Not Winners & Losers Of The Seahawks’ Game At The Rams

Aside from falling short at the end, that’s as good as I had any right to expect this game to go.  The Seahawks ran the ball – without Chris Carson, without D.J. Fluker (who I thought was the bigger of the two injury inactives for this team, considering the opponent) – better than they have all year, 273 yards on 34 carries; they kept the game close all day, and in the end they got the ball back with around 90 seconds, one touchdown away from winning it outright.  On top of which, the Seahawks drove to the Rams’ 35 yard line with just under a minute to go before the drive stalled.  It was all right there, and we just couldn’t punch it in.  Again, I take no solace from a moral victory; yes, it shows the Seahawks are on the right track and closer to returning to their championship window than we thought, but there’s still a huge talent discrepancy between us and the elite teams in the NFL.  In other words, there’s a lot of work left to do.  This isn’t a reincarnation of the 2012 Seahawks so much as the 2011 variety:  that team that went 7-9, had some remarkable victories, but ultimately fell short of their goal to make the playoffs (even if that goal looked insane heading into the season).  The 2018 Seahawks aren’t QUITE what we thought they were, but they’re also going nowhere, very, very slowly.

What I’m Geeked Out About After Nine Games

I got a two-fer, and they’re both rushing related.  First and foremost, WELCOME TO SEATTLE RASHAAD PENNY!  He’s had opportunities at times this season, but until yesterday had failed to take advantage of them.  Well, this was his coming out party.  108 yards on 12 carries with a TD.  He looked smooth, he looked explosive, and he took advantage of some really solid run blocking from our offensive line.  Kudos all around to those five (sometimes, with Fant, six) guys for punishing the Rams once again.  In two games this year, against that stout front, the Seahawks ran for 463 yards on 66 carries, for a 7.02 yards per carry average!  Outstanding!

Of course, not for nothing, but those fuckfaces only seem to get it up for rushing the passer on third down, so maybe they need to get their priorities together if they have any aspirations of winning a Super Bowl, but that’s neither here nor there.

My other prong in this section goes to Russell Wilson.  Sure, he threw 3 more touchdowns, on 17/26 for 176; but he also ran the ball like he hasn’t all year!  92 yards on 9 carries, which was the most he’s had in a single game since November 2014 (and tied for the 5th most in a game in his professional career).  I know he always just takes what the defense gives him, but I thought he took advantage of a few keeps that both moved the chains and opened up some future holes for our backs.

Now, if only he’d pulled it down and ran with it on that final play of the game …

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

It’s pretty much time to shift expectations a little bit going forward (and, even moreso, assuming we lose to the Packers this Thursday).  While it’s okay to hold out hope for a wild card berth (even moreso, assuming we beat the Packers this Thursday), I’m looking to focus more on positive elements for the future.

For instance, when you see the Seahawks giving up 36 points to the Rams, my go-to emotion is to say, “The defense deserves zero praise whatsoever, full stop!”  But, that’s just not logical.  While it’s distressing to see the Rams move the ball with such ease, quite frankly they’re the Rams.  This is what they do.  And, given the limitations we’re working with on that side of the ball, it’s commendable that we were able to limit them in the ways we did.

Kudos, for instance, on stopping them with less than 2 minutes to go, to give our offense a chance to win it!  If you offered me this scenario heading into the game – considering I was predicting a double-digit blowout – I would’ve accepted it in a heartbeat!  I almost always think Russell Wilson is going to lead us to victory in the closing seconds of the game, so why wouldn’t that be something to hope for?

I thought Bobby Wagner had a whale of a game.  I thought Jarran Reed and Frank Clark played their asses off.  Quinton Jefferson looked like a load all day.  Jacob Martin flashed at times.  Sure, there were breakdowns here and there, but the Rams’ scheme often creates these types of breakdowns.  The fact of the matter is, there’s a lot to like, even on a day where we gave up 456 yards.  I mean, shit, the Rams are supposed to have this great “championship defense” with the best defensive coordinator in the game (taking advantage of their star quarterback on a rookie deal, by signing and trading for all these high-priced studs on defense, a la the Seahawks in 2013) and they gave up 414 yards to us, on top of a litany of penalty yardage!  We’re at least doing as well as they are, with A LOT LESS.  Something to think about, before you resume killing our defense.

Also, kudos to Mike Davis for being a boss.  Kudos to Lockett for yet another touchdown.  Kudos to Doug Baldwin and Ed Dickson for big catches.  Kudos to Michael Dickson for some FANTASTIC punting!

Let’s Talk About Competitions

Bradley McDougald was one of our injury concerns heading into this game, but he ended up making the start.  He did okay, but the coaches rightly split time between him and Delano Hill.  I don’t know if Hill is totally safe as a future starter, but he’s been looking better these last couple weeks.  Not the total disaster he was in the pre-season and earlier this year.  He’s making strides, that’s all you can ask.  I still think this team needs to make safety a priority in the 2019 draft, if for nothing else than to boost our competition.

We’re also gonna need to move on from K.J. Wright I think, when this year is over.  I wouldn’t mind seeing Shaquem Griffin get some looks.  He’s definitely started to flash on Special Teams lately, which is cool to see (also shout-out to Akeem King, who is straight balling out there on Teams; that was a nasty head-to-head deal between the two, though); I hope Griffin is making strides in practice at least, in the base defense.  I’m curious to see how he grows going forward.

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

I was extremely disappointed in Duane Brown for giving up that strip sack to Dante Fowler yesterday, which set up the Rams’ game-winning score.  I mean, come on.  You’re a Pro Bowl left tackle going up against a draft bust; I get that sometimes even the all-time greats get beat, but you CANNOT get beat in that situation!  Not with the game on the line, that late in the contest, to a fucking nobody!  What are we PAYING you for, if not to stand tall in that exact scenario?!

Also, just … The Legion Of Boom, these guys are not.  Sure, the Rams are an elite offensive unit, and they scheme you to death, but I’m not seeing a ton of progress out of our secondary this year, and that’s going to be a problem going forward.  Now, of course, maybe they’ll look better once we find a pass rush (next year, hopefully).  But, maybe they’ll always be an Achilles heel (no pun intended, Richard Sherman) and we’re going to have to play these types of games against good offenses.

I hear a lot of Seahawks fans complaining about CenturyLink not being as loud as it was in its heyday; well, fans feed off of defense.  It’s hard to get up for this mediocrity we’re watching this year.  Where are the big plays?  Where are the sacks and interceptions and forced fumbles?  Where are the stops on third down?  An elite defense trumps an elite offense 10 times out of 10.  Without that, yeah, expect the home crowds to be a little more indifferent than they once were (though, to be fair, I’m not a regular attendee to the games, but it was VERY loud in my opinion, the game I went to last week, as I had to regularly plug my ears to deal with all the screaming).

Finally, let’s not waste snaps handing the ball to C.J. Prosise, huh?  He’s done.  Let’s move on already.

My Way-Too-Late Seahawks 53-Man Roster Prediction

What is this, a day before the final pre-season game?  Yeah, let’s go out there on that limb and predict the 53-man roster for the Seahawks.

