Nobody Wants To Hear About My Fantasy Team: Playoffs Round 2

Well, it looked dicey there for a while on Sunday – as both King Flippy Nips and Crazy N8’s Prostates struggled to do much of anything – but as the day wore on, my guys had just enough in the tank to prevail, 164.77 to 124.10.

Predictably, I made a bunch of pre-game panic moves that either had no bearing on the outcome, or totally cost me points because I’m an idiot.  For starters, I put Wentz back in my lineup over Carr.  It was the right call – as my fantasy confidant and sherpa guide told me, “… this time of year I generally say play your best players,” – and in the end I got an extra point out of the deal.  Turns out Carr against the Steelers was also a good call, as I figured.  But, the risk of Carr totally melting down was too much for me, so I went with my keeper.

I also ditched the Giants defense, going with Detroit’s.  That ended up costing me 4 points, which was no big thing (thankfully).  But, I could’ve just stuck with Chicago’s defense (who DOMINATED the Rams, to my surprise) and had 10 more points!  IDIOT!

Finally, I put Adrian Peterson in there, thinking that the Redskins would hang around and try to run the ball a ton.  He got me less than 3 points in a week where Carson would’ve gotten me 15.  Woof.

Luckily, Zeke came to play (31.20), both my QB’s showed up, and Tyreek Hill shook off an early injury to get me over 20 points.  More importantly, Crazy N8’s Prostates had to replace ODB at the last minute (Chris Godwin, who got less than 3 points), and had mediocre games up and down his lineup.

So, I advance to the next round.  As a 6-seed, my reward is to play the 1-seed, Space Forcin’.  You know, the guy who managed to keep Mahomes, Kamara, and Rivers (QB1, RB5, and QB6).  The guy who – on his BYE week last week – still managed to lead the league in scoring with over 200 points.  This dude is a juggernaut.  I’m so fucked it’s not even funny.

Barring a miracle, I’m pretty much where I deserve to be:  in the final four.  I will say this, though:  for a team as good as mine, it’s weird that I’ve yet to surpass 200 points in any given week.  Most all of the other good teams in our league has had at least one 200-point week this year.  Just sayin’.

Anyway, here are my guys:

  • QB1 – Carson Wentz or Nick Foles @ LAR
  • QB2 – Derek Carr @ CIN
  • WR1 – Tyreek Hill vs. LAC
  • WR2 – Adam Thielen vs. MIA
  • RB1 – Ezekiel Elliott @ IND
  • RB2 – Chris Carson @ SF
  • TE – Vance McDonald vs. NE
  • FLEX – Robert Woods vs. PHI
  • K – Ryan Succop @ NYG
  • DEF – Chicago vs. GB

My bench is:  Winston, Peterson, Boyd, Adams, Detroit, Bell (IR).

Come Wednesday morning, I made a flurry of moves.  Gone:  Jimmy Graham.  Fuck that guy, I fucking hate him anyway.  Plus, with the Packers going up against my defense, it’s not like I want him to do well anyway.  So, watch him have a monster game with multiple touchdowns.  In his place, I grabbed Vance McDonald.  There aren’t a lot of great tight ends out on waivers this time of year, and the ones I like are in tough matchups.  With McDonald, I just want to get SOME points, and I feel like he’s got the safest floor.

Also gone:  Matt Bryant.  The dude is old, their offense has sucked lately, and again I just want POINTS.  Per Yahoo, the Giants give up the most points to kickers in the league, so in comes Succop.  I don’t love Tennessee’s offense, but hopefully he’ll get me a 50-yarder or two.

Finally, I didn’t need two defenses, as I’m FOR REAL THIS TIME sticking with Chicago the rest of the way.  With word coming down on Wednesday that Carson Wentz is unlikely to play this week, I picked up Nick Foles.  I still like him more than Jameis Winston against that Baltimore defense.

My guys are okay, my matchups are okay, but Space Forcin’ is just STACKED.  The aforementioned Mahomes & Rivers (in a matchup against one another on Thursday night that’s destined to be a shootout to end all shootouts), Adams and Smith-Schuster as his starting wideouts, Kamara and Aaron Jones as his starting RBs, the immortal Kittle as his TE, Jacksonville’s defense going up against the pathetic Redskins.  I mean, how do you compete with these guys?

I’m gonna need my first 200-point week, and even then, will it be enough?  Yahoo has me losing by over 20 points already, before anyone has played a game.  It’s gonna be ugly.

Nobody Wants To Hear About My Fantasy Team: Playoffs Round 1

Spoiler alert:  I backed into the playoffs.

That’s right, I lost yet again to Korky Butchek, albeit narrowly, 154.40 to 149.45.  I had good games out of my QB’s (Wentz & Winston) as well as Elliott and Woods; but Tyreek Hill did nothing, Greg Olsen got hurt and is out for the rest of the season, and my Chicago defense royally shit the bed.  My opponent, meanwhile, got nothing out of his QB’s (Stafford & Goff) and had a paltry game out of Mark Ingram.  But, Antonio Brown killed it, the Seahawks defense dominated, and Zach Ertz did just enough to counter-balance my Philly quarterback going on Monday Night to fend me off.

Luckily, the guy I was fighting for that 6th and final playoff spot who had the same record as me also lost.  That game was pretty well decided before we even got to the Sunday Night game, so I had that going for me.

So, I’m 5-8.  I’m 3rd in total points scored, and 2nd in most points scored against.  It is what it is.  The bottom line is I got into the playoffs, and it all starts over from here.

If I had won, I would’ve jumped up to the 5th seed, playing the 4-seed in the first round.  We’ll see what happens this week, but that’s yet another thing I can bitch about if things don’t go my way.  Also, if I’d won, I would’ve knocked Korky Butchek out of the 2-seed (top two seeds get a first round BYE).  Instead, I’m the 6th seed, playing the team I would’ve bumped up to #2 had I won. He’s obviously not pleased with me.

That team:  Crazy N8’s Prostates.  That’s right, a third contest with the team that so far has beaten me twice by a combined 7 points.  He’s the team who won my way into the playoffs by beating my closest rival for the 6th seed, so obviously I’m pretty happy with this fella!  He’s already lost Alex Smith for the year, and now he’s down Colt McCoy as well.  I don’t know who he’ll play as his second QB this week, but he’s got options (albeit, not great ones).

