The Seahawks Have Some New Defensive Assistant Coaches

The biggest news of the offseason for the Seattle Seahawks so far – that isn’t just talking head nonsense from hot take factories – is the firing of defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. It was a long time coming and, frankly, one of those hires where you knew it was going to go poorly as soon as it was announced. We let it slide – more or less – because we knew it was just a puppet hire of someone who would be running Pete Carroll’s defense.

Which leads me to my first question: were Gus Bradley and Dan Quinn also puppet hires who just ran Pete Carroll’s defense? Or did they just so happen to run a similar defense to what we know Pete likes to install? I don’t get the sense that this was the case with these two, yet it’s what we automatically cling to when we talk about the hires of Kris Richard and Ken Norton. It seems overly dismissive and simplistic.

Whatever the case, I think we can all agree that the Seahawks saw great success with the system ran by Bradley and Quinn, and their goal with Richard and Norton was to continue with what had been built. Unfortunately for the latter two gentlemen, they were saddled with a drastic downgrade in defensive talent. But, with Norton in particular, it sure didn’t seem like he brought anything to the table, and that was his ultimate downfall.

I don’t know if there’s a right way or a wrong way to hire a coach. You can hire from within, you can make a big splash on a retread who rehabilitated his coaching image, you can hire a hotshot coach’s assistant to hope you capture the same magic, you can pilfer the college ranks, you can hire a coordinator from another team. The possibilities are endless, and are riddled with successes and failures. So, I don’t want to say I’m down on Clint Hurtt – new defensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks – simply because he was promoted from within the organization. But, I’ve seen what he’s done for this team so far, and I’m far from impressed.

I was already dissatisfied with the job Clint Hurtt was doing even before Ken Norton was fired. He’s been with the Seahawks since 2017 – as the D-Line coach, as well as the assistant head coach – but what has he done exactly to bolster our defensive line? Let’s go through our draft picks since 2017: Malik McDowell (bust), Naz Jones (bust), Rasheem Green (role player at best), L.J. Collier (not even a good role player), Demarcus Christmas (bust), Darrell Taylor (finally, someone good), Alton Robinson (role player). The Seahawks have consistently underwhelmed along the defensive line in his tenure. The pass rush has been up and down, and the run defense has been up and down. I don’t understand what it is, exactly, he does well.

At least when you’re talking about Kris Richard and Ken Norton, you’re talking about a former secondary coach and linebackers coach (respectively) who were phenomenal at those jobs! It doesn’t appear Hurtt has ever been successful at any of his stops. It certainly doesn’t explain this fast-track he’s been on up to this point.

When the Seattle Times announced his hire, it was with the knowledge that Ed Donatell was also going to be hired as a defensive assistant in some capacity. The two, in conjunction, both worked under Vic Fangio, who was and presumably still IS one of the best defensive coordinators in the game today. The obvious next question is: if we want to run his system going forward, why didn’t we just hire HIM?! But, whatever. Presumably, once you know the system, then it’s a matter of getting the right guys to fit within that system. You still need someone to call plays and make adjustments mid-game. I hate the fact that we’re going into a second consecutive season with a first-time play-caller (last year, Shane Waldron for the offense; now Hurtt for the defense).

This is worsened by the fact that Donatell was just hired to be Minnesota’s DC. Hurtt is more palatable with a veteran like Donatell backing him up.

I’m actually heartened with the new assistants the Seahawks hired to coach under Hurtt, though. Karl Scott was brought in to coach the secondary (and be the passing game coordinator). He’s another hot shot who’s on a fast-track, coming from coaching the secondary in Alabama (2018-2020) and the Vikings (2021). Nick Saban, obviously, is the greatest college coach who ever lived, and I have the utmost respect for the old Vikings coaching staff, especially with their defensive pedigree. So, at least he’s coached under some smart dudes.

I’m even more excited for Sean Desai, who looks like a brilliant football mind, coming over from the Bears (starting in 2013, working his way up to DC in 2021). He was in the hunt for numerous DC jobs around the league, before settling here as an Associate Head Coach for the defense.

I’ll be honest, I actually think the Seahawks are making a huge mistake. I think they should’ve just hired Desai to be the DC, and given Hurtt the boot. This seems like something that could backfire in a big way, with Hurtt ultimately failing (and being fired within four years) and Desai moving on to bigger and better things after 2022. Here’s hoping he can make a big impact in a short period of time.

