Not Winners & Losers Of The Seahawks’ Game Against The 49ers

Super fun win on Sunday at CenturyLink, as the Seahawks and 49ers were the first teams in NFL history to combine for a 43-16 score.  The Seahawks were favored by double-digits and this was one of those kinds of games where far too often you see us play down to the level of our competition and eke out an ugly win by 3 points, followed by everyone talking about how it doesn’t matter how pretty it was as long as a win is a win is a win is a blah blah blah.  Not this time.  After some predictable early-game struggles, we eventually went up 20-0 and didn’t look back.

What I’m Geeked Out About After Twelve Games

Russell Wilson, one more time.  11/17 for only 185 yards, but a whopping 4 TDs against 0 INTs.  Check out this season through three quarters:  2,716 yards (on pace for around 3,621), 8.33 yards per attempt (a career high by a fraction of a yard), 29 TDs (already his third-most in a season), 5 INTs, and a 115.5 passer rating (which would easily be a career high if he can keep it up).  There’s raw passing numbers, and there’s efficiency, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a guy who’s more efficient, either this season or over the course of a career.

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

You can’t do what he’s doing without the offensive line playing the way they’ve been playing.  We’ve always said, “If Russell Wilson ever had time in the pocket, he’d be among the best in the game,” and this year is living proof.  There were a few too many penalties for my liking (some legit, some REALLY ticky-tack), but otherwise Wilson had a clean pocket most of the day, and when he was heavily pressured (like on that one ugly sack near the 49ers goalline), I would argue the receivers or running backs let him down by missing assignments.

The proof is also in the pudding in the run game.  A week after Carolina brought us down to Earth a little bit, we had a quietly explosive game against a pretty solid 49ers run defense:  168 yards on 29 carries (5.8 per attempt) and a TD.  Carson led the way with 69 (nice), but Penny had 65 of his own (including a nifty 20-yard TD scamper) on nearly half the attempts.

Defensively, I mean, Bobby Wagner should probably be the MVP of this one:  12 tackles, 1 sack, 2 QB hits, 2 passes defended, 1 simultaneous forced fumble/fumble recovery, and a 98-yard interception returned for a touchdown (the longest in franchise history … LOB WHO MOTHERFUCKERS???).  Best Middle Linebacker In Football Hands Down No Questions Asked Thank U Next.

Elsewhere, Justin Coleman had a monster game with 10 tackles and half a sack.  Austin Calitro was all over the place in the stead of K.J. Wright.  Poona Ford was a load in the middle.  Frank Clark was in Nick Mullens’ pocket all day.  For a unit that ended up giving up 452 yards of offense (mostly in garbage time), that was a helluva game.  I mean, largely due to their ineptitude, the 49ers ran 74 plays to Seattle’s 49, so the Seahawks’ defense had to contend with a modest time imbalance.  A lot of heart on that side of the ball to hold them to just 16 points.

Getting back to the offense, kudos to Jaron Brown for his 2 TDs.  Tyler Lockett had a 52-yard score and a massive kickoff return to start the third quarter (which immediately preceeded Penny’s touchdown).  And Doug Baldwin even got in on the action with a 1-yard score.  Fantastic all-around day by these guys.

Let’s Talk About Competitions

The youth is really starting to stand out, and it’s a good sign of things to come.  The Seahawks should have plenty of money to spread around this offseason, and they’ll have a lot of fun decisions to make.  Frank Clark needs to be extended; that has to be Priority #1.  I would argue Jarran Reed is Priority #2.  I think the aforementioned Calitro could be a great fit to slide into K.J.’s role alongside Wagner.  I do ultimately think the Seahawks will look at the secondary in this year’s draft, but it’s nice to see Thompson and Hill making strides as the season has progressed.  We talk all the time about Griffin and Flowers – and rightly so – but it’s nice to see the depth in this secondary start to approach prior glories.  It’ll never be as good as it was, but to come close is something special.

On the flipside, how smart was that decision to extend Lockett when we did?  Between him, getting Doug healthy again next year, with David Moore and Jaron Brown rounding out the group, we’re set at wide receiver.  We’re also set at running back with Carson as the lead dog and the emergence of Penny as a change-of-pace threat to break it at any time.  That speed and explosiveness is what we expected all along from the first rounder, so it’s nice to see it finally showing up in games.

There’s a lot of quality youth on this team.  If we can just keep the offensive line intact, 2019 could really be something special, assuming we can fill in some of the holes with free agency.

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

Obviously not a great day by the kicker.  Gladly, it didn’t come close to affecting the outcome; let’s just hope this is a random anomaly and he got all his bad kicks out in a laugher.

Ultimately, it looks like Carson’s finger injury won’t matter too much (though, you hate to see a guy prone to fumbling injure any part of his hands).  But, the hamstring injury to Fluker seems like a crusher.  He could be out for a few games, the rest of the regular season, or put on IR and lost entirely.  You hate to see something so serious happen towards the end of a game that’s been largely decided, so let’s hope for the best.

Not Winners & Losers Of The Seahawks’ Game Against The Packers

The Seahawks temporarily saved their season with a 27-24 victory over the Packers.  The win brought us back to .500 at 5-5, while the Pack fell to 4-5-1, with their playoff chances taking a significant hit.  The Seahawks were down 14-3 early, but rallied in the second quarter and put the game away in the final frame with some rock-solid defense and just enough big plays on offense.

