Comparing The Seahawks’ 53-Man Roster To My June Predictions

Right around the time of OTAs, I did a meaningless projection of what the Seahawks’ roster would look like for opening day. So let’s check out how wrong I was!

Quarterbacks

Projection: Russell Wilson & Geno Smith
Result: Russell Wilson & Geno Smith

So, I got the easiest one out of the way. Where’s my cookie?

Running Backs

Projection: Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, Travis Homer, C.J. Prosise & J.D. McKissic
Result: Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, Travis Homer, C.J. Prosise & Nick Bellore

I was THIS close. To be fair, in my projections I did talk about Bellore possibly throwing a wrench into this fight, with either Prosise or McKissic being the odd man out, and you know what they say about horseshoes, hand grenades, and roster predicting, right?

Tight Ends

Projection: Ed Dickson, Nick Vannett, Will Dissly & Jacob Hollister
Result: Nick Vannett & Will Dissly

To be fair, Dickson is on IR (designated to return after 8 weeks) and Hollister somehow made it onto the practice squad, so I’m counting this as a victory. Of sorts. We also have George Fant, who I’ve listed as an O-Lineman for the purposes of this exercise.

Wide Receivers

Projection: Tyler Lockett, D.K. Metcalf, David Moore, Jaron Brown & Keenan Reynolds
Result: Tyler Lockett, D.K. Metcalf, David Moore, Jaron Brown, Gary Jennings, Malik Turner & John Ursua

I was almost WAY off on this one, but the Seahawks did a bit of roster gymnastics this week to slide a couple guys onto the IR, while opening up the likes of Geno Smith and Jaron Brown to free agency (with the wink-wink agreement to bring them back once those IR designations were placed). It turns out the Seahawks CAN keep all of their rookie draft picks! But, Malik Turner is the one who took Keenan Reynolds’ spot (though I fully anticipate Reynolds being in the mix at some point this season, if the injury bug returns). Regardless, I wouldn’t expect this unit to be 7-deep for too much longer, but it’s an interesting group nevertheless.

Offensive Line

Projection: Duane Brown, Mike Iupati, Justin Britt, D.J. Fluker, Germain Ifedi, Ethan Pocic, Jordan Simmons, George Fant & Jamarco Jones
Result: Duane Brown, Mike Iupati, Justin Britt, D.J. Fluker, Germain Ifedi, Ethan Pocic, George Fant, Jamarco Jones & Joey Hunt

This was actually a pretty obvious unit to predict, as the veterans are here to start, and the reserves are too good to part with. Simmons got hit by the injury bug and landed on the IR which is unfortunate, but Hunt can play both center and guard (and even tackle in a super pinch), so he’s good to have around (especially with Pocic being the first guard off the bench in place of Iupati heading into week 1).

So far, with the offense, I predicted 20 out of 25, which isn’t too bad.

Punter/Kicker/Long Snapper

Projection: Michael Dickson, Jason Myers & Tyler Ott
Result: Michael Dickson, Jason Myers & Tyler Ott

Nailed it.

Secondary

Projection: Shaquill Griffin, Tre Flowers, Akeem King, Neiko Thorpe, Jeremy Boykins, Tedric Thompson, Bradley McDougald, Ugo Amadi, Marquise Blair & Lano Hill
Result: Shaquill Griffin, Tre Flowers, Akeem King, Neiko Thorpe, Parry Nickerson, Tedric Thompson, Bradley McDougald, Ugo Amadi, Marquise Blair & Lano Hill

The one I was least sold on was Boykins, and lo and behold he turns out to be my lone blemish in this area. I should’ve probably mentioned something about the Seahawks making a minor trade near the start of the regular season – like they do just about every damn year around this time – but them’s the breaks.

Defensive Line

Projection: Ziggy Ansah, L.J. Collier, Rasheem Green, Jacob Martin, Jarran Reed, Poona Ford, Al Woods & Quinton Jefferson
Result: Ziggy Ansah, L.J. Collier, Rasheem Green, Jadeveon Clowney, Poona Ford, Al Woods, Quinton Jefferson, Bryan Mone & Branden Jackson

Welp, there was no way for me to see the Jarran Reed suspension coming. Ditto the trade for Clowney. I was probably always a little light on this position in general, so it’s not totally shocking to see Jackson in there, but he’s just a rotational guy who won’t see a lot of playing time, barring injuries. I never would’ve guessed Mone in a million years though.

Linebackers

Projection: Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Cody Barton, Ben Burr-Kirven, Mychal Kendricks, Shaquem Griffen & Barkevious Mingo
Result: Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Cody Barton, Ben Burr-Kirven, Mychal Kendricks & Shaquem Griffen

The main reason why I was so short on the D-Line was because I essentially had Mingo as a rush end for this team. But, as the pre-season wore on, it was becoming increasingly likely that he was going to be cut (if he wasn’t somehow dealt for the best defensive end on the trade block). There was also worry that Griffen wouldn’t make it, but his value on special teams is apparently too high to part with. Nevertheless, quite the solid group.

That’s 21 out of 25 predicted on defense (with Reed coming back after 6 weeks, and a few of my other picks landing on the IR) for a total of 45/53 on the team heading into week 1 (barring any other moves later this week). My biggest stroke of genius was leaving Austin Calitro off; he very nearly made it, but was waived in recent days and picked up by Jacksonville. So, good luck to him I guess.

SEARCH: Seahawks OTAs 53-Man Roster Projections 2019

For as mediocre as I’ve been decrying the Seahawks’ defensive line heading into this season, there’s actually a pretty interesting battle going on. While this team lacks star power – particularly in the pass rush – there’s tremendous depth across the entirety of the front seven. You could argue – aside from Bobby Wagner and Jarran Reed – that it’s ALL depth, but that’s neither here nor there.

The rest of the roster shakes out pretty easily, but I cannot stress this enough: doing a 53-man roster projection in the middle of June is as worthless as it gets. I can’t even describe how wrong I’m going to be by the time Week 1 rolls around; there will be countless injuries and a number of players who make the team that aren’t even on the roster right now!

