The Seahawks Can Certainly Beat The Rams

Of course, just because they can doesn’t mean they will.

I have an inkling that things are going to go Seattle’s way in this one, and I base that on absolutely nothing. Since my gut is usually wrong about 8/10 times, my official prediction is that the Rams prevail. But, these are SLIGHTLY different teams than a year ago.

You remember last year, right? It was Week 5 in fact, just like this season! We were hosting the Rams – this time on a Sunday afternoon – and were 2-2, just coming off of a victory down in Arizona. Déjà vu all over again, right? Well, sort of. Now we’re 3-1, a little bit older, and a little bit wiser.

Last year, I don’t know if there was a non-homer on the planet who believed the Seahawks legitimately had a chance against the Rams. They were THE RAMS! They were undefeated, they’d unlocked something in their offense no one had ever seen before, and surely they’d steamroll the Seahawks!

Then, we did something crazy. We hung around and hung around, kept scoring right along with the Rams, and even had a brief 7-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. A couple of punts in the final frame on our end – and a couple scores on their end – left us with one final opportunity. The Rams had the ball, 4th & 1 at their own 42 yard line, and we just couldn’t get the stop we needed.

The Seahawks did everything they could do this past offseason in response to this game exclusively. We’re a better team than we were a year ago, even though the results on the field don’t really tell that story. The run defense is improved, which is huge. We’re getting moderately better play out of our secondary. Beyond that, the tape is out on the Rams. They haven’t been figured out entirely, but teams are slowing them down some. We know what it takes to beat this team, we just need to go out and execute.

On the offensive side of the ball, Russell Wilson is playing better than he has in his life. We’re starting to figure out how to get our running game where we want it, but I would argue we’re actually better in balancing out the offense to where it needs to be. In 2018, the Seahawks were just a LITTLE too run-heavy after those first couple weeks; I believe we’ve done a better job as a team to incorporate more passing early in games, without entirely losing our identity.

I LIKE that we like to run the ball a lot. I like to zig when other teams zag. Most teams are adept at playing in nickel defense, which means if we go heavy more often than not, other teams are forced to go with their less-effective base unit, or else risk the consequences of Chris Carson busting it down their throats. Then, when we go 3-wides and force teams to go nickel, we can still run it out of these formations for considerable gains.

The Rams’ defense looks beatable. They were gashed awfully hard by the Bucs last week, and maybe that’s because they were looking ahead. I can’t really say. All I know is that this team isn’t the same one it was last year, and that bodes well for a Seahawks victory.

This one will boil down to getting pressure on the quarterback. The Rams punted one time in Seattle last year, and that was the first drive of the game. Jared Goff has proven he’s not the same guy when he’s being pressured (just as he’s shown he’s not the same guy on the road as at home). The Seahawks have shown to not really be too interested in selling out to blitz the quarterback, so that’s going to necessitate a consistent push from our front fours and occasional front fives. If the Seahawks can do what they did to Kyler Murray last week, I think we’ll be just fine (particularly because Goff isn’t anywhere near the runner that Murray is). With how the Rams’ offensive line has played so far this year, I think this is more than do-able.

We finally have a primetime game to look forward to, so I expect the fans to be in a lather. We’re 3-1 and effectively playing for the division lead at this point (no one believes the 49ers are for real), so if I don’t see Rams players putting their hands over their ear holes, then the Seattle fans have truly gone soft and jaded. There is no bigger game than this one tonight, so we better BRING IT!

The biggest concern, again, is pressure on the quarterback, specifically what the Rams are able to do to our O-Line year-in and year-out. Aaron Donald’s winter home is right in Russell Wilson’s face; he’s got a lovely fireplace, a nice den with all his volumes of literature, and even a butler’s quarters where Justin Britt is on-call at all hours of the night to make him a motherfuckin’ sandwich whenever he wants one. Points are still going to be needed to beat the Rams; we’re not going to beat them in a grudgematch. So, keeping Wilson upright and providing running lanes to Carson will be of utmost importance.

If the Seahawks win, it’ll be in a squeaker. Something along the lines of 27-24 (my gut). If the Seahawks lose, probably the same deal, but my hunch is we’d lose somewhere in the 36-33 range (my head). Our defense hasn’t really been tested by an elite offense yet, which isn’t ideal. We’ve sort of held up, but there have also been some considerable lapses in tackling, in coverage, in pass rush, and even in run defense. If anyone is capable of taking advantage of our weaknesses, it’s the Rams. They’ve got the coaching staff, they’ve got the talent, and they’ve got the play-calling to make it happen. Fortunately, it’s a short week, so hopefully that disadvantage will prevent them from finding ALL of our weaknesses.

I’ll say this, I’d expect the Rams to be in no less than 3-wides for 95+% of the game. The Seahawks have shown a desire to stay in base defense, to keep Mychal Kendricks on the field for as long as possible. Part of that is because he’s so good and so versatile (he can cover as well as he rushes the passer, which makes him lethal against most teams), but part of that is also due to the fact that the Seahawks are afraid of being in Nickel too much. We don’t have Justin Coleman anymore, and his replacement is nowhere near his league. So, don’t be surprised if whichever linebacker is out in coverage gets beaten repeatedly by whoever’s in the slot (Woods or Kupp). Again, that points to the importance of getting pressure with just 4 or 5 guys; if Goff has all day to pick apart our defense, he will.

Russell Wilson Will Be The NFL MVP For The 2019 Season

SCORCHING MOLTEN LAVA TAKE ALERT! This is one of those things where if I’m right, I’ll be crowing like a jackass for the rest of my life. And, if I’m wrong, then it’ll never be spoken of again.

Remember the time I predicted the Seahawks would beat the Broncos in the Super Bowl before the season started?

Remember the time before that when I predicted the Ravens would beat the 49ers in the Super Bowl just 1 week into the regular season?

I’ll leave it to the rest of you to find all the times I’ve been wrong, and go out on a limb to say I’m the greatest sports mind of our generation.

I don’t often do a lot of prognosticating on the NFL’s MVP award – or ANY MVP award, really – because I kind of don’t care about it. The only time a Seahawk has won was in 2005, when Shaun Alexander ran for 1,880 yards and 27 touchdowns in leading the Seahawks to their first-ever Super Bowl appearance in a 13-3 regular season. I argued this at the time and maintain it to this day: the most important player to the Seahawks’ success that year was actually Matt Hasselbeck (we NEVER would’ve gotten anywhere without him), but since he didn’t have insanely gaudy stats (3,459 yards, 65.5% completions, 24 TDs, 9 INTs) he didn’t stand a chance.

Which brings me right back to this year and begs the question: if gaudy stats are a precursor, WHY IN THE HOLY HELL WOULD I PREDICT RUSSELL WILSON FOR THIS AWARD?

Look, it’s not the most thought-out opinion I’ve ever had. 99% of everything I say on here I pull straight from my gut, which has been notoriously inconsistent over the years. But, I’ll try to make an argument and you take it with however much salt you want.

Last year, Wilson had a pretty impressive season: 3,448 yards, 65.6% completions, 35 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, and a 110.9 passer rating. Of course, that was nothing compared to Patrick Mahomes’ season (the actual MVP): 5,097 yards, 66.0% completions, 50 TDs, 12 INTs, and 113.8 rating. Every step of the way (except for INTs) he was better than Wilson.

Well, the first part of my argument is that I believe Mahomes takes a step back in his second full year as a starter. I think he’ll come down to Earth and be more in the middle of the pack. He’ll almost certainly throw for over 4,000 yards, but I don’t think he’ll approach 50 TDs again, and I think his INTs will increase. I would also argue that whenever someone wins as thoroughly as he has, there’s inevitably a backlash among voters, who are constantly looking to give the award to someone different. If you don’t believe that to be true, then please explain to me why LeBron James has zero MVP awards since the 2012/2013 season, in spite of the fact that until this year, he carried his teams to every single NBA Championship series in that span. Also, while you’re at it, tell me why Bill Belichick hasn’t won since 2010 and yet Bruce Arians and Ron Rivera have both won twice in that span.

