I Can’t Envision A Seahawks Victory In Pittsburgh

Usually, whenever I feel this strongly about an impending Seahawks defeat, one of two things usually happens in the game: either I’m right and the Seahawks lose, or I’m wrong and the Seahawks win. THIS IS THE HARD-HITTING ANALYSIS YOU COME HERE FOR!!!

Sure, every once in a while there’s a tie sprinkled in there, but you get the idea. One of three things.

This early in the season, we really don’t have a lot of knowledge about what the Seahawks are and what they’re going to be. All we REALLY have to go on is the one game, last week, where Andy Dalton of all people came into Seattle and threw for a billion yards. On the flipside, last week the Steelers went into New England and only scored 3 points. But, they’ve still got Ben Roethlisberger (inarguably better than Dalton), they’ve still got JuJu Smith-Schuster (inarguably better than any receiver on the Bengals), and they’ve still got James Conner (who helped the Steelers not miss a beat with Le’Veon Bell leaving town). That’s an offense, again, you have to believe is far and away superior to the Bengals. Plus, they’ll have the added advantage of being at home, so our defense won’t have the noise factor on their side.

If we gave up 418 yards to Dalton last week, with all the noise and everything else, what’s the ceiling for Roethlisberger? I can’t stress this enough, that noise is critical to what we do in our pass rush; without it, I don’t think we’ll touch him. Which is terrible news, because aside from our improved run defense, that’s the only thing we’ve got going for us. Our secondary hasn’t improved at all in the last week (unless you think signing a veteran nickel defender off the scrap heap will suddenly turn this sinking ship around), and you could argue it’s actually gotten worse if Lano Hill starts (I wouldn’t make that argument, because I’d take literally anyone over Tedric Thompson, but if you want to make that argument, I won’t stop you).

I will say this, for the Seahawks: I think our offense will look better. It would pretty much have to, though. It’s hard to look a whole lot worse, so long as you wipe 2017 from your memory. I do NOT think the Seahawks will get blown out, because they rarely do. Then again, I’m also not totally leaving that option off the table. If the Steelers jump out to a big early lead by 14 or 21 points in the first half, we could definitely see more sacks and turnovers in the second half than we’d like. I believe the Steelers have a MUCH better defense than last week would indicate. They’ve got great players at every level.

They’re also not a team we see very often. The Seahawks have lost on the road to an AFC team almost every single year since Pete Carroll has gotten here. Generally, the games are more high scoring than you’d like, and the Seahawks even look semi-competent at times. But, the defense ends up letting us down in these games, and I have no reason to believe that won’t happen again this week.

Look, I hope I’m wrong! But, it’s gonna take 30+ points to go into Pittsburgh and win this thing, and I just don’t think we’re there yet. That’s fine! It’s not the end of the world! Road AFC games are the least important games on our schedule; it’s MUCH more important to come back home next week and take out the Saints. We were always going to lose one of these two games, and I’m officially on record as hoping we lose this week and win the next.

And not just because I have a bunch of Steelers on my various fantasy teams.

Comparing The Seahawks’ 53-Man Roster To My June Predictions

Right around the time of OTAs, I did a meaningless projection of what the Seahawks’ roster would look like for opening day. So let’s check out how wrong I was!

Quarterbacks

Projection: Russell Wilson & Geno Smith
Result: Russell Wilson & Geno Smith

So, I got the easiest one out of the way. Where’s my cookie?

Running Backs

Projection: Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, Travis Homer, C.J. Prosise & J.D. McKissic
Result: Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, Travis Homer, C.J. Prosise & Nick Bellore

I was THIS close. To be fair, in my projections I did talk about Bellore possibly throwing a wrench into this fight, with either Prosise or McKissic being the odd man out, and you know what they say about horseshoes, hand grenades, and roster predicting, right?

Tight Ends

Projection: Ed Dickson, Nick Vannett, Will Dissly & Jacob Hollister
Result: Nick Vannett & Will Dissly

To be fair, Dickson is on IR (designated to return after 8 weeks) and Hollister somehow made it onto the practice squad, so I’m counting this as a victory. Of sorts. We also have George Fant, who I’ve listed as an O-Lineman for the purposes of this exercise.

Wide Receivers

Projection: Tyler Lockett, D.K. Metcalf, David Moore, Jaron Brown & Keenan Reynolds
Result: Tyler Lockett, D.K. Metcalf, David Moore, Jaron Brown, Gary Jennings, Malik Turner & John Ursua

I was almost WAY off on this one, but the Seahawks did a bit of roster gymnastics this week to slide a couple guys onto the IR, while opening up the likes of Geno Smith and Jaron Brown to free agency (with the wink-wink agreement to bring them back once those IR designations were placed). It turns out the Seahawks CAN keep all of their rookie draft picks! But, Malik Turner is the one who took Keenan Reynolds’ spot (though I fully anticipate Reynolds being in the mix at some point this season, if the injury bug returns). Regardless, I wouldn’t expect this unit to be 7-deep for too much longer, but it’s an interesting group nevertheless.

Offensive Line

Projection: Duane Brown, Mike Iupati, Justin Britt, D.J. Fluker, Germain Ifedi, Ethan Pocic, Jordan Simmons, George Fant & Jamarco Jones
Result: Duane Brown, Mike Iupati, Justin Britt, D.J. Fluker, Germain Ifedi, Ethan Pocic, George Fant, Jamarco Jones & Joey Hunt

This was actually a pretty obvious unit to predict, as the veterans are here to start, and the reserves are too good to part with. Simmons got hit by the injury bug and landed on the IR which is unfortunate, but Hunt can play both center and guard (and even tackle in a super pinch), so he’s good to have around (especially with Pocic being the first guard off the bench in place of Iupati heading into week 1).

So far, with the offense, I predicted 20 out of 25, which isn’t too bad.

Punter/Kicker/Long Snapper

Projection: Michael Dickson, Jason Myers & Tyler Ott
Result: Michael Dickson, Jason Myers & Tyler Ott

Nailed it.

Secondary

Projection: Shaquill Griffin, Tre Flowers, Akeem King, Neiko Thorpe, Jeremy Boykins, Tedric Thompson, Bradley McDougald, Ugo Amadi, Marquise Blair & Lano Hill
Result: Shaquill Griffin, Tre Flowers, Akeem King, Neiko Thorpe, Parry Nickerson, Tedric Thompson, Bradley McDougald, Ugo Amadi, Marquise Blair & Lano Hill

The one I was least sold on was Boykins, and lo and behold he turns out to be my lone blemish in this area. I should’ve probably mentioned something about the Seahawks making a minor trade near the start of the regular season – like they do just about every damn year around this time – but them’s the breaks.

Defensive Line

Projection: Ziggy Ansah, L.J. Collier, Rasheem Green, Jacob Martin, Jarran Reed, Poona Ford, Al Woods & Quinton Jefferson
Result: Ziggy Ansah, L.J. Collier, Rasheem Green, Jadeveon Clowney, Poona Ford, Al Woods, Quinton Jefferson, Bryan Mone & Branden Jackson

Welp, there was no way for me to see the Jarran Reed suspension coming. Ditto the trade for Clowney. I was probably always a little light on this position in general, so it’s not totally shocking to see Jackson in there, but he’s just a rotational guy who won’t see a lot of playing time, barring injuries. I never would’ve guessed Mone in a million years though.

