The Seahawks Can’t Stop Winning & Getting Injured

The Seahawks won 38-31 and it pretty much went how I thought it would. In retrospect, I should have looked at the over/under for total points in this one, because the over was a MORTAL lock; the Taylor Family Farm never would’ve been more secure had I jumped on that one when I had a chance!

I was even right about the turnovers being key! Once again, had the Seahawks played a clean game in this respect, we might’ve won by double digits. But, with the defense being as bad as it is – on top of now being as banged up as it is – it’s fair to ask if the Seahawks would’ve won this game at all had they not gotten the two picks and one fumble from Dak Prescott.

I don’t have the energy to go through the entire game beat by beat, so let’s start where we’re supposed to start: Russell Wilson. 315 yards on 27/40 passing. Not his most crisp game of the season, but it’s tough to beat the really sparkling efforts leading up to this one. The only number that matters is his 5 touchdown passes (and 0 picks), which puts him at 14 touchdowns in the first three games, which is a new NFL record. I mean, obviously he’s playing better than he ever has before. But, now we have to seriously talk about him playing not only among the all-time greats, but among the PEAKS of the all-time greats. Is he, right now, at this moment, the greatest quarterback who ever lived? If you could pick any quarterback at any time in history and start them for one game, would you not at least have to think about rolling with Russell Wilson? Given how much of the offense he’s accounting for, on top of the fact that the defense is giving up yards and points on just as high of a rampaging pace? I mean, if Wilson leads the Seahawks to the top of the NFC this season, we’re not just talking about the NFL’s MVP award, but we’re talking about maybe the MOST valuable player the NFL has ever seen! It’s in play, is all I’m saying.

I want to get back to the turnovers here, because this game was all over the place. The Seahawks took a 7-3 lead on a 43-yard touchdown to Tyler Lockett (who was WIDE open all day, but particularly on this play, where it seemed like there wasn’t anyone within 20 yards of him; he finished the game with 9 catches for 100 yards and 3 touchdowns), then kicked off to the Dallas goalline. The return man muffed it at the 1-yard line, didn’t know what he should do for a second (if he could bring it back into the endzone for a touchback or not), and ultimately had to fall on it at the 1-yard line, which immediately led to a safety and a 9-3 lead for the Seahawks. I’m counting that as a turnover in the Seahawks’ favor, which – along with Dallas missing two extra points – dictated a lot of the scoring actions for the rest of the game.

Dallas ended up tying it at 9-9 not long after that (thanks to one of those missed PATs), which led to one of the craziest plays I’ve seen in a while. Russell Wilson threw a deep ball to D.K. Metcalf that ultimately went for 62 yards, almost all of which was air yardage. He threw that ball like most guys punt: high and arcing and with a hangtime unlike any pass I’ve ever seen before! Like Lockett earlier, Metcalf had a good ten yards or so on the nearest defender, but it was made up for due to the length of time the ball was in the air. D.K. came down with it easily, but proceeded to saunter towards the endzone, with the football being held in his right hand near his waist like he was carrying a suitcase or something. So, of course, you know what happened next: as he got to the 1-yard line, the defender came up and punched the ball out, into and through the endzone, for a fumble/touchback for the Cowboys. That play loomed pretty large and looked like it might define the day for D.K.

After trading some punts, the Seahawks finally went up 16-9, before the Cowboys returned the favor (sans extra point) to make it 16-15. A clock-churning Seahawks drive that ultimately led to a punt gave Dallas the ball back with just over a minute left, and you had to wonder if they weren’t going to take a lead before halftime. Instead, a great play by Shaquill Griffin led to an interception deep in Dallas territory! It was one of the few great plays by Griffin all season, who has been among the worst cornerbacks in the NFL through three games (coming off a Pro Bowl season, and heading into free agency in 2021, not a great sign for a guy who might’ve been on the hunt for a max-salary contract). Thanks to a pass interference penalty in the endzone, the Seahawks were able to convert that drive into a touchdown, for a 23-15 lead going into halftime. BIG swing in a game that finished within a single score!

