Not Winners & Losers Of The Seahawks’ First Pre-Season Game 2018

Winners & Losers posts are fucking played out, so fuck it, I’m doing something different (that’s really sort of the same, but whatever).

Last night, the Seahawks played in their first pre-season game of the year and lost to the Colts 19-17.  The game was efficiently played through the first half, we saw a ton of different guys get out there and mix it up, and then the second half was a slog of mistakes, penalties, and absolute tom-fuckery that ended with a 3rd & 1 play just before the 2-minute warning.  The Seahawks used their final time out in an attempt to get the ball back for a come-from-behind opportunity.  The Colts ran the ball up the middle, Delano Hill (I believe) had a chance to stuff the running back for no gain, but he ultimately missed the tackle, leading to an Indy first down and a victory formation coming out of the 2-minute break.  So, let’s get to the premise of this post.

What I’m Geeked Out About After One Meaningless Pre-Season Game

Okay, so first of all, caveats galore:  it’s pre-season, it’s the first game of the pre-season, it’s against an Indy defense that probably isn’t all that good and probably wasn’t playing all their best players and probably wasn’t running anything but a vanilla scheme.

That having been said, I’m pretty fucking geeked out about the Seahawks’ #1 offense.  All of it!  Russell Wilson was on point!  The running game looked strong!  The offensive line gave Wilson all day to throw and opened up huge holes!  Receivers and tight ends got open!  The offense was crisp and efficient and was even able to overcome a penalty or two!  It culminated in a touchdown pass to Nick Vannett and the major players were done for the night.

Why am I so geeked out about all this, with all those caveats I mentioned?  Because this is what’s SUPPOSED to happen.  This is how your #1 offense is SUPPOSED to look against the dregs of the league in the first pre-season game of the year.  And yet, all too often in years past, under Darrell Bevell & Co., it’s been a fucking SLOG!  Much like in regular season games, this offense tended to take a while to get going even in the pre-season.  So, it was FUCKING refreshing to finally see these guys come out right away and ram it down the other team’s throat.

As always:  Fuck You Very Much Darrell Bevell & Tom Cable.

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

Even though Vannett had a drop (that, on replay, might’ve been a tad thrown behind him, but still, something you should catch), I liked what he brought to the table.  Any sort of production we get from the tight ends should be gravy (so long as they’re doing their jobs blocking), but if he can be a real weapon offensively, that’d be HUGE for our passing game.

There was a nice catch by Stringfellow and a couple good catches by Moore for the back-end of the receiving corps.  All in all, I thought our targets looked good.

Rasheem Green is probably the talk of the day defensively.  This pass rush looks as pathetic as I’ve ever seen it, and I’m sure he did most of his damage against backups, but nevertheless even THIS was more than I was expecting out of Green as a rookie.  I kinda expected him to look lost and overwhelmed even in the pre-season, so to see him really stand out as the best pass rusher on this team last night is an encouraging sign for his first season in the league.

Also promising:  Shaquem Griffin.  He didn’t make every single play, but boy was he all over the place!  He led the game with 9 tackles and had a tackle for loss mixed in as well.

I thought Akeem King really showed out in getting some extended playing time.  He had a nice pass breakup, showed some really good coverage overall, and even though he had that helmet penalty on special teams, I really don’t think it was totally his fault!  You could see on replay, he tried moving his head out of the way and leading with his shoulder, but the offensive guy lowered HIS head and yet it’s the defensive guy’s fault.  I think that’s a collosal load of bullshit and something the NFL really needs to adjust.  I’m with you 100% when it comes to getting rid of helmet-to-helmet hits and avoiding hitting guys in the head overall, but when it’s the offensive guy putting himself in harm’s way, I mean, how is the defender supposed to avoid it?  We’re teaching all these defensive guys to see the play and keep his head up and all of that; why aren’t we teaching the offensive guys the same thing?  I feel like a high percentage of these hits are the fault of the offense, and no one’s doing a damn thing about it.

Let’s Talk About Competitions

You know I love me a good punter competition!  Of course, the main downside is that you’ve got to see the incumbent half the time (to keep up appearances, I suppose) and give him the first opportunity (because he is the veteran and whatnot).  The other big downside is that you kind of have to root for your offense to totally suck, which obviously makes for boring football to watch.

I thought, you know, Jon Ryan was fine.  I wish him well and I hope another team snaps him up and he punts in this league for many more years to come.  But, I’m ready to just hand the keys over to Michael Dickson right now, because he was phenomenal!  He’s got that ball BOOMING and it doesn’t even look like he’s trying all that hard!  I feel like he could punt it the entire length of the football field, and at some point, when we’re backed way up in our own endzone, I want to see him unleash a furious hellscape of a punt that makes us all simultaneously cream in our pants.

As for the kickers, way too early to tell.  I want this battle to go to the bitter end.  Janikowski made both of his extra points; Myers made his 43-yard field goal.

Finally, I’m just going to bypass all the more interesting competitions (I thought all the RBs looked good, except of course for C.J. Prosise who – SUR-PRISE SUR-PRISE SUR-PRISE – missed the game with an injury) and talk about the backup QBs.  Austin Davis is almost certainly going to win that #2 job, and he moved the ball pretty well on his first drive of the game, but GOD DAMN did that interception in the endzone leave a bitter taste in my mouth.  I was thrilled to see him on the sidelines coming out of halftime.

