I’m Sick & Tired Of The Seahawks Having A Mediocre Defensive Line

I never know what to make of seasons like this one. The Seahawks finished with 45 sacks in 2022, which puts them in the top quarter of the league. Indeed, we finished with one more sack than the San Francisco 49ers, who is the epitome of a defensive front seven that I desperately want for the Seahawks!

I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but this year had a very Feast Or Famine sort of feel to the Seahawks’ success on defense. It seems like we feasted on the dregs of society, but then we went totally in the tank in games we lost. Early on in the year, our failure was attributed to the scheme change, so we tweaked things where linemen could single-gap their opponents and be more aggressive in getting up field. That seemed to be the solution, until it wasn’t, and we once again couldn’t get to the quarterback.

As we all know, pass rush isn’t just Sacks. There’s a lot to it. When I look at the Seahawks, I don’t see a top quarter pass rush in the NFL, in spite of their sack totals. Not that sacks aren’t important, but you need to be generating consistent pressure on a regular basis if you want what the 49ers have.

And that comes down to talent. The fact of the matter is: the Seahawks haven’t had a difference-maker along the defensive line since Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. Which gets back to my biggest pet peeve: always comparing the new guys we bring in to Bennett & Avril. But, that’s going to continue to happen, because we keep drafting guys in later rounds, expecting them to magically transform into Pro Bowlers.

It’s my greatest frustration as a Seahawks fan. After that perfect storm of amazing moves from 2010-2012, we were on top of the world. But, from 2015 onward, all we did was make the playoffs, lose in the playoffs, and draft in the mid-20’s. You know what you can’t find in the mid-20’s? Or, at least, you know what the Seahawks have NEVER been able to find in the mid-20’s? A difference-maker along the defensive line.

There’s L.J. Collier. There’s Lawrence Jackson back in the day. There’s Lamar King going back a little further. And then there’s all those guys we’ve taken in the 2nd-6th rounds, who’ve been kind of speedy and undersized, who we hoped would develop into edge rushers and/or strong-side linebackers. Boye Mafe and Tyreke Smith last year, Darrell Taylor and Alton Robinson in 2020, Rasheem Green and Jacob Martin in 2018. We keep waiting for these guys to really pop, but there’s no consistency from game-to-game.

Sure, Darrell Taylor improved from 6.5 sacks in 2021 to 9.5 sacks in 2022, but where was he for the entire first half of this year? Where’s that consistency? Every time we point to a modicum of success these guys have as a possible jumping-off point for greater success, they come back the next year and underwhelm our increased expectations.

I just want a fucking stud, man. I want a fucking animal on the defensive line that cannot be stopped. I want an Aaron Donald, I want a Myles Garrett, I want a fucking Bosa! I’m tired of trying to cutesy-poo scheme our way to an improved pass rush; I just want a game-wrecker back there, mucking things up and opening up opportunities for everyone else.

Football isn’t as fun to watch if your team sucks on defense. And the way to get good on defense is to bolster that defensive line with legitimate stars, not undersized prospects we hope might one day blossom into some damn thing. Not slow and plodding ‘tweeners who get eaten up by even subpar offensive linemen. But, you can’t get there without drafting in the top 3-5. You can’t get there when you’re overpaying at nonsense positions like off-ball linebackers and safeties.

That’s why I’m going to be harping on the need for the Seahawks to use this 5th overall pick on a defensive lineman. Don’t trade it! Don’t use it for any other fucking position. Lineman. Figure it out. And stop paying for all these damn safeties and linebackers, so the next time a Frank Clark type is ready to hit free agency, you can hang onto your own, rather than going dumpster diving for other team’s bullshit like Jadeveon Clowney and Sheldon Richardson.

Seahawks Death Week: The Case For Blowing It Up

With yesterday’s tantrum out of the way, now we can – with somewhat cooler heads – try to talk about this team rationally, and with less emotion.

This post is going to be totally useless, FYI. Total waste of time. While there absolutely IS a case to blow this team up and start anew, that’s not what’s going to happen. No one in charge of this organization wants that to happen (this team is too financially successful as is, Super Bowl or no Super Bowl). Really, no one in his right mind would look at a 12-4 team and say, “Let’s hit the reset button.” But, I’m not in my right mind! I’m mourning the end of yet another football season without a national championship. I’m angry and sad and starting to get numb to these early playoff exits. I may be spoiled, but it’s this team that’s spoiled me, so who’s more at fault?

With that in mind, I have to say that you can’t totally blow this team up. You have to pick a side: either you think we have the nucleus of players in place and it’s a matter of having a new coaching staff in there to properly guide this team to where we want it to go, or you don’t. And, if you don’t, then you want to keep the GM and coaches and have them get to work trading this nucleus (including Russell Wilson) for parts so we can rebuild from the ground up.

Both arguments are compelling. If we were dividing the fanbase up into a pie chart, my guess is the tiniest of slivers would be in favor of trading Russell Wilson and starting over on that side of the organization, probably for good reason (it’s REALLY fucking hard to find a franchise quarterback). A significant slice would be in favor of the unsatisfying status quo (keep the nucleus AND the coaches), filling in around the margins as best we can, and taking another run at it next season. And, probably the biggest slice (but it would be pretty close to the status quo slice, I bet) would be in favor of firing Pete Carroll and our offensive and defensive coordinators (and, who knows, maybe even general manager John Schneider to boot).

That having been said, the pie chart of things that are actually likely to happen would be an entire circle of the status quo, but that’s neither here nor there.

Let’s start with the coaches: why won’t they be fired? For starters, Pete Carroll just signed a big-money contract extension this year. The offense just set a franchise record for most points in a season. The defense was one of the best in all of football over the final eight games. The team went 12-4 and won the NFC West. Also, Pete Carroll is notoriously loyal to his guys; it takes quite a significant faceplant for him to want to fire anyone. This is a no-brainer; other than maybe an unimportant assistant/position coach here and there, no one is going anywhere.

EDIT: whoops.

Why should they be fired? Well, for all the reasons fans have been bitching about this team for the last six years! Play-calling is lacking on offense. The defensive scheme seems to be nonexistent. The 2020 Seahawks only REALLY performed against inferior units (the offense was elite in the first half against the league’s worst defenses; the defense only turned things around when going against the league’s worst offenses). Pete Carroll’s game-management has been atrocious the entire time he’s been here (wasted time outs, taking forever to get the plays called into our offense, hyper-conservative decisions on fourth downs and in plays called in general when behind the sticks), and he has failed to adjust to a changing NFL when it comes to scheme on both sides of the ball.

It would be nice to have a head coach that hewed closer to more of an analyical mindset. It’s imperative that we set up our offense to take advantage of the skillset of our best players (our quarterback and top two receivers), which also coincides with building our offensive line to be better at pass protection (when we seemingly always go after guys who are better run blockers).

As for the defense, yes we need a smarter coordinator to set us up better for success, but I think here is where our personnel department has severely failed us. The last outside pass rusher we drafted and successfully developed was Frank Clark, and he was a guy we let walk. We continually over-draft and over-pay the linebacker position (dating back to the Mike Holmgren days), when those guys are a dime a dozen. And, too often we’ve relied on homegrown secondary players (Tre Flowers, Tedric Thompson, Lano Hill, etc.) and stuck with them too long in hoping they’d figure it out, to the detriment of our pass defense. And, assuming we overpay Shaquill Griffin to be just an okay cornerback (who almost never generates turnovers), that’ll be another move that ultimately backfires and hampers our salary cap.