Almost just as big was the sack/fumble on Dallas’ opening drive of the second half, which led to the Seahawks going up 30-15! The game felt out of reach by that point, but of course, never rule out this Seahawks defense. To be fair, the Seahawks’ offense also went pretty cold in the second half, with three consecutive drives ending in punts. Two TD’s and a field goal gave Dallas a 31-30 lead late in the fourth quarter, before Seattle mounted a game-sealing drive, culminating with a 29-yard touchdown to D.K. Metcalf (he ended up leading the Seahawks in receiving yards with 110 on 4 receptions), who went from potential goat to G.O.A.T. The lowkey play of the game, however, might’ve been the 2-point conversion to Jacob Hollister to give the game its final score. One more turnover by Dallas would seal the deal though, as Dak threw a de facto hail mary ball from the Seahawks’ 26-yard line that was intercepted.

Given how good Dallas is offensively, and the fact that we’re now 3-0 and leading in our division, I don’t really care how the result came about, as long as we won. But, that doesn’t mean there isn’t cause for concern.

The defense, in particular, suffered a rash of injuries the consequences of which we’re still trying to suss out. Jamal Adams was, of course, the biggest, with a groin injury that took him out for much of the second half. It’s hard not to feel that was a big reason why Dallas was able to come back the way it did. On top of which, Quinton Dunbar didn’t suit up in this one, with a knee injury that flared up before the game; we’ll see how long that hampers him. With the loss of Marquise Blair last week, that left us mighty thin in the secondary, and it showed. Shaquill Griffin, as I mentioned, got beat up pretty good in this one. Tre Flowers looked marginally better on the other side of the field – returning to the starting role he’d held the previous two seasons – but he still got beat on a fair number of demoralizing deep balls to remind everyone why he lost his starting job in the first place. Honestly, Ugo Amadi – the forgotten man in the nickel cornerback rotation – was the best defensive back we had on the field once Adams went down! He was all over the place, finishing with 2 passes defended officially, but I don’t remember him being challenged all that often either.

Lano Hill also didn’t suit up in this one, with a new injury this week. Then, linebacker Jordyn Brooks – making his first NFL start – left the game as well. I didn’t get a chance to see what he was up to, but we finished the game with Shaquem Griffin seeing his first action of the season, and making a number of impact plays in very limited time. If he isn’t officially on this team’s 53-man roster this week, then I don’t know what they’re seeing, because he looks good to me!

Injuries weren’t exclusive to the defense, though, as the three interior linemen for the Seahawks all got dinged pretty good. Damien Lewis is the big scare, with an ankle injury that prevented him from returning. Mike Iupati missed a few plays as well, and it sounded like Ethan Pocic was thought to miss some time as well, but I don’t know if that ended up coming to fruition or not. Then, there was Chris Carson, who had his knee twisted while being tackled on what looked like a VERY dirty play. The guy clearly had Carson on the ground, but he kept rolling over and twisting that leg until Carson succumbed. If that guy isn’t at least fined, that’s a fucking travesty, because that was beyond unnecessary.

On top of Ugo Amadi looking good on defense, Alton Robinson – our rookie fifth rounder – made his first NFL appearance and got a sack! He’s mostly filling in as a pass rusher for the injured Bruce Irvin, but he looks like the real deal a little bit! Small sample size, obviously, but considering I never expect anything out of rookie defensive ends, I’ll take it!

In general, the injury issues for this team are VERY concerning. We’re pretty deep in a lot of positions – secondary and offensive line, particularly – so it’s not time to panic just yet. But, obviously, you never like to see your starters go down for any length of time. It doesn’t sound like Carson’s injury is too bad, and I wouldn’t think Adams will be out for too long, but we talk about Injury Luck every year when we talk about the teams that end up in the Super Bowl. Clearly, the Seahawks – as long as we have Russell Wilson – should be talked about in those terms, but if we can’t keep everyone else on the field, it won’t matter how great Wilson is.

Two more games, then a Week 6 BYE, which honestly couldn’t come at a more opportune time given the injury bug. We just gotta get to 5-0 in the meantime, which shouldn’t be too difficult given our opponents.

Can The Seahawks Maintain Their Hot Start?

