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?

Have I Overreacted To All The Coaching Change On The Seahawks?

If you haven’t seen it yet, go ahead and take a gander at what I wrote yesterday.  A lot of doom and gloom and whatnot.  Anyway, I got a GREAT comment from someone named Justin that I thought I’d respond to.  I’m not here to be a Hot Taek factory, and I really hate it when recency bias creeps into my arguments and gets me to overreact to something that’s not really that big of a deal, so I thought I’d take a step back and consider Justin’s argument.

I do stand behind the crux of my argument yesterday, in that it’s never a great sign when a head coach makes wholesale coordinator changes, and you could argue that the Seahawks fired three coordinators, considering Tom Cable’s influence over the offense.  We’re in a period of transition with the Seahawks, there’s no doubt about it.  Some of the stars of those championship teams are aging out, or injuring themselves out, and will need to be replaced.  While it’s not impossible for this team to hit rock bottom in 2018, it’s just as possible that they find the right pieces to fill in and get this team back to the playoffs.  We could be looking at one 9-7 blip on the radar, and nothing would make me happier.

I like a lot of what Justin has to say.  I agree that Russell Wilson is in the Top 5 for me among quarterbacks in this league.  And we all know he has another level to his game; we’ve seen it during the second half of 2015.  He obviously can’t do it alone, though, and is going to need some help from his O-Line and running game.  But, that’s obvious to anyone.  Even Tom Brady looks pretty fucking mediocre in those rare instances where the Patriots have a struggling O-Line; the difference is they seem to know how to push the right buttons and right the ship before too long.

I also agree that we probably have a Top 15/Top 10 defense as it is.  That part of it is never going to get TOO bad, because Pete Carroll is too good of a defensive mind.  My biggest concern is that the injury bug tends to be random, and the Seahawks were pretty well battered in 2016, then followed that up by arguably being MORE battered in 2017.  That, to me, shows signs of age.  And, considering the core on this defense is so deep and has been together for so long, that’s A LOT of holes that need filling, not to mention a lot of depth that needs replenishing around that core.

It’s too early to know what that’s going to look like.  We don’t know, for instance, if Avril or Kam will make miraculous recoveries and try to play again.  Forgetting the cap situation for a moment, assuming we get those guys back, they’re still one awkward hit away from being done for good.  Then, there’s Michael Bennett, who ALWAYS seems to be slowed by one nagging thing or another.  A foot, a quad, a pec, an ankle.  I still say he’s someone who needs to be on the field way less than he is to remain effective.  There’s more snaps you have to replace.  Earl Thomas made a nice recovery in 2017, as I assume Richard Sherman will in 2018, but again:  guys getting older.  Guys more susceptible to these debilitating injuries.  And, I haven’t mentioned guys like Bobby Wagner or K.J. Wright, because they’re almost always pretty healthy.  But, before he went down, Sherm had never missed a game, and I don’t know if Earl missed much time either.  It just takes one hit, or one bad step and then a bunch of others that eventually wear you down until whatever’s ailing you just SNAPS.

So, let’s take a step back and look on the bright side:  who do we have on defense that we like?  That we can count on in major roles going forward?

Frank Clark, obviously, heads that list for me, and feels like a guy this team should prioritize with a big extension.  Dion Jordan is another guy I’ll be happy to see return, and in a meatier role than he had in 2017.  Should he prove to be effective, he’s a guy I wouldn’t mind seeing around semi-long term.  Naz Jones really flashed as a rookie.  He looks like a guy who could play every down and be an effective interior rusher (I just hope he’s not another of these injury-prone guys, what with him missing the last few weeks of the regular season).  Jarran Reed is another impressive interior lineman who feels more like a Brandon Mebane type (which is NOT a bad thing) and is someone I hope to have around for a long time.  So, that’s four guys, not counting Bennett (who I still think will probably be back in 2018).  I don’t expect Sheldon Richardson back, and who the fuck knows about Malik McDowell, but either way, the D-Line could use some work.  And some better injury luck.

Love me some Wagz and Wright; they’re both squarely in their primes.  But, would it kill this team to draft a couple of talented, athletic backups who might one day take their places?  Or, competently fill in for when those guys get nicked up?  I mean, we’re always one Wagner injury away from the biggest fucking drop-off on the entire team outside of quarterback!

In the secondary, I – along with most everyone – liked what I saw from Shaq Griffin.  He still has room to improve, and I hope he makes that leap.  With Earl and Sherm back in the fold in 2018, and Coleman being a solid slot guy, there’s even more to like.  But, how do you replace someone like Kam?  And, who’s gonna be your third outside corner?  Are ANY of the other rookies we drafted in the secondary in 2017 going to pan out besides Griffin?  I think it’s a BAD sign that guys like Delano Hill and Tedric Thompson hardly ever played last year.  I hope they look good behind the scenes, because I have a feeling we’re going to need at least one of them to pan out in the near future.