But, based on the players we have today, here are my thoughts:

Quarterbacks

  • Russell Wilson
  • Geno Smith

This feels like the easiest of the non-Special Teams specialist spots to predict. Paxton Lynch just isn’t an NFL quarterback, period. The only reason he’s here is because he’s tall and a former first round pick. Not that Geno Smith is any great shakes, but at least he’s started; he’s taken the more traditional route to being a career backup.

Running Backs

  • Chris Carson
  • Rashaad Penny
  • Travis Homer
  • C.J. Prosise
  • J.D. McKissic

Already, I don’t feel great about my prediction. If you’d asked me coming out of 2018, I would’ve GUARANTEED that this team takes one of either Prosise or McKissic, but not both. But, I’m just not super sold on the back-end of this group. If Prosise continues to ball out like he’s been doing during these OTAs, I don’t think there’s any way this team can just cut him for nothing. The guys I left off the roster are guys I feel like will be available on the scrap heap if the need arises. The only monkey wrench is the fullback, Nick Bellore. We all know the team likes to run a lot, and having a competent fullback is always a Pete Carroll desire. If he makes the team, probably cross off one of Prosise or McKissic.

Tight Ends

  • Ed Dickson
  • Nick Vannett
  • Will Dissly
  • Jacob Hollister

I don’t have a real strong belief that the team is going to keep four tight ends PLUS George Fant, but I don’t know where the cut comes from! Dickson was our best tight end when he was healthy in 2018, and is our most veteran all-around player at the position. But, at the same time, there is money to be saved by cutting him. Vannett has continued to improve year to year and had sort of a mini-breakout last year (particularly in the endzone). But, at the same time, he’s on the last year of his rookie deal, and I don’t know if he brings anything to the table that’s super special. Dissly looks like a stud, so if he’s healthy by the time the regular season starts, he’s a lock. I think the other lock is Hollister, and not just because we traded for him; clearly based on our history, we have no quibbles with cutting guys we’ve traded for. He sounds like a super stud on special teams and a guy we’d like to hang onto for a while.

Wide Receivers

  • Tyler Lockett
  • D.K. Metcalf
  • David Moore
  • Jaron Brown
  • Keenan Reynolds

Lockett, Metcalf, and Moore are all locks, assuming they stay healthy. I think Brown is about as close to a lock as possible, considering there isn’t a ton of veteran presence in this room. Finally, I think we only hang onto 5 receivers due to the need to have a 4th tight end. With that in mind, the fifth receiver spot is going to be a HUGE battle. I know there’s a prevailing thought that the Seahawks just HAVE to keep all of their rookie drafted receivers, but unless they prove to be special – and healthy – the Seahawks have no problem cutting them and stashing them on the practice squad. For starters, I don’t expect both Jennings and Ursua to be healthy throughout Training Camp; if they are, then we’re having a different discussion. But, in reality, I think the final receiver spot is going to go to one of those two guys or Keenan Reynolds, and I’m giving Reynolds the advantage based on his being in the system for a full year, and actually seeing some playing time last year. With his experience, and his Baldwin-esque build and skillset, I think he’s perfect to slide right into that dependable slot receiver role.

Offensive Line

  • Duane Brown
  • Mike Iupati
  • Justin Britt
  • D.J. Fluker
  • Germain Ifedi
  • Ethan Pocic
  • Jordan Simmons
  • George Fant
  • Jamarco Jones

I’m pretty secure in this prediction. The only way it changes is if there are injuries. Look for Joey Hunt or Phil Haynes to maybe sneak in there if there are any surprises to the core nine I’ve listed above.

Punter/Kicker/Long Snapper

  • Michael Dickson
  • Jason Myers
  • Tyler Ott

Enough said.

Secondary

  • Shaquill Griffin
  • Tre Flowers
  • Akeem King
  • Neiko Thorpe
  • Jeremy Boykins
  • Tedric Thompson
  • Bradley McDougald
  • Ugo Amadi
  • Marquise Blair
  • Delano Hill

I’m not super sold on Boykins. Amadi is also not totally a lock, but Boykins is really just a stab in the dark. I think, if it comes down to a young guy and a veteran, this team keeps the young guy. Boykins was here last year, so he has a leg up, but whatever. This post isn’t really about the secondary.

Defensive Line

  • Ziggy Ansah
  • L.J. Collier
  • Rasheem Green
  • Jacob Martin
  • Jarran Reed
  • Poona Ford
  • Al Woods
  • Quinton Jefferson

Linebackers

  • Bobby Wagner
  • K.J. Wright
  • Cody Barton
  • Ben Burr-Kirven
  • Mychal Kendricks

Linebacker/Ends

  • Shaquem Griffin
  • Barkevious Mingo

You kinda gotta lump all these guys together, because there’s a lot of crossover. I’m pretty secure in my prediction of the 8 linemen and 5 linebackers I’ve listed above. But, just as there will be an interesting battle among the final wide receivers, I think there’s going to be a tremendous battle among the SAM linebackers/defensive ends we’ve got on this roster. I mean, just look at the list of guys I’ve left off of this team:

  • Branden Jackson
  • Cassius Marsh
  • Demarcus Christmas
  • Naz Jones
  • Austin Calitro
  • Jamie Meder

For what it’s worth, I think Christmas is a guy we can stash on the Practice Squad. Jackson is a guy who has hung around for a few years that I know the team likes, but he isn’t really elite at anything. Naz Jones was a healthy scratch for a lot of weeks last year and it appears his time has run out with the Seahawks if he doesn’t seriously flash in Training Camp. Meder is a veteran, but hasn’t really done anything in his career.

The two hardest cuts for me were Marsh and Calitro. Marsh is such an ace at Special Teams, that it wouldn’t surprise me if the team finds a way to keep him. But, he’s essentially a journeyman at this point, so he probably only makes the team if there are injuries at defensive end. He feels like Ansah insurance, which brings me zero comfort. Calitro, on the other hand, was a rookie last year who I thought played pretty well in an injury-ravaged unit. It’s hard for me to see him go, but he’s not really playing the same position as Griffin or Mingo. He’s more of a backup to Wagner/Wright, which they went out and drafted in BBK and Cody Barton. If the team liked Calitro so much, would they have used two moderately high draft picks on guys who can easily replace him? At this point, Barton sounds like he’s a stud, and the guy putting the final nail in Calitro’s coffin.

