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.

Chicken Or Egg: Can A Dominant Secondary Prop Up A Middling Pass Rush?

The consensus opinion is that the most important aspect of a dominant defense is its pass rush. Boiling it down to its root: the goal of a defense is to give the ball back to its offense without allowing the other team to score. The best way to do that is to force a turnover; otherwise, forcing them to punt or turn it over on downs will suffice. When it comes to defending the pass, harassing the quarterback seems to be the best way to either generate turnovers or put opposing offenses behind the chains, usually resulting in punts. The sack is obviously ideal; it’s a negative play for the offense that can sometimes result in fumbles. But, just getting in the quarterback’s face – forcing him “off his spot” or otherwise messing with his timing – can lead to interceptions, incompletions, or harmless check-downs that gain little-to-no yards on that play.

The Seahawks – as has been the lament all off-season – are projected to have one of the worst – if not THE worst – pass rushes in the NFL. This is a travesty because as it stood in 2019, the defense was already pretty mediocre; this is also a travesty because we have Russell Wilson in his prime and we seem to be wasting those years by losing in the Wild Card or Divisional rounds of the playoffs.

But, the thing is, the Seahawks clearly haven’t done NOTHING. They’ve tried to mitigate the loss of Jadeveon Clowney by picking up multiple lesser individuals – in free agency and the draft – and they’re hoping that young holdovers from previous seasons make a leap in their development. They’ve also done a remarkable job shoring things up at the linebacker and secondary levels over the last two years, picking up multiple speedy linebackers in the draft, as well as trading for two phenomenal safeties and one troubled-but-excellent cornerback. We’ll see if it plays out as such, but an argument could be made that the Seahawks have the best secondary and the best group of linebackers from top to bottom in the entire league. They certainly have the highest-rated linebacker in Bobby Wagner, and a total superstar in Jamal Adams.

So, my question is: can all of that compensate for a sub-par (or even flat-out BAD) pass rush?

We always talk about how great pass rushes make up for mediocre secondaries; guys don’t have to cover wide receivers as long, because the quarterback has to make his decisions much quicker. But, whenever we talk about the opposite – great secondaries blanketing receivers, allowing the D-Line time to get home – we just dismiss it as a “coverage sack”. As if, A) they don’t count as much as a regular sack, and B) it’s some sort of fluke that never happens. I’d love to know the numbers, but I would argue if coverage sacks are so rare, maybe that’s because teams spend all their resources focused so much on the D-Line and hardly any of their resources on their secondaries.

Around Seattle, we love to talk about the Legion of Boom, and for good reason. That collection of individuals was freaky talented, and from top to bottom the best I’ve ever seen. The Seahawks went to back-to-back Super Bowls with that group leading the way, winning one. Yes, that group also had a pretty great D-Line – helmed by Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril – but they were VASTLY overshadowed by the L.O.B. And, not for nothing, but the main reason why we lost that second Super Bowl isn’t because Russell Wilson tried to throw a slant in heavy traffic at the goalline, but rather because the ENTIRE Legion of Boom suffered catastrophic injuries either in the lead-up to or in the middle of that game. Don’t forget the Seahawks had a 10-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, before Tom Brady & Co. marched up and down the field at will. Had we rushed Marshawn Lynch and scored a touchdown on that second down play, they still would’ve had somewhere around 20 seconds or so to get into field goal range (which, the way the Patriots were moving, seemed inevitable).

Which leads me to ask: where was our supposedly-dominant pass rush THEN?! Why weren’t they able to pick up the slack when the L.O.B. was out of commission?!

Now, obviously it’s a stretch to say this seconary is as good as the L.O.B. But, for this incarnation of the NFL, it’s pretty fucking elite. With a couple of lockdown cornerbacks, and a couple of playmaking safeties, I think the Seahawks can provide enough pressure on the back-end of the defense to allow the front-line workers an opportunity to get in the quarterback’s face and do some real damage, regardless of who we’ve got up there.

I don’t know how to do a lot of this research, so a lot of what I’m about to say is pretty anecdotal. But, how many passing plays result in a sack? Not a very high percentage, I’d say. How many plays result in pressure on the quarterback? Obviously, a little higher, but there’s a lot of variables at play: how good is the O-Line? How good is the quarterback? How quick can the quarterback make a decision to get rid of the football? Is the offense set up for the quarterback to make quick, short throws, rendering even the BEST defensive lines inadequate? There’s a reason why more offenses are turning into some version of the college spread offense, and it’s to neutralize the opposing pass rush! Aaron Donald is the best defensive lineman since Reggie White; he’ll be an automatic first-ballot hall of famer. And yet, it’s not like he’s getting to the quarterback on every single play, no matter how it may seem (especially as a Seahawks fan, watching this miserable offensive line over the years).

The Seahawks, in the early days of this era, were lauded for zagging while the rest of the league zigged. We targeted tall, bruising players in the secondary before everyone else, essentially starting that trend by proving the tactic is viable. We opted to hand the offense to a short quarterback who runs a lot when the VAST majority of teams still thought they had to be 6’5 white statues in the Peyton Manning/Tom Brady mold. We’ve featured a punishing running game when the league was clearly going towards a pass-first model, and have won the second-most games in all of football, behind only the New England Patriots.

So, why are we automatically dismissive of the Seahawks zagging once again?

