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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seahawks Death Week: Obvious Cap Casualties

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The coaching staff. Clint Hurtt and Co.

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Seahawks Aren’t Great At Any One Thing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Seahawks Got Their Improbable Victory Over The Eagles On Monday Night

I’m on the record as not necessarily wanting the Seahawks to win any more games. But, I was also on record as believing the Seahawks would win last night anyway, so I was more than a little tickled when Jaxon Smith-Njigba came down with that late TD with 28 seconds left in the game to go up 20-17. I was rather delighted when Julian Love came down with that game-clinching interception – his second of the game – to salt it away.

I will admit that it didn’t totally feel possible in the early going of that game. Once again, the Seahawks’ defense let an opponent march right down the field for an opening-drive touchdown. We gave up multiple easy third down conversions, and that’s not even counting all the times the Eagles easily Tush Pushed their way with a yard to go. There are two everlasting images I’ll have burned into my brain when it comes to the defense and this game: the behind-the-quarterback view of Hurts picking apart the middle of the field as Bobby Wagner stands there like a statue rather than follow the receiver in his vicinity, and Bobby Wagner jumping over the pile of bodies as Hurts converted multiple 3rd/4th & shorts, being swept away by his own momentum as if he were crowd-surfing at a rock concert.

Can you find the common thread in those two scenarios?

I’m not saying Bobby Wagner is the biggest problem with this team, or the only problem, but he is a problem. One of many.

I thought Hurts was pretty heroic in his effort last night, but I also thought he looked incredibly unwell. Even still, I don’t fully understand how the Eagles lost this game. I guess it just boils down to the two interceptions. The second one was a little understandable, given there wasn’t much time left and they needed to do something to get into field goal range. But, the first one was flat out uncalled for. First & 10 from Seattle’s 45 yard line, a deep ball to a receiver NOT named A.J. Brown or DeVonta Smith, and an underthrown one at that. That drive was easily going to end up being 3 points at a minimum. Instead, it ended up being the first turnover of a close game.

I’ll grant you that a more ticky-tack referee-ing crew might’ve called Love for a pass interference. I’m objectively of the opinion that it didn’t warrant a flag (but, I’m also a Seahawks fan, so can you really trust me?), but I also think it was a dumb decision in the first place. I know in the NFL, there’s this notion that you have to push the ball down the field and take chances deep. But, against a soft Seahawks defense that will give you ample opportunities underneath, if you just stick to the game plan that saw you take the opening drive 75 yards in 8 and a half minutes, you should have no trouble scoring a touchdown on every drive. Especially when you have the unstoppable weapon that is the Tush Push!

All that being said, what a cool game for Drew Lock. I came away mighty impressed with him, but also with a good amount of follow up questions. He finished 22/33 for 208 yards, 1 TD, and 0 INTs. He took 2 sacks that seemed pretty tough to avoid, try as he might. There were also a couple of out-routes that looked MIGHTY dangerous (to the point I was convinced a pick-six was in our future). I thought the plan to feature the run was crucial, and I found myself repeatedly annoyed when we went away from the run for no reason.

That doesn’t scream Franchise Quarterback to me. But, then you see this tweet about how he was 4/4 for 88 yards and a TD on 3rd & 10, and you can’t help but see the potential. That’s a great Eagles team, top 3 in the NFC and maybe top 5 in the entire NFL. We went into that final drive with under two minutes to go, one time out remaining, starting at our own 8 yard line, needing a touchdown (as we were down by 4). And Drew Lock orchestrated things beautifully, converting two of those aforementioned 3rd & 10’s. It was all on him; there wasn’t enough time to commit anything to the run, and he did it. With his arm.

But, then there are those other times in the game where Lock looks like any other backup. He had Tyler Lockett breaking away deep down field, but threw it too hard and on a line, not even giving him an opportunity to make a play on the ball (or draw a flag). Balls thrown into tight coverage, bouncing off of multiple arms before falling incomplete. Taking an intentional grounding penalty, looking a little flustered at times. Maybe that’s inexperience, and would get cleaned up with more consistent reps; or maybe that’s just who he is.

