What’s More Important For The Seahawks: Scheme Or Talent?

You know what’s always been hard for me to wrap my head around? The Seahawks under Pete Carroll – for multiple years in a row – had the best defense in the NFL. They drafted well, they developed well, they hit on some free agents, and they had a scheme that put it all together, worked to everyone’s strengths, and was a menace for opposing offenses to play against.

Then, for many years after that – still under Pete Carroll – the Seahawks were among the worst defensive teams in the NFL. Same coach, ostensibly the same scheme, yet for whatever reason nothing was working, no matter how many resources we poured into that side of the ball.

Well, the simple argument there is that TALENT is more important. When this team had multiple All Pros and future Hall of Famers, they were amazing; when they lost all those guys, the Seahawks were crummy.

But, I keep coming back to this post, and the point I made about every team that was worse than us defensively in 2022 were LEAPS AND BOUNDS better than us in 2023. We’re looking at the Lions, Vikings, Texans, Bears, Raiders, and Falcons. Other than the Texans drafting Will Anderson, there really wasn’t much help for any of those teams. I know the Bears made some trade deadline deals, but I don’t know if there was a ton of influx among those teams. Certainly not a ton of big names! I’m willing to wager there was a lot of talent-holdover from 2022 to 2023; yet some significant improvements were made!

That has to be scheme, right? Yes, the L.O.B. had a unique scheme – Cover 3 – that not a lot of other teams were utilizing the way we were. But, eventually, teams started to hone in on routes to defeat Cover 3. Sure, the talent declined, but also the scheme got stale, and the combination of that really did us in.

It never felt like the Seahawks took that next step – made that next adjustment – to fight back against what offenses were doing against them. They had their mantras: don’t get beat deep, focus on stopping the run. But, that just left a wide swath of the middle of the field wide open, and our softer coverages were incredibly beatable.

There’s talent on this defense. Devon Witherspoon, Riq Woolen, and Tre Brown are all good to great. Jordyn Brooks continually shows you why he was deemed a first round talent. Nwosu, Mafe, Leonard Williams, Jarran Reed, Dre’Mont Jones, Julian Love; there are and were DUDES on this side of the ball. In spite of their age, there’s a lot guys like Quandre Diggs and Bobby Wagner can bring to the table; on the flipside, I’d like to think there’s more we could be getting out of Darrell Taylor and Derick Hall. We don’t have that one huge defensive line pass rush monster, but then again, do the Falcons or Vikings? Are the guys on the Raiders or Bears THAT much better than our guys?

Or, did those teams and respective coaches scheme their guys up to play better than their overall talent might otherwise indicate?

I watch a good amount of football, not just Seahawks games. Yet I never really see other teams play quite like we do. Every fucking week, it’s like we get bled dry on defense. Teams picking us apart, getting easy completions, rarely seeing any sort of consistent pressure. Oh sure, the Seahawks will pick it up against inept offenses. But, if you’re even remotely competent, you’re going to have a pretty easy time moving up and down the field and scoring points.

Carolina, with Andy Dalton, should not be able to generate 378 yards and 27 points, I’m sorry! The Steelers, on their second offensive coordinator and their third quarterback, should not be able to come into your house and get 468 yards and 30 points! This isn’t getting routed by the Ravens, or the Cowboys not punting once. These are TERRIBLE offenses moving the football at will, on the road, in one of the loudest environments in the NFL.

Which is why I was so excited to hear that Mike Macdonald is planning on calling the defense, at least at first. I have zero doubt whatsoever that we could bring back exactly the same D as 2023 and see vastly superior results, just with the change in scheme.

What have we heard so often from players who left Seattle for other teams? Especially the defensive linemen: the Seahawks don’t let you do anything. They’re more worried about plugging gaps than they are about getting up field and making plays on the quarterback. They’re so concerned about giving up anything over the top that they play hyper-conservative and welcome teams taking the underneath stuff. The only problem with that is when they DO take that underneath stuff. It makes converting on third down easier, it makes avoiding third downs entirely easier, and inevitably your team is going to make some mistakes causing you to give up a deep ball or two anyway.

And what have we heard about Mike Macdonald? That he’s cerebral. That he studies tape more than anyone. That he’s the most prepared guy on the team, who’s going to find your weakness and exploit it. He’s going to make the offense’s job miserable. And that, in turn, is going to lead to more sacks, more turnovers, and doing it all with less blitzing.

Sure sounds like the scheme can be awfully important! I mean, I’d love more than anything to have that nice cross-section of both; who doesn’t want more talent on their roster? But, I’m not prepared to put it all on the feet of the talent.

Granted, if you’re the 49ers right now, you’ve got quite the bounty on that side of the ball. But, we don’t even need to be the best of the best. I would settle for just being better than we’ve been. Let’s start there, and see where Macdonald and company can take us.

Seahawks Death Week: Obvious Cap Casualties

If you want to see who the obvious salary cap casualties are, look no further than the top 12 salaries on this team. I’ll save the top guy (Geno Smith) for the end to help build some suspense, so let’s get crackin’ with number two.

I was more than a little surprised to see Tyler Lockett as a popular topic of conversation at the end of the season, when reporters mentioned that might’ve been his last game in a Seahawks uniform. On the one hand, it definitely makes sense: he was our #2 receiver last year, but he’s counting almost $28 million against the cap this year (what with his various contract restructures over the years). Still, with a dead cap hit coming in at almost $20 million, it’s not like you’re saving a ton. I know he’s probably not incentivized to do such a thing, but I guess I kinda thought maybe he’d re-work his deal over the final two years and retire as a lifelong Seahawk.

Ultimately, I think the smart move is to cut Lockett, let him join a contender for next year (if he wants to keep playing), or just let him walk away if he’s ready to retire. Even though his abilities are still there, he’s kind of lost a step, and is clearly not a good value for his cost. Saving even $8 million – in spite of the massive dead cap number – is almost certainly worthwhile.

I should point out that I don’t have the bandwidth to get into pre- and post-June cut possibilities with how much we can save in 2024 over 2025; let the smarter nerds get into those weeds.

Number 3 on the list is Jamal Adams; he has to go. He’s similar to Lockett in that there’s both a humongous cap hit (nearly $27 million) and dead cap number (nearly $21 million), but it’s night and day as far as personalities and production on the field. Adams is a waste of a roster space, he’s starting to feel like a cancer to this team, and quite frankly he’s just getting on the fanbase’s nerves at this point. There’s no way he’s going to salvage his career here, and at this point it’s kinder to all involved to let him leave.

Number 4 is D.K. Metcalf and he’s not going anywhere. A) because he’s probably the most talented player on this roster, and B) because his cap hit and dead cap number are nearly the same ($24.5 million vs. $23 million). The bottom line is: he’s giving you $24.5 million worth of production as this team’s #1 receiver, and that’s what matters most.

Number 5 is Quandre Diggs, and his departure feels like a foregone conclusion. He’s got a cap hit over $21 million, with a dead cap number of just over $10 million. Number 6 is an interesting case, because I never would’ve thought Dre’Mont Jones would be a One & Done guy for us, but his contract is structured with an out if we want it. He counts just over $18 million this year, but his dead cap hit is just over $13 million. It’s not a lot, but it’s also not nothing. For what it’s worth, I think Jones will be back.

So, halfway through this exercise, if we get rid of Lockett, Adams, and Diggs, we shore up around $25 million. I should point out that – if we kept every single player under contract in 2024 – we would be right up against the salary cap threshold (technically around $4,000 over the limit). $25 million is a decent chunk of change for three guys who aren’t in our long-term future plans. But, there’s more where that came from.

#7 is Will Dissly, heading into the last year of a crazy deal he signed. His cap hit is $10 million, his dead cap number is around $3 million; no brainer, he gone. #8 is Julian Love (cap hit $8 million, dead cap around $2.5). I don’t think the team will cut Adams, Diggs, AND Love in the same offseason. With Love coming off of a Pro Bowl berth, it would make all the sense in the world to hang onto him, and maybe even extend him at the right price (he’ll only be 26 years old this year). #9 is Uchenna Nwosu, who we JUST extended, and is absolutely cost-prohibitive to cut at this time. And #10 is Devon Witherspoon, who is up there with D.K. Metcalf as one of the best players on this team and isn’t going anywhere.

But, #11 is Jarran Reed, and #12 is Bryan Mone (remember him?). If I’m being honest, it would be idiotic to cut Reed after the season he had. He’s an absolute bargain at nearly $6 million for the final year of his deal. Mone, on the other hand, is making almost the same amount of money, and only costs us half a mil in dead space.

So, with Dissly and Mone, we’re looking at $37 million freed up from five guys who should easily be replaced. After the top 12 guys, the drop-off is pretty significant as far as salary goes.

