More Seahawks 1-Year Deals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Projecting Where The New Seahawks Fit

I think it’s always helpful to remind ourselves that the Seahawks are a good football team.  They’ve won at least 10 games every year for the last five seasons, and have won at least one playoff game each year to boot.  Only the New England Patriots have been more successful in this stretch by those parameters.  When they grab the #1 seed, they go to the Super bowl; when they don’t, they lose in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.  But, I think panic is starting to set in as this team’s championship window starts to close.  No Super Bowl in the last two seasons?  BLOW IT UP!

While there have been flaws in this team that have done the Seahawks in the last two years, they can also be corrected.  The offensive line has always been a matter of concern for this team, even as far back as 2012 and 2013; the only difference is those teams had so-so O-Lines, while the last two years, the O-Line has been one of the very worst in the league.  Also, I think it’s safe to say while opposing teams haven’t “figured out” the Seahawks’ defense, they’ve definitely made some inroads into not being thoroughly dominated on a regular basis.  Injuries – and a lack of proper depth – torpedoed our season last year, particularly following the loss of Earl Thomas.  But, when this team is healthy, this defense is still near the top in all of football, simply based on talent alone.

What those great Seahawks teams had, that these recent Just Okay Seahawks teams have lacked is what I pointed out in that previous paragraph:  league average O-Line play, and proper depth in the defense.  With the moves the Seahawks made this offseason, the hope is that they’ve done enough to right those wrongs, without creating holes elsewhere.

So, let’s start with the offensive line, because that’s ONCE AGAIN going to be the topic du jour not only from the national pundits when referencing the Seahawks, but very much from the local guys as well.  Last year, the primary configuration of the line looked like this:

  • Fant – Glowinski – Britt – Ifedi – Gilliam

Right off the bat, we know Gilliam is gone, having signed with the 49ers.  On the way in, we’ve got Luke Joeckel, Oday Aboushi, Ethan Pocic, and Justin Senior (along with various holdovers from last year, and undrafted free agents).  We know Britt is safe, for at least this year, if not for many years to come.  But, the other four spots are very much up for grabs at this point, ostensibly with the best man winning the job.

It’s impossible to project the exact battles until we get into OTAs and Training Camp and our trusty beat writers give us the scoop.  For now, we know Fant will battle for left tackle.  I’m pretty sure Glowinski will battle exclusively for the left guard spot, though I suppose it’s possible he could flip over to right guard (but, for the purposes of this post, I’m going to keep him on the left side).  Fighting with them will be Luke Joeckel, who has $7 million guaranteed on a 1-year $8 million deal; he will be considered for both the LT and LG spots.  Also being considered at LT and LG is Rees Odhiambo, 3rd round pick in 2016.  Four guys for two spots; I’ll put the early favorites as Joeckel and Glowinski, but absolutely nothing will shock me with the way this team operates.

On the right side, 2nd rounder Ethan Pocic will get a hard look, along with 2016 first rounder Germain Ifedi.  Ifedi was the RG last year, but was a RT in college, and word around the team is that they’re going to put him back outside.  That would seem to jibe with the selection of Pocic, who has extensive experience at center, and projects more as an interior lineman.  Aboushi is a guard who will also be in the mix on the right side, as well as 6th rounder Justin Senior, though he feels more like a project the team would want to redshirt.

So, how does that strike you?  The best two left-side guys, Britt, Pocic and Ifedi?  Will that formation ultimately be better than what we got in 2016?  I would assume yes, but that’s not saying much.  ANYONE will be a better left tackle than 2016 Fant, up to and including 2017 Fant.  I didn’t see Gilliam as the line’s biggest issue last year, but obviously he can be improved upon as well.  Will moving Ifedi back to his natural spot at right tackle help things click for him?  I’ve yet to see Pocic play, but I have to believe he’ll be better than any of the guards we had going for us last year.  And, I know the team really likes Odhiambo, so I hope he’s been working his ass off to win that job on the left side.

It’s going to be critically important for the line to at least be functional, because once again this team failed to address backup quarterback.  I don’t blame them, as I mentioned earlier, this team has a lot of holes and a lot of depth to replenish, and the worst thing you can do is reach for a quarterback you don’t necessarily want, but that just means the onus is on this team to protect its most important asset:  Russell Wilson.  I’m through trying to parse out blame on sacks, by the way.  Sure, Wilson might run himself into some pressure, but as long as the O-Line keeps letting guys get uninterrupted runs at our quarterback, I’m placing the blame squarely on them to fix that issue.

As for Wilson’s weapons, the only real major addition is Eddie Lacy at running back.  Between him, Rawls, and Prosise, the hope is that at least one of them will be healthy each and every game.  I like what they all bring to the table, aside from the fact that they seem to be on the trainer’s table more than the field (table).  Table.  I’m also not buying the seventh rounder we drafted, unless it comes to a point where there are a barrage of injuries at the position, at which point he’ll probably still be blocked by 2-3 guys.

At tight end, the Seahawks were conspicuously absent in the draft.  Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson are both on the final years of their deals, with Nick Vannett on the second year of his rookie deal.  I can’t imagine the team is ready for Vannett to jump to the #1 tight end spot in 2018, which would lead me to believe that they’re looking to extend one of Graham or Willson.  It might not be the worst idea to let the season play out before making your decision on this, as I can’t imagine the market for either will be out of our range heading into 2018.  If one of them has a serious injury this year, then your decision has effectively been made and you can extend the other guy.  Considering there really isn’t much left on the free agent market (and the Seahawks were able to save some pennies by trading out of the first round), it doesn’t make a ton of sense to extend Graham now just to lower his cap hit.  The time to do that would’ve been BEFORE free agency started, when there was still an opportunity to get a great player with the money saved.

At receiver, Baldwin and Kearse are back, Tyler Lockett is coming back from an injury, Paul Richardson is going into the final year of his deal, and the Seahawks drafted Amara Darboh in the third round.  On top of that, we’ve got Kenny Lawler (7th round draft pick in 2016), Tanner McEvoy (our 5th receiver for most of last year), and Kasen Williams (among others) fighting to make the final roster.  Last year, the team mostly just kept 5 receivers, opting to go with an extra tight end, but I think this year the Seahawks will look to keep 6 receivers.  They’ll obviously want to keep Darboh around (who can justify his roster spot by owning a special teams role), leaving Lawler, McEvoy, and Williams fighting it out for the final spot.  Lawler should still be able to pass onto the Practice Squad for another season, but I think it’s do or die for Williams at this point.  Considering this is Kearse’s last year, I’ll be really interested in what the team decides to do come training camp.  Also, let’s not forget, Paul Richardson really came on in the playoffs last season; he could be in for a HUGE breakout year (which, not for nothing, has been long overdue).

My hunch is, the Seahawks let Kearse go AFTER this season, they reward Richardson with a Kearse-like 3-year deal (because, while he could be in for a “HUGE breakout year”, that’s all relative to the fact that these are the run-first Seahawks, and Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham are still going to command the lion’s share of the targets), and in 2018 the Seahawks go in with a receiving corps of Baldwin, Lockett, Richardson, Darboh, and a couple of TBDs, but that’s over a year away and neither here nor there.

With the bulk of the offensive weapons returning from last year, all that matters is getting even marginal improvement out of the O-Line, and I think you can expect better things over last year.

Which brings us to the defense.

My #1 priority coming into this offseason was seeing the Seahawks bring in top notch talent in their secondary.  While they didn’t necessarily overlook the position, they obviously had their priorities set elsewhere.

For starters, they signed a grip of backup linebackers in free agency, to bolster the strong-side linebacker spot, as well as our depth and special teams.  They also took a flier on Dion Jordan to see if he has anything left in the tank after busting out in Miami.  More than anything, though, they made D-Line their #1 priority in the draft, which will be a big key heading into the season.

Malik McDowell is an interior lineman adept at causing pressure up the middle.  Aside from Michael Bennett – who more often than not finds himself in the defensive end spot – we really haven’t had anyone to bring the pressure up the middle since Clinton McDonald, and even then we’re talking about a part-time player.  McDowell’s ceiling is MUCH higher than McDonald’s, and if everyone manages to stay relatively healthy, he could be the key to making the lives of opposing quarterbacks miserable.

Just picture a line that looks like this:

  • Avril, McDowell, Bennett, Clark

Or, you know, some variation of that order.  Those are some rabid dogs!  That’s a 4-man defensive line that can get home, allowing the other 7 guys on defense to help out in coverage.  That’s a line that will not only generate a bunch of sacks and hits, but also a TON of hurries, that will hopefully lead to some bad decisions from those QBs.

The Seahawks have always been pretty solid in their sack numbers since bringing in Avril and Bennett, but the defense as a whole hasn’t been able to generate a lot of turnovers since 2013, when they were getting the most pressure with their 4-man front.  If McDowell hits, we could be talking about the best 4-man line we’ve seen since our championship season.

Which will hopefully make the lives of our secondary a lot easier and more fulfilling.  Shaquill Griffin looks like he can start right away, which is good, because odds are we’ll need him to.  Between him, Lane, and Sherman, I like our cornerbacks.  I’ll like them a lot more whenever Shead gets off the PUP list.  And, I’ll like them even more still if some of these other guys manage to surprise us!

Neiko Thorpe is a name to watch.  He has a year in our system and just re-signed.  He’s obviously here for his special teams prowess, but he’ll definitely be given a shot to compete for a spot on the defense from Day 1.  Then, we have the other three draft picks, who were all safeties coming out of college, but who all will get a look at corner as well.  I mean, let’s face it, no one in this draft was ever going to take the place of Kam and Earl.

In watching some of the highlights of these guys – Delano Hill, Tedric Thompson, and Mike Tyson – they all look the part.  If I had to guess, I’d say Thompson projects as the best of the three in coverage.  Hill very much looks the part of a downhill strong safety a la Kam Chancellor.  Tyson also looks pretty solid in coverage, but is probably behind Thompson and Griffin.  They all look like great tacklers and they all look like HUGE upgrades over our secondary depth in 2016.

This is what I was banking on.  I was hoping we’d go to the secondary early and often in the draft (as opposed to the third round and later), but when you’re right, you’re right:  everyone was saying how this draft was super deep in the secondary, and that very much looks like the case.  I think Hill will ultimately be a better long-term option behind Kam than Kelcie McCray ever was, and I think dropoff from Earl to Thompson is a lot smaller than the dropoff from Earl to Steven Terrell.  Bottom line:  assuming these rookies don’t get injured or hit a wall, I think our secondary depth is leaps and bounds improved over last year.  Particularly with the promise that our pass rush will be able to generate extra QB pressure.