What I’m Geeked Out About After Ten Games

I haven’t gotten to say this a lot this year, but what a game by the defense!  The Packers were up 21-17 at halftime, but only scored 3 points the rest of the way.  Just fantastic!  I was convinced we’d never see anything even remotely resembling a pass rush, but here we ended up with 5 sacks on the day, generally making Aaron Rodgers’ life miserable.  Frank Clark, of course, led the way with 2 sacks.  He’s already got 10 on the year, tying his previous career high from 2016, with 6 more games to go.  That man is going to make a TON of money this offseason.  Maybe even more importantly, Jacob Martin and Rasheem Green both had their first career sacks as the young guys work their way into the rotation.  And, while he was held sackless, Bobby Wagner led the way with 9 tackles and was a dominant force all game.

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

Russell Wilson overcame a slow start to go 21/31 for 225 and 2 TDs against 0 INTs.  For the season, he’s hitting 66.2% of his passes for 2,192 yards, 23 TDs and only 5 INTs, which is good for a 110.2 rating.  That’s Top 5 Elite Quarterback shit!

Chris Carson also overcame a slow start – fumbling on the first play of the game – to run for 83 yards on 17 carries with a TD.  The rest of the rotation was similarly on top of their games; Penny had 46 yards on 8 carries, as he’s looking more and more like the guy we wasted spent a first round pick on; and Davis chipped in with 26 yards on 4 carries, mostly on our clock-killing 4:20 drive to close out the game.  All told, the team managed 173 more yards on the ground in this one, with a 4.9 average.  Not giving Aaron Rodgers the ball back with the game on the line?  Absolutely the reason we won the game.

A tip of the hat to the big 3 receivers, as Baldwin got his first TD of the year (along with 52 yards on 7 catches), Moore had four big catches for 57 yards, and Lockett led the way with 71 yards on 5 catches.  To top it all off, Ed Dickson had his 2nd TD of the season, and the game-winner as it turns out.

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

The big problem area in this one ended up being the secondary.  Too many deep balls down field, which the elimination of is supposed to be this team’s specialty.  And no one was immune.  Shaq Griffin bit hard on one, Tre Flowers was routinely challenged, Bradley McDougald gave up a long TD, and even Justin Coleman got in on the action of getting beat.  Not to be outdone, Austin Calitro got the start for K.J. Wright and I really thought that was going to cost us the game, as the Packers got the better of him seemingly the entire first half.  Now, obviously, Aaron Rodgers is going to make a lot of secondaries around the league look pretty foolish on the regular, but it’s particularly alarming to see the young guys continue to repeat the same mistakes.

The good news is, we got through this one without a bevy of new injuries.  Now, with 10 days to prepare for a HUGE showdown in Carolina, let’s hope the team is able to take advantage of this scheduling gift.

Not Winners & Losers Of The Seahawks’ Game In Detroit

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

What I’m Geeked Out About After Seven Games

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s Talk About Competitions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nobody Wants To Hear About My Fantasy Team: Week 1

See my Intro to understand what this is all about.

See my Draft Recap to see where we are heading into the first week of the season.

I’ll be the first to admit I obsess WAY TOO MUCH about fantasy football.  Thinking about my roster, listening to podcasts, reading articles, pouring over the rankings of other people, scouring the waiver wire for potential pick-ups, conjuring trades to try and swindle my friends out of their elite players.  My productivity in general takes a HUGE hit during the football season for those reasons and many others, but I’m no more insane than I am in the lead-up to Week 1.

It’s no more or less important than any other regular season week, but it FEELS like the most important game of the season.  At the same time, I’ve been trying my best in recent years not to tinker too much with my roster before I’ve actually had a chance to see these guys play.  I mean, if I liked these guys enough to draft them a week ago, why am I sitting here second-guessing myself before they’ve done anything to convince me they’re no good?

Last year, I think I managed to go all the way through the first week before making a roster change; this year I wasn’t as strong.  But, I feel I had a good reason:  the Bears made a huge trade for Khalil Mack over the weekend – the day AFTER I drafted Baltimore’s defense – so I used my relatively high waiver priority (3rd in the league) to swap defenses.

My draft strategy this year was simple:  wait until the very last minute to draft a defense.  There are a few you have to feel good about – the Rams, the Jags, the Vikings, maybe the Eagles – but a lot of the time, defense is about matchups.  Likewise, there are countless stories of defenses that came out of nowhere to lead the fantasy league in points, just as there are countless stories of supposedly-elite defenses succumbing to age or injury or simple over-rating.  Why get caught up in the fervor of taking one of the top pre-season defenses early in the draft when you can get one pretty close to just as good at the end of the draft or on waivers after the first week.  So, in this league, I picked up the Ravens’ defense, because they’re going up against Buffalo in Week 1, and that felt like a good one to stream against until some other team popped out as one to go with from Week 2 onward (or, if I got lucky, and the Ravens’ defense was really good in general – and not just against the Bills – then I just got them in the next-to-last round while the suckers in my league wasted precious earlier draft picks on the same quality).

The thing is, even heading into the draft, I liked Chicago’s defense as a possible sleeper.  I think Vic Fangio is an excellent defensive coordinator – on a tier just below Wade Phillips – and I seemed to remember them really going hard after young talent in the draft on this side of the ball.  They seemed poised like a breakout candidate BEFORE trading for Mack; now that they have him, and his sack potential, I like the Bears enough to make them my ONLY defense.

Also, not for nothing, but I like my bench players an awful lot (heading into Week 1, my bench includes:  Greg Olsen, Carson Wentz, Robert Woods, Adrian Peterson, and Kenny Stills).  I don’t want to drop ANY of those guys at the moment, as I feel like they could all play important roles on my team this year.  If I did have to drop someone, it would likely be one of those two receivers, so seeing how they both look in the first week is going to be critical in my line of thinking going forward (gun to my head:  I’d probably choose Woods over Stills, as I like the Rams’ offense more than Miami’s; but Stills could end up as the Dolphins’ best receiver this year, while the Rams have a lot of guys who will divide Goff’s attention).