Quarterbacks

  • Russell Wilson
  • Alex McGough
  • Brett Hundley

Obviously we all know the starter here.  My gut tells me that the actual backup QB will be Austin Davis, but I’m gonna go with what my eyes have seen.  They’ve seen a guy in Davis who has done absolutely nothing through three pre-season games, while they’ve seen a guy in McGough who has steadily improved every time he’s gone out there.  Now, it hasn’t translated into wins, but that’s neither here nor there.  I think you can waive Davis and he’ll just be sitting out there collecting dust.  With McGough, you can PROBABLY get him onto your practice squad, but that also risks him to other teams’ practice squads as well (particularly if they have less certain QB situations).  I’d rather go with the guy who can be a viable long-term solution to the backup QB spot (with potential to be trade bait if/when we get to his 4th season).

I guess forget all that, because the Seahawks just traded for Hundley.  SOMEONE GOT CAUGHT PRE-WRITING A 53-MAN ROSTER PREDICTION POST!

Running Backs

  • Chris Carson
  • Rashaad Penny
  • C.J. Prosise
  • Mike Davis
  • Tre Madden

I just can’t see the team holding onto someone like McKissic who could be out for up to a month.  They could IR him, but that seems like a waste.  I honestly think they just cut him and try to re-sign him when he’s healthy, or at least on the way.  But, with concerns about Penny and Prosise, I find it hard to believe they’re keeping McKissic over Davis, and I find it hard to believe they’re keeping a 6th RB when they have plenty of guys on this team who can return kicks in a pinch (should Lockett go down).  McKissic isn’t someone you HAVE to have, especially considering he’s pretty undersized too and as such will come with his own injury concerns going forward.

Wide Receivers

  • Doug Baldwin
  • Tyler Lockett
  • Jaron Brown
  • Brandon Marshall
  • David Moore
  • Marcus Johnson

I don’t think Darboh is a guy you have to keep either.  Honestly, I don’t see why you couldn’t sneak him onto the practice squad; what has he ever done in his 1+ years that makes him attractive to other teams?  No loss, in my book, if he does go somewhere else; David Moore will be a better pro, so it’s all good.  I like Johnson’s potential on special teams and as a deep threat should Lockett get injured.  I like Marshall to be that red zone, Jimmy Graham-type target (I also like Marshall to be more effective between the 20’s; I just like Marshall a lot).

Tight Ends

  • Nick Vannett
  • Will Dissly
  • Tyrone Swoopes

I think Ed Dickson stays on the PUP.  Part of me wonders if he’ll get cut entirely, but that seems far less likely given his contract.  But, that injury appears to be legit enough to hold him out for 6 more weeks.  Also, I have a feeling the team would much rather go after some other team’s cut tight end, so if Dickson does remain on the PUP, Swoopes is no guarantee.

Offensive Line

  • Duane Brown
  • Ethan Pocic
  • Justin Britt
  • D.J. Fluker
  • Germain Ifedi
  • George Fant
  • Jordan Roos
  • Isaiah Battle
  • Rees Odhiambo

I think Jamarco Jones goes on IR.  I think Sweezy gets cut because he just can’t get healthy and stay on the field.  I think the team would be fine with Pocic at center if Britt goes down (so there’s no point in keeping Hunt).  And, ultimately I think Ifedi keeps his job as the team’s right tackle to start the season, but it’s no guarantee he starts all 16 games even if he stays healthy.

Defensive Line

  • Frank Clark
  • Rasheem Green
  • Branden Jackson
  • Jacob Martin
  • Quinton Jefferson
  • Tom Johnson
  • Jarran Reed
  • Naz Jones
  • Shamar Stephen
  • Poona Ford

For the record, I think it’s a longshot that this team actually keeps Poona Ford, but I like him and I want to see him make this team.  I also think it would speak volumes about this team wanting to actually stop the run like they always say they want to.  And, I think there could be a surprise cut from these 10; someone who has looked really good this pre-season, but maybe for whatever reason the coaches think is expendable (Quinton Jefferson or Shamar Stephen come to mind).  I also think Dion Jordan starts the year on PUP.

Linebackers

  • Bobby Wagner
  • K.J. Wright
  • Barkevious Mingo
  • Shaquem Griffin
  • Erik Walden

I’m probably least confident in my prediction of this group, all things considered.  Especially if K.J. Wright’s knee issue is worse than they’re letting on, it might force them to keep an extra linebacker, which would surely take away from the DL group.  D.J. Alexander is obviously a name to watch, as he’s a huge special teams guy.  And, I’d say Austin Calitro has earned an opportunity to be a backup to Bobby.  If any of my picks is NOT likely to make the team, I’d look at Walden (though I think as strictly a pass rusher, the team probably NEEDS him the most, and should look to shift him to that LEO end spot that Chris Clemons and Cliff Avril played).

Cornerbacks

  • Shaquill Griffin
  • Justin Coleman
  • Tre Flowers
  • Dontae Johnson
  • Neiko Thorpe
  • Byron Maxwell

I am less certain by the day that Byron Maxwell actually makes this team.  Now, that having been said, if you’re okay with anyone missing the entire pre-season and coming in to start day 1, I’d probably be most okay with that person being Maxy, but nevertheless it’s not a good sign.  That having been said, I don’t think anyone on this roster has set himself apart to steal that job from the trusty veteran (Akeem King might be closest, but he’s no sure thing).  I guess a lot of it depends on whether or not the Seahawks keep 5 safeties or only 4.

Safeties

  • Bradley McDougald
  • Tedric Thompson
  • Delano Hill
  • Maurice Alexander

Obviously, Kam goes on IR here, and Earl maintains his holdout well into the regular season.  I just don’t see a whole lot of reason to keep a fifth safety unless he’s a huge special teams guy, and I think you’ve already got Neiko to play that role.  If there is a fifth guy, I guess it’s Mike Tyson, but I don’t see this team bending over backwards to keep him on the roster.  He’s always struck me as just a guy.  He’s certainly not someone you’d have to keep over someone like Maxwell.

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

On Friday, the Seahawks played their all-important third pre-season game.  The official tune-up to the regular season, where the starters play into the third quarter, and we all set this up to be a preview of what the games will look like when they start to count (while keeping in mind that it’s still the pre-season, and as such things aren’t going 100 miles per hour like they will be in two weeks).  The Seahawks had a fancy matchup in Minnesota against one of the elites of the NFC, so this test was particularly enticing.  The starters left the game with a 13-6 lead, however 4th quarter shenanigans resulted in the Vikings winning 21-20 as the backup defense couldn’t stop a come-from-behind touchdown/2-point conversion in the closing minutes.