First, here’s my lineup:

  • QB1 – Jameis Winston vs. NO
  • QB2 – Derek Carr vs. PIT
  • WR1 – Tyreek Hill vs. BAL
  • WR2 – Adam Thielen @ SEA
  • RB1 – Ezekiel Elliott vs. PHI
  • RB2 – Chris Carson vs. MIN
  • TE – Jimmy Graham vs. ATL
  • FLEX – Robert Woods @ CHI
  • K – Matt Bryant @ GB
  • DEF – New York @ WAS

My bench is:  Wentz, Peterson, Boyd, Adams, Chicago, Bell (IR).

I put in a claim for the Steelers’ backup running back, but of course I didn’t get it.  What’s worse, the ninnies with the highest waiver priority didn’t claim him either.  Which means Crazy N8’s Prostates – who suffered the devastating loss of James Conner – now gets to slide his backup right into his lineup and not skip a beat.  Great.

I did end up nabbing Jimmy Graham as my tight end.  I don’t feel super confident about that – because I’m a Seahawks fan, and I’ve seen what he brings to the table – but at this point I have to go for upside.  Jordan Reed with Mark Sanchez throwing to him isn’t exciting.  Austin Hooper is, like, Atlanta’s 4th or 5th option offensively.  And the rest is downhill from there.  All told, Graham should hopefully be okay.

And, I tried to stick to Chicago each and every week as my defense, hoping that maybe they’ll get just enough sacks or something to help me out and get me SOME points.  But, I’ve been burned against the better offenses.  I put them in against New England and I’m pretty sure that’s why I lost that week.  It seems like, if they’re not scoring touchdowns, they’re not doing anything for me; now, it speaks volumes that they’ve scored as many TDs as they have this year, but I just can’t throw them out there against the Rams.  I WANTED the Chargers – who host Cincinnati this week – but some guy who didn’t even need them used his high waiver priority on them over that Steelers’ backup running back, so I’m putting the blame (if I lose) squarely on that guy!  I don’t love the Giants’ defense, but I hate Washington’s offense, so I’m hoping for a miracle.  Any time you stream a defense that’s on the road, you’re just asking for trouble.

As far as matchups go for my guys, these are about as bad as they get.  The Cowboys and Saints both have terrific defenses.  Meanwhile, the Steelers aren’t great.  Considering the tear the Cowboys are on, I’ve got to go with the higher-upside plays over my keeper in Wentz.  It’s more likely Winston and Carr will be involved in shootouts; whereas the Eagles/Cowboys game is likely to be a grind-it-out affair.

Things don’t get better for my team from there.  Baltimore’s defense is one of the best in the league, the Vikings have to go to Seattle on Monday Night, and I could see the Bears shutting down Robert Woods.  I need to hope for crazy miracles up and down my roster or I’m toast.

The Seahawks Should Beat The Packers, Which Means They Probably Won’t

Look, there’s a lot to like about where the Seahawks are headed.  If they had abnormally good luck in some of these 4th quarter comebacks, we might be in the driver’s seat for a wild card spot right now.  Instead, with some abnormally bad luck in those same games, we sit at 4-5 and clearly on the outside looking in.

I’ve successfully managed to avoid seeing much from the Packers this season, because I hate Aaron Rodgers and I’m just bored with their whole deal.  They struggle early in the season, and assuming A-Rod doesn’t suffer a devastating injury, they go on a late run to sneak into the playoffs (or sneak into a division championship, considering the teams they contend with are usually pretty mediocre).  R-E-L-A-X’s are bandied about, and we all have a good laugh.  A-Rod is usually good for a completed hail mary or two, because defenses are fucking stupid, and the world loses their collective shit.

Yawn.

The Packers are OVER-RATED.  And this year, they might legitimately be bad.  So bad that their head coach might finally get shit-canned.  Their offense is struggling, and this just so happens to coincide with them signing Jimmy Graham.  Coincidence?

I think the QB Wins stat is pretty funny, because people either put too much faith in those numbers, or people get so up in arms about rubes putting too much faith in them that they get their panties all in a wad.  Well, has anyone ever taken a look at Jimmy Graham’s TE Wins?

Well, for starters, he was drafted the year AFTER New Orleans won the Super Bowl.  They proceeded to go on an immediate decline that has only reversed course since they got rid of him.  On some pretty good Saints teams, with Jimmy Graham in the fold, they never made it beyond the divisional round.  Likewise, the Seahawks suffered the same fate, bringing him in immediately after a Super Bowl run.  Now, the Packers are learning what it’s like to have a creampuff as their tight end and #1 red zone threat.  Jimmy Graham is SOFT, and it’s been proven time and time again that he’s a loser to boot.

The Packers are 4-4-1.  They narrowly edged the Bears at home in week 1 and that’s pretty much their only impressive victory this season.  In a lot of ways, the Packers and the Seahawks are similar teams in that regard:  beating up on the chumps, and falling to the contenders.  This game is a Loser Leaves Town match – if I can quote Bill Simmons – in every sense of the phrase.

The Seahawks NEED to beat the Packers to stay relevant this year.  We’ve already lost to the Rams twice to blow the division, and the Bears have an edge on us in a potential wild card spot.  Falling to 4-6 would essentially mean we’d have to win out and get some help; that’s not gonna happen.

The good news is the Seahawks should have Fluker and Chris Carson back this week.  The Packers aren’t so great at stopping the run, so there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to do to them what we’ve done to so many other teams the last few weeks.  My concern, with this being a short week, is that we see the return of all those mistakes that cost us the Chargers game.  Offensive penalties, breakdowns in coverage on defense, and so on and so forth.

The Packers are a slightly inferior team, but they’re smart.  And they have A-Rod.  A-Rod playing in a primetime game.

They’re also the Packers, and for no good reason whatsoever, their defense has dominated us in the last few matchups.  They don’t generally stop the run all that well, but watch them muck it up tonight.  They do rush the passer pretty well, and I would expect that to continue.  Wilson will be running for his life, but he’ll be contained, and thus forced into some ugly sacks and/or turnovers.

