What’s More Important For The Seahawks: Scheme Or Talent?

You know what’s always been hard for me to wrap my head around? The Seahawks under Pete Carroll – for multiple years in a row – had the best defense in the NFL. They drafted well, they developed well, they hit on some free agents, and they had a scheme that put it all together, worked to everyone’s strengths, and was a menace for opposing offenses to play against.

Then, for many years after that – still under Pete Carroll – the Seahawks were among the worst defensive teams in the NFL. Same coach, ostensibly the same scheme, yet for whatever reason nothing was working, no matter how many resources we poured into that side of the ball.

Well, the simple argument there is that TALENT is more important. When this team had multiple All Pros and future Hall of Famers, they were amazing; when they lost all those guys, the Seahawks were crummy.

But, I keep coming back to this post, and the point I made about every team that was worse than us defensively in 2022 were LEAPS AND BOUNDS better than us in 2023. We’re looking at the Lions, Vikings, Texans, Bears, Raiders, and Falcons. Other than the Texans drafting Will Anderson, there really wasn’t much help for any of those teams. I know the Bears made some trade deadline deals, but I don’t know if there was a ton of influx among those teams. Certainly not a ton of big names! I’m willing to wager there was a lot of talent-holdover from 2022 to 2023; yet some significant improvements were made!

That has to be scheme, right? Yes, the L.O.B. had a unique scheme – Cover 3 – that not a lot of other teams were utilizing the way we were. But, eventually, teams started to hone in on routes to defeat Cover 3. Sure, the talent declined, but also the scheme got stale, and the combination of that really did us in.

It never felt like the Seahawks took that next step – made that next adjustment – to fight back against what offenses were doing against them. They had their mantras: don’t get beat deep, focus on stopping the run. But, that just left a wide swath of the middle of the field wide open, and our softer coverages were incredibly beatable.

There’s talent on this defense. Devon Witherspoon, Riq Woolen, and Tre Brown are all good to great. Jordyn Brooks continually shows you why he was deemed a first round talent. Nwosu, Mafe, Leonard Williams, Jarran Reed, Dre’Mont Jones, Julian Love; there are and were DUDES on this side of the ball. In spite of their age, there’s a lot guys like Quandre Diggs and Bobby Wagner can bring to the table; on the flipside, I’d like to think there’s more we could be getting out of Darrell Taylor and Derick Hall. We don’t have that one huge defensive line pass rush monster, but then again, do the Falcons or Vikings? Are the guys on the Raiders or Bears THAT much better than our guys?

Or, did those teams and respective coaches scheme their guys up to play better than their overall talent might otherwise indicate?

I watch a good amount of football, not just Seahawks games. Yet I never really see other teams play quite like we do. Every fucking week, it’s like we get bled dry on defense. Teams picking us apart, getting easy completions, rarely seeing any sort of consistent pressure. Oh sure, the Seahawks will pick it up against inept offenses. But, if you’re even remotely competent, you’re going to have a pretty easy time moving up and down the field and scoring points.

Carolina, with Andy Dalton, should not be able to generate 378 yards and 27 points, I’m sorry! The Steelers, on their second offensive coordinator and their third quarterback, should not be able to come into your house and get 468 yards and 30 points! This isn’t getting routed by the Ravens, or the Cowboys not punting once. These are TERRIBLE offenses moving the football at will, on the road, in one of the loudest environments in the NFL.

Which is why I was so excited to hear that Mike Macdonald is planning on calling the defense, at least at first. I have zero doubt whatsoever that we could bring back exactly the same D as 2023 and see vastly superior results, just with the change in scheme.

What have we heard so often from players who left Seattle for other teams? Especially the defensive linemen: the Seahawks don’t let you do anything. They’re more worried about plugging gaps than they are about getting up field and making plays on the quarterback. They’re so concerned about giving up anything over the top that they play hyper-conservative and welcome teams taking the underneath stuff. The only problem with that is when they DO take that underneath stuff. It makes converting on third down easier, it makes avoiding third downs entirely easier, and inevitably your team is going to make some mistakes causing you to give up a deep ball or two anyway.

And what have we heard about Mike Macdonald? That he’s cerebral. That he studies tape more than anyone. That he’s the most prepared guy on the team, who’s going to find your weakness and exploit it. He’s going to make the offense’s job miserable. And that, in turn, is going to lead to more sacks, more turnovers, and doing it all with less blitzing.

Sure sounds like the scheme can be awfully important! I mean, I’d love more than anything to have that nice cross-section of both; who doesn’t want more talent on their roster? But, I’m not prepared to put it all on the feet of the talent.

Granted, if you’re the 49ers right now, you’ve got quite the bounty on that side of the ball. But, we don’t even need to be the best of the best. I would settle for just being better than we’ve been. Let’s start there, and see where Macdonald and company can take us.

Seahawks Death Week: Were The 2023 Seahawks Better Than They Were In 2022?

Both teams finished the regular season 9-8. The 2022 Seahawks actually made the playoffs, while the 2023 Seahawks did not. The 2023 Seahawks clearly had higher expectations coming into the year, whereas the 2022 Seahawks were expected to be among the worst five teams in the NFL. But, just because the current iteration underperformed, while the previous one overachieved, doesn’t necessarily mean the 2022 Seahawks were the better team. And, since we don’t live in a magical world where we can have these two squads duke it out on the football field, we have to look at the numbers and see where they compare.

I will readily admit that I’m coming into this exercise HOPING that the 2023 team is actually better, and thanks to a game or two not going our way at the end, we ultimately failed to achieve our goals. Because, if that’s the case, then maybe an argument can be made that this is actually a team on the rise, and this year can be seen as an aberration. However, if the 2023 Seahawks are objectively worse, then this is a team going in the wrong direction. Then, we have to start questioning how good these last two draft classes actually were. Then, we’re left to wonder how long it’s actually going to be before things turn around.

I’ll start with the defense. Heading into the season, what was the biggest problem area, the biggest area of need, the part of the team we all knew needed improvement? The defense. In 2022, we gave up 361.7 yards per game (26th in football); in 2023, we gave up 371.4 yards per game (30th in football).

You know what sucks? Every team that was worse than us in 2022 improved. Detroit went from 32 to 19, Minnesota went from 31 to 16, Houston went from 30 to 14, Chicago went from 29 to 12, Las Vegas went from 28 to 13, Atlanta went from 27 to 11! This isn’t, like, small baby steps of improvement. These are LEAPS AND BOUNDS! And it’s not like we’re talking about teams that all made the playoffs; they were all varying levels of mediocre-to-bad in 2023. Yet they all also saw significant improvements on defense, in one season’s time.

If we keep going back, in 2021, the Seahawks were 28th in yards per game, in 2020 we were 22nd (but still gave up over 380 per game), in 2019 we were 26th. In 2018, we were 16th; that’s the last time we were even kind of okay. Before that, we were obviously very good. But, starting with 2019, that’s five years of being one of the worst defenses in all of football. Of being a defense that absolutely CANNOT compete for a championship. With a head coach that prides himself on being defensively-minded. We’ve been stuck in the shit for half a decade now; meanwhile, all these shitty defenses from 2022 are kicking ass in 2023.

Where did we struggle the most in 2022? Rush defense (150.2 yards per game, 30th in football). How did we fare in 2023? When we got rid of a lot of dead weight and put the majority of our resources into shoring up this part of the game? 138.4 yards per game, 31st in football. So, we improved our number of yards allowed per game, but still ended up worse compared to the rest of the NFL.

The two teams worse than us in 2022? Houston (32) and Chicago (31), who finished 2023 6th (!) and 1st (!!!) in rush yards per game allowed. IN ONE YEAR, they went from the worst to the best!

I mean, this isn’t fucking rocket science! We’re talking about Houston, who had a total coaching regime change, and Chicago, whose head coach in 2022 was just finishing his first year and was already on the hot seat. The Seahawks, meanwhile, are among the most stable franchises in the sport, yet again, we’ve struggled on defense for half a fucking decade. Un-fucking-believable.

To round it out, the 2022 Seahawks gave up 211.5 passing yards (13th); the 2023 Seahawks gave up 233.0 (21st). The 2022 Seahawks gave up 23.6 points per game (25th); the 2023 Seahawks gave up 23.6 points per game 25th). We literally gave up one more point than a year ago. The pass defense – particularly the secondary – was supposed to be our biggest strength (even discounting Jamal Adams as “likely to be injured” heading into the season); yet it was kind of mediocre, in spite of the fact that we got more Jamal Adams than I ever thought possible.

Just a little more housekeeping, for context. The 2022 Seahawks were +2 in turnover differential; the 2023 Seahawks were also +2 in turnover differential. We actually turned it over less in 2023, but also generated fewer turnovers, which is how we get to that number. That’s interesting to me, because if you would’ve told me prior to 2023 that the Seahawks’ offense would have 6 fewer turnovers – knowing what I knew about the perceived improvement of talent on defense – I would say that’s HUGE, and might’ve translated to 2-3 more victories. Instead, that perceived talent improvement never really materialized.

For a little more context, the 2022 Seahawks had 45 sacks (tied for 7th); the 2023 Seahawks had 47 sacks (tied for 11th). Another interesting stat is the 2022 Seahawks gave up 62.7% completions (10th), whereas the 2023 Seahawks gave up 66.7% completions (26th). So, in spite of being slightly better at generating sacks, it looks like we were actually softer all around, and probably not generating as much pressure on the whole. Or, you know, maybe we just faced significantly better quarterback play in 2023 than in 2022; you can’t rule that out either. Maybe both are true!