What I’m Geeked Out About After Three Meaningless Pre-Season Games

So, go ahead and put me in the train conductor’s seat of the Chris Carson Bandwagon Express, because I am FULL SPEED AHEAD on this guy!  You have no idea how high I am on this kid; I think he’s absolutely going to kill it (if he stays healthy).  I’m 2 for 2 in fantasy leagues drafting this kid; in one league, he was a steal because outside of Seattle (this was a random standard league I joined for practice) no one is expecting him to be anything, so if you’re in a league full of non-Seahawks fans, you can sit on him and get him for a song.  In my other league, though, I took him with the first pick in the fifth round which … is maybe three rounds too early?  Maybe five rounds?  I dunno.  All I know is he was a REACH, and I was suckered into taking him that early because my brother was in the room and kept telling me he was going to be his next pick.

Here’s the thing though (I should really be saving this for my fantasy column later this week, but whatever), by the time you get to the 5th round of any fantasy draft, all the elite running backs are gone.  So, you’re sifting through promising rookies, running back committees, injury concerns, and handcuffs.  Here’s the bottom line:  of all the running backs who were taken after I went after Carson – in order through the end of the 6th round, they were Jordan Howard, Jerick McKinnon, LeSean McCoy, Joe Mixon, Alex Collins, Derrick Henry, Jay Ajayi, and Lamar Miller – I believe Carson will be better from a fantasy perspective than ALL of those guys.  He’s earned the starting job out of the pre-season – thanks in part to Penny’s finger injury, but mostly due to his utter dominance – and I think he’ll run away with it in the regular season.

It’s my firm belief that Chris Carson will be the Beastmode replacement we’ve all been waiting for, and I’m willing to risk my fantasy football happiness on it.

Also, this needs to be in the geeked out category, because OH MY GOD MICHAEL DICKSON IS MY NEW FAVORITE HUMAN!!!  Just, watch all his punts again, over and over, on a loop, forever in my dreams.

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

The offensive line was absolutely spectacular.  This week, George Fant moved from left to right to start pushing Germain Ifedi, and Ifedi responded with – I want to say – his greatest game as a professional.  I don’t know who is going to come away with the starting job in week 1, but the line as a whole will be a lot better just having Fant competing for that spot.  He’s easily the 6th best lineman on this team – if not the 5th – so it’s much more important getting him work on the right side, rather than exclusively backing up Duane Brown.

Brandon Marshall had his best game as a Seahawk, catching all 3 balls thrown his way, including a nifty 20-yard pass where he boxed the defender out and went up high to snag it.  He easily looks like the best veteran re-tread we’ve brought in here, and should be the first one to actually make the team.

David Moore keeps looking better and better every time I see him.  He caught a 36-yard TD pass from McGough in the second half on 3rd down, and he brought a punt back to the house (that was called back for the world’s most bogus holding penalty you’ve ever seen).

The defense was still a little shaky, but the run defense returned to form, holding the Vikings to 58 yards on 24 carries.  That’s going to be huge for this team.

Let’s Talk About Competitions

It’s far too early to call the Ifedi vs. Fant matchup, but I saw Fant get a shot with the #1 offense starting with the third drive of the game, so it’s legit.  Honestly, I think they both looked pretty good – and I was really focused on Fant when he went in there – so it very well might come down to this week’s practices and this game coming up on Thursday against the Raiders.  All Ifedi has to do is hold his own and I think he has the edge.  But, if he slips up and reverts back to his crappy ways, Fant could easily slide in there and steal the job.

Boy, do I need to not see Austin Davis as this team’s backup QB.  I think we will, just because what team is going to stuff McGough on its 53-man roster as a 7th rounder who’s looked okay, but is still a real project?  The Seahawks should have no trouble whatsoever sneaking McGough onto the Practice Squad.  That having been said, Davis is a disaster.  He was 2/3 for -1 yard on his 2 drives (both 3 & Outs).  Considering he was 1/3 for 6 yards against the Chargers on his 2 drives in that game, and a mighty 4/5 for 51 yards and a mind-boggling interception in the endzone against the Colts (across, again, 2 drives), and you have to ask:  what has Davis done to earn a job?  He hasn’t even looked COMPETENT, let alone good!  I’d rather roll the dice with a playmaker in McGough at this point.  He could struggle, sure, but his upside is off the charts compared to Davis.  Plus, if we’re risking our season’s chances on anyone outside of Russell Wilson, then the season is already a lost cause as it is, so might as well give the youngster some experience.

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

I thought Russell Wilson just looked sort of okay.  He had all day to throw, but somehow was only 11/21 for 118 yards.  I suppose some of that is on Minnesota’s defense, as they have one of the best in all of football.  I nevertheless have to believe that if we had Wilson finish this game, we would’ve won it.

The talk of this game has to be what the Vikings did on 3rd & 4th down, as they converted 13 of 22 combined.  I’ve been harping on that endlessly as the main key to this Seahawks’ season, and it’s not going away any time soon.  The Seahawks tend to get much better pressure on 1st & 2nd downs, with key blitzes getting to the quarterback; then, on 3rd down, we go super vanilla, the QB has all day to throw, and he picks us apart.  Time and time again!  It’s like we rely on the QB making a mistake, vs. actually forcing him INTO one.  What I’m trying to say is, maybe we should start blitzing more on 3rd down and getting the fuck off the field!

That having been said, we were a lot better after the first quarter, when they had the ball for all but a couple minutes.  But, that brings us to our other main problem on defense:  not forcing turnovers.

No picks.  One fumble that bounced Minnesota’s way.  That’s a week after the Chargers played a clean game.  We have 1 fumble recovery (against the Colts) in three games.  If that holds through the regular season (1 turnover every 3 games), we’re in trouble.

Finally, zero sacks on Kirk Cousins.  Like I said before, some blitzes got home, but nothing that did any damage.  Part of stopping teams on drives is getting to the QB when you’re using just a 4-man rush, and the Seahawks couldn’t hack it.

This week, the most meaningless of all pre-season games (except for those guys a the back-end of the roster).  We won’t have Tanner McEvoy to kick around anymore, as he was rightfully cut for being no good, so the WR picture gets a little more clear.

The Seahawks Extended Duane Brown

I’ve been waiting to write about this until I saw the contract details, because really that’s all that hinges on my opinion of this extension.

Duane Brown has been a tremendous left tackle in the NFL for a lot of years.  He came into the league in 2008 with the Houston Texans, was a Pro Bowler for them from 2012-2014, and was first team All Pro in 2012 as well.  The Seahawks traded away a king’s ransom to bring him in halfway through 2017, and in spite of an ankle injury that set him back, he still somehow became a Pro Bowler at the age of 32.  He was heading into the final year of his deal in 2018, until the Seahawks decided to press their luck and see if we can squeeze a few more years out of him.

There’s a tremendous amount of risk when you sign a guy who will be 33 years old at the end of this month to a multi-year extension.  Now, obviously, some players are special, and they can play at a really high level well into their 30’s.  And, while it’s not quarterback or kicker or punter, left tackle is a position where you can see a lot of longevity.  As long as you avoid the dreaded knee injuries, it feels like guys can play forever (then, once that knee buckles the wrong way, it’s curtains almost right away, regardless of how many surgeries you endure).

The point is, I feel a lot better extending someone like Duane Brown than I do someone like Earl Thomas (particularly after seeing what happened to Kam and Avril last year).

