The Seahawks Have Overcome A Lot Of Injuries To Get Here

File this under: No Shit, Everyone’s Got Injuries, Sherlock.

Still, not everyone is 7-3 and tied for the lead in their division, with a reasonable path to getting the #1 seed in their conference. If you take a step back and see what the Seahawks have been able to accomplish with all that’s gone against them, there’s reason to be amazed, as well as encouraged (if guys return and play well the rest of the way).

Let’s start with the guys who are lost for the season; pour one out for what could’ve been:

  • Bruce Irvin (LB/DE)
  • Marquise Blair (S)
  • Lano Hill (S)
  • Neiko Thorpe (CB)
  • Greg Olsen (TE)

I know there are teams who have lost bigger stars for the season, but I would argue these are pretty significant hits for the Seahawks. Given what we did in the offseason, this represents a pretty large portion of our free agent dollars (dollars that were – and still continue to be – in very short supply). Irvin accounted for over $5 million on a 1-year deal, and Olsen was another $7 million on a 1-year deal. Four our trouble, we got 10 games out of Olsen (he’s our 4th leading receiver at the moment, with just one touchdown), and only 2 games out of Irvin (he was supposed to be one of our top pass rushers, and ended up getting zero sacks). Money poorly spent, I’d say (the caveat being, if we make it deep into the playoffs, Olsen might be able to return, but I won’t be counting on that).

A big shame when it comes to the Olsen injury is the fact that we recently waived Luke Willson, who was picked up by the Ravens. It sounds like he’s on their practice squad – so we COULD get him back if we wanted to – but I don’t know if he’d want to return and continue to get jerked around (since it’s clear he’s our first option when we have someone we need to cut).

The team had also carved out a decent role for Blair to be a nickel corner against bigger receivers/tight ends. The second year pro (drafted in the second round) has a lot of talent and promise, so it was heartbreaking to see him also go down in the second game of the season. We’ll never know what we would’ve had in him this year, but given the secondary’s struggles overall (and the injury issues, which we’ll get more into below), Blair’s presence would’ve been a very welcome addition to the team.

Hill and Thorpe are lesser losses, but Hill looked better than he’s ever been in his two games this season. One has to wonder if he turned a corner in his young career. As for Thorpe, he’s been a Special Teams captain and mainstay for YEARS, but this just seems to be the end of the line for him. He hasn’t been able to stay on the field for even double-digit games since 2018 (when he still missed a good month’s worth of games), and I would argue our Special Teams have been fine without him.

Next, let’s look at the short list of players who’ve yet to play a single down:

  • Rashaad Penny (RB)
  • Darrell Taylor (DE)
  • Phillip Dorsett (WR)
  • Josh Gordon (WR) *

Of the four, the odds of Dorsett ever playing for this team seems pretty remote. Foot injuries are never good. Foot injuries for wide receivers are especially damaging. And, foot injuries for wide receivers whose primary weapon is their straight-line speed … well, three strikes and you’re out, I guess. As for Gordon, he gets the asterisk because he’s not actually injured, but rather on an indefinite suspension. But, he’s signed to the team and has yet to contribute, and given the talent of both of these players, I’d say the losses hurt regardless! Gordon especially, as he has #1 receiver-type talent; add him to the elite duo of D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett and you’ve really got something! The absence of these two also meant the Seahawks briefly flirted with the idea of signing Antonio Brown, and the jury is still out as to whether that would’ve been a smart idea or not.

Since the Seahawks, as is, are so strong at wide receiver, it’s hard to make a huge deal out of Dorsett & Gordon not being here. If you had to rank this group based on who we needed most, it’s a toss-up between Penny and Taylor. I’m leaning towards Penny because he’s a proven commodity, and there were a few games there where we REALLY stunk at running back, starting the likes of DeeJay Dallas and Alex Collins. As we saw last week with the return of Carlos Hyde, talent at running back is still important in this league, and Penny is probably the second-most talented running back on this team. It does look like he’ll return soon, which could be a boost (if nothing else, to our depth, but I bet they carve out a role on third downs for him, to get his feet wet).

As for Taylor, you could argue that – until recently – defensive end/pass rush was our biggest issue. But, as a rookie, I don’t know what’s reasonable to expect from a guy (especially when he hasn’t participated in any sort of Training Camp, let alone practices or games). I’m still not holding my breath that he actually returns – based on the number of setbacks he’s had – but the team is saying he’s close, which I find encouraging. Mostly, it’s encouraging that they haven’t yet written him off entirely and shut him down in favor of returning strong next year. Either way, I’ll believe in him when I see him in an actual game.

Next, let’s take a look at the players who have missed games:

  • Jamal Adams (S)
  • Shaquill Griffin (CB)
  • Quinton Dunbar (CB)
  • Ugo Amadi (CB)
  • D.J. Reed (CB)
  • Benson Mayowa (DE)
  • Chris Carson (RB)
  • Carlos Hyde (RB)
  • Travis Homer (RB)
  • Bryan Mone (DT)
  • Rasheem Green (DE)
  • Jordyn Brooks (LB)
  • Mike Iupati (G)
  • Jordan Simmons (G)
  • Ethan Pocic (C)

This obviously isn’t a comprehensive list (I probably should’ve said that at the top, but whatever). Let’s start with the secondary: we have YET to play with our full corps of DB’s at full strength. Griffin has been out the last few weeks with a concussion and a hamstring injury; he just returned to practice this week, but it’s up in the air as to whether he can return for Monday night’s game or not. Dunbar and Adams have both missed games AND played through injuries, with middling results. Obviously Adams leads the team in sacks and is a great weapon as a blitzer, but his coverage skills were never his strongest suit, and I would argue they’ve been further hampered by whatever he’s trying to gut his way through. Dunbar has a bad knee that was never able to fully get right. He tried to step up – particularly in Griffin’s absence – but has been abused by opposing quarterbacks the entire season. He’s finally landed on the IR, in hopes that we can get him back to 100% for the stretch run, so we’ll see. Amadi’s loss was a bad blow in the wake of Blair’s season-ending injury, as Amadi was one of our other nickel corners. Thankfully, D.J. Reed returned right around the same time, to give our secondary a boost (as he missed the start of the season thanks to an offseason injury when we claimed him).

The hope for this defense was that the secondary could prop everyone else up until we figured out the pass rush situation (with guys either improving naturally, or with outside players coming in to contribute), but that sadly hasn’t been the case. It’s been made more difficult by losing guys along the already-shorthanded defensive line. Along with Irvin and Taylor, the line has also missed Benson Mayowa (our OTHER big free agent signing along the D-Line) and Rasheem Green (last year’s leading sacker) for multiple games. Bryan Mone, to his credit, has been stout in the interior of the line, and it looks like it’ll be a while before he’s able to return.

The running backs, as I mentioned, took a serious hit. I won’t dwell on them too much, but thankfully Hyde is now back and Carson is practicing again. Here’s hoping they can stay on the field the rest of the way!

Jordyn Brooks didn’t miss too much time, but as our top rookie draft pick this year, missing ANY time is a disaster for someone learning the defense and learning how to be a professional. He has yet to make too much of an impact (possibly related to missing time early on, possibly not), but it does look like he’s starting to get more comfortable with his role on this team.

Finally, it’s time to talk about the offensive line. As Seahawks fans, we KNOW how important this unit is to the success of the offense. And, for the most part, we’ve been pretty blessed with this unit being as healthy as it’s been. Mike Iupati was a question mark from the start – given his age and the way his body has been breaking down in recent seasons – but we have good depth at guard. That depth was thrown into disarray when Simmons went down, as he’s the best backup guard on the roster. Then, with Ethan Pocic going down with a concussion (after having traded away B.J. Finney to the Bengals in part for Carlos Dunlap), we had to move our rock of a right guard, Damien Lewis, over to center for a game. He made it through okay (because he’s clearly Seattle’s 2020 Rookie MVP), but there were some struggles. Thankfully, it looks like all three are back (or very close to being back), so I don’t foresee any of them missing time long term.

To wrap things up, how about a few words on guys we all suspect are playing through (or HAVE played through) injuries:

  • Brandon Shell (RT)
  • Duane Brown (LT)
  • Tyler Lockett (WR)
  • Russell Wilson (QB)?

Duane Brown is an old man, but he’s also far-and-away our best offensive lineman, at a critical position along the line. He gets regular rest days in practice throughout the season to make sure he lasts, but I cringe EVERY TIME he goes down awkwardly or gets hit down around the knees. I think he’s missed a snap here and there, but so far has yet to miss any actual games (knock on wood); I hope it stays that way. Brandon Shell has proven to be our best right tackle by a VERY large margin. He suffered an ankle injury against the Cardinals, and I still have no idea how bad it is. If it’s a high ankle sprain, he could miss a month or more (which would be a disaster for this line). If it’s just a regular ankle sprain, he could be back as early as Monday night. I’m hoping it’ll be okay.

Lockett hasn’t missed any time that I can recall, but we all remember when he was tackled poorly by the Rams (I want to say?) and D.K. Metcalf almost started a riot in defense of his teammate. That was the second time he’s been nearly-injured, and he’s a little guy as it is! This offense is elite because it has Russell Wilson and TWO top-flight receivers. If you take away one of those receivers, it becomes exponentially easier to defend this team. So, take care Tyler Lockett!

As for Wilson, I don’t think he was ever actually injured, but I do think it’s funny that fans have this rumor that he was concussed and that’s why he struggled in our three losses. It’s the same as saying there’s widespread election fraud happening in America (but, of course, only in the swing states, and really only in the swing states that the president lost … how convenient). Never underestimate humanity’s ability to believe what it wants to believe!

In all seriousness, though, this season will go straight down the shitter if Wilson ever gets seriously injured. He HAS taken a lot of bad-looking hits, so I think it’s wise to incorporate more running (with the running backs) into the gameplan. Let’s get through these next four games with a 4-0 record and then we can start flying by the seat of our pants again!

The Seahawks Are In Great Shape After Beating The Cardinals

I told you guys! Nothing is fucked here!

I did a tiny bit of digging on the Vegas line for this game. It apparently opened anywhere from the Seahawks being 3.5-point to 5.5-point favorites and the public bet it down to the Seahawks just being favored by 3. I don’t have a good handle on how Vegas did last night, but I would suspect they did very well. I have to believe the majority of the money was on Arizona to at least cover, if not win outright. Regardless of that, the over/under was set in the mid-to-high 50’s, and you KNOW everyone and their grandmothers were betting the OVER in this one. With the Seahawks winning 28-21 (Arizona failing to cover, obviously failing to win, and both teams hitting well UNDER), it’s my hunch that Vegas really had a good night last night.

I hate to kick things off so negatively, but we can’t get through a Thursday Night Football game without a season-ending injury, it would appear! Remember Richard Sherman’s last game in a Seahawks uniform? Oddly enough, it was also against the Arizona Cardinals (as a matter of fact, Earl Thomas’ last game here was ALSO against the Cards; we lose more Hall of Famers playing this team than I’ve ever seen!). What isn’t so odd is that Sherman’s last game in a Seahawks uniform was a Thursday Night Football game, when he finally ruptured an already-injured Achilles tendon. Had he had a proper amount of rest and recovery that week, we might not have lost him when we did (indeed, he might’ve very well managed it throughout the season, with frequent rest days in practice).

Well, Greg Olsen – apparently our prized free agent pickup this past offseason (even though literally everyone feels it was a lot of money, poorly spent, but that’s neither here nor there) – suffered a fascia tear last night and figures to be lost for the year (there MIGHT be an outside chance he could return in time for the Super Bowl – if the Seahawks manage to make it that far – but it’s obviously way too early to make those kinds of predictions). I immediately thought of Sherman, because the cases seem so similar. Both are aging veterans. I imagine this was a nagging injury Olsen has been gutting his way through for a while. And, I suspect – much like Sherman – if he’d had a regular rest & recovery period, this might not have happened right now, and we’d still have Olsen going forward. These are non-contact injuries, so obviously there’s a strong possibility that they’re both flukes and could’ve happened at any time. But, I feel very strongly that having just played a football game four days prior is the bigger culprit in all of this.

