It’s Time For The Seahawks To Face Up To What Russell Wilson Can & Can’t Do

Russell Wilson is 32 years old. 2021 will be his tenth season in the NFL, following a full four years in college. As has been discussed previously – but hasn’t been made a big-enough deal of – he’s no longer a spring chicken. Yes, he can still run – he’s run for over 4,500 yards in his NFL career, including 513 in 2020 – but he can’t escape like he used to. It used to be pretty rare when a defensive lineman brought him down in the open field; now it’s happening regularly. He isn’t able to juke guys and get around them as much as before. It’s father time! He is, and always will be, undefeated.

It took a few years before the league came to terms with the fact that Russell Wilson is a quality pocket passer. We saw what he was capable of in the latter half of 2015, when he put it all together and shredded the league with his arm. That’s been the version of Russell Wilson we’ve been trying ever-since to recapture. Over the last half-decade, Wilson has been more of a pocket passer, and the results have been great. Yet, every year after his rookie season, he’s been sacked a MINIMUM of 40 times; he’s almost always at or near the top in all of football. That can’t continue. Not with his aging body and slowing legs.

It makes sense, though. While the Seahawks’ offensive line has been better the last few years, it has never TRULY been great (and some seasons, it’s been among the very worst in the game). And, to be honest, I don’t think the O-Line has EVER been particularly good at pass protection since Pete Carroll joined the organization; he likes to run the ball, he wants guys who can make that happen, to the detriment of our quarterback’s safety. We’ve been able to manage thanks to Wilson’s legs and his ability to make plays out of thin air. Yet, even at his most fleet-of-foot, he’s still been knocked on his ass more than just about anyone else over the life of his NFL career.

With Shane Waldron as our new offensive coordinator, the hope is that the Seahawks’ offense will look a lot more like the Rams’ offense. If it works out the way it should, this might be the smartest hire by Pete Carroll since he decided to hitch his wagon to John Schneider as General Manager.

The Rams specialize in lots of running and lots of play action passing. The Rams love to run a wide variety of plays out of similar-looking pre-snap sets, to better fool opposing defenses and keep them on their toes just a fraction of a second longer (that fraction is all the difference you need in the NFL).

The Rams also do what the Seahawks have been completely incapable of doing – except for that brief run in 2015 – get the ball out of their quarterback’s hands quickly. Jared Goff, for all his faults, has yet to be sacked more than 33 times in a season (and other than that one year, he’s never been sacked more than 25 times since he became a full-time starter). Imagine what the Seahawks could do if we were able to shed TWENTY sacks from Wilson’s body every year!

While the O-Line – and its construction by the people in charge – deserves its share of the blame, just as much should be placed on the scheme itself. Yes, Russell Wilson is one of the best deep-ball passers in the NFL. But, taking so many shots also comes with a lot more risk: holding the ball a lot longer, waiting for guys to get open. If those guys end up covered, that leaves Wilson trying to find other alternatives; it’s in that amount of time where the pocket usually collapses, leaving Wilson either running for his life, or cowering under the combined weight of multiple linemen closing in around him. If Wilson is forced to get the ball out quickly – by completing more short and intermediate crossing routes – then that’s less on his shoulders. Taking some of the decision-making off of his plate should be only to the team’s benefit. Wilson is always going to want to make the big highlight play; eliminating that as an option in favor of safer, less-sexy passing plays, should help us in that almighty metric of 3rd down conversion percentage.

And, while Wilson is slower, he’s not yet a total statue. Tom Brady has made a career out of quick passing, but he can’t run for shit unless it’s a quarterback sneak that only needs to get one yard! With Wilson’s legs – and the Rams’ style of offense that loves to feature designed quarterback roll-outs – the Seahawks should be able to take advantage of those plays far better than the Rams ever could with Goff; and, to his credit, Goff was good-enough on those types of plays as it was. These plays can still allow for Wilson to gain yards with his legs, but it should also drastically reduce the number of “playground” type plays where Wilson has to escape danger and throw long on the fly. These types of plays dried up CONSIDERABLY over the last half of the 2020 season, because of Wilson’s decline and the league catching up to what we’ve been doing all along. So, maybe it’s time to put those plays to rest in favor of something new.

I hope Waldron is able to fully implement the Rams’ style of offense, I hope the Seahawks have players who can adapt to it, and I hope everyone is able to buy in and let the new guy run the show (I’m looking at you, Meddling Pete Carroll). Word on the street is, Brian Schottenheimer either chose to keep, or was forced to keep, about 70% of Darrell Bevell’s playbook during the previous offensive coordinator change-over. That better not happen here. It’s time for the Seahawks to make wholesale changes. I don’t care how difficult it’s going to be with COVID-19 and the lack of in-person instruction. Make this new scheme easy to understand on paper, so when we finally can congregate together later in the summer, we’ll be off and running and ready to dominate in 2021.

The Seahawks Hired Shane Waldron To Be Their Offensive Coordinator

We briefly interrupt our Mariners 2021 pre-season coverage to bring you an announcement: the Seahawks did a thing!

The Brian Schottenheimer era was never dull, even if he himself was never all that exciting. I seem to remember being a bit higher on him as a hire than most Seahawks fans (there was A LOT of dread in the Pacific Northwest about him bringing this offense to new lows), as throughout his coordinating career he’d been saddled with mediocre-to-bad quarterbacks; until he met up with Russell Wilson, he’d never really had a chance to show what he could do. And what happened? In Schotty’s three years, he led three of the eight highest scoring offenses in franchise history; including two of the top three (including the number one overall in 2020).

But, obviously, things soured over the final half of this past season. I wonder if it’ll ever come out exactly what happened when he and the Seahawks parted ways. I still have a hunch that Pete Carroll gave him a My Way Or The Highway speech and Schotty took the highway on out of town. Considering Schottenheimer’s stock was as low as it gets when he was originally hired, I’d love to get a peek inside his head to see if this was some sort of power play gone awry; that either he was angling to be the Head Coach In Waiting here, or if he wanted more autonomy over the offense so he could move on to be promoted somewhere else.

Anyway, regardless, after a 12-4 division-winning season, the Seahawks were suddenly on the hunt for a new offensive coordinator. And there were rumors aplenty! Retreads and up-and-comers, and in-house candidates all across the football map. Whenever this happens, I try to stay out of the fire and look on from a distance; I don’t like doing a lot of research into candidates who aren’t likely to be hired for my team. So, I’ll admit, Shane Waldron – Passing Game Coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams since 2018 – wasn’t on my radar (then again, you could fill a book with the guys who weren’t on my radar).

What is a Passing Game Coordinator? Well, if you’re cynical like me and think it’s just a meaningless promotion in-name-only, you’re not far off! If you’re also cynical like me, it’s easy to be skeptical when we’re talking about hiring someone from the Rams. The Sean McVay Coaching Tree hasn’t exactly been full of ripe, blossoming fruit; it’s kind of been full of worms and tent caterpillars. McVay has been a hotshot ever since he went to L.A. He’s a brilliant offensive mind and his teams were pretty unstoppable for a while. Obviously, I think a lot of that has to do with him being the one calling the plays. On top of that, the Rams also have an offensive coordinator in Kevin O’Connell. That means, not only does their O.C. not call the plays, but we just hired the guy THIRD in command of that offense (who, again, also never called plays).

