Why The Front Office Deserves Its Share Of The Blame For The Seahawks’ 2015 Failures

File the 2015 Seahawks under “Missed Opportunity”.  Maybe not as frustratingly eyeball-stabbing as the 2014 Seahawks, but it’s impossible to look back on 2015 and not say, “What in the fucking FUCK just happened?”

The general, lazy narrative surrounding the 2015 Seahawks is that the offensive line did them in.  Granted, the O-Line did them few favors, and is certainly in need of some overhauling – especially in the pass protection realm – but the truth is there’s a smattering of reasons, all across the board, for why this team broke down and ultimately fell far short of its goal.

If you want to bring up the December Rams defeat, and the loss in the playoffs, I’ll go along with you on the O-Line argument:  we were absolutely obliterated up the middle for most of those two games.  It was the reason why the Rams were able to slow down our wrecking ball offense, who had been on a run of five straight dominating performances to that point; and it was a big reason why we were shut out in the first half against the Panthers as they steamrolled us to a 31-0 lead.

But, those are just two games.  Furthermore, who knows how the season would’ve gone had the Seahawks not blown those early games?

Yes, the offensive line sucked in the first half of the season, and certainly got better over time as the same five guys were able to – for the most part – play consistent snaps together.  But, the O-Line wasn’t the primary reason why we lost those first four games.  Especially galling was that first Rams loss, where Nick Foles & Co. moved the ball at will; but the defeats to the Packers, Panthers, and Bengals were all pretty bad in their own rights.  In all four of those games, we’re talking about late defensive breakdowns in conjunction with an offense that was unable to play add-on.  The secondary stunk, the pass rush stunk, the offense as a whole stunk, and the coaching stunk.  Furthermore, it could be strongly argued that roster construction played a big factor in torpedoing this season.  I know John Schneider and Co. tend to get saintly praise for all the great they’ve done – and for good reason – but there were some serious flaws heading into this season that I don’t think any of us (myself included) could have seen coming.

The big pre-season moves (not counting extensions) were as follows:

  • Trade Unger for Graham (with swapped draft picks)
  • Sign Cary Williams to replace Byron Maxwell
  • Sign Ahtyba Rubin to replace Kevin Williams
  • Draft Frank Clark
  • Draft Tyler Lockett
  • Sign Thomas Rawls to replace Robert Turbin
  • Sign Fred Jackson to replace Christine Michael
  • Draft/sign various other depth players

That was our offseason in a nutshell.  That’s what a back-to-back Super Bowl team did in hopes of making it three in a row.  Signing Cary Williams was a failure, but I don’t know what other options the team had.  I don’t recall a lot of better options out there on the free agent market, and we really got bitten on the ass by Tharold Simon not playing a down this year.  We did know that we needed SOMEONE, what with Jeremy Lane a lock for the PUP list; and we knew we couldn’t afford Byron Maxwell, so it’s somewhat easy to defend the choice to sign Williams from that standpoint.  But, an argument could be made that this team should have seen this coming and planned accordingly a year in advance.  The 2013 draft class gets a lot of flack for its lack of pizazz, especially compared to the classes of 2010-2012.  But, the 2014 draft class might go down as an all-time dud of duds, and might go a long way towards explaining why the 2015 Seahawks never had enough pieces to get the job done.

Paul Richardson has seemingly spent more time injured than contributing.  Justin Britt has been a starter since Day 1, and has been mostly mediocre the entire time.  Cassius Marsh has been a valuable special teamer, but hasn’t done a whole lot for our depth along the D-Line.  Kevin Norwood is just a waste of a God damn draft pick in the middle of the 4th round.  Kevin Pierre-Lewis is another valuable special teamer, but hasn’t done a whole lot for our linebacking depth (then again, it’s not like the guys ahead of him have given him many opportunities to make plays on defense).  After the 4th round, only Eric Pinkins is still on the roster, and he’s played hardly at all.  Among the undrafted rookies, we brought in Brock Coyle (backup middle linebacker, mostly a special teamer); Garry Gilliam (elevated to starting right tackle in 2015, did mostly all right); and Dion Bailey, who you may recall fell down and gave the Rams the game-tying touchdown in Week 1 of 2015 to send that game into overtime, where we’d go on to lose.

Maybe the board didn’t shake out too well when it came time to make draft picks, but there’s a notable lack of youthful talent in that class.  And, there’s a distinct lack of cornerback help which – when you factor in Simon’s injury, Lane’s injury, and the nothing we got out of Cary Williams – is a big reason for a lot of our ills in the secondary for the first half of the 2015 season.

Beyond the Williams debacle, there’s actually a lot to like about our pre-2015 offseason moves.  Rubin played like a stud in helping us dominate against the running game.  Clark didn’t make a huge impact, but he started to come on towards the end of the season (and I tend to give receivers and pass rushers a lot of leeway in their rookie seasons, since it’s so difficult to make an impact as a rookie receiver/pass rusher).  Which makes the Lockett draft pick so essential to our 2015 success and our future success; that’s another starter and Pro Bowler picked in the 3rd round or later for this team; another guy to hang one’s hat on.  Rawls ended up being an upgrade over Turbin, and could be Lynch’s replacement as soon as 2016.  The team didn’t take a step back with Fred Jackson, who had his role and played it well enough (plus, we ended up getting Christine Michael back anyway, along with Dallas’ 7th round draft pick, so bully for us).  And, the various other depth players are just that:  depth.  I won’t nitpick our choices in the back-end of this roster too much; that’s not really the point of this post.

The other major move that came to define the 2015 season was the trade for Jimmy Graham.  I’m on record as being in favor of that trade, even after knowing how the 2015 season ended.  I don’t think Unger is too much longer for this league, and I think there’s a lot we can get out of someone like Graham.  But, his insertion into this roster is endemic of a larger fault of this front office, which ultimately came to ruin this season.

We learned a hard lesson this past year:  the Seahawks have no business being in the market for veteran skill players from other teams.  Percy Harvin was the first strike, and Jimmy Graham was a quasi-second strike (like a foul tip behind the catcher’s outstretched glove).  The rationale SORT OF makes sense – as why would it be a bad thing to add really talented weapons to your offense? – but not when you pair it with this team.

The Seahawks, ever since Pete Carroll took over, have been a run-first operation.  We pound the ball, we take some chances down field, but we more or less only throw when we need to.  So, what’s the point in shuffling around so many resources to bring in guys to improve a part of your offense you don’t use as much as most other teams?

I hate to keep harping on it, but I can’t stop/won’t stop:  the team should have never gone after Percy Harvin and should have just kept Golden Tate instead.  At this point, I’d take Tate over both Harvin AND Jimmy Graham, but that’s not the point.  The point is, this coaching staff didn’t know what it was doing with Harvin and, for most of the first half of this season, didn’t know what it was doing with Graham either.  When teams make personnel decisions, they need to make them with a plan in mind.  The decisions to bring in these elite receivers seemed to have more of a fantasy football focus in mind, rather than a practical focus FOR THIS TEAM in mind.

It’s hard breaking in new, established receivers into a different offensive scheme; you’re almost begging for growing pains.  And doing so, while creating yet another hole along your offensive line – when you were already losing your left guard, and still unsure that your right tackle was the right guy for the position – at a semi-premium position like Center (who is in charge of a lot of the protection calls for the line), was the ultimate in final straws for what broke this team’s back.

