What Is This Seahawks Defensive Line Going To Look Like With Byron Murphy?

There’s really two questions built into the one overarching question posed in the title. First of all: what is Byron Murphy’s ceiling, both in year one, and overall? And secondly, what is the ceiling of the 2024 incarnation of the Seahawks’ defensive line?

What we’re hoping for is that Byron Murphy is one of those highly impactful interior defensive linemen that can wreck a game, and otherwise needs ample resources devoted to stopping him. There are a couple of different ways to look at that. Is he Aaron Donald (or, at least, an Aaron Donald Type, who is great from the moment he steps onto the field) or is he Geno Atkins (who didn’t do much his rookie year, before developing into a steady Pro Bowler – and occasional All Pro – when he was healthy, in year two and beyond)? That’s going to make a big difference on the outlook of this season.

I don’t think anyone would complain if Murphy turned into an Atkins type of player in year two, but obviously it would be disappointing to not get much from him as a rookie. Because, if he can fulfill his potential earlier rather than later, there’s a lot of talent around him to really get this thing going.

We’ve got Leonard Williams, who is not at his peak, but is still playing at prime levels (though, obviously, every year going forward has a chance to be worse than the one before it; he is going into his age 30 season, after all). We’ve got Jarran Reed, who really had a fantastic year last year and harkened back to his very best days as a Seahawk. We’ve got Dre’Mont Jones, who is on a big money contract, and is looking to bounce back from a pedestrian showing in 2023; I have no doubt he’s still got the goods, but he just needs to be utilized correctly (which was never going to happen under Clint Hurtt & Co.). We’ve got very good outside pass rushers in Uchenna Nwosu and Boye Mafe (Nwosu had 9.5 sacks in 2022 before being injured last year; Mafe had 9.0 sacks in his second season as a pro, and is looking to take the next step in his development into potential stardom). We’ve got Darrell Taylor heading into a contract season (who has 21.5 sacks across three years, and is certainly capable of being a menace on the outside). And, we’ve got a lot of potentially-promising young talent in Derick Hall, Cam Young, and Mike Morris, who might never amount to anything, but could always surprise us.

Even discounting the unproven guys on this roster, there’s still a TON of talent here, potentially capable of rushing the passer like nothing we’ve ever seen before. And, with the new scheme, and the influx of Murphy, they should be better able to stop the run than they’ve been the last few years.

The thing is, this defensive line could be an All Time Great Unit if Murphy turns out to be elite from the get-go. It should still be really good even if he isn’t there yet, but obviously, it would be a lot cooler if he ends up being worth the pick of being the top DT in this draft class.

Of course, I say that, but how true is it really? If Murphy is Just A Guy, how is this D-Line any different than it was a year ago? Well, I’m putting A LOT of the heavy lifting on Mike Macdonald and this coaching staff and scheme. I think having Leonard Williams all the way through, with a full year of Nwosu, and positioning Dre’Mont Jones more on the outside where he can have a bigger impact in setting the edge, while still being able to rush the passer, will all translate to better production as a whole.

Like I said, though, if it takes Murphy a year to get going, it’s not the end of the world. Does anyone expect these 2024 Seahawks to win the division or make the Super Bowl? If you do, you probably need to adjust your thinking. The 49ers are still the class of the division. The Cowboys and Eagles are still very good. The Lions and Bears and even the Packers are probably in better spots than we are right now. And, for as dysfunctional as the Falcons are as an organization, regardless of who they have at quarterback, they still have a lot of talent on that roster.

But, what I’m excited about more than anything is having Murphy learn from guys like Williams and Reed and Jones. From just a mentor standpoint, I don’t know if it gets a lot better than those guys. He doesn’t necessarily HAVE to be The Man from day one. There are not just veterans, but established and talented veterans ahead of him, who can guide him on how to be a pro, and to be a pro the right way. So, when he eventually does have to slide into being The Man, he’ll be ready that much faster to take over.

Suffice it to say, I’m pretty excited to see what this defense is going to look like. The inside linebackers are a huge question mark, and there isn’t a ton going on at safety. But, with a solid defensive line, and with our talent at cornerback, combined with a proper scheme that should put these guys in better positions to succeed, I don’t think there’s any question the defense can be middle-of-the-pack or better.

The Seahawks Had An Unexciting Draft This Year

It’s interesting to go through the years – dating back to 2010, because I’m less into the idea of going back to the wild west days and trying to decipher a through-line – and see where things went right and where they went wrong. Obviously, the 2010-2012 drafts were epic and life-changing. But, there’s a real argument to be made that every single draft since then has been a failure.

Just scroll through this. Let’s leave 2022-2024 out of it, because there’s just not enough information to make a sound judgment in such a short period of time. But, 2013-2021? I think Seahawks fans with rose-colored glasses will say there have been peaks and valleys in our draft classes in this span. 2013 was pretty miserable and I don’t think anyone can really defend it at this point. But, if you want to think positively, you can say they’ve consistently found role players, contributors, and even starters.

In 2014, they got an offensive line starter in Justin Britt; in 2015, there was Frank Clark and Tyler Lockett. In 2016, there’s Germain Ifedi and Jarran Reed; in 2017, there’s Ethan Pocic and Shaquill Griffin. In 2018, you’re looking at Michael Dickson and Will Dissly; in 2019 there’s D.K. Metcalf. You could say 2020 was the start of a rebound by this organization, with guys like Jordyn Brooks, Darrell Taylor, and Damien Lewis rounding things out; but, also, almost this entire class is on other teams, and the three picks in 2021 produced absolutely no one.

Not a lot of second contracts in Seattle among this bunch. Lockett, Metcalf, and Dickson are the three greatest Seahawks draft picks since 2013. Everyone else were just role players, or able bodies who ate up an offensive line spot. But, no one has really flashed. No one has stood out. It’s all been pretty middling talent, which has led to middling results for this team.

I’m willing to believe in the 2022 and 2023 classes, because I think there’s a lot of meat on the bone. Charles Cross can still be great. Boye Mafe really took a big step in year two. Kenneth Walker is a fuckin’ stud. Abe Lucas, when healthy, can be a beast. Coby Bryant and Tariq Woolen can be ball hawks in the right scheme. Devon Witherspoon clearly has All Pro type talent. Jaxon Smith-Njigba could be amazing if he’s unleashed in the right offense. Derick Hall has the body type to do great things, Zach Charbonnet flashed true elite greatness as a rookie, Anthony Bradford could be a mauler at guard, Cam Young and Mike Morris could be big bodies in a solid D-Line rotation, and Olu Oluwatimi figures to be in a battle for this year’s starting center job as a fifth round pick in his second season. That’s a lot of potential greatness just waiting to be unleashed by the right coaching staff.

