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

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

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

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

2010-2012: The Good Years

2010

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

2011

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

2012

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

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

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

2013-2016: The Bad Years

2013

  • Luke Willson (TE)

2014

  • Justin Britt (C)

2015

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

2016

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

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

2017-2019: The We’ll See Years

2017

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

2018

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

2019

  • D.K. Metcalf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Seahawks Cut Justin Britt & D.J. Fluker

As expected, the Seahawks made a couple of cost-saving cuts to the offensive line. Expected because the Seahawks needed the extra money to put towards other needs, and because they ended up signing a million offensive linemen over the last few months!

This helps to bring things into a little more clarity. As I alluded to yesterday, dropping Fluker not only frees up approximately three and a half million dollars from our salary cap, but clears the way for rookie right guard Damien Lewis to step in and immediately lock down an important spot on the O-Line. They’re all important, but I would argue given our quarterback – and the division we play in – guards arguably hold more importance on this team and how it wants to perform offensively. Russell Wilson needs space in front of him to be able to function at peak capacity; if the tackles suck, he can always run around them to find open spaces, but if the guards suck, giant, angry assholes will swallow him whole!

Of course, nothing will be handed to a rookie, but it would make a lot of sense to give Lewis every opportunity, when you consider his low salary point, as well as the fact that so many of our offensive linemen are on short-term deals. It would be nice to have one of the five spots set in place for the next four years.

There’s only one guarantee at this point in the league year: Duane Brown will remain our Pro Bowl left tackle for at least 2020, if not also 2021. From there, we’ve got competition across the board.

Mike Iupati figures to be the leader in the clubhouse for the starting left guard spot. He was our starter last year, he’s being fairly well-compensated on another one-year deal, and he has a history with our offensive line coach and in this league as a reliable presence. When you factor in how the Seahawks will likely have someone new playing center in 2020, it would be nice to have some stability in place to help him out with line calls and whatnot. Iupati’s biggest competitor figures to be Phil Haynes, who was a rookie last year that the team likes an awful lot. Haynes obviously isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, so I’m not AS bothered with Iupati sticking around; but it would be nice to be able to hand a second O-Line spot to a young up-and-comer. On that end, Iupati is old, and not likely to play a full 16-game season, so figure Haynes – if he can stay healthy – should get some more experience regardless.

Newcomer B.J. Finney looks like he’ll get the nod at center. He signed a 2-year deal for pretty significant money, and is coming off of a quality year with the Steelers last year. Joey Hunt – who took over for Britt last year – will give him all he can handle in the competition, but the fact that the Seahawks can save a little over $2 million by cutting him surely will play a factor in the decision here. I can’t imagine the team being comfortable with a no-name for a backup at center, so if Pocic doesn’t step up and prove he can handle the position (and more importantly, actually stay healthy), we might be stuck with Hunt regardless. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but obviously you’d like to allocate those dollars along the defensive line if possible.

Factoring in the competition for right guard, Lewis will have to tangle with a lot of holdovers. Phil Haynes, Jordan Roos, Jordan Simmons (among others), as well as newcomer Chance Warmack (another of those one-year deal guys, who is coming off of a year away from the game to get healthy, but comes with a high pedigree and a lot of experience in the league). My hunch is Lewis will win the starting job, but Warmack will stick around regardless as a veteran backup. I also wouldn’t be shocked to see Haynes continue to get work at center just in case; he would figure to be the next-man-up in any interior offensive line injury situation.

Finally, at right tackle, Brandon Shell is the presumptive starter, as he too signed a pretty lucrative contract this offseason. Jamarco Jones will continue to compete here, but he’s had injury issues of his own that have hampered him in his young career. Newcomer Cedric Ogbuehi will also factor in the running, but he strikes me as more of an insurance backup than anything else, and it wouldn’t shock me to see him get cut if he struggles (and if the youngsters manage to stay healthy and look good).

Here’s my hunch for what the Seahawks’ offensive line looks like in 2020:

  • LT – Duane Brown
  • LG – Mike Iupati
  • C – B.J. Finney
  • RG – Damien Lewis
  • RT – Brandon Shell

And here are five backups I’m predicting will make the cut:

  • Phil Haynes
  • Chance Warmack
  • Jamarco Jones
  • Joey Hunt
  • Jordan Simmons

I wonder how close I’ll be! I wonder if I’ll ever remember to come back to this and find out!

I doubt I will!

The Seahawks Made Some Little Moves This Week

I don’t think any of the things I’m about to talk about will move the needle in any significant way – in your interest-level of the 2020 Seahawks, or in actual game-impact – but stuff happened and I feel compelled to talk about when stuff happens (considering how little stuff has been happening of late).

Neiko Thorpe. How does that guy float your boat? When you lead off a post about a guy who plays almost-exclusively on Special Teams (and not even as a return man, but just a guy who stops opposing return men sometimes), I should think that lowers your expectations in a hurry that we’re going to be discussing anyone of actual import. I like Neiko Thorpe! Don’t get me wrong here, guys like him have value. He does a lot of the dirty work and he does it quite well. There are so many little hidden plays on Special Teams that don’t really get the credit they deserve, that you can get a lot of impact from a guy like Thorpe without having to spend a lot of money.

But, also, like, his next tackle will be his 100th (in what will be his eighth season). If you just look at his stat sheet, you’ll see that his biggest contribution there – to the Seahawks anyway – are the three fumble recoveries he’s collected in his four seasons here. Also, not for nothing, but the number of games he’s been healthy for has gone down every year he’s been here (he played in a career-low seven games in 2019). With Thorpe, you’re looking for consistency. But, he brings nothing to the table defensively, and ideally I think you’d like to fill that roster spot with someone who’s not ONLY a standout on Special Teams, but someone who can contribute in some sort of meaningful way – at least on a rotational basis – in some of the nickel or dime packages.

Working my way down the list of Seahawks moves, they rescinded the Exclusive Rights Free Agent tender to Malik Turner. You might remember Malik Turner as the receiver who dropped the WIDE OPEN would-be first down throw late in the NFC Divisional Round game in Green Bay. I’m not saying he single-handedly cost us a chance to advance, but I’ll go ahead and let you finish this sentence for yourself.

Word has trickled in that the Seahawks might still be interested in keeping Turner, but not necessarily guaranteeing him the money he’d get as an ERFA-tendered player (what little that is, anyway). This is similar to what they did with Jordan Simmons, though with Simmons the concern was more injury-related. Turner just might not be good! Also, this rookie draft class looks to be STACKED with talent at wide receiver. Tyler Lockett, D.K. Metcalf, David Moore, and Phillip Dorsett are all virtual locks to make the team (barring something completely out-of-the-blue); so there just might not be any room at the inn for ol’ Turner (especially if we use one of our top two or three draft picks on yet another stud receiver). Therefore, guaranteeing Turner ANYTHING seems idiotic, and you wonder why we even tendered him in the first place (you also wonder why he hadn’t signed his tender yet, but maybe that’s normal).

Finally, I guess the Seahawks are just going to sign every single middling interior offensive lineman NFL free agency has to offer? If you thought they were done after tendering Joey Hunt, signing B.J. Finney, Chance Warmack, Brandon Shell, Cedric Ogbuehi, and bringing back Jordan Simmons (on top of the holdovers we’ve got, like Jamarco Jones, Ethan Pocic, Phil Haynes, and still-future-cap-casualty Justin Britt), then apparently you’re nuts, because not only CAN’T the Seahawks stop, but for some reason they also WON’T stop. It’s really something; someone should call a doctor.