Linebackers

Projection: Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Cody Barton, Ben Burr-Kirven, Mychal Kendricks, Shaquem Griffen & Barkevious Mingo
Result: Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Cody Barton, Ben Burr-Kirven, Mychal Kendricks & Shaquem Griffen

The main reason why I was so short on the D-Line was because I essentially had Mingo as a rush end for this team. But, as the pre-season wore on, it was becoming increasingly likely that he was going to be cut (if he wasn’t somehow dealt for the best defensive end on the trade block). There was also worry that Griffen wouldn’t make it, but his value on special teams is apparently too high to part with. Nevertheless, quite the solid group.

That’s 21 out of 25 predicted on defense (with Reed coming back after 6 weeks, and a few of my other picks landing on the IR) for a total of 45/53 on the team heading into week 1 (barring any other moves later this week). My biggest stroke of genius was leaving Austin Calitro off; he very nearly made it, but was waived in recent days and picked up by Jacksonville. So, good luck to him I guess.

The 3rd Most Important Seahawks Player After Russell Wilson: Bradley McDougald

Here is the Home Page for this series of posts.

We’re getting down to the wire here! There are pretty easy arguments to make that any of the top three guys could be #1 on this list. Here’s my case for Bradley McDougald.

The Seahawks started off pretty hot from a defensive backfield perspective in 2018, which of course coincided with the team having a healthy Earl Thomas to go along with a healthy McDougald. But, then Earl was lost for the year (and his Seahawks career), and while McDougald played in all the games, he was clearly banged up towards the end of the season. He had 2 INTs and 5 passes defensed in the first month of the season, then only 1 INT and 4 PDs the rest of the way.

After that Arizona game, so much more went on McDougald’s shoulders, and while he was certainly up to the task, the drop-off from Earl to T2 or Hill ended up being a lot. The pass defense severely went in the tank (doesn’t help that we played the Rams twice without Earl), and while McDougald was the best of a bad position group, he wasn’t enough to lift everyone else up.

Well, for 2019, the Seahawks will have Earl Thomas for zero games. Thompson and Hill both return, and both will fight for one of the starting safety spots, but neither inspire much (if any) confidence. Beyond them, Ugo Amadi and Marquise Blair were selected in this year’s draft, but Amadi figures to get more playing time in the nickel spot, while Blair (who was already an injury worry due to his slight frame and hard-hitting style) is starting Training Camp on the PUP list. That doesn’t mean he can’t come off of it at any time before the regular season, but it would be foolish to expect him to be healthy for all 16 games.

So, once again, McDougald is going to be The Man in the secondary. The Seahawks need him to not just play in all the games, but they need him at the top of his game. When he’s going good, it almost makes you forget that the L.O.B. is no more. But, when he’s not right, you don’t really notice him at all (and that’s not a good thing, because that means he’s not really making any impact plays).

For a while now, the Seahawks’ defense has had a turnover problem. Specifically: generating interceptions. Before, when the L.O.B. was ruling the NFL, that was because teams were afraid of throwing deep on us; they settled for the dink & dunk because those are safer passes. Now that the L.O.B. Seahawks’ secondary is mediocre, teams are hitting on deep passes a lot more because our guys just aren’t good enough to make plays on those balls in the air. The defense in general makes its hay in forcing fumbles, but that’s a tough one to hang your hat on, because fumble luck is so screwy.

While it’s still vitally important for our starting cornerbacks to make a leap in their development, this pass defense is going to hinge on the play of its safeties (particularly when you factor in the uncertainty around the pass rush). Breaking up passes and generating turnovers will be the mark of how well the safeties perform, at least in my mind. Considering there’s just as much uncertainty around the rest of the secondary as a whole, having a healthy and productive McDougald will make all the difference in the world.

If he goes down, it could get ugly.

SEARCH: Seahawks OTAs 53-Man Roster Projections 2019

For as mediocre as I’ve been decrying the Seahawks’ defensive line heading into this season, there’s actually a pretty interesting battle going on. While this team lacks star power – particularly in the pass rush – there’s tremendous depth across the entirety of the front seven. You could argue – aside from Bobby Wagner and Jarran Reed – that it’s ALL depth, but that’s neither here nor there.

The rest of the roster shakes out pretty easily, but I cannot stress this enough: doing a 53-man roster projection in the middle of June is as worthless as it gets. I can’t even describe how wrong I’m going to be by the time Week 1 rolls around; there will be countless injuries and a number of players who make the team that aren’t even on the roster right now!

But, based on the players we have today, here are my thoughts:

Quarterbacks

  • Russell Wilson
  • Geno Smith

This feels like the easiest of the non-Special Teams specialist spots to predict. Paxton Lynch just isn’t an NFL quarterback, period. The only reason he’s here is because he’s tall and a former first round pick. Not that Geno Smith is any great shakes, but at least he’s started; he’s taken the more traditional route to being a career backup.

Running Backs

  • Chris Carson
  • Rashaad Penny
  • Travis Homer
  • C.J. Prosise
  • J.D. McKissic

Already, I don’t feel great about my prediction. If you’d asked me coming out of 2018, I would’ve GUARANTEED that this team takes one of either Prosise or McKissic, but not both. But, I’m just not super sold on the back-end of this group. If Prosise continues to ball out like he’s been doing during these OTAs, I don’t think there’s any way this team can just cut him for nothing. The guys I left off the roster are guys I feel like will be available on the scrap heap if the need arises. The only monkey wrench is the fullback, Nick Bellore. We all know the team likes to run a lot, and having a competent fullback is always a Pete Carroll desire. If he makes the team, probably cross off one of Prosise or McKissic.

Tight Ends

  • Ed Dickson
  • Nick Vannett
  • Will Dissly
  • Jacob Hollister

I don’t have a real strong belief that the team is going to keep four tight ends PLUS George Fant, but I don’t know where the cut comes from! Dickson was our best tight end when he was healthy in 2018, and is our most veteran all-around player at the position. But, at the same time, there is money to be saved by cutting him. Vannett has continued to improve year to year and had sort of a mini-breakout last year (particularly in the endzone). But, at the same time, he’s on the last year of his rookie deal, and I don’t know if he brings anything to the table that’s super special. Dissly looks like a stud, so if he’s healthy by the time the regular season starts, he’s a lock. I think the other lock is Hollister, and not just because we traded for him; clearly based on our history, we have no quibbles with cutting guys we’ve traded for. He sounds like a super stud on special teams and a guy we’d like to hang onto for a while.

Wide Receivers

  • Tyler Lockett
  • D.K. Metcalf
  • David Moore
  • Jaron Brown
  • Keenan Reynolds

Lockett, Metcalf, and Moore are all locks, assuming they stay healthy. I think Brown is about as close to a lock as possible, considering there isn’t a ton of veteran presence in this room. Finally, I think we only hang onto 5 receivers due to the need to have a 4th tight end. With that in mind, the fifth receiver spot is going to be a HUGE battle. I know there’s a prevailing thought that the Seahawks just HAVE to keep all of their rookie drafted receivers, but unless they prove to be special – and healthy – the Seahawks have no problem cutting them and stashing them on the practice squad. For starters, I don’t expect both Jennings and Ursua to be healthy throughout Training Camp; if they are, then we’re having a different discussion. But, in reality, I think the final receiver spot is going to go to one of those two guys or Keenan Reynolds, and I’m giving Reynolds the advantage based on his being in the system for a full year, and actually seeing some playing time last year. With his experience, and his Baldwin-esque build and skillset, I think he’s perfect to slide right into that dependable slot receiver role.