Cap management has been abysmal ever since the L.O.B. era graduated to second (and third) contracts. Overpaying linebackers and running backs, underpaying linemen (on both sides of the ball), and ultimately being stuck with a quarterback at the top of the market who can’t do it all himself (because, news flash: NO quarterback can do it all himself; the Chiefs will learn once the talent level around Mahomes dips, particularly on the defensive side of the ball). It’s left us cash-strapped every year, unable to do much of anything with the few million dollars we manage to open up, and what we do spend it on tends to be terribly-overpriced veterans (Greg Olsen, Luke Joeckel). That forces our hand into trading away valuable high draft picks for truly impactful stars (Jamal Adams, Carlos Dunlap), which kicks the can down the road. Remember how the Houston Texans under Bill O’Brien totally fucked themselves playing for the short-term by mortgaging their future? That’s the road we’re headed down. The more years that pass between the present and the last time we made the Super Bowl (or even the NFC Championship Game, since it was the same year), the more desperate Pete Carroll and John Schneider will be. Which will lead them to make more and more panic deals to try to win now, ultimately resulting in a long period of mediocrity if we’re not careful.

No one “wins forever” in the NFL, I don’t care who you are. It’s a fine motto, but it’s an unrealistic expectation. The chickens come home to roost at some point.

Here’s what we do know: Pete Carroll and John Schneider were at their best when they took a franchise at its nadir and turned it into the best team in the NFL (and one of the best teams of all time). The Seahawks were largely good under Mike Holmgren (with one season of relative greatness), then they fell off in 2008 and 2009. Carroll & Schneider came in prior to the 2010 season and the Seahawks won a Super Bowl in 2013.

Here’s also what we know: we haven’t won a damn thing since.

Do these guys know how to run a successful team long term? Or, are they just expert house-flippers who can only turn garbage dumps into mansions?

OR, did they just get super lucky and are actually just mediocre-at-best when they’re not continually hitting the lottery with draft picks and free agent signings?

If you believe in these guys and their ability to spot young (or underappreciated veteran) talent and cultivate it into a championship squad, then maybe you’d be in favor of a fresh start among the nucleus? Trade Russell Wilson to the Jets, get our draft picks back (plus the #2 overall selection), dump Bobby Wagner and anyone else who is old and overpaid, and start off with a fresh slate from a salary cap perspective effective 2022!

This obviously comes with the most risk. First and foremost, you have to hit on a rookie quarterback either in the 2021 or 2022 draft and hope they’re able to start immediately and produce at a high level. Then, you have to do what we did from 2010-2012: hit on elite young talent on the defensive side of the ball at key positions so that we’re ready to dominate the conference in 2-3 years. You have to hire a smart defensive coordinator and have the coaching staff in place to build these guys into winners. All while being second-guessed by the entirety of the football-following public; it’s a tall order!

As I’ll get into later this week (and, as I’ve said before), I think the Seahawks SHOULD drop Bobby Wagner and some of these other aging vets. I could also buy an argument to trade Wilson, if the return was right! Sure, he’s got another ten years in the league. Sure, he’s a proven winner and one of the best quarterbacks alive. Yes, I know what it’s like trying to 8-8 my way with a league-average guy under center. But, I also know that Wilson isn’t getting any younger. More importantly, he’s not getting any FASTER. You’ve seen what I’ve seen: he’s not escaping the breaking-down pocket as easily; these defensive linemen are catching up to him and bringing him down more often than he’s getting away and making magical things happen on the run. And, over the last few weeks, even when he HAS managed to avoid a sack, he’s converting a painfully small percentage of these sandlot throws into completions deep down field (certainly a much smaller percentage than he used to complete). Wilson is also not getting any TALLER. I never complained about his height when he was fast enough to elude defenders; but if he can’t run, and he can’t see over the crowd of linemen around him in the pocket, then how are we going to sustain drives against the league’s best defenses? How are we going to improve our third down conversions when opposing teams know we have to throw and can tee off on a turtling Wilson who succumbs to an avalanche of bodies?

Look, I’m not saying the Seahawks MUST trade Wilson. I’m not even saying I think they should. But, if they did, and the return was right, I could at least understand the argument. What is more likely: the Seahawks win a championship with the status quo, the Seahawks win a championship with Russell Wilson and a different front office, or the Seahawks win a championship with the same front office and a different quarterback?

Honestly, I don’t know the answer to that, but I’ll tell you what I believe: the REAL answer is D. None of the Above.

I don’t think the Seahawks will win a championship again with the organization as is. I think ultimately Russell Wilson will outlast Pete Carroll and John Schneider (and, obviously, the coordinators set in place), but I also don’t think Wilson will ever win another title in a Seahawks uniform. I think the Seahawks will make the playoffs plenty of times over the next decade, and our seasons will continue to end just as they have since 2015: disappointing and underachieving.

I won’t say the Seahawks will never again make another Super Bowl (I’ve learned my lesson making that guarantee), but I will say the team will look TOTALLY different from the top to the bottom the next time they do. And, if I’m ultimately proven right, then why not blow it all up now and get a jumpstart on things? What are we waiting for? To age another ten-plus years while being in the same place we are now? What’s the point of that?

How Many Starters Have The Seahawks Drafted In The Previous Ten Years?

On the Brock & Salk podcast this week, they were talking to Daniel Jeremiah who made an interesting point about the NFL Draft. He said that every team’s goal should be to select three starters in every draft, ideally with one of those players being true blue chippers. You can define “starter” and “blue chipper” in any number of ways; I think as you’ll see, I’m pretty generous.

For example, I would count Nickel Corner among the “starters” because they play such a high percentage of snaps (usually). I would also count #2 tight ends, because the Seahawks value that position so highly (I would not, however, count #2 running backs, oddly enough; so you won’t see Robert Turbin on here). I’m also not counting players the Seahawks drafted who would go on to have more successful careers elsewhere (so, no Mark Glowinski or Spencer Ware among my picks); if they weren’t starters for the Seahawks, then I’m not interested. I don’t care about “hit rate” unless it applies to the team I love.

The discussion, of course, centers around how GREAT the Seahawks were at drafting from 2010-2012, contrasted with how TERRIBLE they’ve been from 2013 onward. So, without further ado, let’s a-DO this!

2010-2012: The Good Years

2010

  • Russell Okung (LT)
  • Earl Thomas (FS)
  • Golden Tate (WR)
  • Walter Thurmond (CB)
  • Kam Chancellor (SS)

2011

  • James Carpenter (LG)
  • K.J. Wright (LB)
  • Richard Sherman (CB)
  • Byron Maxwell (CB)
  • Malcolm Smith (LB)

2012

  • Bruce Irvin (DE/LB)
  • Bobby Wagner (LB)
  • Russell Wilson (QB)
  • Jeremy Lane (CB)
  • J.R. Sweezy (RG)

What a murderer’s row! That’s not even factoring in such quality starters/blue chippers as undrafted free agents Doug Baldwin, DeShawn Shead, and Jermaine Kearse! You can see why this team went to back-to-back Super Bowls; those are three drafts that produced 15 starters, with 8 of them being real blue chippers (Okung, Earl, Tate, Kam, K.J., Sherm, BWagz, and Russ) on top of, again, blue chipper Doug and two more starting-calibre players.

Now, you can nitpick, of course. Malcolm Smith might be the biggest stretch, but in base defense as a strongside linebacker he made some impact plays (and, of course, was MVP of the Super Bowl, so give me a break!). Lane and Thurmond were both nickel corners. And, some of these guys took a couple years before they developed into starters. Nevertheless, all of these guys made significant impacts on the Seahawks’ success for our glory years.