Before I get off of my injury high horse, I’ll pour a little out for Brandon Shell, who suffered a more traditional sprained ankle injury when someone rolled up on him as he was blocking someone else. The severity is unknown, but it’s obviously quite worrisome, as he’s far-and-away our best right tackle. He could return as early as our next game (if it’s just a regular ankle sprain), or he could be lost until the playoffs (if it’s a high-ankle variety). Fingers crossed it’s not that bad!

From a defensive standpoint, this game went exactly as it needed to. If we can hold teams to 21 points per game the rest of the way, we’ll never lose again! We forced four Arizona punts in the first half – including one when they got the ball with less than two minutes to go, which is always prime scoring time against this defense – and held them to just a lone touchdown in taking a 16-7 lead into the break.

Things were a little touch-and-go in the second half, as Arizona started out with back-to-back scoring drives of 81 and 90 yards, but the Seahawks were able to maintain their lead throughout. Probably the scariest part of the game was when we led 23-21 and punted back to the Cardinals on their own 14 yard line. Thankfully, an Intentional Grounding penalty, followed by a holding penalty in the endzone, resulted in a safety for the Seahawks. That begat a field goal for the Seahawks (to give the game its final score) on a near-seven minute drive, which then begat the Cardinals getting the ball back with just over 2 minutes left in the game, needing a touchdown to tie. The Cards were in good shape, getting inside the Seahawks’ 30-yard line with just under a minute to play, but our defense stiffened there, culminating on a Carlos Dunlap sack on fourth down to end it.

Dunlap was everything I’ve ever wanted in a defensive end in this one! He had four tackles, two sacks, and three hits on the quarterback. All told, the Seahawks had three sacks (with L.J. Collier lucking into one, but I’ll obviously take it) and seven hits on the quarterback, after not touching Kyler Murray at all in the previous game we played down in Arizona. Murray looked like he was suffering from an injury to his throwing shoulder, and it’s tough to say how much that affected him. He probably isn’t using it as an excuse, but there were a number of errant throws that helped kill a lot of drives (there were also lots of AMAZING throws on his part, so maybe the shoulder really wasn’t that big of a deal and he’s just an inconsistent, young passer?).

I don’t know how you don’t call this the best all-around defensive performance for the Seahawks this season. In spite of failing to generate any Arizona turnovers, we held Murray to 269 yards passing (the second-fewest among quarterbacks who played the entire game against us this year), we held their entire rushing attack to just 57 yards on 18 carries (in a game that was never so far out of reach that they needed to abandon the run, at least until the very last drive), and I think most importantly: we held DeAndre Hopkins to just 5 catches and 51 yards (one week after he caught 12 balls for 127 yards, including that hail mary touchdown at the end to win it against the Bills). I’ll always wonder how much of that was forced by our improved defense, versus how much of that was Murray choosing to not force-feed his #1 receiver. Hopkins was matched up against Tre Flowers for a lot of the game, and – per usual – Flowers gave up a huge cushion; it seemed like they had that comeback route to the first down marker any time they wanted it. Why they didn’t go to that well time and time again, I have no idea.

Offensively, this was decidedly an old school Russell Wilson performance: 23/28, 197 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs. You could tell me that’s a stat line from 2013 and I’d believe it. To be fair, D.K. Metcalf dropped a surefire touchdown right before halftime, resulting in the Seahawks settling for a field goal (to also be fair, Wilson threw that ball about 5,000 miles per hour right at Metcalf’s face, resulting in it bouncing off of his helmet before he had time to properly react and catch it), but I think it’s safe to say this game won’t be heavily featured on Wilson’s MVP Hype Video. It was an efficient, turnover-free game, though, and that’s EXACTLY what you’re looking for on a short week, after losing 3 of 4 games largely because of inefficiency and turnovers.

Carlos Hyde was very warmly received by fans and the team alike in this one (Chris Carson was indeed held out another week, but figures to be back very soon). You could tell from the first carry: there’s a SIGNIFICANT drop-off in talent between Hyde and the running backs under Hyde. That being said, Bo Scarbrough was called up from the practice squad for this one and played as the #2 running back, and I thought he looked solid! Certainly better than Alex Collins or DeeJay Dallas or Travis Homer. Hyde ran for 79 yards and a touchdown on only 14 carries, and Scarbrough ran for another 31 yards on 6 carries. Including Wilson runs (10 for 42) and a lone Dallas carry, the Seahawks combined for 165 yards on 31 carries, which has to be a Pete Carroll tantric wet dream.

Tyler Lockett led all receivers with 9 receptions for 67 yards and a pretty touchdown in the back corner of the endzone. D.K. Metcalf’s day could’ve gone better (he had at least a couple drops, and one of his big catches was called back by a bogus holding penalty; the refs in this one probably had the worst performance of anyone on the field), but he did end up with 3 catches for 46 yards and a touchdown.

As I said before, this win puts us in great shape. We’re now 7-3, and 2-2 in the division (5-2 in the conference). Our very next game is a Monday night affair on the 30th in Philly. Given how bad the Eagles are, and how elite the Seahawks are on MNF, I really like our chances in that one. Then we have back-to-back home games against the New York teams (they should be pushovers), followed by a road game in Washington (which sneakily might be the toughest of the bunch). I have the utmost confidence in the Seahawks being 4-0 in this stretch, which brings us back home for a Must Win game against the Rams (to ensure our winning the NFC West), before a season-ending Should Win game against the 49ers on the road.

I hope the Seahawks use these next 11 days to get healthy, because we’re heading directly into the home stretch of the regular season. It’s time to stop fucking around and put some distance between us and the rest of the NFC. If the defense can look just like this the rest of the way, I think we’ll be okay.

There Will Always Be A Reason To Not Vote For Russell Wilson For MVP

Russell Wilson has famously never received an MVP vote, even though he’s been one of the best in the game since his rookie season in 2012. There’s always been a reason for that. There are two ways to take that sort of sentiment: there’s the magnanimous side of there simply being a lot of other, worthy candidates, and not everyone gets a trophy in the real world. And, there’s the bitter Seahawks fan in me, who can’t help but see it as my guy getting slighted.

Et tu, Trey Wingo?! I actually think he’s one of the more reasonable ESPN personalities, but in this week’s Slow News Day, he was all over Aaron Rodgers as MVP. Magnanimous Steven can hear that and say, “Sure, he’s having a fantastic season! Over 1,200 yards in four games, with 13 touchdowns and 0 interceptions; what’s not to love?” But, all Bitter Steven hears is Trey’s rationale: look at Rodgers’ weapons and compare them to Wilson’s.

Okay. First of all, we’re not ACTUALLY going to get bent out of shape about the MVP race five weeks into the season. So, let’s all take a deep breath and relax. I COULD tell you that – while Rodgers’ numbers are great – his numbers aren’t quite up to Wilson’s over 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns in five games. If we’re talking weapons, yeah, D.K. Metcalf looks like a monster, and we’ve been singing Tyler Lockett’s praises since he joined the league. But, Rodgers still has Aaron Jones, one of the best dual-threat running backs in all of football (third in rushing yards per game), with a combined 6 touchdowns rushing and receiving. And, Davante Adams has only missed a couple games due to injury. On top of which, let’s face it, the Packers haven’t had to play very many elite teams. On top of the Vikings and Falcons (who we also beat), they’ve gone up against a one-win Lions team and a Saints team that looks like it’s on its last legs with Drew Brees. Also, just because you don’t know who some of these Packers are at tight end and behind Adams in the receivers room, doesn’t mean they’re not just as good as some of these other Seahawks; that Robert Tonyan (with five TDs so far) could be the next Greg Olsen for all we know!

The point isn’t the weapons, the point is the EXCUSE. The title of the post says there will always be a reason to not vote for Russell Wilson for MVP, but actually I should’ve put “excuse”, because that’s what we’re talking about. Everyone seemingly ALWAYS has a reason to poo-poo what Wilson is doing. Early in his career, he wasn’t an MVP because we had Marshawn Lynch, and that #1 defense, and a conservative play-calling scheme. Forget about Wilson’s efficiency – doing more with fewer attempts – or his touchdown numbers; it was always about the team around him. Then, as Lynch left, and the defense crumbled, this team clearly became all about Russell Wilson; he was dragging this roster bereft of talent into the playoffs kicking and screaming (he’s STILL never had a losing record, in spite of some REALLY lean rosters that would’ve been contending for a top draft pick had Wilson not been around). If you think about Most Valuable Player, you think about the guy who adds the most value to his team (obviously, this being football, there is that pesky “team” aspect that constantly skews things). Take Russell Wilson off of any of these Seahawks teams from 2016 to 2020, and you’re looking at one of the very worst teams in all of football. Can you imagine what Nick Foles or Ryan Fitzpatrick (the dictionary definition of Replacement Level Quarterbacks) would’ve done with these guys?

But, no one who votes actually sees the game in these hypotheticals. The MVP almost always goes to the best quarterback on the best team, period. If you take Lamar Jackson off of that Ravens team last year and put a replacement level guy in there, they probably still win 9-10 games, because the rest of the roster was so good. But, Jackson won the MVP because the Ravens went 14-2 and he was a hot, new story.

Story plays into it too. Is it a guy who’s never won it before? Well that’s interesting! (hence why momentum for Wilson is so high this year) Is it a guy doing something extra-special? (Patrick Mahomes as a 23-year old throwing for 50 touchdowns in his first full season as a starter explains what happened in 2018)

In a sense, blaming Wilson for the weapons around him is idiotic, because you NEED the team to win a lot of games, and you need SOMEONE to catch all those balls! But, it cuts both ways, because you watch the Seahawks and you have to see how bad this defense has been.

Remember a year ago, when the Seahawks played in 14 games decided by one score (including playoffs) and went 11-3 in those games? Remember how unsustainable that was, and how likely it was that the 2020 Seahawks would come crashing down to Earth? Already, four of our five games have been decided by one score, and we’re 4-0 in those games (including that near-miraculous come-from-behind performance against the Vikings last week). This is no longer a fluke. This is Russell Wilson. He is your MVP for 2020. You can make all the arguments you want – because otherwise, what else are you going to talk about on the various football chat shows; we all have content to produce – but in the end, when the Seahawks have the best record in football, and Russell Wilson has the best stats of all the quarterbacks, you’re going to have to make him unanimous.

And yet, even if all of that comes to pass, I bet there are still a few a-holes out there who will throw a bone to the Aaron Rodgers’ of the league. Because they just can’t live in a world where a 5’11 quarterback is the best player alive.

Are The 2020 Seahawks Better Than The 2019 Seahawks?

I’m having difficulty getting a read from the fanbase when it comes to their overall thoughts on the 2019 Seahawks; is that team considered a disappointment, or did they make the most of what they had? It’s easy to forget – knowing that was a Wild Card team who was ultimately thrust from the playoffs in the Divisional Round – but the 2019 Seahawks started out 10-2, among the best teams in all of football by record at the time. We lost three of our last four regular season games (all to divisional opponents) to lose our handle on the divisional title and a chance at a top two seed in the NFC, then we beat a decimated Eagles team before losing like we usually do on the road in the Divisional Round (by falling into a deep hole early and not having enough in the tank to come all the way back late). When you factor in a generational talent like Russell Wilson being in his prime, once again falling short of the Super Bowl, that feels disappointing to me. Maybe I’m spoiled, but I don’t know what to tell you.