Offensive Line

  • Duane Brown
  • Mike Iupati
  • Justin Britt
  • D.J. Fluker
  • Germain Ifedi
  • Ethan Pocic
  • Jordan Simmons
  • George Fant
  • Jamarco Jones

I’m pretty secure in this prediction. The only way it changes is if there are injuries. Look for Joey Hunt or Phil Haynes to maybe sneak in there if there are any surprises to the core nine I’ve listed above.

Punter/Kicker/Long Snapper

  • Michael Dickson
  • Jason Myers
  • Tyler Ott

Enough said.

Secondary

  • Shaquill Griffin
  • Tre Flowers
  • Akeem King
  • Neiko Thorpe
  • Jeremy Boykins
  • Tedric Thompson
  • Bradley McDougald
  • Ugo Amadi
  • Marquise Blair
  • Delano Hill

I’m not super sold on Boykins. Amadi is also not totally a lock, but Boykins is really just a stab in the dark. I think, if it comes down to a young guy and a veteran, this team keeps the young guy. Boykins was here last year, so he has a leg up, but whatever. This post isn’t really about the secondary.

Defensive Line

  • Ziggy Ansah
  • L.J. Collier
  • Rasheem Green
  • Jacob Martin
  • Jarran Reed
  • Poona Ford
  • Al Woods
  • Quinton Jefferson

Linebackers

  • Bobby Wagner
  • K.J. Wright
  • Cody Barton
  • Ben Burr-Kirven
  • Mychal Kendricks

Linebacker/Ends

  • Shaquem Griffin
  • Barkevious Mingo

You kinda gotta lump all these guys together, because there’s a lot of crossover. I’m pretty secure in my prediction of the 8 linemen and 5 linebackers I’ve listed above. But, just as there will be an interesting battle among the final wide receivers, I think there’s going to be a tremendous battle among the SAM linebackers/defensive ends we’ve got on this roster. I mean, just look at the list of guys I’ve left off of this team:

  • Branden Jackson
  • Cassius Marsh
  • Demarcus Christmas
  • Naz Jones
  • Austin Calitro
  • Jamie Meder

For what it’s worth, I think Christmas is a guy we can stash on the Practice Squad. Jackson is a guy who has hung around for a few years that I know the team likes, but he isn’t really elite at anything. Naz Jones was a healthy scratch for a lot of weeks last year and it appears his time has run out with the Seahawks if he doesn’t seriously flash in Training Camp. Meder is a veteran, but hasn’t really done anything in his career.

The two hardest cuts for me were Marsh and Calitro. Marsh is such an ace at Special Teams, that it wouldn’t surprise me if the team finds a way to keep him. But, he’s essentially a journeyman at this point, so he probably only makes the team if there are injuries at defensive end. He feels like Ansah insurance, which brings me zero comfort. Calitro, on the other hand, was a rookie last year who I thought played pretty well in an injury-ravaged unit. It’s hard for me to see him go, but he’s not really playing the same position as Griffin or Mingo. He’s more of a backup to Wagner/Wright, which they went out and drafted in BBK and Cody Barton. If the team liked Calitro so much, would they have used two moderately high draft picks on guys who can easily replace him? At this point, Barton sounds like he’s a stud, and the guy putting the final nail in Calitro’s coffin.

All of that having been said, I don’t think Griffin or Mingo are locks by any stretch of the imagination. While both are being used in pass rush situations, neither have really excelled at the professional level at that job. Nevertheless, both seem like pretty key guys to our Special Teams, which is why I have them making the 53-man roster. If it comes down to Special Teams or Pass Rush, and the team feels it needs more help with the latter, then don’t be surprised if Marsh takes the spot of Mingo (I can’t imagine the team keeps both Marsh AND Mingo in lieu of waiving Griffin, because why wouldn’t you keep the cost-controlled guy with upside?).

I’m telling you, I’m utterly fascinated with how this whole portion of the team is going to shake out. I’ll be out of town for the entirety of the Pre-Season, which is kind of a bummer, but it’ll still be interesting to follow from afar.

Russell Wilson Will Be The NFL MVP For The 2019 Season

SCORCHING MOLTEN LAVA TAKE ALERT! This is one of those things where if I’m right, I’ll be crowing like a jackass for the rest of my life. And, if I’m wrong, then it’ll never be spoken of again.

Remember the time I predicted the Seahawks would beat the Broncos in the Super Bowl before the season started?

Remember the time before that when I predicted the Ravens would beat the 49ers in the Super Bowl just 1 week into the regular season?

I’ll leave it to the rest of you to find all the times I’ve been wrong, and go out on a limb to say I’m the greatest sports mind of our generation.

I don’t often do a lot of prognosticating on the NFL’s MVP award – or ANY MVP award, really – because I kind of don’t care about it. The only time a Seahawk has won was in 2005, when Shaun Alexander ran for 1,880 yards and 27 touchdowns in leading the Seahawks to their first-ever Super Bowl appearance in a 13-3 regular season. I argued this at the time and maintain it to this day: the most important player to the Seahawks’ success that year was actually Matt Hasselbeck (we NEVER would’ve gotten anywhere without him), but since he didn’t have insanely gaudy stats (3,459 yards, 65.5% completions, 24 TDs, 9 INTs) he didn’t stand a chance.

Which brings me right back to this year and begs the question: if gaudy stats are a precursor, WHY IN THE HOLY HELL WOULD I PREDICT RUSSELL WILSON FOR THIS AWARD?

Look, it’s not the most thought-out opinion I’ve ever had. 99% of everything I say on here I pull straight from my gut, which has been notoriously inconsistent over the years. But, I’ll try to make an argument and you take it with however much salt you want.

Last year, Wilson had a pretty impressive season: 3,448 yards, 65.6% completions, 35 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, and a 110.9 passer rating. Of course, that was nothing compared to Patrick Mahomes’ season (the actual MVP): 5,097 yards, 66.0% completions, 50 TDs, 12 INTs, and 113.8 rating. Every step of the way (except for INTs) he was better than Wilson.

Well, the first part of my argument is that I believe Mahomes takes a step back in his second full year as a starter. I think he’ll come down to Earth and be more in the middle of the pack. He’ll almost certainly throw for over 4,000 yards, but I don’t think he’ll approach 50 TDs again, and I think his INTs will increase. I would also argue that whenever someone wins as thoroughly as he has, there’s inevitably a backlash among voters, who are constantly looking to give the award to someone different. If you don’t believe that to be true, then please explain to me why LeBron James has zero MVP awards since the 2012/2013 season, in spite of the fact that until this year, he carried his teams to every single NBA Championship series in that span. Also, while you’re at it, tell me why Bill Belichick hasn’t won since 2010 and yet Bruce Arians and Ron Rivera have both won twice in that span.