Mike Iupati is back! If he’s back, then that means he’s in the running to continue starting at left guard. If that’s the case, then you figure he has to be the frontrunner at that spot, because he started for us last year, he’s a solid long-time veteran, and he’s got a history of great success in this league. So, if he’s the frontrunner, then WHAT THE FUCK are we doing with all of these other guys we brought in?!

This tells me that there will be multiple significant cuts along the offensive line, not just Britt. There could be a real surprise release somewhere in the mix (I’m looking at D.J. Fluker, if I’m being honest), which makes me wonder – of all these O-Line contracts we’ve handed out this offseason – how many of them are fully guaranteed? Which of these guys are camp fodder being thrown into the mix as “competition”, but probably don’t have a realistic chance to win a starting job or even make the team?

The move I understand probably the least is Joey Hunt. He’s making a little over $2 million this year on his original round (sixth) tender. He took over at center for Britt last year and was Good Enough. In all honesty, as a sixth round draft pick, I think we’ve managed to squeeze the most possible value out of someone with his size and skillset. He’s youngish, he’s stayed relatively healthy in his career, he’s shown real toughness and grit in dealing with some of the fiercest defensive tackles in football; at around $2 million, I’m happy spending that amount of money on someone who’s going to be my starting center. But, if he’s going to be in a dogfight with three or four other guys, and ends up losing out to someone like Finney or Pocic or even Haynes, then $2 million is kind of a lot of money to spend on a backup (especially with how tight up against the salary cap the Seahawks are every single year).

We’ll see, I guess! Ours is not to reason why and all that.

The Seahawks Signed Chance Warmack & No Other Stuff Happened

Another offensive lineman! I guess this year’s draft is a piece of shit when it comes to the O-Line, so the Seahawks are going hard in free agency to hedge some bets.

I guess I took more stock in D.J. Fluker’s status as a starting guard a little more seriously as I should’ve. Granted, Warmack sounds more like a left guard, but then how do you explain B.J. Finney’s 2-year deal? Unless Finney really is going to vie for the starting center job with Joey Hunt.

The point is, I guess the Seahawks have a lot of options, all across the board. Duane Brown locks down the left tackle spot. Warmack and Finney might compete for left guard with youngsters Jamarco Jones, Ethan Pocic, and Phil Haynes. Hunt, Pocic, and Finney might compete for center (with Britt MAYBE, but I doubt he’ll be around). Then, you’ve got Fluker, Finney, and the youngsters also going after the right guard spot. And, finally, there’s Brandon Shell, Cedric … Ogbuehi, and I don’t know who else going after the right tackle spot (though, I feel pretty secure in anointing Shell at this point, based on his experience).

I think this is all good. I feel MUCH more comfortable going with veteran re-treads over rookies any day, but there’s enough potential here to build something better than average. The holdovers are all either great (Brown) or solid (Hunt, Jones, Fluker), with the new depth holding limitless possibilities (particularly Warmack and Shell; Finney to a lesser extent), and some of the younger guys having a lot of promise (everyone seems high on Haynes, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to totally quit Pocic, especially if he’s the center).

Depth! Depth at a critical position of need on a team where it’ll make a world of difference. We all know Russell Wilson can manage without a top notch O-Line, but he’s unlocked and allowed to go off when he’s got even a modicum of protection. He thrives, the running game thrives, and the offense as a whole is really free to do its thing.

These are also relatively cheap deals, meaning there’s still a significant reserve of funds available (especially with a few key roster cuts) to bolster the defense. As a plus, this frees us up in the draft to go hard after some high-risk/high-reward defenders. Considering where we’re picking (27th overall) and considering where our D-Line ranked last year, I think it’s time to roll the dice again. They’re not all Malik McDowells! Sometimes they’re Frank Clarks! I mean, as I write that, it doesn’t sound totally great, but on the field Clark was a beast and that’s what I’m talking about here! Finding a beast in this year’s draft who maybe didn’t allegedly do … things, you know what? Nevermind. Whatever the Seahawks want to do, or not do. Whatever.

No one said it was easy being a sports fan.

The Seahawks Signed B.J. Finney & Other Stuff

2 years, $8 million. We’re talking about a guy who was never really a starter – though he started a few games here and there – but how good can he be? He was a 4-year backup for the Steelers, which right off the bat, they usually strike me as a good offensive line team. So, you know, that beats picking up some scrub from the Cardinals or Seahawks or something.

It looks like this guy is either going to be a left guard or center, though I suppose he could flop over to right guard in a pinch (but I don’t know if I see Fluker going anywhere). It just so happens with Iupati a free agent, and Britt a likely cap casualty, the Seahawks have a very real need for both of those positions. Also, with the dearth of talent along our defensive line demanding the most of our salary attention, the Seahawks have a very real need for CHEAP alternatives at left guard and center. 2 years, $8 million is pretty cheap for a starting offensive lineman (on top of whatever Joey Hunt gets for his original-round tender, assuming no other team snaps him up).

Now, whether Finney is actually good enough to start at offensive line remains to be seen. He’s listed at 6’4, 318, so presumably he isn’t going to be pushed around. I think ideally you’d love to play him at center over guard, but that’s mostly due to the Vietnam-style flashbacks we all experience whenever we imagine Joey Hunt being shoved back into Russell Wilson’s face like he’s wearing a pair of roller skates. But, then that means we’re paying $2+ million for Hunt to be a backup, which doesn’t seem likely. That would also necessitate the Seahawks picking up yet another guy to play left guard (because there’s no way Hunt is the ideal body type for that spot), which will only cost us more money.

So, for now, it looks like Duane Brown, B.J. Finney, Joey Hunt, D.J. Fluker, TBD, from left to right.

The plus side, of course, is that if Finney proves himself, then the Seahawks just signed a STEAL to be their starting left guard for the next two years. For what it’s worth, from the potential value alone I like this deal more than I like the one for Jarran Reed on the other side of the ball (though Reed’s production will likely prove to be more critical if this team is going to return to the playoffs in 2020). Finney doesn’t strike me as a guy with any significant injury issues, so that’s a step up from an old fart like Iupati (and Fluker, for that matter, and every other interior lineman on this roster to boot). If he ends up being legitimately great, then who knows? Maybe we’ve landed on our Left Guard Of The Future!

***

In other news, I guess Quinton Jefferson signed with the Bills. He’s a fine rotational piece, but as one of the premiere linemen for the Seahawks last year, he wasn’t good enough. So, spending any real resources whatsoever would’ve been money poorly spent. I wish him well on a Bills defense that looks like it’ll be even more stacked than it was last year (as a legitimate top 10 or top 5 unit in the league).

Also going to the Bills: Stefon Diggs (thank Christ!). If he was disgruntled in Minnesota with a dumpy, inaccurate, mediocre guy throwing to him, just wait until he gets a load of Josh Allen! There’s no way the Vikings didn’t do this on purpose! I wouldn’t be shocked if they turned down a significantly-better deal elsewhere just to ship Diggs off to Siberia to play for this generation’s Rick Mirer!

Finally, because I guess it has to be talked about by everyone: Tom Brady is going to Tampa. I want it on the record that I called this last year, when people were starting to talk about where he might go if he ever left New England. Of course, I never believed in a million years that he’d actually LEAVE New England, but that’s neither here nor there. He struck me as such a Bruce Arians-type of quarterback (old, white, used-to-be-successful-but-is-now-sorta-washed-up) that after a year with Jameis throwing 30+ interceptions, he’d back the Brinks truck up in front of Brady’s house! And with that offense, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Brady’s numbers skyrocket (he’s making me seriously re-think my fantasy football keepers for next year, I’ll tell you that much).

