Seahawks/Cowboys Preseason Game 3 Takeaways

Well, it wasn’t quite the first-team drubbing I was expecting, but Russell Wilson & Co. put up 20 points in two and a half quarters en route to a 27-17 victory!

This was as Seahawky as a game gets, right on down to the slow start offensively!  You tend to expect a few things out of a Seahawks game.  The offense will be shaky early, with penalties and missed throws, then they ramp it up the closer it comes to the end of the game.  Well, for the #1’s, the end of the game was midway through the third quarter, so it’s not surprising in the least that they scored on 4 of their final 5 possessions.  Wilson finished with a couple awesome touchdowns – one on a deep crosser to Richardson, one on a scramble play to Lockett – and the defense firmed up after allowing the Cowboys to score the game’s first touchdown.

We knew going into the game that the Cowboys had one advantage:  offensive line.  It didn’t stop the Seahawks from knocking Tony Romo out of the game on the third play, on a vicious-yet-clean hit by Avril that dinged up his lower back.  But, with their backup in, they were able to protect well for the most part and establish a solid running game with their rookie phenom, Ezekiel Elliott.  As such, it’s difficult to pick apart the pass rush too much – they worked hard for everything they managed to get – but it doesn’t look like this team will be led by its front four this year.

Even though rookie Dak Prescott had solid numbers in relief of Romo, I didn’t see much in the way of breakdowns in the secondary.  He just had so much time to throw!  What may have been more surprising is that Russell Wilson did too.  Our offensive line is LEAPS AND BOUNDS better than it was this time a year ago!  Holy cow, were they good last night!  I’m not sure the Cowboys have much in the way of a pass rush themselves, but it wouldn’t have mattered with last year’s line.  Wilson had a grip of time to throw the ball last night, and it showed in how our offense performed once they cleaned up the penalties.

All in all, not much to hate on about last night’s game.  Also, not a ton of individual standout performances.  I saw a couple of effective corner blitzes, which isn’t something you see a lot of out of this defense.  No picks, but we were able to force a fumble with our backups.  The Seahawks still might be the deepest team in the NFL.  Get ready for the league to poach a bunch of our guys when it comes time to cut the team down to 53.

Kelcie McCray had an awesome game.  He might be the best third safety in the league right now!

Wilson crushed it, and Boykin had a nifty 16-yard touchdown run to conclude our scoring.

Christine Michael continued to show how difficult it’s going to be to NOT have this be a running back platoon.  If Thomas Rawls isn’t 100%, I wouldn’t be shocked if Michael takes the bulk of the reps in the regular season.

The top 4 receivers all made an impact (though, I’m catching just the SLIGHTEST whiff of Wilson trying to force it into Baldwin’s hands at times, when the play doesn’t necessarily call for it; that’ll be something to watch going forward).  No one really made a play on that 5th receiver job, though.  Next week will be HUGE for Lawler, Antwan Goodley, Kasen Williams, Kevin Smith, and the rest.

Defensively, I also liked Bobby Wagner’s game.  And Quinton Jefferson made some nice plays up the middle.  Too bad about Jarran Reed’s toe injury keeping him out.  Get well soon!

Next week, it’s all about the kids.  Time to fill out he back of this roster and get to work!  Everyone made it through Game 3 healthy, which is the biggest victory of all.

Steven A. Taylor’s Long Snapper Corner

I saw another low snap on a punt, but Jon Ryan parlayed that into a 65 yarder, so maybe those low snaps aren’t all bad?  Still, it wouldn’t shock me in the least if Gresham returned.

Another Pointless Mid-Pre-Season Seahawks Roster Prediction

I’m not immune!  I rail against these things (particularly the regularity with which they’re produced) and laugh at people who take them too seriously.  That having been said, it’s Monday.  We’ve seen two pre-season games so far, and I don’t know any more than anyone else covering this team.  But, that also means I really don’t know that much less than anyone else, particularly when it comes to predicting the season-opening 53-man roster.

These things are, like, 85% duh, with another 13% educated guesses, and 2% batshit insanity so you can look back in a couple weeks and say, “See, I was crazy, but I was right!”  Or, with a laugh, go, “Hoo boy, what was I thinking, right folks?”  Sad!  Fun!  Sad!