This Seahawks team sure looks more special than I expected. I feel like we’re one more win away from a guaranteed 5-0 start; we just have to get over this Dallas Cowboys hurdle.

While the Seahawks appear special, that’s not the same thing as them being dominant. The defense is still just as much of a liability as it’s been the last couple seasons, worsened by the season-ending injuries to Marquise Blair and Bruce Irvin. The Irvin injury feels like a real crusher. He obviously hasn’t had a ton of sacks or anything through the first two games, but he provided plenty of value along that defensive line in many ways, from run stuffing, to at least getting pressure on the quarterback from time to time. You just knew he was going to have some real blow-up games at some point, coming up big in key moments, so it’s almost a tragedy to see him go.

By comparison, the Blair injury doesn’t seem as bad because we have lots of guys behind him who are able to step up. But, we’ll never know! How could we? Maybe Blair has All Pro-level talent, and that’s been taken from us. The Alternate Universe Seahawks are probably enjoying all that he has to offer, but I don’t live in that universe, so nuts to that!

I just don’t see a lot of great options – either on this team, or in the free agent market – to replace someone like Irvin. It’s going to be a severe downgrade any way you slice it. Maybe one of the young linebackers currently on the team can provide better speed at that SAM spot, but you probably lose some of the power and definitely lose the pass rushing ability (on a team that, obviously, struggles at that aspect as it is).

On the plus side, maybe this is an opportunity for Shaquem Griffin to make an impact! I hope so; I think he has just what this team needs.

Anyway, getting back, yeah, this defense IS a liability. But, we’ve seen shaky defenses propped up by elite offenses before, and this offense is 100% elite right now! It’s right up there with Kansas City and Baltimore (though, obviously they have an edge with superior defenses). We’ve also seen shaky defenses get better as seasons progress. As the weather cools and passing games cool right along with it, it becomes more important to stop the run as we get into December and January, which is when this team could really come together.

The Seahawks have also been challenged by some pretty strong offenses through two weeks; Atlanta’s passing game looks as good as anyone’s, and New England will continue to play well as long as Cam is healthy and Belichick is breathing. Dallas, this week, is a continuation of that: Top 5 passer, lots of weapons to throw to, and probably the best running back still healthy at the moment. As far as our non-divisional schedule is concerned, this is our most difficult remaining game outside of the Buffalo contest in early November. So, when I say if we can get through this one with a W, 5-0 is VERY much on the table, as we go to Miami the following week, before hosting the hapless Vikings after that (in primetime, no less).

It’s hard to figure out where the Cowboys are as a team. I think it’s pretty clear they’re the best team in the NFC East right now, but is that saying much? All the other teams in that division are bumbling along pretty pitifully. Is this a situation where Dallas might win a playoff spot with an 8-8 record? I feel like they’re a play here or a play there from either being 0-2 or 2-0. They almost came back to beat the Rams in Week 1 (a bogus OPI penalty on Michael Gallup was particularly galling). But, at the same time, they really SHOULD have lost to the Falcons last week (if anyone on Atlanta’s Special Teams was smart enough to fall on a spinning football during an onside kick before it went the necessary 10 yards for the kicking team to recover), so it’s tough to say how good or bad Dallas is. I believe the Rams are a top tier football team, and while Atlanta probably isn’t so great, their offense is explosive enough to give any defense fits.

Based on what I’ve seen, I know enough to be wary of these Cowboys. Given how balanced and talented they are on offense, they should have no trouble moving the football (made even easier, obviously, by the lack of fans in the stands) against our nothing defense. At the same time, nothing about Dallas’ defense scares me if I’m the Seahawks offense. I think this one is destined to be another high-scoring shootout.

The same keys find their way into any pre-game analysis when you’re talking about the difference between winning and losing. 3rd/4th down conversions, TD/FG percentage, penalties, run/pass ratio & efficiency. But, I think this is going to boil down to turnovers. It seems like these two offenses are so similar, that they should be able to move the ball at will and do whatever they want. Therefore, critical turnovers could play a huge part in determining the outcome of this game.