That all being said, I don’t necessarily believe the Bucs are automatically a playoff team. We’ll see if their defense shows up. We’ll also see if their offensive line holds up (because if Brady gets hurt, it could get ugly in a hurry). I would also caution tossing any dirt on the grave of the Patriots (though I find the idea of Cam Newton playing there to be endlessly entertaining).

The Seahawks Re-Signed Jarran Reed & Other Stuff From Legalized Tampering Period Glory

You know, I mean, there’s nothing stopping the NFL from just saying that March 16th was the start of Free Agency. Why go through all the rigmarole? If the day coincides with a billion Tweets about so and so getting traded or extended or signing elsewhere, just make THAT day the day!

Anyway, yeah, yesterday was the start of the Legal Tampering Period, which is like The Purge for NFL free agency (mostly because Bill O’Brien likes to crush the hopes and dreams of Houston Texans fans on an annual basis in the most brutal, blood-spattering way possible). I mean, seriously, how does he still have a job?! Moreover, how is HE in charge of that team’s personnel? What kind of owner would allow this man to trade a Hall of Fame wide receiver for ANYTHING let alone the peanuts he got in return from the Cardinals?! Has anyone checked on Bob McNair’s widow to make sure she’s still conscious?

MA’AM, ARE YOU IN ANY DANGER? WHAT IS BILL O’BRIEN DOING TO YOU?!

I mean, it’s not JUST that he traded DeAndre Hopkins to the Cardinals, but yeah that certainly chaps my ass! It’s the fact that someone who clearly is out WAY over his skis is allowed to run an entire franchise into the ground in a futile attempt to preserve his own job for one more year, without taking long-term ramifications into play. I’m as mad about the Texans as I am about the Knicks or the Redskins or the Seattle Fucking Mariners, but that’s neither here nor there.

As if the Seahawks’ secondary didn’t already need a ton of help just to return to some semblance of competence; now we’ve got to face the most talented receiver on the planet two times a year. Fuck me.

Anyway, Jarran Reed! Woo.

Look, I’m fine with it. It’s fine. He had a down year in 2019, which apparently brought his price down to only $23 million over 2 years. (Only!) There isn’t a ton of risk here, because it’s such a short duration; so, if he sucks, he’s not our problem for long. But, there’s next-to-no upside either. If Reed returns to his 2018 form where he had 10.5 sacks, then that’s awesome in the short term, but doesn’t really buy us anything in two years when he’ll be looking for a huge, max contract.

It’s not a sexy deal, it’s kinda underwhelming, so what did I really expect from the Seahawks at the onset of free agency? This is what we do. I’m sure I’ll talk myself into it at some point – probably when the picture is clearer and I can visualize who Reed will be playing alongside – but in a vacuum it’s just Whatever.

I’ve been harping on it all offseason: the Seahawks’ D-line in 2019 was God-awful, so just running it back again isn’t going to cut it; they need to ADD. Bringing Reed back is a step toward the Running It Back direction, and while he’s a young, hungry piece to the puzzle who – I’m sure – will be working his ass off over these next two seasons to build his value back up, I’m much more interested in what outside pieces we end up bringing in (to not only compensate for the presumed loss of Clowney, but to build beyond that in returning this defense to some form of relevance).

In other news, we don’t have George Fant to kick around anymore, as he landed a 3-year, $30 million deal with the Jets, presumably to be their starting left tackle. I always liked him; I’ll always wonder what his Seahawks career could’ve been had Justin Britt not fallen onto his knee just as he was being anointed this team’s starting left tackle (before the Duane Brown trade rendered him a super-sub). I don’t expect the Seahawks to be as obsessed with the comp pick formula in this free agency period, but I read on Twitter that Fant’s deal would bring back a 4th rounder, so that’s interesting.

In yet other news, Jacob Hollister was given a second-round tender (meaning anyone who signs him would have to give the Seahawks a second round pick), which I think is exciting! I’d love it either way! Bring him back, and shore up that tight end room; let him go and nab a high draft pick, bingo bango bongo! David Moore was given an original-round tender (meaning anyone who signs him would have to give the Seahawks a seventh round pick, since that’s the original round he was selected in), and again, same deal! Moore is an adequate #4 or #5 receiver; but if a team wants to give us a seventh round pick, all the better!

Also, apparently Joey Hunt and Branden Jackson were both tendered as well, but we don’t know which levels yet. Jackson was undrafted, but I also can’t imagine we’d put a second-round tender on him (because he’s done nothing in his career) so I have to imagine that’s an original-rounder. Hunt was taken in the sixth round, and while I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s also an original-rounder, he did finish last year as our starting center, and I’ve contended for a while now that we should slap a second-round tender on him (and release Britt to save money).

Finally, in cool dude news, Luke Willson looks like he’ll be back! Once we dump Ed Dickson, that gives us a lethal tight end room of Greg Olsen, Luke Willson, Will Dissly, and Jacob Hollister! I like that very much a lot.

Seahawks Death Week: We’ve Got Holes To Fill On Offense

Yesterday, we got into it with what the Seahawks should do on defense. In case you couldn’t tell, these last two posts were supposed to be one, but as usual I got a little wordy, so here we are. Maybe someday I’ll do a Kill Bill-style re-imagining and smash these two posts into one big one. Probably not, but you never know.

Here are the offensive free agents-to-be, in some particular order:

Offense

  • Germain Ifedi (RT)
  • Joey Hunt (C)
  • Mike Iupati (G)
  • George Fant (T/TE)
  • Jacob Hollister (TE)
  • Luke Willson (TE)
  • David Moore (WR)
  • Jaron Brown (WR)
  • Geno Smith (QB)
  • C.J. Prosise (RB)

That’s a lotta O-Line. Today’s edition is going to be a little different than yesterday’s, as I’m gonna talk about one of our potential cuts right at the top.

The Seahawks have a HUGE decision to make at the center spot. Not a lot of people are talking about it right now, but soon it’s going to be everywhere. Justin Britt – who has been a reliable starter for the last few years – will be heading into the final year of his deal. He’s set to count approximately $11.4 million against the salary cap. He’s also coming off of an ACL injury that ended his season and required surgery.

Joey Hunt – a 6th rounder from 2016 – filled in and did pretty well. He’s obviously undersized, and usually once a game he’d get knocked back on his ass in embarrassing fashion, but other than that I thought he was fine. Also, given his own salary, there was great value there, as I don’t feel like we dropped off much at all compared to Britt. Obviously, starting so many games this season, Hunt is set for a raise, but I have to imagine it’s still less than what Britt is currently earning, meaning this is an opportunity for the team to save some money in the long term. If we cut Britt, he only counts about $2.9 million against the cap, which is about $8.5 million in savings for 2020.

I think the Seahawks should cut Britt, extend Hunt (maybe in the $4-5 million per year range), and draft another center to study under him. Now, Hunt is a restricted free agent, meaning we can slap a 1st round tender (a little over $4.5 million), a 2nd round tender (a little over $3 million), or an original round tender (a little over $2 million) to keep him for another season. That’s also an option. An original round tender seems like a waste, as I could easily see another team willing to sign him long term and give us a 6th rounder. Even a 2nd round tender feels like cheaping out; I’d look to slap a 1st round tender on him and play chicken with the rest of the league; I can’t imagine anyone giving up a 1st round pick for Hunt, and if so, then god bless ’em. And, who knows, if the guy we draft ends up being a stud, then maybe we let Hunt walk after 2020 and go with the draft pick going forward.