If the rest of football is moving towards a quick passing game to neutralize the pass rush aspect, then doesn’t it make sense to bolster your secondary, so you can get up on those receivers, and force the quarterback to hold onto the ball longer? Everyone talks about how difficult that is, and how much strain it puts on a coverage to follow those receivers around, but it also puts a lot of strain on an offensive line! I don’t care how great you are, it’s hard to block ANY defensive line for 5+ seconds per play!

And even if you discount the quick-passing game, the very best quarterbacks – those same guys you see year-in and year-out in the playoffs – are almost always able to get rid of the football and make plays in the face of even the very best stampeding pass rush. BUT, if you show those guys a mediocre defensive front, they might relax a bit more, and in trying to wait out a hole appearing in the secondary, and that’s when guys like Benson Mayowa and Bruce Irvin are able to shine. Because, they’ll get there eventually. They might not take over games like Clowney or Donald, but they’re not so incompetent that they’re totally worthless.

There’s no single blueprint to build a champion. Often, it’s the teams doing things a little differently who manage to make the leap, leading a very reactionary NFL to follow their example, instead of setting out on their own courses. Yes, it’s a copycat league, but those ALWAYS come with diminishing returns. Because, while everyone is trying to copy the hot, new trend, everyone ELSE is trying to figure out how to stifle that hot new trend! First it was offenses throwing more than rushing, which led to the meteoric rise in bolstering pass rush as a counter-measure. Then, offenses morphed into throwing quick, short passes, and getting the ball out to playmakers in space, hoping they make plays. I would argue the only natural counter to this method is to have VERY fast linebackers and VERY elite secondary players, to limit that open space as much as possible. This should lead to either the quarterback holding the ball longer than intended, or following through on their game plans, with those plays resulting in short gains or incompletions.

I’m ready to believe in this tactic. If it works, the Seahawks might once again be at the forefront of a new trend the rest of the league chooses to copy in 2021 and beyond.

Of course, if it doesn’t work, everyone will get to say, “I told you so,” and the Seahawks will be made to look the FOOLS! You know what? We’re all just trying to do our best with what we have, and I’m okay with that.

The Seahawks Made Some Interesting Cuts After Trading For Jamal Adams

We’re all looking for a little bit of meaning to this thing called life. What are we here for? What’s the point of it all?

As sports fans, we’re also looking for a little bit of meaning to certain roster moves our teams make. Over the weekend, the Seahawks traded for Jamal Adams. Not long after that, it was announced the Seahawks cut Branden Jackson and Joey Hunt, saving a combined just-over $4 million. There were other cuts made – teams have to trim rosters from 90 to 80 players, thanks to COVID-19 concessions due to less money coming in on the season – but the only real notable player among that group was guard Jordan Roos, who’s just a guy.

They’re all just guys, really. Jackson and Hunt were both on restricted free agent deals which are not guaranteed. They were also, at best, here to compete, but not very likely to earn starting jobs with this team. The Seahawks spent big money to bring in B.J. Finney to be this team’s center (money that IS largely guaranteed), so that ruled Hunt out. You don’t mind keeping a guy like Hunt around to get through training camp and pre-season, but with no pre-season, and with roster cuts needing to be made relatively soon, it no longer makes as much sense to string him along. As for Jackson, he’s never been anything but a back-of-the-roster depth piece. The Seahawks have invested in a lot of younger players – as well as a couple of key veterans in Bruce Irvin & Benson Mayowa – so they’re not going to devote significant snaps to someone with little upside and little actual talent.

Plus, this way, these guys get a chance to catch on with another team ahead of the start of the season (apparently, Jordan “Just A Guy” Roos has already been claimed by the Raiders).

I wrote those first three paragraphs two days ago in hopes that we’d have a little more clarity on this front, but all has been pretty quiet since then. The 2020 draft picks are all signed, which was a mere formality anyway. I had sort of hoped we’d hear something about David Moore – who’s also a restricted free agent playing on a similar tender as Hunt and Jackson – either related to a restructured deal or a cut for salary relief, but so far nothing.

Similarly, I had sort of hoped we’d hear about a free agent signing along the defensive line. I’ve given up the dream on Clowney – shit man, he might not sign ANYWHERE given how this free agency period has gone for him! – but I thought maybe another defensive tackle, at the very least! There is, of course, still plenty of time, as this week is being devoted to COVID-19 testing before the players are allowed to meet in person (three negative tests by this weekend for that to be a reality), but you don’t want to let things drag on too long, with so many solid names still available in free agency.

In more unpleasant news, Quinton Dunbar was placed on the Commissioner’s Exempt List, which means he is not allowed to join training camp, presumably until his outside legal issues have been worked out. I think this is the NFL’s way of saying he’s likely up shit’s creek with a turd paddle and that he’s going to be suspended eventually for his crimes (as if, you know, going to PRISON isn’t punishment enough).

So, HEY, Tre Flowers! No hard feelings, huh?! We always believed in you; you’re the BEST!

Why Can’t The Seahawks’ Pass Rush Be Improved Without Clowney?

I’ve been on here pretty regularly lamenting the state of the Seahawks’ pass rush as we head into the 2020 season. I’ve also been hoping that the Seahawks could find a way to bring Jadeveon Clowney back under the salary cap, at a reasonable number (either in a 1-year or preferably a multi-year deal) that accounts for the injury risk he’s pretty clearly proven to be throughout his career, dating to his college days.