All of that having been said, I don’t think Griffin or Mingo are locks by any stretch of the imagination. While both are being used in pass rush situations, neither have really excelled at the professional level at that job. Nevertheless, both seem like pretty key guys to our Special Teams, which is why I have them making the 53-man roster. If it comes down to Special Teams or Pass Rush, and the team feels it needs more help with the latter, then don’t be surprised if Marsh takes the spot of Mingo (I can’t imagine the team keeps both Marsh AND Mingo in lieu of waiving Griffin, because why wouldn’t you keep the cost-controlled guy with upside?).

I’m telling you, I’m utterly fascinated with how this whole portion of the team is going to shake out. I’ll be out of town for the entirety of the Pre-Season, which is kind of a bummer, but it’ll still be interesting to follow from afar.

Seahawks Death Week: The Free Agents

The Seahawks have a bunch of money opening up heading into 2019, which leads many to believe there’s going to be a feeding frenzy of free agents heading onto this team. However, there are guys on the Seahawks RIGHT NOW whose contracts are expiring, so that’s who we’re going to talk about today. Who should the Seahawks retain, and who should they let go?

The Big Names

Earl Thomas – There isn’t even a question; we can want Earl to come back until we’re blue in the face, but it ain’t happenin’. Even if HE wanted to come back, though, I don’t think it would be a good idea. I mean, yeah, he’s elite. When he’s healthy, he’s the best in the game. But, 2018 was his third consecutive season cut short due to injuries. It’s just not a smart investment. He needs to move on.

K.J. Wright – All year, I’ve been under the impression that 2018 would be the last we’d see of K.J. Wright, but towards the end you could’ve talked me into a 1-year, prove-it deal with a lot of incentives instead of guarantees. I still think I’d be okay with that, but let’s get real, that knee isn’t getting any healthier. He’s great when he’s on the field, but how many games can we count on him for? Also, how soon will his decline start? I’d put good money he’s not the same in 2019. I think he also needs to move on.

Frank Clark – Gotta keep him. I’m not gonna say you pay him whatever it takes – I wouldn’t give him Ndamukong Suh or Aaron Donald money – but pay him what he’s worth. If that makes him the second-highest cap figure on the team, so be it, because he’s worth it.

Sebastian Janikowski – He’s gotta go. If he hadn’t injured himself in the playoff game, you MAYBE could’ve talked me into another year. He wasn’t THAT bad in 2018; he wasn’t anywhere near as awful as Blair Walsh. I essentially got what I expected out of Janikowski; he’s not perfect and he never was. But, he’s steady. He made 48/51 extra points and 22/27 field goals (including 3/5 from 50+ which is pretty good). Was I turned off by that kickoff return he gave up, where he didn’t even try to touch the runner blowing past him? Yeah, but again, I know who this guy is. I know what to expect. But, that leg injury – combined with the fact that he already missed 2017 due to injury – just makes it untenable. If anything, bring him back in a kicking competition, but instead of having him as the lead dog like he was this season, make him the underdog and give the advantage to a younger guy. Or, shit, just draft a kicker in the 6th round and be done with it!

The Semi-Big Names

Dion Jordan – I like the idea. I like the idea of buying low on a super-stud athlete with a HUGE upside whose career was derailed by injuries and knuckleheadery. But, the dude just can’t stay on the field and even when he’s on the field it doesn’t seem like he makes much of an impact. Time to cut ties and give his spot to someone else.

D.J. Fluker & J.R. Sweezy – I’m lumping these two together because I want them both back! These guys were difference-makers for our offensive line (and therefore our entire offense). Now, obviously, they’re injury-prone, so you have to get some value for that. And you HAVE TO build in protections in case we have to cut and run after 2019. But, I wouldn’t mind giving both of these guys 3-year deals (that are really 2-year deals, but can easily be cut down to 1-year deals without a ton of dead money). Never change your contract structure, NFL! It’s the only thing keeping me sane!

Mike Davis – He made $1.35 million in 2018, which is right in the ballpark of what I don’t mind spending on a running back insurance policy. Anything significantly higher than $1.5 million is probably too much. He was a guy we just got off the street; I’m sure there are others just like him who will give us just as much. He’s not a priority, but I’d like him back at the right price.

Mychal Kendricks – I absolutely want him back! Give him K.J.’s spot if you have to! This guy is a difference-maker, and (God forbid) if Bobby were to go down, he’s a guy who can slide into the middle and allow our defense to not miss much of a beat. Given his 2018, you have to figure his value is pretty low. And, given our loyalty, you have to figure we have an inside shot if we present a good deal for him. This is a no-brainer.

Justin Coleman – He earned just a shade under $3 million in 2018, which is tremendous value. Considering this team really hasn’t developed anyone behind him to take over in that nickel role, I think the Seahawks have to do almost whatever it takes to extend him for another 3-4 years. Remember that old Jeremy Lane deal? Something like that would sit just fine with me.

Shamar Stephen – Ehh, no thanks. He was on a 1-year veteran deal and our rush defense was as bad as I’ve ever seen it! Isn’t that what he was brought in for? Wasn’t that his one selling point? I’m beginning to wonder if we didn’t get rid of the wrong ex-Viking defensive tackle; there’s no way Tom Johnson could’ve been worse, right?

Maurice Alexander – Why? Did he do ANYTHING this year? Maybe as camp fodder, but he’s not necessary.

Brett Hundley – Why did we trade a 2019 sixth round pick for this guy? NO! Go away Brett Hundley!

The Restricted Free Agents

I’m pretty sure these are the guys who you put a value on (first round, second round, or original round tender) and if some other team swoops in with a Godfather deal, you get either a first, second, or original round draft pick in the upcoming draft. So, let’s get to it! I’m not going to talk about all the guys, because I don’t KNOW all the guys, but I’ll throw a nod to the no-names at the end.

George Fant – Fant went undrafted, so you gotta tag him with either a first or second round value. A first rounder is a hair under $4.5 million; a second rounder is just over $3 million. I think the Seahawks should absolutely try to extend him, but failing that, I think you saddle him with a first round tender. The NFL is in desperate need of capable offensive linemen, and say what you will about the Seahawks, but they’ve developed A LOT of guys for other teams. Tender him and see what happens, but try to bring him back.

