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.

My Favorite Seahawks Move So Far This Offseason

This blog post on Field Gulls popped up late last week at just around the same time I had a similar idea for my own blog. Of course, they posted first, so credit where it’s due for getting the job done ahead of me. But, that’s still not going to stop me from voicing my own take!

As I’ve talked about, it’s been a very Seahawky offseason so far. No real big outside free agent splash signings; we kept our own highest-priority free agent, we shuffled off some money in the form of overpaid cap casualties, and we brought in a bevy of bridge guys on short-term, inexpensive deals to fill out the roster around our core. So, when you look at that list of players on the Field Gulls link, it’s not going to knock you out.

On the whole, I would say I like what the Seahawks have done. I can’t say I’m totally in love with it, but then again, I don’t know what I can really expect. We were in pretty bad shape the last few years, both from a salary cap standpoint, as well as an underperforming veterans standpoint. It really says something when the Seahawks have exactly one player from their 2020 draft class on their roster, and that’s only because Darrell Taylor lost a year of eligibility due to coming into the league with an injury (at this point, based on what we’ve seen from him through three seasons, it would be a longshot to see him getting a proper second contract with the Seahawks).

My point is, it’s not like the Seahawks could afford to spend lavishly in free agency. And, with our stupid 9-8 record – and the fact that we traded away a second round pick for Leonard Williams last year (which was only necessary BECAUSE our salary cap situation was so shitty) – it’s not like we have a solid cache of draft picks to fall back on. So again, what did I really expect? We came into this offseason with one hand tied behind our back, we used what cap casualties we could to loosen that binding, but ultimately there’s only so much money to go around, and a lot of roster spots needed to field a team.

If I’m being honest, the Seahawks move that got me the most excited is the hiring of Mike Macdonald. My second-favorite move is hiring Ryan Grubb. My third-favorite is firing Clint Hurtt. But, that doesn’t seem to be in the spirit of the exercise.

My favorite player move, then, has to be Leonard Williams. Simply because he’s the best player we signed, period. He’s either the best or second-best player on our defense, and I’d put him probably in the top five most impactful players on the entire team. Dude is a stud, on a team that’s kind of in short supply of them.

But, I dunno, that signing doesn’t feel like it’s in the spirit of the exercise either. Just as similar favorites – cutting Jamal Adams, not overpaying for Bobby Wagner, and not REALLY overpaying for Damien Lewis – are also not in the spirit. In my mind, the question posed in the title of this post has to do with NEW players. What’s my favorite incoming Seahawks move?

If it feels like slim pickin’s, that’s because it is. Two incoming free agents on 2-year deals, everyone else is on a 1-year deal. The most money – SURPRISE – is going to a safety. I want to say Rayshawn Jenkins – or one of the two middle linebackers – is my favorite move, but to be honest, I don’t know those guys from Adam. I’m sure one or more of them will make a great impact, but right now, they’re all J.A.G.’s to me.

I can’t bring myself to put Sam Howell in this category, even though I like him. I do think he has potential. Sure, he’s most likely in the range of Drew Lock to Baker Mayfield, which isn’t tremendous. I mean, before last season’s resurgence with the Bucs, we were talking about Baker being an injury-prone bust for crying out loud! But, with the right development, and a little luck, maybe Howell turns into something more? Maybe he’s a Rich Gannon or a Jeff Garcia type. Someone who’s better than a Game Manager, but obviously well short of a Hall of Famer. Someone who – on the right team – can lead you to a Super Bowl, but is going to need a lot of help to push you over the edge.

My biggest beef with the Sam Howell deal is that we traded for him to be a backup. I mean, maybe that’s what he deserves to be, after leading the league in interceptions and sacks endured; it’s probably not the worst idea in the world to let him sit and learn a little more. But, if the whole point is to bring in a young player on a cap-friendly contract, you’re not exactly extracting any value from that deal by sitting him for one of the two remaining years before he’s a free agent. I think the odds are long that he comes in and blows everyone away in Training Camp. With a new team and a new offensive coordinator, he’s not going to overtake a dependable – if uninspiring – veteran in Geno Smith. The only way Howell plays extensively is if Geno REALLY shits the bed, or succumbs to injury, which, we’ll see.

So, if I’m being honest, I think my favorite move is bringing back George Fant!

The Seahawks clearly struggled last year on the O-Line. Abe Lucas apparently has a chronic knee issue that’s always going to limit him in one way or another (if it’s not practice reps, then it’ll be games played), and he’s coming off of some sort of clean-up procedure done this offseason. The hope was to get two more years of competent tackle play from Lucas and Charles Cross, but I don’t know if you can count on that. When you factor in needing to replace all three interior linemen spots, it’s pretty demoralizing knowing that one of your tackle spots is also unreliable.

I think we’re all of the mindset that the Seahawks are going to draft guard with their first pick (probably after they trade down a time or two). My guess is, we won’t stop at just one draft pick; there will be multiple interior linemen drafted. That’s a lot of youth up front – especially when you add last year’s picks of Anthony Bradford and Olu Oluwatimi – so it’s nice to have someone like George Fant on the roster. Someone who can capably slide into either tackle spot in a pinch, as well as someone who can mentor the younger players. Lord knows we’re not getting either quality from Stone Forsythe!

It’s not the sexiest move the Seahawks have ever made, but George Fant is 100% my favorite incoming player on this team.

But, taking the question a little more abstractly, I think my favorite “move” of all is the fact that the Seahawks are eating all of Jamal Adams’ dead money this year, and the fact that we seem to be cleaning house financially, so as to be in a position next year to really make some headway on this rebuild. It’s not a tank job; I’m sure we’re still well-positioned for another 9-8 season in 2024. But, there’s bound to be plenty of money for next year to go out and have some fun. Maybe we’ll get a party boat!

The Eagles Hired Former Seahawks DC Clint Hurtt

As the Seahawks continue to mull over their choices for who’s going to be the next head coach (spoiler alert, it won’t be offensive coordinators Ben Johnson or Bobby Slowik), NFL teams around the league have been rounding out their staffs. It’s fair to wonder who’s going to be left when the Seahawks finally get off the pot, but one name we know who WON’T be available is Clint Hurtt.

I’m not a big Eagles fan or anything, but I really like what they’ve done so far this offseason. I don’t know why there was such fervor to fire their head coach, but the dude JUST took them to a Super Bowl last season. I’m glad he’s getting another shot. Clearly, the team was affected by losing both coordinators following their Super Bowl run, and as it turned out, the replacements weren’t quite up to snuff. Seems reasonable; you wait until after the Super Bowl to fill vacant coordinator positions, you’re bound to end up with some clunkers (*cough* *cough* Seahawks).