Look, we all know he’s one of the most talented defensive linemen alive, of that there’s no debate. And while the number of missed games isn’t TOO alarming – particularly after his rookie season that was cut short to only four games – in his professional career he’s only made it through a full 16-game season one time. And, I would argue – based on the fact he’s never had a double-digit sack campaign – that his effectiveness is DRASTICALLY reduced when he’s forced to play through injuries. While it remains to be seen – and likely could never be proven – in general one would assume a player on his rookie deal is most likely to try to play through injuries (as opposed to someone on his second or third deal), to show his value and better earn that mega-second contract. You can damn me all you want for putting as much emphasis in the sack statistic – as opposed to more advanced metrics that show the overall value of a pass rusher’s productivity (QB hurries and hits and whatnot) – when you think of the game’s best pass rushers, you always think of guys with lots and lots of sacks. That’s just the way it is. So, if I’m granting you the fact that Clowney is one of the best defensive linemen in the game of football – and the mark of a great defensive lineman is how well he performs in passing situations (since, by and large, passing is the most effective way to move the ball down the field for opposing offenses) – then it would stand to reason that nagging injuries (that he has, for the most part, played through; credit where it’s due) have severely limited him. A mostly-healthy Clowney through his career would have – CONSERVATIVELY – at least twice as many career sacks as he has now (32 over six seasons).

Ergo, the injury risk is real, NFL teams believe this pretty much across the board, and any team that signs him to a multi-year deal is invariably going to have to account for this at one time or another through the duration of the guaranteed portion of his contract (if not moreso, because again – I would assume – guys on a second contract are probably not as likely to want to play through injury). If that were false, then he would’ve been signed by now, because as I said, he’s one of the best in the game today.

So, it doesn’t make sense – and really, it NEVER made sense – for the Seahawks to commit max money to keep him around. It would be NICE to have him around, but clearly that doesn’t appear to be our inevitability. Seahawks fans have come to understand this and are lamenting it accordingly. The rationale being: if we had one of the least-effective pass rushing units in the entire league in 2019 WITH Clowney, how much worse is it going to get WITHOUT him?

To which I ask: why does it have to be worse?

What we have to do is take a look at the whole pass rushing stew the Seahawks have to offer as compared to what we had in 2019. It’s idiotic to simply point to Bruce Irvin & Benson Mayowa vs. Clowney and call it a day. I don’t know if either of them are necessarily playing the same particular position that Clowney played, so it’s apples and oranges anyway.

Let’s start with Quinton Jefferson, who a laughably-large portion of Seahawks fans are listing as one of our key defectors. He was OKAY, but some fans talk about him like we just lost Michael Bennett in his prime or something! Quite frankly, he’s not a starting defensive end in this league, but he was playing a starter’s portion of snaps last year out of necessity. They’re criticizing the team for keeping Branden Jackson when BASICALLY they’re both the same player, only Jackson is significantly cheaper (he’s also not necessarily guaranteed a spot on this roster, so maybe calm down a little bit). I’m as down on L.J. Collier as anyone around these parts, but if he can stay healthy through Training Camp and the pre-season, I don’t see why he couldn’t give you everything we had from Jefferson this very minute; with, I might add, a considerable upside to be significantly better (and conditions don’t even have to be perfect for this to be true).

Next, let’s look at Mychal Kendricks, our former strong-side linebacker. He had a 2-sack game in Arizona in September last year and I think we all got a little too excited; he ended up with one more sack the rest of the way. Bruce Irvin is his direct replacement and I have to believe that’s an upgrade for a number of reasons. For starters, I don’t think the Seahawks will be in as much Base Defense as last year (again, out of necessity). Our nickel corner spot should be vastly improved, meaning we won’t need Irvin to play out in coverage nearly as much. I would expect him to be, effectively, a fifth pass rusher on a lot of downs (at least, a lot more than Kendricks ever was).

It’s unfair to consider Mayowa as Clowney’s de facto replacement – though their measurables match up fairly well, sizewise – as Clowney obviously does a lot more than the Seahawks would ask of Mayowa. They’re not going to ask Mayowa to play along the interior of the line, for instance, which Clowney was more than capable of doing at times. I would argue that less-is-more with Mayowa, so limiting him strictly to obvious pass rushing situations is likely to keep him fresh and more effective than he would be if he played every down like Clowney. As such, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Mayowa with more sacks in 2020 than Clowney (he had four more than Clowney in 2019, while playing in only two more games).

As a quick interlude, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the BIGGEST “addition by subraction” candidate, which would be Ziggy Ansah. Given our cap situation last year, the Seahawks had a lot of eggs in the Ansah basket on his 1-year prove-it deal, and all he managed to prove was that he’s finished as a viable NFL player. Giving his number of snaps to ANYONE who isn’t a corpse is bound to be a vast improvement, and indeed probably the single biggest upgrade on the entire roster from 2019 to 2020!