But, still, there needs to be some protection for the team.  The last thing the Seahawks need is another albatross; they don’t need another guy making too much money who can’t stay on the field.  Fortunately, it looks like this deal accomplishes this.

Look, there’s risk that comes with every single free agent contract.  All it takes is one bad hit or one wrong step and your career could be over (or, at least, seriously shortened).  So, there was never going to be a way to do this extension completely risk-free.

For instance, obviously Brown was going to get his money in 2018.  On top of that, there’s an $8 million signing bonus that – for cap purposes – gets spread out over the entire four years he’s under contract to be with the Seahawks.  According to Over The Cap, part of his 2019 salary is guaranteed for injury (less than $2 million), so if he goes out and blows his ACL this year, we’re semi-protected going forward.  His 2019 salary is fully guaranteed on the 5th day of the league year (which, I think starts in March?), which also makes sense, because you’d figure AT THE VERY LEAST he’ll be good for this year and next, so long as he remains healthy.

Brown’s 2018 cap number is a little over $8 million; his 2019 cap number is $10.5 million; both very reasonable figures for a top-flight left tackle in this league.  Maybe even a bargain if he continues to play at a high level!  Which I don’t think is out of the question at all.  Brown’s status with the Seahawks gets a little more dicey after 2019, though.

He’s due a $1 million roster bonus on the 5th day of the league year in 2020.  He’s also got built-in bonuses for games played from 2019-2021.  His cap number for 2020 jumps up to $12.5 million which, again, is a bargain if he’s still playing at a high level.  But, if he slips, or the team wants to go in another direction, we can cut him prior to the 2020 league year and only have $4 million in dead money.  His cap number for the final year of the deal jumps again, to $13 million, with only $2 million in dead money at that time.

I’d say it’s a 99.99% guarantee that Brown isn’t here in 2021.  I’d say it’s probably 75% guarantee that he isn’t here in 2020 either.  My hunch is he’ll play through 2019 and that’ll be that.

Overall, it’s a fine deal for all involved.  The player is essentially betting on himself – which he’s smart to do – and it’s not SO prohibitive from a money perspective to consider maybe keeping him for the duration (again, assuming he out-plays his deal and keeps locking down that left side).  It’s not like those crazy balloon deals you see that erroneously inflate the overall total of a contract just to make the agent look better.  Every single team in the league would pay $13 million for a Pro Bowl left tackle, so if he’s still at that level in 2020, it’s not impossible for him to stick around through 2021.  He’d be 36 years old at the time, but guys have played in this league at that age.  It’s rare; they’re special human beings, but it still happens.

I agree with most everyone in the Seahawks orbit (media, fans, players), that it’s just nice to see the team really commit and devote some serious money to improving this offensive line.  Yes, they’ve devoted tons of draft picks to the problem, but rarely have they ponied up the cash.  With Brown and Britt in the fold, this line is shaping up to be – dare I say it – halfway decent?!

Pre-Pre-Season Preview: Seahawks Blocking Game

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’ blocking game.

Offensive Line

Here we are.  So much of what the Seahawks want to do hinges on this.  Every year since Russell Wilson has proven himself to be a superstar quarterback in this league, I’ve been waiting for this offense to really bust out and start carrying the team; and every year, those hopes are dashed by an offensive line that couldn’t stop a pack of infants from wreaking havoc in our backfield.

And it’s not like the Seahawks haven’t tried!  We hired Tom Cable, we used many multiple draft picks, in a variety of rounds from the first through the seventh.  But, nothing worked, and indeed it got progressively worse over time, until last year when we has the worst running game in football.  How Russell Wilson hasn’t been killed in a live NFL game is beyond me, because he’s taken a BEATING!

I wish I could walk those comments back and say, “Oh, it wasn’t as bad as we remember,” but actually I think it was worse.  I mean, you’d expect a unit that was as healthy as our O-Line was last year to at least show SOME signs of improvement as the season went along, but I saw no evidence of that.  Did you?

Who’s at fault?  Well, how much time have you got?  Obviously, Tom Cable had to go.  I wouldn’t say his tenure was an utter failure – he did help take us to 2 Super Bowls, so it wasn’t ALWAYS this bad – but I’d say the last three years (2015-2017) were as bad as it gets.  Instead of taking advantage of Russell Wilson’s absolute prime, he had to run for his life on almost every play, while battling constant nagging injuries for one of those seasons!

The front office certainly shares some of the blame, be it Pete Carroll, John Schneider, the scouts, all of ’em.  Letting Tom Cable have so much power and direction over personnel, for starters.  The collective, for just having the worst insight/intuition/whathaveyou when it comes to picking which players we ended up drafting and signing to free agent deals.  The front office also for losing its way – to quote Richard Sherman – by trading away Max Unger for Jimmy Graham.  One of the better blocking centers in the league for one of the worst blocking tight ends in the history of football.

Now, certainly there were factors outside of their control, in that so many other players on this team turned into All Pros and Pro Bowlers, and as we talk about all the time, you can’t pay everyone.  But, the front office still made a choice in who they decided to pay; and ultimately they decided to make this offensive line the most under-funded in the entire league.  It backfired, and they’ve since corrected for that, but now we’re years from our last Super Bowl and, I’m afraid, many more years away from our next one.

I mean, if they’d just signed ONE high-priced left tackle, instead of paying the likes of Percy Harvin or Jimmy Graham, just think of how different things might be.  We might truly be talking about a Seahawks Dynasty, instead of a Seahawks What-If.

But, the past is the past and we can’t do anything about it now.  Let’s take a look at who we’ve got.

Well, I’ll say this:  the left side of the line looks VERY promising.  There are still a tremendous amount of caveats and question marks even about these three guys, but it’s not hard to envision a scenario where Duane Brown (at left tackle), Ethan Pocic (at left guard) and Justin Britt (at center) truly anchor this offensive line and make it a halfway competent one.  That having been said, Brown is going to be 33 in August and is heading into his 11th season; that’s a lot of mileage.  He’s also coming off of a year where he held out for half the games, then suffered an ankle injury.  He appears to be healthy now, but how long will that last?  And, even when he was (supposedly) healthy last year, he didn’t look great.  Maybe he needed time to get used to Russell Wilson’s style of play and scrambling and all that … or maybe he’s in his 30’s and is on the downside of his career.  How many more years does he have left, realistically?  2?  3 at the MOST?

This thing falls apart in a hurry if Duane Brown isn’t The Man.  I like Pocic as much as the next guy, but it’s still his second year in the league.  He’s also on his second offensive line coach in as many seasons (well, third in as many seasons, I suppose, if you include his college coach), so what is that going to do to stunt his growth?  And, as for Britt, again I like him, but he also pulled his share of boners last year, following his contract extension and the anointing of him as the leader of this unit.  Maybe that was because he had to compensate for the dunderheads around him – and I really do hope that’s the case – but don’t forget who’s at fault for George Fant getting hurt in the first place.  He took a blind dive into a guy and ended up landing on his own teammate’s knee; Britt isn’t exactly the sharpest tool in the shed.