Anyway, how I plan to do this is I’m going to write up my thought process heading into the week ahead of time, that way my rationale won’t be tainted by events that already happened.  You’re going to know exactly what I’m thinking heading into this week, because I’m writing it before the games start.  Then, I’m going to write a section after the fact, letting you know how my week went.  So, without further ado:

My Rationale Beforehand

Here’s my roster for Week 1:

  • QB1 – Derek Carr vs. LAR
  • QB2 – Andy Dalton @ IND
  • WR1 – Tyreek Hill @ LAC
  • WR2 – Adam Thielen vs. SF
  • RB1 – Ezekiel Elliott @ CAR
  • RB2 – Leonard Fournette @ NYG
  • TE – Jordan Reed @ AZ
  • FLEX – Demaryius Thomas vs. SEA
  • K – Robbie Gould @ MIN
  • DEF – Chicago @ GB

Obviously, if Wentz was healthy, he’d be my QB1 and I’d probably end up sitting Carr this week.  On waivers, the available QBs (at the time of this writing) are Tyrod Taylor, Joe Flacco, Sam Bradford, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and both Bills quarterbacks.  Of those guys, I might marginally prefer Taylor to Carr based on matchups (I could see Carr getting in trouble against that Rams defense, while Taylor is always careful with the football and the Steelers don’t really pose much of a threat to make his life miserable), but not enough to make a roster change.  I have a lot riding on Carr this year, based on the fact that I drafted him so high and because I believe the Raiders will be throwing a lot, so I kinda need him to work out for me early in the season.

I don’t have a lot to say about my starting WRs and RBs; they seem pretty self-explanatory.  I will say that I’m pretty confident about my FLEX guy as well, as I think Thomas could have a field day against this Seahawks defense.  For what it’s worth, I like Emmanuel Sanders a lot this year, but not particularly in this game.  The Broncos tend to move Thomas around quite a bit, and honestly I don’t see him going to Griffin’s side as much as Sanders.  I don’t think they play Thomas in the slot very much, so that negates Justin Coleman’s impact.  If I’m right, and Thomas is lining up opposite of Griffin’s side on the other end, I think 150 yards and a TD or two is well within his capabilities.  If I wasn’t playing Thomas, I would’ve gone with AP, but I’d like to take a wait-and-see approach with the veteran running back before I commit to giving him regular time in my fantasy lineup.

My biggest sticking point is in my TE spot, where I’ve already waffled once and it wouldn’t shock me if I waffled again.

Here’s the deal:  I drafted Olsen in the 8th round.  As I noted previously, I didn’t intend to use that high of a pick on a tight end this year, seemingly content with taking the leftover scraps.  But, Olsen was sitting there, and I would’ve felt like a fool if I’d let him drop any further.  He’s obviously a tremendous talent, both in fantasy and in real life, and in a usual circumstance, I’d be happy to start him against the Cowboys.  But, then in the 12th round, Jordan Reed was sitting there.  He’s got Alex Smith throwing to him.  He’s in an offense that utilizes the tight end to a great extent even before Alex Smith got there.  And, it’s week 1.  He’s healthy!  He’s probably as healthy as he’s ever going to be.  Indeed, I wouldn’t be shocked if this was the last chance I got to start him, that’s how fragile he is!  He’s going up against the Cardinals, which feels like a juicy matchup, and they’re on the road, so I expect the Redskins will need to throw the ball more than they would if they were at home and more likely to be sitting on a lead in the 4th quarter.  Ultimately, I feel like there’s better touchdown potential for someone like Reed over someone like Olsen, factoring in everything around both players.  The Panthers just have more weapons on offense, and I don’t believe Cam will be as inclined to look for his TE in the red zone as Smith will be.  We’ll see; I have a feeling I’m going to regret whatever I do here.

Also, thinking long term, I fucked up when I took Reed, because both players have Week 4 byes, which means if they both stay healthy between now and then, I either have to drop a really productive guy, or I’ll have to roster a third tight end for a week (or I guess I could take a 0 at that spot for one game, but that seems idiotic that early in the season).

Anyway, that’s that.  Below, read about how my fantasy week went.

***

Week 1 Results

Well, I didn’t want to believe it, but Derek Carr fucked me ALREADY!

I had a 20-point lead heading into Monday Night.  I had Carr left to go; usually, when you’re winning and you have a quarterback still to play, you’re in pretty excellent shape.  I want to say I was an 80% favorite heading into the night.  My opponent, Crazy N8’s Prostates, had Marvin Jones and the Rams’ kicker.  It was a lock, right?

Not so fucking fast.

If Carr had just thrown a single TD, I would’ve won.  If he’d just thrown TWO interceptions – instead of three – I would’ve won.  If Legatron had just missed one of those field goals (he ended up with 17 points in total), I would’ve won.  Instead, I’m a 3-point loser and everything is meaningless.

For a while there, I was looking like a genius with the Bears defense.  I also looked like a fucking boner, because remember how I had to drop Baltimore’s defense to pick up the Bears?  Well, not only did they go off (to the tune of 31 points in our league, way over their expected 17.12), but they went off FOR MY OPPONENT (who picked them up and played them against me!).  At one time, with Aaron Rodgers out of the game, the Bears had 35 points, but then the Packers started scoring, so that total fell to 20 (still well above the expected 9.06 Yahoo projected).

My big decision of Jordan Reed over Greg Olsen ended up panning out somewhat, with Olsen being the one to leave his game with an injury.  Reed beat Olsen by 9.5 points, so bully for me.