Moving inside, I will be VERY interested in what the defensive tackles bring to the table in 2020. One of the strangest contracts in recent memory is Jarran Reed’s 2-year, $23 million deal. The Seahawks appeared to get very little savings on a short-term basis (for a player who was suspended for six games in 2019 for a domestic violence charge), nor any savings under a longer-term contract (with it being only two years). Were the Seahawks swindled worse than when they dealt for Percy Harvin and gave him all that loot? Or is this a “crazy like a fox” situation? I’m probably focused on motivation more than I should be, but here we have a player heading into his age-27 season, who was drafted by the Seahawks and knows our scheme well, and who already has a double-digit sack season under his belt. You can argue there’s a risk of him landing in more hot water, but I doubt it (and, if he does get in trouble again, it’s not a prohibitive cost to cut him after 2020). I believe very strongly that him missing so many games last year set him back in a way that he’d never recover from. It’s essentially like having your pre-season taken away from you, then being thrown to the wolves mid-stream; that’ll hamper anyone, even a 4-year vet. At that point, either you believe his 2018 season was a fluke, or it’s more in line with who he is as a player. If the latter is true, then the Seahawks could be VERY happy the next two years. Getting back to motivation, he’ll be heading into his age-29 season as a free agent. If he kills it these next two years, then he’ll have set himself up for a mega-deal, so he has every reason to try his very best.

In keeping with our defensive tackles, Poona Ford is heading into his third year as a pro. You might poo-poo him as a pass-rushing threat, with just half a sack to his name; but Jarran Reed was a MUCH higher-rated lineman coming out of college, and he only had three combined sacks in his first two years before blowing up (and he played MANY more snaps in his first two seasons by comparison). Could we see a similar spike from Poona? Maybe not double digits, but in the 5-6 sack range? And, speaking of third-year pros, we haven’t even mentioned the Seahawks’ sack-leader in 2019, Rasheem Green. I know four sacks is nothing to write home about, but Green is also only 23 years old. If ANYONE is poised to make a big jump, it’s Green. I would argue this season largely hinges on him and Collier, but mostly Green. Figure he’ll play a lot of defensive end in base, then slide inside to rush the passer on third downs; I, for one, am excited to see what he can do, and if he can put it all together. He won’t be what Clowney can be at full health, but even if he’s 75% Clowney, that’s still better than most of what we had going for us last year!

Then, that brings us to our two wild cards: rookie Darrell Taylor, and likely bubble candidate Shaquem Griffin. We traded up (at a hefty cost, I might add) to select Taylor in the second round, which means he figures to get a considerable look at earning some playing time as a rookie. I’ll never put much confidence in a rookie, but it’s okay to hope a LITTLE bit. The Seahawks seem to know what they’re doing when they go to the trouble of trading up in the draft to get someone. My (safe) hunch is, Taylor will be a better pro in future seasons, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility for him to bring something worthwhile to the table as a rookie. As for Griffin, he had his first career sack as a pro in the playoffs against Green Bay in the fourth quarter (that very nearly helped us come back and win that game). It took us a while, but we finally got him in on some sub-packages late in 2019, and he figures to have a similar role as we head into 2020. If he balls out in the pre-season and earns a job on the roster, I think it’s safe to assume he’ll be moderately effective in his third year as a pro. Every little bit helps!

And this doesn’t even get into the likelihood that the Seahawks will go out and sign another free agent or two. None of them will be Clowney, but taken as a whole, I don’t see why this pass rushing unit can’t improve over 2019! For starters, that seems like a low bar to clear. Secondly, it won’t be on any one man’s shoulders. That means a lot of guys will have to step up – to either have career years, or perpetuate their recent career years – but I think that’s a healthier way to go about it, over trying to find some savior to come in and grace your team with his dominance.

The real question is: can this pass-rushing unit be even middle-of-the-road? It’s one thing to go from 29th in the league to 25th; but can the Seahawks get into the teens? That might make all the difference in the world! With a solid linebacking unit, and what appears to be a vastly improved secondary, that could be the difference between the Seahawks eking in as a Wild Card team vs. winning the NFC West or – lord help us – snatching the NFC’s #1 seed.

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

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

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

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

2010-2012: The Good Years

2010

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

2011

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

2012

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

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

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

2013-2016: The Bad Years

2013

  • Luke Willson (TE)

2014

  • Justin Britt (C)

2015

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

2016

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

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

2017-2019: The We’ll See Years

2017

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

2018

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

2019

  • D.K. Metcalf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making Heads Or Tails Of The Latest Seahawks Media Blitz

General Manager John Schneider has been in the news a lot lately, doing interviews and whatnot. Over the years, it’s hard not to have your ears perk up whenever this happens. It’s obviously not a super-busy time in the football year; once the hullabaloo around the draft is over, things are pretty dead until ramping back up again in August. So, what’s with all the chatter?

The sports media landscape is a lot different nowadays. Players and teams are much more savvy with what they let get out into the world (for the most part). If there’s a news item about a player, it’s generally some bit of information that’s been leaked to a trusted reporter – who is always loathe to reveal his “sources” because he wants to maintain that connect for future stories – for a very specific reason. Depending on the tenor of the story, you can tell if it was the player’s camp or a team camp that leaked it. This is usually done in conjunction with negotiations – the team doesn’t want to pay as much, the player wants to squeeze every last dollar out of his value – so little items are thrown out into the world. It’s the cosmic ballet that is professional sports and … it’s really just a distraction, but ultimately not very important.

It’s all about image. No one wants to be the bad guy in this song and dance. It’s all just business; nothing personal!

You can’t help but start to take notice, though, when instead of leaking messages as an anonymous source, the team sends a prominent representative out into the world to show their hand. Teams don’t have to do any more media appearances than is otherwise necessary to drum up interest in fans and sell season tickets. So, that’s why you tend to see the coach and/or GM in the good times: during/immediately after the draft, and upon signing a quality free agent. These are advertisements – infomercials, if you will – for the Seattle Seahawks Football Club: Catch The Excitement! As draft hysteria has drifted back out to sea, however, we’re still seeing John Schneider pop up to talk about the Seahawks’ offseason plan. With good reason, of course.

