Not Winners & Losers Of The Seahawks’ Game Against The 49ers

Super fun win on Sunday at CenturyLink, as the Seahawks and 49ers were the first teams in NFL history to combine for a 43-16 score.  The Seahawks were favored by double-digits and this was one of those kinds of games where far too often you see us play down to the level of our competition and eke out an ugly win by 3 points, followed by everyone talking about how it doesn’t matter how pretty it was as long as a win is a win is a win is a blah blah blah.  Not this time.  After some predictable early-game struggles, we eventually went up 20-0 and didn’t look back.

What I’m Geeked Out About After Twelve Games

Russell Wilson, one more time.  11/17 for only 185 yards, but a whopping 4 TDs against 0 INTs.  Check out this season through three quarters:  2,716 yards (on pace for around 3,621), 8.33 yards per attempt (a career high by a fraction of a yard), 29 TDs (already his third-most in a season), 5 INTs, and a 115.5 passer rating (which would easily be a career high if he can keep it up).  There’s raw passing numbers, and there’s efficiency, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a guy who’s more efficient, either this season or over the course of a career.

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

You can’t do what he’s doing without the offensive line playing the way they’ve been playing.  We’ve always said, “If Russell Wilson ever had time in the pocket, he’d be among the best in the game,” and this year is living proof.  There were a few too many penalties for my liking (some legit, some REALLY ticky-tack), but otherwise Wilson had a clean pocket most of the day, and when he was heavily pressured (like on that one ugly sack near the 49ers goalline), I would argue the receivers or running backs let him down by missing assignments.

The proof is also in the pudding in the run game.  A week after Carolina brought us down to Earth a little bit, we had a quietly explosive game against a pretty solid 49ers run defense:  168 yards on 29 carries (5.8 per attempt) and a TD.  Carson led the way with 69 (nice), but Penny had 65 of his own (including a nifty 20-yard TD scamper) on nearly half the attempts.

Defensively, I mean, Bobby Wagner should probably be the MVP of this one:  12 tackles, 1 sack, 2 QB hits, 2 passes defended, 1 simultaneous forced fumble/fumble recovery, and a 98-yard interception returned for a touchdown (the longest in franchise history … LOB WHO MOTHERFUCKERS???).  Best Middle Linebacker In Football Hands Down No Questions Asked Thank U Next.

Elsewhere, Justin Coleman had a monster game with 10 tackles and half a sack.  Austin Calitro was all over the place in the stead of K.J. Wright.  Poona Ford was a load in the middle.  Frank Clark was in Nick Mullens’ pocket all day.  For a unit that ended up giving up 452 yards of offense (mostly in garbage time), that was a helluva game.  I mean, largely due to their ineptitude, the 49ers ran 74 plays to Seattle’s 49, so the Seahawks’ defense had to contend with a modest time imbalance.  A lot of heart on that side of the ball to hold them to just 16 points.

Getting back to the offense, kudos to Jaron Brown for his 2 TDs.  Tyler Lockett had a 52-yard score and a massive kickoff return to start the third quarter (which immediately preceeded Penny’s touchdown).  And Doug Baldwin even got in on the action with a 1-yard score.  Fantastic all-around day by these guys.

Let’s Talk About Competitions

The youth is really starting to stand out, and it’s a good sign of things to come.  The Seahawks should have plenty of money to spread around this offseason, and they’ll have a lot of fun decisions to make.  Frank Clark needs to be extended; that has to be Priority #1.  I would argue Jarran Reed is Priority #2.  I think the aforementioned Calitro could be a great fit to slide into K.J.’s role alongside Wagner.  I do ultimately think the Seahawks will look at the secondary in this year’s draft, but it’s nice to see Thompson and Hill making strides as the season has progressed.  We talk all the time about Griffin and Flowers – and rightly so – but it’s nice to see the depth in this secondary start to approach prior glories.  It’ll never be as good as it was, but to come close is something special.

On the flipside, how smart was that decision to extend Lockett when we did?  Between him, getting Doug healthy again next year, with David Moore and Jaron Brown rounding out the group, we’re set at wide receiver.  We’re also set at running back with Carson as the lead dog and the emergence of Penny as a change-of-pace threat to break it at any time.  That speed and explosiveness is what we expected all along from the first rounder, so it’s nice to see it finally showing up in games.

There’s a lot of quality youth on this team.  If we can just keep the offensive line intact, 2019 could really be something special, assuming we can fill in some of the holes with free agency.

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

Obviously not a great day by the kicker.  Gladly, it didn’t come close to affecting the outcome; let’s just hope this is a random anomaly and he got all his bad kicks out in a laugher.

Ultimately, it looks like Carson’s finger injury won’t matter too much (though, you hate to see a guy prone to fumbling injure any part of his hands).  But, the hamstring injury to Fluker seems like a crusher.  He could be out for a few games, the rest of the regular season, or put on IR and lost entirely.  You hate to see something so serious happen towards the end of a game that’s been largely decided, so let’s hope for the best.

Not Winners & Losers Of The Seahawks’ Game At The Rams

Aside from falling short at the end, that’s as good as I had any right to expect this game to go.  The Seahawks ran the ball – without Chris Carson, without D.J. Fluker (who I thought was the bigger of the two injury inactives for this team, considering the opponent) – better than they have all year, 273 yards on 34 carries; they kept the game close all day, and in the end they got the ball back with around 90 seconds, one touchdown away from winning it outright.  On top of which, the Seahawks drove to the Rams’ 35 yard line with just under a minute to go before the drive stalled.  It was all right there, and we just couldn’t punch it in.  Again, I take no solace from a moral victory; yes, it shows the Seahawks are on the right track and closer to returning to their championship window than we thought, but there’s still a huge talent discrepancy between us and the elite teams in the NFL.  In other words, there’s a lot of work left to do.  This isn’t a reincarnation of the 2012 Seahawks so much as the 2011 variety:  that team that went 7-9, had some remarkable victories, but ultimately fell short of their goal to make the playoffs (even if that goal looked insane heading into the season).  The 2018 Seahawks aren’t QUITE what we thought they were, but they’re also going nowhere, very, very slowly.

What I’m Geeked Out About After Nine Games

I got a two-fer, and they’re both rushing related.  First and foremost, WELCOME TO SEATTLE RASHAAD PENNY!  He’s had opportunities at times this season, but until yesterday had failed to take advantage of them.  Well, this was his coming out party.  108 yards on 12 carries with a TD.  He looked smooth, he looked explosive, and he took advantage of some really solid run blocking from our offensive line.  Kudos all around to those five (sometimes, with Fant, six) guys for punishing the Rams once again.  In two games this year, against that stout front, the Seahawks ran for 463 yards on 66 carries, for a 7.02 yards per carry average!  Outstanding!

Of course, not for nothing, but those fuckfaces only seem to get it up for rushing the passer on third down, so maybe they need to get their priorities together if they have any aspirations of winning a Super Bowl, but that’s neither here nor there.

My other prong in this section goes to Russell Wilson.  Sure, he threw 3 more touchdowns, on 17/26 for 176; but he also ran the ball like he hasn’t all year!  92 yards on 9 carries, which was the most he’s had in a single game since November 2014 (and tied for the 5th most in a game in his professional career).  I know he always just takes what the defense gives him, but I thought he took advantage of a few keeps that both moved the chains and opened up some future holes for our backs.

Now, if only he’d pulled it down and ran with it on that final play of the game …

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

It’s pretty much time to shift expectations a little bit going forward (and, even moreso, assuming we lose to the Packers this Thursday).  While it’s okay to hold out hope for a wild card berth (even moreso, assuming we beat the Packers this Thursday), I’m looking to focus more on positive elements for the future.

For instance, when you see the Seahawks giving up 36 points to the Rams, my go-to emotion is to say, “The defense deserves zero praise whatsoever, full stop!”  But, that’s just not logical.  While it’s distressing to see the Rams move the ball with such ease, quite frankly they’re the Rams.  This is what they do.  And, given the limitations we’re working with on that side of the ball, it’s commendable that we were able to limit them in the ways we did.

Kudos, for instance, on stopping them with less than 2 minutes to go, to give our offense a chance to win it!  If you offered me this scenario heading into the game – considering I was predicting a double-digit blowout – I would’ve accepted it in a heartbeat!  I almost always think Russell Wilson is going to lead us to victory in the closing seconds of the game, so why wouldn’t that be something to hope for?