That Fournette injury is obviously a concern.  He was on his way to a monster day, but I guess his injury woes aren’t behind him.  Now, every time I have him in my lineup, I have to wonder if he’s going to get me 30 points or 3 points.  As long as Adrian Peterson is healthy – and in a plus matchup – I really have to consider putting him in there more often.

Demaryius Thomas acquitted himself well as my FLEX guy.  Predictably, the Seahawks’ defense posed little threat.  The bigger threat is Keenum’s rapport with Emmanuel Sanders, who went OFF in that game.  Still, my value pick is looking solid so far.

My biggest shining star was Tyreek Hill, who blew up to the tune of 46.10 points this week (he led all non-Fitzmagic players in my league).  He almost pulled my ass out of the fire, but you just can’t overcome a 3-point week out of your top available QB.

Crazy N8’s Prostates’ lineup looked like this:

  • QB1 – Kirk Cousins vs. SF
  • QB2 – Alex Smith @ AZ
  • WR1 – ODB vs. JAX
  • WR2 – Keenan Allen vs. KC
  • RB1 – Shady McCoy @ BAL
  • RB2 – David Johnson vs. WAS
  • TE – Travis Kelce @ LAC
  • FLEX – Marvin Jones vs. NYJ
  • K – Greg Zuerlein @ OAK
  • DEF – Baltimore vs. BUF

I ended up being the highest scorer of all the losers and had the third-highest points in the league this week.  Pretty sad state of affairs, all things considered.  Carson Wentz can’t come back soon enough.  Starting to think about picking up Fitzpatrick.  Things are looking bleak already!

Seattle Seahawks 2018 Preview Part 2: The Bad Stuff

Yesterday, we took a look at the bright side of this season.  If everything breaks right, what COULD happen, including a possible division title and beyond.  Today, we’re going hard negative.

If you played this season 100 times, probably 90 of them will be about the same:  the Seahawks will finish somewhere between 7-9 and 9-7.  The ceiling, while remote, is a division-winning playoff team (likely requiring the Rams to fall apart completely).  The floor, while also remote, is an 0-16 team pushing for that #1 draft pick in 2019.  How does that happen?  Well, if Russell Wilson has a season-ending injury in the first game of the year, then I’m sorry, but it’s Tank City.  While I don’t expect him to get injured, I’m not completely ruling it out.  Make no mistake, this year – as well as the foreseeable future – it’s going to be all about Mr. Wilson.  We go where he takes us.

A couple teams come to mind as comparable to the Seahawks.  For the purposes of this argument, throw out the New England Patriots.  Our coaching staff isn’t on par and Russell Wilson isn’t Tom Brady.  Not yet, anyway.  No, for this exercise, I’m thinking about the Green Bay Packers and the New Orleans Saints.

See, most years (in the Aaron Rodgers regime), the Packers boil down to an elite QB, some nice skill guys on offense, and a bunch of trash on defense.  Ditto the Saints under Drew Brees.  You could argue the Saints’ defense has been much more maligned, but I’ve seen more than my fair share of terrible Packers defenses.  And yet, the Packers are always seen as a potential division winner, solely because they have Aaron Rodgers at the helm; yet, the Saints more often than not are seen as a .500-ish ballclub, only being held afloat by the will of Brees.

So, where do these Seahawks fall?  One could make the argument that right now, Russell Wilson is as good as Aaron Rodgers.  He’s certainly just as important to the success of this team as A-Rod is to his.  Yet, me and most everyone else feels this team more closely resembles those mediocre Saints teams we’ve seen for much of the last decade.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t see a whole helluva lot of difference between Brees, Rodgers, and Wilson, so what gives?

Well, for starters, I think this defense is a lot closer to the bottom of the NFL than it is to the top.  I see a defense without a pass rush.  I see a defense that can’t force any turnovers out of its secondary.  I see a defense that’s just sort of okay at stopping the run.  And, I see a defense that’s tissue paper-thin.  If we start losing too many starters, there will be a tipping point, and we’ll be talking about the 32nd ranked unit in the NFL before too long.

So much has to go right just for this defense to be middle-of-the-road!  If we just talk about health, we’re already talking about a team with an injured K.J. Wright who’s missing at least Week 1, if not more.  Also, not for nothing, but when he was out there this pre-season, Wright wasn’t looking like his usual self; has he started the downside of his career?  There’s Dion Jordan, who’s supposed to be one of our main pass rushing ends; he missed the entire pre-season, has a lot of degenerative issues, and probably shouldn’t be counted on to finish more than 6-8 games this year (forget starts; anyone can start a game and go out after one series; I want to know how many games this guy can FINISH).  Even if Jordan is healthy, do we know if he’s actually good?  Sure, he looks the part, but looks don’t pressure opposing QBs.  Our other main rush end is Frank Clark; are we sure HE’S good?  He’s looked pretty good so far in his career, like a guy about to earn a big contract extension.  But, is he WORTH that kind of money?  Or, is he just going to get that money regardless of whether or not he takes another step in his development?  My main question with Clark is:  does he even WANT to be great?

It seems to me like this entire defense is being held together by Bobby Wagner and duct tape.  While he’s one of the best middle linebackers in the league, he can’t do literally everything.  It might be different if we had one more year of Earl Thomas in his prime, but that ain’t happening.  We’ve seen countless times how this team looks without Earl and Kam in the defensive backfield; now we start an entire era of football without those guys!  It’s not going to be pretty!