There are two universal truths we’ve been harping on since the 2019 season ended: the Seahawks’ pass rush stinks, and Jadeveon Clowney is a free agent. After making a number of moves – signing Bruce Irvin and Benson Mayowa, re-signing Jarran Reed, drafting Darrell Taylor and Alton Robinson – the consensus is: the Seahawks’ pass rush still stinks. Again, I can’t stress this enough: it stunk as bad as could possibly be in 2019 and that was WITH Clowney, one of the most effective defensive linemen in the league (when healthy). As it turns out, that health factor is a lot bigger than we anticipated, as Clowney remains unsigned well into the month of May, with no end in sight.

What has caught a lot of eyes is the fact that the Seahawks – according to Over The Cap – have a little over $16 million in salary cap space at the moment. Of course, it should be noted that this figure doesn’t factor in the rookie salaries we’ll have to pay for our draft picks. Then, you have to set aside some money for minimum-salary guys the team brings in when our regulars get hurt and have to go on Injured Reserve. Also, the Seahawks put a lot of incentives into their deals with players that don’t necessarily show up in cap totals until those players hit those incentives. All these hidden figures ultimately detract from that $16 million. Smart fans know this, but most fans aren’t as into the weeds on these things; so they see a player like Clowney – easily the best-available free agent still on the market – and they see their Seahawks with a need at the very position he fills, and they’re wondering, “What gives?”

I mean, if nothing else, you have to figure that’s what Clowney’s agent is saying in negotiations with the Seahawks!

Beat writers and bloggers can bring up these hidden salary cap expenses until they’re blue in the face, but most fans are only going to sit up and take notice when the team tells them something directly. Enter: John Schneider.

There’s been a definite theme in his recent interviews that Schneider has been trying to get across: the importance of in-season moves.

The Seahawks are no stranger to making roster moves all throughout the year. Why, in 2019 alone, we made a deal for Quandre Diggs in the middle of the season that vastly improved our secondary; on top of taking a flier on Josh Gordon, who had at least one big catch in every game he appeared in. Then, with our rash of running back injuries late in the year, we famously brought back Marshawn Lynch to score us a few TDs in December and January! If I wanted to put in the work, I’m sure I could go back and list a bunch of other in-season moves the Seahawks have made through the years, but just trust me when I tell you that this isn’t a new concept for this organization.

And yet, this is the first time I ever remember the team harping on this fact in interviews. It’s obviously for a reason!

The way I see it, this has everything to do with Clowney, and it can be only one of two things. Either the team truly has moved on from Clowney, and the Seahawks are trying to get fans on board with this decision; or the team actually IS willing to bring Clowney back, but they’re going to remain firm in their lowball offer to him, and he either needs to get on board with it or find employment elsewhere.

This has to be hard for fans AND Clowney to reconcile, because as has been noted repeatedly, the Seahawks have a number of moves they can make to free up some extra money. They can cut certain veterans to free up salary cap space; but, this weakens our depth and probably robs Peter to pay Paul. Sure, our defensive line will be stronger with Clowney, but if that means cutting Bradley McDougald, that likely weakens our secondary and could be a wash in the grand scheme of 2020 things. They can also convert base salaries for guys like Russell Wilson or Bobby Wagner – guys you know aren’t going anywhere – into signing bonuses, to further spread out those figures across the remaining lives of their respective contracts; but, that kicks the can down the road and puts your team’s financial flexibility in jeopardy in a few years. Under normal circumstances, you could argue that’s a no-brainer – especially with Russell Wilson, who isn’t going ANYWHERE, hopefully ever – but with this whole COVID-19 pandemic (and the likelihood of games being played without money from ticket sales/concessions coming in for part or all of 2020), the effects on future salary caps could be dire. The NFL salary cap has gone up by around 10% or so every season since the last CBA went into effect in 2010, but there’s a very legitimate chance that it stays flat or even goes DOWN in the next year or two. Considering Wilson – as is – takes up a considerable percentage of the team’s cap number, boosting that by converting his base into bonus just seems like flirting with disaster.

The thing is, I do believe the Seahawks are being truthful when they talk about the importance of in-season moves. There are always guys being waived, or otherwise floated in trade offers, and it’s nice to have that flexibility to bring on talented players (or at least prevent those talented players from going to your playoff rivals). I also believe that the Seahawks can’t put all their eggs in the Clowney basket. However small it may feel, there’s a non-zero chance that the Seahawks’ pass rush actually manages to IMPROVE (somehow) without him here. It’s going to take a big leap of faith; guys who have never performed at this level are going to have to step up and take some of the load off of mediocre-looking veterans. It’s not IMPOSSIBLE … but, you know, I’ll believe it when I see it, I guess.

The bottom line is: probably don’t count on Clowney being back. Nevertheless, I’d love to see the Seahawks bring SOMEONE in, that’s an actual name who we can count on to give this pass rush a little more zazz.

So, What’s The Seahawks’ Plan With K.J. Wright?

It’s funny, if this was a Green Bay Packers blog, I’d probably be on Day Eight of going on and on about the new reality for the Green & Gold, my mind utterly blown at how the franchise could be so callous about their Hall Of Fame, Still-Not-Quite-Outside-Of-His-Prime quarterback (who MIGHT be the most elite player in a franchise history chock full of elite players). But, this is a Seattle sports blog, so I’m obsessed about *checks notes* linebackers?