On the flipside, A-Rod was already getting used to playing against our elite defense, because we face them damn near every fucking year.  Now, our talent is pretty well depleted, and he should have a field day accordingly.  We can’t rush the passer without blitzing.  We refuse to blitz, because veteran quarterbacks love it when you do that and carve you up accordingly.  As such, expect A-Rod to have all day to throw on the regular, and expect him to use that time to his advantage.  Is it possible for the Packers to come into Seattle and never punt?  I’m not saying the odds of that are great, but I wouldn’t throw the idea out of bed either.

This Seahawks team with a much easier schedule would be a lock for the playoffs.  But, we have one of the more formidable schedules in all of football, and it’s killing us accordingly.  My fantasy team can relate.

Ultimately, I don’t see why the Seahawks shouldn’t at least keep this one close.  Hell, they might even have a lead heading into the final two minutes of the game.  But, my prediction is that the Packers nip us in a close one, as the city of Seattle burns to the ground.

Not Winners & Losers Of The Seahawks’ Game In Detroit

The Seahawks went into Detroit and did their thing.  The Lions scored an early TD to go up 7, but Seattle took over from there, ultimately winning 28-14.  Things could’ve gotten hairy there towards the end – especially after a bullshit pass-interference call that put the Lions in the red zone with a chance to bring the game to within 1 score with time left to get the ball back – but Justin Coleman jumped a route to snag an interception.  And Michael Dickson ran what was supposed to be a safety out of the back of the endzone 9 yards for an unlikely first down to salt the game away.  To the premise!

What I’m Geeked Out About After Seven Games

It’s like deciding who my best child is.  Or my favorite Halloween candy!  Twix?  Kit Kat?  Snickers?  Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups?  Mounds?  Skittles?  The red/pink Starburst only?  Reese’s Fast Break?  Whatchamacallit?  Do they even have that one in Fun Size?  Milky Way?  Peanut M&M’s?  I LOVE ALL MY BABIES AND NOW I ALSO HAVE DIABETES!

Look, I’m just gonna be selfish here.  As you’ll no doubt read about later this week – because you know you love reading about me and my fantasy team troubles – I was able to pick up Chris Carson in a week where Ezekiel Elliott was on a BYE, and he single-handedly won me a fantasy football game.  You’ll see who I was gonna pick up if I didn’t get Carson and suffice it to say it was a 20-point swing in an 11-point win.

Carson ran for 105 yards on 25 carries, as he was this team’s unquestioned #1 running back.  More importantly, he scored a touchdown and was in on most goalline and red zone plays.  This is huge, not just for my fantasy team.  Mike Davis is a serviceable and perfectly fine #2 running back.  If the Seahawks needed to start him next week, I’d be comfortable with him getting 20 carries.  He definitely also strikes me as a guy who gets better as the game goes along (and therefore requires a number of touches before he starts to get going).  Chris Carson is just a BEAST tho.  He’s faster than every other back on this team, he’s stronger than every other back on this team, he’s more elusive, he’s harder to bring down … you get the idea.  Make a list of all the attributes you want out of a running back, and he’s at the top of every one!

Not only that, but if you compared him to the rest of the #1 running backs around the league, and I would argue he compares VERY favorably!  He and everyone else are behind Todd Gurley by a comfortable margin, but in that second tier, I’d say Carson is right there … in raw ability and talent with the football.  Now, he still has to stay healthy and prove it over a longer sample size.  But, as for just the Eye Test?  He passes with flying colors.

Other Things That Caught My Eye (In A Good Way)

Give me Russell or give me death!  Do you want to see a football player’s stats?  14/17, 248 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs, 14.6 yards per attempt, 158.3 passer rating and 98.9 QBR.  In the leadup to this game, I talked about how he needed to have an efficient game, and that while they don’t give up a ton of yards, the Lions are among the worst teams in opponent’s passer rating.  Lo and behold, Wilson had a PERFECT passer rating!

How about that Ed Dickson?  I never thought I’d say we missed him, and if Dissly hadn’t gone down for the year, I might’ve even argued to cut Dickson before he returned from the PUP list.  But, he was back this week, and he hauled in a couple of VERY impressive catches.  One for 42 yards (on a play-action on third & short where the Lions totally bought into a run and left him wide open) and one for a contested touchdown in the back of the endzone.  I mean, I couldn’t even tell you what he did in a blocking capacity, but his first game in a Seahawks uniform is already my favorite over every other game Jimmy Graham ever had here!  Ed Dickson is such an upgrade it’s not even funny!

David Moore had 4 for 97 and a TD, Lockett had 2 for 34 and a TD, Baldwin had 2 for 26, even Vannett had a nifty catch for 16 yards.

Defensively, there were a lot of stars.  Frank Clark with a sack and a fumble recovery.  Shamar Stephen with another sack.  Some good pressure from Dion Jordan and Jacob Martin and Jarran Reed.

It was also good to see K.J. Wright back, who had a nice game.

Let’s Talk About Competitions

It’s pretty clear who’s stepped up and who’s gone by the wayside.  No Penny in this one.  Not much out of Brandon Marshall or Jaron Brown.  I want to say Mingo’s playing time is greatly reduced with the return of Wright.  Naz Jones was once again a healthy scratch.

Also interesting:  George Fant’s conversion to 4th string tight end.  Or, shit, is he 3rd string at this point?  He was on the field a ton as a de-facto 6th offensive lineman, but he was also lined up out wide seemingly just as much as he was on the line!  He’s even running routes out there a little bit!  I can’t imagine he has great hands, but what if he did?  What if Wilson actually threw him the ball?  Wouldn’t that be wild?

Other Things That Caught My Eye (In A Bad Way)

Not a lot, to be honest.  Tedric Thompson had a couple shoddy plays, but also forced a fumble on that kickoff.  I didn’t like seeing Bradley McDougald leave the game with what appeared to be an injury, but I guess he was just sick so that’s okay.  He might be the most important player on this defense at this point, with no Earl, and with the way he’s been playing at a super-high level this year.  The dropoff from him to Delano Hill is pretty steep, so never leave us Bradley!

