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.

Have I Overreacted To All The Coaching Change On The Seahawks?

If you haven’t seen it yet, go ahead and take a gander at what I wrote yesterday.  A lot of doom and gloom and whatnot.  Anyway, I got a GREAT comment from someone named Justin that I thought I’d respond to.  I’m not here to be a Hot Taek factory, and I really hate it when recency bias creeps into my arguments and gets me to overreact to something that’s not really that big of a deal, so I thought I’d take a step back and consider Justin’s argument.

I do stand behind the crux of my argument yesterday, in that it’s never a great sign when a head coach makes wholesale coordinator changes, and you could argue that the Seahawks fired three coordinators, considering Tom Cable’s influence over the offense.  We’re in a period of transition with the Seahawks, there’s no doubt about it.  Some of the stars of those championship teams are aging out, or injuring themselves out, and will need to be replaced.  While it’s not impossible for this team to hit rock bottom in 2018, it’s just as possible that they find the right pieces to fill in and get this team back to the playoffs.  We could be looking at one 9-7 blip on the radar, and nothing would make me happier.

I like a lot of what Justin has to say.  I agree that Russell Wilson is in the Top 5 for me among quarterbacks in this league.  And we all know he has another level to his game; we’ve seen it during the second half of 2015.  He obviously can’t do it alone, though, and is going to need some help from his O-Line and running game.  But, that’s obvious to anyone.  Even Tom Brady looks pretty fucking mediocre in those rare instances where the Patriots have a struggling O-Line; the difference is they seem to know how to push the right buttons and right the ship before too long.

I also agree that we probably have a Top 15/Top 10 defense as it is.  That part of it is never going to get TOO bad, because Pete Carroll is too good of a defensive mind.  My biggest concern is that the injury bug tends to be random, and the Seahawks were pretty well battered in 2016, then followed that up by arguably being MORE battered in 2017.  That, to me, shows signs of age.  And, considering the core on this defense is so deep and has been together for so long, that’s A LOT of holes that need filling, not to mention a lot of depth that needs replenishing around that core.

It’s too early to know what that’s going to look like.  We don’t know, for instance, if Avril or Kam will make miraculous recoveries and try to play again.  Forgetting the cap situation for a moment, assuming we get those guys back, they’re still one awkward hit away from being done for good.  Then, there’s Michael Bennett, who ALWAYS seems to be slowed by one nagging thing or another.  A foot, a quad, a pec, an ankle.  I still say he’s someone who needs to be on the field way less than he is to remain effective.  There’s more snaps you have to replace.  Earl Thomas made a nice recovery in 2017, as I assume Richard Sherman will in 2018, but again:  guys getting older.  Guys more susceptible to these debilitating injuries.  And, I haven’t mentioned guys like Bobby Wagner or K.J. Wright, because they’re almost always pretty healthy.  But, before he went down, Sherm had never missed a game, and I don’t know if Earl missed much time either.  It just takes one hit, or one bad step and then a bunch of others that eventually wear you down until whatever’s ailing you just SNAPS.

So, let’s take a step back and look on the bright side:  who do we have on defense that we like?  That we can count on in major roles going forward?

Frank Clark, obviously, heads that list for me, and feels like a guy this team should prioritize with a big extension.  Dion Jordan is another guy I’ll be happy to see return, and in a meatier role than he had in 2017.  Should he prove to be effective, he’s a guy I wouldn’t mind seeing around semi-long term.  Naz Jones really flashed as a rookie.  He looks like a guy who could play every down and be an effective interior rusher (I just hope he’s not another of these injury-prone guys, what with him missing the last few weeks of the regular season).  Jarran Reed is another impressive interior lineman who feels more like a Brandon Mebane type (which is NOT a bad thing) and is someone I hope to have around for a long time.  So, that’s four guys, not counting Bennett (who I still think will probably be back in 2018).  I don’t expect Sheldon Richardson back, and who the fuck knows about Malik McDowell, but either way, the D-Line could use some work.  And some better injury luck.

Love me some Wagz and Wright; they’re both squarely in their primes.  But, would it kill this team to draft a couple of talented, athletic backups who might one day take their places?  Or, competently fill in for when those guys get nicked up?  I mean, we’re always one Wagner injury away from the biggest fucking drop-off on the entire team outside of quarterback!

In the secondary, I – along with most everyone – liked what I saw from Shaq Griffin.  He still has room to improve, and I hope he makes that leap.  With Earl and Sherm back in the fold in 2018, and Coleman being a solid slot guy, there’s even more to like.  But, how do you replace someone like Kam?  And, who’s gonna be your third outside corner?  Are ANY of the other rookies we drafted in the secondary in 2017 going to pan out besides Griffin?  I think it’s a BAD sign that guys like Delano Hill and Tedric Thompson hardly ever played last year.  I hope they look good behind the scenes, because I have a feeling we’re going to need at least one of them to pan out in the near future.

So yeah, there’s talent defensively.  There’s plenty of talent to be a Top 15 defense as it stands right now.  And, of course, the team will make moves this offseason to bolster that side of the ball.  A Pete Carroll team would NEVER neglect the defense.  But, is this team good enough to overcome just a Top 15 or a Top 10 defense?  Or, does it need a Top 2 defense to really do something?

And, I guess that’s my whole point in all of this.  With all its faults, the 2017 Seahawks were still SO CLOSE to making the playoffs.  And it would’ve been fun, and we would’ve had a rabid ramp-up to that game against the Rams (or whoever would’ve been the 3-seed in this alternate universe).  And who knows?  Maybe we shock the world just like we’ve done so many times in the Wild Card round of the playoffs!

But, I’m not interested in just making the playoffs.  I don’t think there’s a way in Hell that the Seahawks of 2017 – with all the injuries and everything else they had to deal with by season’s end – were in a position to make a serious championship run.  Odds are, if it’s Rams in the Wild Card round, then Eagles in the Divisional round, then Vikings in the Championship game … I mean, look at those defenses!  Those are far and away the three best defenses in the NFC this year (with the Saints probably coming in 4th).  You’re telling me this team, with this O-Line, and this lack of a running game, could’ve made it through all three?  I think the chance of that is 0.00%.

Maybe I’m being greedy.  As a long-suffering Seahawks fan through the years, maybe I SHOULD just be happy with a playoff appearance.  But, after 2013, all of that changed.  With Russell Wilson in the fold, I want to see MULTIPLE championships!  At least one more, ideally two more.  Anything beyond that would be beyond my wildest dreams, but you get the idea.  Great, amazing, franchise-altering quarterbacks don’t come around everyday unless you’re the Green Bay Packers, apparently.  To squander someone like Russell would be a travesty.  Beyond that, I can’t bear to imagine a world where his final play in a Super Bowl is that fucking interception at the goalline.  He NEEDS to be redeemed!