So, will the 2017 Seahawks be better than the 2016 Seahawks?  We’ll have to see these guys prove it in Training Camp, while ultimately staying a lot healthier than they did last year.  In the early going, I’m leaning towards yes, the Seahawks will be better.  At which point, we have to ask:  are the 2017 Seahawks good enough to get back to contending for the #1 seed?  I mean, I don’t see why not.  They can’t be any unluckier than they were last year, with respect to injuries.  It looks like the rest of the NFC West (aside from maybe Arizona) will be rebuilding.  But, it’s really now or never with this group.  Our core guys are all getting into their late 20’s.  Which means they’re as good as they’re ever going to get, in all likelihood.  The odds of these guys getting injured only increases.  And, with some, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a drop-off in production due to the natural aging process.

We very well may look back at the 2017 season as the last year where we had everyone in the primes of their careers.  It might all be downhill after this year, for all we know.  So, the team needs to see this and use it to increase their sense of urgency.  Pete Carroll and John Schneider have done their part:  they’ve kept the core intact (not panicking, not blowing it up, not trading Richard Sherman for pennies on the dollar and creating extra holes where you didn’t need to have them before), while filling in admirably along the edges of the roster, hopefully bolstering its depth.  At this point, it’s on the players to do their jobs, and the coaches to get everyone ready to take advantage of this unique opportunity.

I can’t wait for the off-season to start ramping up.  It’s going to be fun hearing about how the new players are fitting in.

Which Seahawks Team Had The More Difficult Path To The Super Bowl?

Yesterday, I did a little comparison of the rosters between last year and this year.  Obviously, it wasn’t comprehensive – as it’s JUST a look at the Super Bowl rosters and not taking into account all the injured players who helped get us to those points – but I think we can all agree that the 2013 Seahawks were the clear Best Team In Franchise History.  But, either way, we’re talking about two VERY good teams.  It takes a buttload of talent to make it to the Super Bowl; and it takes a special kind of buttload to make it to back-to-back Super Bowls.

My take on these two teams is this:  the 2013 Seahawks were more special, because it was our first championship.  You never forget the first time.  Those players will be fixtures in my sports fandom until the day I die.  But, what these 2014 Seahawks are doing is more DIFFICULT, and not just because of what we saw against Green Bay last Sunday.

I look at it like this:  go ahead and check the standings and how they compare between 2013 and 2014.  Now, check the Seahawks’ schedule between 2013 and 2014.  If you count the games where we faced legitimate opponents, you’ll see it’s pretty clear.  The 2013 Seahawks had to square off against 7 legit opponents.  Two vs. SF and AZ, then games against Carolina, Indy, and New Orleans.  The rest of the AFC South was a joke, the Rams were mediocre as usual, the rest of the NFC South was terrible, and the Giants and Vikings were God awful.  Now, granted, those 7 games were against real tough teams – including the 49ers who were the clear Second Best Team In Football – but I don’t think last year’s run really compares.  We kicked off our season with back-to-back great teams (and 3 in our first 5 games), but there was a huge lull in the middle where we played 1 good team in six weeks.  THEN we had a bye week before catching the Saints at home!  By the time we got through that powderpuff stretch, we were 11-1 and on cruise control the last four weeks as we finished up going 2-2, losing both of our difficult matchups in the process while still locking down the #1 overall seed.

In those 7 big games, we ended the regular season 4-3.  We more than made up for it with the gauntlet we had to take down in the playoffs, as I would argue the Saints were the 3rd-best team in the NFC and probably the 5th-best team in the NFL.  Then, we had to squeak by the 49ers again, before we slayed the best offensive team in NFL history.  So, when you include playoffs, the Seahawks had 10 really hard teams (but, then again, when you’re in the playoffs, just about every game is hard).

In 2014, the Seahawks not only had to contend with a more difficult schedule, but they had all the other distractions away from the game.  Just being a Super Bowl champion, for one.  Having that target on your back.  Getting everyone’s best game because they want so desperately to beat the best.  Then, you’re talking about losing a sizable chunk of your depth because you just can’t afford to pay everyone.  Starters like Tate, Giacomini, Browner, Clemons, and Bryant.  Role players like Thurmond, McDonald, and Maragos.  Key contributors from last year, playing for other teams.  THEN, you’ve got guys getting paid in the offseason.  It’s great for fans to see their favorite players locked up and happy, but you never know how that’s going to affect locker room chemistry.  And, quite frankly, you never know how the players who’re getting paid will respond.  Will they still have that desire?  Will they still wake up at the crack of dawn every day and put in the work to maintain their level of excellence?

We know a little bit about how Marshawn Lynch felt about it, because he threatened to hold out and retire and all this stuff before getting a bump in pay.  Still didn’t stop all the early-season chatter from the media that he was disgruntled and still thinking about retiring.  Or that the team was fed up and ready to cut him loose after the year ended.  Oh, and we can’t forget the whole Percy Harvin situation.  What a shitshow THAT was.

Hashtag Russell Wilson Isn’t Black Enough.

All of this stuff, plus the usual smattering of injuries every team has to deal with.  3/5 of our offensive line missing significant time, Kam and Bobby and Maxie all missing time.  Zach Miller and Brandon Mebane being lost for the year, along with a bunch of our young role players like Cassius Marsh and Jordan Hill and – most recently – Paul Richardson.

And, in the middle of all of that, if you look at the schedule, we faced 10 legitimate opponents (11 if you want to count Carolina, but I’m inclined to throw that entire division in the toilet where it belongs).  We kicked off the season with three tremendous teams in Green Bay, San Diego, and Denver, before being saddled with the week 4 bye.  You can say what you want about the Chargers, but they finished the season with a winning record and that was a game on the road.  Plus, they were a much better team early in the year compared to their late-season swoon.  I’m counting ’em.

Once you get past that point, there was an 8-game stretch that I’d pegged at the beginning of the season as the stretch where we’d need to make our hay.  I didn’t see ANY of those teams being able to give us much of a game.  As it turned out, the Cowboys were pretty great, the Chiefs were better than expected, and the Cardinals were 9-1 and three games ahead of us when we got to play them.  I’m also counting the Chiefs as one of the legit teams as they ALSO finished the regular season with a winning record and that game was ALSO on the road.  As it turned out, the most difficult part of the schedule – the last six weeks – turned out to be much easier than expected.  But, I’m still counting Arizona and Philly as legit, because Arizona’s defense never quit this year, and Philly’s offense was still pretty solid even with Mark Sanchez.  It’s debatable as to whether or not I should include the 49ers in this list, but I’m going to do it anyway.  Granted, 8-8 is a pretty mediocre record, but we’re still talking about a roster that was comprised of most of the same parts that took that team to the NFC Championship Game last year and to the Super Bowl the year before, with the same coaching staff as well.  When you lump in how they’re our most bitter rival and prioritize beating us over any other team, I’m saying that’s a legit matchup.

So, to recap, two against Arizona and Frisco, with solo games against GB, Den, SD, KC, Phi, & Dal.  With a possible 11th if you want to count Carolina, but I’ll leave that up to you.  And, in doing so, we went 7-3 (8-3 with the Panthers).

Of course, with the level of competition, you have to take into account the level of turmoil.  Things were spiraling out of control as this team started out 3-3, playing four very good teams in that stretch, and losing a heartbreaker to a sub-par Rams team (who nevertheless managed to beat some pretty impressive teams this year on their way to a 6-10 record).  As I said before, we were 6-4 when we played 9-1 Arizona.  We pretty much needed to win out and get help.  And we got that help by Arizona losing their top two quarterbacks; otherwise this season may have played out VERY differently.  To elevate our game at the last possible moment, win six in a row to finish with the #1 seed yet again … I don’t know what else you can say.  Just a remarkable job.

Then, with the playoffs, we’re talking about rematches against the Panthers and Packers.  I don’t hold the Panthers in very high esteem, but I think the Pack ended up being the second-best team in the NFC this year (and probably third-best in the NFL).  Of course, the Packers are always going to be some variation of good as long as Aaron Rodgers is playing.  But, for once, they remained pretty healthy on both sides of the ball, and when that happens, the Packers are as formidable as any team.  I don’t think this year’s Packers team was necessarily better than last year’s 49ers team, but they’re pretty close, and they sure as shit gave us a helluva game.

To cap off the season, we get to face the #1 team in the AFC, the New England Patriots.  For the last 9 weeks, you could argue that the Seahawks and Patriots have been the top two teams in the league, so this is just as exciting as getting to play Denver was last year.  To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best, and the Seahawks don’t get any respite in that regard.

I dunno, maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe I’m looking at it all through biased eyes because this year’s team is still fresh in my mind.  But, I can’t see how you don’t find this year’s team much more impressive than last year’s, even if the level of talent isn’t quite as elite.

Your Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl XLIX Roster

I did this last year, albeit in a different format.  It’s nothing fancy, no real analysis or anything, but it’s just something I’d like to look at (and later, look back on and reflect).

Last year, it was more a reflection of how we crafted our Super Bowl roster (mostly via draft & undrafted free agents).  This year, I thought I’d take a gander at who’s on the team now as it compares to last year’s Super Bowl roster.  As with last year’s post, I’m not including guys who are on IR, or who were on the team earlier in the year and were released or traded.  I’m specifically looking at the guys on the 53-man roster RIGHT NOW.

I reserve the right to come back and adjust this if the Seahawks make any minor moves between now and February 1st.

