Part 2: Why The Seahawks Will Win The Super Bowl This Year

We got into the Glass Half Empty side of things yesterday.  Today, it’s all about Glass Half Full.

I’ll start here where I started yesterday:  the offensive line.  In this run of dominance the last four years, the Seahawks have never really had a world-beating O-Line.  Sure, Okung was a nice player and a talented first rounder, but he also often found himself injured and being replaced by the likes of Alvin Bailey.  Has that stopped us from winning ballgames or running the ball among the best teams in the league?  Absolutely not!  We’ve gotten by with the likes of James Carpenter, J.R. Sweezy, Breno Giacomini, and Patrick Lewis – all fine players in their own rights, but ultimately all replacement level players who made their money on the back of this team’s success.

People like to denigrate Russell Wilson, saying he’s just a “system quarterback”, and that had he been put into the wrong situation, he’d be another nobody right now.  Well, by the same token, this is a “system” offensive line, behind Tom Cable’s vision for what this unit should do and do well:  run the football.  It’s always going to struggle somewhat in pass protection – it has the last four years anyway – but like I said before, that hasn’t stopped us yet.

Because we DO have Russell Wilson!  And while he might want to thank his lucky stars the Cleveland Browns didn’t draft him, I think he’s pretty great, and fully capable of making up this O-Line’s shortcomings.  Will he be perfect?  No.  He’ll occasionally run himself into some sacks.  He’ll hold onto the ball too long when he should’ve just thrown it away.  But, he’s also going to do some truly amazing things that only he can do.  And, in the end, that’s going to be more than good enough to make up for the O-Line.

I like our ability to run the ball.  I like the continuity of our receiving corps.  And while I don’t necessarily think Russell Wilson is going to double his second half of last year and turn it into a full season this year, I think he’ll certainly take another step in his progression and by season’s end have had his best year ever.  I don’t know if the offense is going to be the dominant Seahawks unit over the defense, but I think we’ll have put up the most points in franchise history when all is said and done.

I also don’t know if the defense will be able to make it 5 straight years with the fewest points allowed, but if not, they’ll still be close to the top.  I just think, at this point, you know what to expect from this defense.  With everyone here, happy, and healthy to start the season, I think that puts us in the driver’s seat compared to last year, where we had so many issues.  Just having the vets around, practicing, playing, is going to be great for our younger guys.  The kids won’t have to play right away, they can soak in more of the system, more of the game plans, so by the time they ARE pressed into duty, because of injuries or whatever, they’ll be that much better than if they had to start right away and be thrown into the fire prematurely.

Finally, I like what the schedule has to offer.  Let’s break it down, week by week:

Miami, to kick things off on Sunday.  I think this game starts off a little too close for comfort in the first half, but ultimately I think the Seahawks start to blow it out in the second half for a double-digit victory.

At Los Angeles, for their regular season home opener.  By all rights, I’d be a fool to lock this one down as a win.  The Rams, particularly under Jeff Fisher, have had our number in ways I’m not even comfortable thinking about.  With this being their first game back in L.A., with upwards of 90,000 fans in a rabid froth, it won’t be easy.  I think this game is a slog, but I also think the Rams are remarkably worse than they’ve ever been, and I think we take this by a field goal to start 2-0.

San Francisco in week three.  Absolute pushovers from top to bottom.  Nothing about this team scares me.  I think we beat them by three touchdowns.

At New York, to play the Jets before our BYE week.  A lot of people have this down as a loss for the Seahawks.  I can see why.  You’ve got a cross-country trip and a 10am start.  You’ve got a team with an excellent defense, some strong weapons on offense, a savvy veteran quarterback, and one of the better up & coming head coaches in the NFL.  But, at the same time, I think you’ve got a team that doesn’t match up with us very well.  Sure, they’ve got Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, but we’ve got one of the top secondaries in the league.  I think we easily shut down their passing attack, and just as easily shut down their mediocre rushing attack.  This game will depend on how well the Seahawks can move the football.  The Jets’ D-Line is ferocious, so it’ll be tough sledding for our O-Line.  They’ve also got Revis, but I think we have what it takes to beat him.  If he clamps down on Doug Baldwin, I think Tyler Lockett has a big game.  I also think the Seahawks take advantage of Kearse’s size in this one and he leads the team in receptions.  I also think our tight ends will be a huge factor, as Jimmy Graham should have played his way back into the #1 role.  It’ll be a dogfight, but I’m seeing something like 17-13, with the Seahawks on top.

Atlanta at home, after the BYE.  I just don’t think the Falcons are very good.  At all.  Matt Ryan has been a mistake-prone mess ever since Tony Gonzalez – his security blanket – retired, and ever since Roddy White’s aging body turned him into a nobody.  Sure, he’s still got Julio Jones – making Jones one of the most valuable receivers in the game, for fantasy purposes – but we’ve got Richard Sherman.  Beyond that, good fucking luck.  I think the Seahawks steamroll in this one by a good 2-3 touchdowns.

The next two weeks are at Arizona and at New Orleans.  The Arizona game is a Sunday Night game, the Saints game is a 10am start.  I think the Seahawks go 1-1 in this set of games, but I’m not going to commit to which game they win and which one they lose.  What does that mean?  Well, USUALLY it means I think the Seahawks will win the game they’re supposed to lose, and lose the game they’re supposed to win.  It’s probably idiotic, but even at Arizona’s best, we’ve been able to handle them pretty savagely on their home turf.  Combined with the fact that we’ll be out for revenge after they embarrassed us on Sunday Night in 2015, and the opinion that I secretly hold – which is that the Cards are due for some regression in 2016 – and I could see the Seahawks walking all over the Cards and solidifying our hold on first place in the division.  As for the Saints game, I’ve seen this one play out too many times before.  It reminds me of the Chargers game in 2014, the Lions game of 2012, and ESPECIALLY the Colts game of 2013.  They have a dominant offense, with a Hall of Fame quarterback who will put up 30+ points against us.  Meanwhile, we’ll probably make one too many mistakes on offense – against a shitty, but improved Saints defense – and gag it away at the end.  Saints 35-27, to put our record at 6-1.

Buffalo on Monday Night to close out the first half of our schedule.  This one should be another home walk-over.  We’ll be jacked up for a home Monday Night game, and the Bills – who have no experience in our environment – won’t know what to do with themselves.  7-1 to close out the first half.

At New England on Sunday Night to kick off the second half.  I try to run this game through any number of scenarios, and I just can’t find a way the Seahawks win, short of Tom Brady being injured.  Another cross-country trip.  All the hype from it being a Super Bowl XLIX rematch.  And, let’s face it, if any team is going to put into use the main strategy of beating the Seahawks – dink & dunk, then try the seams on double moves with their taller receivers – it’s the Patriots.  On the plus side, I think the Pats’ defense is much worse than two years ago.  So, if the Seahawks DO win this game, it’s almost certainly going to require this game being a shootout like last year’s Steelers game.  But, I don’t see that happening.  Patriots by a single score.

Home for Philly and another walkover.  You’ve got a team starting a rookie quarterback, but more than that, you’ve got a team clearly playing for next year.  They’re stocking up on draft picks and kicking out all the old players on the roster, compiled by Chip Kelly.  I don’t see this one being particularly close either.

At Tampa in yet another cross-country flight.  We really got hosed by playing the AFC East and NFC South (which are all pretty much in the East anyway).  This game strikes me as one of those traditional slow starters for the Seahawks.  I think we have to overcome a double-digit deficit, and perhaps have to win this one in overtime, just like the last time we played the Bucs, back in 2013 (except that game was in Seattle).  Ultimately, I think we have just enough to pull this nailbiter out.

Home for Carolina in another Sunday Night game.  If both teams are at full strength, we could be looking at the best game of the regular season.  I just love how these teams match up.  I also wonder how healthy Cam Newton will be, considering all the hits he took in last night’s game.  Will his recklessness in taking hits finally catch up to him?  I kinda, sorta have a feeling this game will come down to who’s actually playing, and for whatever reason I have a feeling Cam will be out for this game.  Either way, I like our chances at home, on Sunday Night, trying to rectify the disaster that was our 2015 season against the Panthers (going 0-2 in two games).  It’ll be a nailbiter, but Seahawks win.

At Green Bay in December.  I think this is another one of those games we’re supposed to lose, but in fact we turn the tables and steal one.  Is it weird for the Packers and their fans to hate Seattle more than teams in their own division?  Well, when we keep ruining their playoff hopes, I guess it’s not!