What do my eyes tell me about this defense? It’s tricky, because I believe we were actually significantly more talented in personnel in 2023 than we were in 2022. I think Jarran Reed had a fabulous season. I think Leonard Williams is the best all-around defensive lineman we’ve had since Michael Bennett (very different players/body types, but similarly dominant in everything that they do). I think Dre’Mont Jones is as talented as advertised, but likely wasn’t utilized properly. I think Boye Mafe took a HUGE step forward. I think Devon Witherspoon is deserving of every single accolade that comes his way. I think Jordyn Brooks is an animal, and it’s tremendous how well (and how quickly) he came back from such a significant injury. I thought Tre Brown, Mike Jackson, and Julian Love all shined at times. I thought Riq Woolen was injured for most of this year and that likely explains his step-back (I still think he’s great in coverage, but when he’s hurt, he’s going to be a liability in the run game).

That being said, I think we were another wide-body short on the interior, to significantly plug the run. I think Bobby Wagner likely helped in that regard, but probably not as much as everyone thinks. Wagner obviously had his struggles in pass defense (to the point where he probably should’ve been taken off the field on every 3rd & medium-to-long), but we also had no one behind him to fill in (linebacker depth was non-existent yet again); I also don’t think Wagner was the fix-all in the run game everyone’s making him out to be. How many times did he too get swallowed up, or jump the wrong gap? He’s old! He was old two years ago!

I also thought Quandre Diggs looked a little old. I thought Jamal Adams – aside from a few plays near the LOS here and there – looked legitimately bad. Maybe he was hurt all year, but still, he looks toast. And, I think the outside linebacker play was atrocious outside of Boye Mafe and Uchenna Nwosu (who got knocked out 6 games in), and I’m not even sure Mafe is any good at setting an edge. What I know for sure is that Darrell Taylor and Derick Hall are 100% NOT good in that regard, and it’s a huge hole for us.

A lot of these were problems in 2022, though. We couldn’t set an edge then either. Our linebacker room was unquestionably worse with Cody Barton getting significant reps. Adams was still hurt, Diggs was still getting up there, and we were obviously missing out on beef in the interior line.

So, how do you explain this across-the-board drop-off in defensive production?

The coaching staff. Clint Hurtt and Co.

He’s not a defensive coordinator. We learned that in his first season in 2022, and it’s been nothing but cemented into my brain in 2023, when he was gifted better talent, and his unit produced worse results. He needs to go.

***

Now, let’s go to the offense. Spoiler alert: it also looks like it’s worse in 2023 than it was in 2022.

2022 total yards = 351.5 (13th); 2023 total yards = 322.9 (21st). 2022 passing yards = 231.4 (12th); 2023 passing yards = 230.0 (14th). 2022 rushing yards = 120.1 (18th); 2023 rushing yards = 92.9 (28th).

So, passing yards remained stagnant, in spite of total stability at the QB spot, and arguably an improved wide receiver room with first rounder Jaxon Smith-Njigba replacing Marquise Goodwin. And we’re talking about a DRASTICALLY worse rushing attack, in spite of the fact that Kenneth Walker played in the same number of games (all as the lead back), while we added the robust talent of Charbonnet (taking the smattering of 2022 carries given to DeeJay Dallas, Travis Homer, and Rashaad Penny the few times he was healthy).

Okay, so point to the offensive line. Obviously, there were lots of injuries across the board causing this unit to suffer. Except, we took 46 sacks in 2022, vs. a combined 37 in 2023. Team passing, okay, you can attribute some of that to Drew Lock playing in 4 games (starting 2). But, Geno’s per-game numbers year over year obviously declined (fewer yards per game, lower completion percentage, fewer yards per attempt, lower passer rating).

Also, if your O-Line is so banged up, wouldn’t you WANT to run the ball more? In 2022, we attempted 425 carries; in 2023, it was 382. In 2022, we attempted 573 passes; in 2023, we attempted 575. Geno attempted a little over 33 and a half passes per game; but Drew Lock attempted 32 per game in his two starts, so it’s not like we really took it easy on him. Yet, neither quarterback benefitted from extended competence out of the rushing attack. As a team, we averaged 4.8 yards per carry (4.9 yards per carry if you take out two massive losses by our punter) in 2022; we could only muster 4.1 yards per carry in 2023.

So, what’s THAT all about? We thought we really had something with our new O-Line coach in 2022. But, while improving on our sack numbers (in basically the same number of drop-backs), we took a massive nosedive in our running numbers. I guess we have to HOPE that it’s just injuries and things are bound to positively regress in 2024. But, there’s also a number of personnel decisions we have to make – along the interior, particularly – that has been one of our greatest weaknesses since time immemorial.

All told, our 2022 Seahawks scored 23.9 points per game (9th); our 2023 Seahawks scored 21.4 points per game (17th). An already-bad defense somehow managed to get worse, and a decently-good offense became painfully mediocre. In spite of the fact that the offense had a ton of carry-over, improved in both the running back and wide receiver rooms, and had a quarterback who couldn’t have been more motivated to better his career-best numbers from the previous season.

Does that also come down to coaching? Because, to me, that comes down to coaching.

***

Here’s my ultimate ruling on the question at the top:

I think, personnel-wise, the 2023 Seahawks were better than the 2022 Seahawks. However, I think the play on the field was worse. The numbers bear that out, even if their records were the same. We were -38 in point differential in 2023, meaning we probably overachieved. The NFL record 7 go-ahead TD passes by Geno Smith in the 4th quarter or OT sort of proves that point. We had a +6 point differential in 2022, which seems appropriate for a 9-8 team. So, while things were disappointing for Geno Smith, and some of the other veterans in 2023, I don’t think they were so much worse that it cost us. Ultimately, I put it on our coaching staff – our coordinators specifically, though Pete Carroll certainly doesn’t get a pass from me at this point – as the reason why the 2023 Seahawks were worse.

I believe, with more competent leadership, the 2023 Seahawks should’ve won more games and reached the playoffs.

That doesn’t mean I believe this team was good enough to win the NFC West. They clearly had a ceiling that was much lower than the 49ers. But, I do believe we should’ve beaten the Rams at least once, if not twice. Win one and we’re in the playoffs. Win both, we’re 11-6 and playing in Tampa in the first round of the playoffs (while the Rams would’ve been 8-9 and on the outside looking in, where they belonged).

So, in that sense, it’s pretty clear why Pete Carroll needed to go. We can’t really tell at this time if it was a matter of the messaging not getting through, or too much meddling by Pete in the personnel decisions to keep around these guys who are getting up there (saying nothing of giving up a second round draft pick for half of a season of Leonard Williams). But, I believe we didn’t have the proper staff in place to get the best out of these players. A more run-focused offensive scheme (becoming almost exclusively either a run or play-action team), with more attention paid to stopping the run and generating pressure by being blitz-heavy on defense, likely would’ve enhanced our win/loss record.

What we couldn’t do were the same things we’ve done the last 5+ years. What we couldn’t do was declare a shift towards a 3-4 defense, only to pretty much play a random hodgepodge of the exact defensive fronts we’ve used all along. What we couldn’t do was give up huge defensive cushions underneath – hoping to take away the deep ball – only to give up the deep ball anyway, and everything else opposing offenses wanted to do. Change it up! Drastically, if necessary! But, do SOMETHING.

This team did nothing, and mediocrity was our end result. Let’s hope that doesn’t continue on into 2024.

The Seahawks Aren’t Great At Any One Thing

The Seahawks get a lot of credit for being competitive. If I understand the phrase right, it’s a double-edged sword. When things are going well, people point to the coaching staff and say, “Boy Pete Carroll does a great job of adapting and getting the most out of his players!” But, when things go poorly, people point to the coaching staff and say, “Boy Pete Carroll is over the hill and washed up and doesn’t understand what the game of football is morphing into!”

There was a time this year where the Seahawks were winners of 5 out of 6 games, and the one we lost (to the Bengals) you could argue we gave away. But, even still, they were the Bengals, Joe Burrow was still alive, and you can understand why even a good team would lose that game on the road. The offense felt vibrant, the defense appeared to be improving, and we all let ourselves believe that these Seahawks could compete with those 49ers for this NFC West and maybe even above and beyond.

Then, we got massacred by the Ravens. That kicked off a lull where we lost 4 out of 5 games, with the lone victory being a 3-point variety against one of the worst, most dysfunctional teams in football (the Commanders), at home no less. We won the next two games to regain control over our own playoff destiny, only to lose to the Steelers last week, to once again need a Week 18 victory plus some help.

The Seahawks are 8-8. You can’t really give this team a lot of credit for being competitive, because if we’re honest with ourselves, this team is only competitive against very flawed-to-bad teams.

There are lots of teams hovering around .500, though. Lots of flawed teams who are in contention for the playoffs. There have been plenty of flawed teams throughout the years who have made the playoffs, gotten hot, and managed to do some damage (even winning a Super Bowl here and there). It’s not always the VERY BEST teams who win it all. Sometimes, you just need to pose the right matchup problems against the right teams, to get the result you want.

The Cleveland Browns are 11-5 and locked into the playoffs. You wouldn’t consider them a front-runner; they’re on, what, their fourth quarterback? Joe Flacco off the scrap heap re-joined the league and has set the world on fire. Has Joe Flacco suddenly gotten amazing again? No way! But, he’s in the right situation, with the right team, that has some elite components (defense, running game, O-Line) that allows them to make up for any mistakes Flacco might generate.

The Dolphins are also 11-5 and locked into the playoffs. Their defense kinda stinks, but they’re so dynamic on offense that you could see them winning any game if things break right. The Chiefs are 10-6 and their receivers are hot garbage. The Eagles are 11-5 and their defense has regressed HARD. The Rams are 9-7, but they’re still well-coached and explosive enough (and veteran enough) on offense to beat anybody.

Which brings me to the Seahawks. They’re a consummate 7-seed type of team. But, unlike the Packers, Steelers, or either of the South divisions, the Seahawks don’t have any one thing they do extremely well. They just have a lot of things they’re okay at, with some VERY glaring weaknesses that hold them back.

