thomas and a Bradley McDougald have what it takes to compensate for Maxwell’s weaknesses.  If he’s not punching the ball out of receivers’ hands for fumbles, what good is he?  I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if he loses his job at some point, or even gets cut at the end of the pre-season.  I’d like to see some of the younger guys win that job right now, than deal with a guy in Maxwell who isn’t going to get any better.

Bottom line on defense is:  there’s very little certainty.  Fortunately, Pete Carroll is a defensive-minded head coach, and one of the best going in the game today.  So, if anyone can whip these players into stars, it’s him.  But, make no mistake, this team can’t win without a really good defense.  I’ve been waiting for the offense to take the next step and start carrying this team, but I don’t think it’s ever going to happen.  And, quite frankly, with Pete Carroll at the helm, he’d never stand for that in the first place.  He’s going to live and die by his defense, his running game, and his desire to dominate time of possession.  Period.  You can say all you want about Russell Wilson being elite and all the rest, but Pete Carroll is never going to allow this team to be a 1-man show.  Ergo, if this team – in 2018 – is going to make the playoffs or win the division, we’re going to need to see a lot of production from a lot of defensive players we’re not very familiar with just yet.  Yeah, Clark and Jordan and Wagner and Wright and Griffin and Earl are going to have to play to the utmost of their abilities, but all those other guys I talked about – and a lot of other guys I didn’t mention – are going to have to step up and make big impacts seemingly out of nowhere.  How much faith do I have in that happening?  I dunno.  Seems to me, if it does happen, it’ll happen gradually.  I think best (realistic) case scenario is that this team is MUCH better in the second half than it is in the first half.  I think there’ll be a lot of early-season kinks to work out, and I don’t know if this team is talented enough – from top to bottom – to overcome a big early-season deficit in wins & losses.

Special Teams – One area I think this team has drastically improved is on the special teams.  I think there’s nowhere to go but up in the field goal kicking game, and if Janikowski can prove himself, he’ll be a welcome edition.  Otherwise, I have no problem with the younger Jason Myers; I’m adopting an Anyone But Blair Walsh mentality, and stocks are SOARING!  In the punting game, we have the opportunity to not only get younger, cheaper, and better, but possibly REMARKABLY better.  If this guy is the best punting prospect to come out of college in years, we could be talking about a Top 5 punter in this league.  Which, yeah, not enough to get my panties into a total wad, but little by little a guy like that can make a dramatic difference over the course of a season.  And, in our coverage units, while I don’t think they were terrible last year, I see the influx of speedy, athletic guys as only a plus in this area.  Someone like Neiko Thorpe – who has been a necessity in recent years – might be a luxury here, who could either help put this team’s coverage unit over the top, or be a cap casualty because we have so many other guys just as good as him!  I hope he gets better as a cornerback on defense, because he might need it to keep a job.

To all those people who said we were just a couple shitty kicks away from being 11-5 last year, I’d like to point to all those defensive breakdowns and the complete and utter lack of a running game as to the REAL reasons why that team underachieved.  If we’re going to get back to being that 11-5 type of team, it’s going to require vast improvements in those areas to succeed.  That having been said, it couldn’t hurt to have a kicker who can actually make the kicks he’s supposed to make, could it?

More Seahawks 1-Year Deals

Mike Davis is back, to work out in that running back group.  Marcus Smith is back, to work out in that defensive end group.  And now we have defensive tackle, Tom Johnson, out of Minnesota.  A 7-year vet, making less than $3 million, rotating in the interior, who will hopefully provide marginal pressure up the middle.

I like Mike Davis.  Of all the options out there on the free agent market – all the veterans and retreads and everyone else – I like Mike Davis over everyone else.  I think he’s just as good as anyone on the scrap heap, plus he likely comes in at around or below $1 million.  No one expects Mike Davis to be The Man, but as a backup, I think he’s fine.  He’s reliable.  He’s smart.  He’ll find the hole and he’ll get you a few yards.  I don’t think there’s anyone on the free agent market who is remarkably better than Mike Davis, so why not bring back Mike Davis?