I’m curious to see the impact of potentially having Earl Thomas back for one more year.  He’s certainly a game-changer for this secondary, as the significant improvement of ET over TT could be a 2-3 game improvement in overall wins.  But, will his heart be in it?  Will the team still find a way to trade him midway through the season?  And, maybe most importantly, will he be able to stay healthy?  Without a training camp or a pre-season, how many times have we seen guys return from holdouts only to immediately twist an ankle or tweak a hammy or something?  I’ll believe he’s The Real Earl Thomas when I see it.

We’re all hanging our hats on Pete Carroll being a defensive-minded football coach whose specialty is the secondary, while we clap our hands and blindly say into the shadows, “We’ll be fine.”  But, will we?  Why?  Because Shaquill Griffin looked better than expected as a rookie?  How many career interceptions does he have?  One.  He has one.  Sure, he’s a fine cover corner, but he can’t cover literally everyone, and he’s not what anyone would call a “lockdown” corner, so he’s going to give up a good number of catches and yards.  He feels a lot closer to Marcus Trufant than Richard Sherman, and that’s a problem, because he’s supposed to be far and away the best corner on this team, which means the drop-off is significant.  Justin Coleman, almost certainly, is the actual best cornerback on this roster, and he’ll do well in his role covering slot receivers, but those guys don’t play every single down.  We have some schlub playing opposite Griffin who will almost certainly be the bane of our existence as early as the very first game of the season.

I think the defense is going to be very, very bad.  What’s worse, I’m afraid we won’t see the type of improvement over the course of this season to give us any hope for the future.  The L.O.B. is dead.  And it’s never coming back.

As I wrote about yesterday, the season hinges on the offense, and the offense hinges on Russell Wilson, so getting back to my point at the top, can he single-handedly carry this beached whale of a team into the playoffs?

I’m gonna guess probably not.  I do think he’s closer to Drew Brees than Aaron Rodgers (as I think this defense is closer to the very worst Saints defenses than it is to the Packers).  I also think the challenges presented within our division, within our conference, and with the schedule we’ve been saddled with, all conspire against us doing a damn thing in 2018.

The Rams are flat out better than the Seahawks, end of story.  You can question their long-term viability.  You can look at all the superstars they acquired the past couple seasons and think an implosion is on the horizon.  Indeed, even if the chemistry is top notch, they won’t be able to pay everyone forever, so EVENTUALLY things will break apart.  But, not in 2018.  In 2018, they’re going to be one of the 2 or 3 best teams in the entire NFL (hell, maybe THE best team).  Barring a multitude of injuries to the Rams, there’s no way we beat them in either game we play against them.

The 49ers are at least as good as the Seahawks, with a MUCH higher upside in the near future.  The 49ers could be a playoff team as early as THIS year, if Jimmy G continues to shred defenses like he did last year.  I have my doubts; I’m not nearly as high on them as some people – who have them as their dark horse darlings – but they’ll still be tough.  I can’t guarantee 2 wins against them; I can’t even guarantee 1!

Then, there’s the Cards.  They seem like they’ll be pretty bad.  But, that’s no guarantee that they’ll necessarily be bad against the Seahawks!  Sam Bradford is usually pretty careful with the ball; as long as he’s healthy, that’s a viable offense that should have zero trouble moving the ball against our defense.  And, they have just enough veterans on the defensive side of the ball to get stops and make our lives miserable.  The Seahawks probably SHOULD beat the Cardinals twice, but would it shock you to see us slip in either of these games?  Shit, at our very best, we still managed to lose to Jeff Fisher’s Rams more times than I care to count!

We catch the Broncos on the road; they have savvy vets all over the place.  We catch the Bears on a potential upswing (their defense looks like it could give us fits in week 2).  We play the Cowboys with their awesome rushing attack.  We have to go all the way to London for some stupid reason; who knows how that Raiders game turns out?  We go to Detroit who has an offense that should shred us no problem.  We host the Chargers, whose quarterback ALWAYS shreds even the very best versions of our defense.  We host the Packers on a short week, they’re expected to compete for a Super Bowl.  We go to Carolina, that feels like a demoralizing loss waiting to happen.  We host the Vikings on Monday night; they’re also expected to compete for a Super Bowl.  And, we host the Chiefs, who are always good and solidly coached under Andy Reid.

I’ve spent the entirety of this pre-season being pretty impressed by our starting units on both sides of the ball.  I think both our offense and defense have looked better than I anticipated (while our depth is non-existent).  My thought process all along has been that maybe the Seahawks can hang around, but once injuries mount, we’ll be toast.  But, the more I look at the schedule, at the crop of QBs we have to go up against, and everything else, I can present an easy argument on why the Seahawks might lose each and every one of those games!  Yet, the only argument in our favor is Russell Wilson.  Russell Is Magic, but he’s not THAT much magic!

I’m still of the belief that the O-Line will be much better than people think, but they’re still not going to be perfect.  They’re probably not even going to rank in the top 10!  When compared to past Seahawks O-Lines under Tom Cable, they’ll look like world-beaters, but that’s not saying much.  The point is, they should open up some holes to run through, and they should give Russell Wilson plenty of time to throw.

But, do we trust Wilson to always do the right thing?

I believe the Seahawks will be behind in a lot of games.  That’s going to put more of the burden on Wilson to pull our asses out of the fire.  He’s pretty great, but he still makes a good number of mistakes, trying to prolong plays, keep drives alive.  He’s always looking down field for the big play, and as a result misses a lot of positive plays around the line of scrimmage.  He takes too many sacks, and he puts a lot of balls in harm’s way.  I mean, we saw the Seahawks behind in a lot of games back when the defense was good; why was that?  A lot of times because Wilson turned the ball over or otherwise couldn’t get the fucking offense moving in the first quarter.  How much of that was on the O-Line vs. on Wilson himself?