I thought Bobby Wagner had a whale of a game.  I thought Jarran Reed and Frank Clark played their asses off.  Quinton Jefferson looked like a load all day.  Jacob Martin flashed at times.  Sure, there were breakdowns here and there, but the Rams’ scheme often creates these types of breakdowns.  The fact of the matter is, there’s a lot to like, even on a day where we gave up 456 yards.  I mean, shit, the Rams are supposed to have this great “championship defense” with the best defensive coordinator in the game (taking advantage of their star quarterback on a rookie deal, by signing and trading for all these high-priced studs on defense, a la the Seahawks in 2013) and they gave up 414 yards to us, on top of a litany of penalty yardage!  We’re at least doing as well as they are, with A LOT LESS.  Something to think about, before you resume killing our defense.

Also, kudos to Mike Davis for being a boss.  Kudos to Lockett for yet another touchdown.  Kudos to Doug Baldwin and Ed Dickson for big catches.  Kudos to Michael Dickson for some FANTASTIC punting!

Let’s Talk About Competitions

Bradley McDougald was one of our injury concerns heading into this game, but he ended up making the start.  He did okay, but the coaches rightly split time between him and Delano Hill.  I don’t know if Hill is totally safe as a future starter, but he’s been looking better these last couple weeks.  Not the total disaster he was in the pre-season and earlier this year.  He’s making strides, that’s all you can ask.  I still think this team needs to make safety a priority in the 2019 draft, if for nothing else than to boost our competition.

We’re also gonna need to move on from K.J. Wright I think, when this year is over.  I wouldn’t mind seeing Shaquem Griffin get some looks.  He’s definitely started to flash on Special Teams lately, which is cool to see (also shout-out to Akeem King, who is straight balling out there on Teams; that was a nasty head-to-head deal between the two, though); I hope Griffin is making strides in practice at least, in the base defense.  I’m curious to see how he grows going forward.

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

I was extremely disappointed in Duane Brown for giving up that strip sack to Dante Fowler yesterday, which set up the Rams’ game-winning score.  I mean, come on.  You’re a Pro Bowl left tackle going up against a draft bust; I get that sometimes even the all-time greats get beat, but you CANNOT get beat in that situation!  Not with the game on the line, that late in the contest, to a fucking nobody!  What are we PAYING you for, if not to stand tall in that exact scenario?!

Also, just … The Legion Of Boom, these guys are not.  Sure, the Rams are an elite offensive unit, and they scheme you to death, but I’m not seeing a ton of progress out of our secondary this year, and that’s going to be a problem going forward.  Now, of course, maybe they’ll look better once we find a pass rush (next year, hopefully).  But, maybe they’ll always be an Achilles heel (no pun intended, Richard Sherman) and we’re going to have to play these types of games against good offenses.

I hear a lot of Seahawks fans complaining about CenturyLink not being as loud as it was in its heyday; well, fans feed off of defense.  It’s hard to get up for this mediocrity we’re watching this year.  Where are the big plays?  Where are the sacks and interceptions and forced fumbles?  Where are the stops on third down?  An elite defense trumps an elite offense 10 times out of 10.  Without that, yeah, expect the home crowds to be a little more indifferent than they once were (though, to be fair, I’m not a regular attendee to the games, but it was VERY loud in my opinion, the game I went to last week, as I had to regularly plug my ears to deal with all the screaming).

Finally, let’s not waste snaps handing the ball to C.J. Prosise, huh?  He’s done.  Let’s move on already.

Not Winners & Losers Of The Seahawks’ Game Against The Chargers

It was just one of those days, a perfect storm of ineptitude as the Seahawks were as sloppy and disjointed as I’ve ever seen them.  4/15 on third down and that includes going 3/3 on the first drive of the game (doing the math, that tells me they were 1/12 the rest of the way).  10 penalties for 83 yards (which felt like 183 yards, as they seemingly came at the absolute WORST possible times).  And, ultimately, one back-breaking pick-six that was literally the worst throw I’ve ever seen.  I went to the game and had a perfect vantage of the entire play from behind and to the right; at no point was there EVER a receiver open on that play.  That play was going for 6 points the other way or … there’s no end to that sentence, that’s how fucking easy it was.  Gambling addicts in too deep with the mob don’t choreograph their point-shaving with such blatant disregard for looking totally fucking obvious.  I’m not saying Russell Wilson threw away the game on purpose, but he certainly played like it.  In the end, it added up to a 25-17 defeat that still saw the Seahawks down at the goalline with no time left on the clock and a chance to put the game into overtime if everything broke right.

What I’m Geeked Out About After Eight Games

There isn’t much to praise about this one, so I’ll shout out my buddy who got us these seats:

The second football game I saw in person over the weekend; the first one went a lot better …

As you can see, it didn’t rain a lick (even though it was looking pretty iffy heading into the weekend) and was actually as pleasant of a weather day as you can expect in early November.  What geeked me out the most about this one?  Having a rain jacket and not needing it!

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

I guess there’s something to be said for the way this team fought back.  Chris Carson, D.J. Fluker, and Bradley McDougald all left the game with injuries and didn’t return (more on them in a later section); you could argue those are 3 of the 5 most important players on this year’s team after Russell Wilson, and we lost them all for a huge swath of the game.  Yet, after looking pretty miserable in giving up 19 points in the first half, the defense stepped up like a champion, giving up 0 in the second half (again, the aforementioned pick-six was the only points the Chargers got).  It looked particularly dicey when our onside kick was totally botched, but our defense stood tall and gave our offense a chance to march down the field.

And, credit where it’s due, after that pick-six, Wilson led the Seahawks right down the field for a touchdown that took a little too long (nearly 5 minutes, not coming until AFTER the 2-minute warning).  And, he once again worked his magic in getting us back down to the goalline on the final drive of the game.  First, with a fantastic long throw that the Chargers defender had to interfere with to keep us from catching it; then with an untimed down on a dart to David Moore that he absolutely should’ve caught.  I mean, there’s no guarantee that we would’ve made the 2-point conversion, but we’ll never know what could’ve been, now will we?

Let’s Talk About Competitions Injuries Again

This is bad, you guys.  I noted it on Twitter this week, and it’s apparently a real problem:  Chris Carson is fragile.

He’s had 2 games this year with 20 or more carries.  After the first time, he missed the next game with an injury.  The second time was last week, and lo and behold, there he was on the injury report again this week.  He tried to give it a go – and looked pretty great in the early going of this one – but ultimately never came out after halftime.  And, say what you want about Mike Davis, but he’s no Chris Carson.

To make matters worse, we lost D.J. Fluker and had to roll with Joey Hunt at right guard.  We’re 0-3 in games where Fluker has missed some or all of the game, which I’d say makes him pretty fucking important to this team’s chances.  From the sound of initial reports, it looks like this could be a long-term issue, which fucking sucks considering we’re going into the hardest stretch of our season.  Anyone looking forward to the prospects of playing the Rams or Panthers on the road without Fluker in there manhandling fools?  Because I’m not!

Finally, what can you say about Bradley McDougald that hasn’t already been said?  We already lost Earl Thomas, but McDougald was playing like a superstar both with and without him!  He’s easily our most important secondary player and the dropoff from him to Delano Hill is tragic.  The defense is already pretty shaky as it is (see:  all those long plays the Chargers were able to rip off in the first half, either with busted coverages or terrible tackling angles) and losing our best tackler and coverage guy in the secondary is only going to make matters 1,000-times worse.

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

I mean, where do you start?!

That was the worst I’ve ever seen Russell Wilson.  Forget the pick-six, which was bad, don’t get me wrong.  But, he was off-target ALL GAME.  How many 3rd downs did he blow single-handedly by over-throwing or under-throwing wide open receivers?  How many 13-yard sacks did he take by running backwards like a moron?  I know he threw all those picks in the NFC Championship Game, but that gets overlooked because of how we came back to win.  But, this loss is on Russell more than anyone else, and he needs to wear it this week.

Let’s see, how about the idiotic penalties on our offensive line?  How many times do you need to get flagged for leaping into a pile of bodies before you’re going to figure it the fuck out?  Stop being so fucking blatant with your attempts to injure opponents in the guise of being “aggressive”.  It’s not cool!  Be Smarter!