The 2020 Seahawks are 4-0 right now. With the way our schedule is shaping up – among the easiest in football – not only do I see a reasonable path to at least matching our 10-2 start from a season ago, unless things take a dramatically dark turn, I’d be shocked if we’re not 12-2 as we head into the final two weeks of the season. 13-3 is not only on the table at this point, but should be the FLOOR. I don’t think a perfect season is happening, but one or two losses? I’m not throwing that out of bed for eating crackers!

When you think about how much we’ve obsessed over the quality of the defense to date – rightfully so, I might add – I can’t help but question whether or not this team is actually better than the one we saw a year ago. Are we better, or is our schedule just easier?

Well, let’s get the simple question out of the way: the schedule is unquestionably easier. The 2019 AFC North was much more difficult than the 2020 AFC East; give me those Ravens over these Bills, those Steelers (when we played them, with a healthy Big Ben) over these Patriots, those Browns over these Dolphins, and even those Bengals over these Jets. The 2019 NFC South was much more difficult than the 2020 NFC East; there’s no point in even going through the teams (we’ve seen this NFC East for many seasons continue to underwhelm at every turn). The 2019 Eagles and Vikings were superior to the 2020 Falcons and Vikings, no contest. And, I would argue the 2019 NFC West was much more difficult than the 2020 version, based on the 49ers being decimated by injuries and clearly not living up to the standard they set last year. We might’ve overrated the Cardinals in Year 2 of the Kyler Murray regime, and I think the Rams are about equal to what they were a season ago (Jared Goff will never take the next step as an elite quarterback, I’m sorry).

So, let’s look at the first question: are the Seahawks better?

On paper, just looking at the roster alone, the offense doesn’t look a whole lot different. Same quarterback, mostly same receivers, same starting running back, many of the same tight ends and offensive linemen, and even the same offensive coordinator. Obviously, everything is being made about Letting Russ Cook, but what is so remarkable to me is that there doesn’t seem to be any drop in efficiency. That was the knock against letting Russ cook in the past: we were winning games, mostly because he was the most efficient quarterback in football. He did more with less (attempts), and the only reason why he wasn’t among the MVP finalists is because he didn’t have those attempts, or total yardage numbers, that dazzle the eye and cloud the brain. Russell Wilson has always had high passer ratings, low interception numbers, and high yards per attempt averages. And, obviously, we’re looking at a quarter of the normal sample size in any given year, but he’s blowing all of those numbers out of the water so far!

You would think more attempts = more opportunities for mistakes. Or, more attempts = more short passes, for a lower yards per attempt average. Again, it’s the opposite! Last year, his passer rating was 106.3 (his career high in any season was 110.9 in 2018); this year his rating is 136.7 (out of a possible 158.3). Last year, his yards per attempt were an even 8.0 (his career high in any season was 8.3 in 2015); this year it’s 9.4. He’s not just dinking and dunking and checking down to running backs and tight ends; he’s throwing deep as he always has and still connecting on these beautiful arcing rainbow balls!

In short (no pun intended), I think many of us (myself included) thought we’d seen the best of what Russell Wilson has to offer, but he’s continuing to soar to new heights (ditto) and it’s incredible to witness.

There’s also a very credible argument to be made that these are the best weapons he’s ever had. That is a BOLD statement! Remember, he’s had guys like Marshawn Lynch, Doug Baldwin, Golden Tate, Sidney Rice, Zach Miller … and sure, Jimmy Graham and Percy Harvin. But, would you rather have those guys, or Chris Carson, Tyler Lockett, D.K. Metcalf, Greg Olsen, Will Dissly, David Moore, Carlos Hyde, Jacob Hollister, and Freddie Swain? They’ve all come up big in the early going, and we still have Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, and Rashaad Penny waiting in the wings! Even when you just compare the 2020 group to 2019, I think you have to factor in the improved development of guys like Metcalf and Moore, as well as the rookie Swain who is already better than any fourth/fifth receiver we had last year.

Even though so many of the pieces are similar to what they were a season ago, this offense is unquestionably leaps & bounds better than it was (and better than it’s ever been, in the history of this franchise).

That brings us back to the defense.

So … yeah, the pass defense isn’t great. The pass rush was never thought to be anything above the bottom quarter in football, but the secondary has been atrocious as well. We’re still giving up over 400 yards passing per game, which is easily worst in the NFL. However! The run defense is only giving up 75.8 yards per game (third best); in 2019, the Seahawks gave up 117.7 rushing yards per game (11th worst). In a way, that makes sense, because our offense is so good, teams have to throw more to keep up and/or catch up with what we’re doing. But, it’s not like our 2019 offense was a turd sandwich or anything; we were in the top ten in yards and points. I do believe there is a drastic improvement in the quality of our run defense, which is further helping us force opposing offenses into being one-dimensional. Think of it this way: don’t you think every single team that faces the Seahawks wants to do whatever it takes to keep Russell Wilson on the sideline? Wouldn’t you think – that being the case – that teams would do their best to get a running game going against us? The fact that they’ve mostly failed in that endeavor is pretty telling.

I also want to look at turnovers, because I like what I’ve seen from this part of our defense so far and I don’t think it’s getting enough credit. The Seahawks are +5 in turnover ratio right now, tied for second (and, as we all know, one of those Wilson interceptions went right off of Greg Olsen’s hands, so we really should be tied for first at +6). The offense should always limit turnovers based on our quarterback and our coaching staff’s emphasis on taking care of the rock, so that ratio is always going to be in our favor. But, the defense alone has generated 8 turnovers, good for a tie for second (the Browns lead the NFL with 10). Of those 8 turnovers, 6 are via the interception, which I think is huge (the Browns, by contrast, only have 4 interceptions). Fumbles are largely a byproduct of luck. Most fumbles are 50/50 propositions; it’s an anomaly if one team is particularly good or bad at recovering them. Sure, teams can be good at FORCING them, but the name of this particular game I’m talking about is turnovers. Getting the ball back. If we’re not going to sack the opposing quarterback (six in four games, tied for sixth-worst), then we better be good at generating turnovers if we’re going to contend for a Super Bowl.

Last year, the Seahawks were tied for third in turnover differential at +12. We had 32 takeaways, also good for third in the NFL. Of those 32, it was an even 16/16 split between interceptions and fumble recoveries; 16 interceptions is pretty good (tied for fifth in the NFL last year), but the 16 fumble recoveries were tied for second most, which is a pretty remarkable feat and difficult to match from year to year. However, if you project a decrease in the number of fumbles our defense can recover in 2020 (which I do), while acknowledging that even a moderate increase in interceptions MIGHT be in play, can we really expect to have a drastically improved turnover differential? I would say absolutely! Because remember, that factors in the number of times our offense gave away the football. The Seahawks in 2019 were tied for the third-most lost fumbles (many of them thanks to Chris Carson’s butter fingers, which improved dramatically as the season went on); the odds of the Seahawks losing that many fumbles on offense in 2020 seem low to me. Partly because of regression in fumble luck, partly because we’re just not running the ball as much, and partly because Chris Carson is in a contract year (and fumblers don’t get max-money deals).

I don’t see a path where our sack numbers improve from where they were a season ago (we were tied for second-worst in 2019, which feels about right for 2020), but I do very much see a path to an increase in interceptions, given the level of talent in our secondary (which will get better as they get used to playing with one another; those communication breakdowns will be eliminated, I’m sure of it) as well as the fact that most teams will be forced into throwing the ball more than they’re used to (thanks to our offense putting up tons of points, and our run defense stuffing the everloving shit out of the line of scrimmage).

All of that combined, I think, points to this 2020 Seahawks team being much improved over the 2019 incarnation. Tack on the easy schedule, and the top seed in the NFC is very much in our sights.

We just need the Packers to lose a few games and we’ll be all set!

The Seahawks Remain Perfect While Still Being Entirely Imperfect

There aren’t any BAD 4-0 teams in the NFL. I can say this, of course, because the Chicago Bears finally lost (HI-YO!), but that’s neither here nor there. You don’t really get to complain about your team once you’re undefeated after a quarter of the season. This is awfully exciting, and ever-so-much fun! At this very moment, it’s just us and the Bills leading the way in the NFL (with a smattering of 3-0 teams lurking off in the distance).

But, obviously, the Seahawks are only “perfect” in record (and, quarterback too, I suppose); there are still things for this team to improve upon. And, not for nothing, but there are deficiencies that are always going to be there! Deficiencies we’re going to have to overcome on a weekly basis if we aim to keep this Rock N’ Roll Train a-rollin’.

It was all on display yesterday down in Miami, as the Seahawks beat the Dolphins 31-23 (it was 31-15 before a late touchdown by Ryan FitzGarbagePoints ran one in, almost making my score prediction last week pretty close!). The frustration, the glory, the rage, the surprise, the awe. It wasn’t the prettiest, but it nevertheless got my mojo rising, so let’s get into it!

It feels like a million years ago, but this game actually started out with another interception by Ryan Neal on the very first drive (after he caught the game-ending pick against Dallas the week prior)! Indeed, Ryan Fitzpatrick wasn’t very good in this one. He threw two picks and honestly probably should’ve thrown two more, if our guys didn’t keep dropping them. It’s a bit of a shame that they did, because Miami’s yardage total wouldn’t look nearly as good if we’d held on. But, regardless, the Seahawks were up 7-0 before we knew it, and this one had all the makings of a blowout.

The offense went weirdly cold for most of the rest of the first half, unfortunately. It was 10-9 with 24 seconds to go before halftime when we got the ball back. You could be forgiven if you didn’t expect anything to come out of this possession. Hell, in years past, we would’ve just handed the ball off to a running back up the middle for a 5-yard gain and regrouped for the second half! But, not this year! Not with MVP Wilson calling the shots! We hit Greg Olsen for 11 yards, called time out, and proceeded to find David Moore running WIDE open down the left sideline for 57 yards! How the Dolphins managed to leave him alone like that, I’ll never understand, but that gave us 1st & Goal at the 7 yard line with 10 seconds left. It took us four seconds to throw it down to the 3 yard line, and another three seconds to toss it to Travis Homer. Yes, it took all of 21 seconds for this offense to go 75 yards and extend our lead to 17-9. THAT is an offense that’s capable of carrying a team to a championship!

Since we got the ball back immediately after halftime, I was hoping we’d just put the hammer down right then and there and run out the clock for an easy victory. We almost did! But, the drive was vanquished in the Miami endzone with a rare Wilson interception. Once again, the lights went out with the offense, as the Dolphins clawed back to 17-15 (all on field goal drives) midway through the fourth quarter, as Miami held an insane Time of Possession advantage at this point.

I’ll be honest, I was a little unnerved! This was EXACTLY the scenario I was worried about! Stupid mistakes costing the Seahawks, letting the Dolphins hang around, and needing to pull a rabbit out of our asses in the end! But, of course, there were two things I was overlooking: the defense was playing exactly to design, and the offense would eventually figure it out.

It can be a little maddening to watch this defense sometimes. Even at its peak – when it was the very best defense in all of football – this is the style we’ve played: keep plays in front of you (don’t let them hit any deep balls) and force opposing offenses to dink and dunk down the field if they’re going to score. The difference between yesterday’s performance and ones from yore is that we just don’t have the level of talent now to really punish other teams. So, when they dink and dunk, they’ll do so for a while! There’s a helplessness to it. Like we’re never going to stop them, and they’re going to continue converting new first downs until the end of time.

Thankfully, these were the Dolphins, and five of their six scoring drives ended in a field goal. One or two more touchdowns in there and we might be singing a different tune today.

The offense did figure it out, at the best possible time. Our 17-15 lead expanded to 24-15 with a beautiful 17-yard touchdown pass to David Moore in the back corner of the endzone. Then, after Shaquill Griffin picked off Fitzpatrick (he really played a flawless game in this one, in locking down his side of the field), we marched right down the field – on the legs of D.K. Metcalf, who caught a quick out at the sideline and bullied his way to the 1-yard line – before Chris Carson plunged over the goalline for his second TD of the game. From that point, it was just a matter of wasting clock and recovering an onside kick.