2013-2016: The Bad Years

2013

  • Luke Willson (TE)

2014

  • Justin Britt (C)

2015

  • Frank Clark (DE)
  • Tyler Lockett (WR)

2016

  • Germain Ifedi (RT)
  • Jarran Reed (DT)

That’s truly NOT GREAT! Frank Clark is arguably the best player on this list, and he’s not even on the team anymore because we didn’t see him as worthy of a contract at the top of the market. Lockett is probably the guy who panned out the best for us, given that we were able to extend him to a reasonable second contract (that he continues to out-play every time he steps on the field). Luke Willson is a HUGE stretch, because he’s only been a de facto #1 tight end when the guys ahead of him got injured; otherwise he’s at-best a #2. Britt and Ifedi you could argue were overpaid busts. Reed is still around, but obviously wasn’t able to capitalize on his one great year due to being suspended for domestic violence.

2017-2019: The We’ll See Years

2017

  • Shaquill Griffin (CB)
  • Chris Carson (RB)

2018

  • Will Dissly (TE)
  • Tre Flowers (CB)
  • Michael Dickson (P)

2019

  • D.K. Metcalf

Before we talk about these guys, I have one holdover from the 2016 draft – Joey Hunt – who became a starter for a large chunk of the 2019 season, but I’m hesitant to want to elevate him on my list unless he wins the center job out of camp in 2020. That might make the 2016 draft look marginally better, but still I don’t know if anyone expects Hunt to be here long-term.

Anyway, it’s pretty early to make definitive proclamations about the 2017-2019 drafts, but it’s encouraging that I’ve listed the same number of players here that I did for the FOUR drafts preceeding them. Griffin and Dickson have already made Pro Bowls (though, Dickson almost feels like cheating since he’s a punter). Dissly looks as good as any tight end in football when he’s healthy, as does Carson among running backs. And, D.K. really broke out as a rookie last year, looking like a stud for many years to come.

You can probably close the book on the rest of the 2017 draft; none of the guys I left off look like they’ll be anything of note for the Seahawks. There’s marginal hope for a couple others from 2018. Rasheem Green has the highest upside, and figures to get a lot of playing time this year along the defensive line. He’s sort of a default starter for the Seahawks; we’ll see if he’s able to do anything with the opportunity. Tre Flowers – while it looks like he’ll lose his starting job to newcomer Quinton Dunbar (assuming he’s formally acquitted of robbery charges, AND isn’t suspended by the team/league) – still figures to be well involved in the defense. Also, if he can stay healthy and play well, Jamarco Jones has a higher ceiling than we might’ve originally expected.

As for 2019, there are a lot of hopefuls. L.J. Collier will get a long look this season. Marquise Blair hopes to win one of the starting safety jobs (and could also figure in the Big Nickel package, against the more difficult tight ends on our schedule). Cody Barton could eventually start at one of the outside linebacker spots if he plays his cards right (looking less likely, of course, with who the Seahawks drafted last month). Phil Haynes might win a starting spot on the offensive line in his second season. And, with a VERY outside chance, who knows? Maybe John Ursua takes over as this offense’s primary slot receiver!

As for the 2020 draft, all we can do is speculate. Jordyn Brooks figures to be a starter one day soon. Damien Lewis might be a starter from day one. And, everyone hopes Darrell Taylor gets a lot of play early at defensive end. Also, Colby Parkinson will have every opportunity to be this team’s #2 tight end as early as 2021.

So, it’s been a real rollercoaster over the last decade! Here’s hoping things are finally trending back in the right direction over the last 3-4 drafts. The one thing that worries me is the lack of blue chippers since 2013. From The Bad Years, I count only two from those four drafts (Clark & Lockett). From The We’ll See Years … again, we’ll see. D.K. seems like the safest bet. Griffin, I guess, you have to put in there (though, compared to blue chippers of seasons past, he doesn’t quite live up). Dickson, again, feels like cheating, but okay he counts. Carson and Dissly are definite blue chippers when healthy, but they both feel like incompletes.

The argument from 2013-2016 was that the Seahawks had so many great players from the previous three years that it was exceedingly difficult for younger guys to break through. That has, decidedly, not been as much of a problem over the last three seasons, particularly on defense where it’s been trending downward for half a decade. 2020 will be VERY interesting, because I don’t see too many sacred cows on this roster (again, particularly on defense). What I think is interesting is that the Seahawks don’t seem to be NEARLY as concerned with the defensive line as the fans are, which leads me to wonder what they know that we don’t. We have lots of stats and anecdotal information at our disposal, but they’re obviously embedded with these players fairly intimately. They get to see what these guys are capable of in practice, as well as talk to them and get into their heads.

Long story short: the team almost always knows more than the fans and “experts” do. So, maybe they’ll be right. Maybe we don’t need someone like Clowney because guys like Green, Collier, and Taylor will take huge steps forward! I remember fans being similarly up in arms in the early years of this regime, when a lot of the younger guys in the secondary won their jobs over established veterans. We were freaking out, but the Legion Of Boom proved us all to be pretty foolish. I hope we’re in for something like that again!

Seahawks 2020 Draft Needs: Defense

Check it out, I wrote about the offense yesterday!

I really don’t care what the Seahawks do on the offensive side of the ball, if I’m being honest. For the purposes of competing in 2020, I think we’re set. If I had my druthers, the Seahawks would devote every single draft pick to the defense, because that’s where they’re most deficient; but I live in the world. I know they’re not going to do that, because that would be idiotic. There’s a reason why I’m not an NFL general manager, and it’s thinking like this that continues to hold me back! Certainly not my lack of experience or connections or scouting know-how or temperament or lack of people skills or drive or ability to dress myself properly or poor math skills or …

The thing is, while I know it’ll probably be split pretty close to even when it comes to filling holes on offense and defense, as long as they avoid the offensive line, I don’t think there’s anything they can really do wrong when it comes to drafting for offense (other than taking a running back in the first three rounds). They SHOULD be able to hit on any wide receiver or tight end they land on, because they have Russell Wilson at quarterback. He’s the cure for what ails pretty much everything on this team. The only way they “miss” is if they draft someone who’s injury prone, but that’s not so much the organization’s fault as it is bad luck.

The impetus, however, for what’s going to happen this week – what’s going to make-or-break the next few years – is if we hit or miss on a key defender, particularly defensive end. We NEED to hit on this position, more than we need to hit on anything else; more than we’ve needed to hit on anything in YEARS.

The Seahawks have a pretty pisspoor track record when it comes to defensive linemen in the draft. L.J. Collier is the most recent example, Malik McDowell is the most GLARING example, but then there’s Rasheem Green’s underwhelming first two seasons, Naz Jones’ even more underwhelming first three seasons, Jarran Reed’s one good season, Quinton Jefferson’s career as a backup, Cassius Marsh’s good Special Teams career, and all the other guys nobody remembers (of which there are plenty in the Carroll/Schneider era).

On the good side of the ledger, we have Bruce Irvin (probably a reach at #15 overall), and Frank Clark (who we didn’t deem worthy of a $20+ million-per-year contract, so we traded him to the Chiefs). That’s it. How great has it been, Pete Campbell?

Well, my name’s not Bob, but I appreciate your candor.