Maybe we should have seen the slow start to the season coming.  But, either way, it’s obvious now.  And it starts at the top.  This team didn’t have a clear succession plan in place at its left cornerback spot.  This team let its offensive line completely fall apart, to where they were scrambling three weeks before the regular season, shuffling players around.  This team didn’t make smart use of its new tight end weapon.  And, ultimately, all of this cost the Seahawks four games in the first half it could have easily won (I won’t count that Cardinals defeat, as that was a pretty sound whuppin’, in spite of the close score).

A team with a more talented offensive line/secondary probably wins 14 regular season games and gets the #1 seed in the playoffs for a third straight year.  This Seahawks team with the top seed most likely gets another crack at the Cardinals in the Divisional Round, while the Vikings would go on the road to Carolina (hopefully with their stout defense able to bruise the Panthers up good), then likely hosts the Panthers in the NFC Championship Game (again, I’d like to see how well they would have played coming off of a tough matchup against the Vikings the week before, while also playing on the road, like the actual 2015 Seahawks had to do).

“Missed Opportunity”, from the top of the organization on down.  Here’s to hoping they’ve learned from their mistakes, and have done enough to sufficiently set themselves up for a championship run in 2016.

Seahawks Death Week: Looking At The Free Agents

Started talking about this a bit yesterday, but here’s the full dive.

First, we’ll start with the unrestricted free agents.  These are the guys who are free to sign with whatever team they want, with no draft pick penalties.  On offense, we have, in no particular order:

  • Russell Okung – left tackle
  • Jermaine Kearse – wide receiver
  • J.R. Sweezy – right guard
  • Tarvaris Jackson – quarterback
  • Will Tukuafu – fullback
  • Ricardo Lockette – wide receiver
  • Fred Jackson – running back
  • Lemuel Jeanpierre – center
  • Anthony McCoy – tight end
  • Chase Coffman – tight end
  • Bryce Brown – running back

I could take or leave the last five guys on that list.  I feel like Jackson was a 1-year deal, but we’ll probably look to get younger at our 3rd down back spot on the roster.  I like Jeanpierre as depth, so it probably wouldn’t hurt to have him come into camp, but I could easily see the team looking to move on.  McCoy and Coffman are probably both camp fodder, desperately trying to make it as a 3rd tight end, but probably won’t make it here unless we have a bunch of injuries.  Brown might be a good guy to have around, if the team looks to move on from Lynch, but I think we can do better.

As far as Lockette is concerned, he’ll need to fully recover from his injury.  If that works out, I wouldn’t mind having him back as a low-end receiver/special teams guy.  I like Tukuafu a lot; if he’ll come back for the right price, I wouldn’t mind having him around.  And, it probably wouldn’t hurt to have Tarvaris Jackson around for another year, but at some point, I think the team might want to look to the draft for a backup quarterback.

There’s really just three primary unrestricted free agents on offense this year:  Okung, Sweezy, and Kearse.  I could see the team bringing all three back, I could see the team moving on from all three, or any combination in between.  Okung looks to be the priciest of the three, since he was originally a draft pick under the old CBA, and he’s a noted Pro Bowl left tackle (and also, not for nothing, our best offensive lineman by a thousand miles).  Given his injury history, and the fact that he’s nobody’s Walter Jones clone, I’m less inclined to do whatever it takes to bring him back.  If he opts to return under something of a team-friendly deal (i.e. not a ton of dead money lurking, if we decide it’s time to move on), I’d be cool with his coming back.  But, considering he’s acting as his own agent, I feel like he’s going to use these negotiations to make a point, and try to get the best possible deal he can.  Don’t be shocked if that comes from another team.

I had high hopes for a higher ceiling out of Sweezy, but I think what we’ve seen is what we’re going to get.  He flashes a lot of toughness and agility, but he also flashes complete ineptitude at letting our quarterback get killed.  Again, I’d be okay with the team bringing him back on a team-friendly deal; but, I’d also be okay with the team punting on this whole issue of converting defensive linemen into guards and rebuilding the interior of the line through the draft (of high picks) and/or free agency.  It might be difficult to replace 3-4 spots on the line, so if Sweezy is able to return on a moderate deal, maybe we can devote resources elsewhere (like shoring up the left guard position and selling Britt down the river).

Kearse, as I’ve said before, I’d like to have back.  While he’s not a #1 receiver, he does all the little things you like out of someone who plays the position.  He blocks well, he has good hands, he has a decent catch radius.  He plays his role on this team perfectly.  The pragmatist in me would say that we have a guy like that in Kevin Smith, who’s cheaper and under team control already, so in that sense, I wouldn’t be totally devastated if Kearse moves on.  But, as a pure fan, I’d be disappointed to see him go.

In other offensive free agent news, the following players are restricted free agents and will almost assuredly be back with the team, so long as the team wants them to be back:

  • Cooper Helfet – tight end
  • Derrick Coleman – fullback
  • Patrick Lewis – center
  • Alvin Bailey – guard/tackle
  • Christine Michael – running back

My guess is, Helfet and Coleman will be back for sure, and most likely under a very minor deal.  I like the idea of drafting a center relatively high this year and letting him learn behind Patrick Lewis on a 1-year deal, then having him take over in 2017.  Bailey is a quality backup and should be worth keeping around for his versatility alone.  Michael is an interesting case; he would’ve been under team control had we not waived him earlier in the season.  I imagine the team will tender him a pretty low offer too and we’ll see what happens.  If Lynch goes, this is probably his best opportunity to compete for a job with Thomas Rawls.

On defense, here are the unrestricted free agents, again in no particular order:

  • Brandon Mebane – defensive tackle
  • Bruce Irvin – outside linebacker
  • Ahtyba Rubin – defensive tackle
  • Mike Morgan – outside linebacker
  • Jeremy Lane – cornerback
  • Demarcus Dobbs – defensive tackle/end

From what I’m reading, it sounds like the team likely wouldn’t be able to bring back both Mebane and Rubin, so we’d have to choose.  The fan side of me wants Mebane back, and to retire as a Seahawk.  Rubin is slightly younger, and had a really breakout year for us.  I’d honestly like to have both back, but again, you can’t pay everyone.  My gut tells me Mebane stays and Rubin goes, but what do I know?

I’m less inclined to believe Irvin will be back.  I’d pay more heed to his words during last year’s offseason, where he was talking about practically being out the door.  Maybe Atlanta brings him in, with Dan Quinn?  Maybe Oakland, with Ken Norton as their defensive coordinator?  Maybe some other team with deep pockets who could use an athletic pass rusher?  I’d put the chances on Irvin being a Seahawk next season at less than 30%.

In which case, as I noted yesterday, Morgan is an interesting option to replace him, as he figures to be cheaper, and HAS to know the system.  The thing is, I’m not totally sure if he plays the same position, or if he’s more of a weakside linebacker.  I seem to remember him spelling Irvin this year, but whatever.

Jeremy Lane should be our highest priority, but again, if some team over-values Seahawks cornerbacks, I could see him taking a lot of money to play elsewhere.

As for Dobbs … we like Dobbs.  More training camp depth!