As for Alex McGough, he was definitely Captain Checkdown, but what do you expect from a 7th round QB playing in his first NFL game?  I thought the backup offensive line did him no favors.  He showed good mobility, but all too often I found myself SCREAMING at him, “THROW IT AWAY!”  He ultimately took two too many sacks when he had clear opportunities to throw it out of bounds and live to fight another day, and that’s ultimately on him.

He also had that one scramble play that went for a HUGE gain to Stringfellow (who was erroneously flagged for offensive PI – which, I guess you have to say it was pre-season for the refs too, because they looked pretty bad on occasion), which goes to show you this kid has moxie and a lot of potential to be maybe a Doug Flutie type of player.  I still think Davis has the clear lead, but I’m not TOTALLY going to write off Mr. McGough.

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

I was disappointed in something I thought would be a strength for this team:  its depth.  Coming out of the draft, I thought – even though our top-flight talent wasn’t what it was in this team’s prime – we at least had much better guys on this roster from players 54-90.  But, that proved to be wishful thinking on my part.

Obviously, a number of starters were out injured (notably Frank Clark, Dion Jordan, Byron Maxwell, and Doug Baldwin), but I pegged this as a team that would dominate the 4th quarters of pre-season games (i.e. our third stringers are better than your third stringers), and that just wasn’t the case last night.

I thought the pass defense was a little lacking, for good reason.  Tre Flowers was the starter opposite Shaquill Griffin, and he had predictable rookie mistakes.  He showed some promise, but he was also getting picked on pretty regularly.  The good thing is, he’ll likely have ample opportunities to grow through some of these pains the next three weeks.

I saw a ball get completed in front of Shaquill Griffin that I can guarantee you Richard Sherman (if healthy) would’ve broken up.  Look, right or wrong, I’m going to be comparing every play that goes his way to Sherm in his prime; I’m sorry, that’s just what happens when you replace a legend.  What’s His Name had to replace Dan Marino when he retired, and look at where he is now!  (forgotten).  Other than that one catch, I thought Griffin looked fine, but it’s something I’m going to monitor very closely.

I thought our linebackers looked pretty terrible in that first quarter, as you saw the Colts throwing to WIDE OPEN running backs on the regular.  K.J. Wright got beat, Bobby Wagner got beat; guys looked like they were out of position; and quite frankly guys looked like they were ill-prepared for a quarterback coming off of a year-plus out of football for a shoulder injury.  I mean, what did you expect?  Andrew Luck to sling the ball 50 yards down field?  OF COURSE he was going to throw quick, short passes!  We should’ve been on top of that.

I also didn’t love what I saw out of Austin Calitro, backing up Bobby Wagner, but you know, he’s an undrafted rookie playing behind an All Pro, so I won’t get my panties all in a wad.  He has a long way to go; I just pray to the high heavens that Wagner never gets injured.

As I predicted, this team kind of got pushed around on 3rd/4th downs early in the game.  The Colts were ultimately held to field goals most of the time, but nevertheless they were able to put up some pretty sustained drives throughout (especially their starters).  Need to find a way to get off the field.

The backup O-Line looked as miserable as I remember from the last three years.  While the starters looked GREAT, the backups leave a lot to be desired.  It also doesn’t help that our two backup right tackles – Jamarco Jones and Isaiah Battle – left the game with some serious-looking injuries.  One to the knee, one looking to be a high ankle sprain.  These were the two guys pushing Germain Ifedi for that starting right tackle spot, so this is probably the worst news of the night.  Ifedi might be better than he was last year, but I still don’t like the idea of him winning the job by default.

Pre-Pre-Season Preview: Seahawks Run Defense

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

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

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

Defensive Tackles

Strong group here, in my estimation, in spite of the fact that Malik McDowell is a non-entity.  Got a couple young, up-and-comers with Jarran Reed and Naz Jones; got a couple of stout veterans with Tom Johson and Shamar Stephen.  Got a guy who knows the system in Quinton Jefferson, who’s a 3rd year guy and is at a point where it’s sort of now or never for him to really break out.  And, we’ve got a very intriguing guy in Poona Ford, an undrafted rookie who was nevertheless considered one of the better run-stuffing nose tackles in the draft (too bad it’s just a position that’s becoming increasingly devalued in today’s NFL).

Out of all these guys, I think Naz Jones has the potential to be the most complete DT we’ve had in a long time.  He just needs to stay healthy.  I think Reed is already a guy you can depend upon to be a nice run-clogging force in the middle, so nothing to worry about there.  Tom Johnson might be here more for his interior pass rush, but he’s been around forever and isn’t going to be a slouch in the run game.

I thought the Seahawks took a little bit of a step back last year in run defense for a variety of reasons, but injuries along the interior certainly seemed to play the biggest role.  Beefing up the depth the way we have is a surefire way to snap right back on track.  I give this group a solid A-.

Defensive Ends

As I talked about yesterday, there’s just not a lot here.  Losing Michael Bennett – your best all-around defensive lineman – is certainly going to hamper things.  Now, he’s getting up there in age, so at some point this was bound to happen.  We’re just going to have to weather this storm until we can upgrade this position in 2019.

I like Frank Clark’s run defense, but I don’t know if I love it.  I think he’ll be fine, but again, we’ve never seen him as this team’s top dog, so will he rise to the challenge or will he fade?  My hunch is he’s looking for a massive contract, so he better not sleep on this part of his game.  That having been said, the best way to get paid as a defensive end in the NFL is to rack up those sacks, so who knows?