And no, this team probably WON’T collapse in the near future, not as long as Wilson is healthy.  He’s in his prime, and we’ve seen PLENTY of mediocre teams with elite quarterbacks who carry them to consistent 7-9/8-8/9-7 seasons.  Aside from 2015/2016, that’s pretty much the M.O. of the San Diego Chargers under Philip Rivers!  Not to mention a lot of those post-Super Bowl Saints teams.  And a lot of those Lions teams under Matthew Stafford.  On and on and on.  But, to be honest, those types of teams are my worst nightmare.  Not to say I envy the Browns or something, but I would RATHER bottom out for a year or two, bring in a bunch of highly-drafted college players, and turn things around.  The Seahawks will probably never get to be that bad, though, so I think it’s a very real concern that we have a bunch of 8-8 type seasons in the years ahead.

How do we avoid that?  Well, ideally, we need to figure out what the Saints did in their draft room last year, because God Damn!  Justin points out that we should have faith in the combo of Pete and John.  I have the utmost respect for those guys, and I agree they’re the best head coach and GM in franchise history (and maybe in the history of all of Seattle sports).  But, I also think it’s valid to wonder if they’re not coasting on the achievements of their drafts and free agent acquisitions from 2010-2012.  I mean, that’s one of the best turnaround jobs in all of professional sports, what they were able to do in that 3-year span.  And, for the most part, I like that they take chances and they swing for the fences on guys with rare and unique talents.

But, the mounting mistakes from 2013 onward is pretty glaring.  Bringing in Harvin, which led to losing out on Tate.  That whole fucking 2013 draft which has only netted you a backup tight end in Luke Willson (and no, they don’t get credit for Spencer Ware, because he was let go and has done all of his damage with the Chiefs).  Then, there’s the Jimmy Graham deal, and the whole fucking 2014 draft.  Paul Richardson has given us exactly 1 fully healthy season before turning into an expensive free agent.  Justin Britt gave us a couple of mediocre seasons as right tackle and left guard before finding his place at center.  Cassius Marsh and some of the guys below him were non-factors on defense and mostly just good special teamers.  Then again with the 2015 draft.  Clark and Lockett were hits, but Glowinski was a bust, and everyone else is gone.  Now, take a look at the 2016 draft:  the best player is arguably Alex fucking Collins, yet ANOTHER late-round running back this team threw away!  Ifedi has been miserable, Reed has been a run-stuffing defensive tackle, Vannett looks like nothing more than a 3rd or 2nd tight end at best, Prosise is a living, breathing ankle sprain, and the rest of those guys are backups, training camp fodder, or out of the game entirely.  That brings us to the 2017 draft, where it looks like maybe they got their mojo back with guys like Griffin, Jones, Carson, and hopefully Pocic, but also features your top selection in McDowell who might never play a single down in the league.  Then, when you compound it with some of the other deals, giving Joeckel so much money, giving Lacy ANY money, consistently trading away high draft picks for veterans.  My confidence with this line of decision-making hasn’t totally plummeted, but I’ll say this:  2018 is going to go a LONG way toward either restoring my faith, or leading me to construct a noose and hang myself.

I mean, shit, what happened to their prowess in picking guys on the third day of the draft???

In short, because this one ballooned WAY out of control, yesterday’s post is probably a bit of an overreaction, with an asterisk of We’ll See.  This thing has been trending downward for three years, so we just have to hope that the new blood is able to come in and turn things around.  If they can’t, or if injuries continue to kill us, or if guys don’t develop into stars for whatever reason, or if the front office keeps kicking the can down the road with some of these contracts and draft pick trades, then I’ve been on record for a while now saying this could be another Seattle Mariners situation:  a lot of high-priced veterans getting this team to at or around .500, but ultimately treading water for a bunch of years in a row.

Seahawks Death Week: What Will They Do This Off-Season?

I got into what I think the Seahawks should do this off-season in this post following the debacle against the Rams, so I don’t want to repeat myself all over the place this soon after.  I’m on record as saying that I don’t necessarily think THIS is the year to blow it all up and start over – nor do I think that’s the direction the team will take – my whole agenda is to loosen up the cap a little and prepare for a bigger overhaul in 2019.  In short, that means letting the dead weight walk (Jimmy Graham, Sheldon Richardson, Luke Joeckel, Eddie Lacy, Blair Walsh, and all the other guys on 1-year deals, except for maybe Bradley McDougald, depending on what happens with the other safeties on the roster); further trimming some of the fat by getting rid of guys like Jon Ryan, Cliff Avril, Jeremy Lane and Thomas Rawls; and then making calculated decisions on some of the aging vets nearing the ends of their deals.  For the most part, I’m cool with hanging on to a lot of guys – Bennett, Sherman, Earl, Wright, maybe Kam if doctors clear him to play again – but I’m not going to be devastated if the team opts to trade/release them.  I do think, however, that all of those guys should be playing for their jobs in 2018 if they remain, and we look to clean house after 2018 if the team’s record plummets.

So, that’s my take.  In a nutshell:  run it back with the same core – or close to it – don’t make any crazy trades or high-priced free agent signings (in order to keep our compensatory picks for 2019’s draft), and if things fall apart for a third straight year with injuries, look to the 2019 draft/free agent class to replenish the roster with younger/hungrier options.  The key being:  DON’T FUCK WITH THE 2019 DRAFT.  I don’t know if it’s going to be a good one or not; all I know is we can’t keep kicking the can down the road with these inflated veteran contracts and bad draft classes.  And, if we’re going to be bad in 2018 – like I think we probably will be – then at least take advantage of the higher draft picks in each round by having all of them in place.

With that out of the way, what do I think the Seahawks will actually do?

Well, for starters, I don’t think they’ll do everything that I’d like them to do, and I don’t know how that makes me feel.  I’m conflicted, because on the one hand In Pete & John We Trust, but on the other hand I just don’t know if they have it in them to be patient.  They’re constantly aggressive, which is part of what made their moves from 2010-2012 so dynamic and franchise-altering; but it’s also a big part of this team’s downfall.  Start with the Percy Harvin disaster, which gave way to letting Golden Tate walk, which ultimately led to them doubling-down on their mistake by trading for Jimmy Graham, who has never been a fit for this team – even when we finally figured out how to use him in the red zone two years too late – and the Seahawks’ only real offensive success has come when he was out with his knee injury.  I absolutely, 2,000% believe that’s no coincidence, and if they bring him back on a high-priced contract, I seriously might have to reconsider whether or not I want to keep following this team as a fan.  I don’t care how shitty the draft is at the tight end position, and I don’t care how shitty the tight end free agency class is; if you over-pay for Jimmy Graham, because he’s Russell Wilson’s BFF or whatever, I’ll probably have to take a break from investing myself in this team as thoroughly as I have over the years.