So yeah, there’s talent defensively.  There’s plenty of talent to be a Top 15 defense as it stands right now.  And, of course, the team will make moves this offseason to bolster that side of the ball.  A Pete Carroll team would NEVER neglect the defense.  But, is this team good enough to overcome just a Top 15 or a Top 10 defense?  Or, does it need a Top 2 defense to really do something?

And, I guess that’s my whole point in all of this.  With all its faults, the 2017 Seahawks were still SO CLOSE to making the playoffs.  And it would’ve been fun, and we would’ve had a rabid ramp-up to that game against the Rams (or whoever would’ve been the 3-seed in this alternate universe).  And who knows?  Maybe we shock the world just like we’ve done so many times in the Wild Card round of the playoffs!

But, I’m not interested in just making the playoffs.  I don’t think there’s a way in Hell that the Seahawks of 2017 – with all the injuries and everything else they had to deal with by season’s end – were in a position to make a serious championship run.  Odds are, if it’s Rams in the Wild Card round, then Eagles in the Divisional round, then Vikings in the Championship game … I mean, look at those defenses!  Those are far and away the three best defenses in the NFC this year (with the Saints probably coming in 4th).  You’re telling me this team, with this O-Line, and this lack of a running game, could’ve made it through all three?  I think the chance of that is 0.00%.

Maybe I’m being greedy.  As a long-suffering Seahawks fan through the years, maybe I SHOULD just be happy with a playoff appearance.  But, after 2013, all of that changed.  With Russell Wilson in the fold, I want to see MULTIPLE championships!  At least one more, ideally two more.  Anything beyond that would be beyond my wildest dreams, but you get the idea.  Great, amazing, franchise-altering quarterbacks don’t come around everyday unless you’re the Green Bay Packers, apparently.  To squander someone like Russell would be a travesty.  Beyond that, I can’t bear to imagine a world where his final play in a Super Bowl is that fucking interception at the goalline.  He NEEDS to be redeemed!

And no, this team probably WON’T collapse in the near future, not as long as Wilson is healthy.  He’s in his prime, and we’ve seen PLENTY of mediocre teams with elite quarterbacks who carry them to consistent 7-9/8-8/9-7 seasons.  Aside from 2015/2016, that’s pretty much the M.O. of the San Diego Chargers under Philip Rivers!  Not to mention a lot of those post-Super Bowl Saints teams.  And a lot of those Lions teams under Matthew Stafford.  On and on and on.  But, to be honest, those types of teams are my worst nightmare.  Not to say I envy the Browns or something, but I would RATHER bottom out for a year or two, bring in a bunch of highly-drafted college players, and turn things around.  The Seahawks will probably never get to be that bad, though, so I think it’s a very real concern that we have a bunch of 8-8 type seasons in the years ahead.

How do we avoid that?  Well, ideally, we need to figure out what the Saints did in their draft room last year, because God Damn!  Justin points out that we should have faith in the combo of Pete and John.  I have the utmost respect for those guys, and I agree they’re the best head coach and GM in franchise history (and maybe in the history of all of Seattle sports).  But, I also think it’s valid to wonder if they’re not coasting on the achievements of their drafts and free agent acquisitions from 2010-2012.  I mean, that’s one of the best turnaround jobs in all of professional sports, what they were able to do in that 3-year span.  And, for the most part, I like that they take chances and they swing for the fences on guys with rare and unique talents.

But, the mounting mistakes from 2013 onward is pretty glaring.  Bringing in Harvin, which led to losing out on Tate.  That whole fucking 2013 draft which has only netted you a backup tight end in Luke Willson (and no, they don’t get credit for Spencer Ware, because he was let go and has done all of his damage with the Chiefs).  Then, there’s the Jimmy Graham deal, and the whole fucking 2014 draft.  Paul Richardson has given us exactly 1 fully healthy season before turning into an expensive free agent.  Justin Britt gave us a couple of mediocre seasons as right tackle and left guard before finding his place at center.  Cassius Marsh and some of the guys below him were non-factors on defense and mostly just good special teamers.  Then again with the 2015 draft.  Clark and Lockett were hits, but Glowinski was a bust, and everyone else is gone.  Now, take a look at the 2016 draft:  the best player is arguably Alex fucking Collins, yet ANOTHER late-round running back this team threw away!  Ifedi has been miserable, Reed has been a run-stuffing defensive tackle, Vannett looks like nothing more than a 3rd or 2nd tight end at best, Prosise is a living, breathing ankle sprain, and the rest of those guys are backups, training camp fodder, or out of the game entirely.  That brings us to the 2017 draft, where it looks like maybe they got their mojo back with guys like Griffin, Jones, Carson, and hopefully Pocic, but also features your top selection in McDowell who might never play a single down in the league.  Then, when you compound it with some of the other deals, giving Joeckel so much money, giving Lacy ANY money, consistently trading away high draft picks for veterans.  My confidence with this line of decision-making hasn’t totally plummeted, but I’ll say this:  2018 is going to go a LONG way toward either restoring my faith, or leading me to construct a noose and hang myself.