There still isn’t a ton of pass rush to write home about, but there’s some, and with the way our back-end is playing, “some” might be “just enough”.

The gauntlet rolls on with a game against the Chargers.  6 of our last 9 games are at home, so giddyup 12’s!

Nobody Wants To Hear About My Fantasy Team: Week 6

I’m gonna tell you what, if I would’ve lost this last week, I MIGHT’VE quit fantasy football entirely.

In every sense of the word, I was lucky to win this one, 128.93 – 124.86.  For starters, if he’d gone with MY version of his best lineup, he would’ve only lost by a little over a point.  He ended up subbing in Cam Newton for Deshaun Watson and that cost him 6 points.  He also subbed in Dion Lewis for Jay Ajayi, which added a little over 3 points to his total, so if he’d split the difference and just kept Watson in there, he would’ve beat me.

He also had the Mason Crosby Experience in there, which absolutely destroyed him.  I got super lucky that the Seahawks did as well as they did against his Rams defense (which ended up getting him just 1 point).

On my end of things, the Carolina defense was a boon, getting me 15 points.  Robbie Gould, though, got me 0.  Calvin Ridley – who I’d been hyping up all week – had a mediocre 7.8 points.  And, obviously, I should’ve benched Tyreek Hill for either Robert Woods or Kenny Golladay.  But, that’s neither here nor there.

Going into the Monday Night game, I had a 119.63 – 87.51 lead.  He had Drew Brees, I had the combo of Adrian Peterson and Jordan Reed.  And I BARELY won!

Now, obviously this is by far my worst week of the season.  I would’ve lost to all but 2 guys in my league.  So, in that sense, I was fucking due for a squeaker.  But, I’m gonna need a much better week this week to keep the train rolling.

King Flippy Nips is now 2-3 on the season and up to 5th place.  I’ve fallen to 3rd in total points though (I’m still tops in the league in points against).

No waiver claims this week.  I didn’t have a super-pressing need and felt it was a better use of my status to climb the waiver priority ranks (come Thursday morning, after a few moves by others, I’m up to 7th).  But, that doesn’t mean I didn’t do anything.  For starters, Greg Olsen is playing again, which means I can’t use an IR spot on him anymore.  I ended up dropping last week’s fill-in defense (Carolina) to make room.  Then, after the big, fat zero I got from Robbie Gould last week, I cut him and owned Wendell Smallwood for a hot minute.

See, I’ve got a real quandary at running back.  Fournette is out of commission (he has since claimed my team’s coveted IR spot for at least a week), and Adrian Peterson apparently injured his shoulder last week.  The Redskins’ offense is a total mess, so the sooner I can get rid of these guys (he and Jordan Reed), the better.  But, for now, I have to keep them.  And yet, I also need to fill a fucking roster!  There are no easy weeks in this league.  Smallwood looked like a good bet, but he’s in a 50/50 time-share with Corey Clement, and neither one has really established himself as a goalline back vs. a 3rd down/pass-catching back.  Clement appears to be BOTH, if I’m being honest, yet Smallwood still eats into about half the snaps.

Anyway, Smallwood and the Eagles are playing on Thursday, and even if AP is a hundred years old, I still prefer him over a 50/50 guy.  So, a few hours later, I ended up dropping Smallwood and picked up Alfred Morris.  Morris plays on Monday Night, in Green Bay, but he looks to be the team’s lead running back for at least this one week.  So, come Sunday morning, if it looks like AP is going to be inactive, I at least have someone competent to throw in my lineup.  It’s not ideal, but it is what it is.

Finally, once I was able to IR Fournette, I was able to pick up a kicker.  I went with Houston’s guy Fairbairn.  It’s pretty slim pickin’s for kickers out there.  I didn’t have the roster flexibility to stash Legatron and the other guy I was looking at was Tennessee’s Ryan Succop, but they’re going against Baltimore this week and I just hate the Titans’ offense.  At least with Houston they seem to move the ball a little better.  I might do some kicker scrounging as the season goes on, in case someone has to drop their guy in a crucial BYE week.  It might ultimately be worth it to keep a second kicker on my roster through a BYE just to cover my ass come playoff time.

Here’s this week’s lineup:

  • QB1 – Carson Wentz @ NYG
  • QB2 – Andy Dalton vs. PIT
  • WR1 – Tyreek Hill @ NE
  • WR2 – Adam Thielen vs. AZ
  • RB1 – Ezekiel Elliott vs. JAX
  • RB2 – Adrian Peterson vs. CAR
  • TE – Jordan Reed vs. CAR
  • FLEX – Calvin Ridley vs. TB
  • K – Ka’imi Fairbairn vs. BUF
  • DEF – Chicago @ MIA

My bench is:  Carr, Woods, Fournette (IR), Golladay (BYE), Olsen, Morris.

I don’t like Carr against the Seahawks (in London) nearly as much as I like Dalton against the Steelers.  Fournette is still sucking my will to live, so I’m stuck rolling with old man Peterson.  Olsen is coming off of a terrible injury, so I need to see him play a game before putting him in my lineup.  Woods is going up against Denver’s secondary, so I’m gonna roll with Ridley against Tampa’s garbage defense.  If Ridley lets me down again, I’m gonna have to make a move with that FLEX spot, but for now I’m hoping for a bounce-back.

This week, I’m up against DelBocaVistaPhase2, who is also 2-3 and in 7th place in our league.  His team is STRONG up and down … except at quarterback.  To wit:

  • QB1 – Josh Allen @ HOU Eli Manning vs. PHI
  • QB2 – Sam Darnold vs. IND
  • WR1 – Stefon Diggs vs. AZ
  • WR2 – Mike Evans @ ATL
  • RB1 – Saquon Barkley vs. PHI
  • RB2 – James Conner @ CIN Joe Mixon vs. PIT
  • TE – Jimmy Graham vs. SF
  • FLEX – Joe Mixon vs. PIT Sammy Watkins @ NE
  • K – Harrison Butker @ NE
  • DEF – Jacksonville @ DAL

His bench is:  Dak Prescott, Chris Thompson Josh Allen, Michael Thomas (BYE), Kenyan Drake, and Keelan Cole LeSean McCoy.