The key, though, is NOT to just give all of that money back to guys who are outgoing free agents. Leonard Williams is an obvious big-money guy who won’t be cheap. Even at this stage of his career, Bobby Wagner won’t settle for nothing. Drew Lock feels like a waste of $4 million as a backup. Phil Haynes is DEFINITELY a waste of $4 million for someone who can never stay healthy. Devin Bush was overpaid at $3.5 million in 2023. Noah Fant will probably want a significant raise from the just over $3 million he was making this past season. Jordyn Brooks will ABSOLUTELY want a huge raise. Then, there’s guys like Evan Brown, Darrell Taylor, Damien Lewis, Mario Edwards, Colby Parkinson, and DeeJay Dallas. Of the lot of them, I’d probably only want to hang onto Parkinson (mostly because it feels unlikely we’re going to go out and replace the ENTIRE tight end room in one offseason), because he’s got good size and could still figure to be a cheap option as this team’s #1 or #2 TE. I should point out that Taylor is an RFA, so we can hang onto him for a reasonable cost if we still want him. But, everyone else can go.

There’s probably no way we can afford to keep both Wagner AND Brooks; depending on the cost, I’d go with the younger option and stick him in the middle linebacker spot. But, I’m also not super invested in that either. I could let them both walk and feel just fine, if I’m being honest.

This brings us back to Geno Smith. He’s just over $31 million against the cap, with only a $17.4 million dead money hit. That’s almost an additional $14 million – to go along with $37 million freed up above – to give us potentially $51 million in money to spend. Of course, in this scenario, we’d have no quarterbacks, no tight ends, and only one safety with any sort of quality experience. I find it hard to believe that this ALL will happen – that these obvious cuts will indeed be made – but it’s also not difficult to talk yourself into it. What’s stopping us from bringing back Drew Lock on a cheap deal, letting Geno go, and drafting a quarterback in the first round to compete right away? If we get from Lock around 90% of what we got from Geno, at like an eighth of the cost, why don’t we just do THAT, and hope we hit on a rookie that develops for 2025?

I’ll be interested to see how many of these guys end up actually being cut. We won’t have to wait for long for some of them, as they have their salaries guaranteed shortly after the Super Bowl in February (if we don’t cut them first).

Seahawks Death Week: Were The 2023 Seahawks Better Than They Were In 2022?

Both teams finished the regular season 9-8. The 2022 Seahawks actually made the playoffs, while the 2023 Seahawks did not. The 2023 Seahawks clearly had higher expectations coming into the year, whereas the 2022 Seahawks were expected to be among the worst five teams in the NFL. But, just because the current iteration underperformed, while the previous one overachieved, doesn’t necessarily mean the 2022 Seahawks were the better team. And, since we don’t live in a magical world where we can have these two squads duke it out on the football field, we have to look at the numbers and see where they compare.

I will readily admit that I’m coming into this exercise HOPING that the 2023 team is actually better, and thanks to a game or two not going our way at the end, we ultimately failed to achieve our goals. Because, if that’s the case, then maybe an argument can be made that this is actually a team on the rise, and this year can be seen as an aberration. However, if the 2023 Seahawks are objectively worse, then this is a team going in the wrong direction. Then, we have to start questioning how good these last two draft classes actually were. Then, we’re left to wonder how long it’s actually going to be before things turn around.

I’ll start with the defense. Heading into the season, what was the biggest problem area, the biggest area of need, the part of the team we all knew needed improvement? The defense. In 2022, we gave up 361.7 yards per game (26th in football); in 2023, we gave up 371.4 yards per game (30th in football).

You know what sucks? Every team that was worse than us in 2022 improved. Detroit went from 32 to 19, Minnesota went from 31 to 16, Houston went from 30 to 14, Chicago went from 29 to 12, Las Vegas went from 28 to 13, Atlanta went from 27 to 11! This isn’t, like, small baby steps of improvement. These are LEAPS AND BOUNDS! And it’s not like we’re talking about teams that all made the playoffs; they were all varying levels of mediocre-to-bad in 2023. Yet they all also saw significant improvements on defense, in one season’s time.

If we keep going back, in 2021, the Seahawks were 28th in yards per game, in 2020 we were 22nd (but still gave up over 380 per game), in 2019 we were 26th. In 2018, we were 16th; that’s the last time we were even kind of okay. Before that, we were obviously very good. But, starting with 2019, that’s five years of being one of the worst defenses in all of football. Of being a defense that absolutely CANNOT compete for a championship. With a head coach that prides himself on being defensively-minded. We’ve been stuck in the shit for half a decade now; meanwhile, all these shitty defenses from 2022 are kicking ass in 2023.

Where did we struggle the most in 2022? Rush defense (150.2 yards per game, 30th in football). How did we fare in 2023? When we got rid of a lot of dead weight and put the majority of our resources into shoring up this part of the game? 138.4 yards per game, 31st in football. So, we improved our number of yards allowed per game, but still ended up worse compared to the rest of the NFL.

The two teams worse than us in 2022? Houston (32) and Chicago (31), who finished 2023 6th (!) and 1st (!!!) in rush yards per game allowed. IN ONE YEAR, they went from the worst to the best!

I mean, this isn’t fucking rocket science! We’re talking about Houston, who had a total coaching regime change, and Chicago, whose head coach in 2022 was just finishing his first year and was already on the hot seat. The Seahawks, meanwhile, are among the most stable franchises in the sport, yet again, we’ve struggled on defense for half a fucking decade. Un-fucking-believable.

To round it out, the 2022 Seahawks gave up 211.5 passing yards (13th); the 2023 Seahawks gave up 233.0 (21st). The 2022 Seahawks gave up 23.6 points per game (25th); the 2023 Seahawks gave up 23.6 points per game 25th). We literally gave up one more point than a year ago. The pass defense – particularly the secondary – was supposed to be our biggest strength (even discounting Jamal Adams as “likely to be injured” heading into the season); yet it was kind of mediocre, in spite of the fact that we got more Jamal Adams than I ever thought possible.

Just a little more housekeeping, for context. The 2022 Seahawks were +2 in turnover differential; the 2023 Seahawks were also +2 in turnover differential. We actually turned it over less in 2023, but also generated fewer turnovers, which is how we get to that number. That’s interesting to me, because if you would’ve told me prior to 2023 that the Seahawks’ offense would have 6 fewer turnovers – knowing what I knew about the perceived improvement of talent on defense – I would say that’s HUGE, and might’ve translated to 2-3 more victories. Instead, that perceived talent improvement never really materialized.

For a little more context, the 2022 Seahawks had 45 sacks (tied for 7th); the 2023 Seahawks had 47 sacks (tied for 11th). Another interesting stat is the 2022 Seahawks gave up 62.7% completions (10th), whereas the 2023 Seahawks gave up 66.7% completions (26th). So, in spite of being slightly better at generating sacks, it looks like we were actually softer all around, and probably not generating as much pressure on the whole. Or, you know, maybe we just faced significantly better quarterback play in 2023 than in 2022; you can’t rule that out either. Maybe both are true!

What do my eyes tell me about this defense? It’s tricky, because I believe we were actually significantly more talented in personnel in 2023 than we were in 2022. I think Jarran Reed had a fabulous season. I think Leonard Williams is the best all-around defensive lineman we’ve had since Michael Bennett (very different players/body types, but similarly dominant in everything that they do). I think Dre’Mont Jones is as talented as advertised, but likely wasn’t utilized properly. I think Boye Mafe took a HUGE step forward. I think Devon Witherspoon is deserving of every single accolade that comes his way. I think Jordyn Brooks is an animal, and it’s tremendous how well (and how quickly) he came back from such a significant injury. I thought Tre Brown, Mike Jackson, and Julian Love all shined at times. I thought Riq Woolen was injured for most of this year and that likely explains his step-back (I still think he’s great in coverage, but when he’s hurt, he’s going to be a liability in the run game).

That being said, I think we were another wide-body short on the interior, to significantly plug the run. I think Bobby Wagner likely helped in that regard, but probably not as much as everyone thinks. Wagner obviously had his struggles in pass defense (to the point where he probably should’ve been taken off the field on every 3rd & medium-to-long), but we also had no one behind him to fill in (linebacker depth was non-existent yet again); I also don’t think Wagner was the fix-all in the run game everyone’s making him out to be. How many times did he too get swallowed up, or jump the wrong gap? He’s old! He was old two years ago!

I also thought Quandre Diggs looked a little old. I thought Jamal Adams – aside from a few plays near the LOS here and there – looked legitimately bad. Maybe he was hurt all year, but still, he looks toast. And, I think the outside linebacker play was atrocious outside of Boye Mafe and Uchenna Nwosu (who got knocked out 6 games in), and I’m not even sure Mafe is any good at setting an edge. What I know for sure is that Darrell Taylor and Derick Hall are 100% NOT good in that regard, and it’s a huge hole for us.

A lot of these were problems in 2022, though. We couldn’t set an edge then either. Our linebacker room was unquestionably worse with Cody Barton getting significant reps. Adams was still hurt, Diggs was still getting up there, and we were obviously missing out on beef in the interior line.

So, how do you explain this across-the-board drop-off in defensive production?

The coaching staff. Clint Hurtt and Co.

He’s not a defensive coordinator. We learned that in his first season in 2022, and it’s been nothing but cemented into my brain in 2023, when he was gifted better talent, and his unit produced worse results. He needs to go.

***

Now, let’s go to the offense. Spoiler alert: it also looks like it’s worse in 2023 than it was in 2022.