I mean, shit, what happened to their prowess in picking guys on the third day of the draft???

In short, because this one ballooned WAY out of control, yesterday’s post is probably a bit of an overreaction, with an asterisk of We’ll See.  This thing has been trending downward for three years, so we just have to hope that the new blood is able to come in and turn things around.  If they can’t, or if injuries continue to kill us, or if guys don’t develop into stars for whatever reason, or if the front office keeps kicking the can down the road with some of these contracts and draft pick trades, then I’ve been on record for a while now saying this could be another Seattle Mariners situation:  a lot of high-priced veterans getting this team to at or around .500, but ultimately treading water for a bunch of years in a row.

The 2017 Seahawks Have A Roster

So, last Thursday happened, and everyone rejoiced because the Seahawks got through their final pre-season game mostly unscathed.  Then, Friday happened, and shit started hitting the fan all over the place!

Five trades were made, countless players were shockingly waived, and when the dust settled, it appears the Seahawks are better in the short term and the long term than they were at this time last Thursday.

Let’s run down the trades in brief:

  • Trade with Jets:  Jermaine Kearse & a 2018 Second Round Pick for Sheldon Richardson and a swap of 2018 Seventh Round Picks
  • Trade with Patriots:  a 2018 Seventh Round Pick for Justin Coleman
  • Trade with Patriots:  Cassius Marsh for a 2018 Fifth Round Pick and that Seventh Round Pick we gave them for Coleman
  • Trade with Vikings:  Tramaine Brock for a 2018 Seventh Round Pick
  • Trade with Chiefs:  a 2018 Conditional Seventh Round Pick for Isaiah Battle

Now, let’s discuss these trades in reverse order:

Isaiah Battle is an offensive tackle who has never actually played in an NFL game.  From something I saw on Twitter, if you think back to the third pre-season game, Battle was getting abused on the reg by our defensive linemen.  He’s got the size you want, but at three years into his professional career, you have to wonder if he has the talent.  It looks like the Seahawks could get that draft pick back if they just waive him, but the question remains:  how long of a look do we get at Battle before making that happen?

On Friday, as the Jermaine Kearse rumors were swirling, there were a similar number of Jeremy Lane rumors swirling.  Where there’s smoke, there’s fire this time of year, and usually when it leaks out that a team is shopping someone, that means if they find no takers, they’re just going to cut that player later.  So, as we all prepared to say goodbye to Lane, it turns out Tramaine Brock was getting the ax (and just when I learned how to spell his name without looking it up!).  I guess Brock became expendable when Coleman was brought in.  Coleman is more of a prototypical nickel corner, while Brock has played more on the outside in his career.  With Shaq Griffin more of an outside guy (who will force Lane inside in nickel situations), and with Griffin proving to be competent with lots of upside, Brock was redundant.  It’s too bad, but at least the Seahawks got something for him.

I’m going to lump the two deals with the Pats together.  It essentially boils down to a swap of players (Cassius Marsh for Justin Coleman) with the Seahawks getting an additional fifth round pick as a cherry on top.  Marsh was going to be a free agent after this season.  Coleman will be a restricted free agent in 2018, meaning if the Seahawks like him, odds are they’ll be able to keep him.  Coleman figures to be our dime corner, and probably adds something to special teams.  Marsh, honestly, is what he is.  Every year, we go into the Seahawks’ pre-season hoping that THIS will be the year that Marsh finally makes the big leap forward in his productivity as a rush end, but every year it’s just baby steps (if it’s any steps at all).  He’s better at defending the run than he is getting to the quarterback, and he’s better on special teams than he is at defense.  While that’s nice, it’s not really game-changing, and if you can get a fifth round pick for that, you absolutely do it!  Marsh might end up being a late bloomer, and I wish him all the best (when he’s not playing against the Seahawks), but he won’t be doing his blooming here.