But, then again, we’ve already seen the writing on the wall that many of these guys could be busts. Should it really take a left tackle in Charles Cross 3+ years to develop into a star? Shouldn’t that guy enter the league ready to take it by storm? You’ve got two second-round running backs in there, a devalued position that’s frequently getting itself injured. Speaking of injuries, Lucas appears to have a chronic knee issue, and it can only be a matter of time before Witherspoon – with the way he attacks players with reckless abandon – plays himself out of the league a la Jamal Adams. If Kam Chancellor had to retire early due to medicals, what makes you think some tiny dude like Witherspoon is going to last very long into a second contract? JSN sure looked pedestrian for his rookie season as the #1 receiver drafted; Mafe and Hall could both be one-trick ponies unable to set an edge or play at all against the run. There’s whispers about Woolen’s toughness and ability to stay healthy; I could go on and on picking these draft classes apart.

The thing is, I really want to believe in John Schneider. I want to believe it was Pete Carroll putting his foot down and leading to the worst personnel decisions of the last decade. But, I dunno. The last three draft classes – including this one that took place over the weekend – have had decidedly different feels compared to the ones that came before. It’s really felt like a Best Player Available festival, which is a strategy I hold near and dear to my heart. But, if we proceed to spend the next 3-5 years finishing at or around .500, without any real charge towards Super Bowl contention, then I think it will be pretty obvious that this front office doesn’t know what the hell it’s doing any more than any other front office, and 2010-2012 will be seen as flukes more than anything else.

***

That’s a lot of preamble – and a negative one at that – to get to what I actually thought was a pretty smart draft by the Seahawks. If there’s ever going to be a draft that seriously turns things around for this franchise, it’s going to be one that features a lot of bulk along the line of scrimmage, and absolutely nothing with any of the skill positions.

What have we been complaining about for years? Even during the Super Bowl years, what were we after? Elite defensive tackles who can rush the passer and be a force in the middle against the run. From 2013-2019, we drafted 12 guys who were either DT’s or plus-sized DE’s who we wanted to slide inside on passing downs; those were all some of our greatest busts. Malik McDowell, L.J. Collier, Rasheem Green, Naz Jones, Jesse Williams, Demarcus Christmas; the list goes on and on. Jarran Reed was the only guy worth a damn in that bunch, and even he wasn’t worth it – in the minds of this front office – to spend on that second contract he received. Defensive tackle has been a fucking wasteland for this franchise, and if it wasn’t for Michael Bennett sliding inside during the glory years, we’d be talking about spanning multiple decades of futility.

So, yeah, I’m pretty excited about Byron Murphy. I’m also justifiably reserved in my excitement, because while it’s great to say we got the best all-around defensive lineman in this class, you also can’t deny that we got him with the 16th pick. The NFL deemed 15 other guys better than him. I know a lot of those teams had more pressing needs – mostly on the offensive side of the ball, what with the first 14 picks going that way – but if there was a true juggernaut, no-doubter of a defensive behemoth ready to plug-and-play as a future All Pro and maybe even Hall of Famer, there’s no way that player would’ve fallen to 16. You think Will Anderson – had he left for the NFL this year – would’ve been there for us? Or Aidan Hutchinson, or Chase Young, or Nick Bosa, or Quinnen Williams? I don’t think so.

I think the odds are a lot better that Byron Murphy was the best of a very weak defensive line class, than he’s a future game-wrecker in the mold of Aaron Donald or Geno Atkins. He’ll probably be good, but I’m not holding my breath waiting around for him to be great. As long as he’s not a fucking turd like just about every other defensive tackle we’ve drafted in the last decade, I’ll be happy.

One of the big problems with this draft is how it laid out for the Seahawks. This was a top-heavy draft, with an extremely thin bunch of players in Day 3. If ever there was a draft to select your next punter, kicker, or even long-snapper, this was the one. And, unfortunately for us – when all was said and done – only two of our eight picks were in the first three rounds, where the odds were best we’d actually find useful players. Even though we traded down once – at the top of the fourth round, to get an extra sixth, I think – we didn’t have any sort of capital to make the kinds of moves necessary to give us back the second rounder we lost in the Leonard Williams deal. Had we traded out of 16, we likely would’ve missed out on the last remaining true impact players. Would that have been worth a pick in the mid-20’s and mid-50’s? Probably not.

So, instead, we stuck at 16, took the best player available, and had a LOOOOOONG wait until pick 81 in the third round.

Where we took Christian Haynes, a quality guard who figures to start right away, and might even convert to center, to give us more beef at that spot than we’ve had since Max Unger. I don’t know how good a lineman is from UConn, but draftniks seem to like him, so that’s good enough for me.

I hear the inside linebacker we got from UTEP in the fourth round, Tyrice Knight, is more of a project than a guy we can plug and play. I’m assuming we missed out on the linebacker we actually wanted, and settled for this guy because that was a particular need (one of the few instances where we probably went away from our BPA strategy). I don’t expect Knight to be much of anything.

I also don’t expect much out of our other fourth rounder, A.J. Barner, tight end out of Michigan, but for very different reasons. I actually like the pick, because it sounds like he’s one of the better blocking tight ends in this class, and that was certainly a position of need. If we can get tougher at that position, I’m all for it, because it’s almost like drafting another lineman. He’s probably NOT the stone-hands catcher we’re all imagining, but he’s also not going to drastically improve this offense with his receiving. But, if he opens up holes in the running game, and gives our quarterback a little extra time to make a throw, he’s exactly the kind of tight end I want on my roster.

With our last four picks, we took two cornerbacks from Auburn, and two more offensive line projects. It certainly seems strange to invest so heavily in cornerback depth, when there’s no realistic way we can keep all these guys on our roster (Witherspoon, Woolen, Brown, Jackson, the two rookies, Artie Burns, Coby Bryant (unless we’re still turning him into a safety)), but maybe we’re looking to wheel and deal during training camp. Or, maybe some hard cuts are a-comin’. Either way, until further notice, guys like Nehemiah Pritchett and D.J. James are just camp fodder, and probably practice squad-bound, unless they really stand out as special teamers.

As for the O-Line projects, we got a widebody from Utah named Sataoa Laumea, and some no-name guy from Findlay who goes by Michael Jerrell. Laumea, by all accounts, is the more interesting of the two, as he could conceivably have a shot at contending for a starting spot. Jerrell might as well already be on the practice squad, but I’m not going to hold that against him.