Home for the Rams and Cardinals the next two weeks.  I think we go 1-1 here too, and while I’m not yet ready to commit, I will say that I feel it’s more likely we beat the Rams and lose to the Cards.  I still think this is the year the Rams go 6-10 or 5-11 and Jeff Fisher gets fired.  A girl can dream, can’t she?

Finally, at San Francisco to close it out.  If we’re playing for anything, I think we win easily.  If we’ve somehow got the #1 seed wrapped up, I think we let the kids get the majority of the snaps and probably lose it in the end.  Let’s just say we win and call it a day.

13-3, number one seed in the NFC, and an inside track for another Super Bowl.  This year, we get back to it, and this year we win the whole fuckin’ thing.  Mark it.

Brandon Browner Is Back, The Legion Of Boom Is Whole Again

One of the more interesting moves of the offseason has seen the Seahawks return to some familiar faces, in signing Chris Clemons and now Brandon Browner to 1-year prove-it deals.  As this post posits, perhaps this is a reaction to a perceived void in veteran leadership on this team.  You could argue that this team has a lot of leaders already, in Wilson, Graham, Baldwin, and Kearse on offense; and Earl, Sherm, Wagner, Wright, Bennett and Avril on defense.  Nevertheless, I would say – to borrow from Jim Mora Jr. a little bit – that the team doesn’t necessarily have very many dirtbags on the team.  Enforcers who bring one primary trait to the table:  pain.  Clemons, by all accounts, is a nasty customer, whose focus on taking out the quarterback is legendary on this team.  And, of course, we all know how lethal Brandon Browner can be.  I would also note that with Kris Richard as a first-time defensive coordinator, and a young one at that, it’s nice to have an abundance of veterans on this defense to show the younger players how it’s supposed to be done.

In the ol’ Gods & Clods way of team-building, you’ve got a lot of expensive players, and a lot of very VERY cheap players (usually rookies/guys on rookie deals).  When you can bring in players on cheap, 1-year deals, who know the system and are able to bring something of a teaching element to Training Camp (even if it’s simply leading by example), I believe there’s really no downside to these types of moves.  There’s no guarantee either Clemons or Browner make the team in 2016, but if they push younger guys to be great in the pre-season, they will have been well worth the modest cost of their signing bonuses.

With both of these guys, you’re looking at 50/50 deals as far as whether they make the team or not.  I think with Clemons, it’ll be a matter of him proving he’s still got it.  You don’t bring in a guy like Clemons to be a starter; you bring him in to add a little extra to your pass rush in obvious passing situations (to help lessen the blow of losing a guy like Irvin).  If he comes in during Training Camp and pre-season and he looks a step slower than everyone, then hey, at least he’ll impart some lessons to the younger guys, and it doesn’t cost you much to cut him.

With Browner, I’ll give the same odds of him making the team, even though his position has much more competition.  Browner’s reputation has taken quite a hit the last couple years.  He was a big part of costing the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX, but at the same time, he was super prone to penalties and was cut by the Patriots after the season ended.  Then, he cashed in with New Orleans, but his defensive coordinator was a boob and didn’t use him properly, so he continued making many boneheaded penalties and getting beat frequently.  The Seahawks know what Browner brings to the table, limitations and all.  In this system, Browner made a name for himself, and was able to cash in on that.  Returning to this system, we should see something of a bounce-back year out of him (assuming he makes the team, of course).

I’m not as negative as a lot of Seahawks fans are with this move, mostly because I agree the guy wasn’t in the right scheme last year.  If you bring in a veteran on a free agent deal, you sure as shit better adapt your defense to him and not the other way around.  With a rookie, you can mold him; with a veteran, you’re not teaching an old dog new tricks (unless he’s a superstar like Revis, but even then, he struggled a bit in Tampa when they had him play more zone coverage than his customary lockdown man coverage).

I’m also tempering my expectations a little bit.  Browner’s best years with the Seahawks were in 2011 and 2012 (mostly 2011, if we’re being honest; his Pro Bowl season).  He wasn’t exactly all that dominant in 2013, when he played only 8 games, and wasn’t even around during the stretch run or the playoff run; that’s where Byron Maxwell stepped into the starter’s role and ran with it.  Even Browner at his best has his limitations.  He’s not as great against smaller, shifty receivers.  Against a guy like Kearse – who he was able to shut down in the Super Bowl – Browner is all kinds of effective.  In that sense, you wonder if he’s a guy who will see a lot of time in certain games, against certain teams, and then next to nothing against others.

What we should all be looking forward to is the fact that – barring injury – Browner isn’t coming in to be a starter.  Jeremy Lane is the one who got the big contract, and he’s going to see the majority of the snaps on the field after Sherm, Earl, and Kam.  Browner is here for depth – so the team is able to push Lane inside on nickel situations – and he’s here to push Tharold Simon, who is solid when healthy, but who’s never healthy for a full season.  In that sense, as a depth piece, he further cements the secondary as the best unit on the team, and nearly brings us back to the greatness that was the secondary of 2013.

We’ll see how it all shakes out in the pre-season, but my initial impressions are nothing but favorable.

Seahawks Lose Okung & Look To Re-Shape The Offensive Line

Also while I was gone over the weekend, Russell Okung decided to sell his soul to the Denver Broncos.  I get why the Seahawks couldn’t bring him back on a similar deal (it would look like too much of a demotion/decrease in salary), but it’s just insane how the Broncos have all the leverage and Okung has fuckall.  In what amounts to a 1-year deal for $5 million, with an option to pick up the remaining 4 years at $47 million, with $0 guaranteed, and with the option to cut him prior to Week 1 of the regular season while only costing the Broncos a whopping $1 million.  So, if Okung blows out his knee in the pre-season, he essentially has $1 million for his troubles and a pink slip.

It’s annoying as a Seahawks fan, because if his deal isn’t picked up, we’re looking at a significantly reduced compensatory pick for a guy we probably weren’t going to be able to re-sign anyway.  Ultimately, Okung is betting on himself – staying healthy and producing at an elite level – which you could say is commendable, but it’s also a FAR cry from what Darrelle Revis had been able to do in recent years with his short stints with Tampa and New England.  One might argue that Okung set back the movement for players to represent themselves, but at the same time he probably got the best deal he could with all that’s handicapping him at the moment (his injury history, combined with his current injury issues).  We all kind of wondered if he was just going to do a 1-year deal to build up his value and re-hit the market next year; well, this is essentially that deal, only he’s giving the Broncos the right of first refusal.

In the wake of all of that, we’ve got the Seahawks headed into the 2016 season with five questionmarks along the offensive line.  Barring any unforeseen free agent moves and/or trades, word trickled out yesterday about what we’re looking forward to.

At Left Tackle, it appears the plan is to flip Garry Gilliam over there from where he started as a right tackle last year.  He’ll compete with incoming signee Bradley Sowell (and surely kick his crap in) and any possible draft picks or camp fodder signings.  We all sort of figured Gilliam would be the last-resort option, if the Seahawks opted to defer from wading into the left tackle free agent market, so it’s not much of a surprise.  Short of making that big splash, I like the idea.  I thought Gilliam was decent last year – his first year as a starter – and prior to that he’d been Okung’s understudy anyway, so it’s not like he’s totally unfamiliar with the position.  He’s athletic, if a bit undersized, and should only improve as a pass protector.

At Left Guard – the position I most wanted the Seahawks to address this offseason – I guess we’re looking at Justin Britt keeping his job.  He’s been a starter – and a constant disappointment – since he came in as a rookie.  While he’s a mean run blocker, he leaves a lot to be desired in pass protection, getting absolutely murdered on the reg earlier in the regular season, and again in our playoff defeat to the Panthers.  The fact that the Seahawks have done and likely will do nothing to address this hole in our line is probably the most disappointing aspect of the offseason.  One would think, if a stud falls to us late in the first round, the Seahawks SHOULD pick him up and put him in the competition, but it’s looking less and less likely that the organization feels this spot is a position of need.  Here’s to hoping a little continuity – with Britt playing the same position two years in a row – will enable him to find a comfort level and improve to the point where he’ll be at least adequate.

At Center, Patrick Lewis looks like the odds-on favorite to keep his job, for at least another year.  I still anticipate the team will look to the draft – and draft his future replacement – with one of our top three picks, but on a one-year deal, Lewis doesn’t sound too bad.  You can’t argue with the fact that the Seahawks’ O-Line drastically improved with his presence in the second half of last season.  With Britt on his left, you’re looking at the only two guys likely to return to their regular spots from the end of last year.  If continuity means anything in the NFL offensive line game (and, I’m told, it means practically EVERYTHING), then here’s to hoping we’ll be seeing some improved play in the interior.