Wilson’s MVP campaign continued on, though of course this wasn’t quite as breathtaking. He nevertheless threw for 360 yards and 2 touchdowns (to tie the record for most TD passes through four games, with 16).

I would argue Carson was actually the star of this one. Remember last week when that Dallas defender tried to twist his leg off? Remember when it looked like Carson might miss a few weeks? Well, he not only returned without missing any games, but started and really carried the load! 80 yards on 16 carries (the other running backs only handled it 6 times, not counting Wilson scrambles), with another 3 receptions for 20 yards. The offense obviously isn’t going through Carson anymore, but that doesn’t mean he’s not vital to making this whole thing work. I’d love to know how many times Wilson changed a play to a run, where Carson was able to burst through a huge hole – in a light box – for a significant gain (because the opposing defense was so concerned about Wilson throwing it on them). That’s going to be a considerable trend the rest of this season, as more teams adjust to the new Seahawks way of doing things.

D.K. Metcalf led the way for receivers, with 4 catches for 106 yards. David Moore had more of the highlights, as he caught 3 for 95 and a TD. Tyler Lockett had a relatively quiet day, but that’s just a matter of Wilson spreading the ball around (nine guys caught balls in this one, with eight guys catching at least two).

If I have one thing that irked me about the offense, it has to do with this weird notion that they need to shuffle guys on the offensive line for some reason? I know they talked about this a while back, I think as a function of not having a real pre-season, but I don’t get it. Isn’t the whole thing about the O-Line that they need continuity and reps together with the same guys? Will someone explain to me why Cedric Ogbuehi is in the game at all, let alone on a relatively critical drive in the first half where we’re going for it on fourth down? Brandon Shell has more than proven why we signed him to that contract in free agency: he’s CLEARLY the best right tackle on the team. So, is it any shock that Ogbuehi gave up the sack on fourth down to stall yet another potential scoring drive? I didn’t notice him in the game at all after that, so, I dunno, maybe keep it that way? I mean, yeah, I get it, you want guys to have experience in case others get injured. But, he’s a professional and a veteran, if we need him, he’ll figure it out. Right now, let’s keep our BEST guys out there and rack up huge leads! That way, when the game is out of reach, we can start playing our backups to give them some experience when it doesn’t matter as much. Just a thought.

On defense, I thought we showed flashes of competence. Only one sack, of course, isn’t very inspiring (particularly when Fitzpatrick threw it 45 times), but I thought Miami had a really smart gameplan. They never totally abandoned the run until late in the game and the Seahawks were up by two scores. That kept them in manageable situations, which meant there weren’t a lot of obvious passing situations where we could send in our specialists to tee off and get after the quarterback. That’s my way of saying I wish we could’ve had more Shaquem Griffin, because he’s always electric whenever he’s rushing the passer.

The rush defense was fairly on point. Fitzpatrick led the way with his scrambling (6 for 47 and a touchdown), but the other guys combined for 56 yards on 16 carries (3.5 yards per carry average).

K.J. Wright, in spite of his dropped interceptions, otherwise had a remarkable game, with lots of shoestring tackles preventing big plays. That guy’s wingspan is simply incredible, as he’s able to get to guys he shouldn’t, even if he’s actively engaged with a blocker! Bobby Wagner led the team in tackles with 12, and I thought most of our secondary was pretty sticky and making plays (Ryan Neal is a revelation, and Ugo Amadi is up there among our best cover guys).

If I can bitch about anything for a moment, it has to be Tre Flowers, who might want to consider calling his post-football late night chat show “Picking On Tre Flowers”, because the dude gets absolutely molested on a daily basis in this defense. He’s really a problem for this team, and ultimately I don’t see him as a Seahawk-type defender. He’s too soft, in all respects. I know the objective for this defense was to keep everything in front of them – to not give up big plays deep – but he’s giving up SO MUCH cushion, on every single down! If it’s 3rd & 6, why are you lining up 12 yards deep? That’s the easiest pre-snap read for even the most bumbling of quarterbacks! By all accounts, it sounds like his confidence is totally shot. Quinton Dunbar coming in and taking his job has really gotten into his head. After Dunbar has struggled when he was in there, on top of being injured these last two weeks, Flowers finally has a shot at redemption and to take his job back for good, and what has he done? He’s gotten used and abused, first by an elite quarterback in Dak Prescott, and now by a mediocre one in Ryan Fitzpatrick. Year three is supposed to be the year where you take your game to new heights; Flowers is regressing. I imagine year four will be pretty quiet for him, and after that he’ll be on a new team.

Probably the best thing to come from this game is a lack of new injuries. FINALLY! Now, we can enjoy the soft landing that is the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday Night Football next week, followed by a much-needed BYE week.

It’s funny what a 4-0 start will do for you, when looking at the upcoming schedule. Potential losses start looking like easy victories, and even those certain losses start looking like toss-ups. The outlook is bright! And I can’t help but be really excited for what’s to come!

Every Time The Seahawks Play The Patriots, It’s The Best Game Of The Year; Last Night Was No Exception

That game was so good, I don’t even know where to start, so let’s just run through everything in order of appearance, because there’s too much to discuss to have any other format for this post.

Is Greg Olsen The Most Washed-Up 35 Year Old Tight End Inexplicably Earning $7 million On A Team With No Pass Rush?

Boy did he have a bad game in this one. How do you feel about 0 catches on 1 target? Furthermore, how do you feel about that lone target coming on the first drive of the game, being a perfect throw that bounced off of his hands and into the open arms of Devin McCourty for a Pick-Six? I kept waiting for Olsen’s redemption moment that, unfortunately, never came (unless it was some impactful block that I missed because who pays attention to THAT stuff?). I get the feeling that we’re destined for a super-mediocre season out of Olsen where the saving grace is that he catches 7 touchdowns, or one for every million dollars he’s earning. Nope, couldn’t have put that money to better use on the defensive line; NO SIR!

Seahawks Rushing Attack Quietly Good

It’s hard to say if Russell Wilson “cooked” in this one; the numbers were split pretty evenly: 28 passing attempts, 30 rushes (to be fair, those five Wilson runs were scrambles that would’ve been passing attempts had things looked differently on those plays). I mean, if you want to point to the ideal Pete Carroll type of offensive game, you’re looking at it. He doesn’t care where the touchdowns come from (all five were Wilson throws, which is pretty fancy cooking any way you sauté it), he just wants the running backs at least AS involved in moving the football as the quarterback. As a team, the Seahawks ran for 154 yards (a robust 5.1 yards per carry), with Carson leading the way (as it should be), 17 for 72. Don’t discount the effectiveness of Wilson’s 5 carries for 39 yards; he’s not just saving these attempts for the fourth quarter like in seasons past. He’s busting them out early enough to force defenses to account for him on potential zone-read plays later on (Travis Homer was the recipient of a few quality runs in this mold, ending up with 3 carries for 21 yards). Since the Patriots’ run defense isn’t that great, it was nevertheless good to see that the offense didn’t forcefeed us an All Wilson All The Time type of game.

Tyler Lockett Is There Whenever You Need Him

On any other team, or if Lockett were like a traditional wide receiver diva, he would command 15 targets per game and be among the league leaders in catches, yards, and touchdowns. He’s THAT good! He’s ALWAYS open, even when he’s got guys draped all over him! In this one, he ended up with a sensible 7 catches (on 8 targets) for 67 yards and a touchdown (in the drive immediately following the Pick Six, to tie the game at 7-7), but it seemed like all of his catches were big (either to convert a first down, or to get us out of a huge hole after a holding penalty or a sack or something). One of the ways the Seahawks have been very effective so far this year has been in how the offense has dug itself out of holes. Even though holding penalties are down leaguewide, the Seahawks are still right up there among the worst offenders as an offensive line. But, for the most part (not every time, obviously; this offense isn’t perfect in spite of Russell Wilson signing a pact with the devil) it’s not an automatic punt whenever we find ourselves in 1st & 20, or 2nd & 15. Tyler Lockett has a lot to do with this. Most teams would take more advantage and throw it to him too much; but Wilson knows it’s best to save those moments for when they matter most, because Lockett will always be there to pull this team out of the fire.

Quandre Diggs (tsk tsk tsk)

Yesterday was as bad a day across the NFL when it comes to injuries that I’ve ever seen. Not just the number of guys who went down, but the number of high-impact players who were out for the rest of their respective games, who will end up missing a number of weeks, and/or who will be out for the remainder of the season! I’ll discuss more of that in my fantasy column later in the week, but it was rough. As it turns out, you can’t go from 0 to 60 at the drop of a hat – with no pre-season ramp-up – and not expect to see this as a reality! You may ask, “Why didn’t we see all of this in the first week?” Well, my thoughts are that everyone got beat up pretty good, and since no one was in real game shape, everyone needed more than the 6-7 days they were given for their bodies to recover. Since everyone was heading into yesterday without sufficient recovery time, all their bodies were more susceptible to the types of injuries we were seeing. You can dismiss the pre-season all you want, but going from playing a quarter, to a half, to into the third quarter, and then scaling it back to almost-nothing in the fourth game sure seems to be a better way to ramp up everyone’s bodies for the pounding they take on a weekly basis than what we had this season.

Anyway, what does that have to do with Quandre Diggs? On the Patriots’ first offensive drive of the game, he was ejected for a helmet-to-helmet hit on a defenseless receiver (on a 4th down play, that ultimately put New England in a position to go up 14-7). No one was injured on the play, though it was a good call by the league. Seahawks fans were complaining on Twitter, asking what Diggs was supposed to do with it being such a bang-bang play; well, he’s not supposed to lazily ram into a guy while fully erect, with his helmet smashing into the other guy’s helmet! If Diggs was using proper technique, he would’ve bent his body at the waist, gotten his head out of the way, and led with one of his shoulders … you know, like we’ve been preaching around here for the better part of the last decade! This is simple, people; Diggs had plenty of time to put his body into proper position. He was just lazy on that play, didn’t feel like bending down, and he was properly ejected as a result.

How this gets back to injuries is that, of course, Marquise Blair – our Big Nickel defensive back extraordinaire last week – went in to replace Diggs at safety after that (flip-flopping with Lano Hill whenever we were in a Nickel Defense), and also of course, ended up with a serious knee injury. It will either cost him a few weeks or the rest of the season, which is just a crusher. I still have faith in this secondary to lead the way; we have lots of guys behind Blair who will step up and be good. But, Blair sure looked like he was turning into something really special. It’s only his second season in the league, so there’s time for him to bounce back and become great. But, it’s a shame when someone this early in his development has a setback this potentially-significant.

Newsflash: Cam Newton Is A Great Rusher

His numbers weren’t quite as sparkling as his 15 rushes for 75 yards against the Dolphins last week, but 11 rushes for 47 yards is nothing to sneeze at. He tacked on two goalline touchdowns in that total and looked ALMOST unstoppable (foreshadowing, you know you want it). I was really impressed with the variety of different rushes the Pats used at the goalline; they will be tough to defend down there. Don’t let them get inside of the 10 yard line if you have hopes of holding them to field goals! It won’t work out most of the time.

Great Punting Tho

With the Seahawks down 14-7 and driving, I was legitimately starting to worry about our ability to stop New England’s offense. Had we fallen too far behind, it would’ve been super tough to come back with Cam pulling plays out of his ass all night. That’s why I was so discouraged we took a minor sack on third down at the New England 42 yard line. 4th & 5 isn’t all that different from the fourth down we converted last week (with the bomb to D.K.). The way we were otherwise moving the ball at will, that seemed like a pretty easy one to convert. I’m not saying the ends justify the means, but we did win the game, so I won’t complain too much. But, had we lost, this is a moment I would’ve pointed to as one of the reasons why.