I was impressed by what I saw, but that’s in the context of having the absolute lowest expectations for Drew Lock. I still can’t say with any real certainty that he’s better than Geno Smith; I think Geno could’ve done the exact same things last night. Geno could’ve won us that game, for sure.

If I were to project what Drew Lock could potentially turn into, I keep coming back to someone like Ryan Tannehill. Put a great team around him, don’t force him to do too much, center things on a dominant running game, he could potentially put a team in the conference title game. But, a lot of things have to go right for that to work out, and even then, the ceiling isn’t super high.

It was cool to see Kenneth Walker bust out for 112 yards from scrimmage and a TD. D.K. Metcalf really came on late in the game after having a pretty quiet first half. And that catch by JSN at the end was a thing of beauty!

Defensively, Leonard Williams continues to be a beast in the middle. I loved what I saw from Michael Jackson – blowing up multiple wide receiver screens – and I thought Artie Burns had one of his best games. This made up for Devon Witherspoon being out injured, and Tariq Woolen being benched for large swaths of this game.

Of course, Julian Love was the superstar of this one, taking over for Jamal Adams (also out injured). My friend said it and I agree: we don’t win this game with Jamal Adams out there. We don’t win it with his stone hands dropping interceptions. In fact, he probably ends up giving up those reception yards, and the Eagles walk away in a blowout. That Adams injury sure seemed like a blessing, and I wouldn’t be totally against him being inactive for the rest of the year.

Shout out to Jason Myers for being perfect on the day, in really bad weather conditions. And a HUGE shout out to Michael Dickson, who was just nails punting the ball. He averaged 56 yards, with a long of only 59 on 5 punts. That’s consistent ass-kicking, when we absolutely needed to flip field position and force the Eagles into going long distances.

The win brings us to 7-7, and the 8th seed in the NFC, with three games to go. All of a sudden, the playoffs are not only a possibility, but I would argue very probable! Maybe if we ensure the 49ers are the #1 seed, we’ll have a chance to at least make it to the divisional round in an upset.

The Seahawks Started Strong & Ended Lucky To Beat The Browns

The game certainly didn’t go the way I expected, at least through the first quarter. The last three quarters were pretty … yeah, pretty ugly.

I ultimately didn’t come away very impressed with the Browns’ defense. Seems like you can really move the ball against them. The Seahawks regularly had guys open, and were able to gash them on some pretty big runs (we averaged over 9 yards per carry with our running backs), and quite frankly, the Seahawks should’ve won by more. But, Geno Smith had an abysmal game, and … I’ve got thoughts about D.K. Metcalf.

Geno had 2 TDs and 2 picks. It’s hard to fully blame him for the two interceptions, because one was tipped, and the other was a situation where it looked like D.K. could’ve come back to the football instead of levelling off his route. But, nevertheless, neither were well-thrown balls, and both were pretty bad decisions. There was also the near-interception that was dropped by Cleveland – on a route where JSN was supposed to continue his route to the outside rather than cutting it short – that would’ve easily gone for a pick six; I would argue that was another terrible throw and poor decision, that had little chance of being completed even if JSN had run the route Geno thought he was going to run.

He was all over the place, all day. Balls too high, balls too low, balls behind guys. The best thing you could say about Geno’s day is that he only took one sack (to Myles Garrett, naturally) because he was quick with the release. Nevertheless, that lone sack came on 3rd & 11 from the Cleveland 41 yard line when we were down by 3 points in the fourth quarter. A promising drive to maybe tie the game ended in a punt, and almost resulted in a loss.

That’s because the Seahawks’ defense took a considerable step back in effectiveness in this one. It didn’t seem that way early! Just as it seemed like the Seahawks’ offense had itself figured out – taking a 17-7 lead through the first quarter – it seemed like the Seahawks’ defense would continue kicking ass and taking names, having forced a fumble on a Jordyn Brooks sack, and Woolen picking the ball off early in the second. But, the Browns were weirdly methodical for most of the rest of the game, cutting the deficit to 17-14 at halftime, then taking a 20-17 lead in the third quarter on a couple of field goal drives.