At Right Guard, we’re looking at Mark Glowinski taking over for Sweezy.  Given how well he did in his only start for us last year, combined with the fact that he was healthy all year and will look to build upon that this offseason, I’d say Glowinski is at worst just as good as Sweezy, with the very real possibility that he’ll be an upgrade immediately.  Remember, we’re talking about a guy who played Guard in college, and not a converted defensive lineman or a converted right tackle.  In that sense, he’s got a leg up over MOST of the linemen we have on the roster right now.  It’s not wrong to feel the most confident about our right guard position than any other along the line right now, so that’s something I guess.

At Right Tackle, incoming free agent J’Marcus Webb looks to be the guy.  He has experience as a tackle – where he bounced from right to left tackle and back again in his first four years in the league – but he also has experience as one of the NFL’s very worst tackles by advanced metrics.  Last year, as a guard for the Raiders, he was average, which appears to be the impetus to him getting the deal he’s gotten; but, either the front office knows something we don’t (highly likely), or they’re completely ignoring how terrible he was in this very same role.  Who knows?  Maybe he’s gotten it all figured out.  Maybe last year it clicked for him, and he’ll come in here ready to fire on all cylinders.  Or, maybe he’s a guy more adept to the zone blocking scheme we run, and those other teams were just using him wrong.  My hunch is that he’s a better run blocker than a pass protector – like four of the other five guys on this line – and we’re still going to see our fair share of plays broken down by this turnstile of an O-Line.

As usual, the offensive line is the point of greatest consternation among Seahawks fans.
And, make no mistake, I’m right there with all of you.  I think it SUCKS to see the dearth of talent at a very key spot on an NFL team.  But, I guess I can’t get my panties in too much of a bunch, once I settle down and remember “Can’t Pay Everybody”.  Would I rather have the ultimate top 5 O-Line in the NFL?  Or, would I rather have an ultimate top 5 defense and quarterback?  I’ll take the defense and quarterback any day of the week.

Furthermore, when I look at this team in 2016, I don’t see a lot of outrageous contracts on it.  Yeah, MAYBE the $9 million cap hit for Jimmy Graham makes me go, “Hmmm.”  But, I still think we’re going to want his presence on this offense when he gets healthy (and I still think it’s better to have zero dead money on his deal if we decide to cut him).  And, other than that, I like the guys we have on this team for the money they’re going to cost us going forward.  I like the deals the way they’re structured, and I like where the money is allocated.  7 of our top 10 cap hits (not counting Lynch, for those worried about why he’s technically still on the roster) are on defense, at premium defensive positions, for outstanding players with a lot left in the tank (presumably).  We’ve transitioned into a team that’s spending peanuts for the running back position (which is smart, when you’re not employing someone of Beastmode’s calibre), and we’ve still got plenty in reserve to extend Doug Baldwin and make him a Seahawk For Life.  Our wide receiver position as a whole is very reasonable (with Lockett not set to make big money until Kearse’s deal has effectively run its course, and after Graham will likely have moved on), and we’ve retained our core special teams guys.

With all of that, it’s pretty easy to see how this team doesn’t have the funds to upgrade along the offensive line.  When you take into account how the vast majority of the league’s teams are also lacking along their own respective O-Lines, combined with how the increased pace of the college game has rendered the position mostly inadequate by the time they enter the NFL, and we’re really talking about an epidemic.  An epidemic where improved defensive line play is going to dominate for the foreseeable future.  An epidemic where guys like J.R. Sweezy – who’d be reserve fodder 20 years ago – are getting paid like Pro Bowl regulars.

The fact of the matter is, we’re going to have to get used to building offensive lines from scrap and giving guys more time to acclimate to the game.  More converted defensive linemen getting opportunities, and more draft picks sitting for a year or two before getting their big breaks.

What we, as Seahawks fans, have to hope for this year is to avoid the calamity that happened last year.  This team needs a more firm and concrete plan going into the pre-season than they had in 2015, where they were scrambling after the first game and shuffling guys all around the line.  With Britt, Lewis, and Glowinski practically locks along the interior, and with Gilliam assured of a spot at one of the tackle positions (with Webb’s contract dictating he gets the other starting spot), here’s to hoping the line finds its footing early and maintains it throughout the pre-season.

And, for fuck’s sake, here’s to hoping we can dodge playing that ferocious Rams D-Line for a few weeks into the regular season, until these guys have solidified as a unit!

What’s The Deal With Russell Wilson’s Contract Extension?

I’m getting more and more uneasy with each passing day where Russell Wilson hasn’t been locked up to a long-term extension.  This isn’t how it was supposed to go down.  We were supposed to extend him and Wagner and be living in that afterglow as we cruised right on into the NFL Draft.  Now, we’re a week into June.  We’ve had some OTAs, we’re starting to look forward to training camp, and nothing.  Nothing doing on the Russell Wilson/Seattle Seahawks front.

It makes me queasy just thinking about it.

Ideally, the earlier you get these deals done, the better.  That way, YOU set the market for other teams, and not the other way around.  We’ve already seen Ryan Tannehill and now Cam Newton get their extensions, which is pretty much it.  The only deals left to do would probably be Philip Rivers and then Russell Wilson (with Andrew Luck probably a year away, as the Colts have a 5th year option they can tangle with).  As it stands, it kinda sounds like Russell Wilson is trying to re-set the market – with the highest payout for a quarterback in history – which is pretty scary.

Today’s Peter King article poses some interesting thoughts on the matter.  As a rule, I try not to write a blog post on every article written by a national pundit, but when a story gets so big that Peter King starts to take notice, it’s no longer something you can just dismiss.  Ever since Russell Wilson started winning football games and it became readily apparent that he was to be our Franchise Quarterback, I’ve always just taken it for granted that after Wilson’s third season – the earliest point he’d be eligible to have his contract re-worked – he’d get paid and we’d all move on with our lives.  It was just never a concern of mine; why would it be?  He’s a good guy, we like to take care of our stars, we’ve got a good thing going here, why would we have any trouble getting something done?

Even if I sat down and brought up all the points against a deal getting done timely – his outlandish 3-year stats and W/L record as a starting quarterback coming up against how the team relies on its defense and running game to get the bulk of those wins accomplished – I could point to this 4th year, where he’s making less than $2 million, as well as the Franchise Tag, as reasons why the Seahawks should have a leg up in negotiations.  Those feel like PRETTY big chips!  And yet, after reading Peter King’s article, they kinda feel like nothing at all.

Russell Wilson is a different animal.  In all the ways where he’s a walking sports cliche – right down to the interviews he gives – he’s also something entirely different.  Hence the agent who’s a “baseball guy”.  This is someone who’s used to getting max deals.  King notes, “he’s never had any fear taking his baseball clients to the market.”  That … is absolutely terrifying.

Russell Wilson is EXACTLY the type of person who’d be comfortable rolling the dice on himself.  Hell, he’s been doing it his whole life!  At any point between high school and the NFL Draft, he could’ve switched to a different position more becoming a man of his height.  He stuck with quarterback, bet on himself, and it’s paying off.  He’s also got more than enough money from endorsements and whatnot to make this year’s deal good enough to live on.  Why wouldn’t he play out the 2015 deal, take the Seahawks back to the playoffs for a fourth straight year, and take away a huge chunk of leverage the Seahawks had in negotiations?  The only reason to do the deal now is out of risk of injury, but Wilson isn’t the type of guy to shy away based on theoreticals.

Then what happens?  Well, then the Seahawks place the Franchise Tag on him.  At that point, he’ll get around $20 million for 2016 – which is pretty much what the Seahawks want to pay him on a yearly basis.  If he still doesn’t like the contract extension the Seahawks are offering at that point, then he plays out 2016.

Then what happens?  Well, if they Seahawks want to franchise him a second time, then they’d have to pay him 120% of his prior-year’s salary, which puts him in the $24 million range for 2017.  At that point, you might as well be dealing with Darrelle Revis, because he’s the only guy I can think of who has bet on himself this much and succeeded.

Then what happens?  If the Seahawks were to franchise him a third time, you’re talking 144% of his prior-year’s salary.  This puts him in the $34-35 million range, which is absolutely insane and out of the question for a football team, even with the rising salary cap figure (you also have to take into account the salary cap isn’t going to KEEP going up at the rate it’s been going up the last couple years, if it even continues to go up at all).