It’s honestly pretty miserable watching the Seahawks closely. I wonder if these other fringe teams have the same type of disgruntled fans. There’s nothing you can hang your hat on, where you can say, “If THIS happens, we can pull it out.” Even in the post-L.O.B. era of Seahawks football with prime Russell Wilson at the helm, we could look at the team and say, “Well, if Russell Wilson plays out of his mind, maybe we can win three playoff games and get to the Super Bowl.” Of course, that never happened, and we now understand why it was foolish to think that way. But, at least there was a chance. Russell Wilson used to be magic, and sometimes he was all we needed to will ourselves to victories.

You can’t say that about Geno Smith. Russell Wilson could get by with a rancid offensive line. Geno Smith is like this delicate flower that needs a climate-controlled environment to flourish. I’m not talking about weather here; it’s sort of a terrible analogy. But, like, Geno needs very good O-Line play. He needs the defense to keep us in it. He can’t carry us on his back and will us to victory. Oh sure, if everything is just right, he can lead us to a late come-from-behind victory every now and then. But, you better not allow any pass rushers to get in his face! He’s not making those comebacks against the likes of the 49ers, Cowboys, or Steelers!

What’s the best thing Seattle has going for it? The easy answer is the wide receiver room, but that’s so dependant on your quarterback’s play, that I think I have to push them down a tier. I think the actual best thing Seattle has going for it is the running back room. The one-two punch of Kenneth Walker and Zach Charbonnet is as good as it gets. Walker makes something out of nothing in a way I haven’t seen since Barry Sanders. I’m not saying he’s as good as Barry Sanders, but I’m saying the moves you see him put on people on the football field week-in and week-out are as electric and jaw-dropping as I’ve seen out of anyone since Sanders retired. Charbonnet, on the other hand, is just a solid and dynamic straight-ahead runner. Every time I see him play well, I wonder if he’s the future #1 on this team, but then Walker comes back and flashes those amazing cut-back moves, and I’m swayed in his direction. Either way, those two combined – with their tremendous blocking and pass-catching abilities – puts us at a level few teams are at in the NFL.

So, why don’t we feature it more? Why aren’t we scheming to highlight the run, rather than using it to complement a passing attack that’s … fine? Your guess is as good as mine. Seems to me, once again, we have the wrong offensive coordinator. He was brought in to try to appease a disgruntled Russell Wilson, we traded Wilson a year later, and now we’ve been trying to make it work. Sometimes, Waldron looks like one of the best OCs in football. But, too often – especially this season – he gets too one-track minded. He goes away from the run – mind-bogglingly – even though we’re in more games than we’re way behind. And less and less do we see guys schemed open. We were supposed to get the system that the Rams use to tremendous success. Lots of crossers, lots of different plays out of similar-looking personnel groupings. But, either Geno isn’t seeing them, or we’ve gone away from them. Regardless, this offense looks as dysfunctional as it was under Schotty and in the final years of Bevell.

Getting back to the receivers, I’ll tell you what this team doesn’t have; it doesn’t have Doug Baldwin, or a Doug Baldwin type. It doesn’t have that guy who can get open under any circumstance. It doesn’t have that guy you can go to on 3rd & Long, when you absolutely need a conversion to move the chains. Tyler Lockett sort of used to be that guy, but not really, and definitely not anymore. I don’t know what Lockett is nowadays, if I’m being honest. Either he’s trending towards being washed up, or we’re just not utilizing him like we should. More often than not, we’re going to D.K. when we need a big catch to move the chains. Don’t get me wrong, D.K. has been GREAT this year. But, he still has massive drops at the worst times, and you never know when he’s going to be that powderkeg that’s one bad taunt away from exploding.

The good news is: maybe Jaxon Smith-Njigba will be the next true heir apparent to Doug Baldwin. But, he’s still a rookie, he’s still developing that relationship with Geno, and while he’s much more productive now than he was at the beginning of the season, he’s not quite there yet. Hopefully in the next year or two, but that doesn’t help us out THIS season, now does it?

As far as the defense goes, write it off. There’s nothing elite about any of these position groups. Jamal Adams was shut down, having never fully recovered from his knee injury. He was getting beaten on the reg, and was less and less productive out in space near the line of scrimmage the more he played. Clearly, his body is broken, and it’s going to really suck if we’re stuck with him for another year.

As for the rest of the secondary, that was sort of our big hope, but it hasn’t come to fruition. I think the depth is there, but the top-end talent has been lacking. Which is interesting, because two of our three Pro Bowlers came from this group (Devon Witherspoon and Julian Love). Witherspoon looks as good as advertised, but he started the year banged up, and he’s ending the year banged up. When he’s been healthy out there, he’s been a game-changer. But, I’m starting to have serious doubts that we’re ever going to get a full season out of him. And I’m certainly dubious about getting a respectable second contract out of him. As for Love, he’s definitely come on late, but early this season he was a huge liability! The bar to climb over for Pro Bowl contention seems to be getting lower and lower nowadays.

You can’t deny Riq Woolen’s sophomore season has been anything but disappointing. Seems like he too is injured, but I don’t remember him ever being all that active in tackling near the line of scrimmage. That wasn’t a problem last year when he was making plays and generating turnovers; but this year, when he’s not doing that, he’s not really doing anything for you, is he? The rest of the guys – Diggs, Brown, Jackson, Burns, etc. – have all flashed some level of greatness, but have also totally disappeared for long stretches. As a result, this defense is getting increasingly shredded as the season goes along.

The linebackers have been okay against the run, but Bobby Wagner has been one of the biggest weaknesses in the passing game in the entire NFL (he’s a Pro Bowler based on reputation only). Without Jordyn Brooks, the linebacker room is totally decimated (as we saw last week against the Steelers). It’s tough when you’re as thin as you are, and you’re forced to play Wagner at or near 100% of the snaps every week. Now we have to pay Brooks whatever the market rate is for a top-end interior linebacker? What are we doing with our money here?!

I think the interior of the defensive line has been the most productive unit on this team, especially with the addition of Leonard Williams. Between him, Jarran Reed, and Dre’Mont Jones, we’re as solid as you can get. But, when Nwosu went down, the edge has been kind of a wasteland. Frank Clark has hardly played, and I think has since been cut (or is on the verge of being cut). Darrell Taylor can’t set an edge to save his life. Boye Mafe has slowed down considerably the second half of this season. Derick Hall is also struggling to play his position properly (but he’s a rookie, so he gets a pass). So, when you talk defensive line as a whole, I think you have to give them a net-negative. They get sacks at a decent clip, but I would say overall pressure numbers are sub-par, and the run defense has actually gotten worse as the season has gone along.

Defensive coordinator might be our biggest weakness, so we’ll see where that goes this offseason.

That leaves the O-Line, which is middling at best. But, Abe Lucas has been banged up all year, and we’ve had a revolving door at most of our positions from week to week. So much so that we’ve had to emphasize getting the ball out incredibly quickly if we even WANT to have a passing game. Seems like that would be the time to try to pound the rock, but again, we’re not, because of Reasons.

All told, that adds up to a team – as I said in the title – that isn’t great at any one thing. They’re okay at some things, terrible at others, and that’s what adds up to an 8-8 record heading into the final week of the season. Which is why I’ve been saying – for however many weeks now – that I do NOT want these Seahawks in the playoffs. What good does it do to get in there and get your doors blown off in the first round? We did that last year; did it do anything to make the 2023 Seahawks even remotely better? Or, did it just give us worse draft positioning, while allowing us to delude ourselves into thinking we were closer to Super Bowl contention than we actually were?

The Seahawks only make significant changes when they fail to make the playoffs. Whenever we make the playoffs, we bring our coaching staff back, keep the majority of the veterans we’re able to keep, and try to fill in around the fringes with what little resources we have left over. We’ve never really committed to a true rebuild since the 2010 season, and it’s starting to feel like all those Mariners teams from 2004-2018. Close, but no cigar.

What’s this team going to do as a 7-seed? Probably go to Dallas and lose by double digits. We already couldn’t stop them once – the week after Thanksgiving – what makes you think we can stop them now, when our talent is actually more depleted thanks to injury? We tried our best to keep up offensively – putting up 35 in a losing effort – but literally everything had to go right for that to happen, and I’m not buying that we can do that a second time.

And even IF we somehow, miraculously, beat the Cowboys in Dallas (because, at their heart, they love to choke in the playoffs), what is our reward? Playing the 1-seed 49ers after a week off (and after playing no one of consequence in Week 18). Just the worst case scenario of all scenarios; we haven’t come CLOSE to beating them for the last two years now.

So, no, I don’t want to see us in the playoffs. I don’t even want to see us winning this week! I want us 8-9. I want that LOSERS label to be firmly stamped all over this team. Pete Carroll and John Schneider aren’t going anywhere. But, maybe with a losing record, they’ll stumble into the correct coaching and personnel moves to turn this thing around before we’re all old and gray.

The Seahawks Traded For Leonard Williams!

This is exciting news!

Here’s the deal: the New York Giants sent Leonard Williams; the Seahawks sent a 2nd round pick in 2024 and a 5th round pick in 2025. The Giants are also paying the lion’s share of Williams’ remaining salary, which means the Seahawks only have to pay the pro-rated portion of the veteran minimum, or around $647K.

It’s not an insignificant price for the Seahawks. A second round pick for a guy on the final year of his deal isn’t nothing. But, given our cap situation, it was a necessary one if we wanted to make this upgrade along the interior of our defensive line. The rationale – if any face-saving is to be had post-2023 – is that the Seahawks could be in line for a compensatory 4th or even 3rd round pick next year, should Williams sign with another team next year.