I like Dion Jordan, but again, will he be healthy?  Beyond him, I don’t know what to tell you.  As I mentioned yesterday, it would probably behoove this team to run some of the defensive tackles out there in the 5-Tech spot like when Red Bryant was here.  It might hamper the pass rush, but as I talked about before, I don’t think there’s gonna be much there regardless.

I give this group a B-.

Linebackers

I know, with the Seahawks it’s really a team effort, and there will be secondary input with run defense, but with the loss of Kam, Richard and Earl for however long Earl is gone, that unit has gone from an A to an F.

What’s going to save the run defense is continued master-class effort out of guys like Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright.  If those guys don’t lose a step, we should be just fine.  But, even though they’re great, they still need the guys ahead of them to do their jobs.  That means the DTs have to stay healthy, and the DEs have to stay assignment-sound.  It won’t be for lack of effort, or lack of want-to out of the linebacker room, I’ll tell you that!

At the SAM, the athleticism of Barkevious Mingo should keep him solidly in the mix.  And, Shaquem Griffin could be a huge boost as well in various sub-packages.

This group gets an A+.

Overall, I like the run defense on this team.  I don’t think there’ll be nearly as many lapses like there were last year.  If 2017 was a B, I think we move up to an A- in 2018.

Pre-Pre-Season Preview: Seahawks Pass Rush

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

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

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

Defensive Ends

This is where things start looking a little dicey.  I can’t say that I’m totally in love with the crop of DE’s we’ve got heading into camp.  Obviously, for starters, we’re down our two best defensive ends from a year ago in Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril.  Instead, our top guy appears to be Frank Clark, who has been a fine complementary player, but has never really blown up into a Pro Bowl-type dude and I honestly don’t know if he ever will.  I mean, he’s got talent, but if he can’t break out when other teams are focused on the more-accomplished pass rushers we had, why should I expect him to break out now that he’s the number one guy?

I think getting around 10 sacks is pretty much his deal, and that’s fine, but it’s a long way away from those high-impact, 20-sack-type guys you always hear about.  And, unfortunately for the Seahawks, the drop-off is pretty steep from there.

Dion Jordan was a wonderful story from a year ago, as a guy coming back from injury and a lot of boneheadedness that saw him out of football entirely for a spell.  As a fourth or fifth pass rusher last year – in VERY limited duty – Jordan had 4 sacks and a good number of pressures.  The thought was, in a contract year, maybe we could give him a bigger role and hope the former #3 overall pick would grow into it.  But, he was out injured for all of OTAs and apparently had some sort of clean-up surgery on his knee.  Frankly, I don’t know if he can be counted upon for more than half a season (and even that might be pushing it).  Regardless, with his injury concerns, he’s not a long term solution.

After those guys, I mean … who do you got?  Rookie 3rd rounder Rasheem Green is a prospect, but I would be SHOCKED if he made any sort of an impact in his first year.  The lack of depth on this roster makes Marcus Smith a virtual lock to make the team.  This will be Smith’s 4th year in an NFL career whose season high in sacks is 2.5.  Also, Branden Jackson is a person who exists.

I’m telling you, that’s it for DE’s on this roster.  There are many more DT’s from which to choose – and I imagine we’re going to have to play a number of them on the end of our line (maybe as a 5-Tech, a la Red Bryant back in the day) – but none of these guys appear to be worth a damn from a pass rush perspective.  We could see nominal improvement out of Jarran Reed, and I wouldn’t be shocked if Naz Jones is among the leaders on this roster in sacks, but it’s all pretty unpleasant to think about.

For what it’s worth, I think there’s a lot to like about our run defense, but I’ll get into that more tomorrow.  For our pass-rushing DE’s, I give this team a D.

Linebackers

There’s good talent here from a pass rush perspective, but I don’t believe the Seahawks utilize their linebackers nearly enough, which downgrades this group accordingly.  I’d actually like to see them blitz more, but we’re talking about a conservative coaching staff who wants to eliminate the run game and the big plays through the air.

Bobby Wagner is a guy who can do it all.  He’s either #1 or #2 among middle linebackers in the entire NFL, and when he does rush the passer he generally wreaks a lot of havoc.  That said, he averages less than 3 sacks a year, which leads me to believe we’re not sending him after the QB enough.  I’d like to see that number increase, but obviously the organization feels differently, so what can you do?  For what it’s worth, I’d like to see K.J. Wright blitz more as well, but he’s even more important to our pass defense, so I’m more understanding of him not being as involved.  But, when you’ve got a guy like Wright out there in pass coverage, I feel like that should allow Wagner more opportunities than he gets to head into the backfield.

Barkevious Mingo is a former top 10 draft pick who’s been a huge bust in his first five years, so I don’t see why that should change now.  He’s slated to be this team’s SAM linebacker and will probably get the lion’s share of the opportunities from this group to rush the passer (particularly in obvious passing situations, with our famed NASCAR package).  His season high in sacks is 5 (he had 2 seasons with a whopping 0 sacks), so really, how much can you expect?

I’d hope we’ll see an unknown phenom spring from out of nowhere to supplant Mingo at that spot, and maybe Shaquem Griffin will be the man.  But, he’s another rookie, and I think the team probably sees him more as a WILL linebacker in the K.J. Wright mold.  Nevertheless, I’d think he’ll get a few opportunities to rush the passer in pre-season, so let’s hope he makes the most of them.