Either way, I’d like to have seen Justin Britt make his last start in a Seahawks uniform in 2019.

The next big decision revolves around Ifedi. We all know Ifedi. He’s a 4-year starter who was absolutely the whipping boy of an entire fanbase for his first two years in the league. He took a big step forward in 2018, and continued that work on into 2019. Now, of course, he’s not perfect. He gets penalized a lot, he gives up a good amount of pressure, but you can’t deny he’s made progress. Plus, he’s durable, and most importantly: the NFL simply has a shortage of reliable offensive linemen, so the demand for him on the open market is sure to be high. The Seahawks were already unwilling to give him a 5th-year option (which was a little over $10 million), so you can take that one of two ways: either they were taking a wait-and-see approach, or they just don’t think he’s worth that money on a short-term basis.

The Seahawks COULD use some of the savings by letting Britt go to extend Ifedi. Extending him another 4 years or so would allow the team to spread the signing bonus around, which would help us in the short term (likely resulting in a cap hit less than $10 million in the first year, allowing us to wait for the league-wide salary cap figures to continue to grow, as they have every year since the current CBA was put into place).

Or, the Seahawks could let Ifedi walk, but that comes with great risk, as I don’t believe they have his replacement on our roster just yet. Which brings us to George Fant. He obviously is looking to get a starting job somewhere, and I can’t imagine he’d be willing to stay here unless there are built-in assurances that he’s set to replace Duane Brown when he retires. But, that would still likely require a significant financial investment in a guy who figures to be a hot commodity around the league. Fant has lots of experience, including starting experience at the all-important left tackle position. The way around that quandry is to give Fant the right tackle job right away, then slide him over to the left side when Brown’s contract expires, and hopefully have developed the right tackle of the future in the interim.

The other option is to let Fant and Ifedi walk, and select a right tackle HIGH in this year’s draft. But, that comes with it pretty much the same thing we dealt with in Ifedi’s first two seasons here: lots and lots of growing pains.

If I had to make a decision now, I’d lean towards keeping one of either Ifedi or Fant. Preferably Fant – if the salaries are similar – but if he’s going to break the bank somewhere for a super high deal, then settle for Ifedi and try to develop your next left tackle of the future. I REALLY don’t want to lose them both, but I’d understand if the money is too prohibitive.

As for Iupati, I think we could retain him on the cheap if we needed to. That would allow us to continue bringing Jamarco Jones along slowly, and allowing him to be our backup guard on both sides of the center.

***

Let’s talk about tight ends and receivers now.

Will Dissly should be back for the start of 2020, but he’s pretty much all we got. I would LOVE for the Seahawks to extend Hollister, though he’s a restricted free agent, so I think we could get away with a 2nd round tender on him (it would be pointless to put an original round tender on him, as he went undrafted, and I feel like he’s built up enough value in his time here to be worth more than nothing). If someone signs Hollister and is willing to give us a 2nd round pick, then GREAT! More ammo for the upcoming draft.

As for Luke Willson, I think it’s worth it to bring him back on a minimum deal. I also think the team should invest in another blocking tight end in the mid-to-late rounds of the draft, as we obviously need the depth with Dissly’s injury issues.

I think we should let Jaron Brown walk. He was an okay veteran, but he’s not worth the money. I could see us slapping an original round tender on David Moore, as a little over $2 million isn’t going to break the bank, and quite frankly I’d welcome the 7th rounder if another team signed him.

With Lockett and Metcalf, our top two receiver spots are locked up. The Seahawks obviously kept John Ursua on the roster all year (and traded back into the seventh round of the 2019 draft) for a reason. He was a healthy scratch for all but a small handful of games, but this team sees potential in him as a #3 receiver. I think that starts to take hold in 2020. If he puts in the work this offseason, I could see him making a huge impact in training camp and pre-season, and then sliding right into a regular role on this team.

If David Moore comes back, that’s your top 4 receiver spots right there, leaving us maybe one more for a veteran-minimum guy, or another young gun out on the scrap heap. The Seahawks are fine at receiver; I don’t see a huge need to spend a lot of money here.

***

As for the rest, it’s time to let C.J. Prosise go away and spread his wings. He’s officially spent significant time every season of his NFL career injured. With Carson, Penny, and Homer all returning, there’s no point in bringing Prosise back. Draft another running back if you have to. Or, hell, bring back Turbin or Lynch! Just not Prosise; I can’t take it anymore.

And, yeah, if you want, bring Geno Smith back. I have no problem with that. He should be cheap and hopefully never play, so it’s no skin off my nose. Or, draft a quarterback in the later rounds; who cares?

***

Other than Britt, the only possible cut I see on the offense is Ed Dickson, which should go without saying. He’s played in 10 games (including playoffs) in his two full years here in Seattle. He’s set to count nearly $4 million against the cap; we’d save approximately $3 million by cutting him. It’s a no-brainer.

As for possible early extensions, the only real candidate is Chris Carson, but I would caution strongly against it. 2020 is the final year of his deal and he’s earning less than $1 million. He’s also proven to be injury prone, as well as fumble prone, so I would not pour a ton of money into him. If he’s looking for money in the $5-10 million range, let him seek it elsewhere. If he holds out of training camp and the pre-season in 2020, let him. DRAFT ANOTHER RUNNING BACK. A big one, in the Carson/Lynch mold. Don’t tie your future to Carson, it won’t end well!

***

All in all, I like what the Seahawks have going on offense. I don’t think they really need to shake it up all that much in the skill position area. Little tweaks here and there, plus some depth through the draft should be fine.

The Seahawks have around $68.5 million in cap space, minus around $10 million or so for incidentals (dead money, practice squad, draft picks, IR, incentives, etc.). I feel like most of that needs to go towards the defensive line, with a good chunk set aside for our offensive line (to either keep what we’ve got together, or find quality replacements in free agency). The worst thing we can do is put a bunch of money into bringing in new receivers and running backs; let Russell Wilson carry that burden. Worry more about the lines.

I know I can sound like I’m down on the Seahawks, but it’s not like we’re the Browns or Lions or Dolphins. We’re not a team in total peril. But, we still need to make a lot of moves and hit on those moves if we want to be a legitimate championship contender, and not a wild card team just happy to be playing on the road in the Divisional Round. The only thing more frustrating than that is being 8-8 every year, and quite frankly I don’t think we’re too far off from that either.

Wasting Russell Wilson’s prime should be a crime punishable by death. Let’s hope we get this thing figured out, because it’s not like the NFC West is getting any easier.

Seahawks Death Week: Where the 2019 Season Went Right!

Yesterday, we wallowed in our misfortunes. But, as always, we have to keep things in perspective. This was a Seahawks team that won 11 games and made it to the second round of the playoffs. I’m by no means pleased with the end result, I’m not satisfied just making it into the Final 8. I’m never “just happy to be there” and wishing everyone all the best in their future endeavors. Those fans – rational, sensible, not taking all of this meaningless drivel so seriously – are the absolute worst. My first thought after a final Seahawks loss isn’t, “Well, that was fun while it lasted.” It’s usually, “Fuck this shit, fuck everyone, I’m going to my bedroom and watching something else, alone.”

But, eventually I get there. Eventually I calm down and start appreciating the season for what it was. Usually, it’s about a day (or however long it takes me to write up this post), and then I’m done and I move on to next year. Dwelling on success or failure is bad enough, but dwelling on mediocrity? No thank you.