The Browns ran it 40 times for 155 yards. 3.9 yards per carry isn’t amazing or anything, but running it that many times means they were effective in moving the chains. They were 6/15 on third downs (0/1 on fourth), and held a 36:40 to 23:20 time of possession advantage. Part of that is Cleveland forcing four 3 & Outs, but part of that was them getting the job done on 3rd & short. P.J. Walker was no slouch in this one; not a great completion percentage (15/31), but he hit it for 8.0 yards per attempt, for 248 yards. Amari Cooper caught it 6 for 89, and David Njoku caught 4 for 77 and a TD. They really controlled the line of scrimmage, and nearly schemed us to death with screen plays.

The defense looked like it was reacting more than dictating terms. You could see glimpses of eliteness, but also too many instances of this team looking the way it’s looked the last few years. Maybe the Browns are just a bad matchup for us. If that’s the case, maybe try to sleep in next week when we play the Ravens at 10am, because they’re like the Browns if they only had an MVP at quarterback.

We would’ve lost this game if it weren’t for a ball bouncing off of a blitzing Jamal Adams’ helmet, landing in the outstretched arms of Julian Love late in the fourth quarter. With the ball at our own 43 yard line at the 2 minute warning, we were able to reignite the offense with a deft mix of short and intermediate passes, along with a superb play by Fant to rumble for 27 yards to set up a red zone situation. Jaxon Smith-Njigba caught either a swing pass or a screen and took it to the house behind a fantasic D.K. Metcalf block. Had the Browns completed that third down pass, though, and that very well might’ve sunk us.

As for D.K., I dunno. I am of the tinfoil hat opinion that he was secretly benched last week for talking smack about the team. As such, I was watching him closely to see how invested he’d be in the outcome of this game. I’d say that outlook is muddied.

He certainly didn’t appear to come close to drawing any 15-yard penalties, with a very workmanlike persona. You could see Browns defenders jawing at him, and then you saw D.K. turn around and walk back towards the huddle or to his own sideline. Very commendable, but of course, I’m not going to say he’s magically cured. We’ve seen him go stretches of being cool, calm, and collected, for games at a time.

I also saw a guy who only caught 5 balls on 14 targets. No egregious drops or anything, and given how bad Geno looked in this one, it’s hard to tell if the 9 incompletes were on the quarterback being wild, or the receiver not being where the quarterback thought he was going to be. Someone who has quit on his team – but doesn’t want to make it LOOK like he’s quit on the team – isn’t just going to blatantly drop balls that are right in his bread basket. He’s going to finesse it. He’s going to maybe be a half a step too slow. Maybe he goes out of his way to avoid contact. Maybe he pulls himself out of the game for an extra play or two.

That being said, his block on the game-winning TD was a thing of beauty, disengaging at exactly the right moment. So, I fully acknowledge that this is me being Tinfoil Hat Guy, but it’s just something I’m going to monitor going forward. I am nothing if not curious about this whole saga.

It was cool to see Tyler Lockett have a breakout game; feels like it’s been a while since he’s been as wide open as he was in this one. It was cool to see Jake Bobo hit an end-around for a 3-yard TD (sweet cut up the field when stringing it out would’ve gotten him stuffed). And, obviously, it was VERY cool to see JSN have the glory at the end.

On the defensive side of the ball, I thought we got levied with a bunch of ticky-tack bullshit. Two different hands-to-the-face penalties propped the Browns up and kept them moving; both seemed weak as hell, with either the offensive player moving his head into the opposing player’s hand, or the offensive player physically moving the defender’s hand with his hand into his own face. Either way, they were pretty glancing blows, and neither seemed to rise to the level of the intent of that penalty.

I thought Riq Woolen had a humongous game, and would’ve been even better if he could’ve gotten that second pick. Great to see him have such a big impact after all the eyes of the NFL community had been on Devon Witherspoon. Speaking of, I thought he was pretty quiet (except for, again, the ticky-tack penalty he had), which maybe speaks to teams avoiding him whenever possible. It also seemed like Jamal Adams had a pretty quiet game, until the very end with the head-block of the Walker pass. Cool to see Love get his first interception in a Seahawks uniform though!