And seriously, what the fuck was up with all those deep plays our defense gave up?  That game was damn near the opposite of what I expected.  The Chargers are kings at dinking and dunking you to death, but Rivers was able to hit guys wide open deep down field, and if he wasn’t doing that, then Melvin Gordon was running through the biggest holes I’ve ever seen!

That’s another thing:  why would you sit your best run-stuffing defensive tackle?  Poona Ford’s presence was sorely missed.  Someone fucked up royally in deciding the inactives this week, because clearly the Chargers took advantage of our pisspoor run defense.  22 carries for 160 yards.

Bully for the defense for adjusting in the second half, but that was as bad as I’ve ever seen THEM in the first half.  This was 2009 Seahawks level of defensive play for 30 minutes.  Unacceptable!

No individual shout-outs, because if you suck as a team you get ripped as a team.  And this team deserves to get ripped.  Everyone except Michael Dickson, who punted like a champ.  And believe me, we needed every bit of it.

Also, fuck you Seabass for yet another missed field goal.  God damn are we sick of your bullshit.

Not Winners & Losers Of The Seahawks’ Game In Detroit

The Seahawks went into Detroit and did their thing.  The Lions scored an early TD to go up 7, but Seattle took over from there, ultimately winning 28-14.  Things could’ve gotten hairy there towards the end – especially after a bullshit pass-interference call that put the Lions in the red zone with a chance to bring the game to within 1 score with time left to get the ball back – but Justin Coleman jumped a route to snag an interception.  And Michael Dickson ran what was supposed to be a safety out of the back of the endzone 9 yards for an unlikely first down to salt the game away.  To the premise!

What I’m Geeked Out About After Seven Games

It’s like deciding who my best child is.  Or my favorite Halloween candy!  Twix?  Kit Kat?  Snickers?  Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups?  Mounds?  Skittles?  The red/pink Starburst only?  Reese’s Fast Break?  Whatchamacallit?  Do they even have that one in Fun Size?  Milky Way?  Peanut M&M’s?  I LOVE ALL MY BABIES AND NOW I ALSO HAVE DIABETES!

Look, I’m just gonna be selfish here.  As you’ll no doubt read about later this week – because you know you love reading about me and my fantasy team troubles – I was able to pick up Chris Carson in a week where Ezekiel Elliott was on a BYE, and he single-handedly won me a fantasy football game.  You’ll see who I was gonna pick up if I didn’t get Carson and suffice it to say it was a 20-point swing in an 11-point win.

Carson ran for 105 yards on 25 carries, as he was this team’s unquestioned #1 running back.  More importantly, he scored a touchdown and was in on most goalline and red zone plays.  This is huge, not just for my fantasy team.  Mike Davis is a serviceable and perfectly fine #2 running back.  If the Seahawks needed to start him next week, I’d be comfortable with him getting 20 carries.  He definitely also strikes me as a guy who gets better as the game goes along (and therefore requires a number of touches before he starts to get going).  Chris Carson is just a BEAST tho.  He’s faster than every other back on this team, he’s stronger than every other back on this team, he’s more elusive, he’s harder to bring down … you get the idea.  Make a list of all the attributes you want out of a running back, and he’s at the top of every one!

Not only that, but if you compared him to the rest of the #1 running backs around the league, and I would argue he compares VERY favorably!  He and everyone else are behind Todd Gurley by a comfortable margin, but in that second tier, I’d say Carson is right there … in raw ability and talent with the football.  Now, he still has to stay healthy and prove it over a longer sample size.  But, as for just the Eye Test?  He passes with flying colors.

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

Give me Russell or give me death!  Do you want to see a football player’s stats?  14/17, 248 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs, 14.6 yards per attempt, 158.3 passer rating and 98.9 QBR.  In the leadup to this game, I talked about how he needed to have an efficient game, and that while they don’t give up a ton of yards, the Lions are among the worst teams in opponent’s passer rating.  Lo and behold, Wilson had a PERFECT passer rating!

How about that Ed Dickson?  I never thought I’d say we missed him, and if Dissly hadn’t gone down for the year, I might’ve even argued to cut Dickson before he returned from the PUP list.  But, he was back this week, and he hauled in a couple of VERY impressive catches.  One for 42 yards (on a play-action on third & short where the Lions totally bought into a run and left him wide open) and one for a contested touchdown in the back of the endzone.  I mean, I couldn’t even tell you what he did in a blocking capacity, but his first game in a Seahawks uniform is already my favorite over every other game Jimmy Graham ever had here!  Ed Dickson is such an upgrade it’s not even funny!

David Moore had 4 for 97 and a TD, Lockett had 2 for 34 and a TD, Baldwin had 2 for 26, even Vannett had a nifty catch for 16 yards.

Defensively, there were a lot of stars.  Frank Clark with a sack and a fumble recovery.  Shamar Stephen with another sack.  Some good pressure from Dion Jordan and Jacob Martin and Jarran Reed.

It was also good to see K.J. Wright back, who had a nice game.

Let’s Talk About Competitions

It’s pretty clear who’s stepped up and who’s gone by the wayside.  No Penny in this one.  Not much out of Brandon Marshall or Jaron Brown.  I want to say Mingo’s playing time is greatly reduced with the return of Wright.  Naz Jones was once again a healthy scratch.

Also interesting:  George Fant’s conversion to 4th string tight end.  Or, shit, is he 3rd string at this point?  He was on the field a ton as a de-facto 6th offensive lineman, but he was also lined up out wide seemingly just as much as he was on the line!  He’s even running routes out there a little bit!  I can’t imagine he has great hands, but what if he did?  What if Wilson actually threw him the ball?  Wouldn’t that be wild?

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

Not a lot, to be honest.  Tedric Thompson had a couple shoddy plays, but also forced a fumble on that kickoff.  I didn’t like seeing Bradley McDougald leave the game with what appeared to be an injury, but I guess he was just sick so that’s okay.  He might be the most important player on this defense at this point, with no Earl, and with the way he’s been playing at a super-high level this year.  The dropoff from him to Delano Hill is pretty steep, so never leave us Bradley!

There still isn’t a ton of pass rush to write home about, but there’s some, and with the way our back-end is playing, “some” might be “just enough”.

The gauntlet rolls on with a game against the Chargers.  6 of our last 9 games are at home, so giddyup 12’s!

Not Winners & Losers Of The Seahawks’ Game At Arizona

It was the usual brand of ugly down in Glendale, but the Seahawks prevailed in the end to beat the winless Cardinals 20-17.  The defense looked good enough, the run game was fine, but the offense as a whole was pretty bad once again.  There just isn’t going to be an overnight fix on this thing; it’s going to take a lot of baby stepping to get this thing where it needs to be.

What I’m Geeked Out About After Four Games

Shout out to the offensive line!  I never thought I’d see them in this section so soon, but here we are!

I don’t have them here just because every other element about the Seahawks struggled (though that’s true), but because they actually looked good.  Dominant even!  We were all whacked across the face Sunday afternoon with the news that Chris Carson was sitting out with some nagging injury, so you could be forgiven if you feared for the life of our run game.  It came as a further shock to see Mike Davis getting the starter’s reps, with a fully healthy Rashaad Penny returning kicks and getting the backup’s reps.

But, Davis came out guns blazing!  21 carries, 101 yards, 2 TDs, to go along with 4 catches for 23 more yards!  While Davis is fully capable of having these types of games, it was hard not to notice how wide open those running lanes were, thanks to this O-line (backed up, once again, on the strength of D.J. Fluker on the right side).  With Sweezy holding down the left guard spot, things have really started to gel with these guys (though, I still hope to see Pocic win that job back at some point, for the long-term future of the unit).

Furthermore, Russell Wilson only took 2 sacks, and often had all day to throw the ball.  It was just a great game for a maligned group of guys and I’m happy for them.

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

Speaking of Penny, he only ran the ball 9 times, but gained 49 yards in the process.  He looked more decisive and powerful than I’ve ever seen him.  This was a nice stepping stone game for him, as he acclimates to the speed and ferocity of the league.

Lots of props for the defense, particularly the front seven.