So, if you bet Mahomes at +400, you’re throwing your money away. Which brings me to the current betting odds:

  • Patrick Mahomes +400
  • Drew Brees +700
  • Aaron Rodgers +800
  • Andrew Luck +800
  • Tom Brady +1000
  • Baker Mayfield +1400
  • Russell Wilson +1600
  • Carson Wentz +1900
  • Philip Rivers +2200
  • Deshaun Watson +2500

That’s just the top 10. Some things stand out. All of those guys are quarterbacks (the most important players in the game) and all of those guys are projected to be in the playoffs (or at least contending for the playoffs). While being a quarterback isn’t a MUST, it’s certainly the safest bet. For a non-quarterback to win it, he has to do something REALLY special. Like Shaun Alexander’s touchdown totals. The last non-quarterback to win it was in 2012 when Adrian Peterson came within 8 yards of the all-time rushing yards record in a single season. The time before that, it was LaDainian Tomlinson the year after Alexander, when he ran for 1,815 yards and broke Alexander’s rushing touchdown record with 28.

If I were going to pick a non-QB in 2019, I’d lean towards Saquon Barkley (at +4000), but the Giants are so bad that he would literally have to break every single rushing record for it to happen.

Anyway, as you can see, Wilson is firmly in the Top 10 (shamefully behind Baker Mayfield, which is just a crime against humanity at this point), so Vegas likes his chances. With his new contract extension, Wilson’s name is in the zeitgeist. And, at this junction in his career, I believe there are enough fervent Wilson believers out there to really help make his case and keep his name alive.

Now, he can’t do it alone. It’s going to require the Seahawks to get back to the playoffs. It’ll probably even require the Seahawks to win the NFC West, which I believe this team is capable of. Ideally, the Seahawks will be a top 1 or 2 seed and have a BYE in the playoffs. Something like 12-4 could accomplish this, if everything breaks right. The Rams, you figure, are in for a Super Bowl hangover. The Saints and Bears figure to be our biggest obstacles, as I believe the NFC East will feast upon itself to keep their records down.

Playing well in marquee games is also a must. The Seahawks have five primetime games scheduled, including three in a row late in the season, right in that window where we separate the men from the boys in races like these. Wilson has traditionally stepped up big in these games, so I don’t see that as being an issue either.

With the team playing well, and with his reputation intact, that just leaves his biggest hurdle: his numbers.

Wilson has thrown for over 4,000 yards only twice in his career (though he was 17 yards away in 2017 from making it three times), and last year he was obviously limited by the offense’s design. Part of that was a backlash against the losses in our first two weeks, when the coaching staff had to re-set everything. But, ultimately this team was so successful running the ball that there wasn’t always a serious need to get things done through the air. While the plan heading into the season will be more of the same run-centric style, it wouldn’t totally shock me to see our effectiveness on the ground weaken (much in the same way that I see Mahomes’ numbers taking a dive). Opposing defenses will game plan better. And, I figure injuries will play a more significant role (Carson played in 14 games; I could see that dropping as he doesn’t seem like a guy who can stay healthy for the duration) with both the running backs and the O-Line. There’s no Mike Davis, who was a solid contributor, and I seriously question whether Penny will be up to the task if he’s thrust into the #1 role. There should be just enough of a dip in the running game to add a few hundred more yards to Wilson’s passing total.

On top of that, Wilson’s rushing yards are going to continue to go down with every year. He’s a quarterback, and an elite one at that. Elite quarterbacks throw the ball or hand it off, period. He’s heading into his 8th season, which puts him squarely in his prime. He’s had a Hall of Fame trajectory to this point in his career, and I don’t know a whole lot of Hall of Fame quarterbacks who haven’t won an MVP award. With that in mind, it sort of feels like it’s his destiny to win this award at least once. If we get to the end of the season, and no one has really stood out with awe-inspiring numbers at any position, maybe the voters will look around, see Wilson sitting there with 0 career MVPs, and figure he’s due. People have voted for things based on dumber logic before (say hello to every politician who ever seemed like a guy you’d want to have a beer with).

Getting back to the numbers, though, Wilson’s best chance seems to be with his touchdowns. While he was a far cry from Mahomes’ 50 last year, Wilson was still tied for third with 35. In 2017, he led the league with 34. In 2015, he came in sixth also with 34. I could easily see that number jump up into the 40’s, which should put him well within range. More than that, he’s usually very careful with the ball. Last year he tied a career low with only 7 INTs. I feel with his ability, he can shave that down even further. If he has an insane TD:INT ratio of something like 40:3, that’s the sort of stat that could push him over the top.

Finally, if we’re truly talking about the Most VALUABLE Player, then who has had more value to his team than Russell Wilson in his career to date? The knock against him has always been that he’s had an elite defense (except for last year) or an elite running game (except for a few years there post-Beastmode). Well, I’ve already argued that I don’t believe the running game will be as exceptional as it was in 2018, and as for the defense, it was already middle-of-the-road last year; this year, I think middle-of-the-road will be this unit’s CEILING. I think the defense could be truly terrible this year. We’ll likely rank in the bottom third or bottom quarter in the league in sacks and turnovers.

In 2018, the Seahawks had 43 sacks, 13 of which belonged to Frank Clark. 43 put us 11th in football; 30 would’ve been tied for 30th. Ziggy Ansah figures to mitigate some of that, but I highly doubt he’s going to get us all the way there. In fact, I don’t think he’ll even get us halfway there (yes, I’m putting Ansah’s over/under of sacks at 6.5, and I’ll bet the under). With no one else coming in to help account for the loss of Clark’s production (both in sacks, and in the help he provided someone like Jarran Reed, who saw his numbers skyrocket playing with Clark on the outside next to him). If Reed is our only pass-rushing threat (assuming Ansah misses multiple games, or plays through injury and is ineffective as a result), he can be easily neutralized, sending the D-Line tumbling towards the bottom of the league.

In 2018, the Seahawks had 12 interceptions, 5 of which belonged to Earl Thomas, Justin Coleman, and Frank Clark. 12 put us tied for 18th in football; 7 would’ve been tied for 29th. Bradley McDougald had 3 of his own last year, but he’s also an injury waiting to happen. Of our younger core in the defensive backfield, Shaquill Griffin, Tedric Thompson, Delano Hill, and Tre Flowers all combined for 3 total INTs (Hill and Flowers combining for 0). Who did we add to this group? A couple of rookies, and presumably whatever veterans we bring into Training Camp later this summer. There just isn’t a lot of turnover production in this unit. With the D-Line unable to get pressure, that puts more of the onus on the secondary, which is not NEARLY as talented as the Legion of Boom in its prime.

Now, of course, the Seahawks tied for the league lead in fumble recoveries in 2018, but as we all know, that’s largely based on the luck of the bouncing ball. We did tie for third in forced fumbles, which you’d hope would translate, but again our leader in that category – Frank Clark – is gone.

My point with all of this is to further indicate that I think the Seahawks’ defense will be bad. Our only hope is that we hold teams to an inordinate amount of field goals. But, my expectation is, for the Seahawks to win a lot of games, we’re going to rely exclusively on our offense. That means Russell Wilson will have to do considerably more than he had to do in 2018.