Let’s start with the offense:

2014 2015
Quarterback 1 Russell Wilson Russell Wilson
Quarterback 2 Tarvaris Jackson Tarvaris Jackson
Quarterback 3 B.J. Daniels
Running Back 1 Marshawn Lynch Marshawn Lynch
Running Back 2 Robert Turbin Robert Turbin
Running Back 3 Christine Michael * Christine Michael
Fullback 1 Michael Robinson Will Tukuafu
Fullback 2 Derrick Coleman
Wide Receiver 1 Golden Tate Doug Baldwin
Wide Receiver 2 Percy Harvin Jermaine Kearse
Wide Receiver 3 Doug Baldwin Ricardo Lockette
Wide Receiver 4 Jermaine Kearse Bryan Walters
Wide Receiver 5 Ricardo Lockette Chris Matthews
Wide Receiver 6 Bryan Walters * Kevin Norwood
Tight End 1 Zach Miller Luke Willson
Tight End 2 Luke Willson Tony Moeaki
Tight End 3 Kellen Davis * Cooper Helfet
Left Tackle Russell Okung Russell Okung
Left Guard James Carpenter James Carpenter
Center Max Unger Max Unger
Right Guard J.R. Sweezy J.R. Sweezy
Right Tackle Breno Giacomini Justin Britt
Guard/Tackle Alvin Bailey Alvin Bailey
Tackle Michael Bowie * Garry Gilliam
Center Lemuel Jeanpierre Lemuel Jeanpierre
Offensive Line Paul McQuistan Patrick Lewis
Offensive Line Caylin Hauptmann * Keavon Milton

* denotes Inactive for Super Bowl

As you can see, from a roster standpoint, we’re carrying the third quarterback for some reason (even though he was inactive for the NFC Championship Game, and will most likely be inactive again for the Super Bowl), whereas last year we carried the extra fullback.  Obviously, Robinson is retired and Coleman is injured, so that’s what happened there.

What stands out the most is the drop-off in quality in the wide receiver department.  The 2015 Seahawks are essentially chopped off at the knees at this position, with Golden Tate and Percy Harvin playing elsewhere.  Baldwin, Kearse, Lockette, and Walters each move up two spots respectively, severely weakening our passing game.  Rookie Norwood was active for the NFCCG, but I would expect him to be inactive if Helfet is healthy.

Speaking of tight ends, another big blow is the loss of Miller.  I like Willson a lot and think he’s taken a big step forward this year (in spite of some infamous drops), but it’s pretty clear we’re hurting.  Moeaki is a fine stand-in, but he’s no Zach Miller.  I’ll be looking forward to all three tight ends as being active – again – if Helfet is healthy.  I think this can be a real mismatch in our favor against the Patriots.

The offensive line is largely the same as last year.  Britt sat out against the Packers with an injury, but I have to figure he’ll be back with the two weeks off to recover.  I think Britt is more-or-less a wash compared to Giacomini (MAYBE a slight downgrade, but in the long run will be a big improvement).  Our depth is pretty solid as well, as four of our reserves have played significant minutes this year.  I’ve still never heard of this Milton guy, so expect him to be inactive.

Now, let’s go with the defense:

2014 2015
Defensive End 1 Chris Clemons Michael Bennett
Defensive End 2 Red Bryant Cliff Avril
Defensive End 3 Michael Bennett O’Brien Schofield
Defensive End 4 Cliff Avril Demarcus Dobbs
Defensive End 5 O’Brien Schofield David King
Defensive End 6 Benson Mayowa *
Defensive Tackle 1 Brandon Mebane Kevin Williams
Defensive Tackle 2 Tony McDaniel Tony McDaniel
Defensive Tackle 3 Clinton McDonald Landon Cohen
Defensive Tackle 4 Jordan Hill *
Outside Linebacker K.J. Wright K.J. Wright
Middle Linebacker Bobby Wagner Bobby Wagner
Outside Linebacker Bruce Irvin Bruce Irvin
Linebacker 4 Malcolm Smith Malcolm Smith
Linebacker 5 Mike Morgan Mike Morgan
Linebacker 6 Heath Farwell Brock Coyle
Cornerback 1 Richard Sherman Richard Sherman
Cornerback 2 Byron Maxwell Byron Maxwell
Cornerback 3 Walter Thurmond Jeremy Lane
Cornerback 4 Jeremy Lane DeShawn Shead
Cornerback 5 DeShawn Shead Tharold Simon
Cornerback 6 Marcus Burley
Free Safety 1 Earl Thomas Earl Thomas
Free Safety 2 Chris Maragos Steven Terrell
Strong Safety 1 Kam Chancellor Kam Chancellor
Strong Safety 2 Jeron Johnson
Long Snapper Clint Gresham Clint Gresham
Punter Jon Ryan Jon Ryan
Kicker Steven Hauschka Steven Hauschka

* denotes Inactive for Super Bowl

As you can see, we’re carrying two fewer linemen and two more defensive backs.  Injuries have hurt us bigtime in the defensive line department, but depth has been an issue all year with our DBs, as it seems like we’re dealing with nagging injuries on a weekly basis in our secondary.

Along the line, we’re hurting bad.  Clemons and Bryant are obviously gone, so Bennett and Avril moved up into their places.  From a quality of play standpoint, this is an improvement.  But, from a depth standpoint, it’s not pretty.  Jordan Hill was a positive contributor this year until he got hurt.  Kevin Williams has been a godsend with Mebane going down.  McDaniel is as steady as they come.  And, Cohen is a widebody who played some key snaps against the Packers in our goalline package.  It’s our pass rush that I’m most concerned about, with Schofield essentially replacing Clemons from last year, which is indeed a step down.  Bruce Irvin will be key in this regard, as he’s looking a lot better when he rushes the passer.

Our linebackers are largely intact, as our top 5 are all holdovers from last year.  Coyle replaces Farwell, and from my naked eye, I haven’t seen a huge downturn in our special teams coverage.

Our secondary is still our strongest unit.  The only real change is Simon for Thurmond.  Thurmond was more versatile, but Simon is cheaper, under team control for longer, and is better on the outside.

I would argue we’re actually stronger in the secondary this year compared to last year.  Linebacking, offensive line, running backs, quarterbacks, and specialists (kicker/punter/long snapper) are all a wash.  We’re a bit worse in our tight ends and at fullback.  And, we’re A LOT worse along the defensive line and in our wide receiver group.  I may come back to this when the season is over, to compare & contrast 2013’s overall roster to 2014’s, but suffice it to say, we’re not as good of a team as we were last year.  That was to be expected, so it’s not like I’m telling you anything that’s untrue or shocking.  How much worse, I guess, depends on how the Super Bowl turns out.

Either way, as the years go on, we’re REALLY going to marvel at how good that 2013 team was.  To run out a squad with that amount of talent and depth is about as awe-inspiring as it gets.

For the Super Bowl, unless injuries are a factor, here’s my prediction for the seven inactives:

  1. B.J. Daniels – QB
  2. Christine Michael – RB
  3. Kevin Norwood – WR
  4. Keavon Milton – OL
  5. Patrick Lewis – C
  6. David King – DE
  7. Marcus Burley – CB

It was a struggle down there at the bottom.  In theory, you’d want to keep King active to give yourself another pass rusher, but really, how many can you have on the field at once?  I think Cohen gives you more value, especially if the Patriots make a concerted effort to run the ball with Blount.  I thought about keeping Burley active as well – what with Sherman and Thomas playing through injury, you may want more depth in the secondary – but he seems to be the low man on the totem pole right now.

Obviously, this changes as the injury reports start coming out.  Guys to watch out for here are obviously Britt and Helfet, as well as Terrell and Johnson in the secondary.  But, for now, my official guess at the inactives is what I’ve listed above.

Why The Seahawks Will Return To The Super Bowl

Right around this time last year – though, admittedly, a couple weeks later – I was writing a lot about the impending Super Bowl matchup between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks.  Sometimes, I do this thing where I’ll write one article on how the Seahawks could theoretically lose, and another article on why they’ll win.  Usually, I do this because I’ve run out of other things to write about, but sometimes there’s a good reason to argue both sides.  But, last year, I really struggled with it.  How might the Broncos have beaten us in the Super Bowl?  Well, on any given Sunday and all that …

Yeah, pretty much anything can happen at any time.  A player can take a wrong step and tear his ACL.  A perfectly-thrown pass can bobble out of the hands of a receiver and into the hands of a defender.  Fumble luck is INCREDIBLY random and sometimes infuriating.  A couple of special teamers can take bad angles and before you know it, the other team is running back a freebie touchdown.  I could go on and on.  There are millions of reasons why the Packers might beat the Seahawks this Sunday, just as there were millions of possibilities in that Broncos/Seahawks Super Bowl.

But, just looking at it rationally, it was pretty hard to believe that the Seahawks were going to lose last year.  Just like it’s pretty hard to believe they’ll lose on Sunday.

How, exactly, are this year’s Packers different than last year’s Broncos?  Both teams play/played with MVP quarterbacks.  With Aaron Rodgers’ calf strain, he’s about as mobile now as Manning was last year.  Neither defense was all that impressive.  And, I would argue that Denver’s offense last year was MUCH better than Green Bay’s this year.  The only thing left to look at is how the Seahawks are different this year compared to last.

On the surface, not much.  We’re missing a Golden Tate on offense, and you can’t argue that we’ve really found a replacement.  Jermaine Kearse has stepped up, so it’s not a HUGE drop-off, but our third and fourth receivers as a result are a step back.  So, there’s that.

We’re missing Zach Miller, but I’d say Luke Willson and company have stepped up adequately.  Our offensive line is about the same.  Running game is the same.  And quarterback is the same.

Defensively, we’ve lost Mebane and Jordan Hill along the interior.  Hill was turning into a nice little Clinton McDonald replacement, so that hurts.  On the outside, we no longer have Chris Clemons or Red Bryant, but we haven’t had those guys for the full year and our defense has still held up like gangbusters.  You’re still looking at the top defense in the league and it’s not really even close when the stars are healthy.

So, you tell me.  How are the Packers supposed to come in here and beat us?  I repeat:  “in here”, as in “in Seattle”.  The Super Bowl was on a neutral field!  So, not only were the Broncos a more formidable opponent, but they didn’t even have to play us in the most dominant home field advantage in all of football!

I just don’t see it.  I don’t think it’s possible to be more at ease going into a conference championship game.  I’m trying to get my worry on about this game, but it all comes back to fluke shit.

One thing I could look at is to review all of our defeats this year.  How did other teams beat the Seahawks?  Seems impossible, right?  But, it happened.  Four times, in fact!  Four different teams beat the Seahawks in 2014!  So, what can we learn?