So, they’re gone, and in their place we have Kellen Moore (who I generally like as a play-caller) and Vic Fangio (someone I was BEGGING the Seahawks to hire the last time we were in the market for a DC). Instead, we opted for an in-house nobody in Clint Hurtt, who allegedly was supposed to bring us a Vic Fangio-style defense. What we got was more of the crap we’ve had to endure the last almost-decade. Part of me will always believe Hurtt is one of the big reasons why Pete Carroll was let go; if his defenses played better, the Seahawks would’ve made the playoffs this season and I have to imagine Carroll would’ve gotten at least another year.

There was always a nagging concern that – as long as he didn’t have a job – Clint Hurtt might talk his way into staying with the Seahawks in some capacity. That’s in spite of the fact that he has been just awful at his job from the very beginning. Before being promoted to DC, he was our defensive line coach from 2017-2021; what about those defensive lines made anyone believe he’d be competent running an entire defense?

Well, now he’s Philadelphia’s problem, having been hired to coach the defensive line there under Fangio. Apparently, they both had success together in Chicago back in the day, so maybe this will be a harmonious reunion. They seem to have a lot of talent at that position group, so maybe they’ll make him look better.

As for the Seahawks, it’s deliberation time. I would expect a head coaching hire any time. I’ll just tell you this right now, if it ends up being Mike Kafka, I think Seahawks fans are going to lose their minds. I know I will!

The Bears Hired Former Seahawks OC Shane Waldron

For the record, I never thought Shane Waldron was The Problem with the Seahawks the last few years. I don’t know if I was often wildly impressed with his playcalling or his gameplans, but he never stood out so negatively that I felt the urge to run him out on a rail.

We hired him from the Rams ahead of the 2021 season, where he was a, I dunno, Passing Game Coordinator? What even is that? Not someone who calls plays. Not someone who designs an offense. Pretty much: he knows Sean McVay, so maybe he can deploy an offense like Sean McVay. All right. I would say the McVay Coaching Tree isn’t totally bereft; Matt LaFleur is doing well in Green Bay, and Zac Taylor lucked into Joe Burrow in Cincinnati. But, now we’re just plucking any ol’ made up position coach and handing them the keys to an entire side of the football?

I wouldn’t say Waldron had the easiest landing when it came to his biggest promotion to date. He had to endure the final season of Russell Wilson in Seattle (where Wilson missed three games, then played terribly through the next three games thanks to a thumb injury), he had to transition to Geno Smith, and then he had to survive the final season of Pete Carroll in Seattle (where Geno missed some time and Drew Lock had to start actual football games).

In 2021, the Seahawks were 20th in yards per game and 16th in points per game. In 2022, we improved to 13th in yards per game (a 27 yards per game jump) and 9th in points per game (only a 0.7 PPG jump). In 2023, we regressed to 21st in yards per game, and 17th in PPG.

So, some good and some bad. We actually dropped in 2021 (in total yards and total points) compared to 2020 (the last season with Brian Schottenheimer as the OC), but you can see why a first-time signal caller would have some growing pains, especially in the dysfunction that was the 2021 Seahawks. But, as I noted here, the 2023 regression came at the hands of a wildly disappointing rushing attack, and that’s with arguably better talent at the running back position.

I find it interesting that the Bears were all over Shane Waldron. Granted, they’re The Bears, and it’s about as inept of a group as you’ll find in the NFL, especially on the offensive side of the ball. How many OCs is this for Justin Fields, going into just his fourth NFL season? Three. Dating back to 2010, no OC has lasted more than two seasons there. Their head coach, Matt Eberflus, just survived by the hairs on his chinny-chin-chin when it came to retaining his own job. I think it’s fair to say if this team doesn’t miraculously make the playoffs in 2024, we’ll likely see a full blown reconstruction of the coaching staff. And that’s not even factoring in the HUGE decision they have to make: do they take Caleb Williams at #1 overall? Or, do they trade that pick for more picks and roll with Justin Fields in the final year of his rookie deal?

This is The Bears we’re talking about, so whatever they choose will be the wrong decision. But, who knows? Crazier things have happened. The Lions are in the NFC Championship Game for crying out loud!

The thing with Shane Waldron is: we don’t really know if he’s good or bad. I get the feeling it’s difficult to be a coordinator under Pete Carroll. I feel like sometimes Pete meddles, and sometimes he’s entirely hands off, but either way it tends to go poorly unless we’re loaded with supremely talented players to make up for coaching deficiencies.

Darrell Bevell is the best offensive coordinator we’ve ever had (who just so happens to have gotten buried under the weight of one terrible call in the Super Bowl). I thought he was relatively creative and adaptive to personnel. He also had Russell Wilson in his magician years, and one of the most underrated receivers of all time in Doug Baldwin, to say nothing of the toughest running back of his era in Marshawn Lynch. In that sense, you’d think pretty much any playcaller would be able to succeed with that collection of talent.

Shane Waldron didn’t have those players. His players were okay, but definitely not on that level. The thing that stands out with Waldron is: there’s no one thing he appears to be elite at. It definitely didn’t feel like we got the Rams’ offense in Seattle. There were times this unit looked unstoppable, but also too many times where they kept getting in their own way and couldn’t do anything but go 3 & Out.

That being said, I didn’t see a lot of absolutely terrible play calls. Nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing that you wouldn’t see from any other offense. Sometimes it seemed like he’d go away from the running game just as it was working, but if that’s your biggest complaint, it’s probably not so bad.

Ultimately, Waldron wasn’t special. He was Just A Guy, in a long line of JAGs. We could do worse, of course. But, the hope is that we’ll end up doing better.

Shane Waldron just so happened to coincide with Clint Hurtt being the DC at the same time during his tenure here. So, in that sense, he lucked out. All the vitriol went to his counterpart, leaving Waldron flying well under the radar.

And apparently, doing a good-enough job for the Bears to hire him at the most critical juncture of their franchise’s history in the last two decades.

Seahawks Death Week: Were The 2023 Seahawks Better Than They Were In 2022?

Both teams finished the regular season 9-8. The 2022 Seahawks actually made the playoffs, while the 2023 Seahawks did not. The 2023 Seahawks clearly had higher expectations coming into the year, whereas the 2022 Seahawks were expected to be among the worst five teams in the NFL. But, just because the current iteration underperformed, while the previous one overachieved, doesn’t necessarily mean the 2022 Seahawks were the better team. And, since we don’t live in a magical world where we can have these two squads duke it out on the football field, we have to look at the numbers and see where they compare.

I will readily admit that I’m coming into this exercise HOPING that the 2023 team is actually better, and thanks to a game or two not going our way at the end, we ultimately failed to achieve our goals. Because, if that’s the case, then maybe an argument can be made that this is actually a team on the rise, and this year can be seen as an aberration. However, if the 2023 Seahawks are objectively worse, then this is a team going in the wrong direction. Then, we have to start questioning how good these last two draft classes actually were. Then, we’re left to wonder how long it’s actually going to be before things turn around.