Bobby Wagner, of course, led the team in tackles.  Jarran Reed made his presence felt in the backfield, with a sack and a couple tackles for loss.  Mychal Kendricks had a couple tackles in the backfield, as did Branden Jackson.  These guys also did a pretty good job of holding Arizona’s running game in check.  David Johnson only averaged 3.2 yards per carry (22 for 71, with a TD).

Offensively for the Seahawks, not a lot there.  David Moore had a solid game (2 for 39).  Tyler Lockett continued to show up on the stat sheet (5 for 53 to lead the way).

Let’s Talk About Competitions Injuries

We just can’t play a game in that fucking stadium without losing guys to devastating injuries!  I can’t even keep it straight in my head anymore, all I know it’s been a lot.

Well, throw Will Dissly’s corpse onto the pile, because he went out on the second drive of the game with a season-ending knee injury.  Fucking terrific.  Just what I want to see from a promising rookie.  Let’s cut his first year short in the first month of the season; wouldn’t want to let him get TOO experienced!

Then, if that wasn’t bad enough, Earl Thomas appears to have re-fractured his broken leg from a couple years back, on just a nothing of a play (looks like it broke just with him running on it and maybe stepping down awkwardly).

These injuries are obviously devastating, for both the short term and the long term.  For Dissly, we’re already pretty thin at tight end (Vannett was the only other one suited up for the game yesterday).  Ed Dickson can’t return until after week 6, so we’ll have some practice squad guys coming in.  And, from what I’ve been told, this is a lot like Jimmy Graham’s injury from a few years back, so we’re talking surgery and a full year’s rehab.  If everything breaks right, Dissly could be back for the start of next year, or he could land on the PUP.  Either way, it’s probably best to expect a slow start to his 2019 season, which just sucks, because Dissly really looks like a bona fide #1 starting tight end for this team.

And, with Earl, I mean, what can you say?  He’s the best free safety in the league.  So, obviously, the downgrade to Tedric Thompson or Delano Hill (at strong safety, with McDougald moving over to replace Earl) is pretty severe.  On top of that, there’s no longer the potential to trade Earl for draft picks, which was obviously in our back pocket as the trade deadline approaches.

If the Seahawks were never serious about extending him, I can understand everyone’s frustrations with this team for not trading him and getting back whatever value we could get.  You run the risk – hoping other teams’ injuries force them into giving us more in trade – and you get burned when your own guy goes down.  It’s doubly painful when you start to think about how we almost certainly won’t get a compensatory pick back for him.  There’s just too many things going against us:

  1. Earl’s injury might make other teams wary to give him a huge, long-term contract.  He might have to go somewhere on an incentive-laden, 1-year prove-it deal.  The value of the contract determines the possible compensatory pick, and a deal like that wouldn’t be worth much more than a 6th or 7th rounder.
  2. Even if Earl does get a max deal, that’s not a guarantee that the Seahawks get that possible 3rd round pick in return.  The Seahawks are going to have a lot of money to spend in 2019, with a bunch of veterans coming off the books.  As the Seahawks have a lot of holes to fill in 2019, I would expect we sign more incoming free agents than we lose our own guys to other teams.  If that’s the case, Earl Thomas could sign the biggest contract in NFL history and the Seahawks still won’t get any picks back for him.

All that being said, if you’re mad about Earl Thomas flipping off the Seahawks, you need to calm the fuck down.  He’s an emotional guy, and that’s an emotional situation.  This thing was never going to end well.  Stop clutching your pearls about a middle finger; I’m sure he’s said things a million times worse about this organization away from the media.  He’s an elite player in the final year of his deal and all he wanted was to get paid what he feels he’s worth, as well as have that financial security going forward to protect against this VERY scenario.  To see his worst nightmares come to fruition has to be the most enraging thing for him to experience; I think he’s a model of restraint for ONLY flipping off the sideline.

Earl Thomas is one of the most talented football player to ever don a Seahawks uniform, that’s never going to change.  Kenny Easley walked away from this organization with hurt feelings too.  When his career is over and cooler heads prevail, Earl Thomas will be back one day to raise that 12 Flag and see his name go up in that Ring of Honor.  And, when he becomes a first-ballot hall of famer, he’ll see his number retired.  It’s all out there waiting for him.  Just give it time for the heat to die down.

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

It doesn’t get any worse than 0 for 10 on third downs.  You can thank Doug Baldwin for coming up short on two of them (combined with Russell for throwing short of the sticks on both of those), you can thank Brandon Marshall for one glaring drop, and you can thank penalties all over the place (you weren’t perfect, O-line, so don’t think you get off easy on this one).

The play calling also left a lot to be desired.  3rd & long draw plays were the name of the game in this one.  Which, normally, whatever.  But, they also ran the ball on the outskirts of field goal position, when throwing for a nice chunk gain – even if those passes would’ve come short of first down territory – would’ve been the better move.  It’s the worst part of a conservative coaching staff to see your offense get down to the opponent’s 30 yard line and then coast to the field goal try, as if it’s fucking automatic.  NOTHING IS AUTOMATIC!  And, of course, Janikowski missed 2 more very-makeable field goals.  The fact that he made it at the end of the game is irrelevant; the fact that we kept settling for LONG field goals – when it would’ve been better to hurry up and try for shorter ones – is the issue here.  That’s on the coaching staff, and it fucking needs to stop.

Paul Allen, hear my plea!  When it’s time to replace Pete Carroll, go find the next hot-shot offensive mind to get this unit humming!  And then bring the Brink’s truck to Wade Phillips’ house and pay him whatever he wants to coach up the defense!

I won’t totally kill the coaching staff, because they did turn around the running game like they said they would.  Listen, I get the ire from the fans; 0/10 on third down is unacceptable.  At the same time, this running game IS looking good again, so you can’t bemoan the Seahawks for not running the ball … and then complain when they DO run the ball and run it well!

The fact of the matter is, the Seahawks have 2 good run games out of the 4 we’ve played, and it’s no coincidence that the team is 2-0 in those weeks.  We have to help our defense by running clock, and we have to help our O-line by limiting the number of drop-backs for Russell Wilson.  No turnovers, good punting, and it spells out a hard-fought road victory within our division.  That’s how this team is going to win football games.

Finally, before I go, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about Josh Rosen’s day.  He looked, dare I say it, somewhat competent?  Even bordering on *gulp* GOOD!?  The Cardinals had at least 4 crucial drops, and he was fitting some beautiful passes into some tight windows.  That’s just what we need, another team in our division with their quarterback issues completely solved.

My Way-Too-Late Seahawks 53-Man Roster Prediction

What is this, a day before the final pre-season game?  Yeah, let’s go out there on that limb and predict the 53-man roster for the Seahawks.

Quarterbacks

  • Russell Wilson
  • Alex McGough
  • Brett Hundley

Obviously we all know the starter here.  My gut tells me that the actual backup QB will be Austin Davis, but I’m gonna go with what my eyes have seen.  They’ve seen a guy in Davis who has done absolutely nothing through three pre-season games, while they’ve seen a guy in McGough who has steadily improved every time he’s gone out there.  Now, it hasn’t translated into wins, but that’s neither here nor there.  I think you can waive Davis and he’ll just be sitting out there collecting dust.  With McGough, you can PROBABLY get him onto your practice squad, but that also risks him to other teams’ practice squads as well (particularly if they have less certain QB situations).  I’d rather go with the guy who can be a viable long-term solution to the backup QB spot (with potential to be trade bait if/when we get to his 4th season).

I guess forget all that, because the Seahawks just traded for Hundley.  SOMEONE GOT CAUGHT PRE-WRITING A 53-MAN ROSTER PREDICTION POST!

Running Backs

  • Chris Carson
  • Rashaad Penny
  • C.J. Prosise
  • Mike Davis
  • Tre Madden

I just can’t see the team holding onto someone like McKissic who could be out for up to a month.  They could IR him, but that seems like a waste.  I honestly think they just cut him and try to re-sign him when he’s healthy, or at least on the way.  But, with concerns about Penny and Prosise, I find it hard to believe they’re keeping McKissic over Davis, and I find it hard to believe they’re keeping a 6th RB when they have plenty of guys on this team who can return kicks in a pinch (should Lockett go down).  McKissic isn’t someone you HAVE to have, especially considering he’s pretty undersized too and as such will come with his own injury concerns going forward.