Week 2, at San Diego

I would argue we were at our healthiest in this game among the four defeats, so this game really stings.  What happened here?  Well, the Chargers dominated time of possession by dinking and dunking us to the True Death.  They had two drives that lasted less than 4 minutes.  One came off of a turnover that they converted into a touchdown; the other was a punt after six plays.  In the second half.  We didn’t force the Chargers into a punt until the second half of the game!  The Chargers went 10/17 on third down and Philip Rivers was about as perfect as can be.  He was perfect because there was only one pass that was completed beyond 20 yards.  Patience, timing, and 100+ degree weather really did us in.  Our offense was moving the ball well, but almost too well, as all three of our scoring drives were touchdowns that took less than three minutes of clock.

Week 6, vs. Dallas

Admittedly, this was the only game I didn’t watch this year, as I was travelling.  But, from what I’ve read and seen, the Cowboys were able to run the ball at will and made just enough plays through the air to keep us honest and win the fourth quarter.  A particularly back-breaking completion to Terrance Williams converted a third & long late in the game, allowing them to secure victory.  In this game, the Seahawks were pretty banged up.  Also, this was the game where Percy Harvin reportedly refused to re-enter the game late.  The team was kind of a shitshow at this point in the season, and the Cowboys were an underrated power.  Sort of a perfect storm if you will.  It’s almost too bad we don’t get to play them again, as they may still believe they’re better than us (silly mortals).

Week 7, at St. Louis

The Seahawks had just traded Harvin a couple days before.  The Rams pulled off a road-runner punt return for a TD as well as a fake punt late in the game to seal it.  I’m calling bullshit on this one.  I highly doubt Green Bay will devote their week to a bunch of asinine trick plays to beat us (though, I guess if they’re smart, they probably should, as we seem to fall for it every time).

Week 11, at Kansas City

The defeat where we were at our MOST banged up.  Brandon Mebane had just gone down.  We were on our final week without Bobby Wagner.  And, the Chiefs straight up bullied us with their running game.  Still a hard one to swallow, considering how badly they finished the regular season.

What to take away?  Well, for starters, as I alluded to before, throw out that Rams game.  If the Packers are going to win, they’re going to have to achieve some combination of the other three games:  i.e. develop a running game and stick to it, while at the same time having Aaron Rodgers maintain a level of patience where he sticks to the easy, short throws and doesn’t challenge us deep.  Likewise, they’re going to have to keep him protected.  Yeah, it’s always important to keep your quarterback from getting hit, but it’s especially important in this scenario, as Rodgers is already gimpy and he IS their team.  Without him, they might lose by 40.

Somehow, I just don’t see it.  Eddie Lacy might have some success, but I doubt he’ll have the type of success where he’s gashing us consistently.  Also, let’s face it, there is blood in the water.  Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, and Bruce Irvin must be absolutely licking their chops at the prospects of chasing down an immobile Aaron Rodgers.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see more blitzing out of this defense than we’ve seen at any other time in the last three years.

One key will be whether or not Byron Maxwell is healthy.  I need to see him back and starting on the other side of the field.  Particularly, I need to see him put a stranglehold on Randall Cobb.  Either that, or lock down Jordy Nelson and allow Kam Chancellor the opportunity to put Cobb on his ass a la Wes Welker last year.

On the flipside, I don’t see the Packers stopping our offense.  Once again – like in the run-up to last year’s Super Bowl – people are ignoring the other matchup of our offense vs. their defense.  Yes, the marquee reads “Aaron Rodgers vs. The Legion Of Boom”, but the undercard of “Wilson & Lynch vs. Whatever The Hell The Packers Call Their Defense” is really what’s going to determine things.  If we can get out to a strong start, we’ll take away any hopes they had of running the football.  At that point, it’ll be time to tee off on Rodgers.

I expect the Seahawks to have a MUCH better rushing attack this week compared to last.  The Panthers are stout up front; the Packers … not so much.  I’d expect a 100-yard day out of Lynch at a minimum.  And if they try to stack the box and take him away, well guess what:  Big Game Russell Wilson is back there, ready to take over.  The Seahawks shouldn’t have any trouble moving the ball and scoring on this team.  Oh, and all this talk about Clay Matthews moving from outside to inside linebacker?  Great!  Leave the edges to an inferior defender so Russell Wilson can abuse them with his legs!

I’m sorry, but I’m totally at ease in this game.  The only way we lose is if we screw ourselves with an abundance of turnovers.  Or, if our defense isn’t able to capitalize on turnover opportunities.  It also wouldn’t shock me in the least to see Rodgers go down and have to leave the game at some point prior to the 4th quarter.  Mark it down.  I’m usually wrong, but I don’t see how I can be wrong here.

Come Monday, we’ll all be giddy with anticipation for a repeat Super Bowl appearance.

And, just to get it on the record now, I HOPE we get to play the Patriots.  I’m sorry, but the Colts scare the bejesus out of me.  Their defense is better than they get credit for (especially with Vontae Davis healthy as one of the top cornerbacks int he league).  Luck is obviously the more mobile quarterback, and he’s got tons of weapons to throw to.  Neither team really has much of a rushing attack to worry about, but I just feel like we could get to Brady more often, and we can neutralize Gronk (who is really the only guy to worry about on their team).  Gronk, meet Kam, and get your clock cleaned in the process.

So, yes, go Patriots.  Go Seahawks.  Let’s ring up another championship, boys!

The Seahawks Are Back, Baby!

In week 1, opening night of the season, the Seahawks thumped the Green Bay Packers:  who are now the consensus best team in the NFC and arguably the best team in football.  The Seahawks more or less controlled that game from the start; only relinquishing an early lead thanks to a turnover in Seattle territory.  It ended up being a drubbing the Seahawks won by 20 points.

Those were the Seahawks we knew and loved from 2013, even if a few of those players from last year were on other teams.  Those were the Seahawks we expected through the duration of the 2014 season.

Yet, one week later, the Seahawks went down to San Diego and got whupped.  The defense couldn’t do a damn thing, and the offense struggled just enough.  Following that, the Seahawks recovered at home, defeating the Broncos.  But, we let the Broncos rally late and force overtime.  Things just didn’t look right.

Then, we had the BYE week, then an ugly win in D.C., then an ugly defeat at home to the Cowboys, followed by a total mental collapse in St. Louis.  Those were the dark times, and I’m sure you remember them well.

I bring these up not only to show how far we’ve come in such a short period of time, but to marvel and wonder at HOW we’ve come all the way back.  To a point where we’re now playing even BETTER than we did way back in week 1!  The Seahawks have won 6 of their last 7 games, but when you look closer, things hadn’t totally recovered with the flip of a switch.  Winning in Carolina was a struggle.  Beating the Raiders at home turned out to be more than we bargained for.  Even in our 21-point victory over the Giants, we were tied going into the fourth quarter!

At that point, we’d won three in a row, and it would be reasonable to think maybe we’d gotten over our hangover.  But, then we turned around and got pasted by the Chiefs in Kansas City.  Yeah, the score was pretty close, but they ran the ball down our throats.  We were minus one Mebane and things were starting to look grim for our season, especially with five of six games remaining being played inside of our division.

And then, I guess Bobby Wagner came back and all of a sudden we’re world-beaters again?  Does that even make sense to anyone?  Granted, our defense looks rejuvenated.  I just never thought I’d be looking at Bobby Wagner as the most important player on this team.  But, apparently, it’s true.

It could have been easy to overlook our previous two victories – over the Cardinals and 49ers – as us catching them at the right time.  The offenses on those two teams are struggling more now than they have at any point prior.  So, there’s something of a Chicken/Egg argument to be made.  But, after mopping the floor with the Eagles, it’s safe to say the defense is back, and this team is poised to go on a big run.

This was the final test.  OK, fine, they’ve got Mark Sanchez at the helm, so it’s kind of like this “test” was an open-book, take-home test.  But, still.  He led the Eagles to four wins, including an impressive rout in Dallas on Thanksgiving.  And the Seahawks had let arguably worse quarterbacks have pretty solid days this season (Kirk Cousins throwing for 283 yards and 2 TDs, anyone?).  Sanchez or no Sanchez, the Eagles’ offense is mighty potent, and we made them look ridiculous.  Chip Kelly had more tantrums in front of the officials than the Eagles had first downs!  If it weren’t for a bungled snap to the punter and a goofy 35-yard TD pass over one of our linebackers, the Seahawks might have shut out the vaunted Chip Kelly Eagles.

And there I was, in total awe at the majesty of their offense!  I thought they could do no wrong; that they could plug in any quarterback and drop 35 like it was nothing.  Truth be told, I came away much more impressed with what they’re doing on defense.  That front seven is legit, against the run and the pass.  It’s no cakewalk scoring on the Eagles.

Of course, that’s nothing, because truly the most impressive unit in all of football is our Seahawks defense.

My first tip of the cap goes to Byron Maxwell for being everywhere.  That dude shut down more drives yesterday than anyone else on the team!  We already knew he’s a quality cornerback on the outside, but with Tharold Simon pushing him into the nickel, he’s proven to be just as dominant wherever he’s put.  Maxwell is going to be a VERY rich man next season (unfortunately, for some other team, I have to imagine).

Speaking of Simon, congratulations are in order for the kid’s first interception of his career!  Here’s to many more, as he continues to get picked on, with Richard Sherman playing on the other side of the field.  Bobby Wagner, of course, led the team in tackles and was all over the place.  Jordan Hill lived in the backfield, registering a sack, a hit, and a couple tackles for loss.  If this guy isn’t the new Clinton McDonald, I don’t know who is.  Michael Bennett was his usual dominant self, adding another sack to his season total.  And, add Marcus Burley to the sack train with a well-timed corner blitz!

Offensively, you have to start with Doug Baldwin having himself quite a day.  5 receptions for 97 yards and a touchdown.  Jermaine Kearse had himself quite a day, even if the numbers aren’t huge.  It’s nice to see the team force him the ball a little more.  Kearse strikes me as the team’s toughest receiver to bring to the ground, so if we’re bound and determined to not throw the WR screen to Richardson or our other speed guys, might as well go with Kearse and let him pinball his way to positive yardage.

The running game as a whole gets the nod here.  Just as it’s drawn up:  you establish the run early for it to pay dividends late.  It never fails, once the Seahawks are able to lean on an opponent with a lead in the second half, chunk yardage starts falling off the bone like so much delicious barbecue.

Finally, it wasn’t quite a 300-yard passing day, but Russell Wilson went 22/37 for 263 yards and 2 TDs.  Every week, we get a little bit closer to fully clicking on offense.  This week, we were able to move the ball on nearly every drive.  Sooner or later, it’s all going to lock in and we’ll be dropping 40-bombs.