I know it’s pretty pointless to try and expect a rookie to impress right out of the box – especially in a year like this, when we don’t even know if there’s going to be a Training Camp or anything else – but we can’t fuck around here. If I see the letters TCU after the guy’s name that we draft, I’m going to blow a gasket. I want a legitimate pass rushing threat (from a good fucking school) – like one of the umpteen guys we’ve passed on throughout the years – and not one of these “tweeners” who can play D-tackle or 5-technique end. Give me a fucking guy who can line up outside and get to the fucking quarterback already! Use all your picks to make it happen if you have to!

Beyond that, it’s probably wise to expect another mid-round defensive tackle. I’m hearing chatter about linebacker again – even though we drafted two guys last year – but it would make sense a little bit, as this is (almost certainly) K.J. Wright’s last year with the team, and Bruce Irvin is only on a one-year deal himself. And, who knows, probably expect another late-round DB to sit behind our starters and learn the system.

But, again, I don’t care about any of that. Give me a fucking defensive end we can all count on, or don’t bother coming home at all!

The Seahawks Signed Chance Warmack & No Other Stuff Happened

Another offensive lineman! I guess this year’s draft is a piece of shit when it comes to the O-Line, so the Seahawks are going hard in free agency to hedge some bets.

I guess I took more stock in D.J. Fluker’s status as a starting guard a little more seriously as I should’ve. Granted, Warmack sounds more like a left guard, but then how do you explain B.J. Finney’s 2-year deal? Unless Finney really is going to vie for the starting center job with Joey Hunt.

The point is, I guess the Seahawks have a lot of options, all across the board. Duane Brown locks down the left tackle spot. Warmack and Finney might compete for left guard with youngsters Jamarco Jones, Ethan Pocic, and Phil Haynes. Hunt, Pocic, and Finney might compete for center (with Britt MAYBE, but I doubt he’ll be around). Then, you’ve got Fluker, Finney, and the youngsters also going after the right guard spot. And, finally, there’s Brandon Shell, Cedric … Ogbuehi, and I don’t know who else going after the right tackle spot (though, I feel pretty secure in anointing Shell at this point, based on his experience).

I think this is all good. I feel MUCH more comfortable going with veteran re-treads over rookies any day, but there’s enough potential here to build something better than average. The holdovers are all either great (Brown) or solid (Hunt, Jones, Fluker), with the new depth holding limitless possibilities (particularly Warmack and Shell; Finney to a lesser extent), and some of the younger guys having a lot of promise (everyone seems high on Haynes, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to totally quit Pocic, especially if he’s the center).

Depth! Depth at a critical position of need on a team where it’ll make a world of difference. We all know Russell Wilson can manage without a top notch O-Line, but he’s unlocked and allowed to go off when he’s got even a modicum of protection. He thrives, the running game thrives, and the offense as a whole is really free to do its thing.

These are also relatively cheap deals, meaning there’s still a significant reserve of funds available (especially with a few key roster cuts) to bolster the defense. As a plus, this frees us up in the draft to go hard after some high-risk/high-reward defenders. Considering where we’re picking (27th overall) and considering where our D-Line ranked last year, I think it’s time to roll the dice again. They’re not all Malik McDowells! Sometimes they’re Frank Clarks! I mean, as I write that, it doesn’t sound totally great, but on the field Clark was a beast and that’s what I’m talking about here! Finding a beast in this year’s draft who maybe didn’t allegedly do … things, you know what? Nevermind. Whatever the Seahawks want to do, or not do. Whatever.

No one said it was easy being a sports fan.

The 2019 Seahawks Have Yet To Play A Really Great, Complete Game Of Football This Season

This is a weird Seahawks team that’s currently heading into the Divisional Round of the playoffs. This is going to be a Memory Lane post about the Seahawks, so let’s take a little trip.

The 2018 Seahawks were a very pleasant surprise, considering a lot of people thought this team would be starting a massive decline phase after our Championship Window closed, but we won 10 games and were a 5-seed in the NFC. That team was a lot like this year’s version, except I would argue we’re MAYBE a little better this year. That being said, they still had a dominant 27-3 win over Oakland in London as probably their most complete win of the season.

The 2016 season was the last time we made it this far in the playoffs; that was the aforementioned closing of the Championship Window for this team under Pete Carroll. After a somewhat rocky start, we had really significant victories over Carolina (40-7) and later the Rams (24-3) down the stretch to propel us into the second round of the playoffs.

We had plenty of lopsided victories throughout our major run from 2012-2015. Sometimes they come early; usually we get one or two late. But, this team almost always finds a way to put a complete, 60-minute game together in all three phases.

Yet, here we are, heading to Green Bay this Sunday, and 2019 is severely and bafflingly lacking.

It’s not for lack of cupcake opponents, either! The Bengals won 2 games; they have the number one pick in 2020; they played us to the bitter end on our own field and only lost by a single point. The Panthers and Cardinals both won only 5 games; we won in Carolina by less than a touchdown, and we actually GAVE Arizona one of their victories (again, on our home field) by two touchdowns. Cleveland, Tampa, and Atlanta were all on our schedule, and all were 1-score victories for the Seahawks.

The closest we get to a real DOMINATING performance by the Seahawks is either our victory in Carolina (where we were up 30-10 in the fourth quarter before a rash of injuries allowed them to pull it close in the final minutes – with an opportunity to win had we punted back to them on our final drive) or our 27-10 victory down in Arizona in Week 4, which was the only game we won all season that was more than a 1-score game (we LOST three games by more than a single score, and it’s pretty easy to find games where we were simply out-classed).

I won’t downplay that victory over Arizona – it was the only reason why we ended up with a positive point-differential this season, after all – as I wrote the next day, the game was never seriously in doubt. But, there was something less-than-satisfying about the 17-point victory. As unsatisfying as it can be to win by 3 scores, anyway.

For starters, we were up against a rookie quarterback making just the fourth start of his career. #1 overall pick or not, that’s a game you should win. Primarily, though, that Cardinals defense was truly atrocious, and as I wrote about in my post-game blog post, we left points on the field.

It was 20-10 in the fourth quarter when we got the ball back, and that’s with the Cardinals missing two make-able field goals in the first half. It took an 8-minute clock-killing touchdown drive to give the game its final score; had we mucked it up there, who knows where the game ends up?

That’s a far cry from the 58-0 shellacking we gave the Cards back in 2012 (followed by a 50-17 drubbing in Buffalo, followed by a 42-13 dismantling of the eventual Super Bowl participating 49ers … ahh those were the days).

The most points we scored in 2019 was 40 against the Bucs, and we needed every one of them as that was an overtime thriller that required us to come back from 14 points down late in the second quarter.

The fewest points we’ve given up this year was 9, both against a broken and beaten-up Eagles team; and we could only muster 17 on offense each time to get the W’s.

Part of me has obviously belabored the same point: this is TOTALLY unsustainable. We can’t continue to win close game after close game. And, when you figure our opponents only get better from here, the odds of us putting together a complete, 60-minute game in all three phases feels like slim-to-none.

What’s most galling is that these Seahawks CLEARLY have the potential to have gotten this done. At full strength, on paper, these Seahawks are one of the best 8 teams in the league, and that’s proven out with this playoff run. The problem is, the Seahawks have rarely been at full strength, especially when you factor in the “on paper” aspect.