J.D. McKissic – He also went undrafted, but I don’t think I’m tendering him at all. He’s another dime-a-dozen guy at a dime-a-dozen position. He earned pennies in 2018, so if you want to bring him back for pennies, fine. But, it’s not necessary.

Tyler Ott – The ol’ long snapper! Don’t tender him, but yes try to bring him back.

Joey Hunt – An original round tender is interesting, because he was selected in the 6th round, and you could see someone else signing him to be their starting center. But, the risk there is that no one signs him, and his salary leaps from $630,000 to a little over $2 million. For a guy who might be 3rd on the depth chart at center, assuming Pocic is still in line to play behind Britt, that’s not money well spent. Forgetting the tender, I don’t think his services are really needed, but he’s not bad as camp fodder if no one else wants him.

Quinton Jefferson – Now, this is interesting, because I thought he took a step forward in 2018. Not huge; he’s not a guy you HAVE to have. But, considering he used to be a guy I thought of as a bust, it’s nice that he’s built up some value. He was originally a 5th round pick, and I would have no problem giving him an original round tender. I might even go as high as a 2nd rounder, though that feels like pushing it. I’d do that and give him another year to prove if he’s worth a longer-term deal.

Branden Jackson – He was a guy I had a lot of hopes for heading into 2018, but he finished the season as a healthy scratch most weeks. He went undrafted and doesn’t seem to be worth tendering. Another camp guy on a minimum deal at best.

Tre Madden – He’s a fullback, he’s not worth tendering. Minimum 1-year deal.

The Rest of the Restricted Free Agents – Kalan Reed (CB), T.J. Green (S). Who? Exactly.

I’m not going to get into the Exclusive Rights Free Agents, because there’s no risk. These guys are essentially ON the team, unless the team opts to not bring them back. Guys like Akeem King, David Moore, Austin Calitro, Jordan Simmons, and Shalom Luani should all be back.

Seahawks Death Week: What Did We Figure Out?

Heading into 2018, there were question marks across the board with the Seahawks. Could we develop a running game outside of Russell Wilson? Could we develop a pass rush? Would our secondary hold together? How would our new coordinators fit in? Could we develop enough young talent to push this team in the right direction for 2019 and beyond?

It felt like at least a 2-year project before we’d see the playoffs again, so to make it back in Year 1 feels like playing with house money at this point. So, let’s take a look at what went right, in no particular order:

Running Backs

In 2018, infamously the leading running back for this team was Russell Wilson with 586 yards. The next-closest back was Mike Davis with 240. The only player to run for a touchdown not named Russell Wilson was J.D. McKissic, who had 1 all year. So, you can understand why the Seahawks put so much into re-emphasizing this part of the game.

In 2019, Russell Wilson was 4th on this team in rushing yards, much more in line with where he SHOULD be. We used a first round draft pick – after trading down to acquire more picks – on Rashaad Penny, who had an underwhelming rookie season with only 419 yards (3rd on the team), but he also had the third-most attempts and actually led the group in yards per carry with 4.9. Penny didn’t come out of the gates guns blazing, as there was more of a learning curve for him as he adjusted to the NFL, but he did show flashes of brilliance and that big-play ability we brought him in here for. I don’t know if he’ll ever be a Pro Bowler, or just a nice role player, but his Sophomore campaign should tell quite a bit about where his pro career is headed.

Returning as this team’s #2 running back was Mike Davis, who showed his usual reliability and professionalism. This is a rock-solid #2 guy that I’d never have any qualms about making the occasional spot start for an injured player; he’s a huge upgrade over Robert Turbin, for instance. He ended up with 514 yards on a 4.6 average. It appears Davis will be a Free Agent next year, so hopefully we can bring him back at the right price. Though, I guess we’ll see; with the money we have in Penny, we might want to spend the minimum at a spot where there’s a 3-headed monster.

Chris Carson returned from an injury in 2018 and should really be in the running for Comeback Player of the Year. He led the Seahawks with 1,151 yards on a 4.7 yard average with a whopping 9 touchdowns. He’s the first 1,000-yard rusher for the Seahawks since Beastmode in 2014, and let me tell you, he looked A LOT like our future Ring of Honor stud. We were a different team with Carson on the field, as he bowled and jumped over opposing players with regularity.

Overall, I’d say the position is set for 2019, though it’ll be ultra-set if we bring back Davis.

Pass Rush

The Seahawks were tied for 13th in 2017 with 39.0 sacks (league-leading Pittsburgh had 56.0), which was okay, but obviously not great. We improved to being tied for 11th in 2018 with 43.0 sacks (league-leading Pittsburgh & Kansas City had 52.0) which is a step in the right direction, though we could always be better.

Frank Clark led the way with 14.0 sacks; he’s also set to be a free agent in 2019. The Seahawks are saying all the right things about bringing him back on a long-term extension, though they’re also looking to re-up Wilson and a few others, so they’ve got their work cut out for them. Regardless, the franchise tag is in our pocket, and Clark’s already on record as saying he’d welcome the challenge of playing on the tag, thereby having his value skyrocket if he stays healthy and performs as he did this year. He also could, theoretically, still improve, particularly with better pieces around him, so we may just be scratching the surface with him. Either way, this was a HUGE step forward for a guy a lot of people wondered about. I don’t know if I ever expected him to perform at this level, so it’s great to see!

Even more shocking was what Jarran Reed was able to do in his third season as an interior lineman. He went from 1.5 sacks in each of his first two years to a whopping 10.5 sacks in 2018, which is just an astronomical leap! That’s Cortez Kennedy-level ball-busting! He’s another guy this team needs to keep around for the long term.

After those two, it drops off considerably. The next-highest guy was Quinton Jefferson with 3, and he’s just a rotation guy at best. Rookie Jacob Martin also had 3 sacks, which is encouraging for a high-motor guy still developing his NFL body. It’ll be interesting to see what strides he’s able to make between Year 1 and Year 2.

Rasheem Green was the other highly-touted rookie who had only 1 sack this year, and often found himself as a healthy scratch by season’s end. He was always going to be something of a project, so it’s not surprising, but it is a little disappointing. He was never going to have as much opportunity as 2018, considering you have to figure the Seahawks are planning on pouring big money into the area for next year.