Our restricted free agents include:

  • DeShawn Shead – cornerback
  • Steven Terrell – cornerback/safety
  • Marcus Burley – cornerback
  • Nick Moody – linebacker
  • Jesse Williams – defensive tackle
  • Mohammed Seisay – cornerback
  • Eric Pinkins – linebacker
  • A.J. Francis – defensive tackle

Shead will definitely be back.  Terrell, Burley, and Seisay will all most likely be back, in the hunt for a couple of those backup cornerback spots on the roster.  I don’t see why the team would let Moody and Pinkins go, or for that matter, Francis (whoever that is).  I keep thinking every year is the last chance for Jesse Williams, but I would think 2016 is the for real, very VERY last chance.  Given his injury history, consider him the longest of long shots.

So, yeah, that’s sort of an overview of all the Seahawks who could potentially be gone (I’m not going to get into the guys under contract for next year who might be cap casualties).  Tomorrow, I’ll dig into what I think the plan should be for the Seahawks, as we wrap up Death Week for another year.

A Closer Look At The Seahawks’ Red Zone Possessions

One of the big talking points of late – in trying to explain why the Seahawks have struggled to a 2-3 start to the season – is that the Seahawks are beyond mediocre in the red zone.  As you may or may not know, the “red zone” is that area of the field from the opponent’s 20 yard line all the way down to the goalline; ideally, when you get that close to an opponent’s endzone, you want to score more touchdowns than field goals (and, obviously, more field goals than nothing at all).  Your red zone success rate is determined by how many touchdowns you acquire per red zone trip.  1 being the ultimate, 0 being the absolute worst.  You get the idea.

On the year, in five NFL games, the Seahawks have scored a touchdown in exactly 3 red zone possessions.  That … is an absolutely abysmal figure.  27% of all red zone possessions, to be precise.  What I would argue is that the Seahawks have a critical lack of red zone possessions to begin with!

11 red zone possessions in 5 games.  If you take away the four we had against the Rams, that makes 7 in the last four games (2 against the Packers, Bears, and Bengals; only 1 against the Lions on Monday night).  Obviously, it’s possible to score touchdowns in other ways (we had a punt return and a fumble return for a TD against the Rams; a kickoff return for TD against the Bears; another defensive fumble return against the Bengals; and any number of TDs scored from beyond the red zone), but what we’ve seen so far more than anything else is just a simple lack of ability to move the football at any kind of consistent rate.

With every loss, and every poor offensive performance, the chorus of outrage over how Jimmy Graham is used becomes more and more deafening.  Is he getting enough targets?  Is he being used properly?  I can’t speak to the latter – I’m not an offensive coordinator – but I think he’s getting an appropriate amount of targets.  You can’t throw it to him if he’s not open.  If he’s not getting open because you’re having him run stupid routes, then that obviously needs to change.  But, if he’s not getting open because the defense is so worried about him beating you, that they’re giving you single coverage elsewhere, then obviously his presence is effective.  The fact of the matter remains, Graham’s importance is always going to be dictated by how he’s used in red zone situations, and there just haven’t been enough red zone opportunities to judge whether or not he’s being used effectively.

Below, I pulled all the drives from this year where the Seahawks reached the opponent’s red zone.  I didn’t count them as “drives” when the Seahawks returned the ball for a touchdown (either via kickoff, punt, or defensive recovery).  See for yourselves and come to your own conclusions.

@ St. Louis (Seahawks had 11 total drives in this game)

Drive 4 – 15 yard line (2-min offense)
1st & 10 (:22) 5-yd pass to Kearse
2nd & 5 (:15) Wilson scramble for 3 yds
3rd & 2 (:08) Incomplete pass to Lynch
Result – Field Goal

Drive 5 – 18 yard line
1st & 10 9-yd pass to Kearse
2nd & 1 Lynch run for -1 yd
3rd & 2 1-yd pass to Graham
Result – Field Goal

Drive 8 – 19 yard line
1st & 10 3-yd pass to Lynch
2nd & 7 Incomplete pass to Graham
3rd & 7 Wilson scramble for 9 yds
1st & Goal (7-yd line) Incomplete pass to Willson
2nd & Goal Incomplete pass to Graham
3rd & Goal Touchdown to Graham

Drive 9 – 18 yard line
2nd & 5 Jackson run for 1 yd
3rd & 4 Incomplete pass to Kearse
Result – Field Goal

@ Green Bay (10 total drives)

Drive 6 – 20 yard line
2nd & 3 Wilson run for 10 yds
1st & Goal (10-yd line) Lynch runs for -1 yd
2nd & Goal (11-yd line) Pass to Lynch for 1 yd
3rd & Goal (10-yd line) Incomplete pass to Graham (defense offsides)
3rd & Goal (5-yd line) Touchdown pass to Jackson

Drive 7 – 13 yard line
1st & 10 Touchdown pass to Baldwin

vs. Chicago (10 total drives)

Drive 2 – 19 yard line
1st & 10 Incomplete pass to Lockette
2nd & 10 Rawls run for 6 yds
3rd & 4 Sack
Result – Field Goal

Drive 5 – 18 yard line
1st & 10 Pass to Kearse for 15 yds
1st & Goal (3 yd-line) Incomplete pass
2nd & Goal Incomplete pass to Graham
3rd & Goal Incomplete pass to Matthews
Result – Field Goal

vs. Lions (11 total drives)

Drive 4 – 9 yard line (2-min offense)
1st & Goal Sack for -9 yds
2nd & Goal (18 yd-line) False Start
2nd & Goal (23 yd-line) Jackson run for 1 yd
3rd & Goal (22 yd-line) Sack for -11 yds
Result – Field Goal

@ Bengals (11 total drives)

Drive 3 – 6 yard line (2-min offense)
1st & Goal – Field Goal

Drive 4 – 16 yard line
1st & 10 Interception, attempt to Graham

As you can see, pretty pisspoor all around.  But, there are still things we can glean.

For starters, of the 20 passes attempted in these situations, 7 were thrown to Graham (35%), which I feel is more than appropriate.  In fact, the only interception (aka the only time we came away with no points in these drives) was an ill-advised pass to a clearly-double covered Graham.

I’ll say it again, the main problem with this team is that it needs more sustained drives.  Whether that falls on the offensive line, offensive coordinator, or the offense as a whole performing better, I don’t give a shit.  Just improve.  Or else, this season will go nowhere fast.

The Hellacious Seattle Seahawks 2015 Season Preview!

There was supposed to be three full days of previews – befitting the excitement level of going into yet another Championship Season in this current Championship Window – but my dad picked up a cold over Labor Day weekend, which remained dormant in my body until Tuesday afternoon, when it revealed its presence, dragging down my fragile frame in the process.

The subsequent two days were spent in various states of repose, between my couch and my bed, filling my body with a steady diet of bananas and Vitamin C while I filled carefully folded bundles of toilet paper with mucus from my ever-running nose.  I’m still nowhere near 100%, but season previews don’t write themselves!  So, here goes nothing.

As you could probably tell from this post, I’m pretty high on the Seahawks getting back to the Super Bowl and winning it yet again.  In fact, I’m higher on the Seahawks THIS year than I was last year, when we were essentially the same starting units on both sides of the ball less a couple key components.  Where the 2014 Seahawks really bought the farm was in the loss of Golden Tate.  Had we never made the trade for Percy Harvin, and instead focused on giving Tate the deal he deserved, the rest of the receivers on this team would’ve slotted out where they were supposed to be, and we wouldn’t have been throwing a goalline pass to Ricardo Lockette of all people on our final offensive play of the Super Bowl.  But, it’s not fair to lay all the blame on one guy (or lack thereof), when the real culprit of 2014 was a lack of quality depth.