We took three offensive linemen in this draft, that’s not lost on me. I think that’s a huge development for this team. Not that they’ve neglected the O-Line, necessarily. They’re always taking bites at the apple. But, they’ve also failed so miserably for so long, while getting by with middling production from guys on rookie deals. It’s nice to see they haven’t given up. There’s a way to build this unit up from the draft; other teams do it all the time. You need your foundational guys like Charles Cross to pan out, but you also need your mid-rounders like Lucas and Haynes and Bradford and Laumea to develop in a hurry and take the world by storm. I want to be the team that’s the envy of fans across the league. I want them to look at the Seahawks and think, “How do they keep finding these diamonds in the rough later in the draft?!” It’s nice to do it at cornerback and wide receiver, but when you can do it on the O-Line, you’ve really got something.

Half of this draft went to the line of scrimmage; when you throw in a primarily blocking tight end, and an inside linebacker who’s going to have to attack that LOS on the regular, that’s 3/4 of your draft going to the most important non-quarterback spots on the team. If we’re ever going to turn this thing around, it’s either going to be by finding another transcendent quarterback, or by killing it everywhere else. Since we’re bound and determined to ignore QB in the draft every fucking year, then we’ve gotta start putting in work on Plan B. Devoting the bulk of your draft to the LOS, while signing Leonard Williams to a long-term extension, and bringing back George Fant to be offensive tackle depth, is a great start to that process.

Now, let’s check back in three years and see if this class – and any of the others that came before it – are worth a damn.

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 Had A Dominant Defensive Performance Against An Inept Offensive Giants Team

In retrospect, BOY are the Giants bad! I was not prepared for that level of ineptitude. I keep coming back to how they JUST gave Danny Dimes a huge contract extension (he’s going to have a $47 million cap hit in 2024!); what a disaster!

The Seahawks now head into the BYE week with a 3-1 record, firmly in second place in the NFC West, and among the wild card contenders one month in. It’s probably the best we could’ve hoped for heading into the season, so all things considered, I’m pretty happy with where this team is at.

While I readily acknowledge that it’s less impressive knowing Saquon Barkley was out for this game, I think it’s undeniable that the Seahawks’ run defense is vastly improved over last year. Daniel Jones scrambled for 66 yards on 10 carries, but everyone else only managed 46 yards on 19. Not that I want to allow opposing quarterbacks to run all over us, but few of those were actually designed runs, so in a sense they feel like flukier yards.

This game will forever stand out as the one where the Seahawks defense got 11 sacks. 2 from Wagner, 2 from Brooks, 2 from Devon Witherspoon (who also had a 97-yard pick six, to go along with 7 tackles), 2 from Nwosu, and 1 apiece from Mafe, Myles Adams, and Mario Edwards (who forced a fumble on his that was recovered by Brooks). Now THAT’S how you win a game 24-3!

It was, truly, an awesome defensive performance. But, at the same time, the Giants might have the worst offensive line in the league. They’ve got the aforementioned mediocre Danny Dimes. They’ve still not yet improved their wide receiver room. And they were without Barkley. There were pieces here and there on defense that stood out – Kayvon Thibodeaux had 2 sacks and looked like the monster we all expected coming out of college – but by and large the Giants don’t look like a good football team, at all. Don’t forget the Cardinals blew a 21-point second half lead to them, otherwise the Giants would be 0-4!

This might’ve been, all things considered, our easiest opponent (yes, even easier than the Panthers). And yet, good lord, did we suffer a massive amount of injuries in this one!

By the end, our O-Line looked like this: Forsythe, Brown, Oluwatimi, Bradford, Curhan. We lost both guards in this one (Lewis and Haynes) and had to do some shuffling. We also lost Geno Smith for part of the second quarter, after he was rolled-up on out of bounds unnecessarily. Jarran Reed missed the tail end of the game. There has to be some other guys I’m missing …

Oh yeah, Jamal Adams. The Hype Train was in all of its full-throated glory this week as The Return Of Jamal Adams was in effect.

I don’t know whether to make a joke or throw my laptop across the room. It is, indeed, comical how insufferably injury-prone he’s become since donning a Seahawks uniform. Are we, like, his kryptonite? Is someone secretly poisoning him with very low doses over a long period of time? Did he have all his bones replaced with wafer and his muscles replaced with nougat?

It’s particularly exasperating because you can CLEARLY see the impact of a healthy Jamal Adams. He was in there for, what, a drive or two? Yet, he was flying all over the place and had a couple crunching tackles. Unfortunately, his second tackle was made with his head, and he left with an obvious concussion (in spite of him berating the health professional who confirmed his disability).

But, you know, we were all prepared for this, right? Not to expect too much out of Adams. Whatever we get from him is a bonus and all that. That’s why we signed Julian Love, who – not surprisingly – had his best game in a Seahawks uniform, going up against his old team.

Forget Adams, what I was most excited to see in this game was the combo of Witherspoon and Woolen out there. I think you have to like what you saw in this one (again, the caveat being our level of opponent). The longest reception by a receiver was 12 yards. We held their best offensive weapon – Darren Waller – to 3 catches for 21 yards. I’m not ready to plant my flag on this being LOB 2.0, but the pass defense was the best it’s been this season, and I think having these two guys healthy has a lot to do with it. You get to slot the secondary behind them where they deserve to be, and you see these amazing results (including a late pick by Quandre Diggs, who should be able to make more plays as a roaming free safety).

The Seahawks offense gets somewhat of an Incomplete grade on this one. Geno Smith, I thought, looked fine, though he was definitely hampered in the second half with what I presume was a downturn related to his ankle injury. He’ll be fine. Drew Lock got some play in this one and did okay, hitting Fant for what turned out to be a 51-yard gain that led to Kenneth Walker’s TD. Walker finished with a respectable 79 yards on 17 carries; Charbonnet also looked solid as his backup, hitting open holes and gashing them for 31 yards on only 5 carries.

The offensive line depth really showed up in this one. Granted, we did a lot to help them out with our protection schemes, but this offense is talented enough to afford us this luxury of playing multiple tight ends. We can withstand keeping extra blockers for those extreme blitzing defenses, thanks to how elite our receivers are. Shoutout to Walker for his protection as well; he looked fantastic picking up blitzers up the middle.

This game was unquestionably sloppy throughout, with lots of penalties on both teams, but a win is a win. On the road, against an NFC opponent, on Monday night: I’ll take it.

Shoutout to Michael Dickson for some fantastic punts to flip field position. A reverse shoutout to Myers for missing a long field goal pretty miserably.