I mean, that’s a murderer’s row … minus the QBs.  We’ve got some interesting direct conflicts as well.  I’ve got Thielen, he’s got Diggs.  That game figures to be a blowout, so it’s up to whoever gets off to a hotter start before Minnesota runs out the clock in the second half.  I’ve also got Andy Dalton and he’s got Joe Mixon, so what’s that game gonna be?  A throw-fest, or a slug-em-out?  And, finally, he’s got Jacksonville’s defense and I’ve got Ezekiel Elliott; obviously the more my guy scores, the less his defense gets.

Also, not for nothing, but I like Darnold against that Colts defense an awful lot, and think he has the potential to put up big numbers.  Between the shootout that should be the Falcons/Bucs, the consistent greatness that Barkley shows on an every-week basis (at least from a fantasy perspective), and the fact that LeVeon Bell chose to wait until AFTER this week to return from his holdout, all goes great lengths in fucking me over.  The Good Luck Gods showered me with love in Week 5, but they’re looking to royally fuck me over once again in Week 6.  I’m Charlie Brown with the football, and that bitch Lucy is fixing to pull it away from me once again.

***THURSDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE***

Blockbuster trade went down.  DelBocaVistaPhase2 sent away James Conner and Chris Thompson, acquiring Shady McCoy and Eli Manning.  So, sub Eli in for Allen, move Mixon up to RB2, and insert Sammy Watkins into the FLEX spot (Keelan Cole hits the waiver wire).  It looks like he’s trying to poach points from Tyreek Hill, which I think is 100% appropriate.  The way New England likes to take away their opponents’ best weapons, I could see a lot of targets funnelled Watkins’ way.

Not Winners & Losers Of The Seahawks’ Game At Arizona

It was the usual brand of ugly down in Glendale, but the Seahawks prevailed in the end to beat the winless Cardinals 20-17.  The defense looked good enough, the run game was fine, but the offense as a whole was pretty bad once again.  There just isn’t going to be an overnight fix on this thing; it’s going to take a lot of baby stepping to get this thing where it needs to be.

What I’m Geeked Out About After Four Games

Shout out to the offensive line!  I never thought I’d see them in this section so soon, but here we are!

I don’t have them here just because every other element about the Seahawks struggled (though that’s true), but because they actually looked good.  Dominant even!  We were all whacked across the face Sunday afternoon with the news that Chris Carson was sitting out with some nagging injury, so you could be forgiven if you feared for the life of our run game.  It came as a further shock to see Mike Davis getting the starter’s reps, with a fully healthy Rashaad Penny returning kicks and getting the backup’s reps.

But, Davis came out guns blazing!  21 carries, 101 yards, 2 TDs, to go along with 4 catches for 23 more yards!  While Davis is fully capable of having these types of games, it was hard not to notice how wide open those running lanes were, thanks to this O-line (backed up, once again, on the strength of D.J. Fluker on the right side).  With Sweezy holding down the left guard spot, things have really started to gel with these guys (though, I still hope to see Pocic win that job back at some point, for the long-term future of the unit).

Furthermore, Russell Wilson only took 2 sacks, and often had all day to throw the ball.  It was just a great game for a maligned group of guys and I’m happy for them.

Other Things That Caught My Eye (In A Good Way)

Speaking of Penny, he only ran the ball 9 times, but gained 49 yards in the process.  He looked more decisive and powerful than I’ve ever seen him.  This was a nice stepping stone game for him, as he acclimates to the speed and ferocity of the league.

Lots of props for the defense, particularly the front seven.

Bobby Wagner, of course, led the team in tackles.  Jarran Reed made his presence felt in the backfield, with a sack and a couple tackles for loss.  Mychal Kendricks had a couple tackles in the backfield, as did Branden Jackson.  These guys also did a pretty good job of holding Arizona’s running game in check.  David Johnson only averaged 3.2 yards per carry (22 for 71, with a TD).

Offensively for the Seahawks, not a lot there.  David Moore had a solid game (2 for 39).  Tyler Lockett continued to show up on the stat sheet (5 for 53 to lead the way).

Let’s Talk About Competitions Injuries

We just can’t play a game in that fucking stadium without losing guys to devastating injuries!  I can’t even keep it straight in my head anymore, all I know it’s been a lot.

Well, throw Will Dissly’s corpse onto the pile, because he went out on the second drive of the game with a season-ending knee injury.  Fucking terrific.  Just what I want to see from a promising rookie.  Let’s cut his first year short in the first month of the season; wouldn’t want to let him get TOO experienced!

Then, if that wasn’t bad enough, Earl Thomas appears to have re-fractured his broken leg from a couple years back, on just a nothing of a play (looks like it broke just with him running on it and maybe stepping down awkwardly).

These injuries are obviously devastating, for both the short term and the long term.  For Dissly, we’re already pretty thin at tight end (Vannett was the only other one suited up for the game yesterday).  Ed Dickson can’t return until after week 6, so we’ll have some practice squad guys coming in.  And, from what I’ve been told, this is a lot like Jimmy Graham’s injury from a few years back, so we’re talking surgery and a full year’s rehab.  If everything breaks right, Dissly could be back for the start of next year, or he could land on the PUP.  Either way, it’s probably best to expect a slow start to his 2019 season, which just sucks, because Dissly really looks like a bona fide #1 starting tight end for this team.

And, with Earl, I mean, what can you say?  He’s the best free safety in the league.  So, obviously, the downgrade to Tedric Thompson or Delano Hill (at strong safety, with McDougald moving over to replace Earl) is pretty severe.  On top of that, there’s no longer the potential to trade Earl for draft picks, which was obviously in our back pocket as the trade deadline approaches.