What we’re hoping for, I guess, is that some of the McVay Magic rubbed off on Waldron. I have my doubts about that, but we’ll see. It’s discouraging that he was already on staff coming into 2020 (as the passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach) when they plucked O’Connell from the scrap heap (makes you wonder how much smoke McVay was blowing up his ass in that article). There’s a lot we don’t know about his role with the Rams, but I can’t imagine he had a ton of say about the direction of the offense when he had two guys ahead of him in the pecking order to answer to.

Where I’m encouraged is with the offense he could be bringing over from the Rams. We don’t know how he’ll be at calling plays; I’m sure that will be trial by fire and there will be a big learning curve for him to overcome. But, from a scheme standpoint, I could see things getting a lot more creative, based on what the Rams have been able to do the last few years (with, mind you, an inferior quarterback with no mobility whatsoever). The Rams run the style of offense I think a lot of Seahawks fans have been clamoring for. They still run the ball quite a bit – which I know is near and dear to Pete Carroll’s heart – but they also build off of that by running tons of Play Action, and that is quite frankly what the Seahawks do best, and what they haven’t done NEARLY enough, throughout the run of Russell Wilson’s career, and in particular in 2020. The Seahawks should be running Play Action more than ANY other team in the league! It should be an obnoxiously-high percentage of our passing plays!

What I also like about what the Rams have done is they make sure to have options at all levels of the passing game. It’s not just deep balls and check-downs; they have been able to scheme receivers open at the intermediate level to a degree you just don’t see outside of Kansas City and maybe a couple of other teams. It’s something that I thought Darrell Bevell didn’t get enough credit for during his time here (with Doug Baldwin being a big part of that, knowing where to get open in various zones), and it’s something that I thought has been sorely lacking since Schottenheimer was hired.

The point is – as always – it’s far too soon to know if this is a good or bad hire. We’ll find out. Sean McVay was just some relative nobody before he took the football world by storm. I will say this, I’d rather have second- and third-wave hires from the McVay Coaching Tree than some of those first-wave guys (many of whom have already gone on to failure). Shane Waldron has had a lot of time working under McVay, so if indeed there is any magic to rub onto him, it’s more likely it would have after four seasons than it would be after one.

What ultimately blows my mind is how people started to question whether or not this was a good opportunity for someone. There are only (I would assume) 32 offensive coordinator spots in the NFL. This isn’t an easy job to earn! It’s often a stepping stone to being a head coach; if that’s your ultimate goal, I would think being ANY team’s O.C. and primary play-caller is high on your list. So, that alone cuts through most of that argument. But, when you compare the Seahawks to the rest of the NFL, look at what you have: one of the longest-tenured head coaches and general managers (lots of stability and a culture of winning already established); one of the best quarterbacks in the game; a duo of receivers that rank among the best in the league today, with lots of complementary talent around them to help make this unit hum; and it was a Top 10 scoring team as recently as this past season! Who wouldn’t want to work with this group? How many better opportunities are out there, either available right this moment, or exist PERIOD? When you look at all the dysfunctional franchises in the league, when you hear reports of all these quarterbacks potentially changing teams, when you know of all the instability built into the NFL based on everyone’s high expectations of winning at all costs, it’s asinine to me why anyone would turn this job down.

If that ultimately boils down to Pete Carroll and his meddling ways, well … then maybe we have bigger problems here than I realized.

Seahawks Death Week: Pathetic Offense Is Fucking Pathetic

I don’t know why this should’ve been a surprise to anyone. The Seahawks’ offense has SUCKED for more than half a season! No one gives one single flying fuck that this team set a franchise record for points scored in a season; when you’ve done most of that against the very worst defenses, and look totally inept against anyone with a pulse, then you’ve done nothing impressive whatsoever.

I’m always baffled when I hear Brian Schottenheimer is up for various head coaching opportunities. Why?! Because he rode Russell Wilson’s coattails to a divisional title? Fat lot of good that did for us. What looked like an impressive offensive turnaround early this season proved to ultimately be a one-trick pony.

Turns out the Seahawks were great at moving the football and scoring points when no one expected them to throw very often. Then, when defenses made just the SLIGHTEST adjustment, we couldn’t figure out any way to counter, other than turn back into a pumpkin and return to a stagnant, do-nothing offense that runs the ball continually into a brick wall, while taking futile shots down field.

I don’t care how good the Rams’ defense is. We’ve faced great defenses in years past. Hell, we used to go up against a GENERATIONAL defense in practice for a bunch of years (during the L.O.B. era), and yet – with Darrell Bevell at the helm, mind you – we still managed to do SOMETHING on offense against these types of teams!

On Saturday, we did nothing. We managed to put up 13 points for most of the game, until a meaningless touchdown when we were down by 17 late in the fourth quarter. How the hell do you suck THIS HARD on offense with Russell Wilson, Tyler Lockett, D.K. Metcalf, and Chris Carson?!

HOW DO YOU NOT HAVE A FUCKING GAMEPLAN?!

Either make D.K. Metcalf a focal point and scheme ways to get him open and take shots down field on 50/50 balls, or fucking use all the other weapons at your disposal and make him a fucking decoy. But, this in-between shit where you try to spread the ball around is NOT FUCKING WORKING!

WHY DOES JACOB FUCKING HOLLISTER HAVE THE SECOND-MOST TARGETS ON THE TEAM?! Are you FUCKING kidding me?! You know how many catches and yards he had on his five targets? Try 0 for fucking 0. Meanwhile, Tyler Lockett – the guy we SHOULD have fucking targeted – had only 4 balls thrown his way. That guy catches everything that comes near him, and yet we’re treating him like he’s worse than a third string fucking tight end.

WHERE THE FUCK WAS GREG OLSEN?! Where’s this old fucking man who we just HAD TO HAVE to the tune of fucking $7 million? Not even a target. I mean, are we sure the front office knows what the fuck it’s doing? Seems to me you wouldn’t have to make so many panic trades for quality veterans if you stopped wasting your fucking money on over-the-hill has-beens.

And finally, WHAT THE FUCK with this offensive line?! Are they ALL 90 years old with bad knees?! This was supposed to be the game where we got back to basics and gave our quarterback a chance to make some plays. Brandon Shell had SO MANY WEEKS to get healthy! Yet, he looked like the worst fucking player on the field, getting beaten repeatedly. Ethan Pocic was a fucking DISASTER! Mike Iupati better fucking retire before he has to live the rest of his life in a fucking wheelchair, because he CANNOT stay on the field. And, if you’re hoping for too many more good years out of Duane Brown, I’d think again. I think he’s toast as soon as 2021, and if we don’t have a replacement lined up soon, we’re going to be in for a rude awakening the likes of which we haven’t seen since Walter Jones’ final season.