So, if you bet Mahomes at +400, you’re throwing your money away. Which brings me to the current betting odds:

  • Patrick Mahomes +400
  • Drew Brees +700
  • Aaron Rodgers +800
  • Andrew Luck +800
  • Tom Brady +1000
  • Baker Mayfield +1400
  • Russell Wilson +1600
  • Carson Wentz +1900
  • Philip Rivers +2200
  • Deshaun Watson +2500

That’s just the top 10. Some things stand out. All of those guys are quarterbacks (the most important players in the game) and all of those guys are projected to be in the playoffs (or at least contending for the playoffs). While being a quarterback isn’t a MUST, it’s certainly the safest bet. For a non-quarterback to win it, he has to do something REALLY special. Like Shaun Alexander’s touchdown totals. The last non-quarterback to win it was in 2012 when Adrian Peterson came within 8 yards of the all-time rushing yards record in a single season. The time before that, it was LaDainian Tomlinson the year after Alexander, when he ran for 1,815 yards and broke Alexander’s rushing touchdown record with 28.

If I were going to pick a non-QB in 2019, I’d lean towards Saquon Barkley (at +4000), but the Giants are so bad that he would literally have to break every single rushing record for it to happen.

Anyway, as you can see, Wilson is firmly in the Top 10 (shamefully behind Baker Mayfield, which is just a crime against humanity at this point), so Vegas likes his chances. With his new contract extension, Wilson’s name is in the zeitgeist. And, at this junction in his career, I believe there are enough fervent Wilson believers out there to really help make his case and keep his name alive.

Now, he can’t do it alone. It’s going to require the Seahawks to get back to the playoffs. It’ll probably even require the Seahawks to win the NFC West, which I believe this team is capable of. Ideally, the Seahawks will be a top 1 or 2 seed and have a BYE in the playoffs. Something like 12-4 could accomplish this, if everything breaks right. The Rams, you figure, are in for a Super Bowl hangover. The Saints and Bears figure to be our biggest obstacles, as I believe the NFC East will feast upon itself to keep their records down.

Playing well in marquee games is also a must. The Seahawks have five primetime games scheduled, including three in a row late in the season, right in that window where we separate the men from the boys in races like these. Wilson has traditionally stepped up big in these games, so I don’t see that as being an issue either.

With the team playing well, and with his reputation intact, that just leaves his biggest hurdle: his numbers.

Wilson has thrown for over 4,000 yards only twice in his career (though he was 17 yards away in 2017 from making it three times), and last year he was obviously limited by the offense’s design. Part of that was a backlash against the losses in our first two weeks, when the coaching staff had to re-set everything. But, ultimately this team was so successful running the ball that there wasn’t always a serious need to get things done through the air. While the plan heading into the season will be more of the same run-centric style, it wouldn’t totally shock me to see our effectiveness on the ground weaken (much in the same way that I see Mahomes’ numbers taking a dive). Opposing defenses will game plan better. And, I figure injuries will play a more significant role (Carson played in 14 games; I could see that dropping as he doesn’t seem like a guy who can stay healthy for the duration) with both the running backs and the O-Line. There’s no Mike Davis, who was a solid contributor, and I seriously question whether Penny will be up to the task if he’s thrust into the #1 role. There should be just enough of a dip in the running game to add a few hundred more yards to Wilson’s passing total.

On top of that, Wilson’s rushing yards are going to continue to go down with every year. He’s a quarterback, and an elite one at that. Elite quarterbacks throw the ball or hand it off, period. He’s heading into his 8th season, which puts him squarely in his prime. He’s had a Hall of Fame trajectory to this point in his career, and I don’t know a whole lot of Hall of Fame quarterbacks who haven’t won an MVP award. With that in mind, it sort of feels like it’s his destiny to win this award at least once. If we get to the end of the season, and no one has really stood out with awe-inspiring numbers at any position, maybe the voters will look around, see Wilson sitting there with 0 career MVPs, and figure he’s due. People have voted for things based on dumber logic before (say hello to every politician who ever seemed like a guy you’d want to have a beer with).

Getting back to the numbers, though, Wilson’s best chance seems to be with his touchdowns. While he was a far cry from Mahomes’ 50 last year, Wilson was still tied for third with 35. In 2017, he led the league with 34. In 2015, he came in sixth also with 34. I could easily see that number jump up into the 40’s, which should put him well within range. More than that, he’s usually very careful with the ball. Last year he tied a career low with only 7 INTs. I feel with his ability, he can shave that down even further. If he has an insane TD:INT ratio of something like 40:3, that’s the sort of stat that could push him over the top.

Finally, if we’re truly talking about the Most VALUABLE Player, then who has had more value to his team than Russell Wilson in his career to date? The knock against him has always been that he’s had an elite defense (except for last year) or an elite running game (except for a few years there post-Beastmode). Well, I’ve already argued that I don’t believe the running game will be as exceptional as it was in 2018, and as for the defense, it was already middle-of-the-road last year; this year, I think middle-of-the-road will be this unit’s CEILING. I think the defense could be truly terrible this year. We’ll likely rank in the bottom third or bottom quarter in the league in sacks and turnovers.

In 2018, the Seahawks had 43 sacks, 13 of which belonged to Frank Clark. 43 put us 11th in football; 30 would’ve been tied for 30th. Ziggy Ansah figures to mitigate some of that, but I highly doubt he’s going to get us all the way there. In fact, I don’t think he’ll even get us halfway there (yes, I’m putting Ansah’s over/under of sacks at 6.5, and I’ll bet the under). With no one else coming in to help account for the loss of Clark’s production (both in sacks, and in the help he provided someone like Jarran Reed, who saw his numbers skyrocket playing with Clark on the outside next to him). If Reed is our only pass-rushing threat (assuming Ansah misses multiple games, or plays through injury and is ineffective as a result), he can be easily neutralized, sending the D-Line tumbling towards the bottom of the league.

In 2018, the Seahawks had 12 interceptions, 5 of which belonged to Earl Thomas, Justin Coleman, and Frank Clark. 12 put us tied for 18th in football; 7 would’ve been tied for 29th. Bradley McDougald had 3 of his own last year, but he’s also an injury waiting to happen. Of our younger core in the defensive backfield, Shaquill Griffin, Tedric Thompson, Delano Hill, and Tre Flowers all combined for 3 total INTs (Hill and Flowers combining for 0). Who did we add to this group? A couple of rookies, and presumably whatever veterans we bring into Training Camp later this summer. There just isn’t a lot of turnover production in this unit. With the D-Line unable to get pressure, that puts more of the onus on the secondary, which is not NEARLY as talented as the Legion of Boom in its prime.

Now, of course, the Seahawks tied for the league lead in fumble recoveries in 2018, but as we all know, that’s largely based on the luck of the bouncing ball. We did tie for third in forced fumbles, which you’d hope would translate, but again our leader in that category – Frank Clark – is gone.

My point with all of this is to further indicate that I think the Seahawks’ defense will be bad. Our only hope is that we hold teams to an inordinate amount of field goals. But, my expectation is, for the Seahawks to win a lot of games, we’re going to rely exclusively on our offense. That means Russell Wilson will have to do considerably more than he had to do in 2018.

All that being said, it still doesn’t feel like a strong argument, and I get that. All I can say is, with this being the second season with a new offensive coordinator, you have to figure Brian Schottenheimer has had a full year to work with this team, and a second full off-season to tinker with his scheme. While it’ll be foolish to expect the running game to take a complete back seat, I think his ability to adjust in games will improve. With the defense putting us into more passing situations – based on game score alone – I think it’ll open things up for Wilson to really shine like he’s never quite shone before.