So, let’s talk about all the cool shit we saw this year, and then let’s never think about it again.

Gotta start with Russell Wilson. I know, quarterbacks are the most important players in all of sportsdom, but he was really something special. He was a different kind of special in 2017 – when he led the team in passing AND rushing yards – but I would argue he was the best we’ve ever seen him in 2019. Even better than the last seven games of the regular season in 2015!

If Lamar Jackson didn’t do what he did, we’d be talking about Russell Wilson as the MVP of the NFL. And, if you actually gave the award to the person who most embodied the phrase “Most Valuable Player”, I think Wilson would not only win it hands down, but he’d be on his third or fourth award at this point. But, the NFL gives it to the guy with the best stats, or the flashiest set of highlights, or the guy who the media gloms onto obsessively for three months; so, clearly Lamar. But, it’s an easy argument to make that Wilson means more to this Seahawks team and their 11 wins than Lamar did to that Ravens team and their 13. Give the Ravens a replacement-level quarterback, and I think they still probably win 9 or 10 games; put a replacement-level quarterback on the Seahawks and I think we’re EASILY playing for a Top 10 draft pick, and maybe even Top 5!

But, even the numbers alone for Wilson are impressive; maybe not compared to Lamar, but still. 4,110 yards on 66.1% completions (8.0 yards average per attempt), 31 touchdowns, only 5 interceptions, and a passer rating of 106.3. And, not for nothing, but Wilson was also tied for the league lead for most sacks at 48. Only three quarterbacks in the Top 10 Most Sacked made the playoffs; the other two were Deshaun Watson and Josh Allen. The rest of the guys in that area are, predictably, on terrible football teams who didn’t win very many games.

And, if you tack on rushing numbers, Wilson came within 29 yards of being the #2 rusher on this team, with 342 yards and another 3 TDs on the ground. Just an outstanding all-around season, and clearly deserving of the Second Team All Pro honor he received.

***

Wilson was so good, he gets his own section. Let’s get to the rest of the offense, because even though he’s great, he can’t do it all.

Chris Carson had a wonderful season. 1,230 yards, 4.4 average, and 7 TDs (plus 37 catches for 266 yards and 2 TDs). He did ultimately get knocked out for the season in his 15th game, but those are numbers I’ll take from my starting running back every damn year. What’s less great, obviously, are the 7 fumbles (4 lost), but we’re focusing on the bright side today.

I thought the rest of the running back room did pretty well too. Rashaad Penny didn’t have many opportunities, but he clearly took a step forward this year compared to his rookie season. It’s unfortunate his season-ending injury sounds so severe that it might cost him some games in 2020, because he really looked like a guy this team could rely on. And even Travis Homer made a decent showing in Week 17 and the two playoff games. He’s not a true #1, but as a 3rd down/2-minute back, I thought he did great!

There were a lot of questions about the Seahawks’ receivers heading into 2019. Doug Baldwin retired, the team drafted three guys, and Tyler Lockett was the unquestioned #1 option. My biggest concern was that last one: how would Lockett respond? Well, how do you like 82 receptions for 1,057 yards and 8 touchdowns? In THIS offense?! That’s elite! But, maybe even more importantly was the emergence and growth of D.K. Metcalf, who finished the season with 58 catches for 900 yards and 7 TDs. The two of them each hit triple digits in targets, which really bodes well for the future of the position. Metcalf saved his best for second-to-last in that Wild Card game, so we know he has it in him in the big moments; it’ll be fun to see him continue to grow and start to dominate in the years to come.

And, even though they were largely banged up, I was really impressed with what we got from our tight ends. Dissly is a stud who just can’t stay on the field. We were able to bring Luke Willson back and he was able to do Luke Willson things. But, the biggest find was Jacob Hollister, who became the de facto #3 receiver on this team. He had 41 catches for 349 yards and 3 touchdowns over 11 games, which doesn’t sound like much, but he was always getting open and was a nice security blanket/outlet for Wilson when plays broke down or we needed to convert a first down.

Finally, for the offense, I know the O-Line wasn’t the best, but I feel they deserve some credit for not being as bad as they were from 2015-2017. I was particularly impressed with Joey Hunt stepping in for an injured Justin Britt. I was REMARKABLY impressed with Duane Brown continuing to be ageless (and returning from a knee surgery to start that Green Bay game). I don’t think I ever fully appreciated Mike Iupati for what he brought to this team’s run game until we hit the playoffs and he was out. And, I thought Ifedi continued to make progress while playing presumably all the snaps this season (or at least a very high percentage). Fluker was a little hit or miss, but he was able to play most of the season, which I’ll take as a win.

***

I’m obviously less high on the defense than I am the offense. Offensively, we were top 10 in yards and points; I can’t ask for much more than that. I thought the playcalling was – for the most part – superb, and I thought our execution was spot on (until the first half of that Green Bay game).

Defensively, on the other hand, we were in the bottom 10 and bottom 11 in yards and points, which just can’t happen. Nevertheless, there were a few bright spots.

How much further would we have sunk without Jadeveon Clowney? I know the sack numbers aren’t there, but his pressure rate was among the highest in the league. When he was in the game, he was a difference maker throughout. He needs help around him, but he’s an elite foundational piece to any defense.

I think you’ve got to give some credit to the linebackers. They were steady. Wagner and Wright played in all 16 games plus the playoffs. Their age may be showing at times, their instincts might be a little diminished compared to their peaks, but they were really holding this defense together with duct tape and twine, considering our faulty secondary and even faultier pass rush.

I was happy to see Shaquill Griffin take the next step towards being a reliable cornerback. I still don’t think he’s a true #1, lockdown guy, and I don’t think he ever will be; but as a #2 he’s solid.

The defense took a considerable leap in effectiveness when Quandre Diggs came to town. Paired with Bradley McDougald, this defense looked downright respectable (again, until the Green Bay game).

***

Finally, I’ll talk about the Special Teams.

Jason Myers is a scary individual, but in reality he only missed 5 field goals in the regular season. The 4 missed extra points are pretty annoying, but all in all we didn’t lose any games because our kicker fucked us. So, I’ll take the slight win and hope he improves in 2020. For what it’s worth, I know he was a Pro Bowler in 2019, but kickers are wonky. Like relievers in baseball, they go from good to bad to good again with no rhyme or reason. I have no reason to believe that Myers can’t turn it around. He’s got the leg, he’s young enough, he’s had success in the past; hopefully, he’ll be fine.

Michael Dickson – coming off of a rookie All Pro/Pro Bowl season – had a really tough start to his 2019. But, after a few games, he settled down and finished pretty strong. No notes.

I thought the coverage units took a big step forward in 2019, after being a legitimate problem in 2018. So, looks like those young guys we brought in made a difference!

I’m No Good At Titles & The Seahawks Won Their Wildcard Matchup Against The Eagles

I had this weekend ALL wrong!

I’ll tell you this much: I legitimately thought the Saints were one of the top two teams in the NFC and that they were going to KILL the Vikings. For what it’s worth, if that was Vikings at Seahawks, I still think Seattle prevails, but the outcome has me thinking twice a little bit. Maybe the Saints are Playoff Cursed?

No matter, because the Seahawks went into Philly and came out on top, just like we all knew they would, right guys?! We’re all on the right side of history in this argument!