Nevertheless, we had a GREAT game from Michael Dickson! No one cares about punting, of course, but he showed why he was an All Pro as a rookie two years ago. He averaged an even 50 yards per punt (with a long of 63), and all four of them ended up inside the 20 yard line (including one that died inside the two yard line all by itself, like he’d chipped it with a pitching wedge or something). That is an impact that doesn’t show up directly on the scoreboard, but it nevertheless affects the game in countless hidden ways.

Seahawks Run Defense Also Quietly Good

I know I was up there praising Cam Newton a minute ago, but this is a true statement! The Patriots as a team ran the ball 25 times for 67 yards (2.7 yards per), and the non-Cam runners were a terrible 14 carries for 20 yards (1.4 yards per). That was legitimately shocking to me. I thought for sure the Pats would Ground & Pound it up our bums, but clearly the emphasis for this defense was to stop the run at all costs (which, as it turned out, meant giving up a lot of passing yardage, as we’ll get to later).

D.K. Is Living In The Future, So The Present Is His Past

His presence is a present, kiss my ass! Stephon Gilmore was the Defensive Player of the Year in 2019. I don’t know if he’s the best cornerback in football, but he’s up there. There were rumblings coming into this one that he would lock onto D.K. Metcalf and shut him down (while the rest of the Pats’ defense did whatever it could to stop everyone else). I never expected Russell Wilson to back down and avoid Metcalf entirely, but it wouldn’t have shocked me if we saw a quiet game out of him nevertheless.

Instead, his game was so loud it damn near made up for there being no fans in attendance!

He had four catches for a team-high 92 yards, including a 54-yard bomb that he caught over Gilmore (who was all over him, and indeed had an arm in Metcalf’s bread basket as he caught it), who was swatted away like a gnat en route to the endzone. It was incredible! Gilmore was indeed on Metcalf most of the game, which ultimately led to a near-brawl on the Seahawks sideline as Metcalf manhandled Gilmore on a block, who took offense to being dismissed accordingly. I didn’t see much between the two after that; Gilmore sat out for a play, and I think it was more of a Defend-Metcalf-By-Committee situation after that. Get used to reading about that, because every week Metcalf is inching closer to being the best in the game.

Why Not Some Words On The Kicking Game?

That D.K. touchdown tied it at 14-14, but New England marched right down the field again. Our defense stopped them at the Seattle 33 yard line, which resulted in the Pats missing a 51-yard field goal. In a game they lost by five points – which (spoiler alert!) ended with them at the goalline – that’s a pretty significant miss.

As I believe there was last year, there’s an early-season epidemic in the kicking game leaguewide. I don’t have the numbers, but they’re out there; it’s being discussed by people with more patience than me. Anyway, Jason Myers was a perfect 5/5 on extra points in this one, and considering how those are no longer automatic, it’s nice to see our guy isn’t making our lives miserable.

A Quiet End Of Half

After all that had happened to this point, it was crazy the Seahawks were in a position to take the lead heading into halftime. Following the missed field goal, we had excellent field position. But, we couldn’t get out of our own way in spite of numerous opportunities. Greg Olsen had a false start to add to his negative ledger. Wilson threw an insane forward pass when he was a good five yards beyond the line of scrimmage (and penalized accordingly). Then, we somehow got bailed out on 3rd & 19 with a defensive holding penalty. With a first down at midfield, hopes were restored, but another penalty and a sack pretty much torpedoed that drive; the only good thing we did was chew up all the clock (and punt it inside the two yard line), so the Pats had no chance to do anything.

Jamal Adams Showed Up!

I read somewhere that all of Adams’ stats happened in the second half of this game. 10 tackles (one for loss), a sack, and two hits on the quarterback. It wasn’t all DPOY roses and sunshine, though, as he gave up a number of big gains through the air (presumably playing more free safety than we would’ve liked, with Diggs ejected). His sack was huge, as he dove at Cam’s ankles to trip him up; if he’d missed, Cam definitely would’ve converted it for a first down. There were, however, at least a couple times where he had Cam dead to rights in the backfield, but Cam eluded him, which was frustrating as all get-out. Mixed bag sort of day, but this team doesn’t win this game without Jamal Adams.

More David Moore!

David Moore had a pretty underwhelming 2019, which had a lot of fans down on his prospects going forward. He seemed like Just A Guy, made more infuriating by how often Wilson tried to force it to him last year. Well, in this game, Moore showed why this team is so high on him! He ended up with 3 catches for 48 yards, but one of them went for an insane touchdown (that had a less-than 7% probability of being completed, per some weird stat I don’t understand) at the front-left corner of the endzone, to give the Seahawks a 21-17 lead early in the second half. How he managed to keep both feet in bounds while coming down with the football, I have no idea, but it was truly miraculous!

Quinton Dunbar, Hello!

Through the first half of this game, you would’ve been justified in wondering whether or not Dunbar is actually a good football player. As it stands, we might have to question whether or not he’s a good fit for this team, but I’m going to give it a few more weeks before I make any definitive statements. Anyway, he very nearly had a pick-six of his own earlier in this one, before finally succeeding in jumping an out route and picking off Cam Newton following the David Moore touchdown. It was a welcome sight! It’s been a few years since the Seahawks have had a cornerback who’s capable of generating interceptions; now, if only Dunbar can stop getting faked out on comebackers.

A Freddie Swain Sighting In The Wild

If you never expected rookie wide receiver Freddie Swain to make any sort of impact this year, don’t worry, I was right there with you! I didn’t even think he’d make the team! If anything, I thought this was a year for John Ursua to assert himself, but he seems to be on his way out of the organization (currently on the Practice Squad). Swain, however, might be a legitimate baller. He only had 1 reception for 21 yards, but he made the most of it, catching a crosser and taking it to the house for a 28-17 lead late in the third. He looked fast and crisp in his route running, everything we need out of a #4 receiver right now!

Let Cam Cook!

Cam Newton was great all game, but he really came alive in the fourth quarter. He finished with 397 yards passing and 1 TD (to go along with his rushing yards and two rushing TDs). So, taken with Atlanta’s crazy passing day last week, the Seahawks’ secondary has given up approximately 900,000 passing yards in two games, which is, you know …

It’s hard to blame the secondary too much, because he was really zipping those balls into some tight windows! For the most part, our defensive backs were in good spots to make plays, but Cam was pretty perfect.

Of course, he had all damn day to throw the ball! Oh my God, was the pass rush ever atrocious in this one! When we blitzed, it was either picked up, or Cam was able to side-step a guy and run for a first down; when we rushed four, they did nothing; when we rushed three, Cam was able to give his nails a manicure, read a magazine, wait for his hair to dry, and gab with the gals about all sorts of juicy gossip while his receivers took their sweet time getting open. It was unbelievable! I’ve never in my life seen a Seahawks pass rush this inept; it’s incredibly infuriating!

Anyway, New England took almost no time at all to make it 28-23; the only thing our defense did right on that drive was stop the 2-point conversion. The touchdown itself, though, was mighty nifty. See, every other time the Patriots got down close to the goalline, Cam lined up in shotgun, took the snap, held the ball for a second or two until a lane opened up, and ran right through it for a score. Well, this time, he did the same thing, but faked a run and threw to some fullback I’d never heard of for the score. If that continues to happen, New England will be truly unstoppable down around the endzone.

More Wilson Magic

The teams improbably traded punts on the subsequent two possessions – more due to questionable play-calling for both teams than anything the defenses managed to do – but with nine minutes left in the game, you knew the Seahawks needed to add more points. Thankfully, we have Russell Wilson (and you don’t).

The Seahawks methodically marched down the field, and on 2nd & 5 from the New England 18, he dropped a beautiful pass into Chris Carson’s arms for a 35-23 lead, with four and a half minutes to go that felt pretty insurmountable.

Superman

But, again, Cam Newton is Superman. In just over two minutes, he took New England 75 yards and, once again, plunged over the goalline to make the game 35-30. There were thoughts that the Pats might onside kick it after that; given what the Seahawks’ offense was able to do all night, I wouldn’t have been surprised. But, they had all of their time outs, so it made sense to kick it deep.

There was some iffy decisionmaking on the ensuing Seahawks possession. For starters, Chris Carson took a handoff and looked like he had a bead on a 10-yard gain. But, his momentum was about to take him out of bounds and he slid instead, to keep the clock moving. The only problem with that was: you always take the first down. Besides that, we snapped it with 2:09 left in the game; the two-minute warning was coming regardless. While I like the thought, it was just a little misguided and almost cost us.

On 2nd & 4, we handed off to Carson again, who tried to find a hole, but could only muster three yards. I didn’t LOVE the play call there; I would’ve preferred to give Wilson two cracks at throwing for a first down. But, I get it. You force New England to use a time out there, and you make it 3rd & 1, which SHOULD be easily converted every time.

The fanbase might’ve stormed CenturyLink Field and revolted had we handed off to Carson there and he was stuffed, so I was happy to see Wilson with the ball in his hands. I was MORTIFIED, however, to see Wilson chuck it deep, overthrowing Lockett by a few yards (it looked like he was moderately interfered with, but no ref worth his salt was ever going to flag that play). I don’t know what Wilson was thinking, because he had Carson wide open on a check down; he also could’ve simply run it a couple yards and kept the clock moving. Instead, it saved the Pats a time out and probably set-back the Let Russ Cook movement; any time he fails, I keep thinking the coaching staff is going to revert, so let’s not fail again for a while!

Kryptonite

New England started on their own 19 yard line after the Seahawks punt, with just under two minutes in the game and two time outs remaining. In less than a minute, the Pats were on Seattle’s side of the 50. We were able to keep most plays in front of us, and tackled guys in bounds to keep the clock moving. But, with 36 seconds remaining, Cam hit Julian Edelman for 18 yards down to the Seattle 13.

Bafflingly, New England didn’t use its last time out, so the clock ticked down to 12 seconds following an incompletion. Cam then hit a pass down to the 1 yard line with three seconds remaining, forcing New England to use their final time out. They had one play to win it! Everyone on the planet knew it was going to be a Cam Newton run; their goalline offense had been perfect to that point in the game (and probably the season, though I didn’t watch their game against Miami last week).

True to form, Cam took the ball and looked for a hole to his left. But, L.J. Collier had the play of the game, blowing it up and getting to Cam’s legs. Between him and Lano Hill on the outside, undercutting the blocking running back to force Cam inside, they really saved the day, as Cam took a 1-yard loss on the play. Game over, Seahawks win 35-30.

That’s, not for nothing, the third time in the last three matchups against the Patriots that the game has come down to a final goalline stand (with the defense prevailing every time, including Super Bowl XLIX). These games are always so ridiculously fun. No one, really, in all of football (except maybe Andy Reid) has ever been able to play chess with Bill Belichick like Pete Carroll. They are so different in their coaching styles, but so damn similar in their preparation and ability to match up with one another during games. We were never going to have Belichick as our head coach; he doesn’t strike me as a West Coast type of guy. But, it’s nice to have the next-best thing. Pete Carroll often gets overlooked around these parts – mostly by fans who grow weary of watching a conservative offense – but it’s really been an honor to have a coach like him, who sets the tone for the entire organization. There’s a reason why this team has been so good for the last decade, and while Russell Wilson deserves a lot of credit, Pete Carroll is ultimately why we’ve had so much fun watching this team over the years.

The Seahawks Beat The Falcons Convincingly, Making Me Exceedingly Happy

I don’t know if it was a matter of Pete Carroll and Brian Schottenheimer “letting” Russell cook, or if Wilson barged into the kitchen, shoved everyone else out, barricaded the doors in a huff with tables and chairs and whatever else he could get his hands on, and started whipping up soufflés and quiches and gumbos like a man possessed! Is this anarchy? Do we have a mutiny on our hands? God save the queen, I could not care less! That performance was a sight to behold, and I’ll take fifteen more of those if he’s got ’em in ‘im!