Now, we get our BYE week. People have been saying – given our injury issues thus far – it might be at the exact right time. I would say, with the punishment we suffered in this one, it’s even more important. Then, we go right back out on the road to play an underachieving Bengals team in a couple weeks. Either we’re catching them at the exact right time, or they’re going to be furiously trying to save their season.

My biggest takeaway through four weeks is how good our rookie class looks once again. Witherspoon, obviously, has DROY potential. Bradford has looked just fine at right guard. Oluwatimi got some playing time at center. Jerrick Reed, if nothing else, looks like an elite special teamer. Cameron Young had a couple impactful tackles up the middle. Hall and Charbonnet look like excellent role players thus far at important positions. Really, the only guy who has yet to stand out has been JSN, and I don’t think anyone is worried about the top overall receiver eventually finding his footing. I will say that maybe we can try sending him on routes that AREN’T just around the line of scrimmage.

2023 Seahawks Preview Extravaganza!

I see one of two things happening with this Seahawks season. Either the Seahawks rule, or the Seahawks are just okay.

There are, of course, a myriad of other options. The Seahawks could be bad, for instance! But, I feel like for that to happen, this team would have to be decimated by injuries, to the offensive line, to key skill position players, and to the quarterback. You can’t rule it out! Luck is always a factor in the NFL. The thing is, you can make that case every single year, but you’re just speculating out of thin air at that point. As with every team, depending on injuries, the floor is a number one overall pick, and the ceiling is whatever that team is capable of if it manages to stay fully healthy. For the Seahawks, I would say that range is a Top 5 pick all the way up to competing for a spot in the Super Bowl.

Last year, I had the Seahawks projected for a top 5 pick; I just assumed it would be their own and not the Broncos’. Now that we have the knowledge of what happened in 2022, combined with the moves they’ve made in 2023, I obviously believe this team is poised for greater things.

Let’s start with Geno Smith. I don’t think it’s out of line to bring his durability into question, for the simple reason that he didn’t miss a game last year. But, maybe he has the secret sauce to avoiding back-breaking hits or twisted ankles or bent-backward thumbs. Given what we discovered about his ability to play at this level, an improvement in the weapons around him, and hopefully some more-consistent O-Line play, I believe we can get his 2022 numbers as a baseline. I also think, if the O-Line is considerably better, HE can be considerably better. A little more effective on third down. Turning some of those close losses into close victories. He alone – with everyone else being the same – can add or subtract two wins from last year’s total.

Now, let’s flip over to the defense. The good news is: we can’t be any worse. If we run it back, we’re 30th against the run and considerably better against the pass, with a good chunk of sacks to keep teams honest. BUT, if we can push that run defense up to just 20th, then I think we’re in business. We should be poised for better linebacker play. We should have more interior pressure with Dre’Mont Jones. And the sky is the limit for our secondary.

Bump the run defense up to 15th? Then, we’re talking about a team that not only contends for the division, but the whole damn conference.

There are so many variables with this team, which is what makes it both fun and nerve-wracking. The defensive front seven, the offensive line, the quarterback, the rookies and second-year players. We could be entering the next great period of Seahawks dominance, or it could be yet another year of post-L.O.B. tire-spinning.

What I’m excited about is the potential. If everything goes right, our offensive tackles are masters at their craft, and the rest of the line is full of bullies shoving dudes around. If everything goes right, the pass rush pressure is coming from a variety of sources (Jones, Nwosu, Taylor, Mafe, Hall, Reed, Adams, Love, Witherspoon). If everything goes right, Jones is a monster in the backfield against the run, Jarran Reed picks up where he left off with us in 2020, Morris and Young are legitimate contributors as rookies, and Bobby Wagner is the glue that holds everything together. If everything goes right, as soon as Jamal Adams returns, he doesn’t miss another game and gets back to what he does best: wreaking havoc all around the line of scrimmage. If everything goes right, Woolen and Witherspoon are lockdown corners funnelling passes to spots where Diggs, Love, and even Brooks are able to make plays. If everything goes right, JSN catches 80 balls and converts countless third downs, while opening up Metcalf and Lockett for monster years. If everything goes right, Kenneth Walker resumes his dominance, and Charbonnet is another Rashaad Penny (minus the injuries). If everything goes right, Geno Smith throws for 4,500+ yards, 35+ touchdowns, and never misses a down.

If everything goes right, the Seahawks overtake the 49ers and earn a top two seed as the NFC East bashes itself into smithereens.

Now, you read that and you can’t help but think that’s A LOT you need to go right. But, here’s the fun part: do you need ALL of that to happen to overtake the 49ers? Or can we get some percentage of that and still get the job done? I think it’s definitely possible. It won’t be easy, but it’s never been easy with this Seahawks team, even when they were going to Super Bowls.

Taking out injuries, the worst case scenario is that the O-line is as wishy-washy as it was last year, with none of our young guys stepping up and dominating. Mafe and Hall aren’t legitimate NFL pass rushers. Adams gets hurt on his first play back (because you can’t “take out injuries” when you talk about Adams; it’s his primary flaw). Wagner and Reed are washed up. Jones suffers under the weight of constant double-teams. Diggs loses a step, Love isn’t as great as he’s cracked up to be, and Witherspoon – having lost so much of his training camp and pre-season to injuries – takes a full year to get up to NFL speed. JSN is under-utilized (or worse, poorly-utilized by way of bubble screens and whatnot), our running backs are stuffed behind a line that can’t block, and Geno Smith regresses back to his old ways of taking too many sacks and turning the ball over too much. In that scenario, we’re probably a 7-8 win team and not making the playoffs.

The baseline for this team is 7-8 wins, because there’s simply too much talent for it ALL to go tits up.

The zenith for this team is 12-13 wins, because that talent reaches its full potential.

When I think of the great Seahawks teams – as well as the great teams we’ve seen in the NFC recently – I think of savage lines. The L.O.B. had it, the 49ers, Eagles, and Cowboys have them, and usually it’s those teams you see succeeding in January. But, there’s other ways to succeed. The Seahawks need to tap into that. Tap into its secondary. Tap into an elite passing attack. Tap into a pass rush that might be criminally underrated. Kill teams with speed, rather than simply bash them with brute force. It’s that speed, I think, if administered properly, that could start a new wave of dominance in the NFL. Pete Carroll is always changing, always adapting, and always forging new ways to win. I have every reason to believe this team could be on the cutting edge. Fly to the ball on defense, and utilize a mix of run and pass on offense that most teams can only dream of. We’re not pass-wacky like the Chiefs and Bills; we’re not overly run-dependant like the Ravens and Eagles. We’re equal parts awesome, and that could very well take us a long way.