Arguably, the worst part of this game wasn’t the offense at all. As I said up top, that should’ve been expected with what we’ve seen over the last two-plus months. No, the worst part is my worst nightmares came to fruition. We couldn’t stop the Rams’ running game. Jarran Reed wasn’t healthy (and apparently mostly played on passing downs?), and we had no one who could slow down Cam Akers (28 carries, 131 yards and a TD). The Rams’ backup quarterback did, indeed, get the start, but was knocked out of the game after a vicious blow to the helmet on a designed run, which meant we had a benched Jared Goff and his busted hand for most of this one. And we STILL couldn’t stop their run! True to form, the Rams wanted nothing to do with Goff trying to win it for them, and somehow we obliged their ‘fraidy-cat offensive scheme by giving up huge chunks of yards on almost every run (Goff had 155 passing yards on 9/19 passing). It was completely absurd.

Yet, even with how miserable that was, if the offense could’ve done ANYTHING, we might’ve prevailed. Aaron Donald – the best football player alive – even had to exit the game early in the second half with a likely rib injury, and we STILL couldn’t stop their front four!

And, don’t even get me started on how bad Russell Wilson has been for most of this season. Shove that MVP trophy out of your mind, because you are NOT worthy. I don’t know why we don’t put more emphasis on check-downs, but against defenses like this – especially in the middle of the game, after you’ve already punted multiple times – you have to take what they give you! Look at, again, literally every game from the L.O.B. era! What did opposing teams do? They dinked and dunked! Why are we smashing our fucking faces against a brick wall trying to take nothing but deep shots down the field!

Russell Wilson: YOU ARE NOT PATRICK FUCKING MAHOMES!

THIS ISN’T THE KANSAS CITY CHIEFS OFFENSE! ANDY REID ISN’T WALKING THROUGH THAT FUCKING DOOR! STOP IT WITH THIS SHIT AND FIND AN OFFENSE THAT FUCKING WORKS!

I’m so fucking angry and revolted by this fucking franchise, that if you thought there was going to be any silver lining posts during Seahawks Death Week, think a-fucking-gain. The Seahawks are in fucking shambles. There are over-paid wastes of space on this team, there are some difficult cuts that NEED to be made, there are free agents we need to try to retain, and OH BY THE FUCKING WAY, the salary cap is going to be reduced considerably thanks to a fucking pandemic that the American government severely bungled.

So, you know, we have that to look forward to. If you thought 2021 was going to be better than 2020, you’re a fucking royal idiot. It’s only going to get worse and worse, every fucking year, until by the grace of fucking God we’ll all be fucking dead.

Fuck the Rams and fuck you too.

I’m Expecting Nothing From Josh Gordon On The Seahawks

I think we can all agree that this is a no-risk move for the Seahawks, in making a waiver claim on Josh Gordon. At least, no risk that’s obvious at this time. The mind can imagine just about anything happening that might be a POTENTIAL risk, but let’s live in the real world for a moment.

Feel free to peruse Gordon’s Wikipedia page if you want a refresher course on all his problems; I’m not really too interested in all of that. Drugs are apparently high on the list, as well as some mental health stuff? I dunno, I’m sticking to football on this one.

Josh Gordon in 2013 was the best wide receiver on the planet. There’s just no debate. In a 2-game stretch that year – with the likes of Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell throwing to him – he caught 24 balls for 498 yards and 3 touchdowns, which I have to believe (without doing any research whatsoever) is the best 2-game performance by a receiver in NFL history. Just imagine if he’d had Tom Brady throwing to him; he probably would’ve broken the universe!

Then, the problems, starting with an abbreviated 2014. He was out of football for 2015-2016, then came back for another abbreviated season in 2017. In 2018, the Browns finally had enough and he was shipped to New England for real this time (and not just in our 2013 dreams), where he was fine. At times he sparkled like the Josh Gordon of old, but he’s also now LITERALLY old(ish, at 28, but who knows how many years he’s taken off of his career with his troubles?), and he also had to leave the NFL for a spell before returning earlier this season.

With a knee injury, and I’m sure just being tired of all the bullshit, the Patriots finally had enough. They traded for Mohamed Sanu and that was all they needed to release Gordon. He’s apparently passed the Seahawks’ physical over the weekend, and all signs point to him at least getting in the mix as early as this week.

My reservations for this move start with the fact that if the Patriots couldn’t make it work with Gordon, what makes anyone think it’s going to work in Seattle? He’s not the explosive mega-athlete he once was in Cleveland, so is he really an improvement over D.K. Metcalf, for instance? We KNOW he’s not better than Tyler Lockett, and if he’s also not going to take snaps from Metcalf, then that means we brought in a #3 receiver to take over for David Moore or Jaron Brown.

Fine. I’ll buy that.

I believe that Josh Gordon is better than David Moore and Jaron Brown. That’s wonderful. Even with the Seahawks needing to pass more this year (to keep up with their wretched defense), we’re still not the Chiefs or Texans or Bucs. We don’t usually throw THAT much. If we’re talking about a guy who’s getting targets/touches behind Carson, Lockett, and Metcalf; how many targets/touches are we talking about? 3-4 per game? How much of a difference could he possibly make?

We’re also talking about a roster that – not for nothing – currently sits 8 wide receivers deep make that 7 wide receivers deep, with the waiving of Greg Jennings yesterday, with only 2 true tight ends. I don’t think you’re bringing him in to be the next Will Dissly, because I don’t think he really blocks all that much. And he’s certainly not coming here to play special teams. So, unless we run into a spree of injuries at the position, again this seems like a needless move at a position of relative strength (wide receiver is always going to get a boost with a quarterback like Wilson, no matter who he’s throwing the ball to).

Who knows? Maybe I’m being overly negative. Maybe those 3-4 catches per game will make all the difference. Or maybe it won’t matter on a per-game basis, but maybe he makes a clutch catch here or there in crunch time. It doesn’t have to be Gordon coming in and catching 200 yards per game; his impact could be a lot smaller in scope, but no less important in our overall goal of making the Super Bowl.

What I do know is that this whole experiment is a ticking time bomb. I feel like the best case scenario is he plays for the Seahawks in 7 more regular season games, plus the playoffs, as a small contributor to a well-oiled machine of an offense. The worst case scenario is he never plays a down; the Seahawks try him out, he can’t pick up the playbook, he reinjures himself, or he needs another leave of absence to get his head straight. I don’t think he’ll be a Percy Harvin-level distraction where he’s punching out teammates. My hope is that he’s not a different type of Percy Harvin-esque distraction.

Maybe this was more due to Darrell Bevell not being a good enough play-caller, or there not being a consistent voice in the offensive scheme when he was paired with Tom Cable, but when the Seahawks had Harvin and later Jimmy Graham, they never could make the offense work. Either they spent too much time trying to force-feed the ball to one guy (Harvin), or they flat out refused to throw the ball to the other guy in the red zone (Graham). When the offense faltered, it was always because the Seahawks didn’t know how to properly incorporate their new superstar acquisitions.

Fortunately, in this case, I don’t believe Gordon is that level of superstar. He’s fine. As I said before, he’s a #3 on this team, and maybe with the low stakes and low expectations, he can thrive in such a scenario. Being just one of the guys, as opposed to the one everyone is counting on to make every single big play.