All that being said, it still doesn’t feel like a strong argument, and I get that. All I can say is, with this being the second season with a new offensive coordinator, you have to figure Brian Schottenheimer has had a full year to work with this team, and a second full off-season to tinker with his scheme. While it’ll be foolish to expect the running game to take a complete back seat, I think his ability to adjust in games will improve. With the defense putting us into more passing situations – based on game score alone – I think it’ll open things up for Wilson to really shine like he’s never quite shone before.

Wilson has had spurts. The back-half of his 2015 was as brilliant as it gets; if he had a full season of that, he’d be a hands-down winner of the MVP. I also thought 2018 was his best year yet, particularly from an efficiency standpoint. If we keep the efficiency (or even improve upon it slightly), increase touchdowns, decrease turnovers, and boost up those yards, there won’t be any other excuses to keep him from his due. ESPECIALLY when you consider Baldwin retired, and Lockett is his only quality veteran receiver heading into this season. Voters won’t have the L.O.B. to fall back on, nor will they have as dominant of a running game. They’ll have 8 full years’ worth of elite game play, with 2019 as a coronation of sorts.

In a muddled year of MVP candidates, Wilson will win it in a close voting battle. Mark my words (unless I’m wrong, then forget this ever happened).

The Seahawks Haven’t Changed One Bit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Most Indefensibly Bad Seahawks Draft Pick Of The John Schneider Era

In the wake of the 2019 NFL Draft, the world at large has run through just about everything you can talk about, so we ultimately turn to manufactured arguments. On the Brock & Salk show recently, they were talking about (I don’t remember specifically) the worst Seahawks draft picks of the Schneider/Carroll era. It might have actually been the worst first player selected in each draft, but my mind immediately went to one player.

Before we get to that, I should back up and mention that every team has bad draft picks under their belts. I’m not picking on the Seahawks because I think they’re bad drafters; on the contrary, I think this crew is very GOOD at drafting. Yes, they often find themselves “reaching” in the eyes of the experts, and they go out of their way to trade down (and even out of the first round) to acquire extra picks later on. But, I believe this front office more than any other (except maybe the Patriots) finds the best value in later rounds to round out its roster with quality players.

Beyond that, the Seahawks do an excellent job of blending Best Player Available with Team Needs. You’re not going to see this team draft a quarterback in the top half of the draft because that would be a waste; if you ever do see that, you’d know that player is probably someone who fell further than they should and bank on him being destined for greatness. Those players experts cite as a “reach” are more often than not guys the coaches are able to build up into effective starters. There’s a method to the Seahawks’ madness that keeps this train a rollin’.

If you had to narrow down the absolute WORST pick this group has made, I think you have to start with guys who’ve never played a single down in the NFL. There have been a handful (certainly more than I remembered before I started writing this post), with the worst of the bunch being the guys who cost us the highest draft capital:

  • Mark LeGree (2011, 5th round)
  • Jared Smith (2013, 7th round)
  • Jesse Williams (2013, 5th round)
  • Jimmy Staten (2014, 5th round)
  • Garrett Scott (2014, 6th round)
  • Terry Poole (2015, 4th round)
  • Zac Brooks (2016, 7th round)
  • Kenny Lawler (2016, 7th round)
  • Justin Senior (2017, 7th round)
  • Malik McDowell (2017, 2nd round)

It’s not fair to go beyond the 2017 draft, although Alex McGough spent all of 2018 on the Practice Squad before jumping ship to the Jags, where you have to believe he’ll at least get a shot at some serious playing time as a backup (that Brett Hundley deal continuing to pay whatever the opposite of dividends are). Of that ignominious group I listed above, I completely understand the urge to say, “Malik McDowell is the worst Seahawks draft pick of all time,” and call this post a day.

There is a GREAT argument behind that sentiment. He was a 2nd round pick, and the first pick of our 2017 draft (after trading out of the first round). He was brought in with the thought process that he’d play right away in a rotation that featured Michael Bennett, Frank Clark, Cliff Avril, and Jarran Reed, among others. You could play McDowell on the outside on base downs, and bring him inside on passing downs, while allowing him to learn behind some all-time greats. Then, presumably, when the season was up, the team could move on from the likes of Avril and Bennett, and McDowell would’ve had a full year’s worth of experience under his belt to move into one of the starting roles.

We all know what happened instead: McDowell got injured before Training Camp even started, Avril was out of fooball a month into the season, Bennett was still in peak form (though just starting his slide; he’d be traded after the season), and we had to make that awful trade for Sheldon Richardson (who had very little impact on the field, and cost us yet ANOTHER second round pick, this time in the 2018 draft). So, not only did McDowell not produce for us, but he actively crippled this franchise for the next three years (we’re still being hurt by this deal, as we’ve had to spend high picks in the last two drafts – and probably another one next year – to fill the pass rushing void).

But, that’s not the premise of this post. Yes, the selection of McDowell was atrocious, but it is wholly defensible.

The argument against that has to do with him being a knucklehead who crashed on an ATV and broke his skull, but I mean, come on. Who could reasonably predict that? The knock against him heading into the 2017 draft was that he wasn’t necessarily the hardest worker in college. He took downs/games off. The talent was there, when he wanted it to be, and that’s why a high first round talent fell into the second round. If you want to be mad at anything, be mad at the fact that the team traded out of the first round in the first place; that’s the REAL crime here. But, there’s a lot we don’t know. Maybe the defensive lineman we liked was already taken, so it made sense to trade down and get more picks. You also have to factor in the players we were able to draft because of those trades, of which there are a number of contributors (including Tedric Thompson, Delano Hill, and Chris Carson).

Regardless, the reasoning behind taking McDowell was sound. And, for that reason, I have a hard time placing too much blame on a front office that was struck by some of the worst luck you can imagine. If he wasn’t an idiot, we might be talking about an integral part of this year’s defense right now. We were able to turn Frank Clark around after a suspect college career, it’s not crazy to imagine we could’ve turned McDowell around if we’d actually gotten him into the program.

If you wanted to go away from these types of players who made zero positive impact on the club, you could talk about guys who the Seahawks DID play, and who were actively terrible (arguably providing a net-negative value by virture of their performances on the field). This would include guys like:

  • James Carpenter (2011, 1st round)
  • John Moffitt (2011, 3rd round)
  • Mark Glowinski (2015, 4th round)
  • Germain Ifedi (2016, 1st round)
  • Rees Odhiambo (2016, 3rd round)
  • Ethan Pocic (2017, 2nd round)

Some of these aren’t totally fair. Carpenter was a first round reach, no doubt about it, and it took this team a couple years before they finally figured out where his best fit was on the line. But, once he got past some injury issues and settled in, he’s made a nice career for himself (his last year in Seattle was pretty good, but mostly he’s been a workhorse elsewhere). Glowinski also was a dud in Seattle, though he’s been pretty solid in Indy (and just earned a nice little raise this offseason). Moffitt was an outright bust, in every sense of the word, and a total misfire of a 3rd rounder. Odhiambo has been pretty awful (though, again, I’d argue he’s been thrust into roles he’s not suited for, like left tackle – before we brought in Duane Brown – thanks to injuries and poor planning). Ifedi has been this fanbase’s whipping boy from day one, though his 2018 season was a huge step in the right direction (I would bet some other team pays him a pretty penny once he leaves after the 2019 season); and Pocic has been my own personal whipping boy nearly every time he’s seen the field in his short professional career.