On paper, Jarran Reed was coming off of a 10-sack season; he missed the first six weeks to suspension, took a while to get going, and ultimately never lived up to that lofty ideal. On paper, Ziggy Ansah was supposed to – ideally – give us at least 75% of what Frank Clark did last year; he started the season injured and turned out to be totally finished for his NFL career. On paper AND on the field, Jadeveon Clowney has produced like a guy deserving of $20+ million a season, but he’s dealt with injury issues of his own (that currently still plague him to at least a moderate degree) and missed some games here and there. Injuries to Diggs and Griffin in the secondary killed any chances we had of winning the NFC West and a first round BYE. Our tight end room has been reduced to rubble at times. I’m still convinced everyone on our O-Line has been playing through injuries, and now those chickens are coming home to roost with our older veterans – Brown and Iupati – starting to wear down and miss game time. David Moore missed time early in the season; Malik Turner and Jaron Brown have missed time late; and Josh Gordon was a whirlwind affair that blew up in our faces spectacularly.

The point is, there hasn’t been a single game this season where we’ve been anywhere near full strength; there’s always been at least one or two or a half dozen guys out with injury or suspension or playing through some stuff. But, of course, you can say that about every team. And yet, look through the playoffs at the remaining teams and you’re bound to find at least one or two super-dominating performances.

Look no further than the supposedly-mediocre Packers and you’ll find their schedule littered with double-digit victories.

So, while that part of me feels like we missed our chance to put it all together, there’s a teeny, tiny part of me that kinda sorta feels like we might be due. I know that’s dumb, and prior results have no bearing on future performance. But, this is an 11-win Seahawks team playing in the Divisional Round of the playoffs; SURELY we can do better than a 17-point victory over a God-awful Cardinals team in the first month of the season as our Signature Victory.

Most likely not. But, I’d still like to think so. For what it’s worth – barring any setbacks in practice this week (or any more failed drug tests, etc.) – we should be as healthy as can be heading into this Sunday. There apparently weren’t any setbacks with our most important defenders; Clowney, Diggs, and Wagner all made it through okay. Ansah’s season is probably over, but he also wasn’t giving us anything anyway. Duane Brown is a big question mark – and he’s sorely missed – but Mike Iupati is trending in the right direction, which is huge for our running game and our interior pass protection. His presence should make George Fant’s life easier on the edge. Hollister and Willson are a great duo at tight end, and it looks like at least Jaron Brown will be back this week for a little more help outside (particularly in run blocking at the receiver position). And, sure, the running back room is still in shambles, but Lynch continues to look better each and every week, and figures to have enough game prep under his belt to make more of an impact than the 28% of snaps he played against the Eagles. I know the Packers also sport a stout run defense, but with Lynch more involved, we should certainly see better rush numbers in this one.

Look, if it’s ever going to happen – if we’re ever going to have that bonzer, soul-crushing performance – it would have to be this week. I’m beyond ready to expect this will just never happen for the Seahawks this season, but you never know.

How Did The Seahawks Rookies Do In 2019?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seahawks Won A Stunning, Classic Monday Night Game In Santa Clara

This game was NUTS! This game was so intense and fun and nerve-wracking and painful and deliriously wonderful that I’ve done nothing but watch clips and read articles since it ended (with a little sleep and a little breakfast mixed in). I want to do nothing more than go back and re-live every single minute, so that’s what I’m gonna do here. Let’s re-live the shit out of it!

49ers’ 1st Drive – Every time the Seahawks had them nailed down, the 49ers were bailed out by the refs. Shaq Griffin looked like he had a pick to really turn the tides early, but a ticky-tack defensive holding penalty eliminated it. Then, on the very next third down, it looked like we had them stopped short and ready to punt, except for another lame PI call to give them another first down. We eventually held them to a field goal with their rookie kicker (signed off of the scrap heap this week to replace an injured Robbie Gould) who was making his first start for the 49ers, but the tone was set for an iffy game (to say the least) from the refs.

49ers’ 2nd Drive – After a quick Seahawks’ 3 & Out, the 49ers gashed their way down the field for a touchdown and a 10-0 lead. Now, I know the Seahawks almost always start out slow like this, but at this point I was pretty concerned there was going to be TOO much to overcome. The subsequent Seahawks 3 & Out did little to allay my concerns.

49ers’ 5th Drive – The teams traded a few punts back and forth and we finally settled into something of a routine, which was smashed apart with a perfectly-timed pass rush to knock the ball out of Jimmy G’s hands for a fumble-return touchdown by Clowney. Clowney’s been the team’s obvious defensive MVP this year, but he took his game to another level in this one. I think he ended up with 10 pressures, 5 QB hits, 1 sack, and the touchdown on this drive to pull the game to 10-7. This was a definite “sigh of relief” moment where it finally felt like things could turn around.

Seahawks’ 5th Drive – We held the 49ers to a 3 & Out to take it to the 2-minute warning, and the table was set. Apparently, the 49ers had never given up a score in the final two minutes of a half (or maybe just a first half?), but there the Seahawks were, driving after a 20-yard punt return from Lockett (who ended up leaving the game injured in overtime, with a possible serious injury). It was all going according to plan, until it wasn’t: we were moving the proper direction, we were running the clock out, and there was D.K. Metcalf with a quick out that he somehow managed to take all the way to the 1-yard line, pulling multiple defenders with him. Except, the one guy re-established himself in bounds, ripped the ball from Metcalf’s hands, and recovered the ball at the 2-yard line to preserve the 49ers’ streak of good fortune inside of two minutes. The Seahawks should’ve been up 14-10 at halftime, but the 3-point deficit was preserved.

Seahawks’ 6th Drive – One thing I’ve grudgingly accepted is that these Seahawks – for whatever reason – start games slowly, pretty much on both sides of the ball these days. But, what really irks me is starting slow in the second halves of games, especially when we win the coin toss and defer to get the ball out of halftime. It almost shifted in this one, as the Seahawks looked to establish the run, with Carson moving the chains after three straight runs, followed by a D.K. reception to take us near midfield. Then, Penny entered the game for what I have to assume was the first and last time. He had 2 carries on the day, both on this drive: the first went for 2 yards, the second went for no gain and a fumble. He didn’t see the field again after that.

49ers’ 9th Drive – The Seahawks forced the 49ers to turn the ball over on downs following the Penny fumble, then ended up kicking it back 5 plays later. The game turned in a big way here on this drive, with a wild pass eluding the grasp of a Niners receiver for Quandre Diggs’ first interception in a Seahawks uniform. He got the start at free safety, with Bradley McDougald playing his preferred strong safety spot, and the Seahawks were immediately rewarded with his veteran presence. He had a couple other bigtime hits (one to prevent a bobbled catch for a big gain) and looks like he’ll fit in beautifully in this defense.

Seahawks’ 8th Drive – First play – from the San Francisco 16-yard line after the Diggs return – was a Carson run for 4 yards that turned into a fumble (thankfully recoverd by Hunt) for negative one yards. At that point, I mean, how do you not just put this game entirely on Russell Wilson’s shoulders? Before the game, all the ESPN analysts were calling the Seahawks a one-man show, which – have you met Chris Carson and Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf? But, Carson never really busted out, Lockett was held to 26 yards on only 3 receptions, and Metcalf had a tough one in catching only 6 out of 10 targets, with a few 50/50 balls batted away (and, of course, the fumble before halftime). So, after a Wilson scramble to the 3-yard line, he fudged around in the pocket until Hollister willed his way open in the back of the endzone for the go-ahead touchdown. 14-10.