So, what does it all mean?  Well, bank on Russell Wilson being in Seattle in 2015 regardless.  I’m about 95% confident we’d have him again in 2016 no matter what, but at that point you have to wonder if the Seahawks trade him away to try to recoup some value.  Assume, if the Seahawks give up on Wilson, that means he’s hellbent on reaching the open market no matter what and negotiations are a moot point.  I’m 50/50 on the Seahawks keeping him for a second franchise tag in 2017, but it’s certainly something the organization could do if we feel like the championship window has one final season in it, and if Pete Carroll is looking to call it a career around that time (or move on to greener pastures), and if it’s just time to do a full rebuild in 2018.

I’m 100% positive the Seahawks decline the option to tag Wilson a third time, at that $34+ million figure.

Truth be told, I’m nervous.  The more I allow myself to think about it, the more I’m able to convince myself that he WANTS to be a free agent on the open market.  Because he’s not like the other franchise quarterbacks out there.  Because he’s not tied down to one city.  Because he secretly wants to play for a bigger market and be the Derek Jeter of football.

It’s sickening to think about.  I hope like hell that I’m wrong.  I hope we’re able to get a deal done this summer and everything’s right with the world.  But, if the deal breaks down, I think we all have to start preparing for a life without Russell Wilson.

This is super-uncharted territory for us.  We’ve never been in this position before.  Not with a franchise quarterback.  Matt Hasselbeck was nice and all, and I’m sure he made a pretty penny once he locked down the starting job for us, but he was never the kind of guy who’d inspire a huge bidding war on the open market.  He was never in those top two tiers of quarterbacks; he was more in that third tier where he still needs a quality team around him to get the job done.  Russell Wilson IS in those top two tiers.  If he decides to stick around, he’s going to be the highest-paid Seahawk we’ve ever had.  I hope I see the day.

Why I’m Still Freaking The Fudge Out About Super Bowl XLIX

Yesterday’s post was a little grim, huh?  Made things seem a little hopeless?  Well, it’s not ENTIRELY doom and gloom.  My first big prediction for this game is that it’s going to be close.  The Patriots aren’t going to blow us out, because we don’t GET blown out.  Same thing in reverse.  We won’t blow them out because they don’t get blown out in Super Bowls.  You’re not going to give that team two weeks to prepare and watch them lay the kind of egg Denver laid last year.  So, gird your loins for an up and down battle, and a hot finish in the end.  It will come down to the final possession, and it’s just a matter of catching a break here and there to see us come out on top.

New England has two pretty big things in their favor, in that I don’t think the Seahawks are going to be particularly effective in the pass rushing department, and I don’t think we’re going to be able to throw the ball well on them.  That in and of itself leads me to believe we could be playing from behind when we dig down into the second half.  We don’t want that.  It’s not something entirely alien to this team, but still, it’s never ideal.

Like I said, the Pats have a couple big advantages, but the Seahawks have a lot of smaller advantages that could possibly add up to enough to push us over the edge.

For starters, you can almost chisel it in stone:  Russell Wilson won’t be NEARLY as terrible as he was against Green Bay.  The weather alone is enough to ensure that, but more importantly, Wilson hasn’t suddenly forgotten how to take care of the football.  I think as a whole, our team is better than theirs at protecting the rock.  In this game, a turnover here or there could make all the difference.

As I alluded to before, I think we have an advantage in the passing game when it concerns their linebackers in coverage.  Maybe that means Luke Willson on a seam route.  Maybe that means Marshawn Lynch on a wheel route.  Maybe it’s even Moeaki on a drag route.  SOMETHING.

Sticking with the passing game, I think they can be beaten deep.  I don’t really trust their safeties.  If we can work over their corners a play here and a play there on a double- move or something, I think it could be effective.  I’m not saying we’ll be chucking bombs all day long.  But, here and there, maybe two or three deep throws.  Darrelle Revis ISN’T perfect.

I also don’t necessarily see penalties being a problem.  Aside from the usual false starts and/or offsides we get every single game.  But, I’m talking more in the pass defense realm.  I could easily see their DBs get called for more flags than our DBs.

Obviously, the Seahawks have a GREAT advantage in the secondary, as we do every single game.  Importantly in this one is the Patriots really DON’T have an elite wide receiver.  There’s no T.Y. Hilton or Demaryius Thomas to worry about.  Edelman is about as good as it gets, but he’s just a shifty slot guy who I think we’ll be able to contain just fine.

We’ve also got elite linebackers in coverage.  Gronk will get his, but I sincerely doubt he goes off for a huge day.  Maybe a backup tight end or fullback or something will catch a pass here or there, but they’re not going to do serious damage.  If we execute the way we’re supposed to execute, we should be just fine holding down their passing attack, even without a pass rush.

Don’t discount the fact that we’ve had two weeks off.  I know they’ve had the same two weeks, but I think it helps us more.  We’ve got some DOGS on this team.  Our speed and athleticism is unrivaled in the NFL.  Especially on defense.  Giving this team two weeks to rest up and heal will put a bounce in our steps like it does every time we’re coming off of a BYE week.  It’s the one thing that gives me hope with our pass rush.  We looked pretty good against Carolina, even though we didn’t crush Cam Newton like I’d hoped.  Part of that is simply Cam’s ability to elude.  Tom Brady doesn’t really have that ability, not how Cam does.  I could see Bennett being a dominating force and really make a name for himself, as long as the rest of our linemen are doing their jobs.

I don’t consider New England’s running game much of a threat.  If they do somehow find a way to gash us on the reg, I think we’re proper fucked.  But, I doubt it’ll be an issue.  Like I’ve said before, I don’t see them completely abandoning the run like they did in the second half of that Baltimore game, but I also don’t see them getting anywhere NEAR the type of production they got against the Colts.

All of those things may or may not be enough to add up to a Seahawks victory, but I’ll tell you something you already know:  this game hinges ENTIRELY on how well the Seahawks are able to run.

The Patriots at times have struggled against the run, but at times they’ve also been pretty good.  Obviously, they’ve got Vince Wilfork who’s about as close to an every-down defensive tackle as it gets in the NFL.  He’s a future hall of famer and he could pose a huge problem with our relatively undersized defensive line.  Likewise, they’ve got ex-Seahawk Sealver Siliga, who’s not the greatest, but he’s another big widebody they use to clog running lanes.  If they opt to go jumbo and sell out against the run, it could be a long day.

But, even with those guys, it’s not impossible.  The Ravens had a field day running the ball three weeks ago against them.  The Ravens run a similar style of zone blocking scheme as we do.  Obviously, we’ve got probably the best running back in football.  We are who we are and just because they’ve got some big dudes on defense, it isn’t going to stop us from enforcing our will.

My biggest fear out of all of this is:  I just don’t want to read about Tom Brady being the “Greatest Quarterback of All Time” because he won his fourth Super Bowl.  Can we NOT be the ones that “settles” that discussion?  I don’t want to go to ESPN.com and have that story shoved in my face for the next nine months rest of my life.

The Patriots can be beaten.  And we’re the team to do it.  Because, even though we’re not as good as we were last year, we’re still the best team in the NFL.  We just need to go out, play a relatively clean game, and make the plays when they’re presented to us.

It’s been said quite a bit that the Top Defense always beats the Top Offense.  This is our chance to prove it once and for all.  To have beaten Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in back-to-back years would be a feat no defense has EVER accomplished.  If we want to be considered among the all-time greats, this has to be done.  Now.  Not next year.  Not later on in the twilight of Brady’s career.  Right now.  Right when he’s still sort of in his prime and it can be considered a monumental achievement to beat the best at his best.

Everything that there’s to say has been said.  I’ve got Seahawks 26, Patriots 23.  Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to go throw up for two straight days.

Why I’m Freaking The Fudge Out About Super Bowl XLIX

I have this vague sense of feeling pretty at ease before last year’s Super Bowl.  The overwhelming majority of people had Denver winning the game pretty handily, everyone was sleeping on our defense, and quite frankly, everyone totally dismissed our offense’s ability to get the job done.  In that game, I just had this feeling that it would be less about our defense against their offense and more about our offense against their defense.

As it turned out, I was off-base, because our defense controlled that game from the coin toss, but I will argue that if Denver ever figured out how to score on us, our offense STILL would’ve made it a comfortable victory.  Either way, with how their defense was banged up, I know I was EXCITED for the game to finally start, and yeah in that excitement there’s some nervous energy because you’ve got a million What Ifs running around your head, but last year was a cake walk of a two weeks compared to this year.