That’s where 2015 comes on to shine.  Harvin and Tate have been replaced by rookie Tyler Lockett.  Turbin and Michael have been replaced by Fred Jackson and Thomas Rawls (two steadier and more capable backs).  Willson and Helfet get knocked down to the second & third tight end spots with the trade for Jimmy Graham.  Our pass rush that was – by season’s end – pretty much just Bennett, Avril, and Irvin, gets bolstered with the addition of rookie Frank Clark, and the growth and maturity (and hopefully health) of Cassius Marsh and Jordan Hill.

2015 should also offer additional gains out of our already-established stars.  Guys like Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Bruce Irvin, Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, and Tharold Simon should all see considerable improvements in play as they enter the primes of their careers.  And, while guys like Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman are coming off of significant injuries, it’s still fair to expect their very best play, as we would with veterans like Bennett, Avril, Okung, Mebane, Lynch, and Chancellor if/when he ever shows up again.

If you assume everyone will be healthy all year (which, I understand, is ridiculous), then on paper the only real weakness we’re looking at is the offensive line.  You could make an argument for secondary depth being the primary weakness, but as long as the rest of the defense is able to stay on the field, it should more than make up for what’s going on opposite Richard Sherman.  The O-Line is truly the problem area, but I also feel that’s a bit unfair.

For starters, when you compare the O-Line to the other position groups on this team, OF COURSE it’s going to rank dead last!  But, more importantly, I would argue this position group has always been a little bit neglected from a talent perspective, and they’ve made up for it by employing one of the very best O-Line coaches in the league.  AND, not for nothing, but the Seahawks have gone to two straight Super Bowls with two pretty sub-par offensive lines, and it hasn’t prevented us from winning yet.

They tinkered with it in the pre-season and came away with a starting five that’s as good as it’s going to get (since we can’t really afford to bring in quality outside help).  But, that doesn’t mean it’s as good as it’s ever going to be.  We’ve got three guys – Britt at left guard, Nowak at center, Gilliam at right tackle – who are getting their first professional starts at their respective positions.  Will it be a struggle early?  I think, from what we’ve seen of the running game this pre-season:  yeah, it’s going to be a little ugly.  This O-Line is going to struggle against the better D-Lines in the league (which makes it utterly horrific that we have to play the Rams in week 1), but it’s going to look downright competent against the lesser D-Lines.  And, I think these guys have a real chance to mature and gel, to where by season’s end, we’ll be looking at a solid group of guys on an offense that’s humming along with the best of ’em.

When even your weakest point is still good enough to be argued into a strength, you know you’ve got a great team on your hands.  I think we’re all pretty much in agreement that this team has the potential to be better than their 2014 counterparts, with a ceiling being at the 2013 level (which is really saying something, because I’ll always believe the 2013 Seahawks were one of the all time greatest teams in the history of the league).

That doesn’t mean there aren’t concerns.  There are always reasons to worry, especially early in the season.  Will Earl Thomas be back to his usual self?  Will Kam Chancellor ever end this idiotic holdout?  Will Richard Sherman make it through the full season?  Will the offense mesh well with Jimmy Graham, or will they try to force it to him too many times, stalling too many drives?  Will the O-Line be able to open holes for Lynch?  Will Russell Wilson be a better pocket passer?  And, most importantly, in an overall sense:  will the key players and key positions be able to stay healthy?

Health is the ultimate X-Factor.  I say it every year, and ever year it’s no less true.  Poor health can take a championship team and prevent them from even making the playoffs.  It can rear its ugly head at any time – and often at the worst of times – leaving you grasping at straws for a solution.  Did the Seahawks lose the Super Bowl because of the one goalline play?  Or, did the Seahawks lose the Super Bowl because our entire fucking secondary was injured, and Cliff Avril had a concussion that reduced our pass rush to nothing, thereby allowing the Patriots back into a game we were controlling?  You can make compelling arguments for either, but the fact remains the same:  if the Seahawks were mostly healthy in that game, it probably doesn’t come down to a goalline pass in the first place.

So, that’s what you’ve gotta do:  pray for health and let the chips fall where they may.  Let this be the last word on health for the rest of this preview.

The first half of this season is fairly tough.  Five of eight on the road, five of eight against 2014 playoff teams, and not very many soft landings.  Let’s run through the schedule to see where we are.

Week 1, at St. Louis, 10am

Honestly, I have my doubts about this one.  I know I probably shouldn’t; I know they’re going through something similar on their offensive line as we are, and I know their starting two running backs are both injured, but I can’t help but look at this game and see our offense struggling.  I see Lynch getting bottled up, I see growing pains with Graham, and I see the Rams doing just enough on offense to kick one more field goal than us.  I’m putting my life savings on this game being within one score either one way or the other, and if you put a gun to my head, I’ll tell you the Rams come out on top in this one, 16-13.

Week 2, at Green Bay, 5:30pm (Sunday Night)

Bounce back game, and one the Seahawks desperately need (with tie-breakers and whatnot).  I know the Packers will be fired up, and I know their fans will be insane after a day’s worth of tailgating, so it probably won’t be easy coming out of the gate.  After a sluggish first quarter, I expect the Seahawks to move the ball with regularity and defeat the Packers with ease in the second half.  Somewhere along the lines of 31-20.

Week 3, vs. Chicago, 1:25pm

This one should be a walk-over, but I expect the Bears to put up a bit of a fight, as they’ve got some nasty, talented guys in Jeffery and Forte.  But, given that this is Seattle’s home opener, I’d look for the home team to jump out to an early lead and keep it pretty comfortably in the 1-2 score range the rest of the way.  33-27.

Week 4, vs. Detroit, 5:30pm (Monday Night)

The return of Golden Tate!  There’s no way he doesn’t make a big play or two in this game.  But, with Seattle back home for a primetime game, I’m expecting another win for the good guys.  Maybe not quite the blowout we’re used to, but we’re going to scratch it out.  27-24.

Week 5, at Cincinnati, 10am

I’ve been wary of this game from the moment I saw it on our schedule.  Something about road AFC games in the morning, teams we rarely get to go up against, and them having just enough talent to get by.  I’m on record as hating on Andy Dalton pretty hard, but I think he’s going to go into this game with extra focus in not turning the ball over.  Combine that with the fact that this game isn’t in primetime and I think you’ll see Good Andy Dalton on this day.  Plus, their running game is legit, and they’ve got enough talent at receiver to move the ball on us if they want.  I see an upset here, with Cincy taking us down 20-13.

Week 6, vs. Carolina, 1:05pm

Notice we can’t help but beat on Carolina every damn year and no one ever talks about them getting fired up for us like they do about the Packers getting up for us.  Pretty much, Carolina is Seattle’s younger brother, and we can’t help but hold them down, rub our asses in their faces, and fart repeatedly until they call mom to get us to stop.  No change here.  I expect something along the lines of 27-14.

Week 7, at San Francisco, 5:25pm (Thursday Night)

The 49ers are going to be terrible this season and I expect them to look terrible whenever we play them.  Without Gore, I expect their running game to be non-existent.  Without Harbaugh, I expect their offense to be pathetic and their overall output to be among the worst.  There’s no reason why this shouldn’t be a cakewalk, in a long line of ugly, unwatchable Thursday Night Football games.  Seahawks 38, 49ers 3.