This takes us back to our schedule. If injury luck is of utmost importance in the NFL, schedule luck is a close second. The Eagles last year were fortunate to have one of the easiest schedules in the league; they cruised to a number one seed and a spot in the Super Bowl. How is our schedule shaking out?

Well, the Rams and Cardinals look to be awful, so that’s a nice 4-game start. The Lions just got done looking great against the Chiefs last night – and their fans will surely be fired up for their home opener in week 2 – but that’s not a team that’s unbeatable. The Panthers look legitimately terrible (and we’re catching them early, before they have a chance to gel behind their number one overall draft pick), and I think the Giants are ripe for regression after a similar-to-the-Seahawks unexpected run of competence in 2022. The Browns, Ravens, and Guardians are all very suspect, and I like the Titans, but they could very well be toast. That’s 11 games where the Seahawks should at the very least be in it. Add the Steelers to that list, because we don’t know if they’re going to be competent on offense.

The tough-looking games are against the 49ers, Bengals, Cowboys, and Eagles. I mean, as I see it now. Anything could happen with any of these teams. If we can go 10-2 against the beatable teams, and 2-3 against the very good teams, that’s 12-5, and that’s probably good enough for a top 2 seed in the NFC. Even if we go 8-4 against the beatable teams, but find a way to go 3-2 against the good ones, that’s an impressive 11-6. That’s a team you can take into the playoffs and probably play in a home game.

So, that’s where I’m leaning. 11-12 wins and either the 2-seed, or a very dangerous 5-seed.

What’s fun is that the Seahawks have always been interesting, dating back to Russell Wilson’s first year. But, they were less fun in his last years here. Every time, we had to talk ourselves into a wild card team that hopefully could go on a deep playoff run on the back of our superstar QB. This time, I don’t think anyone’s putting that kind of pressure on Geno, so this could be one of those rare Seahawks teams that doesn’t NEED to have home field advantage throughout to go all the way. They’re totally balanced. They can get input from a myriad of sources. And that makes us the most dangerous team of all, because you can’t focus (and stop) any one thing and expect to beat us. Cut off one head, and others will pop up in its place.

We’re the fucking Hydra of the NFL, and we’re here to infiltrate your puny democracy!

Let’s Talk About The Seahawks’ 53-Man Roster 2023

The Seahawks cut their roster down to 53 players yesterday, following the end of the pre-season. That’s always mildly interesting to talk about, right?

We should probably get the big caveat out of the way now: this isn’t the be-all, end-all of the Seahawks roster. As early as later today, we should start seeing changes. Guys hitting the IR (because if they went on the IR prior to roster cutdown, they’d be lost for the season; whereas after, they only miss a few games), guys getting cut for other players we claim off of waivers or whatnot, possible trades for back-end draft picks/roster spots. Mildly interesting. Let’s get to it.

Quarterback

  • Geno Smith
  • Drew Lock

High floor, medium ceiling. There are certainly worse backups to have than Lock, but you can argue there are plenty of better starters than Geno. We’ll see, though. I would argue Geno’s in that 10-15 range among NFL quarterbacks; for him to take it to a higher level, he’s going to need improved offensive line play.

Running Back

  • Kenneth Walker
  • Zach Charbonnet
  • DeeJay Dallas
  • Kenny McIntosh

Strong group, if they can stay healthy. I get the feeling Walker is being criminally overlooked, and I’m not sure I totally understand why. He’s got big play potential, he’s shifty, he can break tackles, he has a nose for the endzone, he’s not bad with his hands; he seems like the whole package. Yet, we draft Charbonnet in the second round, and everyone’s already On To The Next. I’m not sold on Charbonnet; I think he’s a solid #2, but I don’t know if he’s necessarily a starting-calibre, workhorse-type back. Dallas is the perfect #3/passing down back, good blocker, great hands, good route runner. McIntosh – if he isn’t already placed on the IR – figures to be inactive until the need arises for him to be called up.

Wide Receiver

  • D.K. Metcalf
  • Tyler Lockett
  • Jaxon Smith-Njigba
  • Jake Bobo
  • Cody Thompson
  • Dareke Young

Elite! I think Smith-Njigba – right now – would be the very best receiver on a good number of teams, and at worse most teams’ #2. That’s as a rookie, and WITH the broken wrist! The fact that he’s our #3? It’s crazy. Also, count me in on the Bobo Hype Train 100%! All four of these guys are so different, so skilled, and bring something unique to the table, it’s going to be impossible for someone to not be open on every play. The last two guys are special teamers and/or injured, so we’ll see how that shakes out in the coming hours/days.

Tight End

  • Noah Fant
  • Will Dissly
  • Colby Parkinson

How cool is this? Two home grown guys on reasonable contracts, building their way up in this league, in this system. And Noah Fant – the big player prize in the Russell Wilson deal – who might get overlooked more than anyone on this team. Just solid studs who are good-to-great blockers, and valuable contributors in the receiving game. This is my ideal tight end room; lots of talent, with not a lot of dollars spent. Just some grinders putting in the work.

Offensive Line

  • Charles Cross (LT)
  • Damien Lewis (LG)
  • Evan Brown (C)
  • Phil Haynes (RG)
  • Abe Lucas (RT)
  • Stone Forsythe (T)
  • Jake Curhan (G/T)
  • Olu Oluwatimi (C)
  • Anthony Bradford (G)

Also, probably my ideal offensive line group. Everyone except for Brown is a homegrown guy, and he’s kind of a solid, cheap free agent center. We have the bookend tackles with the potential to be great in the years ahead, solid guards on the last year of their respective deals (so you know they’re looking to show out and get paid), and the two rookies who are ready to start pushing for playing time as early as this season. There are definitely questions about how good this group is right now, but I’m hopeful we’ll see some growth if not this year, then in the years ahead. Just, you know, let’s not see any injuries on the outside if we can avoid it.

Defensive Line

  • Dre’Mont Jones
  • Jarran Reed
  • Mario Edwards
  • Mike Morris
  • Myles Adams
  • Cameron Young

This, uhh, looks less than impressive when you list them all together. We’re REALLY relying on Jones and Reed to carry the mail in this group. Edwards is just a guy. Adams is just a guy. Morris and Young are both rookies, but also injured I think? I don’t know WHAT we’re getting from this group, but it doesn’t look amazing. I, for one, can’t wait for Bryan Mone to come back.