Wilson has had spurts. The back-half of his 2015 was as brilliant as it gets; if he had a full season of that, he’d be a hands-down winner of the MVP. I also thought 2018 was his best year yet, particularly from an efficiency standpoint. If we keep the efficiency (or even improve upon it slightly), increase touchdowns, decrease turnovers, and boost up those yards, there won’t be any other excuses to keep him from his due. ESPECIALLY when you consider Baldwin retired, and Lockett is his only quality veteran receiver heading into this season. Voters won’t have the L.O.B. to fall back on, nor will they have as dominant of a running game. They’ll have 8 full years’ worth of elite game play, with 2019 as a coronation of sorts.

In a muddled year of MVP candidates, Wilson will win it in a close voting battle. Mark my words (unless I’m wrong, then forget this ever happened).

The Seahawks Made Even More Trades & Drafted Even More Guys On Day 3 Of The NFL Draft 2019

Check out my post on Day 1, and my post on Day 2.

Just like I did yesterday, here’s a recap of all the wheeling and dealing from Day 3:

  • Trade from 114 to 120 with the Vikings, acquired 204 (sixth round)
  • Draft Gary Jennings, wide receiver from West Virginia, at 120
  • Draft Phil Haynes, guard from Wake Forest, at 124
  • Draft Ugo Amadi, defensive back from Oregon, at 132
  • Draft Ben Burr-Kirven, linebacker from Washington, at 142
  • Draft Travis Homer, running back from Miami, at 204
  • Draft Demarcus Christmas, defensive tackle from Florida State, at 209
  • Trade 2020 sixth round pick to Jaguars, acquired 236 (seventh round)
  • Draft John Ursua, wide receiver from Hawaii, at 236

So, for shits n’ giggs, here’s the entire Seahawks 2019 NFL Draft, in one bullet-pointed list:

  • First Round: L.J. Collier, DE
  • Second Round: Marquise Blair, S
  • Second Round: D.K. Metcalf, WR
  • Third Round: Cody Barton, LB
  • Fourth Round: Gary Jennings, WR
  • Fourth Round: Phil Haynes, G
  • Fourth Round: Ugo Amadi, DB
  • Fifth Round: Ben Burr-Kirven, LB
  • Sixth Round: Travis Homer, RB
  • Sixth Round: Demarcus Christmas, DT
  • Seventh Round: John Ursua, WR

I’m not gonna bother with the undrafted free agents, because the bottom of the roster is always so fluid, it would take more work than I’m willing to commit to keep track.

All in all, pretty good haul. Let’s talk about the Day 3 Dandies.

It’s hard to tell where Jennings fits. With Doug Baldwin all but retired at this point, we know that Tyler Lockett has the build and ability to play anywhere on the field. He can be our slot guy, he can be our deep threat on the outside, he can really do it all. Metcalf is our burner and our big body for deep passes and red zone targets. Jennings has good size (6’1, 214, 33″ arms) and speed (4.42 40). It seems like he’s another guy like Lockett who could play either slot or outside. Since he doesn’t appear to be as unique as someone like Metcalf, he’s probably going to have to separate himself with crisp route running and good hands. Regardless, he’s another receiver to throw on the pile, and as usual the Seahawks are playing the numbers game in trying to replace Baldwin’s hefty production.

Dude, I’m not gonna lie to you, I REALLY like the Haynes pick. While I like the guards the Seahawks have now, the starters are old and injury prone, and the backups – while good – are also injury prone. Haynes is a rock, who played a ton in college. He’s also super athletic, and super BIG (6’3, 322, 33.5″ arms); he’s everything we want and need at a guard spot, and it looks like he could backup either right or left. The best part of this pick is that he probably shouldn’t have to play, so if we do see him as a rookie, either we’re dealing with a TON of injuries ahead of him, or he’s earned the look with his quality play. Figure he fights for a starting spot in 2020 when Iupati moves on.

Amadi was a safety at Oregon, but also has a lot of experience playing corner as well. With all the safeties we have on roster, I can’t imagine he’ll get any play there, but with Justin Coleman moving on, there’s a clear opening at nickel corner. At 5’9, he’s not the typical outside corner you’d expect in a Seahawks defense. But, he is what we’ve seen at nickel. With only Akeem King ahead of him on the nickel corner depth chart, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Amadi starting before too long. Failing that, he’s another special teamer to throw onto the pile.

I was happy to see BBK get picked by the Seahawks. As a rookie, it’s hard to see him as anything more than a special teamer. But, if he develops, we could be looking at K.J. Wright’s replacement when his knees finally give out. He obviously isn’t the physical freak that Wright is, but BBK has the sideline-to-sideline speed and tenacity you love to see out of a coverage linebacker. Considering we have Bobby, Wright, and Kendricks all starting, along with Barton getting selected in the third round, you have to wonder what this means for the future of Shaquem Griffin. I think his days are numbered. I also think Quem should bulk up and try out for the LEO end spot. He’s gonna need a big spike in his productivity in training camp and pre-season to keep his spot on the team, that’s for sure.

Travis Homer looks like a true Seahawks running back. Dude is fast, decisive, and breaking tackles like a mofo! He looks like more than your typical 3rd Down Back, but it also looks like he has those abilities in him. He’ll need to catch the ball and block well to carve out a regular role on this team; but as it stands now it seems like a lock for Homer to take C.J. Prosise’s spot, which is fine by me.

I wanted the Seahawks to wait until later in the draft to pick up a run-stuffing D-Tackle, and by jove they did it! Christmas is 6’3, 294, so he’s not HUGE huge, but he’s big enough. Considering what we were able to get out of Poona Ford as an undrafted rookie, I would expect similar things out of Christmas. It’d be nice to have both of them, with Jarran Reed, on the inside holding it down. Christmas doesn’t need to be a pass rusher in the slightest for me to enjoy this pick, just as long as he clogs up those rushing lanes.

The shock of the final day of the draft was seeing the Seahawks trade into the 7th round. They did this by giving away a 2020 6th rounder, which smacks of the Seahawks not having any respect for their 6th round picks (see: the Brett Hundley disaster), but you can also see why it needed to be done. With Baldwin as good as gone, there’s a need to throw extra resources into the wide receiver position. At the same time, the Seahawks already used two picks on WR, so the odds of attracting a high-end undrafted free agent like John Ursua was going to be next-to-impossible. He said that a bunch of teams were looking to sign him, and I bet the odds of the Seahawks being the winner in that sweepstakes was pretty remote. They felt the same way, obviously, so they did what they had to do. Ursua is the definition of a slot receiver. His making the team will depend on how soon he can get in a groove with Wilson, so we’ll see.

All in all, the Seahawks checked off all the boxes they needed to, except maybe backup quarterback, but that’s obviously something that can wait. I’m pretty happy with how they went about it. It sounds like the Seahawks REALLY dominated the rest of the league when it came to getting excellent value in their trade-backs, while not giving up the farm on their trade-ups. Heading into this draft with 4 selections, and coming away with 11 new players, plus an extra 2nd rounder in 2020 (plus being smart with free agency and looking to bank 4 extra comp picks), I’m telling you this is A.P. general managing at its finest. We won’t know for a while if these players pan out, but as far as execution goes, I give this draft an A+.

Keeping An Eye On Seahawks-Related Free Agents

The moves are coming fast and furiously, so here’s a quick breakdown of any Seahawks-related signings to date, as well as where certain ex-Seahawks are now calling home.

Mike Davis just signed a 2-year, $6 million deal with the Bears, which feels like a great move for him, a great move for that team, and a solid fantasy football sleeper for anyone who needs a quality all-around back to stash on their bench. The RB room in Seattle was too crowded as it is, and that’s money that can be better spent elsewhere, as far as I’m concerned.