You could see that in the Pats game as well. It shouldn’t have been as close as it was, but the Patriots converted a Pick-Six, while the Seahawks dropped a chance at returning the favor. Had the Seahawks played a clean game from a turnover perspective, we would’ve witnessed another double-digit victory. I think there’s a CHANCE for that to happen here, but it’s going to require the Seahawks not shooting themselves in the foot.

With the way our offense is rolling, the only team that can beat the Seahawks IS the Seahawks.

Right now, all the MVP hype in the world is on Russell Wilson’s jock, and for good reason. He’s been nearly-flawless. Of course, the MVP through two weeks has rarely been the MVP at the end of the season. For the Seahawks to continue to be special, they’re going to need him to keep this up, especially against the very best teams on our schedule (like Dallas). There will be opportunities for the Seahawks defense to shine; bad teams are coming! But, I don’t believe Dallas is among them, and it’s going to take everything we’ve got to keep the good times going.

Ezekiel Elliott has always destroyed us, even when our defenses were great. While this is good for my fantasy team, it’s bad for the Seahawks. But, in spite of that, I think I’m more afraid of Dak Prescott and this passing game. Imagine how tough New England was, only if they had more than one good receiver. Dallas is rolling three deep! They’re fast, they’re big, and they can make plays anywhere on the field. Amari Cooper is always a tough matchup for us, but I’m watching out for CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup. With the way our secondary has given up big plays down field through two games (likely having a lot to do with our complete and utter lack of a pass rush), I see no reason for that not to continue. We’re still working in new guys (Jamal Adams and Quinton Dunbar, most notably), and now we’re getting over the loss of Marquise Blair (who factored heavily in our defensive scheme this season); this is not the best time to try to take on this Dallas passing attack.

The ace up our sleeve in this one might be the Cowboys’ head coach, Mike McCarthy. His teams tend to make some baffling decisions on offense, which could conceivably work in our favor. Then again, his Green Bay Packers teams in recent years have had their way with us, and those teams weren’t nearly as stacked as these Cowboys are.

I nevertheless expect a narrow Seahawks victory in this one. I won’t rule out a blowout one way or the other, though, because while I do believe the Seahawks are the superior team, we’re a mediocre Russell Wilson performance away from losing by double digits (or being so far out of it that a garbage-time score still leaves us woefully behind with no time left in the game). I won’t go so far as to say I know this offense has a few duds in it, but I will say I haven’t TOTALLY bought into the sea change we’ve seen through two weeks. I keep expecting the other shoe to drop. I hope I’m wrong!

It would be nice to see a shocking level of competence out of this defense, though. Two weeks should be enough time for this staff to coach up some guys and figure out what tweaks they need to make. We were close to getting – on a number of occasions – Cam Newton on his ass last week, and he just barely weaseled his way out of trouble. Dak is sort of a younger version of that, but I would argue he’s easier to get down as he isn’t quite as big and strong. I hope we’re able to learn from those missed sacks and do a better job of wrapping up; at the very least, force the quarterback to throw it away rather than escape for a huge gain.

5-0 is within range. I can taste it! We’re going to need it too, because the rest of the NFC West (sans San Francisco) looks pretty fucking great. Arizona looks a lot better than I expected, and I already expected them to give us fits whenever we match up against them. The Rams, I think, are still the team to beat. But, I bet their fans are saying the same thing about the Seahawks right now.

In the end, it’s going to come down to conference record (and record against common opponents), so this Dallas game is HUGE! It’s the first game that meets both of those criteria; I would love nothing more than to get this leg-up (or, at the very least, keep up with the Rams’ leg, since they already beat the Cowboys in Week 1).

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

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

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

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

Seahawks Rushing Attack Quietly Good

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

Tyler Lockett Is There Whenever You Need Him

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

Quandre Diggs (tsk tsk tsk)

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

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

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

Newsflash: Cam Newton Is A Great Rusher

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

Great Punting Tho

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

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

Seahawks Run Defense Also Quietly Good

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

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

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

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

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

Why Not Some Words On The Kicking Game?

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

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

A Quiet End Of Half

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

Jamal Adams Showed Up!

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

More David Moore!

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

Quinton Dunbar, Hello!