Seahawks’ 9th Drive – The defense made their presence felt in Jimmy G’s face immediately following the touchdown, with Q-Jeff swallowing him up for a sack. The refs called him on what initially appeared to be a bogus lowering-the-head penalty until you saw the replay from the other angle. I still don’t love the rule – what are you supposed to do when the offensive guy lowers HIS head first? – but it is what it is (now, if only the refs would’ve called the same thing when the 49ers defender lowered HIS head on a Wilson run-and-slide later in the game). Anyway, in the first of many BALL DON’T LIE moments, the Seahawks got their sack 3 plays later, which forced a fumble to be recovered by the good guys. Once again deep in enemy territory, it took the Seahawks 4 plays to take a commanding 21-10 lead.

Seahawks’ 10th Drive – I’m still fucking irritated about this drive. This should’ve been the back-breaking, suck-out-their-souls drive to put the game away. The Seahawks forced a punt on the 49ers’ previous drive and at the top of the 4th quarter, looked to embark upon one of those 8-minute, game-killing drives where we ram it down the other team’s throats. And it started out promising enough! Three consecutive runs left us with 2nd & 7 and only 12 minutes left in the game. I know Seahawks fans around the world lament our run-heavy approach, but in this instance I don’t know why we didn’t keep pounding the rock. Instead, Wilson dropped back and was immediately overwhelmed by 97 guys (approx.) in his face. He lost control of the ball, it landed in Ifedi’s open arms (open because he was conveniently blocking NO ONE), who did his best Seahawks Running Back impression by holding it like a loaf of bread, only for the ball to be punched out for a 49ers’ defensive touchdown. They hit the 2-point conversion thanks to very weak coverage by Tre Flowers (who, along with Jamar Taylor, had games they’d largely love to forget, save the end score), and there we were, 21-18.

Seahawks’ 12th Drive – As soon as that disaster sequence hit, I knew this game had completely shifted. And, look, I know momentum isn’t a real thing that you can quantify or whatever, but tell that to a fighter who’d been dominating only to take a surprise pop to the chops. It sets you back! It knocks you on your heels. And sometimes it takes a while to recover. When the Seahawks got the ball back for their 11th drive, they went 3 & Out; at that point, it was only a question of whether the 49ers would re-take the lead or just tie it up. They drove down, stalled just outside of the redzone, and their rookie kicker split the uprights right down the middle. With a little over 6 minutes left in the quarter, I’ll be honest, I knew the Seahawks COULD drive it back for a go-ahead score, but they also could’ve just-as-easily coughed it up and gagged this one away. Thankfully, we converted a couple third downs to take this game down under 2 minutes. So, to set the stage: 3rd & 1, 1:55 left in the quarter, the 49ers just used their first time out of the half. Carson ran for 9 yards on the previous two plays, so I understand the impulse to continue to hand him the rock, but you knew we were gonna run it, I knew we were gonna run it, and as such the 49ers sure as SHIT knew we were gonna run it! I desperately wanted the Seahawks to put this in Wilson’s hands, and was severely disappointed when we didn’t do it. Now, I get it, if you can’t pick up 3rd & 1, then how much of a damn are you worth? But, at the same time, HE’S THE MVP MAN! Let the chef cook! There was still a chance the Seahawks might go for it on 4th & 1 – we even lined up in a half-hearted attempt to get them to jump offsides – but we kicked it instead. Now, in the longterm, I’m sure that move will work gangbusters for Jason Myers’ confidence, but you know as well as I do that the LAST thing anyone wanted was to put the game on his leg, especially after his performance against the Bucs last week. To his credit, he nailed it.

49ers’ 13th Drive – All I can really remember about this drive are the multiple dropped game-sealing interceptions (at least one by K.J. and Bobby each), and the Ansah offsides penalty that I’m pretty sure saw him benched for the rest of the game. Jimmy G was sloppy as all get-out in this game – he probably should’ve had 4 or 5 picks in total – but they somehow found themselves in field goal range with a chance to send it to overtime. The rookie kicker made the kick of his life and there we were, headed to overtime.

Seahawks’ 14th Drive – Geno Smith won the coin toss. Either he said “tails” and the ref heard “heads”, or his accent made his call SOUND like tails, but either way it felt like a gift, as for the second week in a row, the Seahawks won the overtime coin toss. And, for the second week in a row, it looked like the Seahawks would drive down for a game-winning touchdown without allowing the other team to touch the ball. The Seahawks are conservative in many infuriating ways under Pete Carroll, but I love how aggressive we are in these situations, where it really makes zero sense to settle for three. In the end, this drive almost killed me. For starters, on 2nd & 10 at our own 46 yard line, Russell Wilson was nearly swallowed up once again, except he kept his legs churning and busted free for a significant gainer … only for the refs to call him “in the grasp” of the defender for a 6-yard sack. I mean, I was irate. Irate isn’t even a strong enough emotion! I hadn’t spoken a word since that 49ers’ fumble return for a touchdown, but I was cursing up a storm after that play! Vindication came in the conversion of 3rd & 16 to Malik Turner, who had a GREAT game and helped us overcome the loss of Lockett. Unfortunately, as we closed inside the redzone, Wilson lofted a ball short to Hollister on a wheel route that was picked off and returned to midfield (Lowkey Play of the Game #1 – Duane Brown hustling his ass down field to knock him out of bounds, as they had a convoy ready to take him into the endzone).

49ers’ 14th Drive – At this point, I closed out all the windows on my laptop. I was THIS close to rage-quitting on the game entirely and going to bed. I stuck it out only to see the 49ers get into field goal range. On 4th & 1 at the Seahawks’ 29-yard line, the 49ers lined up for the game-winner. I’m usually not one for icing the kicker; I generally think it’s stupid and pointless and a waste of time (also, it seems like the kicker – if he gets a chance to get a practice shot off before the play is whistled dead – always misses his first try before hitting the second). BUT, if icing the kicker was EVER going to work out, this was the situation: rookie kicker, his first start for a new team, Monday Night Football, a perfect season on the line, against Russell Wilson and the division-rival Seahawks. We weren’t able to ice him before overtime because we didn’t have any time outs, but this time we did, and I’m GLAD we made him think about it a couple minutes longer. He shanked it about as badly as you can shank a ball, and the Seahawks had new life!

Seahawks’ 16th Drive – Then, the Seahawks went 3 & Out, followed by the 49ers ALSO going 3 & Out. Those two drives combined took up less than 2 minutes of game clock, leaving Seattle with 1:25 to get down in range. This time, yeah, you kinda have to settle for the field goal, and either he makes it and totally redeems himself, or he doesn’t and we settle for the fallout of a tie and all the kicker jokes from a national audience. That doesn’t mean Wilson didn’t have another trick up his sleeve, eluding the pass rush on 3rd & 3 (avoiding yet another consecutive 3 & Out) to scramble for 18 yards. From there, it was 8 yards to D.K. and another 7 on the legs of Carson to get it to the 24-yard line. You can’t do much better than that with no time left. Jason Myers made us sweat – as it was about a foot or two away from sailing wide right – but he did it, and we were all able to rejoice!

There were so many wild swings in this game; it was truly almost too much to endure. I had about 15 heart attacks in total, but in the end the Seahawks are 8-2 and have positioned themselves perfectly to make a legitimate run at the NFC West and a Top 2 seed in the conference.

I can’t say enough about the defense. I won’t say I was wrong about what they WERE leading up to this game, but I was absolutely DEAD WRONG about what they’re capable of going forward, starting with last night. Clowney is a force to be reckoned with. He deserves Frank Clark money and THEN some. The biggest stars shine the brightest on the biggest stages, and Clowney proved he’s one of the NFL’s best defensive linemen, period.