Well, I guess we’ll find out this year.  Because the O-Line WILL be better.  And, when it is, if we still find Wilson making similar mistakes, then we have to admit that he’s not the be-all, end-all.  He’s good enough to take even the worst teams to an 8-8 record, but he’s not good enough to single-handedly get us into the playoffs.  He’s like almost every other quarterback in the league (particularly every other quarterback who doesn’t spend his entire career in the AFC Least); he needs help.  And the Seahawks don’t have enough help around him to get this team to where it wants to go.

The Seahawks won’t make the playoffs this year.  I know I predicted the Seahawks to go 9-7 in my season picks, but if I were you I’d bet the family farm on under 9 wins.  I’d even be inclined to take under 8 wins.

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

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

Quarterbacks

  • Russell Wilson
  • Alex McGough
  • Brett Hundley

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

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

Running Backs

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

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

Wide Receivers

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

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

Tight Ends

  • Nick Vannett
  • Will Dissly
  • Tyrone Swoopes

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

Offensive Line

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

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

Defensive Line

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

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

Linebackers

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

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

Cornerbacks

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

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

Safeties

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

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

Pre-Pre-Season Preview: Seahawks Pass Defense

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

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

Without further ado, let’s talk about the Seahawks’ Pass Defense.

Cornerbacks

Ahh yes, the great unknown.  There are certain groups I’m really excited to see this pre-season:  the running backs, the wide receivers, the offensive line (weirdly enough), and of course the rookie punter; having a lot of new pieces to work with is something to look forward to.  But, as for the cornerbacks, ironically enough I’m just nervous.

Last year, I thought we were pretty solid at cornerback up until Richard Sherman was out for the season (and his Seahawks career, as it turns out).  If I was grading this group before the season, I probably would’ve been in the B+ or A- range.  Obviously, with Sherm, one side is taken care of.  But, we had a lot of questions about the other side, as well as the nickel spot.

This year, Sherm is gone, which is obviously a HUGE blow.  But, Shaquill Griffin looked really good for a rookie, holding his own opposite our Hall of Famer.  Now, Griffin crosses over, inheriting Sherm’s side of the field, but in spite of his promising first year, there are still more questions.  First and foremost:  can he take that next step?  Can he go from a prospect with a lot of potential to a Pro Bowler?  It’s asking too much for him to be Sherm 2.0, but can he approach that sort of greatness?  He had just the 1 INT last year, and he WILL be tested in year two; so can we make other teams pay?  Passes defended are great, but with this defense’s lack of a pass rush, we’re going to need as many turnovers as we can get.  Taking advantage of the league’s overconfidence in throwing on Griffin is our best bet.

Other questions include:  will the switching of sides work against Griffin’s development?  I wouldn’t think so, and the team doesn’t seem too concerned about it, but you never know.  Also, will we run into a worst case scenario situation of a Sophomore Slump?  If this team is ever going to get back to its former glories while we’re still in Russell Wilson’s prime, we’re going to need stars blossoming around him.  Griffin has the potential to be a star; a regression would be utter disaster.

Until I see different, I can only expect this to be a downgrade from Sherm to Griffin.  I think it’s appropriate to move on and get younger, but all the same Griffin is no guarantee.  As such, that also points to a downgrade opposite of Griffin, where Byron Maxwell figures to get first crack at the job.  We got him back on a 1-year prove-it deal, which again is a move I agree with, but he’s clearly lost a step since the last time he was with the Seahawks (before his big money deal with Philly).  Don’t get me wrong, I think Maxwell is fine, but he’s likely not going to be as good as Griffin was last year, and he’s certainly not a long-term solution.

One area where the Seahawks really hit it big was getting Justin Coleman to be the nickel guy.  He was terrific last year and I would expect more of the same this year!

Beyond the core three, we’re bound to see a lot of competition for the final spots.  Dontae Johnson is a 5th year guy out of San Francisco who I’d expect is nothing more than insurance, in the event our younger guys don’t pan out.  Akeem King is in his 3rd year and seems like more of a project who’s getting a final shot to make the NFL.  Neiko Thorpe is back, but the team has always had him pegged as a Special Teams ace.  It feels like Thorpe will actually have to show something on the defensive side of the ball, or else risk getting the ax for salary cap purposes (as we look a lot better up and down our Special Teams roster).  DeAndre Elliott is an interesting name, in his third year with the Seahawks.  He’s been bitten by the injury bug, but he knows the system and has showed a lot of promise in past pre-seasons.  If anyone is going to beat out Byron Maxwell, I think Elliott has a real shot.  Then, we’ve got Mike Tyson, who gets another crack at trying to make the team.  Seems like the biggest longshot.

Then, there’s rookie Tre Flowers, selected in the 5th round.  He’s listed as a safety, but all signs point to him getting a crack at one of the outside corner spots.  He’s got the size, but it’s probably premature to expect him to make an impact right out of the gate.

All in all, this is the toughest position for me to grade.  I think there’s real potential for this group to get up to an A-, but there’s also a very real possibility they fall to a C-.  The scheme and the coaching staff alone probably prevents this group from being total F’s, but it’s tough because we’ve been so spoiled since 2011.  We’ve had A’s in there just about every year, written in pen, before putting in even the slightest amount of thought.  So, my grade is a B-, with the hope that I’m REALLY underestimating these guys.

Safeties

No Kam Chancellor, out injured, never to play again.  No Earl Thomas, holding out on the final year of his deal, not likely to return to the Seahawks ever again (unless we hard-line teams trying to trade for him, in which case I’d expect to see him in Week 11, with his heart certainly not in it).