I don’t know if I actually believe they WILL bring him back, and I honestly don’t think he wants to be back, so my hunch is that will work itself out.  But, my fear is that they compound this thing even further by trading for some other offensive weapon that’s a terrible fit for our particular scheme, style, and quarterback.  I’m not a fan of trading for receivers in any capacity anyway (be they tight end or wide receiver); if I had my druthers, if the Seahawks are going to make any splashes in the passing game, I’d rather they extend Paul Richardson (though, that’s really the lesser of two evils, and in a perfect world the Seahawks would do neither).

I think the Seahawks have lost their minds when it comes to trading away draft picks, so expect more of the same.  I would anticipate Plan A is for them to trade back from the 18th pick to get an extra second and/or third rounder, to go along with a low first rounder.  I highly doubt there’s a player in this draft who’d fall to them at 18 that would lead them to take him over trading down and collecting more picks, but if there is, then I think you really have to be concerned about this team trading some of its 2019 picks to get back into the second and/or third rounds, which is my nightmare.  Of course, my WORST nightmare is they trade 18 for some other team’s unwanted veteran, citing the tried and true (and misguided) credo of:  he’s better for us right now than any college player we would’ve taken with that pick.  If I fucking hear that one more fucking time, I’m gonna lose it.

See, the worst part of where the Seahawks are at right now, with their core as it is, the salary cap where it is, and where they often find themselves drafting, is we’re in a prime position to finish anywhere from 7-9 to 9-7 every year, until we somehow, miraculously find ourselves hitting more on these draft picks.  Which means, unless we find some magic elixir that keeps these fucking guys healthy for a full season, it’s gonna be a long, frustrating road back to Super Bowl contention.  And, we can kiss goodbye any thought of being as good as we were from 2012-2014.  It’s the New Orleans Saints model, and I fucking hate it, because it took them fucking forever to get as good as they were this season, and even now it’s no guarantee that they’ll make it to the Super Bowl, or be great for years to come.

I also think the Seahawks have at least one big free agent splash in them, be it an offensive lineman, an outside pass rusher, or some sort of stud interior pass rusher.  I doubt that means re-signing Sheldon Richardson (who I would prefer, if for no other reason than to preserve our comp pick for Jimmy Graham going elsewhere), but I bet it WILL mean we lose out on the surefire 3rd round comp pick we would’ve gotten for whatever insane contract Sheldon will end up signing with some sucker team.

Ultimately, I think it means while a bunch of our outgoing free agents get signed elsewhere, the best we can hope for in comp picks is a 4th or 5th rounder, with a very real chance we get stuck with a 6th or 7th rounder, or nothing at all, if this front office continues to chase the dragon on whoever the equivalent of Luke Joeckel and Eddie Lacy are this upcoming offseason (1-year fliers on the hope of turning around total miserable busts).

It’s bleak, man.  That’s really what I’m getting at.  I think we’ll get our panties in a wad about some of the free agent signings, as the Seahawks continue to put Band Aids over their amputated limbs; and then we’ll further blow our loads over whatever prospects we settle for in the draft, but will any of it translate to real, tangible improvement?  In the running game?  In the offensive line?  In the passing game?  In the pass rush?  In the run defense?  In the pass defense?  At all those levels we struggled at in 2017?  And, will there be any LASTING tangible improvement?  Or, will half of these guys immediately go down with injury and leave us scrambling yet again to plug the dike?

See, these temporary fixes that the team has employed the last couple years – the same ones I fear they’ll continue trying in 2018 – are what the fanbase at large wants to see.  They want to see heads roll.  They want to see a massive influx of free agent help.  But, the smart franchises don’t over-react to every fucking thing.  The smart franchises plan for the future as they continue to play for the present.  You don’t have to be the Cleveland Browns – throwing away every valuable player to accumulate as many prospects and draft picks as possible – but you also shouldn’t be the Ravens or Saints – clinging to aging vets and trading away your future picks/prospects in hopes of winning now over all else.  Unfortunately for where we are now, the Seahawks have veered over into that Ravens/Saints territory, and have drastically reduced their future flexibility and prospect pool in the process.  While some of the moves might have made sense at the time (the Sheldon Richardson & Duane Brown trades in particular), we have to admit they ultimately failed this year, and might have crippled this organization in the short term future.  The worst thing you can do is cripple yourselves in the long term future on top of it.

So, take a bath in 2018.  Ride it out, and set yourselves up to be in a position to take advantage of things in 2019.  Otherwise, expect to keep spinning your wheels in the land of the .500 teams, never quite making the playoffs and never quite getting bad enough to draft the improvements you need for sustained success.

I’m … I’m not going into 2018 with any semblance of a good headspace when it comes to the professional Seattle teams.  Wake me up when the year is over.

Seahawks Death Week: Spread The Blame Around Nice N’ Thick

Had the Seahawks made the playoffs, I’m certain a topic of conversation would’ve been:  what do the Seahawks do well?  If things had gone differently – i.e. if the Seahawks won and the Panthers had beaten the Falcons – we’d currently be preparing to go on the road to Carolina.  The Seahawks would’ve been considerable underdogs in this game, and we would’ve been sitting around wondering how the Seahawks might match up with the Panthers.  Where is our edge?  In what universe could you imagine a Seahawks upset, as they’re currently constructed?

Boil it all down, and you come back to the question:  what do the Seahawks do well?

Well, at TIMES, the Seahawks have done lots of things well (except run the ball), so we should probably refine that to say:  what do the Seahawks do consistently well?  Or, to put it another way:  what DOESN’T need fixing for 2018?

I’m a little bit at a loss with this question, because I don’t think there’s even one single thing the Seahawks do consistently well.  Sure, they have Russell Wilson, and he’s a good quarterback you can win a championship with, but all too often he fails to step up in the pocket and make quick decisions with the football.  Either because he can’t see what’s going on (and he’s being super-careful with the football to not throw it into harm’s way), or he’s constantly waiting for something better to come along.  And, he thinks he can beat everyone when he escapes, which leads to further issues (fumbles, intentional groundings, sacks, holding penalties on the O-Line because they have no idea where he’s going).  For everything he does well, he does something that holds this team back, and when the rest of the team isn’t up to the task, our margin of error is extremely low, so more often than not that Russell Wilson Magic is useless.