I’ll start with the defense. Heading into the season, what was the biggest problem area, the biggest area of need, the part of the team we all knew needed improvement? The defense. In 2022, we gave up 361.7 yards per game (26th in football); in 2023, we gave up 371.4 yards per game (30th in football).

You know what sucks? Every team that was worse than us in 2022 improved. Detroit went from 32 to 19, Minnesota went from 31 to 16, Houston went from 30 to 14, Chicago went from 29 to 12, Las Vegas went from 28 to 13, Atlanta went from 27 to 11! This isn’t, like, small baby steps of improvement. These are LEAPS AND BOUNDS! And it’s not like we’re talking about teams that all made the playoffs; they were all varying levels of mediocre-to-bad in 2023. Yet they all also saw significant improvements on defense, in one season’s time.

If we keep going back, in 2021, the Seahawks were 28th in yards per game, in 2020 we were 22nd (but still gave up over 380 per game), in 2019 we were 26th. In 2018, we were 16th; that’s the last time we were even kind of okay. Before that, we were obviously very good. But, starting with 2019, that’s five years of being one of the worst defenses in all of football. Of being a defense that absolutely CANNOT compete for a championship. With a head coach that prides himself on being defensively-minded. We’ve been stuck in the shit for half a decade now; meanwhile, all these shitty defenses from 2022 are kicking ass in 2023.

Where did we struggle the most in 2022? Rush defense (150.2 yards per game, 30th in football). How did we fare in 2023? When we got rid of a lot of dead weight and put the majority of our resources into shoring up this part of the game? 138.4 yards per game, 31st in football. So, we improved our number of yards allowed per game, but still ended up worse compared to the rest of the NFL.

The two teams worse than us in 2022? Houston (32) and Chicago (31), who finished 2023 6th (!) and 1st (!!!) in rush yards per game allowed. IN ONE YEAR, they went from the worst to the best!

I mean, this isn’t fucking rocket science! We’re talking about Houston, who had a total coaching regime change, and Chicago, whose head coach in 2022 was just finishing his first year and was already on the hot seat. The Seahawks, meanwhile, are among the most stable franchises in the sport, yet again, we’ve struggled on defense for half a fucking decade. Un-fucking-believable.

To round it out, the 2022 Seahawks gave up 211.5 passing yards (13th); the 2023 Seahawks gave up 233.0 (21st). The 2022 Seahawks gave up 23.6 points per game (25th); the 2023 Seahawks gave up 23.6 points per game 25th). We literally gave up one more point than a year ago. The pass defense – particularly the secondary – was supposed to be our biggest strength (even discounting Jamal Adams as “likely to be injured” heading into the season); yet it was kind of mediocre, in spite of the fact that we got more Jamal Adams than I ever thought possible.

Just a little more housekeeping, for context. The 2022 Seahawks were +2 in turnover differential; the 2023 Seahawks were also +2 in turnover differential. We actually turned it over less in 2023, but also generated fewer turnovers, which is how we get to that number. That’s interesting to me, because if you would’ve told me prior to 2023 that the Seahawks’ offense would have 6 fewer turnovers – knowing what I knew about the perceived improvement of talent on defense – I would say that’s HUGE, and might’ve translated to 2-3 more victories. Instead, that perceived talent improvement never really materialized.

For a little more context, the 2022 Seahawks had 45 sacks (tied for 7th); the 2023 Seahawks had 47 sacks (tied for 11th). Another interesting stat is the 2022 Seahawks gave up 62.7% completions (10th), whereas the 2023 Seahawks gave up 66.7% completions (26th). So, in spite of being slightly better at generating sacks, it looks like we were actually softer all around, and probably not generating as much pressure on the whole. Or, you know, maybe we just faced significantly better quarterback play in 2023 than in 2022; you can’t rule that out either. Maybe both are true!

What do my eyes tell me about this defense? It’s tricky, because I believe we were actually significantly more talented in personnel in 2023 than we were in 2022. I think Jarran Reed had a fabulous season. I think Leonard Williams is the best all-around defensive lineman we’ve had since Michael Bennett (very different players/body types, but similarly dominant in everything that they do). I think Dre’Mont Jones is as talented as advertised, but likely wasn’t utilized properly. I think Boye Mafe took a HUGE step forward. I think Devon Witherspoon is deserving of every single accolade that comes his way. I think Jordyn Brooks is an animal, and it’s tremendous how well (and how quickly) he came back from such a significant injury. I thought Tre Brown, Mike Jackson, and Julian Love all shined at times. I thought Riq Woolen was injured for most of this year and that likely explains his step-back (I still think he’s great in coverage, but when he’s hurt, he’s going to be a liability in the run game).

That being said, I think we were another wide-body short on the interior, to significantly plug the run. I think Bobby Wagner likely helped in that regard, but probably not as much as everyone thinks. Wagner obviously had his struggles in pass defense (to the point where he probably should’ve been taken off the field on every 3rd & medium-to-long), but we also had no one behind him to fill in (linebacker depth was non-existent yet again); I also don’t think Wagner was the fix-all in the run game everyone’s making him out to be. How many times did he too get swallowed up, or jump the wrong gap? He’s old! He was old two years ago!

I also thought Quandre Diggs looked a little old. I thought Jamal Adams – aside from a few plays near the LOS here and there – looked legitimately bad. Maybe he was hurt all year, but still, he looks toast. And, I think the outside linebacker play was atrocious outside of Boye Mafe and Uchenna Nwosu (who got knocked out 6 games in), and I’m not even sure Mafe is any good at setting an edge. What I know for sure is that Darrell Taylor and Derick Hall are 100% NOT good in that regard, and it’s a huge hole for us.

A lot of these were problems in 2022, though. We couldn’t set an edge then either. Our linebacker room was unquestionably worse with Cody Barton getting significant reps. Adams was still hurt, Diggs was still getting up there, and we were obviously missing out on beef in the interior line.

So, how do you explain this across-the-board drop-off in defensive production?

The coaching staff. Clint Hurtt and Co.

He’s not a defensive coordinator. We learned that in his first season in 2022, and it’s been nothing but cemented into my brain in 2023, when he was gifted better talent, and his unit produced worse results. He needs to go.

***

Now, let’s go to the offense. Spoiler alert: it also looks like it’s worse in 2023 than it was in 2022.

2022 total yards = 351.5 (13th); 2023 total yards = 322.9 (21st). 2022 passing yards = 231.4 (12th); 2023 passing yards = 230.0 (14th). 2022 rushing yards = 120.1 (18th); 2023 rushing yards = 92.9 (28th).