Overall, we’ve got two studs, one maybe, and a lot of filler. While this area was better than I expected heading into the year – as I expected this team to totally fall off the cliff – our stars stayed healthy and produced. Now, it’s just a matter of filling in with better talent around those stars.

Secondary

This was always going to be a challenge, with Kam essentially forced into retirement, with Earl holding out, then playing disgruntled, then being lost for the year to injury. And, of course, the Seahawks waived Richard Sherman, which pushed Shaquill Griffin over to his side of the field as the team’s primary cornerback. For all the grief I gave him about that playoff game, I thought Griffin was fine. At times he was a solid tackler, but he also appeared to be out of position every so often, and took bad angles on tackles. He also finished with only 2 interceptions, which is pretty weak for the team’s primary corner. He’s not going anywhere in 2019, so let’s hope he makes a major jump in his performance in Year 3.

The other cornerback spot appeared to change hands multiple times heading into the 2018 season. Byron Maxwell looked to have the inside track, but he came in injured and never made the team. Other veterans were vetted, but the job ended up in the hands of rookie Tre Flowers, who took it and ran with it. There were the expected growing pains, but he really picked it up over the second half of the season, and looks to be a solid cog in this secondary. He didn’t get any picks, but you have to figure those will come with experience.

With both of our starting safeties out, Bradley McDougald really held this whole thing together. He’s a solid veteran who was playing at a Pro Bowl level for a while, but appeared to break down by season’s end. With him, Tedric Thompson and Delano Hill got their chances to make their marks on this team in their second seasons, but both of them were pretty hit or miss. You have to think the experience was nothing but a positive for them, but they’ll still have to parlay it into 2019 and make significant jumps if they want to be here long term.

I have to think the Seahawks will be looking in the draft for another primo safety. While we’re not set yet, it’s good to see the secondary playing as well as they did this season. They might not have showed out with the turnovers as the L.O.B. did when they hit the scene, but they limited big plays and kept this team in ballgames, which is all you can ask for. I’d also like to see the team extend Justin Coleman long-term, as he’s still one of the better nickel corners in this league.

Tight End

Jimmy Graham was thankfully sent packing, and in his place the team actually improved. Who knew?

Oh yeah, we all knew.

Will Dissly made a HUGE impact in Week 1, then got hurt and was lost for the season. Considering he was the best blocking tight end in the draft last year, and with his offense being better than anticipated, he looks like he’ll be an awesome weapon next year, assuming he returns from injury okay.

Nick Vannett really stepped up in his absence, in his 3rd season in the NFL. He had career highs in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. They weren’t super-amazing or anything (29, 269, 3), but this team doesn’t NEED a Jimmy Graham-like tight end to be effective offensively. I am perfectly happy with those numbers from our 2016 third round draft pick.

Ed Dickson was a free agent signee, and he didn’t make a huge impact either – actually finishing with fewer yards than Dissly, thanks to his own injury issues to start the season – but he had some big plays here and there, and still chipped in 3 TDs of his own. Combined, the TE position had 8 touchdowns on the season (51 catches for 600 yards, if you count George Fant, which I absolutely do!), which is perfectly fine for what little resources we’ve pumped into the position. You don’t need superstars at tight end to have a winning offense.

Tight end is set, assuming Dissly is back to 100%.

Offensive Line

The O-Line was the biggest question mark heading into the season, and thankfully it eventually turned into one of this team’s biggest strengths. Duane Brown was a Second Team All Pro at left tackle, Justin Britt brought his usual solidness at the center position, and Germain Ifedi made a big leap in his third year to finally become a passable right tackle. There were some growing pains at the guard spots – arguably the most important spots on the entire O-Line for a team with a Russell Wilson at quarterback – but after the second game, when J.R. Sweezy took over on the left side and D.J. Fluker took over on the right, they finally morphed into a cohesive, solid unit.

The downside is both Sweezy and Fluker are free agents heading into 2019. They’re also getting up there in age, and seemingly always face a litany of injuries. While that should theoretically keep their costs down, it’s hard to ignore the strides this team made when both of them were healthy. As such, you have to figure they’re in store for raises over the $1.5 million each of them made in 2018.

Beyond those two, Ethan Pocic was a disaster. He started those first two games we lost (when couldn’t do a damn thing offensively), and every time he took the field late in the season, the offense took an immediate step back. I don’t know if he’s undersized, incompetent, or both, but he’s got A LOT of work to do if he’s aiming to return to the starting five. As a second round pick already in his second year, with plenty of experience under his belt already, this is NOT trending well.

Jordan Simmons, however, was a revelation when he stepped in for Fluker! He’s a big ol’ mauler in Fluker’s image, but his season ended prematurely with injury. Combine that with the fact that he spent most of his college career injured, and I don’t think he’s someone we can count on long term. As a fill-in, backup type guy, though, it’s nice to know he’s around.

Joey Hunt is heading into free agency; he’s not someone I’d mind if we kept around or not. He looks undersized, and at this point Pocic might only be able to salvage his career if he backs up Britt at center, so Hunt is probably a luxury this team doesn’t need. He could still develop into a quality starter somewhere, but probably not here.

Finally, the aforementioned George Fant had quite a bit of playing time. He was often a sixth lineman this team implemented when we wanted to pound the rock, and once in a while found himself running routes (with his lone catch being a highlight of the season). He filled in for Ifedi late in the year – with Ifedi sliding over to guard for an injured Fluker – and that didn’t go so great. But, I would still expect him back, as I can’t imagine there’s going to be a huge bidding war for Fant.

Conclusion

With an elite quarterback, an elite middle linebacker, two elite wide receivers, and some nice pieces noted above, this is a team that’s heading in the right direction for another playoff run in 2019. How they spend their money in free agency will ultimately determine if this team’s going to contend for a division title. There are still quite a bit of holes left to fill, so it should be interesting.

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

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

Quarterbacks

  • Russell Wilson
  • Alex McGough
  • Brett Hundley

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

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

Running Backs

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

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

Wide Receivers

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

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

Tight Ends

  • Nick Vannett
  • Will Dissly
  • Tyrone Swoopes

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

Offensive Line

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

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

Defensive Line

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

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

Linebackers

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

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

Cornerbacks

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

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

Safeties

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

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

Rashaad Penny Broke A Finger

On the one hand, I love a pre-season game on a Saturday because I don’t have to worry about work the next day and being tired from staying up until all hours of the night; but on the other hand, WAITING UNTIL SATURDAY just feels obscene to me.  I WANT FOOTBALL RIGHT NOW GOD DAMMIT!