My grade for his group is a D+; it would be higher if the team actually blitzed more, but I just don’t see that happening.

In fact, with all the changes to our secondary (combined with the likely holding out of Earl Thomas), it wouldn’t shock me to see even less blitzing out of our linebackers than we saw before, with the defense sending even more guys out into coverage to help compensate for the losses of the original L.O.B. members.  If that’s the case, and we’re left with a 4-man rush trying to get the job done, I see this as being a flat out F.

That doesn’t totally derail our season – as I do see a lot of potential out of our run and pass defense – but if there’s one reason above all else as to why the Seahawks are destined to be an 8-8 team, the lack of pass rush will be at the top of the list.  Look at all the offenses we’ll have to face:  Denver, Dallas, both L.A. teams, Oakland, Detroit, Green Bay, Carolina, San Fran, Minnesota, Kansas City; hell, even Chicago and Arizona could be formidable if given all day to throw!

We can see all the improvement we want out of our run defense and pass defense, but without a pass rush, we’re destined to see A LOT of drives extended on third down.  At which point, it won’t matter, because we’ll be crushed in time of possession and the defense as a whole will be exhausted by the fourth quarters of these games.

I tend to be wrong on this blog more than I’m right, and I’ve never hoped to be as wrong as I am about this part of the Seahawks.  But, if I am right, it’s going to be a LONG season.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yawn: The Seahawks Signed Barkevious Mingo

2 years, $6.8 million, $3.2 million guaranteed.

Yeah, I don’t know what to make of this.  Mingo is a bust who likely will play some strong-side linebacker as well as rush the passer off the edge.  His career sack numbers have been pretty pathetic for a guy drafted so high in the first round in 2013.  Zero expectations here.

In other news, Paul Richardson got a huge deal with the Redskins, DeShawn Shead got a less huge deal with the Lions, Jimmy Graham got a medium deal with the Packers (who had to let Jordy Nelson go to make room), and a bunch of other players were either tendered or non-tendered.  A couple of big names coming back are Dion Jordan and Justin Coleman, so that’s cool I guess.

Not a lot of big moves in free agency for the Seahawks, except for all the people leaving.  To be expected.  I said it before and I’ll say it again:  I want the Seahawks to be as inactive in free agency as possible this year.  Particularly when it comes to veteran running backs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seahawks Death Week: No Post-Season For The First Time Since 2011

I don’t know if there’s any point in rehashing this one too in depth, so let’s blow through it really quick:  the Seahawks lost at home to the Arizona Cardinals.  Led by Drew Stanton and his slightly torn ACL (that still left him spry enough to repeatedly run away from Michael Bennett in the open field), the Cards racked up 259 yards en route to a 26-24 victory.  Of course, the most mind-boggling thing was their 20-7 halftime lead, but at this point should it even be all that mind-boggling anymore?  We suck early in games, period.  That only made the inevitable second half comeback all the more painful in the end, as Blair Walsh sailed yet another field goal wide of its target in the closing seconds of the game.

Of course, by that point, it was known that the Panthers – behind garbage-ass Cam Newton’s 3 interceptions – lost to the Falcons, blowing their opportunity to win their division in the process (because, against all odds, the Bucs actually managed to beat the Saints).  So, it didn’t really matter what Blair Walsh did, and missing that kick actually made things better for the Seahawks, not just in dropping our draft pick from 20 to 18, but ensuring that there’s no fucking way this front office loses its collective minds and opts to re-sign that good-for-nothing piece of shit kicker.  21 of 29, for the worst season percentage of his career.  3 of those misses were under 40 yards (not counting the extra point he also missed), and 0 of those makes were 50 yards or more.  Ostensibly, we brought Walsh in here to be a cheaper alternative to Steven Hauschka, but we also brought him in here because of his big leg.  Once it was determined that he couldn’t be trusted, he finished the season with just 1 attempt over 50 yards, so obviously that was a huge embarrassing failure of a signing.

But, you can’t blame the fact that the Seahawks missed out on the playoffs on a terrible kicker like Blair Walsh (though, you can certainly trace at least a couple of these close losses to his missed field goals).  There’s plenty of blame to go around for why the Seahawks finished 9-7 and outside of the playoffs.  We’ll get into more of that as Seahawks Death Week goes on.

Before we get to that, a few notes on this final game of the season:

Tyler Lockett looked amazing, particularly on his kickoff return for a TD.  He’s slowly but surely returning to form after his devastating injury; I would expect great things from him in 2018.

I hope the Seahawks can bring Byron Maxwell back on the cheap.  He’d be a nice depth piece to have behind Sherm and Griffin.  I would also hope DeShawn Shead can return, but I think that’s less likely.  He’s probably looking for more of a starting role, and if he shows out in workouts, could very well command a salary this team has no business matching.  Besides, Justin Coleman appears to have that slot corner position on lockdown, so there isn’t a lot of room for more DBs (assuming, of course, that the team goes out in the draft and picks up another one).

I would absolutely love it for Dion Jordan to stay on.  I’ll get to where he should play in the coming days (hint:  so long, Michael Bennett), but I thought he was clearly the best defensive lineman on the field for the Seahawks in the last couple weeks, and it would’ve been nice to see him at least get more than 50% of the defensive snaps.