So, passing yards remained stagnant, in spite of total stability at the QB spot, and arguably an improved wide receiver room with first rounder Jaxon Smith-Njigba replacing Marquise Goodwin. And we’re talking about a DRASTICALLY worse rushing attack, in spite of the fact that Kenneth Walker played in the same number of games (all as the lead back), while we added the robust talent of Charbonnet (taking the smattering of 2022 carries given to DeeJay Dallas, Travis Homer, and Rashaad Penny the few times he was healthy).

Okay, so point to the offensive line. Obviously, there were lots of injuries across the board causing this unit to suffer. Except, we took 46 sacks in 2022, vs. a combined 37 in 2023. Team passing, okay, you can attribute some of that to Drew Lock playing in 4 games (starting 2). But, Geno’s per-game numbers year over year obviously declined (fewer yards per game, lower completion percentage, fewer yards per attempt, lower passer rating).

Also, if your O-Line is so banged up, wouldn’t you WANT to run the ball more? In 2022, we attempted 425 carries; in 2023, it was 382. In 2022, we attempted 573 passes; in 2023, we attempted 575. Geno attempted a little over 33 and a half passes per game; but Drew Lock attempted 32 per game in his two starts, so it’s not like we really took it easy on him. Yet, neither quarterback benefitted from extended competence out of the rushing attack. As a team, we averaged 4.8 yards per carry (4.9 yards per carry if you take out two massive losses by our punter) in 2022; we could only muster 4.1 yards per carry in 2023.

So, what’s THAT all about? We thought we really had something with our new O-Line coach in 2022. But, while improving on our sack numbers (in basically the same number of drop-backs), we took a massive nosedive in our running numbers. I guess we have to HOPE that it’s just injuries and things are bound to positively regress in 2024. But, there’s also a number of personnel decisions we have to make – along the interior, particularly – that has been one of our greatest weaknesses since time immemorial.

All told, our 2022 Seahawks scored 23.9 points per game (9th); our 2023 Seahawks scored 21.4 points per game (17th). An already-bad defense somehow managed to get worse, and a decently-good offense became painfully mediocre. In spite of the fact that the offense had a ton of carry-over, improved in both the running back and wide receiver rooms, and had a quarterback who couldn’t have been more motivated to better his career-best numbers from the previous season.

Does that also come down to coaching? Because, to me, that comes down to coaching.

***

Here’s my ultimate ruling on the question at the top:

I think, personnel-wise, the 2023 Seahawks were better than the 2022 Seahawks. However, I think the play on the field was worse. The numbers bear that out, even if their records were the same. We were -38 in point differential in 2023, meaning we probably overachieved. The NFL record 7 go-ahead TD passes by Geno Smith in the 4th quarter or OT sort of proves that point. We had a +6 point differential in 2022, which seems appropriate for a 9-8 team. So, while things were disappointing for Geno Smith, and some of the other veterans in 2023, I don’t think they were so much worse that it cost us. Ultimately, I put it on our coaching staff – our coordinators specifically, though Pete Carroll certainly doesn’t get a pass from me at this point – as the reason why the 2023 Seahawks were worse.

I believe, with more competent leadership, the 2023 Seahawks should’ve won more games and reached the playoffs.

That doesn’t mean I believe this team was good enough to win the NFC West. They clearly had a ceiling that was much lower than the 49ers. But, I do believe we should’ve beaten the Rams at least once, if not twice. Win one and we’re in the playoffs. Win both, we’re 11-6 and playing in Tampa in the first round of the playoffs (while the Rams would’ve been 8-9 and on the outside looking in, where they belonged).

So, in that sense, it’s pretty clear why Pete Carroll needed to go. We can’t really tell at this time if it was a matter of the messaging not getting through, or too much meddling by Pete in the personnel decisions to keep around these guys who are getting up there (saying nothing of giving up a second round draft pick for half of a season of Leonard Williams). But, I believe we didn’t have the proper staff in place to get the best out of these players. A more run-focused offensive scheme (becoming almost exclusively either a run or play-action team), with more attention paid to stopping the run and generating pressure by being blitz-heavy on defense, likely would’ve enhanced our win/loss record.

What we couldn’t do were the same things we’ve done the last 5+ years. What we couldn’t do was declare a shift towards a 3-4 defense, only to pretty much play a random hodgepodge of the exact defensive fronts we’ve used all along. What we couldn’t do was give up huge defensive cushions underneath – hoping to take away the deep ball – only to give up the deep ball anyway, and everything else opposing offenses wanted to do. Change it up! Drastically, if necessary! But, do SOMETHING.

This team did nothing, and mediocrity was our end result. Let’s hope that doesn’t continue on into 2024.

The Seahawks Fired/Promoted Pete Carroll

This is always kind of a tricky time of year for a local sports blogger. Football’s over, baseball spring training might start in February, but the regular season doesn’t get going in earnest until the end of March. Husky basketball is usually a joke, I don’t know enough about (or watch enough of) the Kraken to be anything close to relevant writing about it. So, other than the occasional hot stove flurry, I’m usually struggling to find anything to write about on a daily basis.

But, lately, I’ve got TOO MUCH to write about! I’ve got blog posts banked for days! To the point where they’re in danger of needing significant re-writes if I actually get around to posting them!

Seahawks Death Week is an annual tradition on Seattle Sports Hell, where I devote a week’s worth of posts – almost always immediately following the end of our season, whenever the last game concludes – to the season that was and what to look forward to in the year ahead. It’s a good way to knock out a week’s worth of posts without really trying, saving some back-burner items for later. But, with the Huskies playing in the national championship, and with the Mariners really taking their sweet-ass time in adding to this roster, I’ve suddenly found myself with a back-log of posts, meaning Seahawks Death Week will start a week late.

But, I can’t let this news go too stale before saying something. Pete Carroll being relieved of his duties / being retained to be a consultant or whatever, is too big to ignore.

It is so bizarre – and pretty disingenuous – to see all these eulogies all over Twitter, all over the blog-o-sphere, and all over the talking heads on ESPN and the like. I get it, as Seahawks fans, we love Pete Carroll for what he did for this organization. He led us to our first Super Bowl championship. He was the greatest head coach we’ve ever had. We had an unparalleled run of success under Pete that, honestly, might not ever be matched or surpassed. We don’t know! Maybe that’s it; maybe 2012-2015 was as good as it will ever be, and we’ll never win another championship ever again. There are teams who have played countless decades without winning it all. It’s like winning the lottery, only harder, because so much more has to go right. No one ever said your teams have to win a certain number of championships in your lifetime.

Anyway, getting away from being too morbid, Pete Carroll was wonderful. I never thought he’d work out here, and he absolutely did. I was 100% wrong in my initial assessment of his original hiring.

But, it was also time for him to step aside. The franchise got SUPER stagnant. As I will outline in a future blog post, the defense has been among the worst in the last five years. He became too loyal to his guys, whether it’s the veteran players who’ve lost a step, or the incompetent coordinators who never deserved to be calling plays or devising schemes in the first place.