Percy Harvin: Reviewing A Human Failure

This whole Percy Harvin situation deserves more than just a single off-the-cuff missive in the hours following pure Internet anarchy.  With a game post-Harvin under our belts, I feel like it has finally started to sink in.  Still with a lot of fresh and twisted feelings boiling over, of course.

In cases like these, I always wonder what I felt at the time we first acquired someone like Percy Harvin.  Luckily for all of us, I have a blog!  A blog where I get to write down my feelings about things.  Things like:  the Seahawks trading a 1st, 3rd, and 7th round pick for Percy Harvin.  In that first of three posts about the coming of Percy Harvin, I mostly stated my concern over his health.  Seeing as he missed just about all of his first year with the team, I’d say those reservations were pretty well-founded.

Then, I started getting really excited about how great the Seahawks would be with him in the lineup.  Certainly a Glass Half Full outlook, while at the same time acknowledging how he was a head case and a diva back in Minnesota.  Finally, I wrapped up my 3-day Harvin binge with a comparison to the Deion Branch trade with New England way back when.  Ultimately, the Deion Branch trade was bad, but knowing now what I didn’t know then, is the Harvin trade worse?

The bottom line is:  when you make a deal for someone like Percy Harvin, you can’t help – as a fan – to gloss over all the negatives and play the “What If” game.  You always think YOUR team is going to succeed where others failed.  The Seahawks had the added benefit of being really, really good, and it’s ALWAYS more fun to be on a winning team than a losing one.  Finally, when you consider Pete Carroll as a head coach, you think of someone who is pretty easy to work for (compared to some bitter hard-ass like Jim Harbaugh, for instance).

Even if you were a total Negative Nellie at the time the Seahawks brought him in, you had to admit that we would’ve AT LEAST had a couple years of quality Harvin output before things went south.

I mean, how could you look at this guy and not think, “The Sky Is The Limit”?  Great run game, great run-first scheme, young quarterback on the rise, and solid players around him who should benefit from his mere presence.  PLUS, we just signed him to that huge deal; how could he not be happy for at least a couple years?  Especially when one of those years he had to have felt pretty low about himself, considering he missed almost all of it with injury.  It’s hard to second-guess your contract status when you’re injured for 100% of it; you can’t rightly think you’re worth MORE money without being a psychopath.

So, if you’re one to believe in “honeymoon phases”, and you hear about all the anger issues with Harvin not only this year, but LAST year as well, then you have to admit that there’s something seriously wrong with Percy Harvin, mentally.  Quite frankly, he’s not fit to associate with a team of any kind.

Which ultimately is what burns my ass the most.  What a fucking piece of shit!  What a worthless cuntbag of a prick!  Just because he’s fast, he thinks he can dictate terms to the people who employ him.  He thinks he can tell the coaches how to be used and when he’ll go into the game.  If you don’t cater every single fucking thing to this cocksucker, he’s either going to pout or he’s going to clock you in the face.

Make no mistake:  Percy Harvin isn’t worth the money he commands.  If you have to put up with all of his nonsense, he’s not even worth having on your team for free!  He’s not worth the roster spot, let alone the millions he thinks he deserves … and for what?  For being fast?  There are lots of fast guys in the league who don’t poison locker rooms.  Who won’t piss and moan like a fucking infant because they’re not getting the ball enough.

And, let’s face it, it’s not like he’s even that good.  If a guy is going to get injured – or fake injuries – as much as Harvin has in his career, who would you rather have:  Harvin, or an “average” receiver who suits up and plays like a man every week?  Harvin’s not a man; he’s a little child with no moral compass who doesn’t get along with others and doesn’t know how to share.  I don’t know who raised Percy Harvin, but they unquestionably failed as parents, if this is the man he has become as an “adult”.

In the end, I was no more prophetic than I was in this post, comparing Percy Harvin to a Jaguar automobile.  Yes, like a Jag, you spend way too much to get one, because you’re just so excited to be getting your dream car.  And, like any Jag owner knows, you’re selling that bitch for pennies on the dollar just to be rid of the regular maintenance involved in owning one long term.

Here’s the thing, though:  I was willing to put up with the injury concerns.  What I won’t tolerate is what we’ve learned about since the trade last Friday:  how he doesn’t get along with others and how he holds the team hostage by not going into football games.  How he essentially took himself out of that Cowboys game for God knows what reason.  That just sends me into a tailspin of rage.  Only topped by the thought of What Could’ve Been.

There are two paths you can choose to engage.  The first What Could’ve Been scenario is:  Percy Harvin comes to the Seahawks for an exorbitant price and flourishes.  It’s easy to see why the Seahawks were enticed by him, just as Seahawks fans came to believe we were getting the final ingredient to a long and fruitful reign of dominance.  If Harvin would have been willing to play ball and accept his role within the offense, it all could have been really special.  Instead, the coaches felt like they had to build everything around him, which is pretty much what you DON’T want to do.  No wide receiver is that good.  Especially no wide receiver who’s a total head-case.

The other What Could’ve Been scenario is:  What if the Seahawks never traded for him to begin with?

Well, I’ll tell you this much:  we’d still be World Champs.  That will never be taken away from us.  On top of that, there’s a good chance we could’ve kept Golden Tate as our #1 receiver.  I’m not gonna lie to you, it’s KILLING me seeing him do so well in Detroit.  He’s ours!  We found him, we cultivated his talents, and we thrived under his antics (both on and off the field).  When the Seahawks lost Golden Tate, they lost a lot of heart and a lot of the fun that comes with rooting on this team.  Beastmode is fun to root for too – and he certainly represents the identity we’ve tried to establish since he came here – but he’s a different sort of head case.  Like most head cases, when things are going well, Lynch is great to have around.  But, when the chips are down, can we count on him to continue to be the player we need him to be?  Let’s see how the rest of this 2014 season goes before I answer that.

Russell Wilson is fun to root for, but he’s more machine than man.  Doug Baldwin is great to have on the team, but he’s always so serious.  Golden Tate is just pure joy.  I hate to say it, but we’re all going to look back at losing Tate as the reason this team failed to repeat as champions.  And that has a direct correlation with the signing of Harvin to that massive contract extension.

Likewise, him signing here – and us running into that balloon payment in 2014 – resulted in our losing Chris Clemons, Red Bryant, Walter Thurmond, Clinton McDonald, and maybe a couple other guys.  Granted, you can’t hold on to everyone forever, but just knowing that we were a championship ballclub without Harvin REALLY makes this whole fiasco a kick in the crotch.  To have some of those guys – even if it’s just through this year – would have been SO MUCH better.  Especially when you look at the younger replacements we’ve brought in over the last two drafts and see how they’re not doing a fucking thing to help us maintain that championship level.

All of this falls on the shoulders of the Harvin trade and signing.  Yes, it IS easily the biggest mistake of the Pete Carroll/John Schneider collaboration.  There haven’t been a huge amount of these types of boners (the Charlie Whitehurst ordeal comes immediately to mind), but you can see a running theme:  desperation.  The smartest and best franchises never reveal a sense of desperation.  I’m sure, over the years, there have been guys the New England Patriots REALLY REALLY wanted, but they didn’t succumb to their impulses by offering the moon and the stars to get them.  Well-run organizations are on the opposite end:  they wait for great players to fall into their laps, taking advantage of desperate teams willing to unload.

Come to think of it, it’s kind of shocking that they weren’t a trade partner for the Seahawks.  This seems like JUST the type of deal a team like New England would make:  relatively low cost and no risk, as he can be cut after this season with no cap ramifications.

No doubt about it, the Vikings fleeced us like we haven’t been fleeced since the last time they fleeced us in the Steve Hutchinson deal.  I hope their search for a franchise quarterback lasts another hundred years, because Fuck The Vikings.  That trade is a fucking SAVAGING knowing what we know now.  Not only did they get three draft picks, but they got rid of a fucking irredeemable asshole.  The Seahawks got 8 mostly nondescript games of no- or low-impact on Harvin’s part, followed by a 6th round draft pick that can be bounced up to a 4th rounder if he’s on the Jets in 2015 (which, at this point, doesn’t seem TOO likely).  Unless Harvin returns to form and doesn’t drive everyone crazy in the process, while giving the Jets either a few good years of production, or a nice return in trade this off-season, I’m not willing to say we were also fleeced by the Jets, but there’s certainly that chance.  The most important thing here is:  the cancer is gone.  Now, the question remains:  is it too late to save the patient?

No one is going to come out and say that the Seahawks are better off now, without Harvin in the lineup.  But, that’s because most people can’t differentiate Harvin’s Potential from Harvin’s Reality.  Since what’s reported is only his on-field impact (and what’s discarded is how he’s a bad teammate … that is, until AFTER he’s been traded, and then all the horror stories come flooding out), all anyone can think about is the best case scenario of a healthy Harvin added to a young and talented offensive group.

But, the reality is twofold:  Harvin wasn’t bringing enough to the table to be worth the cost, and the Seahawks weren’t using him properly to facilitate him being worth the cost.  I mean, if you’re not even going to ATTEMPT to throw him the ball downfield, how do you expect him to thrive?  Or, for that matter, the offense as a whole?  Yeah, he’s better with the ball in space, near the line of scrimmage, where he can make guys miss and break long gains.  But, if teams are expecting that and only that, Percy Harvin is actually pretty easy to game plan for.  Just zone up in the middle of the field and gang tackle when he has the ball.  See, I just did it, give me a million dollars to be your defensive coordinator.

So, if you accept the reality of our situation, then yes, the Seahawks are better now than they were two weeks ago.  Did it show in that Rams game?  Sort of, as the game went on, the Seahawks’ offense really started to click.  We’ll know more as the season goes along, but I’ll tell you this much:  if we didn’t waste all that fucking time trying to build the offense around Harvin, we’d be much further ahead now than we are.

In the end, there was really no winning with that Percy Harvin deal.  He simply cost us too much in draft picks and in cap space.  The only way he would’ve been worth it is if he played all of 2013 and was a direct contributor to our world championship.  Since we largely did it without him, that really spelled doom for Harvin.

You want to know why so many Seahawks fans have turned on him so quickly and so harshly?  Because Percy Harvin did absolutely nothing to endear himself to the fans.  When you lose a year to injury, then come back in year two and do nothing for us, you’re going to be loathed for that alone.  Then, to top it all off with the stories of him fighting with teammates, and the realization that some of our favorite ex-Seahawks are out there thriving for other teams, there might not be a more hated individual in all 12th Man-ville.