I’m less high on Sheldon Richardson returning, but I’d consider it for a couple reasons:  I don’t want the Seahawks to waste their time on high-priced free agents from other teams (mostly because I want some good compensatory draft picks for 2019).  While he would certainly figure in that equation if he walked away, I just don’t know who you could bring in to fill that spot, unless you’re sure Malik McDowell can come back from whatever stole his rookie season from him.  I have my doubts there.  Obviously, though, if Richardson is looking for Ndamukong Suh-type money, then let him walk.  But, if he can be had at the right price, with an out after 2-3 years, I say jump on it!

Okay, so I’m jumping on some of my future posts, so I’ll wrap it up with this:  I think the Seahawks need a lot of work in their receiver corps.  Baldwin is a stud, Lockett is criminally under-utilized, but as for the rest … yeesh.

Why I’m Dreading This Seahawks/Jaguars Game

There’s a lot riding on this game.  Frankly, there’s a lot riding on ALL of the remaining games on the schedule, thanks to a couple of bumbling home losses to the Redskins and Falcons.  The Seahawks are a game back of the Rams, and if they want to hold out any hope of winning the division – or even a remote hope of getting a top 2 seed, which is highly unlikely, but still – they almost certainly need to run the table.  Winning out at home is a must, and is very do-able (so long as the Seahawks don’t lose any more key starters to injury), and that road game against the Cowboys doesn’t look nearly as imposing as it did before the season.  But, here, this week, against the Jags, is where I’m most afraid.

I don’t need to tell you that the Jags have the best defense in the league.  Their secondary is second to none, and their D-Line is as ferocious as any in football.  They lead the league in fewest total yards allowed, passing yards allowed, and total points allowed.  By a pretty considerable margin, I might add!  They lead the league in sacks, are tied for second in interceptions, are tied for fourth in forced fumbles, and tied for first in fumble recoveries, as well as lead the league in turnovers returned for touchdowns.

In other words, they lead all of football in just about every important defensive statistic.  Where they’re middle-of-the-road is in rush defense, which just so happens to be the area of the Seahawks offense where they struggle the most.  Yay.

I’ll say this, apropos of nothing:  the Seahawks picked the worst possible week to have their most significant victory of the season.  Coming off a game where they thoroughly destroyed the best team in football, you just know the Seahawks will have spent this week sniffing their own farts and reading their own press clippings, to the detriment of the on-field product this Sunday.  Sure, the Jacksonville defense will have something to say about it, but when the Seahawks’ offense comes out flat and we’re all mashing our respective Twitter keyboards in frustration, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The problem is, a loss like the one I’m predicting this Sunday is often seen as a “wake-up call” for a good team.  Better to get that unexpected defeat out of the way now, before the playoffs, when that type of performance will end your season.  But, here’s the thing:  the Seahawks don’t NEED any more wake-up calls!  They’ve had 4 already this year!  The next wake-up call will send us hurtling to a Wild Card spot, and the wake-up call after that will keep us out of the playoffs entirely.  WE’RE AWAKE!  And, if you don’t see this Jaguars team for what it is – a real, legitimate threat to your 2017 season – then you might as well go the fuck back to bed.

To spin it another way, though, it’s not like all hope is lost.  The Seahawks CAN win this game, but they have to tread lightly.  The Rams and Cardinals both put 27 on them; the Titans earlier this season put up 37.  The Jags’ defense isn’t infallible.  But, I don’t think we can afford a slow start and a big 2-score early deficit.

Thankfully, the Jacksonville offense is absolutely nothing to write home about.  Led by Blake “The Bort” Bortles, we’re talking about a 4-year pro who is just the worst, most bustiest bust who is somehow still starting for an NFL team and not a car dealership’s sales team.  They’ve effectively chopped his balls off this season, which is absolutely the correct call, in making this a run-first, run-second, and run-third offense.  The beneficiary of that move is rookie Leonard Fournette, who started his career absolutely on fire, in looking like Ezekiel Elliott 2.0 through six weeks.  But, then an ankle injury and a suspension set him back.  Over his last four games, he’s averaged only 2.94 yards per carry, with just the 1 rushing touchdown (after 6 in the first 6 weeks).  He’s coming into a game against the Seahawks, who are 7th in the league in rush defense.  So, it’s appropriate to believe we should be able to hold their ground game in check.

And, if we can do that, we should have no trouble whatsoever in holding The Bort in check, L.O.B. or no L.O.B.

So, ultimately, the question is:  can the offense go out there and do its job?

That doesn’t necessarily mean we need Mike Davis to rip off 100+ yards, or Russell Wilson to go out there and continue his MVP pace.  I’m not asking for the moon and the stars here!  How about:

  • Can Russell Wilson avoid turnovers?
  • Can the O-Line avoid free rushers at the quarterback?
  • Can our receivers and running backs hold onto the football?
  • Can we all limit our penalties?

The way to lose this game is to cough up the ball and put our defense on its heels with short fields.  I don’t expect the Jags to score a bunch of touchdowns or have a bunch of lengthy, ball-control drives.  But, they might have one or two.  So, I wouldn’t expect to hold them to single-digits (if we do, our odds of winning this game goes up tenfold).  But, if we give them those short fields, I don’t think it’s out of the question for the Jags to score 20+ points, in which case it’s going to be VERY difficult for the Seahawks to win this game.