My hunch is, either Chris Carson will be this team’s lead back, or whoever they take in the draft will be this team’s lead back.  I think it’s Carson’s job to lose, but if he doesn’t come back from injury as expected, or if the new guy is just a monster, then we’ll see a switch.  But, it’s nice having Davis there as insurance, because I wouldn’t mind seeing him start a game here and there.

Beyond that, I think there’s a straight-up position battle between C.J. Prosise and J.D. McKissic, and if there’s even a whiff of an injury on Prosise, I think now is the time to cut ties and stop rostering him just to get nothing out of him.  Obviously, that’ll play out in Training Camp and the Pre-Season, so you don’t have to make that decision right now, but I’m absolutely looking for any reason to waive Prosise, because I don’t think he can be trusted.

As for the D-Line moves, I like Marcus Smith as a rotation guy.  He’s making less than $3 million, and I can’t imagine a whole lot of that is guaranteed, so if he gets beat out or gets injured, it’s not a huge loss.  And, I don’t know much about Tom Johnson, but he strikes me as a Tony McDaniel type, MAYBE a Clinton McDonald type.  Of course, those types of players – if they’re going to generate any sort of pass rush – need quality ends around them to give them one-on-one matchups, and I just don’t know if the Seahawks have that right now.

It’s looking less and less likely that the Seahawks are going to make a huge free agent splash, and I think I’m okay with that.  I like all of these 1-year type deals.  You take one more half-assed shot at competing for a playoff spot, you start working more young guys/rookies into the regular playing rotation to see what you have, you don’t cripple your long-term cap, and you stop trading away all your future draft picks.  Then, if the Seahawks do bottom out in 2018 (which, call me a bad fan all you want, I think the Seahawks will be – at best – 3rd in the NFC West this year, so bite my ass you optimistic homers), they’ll be in a much better position to clean house and re-stock this roster with a bunch of studs heading into the 2019 season.

The question remains:  am I secretly rooting for the Seahawks to tank in 2018?  Well, I don’t think we have a shot in hell of winning the Super Bowl, so you tell me!

Have I Overreacted To All The Coaching Change On The Seahawks?

If you haven’t seen it yet, go ahead and take a gander at what I wrote yesterday.  A lot of doom and gloom and whatnot.  Anyway, I got a GREAT comment from someone named Justin that I thought I’d respond to.  I’m not here to be a Hot Taek factory, and I really hate it when recency bias creeps into my arguments and gets me to overreact to something that’s not really that big of a deal, so I thought I’d take a step back and consider Justin’s argument.

I do stand behind the crux of my argument yesterday, in that it’s never a great sign when a head coach makes wholesale coordinator changes, and you could argue that the Seahawks fired three coordinators, considering Tom Cable’s influence over the offense.  We’re in a period of transition with the Seahawks, there’s no doubt about it.  Some of the stars of those championship teams are aging out, or injuring themselves out, and will need to be replaced.  While it’s not impossible for this team to hit rock bottom in 2018, it’s just as possible that they find the right pieces to fill in and get this team back to the playoffs.  We could be looking at one 9-7 blip on the radar, and nothing would make me happier.

I like a lot of what Justin has to say.  I agree that Russell Wilson is in the Top 5 for me among quarterbacks in this league.  And we all know he has another level to his game; we’ve seen it during the second half of 2015.  He obviously can’t do it alone, though, and is going to need some help from his O-Line and running game.  But, that’s obvious to anyone.  Even Tom Brady looks pretty fucking mediocre in those rare instances where the Patriots have a struggling O-Line; the difference is they seem to know how to push the right buttons and right the ship before too long.

I also agree that we probably have a Top 15/Top 10 defense as it is.  That part of it is never going to get TOO bad, because Pete Carroll is too good of a defensive mind.  My biggest concern is that the injury bug tends to be random, and the Seahawks were pretty well battered in 2016, then followed that up by arguably being MORE battered in 2017.  That, to me, shows signs of age.  And, considering the core on this defense is so deep and has been together for so long, that’s A LOT of holes that need filling, not to mention a lot of depth that needs replenishing around that core.