I don’t think these guys really qualify as the most indefensibly bad pick of this era, so much as it simply being indefensible that this team left Tom Cable in charge for as long as they did, when he was better at molding crappy players into eventual quality starters for OTHER teams. A guy like Cable is fine if you have all the time in the world to develop diamonds in the rough; but this team was going cheap on its O-Line (to pay stars at other positions) and needed guys to step in RIGHT AWAY; in that sense, you get what you pay for. The defense behind picking these guys is simple: there’s always a need for offensive linemen, and the Seahawks took more swings at this than anyone else in football. The sad fact is that we simply swung and MISSED more than anyone else, which is why this team fell apart after its Super Bowl run.

All of this is preamble for what I’m going to tell you is, without a doubt, the worst and most indefensible draft pick of the John Schneider era:

  • Christine Michael

We were coming off of an all-time great run of drafts, not just for the Seahawks, but for any team in NFL history. You can’t rehash this enough, and I’m more than happy to go over it with you:

  • Russell Okung – 2010
  • Earl Thomas – 2010
  • Golden Tate – 2010
  • Walter Thurmond – 2010
  • Kam Chancellor – 2010
  • James Carpenter – 2011
  • K.J. Wright – 2011
  • Richard Sherman – 2011
  • Byron Maxwell – 2011
  • Malcolm Smith – 2011
  • Doug Baldwin – 2011 (undrafted)
  • Brandon Browner – 2011 (undrafted)
  • Ricardo Lockette – 2011 (undrafted)
  • Bruce Irvin – 2012
  • Bobby Wagner – 2012
  • Russell Wilson – 2012
  • Robert Turbin – 2012
  • Jaye Howard – 2012
  • Jeremy Lane – 2012
  • J.R. Sweezy – 2012
  • Jermaine Kearse – 2012 (undrafted)

That’s just clinically insane. So many All Pros and Pro Bowlers and starters and role players just in that group alone, who contributed to this team’s championship run in 2013. You could easily say this group was playing with house money.

So much of it, in fact, that we traded the farm (including our 2013 first rounder) to acquire Percy Harvin.

You could also argue that the 2013 NFL Draft was one of the worst of all time. Bust after bust after bust among this group; teams even in the top third of the FIRST round couldn’t count on drafting anyone worth a damn; so why am I all up in arms about a second rounder?

Because, motherfucker!

We as Seahawks fans are used to saying, “HUH?” whenever we see who this team ends up picking. In the early going – particularly in 2012 – we were made to look the fool at this way of thinking, as those guys ended up being some of the best players we’ve ever seen. We have that reaction because the guys the Seahawks take aren’t the guys the national pundits spend all offseason talking about. We don’t KNOW those guys; we know other guys who we think are better, but they might not necessarily be good fits for this team. But, at the very least, we could always rationalize WHY the Seahawks took the guys they’ve taken. There are always clear needs, and the Seahawks tend to focus in on those needs just like the rest of us.

As I mentioned before, the 2013 Seahawks were playing with house money. This was a team – in 2012, particularly in the last month of the regular season, on into the postseason – that was already a Super Bowl contender, as is. A bad start in Atlanta in the Divisional Round prevented us from what could’ve been back-to-back-to-back NFC Championship Games and even possibly back-to-back-to-back Super Bowl appearances. No team in December 2012 was playing as well as the Seattle Seahawks – including the eventual NFL Champion 49ers, who we clobbered in that closing stretch – so that 2013 NFL Draft was wide open to do what this team has never been able to do: really go after the Best Player Available.

Think about it, that team had NO HOLES. We were stacked from top to bottom, and as deep as any team in the league has ever been. We CUT guys who would go on to Pro Bowls for other teams, simply because there wasn’t room for them on our 53-man roster!

And yet, as we all know, no team is without holes. We could’ve filled in around the margins; maybe gone after Travis Kelce (taken with the very next pick; can you imagine? Never having to endure the Jimmy Graham debacle?), or the Honey Badger, or Keenan Allen, or any number of third rounders in that draft who are still kicking around the league. Instead, we picked Christine Michael.

And, for the first – and really only time that I can remember – Seahawks fans all said, “HUH?” not because we didn’t know the guy, but because we didn’t know WHY in the FUCK the Seahawks – with inarguably the best running back in all of football – drafted a third running back.

Remember, this team had Robert Turbin from the 2012 draft. While he never developed into a superstar, he was more than fine as a backup. A nice change of pace, someone who took care of the ball and could spell our starter, someone with good hands out in space and fit our zone blocking scheme to a T. Maybe in a different universe, Turbin could’ve been a 1,000-yard back somewhere! When he left Seattle, he succumbed to injuries that kept him from really breaking out, but you never know.

What we DO know is that Marshawn Lynch was Beastmode, and 2012/2013 was right smack dab in the middle of his PRIME! I mean, this seriously made no sense. It was as if the team was trying to push out the best player on its offense for no good God damned reason!

And maybe that was the plan. All I know was that there wasn’t any serious inkling of Lynch retiring, or otherwise leaving the organization at that time. In an ideal universe, maybe Michael sits as the third stringer his rookie year, then takes over in Year Two. But, obviously, we know how things really shook out. Lynch had two of this three best seasons in 2013 & 2014; he was FAR from done! So far, in fact, that the team signed him to an extension in 2015 (which, of course, immediately preceeded him getting injured, then retiring, then being traded to the Raiders for a nice Oakland swan song).

Meanwhile, Michael was terrible, both on and off the field. He didn’t work on his craft, he didn’t have that will to be great; I guess the best thing you can say is that he didn’t get into trouble off the field. But, even in college people questioned his work ethic, hence (again) why a first round talent fell to the bottom of the second round.

Christine Michael was the total antithesis of what the Seahawks sought out in their players under Pete Carroll and John Schneider. And yet, here we were, blowing our first pick on this guy, where there was absolutely no need whatsoever.

There’s no defending the Christine Michael pick, which makes it the most indefensibly bad pick of the John Schneider era.

Seahawks Death Week: Ranking The Holes To Fill

It’s not all sunshine and puppydog noses in Seahawksland after an unexpected playoff berth in 2018. True, the floor was not as far down as we all thought coming off a disappointing 2017, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of work to do. Here’s my ranking of the holes the Seahawks need to fill heading into the 2019 season, from most important to least.

#1 – Safety

Bradley McDougald is locked up through 2020, at a relative bargain for what he brought to the table when he was healthy the last couple years. The best part about B McD is he can play either strong or free safety, which is crucial because I’m making this position not only the most important to shore up in the offseason, but the biggest priority for the upcoming NFL Draft. That doesn’t NECESSARILY mean I need the Seahawks to use a first round pick on one; but I need for whoever they do end up drafting to hit and hit big for this defense to work. Ideally, we’d find a more capable Earl Thomas replacement at free safety, and slide McDougald over to strong safety, where he’s probably better suited to play. Sure, keep Tedric Thompson and Delano Hill around as depth/competition, but we can’t be counting on them longterm, not with what little improvement we saw over the course of the 2018 season.