Big money free agents are always at a disadvantage, because they’re always paid a premium for past accomplishments they almost never live up to.  They’re also at a disadvantage because fans automatically gravitate towards players their team drafted and nurtured.  Percy Harvin was a hired gun who meant nothing to us until he started wearing our jersey.  To win our admiration, he would have needed to contribute to our culture of winning.  Instead, he decided to create a culture of animosity and distrust.  Now, he’s gone, and in his wake we have a .500 football team with a lot of injuries and a lot of over-paid stars already not living up to their contracts.  Best case scenario is Addition By Subtraction.

Worst case scenario is:  this is just the first swirling of toilet water in a season being flushed down the drain.  Lord help us …

Looking Ahead To YOUR 2014 Seattle Seahawks

This was me last year.  I predicted the Seahawks would go 13-3, take the #1 seed in the NFC, and beat the Broncos in the Super Bowl.  Last year’s NFL season was so easy to predict, I actually managed to correctly guess 2 of the Seahawks’ 3 losses (Indy & at SF, with my lone boner being the Atlanta game).  Of course, when you’re predicting the fortunes of a team this good, it’s hard to be wrong.  Just pick the Seahawks to win every game and you’re bound to be mostly right!

These Seahawks aren’t too different from the 2013 Seahawks.  Off the top of my head (so, forgive me if I forget a few), here are the players no longer on the roster, who had at least a minor impact on last year’s championship squad:

  • Golden Tate (#1 receiver)
  • Michael Robinson (fullback)
  • Paul McQuistan (guard/tackle)
  • Breno Giacomini (starting right tackle)
  • Kellen Davis (3rd tight end)
  • Sidney Rice (receiver)
  • Michael Bowie (guard/tackle depth)
  • Chris Clemons (starting LEO defensive end)
  • Red Bryant (starting 5-tech defensive end)
  • Brandon Browner (starting cornerback)
  • Walter Thurmond (nickel cornerback)
  • Clinton McDonald (backup defensive tackle)
  • Chris Maragos (backup safety)
  • Heath Farwell (IR) (backup linebacker)

On paper, that looks like a lot.  But, it’s pretty easy to spot which players were REALLY important to our success in 2013, and which players were sort of along for the ride.

Golden Tate is obviously the biggest blow.  He was our top receiver and punt returner.  He’s playing for Detroit now and should put up monster numbers while playing alongside Calvin Johnson.  His loss is mitigated somewhat by having a fully healthy Percy Harvin.  If Harvin can play all or the majority of games in 2014, it’s pretty easy to make the argument that our passing game (and offense as a whole) should actually IMPROVE.  Yes, Tate is a good player, but Harvin is on a completely different level of greatness.

Our offensive line depth took some big hits, and that’s going to be a concern.  No doubt about it.  I’d go out on a limb and say losing Paul McQuistan is addition by subtraction, though.  He’s getting up there in age and probably shouldn’t be an everyday starter going forward.  His best position is guard, but he was also our backup left tackle last year when Okung went down.  As a tackle, McQuistan is THE WORST.  So, not having him around to tempt the coaches into starting him when Okung ultimately gets hurt again is probably for the best.

Michael Bowie was always a depth guy last year, who got some serious playing time with all the injuries we suffered.  He was going to contend for the starting right tackle spot this year – and many had penciled him in as the favorite coming into Training Camp.  But, what no one expected was Bowie coming into camp overweight and/or out of shape, as well as injured.  He was ultimately released and the starting right tackle job has been given to rookie 2nd rounder Justin Britt.  In the long run, going with Britt now hopefully will prove to be the smart choice.  But, in the short term, we’re probably going to feel the sting of losing Giacomini.  I really liked him and thought he was solid when healthy.  But, again, you can’t afford to pay everyone, and you’ve got to get younger whenever possible to keep the roster fresh and vibrant (and to be able to afford expensive extensions to your stars).  I think by season’s end, Britt will have made us all forget about Giacomini’s reign of terror.  But, in the early going, it could be rough.

No one is worried about losing Sidney Rice, because he never really impacted this roster to the extent his contract would have dictated.  Jermaine Kearse is more than capable of picking up the slack.  Michael Robinson was on his last legs, plus fullback isn’t an important position.  Ditto the third tight end spot.  So, that rounds out the losses to our offense.

Defensively, our line took a big hit.  Clemons and Bryant were both starters and were both critical to stopping opposing offenses from running the ball.  McDonald was a pleasant surprise, capable of generating good pressure on the quarterback with our second unit.  Being able to interchange our linemen so frequently ultimately helped keep everyone fresh and healthy when it came time to make our playoff run.

In their place, Michael Bennett was extended; he’ll play a bigger role.  Cliff Avril will move into the starting LEO spot.  Kevin Williams was signed as a free agent.  In his prime, Williams was one of the best defensive tackles in the league.  He’s older now, but with reduced snaps – and playing alongside the elite talent we’ve got – he should prove to at least be as effective as McDonald.

Where we’re really going to be tested is in our depth.  Last year, our second-unit defensive line featured Bennett and Avril (it was truly an embarrassment of riches).  This year, they’re starting, and we’ve got to find replacements.  Cassius Marsh is a promising rookie out of the 4th round who can play on the end and on the inside.  But, he’s been dinged up quite a bit in the pre-season, so durability is in question.  Greg Scruggs is back and healthy this year, but he didn’t show a whole helluva lot in the pre-season.  It looks like he can play both outside & inside as well, but I don’t know if he’s any good at either.  O’Brien Schofield was one of the biggest surprises in camp, as he fought off Benson Mayowa for one of the final roster spots.  Schofield was on the team last year, but didn’t get a whole lot of playing time (and didn’t really deserve a whole lot of playing time, considering the talent around him).  He was signed away by the Giants in the offseason, but they ended up backing out of the deal, worried about possible injuries.  So, the Seahawks swooped in and re-signed him to a small number; he could be the steal of the off-season!  I have to imagine he’s the backup LEO behind Avril at this point, with the potential to join our NASCAR defense and play on the same line as Avril, Bennett, and either Marsh or Williams, with Irvin coming from the linebacker spot.

No, we’re not as deep as we were last year, but it could be close enough if Schofield shows up to play.

We have similar depth issues with our secondary as well.  We ultimately lost Browner and Thurmond for long stretches late in the season last year, but we found that Byron Maxwell was more than up to the task of being the starting cornerback opposite Richard Sherman.  Maxwell is back – on the last year of his deal – so we should be okay there.  But, again, the depth has taken a hit.

With Thurmond gone, Jeremy Lane steps up.  I like Lane and think he has the potential to be as good or better than Thurmond; but, right now Lane is injured, so that’s troubling.  Tharold Simon was a rookie last year and never played thanks to injuries.  He looks to be back and healthy now (though, like Lane, he’s suffering through some nagging something or other at the moment), and he also looks capable of being another in a long line of productive outside cornerbacks.  Where we’re light is in the nickel corner spot, which is why we recently traded for Marcus Burley for a 6th round pick in next year’s draft.  I know pretty much nothing about him, but apparently he had a pretty good camp this year.  And, apparently he’s pretty fast and super athletic.

I’m less inclined to worry about the secondary than the D-Line, because our starters are intact.  And our backup safeties are top-notch, with DeShawn Shead and Jeron Johnson.  Shead, especially, can play both the safety and corner spots, so in a pinch we can totally put Shead in the nickel and be fine.

With our linebackers healthy and peaking at the right time, we should be just fine on defense.  Yes, we lost Farwell – who was our special teams captain – but we picked up Brock Coyle, an undrafted rookie, who could be Farwell 2.0.

***

So, those were the primary changes between 2013 and 2014.  Next, we’ll look at what’s the same.

When I was younger, I would’ve taken the position that:  if you’ve got a championship team, just keep that team together for as long as possible.  Indeed, the 95/96 Supersonics were a championship-calibre team (they just ran into the buzz-saw that was the greatest team of all time, with those Jordan/Pippen/Rodman 72-win Chicago Bulls).  If the 96/97 Sonics wouldn’t have tinkered so much (like signing Jim McIlvaine to a monster contract), they could’ve made serious runs at a title for the next 2-3 years.  Same goes for the 1995 Mariners.  Just keep that team together and make some moderate improvements to the pitching staff.  DON’T trade Tino Martinez and Jeff Nelson to the fucking Yankees and hand them a million championships!

But, there’s one main difference between the NBA/MLB and the NFL:  keeping the team intact for too long will ultimately kill your franchise in football.  The shelf life for good-to-great baskeball and baseball players is WAY longer than it is in football.  In the NFL, if you’re approaching 30, you’re approaching retirement.  The ideal scenario in the NFL is to get young, coach those young players into being stars, and then constantly churn about 20% of your roster every year, where you’re shipping off the older players and infusing with young talent through the draft (or among the undrafted).

Could the Seahawks have retained Golden Tate, Chris Clemons, Red Bryant, and Breno Giacomini?  Yeah, I think I can envision a scenario where we make it all work for at least one more year.  But, then we wouldn’t have gotten the team-friendly extensions for Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, and Doug Baldwin.  We wouldn’t be in a position to make Russell Wilson one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the league next year.  Getting those guys done early (not counting Bennett, who was an unrestricted free agent at the time) is supremely important (as you can see by the subsequent cornerback deals for Patrick Peterson and the like, which were higher than what we ended up giving Sherman).

Yes, there were some losses to the roster.  There will always be losses to the roster.  Teams have to make important decisions each and every year.  Next year, we’re looking at the possibility of not having Marshawn Lynch, Zach Miller, James Carpenter, K.J. Wright, Malcolm Smith, and Cliff Avril around.  I would anticipate at least a few of those players WILL be here, but that’s life in the NFL.  You never know.

Most importantly to the Seahawks chances in 2014 will be who is still around.  This is still a MONSTER of a lineup:

  • Russell Wilson (QB)
  • Marshawn Lynch (RB)
  • Percy Harvin (WR)
  • Doug Baldwin (WR)
  • Jermaine Kearse (WR)
  • Zach Miller (TE)
  • Luke Willson (TE)
  • Robert Turbin (RB)
  • Christine Michael (RB)

And those are just the skill position players!  Our offensive line is 4/5 intact (and looking MUCH improved at the guard positions, with Carpenter in the “best shape of his life” and with Sweezy having bulked up while still retaining his athleticism).  And, we’ve got a couple rookie receivers who may not make much of an impact this season, but who should prove to be important for many years to come.