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

A Freddie Swain Sighting In The Wild

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

Let Cam Cook!

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

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

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

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

More Wilson Magic

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

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

Superman

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

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

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

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

Kryptonite

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

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

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

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

How High Can These Seahawks Fly?

The big questions heading into week two are: was Week 1 an aberration, or a sign of things to come? And, if it’s a sign of things to come, how good can this Seahawks team really be?

All you can really do – heading into a new season – is review any roster changes and see how they might fit with what you’ve seen from that team in the past. Generally, you would compare this team to what it was in 2019, but we have ten years’ worth of Seahawks teams to look at with respect to Pete Carroll, eight of those years with Russell Wilson. Knowing what we know, having seen what we’ve seen, it was sensible to expect more of the same: a balanced offense, relying on the defense to keep it close, and hope our All Pro quarterback can pull it out in the fourth quarter. For a team that’s only missed the playoffs twice under Pete Carroll – and only once with Russell Wilson at quarterback – clearly “If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It” comes into account.

That’s why last week was such a shock – a welcome shock, don’t get me wrong – because it was SO unexpected. Part of me saw them throwing on that first drive and thought, “Well, they’re just doing this to shut the fans up; they’ll get back to a run-heavy approach on the next drive.” But, the passes kept coming, and coming, and coming, and before we knew what hit us, the Seahawks turned into the 2019 Chiefs!

You’ll recall that’s a team that won the Super Bowl. So, in answer to the second big question listed at the top: that’s how good this team can be. With Russell Wilson playing out of his mind, with this offense putting up that many points every week, it doesn’t really matter what the defense does; as long as it’s not dead-last in all of football, this team will win 12+ games, the NFC West, and could very well advance to the Super Bowl if things go right in the playoffs.

BUT, remember that caveat: if Week 1 was a sign of things to come, and not just a one-time treat.

I’m going to stick with my cautiously-optimistic stance for a bit here (instead of full-blown elation), for two reasons. For starters, Pete Carroll was already quoted this week complaining about how few carries the running backs had against Atlanta. 16 carries split between the three of them. Chris Carson is still one of the best running backs in football – as evidenced by his two receiving touchdowns – but he only had six carries! That’s not good enough. In a game we won by double-digits, it’s weird that we didn’t have more of a running game presence in the fourth quarter. So, I would expect Carroll will get his way as early as this week in pounding the rock more than we did last week.

The other cause for concern is our opponent: the New England Patriots. Their defense is crafted much like ours, in that their biggest strength is in the secondary. While I don’t expect the Seahawks to completely revert back to their 2019 form, it would make sense to neutralize things a little bit by hitting the Pats where they’re weakest: defending the run.

That isn’t to say the Pats are bad at defending the run; I can’t say with any certainty one way or the other. Against the Dolphins last week, they held them to 87 yards and a 3.2 yards per carry average; however, the Dolphins’ top two rushers combined for 62 of those yards on 14 carries, for a 4.4 yard average. The Dolphins were playing from behind for most of the game, so they didn’t have the luxury of working that part of their offense in more.

It’ll be REALLY interesting to see what how the Patriots gameplan the Seahawks’ offense. Bill Belichick famously creates a new scheme every week, based on his opponent, to take away whatever it is they do best. Now, he’s a smart man, and he surely knows Russell Wilson is what this team does best, so I don’t expect him to neglect defending the pass in any way. But, will he see this Seahawks team through the lens of what happened last week, or the previous ten years?

The Seahawks offense has been built around two concepts: running the ball and completing deep passes. Last week, the Seahawks completed exactly one deep pass (the 4th down touchdown to D.K. Metcalf), and as I mentioned, hardly ran the ball at all. Most of these were short-to-intermediate routes, which is completely counter to everything we’ve ever done before. Pete Carroll prides himself on his offenses taking care of the football. Running, and throwing deep balls to guys in one-on-one situations, are the safest things you can do. As long as your running back isn’t a fumbler, with a guy like Wilson chucking it, you feel like you have a minimal risk of turning it over on a bomb (either your guy gets it, or it’s incomplete; even in the rare instances where it’s picked, that’s still sort of like a punt in the field position game). The odds of turning it over increase when you throw it a lot, and throw it in those short-to-intermediate routes (where there are lots of different defenders running around, some in areas you wouldn’t expect them to be).