31/35 (with at least two pretty awful D.K. Metcalf drops that I can recall, which would’ve made his performance even more special) for 322 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. I will say this, if I may nitpick a tad: there seemed to be a high percentage of high-percentage short throws; wide receiver “bubble” screens, actual honest-to-goodness regular ol’ running back screens, and some iffy designed dump-offs to the tight ends when it looked like he still had time to find something better. But, I mean, listen, this is me at my most pedantic here (and, you know, we’ve been clamoring for the running back screen game to return to Seattle since 2012!), and there’s a very good reason for this sort of game plan in this situation.

This was the first game of the season in a year with no pre-season and very little in the way of a Training Camp (as has been stated, ad nauseam, for the last month or more). On top of which, we were breaking in a new offensive line from center to right tackle, and clearly that was an issue. The running backs – Chris Carson, Carlos Hyde, and Travis Homer – combined for 43 yards on 16 carries (an average of 2.7 yards per carry). Imagine ten more frustrating carries tacked onto that total – at the expense of Wilson’s passing attempts – and it’s clear the Seahawks wouldn’t have scored nearly as many points, and very well could’ve lost the game. On top of which, the line surrendered 3 sacks for 23 yards, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but could’ve been much worse if Wilson wasn’t as mobile as he was. So, getting the ball out of his hands quickly – even if there might’ve been time to find something better down field – was certainly advisable. As it was, I thought Wilson took more hits than normal, which comes with the territory of allowing Wilson to explore his inner Boyardee. I do think the line showed some promise – Pocic seemed to stay out of trouble, Lewis had a couple penalties but was otherwise fine, Shell might be a problem, but we’ll wait and see on him – but obviously there will be growing pains through the first few weeks.

While this was a convincing 38-25 victory for the Seahawks, it wasn’t total domination. The first touchdown drive required a pass interference penalty on 3rd & 23 to prevent us from opening the game with a punt. And the defense was the epitome of Bend, Don’t Break all day.

Atlanta’s run game was held in check by the simple fact that the Seahawks were so far ahead in the second half – making the score 28-12 midway through the third quarter – that they simply didn’t have time to run the ball anymore. While the team average doesn’t look great, I thought Todd Gurley looked pretty close to his usual self from when he played for the Rams. There were large, gaping holes to run through that the Seahawks will need to clean up in a hurry.

Also, maybe it comes with the territory of going up against the likes of Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, but I didn’t think the secondary looked too elite in this one. That wasn’t all due to the garbage-time yards and points the Falcons racked up. I thought Quinton Dunbar looked pretty rusty (at least, I’m hoping it’s rust, and not just an ill fit with this defensive scheme), and I don’t know if Shaquill Griffin was at a Pro Bowl level in this one (though, his PI penalty was pretty ticky-tacky). The Falcons had three 100-yard receivers in this one; that’s probably two too many.

As for the dreaded pass rush … I’m going to give them an “incomplete”. With Matt Ryan dropping back a whopping 54 times, you would THINK the Seahawks should be able to muster more than a measly two sacks (one from an actual member of the front seven), but for now I’m going to chalk it up to Ryan being a veteran who knows how to get rid of the football quickly. We did manage to hit him eight times, which is better than nothing.

Benson Mayowa got the defensive line’s only sack, and at the best possible time: on fourth down, right after we’d just taken that 28-12 lead. I thought L.J. Collier looked pretty impressive – at least, compared to his non-existent rookie season – and I thought Bruce Irvin looked pretty spry (though, both of them disappeared for long stretches in this one, getting swallowed up by Atlanta’s O-Line).

The real stars of this game on defense were, shockingly enough, our two best players on defense: Jamal Adams and Bobby Wagner. I mean, get ready to read a shit-ton about these guys, because they figure to be pretty important every single week! Adams led the team with 12 tackles and was ALL OVER THE PLACE in this one. My goodness! If you were worried the Seahawks wouldn’t blitz him as much as the Jets did, rest assured, I saw him crashing down the line repeatedly all day. Which came in handy when you consider Adams had our other sack, as well as 2.5 tackles for loss and 2 hits on the quarterback. He was simply amazing, there’s no other way to describe it. He’s like if Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas had a baby who was possessed by the devil, but then that baby was slimed with that pink ooze from Ghostbusters II while uplifting soul music was playing from the loudspeakers, leading to his good side shining through and … you know what? This explanation is getting too unwieldy. Jamal Adams = Great.

Also Great = Bobby Wagner. He added seven tackles (one for loss) and had two big pass breakups. I noticed Wagner was doing a little bit of everything – including a healthy chunk of pass rushing – which is really what we were all hoping for. Adams is freeing Wagner up to not have to do EVERYTHING, which in turn should see a spike in some of those really special numbers, like sacks, interceptions, forced fumbles, and the like.

Shout out to Marquise Blair, who got considerable playing time as advertised. He showed solid coverage, also netting seven tackles, and he had a critical forced fumble on a fake punt in the second half that was otherwise going to be converted for a first down had we not recovered the ball. There were smashing hits all day, and that’s exactly the sort of impact this team needs to change its reputation on defense from the softest of cheeses into something more akin to the outer crust of a stale loaf of sourdough.

Of course, it might not matter if the offense keeps wheeling and dealing the way it did in this one. Chris Carson didn’t have a lot on the ground, but he caught six passes for 45 yards and two touchdowns. Tyler Lockett led the team in receptions with 8/8 for 92 yards, and D.K. Metcalf had an up-and-down affair with 4 catches on 8 targets, for 95 yards and a VERY impressive 38-yard touchdown on 4th & 5 to start the second half on the right foot. Newcomer Greg Olsen also showed up with 4 receptions for 24 yards and a touchdown to round things out.

This is rather new territory for us as Seahawks fans. It seems like every other year in the Russell Wilson era, our first game out of the box is some ugly 16-12 slugfest with lots of sacks, turnovers, and penalties. I’ve NEVER seen the offense come out of the gates looking this elite! Usually it takes about three months to get going, but here we go! This is what we’ve been waiting for! Sure, last year the offense clearly outplayed the defense, but this year, it seems like the offense is finally ready to take over games.

As for the Falcons, it’s hard to say. They might be bad, but they could’ve also just run into the buzzsaw that is the Seattle Seahawks. I highly doubt they schemed for us to be as pass-happy as we were, so in that sense maybe they got bitten by it being the first week. If there was ever a good year to unleash a brand new offensive attack, this would be the perfect time!

There’s going to be a lot of talk about, “Do We REALLY Need A Pre-Season?” Honestly, I’m finding it a little difficult to say we do. Obviously, I didn’t watch every single game, but I watched a lot of football yesterday, and by all accounts the games weren’t as ugly as we expected. Penalties didn’t seem to be any more of an issue than in any other season. It looked like a regular week of football (aside from the lack of fans in the stands, and the players being pretty gassed). I do think the pre-season serves a purpose, in that it allows teams to get a better look at their younger guys. But, at the same time, with the increased practice squads, and the fact that other teams don’t have tape on your young guys, you’re able to retain more of your draft picks who aren’t quite good enough to make the 53-man roster, but still have potential in the next year or two to take the next step in your program. So, I dunno. I can go either way with having pre-seasons. Maybe, as has been discussed, split the dif: just take it down to one or two games from now on.

Regardless, if the Seahawks are going to play this well on offense the rest of the season, it won’t matter who we play nor how well our defense performs. I just hope it’s a sign of better things to come, and not a one-week anomaly.

Hindsight Is … The Seahawks Season Preview Extravaganza!

I write about the Seahawks on here pretty extensively, so you probably know my thoughts on the matter already. This is more or less just a one-stop-shop for all of my thoughts as we head into the 2020 regular season.

As I alluded to last week, I’m cautiously optimistic. Earlier in the offseason, I think I was rather too optimistic, so it’s probably smart to ratchet those expectations down a tick or two. In general, I want to say that I think the Seahawks’ offense will be better than it was in 2019, and that the defense will be about the same. There is, however, a very legitimate chance that the offense is about the same and the defense is worse. So, let’s start there as a jumping-off point.

As always, the good news for this team is Russell Wilson. He’s the best quarterback in the NFC and one of the top two or three in the entire NFL; the only guy I would RATHER have over Wilson is Patrick Mahomes, so in my mind he’s right there at #2 (honestly, and not for nothing, Lamar Jackson is probably #4 or #5, behind the likes of Deshaun Watson and probably Dak Prescott, if we’re talking about quarterbacks I’d choose to build my franchise around today). Wilson is currently in the window known as his “prime” and should remain there for another few more years, which means he’s at his peak of being able to carry this team on his back into the playoffs. Of course, even the best quarterbacks need talent around them to succeed (in spite of the fact that the very best quarterbacks will always make that talent around them better).

Wilson’s weapons – as a collective – are better than they were in 2019. Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf are back as this team’s top two receivers; and while Lockett is squarely in his own prime as an elite (and vastly underrated) threat both downfield and in the intermediate game, the Seahawks should see a signifiant boost in Metcalf’s production now that he’s entering his second season in the pros. Metcalf was already one of the very best rookie wideouts a year ago, and he’s done nothing but work on his body and his craft this offseason; if he stays healthy, I fully expect him to make the leap as one of the NFL’s brightest stars. To complement these two, the Seahawks brought in Phillip Dorsett (a guy who’s also quite fast and can compete for deep balls), and they brought back guys like Josh Gordon (a stud when he’s not suspended for doing drugs) and David Moore (who is in a contract year and should be motivated to produce at a high level for his own livelihood in this league). All of these guys seem to be in tremendous shape and should be great assets for Wilson to chuck the ball to.

Then, there’s the tight end room. We get another crack at guys like Dissly (one of the best in football, when he’s able to stay healthy), Hollister (a wide receiver in a tight end’s body) and Luke Willson (an everyman who can help in a variety of ways). Plus, we added a likely future hall of famer in Greg Olsen. And, if the group is decimated with injuries like it was last year, the Seahawks brought in some promising young guys on the NFI list and the Practice Squad to fill in around the margins should the need arise.

Then, there’s the running backs. Chris Carson still figures to be the bellcow. Carlos Hyde will provide solid veteran production behind him. Rashaad Penny should be back halfway through the season (he looks good in the limited video footage that’s been released to the Internet of him running sprints following his ACL surgery) as a possible boost to this group. DeeJay Dallas already sounds like the real deal as a rookie. And, Travis Homer was fine last year in his limited snaps at the end of the season when everyone else was injured. I have the utmost confidence in all of these guys to be able to do what this team needs to do.

All of that sounds great! Why aren’t I 100% confident in the Seahawks’ offense improving over last year?

Well, the offensive line, of course! I’ll say this: I’m relatively optimistic about the O-Line at least being AS good as last year, if not actually better. But, I mean, let’s face it: there’s a lot of question marks. Duane Brown is old and his legs could give out at any time. Mike Iupati is also old and his everything could give out at any time. Ethan Pocic has been injured throughout his brief NFL career and has never started at center in the pros. Damien Lewis is a rookie, and a rookie who hasn’t even played in a pre-season game yet! Also, he’s essentially “won” his job as this team’s starting right guard by facing off against this team’s interior defensive linemen, who aren’t really a who’s who of outstanding stud-muffins when compared to the rest of the NFL; I mean, I’m pretty sure I could win a starting O-Line job if all I had to do was block this inept D-Line! And, while reports indicate Brandon Shell has been great as this team’s big right tackle free agent acquisition, the statheads who’ve monitored his career up to this point have indicated that he SUCKED at his job previously. So, you know, again take what he’s done in Training Camp against this Seahawks D-Line with a grain of salt.