So, we had a good-news/bad-news situation this week.  The bad news, obviously, is that our first round pick Rashaad Penny broke his finger in practice and had to have surgery this week to repair it.  This means that he’s going to miss essentially the rest of the pre-season, which is prime development time for a rookie who we all figured would have a significant role in this offense right out of the gate.

Now, the good news is that assuming there are no setbacks, he should be ready for week 1 (or, at the very least, the first month of the season), but I dunno.  I feel like the bad outweighs the good in this case.  He’s not going to get this time back!  Sure, he can keep his conditioning on point, and he can shove his nose in the playbook and do all that, but the best way to develop as a player in the NFL is through reps on the field.

On top of that, this injury re-opens my concern about the depth at this position.  A position of tremendous need, I might add, and one where this team struggled heavily in the last couple seasons.  Heading into training camp, running back was one of the positions I was most confident in on this team.  That’s because we had Chris Carson back to full health and looking like a beast, and that’s because we had a bona fide first round talent in Rashaad Penny, who had never really shown a proclivity to being injured in college.  Beyond those two guys, we had a winner-takes-all grudge match among the 3rd down backs, as well as a guy in Mike Davis who’s probably the most reliable, dependable workhorse of the bunch (whose spot was far from guaranteed until this injury cropped up).

When you take out one of the top two guys, things get a lot more tenuous.  Chris Carson was already the leader of the pack heading into the second game of the pre-season, but now his importance is amplified tenfold.  He’s also someone – based exclusively on what happened in his rookie season a year ago – I have very little confidence in staying healthy.  That could’ve been just a freak injury, or it could’ve been a sign of things to come; we have no idea, and that unknown is what scares me the most.  Beyond him, C.J. Prosise is obviously a walking injury bug waiting to strike, so even though he might have the talent to be an every-down back (should the unthinkable happen ahead of him on the depth chart), there’s no WAY I’d be confident in him being available.  And J.D. McKissic is a good player, but he’s not my idea of someone who would succeed with runs inside the tackles.

That leaves, again, Mike Davis.  At this point, I think he’s a guy you HAVE to keep on the 53-man roster, when we get to the cut-downs.  I don’t think he has the dynamic play-making ability of the guys ahead of him in the position room, but behind what’s looking like an improved offensive line, I think he’s good enough to be a 1,000-yard back in this offense, which is all I’m asking for at this point.

So, all in all, kind of a bummer of a week, but not as bad as it could’ve been.  In all likelihood, Penny will make a full recovery and he’ll start out as this team’s backup to start the season.  If he can stay healthy from here on out, he should have plenty of time to catch back up during the regular season.  At least it’s not a knee, or a quad, or a hamstring, or a shoulder, or a head, or a toe, or literally any other body part.  Fingers heal.  Broken fingers can still be played with.  This is fine, everything is fine, I’m fine.  Let’s all go about our business and enjoy our Friday.

Pre-Pre-Season Preview: Seahawks Running Game

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

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

Without further ado, let’s talk about the Seahawks’ running game.

Running Backs

As I got into yesterday, I’m pretty stoked on the running backs we’ve got in camp.  And, as I got into yesterday, I don’t think any of them are on the level of Marshawn Lynch in his heyday, but I do think as a collective, this is the best group we’ve had in a very long time.  Maybe ever!

I keep waffling on Rashaad Penny.  I want to like him.  I DESPERATELY want him to be great.  I think with his speed and overall talents, he has the potential to be great.  But, there are plenty of running backs with good speed and skills, but it takes a special, intangible something that separates the good backs from the elites.  And, we won’t know if he has THAT until we see him in action.

I think it’s safe to say Penny is the player I’m most looking forward to seeing in the pre-season (and that’s saying something, now that we’ve got both Griffin brothers on defense).  Everything hinges on returning the running game to dominance.  This team had no running game whatsoever in 2017 and failed to make the playoffs as a result.  If we continue to sputter, it’s going to be a LONG 2018.

The good thing is, if nothing else, I think Penny has a high floor.  Also, with Chris Carson as his running mate, we shouldn’t see any sort of drop-off in ability or production.  Of course, if BOTH of those guys get injured, I don’t know what to tell you.  At that point, I’d have to legitimately believe in the realness of curses and start investing in crucifixes or something.

Behind them, from strictly a rushing perspective (i.e. not pass-catching), we have Mike Davis, then C.J. Prosise, then J.D. McKissic.  Davis is just a guy, a competent all-around running back who is never going to wow you and is never going to be a bona fide starter in this league.  He’s nice insurance to have, if indeed the injury bug keeps on biting this team, but he’s not essential to keep on the 53-man roster.  With everyone being healthy, even if you did roster him into the regular season, I can’t imagine he’d be active very often, if at all.  He also strikes me as a guy you’d be able to pick up off the waiver wire in the event of an emergency.  I mean, what teams out there are clamoring for the services of Mike Davis?

The real #3 running back battle falls to Prosise vs. McKissic, as I talked about yesterday, and it boils down to whether or not Prosise can stay healthy.  If healthy, I think the team looks to keep Prosise, because all things being even, I think he’s the better all-around running back over McKissic.  I think both are valuable pass-catching backs, but I think Prosise has the edge in the running game.  Of course, durability is the key, and for that reason alone I believe McKissic will make the team; but if you’re counting on McKissic to be your every-down back, something has gone seriously wrong.

So, I’m just going to cross my fingers and hope our top two guys stay healthy.  I’d really like to see how an honest running back battle shakes out, as I feel like both Penny and Carson could push each other to remarkable heights.

As for the fullback position, I have no opinion.  Outside of the blocking game, can you get a yard on 4th & 1 with a dive up the middle?  That’s all I care about.  Hell, I don’t think the Seahawks even HAD a true fullback last year, so it can’t be that important.

I give this position an A-.

Quarterbacks

Can’t talk about the running game without talking about Russell Wilson.  He led the team last year with 586 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns.  Outside of 2016 – where he was injured from game 1 – his season low in rushing has been 489 yards, which when you pair it with a competent attack from the running backs, makes for a nice chunk of change.