Ultimately, I don’t think the Seahawks are going to totally revert to what they’ve always done, but I do think it will be difficult to run that same gameplan out there for a second week in a row and have the same level of success. I think the running game will have to be incorporated more, for the simple reason that I don’t think the Patriots’ coverage will be as soft as the Falcons’ coverage was last week. If their corners start bullying our receivers at the line of scrimmage, or if the Pats play significantly more zone – while their D-Line does everything it can to keep Wilson in the pocket – I think that’ll open us up to switch to running plays at the line of scrimmage. It won’t be the coaching staff asserting their dominance, it’ll be Wilson doing the smart thing and checking to what the defense is giving us.

It has never made sense to continually pound the running back into 8-man boxes. I think what we saw against the Falcons had to do with exactly that: giving our quarterback the freedom to make smart decisions on the fly.

I actually like the Seahawks in this one. It’s a night game, for one, and you know how we always show up for those. While the home-field advantage won’t be there – with no fans in the stands – I would argue that hasn’t been as effective in recent years, as most teams have adapted to playing on a silent count. I just think we’re better than them at this point.

Now, that isn’t to say I believe we’ll blow out the Pats (though, I’m not throwing that concept out of bed either). I kind of see this as a normal Seattle/Carolina matchup, only with a better coaching staff. Cam Newton is the star of that offense (an offense that is pretty bereft of talent, even by Cam Newton standards); he’ll be the man we need to beat. The Patriots have built an offense that features his skillset (meaning: lots of designed quarterback runs) that might end up being even better than some of those elite offenses he ran with the Panthers (having him on a one-year deal makes this more palatable, as if you run him into the ground or get him injured, it’s no long-term risk to your franchise). With Julian Edelman being the only guy that scares you from that receiving corps, it’s never been more The Cam Newton Show than it will be this year. And, for as savvy as Edelman is, I think our cornerbacks won’t have trouble keeping up with him, for the most part.

It’s almost like the Seahawks traded for Jamal Adams with this game in mind in particular. As we all saw, Adams was all over the place last week, frequently up at the line of scrimmage pre-snap, and also frequently diving into the backfield to chase after the quarterback or running back. He was often successful, and more importantly, he punished anyone that he ended up hitting. My biggest concern in this game isn’t the pass rush; it’s the run defense. The Falcons, when they did run the ball, were pretty successful, including a number of chunk runs through considerable holes created by their otherwise so-so offensive line. It’s been YEARS since the Patriots have had an alpha dog at running back; they usually have three or four guys they like to work in there throughout every game. So, it doesn’t really matter who they hand it to, if their O-Line is able to do to our run defense what the Falcons were able to do, they’re going to have an easy time moving the ball down the field (made even easier by the fact that Cam Newton, when healthy, is in the top two among rushing quarterbacks with Lamar Jackson).

That’s where Jamal Adams comes in. Cam is an elite runner; we need an elite defender to shadow him. Bobby Wagner has traditionally been that man for us, and he’ll certainly play a significant role in following Cam around and keeping him in check. But, as we saw last year, Bobby can’t do everything by himself. Having Adams right there with him should be the difference-maker in keeping this Patriots offense from blowing up.

I’ll also be very interested in seeing what Bruce Irvin and L.J. Collier can do in setting the edge on either side of the line. Keeping Cam contained as a scrambler is just as important as stopping him on those designed runs. Irvin didn’t seem to do a whole lot last week, but as the game went on I thought he did a good job of setting that edge (of course, where is the statue that is Matt Ryan going to run to?); he’s going to be vital in this one, and I think he has what it takes to step up in a big way.

I’m a little over 50% convinced the Seahawks win in a close game. I also think there’s a reasonable chance we prevail by double-digits again (in which case, go ahead and lump us in with the Ravens and Chiefs as the best teams in football, because it’ll be Go Time, my friends!). The only way we lose is the same way most elite offenses like ours end up losing: by keeping them on the sidelines. If the Patriots convert an insanely-high percentage of 3rd/4th downs and dominate Time of Possession, they could steal a close one late in the game. There’s an infinitesimal chance the Pats blow us out, so small as to not even be worth thinking about.