Someone get my agent on the phone! This is unbelievable …

Apparently Sports Radio 950 KJR just destroyed it with their interview of John Schneider yesterday, so I had to go online and listen to the whole thing. MAN there were a lot of good nuggets in there!

He talked about how Damien Lewis looks like a starting right guard in this league (presumably right away), which is what we figured (especially with Fluker being cut, and subsequently snapped up by Baltimore, which will be a perfect situation for him). He talked about how they “gave it a run” with signing Clowney, but they “gotta keep going”. That’s interesting, a lot of past-tense talk there, even though he wouldn’t rule anything out. That makes sense! Clowney might not be in a hurry, but you can’t wait for him to make up his mind (unless you want to match his asking price, which – given the market for him – would be crazy).

Schneider went into detail on the running back room. Penny – as expected – probably won’t be ready for the start of the regular season, given the serious nature of his injury and the fact that it happened so late in the year last year. He looks to be on track to return under a normal timetable, but that timetable would almost certainly take us into the middle of the regular season (assuming we HAVE a regular season and all that). DeeJay Dallas comes in – per Schneider – as maybe the best blocking running back in the draft. I love it when the Seahawks get guys who are the “best” at something. Will Dissly was the best blocking tight end coming out of his draft, and he turned out to be phenomenal at catching the ball too! When guys are elite at one specific thing, you can teach the other stuff and hopefully incorporate them into your team that much quicker. Running back blocking is probably the least-sexy aspect about them in the grand scheme of things, but how many guys have we heard about not getting any playing time because they’re a liability in that regard? Let’s face facts, Dallas won’t be this team’s #1 running back as a rookie, which means he’ll only see the field when he’s spelling Carson (who, Schneider said in the interview, is expected to be ready for Week 1, coming off of his own injury). That’s usually a 3rd down (i.e. passing) situation, which means if Dallas is going to play, he’s going to have to be trusted to keep Russell Wilson upright. Coming in as the best blocking running back in the draft gives him a GREAT opportunity to play as a rookie (on top of all his Special Teams attributes, which Schneider deems to be … pretty special! He returns punts and kickoffs, and I’m sure he does everything else well in tackling and all that).

It was interesting to hear that the Miami Hurricanes are known for an elite Special Teams-centric group of coaches. Dallas wasn’t the first Hurricane we selected (Travis Homer), and it sounds like he might not be the last, if we’re in need of help in that area.

The biggest news of the interview, obviously, was word that K.J. Wright had shoulder surgery, and that he might not be ready to start Week 1. It’s weird, because Schneider said it wasn’t a “serious” surgery, but if that’s true, why wouldn’t he be ready?

In conjunction with that, Schneider couldn’t have been more glowing about Jordyn Brooks, which is exciting to me. He said Brooks (along with a couple of the other linebackers drafted in that area of the first round) was a “culture changer”. I guess you’d have to be pretty high on a guy to take a linebacker in the first round (considering how they’ve been devalued along with running backs in recent years), so this is starting to feel more like a slam dunk than maybe I expected initially.

There’s now talk about Brooks taking over for K.J. Wright immediately in his weak-side linebacker spot next to Bobby Wagner. I think that’s FANTASTIC! I was dreading this being another wasted draft pick; yet another slow-developing guy who won’t make an impact until MAYBE the final year of his rookie deal. To maximize your draft picks, you need to squeeze as much value out of them while they’re still cheap; that’s how you win a Super Bowl with Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner in their second seasons, because you can afford to stock the team with high-quality veterans like Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, and such! Well, now we have those high-quality veterans on mega-contracts in Wilson & Wagner, so the team NEEDS to fill in around them the opposite way: with draft picks making minimal dollars who are able to start/play immediately.

That leaves a lot of questions about K.J. Wright’s status, which I find grows more fascinating by the day. When did he have this surgery? Obviously, they knew about it before the draft, which makes the Brooks pick all the more reasonable (SAM linebacker is the least-important spot on this defense, while WILL is pretty high up there, as he’s on the field generally for most-every snap). But, did he have the surgery before he was due that $1 million roster bonus back in March? Did the team know that he needed it when they opted to keep him around? If THAT’S the case, then it seems all but guaranteed that Wright will be here this year.

If that’s the case, and they’re talking about Brooks taking over for him, then Wright is here for two reasons: to help the team in its transition from one future Ring of Honor player (in Wright) to hopefully another (in Brooks). It has to suck to train your replacement – regardless of what job you have – but Wright must be a pretty cool, secure dude to take this on (of course, the extra million bucks probably doesn’t hurt his ego very much; it shows the team respects him and what he’s given of himself, if nothing else). The other reason to keep Wright around feels a little more suspect to me: Schneider mentioned moving Wright to strong-side linebacker (which, as I JUST said, is the least-important spot on this defense). It’s also – not for nothing – the spot that Bruce Irvin was apparently brought in here to play (when he doesn’t have his hand on the ground as a speed-rusher on the defensive line). How is THAT going to look?