Ultimately, though, we don’t know how good or bad Hurtt is going to be. I’m just assuming he’ll be bad, and am staking my claim right now that this is an uninspiring hire. I wish the Seahawks would’ve made another choice, but who knows? I could be totally wrong. Maybe he’s been a diamond in the rough this whole time and it was Ken Norton who was holding him back. Odds seem to be stacked against that. So, rather than be the usual homer that I am, I’m going to be a Debbie Downer instead, so when we look back in a few years, I’ll get to say I was right from the very beginning.

Yay.

Of course, that just means the Seahawks will continue to suck between now and then, and nobody wants that.

Next up, I’ll be writing about the shake-up along the offensive line coaching staff.

How Did The Seahawks Rookies Do In 2019?

Teams who do it the right way tend to acquire their best pieces through the draft, and fill in where they have to through trades and free agency. The trades and signings can be flashy and exciting, but we’ve been burned by those enough times to be wary. If the hopes of a fanbase could be dished out in a pie chart, I’d argue the bigger slice of our hope lies in the team’s draft picks. Sure, it’d be nice if that free agent signing panned out, but more often than not the Seahawks are picking guys from the fringes, so the names are less sexy and the chances of them really blowing us away are reduced. We NEED these draft picks to turn into something useful, because we know that’s the way the Seahawks roll.

The trouble with draft picks is pretty obvious. They’re young. They’re inexperienced. They’re often overwhelmed by the size and speed and talent disparity between the pros and college. And, the main pitfall – when it comes to the fans – is projecting newly made draft picks into significant roles. High profile home runs tend to skew our thinking. Bobby Wagner and Russell Wilson came in right away and played HUGE roles in turning this franchise around! Ergo, every rookie picked in the first three rounds should start right away and light the league on fire! And, particularly with the Seahawks, and their success rate with guys picked on the final day of the draft, we see some names and hear some stories from mini camp, and we automatically start penciling guys in for Pro Bowls and All Pros before they’ve played a real down in anger.

I don’t have a great read on how Seahawks fans feel about the 2019 class. On the one hand, you could paint a very rosy picture based on D.K. Metcalf alone. He was selected at the very end of the second round, he came in and started right away, and he was a hit! 900 yards on 58 receptions, with 7 touchdowns. Hell, he was the second-most targeted receiver on this team with 100 (Lockett had more targets, but only by 10)! There were obviously some tough games for Metcalf this year, but the good FAR outweighs the bad, and his arrow is pointed straight up going forward. The sky is the limit for this kid; he’s been the young, big receiver we’ve been looking for since Pete Carroll got here in 2010.

So, that’s fantastic, right? Particularly in a season where we had to learn to live without Doug Baldwin. But, what about the rest of the class?

I don’t know about you, but the first thing I think of when I think of a rookie draft class is the first round pick. For this one, that’s L.J. Collier, and he’s brought absolutely nothing to the table. He’s officially listed as having played in 11 games this year, but even that number feels high. He hasn’t had any significant injuries during the regular season (that I can recall, anyway), but he did have an ankle injury in the pre-season that cost him a considerable amount of practice time. Which effectively cost him his entire rookie year, because when he hasn’t been a healthy scratch on gameday, he’s been so buried on the depth chart that he hasn’t made any impact whatsoever. 3 tackles. That’s his 2019 stat sheet.

I won’t call Collier a disaster, because quite frankly we don’t know what he is yet. He wasn’t particularly lauded for his pass rushing ability out of college – noted more for his run defense – but it’s discouraging that he still wasn’t able to do anything with even the few opportunities he was given. That’s not a good sign for things to come! Also, this Seahawks defense has really struggled against the run – especially towards the end of the season, when you might have expected someone like Collier to make a jump in his development – so the fact that he’s not helping in this area is ALSO not a good sign for things to come.

The one caveat I’ll pull out here is that Pete Carroll and Co. tend to have a blind spot when it comes to some of the younger guys. Remember in 2018, when the team was slow to realize that Chris Carson should be the bellcow back for this team? And it took some time to make the shift in their scheme? I would argue that Carroll is like most coaches, he’s going to go with the known quantity all things being equal. Yes, “Always Compete” and all that, but sometimes you can’t see what’s right in front of you if you’re not expecting anything to be there.

Even that, though, falls somewhat on the player. Collier obviously isn’t flashing. He’s not making any huge impact plays in practice, so he’s not as involved in games, and it’s a continuous cycle of disappointment. These same points could be made for the rest of the guys I’m going to write about below.