If the Seahawks were never serious about extending him, I can understand everyone’s frustrations with this team for not trading him and getting back whatever value we could get.  You run the risk – hoping other teams’ injuries force them into giving us more in trade – and you get burned when your own guy goes down.  It’s doubly painful when you start to think about how we almost certainly won’t get a compensatory pick back for him.  There’s just too many things going against us:

  1. Earl’s injury might make other teams wary to give him a huge, long-term contract.  He might have to go somewhere on an incentive-laden, 1-year prove-it deal.  The value of the contract determines the possible compensatory pick, and a deal like that wouldn’t be worth much more than a 6th or 7th rounder.
  2. Even if Earl does get a max deal, that’s not a guarantee that the Seahawks get that possible 3rd round pick in return.  The Seahawks are going to have a lot of money to spend in 2019, with a bunch of veterans coming off the books.  As the Seahawks have a lot of holes to fill in 2019, I would expect we sign more incoming free agents than we lose our own guys to other teams.  If that’s the case, Earl Thomas could sign the biggest contract in NFL history and the Seahawks still won’t get any picks back for him.

All that being said, if you’re mad about Earl Thomas flipping off the Seahawks, you need to calm the fuck down.  He’s an emotional guy, and that’s an emotional situation.  This thing was never going to end well.  Stop clutching your pearls about a middle finger; I’m sure he’s said things a million times worse about this organization away from the media.  He’s an elite player in the final year of his deal and all he wanted was to get paid what he feels he’s worth, as well as have that financial security going forward to protect against this VERY scenario.  To see his worst nightmares come to fruition has to be the most enraging thing for him to experience; I think he’s a model of restraint for ONLY flipping off the sideline.

Earl Thomas is one of the most talented football player to ever don a Seahawks uniform, that’s never going to change.  Kenny Easley walked away from this organization with hurt feelings too.  When his career is over and cooler heads prevail, Earl Thomas will be back one day to raise that 12 Flag and see his name go up in that Ring of Honor.  And, when he becomes a first-ballot hall of famer, he’ll see his number retired.  It’s all out there waiting for him.  Just give it time for the heat to die down.

Other Things That Caught My Eye (In A Bad Way)

It doesn’t get any worse than 0 for 10 on third downs.  You can thank Doug Baldwin for coming up short on two of them (combined with Russell for throwing short of the sticks on both of those), you can thank Brandon Marshall for one glaring drop, and you can thank penalties all over the place (you weren’t perfect, O-line, so don’t think you get off easy on this one).

The play calling also left a lot to be desired.  3rd & long draw plays were the name of the game in this one.  Which, normally, whatever.  But, they also ran the ball on the outskirts of field goal position, when throwing for a nice chunk gain – even if those passes would’ve come short of first down territory – would’ve been the better move.  It’s the worst part of a conservative coaching staff to see your offense get down to the opponent’s 30 yard line and then coast to the field goal try, as if it’s fucking automatic.  NOTHING IS AUTOMATIC!  And, of course, Janikowski missed 2 more very-makeable field goals.  The fact that he made it at the end of the game is irrelevant; the fact that we kept settling for LONG field goals – when it would’ve been better to hurry up and try for shorter ones – is the issue here.  That’s on the coaching staff, and it fucking needs to stop.

Paul Allen, hear my plea!  When it’s time to replace Pete Carroll, go find the next hot-shot offensive mind to get this unit humming!  And then bring the Brink’s truck to Wade Phillips’ house and pay him whatever he wants to coach up the defense!

I won’t totally kill the coaching staff, because they did turn around the running game like they said they would.  Listen, I get the ire from the fans; 0/10 on third down is unacceptable.  At the same time, this running game IS looking good again, so you can’t bemoan the Seahawks for not running the ball … and then complain when they DO run the ball and run it well!

The fact of the matter is, the Seahawks have 2 good run games out of the 4 we’ve played, and it’s no coincidence that the team is 2-0 in those weeks.  We have to help our defense by running clock, and we have to help our O-line by limiting the number of drop-backs for Russell Wilson.  No turnovers, good punting, and it spells out a hard-fought road victory within our division.  That’s how this team is going to win football games.

Finally, before I go, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about Josh Rosen’s day.  He looked, dare I say it, somewhat competent?  Even bordering on *gulp* GOOD!?  The Cardinals had at least 4 crucial drops, and he was fitting some beautiful passes into some tight windows.  That’s just what we need, another team in our division with their quarterback issues completely solved.

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

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

Quarterbacks

  • Russell Wilson
  • Alex McGough
  • Brett Hundley

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

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

Running Backs

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

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

Wide Receivers

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

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

Tight Ends

  • Nick Vannett
  • Will Dissly
  • Tyrone Swoopes

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

Offensive Line

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

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

Defensive Line

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

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

Linebackers

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

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

Cornerbacks

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

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

Safeties

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

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

Pre-Pre-Season Preview: Seahawks Blocking Game

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

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

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

Offensive Line

Here we are.  So much of what the Seahawks want to do hinges on this.  Every year since Russell Wilson has proven himself to be a superstar quarterback in this league, I’ve been waiting for this offense to really bust out and start carrying the team; and every year, those hopes are dashed by an offensive line that couldn’t stop a pack of infants from wreaking havoc in our backfield.

And it’s not like the Seahawks haven’t tried!  We hired Tom Cable, we used many multiple draft picks, in a variety of rounds from the first through the seventh.  But, nothing worked, and indeed it got progressively worse over time, until last year when we has the worst running game in football.  How Russell Wilson hasn’t been killed in a live NFL game is beyond me, because he’s taken a BEATING!

I wish I could walk those comments back and say, “Oh, it wasn’t as bad as we remember,” but actually I think it was worse.  I mean, you’d expect a unit that was as healthy as our O-Line was last year to at least show SOME signs of improvement as the season went along, but I saw no evidence of that.  Did you?

Who’s at fault?  Well, how much time have you got?  Obviously, Tom Cable had to go.  I wouldn’t say his tenure was an utter failure – he did help take us to 2 Super Bowls, so it wasn’t ALWAYS this bad – but I’d say the last three years (2015-2017) were as bad as it gets.  Instead of taking advantage of Russell Wilson’s absolute prime, he had to run for his life on almost every play, while battling constant nagging injuries for one of those seasons!