It’s too early to know what that’s going to look like.  We don’t know, for instance, if Avril or Kam will make miraculous recoveries and try to play again.  Forgetting the cap situation for a moment, assuming we get those guys back, they’re still one awkward hit away from being done for good.  Then, there’s Michael Bennett, who ALWAYS seems to be slowed by one nagging thing or another.  A foot, a quad, a pec, an ankle.  I still say he’s someone who needs to be on the field way less than he is to remain effective.  There’s more snaps you have to replace.  Earl Thomas made a nice recovery in 2017, as I assume Richard Sherman will in 2018, but again:  guys getting older.  Guys more susceptible to these debilitating injuries.  And, I haven’t mentioned guys like Bobby Wagner or K.J. Wright, because they’re almost always pretty healthy.  But, before he went down, Sherm had never missed a game, and I don’t know if Earl missed much time either.  It just takes one hit, or one bad step and then a bunch of others that eventually wear you down until whatever’s ailing you just SNAPS.

So, let’s take a step back and look on the bright side:  who do we have on defense that we like?  That we can count on in major roles going forward?

Frank Clark, obviously, heads that list for me, and feels like a guy this team should prioritize with a big extension.  Dion Jordan is another guy I’ll be happy to see return, and in a meatier role than he had in 2017.  Should he prove to be effective, he’s a guy I wouldn’t mind seeing around semi-long term.  Naz Jones really flashed as a rookie.  He looks like a guy who could play every down and be an effective interior rusher (I just hope he’s not another of these injury-prone guys, what with him missing the last few weeks of the regular season).  Jarran Reed is another impressive interior lineman who feels more like a Brandon Mebane type (which is NOT a bad thing) and is someone I hope to have around for a long time.  So, that’s four guys, not counting Bennett (who I still think will probably be back in 2018).  I don’t expect Sheldon Richardson back, and who the fuck knows about Malik McDowell, but either way, the D-Line could use some work.  And some better injury luck.

Love me some Wagz and Wright; they’re both squarely in their primes.  But, would it kill this team to draft a couple of talented, athletic backups who might one day take their places?  Or, competently fill in for when those guys get nicked up?  I mean, we’re always one Wagner injury away from the biggest fucking drop-off on the entire team outside of quarterback!

In the secondary, I – along with most everyone – liked what I saw from Shaq Griffin.  He still has room to improve, and I hope he makes that leap.  With Earl and Sherm back in the fold in 2018, and Coleman being a solid slot guy, there’s even more to like.  But, how do you replace someone like Kam?  And, who’s gonna be your third outside corner?  Are ANY of the other rookies we drafted in the secondary in 2017 going to pan out besides Griffin?  I think it’s a BAD sign that guys like Delano Hill and Tedric Thompson hardly ever played last year.  I hope they look good behind the scenes, because I have a feeling we’re going to need at least one of them to pan out in the near future.

So yeah, there’s talent defensively.  There’s plenty of talent to be a Top 15 defense as it stands right now.  And, of course, the team will make moves this offseason to bolster that side of the ball.  A Pete Carroll team would NEVER neglect the defense.  But, is this team good enough to overcome just a Top 15 or a Top 10 defense?  Or, does it need a Top 2 defense to really do something?

And, I guess that’s my whole point in all of this.  With all its faults, the 2017 Seahawks were still SO CLOSE to making the playoffs.  And it would’ve been fun, and we would’ve had a rabid ramp-up to that game against the Rams (or whoever would’ve been the 3-seed in this alternate universe).  And who knows?  Maybe we shock the world just like we’ve done so many times in the Wild Card round of the playoffs!

But, I’m not interested in just making the playoffs.  I don’t think there’s a way in Hell that the Seahawks of 2017 – with all the injuries and everything else they had to deal with by season’s end – were in a position to make a serious championship run.  Odds are, if it’s Rams in the Wild Card round, then Eagles in the Divisional round, then Vikings in the Championship game … I mean, look at those defenses!  Those are far and away the three best defenses in the NFC this year (with the Saints probably coming in 4th).  You’re telling me this team, with this O-Line, and this lack of a running game, could’ve made it through all three?  I think the chance of that is 0.00%.