I want to believe in this left side of the line – I HAVE to believe in them, for my own sanity – because the right side scares the everloving shit out of me.

The Seahawks brought back Mile Solari to coach up the offensive line.  He hasn’t had a successful O-Line in more years than I can count, so right away we’re dealing with a huge red flag.  Now, maybe there were other circumstances outside of his control, and it wasn’t necessarily all his fault that his lines have been terrible.  Maybe, if he had more control over things, he would’ve gotten his type of guys and had more success.  I certainly hope so, because it sounds like the Seahawks really took him to heart when he recommended signing D.J. Fluker to be this team’s right guard.

For starters, I think a lot of fans were clamoring for Germain Ifedi to move inside to guard.  I wasn’t one of them – I think if we’re ever going to see our faith in Ifedi pay off, it’s going to have to be at one single position, and not by jerking him around from guard to tackle and back again – but I can certainly understand the thought process.  Ifedi looks like a giant lunkhead over there at right tackle, and it might be easier to hide some of his flaws if you moved him inside and had Britt helping him out on double-teams and whatnot.  But, I’m of the opinion that if Ifedi is the bust we all fear he is, then he’s going to be a HUGE GAPING LIABILITY wherever you put him.  Sort of like Britt was, when we moved him from tackle to guard to finally center; unfortunately, you can only have one center on an offensive line, and Britt weaselled his way into the league first.

Getting back to Fluker for a minute, here’s a guy who was another former first rounder, as well as a guy who’s been considered a giant bust since entering the league.  He’s also a guy who was injured for most of 2017, and who thus far through OTA’s and mini-camps, hasn’t seen any action that I can recall hearing about (again, due to injury).  Even in an ideal world where Fluker was 100% healthy this off-season, he still was never going to be a guarantee.  I like him because he’s cheap, and hungry, and huge, and is supposedly a quality run blocker if nothing else; but that still doesn’t mean he’s destined to be worth a damn in 2018!

I want to believe in these guys, 1-5, but I just can’t get it up for this right side.  At this point, I’m done hoping Ifedi will be anything; I’m resigned to him being a bust and if I’m pleasantly surprised, then so be it.  As for Fluker, I don’t think he has more than 5 games in him before some body part gives out.  I’m mentally preparing myself for a revolving door on this side, with guys like Rees Odhiambo or Jordan Roos seeing some action at right guard, and with guys like George Fant or Isaiah Battle seeing some action at right tackle.

That having all been said, I think there’s an offensive line here we can use.  It’s far from perfect, and it’s far from ideal, but 3/5 of a competent offensive line is better than the 0/5 we’ve had the last three years.

As I said before, it all hinges on Duane Brown.  If he can return to even 80% of his former Pro Bowl self, we’ve got a shot.  Hopefully he’ll get better acquainted with Wilson’s scrambling style, as well as stay healthy the full year.  If he can do that, and help guide a beefed-up Pocic through any more growing pains he’s got left, then I don’t think Britt has to worry about helping out on that side, and can put his talents towards helping out his right guard, whoever that ends up being.  At which point, I’m not even asking for a huge step forward out of our right tackle; just don’t get any WORSE and I’ll be ecstatic!

With how BIG this unit is, if we still have trouble running the ball, then I’m gonna go jump off a bridge.  Also, it sounds like maybe there’ll be something of a scheme change, away from the strict zone blocking scheme we had under Cable?  I think that could help an oaf like Ifedi, where he doesn’t have to use his brain as much.  Maybe he can put those remaining brain cells into keeping track of the snap count, and not illegally hitting guys after the whistle and whatnot.

It’s the pass protection that’s my bigger concern, as it always is.  Pocic is a great unknown at this point in his career (one would hope his pedigree, work ethic, and increased mass will help him going forward), but everyone to his right has their moments of utter, mind-blowing ineptitude when it comes to letting guys just get free runs at the quarterback.  So, again, I turn to Duane Brown; he NEEDS to be our rock.  If we just have that one guy doing his job, we’ve got a chance.  Where it always breaks down is when both ends get to charge at Wilson and he has nowhere to go; but, if Brown is solid, then at least Wilson will be able to escape to the left side and try to make something happen.

I hate having to rely so much on one guy, but that’s the hand we’ve been dealt.  If Duane Brown doesn’t earn his next contract with superb play, we’re fucked.  There’s no other way around it.

As such, my grade is a C-.  There’s room to take it as high as a B, and obviously as low as an F, but as a baseline, C- is still better than anything we’ve gotten in the previous three seasons, which I find really encouraging.

Tight Ends

Can’t talk about the blocking game without mentioning the VAST improvement we’ve established among our tight ends!

Swapping out Jimmy Graham and bringing in Ed Dickson is like an NBA team trading me for LeBron James; I’m so giddy I can’t even stand it!

I want you to close your eyes.  I want you to picture the Seahawks lining up on offense, with 3 wide receivers, a running back, and Jimmy Graham.  I want you to picture Jimmy Graham motioning out wide to the right, then turning around and motioning back towards the offensive line.  I want you to picture just as Graham gets to the right tackle, we snap the ball, and Russell Wilson turns to hand it off to the running back, with the intention to go off-tackle.  There’s a linebacker coming around the edge; he’s Graham’s responsibility.  All Graham has to do is execute a wham block – blocking him down into the mass of bodies along the offensive and defensive lines – and if he does that, we have a considerable gain with the running back bouncing it around.  Can you picture it?  Can you picture Jimmy Graham standing fully upright, sort of half-heartedly (quarter-heartedly?) pushing on the linebacker with his forearms right before said linebacker blows up the play for a 3-yard loss?  Is your blood now sufficiently boiling?  Do you want to go out and murder 50 people?

I never thought I could hate someone more than I hated Percy Harvin, but I hate Jimmy Graham with the intensity of A FUCKING GOOGOLPLEX OF SUNS!  I mean, at least Harvin has a mental condition to explain why he’s a worthless pile of shit; Jimmy Graham is just a soft asshole whose only skill is catching 1-yard touchdown passes against undersized cornerbacks (and even THEN he drops the ball half the time!).

So, yeah, I love the Ed Dickson signing.  Is it sexy?  HELL NO!  But, I’m tired of going after sexy offensive weapons; where has it gotten us?  Give me the guy willing to hunt for his meal.  Give me the guy who will scrap and claw and fight for that inch.

Shit, give me a guy who can help out this poor excuse for an offensive line!

The Seahawks did it in spades.  Not only did they let Graham go, but they let Luke Willson go as well.  I like Willson, but he’s just a guy.  Sure, he was a fighter, but you wouldn’t say blocking was his specialty.  You know whose specialty that is?  Will Dissly, 4th round draft pick out of the University of Washington.  “Best blocking tight end in the draft” is what I’m told.  Good enough for me.  He could catch 0 balls this year and he’ll still be worth his weight in gold if he can live up to that moniker for this team.