The front office certainly shares some of the blame, be it Pete Carroll, John Schneider, the scouts, all of ’em.  Letting Tom Cable have so much power and direction over personnel, for starters.  The collective, for just having the worst insight/intuition/whathaveyou when it comes to picking which players we ended up drafting and signing to free agent deals.  The front office also for losing its way – to quote Richard Sherman – by trading away Max Unger for Jimmy Graham.  One of the better blocking centers in the league for one of the worst blocking tight ends in the history of football.

Now, certainly there were factors outside of their control, in that so many other players on this team turned into All Pros and Pro Bowlers, and as we talk about all the time, you can’t pay everyone.  But, the front office still made a choice in who they decided to pay; and ultimately they decided to make this offensive line the most under-funded in the entire league.  It backfired, and they’ve since corrected for that, but now we’re years from our last Super Bowl and, I’m afraid, many more years away from our next one.

I mean, if they’d just signed ONE high-priced left tackle, instead of paying the likes of Percy Harvin or Jimmy Graham, just think of how different things might be.  We might truly be talking about a Seahawks Dynasty, instead of a Seahawks What-If.

But, the past is the past and we can’t do anything about it now.  Let’s take a look at who we’ve got.

Well, I’ll say this:  the left side of the line looks VERY promising.  There are still a tremendous amount of caveats and question marks even about these three guys, but it’s not hard to envision a scenario where Duane Brown (at left tackle), Ethan Pocic (at left guard) and Justin Britt (at center) truly anchor this offensive line and make it a halfway competent one.  That having been said, Brown is going to be 33 in August and is heading into his 11th season; that’s a lot of mileage.  He’s also coming off of a year where he held out for half the games, then suffered an ankle injury.  He appears to be healthy now, but how long will that last?  And, even when he was (supposedly) healthy last year, he didn’t look great.  Maybe he needed time to get used to Russell Wilson’s style of play and scrambling and all that … or maybe he’s in his 30’s and is on the downside of his career.  How many more years does he have left, realistically?  2?  3 at the MOST?

This thing falls apart in a hurry if Duane Brown isn’t The Man.  I like Pocic as much as the next guy, but it’s still his second year in the league.  He’s also on his second offensive line coach in as many seasons (well, third in as many seasons, I suppose, if you include his college coach), so what is that going to do to stunt his growth?  And, as for Britt, again I like him, but he also pulled his share of boners last year, following his contract extension and the anointing of him as the leader of this unit.  Maybe that was because he had to compensate for the dunderheads around him – and I really do hope that’s the case – but don’t forget who’s at fault for George Fant getting hurt in the first place.  He took a blind dive into a guy and ended up landing on his own teammate’s knee; Britt isn’t exactly the sharpest tool in the shed.

I want to believe in this left side of the line – I HAVE to believe in them, for my own sanity – because the right side scares the everloving shit out of me.

The Seahawks brought back Mile Solari to coach up the offensive line.  He hasn’t had a successful O-Line in more years than I can count, so right away we’re dealing with a huge red flag.  Now, maybe there were other circumstances outside of his control, and it wasn’t necessarily all his fault that his lines have been terrible.  Maybe, if he had more control over things, he would’ve gotten his type of guys and had more success.  I certainly hope so, because it sounds like the Seahawks really took him to heart when he recommended signing D.J. Fluker to be this team’s right guard.

For starters, I think a lot of fans were clamoring for Germain Ifedi to move inside to guard.  I wasn’t one of them – I think if we’re ever going to see our faith in Ifedi pay off, it’s going to have to be at one single position, and not by jerking him around from guard to tackle and back again – but I can certainly understand the thought process.  Ifedi looks like a giant lunkhead over there at right tackle, and it might be easier to hide some of his flaws if you moved him inside and had Britt helping him out on double-teams and whatnot.  But, I’m of the opinion that if Ifedi is the bust we all fear he is, then he’s going to be a HUGE GAPING LIABILITY wherever you put him.  Sort of like Britt was, when we moved him from tackle to guard to finally center; unfortunately, you can only have one center on an offensive line, and Britt weaselled his way into the league first.

Getting back to Fluker for a minute, here’s a guy who was another former first rounder, as well as a guy who’s been considered a giant bust since entering the league.  He’s also a guy who was injured for most of 2017, and who thus far through OTA’s and mini-camps, hasn’t seen any action that I can recall hearing about (again, due to injury).  Even in an ideal world where Fluker was 100% healthy this off-season, he still was never going to be a guarantee.  I like him because he’s cheap, and hungry, and huge, and is supposedly a quality run blocker if nothing else; but that still doesn’t mean he’s destined to be worth a damn in 2018!

I want to believe in these guys, 1-5, but I just can’t get it up for this right side.  At this point, I’m done hoping Ifedi will be anything; I’m resigned to him being a bust and if I’m pleasantly surprised, then so be it.  As for Fluker, I don’t think he has more than 5 games in him before some body part gives out.  I’m mentally preparing myself for a revolving door on this side, with guys like Rees Odhiambo or Jordan Roos seeing some action at right guard, and with guys like George Fant or Isaiah Battle seeing some action at right tackle.

That having all been said, I think there’s an offensive line here we can use.  It’s far from perfect, and it’s far from ideal, but 3/5 of a competent offensive line is better than the 0/5 we’ve had the last three years.

As I said before, it all hinges on Duane Brown.  If he can return to even 80% of his former Pro Bowl self, we’ve got a shot.  Hopefully he’ll get better acquainted with Wilson’s scrambling style, as well as stay healthy the full year.  If he can do that, and help guide a beefed-up Pocic through any more growing pains he’s got left, then I don’t think Britt has to worry about helping out on that side, and can put his talents towards helping out his right guard, whoever that ends up being.  At which point, I’m not even asking for a huge step forward out of our right tackle; just don’t get any WORSE and I’ll be ecstatic!

With how BIG this unit is, if we still have trouble running the ball, then I’m gonna go jump off a bridge.  Also, it sounds like maybe there’ll be something of a scheme change, away from the strict zone blocking scheme we had under Cable?  I think that could help an oaf like Ifedi, where he doesn’t have to use his brain as much.  Maybe he can put those remaining brain cells into keeping track of the snap count, and not illegally hitting guys after the whistle and whatnot.