Outside Linebacker

  • Uchenna Nwosu
  • Darrell Taylor
  • Boye Mafe
  • Derick Hall
  • Tyreke Smith

This feels a little more impressive, but also maybe a little top-heavy. We know what we’ve got with Nwosu. We think we know what we’ve got with Taylor. The rest still have to prove it on the football field, in regular season games, against opposing #1 offenses. Now, I think we’re all very high on Mafe and Hall, based on their bodies and what we’ve heard said about them in training camp and what we’ve seen in pre-season games. But, we all know how that goes. Whatever happened to Alton Robinson and Nick Reed?

Inside Linebacker

  • Bobby Wagner
  • Jordyn Brooks
  • Devin Bush
  • Jon Rhattigan

This looks 1,000% better with Brooks back and playing. Is he fully healthy? We’ll find out. But, that takes pressure off of Bush to be superman, and that relieves all of us of watching Rhattigan make ankle tackles all game long. None of these units I’ve listed on the defensive side of the ball – by themselves – look all that great. But, with Bobby Wagner’s leadership and ability, he might be the glue that holds everything together and wills this group to great things. It’s our only hope, if I’m being honest!

Safety

  • Quandre Diggs
  • Julian Love
  • Jamal Adams
  • Jerrick Reed
  • Coby Bryant

Lots of versatility in this group; might be the most versatile we’ve ever seen. Adams figures to play more linebacker than actual safety. Bryant has shown an adeptness at both safety and nickel corner. I get the feeling that Love can play down in the box, but also isn’t a slouch in coverage. And Reed looked MIGHTY impressive in the pre-season; I’m happy with this group as a whole.

Cornerback

  • Riq Woolen
  • Devon Witherspoon
  • Michael Jackson
  • Tre Brown
  • Artie Burns

Pound for pound, maybe the most talented group on the team. Still, I can’t help but question Jackson’s level of play in the last two pre-season games. I thought Tre Brown looked much flashier, with bigger play potential. And you could do A LOT worse than either Burns or Bryant as your fifth corner. Teams have to be jealous of this unit.

Special Teams

  • Michael Dickson (P)
  • Jason Myers (K)
  • Chris Stoll (LS)
  • Nick Bellore

I’m tired of listing Bellore as a linebacker; he’s just a special teamer! He sure as shit isn’t a fullback; we never use one! Stoll is an undrafted rookie, so we’ll see how long he lasts. Otherwise, good group, solid all around.

The Seahawks Held On To Beat The Cowboys In Preseason Game #2

I thought there were a good amount of positives to take away from this game, but I also find myself – the closer we get to the regular season – feeling less confident about how it’s all going to turn out in 2023.

As for the game itself, I was happy to see Geno Smith get some snaps. I thought he looked fine. I also thought there was some rust to be shaken off. I thought Drew Lock looked pretty impressive, though I was disappointed to see his outing cut short due to a hit at his knee. Luckily, it looks like he’ll be okay and able to play in the preseason finale. I was delighted to see our third stringer, Holton Ahlers get such an extended run! He’s got wheels, he had some decent touch on a few of the deeper passes (even if they weren’t completed), but he’s clearly a project and far and away the third best QB on the team. More than anything, I thought he belonged. He needs a lot of work, but I wouldn’t mind having him around in case the shit hits the fan at some point this season. He looked a lot better than the reports I was hearing, which mostly consisted of the Seahawks needing to refill that third QB spot at some point.

I was also happy to see Zach Charbonnet get some run. What I wasn’t happy with was the fact that he hardly played at all. I sort of get it, he was coming off of a minor injury and we want to make sure he’s fresh for the regular season. His roster spot isn’t in question whatsoever. But, he’s still a rookie! You’re telling me even rookies don’t need to play in the preseason?! I don’t know if I buy that. Not with all the limitations teams are under when it comes to contact in training camp and practices. We’re giving all these fringe running backs the lion’s share of the playing time, and I doubt very many of them will be here when the games actually matter.

On the flipside, I’m excited to see what’s shaping up in the wide receiver room. I don’t need Metcalf or Lockett to have ANY preseason snaps. I could also be done with Jaxon Smith-Njigba. We look to be VERY strong at this position. Jake Bobo was making plays, Tyjon Lindsey had a good game and looks super fast (both as a receiver, and especially as a returner), Cody Thompson had a big offensive play. John Hall and Dareke Young both had huge special teams contributions. This is going to be a tough one to nail down when we reduce rosters to 53 players; I expect a good number of these guys to make some noise on the practice squad.

On defense, I saw what you all saw: Boye Mafe and Tyreke Smith led the way with STRONG efforts. Tre Brown had a pick and looked like the higher-upside player over Mike Jackson. Jarran Reed, Derick Hall, and Myles Adams each had sacks. I think this whole side of the ball looks deeper than we expected, and I’m looking forward to what these guys bring to the table in September and beyond.

Now, for the bad things, I’m starting with the offensive line. Particularly, the rush offense. We are getting blown up off the ball on these run plays more often than not. Sure, there were a couple of runs that we broke for long gains, but for the most part, we were stifled. That’s two games in a row for the O-Line. Again, largely played by backups, but that brings me no comfort when it comes to the depth of this unit. We’re still relying largely on unproven guys, and we’re going to need this run game to perform at a high level if we want to – at the very least – replicate what we did last year on offense.

The other half of that coin is the rush defense. It’s not inspiring a ton of confidence. The numbers reflected a bit of improvement this week over last, but we still have no idea what it’s going to look like at full strength. And the tackling has looked pretty mediocre.

My dwindling regard for the Seahawks’ chances lies squarely on those lines. I’m more or less coming around on our pass rush being good enough, if not the elite, game-wrecking type of unit we had in 2012-2014. I still think the younger guys (Mafe, Hill, Smith) will have their growing pains, and get swallowed up for entire games. But, we should have enough with guys like Nwosu, Taylor, Reed, and Dre’Mont Jones to be fine.

But, what are we going to do against the likes of the 49ers? That’s the bottom line. I don’t see them taking a huge step back this year; they’re rock solid throughout their roster, and should get enough from the quarterback position to contend for the #1 seed in the conference. They’re not our only concern, when it comes to facing punishing defensive lines, and elite rushing attacks. We still see Aaron Donald twice a year. The Giants, Bengals, Ravens, Cowboys, Eagles, and Steelers all have varying degrees of tough D-Lines. And the way things are going, I don’t even need to bother listing the teams who might run it down our throats, because just show a picture of the entire schedule!

Going game-by-game before the season has even started always looks more dismal than it actually ends up being. My feel, heading into the final preseason game, is that the Seahawks should beat the teams we’re supposed to beat. But, I don’t know if we have what it takes to defeat the cream of the crop. When you combine that with the annoying losses we’ll probably face against lesser opponents, and I think it’s a recipe for another 9-8 season. Which is fine; it’s all a process, and hopefully enough of the younger guys will prosper to the point where we’re in a position to take over the NFC in 2024. But, it’s hard to get it up for NEXT year when THIS year hasn’t even started yet.