So, yeah, HUGE downgrade from a season ago!

Bradley McDougald was signed before last year as insurance against injuries, and it turned out to be one of the more insightful moves the team has made in free agency.  He was brought back, and figures to start at Earl’s spot.  I don’t remember a lot about his play last year, but from what I’ve been told he was fine.  I don’t remember any glaring weaknesses, but I also don’t sit there and pour through the game tape with a fine-tooth comb.  He feels like a Replacement Level player, or maybe a little better.  Just an average starting safety; he won’t wow you, but he also won’t look bad very often.

And it gets more dicey from there.

I guess Delano Hill gets his shot – in his second year – to take over for Kam.  I don’t remember him playing at all last year, outside of special teams I guess.  So, really, anything goes here.  He was never going to play significantly as a rookie regardless, because there were 3 guys ahead of him on the depth chart, so maybe he’s secretly great and we just have no idea!  I mean, Kam came out of nowhere in his second year – taking over for Lawyer Milloy – and he was an absolute revelation; maybe we’re in for something similar again this year!

Something tells me to not hold my breath.

Beyond that, Maurice Alexander appears to be our veteran insurance, in his fifth season after playing for the Rams.  He’s just a guy, but he’s almost guaranteed to make the team based on his experience level alone.  Tedric Thompson is obviously someone we all know – taken in the same draft as Hill, in the 4th round – but everything I’ve read has been disappointing.  He definitely doesn’t look like he’s going to be Earl 2.0.  Beyond that:  a whole lotta nothin’.

I’m grading this a D+ and crossing my fingers.  McDougald isn’t a long-term solution, Hill might be okay, but nobody is going to be the next Earl.  That’ll have a ripple effect on the cornerbacks and everyone else in pass defense.

Linebackers

I’ll wrap it up here with another love-fest for the linebackers.  K.J. Wright leads the show here, and he’s remarkable in pass defense.  Bobby Wagner isn’t far behind him, as he’s also excellent in everything he does.  Shaquem Griffin could be a nice little weapon for us, as he’s got speed for days.  I give this group an A.

Overall, while I expect the organization to coach these guys up to respectability, the pass defense isn’t going to be the strength it once was.  With the lack of pass rush, as I talked about before, I would expect a lot of long drives and a lot of third downs converted.

To counter-balance that, my hope is we can generate a lot of turnovers.  I do expect run defense to be our strength on this side of the ball, which leads me to hope that teams try to throw more.  In that scenario, if the Seahawks are going to contend for the playoffs, they’re going to need turnovers.  Lots of interceptions, and lots of luck with recovering fumbles.  Those are IMPOSSIBLE to predict, of course, so to go into a season expecting this would be insane.

Given the crop of quarterbacks we’re scheduled to face this year, I think we can see Shaquill Griffin take the next step, we can see Justin Coleman to continue to be great in the middle, we can have our linebackers do their thing, we can get competent play out of our other cornerback spot, and we can get competent play out of our safeties and I STILL think teams will have little trouble moving the ball against this pass defense.  It’s impossible to cover guys for 8, 9, 10 seconds per play.

We saw the defense as a whole take a little bit of a step back in 2017, as guys got injured and whatnot.  I think most fans are expecting maybe even a little more of a step back – maybe towards the middle of the pack, in the NFL rankings – but I’m here to tell you that I think our pass defense is going to be in the bottom third, or even bottom quarter, of the entire league.  It’s going to be gross.  We’re going to give up A LOT of points, and it’s only going to be those games where the offense is really humming that we’re going to win.  Don’t look for those low-scoring, grind-it-out games where the defense keeps us in it until the offense can get going in the 4th quarter, because we won’t be winning games like that this year!

The plus side about the defense as a whole is there’s more chance for variance.  If I’m right, then we’ll be terrible.  But, if I’m wrong, there’s a chance we could be great.  Maybe not in the top 3, but top third of the league isn’t out of the question.  If we can be as good as we were last year, as far as giving up yards and points, this team has a chance to win 9-10 games.  Failing that, chock 2018 up as a Transition Year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Seahawks Have A Lot Of Work To Do, Starting With This Year’s Draft

Before we get too far into this, just know that I’m not doing any sort of mock draft or any of that nonsense.  These are just going to be some of my general thoughts surrounding what the Seahawks should do later this week.

First, let’s look at the list of picks the Seahawks currently own as of this writing:

  • 1st Round (18th)
  • 4th Round (20th)
  • 5th Round (4th)
  • 5th Round (9th)
  • 5th Round (31st)
  • 7th Round (8th)
  • 7th Round (30th)
  • 7th Round (32nd)

There’s a lot of bad information out on the Internet, so as best as I can tell the Seahawks have those 8 picks at the moment.  Not for nothing, but that’s quite the Mike Holmgrenian stack of picks, as this team squandered some real value picks to bring in guys like Sheldon Richardson and Duane Brown.  It’s assumed that the Seahawks are looking to get back into the 2nd & 3rd rounds, which is either going to cost them their first round pick or Earl Thomas.

I’ve been waffling all offseason on this thing, but I’m finally ready to make a decision:  I DON’T want the Seahawks to trade down from the 18th pick in the draft (unless it’s a very minor move – 2-3 spots maybe – that still allows them to get their guy).  I want the Seahawks to pick in the top 20 in the first round if at all possible, because I believe there’s an impact player in that range.  With all the teams we figure will take quarterbacks in the top half of the first round, some real studs are bound to fall!  I want the Seahawks to grab one of these studs and have him start right away.