Of course, that would mean we don’t bring in too many outside free agents to negate that possibility. That would also mean he doesn’t suffer a significant injury, or otherwise play himself into a lower-than-expected new contract. Don’t forget the whole Sheldon Richardson debacle. Part of the appeal of giving up a second rounder to the Jets was the likelihood that he would kick ass in Seattle and sign a huge deal the following year. He ended up sucking and had to settle for a prove-it deal that netted us nothing in compensatory picks. Since then, I’ve stopped believing in those things, taking more of an I’ll Believe It When I See It approach.

That would also mean, not for nothing, that the Seahawks don’t find a way to extend Williams after the season, or even sometime during this season, if he plays well and we can fit him into our future plans!

But, enough about that. This is clearly a move designed to win NOW, and I for one couldn’t be more thrilled.

Are we a Leonard Williams away from being a Super Bowl contender? That remains to be seen. Even with him, and even with an inordinate amount of good injury luck the rest of the way, it’s probably iffy at best. But this shores up what could be argued as our biggest weakness.

For what it’s worth, I don’t like the word “weakness” when it comes to our D-Line. I think our D-Line has been solid-to-good this year as it is. But, Williams playing at his best could take the D-Line from good-to-great, and that’s vital if we do want to be a Super Bowl contender. I would argue we weren’t one before; now, at least we have the potential to be.

An interior with Williams, Jones, and Reed is as good as it gets, across the board. There’s no one uber-stud, but three very good players, with little drop-off behind them. Throw in our outside guys – Clark, Edwards, Mafe, Hall, Taylor – along with Wagner and Brooks, and you’ve got a front seven that’s pretty remarkable. The secondary has been coming along nicely since Witherspoon, Woolen, and Adams have gotten healthier, so there’s really not a weak link on that side of the ball.

It could be argued – especially as the offensive line gets healthier – that the biggest “weakness” on this team is Geno Smith (depending on your opinion of Jason Myers). But, at this point, as long as we don’t suffer a rash of injuries to our best guys, Geno Smith shouldn’t be the reason why we don’t contend for a Super Bowl. That’s not a huge ringing endorsement of his abilities, but if he plays within himself, the Seahawks have as good a chance as anyone to go all the way.

It’s interesting, because part of me still feels like the Seahawks are a year away. Another small part of me feels like the Seahawks are infinity away, because Geno Smith will never be the guy to take us all the way. I guess we’ll see. But, with the addition of Williams, this is as good as this roster has been – top to bottom – since 2015. I don’t know if this team could hang with that team, but it can certainly hang with what the NFC is trotting out there in 2023.

Leonard Williams is great. He’s got 39.5 career sacks, spanning 8 and a half seasons. He’s ranged anywhere from 0.5 to 11.5 sacks per year, which is quite the span. He’s got 1.5 sacks so far this year, but is coming off of an excellent three-game stretch, where the Giants have really picked it up on that side of the ball. Williams is no small part of that; even when he’s not filling up the stat sheet, he’s commanding enough attention to open up opportunities for others around him. He’s also, obviously, got a lot of incentive to continue being great, given his free agent status at season’s end. And, I’m sure there will be a considerable morale boost going from a 2-win Giants team that just lost to the Jets, to a 5-win Seahawks team currently sitting in first place in the NFC West.

And, like I said, there’s always a chance we could keep him around, if he has a good time here and we’re able to pony up the dough. Jarran Reed is under contract for a very reasonable amount next year (he could also be cut with a low dead cap hit). We might want to wrap up Boye Mafe before he hits his final year in 2024; that could buy us a little savings. Jordyn Brooks will be a free agent, and could command a lot of attention, but he’s still an inside linebacker, and they don’t necessarily break the bank. My point is – without knowing every single in and out of the Seahawks’ cap situation next year – I think we should have some wiggle room if Williams proves he’s worthy of being a part of this thing going forward. It’s always better, in this case, to have the guy in your system ahead of time, to know for sure if he’s a fit. This is a win all the way around, in my book.

The Seahawks Started Strong & Ended Lucky To Beat The Browns

The game certainly didn’t go the way I expected, at least through the first quarter. The last three quarters were pretty … yeah, pretty ugly.

I ultimately didn’t come away very impressed with the Browns’ defense. Seems like you can really move the ball against them. The Seahawks regularly had guys open, and were able to gash them on some pretty big runs (we averaged over 9 yards per carry with our running backs), and quite frankly, the Seahawks should’ve won by more. But, Geno Smith had an abysmal game, and … I’ve got thoughts about D.K. Metcalf.

Geno had 2 TDs and 2 picks. It’s hard to fully blame him for the two interceptions, because one was tipped, and the other was a situation where it looked like D.K. could’ve come back to the football instead of levelling off his route. But, nevertheless, neither were well-thrown balls, and both were pretty bad decisions. There was also the near-interception that was dropped by Cleveland – on a route where JSN was supposed to continue his route to the outside rather than cutting it short – that would’ve easily gone for a pick six; I would argue that was another terrible throw and poor decision, that had little chance of being completed even if JSN had run the route Geno thought he was going to run.

He was all over the place, all day. Balls too high, balls too low, balls behind guys. The best thing you could say about Geno’s day is that he only took one sack (to Myles Garrett, naturally) because he was quick with the release. Nevertheless, that lone sack came on 3rd & 11 from the Cleveland 41 yard line when we were down by 3 points in the fourth quarter. A promising drive to maybe tie the game ended in a punt, and almost resulted in a loss.

That’s because the Seahawks’ defense took a considerable step back in effectiveness in this one. It didn’t seem that way early! Just as it seemed like the Seahawks’ offense had itself figured out – taking a 17-7 lead through the first quarter – it seemed like the Seahawks’ defense would continue kicking ass and taking names, having forced a fumble on a Jordyn Brooks sack, and Woolen picking the ball off early in the second. But, the Browns were weirdly methodical for most of the rest of the game, cutting the deficit to 17-14 at halftime, then taking a 20-17 lead in the third quarter on a couple of field goal drives.

The Browns ran it 40 times for 155 yards. 3.9 yards per carry isn’t amazing or anything, but running it that many times means they were effective in moving the chains. They were 6/15 on third downs (0/1 on fourth), and held a 36:40 to 23:20 time of possession advantage. Part of that is Cleveland forcing four 3 & Outs, but part of that was them getting the job done on 3rd & short. P.J. Walker was no slouch in this one; not a great completion percentage (15/31), but he hit it for 8.0 yards per attempt, for 248 yards. Amari Cooper caught it 6 for 89, and David Njoku caught 4 for 77 and a TD. They really controlled the line of scrimmage, and nearly schemed us to death with screen plays.

The defense looked like it was reacting more than dictating terms. You could see glimpses of eliteness, but also too many instances of this team looking the way it’s looked the last few years. Maybe the Browns are just a bad matchup for us. If that’s the case, maybe try to sleep in next week when we play the Ravens at 10am, because they’re like the Browns if they only had an MVP at quarterback.

We would’ve lost this game if it weren’t for a ball bouncing off of a blitzing Jamal Adams’ helmet, landing in the outstretched arms of Julian Love late in the fourth quarter. With the ball at our own 43 yard line at the 2 minute warning, we were able to reignite the offense with a deft mix of short and intermediate passes, along with a superb play by Fant to rumble for 27 yards to set up a red zone situation. Jaxon Smith-Njigba caught either a swing pass or a screen and took it to the house behind a fantasic D.K. Metcalf block. Had the Browns completed that third down pass, though, and that very well might’ve sunk us.

As for D.K., I dunno. I am of the tinfoil hat opinion that he was secretly benched last week for talking smack about the team. As such, I was watching him closely to see how invested he’d be in the outcome of this game. I’d say that outlook is muddied.

He certainly didn’t appear to come close to drawing any 15-yard penalties, with a very workmanlike persona. You could see Browns defenders jawing at him, and then you saw D.K. turn around and walk back towards the huddle or to his own sideline. Very commendable, but of course, I’m not going to say he’s magically cured. We’ve seen him go stretches of being cool, calm, and collected, for games at a time.

I also saw a guy who only caught 5 balls on 14 targets. No egregious drops or anything, and given how bad Geno looked in this one, it’s hard to tell if the 9 incompletes were on the quarterback being wild, or the receiver not being where the quarterback thought he was going to be. Someone who has quit on his team – but doesn’t want to make it LOOK like he’s quit on the team – isn’t just going to blatantly drop balls that are right in his bread basket. He’s going to finesse it. He’s going to maybe be a half a step too slow. Maybe he goes out of his way to avoid contact. Maybe he pulls himself out of the game for an extra play or two.

That being said, his block on the game-winning TD was a thing of beauty, disengaging at exactly the right moment. So, I fully acknowledge that this is me being Tinfoil Hat Guy, but it’s just something I’m going to monitor going forward. I am nothing if not curious about this whole saga.

It was cool to see Tyler Lockett have a breakout game; feels like it’s been a while since he’s been as wide open as he was in this one. It was cool to see Jake Bobo hit an end-around for a 3-yard TD (sweet cut up the field when stringing it out would’ve gotten him stuffed). And, obviously, it was VERY cool to see JSN have the glory at the end.

On the defensive side of the ball, I thought we got levied with a bunch of ticky-tack bullshit. Two different hands-to-the-face penalties propped the Browns up and kept them moving; both seemed weak as hell, with either the offensive player moving his head into the opposing player’s hand, or the offensive player physically moving the defender’s hand with his hand into his own face. Either way, they were pretty glancing blows, and neither seemed to rise to the level of the intent of that penalty.

I thought Riq Woolen had a humongous game, and would’ve been even better if he could’ve gotten that second pick. Great to see him have such a big impact after all the eyes of the NFL community had been on Devon Witherspoon. Speaking of, I thought he was pretty quiet (except for, again, the ticky-tack penalty he had), which maybe speaks to teams avoiding him whenever possible. It also seemed like Jamal Adams had a pretty quiet game, until the very end with the head-block of the Walker pass. Cool to see Love get his first interception in a Seahawks uniform though!