Wide Receivers

  • Doug Baldwin
  • Tyler Lockett
  • Jaron Brown
  • Brandon Marshall
  • David Moore
  • Marcus Johnson

I don’t think Darboh is a guy you have to keep either.  Honestly, I don’t see why you couldn’t sneak him onto the practice squad; what has he ever done in his 1+ years that makes him attractive to other teams?  No loss, in my book, if he does go somewhere else; David Moore will be a better pro, so it’s all good.  I like Johnson’s potential on special teams and as a deep threat should Lockett get injured.  I like Marshall to be that red zone, Jimmy Graham-type target (I also like Marshall to be more effective between the 20’s; I just like Marshall a lot).

Tight Ends

  • Nick Vannett
  • Will Dissly
  • Tyrone Swoopes

I think Ed Dickson stays on the PUP.  Part of me wonders if he’ll get cut entirely, but that seems far less likely given his contract.  But, that injury appears to be legit enough to hold him out for 6 more weeks.  Also, I have a feeling the team would much rather go after some other team’s cut tight end, so if Dickson does remain on the PUP, Swoopes is no guarantee.

Offensive Line

  • Duane Brown
  • Ethan Pocic
  • Justin Britt
  • D.J. Fluker
  • Germain Ifedi
  • George Fant
  • Jordan Roos
  • Isaiah Battle
  • Rees Odhiambo

I think Jamarco Jones goes on IR.  I think Sweezy gets cut because he just can’t get healthy and stay on the field.  I think the team would be fine with Pocic at center if Britt goes down (so there’s no point in keeping Hunt).  And, ultimately I think Ifedi keeps his job as the team’s right tackle to start the season, but it’s no guarantee he starts all 16 games even if he stays healthy.

Defensive Line

  • Frank Clark
  • Rasheem Green
  • Branden Jackson
  • Jacob Martin
  • Quinton Jefferson
  • Tom Johnson
  • Jarran Reed
  • Naz Jones
  • Shamar Stephen
  • Poona Ford

For the record, I think it’s a longshot that this team actually keeps Poona Ford, but I like him and I want to see him make this team.  I also think it would speak volumes about this team wanting to actually stop the run like they always say they want to.  And, I think there could be a surprise cut from these 10; someone who has looked really good this pre-season, but maybe for whatever reason the coaches think is expendable (Quinton Jefferson or Shamar Stephen come to mind).  I also think Dion Jordan starts the year on PUP.

Linebackers

  • Bobby Wagner
  • K.J. Wright
  • Barkevious Mingo
  • Shaquem Griffin
  • Erik Walden

I’m probably least confident in my prediction of this group, all things considered.  Especially if K.J. Wright’s knee issue is worse than they’re letting on, it might force them to keep an extra linebacker, which would surely take away from the DL group.  D.J. Alexander is obviously a name to watch, as he’s a huge special teams guy.  And, I’d say Austin Calitro has earned an opportunity to be a backup to Bobby.  If any of my picks is NOT likely to make the team, I’d look at Walden (though I think as strictly a pass rusher, the team probably NEEDS him the most, and should look to shift him to that LEO end spot that Chris Clemons and Cliff Avril played).

Cornerbacks

  • Shaquill Griffin
  • Justin Coleman
  • Tre Flowers
  • Dontae Johnson
  • Neiko Thorpe
  • Byron Maxwell

I am less certain by the day that Byron Maxwell actually makes this team.  Now, that having been said, if you’re okay with anyone missing the entire pre-season and coming in to start day 1, I’d probably be most okay with that person being Maxy, but nevertheless it’s not a good sign.  That having been said, I don’t think anyone on this roster has set himself apart to steal that job from the trusty veteran (Akeem King might be closest, but he’s no sure thing).  I guess a lot of it depends on whether or not the Seahawks keep 5 safeties or only 4.

Safeties

  • Bradley McDougald
  • Tedric Thompson
  • Delano Hill
  • Maurice Alexander

Obviously, Kam goes on IR here, and Earl maintains his holdout well into the regular season.  I just don’t see a whole lot of reason to keep a fifth safety unless he’s a huge special teams guy, and I think you’ve already got Neiko to play that role.  If there is a fifth guy, I guess it’s Mike Tyson, but I don’t see this team bending over backwards to keep him on the roster.  He’s always struck me as just a guy.  He’s certainly not someone you’d have to keep over someone like Maxwell.

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.

Pre-Pre-Season Preview: Seahawks Pass Defense

Aside from digging into the various news stories, I’ve largely neglected talking about the Seahawks by design:  2017 was a bitter pill to swallow.  After such a sustained stretch of brilliance, this team was a slog to cover last year; but, they’ve jettisoned a lot of aging veterans, brought in fresh blood throughout the organization, and I would argue there’s some reasons to be optimistic (even though my default prediction is that this team will win anywhere from 7-9 games; everything would have to go perfectly in our favor to get to 10 wins or more, and when does THAT ever happen?).

So, with precious few weeks remaining until the pre-season games kick things off, I’ve got a quickie series of posts where I’ll look at the 7 areas of this team as they’re set up right now:

Without further ado, let’s talk about the Seahawks’ Pass Defense.

Cornerbacks

Ahh yes, the great unknown.  There are certain groups I’m really excited to see this pre-season:  the running backs, the wide receivers, the offensive line (weirdly enough), and of course the rookie punter; having a lot of new pieces to work with is something to look forward to.  But, as for the cornerbacks, ironically enough I’m just nervous.

Last year, I thought we were pretty solid at cornerback up until Richard Sherman was out for the season (and his Seahawks career, as it turns out).  If I was grading this group before the season, I probably would’ve been in the B+ or A- range.  Obviously, with Sherm, one side is taken care of.  But, we had a lot of questions about the other side, as well as the nickel spot.

This year, Sherm is gone, which is obviously a HUGE blow.  But, Shaquill Griffin looked really good for a rookie, holding his own opposite our Hall of Famer.  Now, Griffin crosses over, inheriting Sherm’s side of the field, but in spite of his promising first year, there are still more questions.  First and foremost:  can he take that next step?  Can he go from a prospect with a lot of potential to a Pro Bowler?  It’s asking too much for him to be Sherm 2.0, but can he approach that sort of greatness?  He had just the 1 INT last year, and he WILL be tested in year two; so can we make other teams pay?  Passes defended are great, but with this defense’s lack of a pass rush, we’re going to need as many turnovers as we can get.  Taking advantage of the league’s overconfidence in throwing on Griffin is our best bet.

Other questions include:  will the switching of sides work against Griffin’s development?  I wouldn’t think so, and the team doesn’t seem too concerned about it, but you never know.  Also, will we run into a worst case scenario situation of a Sophomore Slump?  If this team is ever going to get back to its former glories while we’re still in Russell Wilson’s prime, we’re going to need stars blossoming around him.  Griffin has the potential to be a star; a regression would be utter disaster.

Until I see different, I can only expect this to be a downgrade from Sherm to Griffin.  I think it’s appropriate to move on and get younger, but all the same Griffin is no guarantee.  As such, that also points to a downgrade opposite of Griffin, where Byron Maxwell figures to get first crack at the job.  We got him back on a 1-year prove-it deal, which again is a move I agree with, but he’s clearly lost a step since the last time he was with the Seahawks (before his big money deal with Philly).  Don’t get me wrong, I think Maxwell is fine, but he’s likely not going to be as good as Griffin was last year, and he’s certainly not a long-term solution.

One area where the Seahawks really hit it big was getting Justin Coleman to be the nickel guy.  He was terrific last year and I would expect more of the same this year!

Beyond the core three, we’re bound to see a lot of competition for the final spots.  Dontae Johnson is a 5th year guy out of San Francisco who I’d expect is nothing more than insurance, in the event our younger guys don’t pan out.  Akeem King is in his 3rd year and seems like more of a project who’s getting a final shot to make the NFL.  Neiko Thorpe is back, but the team has always had him pegged as a Special Teams ace.  It feels like Thorpe will actually have to show something on the defensive side of the ball, or else risk getting the ax for salary cap purposes (as we look a lot better up and down our Special Teams roster).  DeAndre Elliott is an interesting name, in his third year with the Seahawks.  He’s been bitten by the injury bug, but he knows the system and has showed a lot of promise in past pre-seasons.  If anyone is going to beat out Byron Maxwell, I think Elliott has a real shot.  Then, we’ve got Mike Tyson, who gets another crack at trying to make the team.  Seems like the biggest longshot.