What I absolutely DON’T want to see is this hindering D.K. Metcalf’s progress. Metcalf is the future; Gordon is a half-year rental. Metcalf is coming off of his best game as a pro and needs to continue to get opportunities to thrive with our quarterback. Gordon needs to be content with taking over for David Moore, or otherwise chipping in on some sub-packages.

I generally prefer to be pleasantly surprised over getting my hopes up only to be let down later. I think this is the perfect time to keep my expectations as low as possible. I wish Josh Gordon all the luck in the world, as long as he helps the Seahawks win football games.

The Seahawks Haven’t Changed One Bit

When it’s all said and done, when Pete Carroll and John Schneider move on and Russell Wilson is retired or clinging to life with another franchise, it’ll be interesting to look back on this era of Seahawks football. We’re heading into the tenth season with the same regime – the eighth with Wilson at quarterback – and already it feels like forever in NFL terms.

So long, in fact, that it feels like there have been multiple phases within this one overarching Seahawks Cinematic Universe under Carroll & Schneider.

  • 2010-2012 – Building A Champion
  • 2013-2016 – Championship Contenders
  • 2017-Present – The Great Re-Build

But, in reality, we’re talking about one long, sustained period of greatness. Sure, in 2010 we were coming off of one of the worst years in franchise history, and that team (as well as 2011) only won 7 games. But, it was good enough for a division title and a playoff victory. Indeed, in the last nine years, the Seahawks have made the playoffs seven times and won the division three times (to go along with the two Super Bowl appearances and the one title). It’s actually pretty remarkable how quickly Schneider and Carroll were able to turn things around. The 2010 team was far from great, but it was leaps and bounds better than 2009; and while we failed to make the playoffs in 2011, I would argue that team was even better.

As this is a time of year, generally, where we focus on the draft that was, it’s interesting to take a look back at that as well. The 2010 draft was a real anomaly for this team. We had two high first round draft picks and actually used them on PLAYERS, as opposed to trading down and racking up a bunch of bites at the apple. While the year-to-year strategies have evolved, the overall vision for the team has never wavered: Build Through The Draft.

What’s the best way to build a championship contender? That’s the question we keep asking ourselves, to be answered in wordy, meandering thinkpieces such as this one you’re reading right now. There are lots of different answers, but they all harken back to the same thing: the draft. You gotta get lucky in the draft and hit upon a bunch of stars at a variety of positions (almost always including quarterback). Having a cheap, cost-controlled core, supplemented with a smattering of talented, expensive veterans, is generally the way to go.

You could argue that the Seahawks got away from that ethos a little bit from 2013-2016, with a number of questionable trades and free agent signings that we don’t need to rehash again here. But, I would argue that the ethos never changed, but our luck in the draft ultimately failed us.

You could also argue that the Seahawks have changed in what they prioritize. In the last couple years, as Bevell and Cable were fired after not being able to properly utilize the talent they were given (Bevell, in his use of Percy Harvin and Jimmy Graham) and not being able to formulate a competent offensive line on the cheap (Cable, with his struggles from 2015-2017), there’s been a clear shift in where the money has been spent. This is the NFL, so what do I always say? There’s only so much money to go around, and you can’t pay everyone. That was ultimately Seattle’s downfall following the 2014 season. But, what probably doesn’t get said enough about the NFL is that you have to constantly strive to get younger. This team was stacked with world-beaters from 2012-2014 and we looked like an unstoppable juggernaut; less than a decade later, maybe three guys remain? With the snap of a finger, this team got old, this team got injured, and this team desperately needed an infusion of young blood.

But, the strategy all along, starting in 2010, was to save money where you felt you were strongest, from a coaching and scouting perspective. In Tom Cable’s tenure here, that meant going cheap on the O-Line (relatively speaking). Sure, Max Unger got himself a second contract, and Russell Okung was making high first round draft pick money (pre-CBA, where the money was good and inflated), but around them the Seahawks filled in with young guys and castoffs from other teams. Converted defensive tackles, converted tight ends, and the like. As those talented (and expensive) linemen started to move on, the Seahawks tried doubling down on that strategy by going even younger, even cheaper, even more castoffy. Culminating in a 2017 team where the leading rusher was the quarterback and the team had only one touchdown by a designated running back. That followed a 2016 season where Wilson played injured throughout because that same O-Line couldn’t protect him for shit.

Of course, we justified that form of team building by pointing to all the other areas making money at the top of the market. Quarterback, cornerback, safety, linebacker, defensive line, even running back for a spell while Lynch was still here. Something had to give. We trusted Cable, and it turned out to be a mistake.

In learning from that mistake, Cable is gone, and now the Seahawks are paying significant money on the O-Line again. Duane Brown, for an aging veteran, is making a pretty penny. Justin Britt was among the top centers in the game from a salary perspective when he signed his second deal. Ifedi is a first rounder entering the final year of his rookie deal and looks like a contender for a big contract (elsewhere, most likely). Fluker got a nice bump in pay after a 2018 prove-it performance. And, more draft picks have been utilized on this group than any other during Schneider’s time here.

But, things haven’t necessarily gotten much better from a salary cap perspective. Russell Wilson is the top of the quarterback market. Bobby Wagner is looking to reclaim the top middle linebacker spot. There’s a smattering of highly paid guys here and there, except for one group that ranks among the cheapest in the league: the secondary.

This jives with the team’s M.O. all along. Instead of banking on a supposed guru of an O-Line coach, the team is relying on their ability to draft and coach up cornerbacks and safeties. I would argue the gambit is just as risky. Especially in a year where, as I noted yesterday, the pass rush isn’t really up to snuff.

Back when the team was cheaping out on the O-Line, I could defend the logic because our quarterback was one of the better runners in the league, and proved that his elusiveness was an asset as he’s one of the better passers outside the pocket. But, over time, Wilson has shown to be an even more lethal pocket passer, and so creating an actual POCKET became more important. Having him play through a number of injuries in 2016 was the final nail in the coffin, and when the line still struggled in 2017, something drastic needed to be done.

Now, with Wilson entering his 30’s, priorities change. It makes zero sense to cheap out on the O-Line because he’s only going to get slower and easier to tackle as he gets older. But, even if he was his younger, spry self, my thinking on this topic has evolved once again.

The three areas where I would argue you not only SHOULD go with younger, cheaper options, but it would be criminally negligent for you to spend significant dollars, are linebacker, running back, and tight end. Which is why I’m loathe to make Bobby Wagner the highest paid inside linebacker in football (the counter to my reservations is that he’s Bobby Fucking Wagner and he literally IS the best inside linebacker in football, and the drop-off from him to a younger guy would decimate this defense). After those three spots, I would argue the next place a team should go cheap is the secondary.

I know that’s sacrilege, what with the Legion of Boom’s popularity around these parts, but it’s true. And it makes sense, if you think about it, more than it does the O-Line. With the way the college game is going, fewer and fewer offensive linemen are coming straight to the league and being productive starters right away. Those guys need to be coached up (as you’ve seen from the litany of ex-Seahawks who’ve gotten paid elsewhere, from Carpenter to Sweezy to Glowinski to soon-to-be Ifedi). With apologies to the L.O.B., however, with the secondary you need better athletes and a quality scheme. Offensive linemen tend to age like a fine wine; cornerbacks and safeties tend to start losing a step as they approach their Age 30 seasons. By the time they get to their second and third contracts, they’re already not really worth it. Unless they’re bona fide Hall of Famers like Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman. But, those guys don’t grow on trees.