I’ll be the first to admit, I never thought he’d be let go at this time. I always figured nothing would happen until the team was eventually sold (likely in the next year or two). I just assumed Jody Allen would keep the status quo until the new owners took over, and let them make whatever decisions they wanted to make on the future of the Seahawks. I had HOPES that maybe we’d clean house a little bit and find new coordinators, but I’m guessing – given the way this all shook out – that Pete was reluctant to do even that.

For me, it was never so much about getting Pete out of there, it was 1) replacing Clint Hurtt with someone who knows what the fuck he’s doing, and 2) maybe seeing if we can find someone to replace Shane Waldron, who knows how to scheme a decent running game. Then, from there, I wanted to see us go after a quarterback in the draft, cut the old, dead weight from the roster, and really start rebuilding this thing from the ground up, with the young players we’ve accumulated over the last two drafts. Pete just as easily could’ve been there for all of that. But, if all of that wasn’t going to happen with Pete still here, then yes, he needed to go too.

I get it. I’m sure it’s devastating to fire people. Even though this is the line of work they all chose, I’m sure it never gets easy to mess with their livelihoods. But, if it gets so hard that you can’t do what needs to be done, then it’s probably time to step aside and find someone who can.

I’m not here to simply dance on his grave, but I’m also not here to give you the same reverential claptrap. I’m just telling it like it is. Pete was great, and also it’s time to move on.

It’s kind of funny that Alabama announced Nick Saban’s retirement shortly after Carroll’s goodbye press conference. It’s funnier still that this morning, Bill Belichick and the Patriots have parted ways. What’s next? Brett Favre’s going to come out of retirement again? Aaron Rodgers is going to purchase the Jets? Travis Kelce is going to have a three-way with Taylor Swift and Jake From State Farm on the 50 yard line during their game this weekend?

It’s also funny to see how many people are saying that it’s all but assured that Pete Carroll is going to make the NFL Hall of Fame. Are we sure? He’s currently 14th in wins in the NFL with 170. There are currently seven ahead of him who are NOT in the HOF (as coaches). Granted, Belichick and Andy Reid are two of those guys; but of the remaining five, four of them have been eligible for quite some time, and repeatedly overlooked. Granted, none of those four ever won a Super Bowl, but is that all it takes? One Super Bowl title gets you in, if you’ve coached long enough? Because Tom Coughlin and Mike Shanahan both have multiple titles (and the same number of wins), but they’ve yet to get in. Mike Holmgren has a title and another appearance, and only 9 fewer wins, and he doesn’t seem to be close to making it. It’s HARD getting in the HOF as a head coach! It’s hard getting there period, but I don’t know if Pete is the slam dunk people are saying he is.

I’m sure a lot of that sentiment is just that. It’s emotional people, in the moment, trying to pay tribute. And it’s surely an interesting debate to have. Personally, I’m of the opinion that he should be in. But, I also think all the guys ahead of him in wins total should be in, even the ones who never won it all. I like a big Hall of Fame. The more the merrier! Let our favorite people be honored for the greatness they showed.

I can’t sit here and tell you this is a sad day. I feel bad for him, I guess. But, I also feel like he had plenty of opportunities to get this thing turned around, and for whatever reason, the Seahawks just never recovered after the L.O.B. era ended. That falls on him. And it didn’t look like it was going to get fixed anytime soon.

There’s now a couple ways this can go. Thankfully, we have John Schneider at the helm, so there’s some continuity there. That effectively eliminates the first way this can go: a total tear-down and rebuild. I don’t THINK that’s going to be what happens, because I have to believe a lot of these guys on the roster are still Schneider’s guys. And that’s a good thing; I don’t feel like we NEED a total tear-down and rebuild.

There’s a core here we can still build around, but that leads us to our other way this can go: cutting out the vets and really taking this youth movement to its logical conclusion.

When the Seahawks were at their best, they were the youngest team in football. That needs to happen again. I know we’re all jealous of the 49ers and some of these top-notch AFC teams, to varying degrees (Chiefs, Dolphins, Ravens, Bengals, Bills), but you know who I’m jealous of the most? The Packers. They’re the youngest team in football, they’ve just found out that Jordan Love is going to be The Guy for the foreseeable future, and they’re back in the playoffs yet again, poised to go on another run of excellence.

Give me that. Ideally, without the retread head coach of a Dan Quinn or even Mike Vrabel.

Of course, the funniest part of all of this is Russell Wilson’s online reaction. Please. With what we know about what went down as he broke up with the Seahawks, it’s about as phony as it gets. Perfectly on brand, but also extremely obnoxious.

The Seahawks Aren’t Great At Any One Thing

The Seahawks get a lot of credit for being competitive. If I understand the phrase right, it’s a double-edged sword. When things are going well, people point to the coaching staff and say, “Boy Pete Carroll does a great job of adapting and getting the most out of his players!” But, when things go poorly, people point to the coaching staff and say, “Boy Pete Carroll is over the hill and washed up and doesn’t understand what the game of football is morphing into!”

There was a time this year where the Seahawks were winners of 5 out of 6 games, and the one we lost (to the Bengals) you could argue we gave away. But, even still, they were the Bengals, Joe Burrow was still alive, and you can understand why even a good team would lose that game on the road. The offense felt vibrant, the defense appeared to be improving, and we all let ourselves believe that these Seahawks could compete with those 49ers for this NFC West and maybe even above and beyond.

Then, we got massacred by the Ravens. That kicked off a lull where we lost 4 out of 5 games, with the lone victory being a 3-point variety against one of the worst, most dysfunctional teams in football (the Commanders), at home no less. We won the next two games to regain control over our own playoff destiny, only to lose to the Steelers last week, to once again need a Week 18 victory plus some help.

The Seahawks are 8-8. You can’t really give this team a lot of credit for being competitive, because if we’re honest with ourselves, this team is only competitive against very flawed-to-bad teams.

There are lots of teams hovering around .500, though. Lots of flawed teams who are in contention for the playoffs. There have been plenty of flawed teams throughout the years who have made the playoffs, gotten hot, and managed to do some damage (even winning a Super Bowl here and there). It’s not always the VERY BEST teams who win it all. Sometimes, you just need to pose the right matchup problems against the right teams, to get the result you want.

The Cleveland Browns are 11-5 and locked into the playoffs. You wouldn’t consider them a front-runner; they’re on, what, their fourth quarterback? Joe Flacco off the scrap heap re-joined the league and has set the world on fire. Has Joe Flacco suddenly gotten amazing again? No way! But, he’s in the right situation, with the right team, that has some elite components (defense, running game, O-Line) that allows them to make up for any mistakes Flacco might generate.