The lack of a pre-season is the most concerning aspect, because offensive lines need continuity and actual game reps to get used to working together as a unit. As such, I would expect this first month’s worth of games to be a little rough to watch. It’ll be nice that they won’t have to deal with real-life crowd noise when we play in Atlanta this week (the packed stands would be significantly louder than the decibels the NFL is allowing teams to pump into their stadia), but I’m more concerned with our actual opponents, and how quickly they’re able to snuff out Russell Wilson’s pocket passing and scrambling.

The bright side is, if Duane Brown stays healthy, he’s a Pro Bowler. Mike Iupati – same deal – is at least a viable starter, if not a Pro Bowler. Pocic won the center’s job for a reason, he played the position in college, so maybe he’s turned a corner in his career. Lewis was an absolute mauler in college and it’s a great sign that the coaches are already confident in his ability to start at this level in game one. And, at least Shell isn’t Germain Ifedi (YOU get a silver lining, and YOU get a silver lining, and YOU get a silver lining!).

My hunch is, the O-Line will be fine, after a while. I just hope the rest of the offense is able to overcome these first few games on the schedule; I don’t like our chances if we start the season in a big hole respective to the rest of our division. But, if the O-Line turns out to be … *gulp* legitimately good? The sky will be the limit for this offense, even as conservative as it is!

***

The defense is significantly better in the secondary than it was to start the 2019 season. The defense is marginally better in the linebacker corps than it was in 2019.

And, the defensive line is the biggest question mark on this team, though I think it’s safe to say we all believe it’ll be significantly worse than it was in 2019 (which, itself, was already pretty bad).

So, the question is: can the vastly improved secondary make up for everything else? I think there’s a chance!

The 2019 Seahawks famously played somewhere over 60% base defense, which means having all three linebackers on the field. In a league that increasingly uses nickel defense (a fifth man in the secondary, to replace one of the linebackers, thus providing better coverage for offenses who trend toward using more 3- and 4-wide receiver sets), that was an unsustainable anomaly for the Seahawks to continue into 2020. That brings us to Quinton Dunbar – the troubled youth from the Florida area who was arrested, then ultimately not charged, and now rumors are swirling that he may still be in trouble for that house party robbery – taking over for Tre Flowers (who has struggled mightily in one-on-one coverage in his two-year career), who could slide inside to play that nickel role. That also brings us to Marquise Blair – the safety we drafted last year, who hardly played, even though he seemed to be more gifted than the duds we were rolling with – who has flashed during Training Camp as a bigger nickel corner that this team can use against slower/bigger receivers and tight ends. That also brings us to Ugo Amadi – another rookie corner/safety from last year – who has another year’s experience exclusively in the nickel corner role. All of these guys combined with our Pro Bowl corner in Shaquill Griffin, and our two stud safeties in Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs, make it almost impossible for the Seahawks to not constantly run out the nickel defense we were so bad at a year ago!

That should, in turn, leave Bruce Irvin (a hybrid strong-side linebacker/pass rusher) in more situations where he can line up along the line of scrimmage and rush the passer. That should also free up Bobby Wagner to do some more blitzing from his middle linebacker role (a trait he is quite good at, but wasn’t able to do as much of last year, because he was forced into coverage so often with this team always in base defense). The addition of Jordyn Brooks could also free K.J. Wright up to rush from the other linebacker spot, so long as he proves he’s ready to take over at weak-side linebacker. And, of course, there’s Jamal Adams’ ability to blitz from the strong safety spot, where he had 6.5 sacks a year ago.

If you want to know where our pass rush will come from with Jadeveon Clowney now in Tennessee, don’t just look at Benson Mayowa (who is a fine situational rusher, but obviously nowhere NEARLY as talented as Clowney as an every-down defensive end), look at the linebackers who will be freed to run up field more, thanks to the secondary that will finally have everyone’s backs … in the defensive backfield. And, if Jarran Reed from the interior felt like returning to his 2018 level of production (when he had double-digit sacks), all the better.

That’s sort of the best-case scenario from this side of the ball (failing the Seahawks going out and signing one of the free agent veterans (like Clay Matthews) that are sitting out there). How realistic is it that we’ll see it play out the way I’ve described? That’s tough to say. I do believe the secondary will free things up for the rest of the guys, but I have my sincere doubts about the coaching staff’s willingness to blitz more from the linebacker position. We like to get by with our front four on most downs, and with a front five on passing downs. That has proven, in recent years (without the likes of Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril), to be a pretty futile endeavor. I would LIKE to think we’ve refrained from excessive blitzing because we’ve been worried about being beaten deep – and now that we have talent back there to prevent this, the coaches will be more emboldened to take more chances – but I know that this team was reluctant to blitz a ton even when we had the Legion of Boom in its prime.

If my hunch is accurate, then we’re banking on A LOT of unproven young defensive linemen to take significant leaps in their level of production, and I just don’t see that happening. I have no faith in Rasheem Green, L.J. Collier, Alton Robinson, or any of these other guys doing anything in the league outside of being rotational backups. The only guy I DO like – Darrell Taylor – is still working himself back from injury and, without a proper Training Camp or pre-season, likely won’t produce much of anything this year as a rookie.

There’s ultimately two schools of thought: either the secondary will be so good that it’ll give the defensive line enough time to get to the quarterback … or the defensive line will be so bad that eventually the opposing quarterback will find SOMEONE who manages to get open, after he has all day to stand there and survey the field. Undoubtedly, both of those events will be true at various points throughout the season (there will also be the infrequent instances where the secondary just gets beaten, or someone on the D-Line manages to beat his man and gets the opposing QB on his ass), but how good this defense will be depends on which scenario happens more often: the secondary dominating, or the D-Line underwhelming. I’m guessing we end up blaming the D-Line for their ineptitude more than we end up praising the secondary, and we’ll ultimately come to the conclusion that if this mediocre defense didn’t have that secondary, we’d be giving up 35+ points per game. Chances seem remote that this defense creeps up towards the Top Ten; my guess is it lands ultimately in the low twenties.

***

The 2019 Seahawks participated in 14 games that were decided by 8 points or less, including our playoff win and defeat, and the regular season finale that ultimately cost us the NFC West (and forced us to go on the road throughout the post-season). Including the playoffs, the 2019 Seahawks were 11-3 in those games (prior to that, in the Russell Wilson era, I believe we were somewhere around .500 in such games). That has been pointed out by much smarter people than me to be quite an unsustainable winning percentage (most teams, over the long-term, finish around .500 in one-score games).

Given what we know – the offense will be better or the same, the defense will be the same or worse – it’s a VERY safe bet that the 2020 Seahawks will be involved in a high number of one-score games yet again (only in the very unlikely best-case scenario – where both the offense and defense are better than they were last year – would this not be true, because the Seahawks would likely be very nearly undefeated). And, given what we know about regression, I think it’s pretty safe to bet that the Seahawks won’t repeat as winners of nearly 79% of those games.

However, people much smarter than me also love to quote the Gambler’s Fallacy, and I think this applies here as well. Just because the Seahawks won 11/14 one-score games in 2019, doesn’t mean the 2020 Seahawks can’t win a similar amount; what happened in 2019 has little-to-no bearing on what happens in 2020. If anything, you could argue that by participating in so many of those close games – where the importance of executing down the stretch in the fourth quarter and overtime is of the greatest necessity – and by bringing back so many of the players who were involved in those games, this team is uniquely qualified to perform better in these situations given their level of experience.

So, are you an optimist or a pessimist? I probably land somewhere in the middle.

I will say this: much has been made of Letting Russ Cook and whatnot. In effect: allowing Russell Wilson to throw the ball more early in games, rather than forcing the establishment of the run and waiting until we’re down two scores in the second half before we let our All Pro quarterback do his thing. While it’s true, the Seahawks love a balanced offense between the run and pass, it’s not like they’re doing nothing but handing the ball to Carson and handcuffing Wilson in the process; he has PLENTY of first half opportunities to throw the ball. It just so happens – and I don’t mean to alarm you or anything – but he tends to be WILDLY off-target early in games! This is nothing we haven’t seen for YEARS now, yet most fans seem to forget this for some reason! I’ve lost track of the number of times Wilson has overthrown wide open receivers early in games, because he isn’t warmed up or hasn’t gotten into the flow of the game. There are also drives where the Seahawks don’t run the ball at all! Those tend to be of the 3 & Out variety, because again, it’s early and Wilson isn’t quite his usual self.

Russell Wilson is great – I said before, he’s #2 in the league for me, which is a great compliment – but he’s NOT perfect! And, it’s not ALL on the offensive coordinator or Pete Carroll holding him back; some of these wounds are self-inflicted. If Wilson were more on-target from the very first drive of the game, we wouldn’t be having this discussion about always needing to make big plays in the fourth quarter, or otherwise always playing from behind. This isn’t to delegitimize Wilson’s greatness, but it is a knock, and more fans need to recognize it. And, instead of being increasingly vocal about wanting to cook more, Wilson needs to admit that some of this is on him too. Be better in the first quarter, and you’ll have all the cooking opportunities you can handle!

***

Before I go, let me take another quick look at the schedule. It looks … scarier than I remember.

The NFC West is obviously the best division in football from top to bottom; there isn’t an easy game in the bunch. So, right there, that’s six hard-fought grudge matches. The AFC East is no cakewalk in itself. Buffalo (on the road) is an elite team; New England (at home) with Cam Newton shouldn’t drop off too much from the playoff team it was a season ago; Miami (on the road) finished 2019 strong and has a lot of young up-and-comers, with a great coaching staff; the only easy game in the bunch is probably against the Jets (at home). Everyone else in that division is – at best, for the Seahawks – a 50/50 affair.

The NFC East looks less potent, but Dallas (at home) should be strong, the Eagles (on the road) should at least contend for a playoff spot, the Giants (at home) could be frisky if we’re not careful (but we should still win that one pretty easily), and the Washington Football Team (on the road) should be a disaster. Then, there’s the Minnesota Vikings (who I am VERY high on, per my prediction that they’ll win it all this season), and the Atlanta Falcons this upcoming Sunday.

The Falcons are probably a team we should beat, but they’ve got a good offense and a lot of continuity in general. They might not need a whole lot from their defense to keep us in check out of the gate. I’m a firm believer that this will be a true 50/50 game that comes down to some key moments in the fourth quarter. And, honestly, I have my doubts that we can go down to Atlanta and prevail. I think, like many of our games down there in recent years, we’ll come up short in the final minute.

This game could be a real tone-setter for the Seahawks in 2020. Win convincingly, and I think the Seahawks could contend for a division title and more. Win a squeaker, and I think we’re looking at MAYBE contending for a division title, but more likely just a wild card spot and maybe a playoff win before being ousted. Lose a squeaker, and I think the division is probably out of reach by a game or two, with an outside possibility that we’re boxed out of the playoffs entirely. Lose convincingly, and we might be in for an 8-8 type of season, or maybe worse.

I say this because, in looking at our first five games before the BYE week, we go on the road to Atlanta and Miami, and we host three really strong teams in the Pats, Cowboys, and Vikings. Lose to Atlanta, and there’s a very real chance that we could be in a 1-4 hole to start the season (and that’s before we’ve played a single divisional game). When you figure over half our remaining games will be those aforementioned grudge matches, and we’ve also got road games against the Bills and Eagles to contend with, that’s a pretty scary picture. If we start out at 1-4, we have to go 9-2 the rest of the way to get to 10 wins (which you would assume is safe for a wild card spot). I’m not saying that’s impossible; I’m not even saying that’s something we haven’t seen from these Seahawks before. But, how many times do you want to tempt fate like that?