However, when you have what we had last year, defenses only had to focus on shutting down the passing game and containing Wilson in the pocket.  It speaks to his greatness that he was still able to run for 586 when the Seahawks had literally no other threats on the team, when the O-Line was as wretched as it was, and when every defense focused solely on keeping him contained rather than attacking him like normal pocket passers.

When you compare him to other duel-threat quarterbacks who are actually quality passers, Wilson is probably in the Top 2 with Cam Newton.  From purely a rushing perspective, you’d give the nod to Newton, but I’d still rather have Wilson if for no other reason than he doesn’t take all the savage hits that Newton endures.  At some point, it’s going to catch up to Cam, and he’s going to hit the IR sooner or later.  Wilson does an excellent job of getting what he needs to get and then getting out of harm’s way.  Give me that all day.

A+ for Wilson!

Of course, it feels incomplete talking about the running game (OR the passing game, for that matter) without talking about the offensive line.  I’ll get into that tomorrow.  The first two posts in this series are strictly a reflection of the talent among the skill position groups.  With an A+ offensive line, I think the Seahawks would have one of the most potent offenses in all of football.  As you’ll read about next time, I absolutely do not think the Seahawks have an A+ offensive line.

But, I also don’t think it’ll be as bad as everyone expects.

Pre-Pre-Season Preview: Seahawks Passing Game

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

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

Without further ado, let’s talk about the Seahawks’ passing game.

Quarterbacks

It’s easy to write in Russell Wilson’s name here and call it a day.  A+.  Next position group.  I mean, we’re talking about a guy firmly in the prime of his career.  This will be his 7th season in the NFL, he’s worked his way up the quarterback rankings – I think most would put him in the Top 5, and if you don’t, I think you’re idiotic – and if you had to rank all the guys currently on the Seahawks, he’s not only the most important player, but he’s also the BEST player.

And sure, there isn’t a whole lot backing him up.  This isn’t a Philadelphia Eagles situation; if we lose Wilson, we don’t have a Nick Foles there backing him up with steady leadership and ability.  We have Austin Davis and a rookie; neither excites me to any degree.  Maybe the rookie develops into a competent backup one day, maybe not; but as a 7th round draft pick, I feel it’s pretty safe to say he’s a non-factor in 2018.

But, that’s pretty much been the case since Wilson was drafted.  Sure, MAYBE in 2013 – if Wilson had been injured – Tarvaris Jackson could’ve guided the team into the playoffs.  And MAYBE the rest of the squad would’ve been so great, it wouldn’t have mattered who was under center.  I don’t believe that; I don’t think the Seahawks had a chance in hell of GETTING to the Super Bowl that year, let alone winning it without Russell Wilson.  But, you believe what you want to believe.  I’ll believe that the Seahawks have never had anyone worth a damn backing up Wilson, and that any of our seasons since 2012 would’ve been absolutely destroyed if he’d suffered any sort of significant injury.

So, that’s nothing new in my mind.

That having been said, I can’t give Wilson a free pass either.  I know a lot of people will overlook at lot of his faults because the O-Line has been the worst in all of football, but to me that’s a 2-way street.  Yes, of course, there are too many instances of times where Wilson has no time to function; but, there are also a good number of boneheaded decisions on Wilson’s part, trying to do too much, ignoring the obvious check-down that would’ve gone for a significant gain.  Also, the team was constructed around his talents; they felt they could skimp on the O-Line because of Wilson’s running ability.  Considering all the money that was being paid elsewhere (as well as all the money going to Wilson himself), the team couldn’t pay everyone.  Where everyone is at fault, I believe, is OVER-estimating Russell Wilson’s abilities.  We saw him pull our asses out of the fire with magical play after magical play so many times, we thought he could walk on water.  When, in reality, Wilson is like most any other quarterback in the sense that he needs to be protected just like everyone else.

He’s human, despite what all the memes will tell you.

Now, he’s still a great human.  Elite even!  But, human nevertheless.  He’s a net gain, all things considered, but he’s also going to dig his share of holes that he then has to try and lift this team out of.  A lot of times, he’ll be successful.  But, not EVERY time.

So, to me, until I see a little more on-field maturity in his decision-making, it’s not an A+, but more like just a regular ol’ A, or even an A-.  He’s still in the 90th-percentile, and in that sense the Seahawks are one of the very, very lucky ones.

Wide Receivers

It’s almost refreshing to see the overwhelming majority of the public bash on the Seahawks’ receivers.  Feels like 2012 again!

I don’t have nearly the problem with the Seahawks’ receivers as everyone else seems to.  ESPN, for instance, ranked the Seahawks among the bottom quarter of the league in offensive weapons, but I don’t think it’s so dire.

For starters, we still have Doug Baldwin.  He’s going to command the lion’s share of the targets in the passing game, and he’s one of the 5 or 10 best (and most talented, dependable, dynamic, and fun-to-watch) receivers in the league.  Now, if we assume this is going to be a return to form for the Seahawks’ offense – with a run-first mentality – then we have to assume targets will once again be tough to come by.  In that sense, do the Seahawks really NEED three or four top-line wide receivers?

I argue: no.  We have one top-line guy in Baldwin, and another very good receiver in Tyler Lockett.  I think that’s enough.  Beyond that, I think the team will figure it out.

I think what goes in this team’s favor is that we don’t have this beast we have to constantly feed, like we did with Jimmy Graham (or previously with Percy Harvin).  We can simply focus on the best man available.  Instead of constantly dialing into one guy – particularly in the red zone – Wilson can just throw to whoever’s open.  IMAGINE THAT!  He can take advantage of natural mis-matches.  Guys we haven’t even considered could step up and be unlikely heroes, like in the good ol’ days of Seahawks football!

I think we’re also underestimating Doug’s abilities in the red zone, which are elite, and were heavily over-shadowed over all the hand-wringing it took to get Jimmy Graham his touches.  If the over/under is 8.5 TDs for Doug, I’m betting heavy on the over.  After that, you’re going to see a ton of guys catching anywhere from 2-4 TDs, we just can’t see exactly who just yet.

My grade is a solid B.