Finally, the big news of the weekend – indeed, of the season so far – is the trade for Sheldon Richardson.  We gave the Jets Jermaine Kearse (I guess they’re desperate for wide receiver help) and a second round pick in compensation.  It’s sad to see Kearse go, and I’ll always think of him fondly for all his huge catches through the years, but if you have a chance to bring in Sheldon Richardson, and you need to clear up some cap space to do it, I’m more than happy to part with Kearse now.

Richardson is a monster.  He can play DT or DE, he can rush the passer from the inside and out, he can stop the run from the inside and out.  He fits seamlessly on this D-Line and could very well prove to be a game-changer for this defense as a whole.  He takes the Seahawks from Contender to Favorite in the NFC.  He makes this defense SO MUCH BETTER it’s insane!  I mean, we’re talking 2013/2014 levels of Seahawks defense.  Shit just got real.

***

There were some interesting, tough cuts made over the weekend as well.  In no particular order, here’s a list of some of the big ones:

  • Ahtyba Rubin
  • Trevone Boykin
  • Kasen Williams
  • Mike Morgan
  • Marcel Reece
  • Pierre Desir
  • Alex Collins
  • Mike Davis
  • Joey Hunt
  • Quinton Jefferson
  • Kenny Lawler
  • David Moore
  • Will Pericak
  • Garrison Smith
  • Tyrone Swoopes
  • Mike Tyson
  • Cyril Grayson

Rubin is obviously a tough one to see go, but he became expendable with Richardson in the fold.  Boykin being let go means that Austin Davis won the backup QB job, which makes sense.  I don’t see why Boykin couldn’t land on the Practice Squad; I can’t imagine another team wanting him.  Morgan and Reece are a couple of vets we could have at any time, I imagine.  The writing was on the wall for Collins and Davis, considering the depth at running back.

But, I’m really just dancing around the obvious here.  The Seahawks didn’t keep Kasen Williams and I’m pretty pissed about it.  If he didn’t win a job on this roster with all that he did this pre-season, then what the fuck more did he have to do?  He made just about every single catch you could’ve asked of him, he balled out on special teams, and with Kearse gone, wouldn’t you want someone intimately familiar with our system to be our fourth receiver?  You know, in case guys like Lockett or P-Rich get injured again like they always do?

And you know who snapped Kasen up?  The Cleveland Browns!  Who just so happen to be at the very tip top of the waiver priority list.  If the player you just gave up goes to the very first team that could claim him, you probably done fucked up.

To a lesser extent, I’m also pissed that the Seahawks let Pierre Desir go, because he was far and away one of the top two cornerbacks on this team this pre-season.  This one is more of a numbers game than anything.  Sherm isn’t going anywhere.  Griffin isn’t going anywhere.  With Brock gone, Lane isn’t going anywhere.  And the Seahawks just traded for Justin Coleman.  This one came down to Desir and Neiko Thorpe, and Thorpe JUST signed a 2-year deal this past offseason.  Thorpe isn’t anywhere NEAR the cornerback that Desir is, but he’s a fundamental member of the Special Teams, and it’s clear the Seahawks have made Special Teams a top priority this season.  So, that’s that I guess.

***

Without further ado, let’s get into the guys we decided to keep.

Quarterback

Russell Wilson
Austin Davis

In this one, it came down to what do you want more:  someone who has real, significant NFL experience?  Or someone who can do the best Russell Wilson impression (minus all the accuracy, decision-making, and smarts)?  Considering, again, I think Boykin can be had for the Practice Squad, I’m perfectly fine with this (either way, this team stinks the minute Wilson goes down with injury).

Running Back

Eddie Lacy
Thomas Rawls
C.J. Prosise
Chris Carson
Tre Madden (FB)

Again, no shockers here.  Madden over Reece is a mini-shocker (just the tips), but when you think about it, when was the last time the Seahawks kept an aging veteran fullback on the roster heading into week 1?  You bring those guys in AFTER week 1 and make sure their contracts aren’t fully guaranteed!

Wide Receiver

Doug Baldwin
Tyler Lockett
Paul Richardson
Tanner McEvoy
Amara Darboh

While I don’t believe McEvoy is QUITE as athletic as Kasen Williams, he’s pretty fucking athletic.  He’s tall and can make a lot of the catches Kasen can make.  He’s also, if we’re being honest, probably better on Special Teams.  As for Darboh, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that the team wanted to keep their third round draft pick, even though we’ve seen this team move on from relatively highly-drafted wide receivers before.  It sounds like the Seahawks really like Darboh.