My point is, I’d rather have a reliable offensive line and a huge question mark in the secondary, than the other way around. Now, ideally, you’d find a way to mask your team’s weakness (by, for instance, getting after the opposing team’s quarterback on a regular basis), but if there’ one area on the Seahawks I’d put my money on it improving dramatically from year to year, it would be with the secondary. Because of that track record with drafting and coaching guys up.

The secondary is young, it’s hungry, and maybe most importantly, it’s healthy. Flowers and Griffin look like solid starters. McDougald has already proven himself capable at either safety spot. Thompson and Hill are in their third years (second seasons as regular players on defense) and the team brought in a couple more defensive backs in this last draft to battle for jobs. It’s not out of the question for this weakness to actually be a strength when it’s all said and done.

Of course, even top notch secondaries can get burned by a lack of a pass rush.

The Seahawks Just Can’t Beat The Chargers … Or Can They?

The Seahawks are 4-1 in their last 5 games, and with every passing week, they impress me more and more.  Heading into this year, my opinion of this team was as low as it can get.  So low, in fact, that they weren’t even BAD enough for me!  An 8-8 season is a million times worse than a completely winless season, because not only do you miss out on the playoffs, but you also have a crappy draft slot.  Starting 0-2 did nothing to dissuade me; it just reinforced my toxic beliefs.

Then, we beat the Cowboys in our home opener.  Okay, fine, but who are they?  The Cowboys are just as mediocre!

Then, we went on the road and barely beat the Cardinals, who were giving their rookie quarterback his first start.  A win is a win is a win and all, but we made Josh Rosen look like the second coming of, I dunno, Andy Dalton!  He’s since proven that he’s pretty dreadful (so far, in his very young NFL career at least), so our victory doesn’t look any more impressive.

Following our return to .500, we played the Rams super tough at home.  Now THAT was an eye-opening performance!  That loss was probably the best game we played all year.

Finally, we went to London, killed the Raiders, had our BYE, and followed that up with a dominating performance on the road in Detroit.  That’s three consecutive great games by the Seahawks, who have taken their new rushing-focused identity and (ahem) run with it.

All the comparisons to the 2012 season are absolutely justified.  The difference here is that our quarterback is no longer a rookie; he’s one of the best in the league (by the same token, our defense isn’t exactly riddled with future hall of famers like it was back then, but that’s neither here nor there).

It seems like every week, the challenge gets ramped up just a little bit more.  Playing the Rams tough is one thing.  Going all the way to London and crushing it is another step in our progression.  And, earning a comfortable road victory against a playoff hopeful like the Lions is even better.  Now, we’ve got the Chargers, who are just a little bit better than the Lions, before attempting to tackle yet another even-tougher task next week against the Rams (this time down in L.A.).

In recent years, if you told me to pick one team that the Seahawks absolutely can’t beat, I would’ve told you it’s the Chargers.  I don’t totally understand where this thought process came from, because now that I actually look back on this rivalry, there isn’t a ton of evidence to support this belief.

These two teams have played one another exactly once in the regular season in the Russell Wilson era.  That was in week 2 of the 2014 season.  We were at the height of our powers (maybe that’s part of it), the game was down in San Diego (in 100+ degree weather), and we lost 30-21.  Aside from our playoff defeats, that one stands out above everything else as a real eye-opener for me.  Knowing what we know now, the 2014 Seahawks went back to the Super Bowl and were oh-so-close to repeating as NFL champs.  We were smack dab in the middle of our would-be Dynasty run … and we absolutely got clobbered.

Russell Wilson was okay; he didn’t turn the ball over and he threw a couple touchdowns.  The running game was abandoned early and often, which was the usual Darrell Bevell M.O. in our post-title years.  We were pretty bad – but not totally inept – with a 3/9 conversion rate on 3rd/4th downs.  It was just one of those games that the Chargers controlled, and no matter what we did on defense, we couldn’t adjust to make the critical stops.  They were 10/17 on third down, and held the ball for over 42 minutes in the T.O.P. battle.  Rivers was 28/37 with 284 yards and 3 TDs (all to Antonio Gates, who absolutely shredded us all game); and in spite of 3 Chargers fumbles, none of them were recovered by the Seahawks.  It became – in my mind, at least – The Blueprint for how to beat the Seahawks at our very best:  dink and dunk, convert 3rd downs, score touchdowns, take care of the football, and put it away late before Russell Wilson has a chance to work his magic.

Remember, this was in a period where the Seahawks NEVER lost by more than 1 score.  So, a 9-point defeat really stands out!  But, it’s just one game.  Why have I built this team up so big in my mind?

On top of that one regular season game, there have been 5 pre-season games between the Seahawks and Chargers in the Russell Wilson era.  Obviously, Philip Rivers doesn’t play a lot in these games, so wins and losses don’t really matter.  Let’s take a quick look at how the Chargers fared with Rivers in the game in those meaningless contests:

  • 2013 – 1 drive, 13 plays, 74 yards, 7:25, field goal
  • 2014 – 1 drive, 9 plays, 37 yards, 4:51, punt
  • 2015 – 1 half (5 drives), 3 punts, 2 field goals
  • 2017 – 1 drive, 13 plays, 75 yards, 7:15, TD pass
  • 2018 – 2 drives, 1 punt, 1 TD run

So, we’ve got the regular season defeat, a few bend-don’t-break performances, and a couple drives the last two years that resulted in touchdowns.  I get that they’re able to put out some extended-play drives on us, but for the most part we’ve held our own in the pre-season.  Without knowing how the rest of those games would’ve gone with Rivers in there full time, we’ll never know the true outcomes.

In other words, I’ve made the Chargers out to be the Boogeyman when really they’re just a tree brushing up against my window on a dark and stormy night.

I did this last week, so let’s run it back:  what have the 2018 Chargers done that makes them so great?

They beat a bevy of bad teams, including the Bills, 49ers, Raiders, Browns, and Titans.  They lost at home to the Chiefs and across town to the Rams.  They’re 5-2, but it’s not exactly a murderer’s row of talent.  Their best win is probably the Titans (who have a solid defense, but not a whole lot going on on offense).  If they won in Seattle, it would be far-and-away their greatest feat to date.

I still think Rivers poses a unique and difficult matchup for our defense, but I don’t think he’s totally unstoppable.  They absolutely have the talent on offense to do what they did to us in 2014, but at the same time, it’s not like our defense is going to be demoralized by 100+ degree heat.  And, with them missing some starters on defense, I don’t see why the Seahawks should be held in check from doing what we want to do on offense.