I don’t expect the Seahawks to look very good on third down.  Likewise, I don’t expect to see a lot of big plays out of our offense.  It’s not hopeless, but it’s going to mean taking advantage of our limited opportunities.  Touchdowns instead of field goals.  Hitting long field goals instead of punting, or worse.

If the Seahawks are going to win this one, it’s going to have to be in that 20-17 range, and it’s likely going to require a last-minute drive for go-ahead points.  There is a universe where I can imagine that happening.

But, there are also plenty of other universes out there, where I see the Seahawks losing 15-9, or 16-6, or 10-9, or 11-8, or 23-12.  In those games, I see Russell Wilson getting sacked 6 times and suffering a safety.  I see a couple fumbles and a pick.  I see the Jags moving the ball at will early in the game and the defense needing to adjust on the fly.  I see Fournette – against all rational thought – having a monster game and making the likes of Earl Thomas and Bobby Wagner look foolish on his cutbacks.  And, I see that Jags defense dancing on our grave.

Look, I want to be there with you guys.  I want to BELIEVE!  I want to cast off the shackles of this Haterade I’ve been drinking and sail the Good Ship 12 into the Harbor of Positivity, but as a Seattle sports fan, I’ve been beaten to a pulp over the years.  Granted, a lot of that was from the Mariners, who continually get my hopes up, only to pull the rug out from under me, but the Seahawks of the last couple seasons have played their part.

I will say this, if you allow me to put on the rose-colored glasses:

The offensive line is as good as it’s been since 2013/2014.  That’s not hyperbole.  With Duane Brown healthy and getting healthier by the week, we’ve already seen the dividends being paid.  With Luke Joeckel healthy and getting healthier by the week, the left side of that line is terrific!  With Ethan Pocic taking over for the revolving door of Mark Glowinski/Oday Aboushi, the right guard spot is no longer a total bust.  And, as he continues to get more comfortable at the right tackle spot, I no longer find myself cursing the name Germain Ifedi on a play-by-play basis.

In short:  the offensive line IS good.  I’ll say it!  Come at me, brothers and sisters!

It’s going to take a while before they get the credit they’re due, but I’m charging through as conductor of this bandwagon, and there’s plenty of room if you want to come along for the ride!

I’ll also say this:  the depth on this team is what we thought it was.  Heading into the year, after bemoaning our fate vis-a-vis the O-Line, the depth on this team was all I could talk about.  When our 2016 season was so thoroughly derailed by the loss of Earl Thomas, and the thinning of our D-Line, 2017 is going a long way towards subsiding those concerns.

A year ago, the thought of losing Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, AND Cliff Avril would’ve brought about a rash of suicides among the 12’s.  Yet, aside from some tough times against the Falcons, we’ve largely looked okay.  Getting Byron Maxwell back, and watching him play his ass off like he never left, could prove to be the luckiest move of the year.  Having Shaq Griffin grow into a bona fide starter, signing Bradley McDougald as Kam-insurance, Jeremy Lane failing his physical with the Texans, snatching Justin Coleman from the cornerback-starved Patriots (at the time, anyway; they’ve since improved their secondary play as guys got healthier), all of these events – along with the impending return of DeShawn Shead (fingers crossed!) – has helped this secondary not miss much of a beat, and could be critical going forward, as we look to face the likes of the Rams, Vikings, Saints, and Eagles in the playoffs.

Then, there’s the depth along the D-Line.  Sheldon Richardson coming over via trade, Frank Clark taking that next step, Naz Jones coming alive as a rookie, Jarran Reed becoming an every-down monster in the middle, the Dion Jordan flier actually turning into a useful rotation piece, the return of Quinton Jefferson, the production we’ve gotten out of the likes of Branden Jackson and Marcus Smith, on top of the fact that Michael Bennett is an ageless wonder who still thrives on playing just about every single defensive snap against all rational thought.  We’re not only super deep in this all-important area of the football field, but we’re also improving as the season goes along and these guys learn one another’s strengths and tendencies.

Finally, I’ll say this:  Russell Wilson has arrived.  Yes, he’s been great since he came into the league in 2012.  Yes, we would never have reached the heights we reached in 2013 & 2014 without him, and he’s carried this team on his back (particularly late in 2015 when Lynch and Graham were lost with injury).  But, he’s putting it all together now, in 2017, with the running game being what it is and this team NEEDING him to be The Man.  It’s what the all-time greats do, they pick their games up when their teams need them.  This is the difference between Pro Bowl quarterback, All Pro quarterback, and Hall of Fame quarterback.  Russell Wilson is playing like a Hall of Famer in his prime.  All he needs now to make that Hall of Fame a reality is time.  Continue playing like he’s playing for the next 5-8 years, and slowly fade into his 40s, and he’ll be a lock for the golden jacket.

If anybody can lead this team across the country, against a young, hungry defense, and come away victorious, it’s Russell Wilson.  In Russ We Trust.  Time to go out and take care of business.

Are You Not Entertained: Seahawks Flush Season Down The Toilet

The game couldn’t have started off any worse.  First drive:  Atlanta marched right down the field for a touchdown.  The defense got caught by a couple penalties and our shaky secondary got picked on.  Jeremy Lane couldn’t have been more useless last night in proving what a collosal drop-off he is from Richard Sherman.  Of course, it wouldn’t be the Seattle Seahawks without more catastrophic injuries, hence the Shaq Griffin loss on the opening drive.  He was replaced by Byron Maxwell, who did okay, but I really would’ve liked to have seen what Griffin could’ve done in this matchup (and I REALLY would’ve liked to have seen what the defense would’ve looked like with Griffin on one side and Maxwell on the other, with Lane in the Dime package, if on the field at all).