But, there were others. Shaquill Griffin had the Lowkey Play of the Game # 2 on that final 49ers 3 & Out, when he recovered deep down field on 3rd down to swat the ball away. That thing – if caught by Deebo Samuel (who dominated, with 8 receptions for 112 yards) – was destined to go for a touchdown, and Griffin just BARELY got hands on it to keep the game alive.

Jarran Reed was all over the place with 1.5 sacks and the forced fumble. Poona Ford was in the backfield all night. Al Woods cleaned up a would-be Clowney sack. Wagner and Wright were warriors. We had competent safety play from BOTH safety positions for the first time all year. Just when I expected this defense to crumble late in the game – exhausted and bruised and worn down – they found ways to keep this team in it and make Jimmy G’s life a living hell. He’s going to have nightmares about this game for weeks!

Meanwhile, after our most difficult game of the season, the Seahawks get a BYE week at the perfect time. Hopefully Lockett will be okay. Hopefully Willson won’t miss any time. Hopefully Ed Dickson will be back. Hopefully everyone else is able to rest and recover and enjoy the time off before a HUGE stretch run that will ultimately see this team competing for a Super Bowl!

Shit’s getting real now. This is gonna be fun.

2019 Seattle Seahawks Preview Extravaganza!

I feel like the best way to do this is to compare this year’s roster to last year’s roster, see how they match up, and use that as your basis when looking at this year’s schedule. Obviously, pitfalls abound in this strategy – teams on paper rarely translate to results on the field; similarly teams who look good or bad prior to the regular season rarely all live up to expectations – but what else is there to do on a Friday before the first Sunday of the year?

We can start with quarterback, because why not? At this point, Russell Wilson has proven himself to be one of the truly elite players at his position. If I’m building a real-life NFL team from scratch, there aren’t many players I’d choose ahead of him. Now, a lot goes into how you can predict his level of play: how does the O-line block, how does the running game help take some of the pressure off his shoulders, how do the receivers fare at getting open and making plays down field? In a vacuum, Russell Wilson should be no worse than he was in 2018, with maybe even still a little more room for growth.

I thought the Offensive Line was pretty great in 2018. Not perfect, but certainly better than we’d seen in quite some time. That unit is largely intact, with one injury-plagued veteran (Iupati) taking over for another (Sweezy). Duane Brown is still a stud and a leader, Justin Britt is fine, D.J. Fluker is still a beast, and Germain Ifedi took a HUGE step forward last year. In 2019, his final season under his rookie deal, Ifedi should be even better, as he looks for a big payday going into 2020. Ethan Pocic is a real wildcard here, as he could see significant playing time with injuries along the interior (indeed, he looks like he’ll be starting in Week 1 for Iupati). I was on his ass a lot last year, but word out of pre-season is that he’s really grown in his second season under Solari. If he ends up winning a starting job by season’s end, he could be a boost over what Sweezy was in 2018, saying nothing of whatever Iupati has left in the tank in 2019.

Similarly, the Running Game was pretty great in 2018. I don’t know how much room for improvement you can expect here, when you’re talking about one of the league’s best. Carson, when healthy, is a Top 10 running back, maybe even as high as Top 5 or 6. C.J. Prosise, when healthy, is as dynamic as anyone. I don’t hold out a lot of hope that he CAN stay healthy, but there might be a game or two when he really goes off. I think everything rests on Rashaad Penny, as he was pretty underwhelming as a rookie, and looked even more underwhelming (somehow) in the pre-season this year. If he takes a step back, it could get dicey if injuries mount. If he takes a step forward, then we’re talking about one of the most talented running back rooms in the league.

The Wide Receivers look to be the biggest concern on the team, but I would argue that’s a little overblown. The one thing I’ll agree with everyone else about is: who will be that security blanket on 3rd down? That’s been Doug Baldwin since Russell Wilson came into the league. Even though Tyler Lockett may play in the slot more, I don’t know if his role is going to be drastically different from what it’s been. He’s a great player and fits this offense perfectly. I think this team is going to have to develop their security blanket, but in the early going, I think it’s going to be a different player every week. Don’t sleep on Jaron Brown. Don’t forget how much this quarterback and this offensive coordinator likes incorporating tight ends and running backs into the passing game. Eventually, I think John Ursua will be the next Doug Baldwin and I have no problem saying that before he’s played a single regular season game; but in the early going, it’s going to be Security Blanket By Committee. And, I know Russell Wilson is good enough to make that work.

In total, if I’m being honest, I think the offense will be remarkably similar to what it was in 2018, and I’m okay with that. I think that offense is good enough to win a championship, if everything breaks right. It also might be a year or two away from playing at a championship level, but with a Top 5 QB, you can never rule it out.

Where I honestly have more hope is in the defense. Not enough was made of just how much of a shitshow that side of the ball was in 2018. Earl Thomas went down in week 4! K.J. Wright hardly played at all. Mychal Kendricks was suspended for a huge chunk of the season, then I think he got injured towards the end. Even with Frank Clark and Jarran Reed tearing it up, the D-Line was a disaster that didn’t get nearly enough pressure on the quarterback, and was the worst against the run I’ve seen in the Pete Carroll era. That aspect alone – run defense – was always what I’ve been hanging my hat on, when it comes to this team drastically improving itself from year to year. If you shore that up, and return to playing at a Top 5 level against the run, it’ll make up for A LOT of ills everywhere else.

The other big concern, obviously, is the pass rush. But, I’m here to declare that concern is largely unnecessary now that we’ve traded for Clowney. I think – playing exclusively along the line, with a lot less dropping back into coverage – we’re talking about a guy who can fill that Frank Clark role to a T. I’m looking at 15 sacks as a target that I think he can easily reach. Ziggy Ansah I’d be a little more cautious with, but with both of these guys you’re talking about highly-motivated individuals looking to get PAID in 2020; it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest if we’re talking double-digit sacks for both! With Poona Ford’s emergence as a bona fide starter, and with Jarran Reed returning after a 6-game suspension, we’re talking about a front four that will rival the best. My worry, of course, is getting to see them all together, because what are the odds one of those guys gets hurt before Reed comes back, and we’re waiting until the last month of the season to get the gang all back together (I’ve seen it a million times)?

I also love what I’ve been seeing from the linebackers – the heart and soul of this defense – when it comes to blitzing and otherwise picking up the slack. Kendricks has looked like a man possessed when he’s gone after quarterbacks in the pre-season! Bobby Wagner, we all know, is highly capable whenever he blitzes up the middle. The Seahawks will find ways to get home more than they did in 2018. Combine that with a drastically-improved run defense, and there’s a lot to like about this side of the ball.

The one major downside is the secondary. It’s also the facet of the game Pete Carroll is best able to coach up. I’ll be blunt here, they haven’t looked great in what little I’ve seen from them in the pre-season. But, we also have yet to see the full complement of defensive linemen & linebackers in front of them (on the flipside, we really haven’t seen that much of opposing starting quarterbacks and whatnot, but that’s neither here nor there). I’m not high on this unit whatsoever, and I’m barely clinging for dear life to the fact that Carroll is a Secondary Whisperer. I keep hearing about how well Tedric Thompson plays in practice (mostly from coaches/players, less so from media), but you never see it in games. I think moving Shaquill Griffin to the opposite side of the field was a huge mistake, and eventually he’ll be supplanted by Tre Flowers. I also think it’s highly likely that those guys are as good as they’ll ever be, and there really isn’t any improvement or development to look forward to. That’s sort of a worst-case scenario for this group, but it feels likelier to come to fruition than it did at the tail end of last season.