I am SOOOOOO excited for this game! Even more than I was last week, and that had all the juice of being the first game of football I’ve seen since the Super Bowl (not counting the Thursday Night game, of course). I think we’re all holding our breath and crossing our fingers and rubbing our lucky rabbit’s feet that this offense will come out slinging it just like we did last week (and, not only that, but producing a similar type of production from a points perspective). All of our collective worst nightmare is if we continue to throw the ball and it fails; we endure multiple 3 & Outs and turnovers in the process. Because then, you seriously have to wonder about the coaching staff abandoning it and going back to what worked before.

Our enjoyment of football is on the line, people! On the biggest stage, against history’s best-ever football coach, and the team that has far-and-away won the most football games over the last two decades! If we succeed here, the rest of 2020 shapes up as one of the most fun football seasons we’ve ever seen. If we fail, the cost will be enormous.

I know I sound like those lying politicians who say this election is the most important in history (how can they ALL be the most important?), but I’ve never been so on edge for a Week 2 football game in my life. I’m 1-0 in both of my fantasy football leagues, yet all I can think about is the actual football team I follow? You KNOW this is a big one!

The Seahawks Beat The Falcons Convincingly, Making Me Exceedingly Happy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hindsight Is … The Seahawks Season Preview Extravaganza!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quarterbacks

  • Russell Wilson
  • Geno Smith

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

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

Running Backs

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

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

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

Wide Receivers

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

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

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

Tight Ends

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

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

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

Offensive Line

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

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

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

Defensive Line

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

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

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

Linebackers

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

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

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

Secondary

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

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

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

Special Teams

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

No surprises whatsoever here.

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.

Trying To Predict A 2020 Seahawks Roster

I do one of these every year; they’re a waste of time, but they’re fun. There are, as with every new season, a number of intriguing battles coming up in training camp. It’ll be interesting to see who makes the cut (either because they’re going to contribute, or because we don’t want them poached by other teams), who is able to slide onto the expanded practice squad (however big it ends up being), and who washes out completely.

Mostly, I’m just interested in seeing if there’s a legitimate way for Shaquem Griffin to make this team, or if he has to beat out a significant role player from a year ago. I think we’ll be pleasantly surprised!

Quarterback

  • Russell Wilson
  • Geno Smith
  • Anthony Gordon

This will be more interesting than it’s been in a LONG time, because for the first year since Wilson became entrenched as this team’s starter, I think there’s a legitimate chance this team keeps a third quarterback. Anthony Gordon comes as highly-touted as an undrafted quarterback gets, so the risk of trying to pawn him off on the practice squad could be too high. Also, given COVID concerns, it will be prudent to keep an extra one laying around just in case we’re short-handed for a week or two. The argument against that is, obviously, depth on this team is pretty great (with lots of young guys we’d prefer to keep around to fill starting roles in upcoming seasons), and it’s hard to justify having TWO quarterbacks who – if all goes according to plan – will never see the light of day. Also, without a preseason, there’s less of a chance for Gordon to shine. I’m leaning towards he makes the roster, but we’ll have to see what other teams do with their own cuts (the more injuries to the quarterback position around the league, the likelier it is that Gordon would get claimed).

Running Back

  • Chris Carson
  • DeeJay Dallas
  • Travis Homer
  • Carlos Hyde
  • Matt Nick Bellore (FB)

It is with a very reluctant and annoyed sigh that I include the fullback (whose first name I had to look up to confirm is NOT Matt) on this list. I put up with a lot as a Seahawks fan – first and foremost, the utter lack of cooking we let Russ participate in – but rostering a fullback is one of the more galling. He participates in a VERY small handful of offensive snaps per game, and otherwise is a Special Teams guy of no note (to me anyway, who – granted – doesn’t follow the Special Teams goings on all that closely). The rest of these running backs listed are self-explanatory (Rashaad Penny will start on the PUP list).