Irvin playing defensive end is likely going to be what happens on most third downs/passing situations. In those situations, you generally don’t have a SAM linebacker on the field, because you want a more speedy nickel corner out there to account for the extra receivers running routes (unless you’re the infuriating 2019 Seahawks defense, who didn’t have a reliable-enough nickel corner, to all of our collective chagrin). So, either we’re swapping Irvin and Wright seemingly on a whim from play to play, or Irvin is going to be playing more defensive end than we expected, or Wright is going to mostly be relegated to backup status, or Wright’s surgery was more serious than Schneider is letting on (and he’ll start the season on the PUP list wth Penny) …

OR, the team is going to cut Wright at some point, regardless of the fact that they gave him that $1 million roster bonus back in March.

So, what’s the plan? No fucking idea. YOU DIDN’T COME HERE FOR ANSWERS, DID YOU?! This shit’s rhetorical, yo! Do I work for the Seahawks? No, I do not (there, there’s an answer for you). I can’t tell you what’s going through their minds.

Couple of final nuggets from Schneider:

He got a little fired up about L.J. Collier when he was talking about how we really haven’t seen much of him yet (seeming to indicate: just WAIT until he gets his opportunity to shine). Boy do I hope he’s right on! I would love nothing more than to be wrong about that guy!

The other thing Schneider mentioned was keeping some cash free to sign players who get cut by other teams. We might be in a position to snap up a quality defensive lineman late in the offseason/pre-season. That’s great news, because there’s ALWAYS a player or two who still have a lot left in the tank, but get cut for money reasons, or because they want to give a younger guy a break.

That being said, I’d still love to see an Everson Griffin signing at some point. You know, if Clowney really is a past-tense player for this team.

Where Will L.J. Collier Rank Among All-Time Seahawks First Round Draft Busts?

If this sounds like I’m giving up on L.J. Collier … I kind of am.

The Seahawks, as you well know, don’t tend to pick in the first round of drafts very often under Pete Carroll and John Schneider. Since 2010, they’ve made exactly seven first round picks in six NFL drafts, and after that first year, it’s a real Who’s Who of Utter Crap.

That’s not totally fair, but I’d say “underwhelming” is the general theme once you go past Russell Okung and Earl Thomas:

  • 2011 – James Carpenter (OL)
  • 2012 – Bruce Irvin (LB/DE)
  • 2016 – Germain Ifedi (OL)
  • 2018 – Rashaad Penny (RB)
  • 2019 – L.J. Collier (DE)

Woof. Bruce Irvin is clearly the best of THAT pitiful bunch, but even he hasn’t lived up to what you might expect from a pass rusher taken with the 15th overall pick.

There aren’t enough bad things to say about everyone else. James Carpenter was supposed to be a right tackle, but he struggled, had to move inside to guard, still struggled (though not as much), and ended up leaving after his rookie deal expired. Germain Ifedi was ALSO supposed to be a right tackle, but he too struggled, moved inside briefly before returning to tackle, and made moderate improvement (but, based on his overall body of work, it has since been determined that not only is he not worth a high-money contract, but he’s also not good enough to remain on the outside of the line) before leaving after his rookie deal expired. And, just the fact that the Seahawks took a running back AT ALL in the first round is enough for most fans to write off Rashaad Penny, though I would argue he has looked pretty good when healthy and in shape.

But, there’s no legitimate defense whatsoever for Collier. There are EXCUSES, sure. He sprained his ankle as a rookie and missed all of Training Camp last year. That set him back for the entire season, as he never fully got acclimated to the defense. Pro Football Reference has him at 152 snaps on the season; by comparison, Bobby Wagner led the entire defense with 1,054 snaps, and Jadeveon Clowney led the D-Line with 605 (and he missed three games).

I don’t care that Collier was such a low first round pick, he’s a first rounder and it’s inexcusable that he either wasn’t prepared enough or just plain wasn’t good enough to see the field more. This is on a defense, mind you, that was as bad as it gets in its pass rush. The sack leader on the 2019 Seahawks was Rasheem Green with 4.0. I mean, I don’t know what more to tell you; Collier was a first rounder and he couldn’t crack THAT rotation?! What a joke!

A lot of people want to write off his rookie campaign and believe he’ll be better in 2020. Well, he’d almost HAVE to be, right? How could you be any worse than that? Collier had three tackles and that’s it; that’s the entirety of his stat line. But, I can’t say I have any reasonable expectations of improvement. If you’re effectively healthy for the majority of the regular season – even as a rookie, even if you missed all of Training Camp – as a first round draft pick, there should be enough God-given ability for you to do LITERALLY ANYTHING.

Any hopes that Collier is going to be a future Pro Bowler or even a quality starter should probably be thrown out the window at this point. Obviously, I hope I’m wrong here, but I don’t think I am. The only reason this came to mind at all is because of what’s going on with this coronavirus ordeal. Collier’s struggles last year are largely attributed to his missing Training Camp; you know what he’s likely to also miss in 2020? Training Camp! EVERYONE is likely to miss Training Camp because we probably won’t be in any sort of condition as a country to allow for Training Camp, or any other large gatherings of people. Call it bad luck all you want – indeed, it’s quite unfortunate – but that doesn’t change the fact that Collier is likely to head into Season Two just as behind the 8-ball as he was in Season One.

So, in case you think I haven’t laid out a good-enough case for why Collier has really legitimate potential to be the worst first round draft pick of the Carroll/Schneider era, let me summarize:

  • Russell Okung – Great
  • Earl Thomas – Hall of Famer
  • James Carpenter – Competent Guard, mostly with the Jets
  • Bruce Irvin – Good
  • Germain Ifedi – Semi-Competent Tackle
  • Rashaad Penny – Okay
  • L.J. Collier – Probably Terrible

With that out of the way, how does my vision for Collier potentially rank among the all-time Seahawks first round draft busts? I won’t go through every single guy, but let’s talk about the worst of the worst (that I have at least limited knowledge about).