Bobby Wagner was all over the place, Jordyn Brooks – at times – was the best player on the field, and Boye Mafe – at other times – was also the best player on the field. The latter two each had sacks, with Brooks getting the forced fumble, which was recovered by Mafe (who had 4 QB hits and a TFL). Also, big ups to Darrell Taylor for getting a game-sealing sack at the end, to eliminate any chance of a Browns late comeback.

Frank Clark did, indeed, make his return; he looked a little rusty. Derick Hall had a couple of really good plays, but also lost contain a couple times (one of them was a Walker scramble for 9 yards). You know who didn’t look rusty? Dre’Mont Jones, who not-so-quietly had a TFL and 3 QB hits. He made an impact, even if he didn’t blow up the stat sheet.

Great punting day by Dickson. Clean kicking day by Myers. The special teams didn’t take over the game or anything, but it also didn’t cost us.

I’m not going to say that’s a game you HAVE to have, but it’s one you really really want to have. They’re an AFC opponent, so obviously it means a little less that way. But, it’s a home game, it’s a winnable 50/50 type game, and it came against a highly-ranked defensive unit (who didn’t always look it on Sunday, and hasn’t looked it very much at all over the last two weeks). If nothing else, it’s nice to see the Seahawks just put up 24 points on a top tier defense. It’s nice that we didn’t totally go in the fucking tank for three full-ass quarters. We figured it out, when it mattered most. Geno had a crap game, yet he led us to a come-from-behind victory in the fourth quarter. These are the games you have to win if you’re going to contend for the division, and a spot among the NFC’s best.

Which, incidentally, is where we are now. At 5-2, we’ve surpassed the 49ers, who are 5-3 after losing their third straight game. We’re in first place in the division, and we’re only trailing the 7-1 Eagles (who, in spite of their record, don’t look nearly as dominant as they did last season); we’re tied with the 5-2 Cowboys, but I don’t know if anyone really considers them to be a legitimate top tier threat.

Frank Clark Returns As The Seahawks Take On The Browns

There’s no discounting the loss of Uchenna Nwosu for this Seahawks defense. He was unquestionably our best defensive player last year, he earned a relatively big-money contract extension this past offseason, and even though the numbers aren’t eye-popping this season, the eye-test and the ancillary numbers point to Nwosu being our best outside linebacker/pass rusher. While it’s wonderful that Boye Mafe has taken the next step to be a super-productive second banana, after the loss of Nwosu, the drop-off is pretty considerable.

You may be saying to me, “Don’t forget about Darrell Taylor!” But I think it’s clear at this point that he’s pretty one-dimensional. There are a lot of reasons why the Seahawks have so drastically improved in their run defense – Bobby Wagner, Jarran Reed, Dre’Mont Jones, Devon Witherspoon, no more Cody Barton – but I think a big key is the reduced role Taylor plays on rushing downs. He’s a solid-to-good pass rusher in obvious passing situations, but other than that, I don’t really trust him as an all-around outside linebacker. That doesn’t mean Taylor doesn’t have value, or isn’t important to this team’s success. But, I take a less-is-more approach with him.

And, as for Derick Hall, I think there’s a lot of promise there, but he reminds me a bit of Boye Mafe as a rookie last year. Maybe a bigger, beefier version, but someone who probably is a year or two away, if he’s going to hit at all.

Seahawks fans have been focused on the impending trade deadline on October 31st for good reason. While the defense has been extraordinary – especially compared to expectations – you can always use a little more. With the way we like to rotate guys in and out, you can never have enough weapons at your disposal. Then, when you factor in the inevitable injuries that will crop up – starting with Nwosu last week – it’s all the more imperative to keep reloading on that side of the ball, not just with bodies, but competent ones.

It’s funny that some people automatically dismissed the Frank Clark option. Maybe they had a good reason; I guess we’ll find out. His numbers with Kansas City for those four seasons certainly weren’t explosive. It’s hard to say he justified the contract he was given; when you sign someone to a deal worth over $20 million per season, you expect more than an ordinary defensive end. He averaged just under 6 sacks per (regular) season, though he added 10.5 sacks in 12 post-season games with the Chiefs. Certainly, whenever I watched the Chiefs (which, yeah, a lot of those games were probably in the playoffs), it seemed like they were getting their money’s worth. But, they clearly felt he was expendable when they cut him this past offseason.

And, also clearly, he didn’t mesh with what the Broncos were trying to do. He signed with them for 2023, at a little under $5.5 million, and got cut after playing in only 2 games. They even went so far as to make him a healthy scratch and put him on the trade block – in addition to reworking his deal to lower the cap hit – but found no takers. Then, he just sat there as a free agent for a couple/few weeks, until the Seahawks came calling.

Now, of course, there are a lot of caveats to all of this. For starters, the Chiefs are – as most teams – up against the salary cap. They have a lot of stars who they’re paying truckloads of money, and they just can’t afford to keep everyone. Maybe they felt he was slipping; maybe they would’ve welcomed him back at the veteran minimum. Clark chose to get what he could with the Broncos; that’s fine. Once the Chiefs gave a little cookie to Chris Jones after his holdout, I’m sure they’re even further pressed against the cap, making in-season moves quite difficult. That could explain why Clark didn’t go back to KC (or, again, maybe they think he’s cooked). But, I don’t know if I’m ready to write Clark off simply because the Broncos cut him. That team is in shambles for a second straight season; it sure looks like they’re getting ready to clean house this upcoming offseason. If they’re indeed looking to covertly tank, getting rid of Clark is an easy way to ensure you’re not getting unwanted production on that side of the ball. Or, you know, maybe that makes two teams who believe Clark isn’t the player he once was.

Then, there’s the obvious argument that Clark and Nwosu really don’t play the same position. Clark is 6’3, 272 pounds; Nwosu is 6’2, 251 pounds. Clark is much closer in body type to Mario Edwards than he is to Nwosu or Mafe. Not for nothing, Clark is much closer in age (30) to Edwards (29) than he is to Nwosu (26) or Mafe (24). I love Clark as an edge-setter and a run defender, I still like him as a pass rush threat, but I don’t know if I love the idea of Clark trying to defend a skill position player in space. Maybe that, ultimately, is the reason why a certain segment of the Seahawks-following public dismissed the notion of a Clark return.

But, he’s here now. And I think this could be a perfect fit. What I’m not necessarily buying is that he knows the system. He was last here in 2018; that was Norton’s first season as DC. Maybe defense is defense; maybe this whole 3-4/4-3 thing is muddier than I think it is. But, I wouldn’t say the defense is exactly the same.

What I will say is that as part of a rotation, this could be the marriage we need. Keep Clark in there for rushing downs, then slide Taylor in there for obvious passing downs. Make that a platoon of sorts. Mafe can take over for Nwosu’s percentage of snaps, and we can use Hall to spell him. Also, I love the idea of a front four consisting of Clark, Reed, Jones, and Mafe if we’re in a jam and need to create pressure with a 4-man front. Throw Taylor into that mix on a blitz? *Chef’s Kiss*.

I would say I’m a little more on the positive end of the spectrum on this move. Very low risk, we didn’t give up a draft pick to get him, he’s getting the veteran pro-rated minimum, he’s at least familiar with the coaching staff and the city. He’s still young enough to where – if he plays well – he can keep getting boatloads of money thrown his way. Quality defensive linemen who can rush the passer can play well into their 30’s, so it’s not like he’s a running back or a receiver or something. It’s a high value position, an area of need, and we have an immediate opening. The downside is: maybe he’s finished, he’s nothing more than a body, and he’ll be out of the league in a year or two. That’s what we have to find out. But, he’s not blocking anyone, he shouldn’t command an inordinate percentage of snaps (unless we have more injuries), and if it doesn’t work out, that’s fine, Nwosu will be back in 2024 anyway.

That brings us to the Cleveland Browns this Sunday. I found it extremely intriguing that Pete Carroll was already talking about him playing this weekend, even though he hadn’t shown up yet. That tells me Clark must be in pretty good shape. I can’t wait to watch this game and see what he has in the tank.

I also can’t wait to watch this game because we’re FINALLY bringing back the throwback jerseys! It’s so stupid that it’s taken this long to get here, but it’ll be so great to see them on the field again. Never has it felt more like me rooting for clothing than it will on Sunday.

This game also features the return of D.K. Metcalf, who had some interesting things to say at his weekly press conference (namely that he wasn’t allowed to talk about injuries). More and more, it’s looking like last week was a suspension, hidden behind the cloud of his nagging pain complaints. Regardless, we’ll need him; I just hope he’s got his head in the game, and this isn’t the beginning of an irreparable rift with the team.

I am NOT super confident about this one. The Browns’ defense is one of the true elites in the league this year. Considering we’re coming off back-to-back sub-par outings by our offense, the last thing I wanted to see is Myles Garrett making mincemeat of our O-Line. Injuries are still killing us up front – with Bradford looking to be out, possibly being replaced by Jason Peters, who is more of a tackle than a guard – and we’d be crazy if we don’t chip him with a tight end or a running back on every play.

Then, it came out that Kenneth Walker hasn’t practiced for the last two days. He took on the full load of running back production last weekend – with Charbonnet out – and it looks like he’s paying the price. Charbonnet is on track to return this week, but it might be in time to make his first NFL start. I’ve adjusted my fantasy team accordingly, to pick him up as a replacement, just in case.

On the flipside, Deshaun Watson is out this week. He tried to come back last week, was ineffective, and it was clear that he wasn’t ready. So, P.J. Walker gets the start in his place. The Browns are also banged up at running back, and aside from Amari Cooper (who looks diminished in his old age) and Njoku, I don’t know who their pass catchers are.