This year, I haven’t been sleeping well, I’m fucking stressed out at work, and while I know what it’s going to take to BEAT this team, a pretty big part of me questions how we’re going to achieve it.

There are a couple big things in play that are giving me pause.  For starters, our defense just flat out isn’t as good as it was a year ago.  In that, I’m looking squarely at our pass rush.  It’s better than it was in 2012, but it can’t hold a flame to 2013.  What does that mean?  Well, for starters, we’ve never really locked down that LEO rush spot.  We’ve yet to really replace Chris Clemons and it’s biting us in the ass.  On passing downs, when they flip Avril to the other side and push Michael Bennett to defensive tackle (which worked so amazingly in 2013), we’ve got either Bruce Irvin or O’Brien Schofield coming from that LEO side, and for whatever reason it’s just not cutting it.  This is where, you know, maybe a Cassius Marsh going down for the year hurts you.  Not that it’s all that reasonable to expect total greatness out of a rookie mid-round pick, but he was spry with a high motor and very well could’ve developed right before our eyes if he stayed healthy.  Likewise, with our interior rush next to Bennett.  I’m not gonna lie to you, Bennett can’t do everything.  But, when Jordan Hill came on strong at the end of the season, we were a completely different team.  In those last six games, we dominated the line of scrimmage from our nickel sets, and I would be WAY more confident in our pass rush right now if he was still with us.

This is the thing:  when the Patriots finally fixed their offensive line woes, they had some of the best interior pass protection in the league.  How do you rattle a quarterback like Tom Brady – who isn’t all that mobile – and prevent him from doing what he wants to do?  You pressure him up the middle.  While Brady isn’t going to run your pants off, quarterbacks like him who’ve been around for as long as he has, playing at as high a level as he has, are adept at one thing:  stepping up into the pocket.  Too often of late – since Hill went down and we’ve been unable to replace him – our defensive ends have been pushed out wide, while our tackles get nothing done up front, allowing quarterbacks to step up and make their throws with perfect timing and arm strength.  If you chop off their ability to step up, they’re not going to get as much on their throws and – since they’re not going to scramble for too many first downs – you don’t have to worry about them running toward the sideline for big gains.  Tom Brady will run a little if there’s a clear hole up the middle where he can get a cheap 7-10 yards before sliding down safely.  He’s less inclined to run if he’s got to try to beat a guy to the edge; with the speed on our defense, that’s a fool’s errand anyway.  And, besides all of that, with an interior pass rush, if the tackles try to block our ends out wide, that allows our ends to get a swat at the ball or otherwise hit Brady, when he would have stepped up and avoided it if the interior rush doesn’t get home.

This is what’s keeping me up at night.  Tom Brady, standing in a relatively clean pocket for most of the game, carving us up.  Yeah, our secondary is good, but they’re not robots.  If we give Brady 4-8 seconds to throw, he’s GOING to find a man open at some point.

The other thing that’s keeping me up is simple:  how do we score?

Against Denver, I was pretty solid in my belief that we weren’t going to run for a ton.  Marshawn Lynch wasn’t going to bust out for 150 yards and multiple touchdowns.  But, I figured our receivers were more talented than people gave them credit for, and we’d maybe bust Wilson loose on some runs off the edge with their linebackers and defensive ends injured.

This year, where’s it coming from?  Where are we steadily going to get our offense from?  When you think of Bill Belichick as a game-planner, what do you think of first?  Obviously, egomaniacal cheater.  But, what’s the SECOND thing you think of?  Every game plan is different.  Unlike the Seahawks – who put out their best 11 against your 11, with the same concepts game-in and game-out, and just dare you to beat us – the Patriots tailor a game plan specifically for their opponent that week.  Or, in this case, for the last two weeks.  They’ve had TWO WEEKS to tailor a game plan to stop the one thing we do the best.  What’s that one thing?  Running the ball.  Specifically, running the ball with Marshawn Lynch, but I don’t necessarily think they’re entirely focused on just that one aspect.  I’m pretty sure they’re giving close to equal time to game-planning for Wilson’s scrambling ability and his ability to run off of the zone read.

If the Patriots put the bulk of their efforts in limiting our rushing ability, where are we going to get our yards?  Granted, it’s pretty unlikely that they stop us from running ENTIRELY, but if they hold us to a poor average and stick us with a bunch of 3rd & Longs, I think we’re fucked.

Doug Baldwin on Revis Island.  I don’t think Baldwin will be held without a catch, but honestly, it wouldn’t TOTALLY shock me.  If Baldwin catches five balls in this game, I’ll be beyond impressed.  That puts Kearse, where?  With Browner covering/manhandling him?

This is what I don’t like.  I hate going into a game not knowing where we’re going to get our production.  Usually, I’ve got a pretty good idea.  But, usually, we’re not going up against one of the three or five best cornerbacks in football.  I mean, probably our BEST matchup on offense is Luke Willson against whoever.  First, who wants to pin their hopes on Luke Willson not dropping three balls in this game?  Second, what if they stick Browner on him and neutralize him entirely?  Then, I’ve got to pin my hopes on Moeaki?  Helfet?  What kind of offense is that?

I honestly can’t remember the last time I’ve felt worse going into a football game.

I feel like this is the type of game where their offense plays our defense to a draw, but it’s also the type of game where their defense completely out-plays us and we’re stuck scratching and clawing, trying to pull another miracle out of our asses late in the game.  No WAY lightning strikes twice in back to back weeks!

Either that, or our offense defies expectations, but because we can’t manage any sort of a pass rush, this game weirdly turns into a shootout with one team having the ball with two minutes left, down a score, and it going against us because fuck me I hate my life.

Last year, I wanted to savor every minute of the build-up to the game, so convinced was I that we’d get our first championship.  This year?  God, I almost just want it to be over.  I can’t savor a God damn thing!

One thing I’ve got going for me:  whatever is going on right now certainly beats being the Team of Destiny, going into the game knowing you’re going to win, and then getting knocked on your ass in a heartbreaking defeat of epic proportions.  A Seahawks victory in this game is going to be appreciated fifty times over compared to last year’s gingerly walk in the park.  The only thing is:  will my heart have enough juice to survive it all?

I’ve got more on the matchup coming up tomorrow.  Hopefully, I’ll have some better things to say about the Seahawks’ chances.

Players To Watch In Super Bowl XLIX

You know who the big dogs are on the Seattle Seahawks.  The top ten, in some order, looks like this:

  • Russell Wilson
  • Marshawn Lynch
  • Bobby Wagner
  • Earl Thomas
  • Richard Sherman
  • Kam Chancellor
  • Michael Bennett
  • Doug Baldwin
  • Cliff Avril
  • Max Unger

So, I’m not going to sit here and tell you why all these guys are important.  You KNOW why.

This one’s dedicated to the specific Patriots we should probably be concerned with heading into the game next week.  These are the guys everyone will be talking about until this low simmer we’re all on ratchets up to a huge boil.

Let’s start with Tom Brady, because why not?  He’s the only sure-thing Hall of Famer on that team (though, there are some other possibilities, that we’ll get to).  Tom Brady has been one of the best quarterbacks in football pretty much since he took over the starting job with New England in 2001.  His career passer rating is 95.9 – which is outstanding – and he hasn’t even really missed a beat.  In 2014, he had his usual gaudy numbers, adding up to a passer rating of 97.4.  And, with the exception of a few peak years with Randy Moss and Wes Welker, Brady has done all of this with a largely anonymous group of receivers (sound familiar?).

Tom Brady is a quarterback who clearly makes the people around him better.  He has an unquestioned dedication to the game of football and that’s why his teams have always gone to the playoffs and why they’ve had so much success once they’ve gotten there.  Also, it doesn’t hurt that the rest of the AFC East has largely been one big shitshow the entire time, but that’s neither here nor there.

Unlike Manning, Brady doesn’t run his own offense.  He’s not his own offensive coordinator.  If it’s going to help the team win, Brady is more than willing to defer to the running game, if that’s what it takes.  I guess that’s the difference between being a 6th rounder vs. a #1 overall draft pick.  I guess that’s the difference between being led by one of the most successful and talented head coaches in NFL history (even if he is a big, lousy cheater sometimes) vs. a random smattering of guys who are more than willing to let their star quarterback just do his own thing.