Week 8, at Dallas, 1:25pm

This game would normally scare the bejesus out of me, and scream “Third Loss Of The Season!”  But, I dunno.  I like the Seahawks with 10 days to prepare.  I like the Seahawks a week before their BYE.  I like the fact that the Cowboys embarrassed us on our home turf last season.  And, quite frankly, I like how Dallas has zero home field advantage to speak of whatsoever.  I predict a huge following by the 12’s, I predict a solid day out of our offense, I predict a return touchdown from someone (probably Lockett) and ultimately I predict a Seahawks victory, to the tune of 24-23.

Week 9 – BYE

Week 10, vs. Arizona, 5:30pm (Sunday Night)

I’d be shocked if Carson Palmer isn’t injured at this point in the season, but even if he’s managed to stay healthy, I don’t expect the Cards to be as good.  This game feels like a gift from the scheduling gods – at home, after a BYE, on Sunday night?  Are you kidding me?  This has blowout written all over it!  26-9.

Week 11, vs. San Francisco, 1:25pm

Just played them three games ago, I don’t know why anyone would expect a different outcome.  Seahawks 30, 49ers 7.

Week 12, vs. Pittsburgh, 1:25pm

Three home games in a row after a BYE!  That’s what I’m talking about!  This one looks like a difficult matchup.  I like the Steelers’ offense a lot, particuarly their passing game.  I don’t care for their defense, but that hasn’t stopped some fringey defenses from coming in here and making us look bad.  Ultimately, I think this game will be a shootout, and I think it’ll prove to be the most exciting game of the entire season.  And, as much as it pains me to say it, I think the Steelers come in here and steal one.  They have JUST the right mix going for them:  veteran quarterback, difficult to take down or rattle in the pocket, superstar wide receiver, superstar running back.  I just think they’re going to expose us the way no other offense on our schedule will.  Pittsburgh 31, Seattle 30.

Week 13, at Minnesota, 10am

I like Minnesota’s rebuilding plan.  They’ve got a lot of young talent on both sides of the ball, with a hungry Adrian Peterson and a quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater with a lot of potential.  He might not ever be an MVP of the league, but I think he can lead this team to some winning seasons in his career.  In this game, I like the Seahawks to bounce back on defense and make life difficult for the Vikes.  Seahawks 17, Vikings 6.

Week 14, at Baltimore, 5:30pm (Sunday Night)

This might be the most hyped non-divisional, non-playoff game on the horizon.  Two sterling franchises, two stud quarterbacks, two sound defenses.  All the storylines in the world, from Lynch vs. Forsett, to Pete Carroll vs. The Other Harbaugh, to this being a matchup of two of the last three Super Bowl winners.  Both teams should be in great positions in the standings by this point (likely leading their respective divisions) and I think we’ll all be talking about how it’s a real strong probability that this is the eventual Super Bowl matchup in February.  A lot of people will predict a Ravens victory, but I just like the Seahawks too much in primetime.  I see Seattle winning 27-23.

Week 15, vs. Cleveland, 1:05pm

Please, dear lord, give me one chance to see Johnny Football obliterated by the Seahawks in Seattle.  It’s all I ask.  Seattle 28, Cleveland 0.

Week 16, vs. St. Louis, 1:25pm

No tricks, just hardnose football.  The Seahawks make up for the week 1 defeat as we almost always do this time of year when the Rams come to town.  This game effectively wraps up the division, if not Home Field Advantage, pushing the Seahawks to 12-3 on the season.  20-13, Seahawks.

Week 17, at Arizona, 1:25pm

I don’t expect the Seahawks to need this victory, so I don’t expect many of the starters to play for too long.  As a glorified pre-season game, I see the Seahawks going down to the Cardinals 28-17.

12-4 is pretty tame for a #1 overall seed, but with tie-breakers over the Packers and Cowboys, I think it’s just enough.  What we have to hope for at that point is that we don’t get stuck playing the Rams, or some other difficult defensive team in the playoffs.  As always, I’ll take a battle of offenses over a grudgematch on the defensive side of the ball, as I think our defense is better than most any offense you can put on the field.

Now, all we have to do is play the games.  NBD.

The 2015 Seahawks Cut Down To 75

As is the case, for as far back as I can remember, after the third pre-season game, teams cut down from 90 players to 75.  Mostly, you get a lot of no-names in this pile.  But, there are a couple guys you probably heard of who could be considered surprise cuts (though, to be fair, this isn’t really their first rodeo with free agency).

Once again, Lemuel Jeanpierre – backup center extraordinaire – has been let go.  The Seahawks did this last year too, but last year he was coming off of an injury and probably wouldn’t be ready to play until a few weeks into the season (which is exactly what happened, and the Seahawks ended up bringing him back accordingly to fill in for the injured Unger).  This time, Jeanpierre appears to be healthy, but he’s still getting the scratch.

So much for most everyone’s pre-training camp predictions of the Week 1 53-man roster.  I don’t recall seeing anyone’s predicted roster that didn’t include the O-Line in this order (from left to right):  Okung – Bailey – Jeanpierre – Sweezy – Britt.  At the very least, even if you believed this team would do everything in its power to not end up with Jeanpierre as the starter, you still probably had him as our primary reserve.  Well, not so fast.

Obviously, the O-Line is looking like this:  Okung – Britt – Nowak – Sweezy – Gilliam.  Nowak really came out of nowhere to grab the bull by the horns; undrafted in 2012, signed by the Jags, converted from defensive tackle, spent 2012 on IR, played in all of 2 games in 2013, was released by the Jags and picked up for part of 2014 on Seattle’s practice squad.  Now, he’s your starting center and the team has enough confidence in him to drop the team’s most veteran player at that position.

This also means good things for Patrick Lewis, who was slotted ahead of Jeanpierre last year when healthy.  I don’t really have a huge problem with the team letting Jeanpierre go.  Seems to me, all players being equal, you’d rather keep the younger and cheaper option with more years of team control.  I just hope Jeanpierre is still out there – and still willing to return to the Seahawks – if and when injuries strike and this team is in need.  The O-Line is pretty thin as it is with Unger and Carpenter playing for other teams.  You hate to lose too much experience in such an important season.

Elsewhere, the only other major move of the week (sorry D’Anthony Smith fans), is the team releasing Greg Scruggs.  Like Jeanpierre, he’s had his fun on the transaction wire (mostly due to injury) and has always been there for the Seahawks to bring back for added depth.  By all accounts, he’s always been a hard worker, and you have to love his body size (6’3, 310 lbs), but he’s really sort of a tweener.  He’s a defensive end in a defensive tackle’s body.  The main problem is, he’s not really great at either spot.  He’s no run stuffer, and he’s never been all that adept at getting to the quarterback.  He’s played in a total of 14 games in his 3-year NFL career and has hardly made a dent.  This isn’t a loss, in spite of the fact that you probably recognize his name.

The fact of the matter is, this D-Line is STACKED, and there are only so many spots to go around.  If this were the 2008-2010 Seahawks, a guy like Greg Scruggs probably not only makes those teams, but he probably starts and does okay.  But, this is the 2012-2015 Seahawks, and there’s just too much talent to have to settle for less.

In other news of the week (just a LITTLE more timely than I’ve been bringing so far), reportedly Buffalo’s Fred Jackson came in for a visit and a physical today.  Apparently, Turbin has a bad ankle injury, but a lot of this is still up in the air.  Nothing has been signed, but it would appear there’s a good chance Turbin either hits the IR or the IR-designated-to-return, and the team brings in someone to backup Lynch who isn’t Christine Michael.