This game is just screaming Low Scoring Grudgematch. I think it’s going to be extremely close throughout, and if either team goes up by two scores in the second half, I think it’s over. I worry about the Seahawks here, because while I think this is a game we should win – even if it’s in an ugly fashion like last week’s 20-10 victory over the Cards – I could also see our offense completely bottoming out. If it’s 10-0 late in the third quarter, I don’t believe we have the horses to come back against that ferocious pass rush.

What sucks is that we’re two weeks away from a potential Get Right game for our offense. That means we have to figure out some way to put points on the board against elite defenses, because the Browns aren’t the first, and they won’t be the last.

I think this will be, like, a 16-12 Seahawks victory. Ugly as all get-out, but as long as we can hold the Browns to field goals, we should be in good shape.

Are The Seahawks Progressing Faster Than Usual This Season?

The Seahawks under Pete Carroll have a certain reputation, that I don’t think is actually warranted anymore. They’re a team that starts slow, but then comes together and improves as the season goes along, until they slam into a home stretch that puts them over the top by playoff time. The biggest lament of this scenario is the fact that the Seahawks usually dick around too much early in the season – losing too many games – and are unable to qualify for a divisional title or a top seed in the conference. We might be playing the best ball by the end of the regular season, but we’re going to be playing that ball on the road, and it makes a big difference in the playoffs.

Anyway, that’s the reputation, but again, if you go back season-by-season, I don’t know if it’s really true anymore. It probably hasn’t been true since 2018. But, just go with me on this.

If we focus exclusively on the defense – and, spoiler alert, that’s what the title of this post is referring to – then I think you very much CAN make that argument, across a long span of time. Probably dating back to 2016. As the L.O.B. aged out and went their separate ways, the Seahawks have failed in trying to replenish this team with defensive stars. It’s been nothing but middling players, with an occasional splash trade for an overpriced veteran who isn’t able to do enough to bring this unit back to its former glories.

So, what happens? Well, we start each and every season looking like the worst defense in all of football. We look like that, because we ARE that. Doesn’t matter if it’s Kris Richard, Ken Norton Jr., or Clint Hurtt; this side of the ball is going to massively struggle early, Pete Carroll is going to assert his will to get things more in line, and it’s eventually going to look somewhat better. But, that never lasts, because there’s a major talent shortage, and you can only hold the dike together with scotch tape and bungee cords for so long before it bursts.

Why does this year look different? How did we – in one offseason – go from looking like one of the worst defenses in football, to potentially looking like one of the best? Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying we’re the 49ers or the Jets or something. But a difference from being Bottom 10 to Top 10 is certainly massive.

Well, let’s start with the guys we brought in. Dre’Mont Jones, Bobby Wagner, Jarran Reed, Devon Witherspoon, Julian Love, Mario Edwards, Derick Hall, Devin Bush, and Cameron Young are the major culprits. Then, there’s the return of Jamal Adams, Tre Brown, and Jordyn Brooks from injury. And maybe the biggest catalyst is the improvement of Boye Mafe from year one to year two.

Now, let’s look at who’s NOT here. Cody Barton, Ryan Neal, Shelby Harris, Al Woods, Poona Ford, Quinton Jefferson, Bruce Irvin, L.J. Collier, and Bryan Mone (still on the roster, but injured). There’s a lot of addition by subtraction going on here. Neal is probably the best player in this group, but the combo of Love and Adams certainly more than makes up for his loss. Barton is one of the worst linebackers in football. Poona has hardly even played. Collier is who we thought he was. The rest of them are role players at best. And maybe the biggest catalyst here is the fact that Mike Jackson’s role has been severely diminished with Brown and Woolen healthy. Rather than being this team’s 2nd corner, he’s now the 4th or even 5th option, which is probably where he belongs (and as far as 4th or 5th corners goes, he’s pretty good at that).

So, it definitely looks like the Seahawks pulled all the right strings in this past offseason.

Witherspoon is obviously getting the lion’s share of attention, for good reason. He’s wonderful! We’ve never seen someone quite like him, and he’s quickly proving why he was deemed to be the #5 overall pick, and the best DB in the draft. I would say, however, that the biggest surprise has been Jarran Reed. The NFL more or less left him for dead after he left the Seahawks the first time, since he hasn’t done a whole lot with the Chiefs or Packers. He’s back and he might be better than ever!

The combo of Reed and Jones is better than any interior option we’ve had since the L.O.B. days. Jones got off to a bit of a slow start, but he’s beginning to assert himself, and it’s really paying dividends. You can see it in the VAST improvement of our run defense, but they also have 5 sacks between them after 5 games.

Having Wagner and Brooks together again has also been a breath of fresh air. I am in awe over Brooks’ ability to return so quickly from ACL surgery. Not just to play since week 1, but to play at a high level. You also want to lump in Witherspoon and a healthy Adams into this mix, because they’re wreaking havoc near the line of scrimmage.

We talk about depth a lot with the Seahawks’ defense. They don’t seem to have – on paper – the kind of front-line stars that teams like the 49ers, Jets, and Eagles have. Those teams, as we’ve seen, also have lots of depth, but I think that’s easy to come by when you have so many superstars. Put anyone with a pulse around Nick Bosa, Fletcher Cox, and Quinnen Williams, and you’re bound to look good. But, the Seahawks – 1 through 25 – look pretty rock solid, and it’s making all the difference.

Nwosu is still playing like he did last year. Mafe, again, has taken a clear step forward in his progression (tied for the team lead in sacks with Reed). Hall and Darrell Taylor are still valuable rotational pieces in the pass rush. Even Edwards and Young have plugged holes and made some noise.

Thus far, the secondary – the unit we all expected to be among the best in the game – has been the biggest disappointment. But, I would argue they’ve also been the most banged up. Adams, as per usual, has only played in a game and a quarter. Woolen was injured before the season and came late to the party. Ditto Witherspoon. Brown has been in and out. Now, we’re down Coby Bryant with a toe injury (currently on IR). We’ve had to use Love more than we would’ve liked, and probably in areas where he’s not best utilized. Jackson, in spite of a promising 2022, and a highly-regarded training camp, has not looked good. Diggs has had everything on his plate, and hasn’t been able to just let it rip the way he does best (as a turnover machine). With our stars returning, though, everyone else can settle into the roles that best maximize their talents, and you get what we’ve seen the last two games: the Seahawks shutting down opposing passing games (including the vaunted Bengals) the way we all expected heading into the season.

We can’t claim the Seahawks are up there with the true elites, simply because when injuries start to crop up again, we won’t have enough behind them to keep us in that upper echelon. But, if we can avoid truly devastating injuries, and somehow cobble together the rest of this season with Adams involved ON the field, I think there’s real potential here.

The offense won’t always be as bad as they were against the Bengals. I wouldn’t even say they were truly bad, just inept in the red zone. They should keep us in most every game the rest of the way. But, that’s a two-way street. I firmly believe this defense can also keep us in every game the rest of the way. Then, it comes down to execution, and a little luck.

We’re not in an insurmountable hole, even though a 3-2 record – after losing a very winnable game – is far from ideal. Having the defense seemingly figured out only a month into the season is a big boost for this team, though! Now, I could be dead wrong, and this unit will revert back to giving up tons of yards and points this very next game. But, I don’t think I’m off here. And that will mean big things for this team the rest of the way.

We have 12 games left. 6 at home, 6 on the road. If we break it up, three of our next four are at home (Arizona, Cleveland, at Baltimore, Washington). Two of those games should be wins, if we expect to be a playoff team. With the other two, I would say both are winnable, and you’d like to come away from this stretch at least 3-1. That makes us 6-3 as we head into the gauntlet of the schedule.

At the Rams (didn’t have this one pegged as part of the gauntlet heading into the season), 49ers on Thanksgiving night, at Dallas also on Thursday, at 49ers, home for the Eagles. I would like to believe we can compete with L.A., but I dunno. If we manage to win that one, it’ll likely have to be a shootout. Dallas seems like a game we might be able to steal. The Eagles don’t look quite as dominant as they did last year. That leaves us with two against our direct rivals, the 49ers. If we can split those two, and win 2 of 3 against the rest, that puts us at 9-5 heading into the stretch run. Seems far more likely we’re 8-6, and still clinging to wild card hopes, but we’ll see.

The final three games are at Tennessee, home for Pittsburgh, and at Arizona. You’d like to think, by that point, those teams will have nothing to play for. Regardless, all are incredibly flawed. Still, when have we ever managed to be perfect in the final month against incredibly flawed teams? Seems like we always bungle one of these types of games. 3-0 would put us at 11-6 or 12-5, with a puncher’s chance at the division (but, almost certainly falling short, because the 49ers seem destined to make the Super Bowl). If we go 2-1 (which is my official prediction), that still puts us at 10-7 or 11-6, which is almost assuredly a wild card spot.

I will say that – other than Washington and Arizona – there’s a lot of high-end defenses on this slate. So, of course, now that we’re feeling good about our defense, it’ll be the offense that we have to worry about (the one thing we were all feeling pretty great about heading into the season). Isn’t it always the way? We just can’t have nice things.

The Seahawks Had A Dominant Defensive Performance Against An Inept Offensive Giants Team

In retrospect, BOY are the Giants bad! I was not prepared for that level of ineptitude. I keep coming back to how they JUST gave Danny Dimes a huge contract extension (he’s going to have a $47 million cap hit in 2024!); what a disaster!

The Seahawks now head into the BYE week with a 3-1 record, firmly in second place in the NFC West, and among the wild card contenders one month in. It’s probably the best we could’ve hoped for heading into the season, so all things considered, I’m pretty happy with where this team is at.