Running Back/Wide Receiver/Kickoff & Punt Returner

J.D. McKissic

I think the reason why I’m not more blinded by rage at the loss of Kasen Williams is that it facilitated the team keeping McKissic.  He’s technically listed as a running back (having switched to Shaun Alexander’s old number, which I don’t know how I feel about just yet), but he does everything.  Most importantly, he spares Lockett from returning kicks, which is huge considering the injury from which he’s returning.  McKissic isn’t elite at any one spot, but I think he could be highly productive, even in a reserve role.  A+ for this move!

Tight End

Jimmy Graham
Luke Willson
Nick Vannett

Again, no surprises here.

Offensive Line

Rees Odhiambo
Luke Joeckel
Justin Britt
Mark Glowinski
Germain Ifedi
Oday Aboushi
Ethan Pocic
Jordan Roos
Matt Tobin
Isaiah Battle

The starters are set, Aboushi sticks around as veteran depth inside, Pocic is our Jack of All Trades, Roos is our rookie project, and Tobin and Battle are tackle insurance.  I can’t imagine we stay with 10 offensive linemen for very long, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see one or both of those final two guys get the ax at some point.

Defensive Line

Cliff Avril
Michael Bennett
Sheldon Richardson
Jarran Reed
Frank Clark
Nazair Jones
Marcus Smith
David Bass

Along the lines of there being too many O-Linemen, there’s probably one fewer D-Lineman than we’d like.  Reed and Jones are the only natural DTs, but obviously Richardson is going to start there as well and play most every down, so that mitigates things.  It’s cool to see Bass make the team, as he really balled out this pre-season as well.  And, you have to like the versatility Smith brings.

Linebacker

Bobby Wagner
K.J. Wright
Michael Wilhoite
Terence Garvin
D.J. Alexander
Dewey McDonald

Obviously, the top two are our studs and will be on the field every down.  The next two are our depth pieces/SAM ‘backers.  The final two are special teams studs and will hopefully never see meaningful snaps on defense.

Cornerback

Richard Sherman
Jeremy Lane
Shaq Griffin
Justin Coleman
Neiko Thorpe

I talked about these guys up top.  Nice group all around, though I still probably would’ve kept Desir.

Safety

Earl Thomas
Kam Chancellor
Bradley McDougald
Tedric Thompson
Delano Hill

Not much to say here.  McDougald mitigates some of the loss I feel for Desir, as he figures to play quite a bit on defense in 3-safety sets, covering tight ends.  Desir was more of a third outside corner/injury depth; McDougald should actually play and play considerably.  Thompson and Hill, the two rookies, were never going anywhere.

Special Teams

Blair Walsh
Jon Ryan
Tyler Ott

Bingo, bango, bongo.

Projecting Where The New Seahawks Fit

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

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

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

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

  • Fant – Glowinski – Britt – Ifedi – Gilliam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which brings us to the defense.

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

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

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

Just picture a line that looks like this:

  • Avril, McDowell, Bennett, Clark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Seahawks’ 2017 Draft Was Unsexy & Pivotal

I don’t think we’re going to see a lot of national coverage on what the Seahawks did in this draft, and I’m okay with that.  You can see it as disrespect all you want, and I’m okay with that too, but that just means we can sit here in our little corner of the United States and just focus on football.  We’re not one of these teams who needed to draft a quarterback in the top third of the first round; we didn’t select any of these woman-beaters or drug users.  Hell, most of our guys have really uplifting and tearjerking stories of how they got to where they are today!  Good character guys, who at the very least won’t distract us from what’s most important:  the quality of play on the field.  I can’t tell you how sick and tired I was of all the Frank Clark stuff when we brought him in a couple years ago.  I thank my lucky stars we didn’t get Joe Mixon, or some of these other guys, so I don’t have to read 5,000 thinkpieces on why the NFL hates women (they do, or at least they don’t give a shit about women, so long as you can score touchdowns or sack quarterbacks on the reg, but it doesn’t mean I want to spend the whole offseason reading about it over and over again).

I know I don’t know much about the players the Seahawks drafted, so I can’t really give an informed opinion.  I like the thought process behind the positions the Seahawks targeted, even if it’s not necessarily the order I would’ve picked them in (I’ll have a separate post written at some point, lamenting the lack of Huskies and further lamenting where most of them ended up).