Then, there’s rookie Tre Flowers, selected in the 5th round.  He’s listed as a safety, but all signs point to him getting a crack at one of the outside corner spots.  He’s got the size, but it’s probably premature to expect him to make an impact right out of the gate.

All in all, this is the toughest position for me to grade.  I think there’s real potential for this group to get up to an A-, but there’s also a very real possibility they fall to a C-.  The scheme and the coaching staff alone probably prevents this group from being total F’s, but it’s tough because we’ve been so spoiled since 2011.  We’ve had A’s in there just about every year, written in pen, before putting in even the slightest amount of thought.  So, my grade is a B-, with the hope that I’m REALLY underestimating these guys.

Safeties

No Kam Chancellor, out injured, never to play again.  No Earl Thomas, holding out on the final year of his deal, not likely to return to the Seahawks ever again (unless we hard-line teams trying to trade for him, in which case I’d expect to see him in Week 11, with his heart certainly not in it).

So, yeah, HUGE downgrade from a season ago!

Bradley McDougald was signed before last year as insurance against injuries, and it turned out to be one of the more insightful moves the team has made in free agency.  He was brought back, and figures to start at Earl’s spot.  I don’t remember a lot about his play last year, but from what I’ve been told he was fine.  I don’t remember any glaring weaknesses, but I also don’t sit there and pour through the game tape with a fine-tooth comb.  He feels like a Replacement Level player, or maybe a little better.  Just an average starting safety; he won’t wow you, but he also won’t look bad very often.

And it gets more dicey from there.

I guess Delano Hill gets his shot – in his second year – to take over for Kam.  I don’t remember him playing at all last year, outside of special teams I guess.  So, really, anything goes here.  He was never going to play significantly as a rookie regardless, because there were 3 guys ahead of him on the depth chart, so maybe he’s secretly great and we just have no idea!  I mean, Kam came out of nowhere in his second year – taking over for Lawyer Milloy – and he was an absolute revelation; maybe we’re in for something similar again this year!

Something tells me to not hold my breath.

Beyond that, Maurice Alexander appears to be our veteran insurance, in his fifth season after playing for the Rams.  He’s just a guy, but he’s almost guaranteed to make the team based on his experience level alone.  Tedric Thompson is obviously someone we all know – taken in the same draft as Hill, in the 4th round – but everything I’ve read has been disappointing.  He definitely doesn’t look like he’s going to be Earl 2.0.  Beyond that:  a whole lotta nothin’.

I’m grading this a D+ and crossing my fingers.  McDougald isn’t a long-term solution, Hill might be okay, but nobody is going to be the next Earl.  That’ll have a ripple effect on the cornerbacks and everyone else in pass defense.

Linebackers

I’ll wrap it up here with another love-fest for the linebackers.  K.J. Wright leads the show here, and he’s remarkable in pass defense.  Bobby Wagner isn’t far behind him, as he’s also excellent in everything he does.  Shaquem Griffin could be a nice little weapon for us, as he’s got speed for days.  I give this group an A.

Overall, while I expect the organization to coach these guys up to respectability, the pass defense isn’t going to be the strength it once was.  With the lack of pass rush, as I talked about before, I would expect a lot of long drives and a lot of third downs converted.

To counter-balance that, my hope is we can generate a lot of turnovers.  I do expect run defense to be our strength on this side of the ball, which leads me to hope that teams try to throw more.  In that scenario, if the Seahawks are going to contend for the playoffs, they’re going to need turnovers.  Lots of interceptions, and lots of luck with recovering fumbles.  Those are IMPOSSIBLE to predict, of course, so to go into a season expecting this would be insane.

Given the crop of quarterbacks we’re scheduled to face this year, I think we can see Shaquill Griffin take the next step, we can see Justin Coleman to continue to be great in the middle, we can have our linebackers do their thing, we can get competent play out of our other cornerback spot, and we can get competent play out of our safeties and I STILL think teams will have little trouble moving the ball against this pass defense.  It’s impossible to cover guys for 8, 9, 10 seconds per play.

We saw the defense as a whole take a little bit of a step back in 2017, as guys got injured and whatnot.  I think most fans are expecting maybe even a little more of a step back – maybe towards the middle of the pack, in the NFL rankings – but I’m here to tell you that I think our pass defense is going to be in the bottom third, or even bottom quarter, of the entire league.  It’s going to be gross.  We’re going to give up A LOT of points, and it’s only going to be those games where the offense is really humming that we’re going to win.  Don’t look for those low-scoring, grind-it-out games where the defense keeps us in it until the offense can get going in the 4th quarter, because we won’t be winning games like that this year!

The plus side about the defense as a whole is there’s more chance for variance.  If I’m right, then we’ll be terrible.  But, if I’m wrong, there’s a chance we could be great.  Maybe not in the top 3, but top third of the league isn’t out of the question.  If we can be as good as we were last year, as far as giving up yards and points, this team has a chance to win 9-10 games.  Failing that, chock 2018 up as a Transition Year.

You Could Also Say The Seahawks Are Holding Out On Extending Earl Thomas

But, that’s dumb.  Obviously, the title is, “Earl Thomas Is Holding Out.”

He stayed away from the voluntary OTA’s, but that’s a non-story because tons of other guys stayed away from their respective OTA’s as well, including Frank Clark, Byron Maxwell, and so on and so forth.  Then, on Sunday, Earl declared he’d be holding out of the non-voluntary portion of the OTA’s, with the intention of continuing to hold out through Training Camp and possibly beyond.

This isn’t really a surprise.  Earl Thomas is in the final year of his contract.  He’s 29 years old, and he’s looking at one more big payday before he finishes up his career on a string of smaller deals.  His leverage starts and ends at being one of the best safeties in the league for the better part of 8 seasons, so he feels he deserves the respect that comes with being paid at the top end of the safety market.

But, this will be his third contract.  Successful players on their third contracts tend to fail to live up to those contracts, due to age-related declines and an increased injury rate, among other things (most notably: a lack of drive that comes with having made your millions and achieving everything you’ve wanted to achieve in your NFL career).  Earl Thomas is a Hall of Famer.  He’s won a championship.  He’s made more money than he’ll ever need; he can take care of his family for generations.  Everything after this point is icing on the cake.

We’ve already seen cracks in the Earl Thomas facade.  He missed 5 regular season games and the entirety of the 2016 playoffs; he also missed a couple games in 2017 due to injury.  It would be absolutely idiotic to expect him to return to being a guy who’s out on the field for every play of every game for the next 4-5 years.  Can he still play at an extremely high level when he is healthy?  Sure, no problem.  But, at this point, I think you’re hoping and praying with every play he makes that he doesn’t get dinged up in some fashion.

The ideal situation for 2018 – assuming you couldn’t get a peach of a deal in return for his services – was that he’d come in, play every game, lead you back to the playoffs, and then you’d thank him for his services and wish him all the best in his future endeavors.  Now, I think you obviously have to adjust your expectations.  I hope he ONLY holds out for Training Camp, but returns for all the regular season games.  Or, failing that, I hope he ONLY holds out for 2 games like Kam Chancellor did.  Otherwise, I wouldn’t be shocked if he held out the max number of games you can hold out while still having 2018 count as a contract year (he can hold out for up to 10 regular season games and still have his contract expire at the end of the year).  I would be shocked if he just retired from the NFL, but I do think it’s on the table, as he seems to be a little erratic.

For me, I don’t have a problem with guys holding out – especially proven elites – as long as they make it back for the regular season.  I don’t think it’s the smartest thing to do – because how many times do we see guys hold out, then get hurt almost immediately after returning to action? – but I can understand the desire to avoid a lot of additional risk ahead of a contract year.  Can you hold out, then get hurt upon returning?  Of course, but you can also get hurt in a non-contact drill on the first day of OTA’s as well, so there’s risk every time you step on the field, practice or otherwise.  It’s when you affect the games that matter when I start to get pissed off.  I’ll forgive a lot, but I still haven’t totally forgiven Kam Chancellor for his 2-game holdout, as I still believe that cost us a shot at a BYE in the playoffs (and, ultimately a shot at going to a third straight Super Bowl).  The difference here is, I don’t think the expectations are as high as they were in 2015.  Will Earl Thomas mean the difference between a playoff spot or not?  Maybe, but I don’t think his impact will be as dramatic as it would’ve been in years past.