#2 – Defensive End 2

DE 1 is obviously Frank Clark, and he’s coming back one way or another (either via a longterm extension, or a franchise tag). The real need is at that end spot opposite Clark. I like Jacob Martin an awful lot based on what he was able to do as a rookie, but at this point in his career he’s more of a rotational guy, and this team needs veteran stability at the other pass rusher spot. Ideally, there will be a stud free agent or two out on the open market, like in 2013 when we were able to sign Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. I don’t know who the 2018 equivalent is, but that’s my idea.

#3 – Guards

This is most easily remedied by re-signing Fluker & Sweezy. I could see one of them maybe moving on, but losing both feels unrealistic. Behind them, we have Pocic and Simmons, a bust and an injury waiting to happen. I like Pocic and Simmons as depth right now more than I like handing them the job out of Training Camp, even though both are younger and with higher ceilings. Could the Seahawks get by with those two? Sure, but I don’t want to know what kind of growing pains this offense needs to go through to make it happen. Just bring back Fluker & Sweezy.

#4 – Weakside Linebacker

K.J. Wright is as good as gone, so this spot could certainly use some shoring up. At this point, we don’t know if Kendricks slots better at this spot or the strong side, but that’s certainly an option. Austin Calitro, I thought, acquitted himself well in his fill-in duty. The draft could also be an option, though obviously not with a high pick. Regardless, there’s going to be an immediate drop-off from the longtime quality we got from Wright; the idea is to not fall too far off his level.

#5 – Kicker

It’s time to do it up right. Ideally, we would’ve solved this puzzle in 2018 with Jason Myers, but we opted to go for the old man, which was fine for the short term, but a disaster overall. Kicker is a tricky thing to fix, as they’re so varied from year to year. Is there an elite leg coming out of college like Michael Dickson last year? God, I hope so.

#6 – Defensive Tackle 2 (or 3)

Jarran Reed has distinguished himself as a bona fide every-down DT in this league. Given his pass rush ability, he has certainly proven he’s more than just a widebody nose tackle. And, with the emergence of Poona Ford as a run stopping machine (and ostensibly the only one on the entire line), you could easily slide him into the starting nose tackle spot, meaning we need a third guy who can sort of do both, stop the run and maybe rush the passer a little. Really, we’re looking for a cheap, veteran, Tony McDaniel type, but GOD DAMMIT we need to fix the run defense from day 1!

#7 – Wide Receiver 3 (or 4)

David Moore could assert himself into this role, but he really disappeared toward the end of 2018 after a delightful start, so everything is up in the air with him right now. Jaron Brown picked things up in his place, but honestly he finished the year with 14 receptions on 19 targets, and his cap hit goes up to nearly $4 million in 2019, which is too much for what he’s bringing to the table. Better to get out from under that and bring in someone cheaper and better if we can.

#8 – Strongside Linebacker

Barkevious Mingo is signed through 2019, at a cap hit of $4.4 million, which isn’t outrageous, but he was another guy who disappeared toward the end of the season. I feel like his spot could be better filled by someone younger and cheaper, probably in the draft.

#9 – Cornerback 3 (or 4)

You’d think I’d have this higher, since I’m essentially begging the team to re-sign Justin Coleman. But, the Seahawks always seem to find a way to get by with whoever they put over there. Ideally, Coleman is extended while they also draft (late) his future replacement. Akeem King should be back too, which gives us nice depth, as I thought he played pretty well down the stretch.

#10 – Running Back 3

Figure Carson is your RB 1 and Penny will elevate to RB 2, this is your Mike Davis spot, only probably younger and cheaper.

#11 – Quarterback 2

Don’t go breaking the bank on Brett Hundley, that’s all I’m saying. Really, don’t break the bank on anyone. In any scenario where Russell Wilson goes down, it’s tank-city.

#12 – Tight End

Vannett is still on his rookie deal through 2019 and he’s fine. Dissly should be back to 100% by Training Camp, so he’s also fine. Ed Dickson, however, sees his cap hit triple over the next two years. He’s ostensibly TE 1, but he had only 12 catches on 13 targets, so I’m not convinced that’s worthy of over $4 million per year, regardless of what he brings to the table with his blocking. Seems like we could get by with the other two and bring in another cheap vet.

Seahawks Death Week: What Did We Figure Out?

Heading into 2018, there were question marks across the board with the Seahawks. Could we develop a running game outside of Russell Wilson? Could we develop a pass rush? Would our secondary hold together? How would our new coordinators fit in? Could we develop enough young talent to push this team in the right direction for 2019 and beyond?

It felt like at least a 2-year project before we’d see the playoffs again, so to make it back in Year 1 feels like playing with house money at this point. So, let’s take a look at what went right, in no particular order:

Running Backs

In 2018, infamously the leading running back for this team was Russell Wilson with 586 yards. The next-closest back was Mike Davis with 240. The only player to run for a touchdown not named Russell Wilson was J.D. McKissic, who had 1 all year. So, you can understand why the Seahawks put so much into re-emphasizing this part of the game.

In 2019, Russell Wilson was 4th on this team in rushing yards, much more in line with where he SHOULD be. We used a first round draft pick – after trading down to acquire more picks – on Rashaad Penny, who had an underwhelming rookie season with only 419 yards (3rd on the team), but he also had the third-most attempts and actually led the group in yards per carry with 4.9. Penny didn’t come out of the gates guns blazing, as there was more of a learning curve for him as he adjusted to the NFL, but he did show flashes of brilliance and that big-play ability we brought him in here for. I don’t know if he’ll ever be a Pro Bowler, or just a nice role player, but his Sophomore campaign should tell quite a bit about where his pro career is headed.

Returning as this team’s #2 running back was Mike Davis, who showed his usual reliability and professionalism. This is a rock-solid #2 guy that I’d never have any qualms about making the occasional spot start for an injured player; he’s a huge upgrade over Robert Turbin, for instance. He ended up with 514 yards on a 4.6 average. It appears Davis will be a Free Agent next year, so hopefully we can bring him back at the right price. Though, I guess we’ll see; with the money we have in Penny, we might want to spend the minimum at a spot where there’s a 3-headed monster.

Chris Carson returned from an injury in 2018 and should really be in the running for Comeback Player of the Year. He led the Seahawks with 1,151 yards on a 4.7 yard average with a whopping 9 touchdowns. He’s the first 1,000-yard rusher for the Seahawks since Beastmode in 2014, and let me tell you, he looked A LOT like our future Ring of Honor stud. We were a different team with Carson on the field, as he bowled and jumped over opposing players with regularity.

Overall, I’d say the position is set for 2019, though it’ll be ultra-set if we bring back Davis.

Pass Rush

The Seahawks were tied for 13th in 2017 with 39.0 sacks (league-leading Pittsburgh had 56.0), which was okay, but obviously not great. We improved to being tied for 11th in 2018 with 43.0 sacks (league-leading Pittsburgh & Kansas City had 52.0) which is a step in the right direction, though we could always be better.