While I readily acknowledge that it’s less impressive knowing Saquon Barkley was out for this game, I think it’s undeniable that the Seahawks’ run defense is vastly improved over last year. Daniel Jones scrambled for 66 yards on 10 carries, but everyone else only managed 46 yards on 19. Not that I want to allow opposing quarterbacks to run all over us, but few of those were actually designed runs, so in a sense they feel like flukier yards.

This game will forever stand out as the one where the Seahawks defense got 11 sacks. 2 from Wagner, 2 from Brooks, 2 from Devon Witherspoon (who also had a 97-yard pick six, to go along with 7 tackles), 2 from Nwosu, and 1 apiece from Mafe, Myles Adams, and Mario Edwards (who forced a fumble on his that was recovered by Brooks). Now THAT’S how you win a game 24-3!

It was, truly, an awesome defensive performance. But, at the same time, the Giants might have the worst offensive line in the league. They’ve got the aforementioned mediocre Danny Dimes. They’ve still not yet improved their wide receiver room. And they were without Barkley. There were pieces here and there on defense that stood out – Kayvon Thibodeaux had 2 sacks and looked like the monster we all expected coming out of college – but by and large the Giants don’t look like a good football team, at all. Don’t forget the Cardinals blew a 21-point second half lead to them, otherwise the Giants would be 0-4!

This might’ve been, all things considered, our easiest opponent (yes, even easier than the Panthers). And yet, good lord, did we suffer a massive amount of injuries in this one!

By the end, our O-Line looked like this: Forsythe, Brown, Oluwatimi, Bradford, Curhan. We lost both guards in this one (Lewis and Haynes) and had to do some shuffling. We also lost Geno Smith for part of the second quarter, after he was rolled-up on out of bounds unnecessarily. Jarran Reed missed the tail end of the game. There has to be some other guys I’m missing …

Oh yeah, Jamal Adams. The Hype Train was in all of its full-throated glory this week as The Return Of Jamal Adams was in effect.

I don’t know whether to make a joke or throw my laptop across the room. It is, indeed, comical how insufferably injury-prone he’s become since donning a Seahawks uniform. Are we, like, his kryptonite? Is someone secretly poisoning him with very low doses over a long period of time? Did he have all his bones replaced with wafer and his muscles replaced with nougat?

It’s particularly exasperating because you can CLEARLY see the impact of a healthy Jamal Adams. He was in there for, what, a drive or two? Yet, he was flying all over the place and had a couple crunching tackles. Unfortunately, his second tackle was made with his head, and he left with an obvious concussion (in spite of him berating the health professional who confirmed his disability).

But, you know, we were all prepared for this, right? Not to expect too much out of Adams. Whatever we get from him is a bonus and all that. That’s why we signed Julian Love, who – not surprisingly – had his best game in a Seahawks uniform, going up against his old team.

Forget Adams, what I was most excited to see in this game was the combo of Witherspoon and Woolen out there. I think you have to like what you saw in this one (again, the caveat being our level of opponent). The longest reception by a receiver was 12 yards. We held their best offensive weapon – Darren Waller – to 3 catches for 21 yards. I’m not ready to plant my flag on this being LOB 2.0, but the pass defense was the best it’s been this season, and I think having these two guys healthy has a lot to do with it. You get to slot the secondary behind them where they deserve to be, and you see these amazing results (including a late pick by Quandre Diggs, who should be able to make more plays as a roaming free safety).

The Seahawks offense gets somewhat of an Incomplete grade on this one. Geno Smith, I thought, looked fine, though he was definitely hampered in the second half with what I presume was a downturn related to his ankle injury. He’ll be fine. Drew Lock got some play in this one and did okay, hitting Fant for what turned out to be a 51-yard gain that led to Kenneth Walker’s TD. Walker finished with a respectable 79 yards on 17 carries; Charbonnet also looked solid as his backup, hitting open holes and gashing them for 31 yards on only 5 carries.

The offensive line depth really showed up in this one. Granted, we did a lot to help them out with our protection schemes, but this offense is talented enough to afford us this luxury of playing multiple tight ends. We can withstand keeping extra blockers for those extreme blitzing defenses, thanks to how elite our receivers are. Shoutout to Walker for his protection as well; he looked fantastic picking up blitzers up the middle.

This game was unquestionably sloppy throughout, with lots of penalties on both teams, but a win is a win. On the road, against an NFC opponent, on Monday night: I’ll take it.

Shoutout to Michael Dickson for some fantastic punts to flip field position. A reverse shoutout to Myers for missing a long field goal pretty miserably.

Now, we get our BYE week. People have been saying – given our injury issues thus far – it might be at the exact right time. I would say, with the punishment we suffered in this one, it’s even more important. Then, we go right back out on the road to play an underachieving Bengals team in a couple weeks. Either we’re catching them at the exact right time, or they’re going to be furiously trying to save their season.

My biggest takeaway through four weeks is how good our rookie class looks once again. Witherspoon, obviously, has DROY potential. Bradford has looked just fine at right guard. Oluwatimi got some playing time at center. Jerrick Reed, if nothing else, looks like an elite special teamer. Cameron Young had a couple impactful tackles up the middle. Hall and Charbonnet look like excellent role players thus far at important positions. Really, the only guy who has yet to stand out has been JSN, and I don’t think anyone is worried about the top overall receiver eventually finding his footing. I will say that maybe we can try sending him on routes that AREN’T just around the line of scrimmage.

2023 Seahawks Preview Extravaganza!

I see one of two things happening with this Seahawks season. Either the Seahawks rule, or the Seahawks are just okay.

There are, of course, a myriad of other options. The Seahawks could be bad, for instance! But, I feel like for that to happen, this team would have to be decimated by injuries, to the offensive line, to key skill position players, and to the quarterback. You can’t rule it out! Luck is always a factor in the NFL. The thing is, you can make that case every single year, but you’re just speculating out of thin air at that point. As with every team, depending on injuries, the floor is a number one overall pick, and the ceiling is whatever that team is capable of if it manages to stay fully healthy. For the Seahawks, I would say that range is a Top 5 pick all the way up to competing for a spot in the Super Bowl.

Last year, I had the Seahawks projected for a top 5 pick; I just assumed it would be their own and not the Broncos’. Now that we have the knowledge of what happened in 2022, combined with the moves they’ve made in 2023, I obviously believe this team is poised for greater things.

Let’s start with Geno Smith. I don’t think it’s out of line to bring his durability into question, for the simple reason that he didn’t miss a game last year. But, maybe he has the secret sauce to avoiding back-breaking hits or twisted ankles or bent-backward thumbs. Given what we discovered about his ability to play at this level, an improvement in the weapons around him, and hopefully some more-consistent O-Line play, I believe we can get his 2022 numbers as a baseline. I also think, if the O-Line is considerably better, HE can be considerably better. A little more effective on third down. Turning some of those close losses into close victories. He alone – with everyone else being the same – can add or subtract two wins from last year’s total.

Now, let’s flip over to the defense. The good news is: we can’t be any worse. If we run it back, we’re 30th against the run and considerably better against the pass, with a good chunk of sacks to keep teams honest. BUT, if we can push that run defense up to just 20th, then I think we’re in business. We should be poised for better linebacker play. We should have more interior pressure with Dre’Mont Jones. And the sky is the limit for our secondary.

Bump the run defense up to 15th? Then, we’re talking about a team that not only contends for the division, but the whole damn conference.

There are so many variables with this team, which is what makes it both fun and nerve-wracking. The defensive front seven, the offensive line, the quarterback, the rookies and second-year players. We could be entering the next great period of Seahawks dominance, or it could be yet another year of post-L.O.B. tire-spinning.

What I’m excited about is the potential. If everything goes right, our offensive tackles are masters at their craft, and the rest of the line is full of bullies shoving dudes around. If everything goes right, the pass rush pressure is coming from a variety of sources (Jones, Nwosu, Taylor, Mafe, Hall, Reed, Adams, Love, Witherspoon). If everything goes right, Jones is a monster in the backfield against the run, Jarran Reed picks up where he left off with us in 2020, Morris and Young are legitimate contributors as rookies, and Bobby Wagner is the glue that holds everything together. If everything goes right, as soon as Jamal Adams returns, he doesn’t miss another game and gets back to what he does best: wreaking havoc all around the line of scrimmage. If everything goes right, Woolen and Witherspoon are lockdown corners funnelling passes to spots where Diggs, Love, and even Brooks are able to make plays. If everything goes right, JSN catches 80 balls and converts countless third downs, while opening up Metcalf and Lockett for monster years. If everything goes right, Kenneth Walker resumes his dominance, and Charbonnet is another Rashaad Penny (minus the injuries). If everything goes right, Geno Smith throws for 4,500+ yards, 35+ touchdowns, and never misses a down.

If everything goes right, the Seahawks overtake the 49ers and earn a top two seed as the NFC East bashes itself into smithereens.

Now, you read that and you can’t help but think that’s A LOT you need to go right. But, here’s the fun part: do you need ALL of that to happen to overtake the 49ers? Or can we get some percentage of that and still get the job done? I think it’s definitely possible. It won’t be easy, but it’s never been easy with this Seahawks team, even when they were going to Super Bowls.

Taking out injuries, the worst case scenario is that the O-line is as wishy-washy as it was last year, with none of our young guys stepping up and dominating. Mafe and Hall aren’t legitimate NFL pass rushers. Adams gets hurt on his first play back (because you can’t “take out injuries” when you talk about Adams; it’s his primary flaw). Wagner and Reed are washed up. Jones suffers under the weight of constant double-teams. Diggs loses a step, Love isn’t as great as he’s cracked up to be, and Witherspoon – having lost so much of his training camp and pre-season to injuries – takes a full year to get up to NFL speed. JSN is under-utilized (or worse, poorly-utilized by way of bubble screens and whatnot), our running backs are stuffed behind a line that can’t block, and Geno Smith regresses back to his old ways of taking too many sacks and turning the ball over too much. In that scenario, we’re probably a 7-8 win team and not making the playoffs.