Brady is dangerous in the same way that Russell Wilson is dangerous, in the fact that all they care about is winning, at any cost.  It just so happens that Brady has never REALLY had a dominating running game to defer to.  He’s never had a Marshawn Lynch to lean on.  Early in his career, though, Brady DID have an outstanding defense backing him, which was the real driving force in their three Super Bowl titles.  As Brady emerged from that early period in his career, the talent on defense diminished, so he was required to do more.  And, to his credit, he succeeded in almost every way.  That 2007 squad will go down historically as one of the very best teams of all time.  But, when shit got real, they were nipped by the Giants, and that’s that.

Nowadays, Brady doesn’t have the cannon he once did.  You’re not going to see the jump balls he threw to Randy Moss.  Part of that is the talent around him (Brandon LaFell isn’t anywhere near Randy Moss’s UNIVERSE), but part of that is just Brady getting older.  37 years old.  Over 50,000 yards on that arm.  In that respect, he is like Manning, or a latter-day Marino.  He’s going to hang around in that pocket (when he’s not sneaking for that first down on 3rd- & 4th-&-inches), he’s going to rely on rhythm passing from 0-10 yards in front of him, and he’s going to try to dictate tempo by going hurry-up to keep the defense on its heels and tired.

We saw this last year!  None of this is new!  We were worried about the same damn thing with the Broncos and it ended up being a non-issue!  Tom Brady CAN be affected if you get in his face.  You don’t necessarily want to send wave after wave of blitzers after him, but then again, maybe you do.  I mean, the Jets seem to have the Patriots pretty well figured out, and they’ve been running out a Junior Varsity quarterback out there for the last couple decades!  All Rex Ryan DOES is blitz!  I’m not saying that’s what the Seahawks will do – we tend to be among the least-blitzing teams in the NFL, in spite of our mascot’s name – but in theory, if things start getting hairy, it’s not a bad idea.  Let our corners press, and start throwing five and six guys after him on the reg.

If you let Tom Brady stand there all day, he’s going to pick you apart.  Unlike Manning – who’s so afraid of taking a hit that his internal clock is running on fast-forward at all times – Brady will hang in the pocket as long as necessary.  It’s not what he wants, I’m sure, but if the defense is going to press and bump receivers off of their routes, then we’re going to have to punish Brady accordingly for having the gall to wait it out until they get open.

I don’t necessarily see this as a game where the Patriots are going to try to slug it out with us on the ground.  We’re not the Colts, who are a wet paper bag when it comes to stopping the run.  Of course, we’re not necessarily the Ravens either – who make it a point to go all out in stopping the run.  We are who we are.  We’re going to stop your run the same way we stop everyone else’s run.  So, in that sense, I wouldn’t expect the Pats to completely abandon it the way they did in the second half of that Ravens game, but at the same time, we’re probably going to get a heavy dose of passing regardless.  On the year, Brady threw the ball 36 times per game.  That’s about what I’d expect out of this one as long as it remains close.  If it gets out of hand one way or another, figure to add or subtract about 15 to that total.

Pressure Brady, and everything else should fall into place.  A great way to do that?  Put the lockdown on Gronk.

The Pats have four primary receiving threats.  Here’s what they looked like in the regular season:

  • Rob Gronkowski:  82 catches, 1,124 yards, 12 TDs
  • Julian Edelman:  92 catches, 972 yards, 4 TDs
  • Brandon LaFell:  74 catches, 953 yards, 7 TDs
  • Shane Vereen:  52 catches, 447 yards, 3 TDs

Gronk’s just a beast.  He broke out in his rookie year of 2010 with 10 TDs, then turned into a total monster in 2011 with over 1,300 yards and 17 TDs.  The two subsequent years were marred by injuries and he lost large swaths of playing time.  You had to wonder if he would even be able to return to the game.  At the beginning of this year, it seemed like the team was a little too overly-tentative with him.  He’d be off the field for huge chunks of games and the offense struggled accordingly.  In the first four weeks, he had 13 catches for 147 yards and 3 TDs, while mostly playing around the red zone.

After the Pats got crushed by the Chiefs and fell to 2-2, they had no choice but to let Gronk do his thing.  The Patriots won 7 in a row and 10 of 11 overall to close out the regular season, with Gronk putting up the following numbers in that span:  69 catches, 977 yards, and 9 TDs (with an average of approximately 6 catches, 89 yards, and just under a TD per game).  Absolutely unreal.

As you can tell, Gronk IS the red zone offense for this team.  If I were a gambling man, I’d put a very large chunk of money on Gronk scoring a TD in this game, with a good portion of that on him scoring the FIRST touchdown in the game.  I’m sure you’d hardly win a damn thing on that wager, but what are you gonna do?

Seahawks fans are going to sit here and say, “Well, we’ve dismantled guys like Jimmy Graham and Julius Thomas; I’m not worried about Gronk!”  That would be a mistake.  Guys like Graham and Thomas are glorified, slow-footed wide receivers.  They’re soft.  Breathe on ’em wrong and they’ll go home crying to mama.  Gronk is built more in the Tony Gonzalez & Antonio Gates mold.  Remember those guys?  Remember how they were able to pick apart our defense for huge catches and scores?  Those guys thrive on contact, as does Gronk.

People are going to talk about the Gronk & Chancellor matchup, and believe you me, I’ll be looking forward to it as much as anyone else.  There’s nothing I’d like to see more than for Bam Bam to knock Gronk on his ass.  But, the underlying theme will be people talking about Kam shadowing Gronk all day, and that’s just not the case.  That’s not how the Seahawks operate.  We’re going to stick a linebacker on him just like most teams.  Since our linebackers – especially K.J. Wright – are better in coverage than most teams, we should be able to prevent Gronk from racking up a ton of yards.

But, it’s in that red zone where I’m worried.  When they opt to run Gronk out wide, with someone like Simon or Maxwell on him.  Good cover guys, sure, but I could see our corners draped all over him like a Snuggie and see him STILL come down with the ball at the goalline.

Don’t dismiss this guy just because he’s annoyingly awesome and you’d LOVE him if he was on the Seahawks.  To keep the Pats in check, we’ve got to keep Gronk in check, and that’s all there is to it.

Edelman is their possession guy.  Their Doug Baldwin, if you will.  On third down, Brady has two targets:  if Gronk is double teamed, or otherwise covered, he’s looking for Edelman in a crossing route or out in the flat.  We HAVE to control this guy.  If the Pats start converting a ton of third downs, it’s likely going to be because Edelman is getting open and squirming his way to the first down marker.

What I expect the Seahawks to do is put Jeremy Lane on him all day.  This more or less worked out okay last week, with Lane doing the heavy lifting on Randall Cobb.  Aside from the touchdown, Cobb was held to 6 catches for 49 yards.  Throw that TD into the mix, and Cobb still only had 7 catches for 62 yards, so it’s not like he was this unstoppable force (I think, too, Lane either fell down or ran into someone on that TD; but, that’s going off of memory and I’m too lazy to go back and watch it again).

Here’s the deal:  Edelman is no Cobb.  Cobb is probably the best slot receiver in the game.  Edelman is good, but he’s really just a poor man’s Welker.  I don’t think the Seahawks are sunk if we leave Lane on him.

What I’d LIKE the Seahawks to do is put Maxwell on him all day.  Maxwell is taller, with longer arms, but he’s still a strong presence as our nickel corner.  If the Seahawks are able to shut down Edelman, and roll coverage to Gronk to minimize his impact, I just don’t see any way the Patriots are able to move the ball consistently.

Brandon LaFell is a real wild card.  His overall numbers this year are MUCH better than I was expecting.  He’s their deep threat, if the Patriots even have a deep threat.  LaFell – while playing for the Panthers the last few years – was never really much of a problem for us.  The types of catches he makes – on fade routes and other types of throws into the corner – are the types of balls we defend the best.  I can’t imagine LaFell gets even a LOOK if he’s lined up on Sherman’s side.  I could, however, see him getting a good chunk of targets if he’s opposite Sherman, and he’s being guarded by the likes of Tharold Simon.

See, there’s a risky game to play if the Seahawks shadow Edelman with Maxwell, and that’s Simon on LaFell.  I like Simon, I think he would win most matchups against someone like LaFell, but I think if he’s out there, he’s GOING to get picked on, and it’s only a matter of time before there’s a huge penalty or otherwise a big catch going New England’s way.