Then, on defense, you’re looking at:

  • Michael Bennett (DE/DT)
  • Cliff Avril (DE)
  • Brandon Mebane (NT)
  • Tony McDaniel (DT/DE)
  • Bobby Wagner (MLB)
  • K.J. Wright (OLB)
  • Bruce Irvin (OLB
  • Malcolm Smith (OLB)
  • Richard Sherman (CB)
  • Earl Thomas (FS)
  • Kam Chancellor (SS)
  • Byron Maxwell (CB)

I’d still put that defense up against any other defense in the NFL.  Depth will be an issue, but depth is an issue pretty much everywhere, every year.  This is still a Top 5 defense unless we just get absolutely crushed with injuries.

***

Now, it’s time for my favorite part of any preview post:  predicting the schedule results.

Week 1, vs. Green Bay, 5:30pm (Thursday Game)

I go back and forth on this one.  Like, 85% of me believes this will be a comfortable Seahawks victory.  14% of me believes this will be a nailbiter of a Seahawks victory.  And, that last 1% seems to think that Green Bay can come in here, withstand all the craziness, and pull off a huge upset.

Are you kidding?  A week’s worth of build-up.  The city shutting down large areas of SoDo and Pioneer Square.  A pre-game concert.  THE UNVEILING OF THE CHAMPIONSHIP BANNER!  All of that alone would be enough to have the loudest 12th Man presence in the history of the world, but I expect there to be a hidden edge to this game.  The NFL cursed us with this game being the only home game played at night.  They’d have you believe that’s just the way it shook out, but I’m CONVINCED it’s because we keep crushing our opponents whenever we have a night game at home, and they’re tired of televising blowouts.  With this being our only chance to shine on a national stage (unless we somehow have one of our late-season games flexed), I think the 12th Man is going to take it to another level.  Look for this to be somewhere in the range of 38-17, Seahawks.

Week 2, at San Diego, 1:05pm

The schedule this year will be famous for the difficult first three games and the difficult final five games.  This has “Trap Game” written all over it.  Hangover from our season-opening win, combined with a rematch of the Super Bowl NEXT week back at home.  Considering the Chargers should be plenty good this year, I’m not calling this one a walk-over by any stretch.  In fact, I could see this being pretty high-scoring.  In the end, I think the Seahawks are able to do just enough to pull out a 33-30 victory.

Week 3, vs. Denver, 1:25pm

No chance.  No way, no how we lose this game.  I do think we’re looking at a closer contest, but that’s only because I think the Broncos’ defense has improved enough to warrant it.  Losing Wes Welker to suspension certainly hurts the Broncos.  Indeed, I think they’ll try to lean on their running game like they did in the pre-season.  How our defense responds will be key.  The Seahawks still win, but we’re looking at a 24-20 type game.

Week 4 – BYE

Bullshit.  Complete and utter bullshit.  I would’ve rather had the alternate NFL schedule that put the Seahawks on the road for three straight weeks over having a BYE in September.  For the record, NO team should have a BYE week in September.  They should all be clustered in late October and early November, to make it fair for everyone.  Either that, or break down and give every team two BYE weeks per year, because this shit is ridiculous.

Week 5, at Washington, 5:30pm (Monday Night)

If the NFL didn’t want to televise blowout Seahawks victories, they probably shouldn’t have put this game on the schedule.  Indeed, there appears to be a lot of dogs when it comes to the Monday Night slate this year; don’t know how that worked itself out, but I’d be pissed if I ran ESPN.  The Redskins don’t have a defense that can anywhere REMOTELY hang with our speed.  44-10, Seahawks victory.

Week 6, vs. Dallas, 1:25pm

This game is my wet dream.  A pass-first offense without a bona fide slot receiver and a shaky quarterback who takes too many chances?  If Richard Sherman doesn’t get his hands on at least 8 balls (interceptions, tips, etc.), I’ll be shocked.  35-17 Seahawks (and that’s only because it’s going to be 28-3 at halftime and we end up running out the clock in the second half; we could probably drop 50 on them if we tried for the full game).

Week 7, at St. Louis, 10am

The League did do us one favor with the schedule:  we’ve only got three 10am starts this year.  This is the first one.  No Sam Bradford, no win for the Rams.  Last year, we were lucky to come away from this game with a victory, needing a last-second goalline stop to preserve it.  This year, I’m expecting more of an easier go.  We’re not going to be perfect; they do still have a solid defensive line.  But, 27-13 is in order.

Week 8, at Carolina, 10am

Back to back road games starting at 10am Pacific time.  I’m already on record as saying that I think Carolina is going to struggle mightily this year.  But, this is still a road game on the East Coast, so a victory won’t come easy.  I’m looking at something like 19-9, with a LOT of field goals.  Seahawks improve to 7-0.

Week 9, vs. Oakland, 1:25pm

I like catching Oakland here.  Derek Carr will have had some bumps in the road by now, so his confidence will likely be shaken.  Their veterans on defense will be wearing down and/or injured by this point.  I’m expecting an easy victory, if maybe a sloppy one.  Still, we should take it going way, 27-6.

Week 10, vs. NY Giants, 1:25pm

Give me Eli, give me a nothing defense, and give me no weapons on offense.  Is it possible to shut out a team in back-to-back years?  I think so!  44-0, Seahawks.

Week 11, at Kansas City, 10am

Final morning game.  Kansas City is sure to come back to Earth this year, as their defense is worse and they still did nothing to improve the offense around Jamaal Charles.  Nevertheless, I got a feeling this one will be closer.  I’m looking at a 34-28 victory for the Seahawks.

Week 12, vs. Arizona, 1:05pm

There will be no repeat of last year’s fluke Cardinals victory in Seattle.  The defense is remarkably worse and Carson Palmer is remarkably a year older.  I’m sensing a 33-7 Seahawks victory.

Week 13, at San Francisco, 5:30pm (Thanksgiving)

The Seahawks will be the talk of the nation coming into this game, as their 11-0 record is the best in football.  However, their relatively tame schedule to this point (highlighted by poor seasons out of the teams they’ve played in recent weeks) will give pundits cause for concern:  is this team really as good as their record?

It will be at this point that I will give just about anything to steal a win in Santa Clara.  EVERY YEAR I keep thinking:  this will be the time.  And every year, the 49ers end up finding a way to pull it out.  I can’t remember the last time we won down there, but I’m sure it was the best day of my life.

Unfortunately, this year will be no different (prove me wrong, Seahawks!), as the underwhelming 49ers find a way to pull it out.  I’m thinking 28-24, Seahawks lose to go to 11-1.

Week 14, at Philadelphia, 1:25pm

Many pundits are eyeballing this as a defeat for the Seahawks.  The Eagles were pretty good last year; their offense is and was on point.  Could be looking at another Trap Game, as this one is sandwiched between the two games against the 49ers on our regular season schedule.

I don’t see it, though.  I think the Seahawks’ offense is the story of this game.  I’m looking at something around 44-34, Seahawks win.

Week 15, vs. San Francisco, 1:25pm

And here is the game where we kill the 49ers, like we do every time they come to town.  Nothing fancy, just making Kaepernick our bitch.  31-13, Seahawks.

Week 16, at Arizona, 5:30pm (Sunday Night)

By this point, I’m expecting to see the Cardinals in full give-up mode.  Carson Palmer will be either benched or injured, and their backup will be some lame-ass.  Their defense will still be terrible and the Seahawks will roll, 38-10.

Week 17, vs. St. Louis, 1:25pm

At this point, we’ll be 14-1 and we will have wrapped up home field advantage.  So, it’ll come down to a couple things:  how long will our starters play in this game, and how well will our backups hold the fort?

For the record, I DO think our starters will get at least some play.  My guess is, anywhere from 1 to 2 quarters.  Yes, Seahawks fans will lose their God damn minds (as, again, the Rams have the best defensive line in football, and the last thing we need is for Russell Wilson to take unnecessary hits).  I don’t think we’ll be necessarily all that sharp though.

In the end, the backups come in and they’ll get pushed around a little bit.  The Rams will make a late-game comeback, and the Seahawks will lose.  Something like 24-17.

The Seahawks will be 14-2, and in spite of the final-week defeat, will be on fire as a football team heading into the playoffs.  I think ultimately the schedule will prove to be easier than last year’s, as a lot of the teams we THINK will be good are ultimately not.  I think the 49ers start to decline, even though they’ve got enough talent to still be pretty okay.  In the end, I think the Seahawks are just too good.  They’re too talented, they’re strong at every position group, and they’ll have enough depth to push through and overcome any injuries in their way (except for the quarterback position, of course).

Yes, repeating as world champions is one of the most difficult things to do.  Hell, just winning ONE championship is one of the most difficult things to do!  But, we’re in a once-in-a-lifetime window here where the Seahawks are the best team in football.  Now, it’s time to go out and show the world just how great we truly are.

#2 – Michael Bennett

To see the full list of the Top 10 Most Important Seahawks in 2014, click here.

Sounds a little silly, doesn’t it?  Michael Bennett isn’t even the best player on his side of the ball – let alone the best player at his position in the NFL, compared to a couple other guys ranked lower on my list – but he’s #2 on the Most Important Seahawks of 2014 list.  And so, here we are.

The Seahawks definitely took a chance in re-signing Bennett in this offseason to a 4-year deal.  He was a priority, to be sure, but when you looked at our cap situation at the time – figuring there were guys in Thomas, Sherman, and Wilson (among others) who would be due to get big raises – the writing was on the wall for some of our other starters and depth guys.  What it eventually boiled down to was the Seahawks losing Red Bryant and Chris Clemons.  He’s going to have to go out there and – with another guy, making the minimum (Marsh perhaps, as a backup to Avril who will start at LEO?) – replace two starting defensive linemen who were productive members of our championship team.

But, really, it doesn’t stop there.  His contract also meant the end of guys like Clinton McDonald and Walter Thurmond.  We could have EASILY re-signed those guys to cap-friendly deals, while maybe also hanging onto guys like Bryant and Clemons for another year.  Thurmond wasn’t a starter, but he would’ve slid right back into our slot-corner role.  And McDonald wasn’t a starter either, but he was a fabulous rotation guy at D-Tackle.  So, you could argue that Bennett is really replacing FOUR guys on our defense.