Bobby Wagner was all over the place, Jordyn Brooks – at times – was the best player on the field, and Boye Mafe – at other times – was also the best player on the field. The latter two each had sacks, with Brooks getting the forced fumble, which was recovered by Mafe (who had 4 QB hits and a TFL). Also, big ups to Darrell Taylor for getting a game-sealing sack at the end, to eliminate any chance of a Browns late comeback.

Frank Clark did, indeed, make his return; he looked a little rusty. Derick Hall had a couple of really good plays, but also lost contain a couple times (one of them was a Walker scramble for 9 yards). You know who didn’t look rusty? Dre’Mont Jones, who not-so-quietly had a TFL and 3 QB hits. He made an impact, even if he didn’t blow up the stat sheet.

Great punting day by Dickson. Clean kicking day by Myers. The special teams didn’t take over the game or anything, but it also didn’t cost us.

I’m not going to say that’s a game you HAVE to have, but it’s one you really really want to have. They’re an AFC opponent, so obviously it means a little less that way. But, it’s a home game, it’s a winnable 50/50 type game, and it came against a highly-ranked defensive unit (who didn’t always look it on Sunday, and hasn’t looked it very much at all over the last two weeks). If nothing else, it’s nice to see the Seahawks just put up 24 points on a top tier defense. It’s nice that we didn’t totally go in the fucking tank for three full-ass quarters. We figured it out, when it mattered most. Geno had a crap game, yet he led us to a come-from-behind victory in the fourth quarter. These are the games you have to win if you’re going to contend for the division, and a spot among the NFC’s best.

Which, incidentally, is where we are now. At 5-2, we’ve surpassed the 49ers, who are 5-3 after losing their third straight game. We’re in first place in the division, and we’re only trailing the 7-1 Eagles (who, in spite of their record, don’t look nearly as dominant as they did last season); we’re tied with the 5-2 Cowboys, but I don’t know if anyone really considers them to be a legitimate top tier threat.

Are The Seahawks Progressing Faster Than Usual This Season?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Seahawks Had A Dominant Defensive Performance Against An Inept Offensive Giants Team

In retrospect, BOY are the Giants bad! I was not prepared for that level of ineptitude. I keep coming back to how they JUST gave Danny Dimes a huge contract extension (he’s going to have a $47 million cap hit in 2024!); what a disaster!

The Seahawks now head into the BYE week with a 3-1 record, firmly in second place in the NFC West, and among the wild card contenders one month in. It’s probably the best we could’ve hoped for heading into the season, so all things considered, I’m pretty happy with where this team is at.

While I readily acknowledge that it’s less impressive knowing Saquon Barkley was out for this game, I think it’s undeniable that the Seahawks’ run defense is vastly improved over last year. Daniel Jones scrambled for 66 yards on 10 carries, but everyone else only managed 46 yards on 19. Not that I want to allow opposing quarterbacks to run all over us, but few of those were actually designed runs, so in a sense they feel like flukier yards.

This game will forever stand out as the one where the Seahawks defense got 11 sacks. 2 from Wagner, 2 from Brooks, 2 from Devon Witherspoon (who also had a 97-yard pick six, to go along with 7 tackles), 2 from Nwosu, and 1 apiece from Mafe, Myles Adams, and Mario Edwards (who forced a fumble on his that was recovered by Brooks). Now THAT’S how you win a game 24-3!

It was, truly, an awesome defensive performance. But, at the same time, the Giants might have the worst offensive line in the league. They’ve got the aforementioned mediocre Danny Dimes. They’ve still not yet improved their wide receiver room. And they were without Barkley. There were pieces here and there on defense that stood out – Kayvon Thibodeaux had 2 sacks and looked like the monster we all expected coming out of college – but by and large the Giants don’t look like a good football team, at all. Don’t forget the Cardinals blew a 21-point second half lead to them, otherwise the Giants would be 0-4!