Beyond that, it’ll be a fight between Nick Vannett and Tyrone Swoopes, the 3rd round pick from 2016 vs. the undrafted rookie from 2017.  Vannett has largely been considered a disappointment, and you can see why.  You pick a guy in the 3rd round, you expect more than 15 total receptions and 1 touchdown in his first 2 years.  Beyond that, I really don’t remember him making any sort of special teams contributions, so what is he good for?

Well, I’d argue he was buried behind two very established veterans in Graham and Willson, and how often do you really see a team’s third tight end?  It’s now or never for this kid, and you’d have to say his chances are never going to be better.  I have to believe – heading into the pre-season – Vannett is probably the most gifted offensive, pass-catching weapon at tight end on this team.  If he can’t stand out over a guy in Ed Dickson (who you know what you’ve got) and a rookie in Dissly not known as much of a pass-catching threat in college, then we’ve probably reached the end of the road with Vannett.  From a blocking perspective, he doesn’t even need to be that great to make an impact, so long as he’s a catching machine.  But, regardless, he HAS to be better than Graham, so we’re talking about a considerable improvement any way you slice it.

As for Swoopes, he more or less rode the Practice Squad all of 2017.  He’s seen as more of a project, but with great potential as a pass-catcher, so again there’s probably only room for either him or Vannett.  Unless he shows tremendous skills – and tremendous improvement over what was probably a pretty raw rookie campaign – then he’s going to need to be a force when it comes to blocking.  I have no idea, but my hunch is that’s probably the biggest part of his game that’s lacking.  We’ll see.

Regardless, when it comes to just blocking, I’m giving our tight ends an A+.  I couldn’t be happier!

The question now is:  when you factor in the combo of the O-Line and our Tight Ends, will we have the blocking to be successful?  Assuming we scheme it up right, and take advantage of all of them, I think we do.  Darrell Bevell liked to spend all his free time trying to out-think opposing defenses (hence why you always saw Graham on the field in obvious rushing situations, to try to “fool” defenses into thinking we’d throw to him; only problem with that is it never made up for the liability he was in actually trying to throw a block).  It sounds like Brian Schottenheimer is more old school in that regard.  I’d expect a lot of ground & pound.  In which case, it’s our best guys against your best guys, and may the best team win.  With the group of guys we’ve got, I think that suits us to a T.  I could easily see our blocking unit end up with a grade of a B-, which is all we need with our skill position guys doing their things.

I really do believe there’s potential for greatness out of this offense.  Of course, there’s also potential for utter ruin, but that’s what makes this season so exciting!

You Could Also Say The Seahawks Are Holding Out On Extending Earl Thomas

But, that’s dumb.  Obviously, the title is, “Earl Thomas Is Holding Out.”

He stayed away from the voluntary OTA’s, but that’s a non-story because tons of other guys stayed away from their respective OTA’s as well, including Frank Clark, Byron Maxwell, and so on and so forth.  Then, on Sunday, Earl declared he’d be holding out of the non-voluntary portion of the OTA’s, with the intention of continuing to hold out through Training Camp and possibly beyond.

This isn’t really a surprise.  Earl Thomas is in the final year of his contract.  He’s 29 years old, and he’s looking at one more big payday before he finishes up his career on a string of smaller deals.  His leverage starts and ends at being one of the best safeties in the league for the better part of 8 seasons, so he feels he deserves the respect that comes with being paid at the top end of the safety market.

But, this will be his third contract.  Successful players on their third contracts tend to fail to live up to those contracts, due to age-related declines and an increased injury rate, among other things (most notably: a lack of drive that comes with having made your millions and achieving everything you’ve wanted to achieve in your NFL career).  Earl Thomas is a Hall of Famer.  He’s won a championship.  He’s made more money than he’ll ever need; he can take care of his family for generations.  Everything after this point is icing on the cake.

We’ve already seen cracks in the Earl Thomas facade.  He missed 5 regular season games and the entirety of the 2016 playoffs; he also missed a couple games in 2017 due to injury.  It would be absolutely idiotic to expect him to return to being a guy who’s out on the field for every play of every game for the next 4-5 years.  Can he still play at an extremely high level when he is healthy?  Sure, no problem.  But, at this point, I think you’re hoping and praying with every play he makes that he doesn’t get dinged up in some fashion.

The ideal situation for 2018 – assuming you couldn’t get a peach of a deal in return for his services – was that he’d come in, play every game, lead you back to the playoffs, and then you’d thank him for his services and wish him all the best in his future endeavors.  Now, I think you obviously have to adjust your expectations.  I hope he ONLY holds out for Training Camp, but returns for all the regular season games.  Or, failing that, I hope he ONLY holds out for 2 games like Kam Chancellor did.  Otherwise, I wouldn’t be shocked if he held out the max number of games you can hold out while still having 2018 count as a contract year (he can hold out for up to 10 regular season games and still have his contract expire at the end of the year).  I would be shocked if he just retired from the NFL, but I do think it’s on the table, as he seems to be a little erratic.

For me, I don’t have a problem with guys holding out – especially proven elites – as long as they make it back for the regular season.  I don’t think it’s the smartest thing to do – because how many times do we see guys hold out, then get hurt almost immediately after returning to action? – but I can understand the desire to avoid a lot of additional risk ahead of a contract year.  Can you hold out, then get hurt upon returning?  Of course, but you can also get hurt in a non-contact drill on the first day of OTA’s as well, so there’s risk every time you step on the field, practice or otherwise.  It’s when you affect the games that matter when I start to get pissed off.  I’ll forgive a lot, but I still haven’t totally forgiven Kam Chancellor for his 2-game holdout, as I still believe that cost us a shot at a BYE in the playoffs (and, ultimately a shot at going to a third straight Super Bowl).  The difference here is, I don’t think the expectations are as high as they were in 2015.  Will Earl Thomas mean the difference between a playoff spot or not?  Maybe, but I don’t think his impact will be as dramatic as it would’ve been in years past.

Honestly, I’m more interested in how the other safeties respond.  How will Delano Hill look?  Will Bradley McDougald step into more of a leadership role?  Will Tedric Thompson – who everyone seemingly has written off – bounce back and contend for a starting job?  Will the team opt to move Shaquem Griffin to safety and is that potentially a spot where he could thrive?

I’m also interested in seeing if this ramps up the trade talk for Earl again.  Can we improve upon getting a 3rd round pick in return?  Will another team be beset with injuries to their safety room and make a panic move to bring Earl in (much like the Seahawks last year with their offensive and defensive lines)?  I’d be more than okay with the Seahawks letting this holdout play out, and if we like what we have behind Earl, waiting for another team to come calling.  Maybe we can get that 2nd round draft pick that we lost in the Duane Brown deal.  Also, maybe the money we save from this holdout can be carried over into 2019, allowing us to be bigger players in free agency next year.

I also wonder if the Seahawks might be more willing to deal Earl for less.  I hope not, but what if that desperation isn’t there from the rest of the league (especially if it’s a team that’s worried about Earl being on the last year of his deal, and unwilling to want to extend him)?  Might the Seahawks ship him away for a 4th rounder or worse?  Just to cut the tumor out and move on?  I’d rather we hang onto Earl and keep him as a potential shot in the arm in the middle of the season, or whenever he decides to start getting paid again.