2022 total yards = 351.5 (13th); 2023 total yards = 322.9 (21st). 2022 passing yards = 231.4 (12th); 2023 passing yards = 230.0 (14th). 2022 rushing yards = 120.1 (18th); 2023 rushing yards = 92.9 (28th).

So, passing yards remained stagnant, in spite of total stability at the QB spot, and arguably an improved wide receiver room with first rounder Jaxon Smith-Njigba replacing Marquise Goodwin. And we’re talking about a DRASTICALLY worse rushing attack, in spite of the fact that Kenneth Walker played in the same number of games (all as the lead back), while we added the robust talent of Charbonnet (taking the smattering of 2022 carries given to DeeJay Dallas, Travis Homer, and Rashaad Penny the few times he was healthy).

Okay, so point to the offensive line. Obviously, there were lots of injuries across the board causing this unit to suffer. Except, we took 46 sacks in 2022, vs. a combined 37 in 2023. Team passing, okay, you can attribute some of that to Drew Lock playing in 4 games (starting 2). But, Geno’s per-game numbers year over year obviously declined (fewer yards per game, lower completion percentage, fewer yards per attempt, lower passer rating).

Also, if your O-Line is so banged up, wouldn’t you WANT to run the ball more? In 2022, we attempted 425 carries; in 2023, it was 382. In 2022, we attempted 573 passes; in 2023, we attempted 575. Geno attempted a little over 33 and a half passes per game; but Drew Lock attempted 32 per game in his two starts, so it’s not like we really took it easy on him. Yet, neither quarterback benefitted from extended competence out of the rushing attack. As a team, we averaged 4.8 yards per carry (4.9 yards per carry if you take out two massive losses by our punter) in 2022; we could only muster 4.1 yards per carry in 2023.

So, what’s THAT all about? We thought we really had something with our new O-Line coach in 2022. But, while improving on our sack numbers (in basically the same number of drop-backs), we took a massive nosedive in our running numbers. I guess we have to HOPE that it’s just injuries and things are bound to positively regress in 2024. But, there’s also a number of personnel decisions we have to make – along the interior, particularly – that has been one of our greatest weaknesses since time immemorial.

All told, our 2022 Seahawks scored 23.9 points per game (9th); our 2023 Seahawks scored 21.4 points per game (17th). An already-bad defense somehow managed to get worse, and a decently-good offense became painfully mediocre. In spite of the fact that the offense had a ton of carry-over, improved in both the running back and wide receiver rooms, and had a quarterback who couldn’t have been more motivated to better his career-best numbers from the previous season.

Does that also come down to coaching? Because, to me, that comes down to coaching.

***

Here’s my ultimate ruling on the question at the top:

I think, personnel-wise, the 2023 Seahawks were better than the 2022 Seahawks. However, I think the play on the field was worse. The numbers bear that out, even if their records were the same. We were -38 in point differential in 2023, meaning we probably overachieved. The NFL record 7 go-ahead TD passes by Geno Smith in the 4th quarter or OT sort of proves that point. We had a +6 point differential in 2022, which seems appropriate for a 9-8 team. So, while things were disappointing for Geno Smith, and some of the other veterans in 2023, I don’t think they were so much worse that it cost us. Ultimately, I put it on our coaching staff – our coordinators specifically, though Pete Carroll certainly doesn’t get a pass from me at this point – as the reason why the 2023 Seahawks were worse.

I believe, with more competent leadership, the 2023 Seahawks should’ve won more games and reached the playoffs.

That doesn’t mean I believe this team was good enough to win the NFC West. They clearly had a ceiling that was much lower than the 49ers. But, I do believe we should’ve beaten the Rams at least once, if not twice. Win one and we’re in the playoffs. Win both, we’re 11-6 and playing in Tampa in the first round of the playoffs (while the Rams would’ve been 8-9 and on the outside looking in, where they belonged).

So, in that sense, it’s pretty clear why Pete Carroll needed to go. We can’t really tell at this time if it was a matter of the messaging not getting through, or too much meddling by Pete in the personnel decisions to keep around these guys who are getting up there (saying nothing of giving up a second round draft pick for half of a season of Leonard Williams). But, I believe we didn’t have the proper staff in place to get the best out of these players. A more run-focused offensive scheme (becoming almost exclusively either a run or play-action team), with more attention paid to stopping the run and generating pressure by being blitz-heavy on defense, likely would’ve enhanced our win/loss record.

What we couldn’t do were the same things we’ve done the last 5+ years. What we couldn’t do was declare a shift towards a 3-4 defense, only to pretty much play a random hodgepodge of the exact defensive fronts we’ve used all along. What we couldn’t do was give up huge defensive cushions underneath – hoping to take away the deep ball – only to give up the deep ball anyway, and everything else opposing offenses wanted to do. Change it up! Drastically, if necessary! But, do SOMETHING.

This team did nothing, and mediocrity was our end result. Let’s hope that doesn’t continue on into 2024.

The Seahawks’ Season Ended With A Pointless Victory Over The Cardinals

I don’t see this victory as being QUITE as enraging as the Week 18 Broncos victory last year (when we had their first round draft pick, which fell from a #3 to a #5, a crucial drop that eliminated any opportunity for a truly impactful stud player, or at least a bevy of extra picks in a potential trade-down from 3), but, you know, a win when your season is going nowhere is always going to be annoying to me.

The Seahawks fell from 14th to 16th, while allowing the Cardinals to go from 5th to 4th. It’s not really a HUGE difference, on either end.

Of course, the ideal scenario would’ve involved the Bears beating the Packers, with the Cards beating the Seahawks, but we can’t ever have nice things. You know that. The Bears, for whatever reason, couldn’t get anything going, in a 17-9 loss to the Packers in Lambeau. 3/11 on third down will do that, I guess. That was a weird all-around game, though. Green Bay’s defense actually showed up to play! Maybe they’re getting healthier on that side of the ball at the exact right time? Because their D looked like ass for a while.

That game ended in the middle of the fourth quarter. At that point, Arizona had a 20-13 lead, and they were driving to go up two scores. Matt Prater missed a 43 yard field goal with just under 3 minutes to go in the game that would’ve ended things. The Seahawks, naturally, drove right down the field in just over a minute and hit Lockett on a beautiful 34 yard TD pass to pull within one. With the season already over, we went for two, Geno had all day, and was able to connect on the 2-point conversion to go up 21-20.

The only good thing about that was Arizona had so much time left to re-take the lead. They got back into field goal range with a second remaining, but Prater missed again (this time from 51 yards). Both kicks were wide-right, ever so slightly.

Geno hit 16/28 for 189, 2 TDs, and 0 INTs. Walker ran 78 yards on 17 carries. Charbonnet added 32 yards on 5 carries. Lockett had 2 catches for 71 yards and a TD, Dissly had 3 for 46 and a TD. Bobby Wagner had 15 tackles to lead the league (with 183). Devon Witherspoon had 11 tackles (including 3 for loss). Darrell Taylor had our lone sack.

I tried to make it a point to watch the entire game, though I did go split screen with the Packers/Bears. It feels weird rooting against the Seahawks, and I’m sure if that other game had gone the other way, I would’ve felt that bubbling excitement boiling over. But, truly, this Seahawks team was not made for the playoffs. It was barely made for the regular season. This team felt like damn near every Mariners team we’ve seen over the last 20 years. Just good enough at times to hold our interest, but ultimately destined to fall short.

The Rams finished 10-7, after beating the 49ers in a Battle of the Backups. That leaves us, at 9-8, firmly entrenched in third place. We had a -38 point differential. We were 5-3 at home, 4-5 on the road. We were 2-4 in the division (both wins against Arizona), and 7-5 in the NFC.

Of note, our Strength Of Schedule – used in tiebreakers to determine draft order – was .512. Only 4 of the 14 playoff teams had to overcome a more difficult schedule: Baltimore (.543), Pittsburgh (.540), Cleveland (.536), and the Rams (.529). The 49ers were close (.509), but isn’t that interesting? The AFC North was the only division EVER to have four teams finish above .500. They ended up, as a result, having the most difficult schedule of anyone. The NFC West were next on that list, in no small part because we also had to play the AFC North. 12 of the 18 teams to not make the playoffs had Strength of Schedules over .500. It’s crazy how much luck comes into it.

Geno Smith finished with 3,624 passing yards, 20 TDs, and 9 INTs. I’ll do a separate post about how this compares to his 2022 season, but suffice it to say, there’s a significant drop-off.

Kenneth Walker finished with 905 yards in 15 games, for a 4.1 average per carry. Charbonnet had 462 in 16 games, with a 4.3 average per carry. D.K. Metcalf had 66 receptions for 1,114 yards and 8 TDs. Tyler Lockett had 79 for 894 and 5 TDs. Jaxon Smith-Njigba had 63 for 628 and 4 TDs.