Mark Glowinski isn’t really a RECENT ex-Seahawk, but he did just get extended for 3 years and $18 million with the Colts, which sort of sets part of the market for guards. Might that be something close to what Sweezy and/or Fluker will get? We’ll see.

Frank Clark was obviously franchise tagged recently, and now we play the waiting game. Will he be signed to an extension? Will he be traded? Will he play it out on a 1-year deal? Will he hold out of OTA’s and/or Training Camp and/or the pre-season and/or the regular season? Boy howdy, do I dread the rest of this nonsense.

Sheldon Richardson played a year with the Vikings, and now has signed a 3-year deal with the Browns, so his career is going great.

Shamar Stephen just signed to return to the Vikings on a 3-year, $12.45 million deal. At best, he made no real positive impact last year; at worst, he helped drag down this team’s run defense to its lowest depths in the Pete Carroll era. Nothing about his signing makes any sense, but more power to the Vikings, I guess.

The inside linebacker market has exploded this year, which doesn’t DIRECTLY involve any Seahawks-adjacent players, but indirectly sets the market for what Bobby Wagner will be demanding next year. So, that’s fantastic.

Justin Coleman made the biggest splash so far among the ex-Seahawks, signing in Detroit for 4 years and $36 million, in becoming the highest-paid nickel corner in football. The Lions are in the process of signing literally anyone who has ever even looked at a Patriots jersey, so it should only be a matter of time before they’re in the market for a new rub n’ tug joint in the Miami area.

No word on Earl Thomas yet (other than some rumors he’s headed to Cleveland), but a couple safeties have already signed their big-money deals, and there are plenty more available safeties where that came from. I’m seriously beginning to wonder if ET will get even close to the money he was banking on.

James Carpenter signed on with the Falcons for 4 years and $21 million. He’s made a nice chunk of change for himself after his rookie deal with the Seahawks expired lo those many years ago.

Much more closer to home is the news last night that J.R. Sweezy signed a 2-year deal with the Cardinals, so that’s a bummer. Money’s looking a little tigher around Seahawksland than once thought! I also guess this means one of the younger guys will be slated to step up into a starting role. This could get dicey.

Finally, before anything else happens, Brett Hundley signed a 1-year deal with the Cardinals to be their backup. He got $2 million for his trouble, which is obviously more than the Seahawks should be willing to pay (especially considering they already brought in Paxton Lynch). The fact that the Seahawks traded a 6th round pick for a guy who never played a snap for us is pretty galling to most fans out there. It’s not that we don’t understand the logic behind the move; it’s that we disagree with the logic employed. I’m with most other Seahawks fans out there: if Russell Wilson goes down for the season, then I want to tank AS HARD AS POSSIBLE. The fact that the people in charge don’t agree is troubling to say the least.

Should The Seahawks Trade Frank Clark?

It kinda hit me not too long ago. On paper, it looks like the Seahawks have a lot of cap room to wheel and deal, but in reality they’ve got a lot of money tied up in players currently on the roster, and a lot of the free money we’ve got is earmarked to re-sign or extend players – again – currently on the roster. Sweezy and Fluker. Justin Coleman. An early extension for Jarran Reed before it costs us a mint to keep him around. And, of course, our all-world quarterback, among others. For a 10-6 wild card team that lost in the first round of the playoffs and never seriously contended for a division title, how exactly are the Seahawks supposed to better themselves? Particularly when there’s only 4 draft picks to play with, one of which will need to be traded down multiple times to hopefully get a normal allotment of choices.

Heading into this offseason, the Seahawks’ number 1 priority – and my number 1 priority FOR the Seahawks – was to extend Frank Clark. But, considering we’re going into the final year of Russell Wilson’s latest deal, and considering what the going rate is for a premiere defensive end, is it smart to have two guys taking up such a large percentage of the team’s cap? Wilson’s going to be angling for $35-$40 million per year as it is; should we also have a second guy getting $20 million per year? Even with the salary cap going up every year, that seems like a ridiculous figure.

At the same time, unless this team is sold on some rookie who’s the second coming of Patrick Mahomes, I don’t see any way this team can rid itself of Russell Wilson without setting the franchise back a decade or more. So, that leaves us with the option of trading away Frank Clark.

As things stand now, he’s already been franchised. That’s over $17 million for this one year alone. A second tag comes with, what, a 10% raise? Then, a third tag is a prohibitive amount of money beyond that. So, that’s sort of the baseline, and you’ve got to try to find a way to pay off his sense of security. Frank Clark doesn’t seem like he’s going to be afraid of the injury bug shortening his career; he’s willing to take this thing to the mat like more and more players are doing nowadays. Which is obviously well within his rights and probably a smart thing to do. He wants to get to real free agency, where his ultimate value is open to the highest bidder, because the lifespan of a professional football player is so short, and you’ve got to get yours while the getting’s good.

My question is: is he worth it?

Don’t get me wrong, Frank Clark is great. He started off his career pretty good, and he’s gotten better every year. I think he’s also got a lot of great years to come. I think we’ll see tremendous production out of him for at least the next 4-5 years. But, is he one of the 5 best defensive ends in the game? Is he 17-times better than someone we could select in this year’s draft?

I would argue it’s in the Seahawks’ best interests to trade him for a bevy of draft picks – ideally two first rounders, but at least a first, a third, and a sixth or something – and use that money and those picks to re-stock the team. Try to fill the Frank Clark-sized void with two or three guys.

More and more, I’m coming around to the thinking: is this something the Patriots would do? I think, without question, the Patriots never would’ve franchise tagged Clark, or if they did, it would be for the express purposes of trading him to a willing sucker for more draft picks. Or, at the very least, they’d find a way to pay him under the table like they’re doing for Tom Brady.

The point is, you have to keep emotions out of it when you’re making personnel decisions. And you can’t have too much money tied into too few guys. The Patriots would never give a guy like Frank Clark a max contract; instead they’d wait for someone like Michael Bennett to become available, trade a low-round draft pick for him, and pay him significantly less to get pretty close to the same production.

Now, of course, all that being said, it looks like the Seahawks are going to do whatever it takes to make Clark happy. It’s not the first time they’ve done something I thought was a mistake, and they’ve consistently proven me wrong time and time again. So, I’ll be curious to see how the dumpster diving goes for the rest of this off-season, as the team tries to improve over last year’s surprisingly positive record.

Then again, the Rams have already made a few moves to better themselves in what we thought would be an impossible cap situation. So, maybe it’ll all be pointless and we’ll be fighting for yet another wild card spot.

The Seahawks Need More Stars

Brock and Salk had an interesting conversation recently about the Seahawks and how close they are to contending for another Super Bowl. My takeaway (I tend to agree with Salk here) is that the Seahawks are short on stars. There are a lot of good players on this team, but not necessarily a lot of GREAT players. So, I decided to quickly do a comparison between the 2018/2019 Seahawks against the 2013 Super Bowl Champs.

Offensive (and Special Teams) Stars

Now

  • Russell Wilson – QB
  • Chris Carson – RB
  • Doug Baldwin – WR
  • Tyler Lockett – WR
  • Duane Brown – LT
  • Michael Dickson – P

Then

  • Russell Wilson – QB
  • Marshawn Lynch – RB
  • Golden Tate – WR
  • Doug Baldwin – WR
  • Russell Okung – LT
  • Max Unger – C
  • Jon Ryan – P

Right there, you’d have to say pretty comparable. Beastmode is better than Carson, the receivers are pretty close to the same, and 2018 Russell is better than 2013 Russell. Where we start to see some breakaway is on the other side of the ball.