The running game is what it is:  a total fucking disaster.  That’s partly on the O-Line and partly on there being no dynamic running back on this roster for the last two years.

The receiving game is okay, but even there we have issues.  Aside from Doug Baldwin, guys don’t get consistently open, and Doug Baldwin can’t do everything.  Jimmy Graham seemed to always disappear unless we were 15 yards away (or closer) to the endzone.  Just about everyone aside from Doug (particularly the tight ends, particularly Graham) had issues with drops, which this team obviously can’t afford when – again – it can’t run the ball and can’t provide consistent protection for its quarterback.

The O-Line is what it is:  a total fucking disaster.  Luke Joeckel was a bust.  Germain Ifedi is certainly trending towards the bust category (though, I want to see him get multiple years in one position before I make that declaration).  Ethan Pocic was a rookie.  Duane Brown came in mid-season and I don’t think ever became totally used to what we’re trying to do here (and how our quarterback plays).  And, quite frankly, Justin Britt made too many fucking mistakes to be considered anything but a so-so player.  He’s certainly not worth Max Unger-type money, and once the dead money isn’t prohibitive, I’d seriously consider getting rid of him and moving Pocic over to center (where he played so well in college).  Don’t forget, it was Britt’s boneheaded and pointless dive that landed him on George Fant’s ACL and started us down this whole messy road (when it appeared Fant was going to take the next huge leap in his development in the pre-season).  Consider me off the Justin Britt bandwagon.

So, for those keeping track at home, that’s NOTHING about the offense that I trust as far as I can throw it.  How about the defense?

Well, the pass rush was hit or miss.  Sometimes it was on point, sometimes it completely disappeared.  Michael Bennett got way too much playing time, and struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness down the stretch (as anyone could’ve predicted).  Cliff Avril’s loss (probably for good) was a huge blow.  Frank Clark was probably our most consistent player, but he never made that leap to superstar status we were all secretly hoping we’d see.  And, most annoyingly of all, we were never able to find a consistent interior pass rusher.  Malik McDowell is the biggest fucking moron on the planet and might have ATV’d his way out of football before his career even started.  Which necessitated in us trading for Sheldon Richardson, who was okay, but who also never really seemed to fit in with our scheme or make any sort of an impact.  Jarran Reed took a baby step forward, but was never a consistent threat.  Naz Jones looked great for a rookie, but got injured and probably hit the ol’ rookie wall.  The back-end of the roster guys would flash from time to time, but never consistently.  Way WAY too often, opposing quarterbacks had all day to pick apart our defense, and it seemed like we only ever got pressure when we blitzed, which isn’t this team’s way (but maybe it should’ve been; maybe we should’ve gone hyper blitz-happy and seen if that would’ve helped spur more turnovers).

The run defense is SUPPOSED to be this team’s strength, but all too often it was a weakness.  The 49ers and Titans early in the year ran all over us.  And the Jags, Rams, and Cowboys had no problem whatsoever gaining big chunks of yards on us late in the season.  Teams with elite runners doing whatever they wanted:  that rarely ever happened before this year.

Then, you know, there’s the pass defense.  Earl Thomas missed a little time.  Kam and Sherm missed a lot of time.  Jeremy Lane lost his job early and often.  Byron Maxwell came in off the street and started over Lane almost immediately!  And he’s no prize pig!  Shaq Griffin looked pretty good for a rookie, but I’d still like to see a lot of development in him before I annoint him with Lockdown Corner status.  Justin Coleman looked pretty good for a slot guy.  Deshawn Shead never really came back from his injury (aside from a few special teams snaps).  Bradley McDougald was a solid pickup at safety (and a HUGE improvement over Steven Terrell/Kelcie McCray).  When everyone was healthy, the pass defense was okay, but even then, everyone was healthy for that Deshaun Watson game, and he threw all over us!  Tennessee didn’t have any trouble moving the ball down our throats.  And even the Redskins had no trouble marching down the field late on our pass defense.  Then, once you factor in everyone’s injuries, you could argue this was the weakest part of our team by season’s end.

I guess, if you had one position group to laud this year, I never really worried about the linebackers, until the end of the season, when it was obvious Bobby Wagner’s injury was severely limiting his mobility.  And, K.J. Wright had that concussion game he missed.  And, I’d be hard pressed to say I loved our veteran depth; the drop-off from starter to backup was pretty severe.  Seems like we could’ve filled those spots in the draft if we hadn’t completely neglected it the last few years (opting for undrafted free agents and veterans on minimum deals over actual draft picks).

So, no, nevermind.  There are zero position groups you could say I was 100% comfortable with over the course of the season.  Every single player on this team played a part in why the Seahawks are not in the playoffs right now, and if they WERE set to play in Carolina this weekend, they’d surely get their asses destroyed.  I hope the guys who remain on this roster in 2018 take a good, long look in the mirror.  Do you want to be here?  Do you still love the game of football?  Let’s maybe think less about that paycheck and more about wins and losses.

A Christmas Miracle: Seahawks Beat Cowboys

I really tore one on this weekend, and as such wasn’t able to roll my ass out of bed until about 1pm on Sunday, and spent the duration of the Seahawks game with a massive hangover.  So, I very well might have hallucinated into existence a Seahawks victory over the Cowboys, and if I did, please don’t wake me up!

With Christmas in between, and me missing a lot of the third quarter as I did my Christmas shopping as I always do – at the last minute, at my local Safeway, buying gift cards for everyone on my list – I don’t remember much about what happened.  There was a sweet punch-out of the football from Byron Maxwell to Dez Bryant that resulted in our first touchdown and a 7-6 lead late in the second quarter.  There was a Justin Coleman pick-six that I missed, giving the Seahawks a 14-9 lead early in the third quarter.  And there was one good offensive drive by the Seahawks with a nifty Doug Baldwin TD at its conclusion to make the score 21-12.  From there, a couple late field goal misses by the Cowboys sealed the deal.

Here are the take-aways from this one:  the Seahawks’ offense was garbage.  Still no change in the running game, obviously, because that’s going to be something that needs its fixing in the offseason with new personnel.  And, one of the poorer Russell Wilson games, who only threw for 93 yards.  The best thing you can say about this one was that he avoided turnovers, but no praise whatsoever should be reserved for this offensive group.