Then, as Tyler Lockett brought back his first of many tremendous kickoff returns out past the 50 yard line, it looked like we’d be in for a barn-burner.  Instead, Russell Wilson threw a mind-boggling interception on 2nd & 1, which led to another easy Atlanta touchdown.  On the back of another quality kickoff return, the Seahawks pulled the game back to within 7 points on yet another nifty touchdown to Jimmy Graham, and after forcing the first of only 3 Atlanta punts, it looked like we’d climb back into this thing.

Not so fast:  another disastrous play by Wilson – this time a sack/fumble – led to a defensive touchdown and a 21-7 Atlanta lead.

The Seahawks and Falcons went back and forth the rest of the half, with Atlanta leading 24-17 with a little over a minute left to go.  The Seahawks got into field goal range almost immediately, and then they did what all shitty teams do:  they settled for that field goal.  EXCEPT NOT SO FAST!  They had a fake all lined up and ready to go, which was killed on Twitter all last night and will continue to be killed in Seattle the rest of this week, but I’m telling you right now:  that fake would’ve worked if it didn’t get blown up by Grady Jarrett, who flew past the long snapper and stopped Luke Willson in the backfield.  You stop that guy, and the Seahawks had that thing blocked all the way to the endzone.  Instead, it’s a missed field goal opportunity (which, when you figure you’ve got Blair Walsh, is at best a 50/50 proposition, from any distance 40 yards or closer), and a reason to point fingers at the coaching staff.

The Seahawks moved the ball all day, at will.  I know there were turnovers and whatnot, but Jon Ryan only punted once all day.  Tyler Lockett racked up 197 yards in kickoff returns alone, and the offense tacked on another 360.  Russell Wilson accounted for 258 yards passing, with another 86 yards rushing, and 3 combined touchdowns.  Of course, he gets dinged for the pick and the fumble leading directly to 14 Atlanta points (pretty important when the Seahawks only lost by 3), but yeah, let’s go ahead and put all of this on the coaches.

The way I see it, there was only one time I was disappointed in Pete Carroll, and that’s when he challenged the Doug Baldwin drop.  I know, he’s Doug Baldwin, and believing he caught the ball inspires more confidence than what your own eyes tell you, but you can’t listen to him in that situation.  You’ve got to trust in your staff who – upon seeing that replay JUST ONCE – should’ve been telling you to stay away from that red challenge flag.  And, if the staff didn’t tell you that, then someone should be fired, because they were asleep on the job.  That timeout was WAY more important than stroking some wide receiver’s ego, and I’ll argue that cost us the game more than the fake field goal attempt.

Even still, the Seahawks had a chance.  I tried to predict a Seahawks victory with 3:49 left in the game, down 11 points.  And, sure enough, we marched right down the field, scoring on an impressive throw to Baldwin with 3 minutes to go in the game.  Hell, we even hit the 2-point conversion!  (which, in hindsight, might’ve actually lost us the game, as I have to believe we would’ve been more aggressive in that final drive – as opposed to settling for the game-tying field goal try – if we were down by 5 points).

In the end, the Seahawks got the ball back, down 3, with almost 2 full minutes to go in the game (and no time outs).  And again, they got into Falcons territory super quick … and then proceeded to throw short pass after short pass, instead of going for the jugular and winning this thing in regulation.  I’ll never understand how Pete Carroll can be so aggressive one minute, and so conservative the next.  There’s really no rhyme or reason to it sometimes.

But, there we were, a 52 yard field goal away from sending this game into overtime.  A game we’d been losing since the opening drive, would’ve finally been tied for the first time since 0-0.  It was straight enough, it looked on target, but it fell just under the crossbar for the soul-crushing defeat.  Blair Walsh needs to be off this team going into 2018, that’s all I’ve got to say.  He obviously doesn’t trust his leg – which is why he put all his focus into making sure it was on target, as opposed to putting the oomph required to get the ball to fly 52 fucking yards – he’s a mental case, and he doesn’t deserve to be on this team.  Period.

You can say this about every single loss, but there really is a lot of blame to go around.  Some people blame the fake field goal.  Some people blame the botched challenge.  How about blaming Doug Baldwin for dropping an easy 3rd down conversion late in the game?  Or, how about punting in that situation when you know your fucking defense couldn’t stop a God damn thing?  You’ll notice the Falcons got a field goal right after that sequence, to go up two scores; if we go for it on 4th down and fail, HEY, they’re in field goal range already and maybe we save a couple minutes!

You can blame the dropping-ass receivers, you can blame the refs for clearly looking for reasons to throw flags on us (while overlooking all the holding and interfering the Falcons were doing on very similar-looking plays), you can blame the secondary for not only allowing Julio Jones to do whatever he wanted, but for making the rest of their mediocre receivers look like Julio Fucking Jones.  You can even play Poor Me and blame all the injuries, because if we’re being honest, if you put both of these two teams on the same field at full strength, the Seahawks would wipe the floor with the Falcons.