Bobby Wagner had the 183 tackles, with 3.5 sacks. Julian love had 123 tackles and led the team with 4 INTs. Boye Mafe led the team with 9 sacks, Jarran Reed had 7, Darrell Taylor had 5.5, Dre’Mont Jones and Jordyn Brooks had 4.5 each, and Leonard Williams had 4 sacks in just 10 games with the Seahawks (5.5 sacks in total, across a whopping 18 games, since he missed out on having a BYE week this year). Devon Witherspoon led the team with 16 passes defended, Riq Woolen had 11 and Love finished with 10. Woolen and Tre Brown had 2 INTs each, Witherspoon, Diggs, and Brooks each had 1.

That’s really all I got for now. We’ve got a lot going on, sports-wise, this week, so Seahawks Death Week will have to be postponed. It’s been … a season. See you next time!

The Seahawks Aren’t Great At Any One Thing

The Seahawks get a lot of credit for being competitive. If I understand the phrase right, it’s a double-edged sword. When things are going well, people point to the coaching staff and say, “Boy Pete Carroll does a great job of adapting and getting the most out of his players!” But, when things go poorly, people point to the coaching staff and say, “Boy Pete Carroll is over the hill and washed up and doesn’t understand what the game of football is morphing into!”

There was a time this year where the Seahawks were winners of 5 out of 6 games, and the one we lost (to the Bengals) you could argue we gave away. But, even still, they were the Bengals, Joe Burrow was still alive, and you can understand why even a good team would lose that game on the road. The offense felt vibrant, the defense appeared to be improving, and we all let ourselves believe that these Seahawks could compete with those 49ers for this NFC West and maybe even above and beyond.

Then, we got massacred by the Ravens. That kicked off a lull where we lost 4 out of 5 games, with the lone victory being a 3-point variety against one of the worst, most dysfunctional teams in football (the Commanders), at home no less. We won the next two games to regain control over our own playoff destiny, only to lose to the Steelers last week, to once again need a Week 18 victory plus some help.

The Seahawks are 8-8. You can’t really give this team a lot of credit for being competitive, because if we’re honest with ourselves, this team is only competitive against very flawed-to-bad teams.

There are lots of teams hovering around .500, though. Lots of flawed teams who are in contention for the playoffs. There have been plenty of flawed teams throughout the years who have made the playoffs, gotten hot, and managed to do some damage (even winning a Super Bowl here and there). It’s not always the VERY BEST teams who win it all. Sometimes, you just need to pose the right matchup problems against the right teams, to get the result you want.

The Cleveland Browns are 11-5 and locked into the playoffs. You wouldn’t consider them a front-runner; they’re on, what, their fourth quarterback? Joe Flacco off the scrap heap re-joined the league and has set the world on fire. Has Joe Flacco suddenly gotten amazing again? No way! But, he’s in the right situation, with the right team, that has some elite components (defense, running game, O-Line) that allows them to make up for any mistakes Flacco might generate.

The Dolphins are also 11-5 and locked into the playoffs. Their defense kinda stinks, but they’re so dynamic on offense that you could see them winning any game if things break right. The Chiefs are 10-6 and their receivers are hot garbage. The Eagles are 11-5 and their defense has regressed HARD. The Rams are 9-7, but they’re still well-coached and explosive enough (and veteran enough) on offense to beat anybody.

Which brings me to the Seahawks. They’re a consummate 7-seed type of team. But, unlike the Packers, Steelers, or either of the South divisions, the Seahawks don’t have any one thing they do extremely well. They just have a lot of things they’re okay at, with some VERY glaring weaknesses that hold them back.

It’s honestly pretty miserable watching the Seahawks closely. I wonder if these other fringe teams have the same type of disgruntled fans. There’s nothing you can hang your hat on, where you can say, “If THIS happens, we can pull it out.” Even in the post-L.O.B. era of Seahawks football with prime Russell Wilson at the helm, we could look at the team and say, “Well, if Russell Wilson plays out of his mind, maybe we can win three playoff games and get to the Super Bowl.” Of course, that never happened, and we now understand why it was foolish to think that way. But, at least there was a chance. Russell Wilson used to be magic, and sometimes he was all we needed to will ourselves to victories.

You can’t say that about Geno Smith. Russell Wilson could get by with a rancid offensive line. Geno Smith is like this delicate flower that needs a climate-controlled environment to flourish. I’m not talking about weather here; it’s sort of a terrible analogy. But, like, Geno needs very good O-Line play. He needs the defense to keep us in it. He can’t carry us on his back and will us to victory. Oh sure, if everything is just right, he can lead us to a late come-from-behind victory every now and then. But, you better not allow any pass rushers to get in his face! He’s not making those comebacks against the likes of the 49ers, Cowboys, or Steelers!

What’s the best thing Seattle has going for it? The easy answer is the wide receiver room, but that’s so dependant on your quarterback’s play, that I think I have to push them down a tier. I think the actual best thing Seattle has going for it is the running back room. The one-two punch of Kenneth Walker and Zach Charbonnet is as good as it gets. Walker makes something out of nothing in a way I haven’t seen since Barry Sanders. I’m not saying he’s as good as Barry Sanders, but I’m saying the moves you see him put on people on the football field week-in and week-out are as electric and jaw-dropping as I’ve seen out of anyone since Sanders retired. Charbonnet, on the other hand, is just a solid and dynamic straight-ahead runner. Every time I see him play well, I wonder if he’s the future #1 on this team, but then Walker comes back and flashes those amazing cut-back moves, and I’m swayed in his direction. Either way, those two combined – with their tremendous blocking and pass-catching abilities – puts us at a level few teams are at in the NFL.

So, why don’t we feature it more? Why aren’t we scheming to highlight the run, rather than using it to complement a passing attack that’s … fine? Your guess is as good as mine. Seems to me, once again, we have the wrong offensive coordinator. He was brought in to try to appease a disgruntled Russell Wilson, we traded Wilson a year later, and now we’ve been trying to make it work. Sometimes, Waldron looks like one of the best OCs in football. But, too often – especially this season – he gets too one-track minded. He goes away from the run – mind-bogglingly – even though we’re in more games than we’re way behind. And less and less do we see guys schemed open. We were supposed to get the system that the Rams use to tremendous success. Lots of crossers, lots of different plays out of similar-looking personnel groupings. But, either Geno isn’t seeing them, or we’ve gone away from them. Regardless, this offense looks as dysfunctional as it was under Schotty and in the final years of Bevell.

Getting back to the receivers, I’ll tell you what this team doesn’t have; it doesn’t have Doug Baldwin, or a Doug Baldwin type. It doesn’t have that guy who can get open under any circumstance. It doesn’t have that guy you can go to on 3rd & Long, when you absolutely need a conversion to move the chains. Tyler Lockett sort of used to be that guy, but not really, and definitely not anymore. I don’t know what Lockett is nowadays, if I’m being honest. Either he’s trending towards being washed up, or we’re just not utilizing him like we should. More often than not, we’re going to D.K. when we need a big catch to move the chains. Don’t get me wrong, D.K. has been GREAT this year. But, he still has massive drops at the worst times, and you never know when he’s going to be that powderkeg that’s one bad taunt away from exploding.

The good news is: maybe Jaxon Smith-Njigba will be the next true heir apparent to Doug Baldwin. But, he’s still a rookie, he’s still developing that relationship with Geno, and while he’s much more productive now than he was at the beginning of the season, he’s not quite there yet. Hopefully in the next year or two, but that doesn’t help us out THIS season, now does it?

As far as the defense goes, write it off. There’s nothing elite about any of these position groups. Jamal Adams was shut down, having never fully recovered from his knee injury. He was getting beaten on the reg, and was less and less productive out in space near the line of scrimmage the more he played. Clearly, his body is broken, and it’s going to really suck if we’re stuck with him for another year.

As for the rest of the secondary, that was sort of our big hope, but it hasn’t come to fruition. I think the depth is there, but the top-end talent has been lacking. Which is interesting, because two of our three Pro Bowlers came from this group (Devon Witherspoon and Julian Love). Witherspoon looks as good as advertised, but he started the year banged up, and he’s ending the year banged up. When he’s been healthy out there, he’s been a game-changer. But, I’m starting to have serious doubts that we’re ever going to get a full season out of him. And I’m certainly dubious about getting a respectable second contract out of him. As for Love, he’s definitely come on late, but early this season he was a huge liability! The bar to climb over for Pro Bowl contention seems to be getting lower and lower nowadays.

You can’t deny Riq Woolen’s sophomore season has been anything but disappointing. Seems like he too is injured, but I don’t remember him ever being all that active in tackling near the line of scrimmage. That wasn’t a problem last year when he was making plays and generating turnovers; but this year, when he’s not doing that, he’s not really doing anything for you, is he? The rest of the guys – Diggs, Brown, Jackson, Burns, etc. – have all flashed some level of greatness, but have also totally disappeared for long stretches. As a result, this defense is getting increasingly shredded as the season goes along.

The linebackers have been okay against the run, but Bobby Wagner has been one of the biggest weaknesses in the passing game in the entire NFL (he’s a Pro Bowler based on reputation only). Without Jordyn Brooks, the linebacker room is totally decimated (as we saw last week against the Steelers). It’s tough when you’re as thin as you are, and you’re forced to play Wagner at or near 100% of the snaps every week. Now we have to pay Brooks whatever the market rate is for a top-end interior linebacker? What are we doing with our money here?!