The baseline for this team is 7-8 wins, because there’s simply too much talent for it ALL to go tits up.

The zenith for this team is 12-13 wins, because that talent reaches its full potential.

When I think of the great Seahawks teams – as well as the great teams we’ve seen in the NFC recently – I think of savage lines. The L.O.B. had it, the 49ers, Eagles, and Cowboys have them, and usually it’s those teams you see succeeding in January. But, there’s other ways to succeed. The Seahawks need to tap into that. Tap into its secondary. Tap into an elite passing attack. Tap into a pass rush that might be criminally underrated. Kill teams with speed, rather than simply bash them with brute force. It’s that speed, I think, if administered properly, that could start a new wave of dominance in the NFL. Pete Carroll is always changing, always adapting, and always forging new ways to win. I have every reason to believe this team could be on the cutting edge. Fly to the ball on defense, and utilize a mix of run and pass on offense that most teams can only dream of. We’re not pass-wacky like the Chiefs and Bills; we’re not overly run-dependant like the Ravens and Eagles. We’re equal parts awesome, and that could very well take us a long way.

This takes us back to our schedule. If injury luck is of utmost importance in the NFL, schedule luck is a close second. The Eagles last year were fortunate to have one of the easiest schedules in the league; they cruised to a number one seed and a spot in the Super Bowl. How is our schedule shaking out?

Well, the Rams and Cardinals look to be awful, so that’s a nice 4-game start. The Lions just got done looking great against the Chiefs last night – and their fans will surely be fired up for their home opener in week 2 – but that’s not a team that’s unbeatable. The Panthers look legitimately terrible (and we’re catching them early, before they have a chance to gel behind their number one overall draft pick), and I think the Giants are ripe for regression after a similar-to-the-Seahawks unexpected run of competence in 2022. The Browns, Ravens, and Guardians are all very suspect, and I like the Titans, but they could very well be toast. That’s 11 games where the Seahawks should at the very least be in it. Add the Steelers to that list, because we don’t know if they’re going to be competent on offense.

The tough-looking games are against the 49ers, Bengals, Cowboys, and Eagles. I mean, as I see it now. Anything could happen with any of these teams. If we can go 10-2 against the beatable teams, and 2-3 against the very good teams, that’s 12-5, and that’s probably good enough for a top 2 seed in the NFC. Even if we go 8-4 against the beatable teams, but find a way to go 3-2 against the good ones, that’s an impressive 11-6. That’s a team you can take into the playoffs and probably play in a home game.

So, that’s where I’m leaning. 11-12 wins and either the 2-seed, or a very dangerous 5-seed.

What’s fun is that the Seahawks have always been interesting, dating back to Russell Wilson’s first year. But, they were less fun in his last years here. Every time, we had to talk ourselves into a wild card team that hopefully could go on a deep playoff run on the back of our superstar QB. This time, I don’t think anyone’s putting that kind of pressure on Geno, so this could be one of those rare Seahawks teams that doesn’t NEED to have home field advantage throughout to go all the way. They’re totally balanced. They can get input from a myriad of sources. And that makes us the most dangerous team of all, because you can’t focus (and stop) any one thing and expect to beat us. Cut off one head, and others will pop up in its place.

We’re the fucking Hydra of the NFL, and we’re here to infiltrate your puny democracy!

Let’s Talk About The Seahawks’ 53-Man Roster 2023

The Seahawks cut their roster down to 53 players yesterday, following the end of the pre-season. That’s always mildly interesting to talk about, right?

We should probably get the big caveat out of the way now: this isn’t the be-all, end-all of the Seahawks roster. As early as later today, we should start seeing changes. Guys hitting the IR (because if they went on the IR prior to roster cutdown, they’d be lost for the season; whereas after, they only miss a few games), guys getting cut for other players we claim off of waivers or whatnot, possible trades for back-end draft picks/roster spots. Mildly interesting. Let’s get to it.

Quarterback

  • Geno Smith
  • Drew Lock

High floor, medium ceiling. There are certainly worse backups to have than Lock, but you can argue there are plenty of better starters than Geno. We’ll see, though. I would argue Geno’s in that 10-15 range among NFL quarterbacks; for him to take it to a higher level, he’s going to need improved offensive line play.

Running Back

  • Kenneth Walker
  • Zach Charbonnet
  • DeeJay Dallas
  • Kenny McIntosh

Strong group, if they can stay healthy. I get the feeling Walker is being criminally overlooked, and I’m not sure I totally understand why. He’s got big play potential, he’s shifty, he can break tackles, he has a nose for the endzone, he’s not bad with his hands; he seems like the whole package. Yet, we draft Charbonnet in the second round, and everyone’s already On To The Next. I’m not sold on Charbonnet; I think he’s a solid #2, but I don’t know if he’s necessarily a starting-calibre, workhorse-type back. Dallas is the perfect #3/passing down back, good blocker, great hands, good route runner. McIntosh – if he isn’t already placed on the IR – figures to be inactive until the need arises for him to be called up.

Wide Receiver

  • D.K. Metcalf
  • Tyler Lockett
  • Jaxon Smith-Njigba
  • Jake Bobo
  • Cody Thompson
  • Dareke Young

Elite! I think Smith-Njigba – right now – would be the very best receiver on a good number of teams, and at worse most teams’ #2. That’s as a rookie, and WITH the broken wrist! The fact that he’s our #3? It’s crazy. Also, count me in on the Bobo Hype Train 100%! All four of these guys are so different, so skilled, and bring something unique to the table, it’s going to be impossible for someone to not be open on every play. The last two guys are special teamers and/or injured, so we’ll see how that shakes out in the coming hours/days.

Tight End

  • Noah Fant
  • Will Dissly
  • Colby Parkinson

How cool is this? Two home grown guys on reasonable contracts, building their way up in this league, in this system. And Noah Fant – the big player prize in the Russell Wilson deal – who might get overlooked more than anyone on this team. Just solid studs who are good-to-great blockers, and valuable contributors in the receiving game. This is my ideal tight end room; lots of talent, with not a lot of dollars spent. Just some grinders putting in the work.

Offensive Line

  • Charles Cross (LT)
  • Damien Lewis (LG)
  • Evan Brown (C)
  • Phil Haynes (RG)
  • Abe Lucas (RT)
  • Stone Forsythe (T)
  • Jake Curhan (G/T)
  • Olu Oluwatimi (C)
  • Anthony Bradford (G)

Also, probably my ideal offensive line group. Everyone except for Brown is a homegrown guy, and he’s kind of a solid, cheap free agent center. We have the bookend tackles with the potential to be great in the years ahead, solid guards on the last year of their respective deals (so you know they’re looking to show out and get paid), and the two rookies who are ready to start pushing for playing time as early as this season. There are definitely questions about how good this group is right now, but I’m hopeful we’ll see some growth if not this year, then in the years ahead. Just, you know, let’s not see any injuries on the outside if we can avoid it.

Defensive Line

  • Dre’Mont Jones
  • Jarran Reed
  • Mario Edwards
  • Mike Morris
  • Myles Adams
  • Cameron Young

This, uhh, looks less than impressive when you list them all together. We’re REALLY relying on Jones and Reed to carry the mail in this group. Edwards is just a guy. Adams is just a guy. Morris and Young are both rookies, but also injured I think? I don’t know WHAT we’re getting from this group, but it doesn’t look amazing. I, for one, can’t wait for Bryan Mone to come back.

Outside Linebacker

  • Uchenna Nwosu
  • Darrell Taylor
  • Boye Mafe
  • Derick Hall
  • Tyreke Smith

This feels a little more impressive, but also maybe a little top-heavy. We know what we’ve got with Nwosu. We think we know what we’ve got with Taylor. The rest still have to prove it on the football field, in regular season games, against opposing #1 offenses. Now, I think we’re all very high on Mafe and Hall, based on their bodies and what we’ve heard said about them in training camp and what we’ve seen in pre-season games. But, we all know how that goes. Whatever happened to Alton Robinson and Nick Reed?

Inside Linebacker

  • Bobby Wagner
  • Jordyn Brooks
  • Devin Bush
  • Jon Rhattigan

This looks 1,000% better with Brooks back and playing. Is he fully healthy? We’ll find out. But, that takes pressure off of Bush to be superman, and that relieves all of us of watching Rhattigan make ankle tackles all game long. None of these units I’ve listed on the defensive side of the ball – by themselves – look all that great. But, with Bobby Wagner’s leadership and ability, he might be the glue that holds everything together and wills this group to great things. It’s our only hope, if I’m being honest!

Safety

  • Quandre Diggs
  • Julian Love
  • Jamal Adams
  • Jerrick Reed
  • Coby Bryant

Lots of versatility in this group; might be the most versatile we’ve ever seen. Adams figures to play more linebacker than actual safety. Bryant has shown an adeptness at both safety and nickel corner. I get the feeling that Love can play down in the box, but also isn’t a slouch in coverage. And Reed looked MIGHTY impressive in the pre-season; I’m happy with this group as a whole.

Cornerback

  • Riq Woolen
  • Devon Witherspoon
  • Michael Jackson
  • Tre Brown
  • Artie Burns

Pound for pound, maybe the most talented group on the team. Still, I can’t help but question Jackson’s level of play in the last two pre-season games. I thought Tre Brown looked much flashier, with bigger play potential. And you could do A LOT worse than either Burns or Bryant as your fifth corner. Teams have to be jealous of this unit.

Special Teams

  • Michael Dickson (P)
  • Jason Myers (K)
  • Chris Stoll (LS)
  • Nick Bellore

I’m tired of listing Bellore as a linebacker; he’s just a special teamer! He sure as shit isn’t a fullback; we never use one! Stoll is an undrafted rookie, so we’ll see how long he lasts. Otherwise, good group, solid all around.