This might’ve been, all things considered, our easiest opponent (yes, even easier than the Panthers). And yet, good lord, did we suffer a massive amount of injuries in this one!

By the end, our O-Line looked like this: Forsythe, Brown, Oluwatimi, Bradford, Curhan. We lost both guards in this one (Lewis and Haynes) and had to do some shuffling. We also lost Geno Smith for part of the second quarter, after he was rolled-up on out of bounds unnecessarily. Jarran Reed missed the tail end of the game. There has to be some other guys I’m missing …

Oh yeah, Jamal Adams. The Hype Train was in all of its full-throated glory this week as The Return Of Jamal Adams was in effect.

I don’t know whether to make a joke or throw my laptop across the room. It is, indeed, comical how insufferably injury-prone he’s become since donning a Seahawks uniform. Are we, like, his kryptonite? Is someone secretly poisoning him with very low doses over a long period of time? Did he have all his bones replaced with wafer and his muscles replaced with nougat?

It’s particularly exasperating because you can CLEARLY see the impact of a healthy Jamal Adams. He was in there for, what, a drive or two? Yet, he was flying all over the place and had a couple crunching tackles. Unfortunately, his second tackle was made with his head, and he left with an obvious concussion (in spite of him berating the health professional who confirmed his disability).

But, you know, we were all prepared for this, right? Not to expect too much out of Adams. Whatever we get from him is a bonus and all that. That’s why we signed Julian Love, who – not surprisingly – had his best game in a Seahawks uniform, going up against his old team.

Forget Adams, what I was most excited to see in this game was the combo of Witherspoon and Woolen out there. I think you have to like what you saw in this one (again, the caveat being our level of opponent). The longest reception by a receiver was 12 yards. We held their best offensive weapon – Darren Waller – to 3 catches for 21 yards. I’m not ready to plant my flag on this being LOB 2.0, but the pass defense was the best it’s been this season, and I think having these two guys healthy has a lot to do with it. You get to slot the secondary behind them where they deserve to be, and you see these amazing results (including a late pick by Quandre Diggs, who should be able to make more plays as a roaming free safety).

The Seahawks offense gets somewhat of an Incomplete grade on this one. Geno Smith, I thought, looked fine, though he was definitely hampered in the second half with what I presume was a downturn related to his ankle injury. He’ll be fine. Drew Lock got some play in this one and did okay, hitting Fant for what turned out to be a 51-yard gain that led to Kenneth Walker’s TD. Walker finished with a respectable 79 yards on 17 carries; Charbonnet also looked solid as his backup, hitting open holes and gashing them for 31 yards on only 5 carries.

The offensive line depth really showed up in this one. Granted, we did a lot to help them out with our protection schemes, but this offense is talented enough to afford us this luxury of playing multiple tight ends. We can withstand keeping extra blockers for those extreme blitzing defenses, thanks to how elite our receivers are. Shoutout to Walker for his protection as well; he looked fantastic picking up blitzers up the middle.

This game was unquestionably sloppy throughout, with lots of penalties on both teams, but a win is a win. On the road, against an NFC opponent, on Monday night: I’ll take it.

Shoutout to Michael Dickson for some fantastic punts to flip field position. A reverse shoutout to Myers for missing a long field goal pretty miserably.

Now, we get our BYE week. People have been saying – given our injury issues thus far – it might be at the exact right time. I would say, with the punishment we suffered in this one, it’s even more important. Then, we go right back out on the road to play an underachieving Bengals team in a couple weeks. Either we’re catching them at the exact right time, or they’re going to be furiously trying to save their season.

My biggest takeaway through four weeks is how good our rookie class looks once again. Witherspoon, obviously, has DROY potential. Bradford has looked just fine at right guard. Oluwatimi got some playing time at center. Jerrick Reed, if nothing else, looks like an elite special teamer. Cameron Young had a couple impactful tackles up the middle. Hall and Charbonnet look like excellent role players thus far at important positions. Really, the only guy who has yet to stand out has been JSN, and I don’t think anyone is worried about the top overall receiver eventually finding his footing. I will say that maybe we can try sending him on routes that AREN’T just around the line of scrimmage.