Tight Ends

Of course, something had to suffer with the loss of Jimmy Graham, and that’s in the pass-catching ability of our tight ends (I’ll discuss our VAST improvement in run blocking tight ends when I discuss the running game in a separate post).

Not only did we lose Graham’s production – not to mention the THREAT of his production, in how defenses schemed us – but we also lost Luke Willson, both of whom I would argue – strictly from a passing game perspective (taking all of their blocking ability out of it) – are better than what’s remaining on the Seahawks.

I guess you start with Ed Dickson, who I think will be good for – at best – a 2 catches per game average.  But, again, I would argue that’s all you need.  When our offense was really humming, we had Zach Miller at the helm.  He was great, but he was far from a focal point in the passing game.  Nevertheless, if you stuck a slow linebacker on him, he was liable to get by him for one or two big gains a game.  THAT’S what I want out of my tight ends in the passing game:  just one or two surprise plays that will move the chains.  Anything beyond that – up to and including any touchdowns – is gravy.

It gets even leaner from there, as Will Dissly was drafted primarily to be another blocking tight end for this team.  While I do believe in his ability long term, and think he will one day develop into a Zach Miller-ish catching tight end, I don’t think he’ll ever be a dominant offensive force.  And, again, I think that’s okay.  I think that’s just what this team needs to be productive.

My grade is a C-.

Running Backs

The real wild card in all of this is how our backs take to the passing game.  Under Russell Wilson, this has never really been an offense that took advantage of its running backs in the passing game.  There are occasional dump-offs, but really nothing to write home about.

However, as I’ll write about next time when I write about the running game, I couldn’t be any higher on this group of running backs.  It’s easy to say this is the best group we’ve had since Marshawn Lynch was in town, but I think these guys can REALLY start to approach – as a collective – the Beastmode’s greatness.

Considering what was always the drop-off from Lynch to whoever was next in line, this is the best 1-2 punch the Seahawks have had at running back maybe ever.  No one owns the #1 job just yet, but you figure with Rashaad Penny’s first round draft status, he has to be 1-A heading into Training Camp.  But, with how Chris Carson looked last year, and particularly how he looked in the mini camps, it’s really anyone’s race.  If they develop and take to the new offense the way I believe they can, we’re talking about two guys who could start on any number of teams in this league.  As it is, we’re talking about two guys who will get every opportunity to win increased snaps.

That doesn’t even get into the depth of this unit.  While I believe Carson and Penny have the chops to be great pass catchers (particularly Penny, with his speed, and his abilities in the return game), behind them we have whoever emerges in the C.J. Prosise vs. J.D. McKissic battle.  One of them will make this team; Prosise if he stays perfectly healthy, or McKissic as a fall-back whenever Prosise rolls an ankle or bruises a toe.  Either one would be a perfectly fine complement to our two starters, and will likely be a featured back on 3rd downs and in 2-minute situations.  They both have wide receiver backgrounds, so not utilizing them would be a huge error.  At that point, it’s up to Wilson to take advantage.

My grade is a B (with room to advance to an A if the offense makes good use of them).

The name of the game is spreading the ball around.  It’s what Russell Wilson does best.  If the Seahawks are going to have a successful passing game this year, it’s going to be with a lot of different heroes stepping up game-in and game-out.  Doug will get his, but sometimes he won’t, and sometimes it’ll be a guy from out of nowhere.

My overall grade:  B (again, with room to advance to an A if players gel and buy into the new system).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Seahawks 1-Year Deals

Mike Davis is back, to work out in that running back group.  Marcus Smith is back, to work out in that defensive end group.  And now we have defensive tackle, Tom Johnson, out of Minnesota.  A 7-year vet, making less than $3 million, rotating in the interior, who will hopefully provide marginal pressure up the middle.

I like Mike Davis.  Of all the options out there on the free agent market – all the veterans and retreads and everyone else – I like Mike Davis over everyone else.  I think he’s just as good as anyone on the scrap heap, plus he likely comes in at around or below $1 million.  No one expects Mike Davis to be The Man, but as a backup, I think he’s fine.  He’s reliable.  He’s smart.  He’ll find the hole and he’ll get you a few yards.  I don’t think there’s anyone on the free agent market who is remarkably better than Mike Davis, so why not bring back Mike Davis?

My hunch is, either Chris Carson will be this team’s lead back, or whoever they take in the draft will be this team’s lead back.  I think it’s Carson’s job to lose, but if he doesn’t come back from injury as expected, or if the new guy is just a monster, then we’ll see a switch.  But, it’s nice having Davis there as insurance, because I wouldn’t mind seeing him start a game here and there.

Beyond that, I think there’s a straight-up position battle between C.J. Prosise and J.D. McKissic, and if there’s even a whiff of an injury on Prosise, I think now is the time to cut ties and stop rostering him just to get nothing out of him.  Obviously, that’ll play out in Training Camp and the Pre-Season, so you don’t have to make that decision right now, but I’m absolutely looking for any reason to waive Prosise, because I don’t think he can be trusted.

As for the D-Line moves, I like Marcus Smith as a rotation guy.  He’s making less than $3 million, and I can’t imagine a whole lot of that is guaranteed, so if he gets beat out or gets injured, it’s not a huge loss.  And, I don’t know much about Tom Johnson, but he strikes me as a Tony McDaniel type, MAYBE a Clinton McDonald type.  Of course, those types of players – if they’re going to generate any sort of pass rush – need quality ends around them to give them one-on-one matchups, and I just don’t know if the Seahawks have that right now.

It’s looking less and less likely that the Seahawks are going to make a huge free agent splash, and I think I’m okay with that.  I like all of these 1-year type deals.  You take one more half-assed shot at competing for a playoff spot, you start working more young guys/rookies into the regular playing rotation to see what you have, you don’t cripple your long-term cap, and you stop trading away all your future draft picks.  Then, if the Seahawks do bottom out in 2018 (which, call me a bad fan all you want, I think the Seahawks will be – at best – 3rd in the NFC West this year, so bite my ass you optimistic homers), they’ll be in a much better position to clean house and re-stock this roster with a bunch of studs heading into the 2019 season.

The question remains:  am I secretly rooting for the Seahawks to tank in 2018?  Well, I don’t think we have a shot in hell of winning the Super Bowl, so you tell me!