But, for me, the number one culprit in why the Seahawks lost falls squarely on the defensive line.  Specifically the pass rush, as the rush defense was okay, aside from not tightening up on the goalline.  4 QB hits?  1 sack?  Matt Ryan had all FUCKING day to throw the ball!  And I don’t give a shit if he spent most of the day getting the ball out quick, do you understand how many resources we’ve piled into bolstering this D-Line?  Even without Avril, we’ve got Michael Bennett (big money contract), we’ve got Frank Clark (high draft pick, could’ve been a first rounder if not for his trouble in college), we’ve got Sheldon Richardson (All Pro talent, who we traded away a 2nd round pick for), we’ve got Dion Jordan (taking a flier on the 3rd overall draft pick in 2013), we’ve got Naz Jones (another relatively high draft pick), we’ve got Dwight Freeney (a future Hall of Famer who was non-existent in this game), and we regularly run K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner up the middle on blitzes (two Pro Bowl/All Pro type talents at linebacker).  WE HAVE ALL OF THAT, and all we could muster were 4 QB hits and 1 measly sack?

Un-fucking-acceptable.  All we heard about all off-season and all pre-season was about how the Seahawks were going all in on making the pass rush better, and it looks NO DIFFERENT than it did last year, in spite of the influx of all this new talent.  What a fucking joke; the D-Line should be fucking ashamed of the performance it’s put up this season, and in particular last night.

You’re at home for Christ’s sake!  You’ve got nearly 70,000 screaming fans at your back!  You’ve got the other team scrambling with their silent counts and getting guys lined up correctly, and that’s as good as you’ve got?  Fuck that.  Fuck that and fuck you.

As noted by countless people, this loss knocks the Seahawks out of the division lead and out of the playoffs entirely, if they started today.  But, I mean, who cares now?  It’s not like this team has a Super Bowl run in it anyway.  I mentioned this on Twitter last night and I think it’s very appropriate today:  should we even be rooting for the Seahawks to make the playoffs?  What’s a pointless Wild Card game going to prove?  Give me the Top 20 draft pick.  Get a REAL impact player in here to start ruffling some feathers.

This isn’t a good team, particularly the defense.  It’s really sad to watch.  A once-pround, dominant group has now given up over 30 points in 3 of 10 games.  And sure, the offense looks better than ever, but no one ever said “Offense Wins Championships.”  Russell Wilson is great, and if you were voting on the award objectively (and not based on which team has the most wins), he is clearly the NFL’s Most Valuable Player (because without him, we’d be even worse than the Green Bay Packers without Aaron Rodgers, which is saying a lot) – also, for the record, Tyron Smith, left tackle of the Dallas Cowboys, is probably #2 on the Objective MVP list, with how that team has fallen apart since he went down, but that’s neither here nor there.  But, Russell Wilson can’t do it all.  He can’t be quarterback AND running back AND wide receiver AND cover guys on special teams AND kick field goals AND cover guys on defense AND sack the quarterback.  I mean, he’s Russell Wilson, he’s not 53 guys.

Seahawks Signed Dion Jordan & Pre-Season Schedule Is Set

If you told me the Seahawks would be getting two of the top three draft picks in the 2013 NFL draft, I probably would’ve died and gone to heaven.  Of course, when those picks are notorious busts Luke Joeckel and Dion Jordan – and the 2013 draft in general is notorious for being one of the worst in recent memory – it’s a lot less impressive.

Dion Jordan hasn’t played professional football since 2014, a year when he was suspended for 6 games.  He was also suspended for the entire 2015 season, and apparently spent the 2016 season injured.  Even when he was out there, he wasn’t anything to write home about (something to complain home about, maybe), as he has 3 career sacks to his name, and not much else on the stat sheet.

So, you know, maybe don’t get TOO excited about this.  He was really highly regarded coming out of college, but obviously that hasn’t translated to the NFL game.  He’s got the size and athletic ability you like out of a pass rushing end, but I don’t know how effective he’ll be.  Best case scenario:  he starts at SAM linebacker and rushes the passer in nickel situations.  Worst case scenario:  he’s camp fodder who gets released in the pre-season.  I assume there’s little guaranteed on his contract, which means there’s little risk to give him a shot at making the team.  By all accounts, he’s turned his life around from a drug perspective, but I’d say the two knee surgeries he had (on which knee, I have no idea; it’s like there’s some conspiracy among the media to not disclose which knee had the two surgeries) is a bigger concern.  How explosive will he be?  Will he be able to stay healthy?  Is he worth the risk, if he’s just going to get injured again in the regular season?

That’s what we’ll have to find out as the pre-season gets underway.  Speaking of which, here’s the schedule if you haven’t already seen it:

  • Week 1 – at L.A. Chargers
  • Week 2 – vs. Minnesota
  • Week 3 – vs. Kansas City
  • Week 4 – at Oakland

I don’t have a lot of thoughts about the pre-season schedule.  My lone prerequisite is that it doesn’t involve a lot of travel (considering the Seahawks have the most travel to contend with during the regular season almost every year).  As usual, we see a lot of AFC West teams, and of particular interest is that we only have to go to Los Angeles and Oakland, which aren’t very far at all.  It kind of stinks having to play the Vikings’ defense in back-to-back years, but you gotta figure those two home games will be nice tests as we warm up to the regular season.

I’m hearing the rest of the NFL schedule could be released anytime this month, so be on the lookout for that.  And, of course, the NFL draft takes place in the final weekend of April, so lots to talk about in the near future.