Let’s move on to Marquise Blair, the second round safety picked ahead of Metcalf. He might go down as one of the more frustrating aspects of the 2019 season. The fact that he hasn’t played more – he was originally behind Tedric Thompson, and of late has been bafflingly sat in favor of Lano Hill – is particularly galling. It’s not even an argument that Blair has the brighter future and higher upside than either of those two draft busts from 2017, but I would also argue that he’s better than them RIGHT NOW. Or, at the very least, he couldn’t be any worse, while actually having the capability to make real impactful plays on the field (rather than giving up huge chunks of yardage to opposing receivers). I know the best two safeties on this roster are McDougald and Diggs, but Blair should be #3 on that list and it’s ridiculous the longer he’s not.

Cody Barton was a third round pick. As a linebacker, he was brought into a situation where the Seahawks were arguably strongest on paper. Three quality veterans sat ahead of him, and we always knew it was going to be a challenge to get him on the field. It’s not a bad consolation prize to sit, learn from the best, and get your feet wet on special teams. Considering the age at the position, we all had him pegged as someone to compete for a starting job in 2020. And, with the talk out of camp being nothing but glowing praise for this kid, I think we all expected to get someone really special in Barton. Every time I turned around in August, I was reading about Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright talking about how smart and instinctual Barton is; they made it sound like if he were on any other team, he’d be starting immediately.

In recent weeks, as some of our starters have worn down, we’ve seen Barton in there on defense. And … ehh, he’s been all right, I guess. I dunno, I haven’t seen any quality plays out of him yet. To be fair, he’s effectively had to be the understudy for all three linebacker spots – as opposed to specializing at his best spot, which is probably weak-side – so I could see how that might stunt one’s growth. But, again, not a great sign. Also, not for nothing, but I remember in 2018 hearing nothing but good things out of the mouths of Wright and Wagner when it came to Tedric Thompson in training camp, and look at how he turned out. Either these guys will say they love everyone, or they have no concept of who is actually going to pan out.

Fourth round receiver Gary Jennings was one of three receivers we drafted in 2019; he was a healthy scratch for a number of weeks, until we signed Josh Gordon and had to waive one of them. Jennings was the odd man out. We were hoping to sneak him onto the practice squad, but the Dolphins swooped in and claimed him. It doesn’t look like he ever made it into a game, and ended up getting placed on IR.

Fourth round guard Phil Haynes hasn’t played either, to my knowledge. He’s had injury issues to get over, and now looks to be a backup at an oft-injured O-Line spot. So, he gets an incomplete, but to be fair, no one was expecting him to play a lot as a rookie lineman.

Fourth round DB Ugo Amadi is another guy where it’s frustrating how little he’s played, especially when you consider how lights out he’s been on special teams. And ESPECIALLY when you consider how poor our pass defense has been at times this year. To be honest, I still don’t have a good handle on whether he’s a safety or a nickel corner or both. He was SUPPOSED to be converted to a nickel corner from safety, and that just so happened to be an area of need for this team heading into the season. But, instead we opted to play an unsustainably high percentage of plays in base defense, with Kendricks over anyone else. And, when we HAVE played nickel, we’ve opted for duds like Jamar Taylor over Amadi. Again, I don’t know what that says about Amadi’s skill vs. the coaching staff’s blind spot, but it’s not encouraging.

Ben Burr-Kirven was pegged coming in as a special teamer, so in that sense he’s lived up to his billing. When we already drafted a similar linebacker in the third round, you had to figure Barton always had a leg-up to be the next guy on the field in base defense, so there’s nothing surprising or really noteworthy here. Also, not for nothing, but Demarcus Christmas was always pegged as a longshot project as a sixth round defensive tackle. He’s been hurt most of the year and ended up on IR, so we’ll see if he has anything in the tank for 2020.

Travis Homer was another sixth round pick, and someone I had kind of hoped we’d see more of. But, the Seahawks had room on their roster to house C.J. Prosise (who, to his credit, stayed relatively healthy for MOST of the season, before going out in that Arizona game), and when you’re talking about a team like the Seahawks (where offensive possessions are at a premium), you’re not going to find many opportunities to get a fourth-string running back any snaps.

However, as the top three guys all went down, Week 17 ended up being the Travis Homer Show! Against the 49ers, he had 10 carries for 62 yards and another 5 receptions for 30 yards. He’s also been – as expected – another standout on special teams. I don’t think he’ll ever be a bellcow type back for this team, but as a #2, and a 3rd down/2-minute back, he would seem to fit right in. Honestly, behind Metcalf, Homer has been the second-best 2019 draft pick so far and it’s not particularly close. I can legitimately envision a role for Homer going forward; I don’t know if I can say that about anyone else besides Metcalf.