Anyway, that’s where we are.  The Seahawks hold all of the cards (in the battle of Earl vs. The Team) and none of the cards (in the battle of the Seahawks vs. The NFL Trade Market).  Regardless of which side you sit on, the fans are the real losers in this scenario, as we not only face the prospect of a watered-down Seahawks defense for part or all of the 2018 season, but we also have to read and hear about this nonstop from now until whenever he returns to the team.  Buckle up, it’s going to be a nauseating ride!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seahawks Traded Up, Drafted A Punter (and 6 other guys, including Shaquem Griffin)

Saturday was a tremendously fun day for yours truly.  Woke up with the house to myself, had a Red Lobster lunch with my mom, went bowling in the afternoon, drank some beers, played some poker, drank some more beers, played some late-night spades, ate some Cloverleaf pizza.  All in all, couldn’t ask for a better time.

Also, the Seahawks had their best and most productive day of the NFL Draft.  After picking up a running back, and a defensive lineman, they made the bulk of their selections on Day 3, and looked to fill a number of holes on this roster.

  • 4th Round – Will Dissly, TE
  • 5th Round – Shaquem Griffin, LB
  • 5th Round – Tre Flowers, CB
  • 5th Round – Michael Dickson, P
  • 5th Round – Jamarco Jones, OT
  • 6th Round – Jake Martin, LB/DE
  • 7th Round – Alex McGough, QB

I’m obviously a big fan of Will Dissly.  Many pegged him as the best blocking tight end in the draft, so he’s a natural fit for what the Seahawks are trying to accomplish.  I also think he’ll develop into a better pass catcher than people give him credit for.  But, as it is, no one is going to take him seriously as a downfield threat, so that could open him up for some better matchups.  Regardless, I don’t think the tight end spot needs to be this great offensive weapon; simply blocking the guys he’s supposed to block will make Will Dissly a million times better than Jimmy Graham ever was.

The obvious Story of the Draft was Shaquem Griffin and where he’d end up.  The fact that he ended up on the Seahawks – re-joining his twin brother – is icing on the cake.  He’s fast, he can rush the passer, he’s a playmaker.  Those are the first three things I think about when I think about Shaquem Griffin.  Obviously, having just the one hand probably kept him off of a lot of draft boards, though the token reason for his falling into the fifth round had to do with him being undersized to play linebacker.  Nevertheless, when you’re as talented as Griffin, teams will find a way to utilize you on the field.  If nothing else, he should be a dynamic special teams player.  You can play him to rush the passer, you can convert him to a box safety, you can keep him at linebacker to cover just about any running back in the league.  I like his versatility and determination; I think he’ll be a great Seahawk.

The Tre Flowers pick certainly got buried in all the hullabaloo over Griffin.  Flowers is tall, with super long arms.  He played safety in college, but it sounds like the Seahawks are looking to convert him to cornerback.  Maybe as a sideline defender a la Richard Sherman?  I don’t know if very many people are talking about this guy as an option, but I’ll be curious to hear what he brings in Training Camp.  Hopefully a huge chip on his shoulder.

The Seahawks then proceeded to trade one of their seventh round picks to move up in the fifth round to take Michael Dickson, consensus Best Punter In The Draft.  Looks like Jon Ryan’s days are numbered, which is probably for the best.  If you can save money at the punter position, while locking it down for many years to come, I think you have to do it.  If Dickson falters, though, people might be laughing at this decision for years to come.  You can’t keep two punters and you can’t waste a fifth rounder on one you need to cut right away, so this guy HAS to be good from the start!

Jamarco Jones is an interesting left tackle out of Ohio State who was apparently good on the field, but really sucked at the Combine.  He may or may not have been injured, but either way, I don’t give a fuck about Combine numbers.  I give a fuck about how he looks when he’s on the field.  If this is a guy we can groom to be the heir apparent to Duane Brown, then no one will ever remember what he did at the Combine.

I don’t know a whole lot about Jake Martin.  He could be a speed rush option, in the vein of Cliff Avril.  Or, he could be a strongside linebacker, in the vein of Bruce Irvin.  He’ll have to make his way on special teams, so if that doesn’t work out for him, I can’t imagine he’ll hack it.

Alex McGough is a seventh round quarterback.  Someone on TV or radio pronounced his name as Magoo, which is fun.  I won’t hold my breath on this guy, though.

All in all, a lot of interesting pieces.  Here’s hoping the team can develop them into starters in this league.

The Seahawks Have A Lot Of Work To Do, Starting With This Year’s Draft

Before we get too far into this, just know that I’m not doing any sort of mock draft or any of that nonsense.  These are just going to be some of my general thoughts surrounding what the Seahawks should do later this week.

First, let’s look at the list of picks the Seahawks currently own as of this writing:

  • 1st Round (18th)
  • 4th Round (20th)
  • 5th Round (4th)
  • 5th Round (9th)
  • 5th Round (31st)
  • 7th Round (8th)
  • 7th Round (30th)
  • 7th Round (32nd)

There’s a lot of bad information out on the Internet, so as best as I can tell the Seahawks have those 8 picks at the moment.  Not for nothing, but that’s quite the Mike Holmgrenian stack of picks, as this team squandered some real value picks to bring in guys like Sheldon Richardson and Duane Brown.  It’s assumed that the Seahawks are looking to get back into the 2nd & 3rd rounds, which is either going to cost them their first round pick or Earl Thomas.

I’ve been waffling all offseason on this thing, but I’m finally ready to make a decision:  I DON’T want the Seahawks to trade down from the 18th pick in the draft (unless it’s a very minor move – 2-3 spots maybe – that still allows them to get their guy).  I want the Seahawks to pick in the top 20 in the first round if at all possible, because I believe there’s an impact player in that range.  With all the teams we figure will take quarterbacks in the top half of the first round, some real studs are bound to fall!  I want the Seahawks to grab one of these studs and have him start right away.

I also, not for nothing, DON’T want that pick to be on the offensive line.  This team has proven countless times that it doesn’t know what the fuck it’s doing in this area, so stop wasting high picks!  Select a guy at a position they’re more in tune with, and again, let him start right away.  Something else I’ve gleaned in recent years is that offensive linemen aren’t good right away.  It takes a year or two to get used to the NFL way of playing O-Line (unless you’re one of the very best in the draft, which are usually in the top 10 or 15 of the first round, where the Seahawks never get to pick anymore), and quite frankly it takes a year or two to get strong enough to deal with these massive D-Linemen.  So, fuck it.  I want a guy we can see a lot of production from right away.