So, maybe stick with Maxwell on the outside.  Either way, if we’re assignment-sound, I wouldn’t expect to have too much trouble with their passing game.  It’s just:  can we get off the field?  That’s going to require winning on first & second down, and that’s going to require tight coverage on third down.

As for Shane Vereen, I’m not too concerned.  He’s a poor man’s Darren Sproles, and we’ve been able to handle Sproles pretty well in our matchups with him.  I’d expect someone like Bruce Irvin to be big in this one, especially on early downs.

***

On defense, it starts with Darrelle Revis.  He’s not at his peak like he was with the Jets, but he’s still probably a Top 5 cornerback in this league.  It sounds like last week, they stuck Reggie Wayne on Revis Island and Wayne didn’t have an impact whatsoever.  Sounds pretty scary, until you remember the week before where the Ravens threw for nearly 300 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Don’t forget that Ravens game, because I think it’s really important.  The Ravens were VERY balanced, with 129 yards out of Forsett on the ground, topped off by a pretty good day out of Flacco.  Flacco didn’t shy away from Revis, just like Russell Wilson won’t.  The Ravens got beat because their defense – especially their secondary – can’t hold a flame to ours.  If we can get after the quarterback the way they did (the Ravens didn’t have a ton of sacks, but they hit Brady pretty good), I wouldn’t expect anywhere near the type of offensive success the Pats had in that game.

I expect Revis will follow Doug Baldwin all around the field.  So, look for Baldwin to have a pretty ineffective day.  That’s going to put more pressure on Kearse and the rest of our pass-catchers to pick their games up.  New England isn’t impossible to move the ball on, even with some of their relatively big names on defense.

Brandon Browner obviously comes to mind, but we know what to expect out of him.  He’s likely going to stick to a side – maybe even shadow Kearse all day – and put a hurtin’ on whoever comes near him.  Also, I wouldn’t be entirely shocked to see Browner slide inside and take on one of our tight ends.  A matchup I like even less than the Revis/Baldwin one is a Browner/Willson matchup.  I think Browner would eat our #1 tight end for lunch.  Hopefully, we get the Willson/Random Linebacker matchup I’ve been looking forward to all week.

Kyle Arrington is another guy to keep an eye on.  He’s another cornerback, and apparently is their speed guy (as he took on T.Y. Hilton last week).  I’d look for Arrington to spend his time looking after Lockette, which has the potential to be a nice little mismatch in our favor, as Lockette is 6’2 and Arrington is only 5’10.

Another big one to watch out for is Chandler Jones.  #95 in your programs, he’s a 6’5 monster of a defensive end.  While he only netted six sacks this year, he did miss some time with injury and has been a terrifying beast in the games I’ve seen.  I don’t recall offhand where he generally lines up, but I seem to have him squaring off against Britt in my mind’s eye.  I wish I knew more about his tendencies.  If he’s as aggressive as I think he is, I think we can take advantage of him in the read-option game.  I’d watch for him to crash hard on the fake to Lynch, with Wilson running right around him for big gains.

If only Percy Harvin wasn’t such a massive jack-hole, I could see the jet-sweep being a HUGE play for us, like it was in last year’s Super Bowl.  Why couldn’t we have just kept him inactive each and every week – and away from the team facility entirely – then busted him out for one game a year?

Next up, watch out for a pair of outside linebackers in Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins.  Collins especially, #91.  That guy is a FREAK.  He’ll line up on Okung’s side, and could rush the passer or go out into coverage.  He led the team in tackles and really filled up the stat sheet.  I wouldn’t mind seeing us run right at him, to have him swallowed up in our zone blocking scheme, but I gotta wonder if that’s wise.  If he’s able to shed blocks, we might be looking at a long day running the ball.

That’s because the key to the whole defense is Vince Wilfork.  The mammoth nose tackle whose listed weight is 325, but is probably pushing 360.  The Ravens were successful rushing because they managed to run outside the tackles.  But, that’s not really the Seahawks’ game, as we like taking it right at you.  Max Unger and either James Carpenter or J.R. Sweezy will have their work cut out for them.  Considering Carpenter is the only guy on our line who could POSSIBLY move Wilfork’s wide body out of the way, I would expect Wilfork to shade toward Sweezy’s side of Unger.  If Wilfork’s taking up two blockers, that’s going to hurt our running game, because we depend so much upon Sweezy and other guys getting to the second level.

That’s why, again, I like our chances with the zone read.  If we can break off a 100-yard rushing day out of Russell Wilson, that’s going to start opening up things down the field.

If the Seahawks win this game, Russell Wilson will need to have a game for the ages.  Let’s hope he’s got one more left in him.

Richard Sherman, Best Cornerback In The Game, Signs 4-Year Extension

I’m less interested in the fact that Richard Sherman is the highest-paid cornerback in football, because that’s all temporary.  I care more about what it has taken for Richard Sherman go GET that deal (4 years, 50-something million, $40 million guaranteed), which is his being the best cornerback in the game.

Mostly, I just care about the fact that Richard Sherman is going to be with the Seahawks at least through the 2018 season.

Richard Sherman has a lot of haters.  He’s brash, he’s arrogant, he talks a mountain of shit.  While he’s not necessarily a “me-first” type of player, he certainly encourages all the attention anyone is willing to give him.  Plus, he plays on the Seattle Seahawks.  Which means he’s NOT playing for 31 of the NFL’s 32 teams.  He’s the consummate player you love if he’s on your team, and the player you love to hate if he’s not.

As such, people love making the argument that he’s NOT the greatest cornerback in the game.  As if it’s so easy to do what he does.

Here’s what we know:  primarily, Richard plays on one side of the field.  Which means for the most part, he’s not following the other team’s best receiver all around the field.  As if this is some sort of skill he lacks (I’d ask Anquan Boldin in week 2 of last year how he liked having Richard Sherman in his back pocket all day long).  Apparently, if you’re not constantly shutting down the other team’s best receiver (or, at least holding him at bay), then you’re lacking.  Let’s not forget, Richard Sherman has absolutely put a wall on his side of the field.  You’d think that would count for something.

Furthermore, every team that plays the Seahawks knows what they’re going to do on defense.  They know exactly where Richard Sherman is going to be at all times.  They can counter this by putting their weakest receiver on his side and essentially “neutralize” Sherman.  With all of this a matter of public record, isn’t it even MORE amazing that Richard Sherman was able to lead the league in interceptions last year, with 8?  Or that he’s been among the league leaders in his first three years with 20 interceptions total?  Or that he led the league in passes defended?

Opposing offenses KNOW they can just avoid his side, and yet he’s still the most productive cornerback in the game!  I’d like to see Patrick Peterson do that (oh, that’s right, he’s got all of 12 interceptions in the last three years).

Another knock on Richard Sherman is the fact that he’s on the best defense in football.  This somehow discounts the fact that Richard Sherman is one of the primary reasons WHY the Seahawks have the best defense in football.  But, that’s neither here nor there.  Richard Sherman has Earl Thomas to his right, and Earl Thomas is the key to the whole fucking thing.  Not to mention the most underrated linebacking corps in the game, and a ruthless defensive line.  We’re stacked!  There’s no denying this.  As such, it has to make Sherman’s job a whole lot easier.

But, do you ever hear anyone knock Michael Jordan for being on some of the best teams of all time in the mid-90s?  He had Pippen and Rodman and Kerr and a number of other dynamite role players on that team who all fit together perfectly.  Michael Jordan was the best basketball player of all time, yet nobody knocks him for having some of the most talented players of all time around him!  They didn’t expect Jordan to put up 50 shots a game, because he didn’t HAVE to put up 50 shots a game.  He just needed to do his thing, play within the offense, and the wins would take care of themselves.

So, why are you asking Richard Sherman to move all around the field with the other team’s best receiver if he doesn’t have to?  I would understand it if our other cornerbacks were terrible, and we didn’t have the safeties we have.  But, we’ve got the BEST safeties and a bunch of other really good corners.  So, why put unnecessary pressure on Sherm?  Let him play his game, let him lock down his side, and let opposing offenses try to work around him.

I’ll take Richard Sherman over any other corner in football.  You can call it blind homerism if you want, but I’ve watched the man work.  I’ve seen nearly every game he’s been involved with in the pros.  As a rookie, he flashed amazing potential.  In 2012, he was really coming on and starting to make a name for himself.  From 2012 through 2013, he brought all the attention upon himself, by punking Tom Brady, by arguing over Twitter with Darrelle Revis.  When 2013 started, Richard Sherman had the biggest target on his back of any player in the league.  What did he do?  Did he crumble under the self-inflicted pressure?  Hell no!  He went out and kicked even MORE ass, culminating with that tipped pass to Malcolm Smith in the NFC Championship Game (aka the REAL Super Bowl XLVIII).