Maybe I’m being greedy.  As a long-suffering Seahawks fan through the years, maybe I SHOULD just be happy with a playoff appearance.  But, after 2013, all of that changed.  With Russell Wilson in the fold, I want to see MULTIPLE championships!  At least one more, ideally two more.  Anything beyond that would be beyond my wildest dreams, but you get the idea.  Great, amazing, franchise-altering quarterbacks don’t come around everyday unless you’re the Green Bay Packers, apparently.  To squander someone like Russell would be a travesty.  Beyond that, I can’t bear to imagine a world where his final play in a Super Bowl is that fucking interception at the goalline.  He NEEDS to be redeemed!

And no, this team probably WON’T collapse in the near future, not as long as Wilson is healthy.  He’s in his prime, and we’ve seen PLENTY of mediocre teams with elite quarterbacks who carry them to consistent 7-9/8-8/9-7 seasons.  Aside from 2015/2016, that’s pretty much the M.O. of the San Diego Chargers under Philip Rivers!  Not to mention a lot of those post-Super Bowl Saints teams.  And a lot of those Lions teams under Matthew Stafford.  On and on and on.  But, to be honest, those types of teams are my worst nightmare.  Not to say I envy the Browns or something, but I would RATHER bottom out for a year or two, bring in a bunch of highly-drafted college players, and turn things around.  The Seahawks will probably never get to be that bad, though, so I think it’s a very real concern that we have a bunch of 8-8 type seasons in the years ahead.

How do we avoid that?  Well, ideally, we need to figure out what the Saints did in their draft room last year, because God Damn!  Justin points out that we should have faith in the combo of Pete and John.  I have the utmost respect for those guys, and I agree they’re the best head coach and GM in franchise history (and maybe in the history of all of Seattle sports).  But, I also think it’s valid to wonder if they’re not coasting on the achievements of their drafts and free agent acquisitions from 2010-2012.  I mean, that’s one of the best turnaround jobs in all of professional sports, what they were able to do in that 3-year span.  And, for the most part, I like that they take chances and they swing for the fences on guys with rare and unique talents.

But, the mounting mistakes from 2013 onward is pretty glaring.  Bringing in Harvin, which led to losing out on Tate.  That whole fucking 2013 draft which has only netted you a backup tight end in Luke Willson (and no, they don’t get credit for Spencer Ware, because he was let go and has done all of his damage with the Chiefs).  Then, there’s the Jimmy Graham deal, and the whole fucking 2014 draft.  Paul Richardson has given us exactly 1 fully healthy season before turning into an expensive free agent.  Justin Britt gave us a couple of mediocre seasons as right tackle and left guard before finding his place at center.  Cassius Marsh and some of the guys below him were non-factors on defense and mostly just good special teamers.  Then again with the 2015 draft.  Clark and Lockett were hits, but Glowinski was a bust, and everyone else is gone.  Now, take a look at the 2016 draft:  the best player is arguably Alex fucking Collins, yet ANOTHER late-round running back this team threw away!  Ifedi has been miserable, Reed has been a run-stuffing defensive tackle, Vannett looks like nothing more than a 3rd or 2nd tight end at best, Prosise is a living, breathing ankle sprain, and the rest of those guys are backups, training camp fodder, or out of the game entirely.  That brings us to the 2017 draft, where it looks like maybe they got their mojo back with guys like Griffin, Jones, Carson, and hopefully Pocic, but also features your top selection in McDowell who might never play a single down in the league.  Then, when you compound it with some of the other deals, giving Joeckel so much money, giving Lacy ANY money, consistently trading away high draft picks for veterans.  My confidence with this line of decision-making hasn’t totally plummeted, but I’ll say this:  2018 is going to go a LONG way toward either restoring my faith, or leading me to construct a noose and hang myself.

I mean, shit, what happened to their prowess in picking guys on the third day of the draft???