The Dolphins are also 11-5 and locked into the playoffs. Their defense kinda stinks, but they’re so dynamic on offense that you could see them winning any game if things break right. The Chiefs are 10-6 and their receivers are hot garbage. The Eagles are 11-5 and their defense has regressed HARD. The Rams are 9-7, but they’re still well-coached and explosive enough (and veteran enough) on offense to beat anybody.

Which brings me to the Seahawks. They’re a consummate 7-seed type of team. But, unlike the Packers, Steelers, or either of the South divisions, the Seahawks don’t have any one thing they do extremely well. They just have a lot of things they’re okay at, with some VERY glaring weaknesses that hold them back.

It’s honestly pretty miserable watching the Seahawks closely. I wonder if these other fringe teams have the same type of disgruntled fans. There’s nothing you can hang your hat on, where you can say, “If THIS happens, we can pull it out.” Even in the post-L.O.B. era of Seahawks football with prime Russell Wilson at the helm, we could look at the team and say, “Well, if Russell Wilson plays out of his mind, maybe we can win three playoff games and get to the Super Bowl.” Of course, that never happened, and we now understand why it was foolish to think that way. But, at least there was a chance. Russell Wilson used to be magic, and sometimes he was all we needed to will ourselves to victories.

You can’t say that about Geno Smith. Russell Wilson could get by with a rancid offensive line. Geno Smith is like this delicate flower that needs a climate-controlled environment to flourish. I’m not talking about weather here; it’s sort of a terrible analogy. But, like, Geno needs very good O-Line play. He needs the defense to keep us in it. He can’t carry us on his back and will us to victory. Oh sure, if everything is just right, he can lead us to a late come-from-behind victory every now and then. But, you better not allow any pass rushers to get in his face! He’s not making those comebacks against the likes of the 49ers, Cowboys, or Steelers!

What’s the best thing Seattle has going for it? The easy answer is the wide receiver room, but that’s so dependant on your quarterback’s play, that I think I have to push them down a tier. I think the actual best thing Seattle has going for it is the running back room. The one-two punch of Kenneth Walker and Zach Charbonnet is as good as it gets. Walker makes something out of nothing in a way I haven’t seen since Barry Sanders. I’m not saying he’s as good as Barry Sanders, but I’m saying the moves you see him put on people on the football field week-in and week-out are as electric and jaw-dropping as I’ve seen out of anyone since Sanders retired. Charbonnet, on the other hand, is just a solid and dynamic straight-ahead runner. Every time I see him play well, I wonder if he’s the future #1 on this team, but then Walker comes back and flashes those amazing cut-back moves, and I’m swayed in his direction. Either way, those two combined – with their tremendous blocking and pass-catching abilities – puts us at a level few teams are at in the NFL.

So, why don’t we feature it more? Why aren’t we scheming to highlight the run, rather than using it to complement a passing attack that’s … fine? Your guess is as good as mine. Seems to me, once again, we have the wrong offensive coordinator. He was brought in to try to appease a disgruntled Russell Wilson, we traded Wilson a year later, and now we’ve been trying to make it work. Sometimes, Waldron looks like one of the best OCs in football. But, too often – especially this season – he gets too one-track minded. He goes away from the run – mind-bogglingly – even though we’re in more games than we’re way behind. And less and less do we see guys schemed open. We were supposed to get the system that the Rams use to tremendous success. Lots of crossers, lots of different plays out of similar-looking personnel groupings. But, either Geno isn’t seeing them, or we’ve gone away from them. Regardless, this offense looks as dysfunctional as it was under Schotty and in the final years of Bevell.

Getting back to the receivers, I’ll tell you what this team doesn’t have; it doesn’t have Doug Baldwin, or a Doug Baldwin type. It doesn’t have that guy who can get open under any circumstance. It doesn’t have that guy you can go to on 3rd & Long, when you absolutely need a conversion to move the chains. Tyler Lockett sort of used to be that guy, but not really, and definitely not anymore. I don’t know what Lockett is nowadays, if I’m being honest. Either he’s trending towards being washed up, or we’re just not utilizing him like we should. More often than not, we’re going to D.K. when we need a big catch to move the chains. Don’t get me wrong, D.K. has been GREAT this year. But, he still has massive drops at the worst times, and you never know when he’s going to be that powderkeg that’s one bad taunt away from exploding.

The good news is: maybe Jaxon Smith-Njigba will be the next true heir apparent to Doug Baldwin. But, he’s still a rookie, he’s still developing that relationship with Geno, and while he’s much more productive now than he was at the beginning of the season, he’s not quite there yet. Hopefully in the next year or two, but that doesn’t help us out THIS season, now does it?

As far as the defense goes, write it off. There’s nothing elite about any of these position groups. Jamal Adams was shut down, having never fully recovered from his knee injury. He was getting beaten on the reg, and was less and less productive out in space near the line of scrimmage the more he played. Clearly, his body is broken, and it’s going to really suck if we’re stuck with him for another year.

As for the rest of the secondary, that was sort of our big hope, but it hasn’t come to fruition. I think the depth is there, but the top-end talent has been lacking. Which is interesting, because two of our three Pro Bowlers came from this group (Devon Witherspoon and Julian Love). Witherspoon looks as good as advertised, but he started the year banged up, and he’s ending the year banged up. When he’s been healthy out there, he’s been a game-changer. But, I’m starting to have serious doubts that we’re ever going to get a full season out of him. And I’m certainly dubious about getting a respectable second contract out of him. As for Love, he’s definitely come on late, but early this season he was a huge liability! The bar to climb over for Pro Bowl contention seems to be getting lower and lower nowadays.

You can’t deny Riq Woolen’s sophomore season has been anything but disappointing. Seems like he too is injured, but I don’t remember him ever being all that active in tackling near the line of scrimmage. That wasn’t a problem last year when he was making plays and generating turnovers; but this year, when he’s not doing that, he’s not really doing anything for you, is he? The rest of the guys – Diggs, Brown, Jackson, Burns, etc. – have all flashed some level of greatness, but have also totally disappeared for long stretches. As a result, this defense is getting increasingly shredded as the season goes along.

The linebackers have been okay against the run, but Bobby Wagner has been one of the biggest weaknesses in the passing game in the entire NFL (he’s a Pro Bowler based on reputation only). Without Jordyn Brooks, the linebacker room is totally decimated (as we saw last week against the Steelers). It’s tough when you’re as thin as you are, and you’re forced to play Wagner at or near 100% of the snaps every week. Now we have to pay Brooks whatever the market rate is for a top-end interior linebacker? What are we doing with our money here?!