Wide Receiver & Tight End

  • Tyler Lockett
  • D.K. Metcalf
  • Phillip Dorsett
  • David Moore
  • John Ursua or Freddie Swain
  • Will Dissly (TE)
  • Greg Olsen (TE)
  • Jacob Hollister (TE)
  • Cody Colby Parkinson or Luke Willson (TE)

I’ll be the first to admit, these spots are mostly a mystery to me. From a numbers standpoint, I think we’re looking at nine of these guys, with some very tough cuts to be made. I’m leaning towards Ursua given his experience, and Colby “don’t call me Cody” Parkinson (I really need to stop trying to do this based off of memory) over Willson only if Parkinson is healthy. Really, I could see a 3-way battle for two spots by throwing Hollister in there, but I think his overall effectiveness down the stretch last year as this team’s starter gives him the edge. Also, someone like Josh Gordon definitely throws a wrinkle into this mix (if he’s reinstated by the league), but in that case I would expect David Moore to get chopped, because they essentially play the same receiver spot, while Ursua/Swain are both projected to be slot guys.

Offensive Line

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

I’m pretty sold on these being your nine to eleven offensive linemen, depending on what the team wants to do (and how big the rosters actually are this season). Of the projected “safe” bets, Iupati is probably on the shakiest ground – considering his age and likelihood of wearing down over the course of the season – but I like him to make it and be a starter out of the gate since there won’t be any pre-season games (and the team will likely want to settle on an official Starting Five relatively early in camp, to give them the most reps and allow for the most continuity as possible).

The offense, as listed, comes to 26 players. Usually, you like a 25/25 split between offense and defense, but I don’t think it’s been totally settled how big rosters are going to be. If anything, I think I’m one spot low on the O-Line (there will almost certainly be 10 guys kept there), which could mean nothing, or could mean our third quarterback pipe dream goes POOF!

Cornerback & Safety

  • Shaquill Griffin
  • Tre Flowers
  • Neiko Thorpe
  • Ugo Amadi
  • Marquise Blair (FS)
  • Jamal Adams (SS)
  • Quandre Diggs (FS)
  • Lano Hill (SS)
  • Quinton Dunbar or CB TBD

I’m not calling Amadi a safety – even though he’s listed as such – because everyone keeps saying he’s going to be in the running for a nickel cornerback spot. That would, in effect, make Lano Hill’s standing on this team relatively secure, but we’ll see (because I still don’t think he’s very good). Quinton Dunbar, obviously, has a bevy of legal hurdles to clear before he can play again, which could open up a spot for one of our young guys to be a surprise contender. D.J. Reed – recently claimed off of waivers from the 49ers – figures to be injured until late into the season, but could provide a nice boost in November or December, if he recovers okay.

Defensive Line

  • L.J. Collier
  • Rasheem Green
  • Benson Mayowa
  • Alton Robinson
  • Darrell Taylor
  • Poona Ford (DT)
  • Jarran Reed (DT)
  • Bryan Mone (DT)
  • DL TBD

The consensus is: we’re at least one defensive tackle short on this roster. Of course, there are tweeners – like Collier and Green – who can slide inside, but word on the street is the Seahawks are seriously considering a street free agent to be a boost to our outside pass rush (Everson Griffen or even Clay Matthews maybe), which really makes me wonder what this unit is going to look like when it’s all said and done.

Linebacker

  • Bobby Wagner
  • K.J. Wright
  • Bruce Irvin
  • Jordyn Brooks
  • Cody Barton
  • Ben Burr-Kirven
  • Shaquem Griffin

When you factor in Bruce Irvin largely playing defensive end, as well as Shaquem Griffin, that’s a lot of edge rushing on this team. That puts the official number at 25 players for defense (although, again, I’m probably one short on the defensive line, when it comes to the D-Tackle spot specifically). I mean, unless rosters are expanded to a full 55 players (26 offense, 26 defense, 3 special teams specialists), there will be some REALLY difficult cuts to be made here.

We’re still a week away from training camp getting started, so obviously a lot can change between now and then. I’m sure I’ll be off-base in any number of ways! Such is the fun and the pointlessness of an exercise like this.

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!