As always, it’s going to take a few years to see where we’re at with this class, so I’ll forego grading this thing:

  • 2nd Round – Malik McDowell – DT/DE
  • 2nd Round – Ethan Pocic – OL
  • 3rd Round – Shaquill Griffin – CB
  • 3rd Round – Delano Hill – SS
  • 3rd Round – Nazair Jones – DT
  • 3rd Round – Amara Darboh – WR
  • 4th Round – Tedric Thompson – FS
  • 6th Round – Mike Tyson – S/CB
  • 6th Round – Justin Senior – OT/G
  • 7th Round – David Moore – WR
  • 7th Round – Christopher Carson – RB

After trading down twice – from 26 to 31 (to get an extra 3rd & 7th), then from 31 to 34 (to get a 4th rounder) – the Seahawks traded down from 34 to 35 with Jacksonville, picking up an extra 6th rounder.

With the 35th pick, the Seahawks finally selected Malik McDowell.  This guy will play right away, particularly in obvious passing situations, as a pass rushing defensive tackle.  He can also play on the end, as I’m sure he and Michael Bennett will be interchangeable.  From the tape I watched on him after we made this pick, he looks like he can be quite the disruptive force in getting upfield.  I don’t know if he’s too great at stopping the run, so that might be something for him to work on.  He’ll need to stay extremely disciplined if he plays for the Seahawks, minding the gaps he’s supposed to mind and so on.  There’s also people who greatly question his effort, which is obviously concerning, because I keep hearing reports that McDowell is a Top 5 talent if not for his effort concerns.  I have to wonder if that just means going all out every play, or if that encompasses his entire life.  Like, is he going to keep up with offseason workout programs?  Am I going to have to worry about him showing up overweight and out of shape?

What I don’t buy is McDowell falling because of poor interviews.  I don’t care if my stud D-Linemen are great orators; quite frankly, with guys like Bennett, Sherman, Doug Baldwin, and so on and so forth on this team, I wouldn’t mind the Seahawks drafting a fucking mute.  Who cares if McDowell gives boring, one-word answers?  He’s not getting paid to give great interviews; he’s getting paid to kill the quarterback!

What I also don’t buy is knocking McDowell for poor effort on a bad Michigan State team in his senior season.  They keep saying his effort went downhill as they kept losing as the season wore on.  Well, so what?  If I only have to worry about his effort when he’s on a bad team, then I shouldn’t have to worry very much, because the Seahawks are VERY good still!  He’s coming onto a championship contender, so I would expect the effort will be there.  And, if it’s not, or if he’s injury prone or whatever, then we obviously have huge problems.

What I saw when I watched McDowell play is a guy with long arms, lots of strength, and lots of quickness.  He’s going to make quick work of single-teams, and if he’s double-teamed (which he probably should be a lot of the time, particularly on the interior of the line), then that just opens up lanes for Bennett, Avril, Clark, and so on.  The upside with this kid is through the roof!  If the veterans are able to keep him in line and he comes in with a positive attitude, we could be looking at the guy who replaces Bennett whenever he’s ready to retire.  McDowell is a potential superstar and long-term player, if we got this pick right.  If we failed, and he turns out to be a diva, he could be a spectacular bust.

***

One of the biggest shocks for me of this Seahawks draft is – after they made all of their trade downs to collect extra draft picks – they didn’t try to trade up (particularly in the 2nd round) and use some of that extra draft capital to pick up a unique talent.  Maybe the right deal never came along, maybe the unique talent didn’t fall far enough, or maybe all the talent at the end of the 2nd round was pretty much the same anyway and the Seahawks just took the best player available (considering their needs, of course).

In this case, that player turned out to be Ethan Pocic, offensive lineman out of LSU.  He checks off a lot of the boxes we like:  pro-style offense, has played multple positions along the line, is very intelligent, is very athletic, played in the SEC, and he absolutely towers over Russell Wilson, so watch out for those sight lines!

I think what flipped out a lot of Seahawks fans about this one is the fact that he primarily played center for LSU.  He does have experience at tackle and guard, but the overwhelming majority of his playing time was devoted to center.  And, obviously, the Seahawks already have their starting center in Britt.  Which means either we picked this guy to be our center after 2017 (in this case, Britt would walk in free agency), or the Seahawks plan to eventually extend Britt long term, and we’ve just drafted yet another guy we’re going to have to convert into something else.  Something that’s NOT his natural center position.  It’s just getting a little frustrating, you know?  Carpenter came in as a right tackle, eventually converted to left guard.  Britt was a right tackle, then a guard, until he finally made it work at center.  Ifedi was supposed to be a right tackle, but last year we made him a right guard, and now it looks like we’re going to move him back to tackle again?  Now, this Pocic guy, who is a center, will be a WHAT in 2017?

Well, for now, it looks like he’ll land on the right side of the line.  He, Ifedi, and Aboushi will all compete to be starters for those two positions, with the loser as backup.  I’ll talk more about my thoughts on the O-Line another time, but for now, I like the pick.  I’ll like Pocic even more if he IS as versatile as they say he’ll be.