2023 Seahawks Preview Extravaganza!

I see one of two things happening with this Seahawks season. Either the Seahawks rule, or the Seahawks are just okay.

There are, of course, a myriad of other options. The Seahawks could be bad, for instance! But, I feel like for that to happen, this team would have to be decimated by injuries, to the offensive line, to key skill position players, and to the quarterback. You can’t rule it out! Luck is always a factor in the NFL. The thing is, you can make that case every single year, but you’re just speculating out of thin air at that point. As with every team, depending on injuries, the floor is a number one overall pick, and the ceiling is whatever that team is capable of if it manages to stay fully healthy. For the Seahawks, I would say that range is a Top 5 pick all the way up to competing for a spot in the Super Bowl.

Last year, I had the Seahawks projected for a top 5 pick; I just assumed it would be their own and not the Broncos’. Now that we have the knowledge of what happened in 2022, combined with the moves they’ve made in 2023, I obviously believe this team is poised for greater things.

Let’s start with Geno Smith. I don’t think it’s out of line to bring his durability into question, for the simple reason that he didn’t miss a game last year. But, maybe he has the secret sauce to avoiding back-breaking hits or twisted ankles or bent-backward thumbs. Given what we discovered about his ability to play at this level, an improvement in the weapons around him, and hopefully some more-consistent O-Line play, I believe we can get his 2022 numbers as a baseline. I also think, if the O-Line is considerably better, HE can be considerably better. A little more effective on third down. Turning some of those close losses into close victories. He alone – with everyone else being the same – can add or subtract two wins from last year’s total.

Now, let’s flip over to the defense. The good news is: we can’t be any worse. If we run it back, we’re 30th against the run and considerably better against the pass, with a good chunk of sacks to keep teams honest. BUT, if we can push that run defense up to just 20th, then I think we’re in business. We should be poised for better linebacker play. We should have more interior pressure with Dre’Mont Jones. And the sky is the limit for our secondary.

Bump the run defense up to 15th? Then, we’re talking about a team that not only contends for the division, but the whole damn conference.

There are so many variables with this team, which is what makes it both fun and nerve-wracking. The defensive front seven, the offensive line, the quarterback, the rookies and second-year players. We could be entering the next great period of Seahawks dominance, or it could be yet another year of post-L.O.B. tire-spinning.

What I’m excited about is the potential. If everything goes right, our offensive tackles are masters at their craft, and the rest of the line is full of bullies shoving dudes around. If everything goes right, the pass rush pressure is coming from a variety of sources (Jones, Nwosu, Taylor, Mafe, Hall, Reed, Adams, Love, Witherspoon). If everything goes right, Jones is a monster in the backfield against the run, Jarran Reed picks up where he left off with us in 2020, Morris and Young are legitimate contributors as rookies, and Bobby Wagner is the glue that holds everything together. If everything goes right, as soon as Jamal Adams returns, he doesn’t miss another game and gets back to what he does best: wreaking havoc all around the line of scrimmage. If everything goes right, Woolen and Witherspoon are lockdown corners funnelling passes to spots where Diggs, Love, and even Brooks are able to make plays. If everything goes right, JSN catches 80 balls and converts countless third downs, while opening up Metcalf and Lockett for monster years. If everything goes right, Kenneth Walker resumes his dominance, and Charbonnet is another Rashaad Penny (minus the injuries). If everything goes right, Geno Smith throws for 4,500+ yards, 35+ touchdowns, and never misses a down.

If everything goes right, the Seahawks overtake the 49ers and earn a top two seed as the NFC East bashes itself into smithereens.

Now, you read that and you can’t help but think that’s A LOT you need to go right. But, here’s the fun part: do you need ALL of that to happen to overtake the 49ers? Or can we get some percentage of that and still get the job done? I think it’s definitely possible. It won’t be easy, but it’s never been easy with this Seahawks team, even when they were going to Super Bowls.