Frank Clark led the way with 14.0 sacks; he’s also set to be a free agent in 2019. The Seahawks are saying all the right things about bringing him back on a long-term extension, though they’re also looking to re-up Wilson and a few others, so they’ve got their work cut out for them. Regardless, the franchise tag is in our pocket, and Clark’s already on record as saying he’d welcome the challenge of playing on the tag, thereby having his value skyrocket if he stays healthy and performs as he did this year. He also could, theoretically, still improve, particularly with better pieces around him, so we may just be scratching the surface with him. Either way, this was a HUGE step forward for a guy a lot of people wondered about. I don’t know if I ever expected him to perform at this level, so it’s great to see!

Even more shocking was what Jarran Reed was able to do in his third season as an interior lineman. He went from 1.5 sacks in each of his first two years to a whopping 10.5 sacks in 2018, which is just an astronomical leap! That’s Cortez Kennedy-level ball-busting! He’s another guy this team needs to keep around for the long term.

After those two, it drops off considerably. The next-highest guy was Quinton Jefferson with 3, and he’s just a rotation guy at best. Rookie Jacob Martin also had 3 sacks, which is encouraging for a high-motor guy still developing his NFL body. It’ll be interesting to see what strides he’s able to make between Year 1 and Year 2.

Rasheem Green was the other highly-touted rookie who had only 1 sack this year, and often found himself as a healthy scratch by season’s end. He was always going to be something of a project, so it’s not surprising, but it is a little disappointing. He was never going to have as much opportunity as 2018, considering you have to figure the Seahawks are planning on pouring big money into the area for next year.

Overall, we’ve got two studs, one maybe, and a lot of filler. While this area was better than I expected heading into the year – as I expected this team to totally fall off the cliff – our stars stayed healthy and produced. Now, it’s just a matter of filling in with better talent around those stars.

Secondary

This was always going to be a challenge, with Kam essentially forced into retirement, with Earl holding out, then playing disgruntled, then being lost for the year to injury. And, of course, the Seahawks waived Richard Sherman, which pushed Shaquill Griffin over to his side of the field as the team’s primary cornerback. For all the grief I gave him about that playoff game, I thought Griffin was fine. At times he was a solid tackler, but he also appeared to be out of position every so often, and took bad angles on tackles. He also finished with only 2 interceptions, which is pretty weak for the team’s primary corner. He’s not going anywhere in 2019, so let’s hope he makes a major jump in his performance in Year 3.

The other cornerback spot appeared to change hands multiple times heading into the 2018 season. Byron Maxwell looked to have the inside track, but he came in injured and never made the team. Other veterans were vetted, but the job ended up in the hands of rookie Tre Flowers, who took it and ran with it. There were the expected growing pains, but he really picked it up over the second half of the season, and looks to be a solid cog in this secondary. He didn’t get any picks, but you have to figure those will come with experience.

With both of our starting safeties out, Bradley McDougald really held this whole thing together. He’s a solid veteran who was playing at a Pro Bowl level for a while, but appeared to break down by season’s end. With him, Tedric Thompson and Delano Hill got their chances to make their marks on this team in their second seasons, but both of them were pretty hit or miss. You have to think the experience was nothing but a positive for them, but they’ll still have to parlay it into 2019 and make significant jumps if they want to be here long term.

I have to think the Seahawks will be looking in the draft for another primo safety. While we’re not set yet, it’s good to see the secondary playing as well as they did this season. They might not have showed out with the turnovers as the L.O.B. did when they hit the scene, but they limited big plays and kept this team in ballgames, which is all you can ask for. I’d also like to see the team extend Justin Coleman long-term, as he’s still one of the better nickel corners in this league.

Tight End

Jimmy Graham was thankfully sent packing, and in his place the team actually improved. Who knew?

Oh yeah, we all knew.

Will Dissly made a HUGE impact in Week 1, then got hurt and was lost for the season. Considering he was the best blocking tight end in the draft last year, and with his offense being better than anticipated, he looks like he’ll be an awesome weapon next year, assuming he returns from injury okay.

Nick Vannett really stepped up in his absence, in his 3rd season in the NFL. He had career highs in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. They weren’t super-amazing or anything (29, 269, 3), but this team doesn’t NEED a Jimmy Graham-like tight end to be effective offensively. I am perfectly happy with those numbers from our 2016 third round draft pick.

Ed Dickson was a free agent signee, and he didn’t make a huge impact either – actually finishing with fewer yards than Dissly, thanks to his own injury issues to start the season – but he had some big plays here and there, and still chipped in 3 TDs of his own. Combined, the TE position had 8 touchdowns on the season (51 catches for 600 yards, if you count George Fant, which I absolutely do!), which is perfectly fine for what little resources we’ve pumped into the position. You don’t need superstars at tight end to have a winning offense.

Tight end is set, assuming Dissly is back to 100%.

Offensive Line

The O-Line was the biggest question mark heading into the season, and thankfully it eventually turned into one of this team’s biggest strengths. Duane Brown was a Second Team All Pro at left tackle, Justin Britt brought his usual solidness at the center position, and Germain Ifedi made a big leap in his third year to finally become a passable right tackle. There were some growing pains at the guard spots – arguably the most important spots on the entire O-Line for a team with a Russell Wilson at quarterback – but after the second game, when J.R. Sweezy took over on the left side and D.J. Fluker took over on the right, they finally morphed into a cohesive, solid unit.

The downside is both Sweezy and Fluker are free agents heading into 2019. They’re also getting up there in age, and seemingly always face a litany of injuries. While that should theoretically keep their costs down, it’s hard to ignore the strides this team made when both of them were healthy. As such, you have to figure they’re in store for raises over the $1.5 million each of them made in 2018.

Beyond those two, Ethan Pocic was a disaster. He started those first two games we lost (when couldn’t do a damn thing offensively), and every time he took the field late in the season, the offense took an immediate step back. I don’t know if he’s undersized, incompetent, or both, but he’s got A LOT of work to do if he’s aiming to return to the starting five. As a second round pick already in his second year, with plenty of experience under his belt already, this is NOT trending well.

Jordan Simmons, however, was a revelation when he stepped in for Fluker! He’s a big ol’ mauler in Fluker’s image, but his season ended prematurely with injury. Combine that with the fact that he spent most of his college career injured, and I don’t think he’s someone we can count on long term. As a fill-in, backup type guy, though, it’s nice to know he’s around.

Joey Hunt is heading into free agency; he’s not someone I’d mind if we kept around or not. He looks undersized, and at this point Pocic might only be able to salvage his career if he backs up Britt at center, so Hunt is probably a luxury this team doesn’t need. He could still develop into a quality starter somewhere, but probably not here.

Finally, the aforementioned George Fant had quite a bit of playing time. He was often a sixth lineman this team implemented when we wanted to pound the rock, and once in a while found himself running routes (with his lone catch being a highlight of the season). He filled in for Ifedi late in the year – with Ifedi sliding over to guard for an injured Fluker – and that didn’t go so great. But, I would still expect him back, as I can’t imagine there’s going to be a huge bidding war for Fant.

Conclusion

With an elite quarterback, an elite middle linebacker, two elite wide receivers, and some nice pieces noted above, this is a team that’s heading in the right direction for another playoff run in 2019. How they spend their money in free agency will ultimately determine if this team’s going to contend for a division title. There are still quite a bit of holes left to fill, so it should be interesting.

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.