***

The next two guys were right in my sweet spot.  Right where I’ve been screaming at the Seahawks to address since the 2016 season ended:  the secondary.

Shaquill Griffin is a cornerback out of UCF.  6′, 194 lbs.  He’s got long arms, is apparently a good tackler, and can play press coverage or off the ball, so he’s exactly what the Seahawks look for in a corner.  He should come in and compete for a starting spot right away, and can likely play inside or outside, which is nice, because the Seahawks need both.

Delano Hill is a strong safety out of Michigan.  Nearly 6’1, 216 lbs.  He strikes me as a Kam Chancellor type.  He likely starts out as a backup safety, playing a lot of special teams, and learning at the feet of the master.  He is good in helping to stop the run, but his coverage skills may be suspect.  Of course, they said the same thing about Kam when he came out in the draft, so we’ll just have to see.  If he can spend the majority of this year just being a promising backup, maybe next year he’ll come in and be twice the player he is now.

***

With the final two picks in the third round, the Seahawks did some very Seahawky things.

First up, Nazair Jones, DT out of North Carolina.  6’5, 304 lbs.  This guy is more of a run-stuffer, likely replacing Tony McDaniel in the interior rotation on base defense.  He should fit in nicely with Reed and Rubin, though you’ll be hard pressed to see him and McDowell on the field at the same time.  They kind of project to play the same spot on the line, with Jones in there on likely run situations, and McDowell there in likely passing situations.  This pick would seem to eliminate the annual last-minute DT free agent signing, and hopefully shore this position up for a few years.

Then, the Seahawks went rogue, picking up Amara Darboh, wide receiver out of Michigan.  6’2, 214 lbs.  Big receiver who likely won’t play much right away (unless he catches on as a special teamer), he does project to have a potentially huge role in 2018 and beyond.  We’re going into a contract year with Paul Richardson, and we’re also going into the likely final year with Jermaine Kearse (as you can cut him after the 2017 season with minimal dead money going against the cap).  While Darboh doesn’t have the speed of a Richardson, he could very well have the ball skills and leaping ability to high point over defenders.  And, while Darboh doesn’t have the experience or toughness of a Kearse, he does appear to have the blocking ability that’s kept Kearse employed for so long.  The question remains:  can he make those big, game-changing catches we’ve seen Kearse come down with throughout the years?  He’ll have to prove that in practice and pre-season games.

That having been said, I have the same concerns for him as I do for all mid-round receivers:  will he ever develop into anything?  A guy like Doug Baldwin can flourish when he came into the league, because the Seahawks were still rebuilding when he signed on.  But, the Seahawks are mostly set everywhere and are just filling in the cracks of the back-end of the roster.  Can Darboh make an immediate impact?  If not, can the Seahawks afford to keep a guy based on potential?  When our championship window continues to close on us?  It just seems like these “big” receivers we keep drafting are never worth a shit.  Hopefully, Darboh is the exception and not the rule.

***

After a pleasant night to think about the final four rounds, the Seahawks were back at it early on Saturday.  They had the 3rd pick of the 4th round, then didn’t pick again until the 3rd pick of the 6th round, but that didn’t stop them from bolstering their secondary with both of those selections.

Tedric Thompson, a safety out of Colorado, kicked it off.  6′, 204 lbs.  While Delano Hill projects as more of a Kam-type safety, Thompson projects as more of an Earl-type free safety.  Generally speaking, Colorado’s secondary was the best secondary the Huskies played all year last year; those guys REALLY impressed the shit out of me, and it obviously translated into those guys getting drafted by the NFL.  Thompson has great coverage and ball skills, producing a lot of turnovers in college, which is exactly what the Seahawks need.  His tackling skills leave a lot to be desired, but I feel like that’s something the Seahawks can coach into him.  The real worry is his history of concussions.  With the way this team likes to tackle – emphasizing shoulder tackling over spearing guys and drawing flags – I wouldn’t think that would be a huge problem.  But, you can never REALLY prevent hits to the head, so it’s going to require a bit of luck to keep Thompson in the league over a long career.

Then, the Seahawks picked up Mike Tyson out of Cincinnati in the 6th round, and everyone had a huge fucking laugh.  6’1, 204 lbs.  He’s very athletic and very raw.  Right now, he’s projected to compete as a cornerback as well as safety, so we could be looking at a guy to help compete at the nickel.  I would anticipate he cracks the special teams, develops behind the scenes, and maybe starts getting rotated into the nickel defense in 2018 and beyond (that is, if he makes the team at all, which is far from a guarantee).