Honestly, I’m more interested in how the other safeties respond.  How will Delano Hill look?  Will Bradley McDougald step into more of a leadership role?  Will Tedric Thompson – who everyone seemingly has written off – bounce back and contend for a starting job?  Will the team opt to move Shaquem Griffin to safety and is that potentially a spot where he could thrive?

I’m also interested in seeing if this ramps up the trade talk for Earl again.  Can we improve upon getting a 3rd round pick in return?  Will another team be beset with injuries to their safety room and make a panic move to bring Earl in (much like the Seahawks last year with their offensive and defensive lines)?  I’d be more than okay with the Seahawks letting this holdout play out, and if we like what we have behind Earl, waiting for another team to come calling.  Maybe we can get that 2nd round draft pick that we lost in the Duane Brown deal.  Also, maybe the money we save from this holdout can be carried over into 2019, allowing us to be bigger players in free agency next year.

I also wonder if the Seahawks might be more willing to deal Earl for less.  I hope not, but what if that desperation isn’t there from the rest of the league (especially if it’s a team that’s worried about Earl being on the last year of his deal, and unwilling to want to extend him)?  Might the Seahawks ship him away for a 4th rounder or worse?  Just to cut the tumor out and move on?  I’d rather we hang onto Earl and keep him as a potential shot in the arm in the middle of the season, or whenever he decides to start getting paid again.

Anyway, that’s where we are.  The Seahawks hold all of the cards (in the battle of Earl vs. The Team) and none of the cards (in the battle of the Seahawks vs. The NFL Trade Market).  Regardless of which side you sit on, the fans are the real losers in this scenario, as we not only face the prospect of a watered-down Seahawks defense for part or all of the 2018 season, but we also have to read and hear about this nonstop from now until whenever he returns to the team.  Buckle up, it’s going to be a nauseating ride!

I Feel Renewed Excitement About The Seahawks: So Why Am I So Down On Them?

I’m on record as having the world’s biggest hard-on for the draft haul the Seahawks just brought in.  There are – what appears to be – fantastic players and inspiring stories up and down that list of players.  Rashaad Penny looks like he could potentially come in and start right away at running back – a position of tremendous need for this team.  Will Dissly looks like he can come in and contribute right away as a blocking tight end – another position of tremendous need for this team.  Michael Dickson looks like he can come in and not only be our starting punter, but be a remarkable improvement at that spot.  Tre Flowers looks like a guy who could develop into a viable starting cornerback opposite Shaquill Griffin as early as maybe midseason in his rookie year.  Shaquem Griffin looks like he can make an immediate impact on special teams, with an outside chance of contributing in various sub packages on defense as a linebacker/safety/pass rushing hybrid.  Guys like Rasheem Green and Jamarco Jones look like they have tremendous upside and while they’ll likely need a year to develop, it’s not outside of the realm of possibility that they do develop into eventual starters as a defensive lineman and a left tackle respectively.  And that’s not even getting into the countless undrafted guys I don’t know about; you figure one or two of them have a chance of turning into something really useful.

It’s really a lot of fun to think about.  Obviously, not all of them are going to pan out, but that’s not the point.  Right now, the sky is the limit for each and every one of them!  And, what’s more, we’ll get to enjoy a year where more young guys are going to get an opportunity on this team than they have since 2011 and 2012!  We might not be a championship-calibre team today, or at all this year, but if things go right, it’s not crazy to say that we’re close to being right back to the team we were from 2012-2014.

So, why am I so down on 2018?  Why am I sitting here talking about 8-8 this and 8-8 that?  Well, let’s break it down.  Am I wildly off base?  Have they done enough to fill the holes they needed to fill?  The holes that rendered this team a 9-7 embarrassment in 2017?

I’d start by saying on offense, they’re about the same as they were last year.  Let’s start with the skill positions.

Quarterback – Obviously, Russell Wilson is here.  He’s a Top 5-calibre quarterback in this league, and as a result your team is never really out of any game.  As long as he’s healthy, this team will never truly bottom out.  8-8 or 7-9 feels like the floor, like many of those middling New Orleans Saints teams back when their defense was a disaster, their running game was so-so, and it all fell on Drew Brees’ shoulders.

Wide Receiver – Your top two guys are back:  Doug Baldwin & Tyler Lockett.  Doug is Doug, he’s amazing.  Tyler is not coming off of an injury (which is good) and he’s playing for a new contract after the season’s over (which is even better).  If there was ever a chance to see Lockett at his best, this is the time.  Paul Richardson is gone, replaced by Jaron Brown.  You figure the speed is there, but this still feels like a downgrade to me.  Can Brown win those 1-on-1 battles that Wilson so often puts his receivers in?  Those jump balls that P-Rich or Golden Tate used to come up with, as if out of a science fiction movie?  Wilson has never been the type of quarterback to launch balls deep down field and take advantage of his receivers’ over-the-top speed, and I don’t see why that should change now.  Beyond the top 3 guys, it’s a real smorgasbord of question marks.  Amara Darboh?  David Moore?  Tanner McEvoy?  Marcus Johnson (who we got in the Philly deal for Michael Bennett)?  One of the litany of undrafted guys and holdovers we’ll have in camp?  I’m not super impressed, but maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Tight End – In the WR group, I think you have to include Jimmy Graham, because for all intents and purposes, he WAS a wide receiver.  You take a BIG hit, particularly in the red zone, with the loss of Jimmy Graham.  Say what you will about the other areas of his game (and believe me, I have and I will continue to do so), but he was a beast in a 1-on-1 situation near the goalline when Russell could just chuck it over there and more often than not come up with a TD (yes, there were more than his fair share of drops, but 10 TDs in 2017 is 10 TDs; I don’t care how long it took for this offense to finally figure out how to use him).  Who’s going to make up that deficit?  As for our other tight ends, we have Nick Vannett (who has shown you nothing in 2 years), Ed Dickson (pretty much Just A Guy, brought in via free agency; he’s essentially a Luke Willson replacement, as far as offensive production is concerned), Tyrone Swoops (who might not even make the team; still feels like a project to me), and newly drafted Will Dissly (who I believe will eventually turn into a useful offensive weapon, but not as a rookie, and nowhere near the league of a Jimmy Graham, from a pass-catching threat).  I expect these guys to be vastly improved blockers over someone like Graham, though, which brings me to my next point.

Running Back – To make up for the loss of Jimmy Graham, it’s going to have to come from the running game.  For what it’s worth, I do think this will be improved over 2017, because how much lower can you go than rock bottom?  The question, as always, will be who stays healthy.  Penny looks like a potential stud.  Chris Carson is there to push him every step of the way, but he’s coming off of a pretty devastating injury, and who’s to say he won’t get injured again this year?  C.J. Prosise is even more injury prone, and in my opinion far from a lock to make this team.  Mike Davis and J.D. McKissic are just guys.  Reliable, dependable guys, but just guys.  Nothing special.  Nothing really explosive about them (McKissic is obviously a faster guy, better in open space – more of a receiving back than a real, physical running back).  We need Penny or Carson to pan out here, right away, otherwise we’re in a MUCH worse position offensively than we were in 2017.

Offensive Line – And, last but not least.  Or maybe it is least.  Tough to say.  The obvious outcry from most fans and pundits alike, is how this team has neglected the offensive line this year, the bane of 2015-2017’s existence.  I’m on record as not seeing this as huge of a deal as in years past.  Maybe it’s fatigue over obsessing about them every year.  But, I like Duane Brown.  I think starting from Day 1 with him in the fold is nothing but an improvement, over trying to learn the system on the fly in mid-season 2017.  I hear Ethan Pocic is bigger and stronger than last year.  As a rookie, he got valuable experience.  Now that it’s not all new and insane for him, he should be able to settle in and anchor this line at the left guard spot for the foreseeable future.  My hopes are high for this kid!  Justin Britt is a fine center.  I’m sure he’ll continue to be the rock and the leader this line needs.  D.J. Fluker looks like a formidable run blocker at right guard, as well as someone with a lot to prove, with a high pedigree.  Obviously, Luke Joeckel had a lot to prove, with a high pedigree as well, but I dunno.  He’s cheaper, for one.  For another, he’s not coming off of an ACL.  Hopefully, he won’t miss a huge chunk of games in the middle of the season for a bogus cleanup surgery.  I don’t know if this team will ever have an elite pass-protecting O-Line, but if Fluker can open up some running lanes, then fuck it.  Germain Ifedi is an obvious source of frustration for most fans, but I’ll say this:  a second year at the same position – that continuity – should do wonders for him.  And, if not, well this team has plenty of guys to push him for that starting job.  I like the depth along the O-Line an awful lot; there has to be SOMEONE on this team who will be an improvement over our right tackle performance of 2017.  Maybe that someone is 2018 Ifedi; I’ve heard of crazier things before.