I think the interior of the defensive line has been the most productive unit on this team, especially with the addition of Leonard Williams. Between him, Jarran Reed, and Dre’Mont Jones, we’re as solid as you can get. But, when Nwosu went down, the edge has been kind of a wasteland. Frank Clark has hardly played, and I think has since been cut (or is on the verge of being cut). Darrell Taylor can’t set an edge to save his life. Boye Mafe has slowed down considerably the second half of this season. Derick Hall is also struggling to play his position properly (but he’s a rookie, so he gets a pass). So, when you talk defensive line as a whole, I think you have to give them a net-negative. They get sacks at a decent clip, but I would say overall pressure numbers are sub-par, and the run defense has actually gotten worse as the season has gone along.

Defensive coordinator might be our biggest weakness, so we’ll see where that goes this offseason.

That leaves the O-Line, which is middling at best. But, Abe Lucas has been banged up all year, and we’ve had a revolving door at most of our positions from week to week. So much so that we’ve had to emphasize getting the ball out incredibly quickly if we even WANT to have a passing game. Seems like that would be the time to try to pound the rock, but again, we’re not, because of Reasons.

All told, that adds up to a team – as I said in the title – that isn’t great at any one thing. They’re okay at some things, terrible at others, and that’s what adds up to an 8-8 record heading into the final week of the season. Which is why I’ve been saying – for however many weeks now – that I do NOT want these Seahawks in the playoffs. What good does it do to get in there and get your doors blown off in the first round? We did that last year; did it do anything to make the 2023 Seahawks even remotely better? Or, did it just give us worse draft positioning, while allowing us to delude ourselves into thinking we were closer to Super Bowl contention than we actually were?

The Seahawks only make significant changes when they fail to make the playoffs. Whenever we make the playoffs, we bring our coaching staff back, keep the majority of the veterans we’re able to keep, and try to fill in around the fringes with what little resources we have left over. We’ve never really committed to a true rebuild since the 2010 season, and it’s starting to feel like all those Mariners teams from 2004-2018. Close, but no cigar.

What’s this team going to do as a 7-seed? Probably go to Dallas and lose by double digits. We already couldn’t stop them once – the week after Thanksgiving – what makes you think we can stop them now, when our talent is actually more depleted thanks to injury? We tried our best to keep up offensively – putting up 35 in a losing effort – but literally everything had to go right for that to happen, and I’m not buying that we can do that a second time.

And even IF we somehow, miraculously, beat the Cowboys in Dallas (because, at their heart, they love to choke in the playoffs), what is our reward? Playing the 1-seed 49ers after a week off (and after playing no one of consequence in Week 18). Just the worst case scenario of all scenarios; we haven’t come CLOSE to beating them for the last two years now.

So, no, I don’t want to see us in the playoffs. I don’t even want to see us winning this week! I want us 8-9. I want that LOSERS label to be firmly stamped all over this team. Pete Carroll and John Schneider aren’t going anywhere. But, maybe with a losing record, they’ll stumble into the correct coaching and personnel moves to turn this thing around before we’re all old and gray.

The Seahawks Picked Up A Late, Ugly Win In Tennessee

As advertiesed, this game was kind of a slog. Also as advertised, this game was closer than it had any right to be.

The game was still 10-6 Titans with about 12 minutes left in the game, before a flurry of touchdowns resulted in a 20-17 outcome. I’ll be the first to admit, I had a lot going on Christmas Eve. At this point in my day, I was taking my step-daughter to meet with a friend, getting some coffee, and refilling some propane tanks. Then, it was time to clean my new outdoor propane griddle, followed by seasoning my new outdoor propane griddle. It was during this seasoning portion of my day where I was running in and out of the house to check in on the last couple drives. I distractedly saw the Titans methodically move the ball down for a go-ahead score, followed by the Seahawks very quickly (yet also somehow still methodically) moving the ball for the game-winning score. Condensed into this short window, you would’ve thought this was an exciting game! But, in total, it was wildly frustrating and more than a little boring.

Geno Smith returned from his injury and was fine. He looked pretty great in the fourth quarter, but for the first three the offense couldn’t seem to get much going. I’m sure part of that has to do with play-calling and offensive scheme, part of that has to do with Geno’s decision making, and part of that has to do with his protection. There were a number of times it was like no one was playing offensive tackle at all! It’s fine as rookies to have two guys under cheap, team-control. But, the more they play, the more they’re going to cost – even under the rookie contract structure – because they get raises based on playing time. If they’re still producing at the level they were as rookies – which was okay, but nothing compared to the best of the best – then that’s not really a value anymore. It’s just two underperforming tackles (who, not for nothing, are sandwiching three underperforming interior linemen).

As expected, the running game had a tough time getting anything going. Kenneth Walker did his best – with ample cutbacks and broken tackles – but could only muster 54 yards on 16 carries. There was a good mix of production out of Lockett and JSN, with D.K. finding the endzone, and Colby Parkinson bodying up his defender for a post-up game-winner. I will say that the Parkinson play was EXACTLY what we all envisioned when he was originally drafted. Only took four years to finally come to fruition.

I thought the defense looked just okay too. They didn’t allow Tannehill to get going, but then again, it’s Tannehill and he’s pretty washed up at this point. We did manage 6 sacks, and forcing them into 3 punts when they only had 6 possessions (not counting the two end-of-half drives resulting in no points) is actually pretty solid. But, behind Derrick Henry & Co., they also averaged 5.2 yards per carry (31 for 162), and it’s always annoying when we allow a running back to throw a TD pass.

Clearly, neither team had any interest in stepping on the gas in this game. There were 15 possessions total, 13 if you discount the end-of-half drives by the Titans that went nowhere. Get in, get out, hope to avoid injuries; that was the name of the game.

It was nice to see Boye Mafe get a couple sacks – after a pretty long stretch (it seemed like) without any – and for Bobby Wagner to add another to his ledger (with a couple of TFLs to boot). Dre’Mont Jones, Jarran Reed, and even ex-Titan Mario Edwards all had a sack to really pump up our numbers on the season. The Seahawks now have 45 on the year, which is good for a tie for sixth. Not too shabby.

This victory brings us to 8-7 on the season. Thanks to Minnesota’s loss to the Lions this weekend, we’re now the 7-seed in the NFC. There’s four 7-8 teams all with varying degrees of chances to overtake us if we drop one of the next two games. So far, the Vikings seem to have the best chance at that, sitting with a 6-4 conference record (the Seahawks are 6-5, with one game to go against the NFC down in Arizona in the final week of the season). The Packers are the other big threat to us; they have a 5-5 conference record and they face the Vikings this very week. Green Bay wraps up their season against the Bears, so if they were to win out and tie us in overall record, they’d leap over us (just as we did to them last year).

Based on Seattle’s level of talent, and the way we play the game of football, honestly nothing would surprise me. We could win out, we could go 1-1, we could lose both, or we could even tie one or two times! How insane would it be to finish 8-7-2? Not that insane at all, actually!

We all know how I feel about the Seahawks making the playoffs: I think it’s pointless and I think it will actively hurt us in the future (because the organization might believe – as they did last offseason – that we’re only a small tweak or two away from contending for a Super Bowl, and let another year go by without drafting a quarterback). But, if we proceed with the premise that the Seahawks are going to make it – because that’s just what they do – then there’s really only one viable option I want to see.

The 49ers just lost to the Ravens. That dropped them into a 3-way tie at 11-4 with the Eagles and Lions, but the 49ers have tiebreakers over both. That’s thanks to a head-to-head victory over the Eagles, and conference record over the Lions. The Seahawks are all but guaranteed to be the 7-seed; the only way we’d make the leap to 6 is if we overtake the Rams (who are also 8-7, but have won 5 of their last 6 games, as they appear to be one of the hottest teams in football outside of the city of Baltimore). And there’s no way we can take the 5-seed.

Worst-case scenario is: the 49ers fall to the 2-seed and whoop our asses in the wild card round (as they did last year). Second worst-case scenario is: the 49ers remain in the 1-seed, we beat whoever is the 2-seed (currently the Eagles), only to go into San Francisco and get demolished after they’ve had a week of rest.

So, what’s the best case scenario? Well, tbh, it’s either the 49ers fall to the 3-seed (which would require one loss by them, with the Eagles and Lions winning out) and we stay a 7-seed; or the 49ers fall to the 2-seed and we somehow get to the 6-seed.

In the first case, we would play the Lions in round 1, beat them, then go to Philly (who we have a pretty great track record against under Pete Carroll). In theory, if we win those two games, we’d go on to play the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game anyway. But, who knows? Maybe the Rams or the Cowboys knock them out of our way, and we have a much more winnable game in front of us.

In the second case, assuming a 6-seed Seahawks faces a 3-seed Lions, we’d have to hope that the 7-seed Rams take out the 2-seed 49ers. Then, the Rams would proceed to have to go to Philly (who would have the week’s rest), while we’d likely go to either Dallas or the winner of the NFC South (in case the Cowboys fall apart, as they’re known to do).