It’s the pass protection that’s my bigger concern, as it always is.  Pocic is a great unknown at this point in his career (one would hope his pedigree, work ethic, and increased mass will help him going forward), but everyone to his right has their moments of utter, mind-blowing ineptitude when it comes to letting guys just get free runs at the quarterback.  So, again, I turn to Duane Brown; he NEEDS to be our rock.  If we just have that one guy doing his job, we’ve got a chance.  Where it always breaks down is when both ends get to charge at Wilson and he has nowhere to go; but, if Brown is solid, then at least Wilson will be able to escape to the left side and try to make something happen.

I hate having to rely so much on one guy, but that’s the hand we’ve been dealt.  If Duane Brown doesn’t earn his next contract with superb play, we’re fucked.  There’s no other way around it.

As such, my grade is a C-.  There’s room to take it as high as a B, and obviously as low as an F, but as a baseline, C- is still better than anything we’ve gotten in the previous three seasons, which I find really encouraging.

Tight Ends

Can’t talk about the blocking game without mentioning the VAST improvement we’ve established among our tight ends!

Swapping out Jimmy Graham and bringing in Ed Dickson is like an NBA team trading me for LeBron James; I’m so giddy I can’t even stand it!

I want you to close your eyes.  I want you to picture the Seahawks lining up on offense, with 3 wide receivers, a running back, and Jimmy Graham.  I want you to picture Jimmy Graham motioning out wide to the right, then turning around and motioning back towards the offensive line.  I want you to picture just as Graham gets to the right tackle, we snap the ball, and Russell Wilson turns to hand it off to the running back, with the intention to go off-tackle.  There’s a linebacker coming around the edge; he’s Graham’s responsibility.  All Graham has to do is execute a wham block – blocking him down into the mass of bodies along the offensive and defensive lines – and if he does that, we have a considerable gain with the running back bouncing it around.  Can you picture it?  Can you picture Jimmy Graham standing fully upright, sort of half-heartedly (quarter-heartedly?) pushing on the linebacker with his forearms right before said linebacker blows up the play for a 3-yard loss?  Is your blood now sufficiently boiling?  Do you want to go out and murder 50 people?

I never thought I could hate someone more than I hated Percy Harvin, but I hate Jimmy Graham with the intensity of A FUCKING GOOGOLPLEX OF SUNS!  I mean, at least Harvin has a mental condition to explain why he’s a worthless pile of shit; Jimmy Graham is just a soft asshole whose only skill is catching 1-yard touchdown passes against undersized cornerbacks (and even THEN he drops the ball half the time!).

So, yeah, I love the Ed Dickson signing.  Is it sexy?  HELL NO!  But, I’m tired of going after sexy offensive weapons; where has it gotten us?  Give me the guy willing to hunt for his meal.  Give me the guy who will scrap and claw and fight for that inch.

Shit, give me a guy who can help out this poor excuse for an offensive line!

The Seahawks did it in spades.  Not only did they let Graham go, but they let Luke Willson go as well.  I like Willson, but he’s just a guy.  Sure, he was a fighter, but you wouldn’t say blocking was his specialty.  You know whose specialty that is?  Will Dissly, 4th round draft pick out of the University of Washington.  “Best blocking tight end in the draft” is what I’m told.  Good enough for me.  He could catch 0 balls this year and he’ll still be worth his weight in gold if he can live up to that moniker for this team.

Beyond that, it’ll be a fight between Nick Vannett and Tyrone Swoopes, the 3rd round pick from 2016 vs. the undrafted rookie from 2017.  Vannett has largely been considered a disappointment, and you can see why.  You pick a guy in the 3rd round, you expect more than 15 total receptions and 1 touchdown in his first 2 years.  Beyond that, I really don’t remember him making any sort of special teams contributions, so what is he good for?

Well, I’d argue he was buried behind two very established veterans in Graham and Willson, and how often do you really see a team’s third tight end?  It’s now or never for this kid, and you’d have to say his chances are never going to be better.  I have to believe – heading into the pre-season – Vannett is probably the most gifted offensive, pass-catching weapon at tight end on this team.  If he can’t stand out over a guy in Ed Dickson (who you know what you’ve got) and a rookie in Dissly not known as much of a pass-catching threat in college, then we’ve probably reached the end of the road with Vannett.  From a blocking perspective, he doesn’t even need to be that great to make an impact, so long as he’s a catching machine.  But, regardless, he HAS to be better than Graham, so we’re talking about a considerable improvement any way you slice it.

As for Swoopes, he more or less rode the Practice Squad all of 2017.  He’s seen as more of a project, but with great potential as a pass-catcher, so again there’s probably only room for either him or Vannett.  Unless he shows tremendous skills – and tremendous improvement over what was probably a pretty raw rookie campaign – then he’s going to need to be a force when it comes to blocking.  I have no idea, but my hunch is that’s probably the biggest part of his game that’s lacking.  We’ll see.

Regardless, when it comes to just blocking, I’m giving our tight ends an A+.  I couldn’t be happier!

The question now is:  when you factor in the combo of the O-Line and our Tight Ends, will we have the blocking to be successful?  Assuming we scheme it up right, and take advantage of all of them, I think we do.  Darrell Bevell liked to spend all his free time trying to out-think opposing defenses (hence why you always saw Graham on the field in obvious rushing situations, to try to “fool” defenses into thinking we’d throw to him; only problem with that is it never made up for the liability he was in actually trying to throw a block).  It sounds like Brian Schottenheimer is more old school in that regard.  I’d expect a lot of ground & pound.  In which case, it’s our best guys against your best guys, and may the best team win.  With the group of guys we’ve got, I think that suits us to a T.  I could easily see our blocking unit end up with a grade of a B-, which is all we need with our skill position guys doing their things.

I really do believe there’s potential for greatness out of this offense.  Of course, there’s also potential for utter ruin, but that’s what makes this season so exciting!

Pre-Pre-Season Preview: Seahawks Passing Game

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

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

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

Quarterbacks

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

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

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

So, that’s nothing new in my mind.

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

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

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

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

Wide Receivers

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

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

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

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

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

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

My grade is a solid B.

Tight Ends

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

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

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

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

My grade is a C-.

Running Backs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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