A buddy and I were talking about this upcoming 4-game stretch the Seahawks are facing.  In looking at our remaining schedule, you figure the Seahawks should be 3-0 against the 49ers and Cards the rest of the way.  That gets us to 7 wins; we would just need to wrangle 3 more to get to 10 and a likely wild card berth.  My friend thinks we’ll lose our next 4 (or, at the very least, he can’t envision picking the Seahawks to win any of those games).  I think we’ve at least got 1-3 in us, with our most likely chance for a win coming up this week.  To wit:

  • vs. Chargers
  • @ Rams
  • vs. Packers
  • @ Panthers

The more I think about those road games, the more impossible they look on paper.  And I know I’m never confident in a game where A-Rod is going against us.  That leaves the Chargers.  The over-rated, mistake-prone Chargers.

Coming into today, I had an X marked next to the Chargers for this one.  But, I’m changing my tune.  I think the Seahawks keep doing what they’ve been doing, and they prevail in the end.  The 12’s are hungry for more winning, and I think our presence will be felt in this one, as the train keeps on a-rollin’.

The Seahawks Made The Most Of A Disaster Of A Football Weekend

My Sunday hangover was both literal and figurative.  It was hard to really get up for this game after what happened in the Husky game on Saturday.  There’s no “making up for” a loss to the Ducks (I’ll have more on this tomorrow).  So, I sat there, and I watched the whole dominating Seahawks affair, but at no point was I enjoying myself.  The wound was still too fresh.  Indeed, we’re going on 48 hours after the fact and I still can’t bring myself to dwell on it too much.

The Seahawks beat the hapless Raiders 27-3, and everything is blue in this world.

What I’m Geeked Out Still Numb About After Six Games

The obvious answer is to talk about the offensive line and the running game for the third consecutive week, but I’m gonna zag on this one.  The defense REALLY opened up some eyes here.  Last week’s overall performance against the Rams was pretty inspired, but the defense still gave up 33 points.  Without Earl Thomas, there’s more questions than answers with this secondary, and I wondered – heading into this one – if we’d continue to get scorched in the passing game.

But, this was as dominating a defensive performance as it gets, from soup to nuts!  Derek Carr averaged a measly 4.6 yards per attempt, as he looked to be consistently checking down to his running backs, or whoever was within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage.  I know we all love clowning on the Raiders under Jon Gruden, but their passing game – and really, their offense in general – has been pretty solid after their week 1 loss to the Rams.  Beastmode looks as strong as ever, and while he’s not getting the MOST out of Carr, he’s certainly getting more out of him than Jack Del Rio did in the last couple seasons.  But, in this one, the Seahawks had the gameplan to put their offense to sleep.

And hey!  What’s that I see?  Could it be?  A pass rush?!?!

You know it!  6 sacks!  2.5 from Frank Clark, who was a boss all day.  Jarran Reed had 1, as did Branden Jackson and Shamar Stephen (Quinton Jefferson had the 0.5, but also had 2 more tackles for loss on the day).  Now, I should point out that Tom Cable is the Raiders’ offensive line coach, so obviously theirs is one of the most inept units in the league (probably).  But, with this Seahawks pass rush unit, you’ll take what you can get.

The crown jewel of the whole thing was holding Beastmode himself to 45 yards on 13 carries.  And, as usual, most of those yards were after contact, as he just wills himself to fall forward on these go-nowhere rushes.  That guy is a living legend.

Other Things That Caught My Eye (In A Good Way) (But What Does It Matter Anyway?)

Let’s get back to the running game.  All in, we had 37 carries for 155 yards.  Carson led the way with 59, Penny got into the mix with 43, and Davis did his part with 21.  It’s good to see all those guys participate, as I still believe they’re all going to be vital in making the most out of this season.

Russell Wilson had another fantastic game.  He ran for 20 of those yards, looking to run more than he has in any other game this season.  He did most of his damage through the air though, going 17/23 for 222, with 3 TDs and 1 ill-advised INT into triple coverage.  It was sterling nonetheless.

Doug Baldwin got going, with 6 for 91.  David Moore continued to impress, with 2 for 47 and a TD.  Lockett caught another TD, as did Jaron Brown.  This is a formidable WR unit, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

Also, how about a nice word for the coaching staff?  They found an identity for this team and they’re sticking with it!  It’s working, after all, so it seems obvious, but how many times did we used to complain about Darrell Bevell out-thinking himself?  All too frequently going away from what was working in hopes of trying to outsmart the other team.  Sometimes, it’s better to just batter the other team into submission, thereby opening things up later in the game to do whatever you want.

I mean, the Seahawks REALLY looked like the more prepared team, from the opening gun.  We had a 14-play, 82 yard TD drive to start the game (the first time in 2 years since we scored a touchdown on our opening drive?) that took up half of the whole first quarter!  Then, as a proper bookend, after the Raiders kicked a meaningless field goal to pull the game to its final score, the Seahawks got the ball back with 8:25 left to go, and ran out ALL of the clock in 13 plays!  We were 9/13 on the day on 3rd down; we had 19 overall first downs.  Just a great, great day all around.

Let’s Talk About Competitions The Black Void Of Nothingness Because The Huskies Lost

Obviously, when you talk about holding a good passing game to next-to-nothing, you’re getting quality play out of your secondary.  I don’t have access to the All-22 tape, but I have to believe we saw a much better game out of Tedric Thompson as he continues to step up in Earl’s absence.  With nothing deep down field looking even enticing enough to ATTEMPT, I think that’s a great sign.

I saw Jacob Martin get a lot of play at defensive end, and he looked pretty disruptive.  Another great sign out of a young player we’re going to need to step up if we want to find a consistent pass rush in the second half of this season.

Finally, I’ll just say that I’m glad Tre Flowers was just cramping up, because for a while there I was worried we had another season-ending knee injury on our hands.

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

Hard to complain, honestly, when we’re talking about a 27-3 demolition.  We continue to get absolutely nothing out of C.J. Prosise and Dion Jordan, who were both inactive.  Also, I guess Naz Jones mysteriously lost the will to play competitive football?  What happened to THAT guy?  He was supposed to be one of our up-and-comers!

Looking ahead, we have a BYE week, before our our 5th road game out of 7 (though, to be fair, London was more of a home-style crowd than we had any right to expect, which is nice).

The Seahawks Will Keep Losing Until They Stop

I’m torn this week.  On the one hand, I feel committed to this bit I started where I’m picking against the Seahawks until they prove to me they’re capable of actually winning a football game.  On the other hand, the Seahawks are at home, and I feel like they actually match up pretty well against the Cowboys this Sunday.

There’s a lot of toxicity around the Seahawks and their fanbase this week after a pretty embarrassing road defeat to the Bears on Monday Night.  We’re not used to this.  Not since Russell Wilson joined the team, anyway.  The Seahawks have been consistent winners!  This is uncharted territory, albeit probably not totally unexpected given all of our pre-season reservations.  8-8 teams lose on the road to other 8-8 teams.  By the same token, they usually win at home against other 8-8 teams.  Dallas is an 8-8 type team.

But, I’ve gotta say, if I pick the Seahawks and they lose, I’ll be FURIOUS with myself for going against my stated pledge!