Defensive Stars

Now

  • Frank Clark – DE
  • Jarran Reed – DT
  • Bobby Wagner – LB
  • (K.J. Wright – LB)

Then

  • Cliff Avril – DE
  • Michael Bennett – DT
  • Bobby Wagner – LB
  • K.J. Wright – LB
  • Earl Thomas – FS
  • Kam Chancellor – SS
  • Richard Sherman – CB

I’d say the Seahawks have a good start here, but I’d also say the combo of Bennett & Avril were better than the combo of Clark & Reed. Now, there’s obviously still room for both of the younger guys to grow, so in theory they could be even more dominant than they were in 2018, but as it stands right now that’s where we’re at. 2018 Bobby is better than 2013 Bobby, and while 2018 K.J. is better than 2013 K.J., the 2018 version was also injury prone, and is far from a lock to be re-signed to this team in 2019.

Then, there’s the secondary. The 2013 Seahawks not only had 3 superstars in the secondary, they had 3 ALL TIMERS. The 2018/2019 Seahawks don’t have anything CLOSE, and that’s ultimately their biggest hole to overcome (I won’t say “fill”, because I think we’re pretty much stuck with the guys we’ve got, which means we have to compensate in other ways defensively and as a team as a whole).

So, digging down further, let’s list the players who are just good starters/role players.

Now

  • Mike Davis – RB
  • Rashaad Penny – RB
  • All our Tight Ends
  • Justin Britt – C
  • Both starting Guards
  • Poona Ford – DT
  • Mychal Kendricks – LB
  • Justin Coleman – CB
  • Tre Flowers – CB
  • Shaq Griffin – CB
  • Bradley McDougald – SS

Then

  • All our Tight Ends
  • Sidney Rice – WR
  • Steven Hauschka – K
  • Chris Clemons – DE
  • Tony McDaniel – DT
  • Clinton McDonald – DT
  • Brandon Mebane – DT
  • Bruce Irvin – LB
  • Byron Maxwell – CB
  • Walter Thurmond – CB
  • Jeremy Lane – CB

I think our running back room now is stronger than it was then (but it didn’t matter in 2013 when Beastmode was all you needed). I think our offensive line as a whole is better now than it was then, even though the 2013 version was more top-heavy (Sweezy in 2018 is MUCH better than Sweezy in 2013, for instance; Fluker is better than Carpenter; and I would argue Ifedi is on par with Giacomini). I think both tight end rooms are a wash. But, as you can see, while the Seahawks of today have a so-so secondary, the BACKUPS in 2013 were on par with what we have now (and, I would argue, probably a little better). And, the other big difference is up front. Look at all the beef we had on the D-Line in 2013 compared to today! It’s no contest!

Also, not for nothing, but a few of those guys I listed might not be back in 2019, which is yet more work for the Seahawks to do this offseason.

As you can see, the talent disparity is pretty big. I wouldn’t say it’s insurmountable, but you have to wonder where we’re going to pick up the slack. With 4 draft picks and a bunch of our own stars we need to extend, it’s not like we have unlimited resources.

The good news is, the Seahawks of 2019 don’t need to beat the Seahawks of 2013. I would argue the 2013 Seahawks were one of the most talented teams of all time (especially on defense); we won’t see anyone like that in the NFL in 2019. We just have to get past the Rams and the rest of the NFC, then let the chips fall where they may.

It would HELP if we could develop a couple of those good starters into superstars, but this draft and free agency period will be pretty big. No whiffing, lest we middle our way to another Wild Card finish.

Seahawks Death Week: Ranking The Holes To Fill

It’s not all sunshine and puppydog noses in Seahawksland after an unexpected playoff berth in 2018. True, the floor was not as far down as we all thought coming off a disappointing 2017, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of work to do. Here’s my ranking of the holes the Seahawks need to fill heading into the 2019 season, from most important to least.

#1 – Safety

Bradley McDougald is locked up through 2020, at a relative bargain for what he brought to the table when he was healthy the last couple years. The best part about B McD is he can play either strong or free safety, which is crucial because I’m making this position not only the most important to shore up in the offseason, but the biggest priority for the upcoming NFL Draft. That doesn’t NECESSARILY mean I need the Seahawks to use a first round pick on one; but I need for whoever they do end up drafting to hit and hit big for this defense to work. Ideally, we’d find a more capable Earl Thomas replacement at free safety, and slide McDougald over to strong safety, where he’s probably better suited to play. Sure, keep Tedric Thompson and Delano Hill around as depth/competition, but we can’t be counting on them longterm, not with what little improvement we saw over the course of the 2018 season.

#2 – Defensive End 2

DE 1 is obviously Frank Clark, and he’s coming back one way or another (either via a longterm extension, or a franchise tag). The real need is at that end spot opposite Clark. I like Jacob Martin an awful lot based on what he was able to do as a rookie, but at this point in his career he’s more of a rotational guy, and this team needs veteran stability at the other pass rusher spot. Ideally, there will be a stud free agent or two out on the open market, like in 2013 when we were able to sign Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. I don’t know who the 2018 equivalent is, but that’s my idea.

#3 – Guards

This is most easily remedied by re-signing Fluker & Sweezy. I could see one of them maybe moving on, but losing both feels unrealistic. Behind them, we have Pocic and Simmons, a bust and an injury waiting to happen. I like Pocic and Simmons as depth right now more than I like handing them the job out of Training Camp, even though both are younger and with higher ceilings. Could the Seahawks get by with those two? Sure, but I don’t want to know what kind of growing pains this offense needs to go through to make it happen. Just bring back Fluker & Sweezy.

#4 – Weakside Linebacker

K.J. Wright is as good as gone, so this spot could certainly use some shoring up. At this point, we don’t know if Kendricks slots better at this spot or the strong side, but that’s certainly an option. Austin Calitro, I thought, acquitted himself well in his fill-in duty. The draft could also be an option, though obviously not with a high pick. Regardless, there’s going to be an immediate drop-off from the longtime quality we got from Wright; the idea is to not fall too far off his level.

#5 – Kicker

It’s time to do it up right. Ideally, we would’ve solved this puzzle in 2018 with Jason Myers, but we opted to go for the old man, which was fine for the short term, but a disaster overall. Kicker is a tricky thing to fix, as they’re so varied from year to year. Is there an elite leg coming out of college like Michael Dickson last year? God, I hope so.

#6 – Defensive Tackle 2 (or 3)

Jarran Reed has distinguished himself as a bona fide every-down DT in this league. Given his pass rush ability, he has certainly proven he’s more than just a widebody nose tackle. And, with the emergence of Poona Ford as a run stopping machine (and ostensibly the only one on the entire line), you could easily slide him into the starting nose tackle spot, meaning we need a third guy who can sort of do both, stop the run and maybe rush the passer a little. Really, we’re looking for a cheap, veteran, Tony McDaniel type, but GOD DAMMIT we need to fix the run defense from day 1!

#7 – Wide Receiver 3 (or 4)

David Moore could assert himself into this role, but he really disappeared toward the end of 2018 after a delightful start, so everything is up in the air with him right now. Jaron Brown picked things up in his place, but honestly he finished the year with 14 receptions on 19 targets, and his cap hit goes up to nearly $4 million in 2019, which is too much for what he’s bringing to the table. Better to get out from under that and bring in someone cheaper and better if we can.

#8 – Strongside Linebacker

Barkevious Mingo is signed through 2019, at a cap hit of $4.4 million, which isn’t outrageous, but he was another guy who disappeared toward the end of the season. I feel like his spot could be better filled by someone younger and cheaper, probably in the draft.

#9 – Cornerback 3 (or 4)

You’d think I’d have this higher, since I’m essentially begging the team to re-sign Justin Coleman. But, the Seahawks always seem to find a way to get by with whoever they put over there. Ideally, Coleman is extended while they also draft (late) his future replacement. Akeem King should be back too, which gives us nice depth, as I thought he played pretty well down the stretch.