I will say this much: I’m VERY happy that the Vikings did win, because I would MUCH rather they be cannon-fodder for the 49ers next week over us. I think the 49ers win that game by three scores EASILY; they’re super healthy across the board, well-rested, and have a team flying halfway across the country on a short week with a quarterback who is 1 for a million in big games (happy for Cousins and all that, but one win doesn’t automatically wipe out his entire broken reputation).

Anyway, let’s tarry no further and talk about this Eagles game. In a lot of ways, it went according to expectations; but a few key spots were totally unpredictable.

Let’s start here; I feel like I need to get an “I Told You So” out of the way to boost my confidence: the Seahawks’ rushing attack was truly abysmal. If you take away Wilson’s scrambling (which he could have in most every game if he really wanted), the Seahawks’ running backs (Homer primarily, Lynch secondarily, and Turbin never) ran 17 times for 19 yards and a touchdown. Homer had one 12-yard rush; his other 10 carries went for a combined 0 yards. Lynch had that one MAMMOTH 5-yard TD rush, but even Beastmode could only muster 2 additional yards on his subsequent 5 carries.

Fletcher Cox easily made the biggest impact for the Eagles and it’s not even close; he was the second-most important player in this game behind Jadeveon Clowney (who we’ll get to later). It obviously hurt the Seahawks to be out Duane Brown (replaced by George Fant), Mike Iupati (replaced by Jamarco Jones), and Justin Britt (replaced by Joey Hunt), but even D.J. Fluker was getting pushed around (or, at best, stonewalled) by Cox and his wrecking crew on that front four. I’ve always known Cox was great, but MAN was he impressive in this one; he was a man possessed, and he didn’t seem to take a single play off. As a Seahawks blogger, I don’t tend to write a lot about opposing players, but I have to tip my cap to him; he almost single-handedly ruined the Seahawks’ season.

The Seahawks scored 17 points, so obviously the offense didn’t do a whole helluva lot, but there were three key aspects to the Seahawks’ success:

  1. The Seahawks didn’t turn the ball over
  2. The Seahawks were 8/15 on third down
  3. Russell Fucking Wilson

There were actually no turnovers in this game, period (which was odd, considering the start, where both offenses put the ball on the turf only to recover their own fumbles), so even one bad throw or mis-handled snap could’ve really swung the entire season. I hate to say it (especially considering Homer almost bonered it in the first possession), but NOT having Chris Carson might’ve made all the difference! Look, I love the guy as much as anyone, but he CLEARLY never fixed his fumbling problem (he had three in his first three games of the season, was clean for a while, then had a 3-game stretch where he lost the ball 4 times – but the opposing team only recovered 1 of them, which is pretty fortunate).

The success on third down was doubly-great because we were in 3rd & Long so many times! Some of that was luck/poor tackling on the Eagles’ part, but most of that was Russell Wilson flat out making plays. So, let’s get to him.

325 yards on 18/30 (for a 10.8 average) with a TD and a 108.3 passer rating. Add on 45 rushing yards on 9 scrambles, and we’re talking about the guy who was once the frontrunner for the MVP this season. He wasn’t perfect; there was an overthrow here and there, but he was as close to it as you can get.

It really sunk in as you watched some of these quarterbacks this weekend (and ESPECIALLY throughout the season): if it’s 3rd & 18 or whatever, and the Seahawks have Josh Allen or Ryan Tannehill or maybe 85% of the mediocre-to-crappy quarterbacks in this league, they’re either running a draw play or a screen pass to the running back, getting anywhere from 5-10 yards, and punting. Now, say what you will about the play calling (it was growing more and more alarming every time the Seahawks ran the ball after a penalty on 2nd & 20, I’ll admit it), but we’re not afraid to put the ball in Wilson’s hands when we’re behind the sticks, our backs are against the wall, and we need an incredible play. He’s the reason why you pay a quarterback $30+ million per season. He’ll get the job done when 90-95% of the rest of the league will fail in those same situations.

It was a low-key special performance by Wilson that will largely be forgotten to the sands of time, especially when you factor in this was D.K. Metcalf’s Coming Out Party.

I’ve been extremely high on Metcalf ever since we drafted him. Most talent evaluators (including the other 31 teams in the league) focused on the negatives in his repertoire, but I’ve known all along that his skillset fits this team and this quarterback perfectly. As has been discussed, his rookie season was largely a success, but there have been plenty of ups & downs. This was the first time he really put everything together and showed a glimpse of what he could become: a flat-out superstar in the NFL. 7 catches on 9 targets, 160 yards and a touchdown. The TD was incredible – a 53-yard catch, stumble, get-back-up, and barrel into the endzone – but his game-sealing 36-yard reception on 3rd & 10, with the Eagles holding only 1 time out on the wrong side of the 2-minute warning, was the reason you brought him in here in the first place. One-on-one coverage, no safeties deep, you absolutely need to convert that to win the game, otherwise you punt it away for the chance to tie, and he high-pointed the ball and came down with the W. Simply outstanding.

I was probably least-sure about the Seahawks’ defense in this one, but this was a classic performance by these guys.

Clowney was a total difference-maker; we haven’t seen him play this well since the 49ers game in Week 10. He filled up the stat sheet with 5 tackles, a sack, 2 tackles for loss, and one very memorable quarterback hit.

You can’t talk about this game without talking about Carson Wentz getting injured in the first quarter, leaving the game with a head injury, being replaced by a 40 year old Josh McCown who came out of retirement to be this team’s backup. We’ll never know if the Eagles would’ve won with Wentz in there for the full game, but I have to imagine at the very least that he would’ve found a way to at least get them in the endzone one time. As it stands, McCown was okay, but he was clearly over his skis; he threw for 174 yards on 18/24 passing and most importantly 0 turnovers. But, he also suffered 6 of the 7 sacks the Seahawks got in this one (after we had the second-fewest in the league in the regular season) and was clearly a little gimpy, having to run for his life most of the day.

The Seahawks’ pass rush really showed up on a day the team desperately needed it. It wasn’t any one man, either, as 6 different guys combined for the 7 total. Of course, that was a byproduct of the Eagles also suffering a number of injuries on their O-Line, but clearly the Seahawks were better able to cope (as Wilson only had the one).

Seattle has Wilson and that’s a definite leg up over the rest of the NFC, but we’ll only go as far as this defense can take us, and that means having all of our key guys healthy and playing at the top of their games. Clowney sure showed up. Bobby Wagner showed why he’s yet again an All Pro this season. And, Quandre Diggs – first game back since his high ankle sprain – showed why he’s so important to this defense. The longest reception by an Eagles player went for 32 yards to Ertz, but there was nothing over the top, and obviously they never saw the endzone. We’ll never know for sure how many of the sacks were due to tight coverage, but it’s definitely a non-zero number. Diggs allows McDougald to play more closely to the line of scrimmage, to help out in defending the run as well as covering those two great tight ends.

I want to shout out Cody Barton, as he was a guy I highlighted as a major concern before the game. For as much as this team plays base defense – and indeed, he was in there for 75% of the Seahawks’ snaps – he showed why this team loved him throughout the pre-season. He had a sack, 1.5 tackles for loss, and two passes defended in this one as well as an additional QB hit. I saw him do nothing but make play after play, as he finally had a full week to practice at one spot, and this team coached him up to their fullest abilities. If he continues to show out like he did in this one, there’s no doubt he’ll be starting for this defense in 2020.

As I said before, this was a classic defensive performance: bend, don’t break, lots of aggressive penalties, but ultimately keeping the inferior offense out of the endzone and keeping them at 0 for 2 on fourth down (both deep in Seattle territory, on back-to-back possessions in the fourth quarter). This is a similar (but obviously not the exact same, due to injuries) defense that let Brett Hundley march down the field on them in that fakakta Cardinals game, so it was nice to see them stand up when it mattered most.