Neither seems very likely, even if you take out the parts where I’m assuming a Seahawks victory. Somehow, someway, you just know it’s going to end with the Seahawks losing to the 49ers in the first round. God football can be so stupid sometimes.

The Seahawks Traded For Leonard Williams!

This is exciting news!

Here’s the deal: the New York Giants sent Leonard Williams; the Seahawks sent a 2nd round pick in 2024 and a 5th round pick in 2025. The Giants are also paying the lion’s share of Williams’ remaining salary, which means the Seahawks only have to pay the pro-rated portion of the veteran minimum, or around $647K.

It’s not an insignificant price for the Seahawks. A second round pick for a guy on the final year of his deal isn’t nothing. But, given our cap situation, it was a necessary one if we wanted to make this upgrade along the interior of our defensive line. The rationale – if any face-saving is to be had post-2023 – is that the Seahawks could be in line for a compensatory 4th or even 3rd round pick next year, should Williams sign with another team next year.

Of course, that would mean we don’t bring in too many outside free agents to negate that possibility. That would also mean he doesn’t suffer a significant injury, or otherwise play himself into a lower-than-expected new contract. Don’t forget the whole Sheldon Richardson debacle. Part of the appeal of giving up a second rounder to the Jets was the likelihood that he would kick ass in Seattle and sign a huge deal the following year. He ended up sucking and had to settle for a prove-it deal that netted us nothing in compensatory picks. Since then, I’ve stopped believing in those things, taking more of an I’ll Believe It When I See It approach.

That would also mean, not for nothing, that the Seahawks don’t find a way to extend Williams after the season, or even sometime during this season, if he plays well and we can fit him into our future plans!

But, enough about that. This is clearly a move designed to win NOW, and I for one couldn’t be more thrilled.

Are we a Leonard Williams away from being a Super Bowl contender? That remains to be seen. Even with him, and even with an inordinate amount of good injury luck the rest of the way, it’s probably iffy at best. But this shores up what could be argued as our biggest weakness.

For what it’s worth, I don’t like the word “weakness” when it comes to our D-Line. I think our D-Line has been solid-to-good this year as it is. But, Williams playing at his best could take the D-Line from good-to-great, and that’s vital if we do want to be a Super Bowl contender. I would argue we weren’t one before; now, at least we have the potential to be.

An interior with Williams, Jones, and Reed is as good as it gets, across the board. There’s no one uber-stud, but three very good players, with little drop-off behind them. Throw in our outside guys – Clark, Edwards, Mafe, Hall, Taylor – along with Wagner and Brooks, and you’ve got a front seven that’s pretty remarkable. The secondary has been coming along nicely since Witherspoon, Woolen, and Adams have gotten healthier, so there’s really not a weak link on that side of the ball.

It could be argued – especially as the offensive line gets healthier – that the biggest “weakness” on this team is Geno Smith (depending on your opinion of Jason Myers). But, at this point, as long as we don’t suffer a rash of injuries to our best guys, Geno Smith shouldn’t be the reason why we don’t contend for a Super Bowl. That’s not a huge ringing endorsement of his abilities, but if he plays within himself, the Seahawks have as good a chance as anyone to go all the way.

It’s interesting, because part of me still feels like the Seahawks are a year away. Another small part of me feels like the Seahawks are infinity away, because Geno Smith will never be the guy to take us all the way. I guess we’ll see. But, with the addition of Williams, this is as good as this roster has been – top to bottom – since 2015. I don’t know if this team could hang with that team, but it can certainly hang with what the NFC is trotting out there in 2023.

Leonard Williams is great. He’s got 39.5 career sacks, spanning 8 and a half seasons. He’s ranged anywhere from 0.5 to 11.5 sacks per year, which is quite the span. He’s got 1.5 sacks so far this year, but is coming off of an excellent three-game stretch, where the Giants have really picked it up on that side of the ball. Williams is no small part of that; even when he’s not filling up the stat sheet, he’s commanding enough attention to open up opportunities for others around him. He’s also, obviously, got a lot of incentive to continue being great, given his free agent status at season’s end. And, I’m sure there will be a considerable morale boost going from a 2-win Giants team that just lost to the Jets, to a 5-win Seahawks team currently sitting in first place in the NFC West.

And, like I said, there’s always a chance we could keep him around, if he has a good time here and we’re able to pony up the dough. Jarran Reed is under contract for a very reasonable amount next year (he could also be cut with a low dead cap hit). We might want to wrap up Boye Mafe before he hits his final year in 2024; that could buy us a little savings. Jordyn Brooks will be a free agent, and could command a lot of attention, but he’s still an inside linebacker, and they don’t necessarily break the bank. My point is – without knowing every single in and out of the Seahawks’ cap situation next year – I think we should have some wiggle room if Williams proves he’s worthy of being a part of this thing going forward. It’s always better, in this case, to have the guy in your system ahead of time, to know for sure if he’s a fit. This is a win all the way around, in my book.

Frank Clark Returns As The Seahawks Take On The Browns

There’s no discounting the loss of Uchenna Nwosu for this Seahawks defense. He was unquestionably our best defensive player last year, he earned a relatively big-money contract extension this past offseason, and even though the numbers aren’t eye-popping this season, the eye-test and the ancillary numbers point to Nwosu being our best outside linebacker/pass rusher. While it’s wonderful that Boye Mafe has taken the next step to be a super-productive second banana, after the loss of Nwosu, the drop-off is pretty considerable.

You may be saying to me, “Don’t forget about Darrell Taylor!” But I think it’s clear at this point that he’s pretty one-dimensional. There are a lot of reasons why the Seahawks have so drastically improved in their run defense – Bobby Wagner, Jarran Reed, Dre’Mont Jones, Devon Witherspoon, no more Cody Barton – but I think a big key is the reduced role Taylor plays on rushing downs. He’s a solid-to-good pass rusher in obvious passing situations, but other than that, I don’t really trust him as an all-around outside linebacker. That doesn’t mean Taylor doesn’t have value, or isn’t important to this team’s success. But, I take a less-is-more approach with him.

And, as for Derick Hall, I think there’s a lot of promise there, but he reminds me a bit of Boye Mafe as a rookie last year. Maybe a bigger, beefier version, but someone who probably is a year or two away, if he’s going to hit at all.

Seahawks fans have been focused on the impending trade deadline on October 31st for good reason. While the defense has been extraordinary – especially compared to expectations – you can always use a little more. With the way we like to rotate guys in and out, you can never have enough weapons at your disposal. Then, when you factor in the inevitable injuries that will crop up – starting with Nwosu last week – it’s all the more imperative to keep reloading on that side of the ball, not just with bodies, but competent ones.

It’s funny that some people automatically dismissed the Frank Clark option. Maybe they had a good reason; I guess we’ll find out. His numbers with Kansas City for those four seasons certainly weren’t explosive. It’s hard to say he justified the contract he was given; when you sign someone to a deal worth over $20 million per season, you expect more than an ordinary defensive end. He averaged just under 6 sacks per (regular) season, though he added 10.5 sacks in 12 post-season games with the Chiefs. Certainly, whenever I watched the Chiefs (which, yeah, a lot of those games were probably in the playoffs), it seemed like they were getting their money’s worth. But, they clearly felt he was expendable when they cut him this past offseason.

And, also clearly, he didn’t mesh with what the Broncos were trying to do. He signed with them for 2023, at a little under $5.5 million, and got cut after playing in only 2 games. They even went so far as to make him a healthy scratch and put him on the trade block – in addition to reworking his deal to lower the cap hit – but found no takers. Then, he just sat there as a free agent for a couple/few weeks, until the Seahawks came calling.

Now, of course, there are a lot of caveats to all of this. For starters, the Chiefs are – as most teams – up against the salary cap. They have a lot of stars who they’re paying truckloads of money, and they just can’t afford to keep everyone. Maybe they felt he was slipping; maybe they would’ve welcomed him back at the veteran minimum. Clark chose to get what he could with the Broncos; that’s fine. Once the Chiefs gave a little cookie to Chris Jones after his holdout, I’m sure they’re even further pressed against the cap, making in-season moves quite difficult. That could explain why Clark didn’t go back to KC (or, again, maybe they think he’s cooked). But, I don’t know if I’m ready to write Clark off simply because the Broncos cut him. That team is in shambles for a second straight season; it sure looks like they’re getting ready to clean house this upcoming offseason. If they’re indeed looking to covertly tank, getting rid of Clark is an easy way to ensure you’re not getting unwanted production on that side of the ball. Or, you know, maybe that makes two teams who believe Clark isn’t the player he once was.

Then, there’s the obvious argument that Clark and Nwosu really don’t play the same position. Clark is 6’3, 272 pounds; Nwosu is 6’2, 251 pounds. Clark is much closer in body type to Mario Edwards than he is to Nwosu or Mafe. Not for nothing, Clark is much closer in age (30) to Edwards (29) than he is to Nwosu (26) or Mafe (24). I love Clark as an edge-setter and a run defender, I still like him as a pass rush threat, but I don’t know if I love the idea of Clark trying to defend a skill position player in space. Maybe that, ultimately, is the reason why a certain segment of the Seahawks-following public dismissed the notion of a Clark return.