I, for one, wouldn’t mind seeing Fred Jackson in a Seahawks uniform.  I don’t necessarily like the thought of him being an every-down back (as he’s constantly plagued by nagging injuries that he somehow manages to play through), but I do like him as a more consistent change-of-pace guy who nabs about 10 carries per game and as a pass-catching back on third downs.  He’s still got enough burst in the tank to be effective, he’s a more-reliable all-around back than probably Turbin and definitely Michael, and as a lockerroom presence, he should be an insanely great addition.

Don’t get me wrong, Fred Jackson isn’t the guy who pushes us over the top; I think we’re capable of going all the way without him.  But, for the right price (read: the veteran minimum), he’s quality depth this team could sure use.  ESPECIALLY if the Turbin news turns out to be of the worst-case-scenario variety.

The Running Back By Committee

At the Town Hall meeting between Seahawks brass and season ticket holders, our offensive coordinator mentioned that we could be looking at a running back by committee approach in the 2014 season.  Darrell Bevell has started to walk back those comments a bit, but it would still stand to reason that Christine Michael is the future, and therefore should probably start getting some real game experience.

Maybe it’s just me being a Seahawks fan – where we’ve never had to deal with the RBBC – but it certainly comes with a negative connotation.  The RBBC is something teams turn to when they don’t really have one great running back, but rather two mediocre backs.  You feed them both in equal measure until you find the one with the hot hand, and you ride him the rest of the game.  Or, you use one back to get all the yards between the 20’s, and one closer to the goalline (because ostensibly, the guy who got you all those yards up TO the goalline is COMPLETELY incapable of pushing it through for that touchdown).

Rare is the situation that you have with the Bills of today – with two elite backs who are both capable of not only pushing it into the endzone, but also breaking it for long runs in the open field.  Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller are a committee of backs who could just as easily be lone starters on any given team (what prevents that from happening, more than anything, is their proneness to injury).

But, like I said before, the Seahawks haven’t really had to deal with this.  We’ve seemingly ALWAYS had an elite back, or at least a very good back (with the only real committee I recall being the failed Julius Jones/T.J. Duckett experiment).  Curt Warner giving way to Chris Warren, giving way to Ricky Watters, giving way to Shaun Alexander, eventually giving way to Marshawn Lynch.  That’s a nice run of backs, with only a couple of small gaps in between.  It seems like, regardless of the problems this franchise has had in the past, they’ve at least had a good plan in dealing with the running game.

This feels like uncharted territory, but it’s really not.  In the 2001 season, Ricky Watters was 32 years old – which is absolutely ancient when it comes to running backs.  But, he was coming off of six straight seasons with at least 1,100 yards rushing.  In 2000, he played in all the games and averaged 4.5 yards per carry (which was a career high average for him, when you factor in him playing in all 16 games).  I wouldn’t say he was in his prime, per se, but he was running at a high level and he probably could have hung on and done well for himself over an additional few years.

Except, the thing was, the Seahawks had just drafted Shaun Alexander in 2000.  He didn’t play a whole lot as a rookie, but the team still had big plans for him, and could ill afford to let him ride the pine for two straight years.

2001 started, and Ricky Watters was still the team’s starting back.  In the first two starts, Alexander had a helluva time cutting into his carries – he was still being treated as the team’s backup.  However, after an injury to Watters’ shoulder in the third game of the season, Alexander was handed the keys to the car and never let go.  In Alexander’s very first start, he ran for 176 yards and 2 touchdowns on 31 carries.  He would not look back.  His 2001 season wasn’t a world-beater or anything, but he tacked on some brilliant performances to really show his promise and potential (highlighted by a 266-yard, 3-TD performance against the Raiders in week 8).  Ricky Watters would return for a couple of games in December, but then we lost him to injury again and he would never play another snap in the NFL.

It’s hard for me to say what the team’s plan was for that 2001 season, had Ricky Watters not been injured for a huge chunk of games.  But, my guess is, we would have incorporated Alexander into the offense more and more as the weeks went on.  As things went, we got a little lucky, as we didn’t have to worry about any discontent or controversy.  A major injury will do that.  Either way, you have to think that 2001 would have been Ricky Watters’ final season in a Seahawks uniform, regardless of his health situation.

A lot of people feel the same way about Marshawn Lynch and this 2014 season.  There’s REALLY a lot of parallels, when you think about it.  Lynch and Watters are two of the toughest runners we’ve ever seen in a Seahawks uniform.  Both played for other teams before coming here.  Both have had rock-solid careers in Seattle and are beloved by Seahawks fans for their toughness and professionalism.  And, of course, both are/were being phased out by younger, highly-drafted backs with elite potential who mostly sat during their rookie seasons.  Nobody really wants to see Marshawn Lynch go, just like nobody really wanted to see Ricky Watters go.  But, what trumps that is the excitement over what’s possible.  Ricky Watters was great, but Shaun Alexander was even better – the best running back in franchise history.  Marshawn Lynch has played at an All Pro level in his time in Seattle, but Christine Michael JUST might be even better.

That’s a scary thought for the rest of the NFL, especially when you consider the talent that’s already on this team.

Maybe it won’t be a true running back by committee approach in 2014.  But, at the very least, I bet we see a reshuffling of the order.  Marshawn Lynch will probably start off the season as The Man, but Christine Michael is sure to get those secondary reps that would’ve gone to Turbin.  And, you have to figure, as the season goes on (assuming Michael doesn’t get bit by the fumble bug), Christine Michael will start getting more and more carries.

And, who knows?  Maybe a well-timed injury Wally Pipps Lynch’s tenure here in Seattle.  It’s not something I would ever wish on someone like him, but if it happens, it’s good to know we have someone right behind him who’s ready to handle the challenge and keep our offense humming at a championship level.

Is This The End (As We Know It) Of Marshawn Lynch In Seattle?

As the Seahawks get ready to play the New Orleans Saints this week, one can’t help but reflect upon what happened this week, three years ago, when the Seahawks won a game 41-36.  Of course, we played the Saints on that day, and everyone remembers it for the Marshawn Lynch game-clinching 67 yard touchdown run where he broke countless tackles and set off the 12th Man into an ecstasy we’ve never seen ’round these parts before or since.

That play will live on as one of the most amazing individual feats in NFL playoff history.  We’ll be talking about that play in 50 years just like we talk about the Immaculate Reception and the Dwight Clark catch.

Locally, it’ll be remembered as the moment where it all started to go right for the Seahawks.  Personally, I’ll always remember it as the point where Marshawn Lynch was at his absolute peak.  It’s all been downhill (albeit, a very negligible grade) since then.

The Seahawks traded for Marshawn Lynch 4 games into that 2010 season.  The Bills had just drafted C.J. Spiller, plus they already had Fred Jackson on roster, so there was no point in holding onto three starting-calibre running backs.  The Seahawks were just working their way out of the dark days of Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett and were looking for a dynamic talent to bring this team into the light.  Supposedly, Lynch had fallen out of favor in Buffalo for reasons that aren’t important.  Either way, we got him for a steal.  His numbers in Buffalo weren’t particularly outstanding, and there was a real chance that he would come to Seattle and fizzle out.  People tend to forget that.