Finally, we have John Ursua. The seventh round wide receiver out of Hawaii where we actually traded a 2020 draft pick to get back into the 2019 draft and get him. He was never going anywhere; when we had that receiver crunch (at one point, rostering 8 of our 53 players at the position, which is insane), I knew it would be Ursua over Jennings. You can’t give up that much and let the guy go to another team. Anyway, he’s been a healthy scratch for 15/16 games. Due to attrition, he finally made it into a game against the 49ers, catching his only target for 11 yards. It’s kind of a shame he hasn’t gotten more play than he has, especially when we’ve seen plenty of targets go to David Moore, Jaron Brown, and Malik Turner; but Ursua doesn’t play special teams, so it’s honestly surprising he made it onto this roster in the first place.

That would lead me to believe we have someone potentially special in Ursua. Here’s to hoping he gets more of a shot in 2020.

When you lay it all out like that, the 2019 Draft Class feels like a bust … when you ONLY count the 2019 season. There’s obviously limitless potential in the future for any number of these guys, and we’ll all be pegging our hopes and dreams on significant leaps in development in Years 2, 3, & 4. But, as far as the impact they’ve had AS rookies, it’s been D.K. Metcalf and that’s about it.

Which is why, in recent seasons, I’ve drastically reduced my expectations for incoming rookies, and I’d suggest everyone else do the same. It’s just too hard to make that jump in a vacuum. Then, add into it where the Seahawks usually draft (toward the ends of rounds, because we usually make the playoffs), and the fact that we’re always in contention for playoff spots (meaning we don’t have a lot of opportunities to showcase our rookies, because we don’t have very many holes on our roster), and it’s a tough situation to break into. The fact of the matter is – regardless of team – most rookies won’t out-play healthy veterans. The bad teams tend to play a higher percentage of rookies right away because they’re looking to rebuild, and they don’t have any expectations to make the playoffs right away. The Seahawks aren’t one of those bad teams, which is a very good thing.

The final question I have to ask myself is: where do I see this class going in 2020-2022?

It’ll certainly be known as the D.K. Metcalf class, but will anyone else step up? I have no real expectations for Collier. They tried to put a Michael Bennett comp on him coming out of college, but that sounds as far-fetched as it gets. Even Frank Clark is too high a bar to place on him. Could he be the next Quinton Jefferson? Maybe, but even that might be too good; and remember, Q-Jeff was selected in the fifth round, not the first. Lawrence Jackson is probably the floor here, and it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest if Collier is Lo-Jack 2.0.

I’m still pretty high on Blair; I’d like to see him get a legitimate shot to start in 2020. I’m less high (but still fairly high) on Barton; I’d like to see what he looks like when we stick him at just one linebacker spot and let him work on his craft there. I think Homer can be a very solid #2 running back for this team (what that means for Penny and Carson, I have no idea, but both are coming off significant injuries, so the opportunity should be there regardless). And, I still like Ursua as a dark-horse #3 receiver in the near future; here’s hoping he hits it off with Russell Wilson in the offseason.

Beyond those guys, I have no real expectations. Ugo Amadi should fight for a nickel cornerback spot. The rest feel like depth pieces.

Thankfully, your fate isn’t determined by your rookie season alone. A lot can change in the next three years. It’ll be fun to see who steps up. Sometimes it takes three full years of fighting before you bust through in your final season on the rookie deal! Those scenarios aren’t ideal, of course, as you’re really only getting one season of cheap production before you either have to pay them a lot of money or watch them walk to another franchise. But, it’s better than nothing I guess.

SEARCH: Seahawks OTAs 53-Man Roster Projections 2019

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

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

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

Quarterbacks

  • Russell Wilson
  • Geno Smith

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

Running Backs

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

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

Tight Ends

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

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

Wide Receivers

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

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

Offensive Line

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

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

Punter/Kicker/Long Snapper

  • Michael Dickson
  • Jason Myers
  • Tyler Ott

Enough said.

Secondary

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

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

Defensive Line

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

Linebackers

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

Linebacker/Ends

  • Shaquem Griffin
  • Barkevious Mingo

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

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

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

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

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

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

Projecting The Seahawks Rookies Sight Unseen, Based Simply On What Information Has Passively Reached My Brain

So far, we’ve had Rookie OTAs and Voluntary OTAs. I think. I can’t be sure. I’m only like half paying attention right now.