More than anything, I love the strategy here.  The Seahawks saw a need for depth in the secondary, and instead of just drafting a couple 3rd rounders and calling it a day, they went out and threw a bunch of resources into the L.O.B.  All four of these guys won’t make the Opening Day roster, but you seriously improve your chances of hitting on at least one or two of these guys with the more picks you devote to the position.  I think that, more than anything, is the reason why the Seahawks never used their extra picks to move back up in any one round.  They wanted this to be a Numbers Game situation.  You hit on 100 women at the bar, odds are you’ll get at least 1 phone number!

***

The Seahawks had 3 picks in the late 6th and 7th rounds.  All of these guys are projects who I won’t spend much time on.

In the 6th, the Seahawks picked up Justin Senior, offensive tackle out of Mississippi State.  6’5, 331 lbs.  He’s only played right tackle, so that would appear to be his spot.  That having been said, a guy just playing one position has never prevented the Seahawks from pounding a square peg into a round hole.  Even if that position is power forward on the college basketball team, but I digress.  I wouldn’t expect much out of this kid.  Best case scenario is he’s a backup swing tackle.  Again, more depth.

In the early 7th, the Seahawks selected David Moore, wide receiver out of East Central.  6’1, 219 lbs.  He’s from a Division II school, which isn’t a reason to keep him out of the NFL, but obviously you first have to question the level of talent he played against.  His only shot to make the team is if he plays special teams REALLY well.  Odds are, we try to stash him on the practice squad.

In the late 7th, the Seahawks brought in Christopher Carson, running back out of OK State.  6′, 218 lbs.  Another long shot, though with the way Seahawks running backs have been getting injured the last couple seasons, maybe not as long a shot as it would first appear?  He kind of strikes me as a Thomas Rawls type, so maybe he’s a hedge against yet another Rawls injury.

***

All in all, I don’t mind the strategy.  I will say this:  I think the odds of the Seahawks picking up a cornerback who can start right away were MUCH better when taking one with your first pick, as opposed to your third rounder.  They obviously felt that the drop-off from McDowell and the type of pass-rushing DT that would’ve been available to them later in the draft was too much to cope with, when compared to the lesser drop-off of cornerbacks from Kevin King to Shaq Griffin.  But, when I look at a Kevin King (or other, comparable cornerbacks in the late first/early second round), I see a guy who not only starts right away, but plays every down.  When I look at a guy like McDowell, I see a guy who plays situationally, in a rotation.  Now, the ceiling on McDowell is through the roof, so maybe you take the long-term approach to your draft assessment.  If you hit on McDowell, and he plays at a Pro Bowl level, you can argue a disruptive D-line force is more valuable than a starting cornerback in a Cover Three defense.  But, I also think the odds of McDowell becoming that Pro Bowl-type player are longer than they are for someone like Kevin King to be a Pro Bowl corner.  In which case, the Seahawks might’ve forsaken a Pro Bowl corner just to draft a Cassius Marsh-type D-lineman (worst case scenario, obviously).

But, you can’t say the Seahawks are afraid to take risks.  Go big or go home seems to be the motto.  I think this draft, more than any of the drafts since 2013, is the most pivotal to our long-term success.  In that sense, if they’ve failed this weekend, and passed on more sure things to roll the dice on the likes of McDowell, Pocic, and Griffin, it could really spell doom for this franchise and set us back a long time.  I mean, look at the results, we haven’t had a game-changing draft since 2012; it’s been spotty at best ever since.  We need to get back to really hitting on some guys, or this team is going to wither and die at the feet of an aging Russell Wilson in a few years.

If nothing else, though, I like the potential of this draft to do EXACTLY what it was supposed to do:  improve the depth of this ballclub at the back-end of the roster.  The secondary looks like it could be replenished in a big way, the D-line DEFINITELY looks like it’s got some dogs for many years to come, the team didn’t neglect the all-important offensive line (as Pocic looks like he can not only come in to play right away, but he might be the best lineman after Britt on the entire team, without playing a single snap!), and they looked to the future of the wide receiver position and brought in at least one very interesting player who could be productive in 2018 and beyond.

If some of these guys can come in to play right away, it’ll be huge.  You know injuries are coming, and you know some of these guys (particularly on defense) will be pressed into action early and maybe often.  If they can do what some of our crappier reserves from last year couldn’t – and actually mitigate the drop-off in quality of play from starter to backup – the Seahawks might just have another Super Bowl run in them.

That’s a very big IF, of course, but the draft is here to give us hope, so we might as well take a long, satisfying drag from that cigarette.