I think the interior of the defensive line has been the most productive unit on this team, especially with the addition of Leonard Williams. Between him, Jarran Reed, and Dre’Mont Jones, we’re as solid as you can get. But, when Nwosu went down, the edge has been kind of a wasteland. Frank Clark has hardly played, and I think has since been cut (or is on the verge of being cut). Darrell Taylor can’t set an edge to save his life. Boye Mafe has slowed down considerably the second half of this season. Derick Hall is also struggling to play his position properly (but he’s a rookie, so he gets a pass). So, when you talk defensive line as a whole, I think you have to give them a net-negative. They get sacks at a decent clip, but I would say overall pressure numbers are sub-par, and the run defense has actually gotten worse as the season has gone along.

Defensive coordinator might be our biggest weakness, so we’ll see where that goes this offseason.

That leaves the O-Line, which is middling at best. But, Abe Lucas has been banged up all year, and we’ve had a revolving door at most of our positions from week to week. So much so that we’ve had to emphasize getting the ball out incredibly quickly if we even WANT to have a passing game. Seems like that would be the time to try to pound the rock, but again, we’re not, because of Reasons.

All told, that adds up to a team – as I said in the title – that isn’t great at any one thing. They’re okay at some things, terrible at others, and that’s what adds up to an 8-8 record heading into the final week of the season. Which is why I’ve been saying – for however many weeks now – that I do NOT want these Seahawks in the playoffs. What good does it do to get in there and get your doors blown off in the first round? We did that last year; did it do anything to make the 2023 Seahawks even remotely better? Or, did it just give us worse draft positioning, while allowing us to delude ourselves into thinking we were closer to Super Bowl contention than we actually were?

The Seahawks only make significant changes when they fail to make the playoffs. Whenever we make the playoffs, we bring our coaching staff back, keep the majority of the veterans we’re able to keep, and try to fill in around the fringes with what little resources we have left over. We’ve never really committed to a true rebuild since the 2010 season, and it’s starting to feel like all those Mariners teams from 2004-2018. Close, but no cigar.

What’s this team going to do as a 7-seed? Probably go to Dallas and lose by double digits. We already couldn’t stop them once – the week after Thanksgiving – what makes you think we can stop them now, when our talent is actually more depleted thanks to injury? We tried our best to keep up offensively – putting up 35 in a losing effort – but literally everything had to go right for that to happen, and I’m not buying that we can do that a second time.

And even IF we somehow, miraculously, beat the Cowboys in Dallas (because, at their heart, they love to choke in the playoffs), what is our reward? Playing the 1-seed 49ers after a week off (and after playing no one of consequence in Week 18). Just the worst case scenario of all scenarios; we haven’t come CLOSE to beating them for the last two years now.

So, no, I don’t want to see us in the playoffs. I don’t even want to see us winning this week! I want us 8-9. I want that LOSERS label to be firmly stamped all over this team. Pete Carroll and John Schneider aren’t going anywhere. But, maybe with a losing record, they’ll stumble into the correct coaching and personnel moves to turn this thing around before we’re all old and gray.

The Sea-Yikes-le Seahawks Never Seriously Threatened The 49ers Yet Again

It’s a 28-16 loss. The big “victory” here is that the Seahawks somehow found a way to cover the 13-14 point spread. Of course, that’s really due to the generosity of the 49ers; they could’ve scored on us at the end of the game if they wanted to (and they could’ve easily taken a timeout before halftime to get the ball back near midfield and at least tack on an extra three points).

The big storyline of this game for a lot of people is the fact that Drew Lock got his first start in a Seahawks uniform and kinda looked okay. But, don’t get sucked into that narrative. The REAL story of this game is the Seahawks’ inept defense once again looking like the absolute worst in the entire NFL. 527 yards, the most we’ve given up … since last year against the Raiders. 9.94 yards PER PLAY. They averaged nearly a first down every time they snapped the ball! You can’t get much fucking worse than that!

We’re on, what, year 8 of the Seahawks playing the most impotent brand of defense imaginable? What do you even say anymore? The coaching stinks! We’ve cycled through so many different players and nothing changes. Ergo, it’s the coaching and the scheme. It’s Clint Hurtt being unqualified for the job. And, quite frankly, it’s Pete Carroll being a terrible judge of coaching talent. At a minimum. Or, if this is Pete sticking his nose too far into the defense’s business, then it’s ENTIRELY on Pete Carroll, because he’s supposed to be a defensive-minded coach, and he’s heading up the worst fucking defense of all time, year after year after year. This unit hasn’t been the same since Dan Quinn left, and it’s never going to get better until Pete Carroll and the rest of these coaches get shit-canned.

That won’t happen, of course, so let’s move on.

I will say that Drew Lock wasn’t the total wasteland I was expecting, when I heard he was named the starter. 22/31 for 269 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs. There were some awesome-looking throws in there. The early TD to D.K. Metcalf was as impressive as it gets. The other TD to Colby Parkinson was just a scheme dream. But, by and large, Lock was pressured immensely, had at least the one bad throw that ended in a pick (with the other coming off of someone hitting him as he threw it), and was never a serious threat to win us this game. Against an inferior opponent, we might’ve won with Lock. But, we’ve been doing that with Geno Smith for a year and a half now. Drew is not an improvement over Geno, so the last thing I want to hear about is how one or both of these guys are going to be back next year as this team’s starter.

I don’t have a lot of interest in deeply analyzing this game, or the players in it, but I will say that Jamal Adams – once again – gave up a deep TD, this time to Deebo Samuel. He was caught looking in the backfield, was flat-footed as Deebo ran by him, and was clearly too slow to catch up. Jamal Adams is a waste of fucking space, and I can’t wait until he’s off of this team. Worst Seahawks trade of all time? 100%.

This predictably dropped the Seahawks to 6-7. It’s our first 4-game losing streak of the Pete Carroll era. And it kind of just further punctuates how important it is for change to take place.

There’s four games left. It’ll start with losing to the Eagles on Monday night next week. That HAS to happen. Because there’s a decent chance we figure out a way to win out and end the season 9-8. At which point, people are going to THINK there is something to salvage there. But, I’m here to tell you not to believe the hype. The Titans, Steelers, and Cardinals all have a dearth of talent offensively. They’re pretty much the ONLY teams who could make this Seahawks defense look good.

I’m just hoping that we’ve done enough to eliminate us from contention, at the very least through conference tiebreakers. We’re 5-5 in the NFC with two games to go. The Rams already have the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Packers seem to be in good shape, even if they lose later today. The Falcons & Saints, of course, are useless, but there shouldn’t be more than one NFC South team in the playoffs anyway. And the Bears – at 5-8 – are lurking! They’re 4-5 in the NFC, but they have a very reasonable schedule the rest of the way.

Let Tanking Season begin!

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.

And The Seahawks Looked Like Dogshit Against The Rams

The Seahawks aren’t the only team to lose an embarrassing game in Week 1. Dare I forget the Bengals losing 24-3 to the Browns? The Steelers losing 30-7 to the 49ers? And look no further than Sunday Night Football, where the Giants got demolished 40-0 by the Cowboys.