I have never been to a single Seahawks practice in my life, so of course I have no firsthand knowledge of what’s been going on at these OTAs. I rely on the beat writers I follow on Twitter, the occasional article I read on a Saturday morning when I get the newspaper, and whatever makes it through when I’m listening to Brock & Salk in the morning. As such, I’m as ill-informed to have an opinion on the new Seahawks rookies as can be. But, this is the Internet, so I’m actually OVER-qualified to have an opinion on these rookies!

Most of this, honestly, is going to harken back to rookies of yore. Because, here’s the deal: by and large, rookies don’t make huge impacts on the game of football. There are precious few every year, and they generally come from the very top of the first round. Oh, you’ll find starters on most every team, but that’s usually based on circumstance: you want to get the promising rookies in there as soon as possible to start gaining valuable experience, in hopes that by Year 2 they’re ready to take a big leap.

Take a look at the 2018 Seahawks draft class; we were all pretty stoked on those guys, right? How many of them REALLY made an impact? Sure, Michael Dickson was a Pro Bowler, but he’s a once-in-a-generation talent at the punter position. Beyond him, Tre Flowers was a semi-capable starting cornerback for most of the season, Will Dissly looked good for about a week before he was lost for the season due to injury, Shaquem Griffin mostly played on special teams after a disasterous start in Week 1, Martin was a decent rotational player on the defensive line, and our top two picks – Penny & Green – were largely disappointments respective to where they were selected in the draft.

Take a look at the 2017 Seahawks draft class. Shaquill Griffin was a semi-capable starting cornerback for most of the season, Chris Carson was solid when he was healthy, but Ethan Pocic was a disaster, Malik McDowell never played a down, and the rest of the guys were – at best – Special Teamers (or, they were role players, or they were injured).

Who was the last Seahawks rookie to come right out of the gate as a star (not just on Special Teams)? I would argue we’re talking Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner in 2012 (you can make a case for Lockett, but he was a Pro Bowler as a returner, and was really just a 3rd receiver on offense his rookie season). Everyone else, you’re talking about adequate starters, role players, the aforementioned Special Teamers, or busts as rookies.

So, it’s pretty stupid to expect ANY of these rookies this year to step into significant roles. While there are openings that figure to at least give guys opportunities for more playing time than they’d otherwise see, it takes a REALLY special kind of player to come in Year 1 and be a star. Russell Wilsons and Bobby Wagners don’t just grow on trees!

I’ll just go down the list from the first round on, giving my thoughts on what I expect from them in 2019. Remember, this isn’t my opinion of their entire careers, just what they’ll bring to the table this season.

L.J. Collier – I think he’ll get plenty of snaps, but I can’t envision much more than a role player, even as thin as the D-Line is. Ideally, he’d pass up Frank Clark’s rookie season of 3 sacks, but that’s only because I expect him to get a lot more playing time. Nevertheless, I can’t imagine double-digit sacks right out of the gate.

Marquise Blair – While I wouldn’t necessarily call the safety position “stacked”, there are plenty of returning starters that will make things difficult for Blair to break through. From what I’ve been hearing, though, there’s a lot of chatter about his potential. If he stays healthy, he certainly has one of the best chances to really stand out as a rookie, but I would expect his career to start off slow, and pick up steam towards the end of the season. More than anything, I see Special Teamer in his immediate future.

D.K. Metcalf – Of all the rookies, I feel like fans are highest on his breakout potential. And why wouldn’t you? He’s probably the most physically gifted athlete on this team, and there’s a new opening with Doug Baldwin’s early retirement. I’d say I’m a little more reserved about his chances of truly breaking out, and not just because the offense is stifling to the passing game. To be a star in this offense as a receiver, I’d say he’d have to eclipse 65 receptions and/or 10 touchdowns (in his case, the 10 touchdowns is probably more likely). That’s certainly within reach, but I can’t help but see him falling just short of both of those marks. I’d be thrilled with something around 45 catches and 5 TDs, which isn’t bad in the slightest, but also not really amazing.

Cody Barton – Based on all the OTA hype so far, Barton appears to have the highest ceiling of all the rookies (at least when it comes to their rookie season results). Too bad for him that the Seahawks are beyond stacked at linebacker. When you hear about how he’s so good that the team will look to find ways to get him on the field, I think that’s a good sign. The positive for his own growth is that the linebacker room is also among the oldest on the team, so the odds of these guys getting injured at some point feels pretty high. I would expect Barton to be the best of the rookies in 2019, with him ultimately taking K.J. Wright’s spot for good starting in 2020.