Make no mistake, while I’ve picked against the Seahawks in the first two weeks, I was absolutely rooting for them.  It’s one of those no-lose situations where either my pick comes through, or it doesn’t but my team is happy.  But, at some point, you gotta stop riding the fence, you know?  Either you hop on the bandwagon or you run away screaming; but just walking beside the bandwagon isn’t a viable long-term solution.

The Reasons Why The Cowboys Will Win On Sunday

Because even with the likes of Bobby Wagner and Tre Flowers back in the fold, this defense isn’t anything special.  The Cowboys might not dominate with their rushing attack, but they’ll be able to do a little bit; the Seahawks won’t totally shut Zeke down.  They’ll be the more disciplined team – avoiding offensive penalties that put them behind the chains – and Dak is fully capable of dinking and dunking his way down the field.

Furthermore, there won’t be enough big plays to keep the 12th Man in it.  The 12th Man just isn’t as formidable as they once were.  Sure, it’ll be loud to start the game – it is the Seahawks’ home opener after all – but that’ll dissipate as the Cowboys rack up the first downs and move the ball at will.  By the second half, I’m sure Joe Buck and Troy Aikman will be wondering where all that vaunted crowd noise went.

And, let’s face it, the Seahawks’ weapons just aren’t there to help out Russell.  With no Doug, we’re over-dependant upon guys trying to get open, and those guys just aren’t up to the task.  With Wilson holding the ball longer and longer, that gives ANY defensive line – even one that’s as mediocre as the one I’m assuming Dallas has – time to get home.  The book is out:  nothing fancy, just constrict the pocket, wall Wilson in, and wait for him to make a mistake.  As long as you don’t let Wilson escape – and as long as the Seahawks’ coaching staff is willfully preventing any movement of the pocket – then it’s only a matter of time before we run into a sack, a fumble, or a penalty.

Speaking of the coaching staff, their unwillingness to stick to the running game – and stick to a specific running back (COUGH COUGH CHRIS CARSON) within that running game – is sinking this season.  I don’t expect anything here to change.  Penny is still going to get his shots; he’s going to continue looking just okay (but far from a first round talent).  Carson is going to look amazing, but left on the bench for long, unforgivable stretches.  C.J. Prosise is going to be healthy, but never in there when he’s most valuable (in 3rd downs and 2-minute offenses).  And, most importantly, the team is going to continue to slow down the pace of the offense, making it so it takes an entire half of football or more before Wilson gets comfortable and in the flow of the game.

It’s the same garbage fucking offense we had under Bevell, with a fresh coat of stupid slapped on there by way of Brian Schottenheimer’s play-calling (or Pete Carroll’s hormonal instincts, take your pick, depending on what you believe is actually going on).

The Reasons Why The Seahawks Will Win On Sunday

For what it’s worth, this is probably closer to what I actually believe, so spoiler alert.

This was never going to be an overnight fix.  What am I talking about?  Well, take your pick.

The offensive line was always going to need time to gel.  D.J. Fluker might be back this week, though it now looks like Britt is going to miss some time.  I think, in the grand scheme of things, it’s more important to gain Fluker’s mass than it is losing Britt’s … whatever he brought to the table.  Leadership, I guess.  I just think any sap can be a center.  The quarterback can always assist in line reads and pointing out blitzes and whatnot.  From strictly a talent standpoint, I don’t think there will be much of a difference between Hunt and Britt.  The dropoff from Fluker to Sweezy is much more significant, so getting our starter back would be HUGE.

Even though I don’t think the running back rotation will be any different, I think as time goes on, this O-Line will continue to improve.  Furthermore, the coaches have had 2 weeks to figure out what’s working and what’s not.  I HAVE to believe they’re going to work some fixes into the offensive play-calling to get this thing going.  It won’t be perfect, but it should be significantly better than it was the first two weeks.  Being in our temperate climate, without the significant crowd noise we had to endure on the road, should only assist in making sure plays are called timely and correctly.

As always, it’s going to be entirely dependant upon the offense to win this game.  I think the defense will be fine.  Sometimes, the Cowboys will drive the ball with ease; sometimes we’ll be able to stop them.  They’ll probably score in the low-to-mid 20’s; so it’s a matter of the Seahawks scoring in the mid-to-high 20’s to win it.

I think we can do that, because I don’t think the Cowboys are nearly as formidable in their pass rush as the Bears or Broncos.  If I had to point to one reason why the Seahawks will win this game, it’s that the Cowboys don’t have a Von Miller or a Khalil Mack.  That’s it!  That’s good for probably a Seahawks win by 3 points.

Where it could all go haywire is:  what if it doesn’t matter?

What if the Cowboys are just sort of average as a pass rushing unit, but they get home and make Russell Wilson’s life miserable anyway?  I can’t even begin to tell you how much I’m dreading next week if that’s the case.  The last thing I need in my life is more consternation about Wilson and the offensive line.

Anyway, I’m picking the Seahawks, but I’m not thrilled about it.  In fact, an overwhelming sense of dread and panic just set in as I typed out those words.  Visions of Wilson crawling around on the turf trying to collect the football he just had ripped out of his hands, combined with various Cowboys slicing and dicing through our Swiss cheese defense.

I CAN’T DO IT!  I’m picking the Cowboys.  As I’m usually wrong about most things, what’s really going to happen isn’t a 27-24 Seahawks victory, or a 24-16 Cowboys victory, but probably a 38-13 Cowboys victory, where the whole city just melts down.  Wilson will have multiple turnovers, Janikowski will miss a field goal and an extra point, the defense will give up a bevy of long plays, Elliott will run for 170 yards, and our punter will dislocate a shoulder trying to make a tackle.

Just the worst case scenario, all across the board.  And the calls to blow the whole thing up will only intensify.

Seattle Seahawks 2018 Preview Part 1: The Good Stuff

There’s a pretty wide range of possible outcomes for the Seattle Seahawks in 2018, maybe more than we all think.

Tomorrow, I’ll talk about all the ways this season might be sunk, but for now let’s look on the bright side.  I’m on record as believing this is around a .500 football team; on more than one occasion I’ve pegged them as being anywhere from 7-9 to 9-7.  On the high end, that’s a wild card team; while the floor is being on the outside looking in with a disappointing mid-round draft pick.

But, can this team be even better than 9-7?  Can the Seahawks actually compete for a division title and maybe even make some noise in the playoffs?

Well, there’s a lot of “if’s” involved in that scenario.  I think the Seahawks would have to get extremely lucky and have a tremendous record in 1-score games (kind of like how the Mariners have a tremendous record in 1-run games).  Stuff that’s unsustainable long-term, but can certainly run in a team’s favor over the course of an anomalous season.

Included in that, the defense is going to have to be much better than expected.  That’s going to involve our best guys staying healthy all year (Wagner, Shaquill Griffin, Frank Clark), that’s going to involve some other guys stepping into more prominent roles and really breaking out compared to their career stats (guys like Dion Jordan, Naz Jones, Bradley McDougald, and Jarran Reed), and it’s going to require a lot of luck.  Fumble luck, the defense holding teams to a high percentage of field goals over TDs compared to the rest of the league, and maybe even some good fortune on third downs compared to what we’ve seen so far this pre-season.  A lot of that is hard to predict.  I can sit here and look at past numbers and project that this defense as it’s currently constructed (without the help of Earl Thomas for most of the regular season) is going to be pretty mediocre.  But, all the variables I’ve talked about go a long way towards projecting actual wins and losses.  If the Seahawks are good against the teams they’re supposed to beat, and win more of those 50/50 matchups than they lose, I could certainly see this as a wild card team (if I squint really hard, maybe even a division winner … if the team somehow finds a way to beat the Rams at least once).