I’ll also say this: it’s a stone cold bummer that so many of our rookies have been hurt. No Devon Witherspoon. Hardly any Charbonnet. No Cameron Young. Mike Morris missed this last game. Oluwatimi also missed this last game. And no Kenny McIntosh to be seen. The first two guys will probably be okay, but can you even think about starting Witherspoon the first week of the season if he hasn’t done anything? As for the rest of those guys, missing the preseason is a great way for them to be completely anonymous in the regular season. How many times do we see these rookies get hurt in Training Camp, only to go on and do nothing their entire first year? All the time. Every fucking time. It sets them back a whole year, then you’re left wondering in year two if they’ve got anything at all, or if we need to look to replace them in the subsequent draft.

Have The Seahawks Done Enough To Overtake The 49ers?

That’s the question we’re asking ourselves all offseason. It’s really the only relevant question to the 2023 season from a Seahawks perspective.

The 49ers were 13-4 last year, and very clearly the second-best team in the NFC. They were the #2 seed in the playoffs, they met Philly in the NFC Championship Game (the #1 seed, naturally), and they got pounded into submission.

The 49ers had one of the best and deepest rosters in the NFL, on both sides of the ball. They’re well-coached, and they have a quality offensive system that allows them to plug & play literally any quarterback (including Brock Purdy, a rookie last year who was taken with the literal final pick in the NFL Draft), and they’re STACKED where it counts. They have one of the best running backs (when healthy) in Christian McCaffrey. They have one of the best wide receivers (when healthy) in Deebo Samuel. They have one of the best tight ends (when healthy) in George Kittle. They have one of the best defensive linemen (when healthy) in Nick Bosa. They have one of the best middle linebackers (who’s always healthy) in Fred Warner. Now, the fact that almost all of these guys have had major injuries recently – yet were all healthy in 2022 – tells me the 49ers were exceedingly lucky last year. One has to wonder if that’s going to carry over; perhaps that’s a feather in our cap.

Where the 49ers are most in flux is at quarterback. Jimmy G is gone. Brock Purdy got injured at season’s end and is no sure thing to return by the start of this regular season. Trey Lance got hurt early on and was lost for most of 2022; he’ll be back, but now there are questions about his viability as a starter going forward. And their big hedge in all this is Sam Darnold, I guess?

Here’s the deal: talking about injuries, or pontificating on who the quarterback is going to be, leaves a lot of variables in play. I’m not interested in “What Ifs” when it comes to the 49ers. I think Brock Purdy will come back and play again; I believe he’ll be in the majority of the games this season. I also believe – as noted up top – they can roll with anyone (including Sam Darnold) and be fine on offense. They have enough talent at the skill spots to move the chains, and they have a deep enough defense to not need a lot of points to win games. Now, they didn’t have much of an opportunity to fill things out in the draft – and eventually the chickens will come home to roost for this franchise – but I’m going into 2023 believing the 49ers will be pretty much as good as they were in 2022. Without even looking at their schedule, I’ll pencil them in for 11-13 wins right now.

I want to focus on the Seahawks more than the 49ers, for obvious reasons. I follow the Seahawks more closely. This is a Seattle-centric blog. And the onus is on the Seahawks to have done enough to bridge the gap.

The 2022 Seahawks were also in the playoffs, as a wild card team, with a 9-8 record. For our hard work, we were rewarded by playing the 49ers in the first round. We got obliterated. Indeed, we lost three games to the 49ers last year, and none of them were particularly close. We couldn’t move the ball! That’s the long and the short of it; we couldn’t move the ball until we were already getting killed, and by that point it didn’t matter. None of the games were competitive, and that’s hard to do when both teams are playoff teams, who are in the same division. We know the 49ers! There were no surprises. They just beat our fucking asses, mano a mano.

This post isn’t just about beating the 49ers this year. It’s about overtaking them for the NFC West title. Any team on any given Sunday and all that; we could fuck around and luck into a win. But, I’m more interested in going toe-to-toe with the 49ers over the long haul. So, what have the Seahawks done?

  • We signed Jason Myers to an extension. He’s great every other year, so I’m a little worried about what 2023 has in store. That being said, the 49ers just drafted a kicker, so I’d be more concerned if I were them.
  • We signed Geno Smith to an extension. Obviously, this is much bigger news than a kicker. His contract is pretty well tied up with his performance; if he does even a fraction of a percent better than he did last year, he’ll get PAID. If he fails to live up to what he did last year, he’ll still get paid, but considerably less.
  • We signed Dre’Mont Jones and Jarran Reed to plug the middle of our defensive line. They both feature vast improvements in pass rush ability, with moderate improvements in run stuffing.
  • We filled out our offensive line with trusted veterans (on short-term deals) and exciting rookies (on long-term deals). Gabe Jackson is no more, but Phil Haynes returns (and figures to get first crack at one of the guard spots opposite Damien Lewis). Evan Brown was brought in to compete at center; he replaces Austin Blythe (who was a detriment for us last year) and figures to be much more competent. We also drafted a couple of thrilling prospects in Anthony Bradford (humongous guard taken in the 4th round) and Olu Oluwatimi (a savvy 5th round pick who many project to become our starting center as early as game 1).
  • We signed Devin Bush and Julian Love at inside linebacker and safety, respectively. Bush is a potential reclamation project who – at the very least – should be a slight improvement over Cody Barton. Love is much more interesting, as he figures to be a major hedge against the inevitable Jamal Adams injury. Love essentially cost us Ryan Neal, but it still feels like a solid upgrade at the position.
  • We brought back Bobby Wagner, which was vitally important, considering how mediocre we were at linebacker last year (again, see: Cody Barton), as well as factoring in the Jordyn Brooks injury (who figures to start this year on the PUP list, and might not be back to normal again until 2024). This improves our run defense, our communication on defense, and gives us another brilliant mind on this side of the ball to ensure players are in the right spots and doing what they’re supposed to be doing.
  • Then, we went out and drafted the best cornerback and wide receiver in the class. We also brought in a couple of very promising running backs (to replace Penny and Homer), a few defensive linemen to fill out our depth, and even another safety who is getting all kinds of kudos (Jerrick Reed won’t be a starter – or even much of a defensive participant – in year one, but he figures to cut his teeth on Special Teams, and could eventually develop into a Quandre Diggs replacement down the road). It appears to be the second consecutive elite draft class by the Seahawks – with a major emphasis on Best Player Available – and as we all know, there’s no better way to quickly turn around your franchise than to draft the way we did from 2010-2012.