Gary Jennings – I’m pretty sure he’s been injured throughout OTAs. Honestly, I sort of expect that to continue. He’ll be so hyped up in Training Camp to make an impact, that he’ll probably re-injure himself and spend 2019 on the IR.

Phil Haynes – I heard good things early, but I think he too has been injured a little bit (I could be wrong). Regardless, I’m expecting nothing out of him as a rookie. I think he’ll stick with the team and probably be a healthy scratch most weeks.

Ugo Amadi – I’ve heard exactly nothing about Amadi so far in OTAs. My guess is he makes the team, plays on Special Teams, and doesn’t really do much on defense. Seems like a longshot that he steps right into a nickel cornerback role from Day 1.

Ben Burr-Kirven – There’s been a lot of positive chatter, and there’s been word that he’s nicked up. He’s obviously not seeing time on defense, as you figure he’s also behind Barton – as well as the returning vets – on the depth chart. When he’s not injured, I bet he’ll flash occasionally on Special Teams, but I don’t have super high hopes that he’ll be healthy.

Travis Homer – At best, he’s a #3 running back, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he lands behind C.J. Prosise (who manages to stay healthy through Training Camp for the first time ever, only to get injured once the season starts and Homer is on someone else’s 53-man roster).

Demarcus Christmas – He strikes me as a Practice Squad player.

John Ursua – My hunch is that he’s NOT the next Doug Baldwin, and that he probably gets cut at the end of Training Camp. Meaning we’ll have traded away a pick from 2020 for absolutely nothing.

The Seahawks Still Haven’t Fixed The Pass Rush Issue

That title’s a little misleading, because I don’t know if you can ever really fix a pass rush, in that I don’t think it’s possible to have ENOUGH of it. Outside of quarterback, it’s the most important facet of your team (because, obviously, it’s the biggest thing that affects the opposing team’s quarterback). So, even if – on paper – the Seahawks were the most stacked team in the league, I’d still be sitting here saying, “We could use a little more.”

Heading into – and especially coming out of – the draft, the Seahawks appeared to be a prime candidate to be movers and shakers in this market. Whereas most of the other top teams were at capacity as far as their salary caps were concerned, the Seahawks had money to burn. Of course, that’s in large part due to the trade of Frank Clark. As we’ve all talked about ad nauseam, the Seahawks’ #1 need heading into this offseason was pass rush, and that’s when Frank Clark was ON the roster! Without him, things went from bad to worse in a hurry.

The first domino to fall was with the first pick in the draft; the Seahawks brought in L.J. Collier. Which, okay. It’s a need and that’s not a bad way to build for the future. But, you can’t really count on a rookie taken at the bottom of the first round to be much of an impact player. A contributor, sure. But, what do those guys usually get you? A handful of sacks? Regardless, he figures to be a significant step down from Clark, and again, we needed to boost our pass rush BEFORE getting rid of Clark.

Next up was the signing of Ziggy Ansah, and we all breathed a sigh of relief. That’s with a huge caveat, of course, because he’s coming off of an injury and we have no idea what we’re getting. While it’s a cost-effective move to bet on a high-upside stud, he could be the next Cliff Avril or the next Dion Jordan. If he’s Avril, then excellent, that makes up for the loss of Clark, and you hope you strike oil with Collier on the other side. If he’s Jordan, then we’re proper fucked.

I know a lot of Seahawks fans were hoping the team would sift through the remaining scraps on the free agent market and use some of that extra money to put the fear of God in our opponents’ O-Lines. But, Ndamukong Suh ended up with the Bucs and Gerald McCoy ended up with the Panthers (having just been released by the Bucs). Both of them are earning under $10 million on one year deals and it’s left a lot of us wondering WHAT THE FUCK, SEAHAWKS?!

OTA’s are in effect as we speak, so the coaches are getting first looks at how the 2019 team is shaping up, but it’s gotta be hard to tell how good (or bad) this pass rush will be without contact and games and all that. I would hope common sense will prevail at some point and the front office will dip its toes back into the free agency waters, because shit is looking GRIM!

And, I get it, there’s only so much money to go around. Bobby Wagner needs a new deal. The team would like to jump on the Jarran Reed train ahead of the final year of his rookie deal, to maybe see some savings on a real up-and-comer. Those guys have to take precedence this summer. But, at some point, the team needs to dive back into that dumpster, if for no other reason than to add more competition in Training Camp.