Of course, we’ll know more about the rest of the league after we get a few weeks into the season. Under normal circumstances, I’m far from the best pre-season judge of NFL talent; without any pre-season games or stories to read about, I have even less of a clue! But, I do hear analysts talking about how “easy” of a schedule the Seahawks have this year, and I’d look to shy away from comments like those until we’ve actually seen these teams play ball. Until we’ve seen the Seahawks play ball!

Ultimately, as I said before, I think the Seahawks will be a 7-seed in the NFC. They might win a game in the Wild Card round, but I think that’ll be as far as we go. In that sense, with this being squarely in the window of Russell Wilson’s prime, what I’m telling you is that I’m predicting another disappointing season from the Seattle Seahawks in 2020.

And, since my two biggest concerns are the defensive and offensive lines, what I’m also telling you is that our long-term prospects probably aren’t all that great either. We might end up squandering ALL of Russell Wilson’s prime, before we somehow luck into another legitimate championship run before he closes out his Hall of Fame career.

Has the year 2020 made you insanely unhappy and/or depressed? Well, WELCOME to my Seahawks Season Preview Extravaganza! Abandon all fucking hope!

The Seahawks Have A Roster & It’s Not Too Terribly Surprising

I should also point out that, obviously, this isn’t set in stone. This is just the 53-man roster as it stands at this moment; it very well could change anytime this week, or after the first game, or at any other point in the season. So, let’s hop to it, we’re burning daylight!

Quarterbacks

  • Russell Wilson
  • Geno Smith

Yawn. This was never in any doubt. Especially in a season like this, you want a veteran backup over a rookie. The biggest surprise is that the Seahawks opted to go with Danny Etling over Anthony Gordon on the practice squad, but we’ll see how long that lasts.

Obviously, you have to be happy with what the Seahawks have done here. Russell Wilson is one of the top two quarterbacks in all of football. And Geno Smith … is fine. If Wilson was ever seriously injured I would not want to live in this world any longer our chances at a championship would go down the tubes, but if we needed a spot start out of a guy for a week or two, you could do a lot worse than a game manager like Geno.

Running Backs

  • Chris Carson
  • Carlos Hyde
  • Travis Homer
  • DeeJay Dallas

Contain your glee, because while fullback Nick Bellore isn’t on this list, I wouldn’t expect that to last long. Just try to prevent the Seahawks from keeping a stupid fullback on their roster, I dare you! Bellore will be back. We just have to do that thing where we re-sign someone after the first week of the season, so their full year’s contract is no longer guaranteed (meaning they’re essentially week-to-week players who can be cut at any time with no financial consequence to the organization). It’s kind of a shitty thing to do to someone, but it’s not like fullback is a high-demand position in the NFL anymore.

If the hype around Dallas is as legitimate as it sounds like, we could be talking about the best running back room in the entire NFL. Chris Carson has Top Ten running back talent when he’s healthy. Carlos Hyde could start for any number of teams right now. Travis Homer proved his worth quite well as a late-round draft pick last year. Plus, on top of this embarrassment of riches, we still have Rashaad Penny coming back from the PUP list after six weeks (another guy who, when healthy, has proven to be quite good).

Wide Receivers

  • Tyler Lockett
  • D.K. Metcalf
  • Phillip Dorsett
  • David Moore
  • John Ursua
  • Freddie Swain

One of the bigger surprises that probably shouldn’t have been once you heard Pete Carroll talk about him: Paul Richardson was cut. It was a fine idea, but considering we didn’t immediately jump on him as soon as he was waived by his previous team, you could sorta tell that we weren’t feeling it. He was an insurance policy until someone better came along. As our home-grown guys started getting healthy again, P-Rich was no longer needed. I wonder if he’s lost a step? It’ll be interesting to see if he gets another chance somewhere else, or if this is the end of the road. Obviously, whenever Josh Gordon is reinstated, he’ll take the spot of one of these guys (probably Swain). Also of note: the team renegotiated Moore’s contract over the weekend to lock him in place. He’s earning less than the just-over-$2 million he would’ve gotten on his tender, but it’s guaranteed, and it guarantees his spot on this roster now.

I know this group doesn’t look like much, especially from a national perspective. But, Tyler Lockett is legit, and will likely be criminally underrated his entire career. Metcalf looks poised to be the next Julio Jones. Dorsett, when healthy, should fit in quite nicely with what this team likes to do with its deep passing. When Josh Gordon comes back, that’s another elite-level receiver in our arsenal. David Moore, by all accounts, has looked like a true professional in camp this summer. And, I still have high hopes for John Ursua being a slot receiver for this team (so, watch the Seahawks cut him as soon as Gordon is reinstated). I know nothing about Swain, except he’s a rookie and I think he can also return kicks, which gives him an obvious edge over Ursua, who does nothing on Special Teams.

Tight Ends

  • Greg Olsen
  • Will Dissly
  • Luke Willson
  • Jacob Hollister

Both Stephen Sullivan and Tyler Mabry are on the Practice Squad right now, and Colby Parkinson is on the Non-Football Injury List, so we’ve got all of our guys! Luke Willson making the team is a wee bit of a shocker, but I think he can do double-duty as this team’s fullback for the time being, so I kinda hope that just makes him our full-time fullback going forward. A guy can dream, can’t he?

Like our running backs, I think this could be the best group of tight ends – from top to bottom – in the league. Olsen is on his last legs, but he was still highly productive last year. Dissly is a superstar waiting to not get severely injured every year happen. Willson is a true every-man who is a joy to have on the team and can do a little bit of everything. And Hollister is more like a wide receiver in a tight end’s body.

Offensive Line

  • Duane Brown
  • Mike Iupati
  • Ethan Pocic
  • Damien Lewis
  • Brandon Shell
  • Cedric Ogbuehi
  • Phil Haynes
  • B.J. Finney
  • Jordan Simmons
  • Jamarco Jones

The only semi-surprise is the fact that we kept ten offensive linemen, but considering how hard the Seahawks went after this position group in free agency, it makes sense.

I’ll admit, I’m a little nervous here. I think this group will gel at some point; I just hope it isn’t too horrific in the early going. I’m glad we’ve got Brown and Iupati locking down the left side. I find it endlessly fascinating that Pocic was able to beat out Finney for the starting center job (even though we gave Finney all of that guaranteed money over the next two seasons). And, I’m encouraged that Lewis and Shell were able to step right in here and win their jobs immediately. If nothing else, I really do love the depth at this spot; they won’t be the best in the league, but they should be far from the worst.

Defensive Line

  • Rasheem Green
  • Jarran Reed
  • Poona Ford
  • L.J. Collier
  • Bryan Mone
  • Benson Mayowa
  • Alton Robinson
  • Damontre Moore

The only surprise here is that the Seahawks have yet to make a surprise last-minute free agent signing! Even for a run-stuffing tackle, if not another pass rusher! Unless you count Damontre Moore, which I do not, because I don’t even know who that guy is, other than he’s one of an endless string of ex-Seahawks we like to keep around to pad out the back-end of our roster. In non-Seahawks news, Jadeveon Clowney finally made up his mind; he’s on the Tennessee Titans (1 year, $12 million, worth up to $15 million with incentives … or what the Seahawks previously offered to him months ago to re-sign here). It’s a bit of a bummer; apparently the Seahawks were still in the picture up to the moment of signing, but not in the top two or three. I’m just glad he didn’t sign with New Orleans; keep him out of our conference and out of our hair, thank you very much!

Look, I’ll just say this: I hope the Seahawks know what they’re doing. They seem to be pretty satisfied with what they’ve done here, and are not freaking out like the rest of the fanbase. That’s a good sign, but by the same token, it’s still interesting that we continued to push to sign Clowney even after he turned down our earlier offer. I’m an “I’ll Believe It When I See It” kind of guy, so …

Linebackers

  • Bobby Wagner
  • K.J. Wright
  • Bruce Irvin
  • Cody Barton
  • Ben Burr-Kirven
  • Jordyn Brooks
  • D’Andre Walker

The bummer of the weekend was seeing that Shaquem Griffin didn’t make the cut. He is on the Practice Squad though, so all hope is not lost! I would expect him to play again this year – once someone goes down with an injury – and to make a solid contribution to the team. D’Andre Walker was the only guy the Seahawks picked up from another team after cut-downs on Saturday. He was drafted by the Titans in the fifth round last year and has yet to play in the pros; he did get a good number of sacks in college though, so maybe he’s a little diamond in the rough project for us?

We’re in good hands with this group. Wagner and Wright are still top shelf. Brooks looks like he’s ready to start immediately. Irvin is still looking to prove himself. Barton, by all accounts, has looked tremendous in his second year. And BBK still figures to be a stalwart on Special Teams.

Secondary

  • Jamal Adams
  • Quandre Diggs
  • Marquise Blair
  • Lano Hill
  • Shaquill Griffin
  • Quinton Dunbar
  • Tre Flowers
  • Neiko Thorpe
  • Ugo Amadi

Linden Stephens was the guy we cut when we claimed D’Andre Walker; what a rollercoaster for Stephens! He thought he made the team – at a pretty deep position, all things considered – and then he had it yanked out from under him within a day! By all accounts, the Seahawks want him on the Practice Squad (he just has to clear waivers first), so I wouldn’t expect him to be going too far.

Best Secondary in football. Period. I can’t wait to see these guys do their thing! And, as chance would have it, we get to see it right away when we play the Falcons on Sunday!

Special Teams

  • Tyler Ott (long-snapper)
  • Jason Myers (kicker)
  • Michael Dickson (punter)

No surprises whatsoever here.

The Seahawks Re-Signed Josh Gordon

On the heels of bringing back Paul Richardson last week, the Seahawks are also bringing back Josh Gordon!

This is obviously a great move. As it was last year – before his indefinite suspension for drugs and/or alcohol – there’s very little downside and all the upside in the world. Sure, the downside is the aforementioned possibility of another suspension for drugs and/or alcohol, but when you’re paying him the minimum – and he’s got #1 wide receiver talent when he’s on the field – I’m willing to take that risk. Of giving him a roster spot. Of cutting a younger guy you’ll probably be able to sneak onto the practice squad anyway.

Someone made the point on Twitter, and I think it’s a good one: with no pre-season games, you really need veterans who are familiar with your system to step up (because newcomers are likely to have a steeper learning curve). Speaking of Paul Richardson, I think his case is a good example of why the Josh Gordon signing is so much more impactful. Pete Carroll said something to the effect of how much of a hard time Richardson is having trying to get up to speed with this offense. I know he has a rapport with Russell Wilson and everything, but we have a different offensive coordinator and scheme we’re running here (than what we had the last time he was in Seattle), and so it might take him a few weeks before he’s comfortable in the terminology and everything.

Unfortunately for Richardson, those few weeks are going to carry us into the regular season, and we’ll see if he can stick. Rosters are supposed to be cut down from 80 players today, to whatever they’re going to be for the regular season (53? 55? I have no idea). Assuming the coaches are comfortable with Richardson closing the knowledge gap in a reasonable timeframe – AND assuming Josh Gordon is ever reinstated by the NFL so he can play again this year – the wide receiver group is looking VERY interesting:

  • Tyler Lockett
  • D.K. Metcalf
  • Josh Gordon
  • Phillip Dorsett
  • Paul Richardson
  • David Moore/John Ursua/Freddie Swain

Even if those bottom guys are all cut, that’s a pretty elite receiver group from top to bottom. With Greg Olsen and Will Dissly both healthy at the tight end spot – and with our running backs being as great as they are – I don’t want to hear ANYONE complaining that Russell Wilson doesn’t have enough weapons. He has plenty! If he can’t make this a Top 5 offense with those guys – regardless of whether he’s allowed to cook or not – then honestly that’s on him (and maybe a little bit on the offensive line, depending on how much they struggle).

You know what? Let’s not think about a potentially-struggling offensive line right now. WHO INVITED THEM TO THIS POST ANYWAY?!