And that’s the rub, isn’t it? The previous iteration of a championship-level Seahawks squad took three drafts to reach. So far, this one has only had (MAYBE) the two. Granted, finding even ONE elite draft class is a stretch, for any organization. But, if we want to keep up with the Joneses, we gotta be on the ball. I will say – in comparison to the L.O.B. squad – that we are starting from a MUCH better spot compared to what the Seahawks were from 2009 to 2010 (when Pete Carroll and John Schneider took over). So, an optimist might say that we only NEED the two elite draft classes.

What do I like? Let’s start there.

I’m absolutely enamored with the non-quarterback skill guys on offense. D.K., Tyler, and JSN are all incredible; here’s hoping JSN gets healthy and stays there (it’s disconcerting that he’s still dealing with an injury he suffered in college). Kenneth Walker returns (along with DeeJay Dallas, I guess), and gets paired with a couple of rookies who look tremendous. The tight ends are fine Seahawks tight ends.

I like the potential of this offensive line. Our two hotshot tackles had a full (healthy) year to experience everything the NFL had to offer; the hope is they take a big step forward in year two. The interior should be solid, if not improved over the dead weight we jettisoned this offseason. Any amount of extra time we can give Geno Smith is only going to help him when it comes to finding all his weapons.

Speaking of, I don’t hate the Geno signing, but I especially love how incentivized it is. He’s hungry, he proved he’s at least a capable starter in this league, now we’ll see if – with all this talent around him – he can take his game to another level.

And, how do you not like the secondary? Tariq Woolen as a rookie showed he’s capable of being a top cover guy. Coby Bryant as a rookie showed he’s capable of being a quality nickel guy. We still have Quandre Diggs playing at a high level (as another veteran leader to keep guys in line). We still have Jamal Adams (who is dynamic when he’s on the field). We still have promising depth in Tre Brown and Mike Jackson. Then, you add the consensus best cornerback in this draft class, to go opposite Woolen. That makes the whole room CONSIDERABLY better. Then, you add one of the top free agent safety acquisitions in Love. Then, you add another rookie safety to the mix who looks like a valuable depth piece. The secondary is fucking LOADED. It might eventually be better than it ever was, and that’s saying something.

What don’t I like?

I’m going to single out the linebackers here, but specifically I’m talking about the inside linebackers. We were already one of the worst units last year; we might be worse this year. Bobby Wagner gets a lot of credit for what he did with the Rams last year, especially with everything crumbling around him thanks to injuries and the team losing. But, how good was he really? I think a lot of Seahawks fans saw what he did in those two games against Seattle – where he was hyper-motivated to rub it in our faces – but are ignoring the rest. And are ignoring how he’s looked the last few seasons, when he’s been in unquestionable decline compared to his prime. Eventually, it’s going to come crashing down for Bobby; maybe that’s 2023. But, for the sake of argument, let’s pretend we get his exact 2022 production; is that better than what a healthy Jordyn Brooks gave us? I dunno. There’s also a lot of doubt about Bush, and some second thoughts about Cody Barton (especially with Barton getting a multi-year deal with the erstwhile Washington Football Team). If Bobby’s worse than Brooks, and Bush is worse than Barton, YE GODS! That’s a nightmare scenario.

Then, there’s just the blanket Defensive Line, but it’s really broken down into Pass Rush and Run Defense.

I thought the pass rush last year was good, not great. It took a while before the team understood how to properly utilize Darrell Taylor (he’s not an every-down outside linebacker/defensive end; he’s more strictly a guy you want to save for obvious pass rushing situations). Uchenna Nwosu was our best performer all year. Boye Mafe was just okay as a rookie, but I’m not expecting much from him ever. Derick Hall gets the honor of being this year’s Boye Mafe – and he’s getting rave reviews so far in OTAs – but I’m not expecting anything here either. Mario Edwards was just signed as a low-priced veteran defensive end, but he’s never done much in pass rush in his career.

What should we expect from our pass rush? At best, probably what we saw last year. Dre’Mont Jones is a wild card here; if he can consistently blow things up in the middle, that’s going to make everyone’s jobs on the outside a lot easier. But, I wouldn’t hold my breath. At worst, the pass rush takes a step back, and this is still our #1 priority next offseason (just like it was this offseason).

I thought – as does literally everyone – the run defense last year was total and complete shit. We lopped off a lot of dead weight: gone are Al Woods, Poona Ford, Shelby Harris, Quinton Jefferson, and L.J. Collier, among others. And we brought in Jones, Reed, Edwards, and rookies Cameron Young and Mike Morris. We retained Bryan Mone, but he’s injured and it’s not clear when he’s going to be ready to play again. We could’ve had Jalen Carter, so that’ll forever be a major What If. We also could’ve held onto Al Woods for not much more money than what his dead cap figure amounts to, but we’re up against the salary cap and already had to convert some Tyler Lockett money into signing bonus proration, just to sign our rookies.

Could the run defense be worse this year? It was so bad last year, I find that hard to believe, but I guess I have to admit it’s possible. I’m hoping that continuity among the coaching staff will lead to a better understanding of the scheme by the players, as well as a better understanding by the personnel people as to who needs to be on this roster, to fit in with that scheme. Is there a run-plugging diamond in the rough, either among the rookies or the back-of-the-roster holdovers from last year? Poona Ford and Bryan Mone both came from out of nowhere to be major contributors for this team, so anything’s possible.

All told, where does that put us compared to last year?

If we get modest improvements out of the run defense and pass rush, we should see tremendous value from our secondary and enough explosiveness from our offense to be improved over last year. I could see the Seahawks winning anywhere from 9-12 games, as long as we don’t suffer too many major injuries. I’ve got the 49ers at 11-13 wins, so what I’ll say is I think the Seahawks have given themselves a chance. I think we’ve done enough to compete on their level. That doesn’t mean I’m expecting us to blow them out ever; I think we can eke out one victory in the regular season, and be within a game of them by season’s end.

Gun to my head, if I have to make a definitive prediction, I would say the Seahawks finish a game back. Or, maybe tied in record, but losing to them via tiebreakers. Bottom line, I’m still predicting the 49ers win the NFC West; but I do think we’ll have a better wild card spot than we did a year ago, and hopefully that means we won’t have to play them in the first round again.

So, no, I don’t think the Seahawks have done enough to overtake the 49ers in 2023. But, at this rate, 2024 is ON THE TABLE.

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!