Defensive Ends/SAM Linebackers

  • Ziggy Ansah
  • L.J. Collier
  • Cassius Marsh
  • Rasheem Green
  • Jacob Martin
  • Branden Jackson
  • Shaquem Griffin
  • Barkevious Mingo

The top two guys I’ve already talked about. Marsh is a veteran whose specialty is special teams, and it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest if he’s cut before the regular season. Green and Martin are coming off of rookie years that were varying shades of underwhelming. Green has the higher upside, but also the most to prove, given his status as a third round draft pick. You hate to put too much on a kid’s shoulders in his second season in the league, but if Ansah doesn’t pan out for whatever reason, this defense is going to be heavily reliant on a couple of second year prospects.

Jackson strikes me as another possible cut before the regular season, though if he’s ever going to make the leap, now would be the time, what with it being his third year. Failing that, I like to hear about Griffin getting a chance to rush the passer, considering that was his specialty in college. I’m sure most coaches and front office people were put off by his smaller size – and that very well might be what keeps him from ever finding a natural position in the NFL – but at least he’s getting a chance. With his speed and agility, here’s hoping he’s able to use that to his advantage. As for Mingo, he’s never really been much of a pass rusher, and I don’t see that changing. For that reason, I don’t really see a role for him on this team, barring injuries.

Defensive Tackles

  • Jarran Reed
  • Poona Ford
  • Al Woods
  • Quinton Jefferson
  • Naz Jones
  • Demarcus Christmas

Reed took a HUGE step forward in Year 3, and while there’s always the hope that he has more room to grow, it’s also just as likely that last year was an anomaly and he’ll regress a little bit. We’ll see; fingers crossed on that end. Poona Ford is more of a run stuffing specialist, as is Al Woods, who is a veteran widebody we brought in on a one year deal.

Jefferson and Jones are both interesting, as they’re relatively young, but have been in the program long enough (entering their 4th and 3rd seasons, respectively). Both are apparently being groomed as 5-Tech ends in base defense, as they’ve both flashed potential at times to be harassers of the quarterback. They’ve also flashed potential to be total duds, as they’ve often found themselves as healthy scratches on gamedays. I feel like 2018 was hard on both of these guys, but there’s ample opportunity in 2019, so I hope they’re ready to go to work.

The bottom line is: outside of Jarran Reed, there are a lot of question marks on this team from a pass rush perspective. If it all breaks right, we could be talking about a young and dominant force. If it all breaks wrong, we could be talking about the main reason why this team fails to make the playoffs. Gun to my head, I’m leaning towards the latter, but there’s still time to prove me wrong.

The Seahawks Made Even More Trades & Drafted Even More Guys On Day 3 Of The NFL Draft 2019

Check out my post on Day 1, and my post on Day 2.

Just like I did yesterday, here’s a recap of all the wheeling and dealing from Day 3:

  • Trade from 114 to 120 with the Vikings, acquired 204 (sixth round)
  • Draft Gary Jennings, wide receiver from West Virginia, at 120
  • Draft Phil Haynes, guard from Wake Forest, at 124
  • Draft Ugo Amadi, defensive back from Oregon, at 132
  • Draft Ben Burr-Kirven, linebacker from Washington, at 142
  • Draft Travis Homer, running back from Miami, at 204
  • Draft Demarcus Christmas, defensive tackle from Florida State, at 209
  • Trade 2020 sixth round pick to Jaguars, acquired 236 (seventh round)
  • Draft John Ursua, wide receiver from Hawaii, at 236

So, for shits n’ giggs, here’s the entire Seahawks 2019 NFL Draft, in one bullet-pointed list:

  • First Round: L.J. Collier, DE
  • Second Round: Marquise Blair, S
  • Second Round: D.K. Metcalf, WR
  • Third Round: Cody Barton, LB
  • Fourth Round: Gary Jennings, WR
  • Fourth Round: Phil Haynes, G
  • Fourth Round: Ugo Amadi, DB
  • Fifth Round: Ben Burr-Kirven, LB
  • Sixth Round: Travis Homer, RB
  • Sixth Round: Demarcus Christmas, DT
  • Seventh Round: John Ursua, WR

I’m not gonna bother with the undrafted free agents, because the bottom of the roster is always so fluid, it would take more work than I’m willing to commit to keep track.

All in all, pretty good haul. Let’s talk about the Day 3 Dandies.