In short, because this one ballooned WAY out of control, yesterday’s post is probably a bit of an overreaction, with an asterisk of We’ll See.  This thing has been trending downward for three years, so we just have to hope that the new blood is able to come in and turn things around.  If they can’t, or if injuries continue to kill us, or if guys don’t develop into stars for whatever reason, or if the front office keeps kicking the can down the road with some of these contracts and draft pick trades, then I’ve been on record for a while now saying this could be another Seattle Mariners situation:  a lot of high-priced veterans getting this team to at or around .500, but ultimately treading water for a bunch of years in a row.

Exactly How Fucked Are The Seahawks?

The Seahawks sit at 6-3, with a game tonight against the 5-4 Atlanta Falcons.  If the Seahawks win, they’ll take over first place in the NFC West (thanks to the head-to-head tiebreaker from Week 5); if the Seahawks lose, they’ll be overtaken from the playoffs and fall into the mediocre pack with the likes of the very same Falcons, Lions, Packers, Cowboys, and Redskins.  So, yeah, tonight’s game is pretty huge.

But, it’s not just about one game, the season hangs in the balance.  The Seahawks, once again, are decimated by injuries.  Kam Chancellor now joins the likes of:

  • Richard Sherman
  • Cliff Avril
  • George Fant
  • Rees Odhiambo
  • Chris Carson
  • C.J. Prosise
  • DeShawn Shead
  • Tre Madden
  • DeAndre Elliott
  • Malik McDowell

And that’s not even counting guys like Luke Joeckel, Duane Brown, Jarran Reed, Eddie Lacy, Earl Thomas (guys who have missed considerable time due to injury) and all the guys currently playing through pain because that’s just what football players do.

It’s absolutely unfathomable that the Seahawks should have to go through this two years in a row.  Sure, everyone has injuries here and there, but few teams are suffering the volume of injuries – and to elite superstars – at the rate the Seahawks are.  For a run of football that’s been pretty astounding, just how historically good could this Seahawks team (under Pete Carroll) have been if they’d stayed relatively healthy.  It’s one thing when you lose a guy for a game or two; but we’re falling HARD, and for the rest of the year!

How is this defense going to look without Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor?  I would venture to guess:  not too good.  Also, not for nothing, but facing the passing attack of the Altanta Falcons couldn’t have come at a worse time.  Sure, it’ll be nice having Earl Thomas back in the fold, but now we get to see what a defense looks like with E.T. and a bunch of nobodies.  If he can somehow hold this thing together, he truly will be this team’s MVP.

It would be nice if the defensive line could step its game up and make more of an impact, but that doesn’t seem too realistic.  Opponents are conditioned to get the ball out quick as it is; there’s no reason for that to change now.  If anything, they’re going to continue to get the ball out quick and guys are going to be MORE open than they’ve been.

Also, get ready for teams to pick on Jeremy Lane constantly.  That should be fun.  If you thought the fanbase was sick and tired of that guy before, just wait until he’s stuck trying to guard Julio Jones and giving up chunk plays left and right.

You’re not going to recognize this Seahawks team, that’s for sure.  On a consistent basis, going forward, this is going to be a team that gets gashed defensively way more than we’ve seen in the last half decade.  I don’t think they’ll start giving up 30+ every game; but I do think 24-28 is on the table against all but the very worst offenses.

So, what does that mean?  It means the Seahawks’ offense is going to have to carry the load.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve written this, but ever since Russell Wilson entered the league, we as Seahawks fans have been waiting for the time where the switch flipped and it was the offense doing most of the work, while the defense just sort of coasts.  Well, the time has come, because I don’t think this defense is capable of carrying this team anymore.  And that’s frightening, because as we’ve seen all too often from this offense:  it generally sucks.