Defensively, however, it was a sight for sore eyes.  Ezekiel Elliott – who had that bet with Eric Dickerson that he’d run for 200 yards in his first game back from suspension – was solid, but still held to 97 yards.  Dak Prescott continued his second-half slide as he threw a couple picks, but one of them was off of a deflection, as he received zero help from his so-called #1 receiver Dez Bryant, who finished with 3 catches, but had a number of others go off of his hands (and one of those receptions did end up as the aforementioned fumble forced by Maxwell).  I don’t know if there was any one reason for the defensive turnaround – though, it surely helped having a healthy K.J. Wright and a healthier Bobby Wagner – so much as this was a total team effort.  It also helped that the Dallas passing attack is broken, so we were able to expend our energy in trying to stop the run.  Better tackling was important too.

The miracle part of this thing didn’t just come with the Seahawks winning in Dallas, though I’ll be the first to admit I wrote a post last week predicting a Seahawks loss.  Really, I think the bigger surprise was waking up on Sunday afternoon and discovering that the Bengals beat the Lions!  With that out of the way, and with the Falcons losing to the Saints, there’s now a clear path for the Seahawks to make the playoffs.

First, they have to beat the Cardinals this Sunday.  That sounds easy enough, but we’re gonna need to see more from the offense than we have in recent weeks.  Then, the only other thing we need is for Carolina to go into Atlanta and beat the Falcons.  I like the Panthers a lot, and think they’re the better team this season, but there are a couple things going against us.  One, the Falcons aren’t terrible.  With their season in the balance, it wouldn’t shock me to see the Falcons go out there and lay the smack down.  And two, if the Saints beat the Bucs, the Saints win the division, meaning the Panthers would have nothing to play for.  As both games start at the same time, we’re at least assured that the Panthers will play all their starters.  However, if the Saints run up a huge lead, it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest to see the Panthers resting their stars at the end of the game.  Just in time for the Falcons to sneak away with a late victory?

You could argue it behooves the Panthers to knock the Falcons out of the playoffs, and I’ll buy that to a point, but if they’re stuck as a 5-seed and the Falcons a 6-seed, they wouldn’t meet until a hypothetical NFC Championship Game matchup, which is unlikely in its own right.  And besides, if you did want to see a potential 5-seed home game in the NFCCG, that means you NEED the 6-seed to get there too, and who is more likely to win two road games it the playoffs, the Falcons or the broken and old Seahawks?

Make no mistake, there’s the Team No One Wants To Play every year in the playoffs; well, the Seahawks are the Team No One Would Mind Playing.  Which leads me to the next issue:  should we root for the Seahawks to make the playoffs at all?

It’s an age-old argument.  The Seahawks almost certainly have no shot – as a 6-seed – to run the table through the NFC and get to the Super Bowl.  They’re too beat up, and this offense – including Russell Wilson – has been too terrible over the last month to give any indication that we can win even ONE playoff game, let alone 3-4.  Ergo, just by making the playoffs, you’re sticking yourself with a worse draft pick.  And, every playoff game you win, the further down the draft board you fall.

The counter-argument to that is:  anything can happen on any given Sunday.  Just make the playoffs and hope to get hot; hell, it’s how Joe Flacco won a title!  Plus, if the 2010 Seahawks had missed out on the playoffs as we hoped heading into that post-season, we never would’ve had the Beastquake run.  Does that mean anything on its own?  Of course not, but it’s a fond memory, and it set the table for the Never Say Die ethos of those championship teams a few years later.

Even though it runs against all rational thought, I’ll still root for the Seahawks to make it.  I just want to see at least one more week of meaningful football for my favorite professional team.

Merry Christmas: The Seahawks Are Gonna Lose This Week

I don’t really have much to say about the game this Sunday.  It’s taking place in the afternoon on Christmas Eve, so I would think you have other things you could be doing.  But, if while you’re doing those other things, you notice a football game on in the background, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Ezekiel Elliott made a bet with Eric Dickerson that he’d run for 200 yards on the Seahawks, which coincides with his return from the 6-game suspension that wiped out two of my fantasy teams’ playoff hopes in utter, contemptible failure last week.  Part of me thinks it would be delightful for the Seahawks – with a healthier Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright – to smack his ass right back down, but honestly?  I could kinda see it happening.

What has this defensive line done the last two weeks to inspire any semblance of confidence?  Absolutely nothing.

And yet, even if we do somehow keep Elliott in check, you have to figure that just opens up everything in the passing game.  We might see the best game out of Dak Prescott since the LAST time Ezekiel Elliott took the field, which isn’t at all surprising or hot of a taek, and which makes Dak’s offensive rookie of the year award in 2016 completely ridiculous when the REAL offensive ROY was right there on his own team.

For as down as I am on the Seahawks, I don’t think this game will be as bad as the 42-7 drubbing we saw against the Rams last week, so that’s something I guess.  I mean, it’s not like the Cowboys are world-beaters on defense or anything; Russell Wilson and the Seahawks will get theirs.  In a lot of ways, I could see this game looking like last year’s Christmas Eve Fuckfest against the Cardinals:  high scoring, and disappointing at the end.

If I’m wrong, then great, the Seahawks will improve to 9 wins and will still be in the hunt for a playoff spot in some way, shape, or form.  If I’m right, however, then the Seahawks will be officially eliminated from the playoffs for the first time since 2011, and the front office will have a lot of ‘splainin’ to do.  Is that an offensive reference nowadays?  Does anyone even GET that reference?  I don’t care.

Season’s Greetings and whatnot.  Did you know it’s actually Season’s Greetings and not just Seasons Greetings?  You gotta have that apostrophe in there if you want to be grammatically correct!  Or, I can just go fuck myself, your choice.

An Early Look At What The Seahawks Should Do In 2018

There is a lot of justified talk this week – following the 42-7 smackdown against the Rams – that the Seahawks need wholesale changes.  Blow the damn thing up!  No one is off limits!  (up to and including Russell Wilson … shh!)

And, yes, I get that, 100%.  This year, in many ways, has been a huge disaster (only to be punctuated by a 9-7 or 8-8 finish and missing the playoffs for the first time in the Russell Wilson era).  The second half of 2015 for Russ appears to be more of an anomaly than a sign of things to come.  We’re still seeing the same issues with him (missing open receivers because he can’t see them, running himself into sacks and/or turnovers, throwing the ball beyond the line of scrimmage and/or behind the line of scrimmage for intentional grounding penalties).  We’re also dealing with the same O-Line issues (penalties, early pressure, lack of a running game) and the same running back issues (injuries, lack of dynamism).  Jimmy Graham appears to be useless outside of the red zone, the receivers after Doug Baldwin don’t appear to be making any improvements, and the second and third tight ends aren’t anything more than second and third tight ends.

And that doesn’t even touch on the aging and injury-prone defense.