Now, to be fair, they weren’t horrible to my eye in 2018 (take my eye with a grain of salt, of course); they were just sort of okay. When compared to the L.O.B., as the commercial goes, “Just okay is not okay.” But, compared to the entirety of the NFL, they were middle of the road or maybe a little worse. If they’re the same thing in 2019, with improved pass rush and improved run defense, that might be good enough! The pass rush alone might make their lives a whole lot easier, as errant/tipped throws fall into welcoming arms.

Taken as a whole, in short, I think the offense will be about the same, and I think the defense will be a lot better. Last year, the Seahawks finished 10-6 and made the Wild Card game. This year, I think that should account for a couple more wins, and here’s where things get mighty interesting.

Yesterday, I was writing about how I thought it was only a matter of the Seahawks getting off to a hot start, as we’ll eventually run into our torrid finish. If we divide the season into thirds (so to speak), in the first five weeks, we’ve got games against Cincinnati and Arizona that should be cake walks. There’s a road game against Pittsburgh and a home game against the Saints where we should go 1-1 (ideally losing to the Steelers, as AFC losses mean less). That just leaves Week 5, a Thursday Night game at home vs. the Rams that could mean the whole season. Lose that game, and the Rams – once again – will be in the driver’s seat. Win it, and we should be 4-1 in the first third of the season, with at least a share of the division lead (and a tiebreaker advantage to boot).

In the next five games, we’ve got home games against the Ravens and Bucs that we should win, as well as a road game against the 49ers that should go our way. That leaves road games against Atlanta and Cleveland where again I would hope we’d split, to finish 4-1 in this stretch. If that falls into place, that puts us at 8-2 heading into our BYE week.

By the time we come back, it’s already the last week in November and we’ve got our stretch run (where, again, the Seahawks traditionally play their best ball). At this point, throw your pre-season projections out the window. The Eagles, Vikings, Rams, and Panthers all look like potential world-beaters (to some), but who knows where they’ll be at that point? At Philly seems like a legitimately insurmountable task, but it’s also a Sunday Night game, and you know how we play in those. The Vikings are at home. I’m of firm belief that Cam Newton will be lost for the season by the time we go to Carolina (but, even if he’s there, I don’t think they’ll be all that amazing). And, as we saw in 2018, we were one or two plays away from beating the Rams twice, so I can’t just mark that game down as a loss just because it’s in L.A.

Even with those tough matchups, we still close the season with a couple home games against the Cardinals and 49ers. If we can go 4-2 in those final 6 games, that gives us a 12-4 record and we might be playing home games well into January.

The point is, I think 12 wins takes the NFC West. Especially if two of those wins are against the Rams.

As I noted yesterday, I think the Seahawks get a 2-seed behind the Eagles. Contrary to what I wrote yesterday, I could easily see a 5-seeded Rams team going into Philly and shocking the world, thus forcing a potential NFC Championship Game back in Seattle. And you know what happens when Seattle hosts an NFC Championship Game …

Look, it’s idiotic to predict a Seahawks Super Bowl appearance this year. I get that. I’m not saying that’s what’s going to happen. BUT, I think everything is on the table. I think 12 wins is on the table. I think a division title is on the table. I think a first round BYE is on the table. I think home field advantage throughout the playoffs is on the table. I think the MVP is on the table for Russell Wilson. I think Executive of the Year should already be locked in for John Schneider. I think Coach of the Year is on the table for Pete Carroll. And yes, I think a Super Bowl appearance is on the table.

What’s more likely? The Seahawks win the NFC West, or the Seahawks fail to make the playoffs entirely? Well, the smart money is on the latter. But, this is the time of year for perpetual hope, and so I’m choosing to be in the Glass Half Full camp. I know I’m setting myself up for heartbreak later on, but I’m willing to take that chance.

The One Where I’m Predictably Stoked About The Seahawks Trading For Jadeveon Clowney

Welcome back to me! If you want to know what my 5-week road trip was like, I did a pretty good job blowing up my Instagram page with tons of photos. Now, back to sports.

The Seattle sports scene did a pretty good job of waiting until I got back this weekend before exploding with news. #1 with a bullet, of course, is the trade for Clowney. We’ve known about his being disgruntled with the franchise tag for some time now, and that there was always an outside chance that the Texans might move on from him if they found the right deal. I never expected that he’d have the kind of power he had in forcing a deal to a particular team, and I certainly never expected that the Seahawks would be on his short list of preferred destinations. At that point, we held pretty much all the cards, and it was up to the Texans to either bow to our whims, or let Clowney sit out there in another Le’Veon Bell situation.

For as much as people are killing the Texans in this whole thing, they at least made the decision to not let this be a distraction for their entire season. They made the choice to not extend him on a long-term deal, and you can disagree with that all you want, but such a deal obviously comes with some risks. I mean, we’re talking about a guy who missed almost his entire rookie year, and a few games the following year. Yes, he followed that up with three straight Pro Bowl campaigns, but honestly they were pretty quiet compared to what you’d expect from a #1 overall draft pick. He’s never had double-digit sacks; combine that with injury concerns, and I find it more reasonable for the Texans to want to move on than it was for the Seahawks to want to move on from a stud like Frank Clark, who’s always been healthy and HAS had double-digit sacks, twice.

Now, the obvious argument is that the Texans didn’t utilize him properly, that a 3-4 defense isn’t as suited to his particular set of skills (and that dropping him into coverage half the time isn’t the best way to maximize his pass rushing ability). I agree wholeheartedly, and I believe that if he stays healthy for the Seahawks this year, he WILL get double-digit sacks, and maybe into the mid-to-high teens! Let him JUST rush the passer, and bring him from all over the line of scrimmage on every down, and watch him absolutely destroy fools! This is my guarantee.

On top of it, we’re talking about a ridiculously low cost to the Seahawks. The 3rd round pick might be the most valuable part of what we gave away! Barkevious Mingo was going to be a cap cut one way or another. And, while we all liked Jacob Martin, he’s another guy who’s probably better suited to our defense than Houston’s. If they drop Martin into coverage half the time – like Clowney – I think they’ll find him pretty lacking. Whereas, if he stayed with the Seahawks and was just our LEO end exclusively in pass rushing situations, he’d probably find his sack totals would exceed whatever he’ll do in Houston. Tack on the fact that the Texans are essentially paying half of Clowney’s salary this year, and it’s honestly laughable that the NFL allowed this deal to pass through. This is the EPITOME of one of those deals you see other teams make, where we ask ourselves, “WHY COULDN’T OUR TEAM HAVE DONE THAT??? YOU’RE TELLING ME WE COULDN’T HAVE GIVEN UP MORE TO GET THIS STUD???”

But that’s just it. He wanted to come to Seattle (or Philly, who curiously didn’t ever seem to be in on this), because we’re a well-run organization where star players like Clowney can thrive. It’s weird to be able to say that, because it’s the polar opposite to how I feel about the Mariners.

Even with Ansah looking like he’ll be ready to go by Sunday, the pass rush was always going to be a disaster for this team. However, with Clowney in the fold, we’re ALMOST back to our glory days of 2013. I’d still like to see some of our depth take a step forward; either Collier or Green will need to turn into something somewhat productive by season’s end if we’re going to take this thing over the top. But now, it’s at least much less of a concern. Our secondary is a different matter, but let’s take this thing one step at a time.

Before this deal, you REALLY had to squint to see a path for the Seahawks to win the NFC West and contend for a Super Bowl. After this deal, the picture is becoming much clearer.