Taking out injuries, the worst case scenario is that the O-line is as wishy-washy as it was last year, with none of our young guys stepping up and dominating. Mafe and Hall aren’t legitimate NFL pass rushers. Adams gets hurt on his first play back (because you can’t “take out injuries” when you talk about Adams; it’s his primary flaw). Wagner and Reed are washed up. Jones suffers under the weight of constant double-teams. Diggs loses a step, Love isn’t as great as he’s cracked up to be, and Witherspoon – having lost so much of his training camp and pre-season to injuries – takes a full year to get up to NFL speed. JSN is under-utilized (or worse, poorly-utilized by way of bubble screens and whatnot), our running backs are stuffed behind a line that can’t block, and Geno Smith regresses back to his old ways of taking too many sacks and turning the ball over too much. In that scenario, we’re probably a 7-8 win team and not making the playoffs.

The baseline for this team is 7-8 wins, because there’s simply too much talent for it ALL to go tits up.

The zenith for this team is 12-13 wins, because that talent reaches its full potential.

When I think of the great Seahawks teams – as well as the great teams we’ve seen in the NFC recently – I think of savage lines. The L.O.B. had it, the 49ers, Eagles, and Cowboys have them, and usually it’s those teams you see succeeding in January. But, there’s other ways to succeed. The Seahawks need to tap into that. Tap into its secondary. Tap into an elite passing attack. Tap into a pass rush that might be criminally underrated. Kill teams with speed, rather than simply bash them with brute force. It’s that speed, I think, if administered properly, that could start a new wave of dominance in the NFL. Pete Carroll is always changing, always adapting, and always forging new ways to win. I have every reason to believe this team could be on the cutting edge. Fly to the ball on defense, and utilize a mix of run and pass on offense that most teams can only dream of. We’re not pass-wacky like the Chiefs and Bills; we’re not overly run-dependant like the Ravens and Eagles. We’re equal parts awesome, and that could very well take us a long way.

This takes us back to our schedule. If injury luck is of utmost importance in the NFL, schedule luck is a close second. The Eagles last year were fortunate to have one of the easiest schedules in the league; they cruised to a number one seed and a spot in the Super Bowl. How is our schedule shaking out?

Well, the Rams and Cardinals look to be awful, so that’s a nice 4-game start. The Lions just got done looking great against the Chiefs last night – and their fans will surely be fired up for their home opener in week 2 – but that’s not a team that’s unbeatable. The Panthers look legitimately terrible (and we’re catching them early, before they have a chance to gel behind their number one overall draft pick), and I think the Giants are ripe for regression after a similar-to-the-Seahawks unexpected run of competence in 2022. The Browns, Ravens, and Guardians are all very suspect, and I like the Titans, but they could very well be toast. That’s 11 games where the Seahawks should at the very least be in it. Add the Steelers to that list, because we don’t know if they’re going to be competent on offense.

The tough-looking games are against the 49ers, Bengals, Cowboys, and Eagles. I mean, as I see it now. Anything could happen with any of these teams. If we can go 10-2 against the beatable teams, and 2-3 against the very good teams, that’s 12-5, and that’s probably good enough for a top 2 seed in the NFC. Even if we go 8-4 against the beatable teams, but find a way to go 3-2 against the good ones, that’s an impressive 11-6. That’s a team you can take into the playoffs and probably play in a home game.

So, that’s where I’m leaning. 11-12 wins and either the 2-seed, or a very dangerous 5-seed.

What’s fun is that the Seahawks have always been interesting, dating back to Russell Wilson’s first year. But, they were less fun in his last years here. Every time, we had to talk ourselves into a wild card team that hopefully could go on a deep playoff run on the back of our superstar QB. This time, I don’t think anyone’s putting that kind of pressure on Geno, so this could be one of those rare Seahawks teams that doesn’t NEED to have home field advantage throughout to go all the way. They’re totally balanced. They can get input from a myriad of sources. And that makes us the most dangerous team of all, because you can’t focus (and stop) any one thing and expect to beat us. Cut off one head, and others will pop up in its place.

We’re the fucking Hydra of the NFL, and we’re here to infiltrate your puny democracy!