Bottom line on offense is:  if the O-Line can’t get the running game going, we’re fucked any way you slice it.  If it can’t do that, it sure as shit won’t protect well for Russell Wilson, and if that’s the case, it’s pretty easy to write off this year as an 8-8 of a disaster.  However, if Pocic & Ifedi take leaps forward in their development, if the veterans can stay healthy, and if we can get this running game going again, there’s reason for optimism that the offense could be vastly superior to what it’s been in recent post-Marshawn Lynch seasons.  A lot of “ifs” there, but that’s what we have to work with.

That all having been said, I’d say the bulk of my concern rests on the defensive side of the ball.  Richard Sherman, gone.  Michael Bennett, gone.  Cliff Avril, gone.  Kam Chancellor, likely gone.  Sheldon Richardson, gone.  Malik McDowell, idiot.  Earl Thomas, disgruntled (but playing for a new contract, so you never know).  I’ll say this:  the defense wasn’t a total and complete disaster last year, but the more we lost our star players, the worse it was.  This year, we’re looking at a lot of new blood, and we have to find out if these guys are going to mesh, or if there’s going to be a lot of growing pains.

Defensive Line – Frank Clark and Dion Jordan are your starting ends, for all intents and purposes.  You can play them anywhere, but those are essentially your replacements for Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett.  I like Clark, but I liked him a lot more as a #3 option behind those two proven studs.  Will he have another level to his game when he’s the #1 dude?  I sure hope so.  I also liked what little I saw from Dion Jordan last year, but will he be able to carry that over?  Not only what he did then, but a lot more considering the presumed increase in snaps?  Beyond those guys, Green is a rookie (and he’s green) who probably won’t play more than on a rotational basis, in obvious passing situations.  The other rookie is a late-round project.  Marcus Smith was a nice player last year, but is he really a #3 guy?  That feels like a STEEP drop-off from Frank Clark last year.

As for the tackles, it looks like the bulk of our talent resides there.  I love Jarran Reed and Naz Jones; I particularly think the sky is the limit for Jones.  We brought in those two vets from the Vikings who should be fine pros.  There’s an undrafted rookie whose name I forget – out of Texas – who looks like a run-stuffing prodigy.  Then, there’s Quinton Jefferson, who is playing for a job and might be axed out based on the level of talent here.  I think the D-Line will be great when it comes to stuffing the run (which is important, in case anyone forgets the 3rd & 11 against Jacksonville last year, as well as all the yards Todd Gurley got against us).  But, I have a lot of doubts about their ability to rush the passer.  Hopefully a tighter rotation – fewer snaps all around – will keep guys fresher and more prone for late-game success, but I dunno.

Linebacker – The obvious best position group of the bunch.  Bobby Wagner is an All Pro, K.J. Wright is a Pro Bowler.  They won’t leave the field – barring injuries – and they’ll be the glue that holds this defense together.  The big question is:  can they help out in pass rushing?  Both of those guys are quality blitzers, but they predominantly play out in the receiving routes.  Can Barkevious Mingo or Shaquem Griffin – on the strong side – contribute to moving the quarterback off his spot, hitting him, and otherwise leading to more turnovers?  That’ll be huge, but again, I have my doubts for 2018.

Safety – Earl Thomas and Bradley McDougald figure to be your starters.  Earl is amazing, Bradley is fine.  Tedric Thompson and Delano Hill are the rookies from last year, so hopefully we’ll see a big jump from them, as you figure we’re going to need them.  There are others on the roster, but I don’t know much about them, and therefore don’t expect much from them.  Shaquem Griffin is a wild card here too, as it would be interesting to see him in a run-stuffing/Kam Chancellor type role.

Cornerback – Shaquill Griffin and Byron Maxwell figure to be your starters on the outside, with Justin Coleman as your primary nickel corner.  We all liked what Shaquill did for us last year, but I’d still like to see some improvement in his Sophomore campaign.  I’d like to see more in the way of turnovers, and more in the way of just eliminating his side as an option for opposing quarterbacks.  They’re going to continue to test him this year, so he needs to prove to them that it’s a bad fucking idea.  Maxwell, on the other hand, is another year older, and while he knows the system, he’s nobody’s idea of a long-term solution.  He’s not a lockdown corner, he never really was.  In this system, opposite Richard Sherman in his prime, with Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor in their primes, Byron Maxwell was a decent option as a 4th member of the LOB.  But, in this mishmash we’ve got now, I don’t know if a disgruntled Earl Thomas and a Bradley McDougald have what it takes to compensate for Maxwell’s weaknesses.  If he’s not punching the ball out of receivers’ hands for fumbles, what good is he?  I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if he loses his job at some point, or even gets cut at the end of the pre-season.  I’d like to see some of the younger guys win that job right now, than deal with a guy in Maxwell who isn’t going to get any better.

Bottom line on defense is:  there’s very little certainty.  Fortunately, Pete Carroll is a defensive-minded head coach, and one of the best going in the game today.  So, if anyone can whip these players into stars, it’s him.  But, make no mistake, this team can’t win without a really good defense.  I’ve been waiting for the offense to take the next step and start carrying this team, but I don’t think it’s ever going to happen.  And, quite frankly, with Pete Carroll at the helm, he’d never stand for that in the first place.  He’s going to live and die by his defense, his running game, and his desire to dominate time of possession.  Period.  You can say all you want about Russell Wilson being elite and all the rest, but Pete Carroll is never going to allow this team to be a 1-man show.  Ergo, if this team – in 2018 – is going to make the playoffs or win the division, we’re going to need to see a lot of production from a lot of defensive players we’re not very familiar with just yet.  Yeah, Clark and Jordan and Wagner and Wright and Griffin and Earl are going to have to play to the utmost of their abilities, but all those other guys I talked about – and a lot of other guys I didn’t mention – are going to have to step up and make big impacts seemingly out of nowhere.  How much faith do I have in that happening?  I dunno.  Seems to me, if it does happen, it’ll happen gradually.  I think best (realistic) case scenario is that this team is MUCH better in the second half than it is in the first half.  I think there’ll be a lot of early-season kinks to work out, and I don’t know if this team is talented enough – from top to bottom – to overcome a big early-season deficit in wins & losses.

Special Teams – One area I think this team has drastically improved is on the special teams.  I think there’s nowhere to go but up in the field goal kicking game, and if Janikowski can prove himself, he’ll be a welcome edition.  Otherwise, I have no problem with the younger Jason Myers; I’m adopting an Anyone But Blair Walsh mentality, and stocks are SOARING!  In the punting game, we have the opportunity to not only get younger, cheaper, and better, but possibly REMARKABLY better.  If this guy is the best punting prospect to come out of college in years, we could be talking about a Top 5 punter in this league.  Which, yeah, not enough to get my panties into a total wad, but little by little a guy like that can make a dramatic difference over the course of a season.  And, in our coverage units, while I don’t think they were terrible last year, I see the influx of speedy, athletic guys as only a plus in this area.  Someone like Neiko Thorpe – who has been a necessity in recent years – might be a luxury here, who could either help put this team’s coverage unit over the top, or be a cap casualty because we have so many other guys just as good as him!  I hope he gets better as a cornerback on defense, because he might need it to keep a job.

To all those people who said we were just a couple shitty kicks away from being 11-5 last year, I’d like to point to all those defensive breakdowns and the complete and utter lack of a running game as to the REAL reasons why that team underachieved.  If we’re going to get back to being that 11-5 type of team, it’s going to require vast improvements in those areas to succeed.  That having been said, it couldn’t hurt to have a kicker who can actually make the kicks he’s supposed to make, could it?