On top of all of this, we’ve traded away a lot of good future picks to bring in guys like Sheldon Richardson and Duane Brown, in an effort to Win Now (which I very much approved of at the time; it’s unfortunate that they haven’t been enough to push this team over the edge).  So, the only way to get those kinds of draft picks back is to trade down in the first round again (when you’re looking at a first round draft pick that will be the best we’ve seen since 2012, somewhere in the Top 20 to start out), or trade away some of our valuable stars (of which we don’t have many who aren’t currently injured or on bad contracts or both).

The Trade Russell talk is pretty dire, and most certainly a topic deserving of its own post (which I’ll probably get around to at some point, even though I can all but guarantee it will never happen in a million years … or at least not until he’s considerably older and/or whenever a new regime takes over), so I will proceed here under the assumption that Wilson will be on the Seahawks in 2018.

With that unpleasantness out of the way, I do agree that almost everyone else is on the chopping block.  Probably NOT Bobby Wagner, who has the second-largest cap hit next year, with $5.2 million in dead money.  Probably NOT Doug Baldwin, who has the fourth-largest cap hit next year, with almost $9.5 million in dead money.  And probably NOT Justin Britt, who is set to only count a little over $6 million against the cap, but has almost $9 million in dead money.

There are some obvious moves I think the Seahawks will make, without question.  Jimmy Graham is off the books after this season, and I think he stays that way.  It was a nice idea, but that experiment was an unmitigated disaster.  Sheldon Richardson is in the same boat; I think you let him walk and you accept the comp pick for 2019.  There’s no way he’s worth a huge extension at his age and at what will be his price.  Jeremy Lane only has $2.5 million in dead money, and was never meant to see 2018 in a Seahawks uniform anyway (unless it’s on a veteran minimum deal, but he would surely get more than that from another team).

Jon Ryan is currently set to have the 13th-highest cap number on the Seahawks next year, which is INSANE.  He’s not only been one of the least-effective punters in football, but $3.2 million?  Get the fuck right out.  It’s insane that we’ve been trying to pinch pennies all season, as far up against the salary cap as you can get, and we’ve got a punter making this much money.  Nice guy?  I don’t give a shit.  Good father?  Fuck you.  Go home and play with your kids.

Then, as sad as I am to say it, you’ve got guys like Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril, who might not play another down in the NFL.  And, if they do, they’ll definitely be at risk the next time they get hit to either go back on the IR or end up paralyzed.  No one wants to see that.  Cliff is set to make $8 million, but only has $500,000 in dead money, so I think that’s a no-brainer:  cut him.  Kam, on the other hand, is set to count $9.8 million against the cap, while having a dead money hit of $7.5 million.  Let’s get back to him.

Richard Sherman has 1 year left on his deal; he counts $13.2 million against the cap, with a dead money figure of only $2.2 million.  It feels like Seahawks fans are already shoving him out the door without giving much consideration to the fact that he’s impossible to replace.  Let’s also get back to him in a minute.

Earl Thomas, as well, has 1 year left on his deal; he counts $10.4 million against the cap, with a dead money figure of only $1.9 million.  If you cut both Sherm and Earl, that’s a TON of free money you get to play around with.  But, again, another guy who’s impossible to replace.

Duane Brown is back in 2018 at a figure just under $10 million, with no dead money since he was acquired in trade.  I don’t think it hurts you at all to keep him for another season, then make a decision on left tackle (groom George Fant to take his place in 2019 and beyond?).

Michael Bennett is an interesting case.  He’s under contract through the 2020 season, set to count only a little over $8 million against the cap, with only a little over $5 million in dead money.  You could argue that his 2018 season hasn’t been on par with his peak, and I would agree with you.  But, I don’t feel like he’s been totally useless.

K.J. Wright is another interesting case.  He’s only signed through 2018, and while his cap hit will be $8.2 million, his dead money is only $1 million.  He missed the Rams game due to a concussion, so a lot of people are lumping him in with the “aging defense” that needs to be purged, but he really hasn’t been all THAT injury-prone in his career.

My point, with guys like Kam (if he is medically cleared to play again), Richard (assuming he makes a full recovery of his Achilles, which I think will happen), Earl, Duane, Bennett, and Wright, is that you don’t necessarily NEED to dump all these salaries right away.  If you’re worried about extending Frank Clark, don’t be.  The Seahawks will have more than enough money to keep him here for the long haul.  If you’re worried about any of the other impending Seahawks free agents, I would ask why?  What have they done to garner such concern?  And, if you’re worried about having money to bring in other free agents, to bolster the O-Line or whatever, then I repeat:  don’t.  The Seahawks will have enough money coming off the books from the likes of Graham, Sheldon, Lacy, Joeckel, Walsh, Lane, Ryan, and any of the other turds on this team who don’t deserve to be back, that we should be fine to plug holes where needed.

But, I honestly don’t think we need to do a total rebuild.  Not THIS offseason, anyway.  I think, if you were to rid the Seahawks of every single big contract (outside of the aforementioned Russell, Bobby, Doug, and Britt), you only do that because you want to tank the 2018 season.  And, if you’re doing that, then you might as well go all the way, trade EVERYBODY (including Russell Wilson), stockpile a billion draft picks, and start all over with a new rookie QB in 2019 with the first overall draft pick.  But, I’ve never been much of a fan of the Cleveland Browns approach, and I don’t think you should be either.

I think the Seahawks should let it ride in 2018 (minus, of course, the obvious moves of letting go of Graham, Richardson, Lane, Ryan, Walsh, Lacy, Joeckel, Avril, and so on and so forth).  I absolutely don’t think the Seahawks should be thinking about throwing around any extensions to any of our aging vets, and I think we use 2018 as a testing ground.  If 2018 goes well, and the team improves, maybe we look on a case-by-case basis.  For instance, I don’t hate the idea of extending Earl or Richard, if they make it through 2018 unscathed, as long as their next deals give us some easy outs in the event of future injury (particularly Earl, as I could see him eventually acquiring this neck/stinger issue that Kam’s dealing with right now).

And, if 2018 goes to shit, then I think you’re in a MUCH better position to drop all the vets, blow the thing up, and head into 2019 with a cleaner slate to start over through the draft and whatnot.

This is also contingent, of course, on not blowing your wad with 2018 free agents.  Bringing in Sheldon Richardson in the first place – and giving away such a high draft pick – was only palatable because he was going to get us a huge compensatory draft pick in 2019.  If we fuck that up, by spending a ton of money on high-priced free agents, then what was the point?  Same goes for keeping Jimmy Graham around; he should get us at LEAST a 4th round comp pick, if not another 3rd.  I WANT those comp picks!