Just know that a lot has to break right for this team to be taken seriously.  Wild Card teams take care of business against teams inferior to them (the Bears, the Cardinals, the Cowboys at home, the Raiders in London) and they have to do pretty well against other potential Wild Card teams (the Broncos, the 49ers, the Lions, the Panthers, the Chiefs).  Divisional champs not only have to do well in those games (which comprises 11 of our 16 games), but they have to win about half of the games against other potential division champs (the Rams, the Packers, the Vikings, the Chargers).  The good thing about this time of year is that we really don’t know how difficult this schedule is going to be.  Some of the teams projected to be elite will fall on their faces, either due to injuries or because they’re over-rated.  Likewise, some of the potential bad teams will be a lot better than projected, due to luck or being under-rated.  You’d like the Seahawks to be perfect against the bad teams (5-0), really good against the Wild Card teams (4-2), and win around half of the games against the good teams (2-3 or 3-2).  That’s the mark of a division champ.  Thankfully, it looks like the early part of the schedule is pretty reasonable, so even though the Seahawks start with a lot of road games, if they come out on fire, it could set things up nicely down the line.

So, let’s talk about what’s right about this team; it starts with the offense.

Make no mistake, the offense MUST carry the load.  Fortunately, I think that’s well within our grasp.

If the offensive line stays healthy, I’m just gonna say it:  we will be GOOD.  I think the left side of the line will be rock solid, I think Fluker is a great addition to the team, and I think Ifedi will make great strides towards not being the very worst in all of football.  The bar for him to clear appears to be Breno Giacomini.  I think a lot of Seahawks fans remember him fondly, as he was the right tackle of the last really good O-Line on this team.  Well, if you REALLY think about it, he wasn’t super amazing.  He was just okay.  He made a lot of boneheaded plays – including a lot of personal foul penalties – that would set this team back.  But, since the team liked to run Marshawn Lynch behind him an awful lot – and we had success doing it – Giacomini sort of gets a pass.  Well, I believe Ifedi can be as good or better than Giacomini.  If he is, and the rest of the line holds, we could be looking at the best offense of the Russell Wilson era.

Speaking of, Wilson had one of the more prolific fantasy football seasons last year, as he basically WAS the offense for the Seahawks.  Now that we have a competent O-Line, and a running game that should carry its share of the load, there might be cause for concern that Wilson’s fantasy numbers will taper off.  I’m here to tell you:  rest assured, he’ll be fine.  If the defense is as shaky as I expect it to be, then I anticipate the Seahawks will be behind in its share of games and will therefore need a lot of second half scoring to come back.  On top of which, with a unified play-calling situation, I fully expect that we won’t get off to so many slow starts.  Ergo, I think the Seahawks will be scoring early AND often, and Russell Wilson’s numbers will surge accordingly.

I think Chris Carson is a 1,000-yard back, with conservatively 8 rushing TDs, though I could easily see him get into the double-digits.  It shouldn’t take people long to realize they were asleep at the switch in ignoring this guy in fantasy drafts, and if he’s somehow out on waivers in your league, I’d snap him up in a hurry.

Behind Carson, as I’ve said before, I think this is the deepest running back room we’ve seen in Seattle in quite some time.  Mike Davis is a man.  Rashaad Penny will be available as a change of pace.  Prosise will be around whenever he’s not nicked up.  And, McKissic should be back after Week 8 to provide a nice boost.

Moreover, this team is BUILT to feature the run.  The tight end room is strong, with Vannett and Dissly getting the bulk of the snaps, though Darrell Daniels is a good third guy to have until Ed Dickson comes off the PUP.

As teams gear up to stop our run game again, that should open things up in play-action, which is Wilson’s specialty.  It’s so huge, for both the deep AND intermittent passing range.  We’ve got Lockett and Jaron Brown who are solid deep threats (as well as Baldwin and maybe even David Moore on occasion).  While Baldwin’s knee injury is concerning, the fact that he’s giving it a go and feels he can manage it is encouraging.  I would expect him to miss quite a bit of practice time, but he’s got a good rapport with Wilson and is one of the best receivers in football, so if anyone can succeed with this thing, it’s a super tough guy like Baldwin.  And, on top of Baldwin and Lockett, we’ve got Brandon Marshall in the red zone who should make some noise.

If you asked me to craft the perfect receiving situation for the Seahawks, this is it.  No-nonsense football players; not a diva in the group.  The closest thing would be Marshall, but he’s on a veteran 1-year prove-it deal and is really in no position to be disrupting things in the slightest.  He’s also – much like our Offensive Coordinator – playing with the best quarterback he’s ever had, so he should have plenty of opportunities to make plays.  The fact that he’s produced everywhere he’s been (while healthy) gives me great encouragement.  And, even if he gets hurt, we have enough behind him to pick up the slack.

The only concern I have about this group is probably execution on 3rd down.  There will be plenty of down-field chunk plays to get into scoring position, but you’re still talking about a team that plays loose and sloppy with the penalties.  That’s not going away under Pete Carroll; it’s just not.  So, we’re going to see this offense “behind schedule” more than the national average, which means doing well on 3rd down is a high priority.  If this team fails in that regard – or if it really hasn’t gotten over its early-game struggles we all bemoaned under Bevell – then we could see this team fall behind in a lot of games, and not have enough in the tank to overcome those deficits.

Bottom line:  the offense needs to be Top 5 for this team to be really good.  And it has to start in Game 1; we can’t sustain any more growing pains with this side of the ball, because the defense won’t be there to pick up the slack.

The most fun part of this team could be its Special Teams.  It wouldn’t shock me in the slightest to see this unit decide 2-3 games this year.  That’s including, obviously, our All Pro punter shifting field position.  That’s figuring we’ll be in a lot of close games, which means a field goal here and there could make all the difference (not to mention those all-important extra-long extra points).  And, who knows?  Maybe our returners play a bigger role in affecting these games, either with TDs scored or with long returns that put our offense in prime real estate.  I think there’s a lot to like about all facets of the Special Teams, but also a lot of opportunities for luck to play a heavy role.  A field goal kicker making an insane percentage of kicks; our blockers on these returns not getting called for holds or blocks in the back every fucking time.  It’s all going to play a huge role in how many games this team wins this year.

While it’s ultimately hard to see this team seriously contending for a Super Bowl (as I’ll get into tomorrow), this should nevertheless be a fun team to watch.  We should see plenty of offense and plenty of young guys stepping into prominent roles on defense.  If it all breaks right, we could be talking about one of the true sleepers in the league this year:  a team that no one is expecting anything from, who comes out of nowhere to take the league by storm.  While not probable, it IS possible, and that’s all you can ask for this time of year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s Talk About Competitions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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