But, he’s here now. And I think this could be a perfect fit. What I’m not necessarily buying is that he knows the system. He was last here in 2018; that was Norton’s first season as DC. Maybe defense is defense; maybe this whole 3-4/4-3 thing is muddier than I think it is. But, I wouldn’t say the defense is exactly the same.

What I will say is that as part of a rotation, this could be the marriage we need. Keep Clark in there for rushing downs, then slide Taylor in there for obvious passing downs. Make that a platoon of sorts. Mafe can take over for Nwosu’s percentage of snaps, and we can use Hall to spell him. Also, I love the idea of a front four consisting of Clark, Reed, Jones, and Mafe if we’re in a jam and need to create pressure with a 4-man front. Throw Taylor into that mix on a blitz? *Chef’s Kiss*.

I would say I’m a little more on the positive end of the spectrum on this move. Very low risk, we didn’t give up a draft pick to get him, he’s getting the veteran pro-rated minimum, he’s at least familiar with the coaching staff and the city. He’s still young enough to where – if he plays well – he can keep getting boatloads of money thrown his way. Quality defensive linemen who can rush the passer can play well into their 30’s, so it’s not like he’s a running back or a receiver or something. It’s a high value position, an area of need, and we have an immediate opening. The downside is: maybe he’s finished, he’s nothing more than a body, and he’ll be out of the league in a year or two. That’s what we have to find out. But, he’s not blocking anyone, he shouldn’t command an inordinate percentage of snaps (unless we have more injuries), and if it doesn’t work out, that’s fine, Nwosu will be back in 2024 anyway.

That brings us to the Cleveland Browns this Sunday. I found it extremely intriguing that Pete Carroll was already talking about him playing this weekend, even though he hadn’t shown up yet. That tells me Clark must be in pretty good shape. I can’t wait to watch this game and see what he has in the tank.

I also can’t wait to watch this game because we’re FINALLY bringing back the throwback jerseys! It’s so stupid that it’s taken this long to get here, but it’ll be so great to see them on the field again. Never has it felt more like me rooting for clothing than it will on Sunday.

This game also features the return of D.K. Metcalf, who had some interesting things to say at his weekly press conference (namely that he wasn’t allowed to talk about injuries). More and more, it’s looking like last week was a suspension, hidden behind the cloud of his nagging pain complaints. Regardless, we’ll need him; I just hope he’s got his head in the game, and this isn’t the beginning of an irreparable rift with the team.

I am NOT super confident about this one. The Browns’ defense is one of the true elites in the league this year. Considering we’re coming off back-to-back sub-par outings by our offense, the last thing I wanted to see is Myles Garrett making mincemeat of our O-Line. Injuries are still killing us up front – with Bradford looking to be out, possibly being replaced by Jason Peters, who is more of a tackle than a guard – and we’d be crazy if we don’t chip him with a tight end or a running back on every play.

Then, it came out that Kenneth Walker hasn’t practiced for the last two days. He took on the full load of running back production last weekend – with Charbonnet out – and it looks like he’s paying the price. Charbonnet is on track to return this week, but it might be in time to make his first NFL start. I’ve adjusted my fantasy team accordingly, to pick him up as a replacement, just in case.

On the flipside, Deshaun Watson is out this week. He tried to come back last week, was ineffective, and it was clear that he wasn’t ready. So, P.J. Walker gets the start in his place. The Browns are also banged up at running back, and aside from Amari Cooper (who looks diminished in his old age) and Njoku, I don’t know who their pass catchers are.

This game is just screaming Low Scoring Grudgematch. I think it’s going to be extremely close throughout, and if either team goes up by two scores in the second half, I think it’s over. I worry about the Seahawks here, because while I think this is a game we should win – even if it’s in an ugly fashion like last week’s 20-10 victory over the Cards – I could also see our offense completely bottoming out. If it’s 10-0 late in the third quarter, I don’t believe we have the horses to come back against that ferocious pass rush.

What sucks is that we’re two weeks away from a potential Get Right game for our offense. That means we have to figure out some way to put points on the board against elite defenses, because the Browns aren’t the first, and they won’t be the last.

I think this will be, like, a 16-12 Seahawks victory. Ugly as all get-out, but as long as we can hold the Browns to field goals, we should be in good shape.

Are The Seahawks Progressing Faster Than Usual This Season?

The Seahawks under Pete Carroll have a certain reputation, that I don’t think is actually warranted anymore. They’re a team that starts slow, but then comes together and improves as the season goes along, until they slam into a home stretch that puts them over the top by playoff time. The biggest lament of this scenario is the fact that the Seahawks usually dick around too much early in the season – losing too many games – and are unable to qualify for a divisional title or a top seed in the conference. We might be playing the best ball by the end of the regular season, but we’re going to be playing that ball on the road, and it makes a big difference in the playoffs.

Anyway, that’s the reputation, but again, if you go back season-by-season, I don’t know if it’s really true anymore. It probably hasn’t been true since 2018. But, just go with me on this.

If we focus exclusively on the defense – and, spoiler alert, that’s what the title of this post is referring to – then I think you very much CAN make that argument, across a long span of time. Probably dating back to 2016. As the L.O.B. aged out and went their separate ways, the Seahawks have failed in trying to replenish this team with defensive stars. It’s been nothing but middling players, with an occasional splash trade for an overpriced veteran who isn’t able to do enough to bring this unit back to its former glories.

So, what happens? Well, we start each and every season looking like the worst defense in all of football. We look like that, because we ARE that. Doesn’t matter if it’s Kris Richard, Ken Norton Jr., or Clint Hurtt; this side of the ball is going to massively struggle early, Pete Carroll is going to assert his will to get things more in line, and it’s eventually going to look somewhat better. But, that never lasts, because there’s a major talent shortage, and you can only hold the dike together with scotch tape and bungee cords for so long before it bursts.

Why does this year look different? How did we – in one offseason – go from looking like one of the worst defenses in football, to potentially looking like one of the best? Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying we’re the 49ers or the Jets or something. But a difference from being Bottom 10 to Top 10 is certainly massive.

Well, let’s start with the guys we brought in. Dre’Mont Jones, Bobby Wagner, Jarran Reed, Devon Witherspoon, Julian Love, Mario Edwards, Derick Hall, Devin Bush, and Cameron Young are the major culprits. Then, there’s the return of Jamal Adams, Tre Brown, and Jordyn Brooks from injury. And maybe the biggest catalyst is the improvement of Boye Mafe from year one to year two.

Now, let’s look at who’s NOT here. Cody Barton, Ryan Neal, Shelby Harris, Al Woods, Poona Ford, Quinton Jefferson, Bruce Irvin, L.J. Collier, and Bryan Mone (still on the roster, but injured). There’s a lot of addition by subtraction going on here. Neal is probably the best player in this group, but the combo of Love and Adams certainly more than makes up for his loss. Barton is one of the worst linebackers in football. Poona has hardly even played. Collier is who we thought he was. The rest of them are role players at best. And maybe the biggest catalyst here is the fact that Mike Jackson’s role has been severely diminished with Brown and Woolen healthy. Rather than being this team’s 2nd corner, he’s now the 4th or even 5th option, which is probably where he belongs (and as far as 4th or 5th corners goes, he’s pretty good at that).

So, it definitely looks like the Seahawks pulled all the right strings in this past offseason.

Witherspoon is obviously getting the lion’s share of attention, for good reason. He’s wonderful! We’ve never seen someone quite like him, and he’s quickly proving why he was deemed to be the #5 overall pick, and the best DB in the draft. I would say, however, that the biggest surprise has been Jarran Reed. The NFL more or less left him for dead after he left the Seahawks the first time, since he hasn’t done a whole lot with the Chiefs or Packers. He’s back and he might be better than ever!

The combo of Reed and Jones is better than any interior option we’ve had since the L.O.B. days. Jones got off to a bit of a slow start, but he’s beginning to assert himself, and it’s really paying dividends. You can see it in the VAST improvement of our run defense, but they also have 5 sacks between them after 5 games.

Having Wagner and Brooks together again has also been a breath of fresh air. I am in awe over Brooks’ ability to return so quickly from ACL surgery. Not just to play since week 1, but to play at a high level. You also want to lump in Witherspoon and a healthy Adams into this mix, because they’re wreaking havoc near the line of scrimmage.

We talk about depth a lot with the Seahawks’ defense. They don’t seem to have – on paper – the kind of front-line stars that teams like the 49ers, Jets, and Eagles have. Those teams, as we’ve seen, also have lots of depth, but I think that’s easy to come by when you have so many superstars. Put anyone with a pulse around Nick Bosa, Fletcher Cox, and Quinnen Williams, and you’re bound to look good. But, the Seahawks – 1 through 25 – look pretty rock solid, and it’s making all the difference.

Nwosu is still playing like he did last year. Mafe, again, has taken a clear step forward in his progression (tied for the team lead in sacks with Reed). Hall and Darrell Taylor are still valuable rotational pieces in the pass rush. Even Edwards and Young have plugged holes and made some noise.