Lynch came into a situation in Seattle where everything was a mess.  The offensive line was a massive ball of injuries and ineptitude.  To his credit, Lynch was a consummate professional, and one of the baddest motherfuckers on the planet as he continuously took on defenders behind the line of scrimmage and turned those runs into positive gains.  His first game in Seattle was a road contest in Chicago, and he ran for the most impressive 44 yards on 17 carries that anyone has ever seen.

The rest of his first season wasn’t much better, as Lynch never had a 100-yard rushing game in 2010.  But, his hard running set the tone.  And he was rewarded in that playoff game against the Saints.  Aside from that 67-yard run, Lynch had 64 yards on 18 carries, which sounds about right.  Nevertheless, with that putrid offensive line, you’ll never find a more-impressive season out of a running back.  That 67-yard run was indeed the peak of Lynch’s powers.

Of course, with Tom Cable coming in starting in 2011, things started to improve.  We infused the line with more talent, and halfway through 2011, Lynch ripped off six 100-yard efforts in his last nine games.  His numbers from 2010 to 2011 were drastically improved.  And, in 2012, his numbers were even better!  With 1,590 yards and 5.0 yards per carry, Lynch was the second-best running back in the NFL.  So, how could I sit here and say that he peaked in the 2010 season?

Well, with all aspects of the offense, improved line play makes everyone’s job easier.  And, like I said before, it’s not like Lynch’s effectiveness has diminished THAT much.  But, still, if you put the 2010 Lynch behind last year’s offensive line, you would’ve seen him damn near approach 2,000 yards.

Anyway, while still carrying the load in 2013, Lynch’s numbers came back down to Earth.  At a 4.2 yards-per-carry average, Lynch put up 1,257.  Still good, but not great.  He has averaged almost exactly 300 carries per season the last three years, and that’s not including playoff runs.  My hope is that he’s got enough left in the tank to push us through to a championship this year, because I don’t know how many more years he has left.

If we want to maximize Lynch’s effectiveness going forward, we’re going to have to start cutting back on his carries.  We did just draft Christine Michael and he looks like the kind of twitchy, breathtaking talent that you eventually can’t help but play.  I expect a couple things going into next season.  First, I expect to read a bunch of stories about how amazing Michael looks in OTAs and Training Camp later this year.  And second, I expect more of a time-share in the backfield starting next season.

When you read that a running back had 301 carries in 2013 (which Lynch did), it sounds like a lot.  It sounds like you’re running a guy into the ground prematurely.  But, honestly, that averages out to a fraction of a carry less than 19 per game.  Lynch had a high of 28 carries against the 49ers in Week 2 and only 7 games with over 20 carries.  Robert Turbin had approximately 5 carries per game and Russell Wilson had about 6 carries per game.  That’s the bulk of this team’s carries in 2013:  30 carries per game.  So, if I’m expecting a Lynch/Michael time-share, what would that look like?

Well, I don’t expect Wilson’s carries to go down all that much.  Maybe he drops down to 4 carries per game (you have to expect he’s going to become less and less of a “running quarterback” the deeper he gets into his career).  Turbin really muddies things a bit.  It’s impossible to have a three running back rotation, because this isn’t college football and we’re not running the single-wing offense.  Either the team shops Turbin for a low-end draft pick, or converts him into a Michael Robinson-esque fullback.  After that, I think you look at something of a 13/13 split of carries for Lynch and Michael.  Maybe that means running them in and out, alternating by series.  Maybe that means Michael carries the load between the 30s and Lynch comes in when they’re closer to the goalline (sort of like how Buffalo uses Spiller more between the 30s and Jackson on goalline).  I don’t think it’s as simple as giving the ball to Lynch on first and second down, then running Michael in on third downs and passing situations, because the real wildcard here is how improved Michael is at pass protection.  But, either way, expect Michael to carry more of the load in 2014, with him to eventually become the featured back in 2015.

Marshawn Lynch’s cap numbers going forward aren’t too prohibitive.  He’s set to earn $5 million in base salary and $1.5 million in signing bonus in 2014 (with a $500,000 roster bonus, bringing his cap number to an even $7 million), and $5.5 million in base and $1.5 million in bonus in 2015 (with a $2 million roster bonus, bringing his cap number to $9 million).  This contract was designed to keep Lynch around for three years at the most.  With guys like Wilson, Sherman, Thomas, and Harvin all set for big raises, you’re going to have to find money somewhere.  I don’t think that means cutting Lynch prior to 2014 (even though we would only owe $3 million in dead money, saving us $13 million in base salary and roster bonuses over the next two years), but I’m certain that means cutting Lynch prior to 2015.  Either way, I’d like to see us win it all now, just to give Lynch his due while we still can.

In this day and age, it’s almost foolish for teams to over-pay for running backs.  While Lynch has been the one guy above all others who has come to define what Seahawks Football has become under Pete Carroll, at some point you have to make decisions that are best for the team long-term.  In this case, it means cutting ties with a guy on the down-side of his career.  It’ll be a sad day when it comes (especially if it comes sooner rather than later), but the last thing you want to see is a once-great player turn into a burden.

While Marshawn Lynch was never better than he was at the tail-end of 2010, he’s still in what can be considered his prime.  What we have to be prepared for is that this is the tail-end of his prime.  It’s been a great 4-year run, but all great things eventually come to an end.

#3 – Marshawn Lynch

To see the full list of the 30 most important Seahawks in 2012, click here.

Ha! What the fuck you boys talkin’ ’bout?
I know it’s us ’cause we the only thing to talk about

Does anyone else who’s a Seahawks fan get irrationally angry whenever anyone refers to any other athlete (especially another football player) as “Beastmode” or as “going beastmode”?  Marshawn Lynch may have been the first (but probably wasn’t) to coin the phrase “beastmode” when referring to himself and his running style, but I honestly don’t think that title fits any other player, living or dead, better than it does Lynch.

Essentially, unless you have a play on your resume as badass as this, then you have no claim to the rights of “Beastmode” or any variation thereof.

So, shit, what HAPPENED last year?  Well, our offensive line stunk in the first half, which means that Beastmode stunk in the first half.  “Stunk” is a relative term, though.  He wasn’t nearly as good as he was in the second half, but he was much better than just about every other running back we’ve ever seen, because even when he was getting hardly any yards, he was still turning losses into gains, dragging defenders across the line of scrimmage after they hit him in the backfield.

Then, our offensive line improved, and Lynch’s numbers improved.  Then, our offensive line got injured, but Lynch’s numbers continued to improve.  Then, he had a 100-yard rushing day against the 49ers and scored the only rushing TD against them.  Then, the season ended and lo and behold Beastmode had over 1,200 yards on the ground.  He had a streak of 11 straight games with at least 1 TD scored.  Pretty much, from November onward, he was the best running back in the league, he endeared himself to Seahawks fans even moreso than in that Saints playoff game, and he got a nice contract extension in the offseason.

Was all of that related?  Was this a situation where a guy was in his contract year and decided to step up his game?