#10 – Running Back 3

Figure Carson is your RB 1 and Penny will elevate to RB 2, this is your Mike Davis spot, only probably younger and cheaper.

#11 – Quarterback 2

Don’t go breaking the bank on Brett Hundley, that’s all I’m saying. Really, don’t break the bank on anyone. In any scenario where Russell Wilson goes down, it’s tank-city.

#12 – Tight End

Vannett is still on his rookie deal through 2019 and he’s fine. Dissly should be back to 100% by Training Camp, so he’s also fine. Ed Dickson, however, sees his cap hit triple over the next two years. He’s ostensibly TE 1, but he had only 12 catches on 13 targets, so I’m not convinced that’s worthy of over $4 million per year, regardless of what he brings to the table with his blocking. Seems like we could get by with the other two and bring in another cheap vet.

Seahawks Death Week: The Free Agents

The Seahawks have a bunch of money opening up heading into 2019, which leads many to believe there’s going to be a feeding frenzy of free agents heading onto this team. However, there are guys on the Seahawks RIGHT NOW whose contracts are expiring, so that’s who we’re going to talk about today. Who should the Seahawks retain, and who should they let go?

The Big Names

Earl Thomas – There isn’t even a question; we can want Earl to come back until we’re blue in the face, but it ain’t happenin’. Even if HE wanted to come back, though, I don’t think it would be a good idea. I mean, yeah, he’s elite. When he’s healthy, he’s the best in the game. But, 2018 was his third consecutive season cut short due to injuries. It’s just not a smart investment. He needs to move on.

K.J. Wright – All year, I’ve been under the impression that 2018 would be the last we’d see of K.J. Wright, but towards the end you could’ve talked me into a 1-year, prove-it deal with a lot of incentives instead of guarantees. I still think I’d be okay with that, but let’s get real, that knee isn’t getting any healthier. He’s great when he’s on the field, but how many games can we count on him for? Also, how soon will his decline start? I’d put good money he’s not the same in 2019. I think he also needs to move on.

Frank Clark – Gotta keep him. I’m not gonna say you pay him whatever it takes – I wouldn’t give him Ndamukong Suh or Aaron Donald money – but pay him what he’s worth. If that makes him the second-highest cap figure on the team, so be it, because he’s worth it.

Sebastian Janikowski – He’s gotta go. If he hadn’t injured himself in the playoff game, you MAYBE could’ve talked me into another year. He wasn’t THAT bad in 2018; he wasn’t anywhere near as awful as Blair Walsh. I essentially got what I expected out of Janikowski; he’s not perfect and he never was. But, he’s steady. He made 48/51 extra points and 22/27 field goals (including 3/5 from 50+ which is pretty good). Was I turned off by that kickoff return he gave up, where he didn’t even try to touch the runner blowing past him? Yeah, but again, I know who this guy is. I know what to expect. But, that leg injury – combined with the fact that he already missed 2017 due to injury – just makes it untenable. If anything, bring him back in a kicking competition, but instead of having him as the lead dog like he was this season, make him the underdog and give the advantage to a younger guy. Or, shit, just draft a kicker in the 6th round and be done with it!

The Semi-Big Names

Dion Jordan – I like the idea. I like the idea of buying low on a super-stud athlete with a HUGE upside whose career was derailed by injuries and knuckleheadery. But, the dude just can’t stay on the field and even when he’s on the field it doesn’t seem like he makes much of an impact. Time to cut ties and give his spot to someone else.

D.J. Fluker & J.R. Sweezy – I’m lumping these two together because I want them both back! These guys were difference-makers for our offensive line (and therefore our entire offense). Now, obviously, they’re injury-prone, so you have to get some value for that. And you HAVE TO build in protections in case we have to cut and run after 2019. But, I wouldn’t mind giving both of these guys 3-year deals (that are really 2-year deals, but can easily be cut down to 1-year deals without a ton of dead money). Never change your contract structure, NFL! It’s the only thing keeping me sane!

Mike Davis – He made $1.35 million in 2018, which is right in the ballpark of what I don’t mind spending on a running back insurance policy. Anything significantly higher than $1.5 million is probably too much. He was a guy we just got off the street; I’m sure there are others just like him who will give us just as much. He’s not a priority, but I’d like him back at the right price.

Mychal Kendricks – I absolutely want him back! Give him K.J.’s spot if you have to! This guy is a difference-maker, and (God forbid) if Bobby were to go down, he’s a guy who can slide into the middle and allow our defense to not miss much of a beat. Given his 2018, you have to figure his value is pretty low. And, given our loyalty, you have to figure we have an inside shot if we present a good deal for him. This is a no-brainer.

Justin Coleman – He earned just a shade under $3 million in 2018, which is tremendous value. Considering this team really hasn’t developed anyone behind him to take over in that nickel role, I think the Seahawks have to do almost whatever it takes to extend him for another 3-4 years. Remember that old Jeremy Lane deal? Something like that would sit just fine with me.

Shamar Stephen – Ehh, no thanks. He was on a 1-year veteran deal and our rush defense was as bad as I’ve ever seen it! Isn’t that what he was brought in for? Wasn’t that his one selling point? I’m beginning to wonder if we didn’t get rid of the wrong ex-Viking defensive tackle; there’s no way Tom Johnson could’ve been worse, right?

Maurice Alexander – Why? Did he do ANYTHING this year? Maybe as camp fodder, but he’s not necessary.

Brett Hundley – Why did we trade a 2019 sixth round pick for this guy? NO! Go away Brett Hundley!

The Restricted Free Agents

I’m pretty sure these are the guys who you put a value on (first round, second round, or original round tender) and if some other team swoops in with a Godfather deal, you get either a first, second, or original round draft pick in the upcoming draft. So, let’s get to it! I’m not going to talk about all the guys, because I don’t KNOW all the guys, but I’ll throw a nod to the no-names at the end.

George Fant – Fant went undrafted, so you gotta tag him with either a first or second round value. A first rounder is a hair under $4.5 million; a second rounder is just over $3 million. I think the Seahawks should absolutely try to extend him, but failing that, I think you saddle him with a first round tender. The NFL is in desperate need of capable offensive linemen, and say what you will about the Seahawks, but they’ve developed A LOT of guys for other teams. Tender him and see what happens, but try to bring him back.

J.D. McKissic – He also went undrafted, but I don’t think I’m tendering him at all. He’s another dime-a-dozen guy at a dime-a-dozen position. He earned pennies in 2018, so if you want to bring him back for pennies, fine. But, it’s not necessary.

Tyler Ott – The ol’ long snapper! Don’t tender him, but yes try to bring him back.

Joey Hunt – An original round tender is interesting, because he was selected in the 6th round, and you could see someone else signing him to be their starting center. But, the risk there is that no one signs him, and his salary leaps from $630,000 to a little over $2 million. For a guy who might be 3rd on the depth chart at center, assuming Pocic is still in line to play behind Britt, that’s not money well spent. Forgetting the tender, I don’t think his services are really needed, but he’s not bad as camp fodder if no one else wants him.

Quinton Jefferson – Now, this is interesting, because I thought he took a step forward in 2018. Not huge; he’s not a guy you HAVE to have. But, considering he used to be a guy I thought of as a bust, it’s nice that he’s built up some value. He was originally a 5th round pick, and I would have no problem giving him an original round tender. I might even go as high as a 2nd rounder, though that feels like pushing it. I’d do that and give him another year to prove if he’s worth a longer-term deal.

Branden Jackson – He was a guy I had a lot of hopes for heading into 2018, but he finished the season as a healthy scratch most weeks. He went undrafted and doesn’t seem to be worth tendering. Another camp guy on a minimum deal at best.