Richard Sherman IS the greatest.  Take it from someone who has just written the single-greatest argument as to WHY he’s the greatest.

The Huskies & Seahawks Play Home Games This Weekend; Both Should Win

I’m combining these previews mostly because I’m lazy.  Partly because I know dick about the Utah Utes.  Also, work is having a bake sale going on for charity and I’m in a diabetic coma right now.

Here’s what I know about the Husky game.  The Huskies are 4-1 at home, including wins over ranked opponents Oregon State and Stanford.  The Huskies are well underway in the easiest portion of their schedule.  They finally got a road win last week, getting that monkey off their backs.  This is the final home game of the Husky season.  This game puts the Huskies over the threshold for a bowl game.  It’s senior night.

Utah is currently 0-4 on the road this year.  They’re coming off back-to-back impressive-looking wins over Cal and WSU, but take that for what it’s worth, because it’s fucking Cal and WSU.  Their offense is somehow worse than ours, but they’ve also somehow scored more points than us.  Their defense looks to be solid, particularly along the line, but then again our defense has been a strong point for us, holding Stanford, Oregon State, and Cal to under 20 points.  They’re starting a freshman quarterback who has only played significantly in 4 games to date.  In each of those four games, he has thrown at least one pick, en route to 3 TDs and 5 INTs in that span.  Also, he doesn’t appear to be much of a threat running the ball even though he’s had at least 5 rushing attempts in each of those four games.

And yet somehow the Utes and NOT the Huskies are favored in this game?  I don’t understand it.

I can’t imagine a world in which the Utes win this game.  That’s not to say I’m seeing the Huskies running away with it (though I’m not saying they won’t run away with it either).  Either the Huskies dominate and win by three scores, or they win by the usual one score with some clenched buttcheeks at the end.  Either way, Utah is not coming up here tomorrow night and taking this away from us.  We’ve got 8 wins firmly on our minds and God dammit, we’re gonna get there!

***

Here’s what I know about the Seahawks game.  The Seahawks are 4-0 at home.  They’ve beaten the likes of New England, Green Bay, Dallas, and Minnesota.  All were, at one point, pegged to be playoff teams this season.  Three of those teams have elite quarterbacks.  Two of those teams are perennial Super Bowl contenders.  The Seahawks won them all.

The Jets are 1-2 on the road.  They are 3-5 overall; their most-impressive win being at Miami in overtime.  The Jets do NOT have an elite quarterback.  They have two of the worst starting quarterbacks in the modern era.  The Jets also do not have an elite defense.  Darrelle Revis won’t be around, which knocks them back quite a bit.  The rest of their defense is entirely overrated because Rex Ryan is a loudmouth who’s doing all the rating for everyone.  Rex Ryan’s father was a defensive genius.  Rex Ryan’s brother is probably a better coach than he is, but he looks like a tool, so there’s that.  Rex Ryan is a foot fetishist, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, the next time you see a woman’s bare foot, just know that he PROBABLY would like to sniff it.  It might be your girlfriend’s foot, it might be your wife’s foot, it might be your mother’s foot.  Rex Ryan … is a foot-sniffer.

The Jets are terrible.  Their defense is near dead last against the run, so expect Marshawn Lynch to either have a day, or expect them to completely sell out, in which case expect Russell Wilson to have a day.

Their top wide receiver is someone named Jeremy Kerley.  He’s averaging under 4 receptions per game (30 on the season) with only 2 TDs.  Their second-best receiver is still Santonio Holmes and he only played in 4 games before he was lost for the season.  Their third-best receiver is me.  Pudgy, diabetic-coma me.  I will step on the field for the Jets this weekend and be their third-best receiver after Jeremy Kerley and a guy on IR.

Did I mention their quarterback is Mark Sanchez?  Their quarterback is Mark Sanchez.  I probably should have led off with that statement, but then the analysis of this game would’ve been five words long.  He has 10 TDs vs. 8 INTs on the season.  Except for overall yardage, he’s currently being out-played by Russell Wilson in every other facet of the game.  Seahawks fans even LIKE Russell Wilson; you can’t necessarily say the same for Jets fans and their starting QB.

This weekend should be a no-brainer.  Our corners are going to shut down their receivers.  Our defensive line is going to be able to get through their offensive line.  Our defense is going to force multiple turnovers.  Their only hope is to concoct the most conservative of all game plans and hope for a low-scoring slugfest.  Like, kneel down every time and hope we screw up somehow (or hope for a special teams miracle).

Our offense is improving week to week.  It should be no trouble moving the ball on this team.  I expect another game in the mid-to-high 20s for us and I expect 3 points for them.  I think late in the game they’ll drive and kick a field goal to keep a shutout off of Ryan’s coaching record.  It’ll be a foot-sniffer kind of a thing to do, and the 12th Man will reign down a chorus of boos, but what else would you expect?

The Jets will fly home embarrassed.  Another season lost.  And Rex Ryan’s job will be on life support with another 7 games left to play.

The Seahawks, on the other hand, will be 6-4 headed into a BYE week with an inside track on a playoff spot.

All will be glorious after this weekend.  Huskies and Seahawks fans will rejoice in the streets.  Anything less would be absolutely unfathomable.

What Should The Seahawks Draft? – Defensive End

If the whole “Who’s Our Quarterback” issue wasn’t just beating us all over the head like a sadistic Whack-A-Mole gamer, a lot of people would peg Defensive Line as our number 1 issue of need.

I’m not quite in that boat, as I tend to be encouraged by our run-stopping ability when we have Red Bryant in there.  Plus, you know, Chris Clemons.  PLUS, it’s really fucking hard to develop quality pass rushers for some reason.  Either they’re studs right out of college, or it takes them 5 years before they finally figure out all the tricks of the trade.

See:  Raheem Brock.  Actually, I know next-to-nothing about Raheem Brock; for all I know he’s been mowing down QBs all his life.  BUT, since I know next-to-nothing about him, that probably means he hasn’t done a whole lot with his life.  I read somewhere earlier this off-season that Brock had 9 sacks for us last year.  And that he and Clemons were one of the most dynamic duos at getting to the QB (they combined for 20 sacks).  I’m pretty sure Brock is a free agent, but even still, that seems to be Problem Solved for us.  Just give those two guys another year or two to wreak some motherfucking havoc together and we should be pretty good.  In the short term anyway.

Then, I checked out Brock’s stats.  He REALLY came on towards the end of last year.  He had a sack in each playoff game (which is good).  Though, exactly half of his 9 regular season sacks were against the Rams and the Panthers.  That’s a little deceiving …

I suppose one of the main reasons why the Seahawks should draft a Defensive End is because this year’s draft is so laden with talent at the position (from what I’ve heard from those in the know).  Far be it for me to do all your work for you; you can research those names your damn self.  I guess if the Seahawks see a guy who they feel is a sure thing, it’d be hard to pass that up.  Let’s face it, our jumbo defensive line package is great against the rush, but we’re going to run into some third downs here and there where we need guys to rear back and kill the quarterback.

Bottom line:  it’s more effective to improve your pass rush than it is to improve your secondary coverage.  I mean, Revis is great and all, but he’s pretty much one of a kind.  Most corners are just average, run-of-the-mill football players with bad hands and that’s why they don’t play receiver.  HOWEVER, if you’re able to really ramp up the pass rush, get that quarterback on his heels and throwing before he wants to, you can make even Kelly Jennings into something of a dominant force.

And, even if we DO re-sign Brock, there’s still a little matter of depth.  Take a wild fucking guess at who had the most sacks after Clemons and Brock.  Was it the aforementioned Red Bryant?  Heavens no, he had but 1!  Was it Lofa or Mebane?  Sorry, they also had 1 apiece.  Was it our 4th overall pick in 2009, Aaron Curry?  You’re getting warmer, but I’m sorry, he only topped out at 3.5.

Actually, it was Lawyer Milloy, who I believe is the oldest player on our team (and might be older than a good chunk of our coaching staff).  He had 4 on those surprisingly effective safety blitzes we worked into our game plans early in the season.

So, yeah, depth is probably an issue we should deal with.  You know how I feel about what we should do with our First Round draft pick, but if there aren’t any quality O-linemen around, and there IS a quality D-lineman … I’d be hard-pressed to be outraged.