Here’s where we put into context the 30-13 loss to the Rams: all of those other losers I just listed were defeated by teams that actually project to be pretty good! The Browns have a lot of talent on defense, and a great running game, and they played that to perfection on Sunday. The 49ers are the 49ers: one of the most talented top-to-bottom rosters in the NFL. The Cowboys are absolutely riddled with superstars on both sides of the ball, and have filled in around them marvelously.

The Rams are a fucking joke, period. The Rams are going to lose double-digit games and oftentimes look bad doing it. They have no good receivers. Their running game is subpar. They have exactly one guy on defense, and smart, competent teams are going to know how to neutralize him.

And the Seahawks Got. They. Ass. Whooped by this terrible fucking Rams team, so what does that say about us?

Well, for starters, you can forget all that shit about winning the division, or 11-12 games for that matter. And don’t even think about this team winning in the playoffs! Because THAT shit ain’t happening! I must’ve been drunk when I wrote that. Blackout drunk. Overcome with dementia; a raving fucking lunatic.

I don’t know how we keep falling for this defense like the same fucking broken record, skipping over and over and over and over and over and over again. Clint Hurtt doesn’t know how to run a defense. Or, at least, he doesn’t know how to run THIS defense. Meanwhile, Sean Desai is over in Philly running something exceedingly dynamic. But, this is REALLY on Pete Carroll, and John Schneider. We’ve seen now – since Dan Quinn left – that NO ONE has been able to run this defense. So, it’s some combination of players and scheme, and that’s on the two men at the top.

The defense steps out onto that field for the first time in the season, and it gives up a methodical 16-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that takes up most of the first quarter. Every fucking year. Which is only a microcosm of the season, because the defense might settle down for a quarter or two, but then it falls apart at the end. We’ll see this shitty fucking defense play out over the next month or two, and fans will be calling for the chopped-off heads of everyone involved with this team. Then, they’ll play some lousy offense, and for some reason get credit for the turnaround. The soft spot of the schedule will make it look like the Seahawks know what the FUCK they’re doing, until they have to play the 49ers or Eagles or whatever, and then it’s back to major fucking blowouts.

I guess credit is due for improved run defense? 2.3 yards per carry IS an improvement. Except, they had no trouble ramming it into our asshole when they got down around the goalline; the two backs combined for 3 very easy touchdowns. Goalline defense doesn’t figure to be our specialty.

But, 2.3 yards per carry is of cold comfort when you compare it to the passing game. Matthew Stafford had all day to throw. Not that he ever needed all day, because his guys were wide fucking open all game long. Not even a whiff of press coverage. No knocking guys off of their route. Just running and chasing, and giving up both easy passes in gaping zones, or tough passes in one-on-one situations. Regardless, this game was EASY for Matthew Stafford. It also would’ve been EASY for Desmond Ridder or Baker Mayfield or even Justin Fields.

Hey, where the hell was Dre’Mont Jones? Even if I knew what stupid fucking number he chose to wear, I couldn’t fucking tell you where he was in this one, because he was a GHOST! A $17 million per year fucking ghost.

Hey, where the hell was this awesome secondary we’ve heard so much about? Because, spoiler alert, Tutu Fucking Atwell and Puka Fucking Nacua torched us all damn day, and it would’ve been worse if not for some drops early on. Each had 119 yards receiving, on 6 catches for Atwell and 10 for Nacua. Umm, those guys are trash. And they dominated. Let’s revisit in 6 weeks and see where they are.

Hey, where the hell was the pass rush? Or, as Cris Collinsworth says, “Pash Rsh”. Not even CLOSE to a sack. A whopping 2 QB hits. I’m tired of the fucking excuse that the quarterback affects that stat by getting rid of the ball quickly. You know what you can do? You can blitz, like ever. Or, you can press the fucking line of scrimmage and force him to think for more than a fucking micro-second! What did the Seahawks do? The same thing, all fucking game. React, instead of dictate. This fucking namby-pamby way of playing defense that they’ve played since Dan Quinn left.

Don’t think I’ve forgotten about the offense. Geno Smith sure was a mess out there! 16/26 for 112 yards and a TD isn’t going to earn him that raise next year! I thought Kenneth Walker looked like he picked up right where he left off last season, except you can’t really take advantage of his 5.3 yards per carry when you can’t ever convert a fucking third down (2 for 9 on the day, including 0 for their last 7). There were some drops, there were some poorly-thrown balls, and Geno flat-out missed a wide open Jake Bobo running down the seam on the trick play they called (Bobo would’ve been the primary receiver on that play, so how you miss him is FUCKING baffling to me).

This team scored 13 points on their first three drives. Then, they missed an easy field goal before halftime, then that was it. Nothing but punts in the second half. Punts and Rams points.

I thought Charbonnet looked ineffectual in his 3 carries; I guess that’s good news for people who have Walker in Fantasy. I thought JSN looked tentative and VERY coverable (maybe a byproduct of his hand/wrist injury). It’s funny how the Rams don’t have NEARLY as talented of a defense, and yet they managed to cover us tight near the line of scrimmage.

Bobby Wagner had 19 tackles, but what impact did he have? I saw Matthew Stafford juke right around him on a scramble; how does THAT happen?! Jordyn Brooks had 12 tackles, so that’s neat. They looked exactly like they did 2 years ago when they were teammates: zero big plays whatsoever.

Everyone but the punter stunk up the joint. Even on Special Teams, we let two balls squib into the endzone, and Myers missed a very easy field goal.

And if you were worried about injuries, this was the game for you, because we had them in spades! Both offensive tackles left the game, not to return. Their replacements – as we’ve seen before – were God awful. This team won’t win a game if it has Stone Forsythe and Jake Curhan starting. That’s just it. Put us down for 0-17 if that’s the case, because those useless fucking turds couldn’t block a cold.

Let’s see, Tyler Lockett had a head injury, and was sucking on oxygen all game. Cardio not up to snuff? What’s going on? And, of course, we didn’t even get to see our #5 overall pick, Devon Witherspoon, or Jamal Adams – two of our most dynamic defensive playmakers – because they weren’t even healthy enough to suit up. Not that it would’ve mattered tremendously, since they’re sure to flounder in this scheme that does nothing to showcase actual talent, or put players in a position to succeed.

Every year, we start slow. Every year, we lose games early that we shouldn’t lose. Every year, it looks like this is the worst fucking team we’ve ever seen. And then every year they get incrementally better. They string together wins against bad teams, and an occasional okay team. They sneak into the playoffs as a wild card team, only to lose in the first round. How is it we’re being sucked into the same fucking script year after year?

I’m fucking BORED of this Seahawks team! It’s the same one we’ve watched since 2016! Just fast-forward to fucking January already and get it over with!