Obviously, that’s not fair, because we have other, younger guys who will make this team and try to pick up some of the slack, but you can see in the decision-making that this franchise feels Michael Bennett IS that important to our success.

Technically, Bennett is going to take over the starting end spot vacated by Red Bryant.  The 5-tech.  He’ll have to set the edge against the run in our base defense, which is his added responsibility.  He often played at that side of the line last year in passing downs, so you figure his percentage of snaps will go up dramatically.  How dramatically obviously depends on who around him manages to step up and inserts themselves into that rotation.  Someone like O’Brien Schofield – if he keeps playing lights out like he has in these first three pre-season games – could insert himself into that LEO end spot (vacated by Clemons), which would push Avril down to his more-comfortable 5-tech end spot on passing downs, thus pushing Bennett inside to mash against the guards of the league.

Michael Bennett’s value is obviously in his versatility.  He can play both end spots as well as inside and get good push from everywhere.  That’s huge.  These guys don’t grow on trees, so when you find one – like we have with Bennett – you do just about whatever it takes to keep him on your roster.  With him and Avril and Schofield and Mebane/Williams, our pass rush shouldn’t suffer whatsoever from where it was last year.  Remember, this wasn’t the best pass rush in the league; the Seahawks tied for 8th in sacks.  But, of course, you can’t quantify a pass rush’s effectiveness exclusively on sacks.  This line got in the quarterback’s face with regularity, forcing quarterbacks to throw early or change their arm angles.  If we can be AS effective as we were last year, I’d be a VERY happy man.

The key will be the run defense.  With the loss of Bryant, this line got a lot smaller against the run.  Granted, we theoretically CAN run out a jumbo package – with Mebane and Williams on the inside and McDaniel at the 5-tech – but Bennett is your starting end and he’s going to get the majority of snaps on this line.  He’s going to need to prove his mettle at holding that side of the line down and pushing the running back inside.  From what I’ve read, Bennett is no slouch in this regard, so hopefully we won’t miss a beat.

It’s unfair to project numbers on him, so I’ll refrain.  I just want to see him healthy and wreaking havoc as always.  He did, after all, contribute to a reduction of our depth, so obviously we’re going to need to lean on him a little more than others along this line.  If he just does his thing, we should be fine.  And, as a result, his presence opens up opportunities for younger guys to come in here and make an impact.

In the short term, re-signing Bennett may make it tougher on this defensive line to play at a high level.  But, in the long run, getting younger – swapping out Bryant and Clemons for guys like Marsh and Hill and whoever else manages to make this team – will be a boon to our continued success as we push to make this a dynasty NFL fans won’t soon forget.

The Top 10 Most Important Seahawks Of 2014

Ahh lists.  Is there any more pointless way to pass the time?  If there is, I haven’t found one more enjoyable!

We’re just about to hit up what’s known as the Dog Days of Summer.  I don’t know where that phrase originates from, but when it comes to sports, the Dog Days are those days/weeks where baseball has sort of gotten stale and where we’re still a ways away from the start of football season and the MLB playoffs.  Not a lot going on.  We’re a couple weeks off from Training Camp, so I guess that’ll be something.

In the meantime, I need something to write about.  Not a lot, mind you; the Mariners are reasonably good this year, so I won’t completely abandon ship like I’ve done in the past.  What used to be a bloated, and frequently incorrect list of “most important Seahawks” has since been streamlined into a tough, gritty list of only the most crucial!  And, surely, ten players who will actually be on the ROSTER when the season starts, thereby making me look like less of a fool than I have in seasons past.

Bookmark this page, because I’m going to reveal the Top 10 over the next few weeks.  Or, you know, just keep coming back to this site every day and you’re bound to run into the next installments on the front page.

As always, my criteria for determining the “most important” Seahawks comes down to this:  how much would it hurt the team if this person was injured, or otherwise unavailable to play for an extended period of time?  It’s all subjective, so feel free to give me your top 10s in the comments.  I think we all know who number 1 is going to be, but 2-10 should be pretty interesting to debate.

  1. Russell Wilson
  2. Michael Bennett
  3. Richard Sherman
  4. Percy Harvin
  5. Earl Thomas
  6. Cliff Avril
  7. Bobby Wagner
  8. Doug Baldwin
  9. Russell Okung
  10. Kam Chancellor

Down here, we’ll get into the Honorable Mentions.  Guys who didn’t make the list, but are still rather important.  Guys like:  Marshawn Lynch.  You know, the guy who doesn’t like talking to reporters, but will gladly run and frolic around butt-ass-naked for the ESPN Body Issue.  You probably think I’m insane for not having him in my top 10.  Granted, if I was doing a Top 30, he’d probably be number 11, but this isn’t that.

The fact of the matter is, we’ve got a couple backs behind him who could carry the mail in a pinch.  Granted, they’re not as elite as Lynch, but if given a chance, I think Christine Michael could eventually be BETTER.  And, if we’re dealing with a worst-case scenario, I wouldn’t be too freaked out if Turbin had to start some games.  It’s all about the system.  And, while Turbin isn’t able to break the tackles and get the extra yards that Lynch can, he should still be solid enough to get us where we need to go.

The honorable mentions roll on with Brandon Mebane.  He’s the only true nose tackle on this roster, so losing him could be a BIG hit to our run defense and our pass rush.  This guy clogs the middle like a beast, frequently taking on two men at a time.  We’ve got other wide-bodies, but the majority of them are 3-technique tackles; we have no idea how productive they’d be lining up over center.

Our outside linebackers are some pretty good players, but unless we run into a serious epidemic, I think we’d be okay if we lost one or two to injury.  K.J. Wright is obviously the most important of the group, as he’s able to play all three linebacker positions.  You want him around in the event any of the other linebackers go down.  It’s unclear at the moment where he’ll be starting (the Seahawks have Irvin as the SAM that they’ll want to get into the games during passing downs; Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith is a natural WILL whose big play ability is something you just can’t leave on the bench for too long), but I can foresee no scenario outside of injury where Wright isn’t starting SOMEWHERE.  Keeping him healthy will be crucial, because injuries always happen, and he’s the most versatile guy on the defense.

It would be ideal to squeeze another mostly-healthy year out of Zach Miller.  I can’t imagine he’s got too many more miles left on that body, considering the pounding he has taken in his Seahawks career, frequently being our sixth lineman.  Luke Willson was by far our most productive player in the 2013 rookie class, and I think he has what it takes to be a #1 tight end for this team, but letting him play another year behind Miller certainly couldn’t hurt.  Willson will still get his playing time, he’ll have another year’s experience, and by 2015 he should be ready to take over for good.  Also, considering the question marks surrounding our third tight end, depth at the position will be of utmost importance.  Not relying completely on that depth – by keeping Miller healthy for the full slate – will be to our advantage.

An under-the-radar important player for the Seahawks is Greg Scruggs.  I may be opening myself up for ridicule, as who knows if Scruggs will make the team or not, but he showed great promise as a rookie.  Scruggs could be the young, cost-efficient pass-rushing defensive tackle we’ve been waiting for.  It would be nice to not have to keep reloading on 3-tech defensive tackles among the ranks of the 10-year veterans.  I think Scruggs – upon recovery from his 2013 season-ending injury – is poised to take a big step forward a la Clinton McDonald last year.

Finally, because I couldn’t put the entire L.O.B. and the entire offensive line in the Top 10, here I will acknowledge the depth in both areas.  Byron Maxwell will be important, as he’s starting opposite Richard Sherman.  He’s proven to be quite adept at locking down that side of the field, and he’s playing for a new contract, so it’s safe to expect a pretty big season out of him in 2014.  He’ll continue to get “picked on”, as quarterbacks opt to stay away from Sherman’s side of the ball, so let’s hope Maxwell comes back in peak physical condition.  Behind him, it appears the Seahawks have no shortage of depth options in Jeremy Lane, Tharold Simon, and whoever else emerges from the pile in Training Camp.  You don’t ever want to see a rash of injuries or suspensions in the secondary, but if it happens (like it did, sort of, in 2013), it’s nice to know we can overcome thanks to our outstanding depth.  Lose Walter Thurmond and Brandon Browner?  So what?

As for the offensive line, I’m usually of the opinion that this is the single most important part of any football team.  You need a solid offensive line to give the quarterback enough time to throw, to keep your quarterback upright and healthy, and to provide a rushing attack that will take pressure off of your quarterback, so he doesn’t have to be perfect all the time.  Then, the 2013 Seahawks went out and won the Super Bowl while losing their three best linemen to injury for huge chunks of season, and while playing with some of the lowest-rated guards in the league (James Carpenter, J.R. Sweezy, and Paul McQuistan).  Yeah, the offensive line is important, but if it’s so important, how did the Seahawks go 16-3 with a bunch of scrubs and reserves?

Tom Cable and a whole lotta talent at the skill positions.  It always helps having Lynch turn no-gains into positive rushes.  It always helps having Russell Wilson being as mobile as he is, and as accurate throwing the ball on the run.  It always helps having receivers who are able to get open in a hurry and improvise when things break down.

What 2013 showed us is that the depth at our offensive line position is better than we thought.  With Giacomini and McQuistan playing elsewhere, it’s believed there is a number of holes in 2014.  But, J.R. Sweezy isn’t going anywhere, and appears to have made a lot of strides in his first couple seasons as a starter.  Max Unger, when healthy, is a top-notch leader.  And, apparently James Carpenter is in “the best shape of his life” and also going into a contract season, so you know he’s got incentive to be his best.  The only real competition is Right Tackle, and we’ve got a two-way battle (at least) between Michael Bowie and Justin Britt.  Bowie had quite a bit of playing time in his rookie season last year, so he’s got a bit of a head start; but Britt was our 2nd round draft pick, so he’s got the higher pedigree over 7th rounder Bowie.  They appear to be neck-and-neck at the moment, so that battle will be decided in Training Camp and in the pre-season games.  Regardless, whoever loses that battle will still provide this team with excellent depth options in the event of injuries or ineffectiveness throughout the season.

There are lots more guys who deserve recognition – and I’m sure they’ll get it as the weeks and months go by – but for now, let’s move on to the top 10.  Number ten will be posted in the coming day(s).