And, for the love of God, stop trading away our draft picks for players!  It should be the other way around, if anything!  It was fine for 2017, as we were clinging to hope that our championship window could be extended.  But, to double down on this terrible line of thinking would be a disaster.  Kicking the can down the road is exactly what the New Orleans Saints did for so long, and they ended up with a bunch of 8-8/7-9 seasons as their reward.  It wasn’t until they finally devoted themselves to rebuilding through the draft this past offseason when they were finally able to get back to division-winning football.

Let’s just … maintain.  No huge splashes in free agency, no giving away draft picks for veterans, no free agency money PERIOD on the running back position, let the big money free agents walk so we can get some comp picks, cut off some of the fat, but save the rest of the fat to deal with after 2018, at which point we’ll be better prepared to set this team up for 2019 and beyond.

The Seahawks Are Never Not Gonna Be Injured

Old teams have injury problems.  Not every old player gets injured, but the more old people you have on your team, the odds of a bunch of them getting injured skyrockets.  The Seahawks are old.  Oh sure, the back-end of the roster is super young, which brings down the average age of the team, but the stars on the Seahawks are all getting up there.  So, it’s time to stop thinking of 2016 and 2017 as fluke years, and start thinking of this as the norm.  We’re never going to keep this team fully healthy, and the sooner we realize that, the sooner we can think about turning over this roster for real.

Guys like Bradley McDougald, Michael Wilhoite, Terence Garvin, Byron Maxwell, and take your pick from our running back group, these are all Band Aids.  Fine for small cuts and scrapes, but useless when limbs start getting amputated.

Russell Wilson is great, one of the best players in the league, so you can never really count yourself out of any game.  But, he’s not good enough to overcome losses to Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, and Cliff Avril.  Yesterday was just another example of that.

That being said, I don’t know if I can put all of this loss on the injuries to Wagner and Wright.  Was it Wilhoite & Garvin’s fault that the D-Line accounted for 0 sacks and just 1 QB hit?  Was it Wilhoite & Garvin’s fault that Byron Maxwell kept getting beat by The Bort throwing deep down the sideline on him?  Now, it might’ve been their fault that Leonard Fournette was able to convert a 3rd & 11 when you needed a stop to get the ball back, but like usual, this loss was a total team effort.

It didn’t help anyone but my fantasy team (who has the Jags’ defense) that Russell Wilson kept throwing deep bombs into double coverage or really good single coverage for picks. It didn’t help that Jimmy Graham wasn’t able to catch a single ball.  It didn’t help that we saw more damaging play from Germain Ifedi with his penalties and his more penalties.  It didn’t help when Blair Walsh missed yet another make-able fucking field goal.  It didn’t help when the defense – as I mentioned before – laid a total fucking egg.

And yet, there we were, on the comeback trail, late in the second half.  Three plays and two touchdowns across two fourth quarter drives to pull to within 6 points.  Plenty of time on the clock, and more importantly, all the time outs at our disposal.  The defense got a stop!  And we had the ball, with a chance to take the lead.  Throw to Baldwin for 9 yards, out of bounds, and that’s as far as we got.

Didn’t help that the fucking refs missed an obvious fucking holding penalty, as the defender got beat and took Paul Richardson to the ground, but that’s the theme of the day, isn’t it?  The Seahawks didn’t get much help from anyone.  And that’s why they lost.

And then, at the end, when the Jags were in Victory Formation, out came the pissy-pants, with Michael Bennett, Sheldon Richardson, and Co. all acting like fucking assholes.  At this point, I don’t care if it was in retaliation to whatever harmful things the Jags were doing to you; there’s enough of a precedent with you acting like a bunch of Bitch Babies to automatically not take your side.  I don’t feel ashamed to be a Seahawks fan, but you absolutely should feel ashamed for the embarrassing display.  You probably don’t, and that’s okay too, and while I’ll continue to root you on in future games, I’m going to stop defending you and your juvenile actions.

So, yeah, the Seahawks lost.  They now sit 7th in the NFC, because the Falcons and Panthers both won.  At the start of the game, we were talking about possibly running the table and maybe sneaking into the 2-seed; now we’ll just take what we can get.  Fortunately, the Rams also lost, so next week’s game is going to have a lot to say as far as the NFC West is concerned.  I could see the Seahawks winning that game.  But, I could also see the Seahawks losing either of the next two, against the Cowboys or Cardinals, to fuck up their shot.

Except, this year, I don’t think a Wild Card spot will be our consolation.  I think the NFC West is going to have exactly one representative, and I think it’ll be the Rams.  Maybe it’s for the best.  All the better to get a jumpstart on the big rebuild.

The Seahawks Have A Huge Game Against The Eagles This Sunday Night

Sometimes, football makes no sense.  Sometimes, you can have all the facts and figures and stats and Vegas all screaming in your face that a certain team is going to win.  And sometimes that means something!  New England at home against the Miami Dolphins?  Of course, pick New England, they’re obviously going to win.  And yet, sometimes, your gut is just as good an arbiter of picking football games.

I do this weekly pick ’em contest with my friends where we just pick the winners of all the games (no spreads).  Last night, the Redskins were in Dallas to play the Cowboys, who had been on a 3-game losing streak and just looked GOD FUCKING AWFUL since Ezekiel Elliott was suspended, and some of their offensive linemen got banged up.  Dak Prescott looked totally lost and inept, the running game never got going, and the offense as a whole just looked slow and ordinary.

Whereas the Redskins, sure, they’re as injured as any team in the league, but they’ve been frisky in just about every game!  Hell, they came into Seattle at their MOST decimated and walked away victorious!  They played tough against the best the NFC has to offer – and their schedule has been brutal to boot – so you could say the Redskins are battle tested.

And even though the betting public (the rubes, as it were) loves nothing more than to slap their money down on America’s Team, this line swung heavily to Washington’s favor.  On paper, it seemed like a no brainer.  Even in my pick ’em league, it was heavily on Washington’s side.  And, truth be told, I should’ve been right there with ’em.

But, my gut said Dallas.  Against all rhyme or reason, my gut thought that MAYBE they’d finally figure out how to play without their star running back.  Never in my wildest dreams would I have predicted a 24-point Cowboys blowout, but the gut wants what the gut wants.

This Sunday Night, as noted in the title, the Seahawks host the Eagles.  It’s our final primetime game of the regular season, unless some games get moved around, which seems unlikely.  It’s also about as big a game as the Seahawks have played in quite some time.