It all sets us up for the best-possible scenario for the Seahawks, given the circumstances. We avoid the 49ers in the Divisional Round, which I’ve argued all along is of utmost importance. Now, Green Bay is obviously no slouch – and certainly the talking points around Seahawksland will be their terribly-easy schedule this season – but with Aarons Rodgers & Jones, Davante Adams, and a better-than-you’d-think defense, that team is balanced and experienced and, most importantly, at home.

I’m still pretty convinced that the Seahawks will lose in this one, but I’m more willing to give us a chance to score the upset than I would be if we’re going to Santa Clara. Make no mistake, I obviously believe the Seahawks COULD beat the 49ers (we obviously did it once on their home field, and should’ve beaten them twice this season), but it would be too difficult in this particular round of the playoffs: the 49ers are at full strength, with a week off, while we just played a brutal game against a very physical team all the way across the country. If we were to shock the world and upend the Packers, I’d give us a 50/50 shot at beating the 49ers in the Championship Game.

But, to get there, we have to beat a different very good, healthy, well-rested team at home. It’s never easy to win in Green Bay, and it’s especially not easy to beat them there in January. Knocking Aaron Rodgers out of the game almost certainly won’t be on the table, so here’s to hoping there’s a little Russell Wilson Magic left in the tank (we hopefully didn’t need to use it all up in that Eagles game).

Seahawks Won A Stunning, Classic Monday Night Game In Santa Clara

This game was NUTS! This game was so intense and fun and nerve-wracking and painful and deliriously wonderful that I’ve done nothing but watch clips and read articles since it ended (with a little sleep and a little breakfast mixed in). I want to do nothing more than go back and re-live every single minute, so that’s what I’m gonna do here. Let’s re-live the shit out of it!

49ers’ 1st Drive – Every time the Seahawks had them nailed down, the 49ers were bailed out by the refs. Shaq Griffin looked like he had a pick to really turn the tides early, but a ticky-tack defensive holding penalty eliminated it. Then, on the very next third down, it looked like we had them stopped short and ready to punt, except for another lame PI call to give them another first down. We eventually held them to a field goal with their rookie kicker (signed off of the scrap heap this week to replace an injured Robbie Gould) who was making his first start for the 49ers, but the tone was set for an iffy game (to say the least) from the refs.

49ers’ 2nd Drive – After a quick Seahawks’ 3 & Out, the 49ers gashed their way down the field for a touchdown and a 10-0 lead. Now, I know the Seahawks almost always start out slow like this, but at this point I was pretty concerned there was going to be TOO much to overcome. The subsequent Seahawks 3 & Out did little to allay my concerns.

49ers’ 5th Drive – The teams traded a few punts back and forth and we finally settled into something of a routine, which was smashed apart with a perfectly-timed pass rush to knock the ball out of Jimmy G’s hands for a fumble-return touchdown by Clowney. Clowney’s been the team’s obvious defensive MVP this year, but he took his game to another level in this one. I think he ended up with 10 pressures, 5 QB hits, 1 sack, and the touchdown on this drive to pull the game to 10-7. This was a definite “sigh of relief” moment where it finally felt like things could turn around.

Seahawks’ 5th Drive – We held the 49ers to a 3 & Out to take it to the 2-minute warning, and the table was set. Apparently, the 49ers had never given up a score in the final two minutes of a half (or maybe just a first half?), but there the Seahawks were, driving after a 20-yard punt return from Lockett (who ended up leaving the game injured in overtime, with a possible serious injury). It was all going according to plan, until it wasn’t: we were moving the proper direction, we were running the clock out, and there was D.K. Metcalf with a quick out that he somehow managed to take all the way to the 1-yard line, pulling multiple defenders with him. Except, the one guy re-established himself in bounds, ripped the ball from Metcalf’s hands, and recovered the ball at the 2-yard line to preserve the 49ers’ streak of good fortune inside of two minutes. The Seahawks should’ve been up 14-10 at halftime, but the 3-point deficit was preserved.

Seahawks’ 6th Drive – One thing I’ve grudgingly accepted is that these Seahawks – for whatever reason – start games slowly, pretty much on both sides of the ball these days. But, what really irks me is starting slow in the second halves of games, especially when we win the coin toss and defer to get the ball out of halftime. It almost shifted in this one, as the Seahawks looked to establish the run, with Carson moving the chains after three straight runs, followed by a D.K. reception to take us near midfield. Then, Penny entered the game for what I have to assume was the first and last time. He had 2 carries on the day, both on this drive: the first went for 2 yards, the second went for no gain and a fumble. He didn’t see the field again after that.

49ers’ 9th Drive – The Seahawks forced the 49ers to turn the ball over on downs following the Penny fumble, then ended up kicking it back 5 plays later. The game turned in a big way here on this drive, with a wild pass eluding the grasp of a Niners receiver for Quandre Diggs’ first interception in a Seahawks uniform. He got the start at free safety, with Bradley McDougald playing his preferred strong safety spot, and the Seahawks were immediately rewarded with his veteran presence. He had a couple other bigtime hits (one to prevent a bobbled catch for a big gain) and looks like he’ll fit in beautifully in this defense.

Seahawks’ 8th Drive – First play – from the San Francisco 16-yard line after the Diggs return – was a Carson run for 4 yards that turned into a fumble (thankfully recoverd by Hunt) for negative one yards. At that point, I mean, how do you not just put this game entirely on Russell Wilson’s shoulders? Before the game, all the ESPN analysts were calling the Seahawks a one-man show, which – have you met Chris Carson and Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf? But, Carson never really busted out, Lockett was held to 26 yards on only 3 receptions, and Metcalf had a tough one in catching only 6 out of 10 targets, with a few 50/50 balls batted away (and, of course, the fumble before halftime). So, after a Wilson scramble to the 3-yard line, he fudged around in the pocket until Hollister willed his way open in the back of the endzone for the go-ahead touchdown. 14-10.

Seahawks’ 9th Drive – The defense made their presence felt in Jimmy G’s face immediately following the touchdown, with Q-Jeff swallowing him up for a sack. The refs called him on what initially appeared to be a bogus lowering-the-head penalty until you saw the replay from the other angle. I still don’t love the rule – what are you supposed to do when the offensive guy lowers HIS head first? – but it is what it is (now, if only the refs would’ve called the same thing when the 49ers defender lowered HIS head on a Wilson run-and-slide later in the game). Anyway, in the first of many BALL DON’T LIE moments, the Seahawks got their sack 3 plays later, which forced a fumble to be recovered by the good guys. Once again deep in enemy territory, it took the Seahawks 4 plays to take a commanding 21-10 lead.

Seahawks’ 10th Drive – I’m still fucking irritated about this drive. This should’ve been the back-breaking, suck-out-their-souls drive to put the game away. The Seahawks forced a punt on the 49ers’ previous drive and at the top of the 4th quarter, looked to embark upon one of those 8-minute, game-killing drives where we ram it down the other team’s throats. And it started out promising enough! Three consecutive runs left us with 2nd & 7 and only 12 minutes left in the game. I know Seahawks fans around the world lament our run-heavy approach, but in this instance I don’t know why we didn’t keep pounding the rock. Instead, Wilson dropped back and was immediately overwhelmed by 97 guys (approx.) in his face. He lost control of the ball, it landed in Ifedi’s open arms (open because he was conveniently blocking NO ONE), who did his best Seahawks Running Back impression by holding it like a loaf of bread, only for the ball to be punched out for a 49ers’ defensive touchdown. They hit the 2-point conversion thanks to very weak coverage by Tre Flowers (who, along with Jamar Taylor, had games they’d largely love to forget, save the end score), and there we were, 21-18.