Thus far, the secondary – the unit we all expected to be among the best in the game – has been the biggest disappointment. But, I would argue they’ve also been the most banged up. Adams, as per usual, has only played in a game and a quarter. Woolen was injured before the season and came late to the party. Ditto Witherspoon. Brown has been in and out. Now, we’re down Coby Bryant with a toe injury (currently on IR). We’ve had to use Love more than we would’ve liked, and probably in areas where he’s not best utilized. Jackson, in spite of a promising 2022, and a highly-regarded training camp, has not looked good. Diggs has had everything on his plate, and hasn’t been able to just let it rip the way he does best (as a turnover machine). With our stars returning, though, everyone else can settle into the roles that best maximize their talents, and you get what we’ve seen the last two games: the Seahawks shutting down opposing passing games (including the vaunted Bengals) the way we all expected heading into the season.

We can’t claim the Seahawks are up there with the true elites, simply because when injuries start to crop up again, we won’t have enough behind them to keep us in that upper echelon. But, if we can avoid truly devastating injuries, and somehow cobble together the rest of this season with Adams involved ON the field, I think there’s real potential here.

The offense won’t always be as bad as they were against the Bengals. I wouldn’t even say they were truly bad, just inept in the red zone. They should keep us in most every game the rest of the way. But, that’s a two-way street. I firmly believe this defense can also keep us in every game the rest of the way. Then, it comes down to execution, and a little luck.

We’re not in an insurmountable hole, even though a 3-2 record – after losing a very winnable game – is far from ideal. Having the defense seemingly figured out only a month into the season is a big boost for this team, though! Now, I could be dead wrong, and this unit will revert back to giving up tons of yards and points this very next game. But, I don’t think I’m off here. And that will mean big things for this team the rest of the way.

We have 12 games left. 6 at home, 6 on the road. If we break it up, three of our next four are at home (Arizona, Cleveland, at Baltimore, Washington). Two of those games should be wins, if we expect to be a playoff team. With the other two, I would say both are winnable, and you’d like to come away from this stretch at least 3-1. That makes us 6-3 as we head into the gauntlet of the schedule.

At the Rams (didn’t have this one pegged as part of the gauntlet heading into the season), 49ers on Thanksgiving night, at Dallas also on Thursday, at 49ers, home for the Eagles. I would like to believe we can compete with L.A., but I dunno. If we manage to win that one, it’ll likely have to be a shootout. Dallas seems like a game we might be able to steal. The Eagles don’t look quite as dominant as they did last year. That leaves us with two against our direct rivals, the 49ers. If we can split those two, and win 2 of 3 against the rest, that puts us at 9-5 heading into the stretch run. Seems far more likely we’re 8-6, and still clinging to wild card hopes, but we’ll see.

The final three games are at Tennessee, home for Pittsburgh, and at Arizona. You’d like to think, by that point, those teams will have nothing to play for. Regardless, all are incredibly flawed. Still, when have we ever managed to be perfect in the final month against incredibly flawed teams? Seems like we always bungle one of these types of games. 3-0 would put us at 11-6 or 12-5, with a puncher’s chance at the division (but, almost certainly falling short, because the 49ers seem destined to make the Super Bowl). If we go 2-1 (which is my official prediction), that still puts us at 10-7 or 11-6, which is almost assuredly a wild card spot.

I will say that – other than Washington and Arizona – there’s a lot of high-end defenses on this slate. So, of course, now that we’re feeling good about our defense, it’ll be the offense that we have to worry about (the one thing we were all feeling pretty great about heading into the season). Isn’t it always the way? We just can’t have nice things.

The Seahawks Blew It In Cincinnati

I was right: the Bengals beat the Seahawks. But, they didn’t quite do it as I expected.

As I noted on Friday, I was at the Taylor Swift movie experience – surprisingly, they did NOT cut away occasionally to Travis Kelce cheering along in the luxury suites – so I didn’t get to see this game. As such, this will be a post with more questions than answers. I’ll tell you this much, I didn’t project this as a 17-13 slugfest.

I have two main takeaways coming out of this game. First and foremost – the reason why we lost this one – has to lay at the feet of the offense. Geno Smith had one truly atrocious pick, and another where D.K. apparently gave up on the route. The team as a whole was only 5/12 on third down, and critically 0 for 2 on fourth down (both near the goalline in the fourth quarter, where we had a chance to take the lead or even win the game). Penalties were costly in setting us behind the sticks. And the Bengals were able to pressure us more than we’ve been pressured all season.

I’d love to know what the gameplan was coming into this game. We got Charles Cross back from his injury, but were still saddled with Jake Curhan at right tackle (with some interior shuffling, moving Haynes to left guard, and starting Bradford at right). Did we leave them on more islands than we had the previous few games, opting to go with more 3 wide receiver sets and fewer jumbo packages? Or, was it pretty comparable, and we just got manhandled by a superior front seven? I would hope the coaching staff would have more sense than that, but you can’t rule it out until we see the snap counts. Regardless, it didn’t seem like a well-called game by Waldron. Nor was it a very efficient game from Geno and the rest of our skill players.

My other big takeaway, however, has to do with the defense, and how promising this unit looks going forward.

The Bengals had back-to-back touchdown-scoring drives to open this game, which initially led me to believe my prognostication would be accurate: that we wouldn’t touch Burrow, and they’d carve us up and down the field accordingly. But, we ended up tightening things up the rest of the way, giving up just 3 points after the 12:20 mark in the second quarter. We forced 6 punts and got an interception. We sacked Burrow 3 times in the game, hit him 5 times, got 4 tackles for loss, and knocked down 6 passes. We held Burrow to a paltry 185 yards passing (5.3 yards per attempt) and held their running game to 46 yards on 15 carries. Coming on the heels of that Giants massacre, there were a lot of questions about whether or not we could keep that going against a competent offense. The Seahawks’ defense came through this one with flying colors. They absolutely did enough to win us this game, which hasn’t been something we’ve been able to say very often the last 5+ years.

I can’t sit here and get too down on this team after one game. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel very strongly the other way either; I’m not telling you everything is wonderful. It probably helps that I didn’t actually sit through this game for 3 hours; I’m sure in the moment I would’ve been miserable for damn near every minute. Part of me wants to say people are too quick to write off Geno Smith (and they’re damn near insane if they’re calling for Drew Lock to start for this team!), but there’s another part of me that saw Geno finish 3-6 last year (including playoffs), and knows he’s still getting credit for some of those early-2022 performances. He’s good against bad defenses, he’s pretty miserable against good-to-great defenses, and we still don’t have a lot of those late-game heroics that we regularly saw during Russell Wilson’s prime.

I’ll also say that we’ve given Wilson a lot of crap – especially since he’s gone to Denver and stunk up the joint – for poor performances on 3rd down and with taking brutal sacks, but that hasn’t really let up a whole lot with Geno under center. Especially in the biggest games. I don’t know what that says about the team as a whole, other than it’s really hard to be great at quarterback in the NFL, and I ultimately don’t think Geno Smith is great. I think he’s fine. He’s much closer to Ryan Tannehill in his prime than Russell Wilson in his prime.

But, I think we’re going to need to see this season as a whole before we can totally rule him out. There are more opportunities for Geno to turn it around. In a couple weeks, we have back-to-back games against the Browns and Ravens, two good-to-great defenses that he’ll need to be the best version of himself if we expect to win either of those games.

Ultimately, it’s a loss to an AFC team, which means very little in the grand scheme of things. Thankfully, we were bailed out by the Browns – who took care of business against the 49ers – so we haven’t lost any ground. But, that makes next week’s game against the Cards all the more important.

Good on Kenneth Walker for continuing to look like a stud. Good on Tyler Lockett for having another big game. Good on Jaxon Smith-Njigba for being involved, and good on Jake Bobo for making a couple of hard-nosed catches.

Devon Witherspoon had a quieter game than the one in New York, but still broke up 3 passes. Jamal Adams stayed healthy throughout. Dre’Mont Jones, Jarran Reed, and Boye Mafe each had sacks. Tre Brown returned from injury and had a bigtime pick (the combo of him, Witherspoon, and Woolen look dominant together). And look at Jason Myers being perfect (and hitting a 55 yard field goal)!

I will say that I was disappointed in Pete Carroll. If there was ever a game we needed him to be the conservative version of himself, this was it. The defense was rolling by the fourth quarter. We were down 4 points, we had the ball near the goalline. We failed to get it in due to offensive incompetence. There was still over 2 minutes to go, we had two time outs, and he opted to keep the offense out there on 4th & goal at the 6. Kick the field goal! Then, you’re down 1, you have a chance to get the ball back (which we did), and drive it down for the game-winner. It’s mind-boggling when Pete decides to be hyper-aggressive, and when he decides to turtle up. He’ll punt from the opposing 40 yard line in one drive (when we’ve proven capable of moving the football), then he’ll go for it near the goalline (when we’ve looked like ass trying to score in the red zone). Just be consistent! He’s standing on a 16 against a dealer’s 10, then he’s hitting on a 14 when the dealer has a 5, just because he has a feeling or whatever.