The Seahawks are on a 2-game home losing streak, which sounds insane, but there it is.  The Eagles are 10-1 and in first place in the entire NFL; the Seahawks are 7-4 and in seventh place in the NFC.  Depending on where you look, the Eagles are 5-6 point favorites.  In Seattle.  Where the 12’s reside and the dead fish fly.

Some of the reasons why that’s the case include the fact that the Eagles are remarkably healthy up and down their roster; the Seahawks are missing countless starters and stars.  The Eagles have looked steady and dominant in their games; the Seahawks have looked inconsistent and sloppy.  Some will point out that the Eagles have a pretty weak schedule – at least as weak as Seattle’s – but is that true?

The Eagles’ only loss was against the Chiefs, when they were the best team in football for the first month of the season.  They beat the Redskins twice; the Seahawks lost to them at home.  The Eagles killed the 49ers; the Seahawks have struggled to beat them twice.  The Eagles destroyed the Cardinals; the Seahawks scratched and clawed to a close victory.  The Eagles also went on the road and beat the Panthers and Chargers, who are currently two of the hottest teams in the NFL.  What are Seattle’s impressive wins?  A game we almost blew to the Rams in the final seconds?  A shootout at home against the Texans when they still had Deshaun Watson and we still had the entire Legion of Boom?

I’m sorry, but anyone trying to put pen to paper words to website making the argument that these two teams are evenly matched – or CLOSE to evenly matched – is a homer of the highest order.

The Eagles are flat out better in every single phase of the game, period.

They have better, more consistent quarterback play; it doesn’t take Carson Wentz three quarters before he finally gets hot!  He’s hot from the starting gun!  (and I should know, he’s on my keeper league fantasy team).  They have a defense that generates better pressure and flies to the ball.  They’re better in yards allowed per game (6th vs. 8th), points allowed per game (3rd vs. 9th), and rushing yards per game (1st vs. 9th).  The only statistical category they trail the Seahawks is in passing yards per game (10th vs. 17th), but those numbers were largely built on having a healthy Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor.  And, don’t forget the Eagles’ rushing offense; third in the league in yards per attempt.  The Seahawks?  23rd.  And, I’m sure it’s dead last when you take quarterback scrambles out of the equation.

The Eagles are better and more disciplined.  So, why do I get the feeling that the Seahawks are going to win this?

I dunno.  My gut!  It’s the only rational excuse!

Oh sure, you can point to the Seahawks being at home, but I just told you how we’re on a 2-game losing streak at home!  You can point to the Seahawks’ record in night games, but they JUST lost on Monday Night Football to the Atlanta Falcons, and the Seahawks have the best all-time record on MNF!  You can point to how it seems like the Seahawks turn it up a notch when the calendar flips to December, but last year they were 2-2, the year before they were 3-1, and in their championship season of 2013 they were 3-2!  They don’t ALWAYS dominate the month of December, and besides that, even if they did, that has no bearing whatsoever on what’s going to happen THIS December.

So, what gives?  Honestly, I don’t know what to tell you.  I don’t know how to spin this in a way that makes it sound logical that the Seahawks should win on Sunday.  I will say that this is a team Russell Wilson SHOULD be able to pass the ball on.  They don’t get a ton of interceptions, and while the pressure should be there, they don’t get home as much as you’d think (especially when you factor in how the Eagles are constantly ahead in the fourth quarter, with opposing teams passing to try to catch up; shouldn’t they be higher than 18th in sacks?).  Also, we’re going into this game with the best offensive line formation we’ve had in YEARS.  Duane Brown-Luke Joeckel-Justin Britt-Ethan Pocic-Germain Ifedi.  We just got through a whole entire game without Wilson taking a sack.  Granted, it was the 49ers, but still.  It feels like the offense has a nice little rhythm, with Wilson leading the charge.  There’s also the chance that Mike Davis comes back.  If that’s the case, you could make an argument that the running game could be slightly improved.

Defensively, Bobby Wagner is playing like a DPOY.  The D-Line should be pumped up for this one.  And, I just wonder if this is an offense that our defense could handle.  Wentz strikes not just me as a Ben Roethlisberger type; someone always looking for the deep shot down field.  He’s not a Philip Rivers type, I’ll tell you that!  Philip Rivers is our G.D. kryptonite.  I just don’t know if Wentz has the patience and awareness to dink and dunk his way down field.

The key is going to be how well we cover their guys.  Zach Ertz is one of the best tight ends in the league, and I could see him torching us if we consistently leave K.J. Wright on him.  Alshon Jeffery is past his prime, but he has made his share of plays this year; I could easily see him jumping over Jeremy Lane for a big gainer up the sideline.  They also have a nice collection of running backs who could conceivably carve us up, but I’m less concerned about that.  I really need to see our secondary do its job and allow the front seven a chance to get to Wentz.

My gut also tells me that I need Wentz to have a good game so I can win my fantasy matchup this week and play my way into the better playoff bracket, so OF COURSE the Seahawks are going to eat him alive to the tune of 3 picks and a fumble.  But, that’s neither here nor there.

At this point, I’m even questioning my gut, because it sounds like a lot of other peoples’ guts are telling them something similar.  There’s something in the air, and it’s giving a lot of hunches to a lot of prognosticators out there to make the Seahawks their “upset special”.  When I hear things like that, I start to think about going the other way.  It’s like my gut’s gut is telling me to abandon this line of thinking!

Because I know this Seahawks team!  They have tons of penalties at the worst possible times!  On defense, these penalties prolong drives, turning punts into touchdowns.  On offense, we’re consistently behind the sticks!  Promising drives turning into drivel.  Then, there’s First Quarter Russ, who is consistently off-target and now throws mind-boggling interceptions into good coverage?

To win this game comfortably, the Seahawks will need to play a near-flawless game.  They’ll need to score more touchdowns than field goals, and they’ll need to score these touchdowns starting in the FIRST quarter!  Now, like I said, I know this team, so I know the likelihood of that happening is pretty remote.  It happened against Denver in the Super Bowl, and maybe 2-3 other times in this Pete Carroll run.

What’s MORE likely is that the Seahawks will fall behind early, scramble to catch up, and if they’re going to win, they’re going to have to do it with some late-game heroics.  That’s CERTAINLY more likely to happen than the Seahawks being good from the jump and enjoying a comfortable victory.  But, is it more likely than the Seahawks finding a way to lose it late?  Or, worse, getting blown out at home by the consensus Best Team In Football?

I don’t think it is.

I’ve been waffling back and forth on this one all week (indeed, even since the start of this post!), and I might continue waffling on it up until gametime, but right now, I gotta say I see an Eagles victory.

NO WAIT!  Seahawks.

NO … no, hold on.  Let me think about it some more.

Shit.