Seahawks’ 12th Drive – As soon as that disaster sequence hit, I knew this game had completely shifted. And, look, I know momentum isn’t a real thing that you can quantify or whatever, but tell that to a fighter who’d been dominating only to take a surprise pop to the chops. It sets you back! It knocks you on your heels. And sometimes it takes a while to recover. When the Seahawks got the ball back for their 11th drive, they went 3 & Out; at that point, it was only a question of whether the 49ers would re-take the lead or just tie it up. They drove down, stalled just outside of the redzone, and their rookie kicker split the uprights right down the middle. With a little over 6 minutes left in the quarter, I’ll be honest, I knew the Seahawks COULD drive it back for a go-ahead score, but they also could’ve just-as-easily coughed it up and gagged this one away. Thankfully, we converted a couple third downs to take this game down under 2 minutes. So, to set the stage: 3rd & 1, 1:55 left in the quarter, the 49ers just used their first time out of the half. Carson ran for 9 yards on the previous two plays, so I understand the impulse to continue to hand him the rock, but you knew we were gonna run it, I knew we were gonna run it, and as such the 49ers sure as SHIT knew we were gonna run it! I desperately wanted the Seahawks to put this in Wilson’s hands, and was severely disappointed when we didn’t do it. Now, I get it, if you can’t pick up 3rd & 1, then how much of a damn are you worth? But, at the same time, HE’S THE MVP MAN! Let the chef cook! There was still a chance the Seahawks might go for it on 4th & 1 – we even lined up in a half-hearted attempt to get them to jump offsides – but we kicked it instead. Now, in the longterm, I’m sure that move will work gangbusters for Jason Myers’ confidence, but you know as well as I do that the LAST thing anyone wanted was to put the game on his leg, especially after his performance against the Bucs last week. To his credit, he nailed it.

49ers’ 13th Drive – All I can really remember about this drive are the multiple dropped game-sealing interceptions (at least one by K.J. and Bobby each), and the Ansah offsides penalty that I’m pretty sure saw him benched for the rest of the game. Jimmy G was sloppy as all get-out in this game – he probably should’ve had 4 or 5 picks in total – but they somehow found themselves in field goal range with a chance to send it to overtime. The rookie kicker made the kick of his life and there we were, headed to overtime.

Seahawks’ 14th Drive – Geno Smith won the coin toss. Either he said “tails” and the ref heard “heads”, or his accent made his call SOUND like tails, but either way it felt like a gift, as for the second week in a row, the Seahawks won the overtime coin toss. And, for the second week in a row, it looked like the Seahawks would drive down for a game-winning touchdown without allowing the other team to touch the ball. The Seahawks are conservative in many infuriating ways under Pete Carroll, but I love how aggressive we are in these situations, where it really makes zero sense to settle for three. In the end, this drive almost killed me. For starters, on 2nd & 10 at our own 46 yard line, Russell Wilson was nearly swallowed up once again, except he kept his legs churning and busted free for a significant gainer … only for the refs to call him “in the grasp” of the defender for a 6-yard sack. I mean, I was irate. Irate isn’t even a strong enough emotion! I hadn’t spoken a word since that 49ers’ fumble return for a touchdown, but I was cursing up a storm after that play! Vindication came in the conversion of 3rd & 16 to Malik Turner, who had a GREAT game and helped us overcome the loss of Lockett. Unfortunately, as we closed inside the redzone, Wilson lofted a ball short to Hollister on a wheel route that was picked off and returned to midfield (Lowkey Play of the Game #1 – Duane Brown hustling his ass down field to knock him out of bounds, as they had a convoy ready to take him into the endzone).

49ers’ 14th Drive – At this point, I closed out all the windows on my laptop. I was THIS close to rage-quitting on the game entirely and going to bed. I stuck it out only to see the 49ers get into field goal range. On 4th & 1 at the Seahawks’ 29-yard line, the 49ers lined up for the game-winner. I’m usually not one for icing the kicker; I generally think it’s stupid and pointless and a waste of time (also, it seems like the kicker – if he gets a chance to get a practice shot off before the play is whistled dead – always misses his first try before hitting the second). BUT, if icing the kicker was EVER going to work out, this was the situation: rookie kicker, his first start for a new team, Monday Night Football, a perfect season on the line, against Russell Wilson and the division-rival Seahawks. We weren’t able to ice him before overtime because we didn’t have any time outs, but this time we did, and I’m GLAD we made him think about it a couple minutes longer. He shanked it about as badly as you can shank a ball, and the Seahawks had new life!

Seahawks’ 16th Drive – Then, the Seahawks went 3 & Out, followed by the 49ers ALSO going 3 & Out. Those two drives combined took up less than 2 minutes of game clock, leaving Seattle with 1:25 to get down in range. This time, yeah, you kinda have to settle for the field goal, and either he makes it and totally redeems himself, or he doesn’t and we settle for the fallout of a tie and all the kicker jokes from a national audience. That doesn’t mean Wilson didn’t have another trick up his sleeve, eluding the pass rush on 3rd & 3 (avoiding yet another consecutive 3 & Out) to scramble for 18 yards. From there, it was 8 yards to D.K. and another 7 on the legs of Carson to get it to the 24-yard line. You can’t do much better than that with no time left. Jason Myers made us sweat – as it was about a foot or two away from sailing wide right – but he did it, and we were all able to rejoice!

There were so many wild swings in this game; it was truly almost too much to endure. I had about 15 heart attacks in total, but in the end the Seahawks are 8-2 and have positioned themselves perfectly to make a legitimate run at the NFC West and a Top 2 seed in the conference.

I can’t say enough about the defense. I won’t say I was wrong about what they WERE leading up to this game, but I was absolutely DEAD WRONG about what they’re capable of going forward, starting with last night. Clowney is a force to be reckoned with. He deserves Frank Clark money and THEN some. The biggest stars shine the brightest on the biggest stages, and Clowney proved he’s one of the NFL’s best defensive linemen, period.

But, there were others. Shaquill Griffin had the Lowkey Play of the Game # 2 on that final 49ers 3 & Out, when he recovered deep down field on 3rd down to swat the ball away. That thing – if caught by Deebo Samuel (who dominated, with 8 receptions for 112 yards) – was destined to go for a touchdown, and Griffin just BARELY got hands on it to keep the game alive.

Jarran Reed was all over the place with 1.5 sacks and the forced fumble. Poona Ford was in the backfield all night. Al Woods cleaned up a would-be Clowney sack. Wagner and Wright were warriors. We had competent safety play from BOTH safety positions for the first time all year. Just when I expected this defense to crumble late in the game – exhausted and bruised and worn down – they found ways to keep this team in it and make Jimmy G’s life a living hell. He’s going to have nightmares about this game for weeks!

Meanwhile, after our most difficult game of the season, the Seahawks get a BYE week at the perfect time. Hopefully Lockett will be okay. Hopefully Willson won’t miss any time. Hopefully Ed Dickson will be back. Hopefully everyone else is able to rest and recover and enjoy the time off before a HUGE stretch run that will ultimately see this team competing for a Super Bowl!

Shit’s getting real now. This is gonna be fun.