Tre Madden – He’s a fullback, he’s not worth tendering. Minimum 1-year deal.

The Rest of the Restricted Free Agents – Kalan Reed (CB), T.J. Green (S). Who? Exactly.

I’m not going to get into the Exclusive Rights Free Agents, because there’s no risk. These guys are essentially ON the team, unless the team opts to not bring them back. Guys like Akeem King, David Moore, Austin Calitro, Jordan Simmons, and Shalom Luani should all be back.

Seahawks Death Week: What Did We Figure Out?

Heading into 2018, there were question marks across the board with the Seahawks. Could we develop a running game outside of Russell Wilson? Could we develop a pass rush? Would our secondary hold together? How would our new coordinators fit in? Could we develop enough young talent to push this team in the right direction for 2019 and beyond?

It felt like at least a 2-year project before we’d see the playoffs again, so to make it back in Year 1 feels like playing with house money at this point. So, let’s take a look at what went right, in no particular order:

Running Backs

In 2018, infamously the leading running back for this team was Russell Wilson with 586 yards. The next-closest back was Mike Davis with 240. The only player to run for a touchdown not named Russell Wilson was J.D. McKissic, who had 1 all year. So, you can understand why the Seahawks put so much into re-emphasizing this part of the game.

In 2019, Russell Wilson was 4th on this team in rushing yards, much more in line with where he SHOULD be. We used a first round draft pick – after trading down to acquire more picks – on Rashaad Penny, who had an underwhelming rookie season with only 419 yards (3rd on the team), but he also had the third-most attempts and actually led the group in yards per carry with 4.9. Penny didn’t come out of the gates guns blazing, as there was more of a learning curve for him as he adjusted to the NFL, but he did show flashes of brilliance and that big-play ability we brought him in here for. I don’t know if he’ll ever be a Pro Bowler, or just a nice role player, but his Sophomore campaign should tell quite a bit about where his pro career is headed.

Returning as this team’s #2 running back was Mike Davis, who showed his usual reliability and professionalism. This is a rock-solid #2 guy that I’d never have any qualms about making the occasional spot start for an injured player; he’s a huge upgrade over Robert Turbin, for instance. He ended up with 514 yards on a 4.6 average. It appears Davis will be a Free Agent next year, so hopefully we can bring him back at the right price. Though, I guess we’ll see; with the money we have in Penny, we might want to spend the minimum at a spot where there’s a 3-headed monster.

Chris Carson returned from an injury in 2018 and should really be in the running for Comeback Player of the Year. He led the Seahawks with 1,151 yards on a 4.7 yard average with a whopping 9 touchdowns. He’s the first 1,000-yard rusher for the Seahawks since Beastmode in 2014, and let me tell you, he looked A LOT like our future Ring of Honor stud. We were a different team with Carson on the field, as he bowled and jumped over opposing players with regularity.

Overall, I’d say the position is set for 2019, though it’ll be ultra-set if we bring back Davis.

Pass Rush

The Seahawks were tied for 13th in 2017 with 39.0 sacks (league-leading Pittsburgh had 56.0), which was okay, but obviously not great. We improved to being tied for 11th in 2018 with 43.0 sacks (league-leading Pittsburgh & Kansas City had 52.0) which is a step in the right direction, though we could always be better.

Frank Clark led the way with 14.0 sacks; he’s also set to be a free agent in 2019. The Seahawks are saying all the right things about bringing him back on a long-term extension, though they’re also looking to re-up Wilson and a few others, so they’ve got their work cut out for them. Regardless, the franchise tag is in our pocket, and Clark’s already on record as saying he’d welcome the challenge of playing on the tag, thereby having his value skyrocket if he stays healthy and performs as he did this year. He also could, theoretically, still improve, particularly with better pieces around him, so we may just be scratching the surface with him. Either way, this was a HUGE step forward for a guy a lot of people wondered about. I don’t know if I ever expected him to perform at this level, so it’s great to see!

Even more shocking was what Jarran Reed was able to do in his third season as an interior lineman. He went from 1.5 sacks in each of his first two years to a whopping 10.5 sacks in 2018, which is just an astronomical leap! That’s Cortez Kennedy-level ball-busting! He’s another guy this team needs to keep around for the long term.

After those two, it drops off considerably. The next-highest guy was Quinton Jefferson with 3, and he’s just a rotation guy at best. Rookie Jacob Martin also had 3 sacks, which is encouraging for a high-motor guy still developing his NFL body. It’ll be interesting to see what strides he’s able to make between Year 1 and Year 2.

Rasheem Green was the other highly-touted rookie who had only 1 sack this year, and often found himself as a healthy scratch by season’s end. He was always going to be something of a project, so it’s not surprising, but it is a little disappointing. He was never going to have as much opportunity as 2018, considering you have to figure the Seahawks are planning on pouring big money into the area for next year.

Overall, we’ve got two studs, one maybe, and a lot of filler. While this area was better than I expected heading into the year – as I expected this team to totally fall off the cliff – our stars stayed healthy and produced. Now, it’s just a matter of filling in with better talent around those stars.

Secondary

This was always going to be a challenge, with Kam essentially forced into retirement, with Earl holding out, then playing disgruntled, then being lost for the year to injury. And, of course, the Seahawks waived Richard Sherman, which pushed Shaquill Griffin over to his side of the field as the team’s primary cornerback. For all the grief I gave him about that playoff game, I thought Griffin was fine. At times he was a solid tackler, but he also appeared to be out of position every so often, and took bad angles on tackles. He also finished with only 2 interceptions, which is pretty weak for the team’s primary corner. He’s not going anywhere in 2019, so let’s hope he makes a major jump in his performance in Year 3.

The other cornerback spot appeared to change hands multiple times heading into the 2018 season. Byron Maxwell looked to have the inside track, but he came in injured and never made the team. Other veterans were vetted, but the job ended up in the hands of rookie Tre Flowers, who took it and ran with it. There were the expected growing pains, but he really picked it up over the second half of the season, and looks to be a solid cog in this secondary. He didn’t get any picks, but you have to figure those will come with experience.

With both of our starting safeties out, Bradley McDougald really held this whole thing together. He’s a solid veteran who was playing at a Pro Bowl level for a while, but appeared to break down by season’s end. With him, Tedric Thompson and Delano Hill got their chances to make their marks on this team in their second seasons, but both of them were pretty hit or miss. You have to think the experience was nothing but a positive for them, but they’ll still have to parlay it into 2019 and make significant jumps if they want to be here long term.

I have to think the Seahawks will be looking in the draft for another primo safety. While we’re not set yet, it’s good to see the secondary playing as well as they did this season. They might not have showed out with the turnovers as the L.O.B. did when they hit the scene, but they limited big plays and kept this team in ballgames, which is all you can ask for. I’d also like to see the team extend Justin Coleman long-term, as he’s still one of the better nickel corners in this league.

Tight End

Jimmy Graham was thankfully sent packing, and in his place the team actually improved. Who knew?

Oh yeah, we all knew.

Will Dissly made a HUGE impact in Week 1, then got hurt and was lost for the season. Considering he was the best blocking tight end in the draft last year, and with his offense being better than anticipated, he looks like he’ll be an awesome weapon next year, assuming he returns from injury okay.

Nick Vannett really stepped up in his absence, in his 3rd season in the NFL. He had career highs in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. They weren’t super-amazing or anything (29, 269, 3), but this team doesn’t NEED a Jimmy Graham-like tight end to be effective offensively. I am perfectly happy with those numbers from our 2016 third round draft pick.