Normally, I’m Mr. Cynical in cases like this, but with Beastmode I don’t think so.  First and foremost, he’s been running the way he’s been running since at least the day the Seahawks traded for him.  My guess is, this is Lynch.  This is who he is and this is how he runs.  Hard.  Bruising.  Punishing.  Also, you have to take into account the fact that his first team pretty much gave up on him.  First, they replaced him with Fred Jackson, then they went out and signed C.J. Spiller.  They made a guy who was obviously a star and relegated him to third string status.  Beastmode isn’t a goalline back, he’s an every-down back!  One of the last of his kind, if I may be so bold.  And, with Buffalo giving up on him, that means he has a chip on his shoulder to prove to that team – and every other team who didn’t jump at the opportunity to play him – that he’s one of the best backs in this league.  With every aggressive tackle broken, Lynch is one step closer to shoving it down the league’s throat.  How DARE you doubt Beastmode???

With Seattle, he has a home.  He has a coaching staff whose confidence in him is sky-high.  He has the love of millions of fans in the Pacific Northwest.  He has an offensive line that’s young and hungry and still getting better.  And they’re being coached by the best in the game.  This is the perfect scenario.  This year is the perfect time.  He’s the man.  He’s got a rookie quarterback, so you know Beastmode is going to have to shoulder a lot more of the load.  This offense is going to be as good as its ground game carries it.  Beastmode, therefore, is going to have to take this team on his back and lead it to victory.

I foresee nothing but good things out of Beastmode.  I think 1,500 yards isn’t insane.  I think being in the conversation for NFC MVP isn’t out of the question.  I think whoever had the foresight to keep this guy on his fantasy team going into this season will be pleasantly surprised by just how elite he really is.  All predictions right or your money back!

A Companion Post: Who Might Want Beastmode Besides Seattle?

One thing I failed to explore in the previous post is:  what’s the market look like for a guy like Marshawn Lynch?

Yes, the Franchise Tag is a good cost-cutting tool when trying to re-sign a player.  But, a complete and utter lack of teams desiring to sign an over-priced running back is probably the best thing the Seahawks could ask for.

Of course, on Lynch’s side, you’ve got the age-old adage:  it only takes one.

So, let’s just go around the league.  For starters, you can count out the NFC East.  Dallas has any number of quality young backs already locked in (including super-stud DeMarco Murray who is sure to be a fantasy god for years to come).  The Giants appear to be set with Bradshaw and whoever else behind him.  The Redskins have a nice little stable of young backs.  And the Eagles have Shady McCoy (and, I imagine, not a whole lot of cap room to boot).

In the NFC North, I’m banking my life-savings (and one of my fantasy keepers) on the fact that they will retain Matt Forte.  Minnesota obviously has one of the very best backs in the league.  The Detroit Lions, however, could be interesting.  All they’ve got on their roster right now is Jahvid Best, and he’s a fucking injury waiting to happen!  It’s certainly NOT a good sign that he ended his season with concussions last year.  And, you’d have to think that for a young team trying to cultivate this bad-ass attitude, a guy like Beastmode would slide right in nicely.  Even MORE interesting are the Green Bay Packers.  You’ve got a team with an all-world quarterback, with a shitload of receivers, and with absolutely no running game to speak of whatsoever.  Ryan Grant is a free agent who has played his last game with the green and gold; James Starks is good, but he’s no Beastmode.  I gotta think Lynch might be just the piece to put the right balance into that explosive offense.

The NFC South will be no competition.  Atlanta still has a lot of money tied up in Michael Turner.  New Orleans drafted the top running back last season (and they have other money tied up in three or four other guys); plus, theirs is not an offense that would make any sense for a guy like Lynch.  Carolina still has three running backs (including the guy who takes snaps from the center).  And Tampa is a young team that will never in a million years put in the money it would take to get Lynch.

As for the other teams in the NFC West:  San Francisco has Gore, St. Louis has Jackson, and Arizona has Wells.  They all seem pretty committed to their guys.

You know who scares me more than any other team in the NFL?  The New England Patriots.  Think about it, they were THIS close to winning it all this past season!  What were they missing?  What are they ALWAYS missing?  A balanced offensive attack!  Let’s face it, Tom Brady isn’t getting any younger.  Yes, I know the Patriots like to skimp on their running backs (just as they like to bank draft picks for future drafts), but at one point or another, they’re going to have to cash in before it’s too late.  That crack about Tom Brady not getting any younger:  the same can be said for him not getting any BETTER.  Tom Brady is as good as he’s ever going to be; it’s all downhill from here.  One of these seasons, his skills are going to erode.  He’s not going to see the open receiver soon enough, he’s going to force more and more balls into coverage, he’s going to take more and more hits from ferocious defenses looking to take out the guy while he’s on top.  The Pats could sure as shit use a guy like Lynch to take off some of the load.

And, don’t look now, but Kevin Faulk and BenJarvus Green-Ellis are both free agents.  They’re not going to hand the ball off to Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen 30 times a game!  Why WOULDN’T they make a huge push to get Lynch and start dominating the Time of Possession in every game?  What’s the downside here?

Elsewhere in the AFC East, the Dolphins are tied up with Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas, the Jets seem pretty happy with Shonn Greene and whatever young buck they’re going to slide behind him.  And, of course, the Bills have Jackson and Spiller (plus, duh, they’re the team that traded Lynch in the first place).

In the AFC North, you know damn well Baltimore is re-signing Ray Rice, so forget about it.  The Steelers would be an AWESOME fit for a guy like Beastmode, but they’re still stuck with Mendenhall (plus, they NEVER fork over money on free agents).  Cincy won’t fork over the money it’ll take either.  And the Browns – in spite of his sub-par season – will most likely re-sign Hillis (plus, they’ve got a stable of young backs they could easily throw into the mix should Hillis go elsewhere).

The AFC South has three teams that are simply non-starters.  Houston has not one but TWO massively effective running backs (Foster, who’s a fantasy god; and Tate who – as a backup – nearly ran for 1,000 yards).  The Titans have Chris Johnson and his massively insane contract.  And the Jags have one of the better all-around guys in MJD.

The Indianapolis Colts, however, are a God damned wild card and I just don’t like it!  Now, for starters, if they opt to keep Peyton Manning, then you can just skip to the next paragraph right now, because they won’t have two cents to rub together.  But, let’s say they let him and his $28 million walk:  suddenly, they’re in play!  They will have a rookie quarterback starting from Game 1.  They don’t have a single running back worth a good God damn on their team.  And, the organization will have to do something for its fans to make up for the fact that they just let go of a Hall of Famer (especially if he goes to another team and starts kicking ass again).  I wouldn’t put it past the Colts to do something drastic; mark my words.

In the AFC West, we’re talking about teams who are all pretty much set.  The Chiefs will be looking for Jamaal Charles to bounce back from an early-season season-ending injury in 2011.  The Broncos still have Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno.  And the Raiders will still have McFadden; if they re-sign Michael Bush, then all the more reason for them to NOT sign Lynch.

So, aside from the Seahawks, we’re talking about four potential teams:  Detroit, Green Bay, New England, and Indianapolis.  All have ample reasons to sign a back like Lynch; all have ample reasons to not do a damn thing.  There will be other, cheaper options out there (Hillis, Bush, Mike Tolbert, Cedric Benson, Tashard Choice, Justin Forsett, Ryan Grant) for teams like New England and Detroit to snap up, if they so choose to go the tightwad route.  Really, it’s tough to know exactly WHICH of these four teams would be the most likely, considering I don’t know what their cap situations are like.  If I were Green Bay or New England, though, I’d think long and hard.  Both teams were DAMN close this past season.  Both teams had very similar, pass-first types of offenses.  And both teams lost to the same team (the Giants) which could have been avoided had they had a running game.

Something to think about as these Beastmode negotiations continue.