Oh, it has padded its stats against the likes of the non-Jaguars AFC South, but this offense is truly mediocre on a good day and downright shitty on the rest.  The running game stinks, which is an indictment of both the O-Line and the running backs on this roster.  It takes Russell Wilson anywhere from 1-3 quarters before he finally starts playing well, which is an indictment on him, the O-Line, and his ball-dropping receivers (not you, Doug Baldwin).  This whole unit – again, save Doug (please) – is riddled with sloppy, lazy play that constantly shoots this team in the foot.  For every 1 game this offense does its job and compensates for a lacking defense (Houston), there are at least 3 games where this offense failed and this team lost as a result (Green Bay, Tennessee, Washington).  We had no business losing ANY of those games, but we did, because this offense fucking sucks.

So, that’s what we’ve got to look forward to.  Tonight, and the rest of the season.  An offense that does its fucking job about 25% of the time, and a defense severely limited by injuries, with no help on the horizon, and so aged that it’s sure to only get more injury-riddled as the weeks go on.

Exactly how fucked are the Seattle Seahawks?  Very.  Very fucking fucked.

Down Goes Sherman & Prosise, Up Comes Davis & Maxwell

There were a couple of major injuries (as well as a lot of – hopefully – minor injuries) in last week’s Thursday Night game.  At the top of the heap is Richard Sherman, who was placed on IR this week, and is definitively finished for the 2017 season.  What that means for his future in a Seahawks uniform is a conversation for another day (I, for one, hope he comes back and plays his entire career in a Seahawks uniform).  What we know right now is that the L.O.B. took a major hit, and the Seahawks are a worse football team for it.

In his place, Byron Maxwell was signed to a minimum deal.  You remember Byron Maxwell!  He started his career in Seattle!  In his first two years (2011-2012), when he was healthy, he played mostly special teams.  He ended up taking over for Brandon Browner in 2013 and had a brilliant finish to the season, culminating (obviously) in a Super Bowl victory.  He entered the 2014 season as the starter opposite Richard Sherman and had another fine year.  So fine a year, in fact, that the Eagles signed him to a 6-year, $63 million deal.

We all know how that turned out.  He played one year in Philadelphia, earned a little over $13 million, then was traded to the Dolphins where he played a season and change, earned $17 million, before being released on October 24th of this year.  In his time away from Seattle, he didn’t play well.  You could argue that he wasn’t in the right scheme, and maybe that he was counted upon to be someone that he’s not, but there’s a reason why he’s been on the open market for three full weeks.

Now, he’s still only 29 years old, and just three years ago he was good enough to start opposite the best cornerback in the game, so I have to believe he can be a useful piece for Seattle.  We have the same coaches, we have a lot of the same pieces on defense, we’re more or less running the same scheme, so he should fit right in!  The question that remains is:  will he be effective?

There’s a major issue here that I’m not hearing a lot of talk about, and that’s the fact that not only are we replacing a legend, but we’re replacing someone who consistently – and almost exclusively – played on the right side of the field (from the offense’s perspective).  Every guy we’ve run out there at cornerback has been put on the left side for the most part.  How much of a change will it be for someone like Jeremy Lane – who looks to get the start opposite Shaq Griffin, who they apparently would like to keep on the left side of the field for now?  And, if Lane doesn’t work out, how will Griffin or Maxwell fare on the right side?  These are questions we just don’t know the answer to, because Richard Sherman never took a game off!  He rarely took any PLAYS off!  When you double-down on the fact that most right handed quarterbacks (and most quarterbacks ARE right handed) prefer to throw to their right, and it could be a long day (and a long rest of the season) for whoever they put over there.

And, don’t forget the lack of a vote of confidence in DeShawn Shead’s recovery process.  Pete Carroll noted on the radio that he’d hit a plateau, which CAN’T be good, considering the Seahawks have to make a decision on him by early next week, to either bring him back to the active roster (in hopes that he’ll get over the hump and back onto the playing field at some point this season) or put him on IR and crush all the hopes and dreams of Seahawks fans everywhere who’d been counting on his return.

It’s going to be vital for Shaq Griffin to take another big step forward in his progression, as I feel like Earl Thomas is going to have to live on the opposite side of the field the rest of the way.