Ed Dickson was a free agent signee, and he didn’t make a huge impact either – actually finishing with fewer yards than Dissly, thanks to his own injury issues to start the season – but he had some big plays here and there, and still chipped in 3 TDs of his own. Combined, the TE position had 8 touchdowns on the season (51 catches for 600 yards, if you count George Fant, which I absolutely do!), which is perfectly fine for what little resources we’ve pumped into the position. You don’t need superstars at tight end to have a winning offense.

Tight end is set, assuming Dissly is back to 100%.

Offensive Line

The O-Line was the biggest question mark heading into the season, and thankfully it eventually turned into one of this team’s biggest strengths. Duane Brown was a Second Team All Pro at left tackle, Justin Britt brought his usual solidness at the center position, and Germain Ifedi made a big leap in his third year to finally become a passable right tackle. There were some growing pains at the guard spots – arguably the most important spots on the entire O-Line for a team with a Russell Wilson at quarterback – but after the second game, when J.R. Sweezy took over on the left side and D.J. Fluker took over on the right, they finally morphed into a cohesive, solid unit.

The downside is both Sweezy and Fluker are free agents heading into 2019. They’re also getting up there in age, and seemingly always face a litany of injuries. While that should theoretically keep their costs down, it’s hard to ignore the strides this team made when both of them were healthy. As such, you have to figure they’re in store for raises over the $1.5 million each of them made in 2018.

Beyond those two, Ethan Pocic was a disaster. He started those first two games we lost (when couldn’t do a damn thing offensively), and every time he took the field late in the season, the offense took an immediate step back. I don’t know if he’s undersized, incompetent, or both, but he’s got A LOT of work to do if he’s aiming to return to the starting five. As a second round pick already in his second year, with plenty of experience under his belt already, this is NOT trending well.

Jordan Simmons, however, was a revelation when he stepped in for Fluker! He’s a big ol’ mauler in Fluker’s image, but his season ended prematurely with injury. Combine that with the fact that he spent most of his college career injured, and I don’t think he’s someone we can count on long term. As a fill-in, backup type guy, though, it’s nice to know he’s around.

Joey Hunt is heading into free agency; he’s not someone I’d mind if we kept around or not. He looks undersized, and at this point Pocic might only be able to salvage his career if he backs up Britt at center, so Hunt is probably a luxury this team doesn’t need. He could still develop into a quality starter somewhere, but probably not here.

Finally, the aforementioned George Fant had quite a bit of playing time. He was often a sixth lineman this team implemented when we wanted to pound the rock, and once in a while found himself running routes (with his lone catch being a highlight of the season). He filled in for Ifedi late in the year – with Ifedi sliding over to guard for an injured Fluker – and that didn’t go so great. But, I would still expect him back, as I can’t imagine there’s going to be a huge bidding war for Fant.

Conclusion

With an elite quarterback, an elite middle linebacker, two elite wide receivers, and some nice pieces noted above, this is a team that’s heading in the right direction for another playoff run in 2019. How they spend their money in free agency will ultimately determine if this team’s going to contend for a division title. There are still quite a bit of holes left to fill, so it should be interesting.

The Seahawks Go To Dallas This Saturday For A Wild Card Showdown

In week 3 of the regular season, the Seahawks hosted the Cowboys and beat them 24 to 13. It was the immortal game where the 0-2 Seahawks first started their re-dedication to running the football. Chris Carson carried it a whopping 32 times after being limited to just 6 carries the week prior (where the coaching staff either forgot about him, or doubted his conditioning). That proved to be a mistake, and the Dallas game proved it, as he racked up 102 yards and a touchdown.

That’s not an amazing average, but the Cowboys in 2018 had one of the top defenses in the league against the run (giving up the 5th fewest yards per game and yards per attempt), so you have to figure just having a 100-yard back is pretty amazing.

The thing about this matchup is: these aren’t the same Cowboys. Those Cowboys – after their week 3 defeat – fell to 1-2 (the same record as the Seahawks). The Cowboys would eventually fall to 3-5 at the midway point in the season, which was right around the time they traded a first round pick to the Raiders for Amari Cooper. The Cowboys finished their season 7-1 to win the NFC East and earn this first round home game.

Regardless of the quality of your opponents, 7-1 is nothing to sneeze at. They beat the Eagles twice, and the #1 seed Saints at home; their only loss was a flukey road game against Indy where they were shut out. But, other than that, the Cowboys have been one of the more clutch teams, winning all 7 of those late-season games by 8 points or less. They have the league’s #1 running back in Ezekiel Elliott, they figured out how to unleash Amari Cooper after he’d been floundering in Oakland for the last few seasons, and Dak Prescott has stepped his game back up after a rocky sophomore campaign.

More importantly, their defense is legit, and apparently they have Kris Richard to thank?! They’ve given up the 7th fewest yards and 6th fewest points. They’re middle-of-the-road in sacks, but don’t be fooled, because they can generate a ton of pressure. I already talked about their rush defense being key, but their pass defense is no slouch either, giving up just 234.7 yards per game.

But, here’s the other thing about this matchup: these aren’t the same Seahawks either.

We all know what the Seahawks have done – going 10-4 since week 2, while putting up a fight in each of our losses against tough opponents – and what the Seahawks are good at. So, let’s talk about how it relates to this game on Saturday.

The absolute key of keys will be the offensive line. D.J. Fluker appears to be ready to go, and it sounds like J.R. Sweezy will give it a try and see how he feels on gameday. Having them both back and healthy is going to be critical, not just for this game, but for the rest of this season. I mean, you saw what happened last week, when both of them sat out! The Cardinals almost upset us! You saw what happened against the 49ers when we had to fill some holes; it was a disaster!

If either of them miss time in this game, we’re in trouble. Because if the #1-A key to this game is the O-Line, then #1-B is turnovers. The Cowboys aren’t particularly great – on either side of the ball – at turnovers, so if we give them additional possessions, we’re probably going to be fucked. Their defense is too good for us to overcome a ton of mistakes. On the flipside, if OUR defense can knock the ball out of their hands and recover some of those fumbles, we might be talking about a serious spanking.

On a neutral field, if you played this game 100 times, I think the Seahawks win more than they lose. On this particular field, on this particular day, I think the Seahawks are more than capable of doing what needs to be done. Odds are – if we do prevail – we’ll have to go on the road to play New Orleans, which is a TALL order, and will likely require some of that special Russell Wilson goodness. I’d like to save that – if there is indeed a finite amount of it in the 2018 season – for next week, and just take care of business here against the Cowboys.

On the flipside, I’m worried about Zeke. That dude is a STUD and our defense has been pretty weak at stopping the run this year. Thankfully, we have Bobby Wagner, who is our rock. Maybe even MORE thankfully, K.J. Wright is back and playing like his old self. He’s going to be our defensive #1-A key, because not only will he need to track Elliott, but he’ll likely find himself shading towards Cole Beasley whenever Justin Coleman isn’t on him. We all know what Amari Cooper can do. I’m sure he’ll get his, but I have my doubts that he’ll blow up like he has at times since the trade. I do fear Beasley quite a bit, because he’s shifty, he’s quick, and he tears up those underneath routes (which our defense tends to give up, as we do everything in our power to prevent opposing offense from taking the top off). So, covering him will be critical, but more importantly, SOUND TACKLING will be the name of the game.

We lose this game if we lose the turnover battle, and if we get tore apart on 3rd down. If Dak has a clean pocket, he can easily dink and dunk his way down the field on us, so let’s wrap up, let’s take good angles, and let’s stay healthy out there! I know a lot of our depth is injured, so keeping our able bodies on the field will be super important.

In the end – like with most every Seahawks game – I think it’s a coin flip. I’d give the edge to the good guys, but if we’re all disappointed come Saturday night, I won’t be shocked. If the Seahawks DO win, don’t be surprised if it’s some oddball score, so I’m going to predict something in the realm of 26-12. Don’t ask me how we get to that number, but that’s what I’m going with.