Which brings me to the other main point:  I’m okay with trading Earl Thomas to get 2nd and/or 3rd round picks.  Look, we’ve had him at his best.  He’s never going to be any better than he’s been in a Seahawks uniform.  Yes, he was very good in 2017, and he very well may continue to be very good for the next few years, but eventually he WILL start to slip, and I don’t think I want to take the risk.  The risk being:  him slipping sooner than we all anticipate.  I’m not comfortable giving him top safety money if we’re only going to get 2-3 years of elite play before the slide.  And, let’s not forget what just happened to Kam.  One wrong hit – considering how Earl has played the game since entering the league – could end his career.  He’s taken quite a pounding since 2010; let some other team worry about that.  The flipside is that he learns to play safer, but do you want to watch Earl not playing Earl-type football?  Avoiding the impact hits in favor of a safer ankle tackle, while giving up additional yards in the process?

Sorry, I’m out.  Earl Thomas is a Hall of Famer, and I’ll always appreciate what he did for the Seahawks, but this is a rebuilding year and sacrifices need to be made.  Get those picks, save that money, get the cap right for 2019 and beyond, and let’s get back into championship mode by next year.

If it works out the way I want it to, we could be in for a very fun and entertaining draft.  The Seahawks have needs up and down the roster; for my money, this is the order of importance:

  1. Running Back
  2. Defensive Line
  3. Safety (assuming Earl is traded)
  4. Cornerback
  5. Tight End
  6. Wide Receiver
  7. Linebacker
  8. Offensive Line
  9. Quarterback
  10. Punter/Kicker

If I had my druthers, the Seahawks would use that first round pick on either the best running back available, or the best free safety available (again, assuming Earl is traded).  Chris Carson is a nice hedge, but if there’s another Leonard Fournette or Ezekiel Elliott-type back that falls to us, I hope we pounce.  Those guys are such game-changers for their teams (obviously, I don’t want dudes with sketchy pasts, but from a pure talent standpoint, you get the idea).  Either that, or if there’s another speed freak at safety we can plug back there for LOB 2.0 (with Shaq and whoever we end up with on the opposite side).

If I had to guess, though, I think the Seahawks will draft the best pass rusher available with their first pick.  It’s what they do!  I won’t hate it, but I’ll admit a little variety goes a long way in my book, and picking a stud running back or safety would be right up my alley.

I do think getting another diamond in the rough cornerback in the 3rd/4th round range would be ideal, to pit him opposite Shaq (with Coleman roaming the slot).  And, while I don’t think this will be picked high, if there’s a freakish linebacker that falls into the 2nd/3rd round range, I wouldn’t be shocked to see that move made.  More likely they’ll use one of the 5th rounders to pick up another linebacker project, with the hopes that he’d take K.J.’s place after this year.

As for tight end, I just think they need bodies, but I don’t think they need highly-drafted bodies.  I also don’t know if the draft is littered with amazing tight ends, so probably better to dumpster dive this spot.  Nevertheless, the Seahawks DO need a long term solution, so let’s hope they’ve done their homework here.  Wide receiver, on the other hand, is always a good idea to look into.  Again, I doubt it would be picked high, but it’d be interesting if they found a stud in the second round that they liked.  Tyler Lockett might move on at the end of his deal, so we’re going to need SOMEONE to pair opposite Doug.

It seems to be a foregone conclusion that the Seahawks are going to look into getting a real, legitimate backup quarterback, so I really wonder how long they’re committed to waiting out the draft.  One would assume this hypothetical QB will be a late-draft project, but I guess you never know.  Teams seem to be particularly quarterback-crazy this year, so you have to wonder what will be left over after the good meat has been picked off the bone.  And, finally, while I don’t want them to draft these positions, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to look into some of the top undrafted punters and kickers.  Something tells me that WON’T happen, but I can dream, can’t I?

The point is, everywhere.  There’s a need at every single spot, including offensive line, which I didn’t talk about, because I’m sick of talking about it.  So, the Seahawks can do what they do best:  stockpile picks, and take the best players available when it’s on them.  We should have a lot to talk about later this week; I’m looking forward to it.

The Seahawks Signed D.J. Fluker

It’s a 1-year deal for an unknown amount of money.

Depending on how much the contract is worth, this could be the first move I approve of when it comes to this Seahawks offseason.  We needed another guard, because there’s no way in hell Luke Joeckel would be returning, and I want no part of Rees Odhiambo starting games for this team, so it pretty much had to come from free agency or the draft.  And while it looks like they opted for the former, I suppose that doesn’t necessarily prevent them from also picking a guy from the college ranks.  But, I dunno.  That seems like it would be a move designed to have someone compete with Ethan Pocic, when I thought he did okay last year.

As it stands, the O-Line is looking like this:

Duane Brown – Ethan Pocic – Justin Britt – D.J. Fluker – Ifedi/Fant

In other words, it’s pretty well set.  I think 4/5 spots are on lock, barring injury, with Germain Ifedi in a true position battle for that right tackle spot with George Fant, who is returning from ACL injury (and was the presumptive starting left tackle for this team before Britt dove at his legs and set the disaster that was the 2017 season in motion).

As for Fluker himself, he was the 11th overall draft pick in 2013, and the Seahawks are already his third team, so you tell me if he’s a bust or not.  The Chargers selected Fluker out of Alabama to be a tackle for them, but he was never good enough to stick at left tackle, and eventually couldn’t even stick at his more natural right tackle position.  They moved him inside, which is where he remains.  He appears to be exclusively a right-side lineman, which means it’s Right Guard or it’s nothing.  After the Chargers waived him, he signed a deal with the Giants last year for 1 year, $3 million; a toe injury limited him to 9 games.

So, given that history, perhaps my initial take was incorrect.  Someone who flamed out with his original team and was only able to net $3 million with the Giants for 9 games, I can’t imagine he got a RAISE based on that!  Then again, what did Luke Joeckel’s dumb ass ever do to deserve over $7 million?  My point is, I don’t trust this front office to NOT overpay for worthless linemen off the scrap heap.  See also:  $1 million for Bradley Sowell and nearly $3 million for J’Marcus Webb.

What I do like, however, are the reports that say Fluker is 100% healthy.  Of course, that doesn’t preclude him from getting another body part injured – or re-injuring that very same toe – but at least we can hope he’ll show up to Training Camp ready to work.  He’s also heading into his age 27 season, so he should be extra motivated to kick some ass and get a nice, fat contract.  He’s an Alabama kid, so you know he was at least – at one point – one of the top recruits in the country.  And, at over 340 pounds, he’s fucking HUGE.  He might get beat in pass protection every now and then, but I can’t imagine he’ll be bull-rushed into the pocket too many times.  It also sounds like he’s a pretty good run blocker, so pairing him with Ifedi on that side could pose some unique challenges for defenses when we run that way.

We’ll see.  I’m still all in on the Seahawks using their first round pick to take the best running back available, so I hope this means the odds of us drafting a guard at that spot go way down.  Frankly, I like the idea of not having to worry about the shuffling of offensive linemen at this point in the year.  We’ve got four spots nailed down, with two young guys looking to do battle for the fifth.  I like Brown for at least another year, I think Pocic will take a step forward in year 2, I think Britt is fine, I hope Fluker will be okay, and fingers crossed that a little continuity from year to year with Ifedi in the same spot will help him grow.