Aaron Curry and Lawrence Jackson always come immediately to mind when Seahawks fans talk about first round busts, but I would argue both of those guys are at least more competent than you remember. Lo-Jack had 19.5 sacks in his career! Is there any indication whatsoever that Collier could reach that level? Curry’s main problem is that he was – for some reason – taken with the fourth overall pick, so high expectations really tarnish his reputation in this scenario.

I’ll gloss over a lot of players before those guys, until we get to Chris McIntosh and Lamar King. King was famously Mike Holmgren’s first-ever pick as General Manager of the Seahawks when he came over from Green Bay. He was killed then, and continues to be killed now for taking King, but … 12.0 sacks in 57 games. Obviously not great, or even good, but not the absolute worst either. McIntosh, on the other hand, might give Collier a run for his money. He was taken 22nd overall and only played in 24 games across two seasons on the O-line before flaming out of the league.

Dan McGwire will always be on my shit list – through no fault of his own, really – for being the guy we selected ahead of Brett Favre in 1991. First-ever Seahawks draft pick – Steve Niehaus – also deserves recognition, for only making it into 39 games in his 4-year career (thee with the Seahawks) and accumulating exactly zero sacks (hard to say if they were counting that stat back then, but clearly he didn’t make much of an impact as the second-overall selection in 1976).

And, if you want to count Supplemental Draft first rounders, you’ve gotta throw The Boz in there, as well as someone named Gordon Hudson (who was a tight end taken in 1984, who only played one season, in 1986, but at least he caught 13 balls for 131 yards and a TD).

I’m throwing Collier into the Top 3 Worst Seahawks First Round Draft Picks with Dan McGwire and Chris McIntosh. Obviously, we’re only one season in, so he can EASILY get his name off of this list with just a minimal amount of production. But, you know what? Consider the challenge thrown down! Let’s turn this career around!

The Seahawks Signed Benson Mayowa

We can’t wait around forever for Clowney to make up his G.D. mind! The Seahawks have places to go, people to see, and motherfuckin’ ASSES to kick!

You know, assuming we’re ever allowed to kick asses again (thanks Obama corona).

Benson Mayowa was signed to a 1-year, $3 million deal (with incentives possibly taking it up another mil). You might remember him as the last man on the defensive line depth chart in 2013, when he played in just 2 games and generated all of 2 tackles. He’s bounced around from Oakland to Dallas to Arizona and back to Oakland again in his career, playing mostly part-time roles in pass rushing situations.

He’s not, what you would call, a particularly sexy signing (you get what you pay for, of course), but HONESTLY? I mean, he had 7.0 sacks last year in 302 total snaps for the Raiders; by comparison, Bruce Irvin had 8.5 sacks in 608 total snaps. So, you know, do the math (please do the math, I was an English major; my brain isn’t equipped to handle such complex equations).

This is a depth piece.

We hope.

PLEASE GOD LET THIS BE A DEPTH PIECE AS OPPOSED TO THE WHOLE FUCKING ENCHILADA!

No, it’s fine. We’re all fine. He’ll be good.

Real talk though, as it stands, our starting four (if the season started this morning) would be Irvin, Jarran Reed, Poona Ford, and Mayowa. If that sounds UNDERWHELMING AF, then I warn you: don’t look at the depth chart behind those guys.

Are you ready? Don’t say I didn’t warn you:

  • Rasheem Green (5 sacks in 2 years)
  • Branden Jackson (3.5 sacks in 4 years)
  • L.J. Collier (0.0 sacks in 1 year)
  • Bryan Mone (0.0 sacks in 1 year)

I dunno, there might be more under futures contracts or whatever, but you get the idea.

I read in the Seattle Times this morning that there are reports the Seahawks are offering somewhere in the $13-$15 million per year range to Clowney, who has since lowered his asking price (from over $20 million per year) to the $17-$18 million range. He previously stated that he wanted to play for a contender, but it looks like only the shitbird teams are interested in paying him what he’s looking for.

I like that the Seahawks are sticking to their guns here. He’s got an injury history, and while he can certainly be disruptive – even world-wrecking at times – he just doesn’t have the sack numbers to make it enticing for teams to want to re-set the defensive end market with him. He’s not Khalil Mack. He’s not Von Miller. He’s not Aaron Donald. He’s GOOD, don’t get me wrong; he would easily be the best defensive lineman on the Seahawks by a million miles! But, there is simply too much risk in guaranteeing him an insane amount of money, when I’ve kinda sorta been saying all along that I think we can get similar production from a collection of 2-3 mid-tier guys for the same amount of money.

And, that’s the whole point of the Mayowa signing. It’s in Clowney’s best interests to wait out this market – wait out this virus – and hopefully show out for interested teams in a tryout of sorts. But, that is in direct conflict with the Seahawks’ needs. We can’t wait for him to ultimately settle for whatever deal comes in at the last minute; we need to fill in this roster around him. Waiting for him to maximize his value will only serve in the rest of the league taking all of the other next-best options off the table.

At this point, I say just get Everson Griffen signed, maybe another mid-tier guy, and call it a day until the draft. If Clowney wants to play ball for a winner, he knows where to find us.