It’s hard to tell where Jennings fits. With Doug Baldwin all but retired at this point, we know that Tyler Lockett has the build and ability to play anywhere on the field. He can be our slot guy, he can be our deep threat on the outside, he can really do it all. Metcalf is our burner and our big body for deep passes and red zone targets. Jennings has good size (6’1, 214, 33″ arms) and speed (4.42 40). It seems like he’s another guy like Lockett who could play either slot or outside. Since he doesn’t appear to be as unique as someone like Metcalf, he’s probably going to have to separate himself with crisp route running and good hands. Regardless, he’s another receiver to throw on the pile, and as usual the Seahawks are playing the numbers game in trying to replace Baldwin’s hefty production.

Dude, I’m not gonna lie to you, I REALLY like the Haynes pick. While I like the guards the Seahawks have now, the starters are old and injury prone, and the backups – while good – are also injury prone. Haynes is a rock, who played a ton in college. He’s also super athletic, and super BIG (6’3, 322, 33.5″ arms); he’s everything we want and need at a guard spot, and it looks like he could backup either right or left. The best part of this pick is that he probably shouldn’t have to play, so if we do see him as a rookie, either we’re dealing with a TON of injuries ahead of him, or he’s earned the look with his quality play. Figure he fights for a starting spot in 2020 when Iupati moves on.

Amadi was a safety at Oregon, but also has a lot of experience playing corner as well. With all the safeties we have on roster, I can’t imagine he’ll get any play there, but with Justin Coleman moving on, there’s a clear opening at nickel corner. At 5’9, he’s not the typical outside corner you’d expect in a Seahawks defense. But, he is what we’ve seen at nickel. With only Akeem King ahead of him on the nickel corner depth chart, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Amadi starting before too long. Failing that, he’s another special teamer to throw onto the pile.

I was happy to see BBK get picked by the Seahawks. As a rookie, it’s hard to see him as anything more than a special teamer. But, if he develops, we could be looking at K.J. Wright’s replacement when his knees finally give out. He obviously isn’t the physical freak that Wright is, but BBK has the sideline-to-sideline speed and tenacity you love to see out of a coverage linebacker. Considering we have Bobby, Wright, and Kendricks all starting, along with Barton getting selected in the third round, you have to wonder what this means for the future of Shaquem Griffin. I think his days are numbered. I also think Quem should bulk up and try out for the LEO end spot. He’s gonna need a big spike in his productivity in training camp and pre-season to keep his spot on the team, that’s for sure.

Travis Homer looks like a true Seahawks running back. Dude is fast, decisive, and breaking tackles like a mofo! He looks like more than your typical 3rd Down Back, but it also looks like he has those abilities in him. He’ll need to catch the ball and block well to carve out a regular role on this team; but as it stands now it seems like a lock for Homer to take C.J. Prosise’s spot, which is fine by me.

I wanted the Seahawks to wait until later in the draft to pick up a run-stuffing D-Tackle, and by jove they did it! Christmas is 6’3, 294, so he’s not HUGE huge, but he’s big enough. Considering what we were able to get out of Poona Ford as an undrafted rookie, I would expect similar things out of Christmas. It’d be nice to have both of them, with Jarran Reed, on the inside holding it down. Christmas doesn’t need to be a pass rusher in the slightest for me to enjoy this pick, just as long as he clogs up those rushing lanes.

The shock of the final day of the draft was seeing the Seahawks trade into the 7th round. They did this by giving away a 2020 6th rounder, which smacks of the Seahawks not having any respect for their 6th round picks (see: the Brett Hundley disaster), but you can also see why it needed to be done. With Baldwin as good as gone, there’s a need to throw extra resources into the wide receiver position. At the same time, the Seahawks already used two picks on WR, so the odds of attracting a high-end undrafted free agent like John Ursua was going to be next-to-impossible. He said that a bunch of teams were looking to sign him, and I bet the odds of the Seahawks being the winner in that sweepstakes was pretty remote. They felt the same way, obviously, so they did what they had to do. Ursua is the definition of a slot receiver. His making the team will depend on how soon he can get in a groove with Wilson, so we’ll see.

All in all, the Seahawks checked off all the boxes they needed to, except maybe backup quarterback, but that’s obviously something that can wait. I’m pretty happy with how they went about it. It sounds like the Seahawks REALLY dominated the rest of the league when it came to getting excellent value in their trade-backs, while not giving up the farm on their trade-ups. Heading into this draft with 4 selections, and coming away with 11 new players, plus an extra 2nd rounder in 2020 (plus being smart with free agency and looking to bank 4 extra comp picks), I’m telling you this is A.P. general managing at its finest. We won’t know for a while if these players pan out, but as far as execution goes, I give this draft an A+.