Also, not for nothing, but assuming we ever play another game again this year where all three of our safeties are healthy, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more 3-safety looks, perhaps with Earl taking over coverage duties against the other team’s best wide receiver.  Probably more likely that we’d see McDougald in that type of role, but I bet in big moments we see Earl take over.  Boy, I hope he’s fully healthy this week.

Moving on, the Seahawks have put down C.J. Prosise, much to everyone’s relief.  Fans are obviously frustrated with him, because he was a high draft pick, because he’s CONSTANTLY injured and taking up a valuable roster spot, and because he’s so talented that we KNOW he’d be a game-changer for this offense if he could just stop getting nicked up every time he steps onto the field.

It’s been endless since he entered the league.  Not for nothing, but this was also a problem for him in college – to a lesser degree – but the Seahawks rolled the dice on him anyway.  He was injured in (or before?) training camp as a rookie.  He ended up playing in 6 games last year, having a positive impact in three of them.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this team was playing at its very best in 2016 when Prosise was healthy and commanding his share of the touches:

  • @ New England, won 31-24, 17 rushes for 66 yards & 7 receptions for 87 yards
  • vs. Philadelphia, won 26-15, 4 rushes for 76 yards and a TD, & 2 receptions for 5 yards

He was shut down after that Philly game, and the Seahawks immediately lost to the Bucs.  They beat the Panthers, but lost Earl Thomas, and the rest was history.

This year, he played in 5 games, having a positive impact in just one of them (a loss on the road to Tennessee, he caught 3 balls for 65 yards while rushing 4 times for 9 yards).  Hell, in the Giants game, he was injured on the first play while trying to make a block!  With him having spent more time on the rehab table than on the field, it’s been an endless cycle of doing everything in his power to get back to football, then immediately getting hurt again.  I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again:  he needs to take some time away from the game, get right, get STRONGER, and hopefully come back to a healthy and lucrative career in 2018.

If he’s not spending his entire offseason at the squat rack, I’m going to be VERY upset with him.

In his place, Mike Davis gets called up from the practice squad.  I don’t know HOW he’s lasted on the Seahawks’ practice squad all year, but the Seahawks are very fortunate to have him now.  He spent his first two years in the league as a backup in San Francisco, not really doing a whole lot.  We claimed him off waivers back in May and he had a nice run in the pre-season, playing in all four games.  Honestly, I thought he deserved a roster spot, but the team had Thomas Rawls, they’d just signed Eddie Lacy to be their big bruising back, they had C.J. Prosise, they had J.D. McKissic as C.J. Prosise insurance, they had Tre Madden as a fullback, and they drafted Chris Carson who looked like the Running Back Of The Future for this team.  In a numbers game, the Seahawks ended up releasing both Davis and Alex Collins (who has gone on to great success in Baltimore, much to Seahawks fans’ chagrin).  But, with Carson and Prosise on IR, and with Lacy nursing an injury, it’s Rawls and Davis, with McKissic as your third down back.  And, considering Rawls’ injury history, I think it’s only a matter of time before Mike Davis is the starter.

There’s a reason why Mike Davis was on the practice squad all this time.  One could argue that the rest of the league didn’t think he was worth the roster spot, which is fair.  But, on the flipside, the Seahawks churn through their practice squad as much as any team, but it doesn’t seem like they ever even flirted with getting rid of Davis (not that their running game should’ve inspired enough confidence to do so, but still).  I think they like him a lot.  And, for what it’s worth, so do I.

I don’t think Davis is elite in any areas, but I think he’s solid in every area.  He’s what I would describe as a running back’s running back.  Sure-handed, blocks well, will hit the correct hole more often than not, can catch a pass out of the backfield, I think he can do everything you’d ever ask of a running back.  He may not have elite speed or power, but he’s good enough in those areas.  On top of that, he MUST have better patience and vision than someone like Rawls, who gets the ball and turns into that old Warner Bros. Tasmanian Devil cartoon.

Mike Davis probably isn’t someone you’d want to build your offense around, but I believe he’s the best early-down back this team’s got at the moment, and he could be a fine #2 going forward behind someone like Chris Carson.