I also, not for nothing, DON’T want that pick to be on the offensive line.  This team has proven countless times that it doesn’t know what the fuck it’s doing in this area, so stop wasting high picks!  Select a guy at a position they’re more in tune with, and again, let him start right away.  Something else I’ve gleaned in recent years is that offensive linemen aren’t good right away.  It takes a year or two to get used to the NFL way of playing O-Line (unless you’re one of the very best in the draft, which are usually in the top 10 or 15 of the first round, where the Seahawks never get to pick anymore), and quite frankly it takes a year or two to get strong enough to deal with these massive D-Linemen.  So, fuck it.  I want a guy we can see a lot of production from right away.

Which brings me to the other main point:  I’m okay with trading Earl Thomas to get 2nd and/or 3rd round picks.  Look, we’ve had him at his best.  He’s never going to be any better than he’s been in a Seahawks uniform.  Yes, he was very good in 2017, and he very well may continue to be very good for the next few years, but eventually he WILL start to slip, and I don’t think I want to take the risk.  The risk being:  him slipping sooner than we all anticipate.  I’m not comfortable giving him top safety money if we’re only going to get 2-3 years of elite play before the slide.  And, let’s not forget what just happened to Kam.  One wrong hit – considering how Earl has played the game since entering the league – could end his career.  He’s taken quite a pounding since 2010; let some other team worry about that.  The flipside is that he learns to play safer, but do you want to watch Earl not playing Earl-type football?  Avoiding the impact hits in favor of a safer ankle tackle, while giving up additional yards in the process?

Sorry, I’m out.  Earl Thomas is a Hall of Famer, and I’ll always appreciate what he did for the Seahawks, but this is a rebuilding year and sacrifices need to be made.  Get those picks, save that money, get the cap right for 2019 and beyond, and let’s get back into championship mode by next year.

If it works out the way I want it to, we could be in for a very fun and entertaining draft.  The Seahawks have needs up and down the roster; for my money, this is the order of importance:

  1. Running Back
  2. Defensive Line
  3. Safety (assuming Earl is traded)
  4. Cornerback
  5. Tight End
  6. Wide Receiver
  7. Linebacker
  8. Offensive Line
  9. Quarterback
  10. Punter/Kicker

If I had my druthers, the Seahawks would use that first round pick on either the best running back available, or the best free safety available (again, assuming Earl is traded).  Chris Carson is a nice hedge, but if there’s another Leonard Fournette or Ezekiel Elliott-type back that falls to us, I hope we pounce.  Those guys are such game-changers for their teams (obviously, I don’t want dudes with sketchy pasts, but from a pure talent standpoint, you get the idea).  Either that, or if there’s another speed freak at safety we can plug back there for LOB 2.0 (with Shaq and whoever we end up with on the opposite side).

If I had to guess, though, I think the Seahawks will draft the best pass rusher available with their first pick.  It’s what they do!  I won’t hate it, but I’ll admit a little variety goes a long way in my book, and picking a stud running back or safety would be right up my alley.

I do think getting another diamond in the rough cornerback in the 3rd/4th round range would be ideal, to pit him opposite Shaq (with Coleman roaming the slot).  And, while I don’t think this will be picked high, if there’s a freakish linebacker that falls into the 2nd/3rd round range, I wouldn’t be shocked to see that move made.  More likely they’ll use one of the 5th rounders to pick up another linebacker project, with the hopes that he’d take K.J.’s place after this year.

As for tight end, I just think they need bodies, but I don’t think they need highly-drafted bodies.  I also don’t know if the draft is littered with amazing tight ends, so probably better to dumpster dive this spot.  Nevertheless, the Seahawks DO need a long term solution, so let’s hope they’ve done their homework here.  Wide receiver, on the other hand, is always a good idea to look into.  Again, I doubt it would be picked high, but it’d be interesting if they found a stud in the second round that they liked.  Tyler Lockett might move on at the end of his deal, so we’re going to need SOMEONE to pair opposite Doug.

It seems to be a foregone conclusion that the Seahawks are going to look into getting a real, legitimate backup quarterback, so I really wonder how long they’re committed to waiting out the draft.  One would assume this hypothetical QB will be a late-draft project, but I guess you never know.  Teams seem to be particularly quarterback-crazy this year, so you have to wonder what will be left over after the good meat has been picked off the bone.  And, finally, while I don’t want them to draft these positions, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to look into some of the top undrafted punters and kickers.  Something tells me that WON’T happen, but I can dream, can’t I?

The point is, everywhere.  There’s a need at every single spot, including offensive line, which I didn’t talk about, because I’m sick of talking about it.  So, the Seahawks can do what they do best:  stockpile picks, and take the best players available when it’s on them.  We should have a lot to talk about later this week; I’m looking forward to it.

Yawn: The Seahawks Signed Barkevious Mingo

2 years, $6.8 million, $3.2 million guaranteed.

Yeah, I don’t know what to make of this.  Mingo is a bust who likely will play some strong-side linebacker as well as rush the passer off the edge.  His career sack numbers have been pretty pathetic for a guy drafted so high in the first round in 2013.  Zero expectations here.

In other news, Paul Richardson got a huge deal with the Redskins, DeShawn Shead got a less huge deal with the Lions, Jimmy Graham got a medium deal with the Packers (who had to let Jordy Nelson go to make room), and a bunch of other players were either tendered or non-tendered.  A couple of big names coming back are Dion Jordan and Justin Coleman, so that’s cool I guess.

Not a lot of big moves in free agency for the Seahawks, except for all the people leaving.  To be expected.  I said it before and I’ll say it again:  I want the Seahawks to be as inactive in free agency as possible this year.  Particularly when it comes to veteran running backs.