Without further ado, feel free to pick it apart:

QB (2)

Russell Wilson
Trevone Boykin

Put this in the ol’ Duh category.  I think the ship has sailed on Tarvaris Jackson.  I mean, if we cut Clint Gresham to save a few sheckles at long snapper, there’s no reason to expect this team to shell out a million bucks just to have Tarvar calling the coin toss for us in overtime games.  They’ve given Boykin every opportunity to win the job, and so far he hasn’t really disappointed.  You don’t want him starting for you anytime this year (or next, or ever, really), and he doesn’t look like he could win you any games if you needed him in an emergency basis.  But, he’s the kind of guy who could grow into the role, learn behind Wilson, and build value over the next 3-4 years.  Plus, if Wilson ever was severely injured, guess what?  Nobody’s signing Tarvaris Jackson anytime soon, so you could very well see him back with the club if it came to that!  Win-win, everyone!

RB (5)

Thomas Rawls
Christine Michael
C.J. Prosise
Alex Collins
Will Tukuafu

I am … not confident at all in this grouping.  Prosise has yet to do much of anything since we drafted him; I keep getting an IR vibe off of him.  Collins has looked pretty bad in the first pre-season games, but I’m hard pressed to judge the kid based off of running with the reserve O-Linemen.  Tukuafu was just re-signed, so that seems like a no-brainer.  He knows the system and they obviously like what he brings to the table.  On my cut list, that ices out Brooks & Pope.  It’s a numbers game at this point, and I think one of these guys makes it on the practice squad.  With a VERY outside chance of Pope weaseling his way onto the roster outright, if he keeps looking amazing, and the team doesn’t want to risk losing him to another team.

TE (4)

Jimmy Graham
Luke Willson
Nick Vannett
Brandon Williams

Pretty easy, this one.  I guess you could consider me buying into all the Brandon Williams hype, as the best blocking tight end on the team.  His spot gets cemented even further the longer Graham sits out of practice.  And, this ankle sprain from Vannett is another nail in the coffin … of Williams’ continued good fortune!  Were the top three guys fully healthy, I could easily see the team only keeping three tight ends, but with each guy bringing something different to the table, I like going with the four.  For now.

WR (5)

Doug Baldwin
Jermaine Kearse
Tyler Lockett
Paul Richardson
Kenny Lawler

Here’s where I’m going to stick one of my batshit insane picks.  Receivers 1-4 are obvious no-brainers.  But, I get a sense everyone is jumping off of the Lawler bandwagon.  I see what you all see:  a VERY skinny kid who looks like he’s about to snap into a million pieces with the next stiff breeze that crosses his path.  But, he’s looked pretty resilient so far in the first couple games.  He definitely looks like one of those receivers who’s ahead of the game, compared to where he’s at in his career (rookie 7th rounder).  If he plays smart, avoids excessive contact, and stays healthy, I think he has as good a shot as anyone of making that 5th WR spot.  I also think that if he’s released, he won’t make it onto the practice squad; I bet some other team snaps him up in a heartbeat.  Kevin Smith is doing himself no favors by being injured all this time.  Kasen Williams has been out with injury for a while too (and already has experience being passed through to the practice squad).  4th quarter hero Tanner McEvoy is someone you’d think would be in the mix, but I don’t think he’s all that refined in his route running.  I do think teams are looking at him, but I also think he’s a year or two away from making any sort of impact at the NFL level.

OL (9)

Bradley Sowell
Mark Glowinski
Justin Britt
Germain Ifedi
Garry Gilliam
J’Marcus Webb
Joey Hunt
Rees Odhiambo
Will Pericak

The surprises here land in who gets left out.  No Patrick Lewis:  I think the team feels he’ll be available if/when they need him; and I think Hunt has the higher upside (with being more likely to be picked up by another team, and thus not on our practice squad).  Also, no Jahri Evans:  I think he came a little too late to the party, and I think the team likes the guards it has.  That having been said, not all the veterans are set for dispatch.  I think Sowell and Webb both stick, as this team is pretty thin at Tackle and needs all the quality depth it can get (I also think the younger tackles just aren’t ready yet, and have a higher likelihood of making the practice squad since they suck so bad).  I think Odhiambo will prove he’s able to play multiple spots on the line, as a rookie, which gives him HUGE value.  And, I think Pericak is one of those developmental guys the team keeps on the 53-man roster all year, but never plays.  Seems like there’s always one – too valuable to sneak onto the practice squad, but not quite ready to even be a 2nd stringer just yet – and this year, my money is on Pericak (just don’t ask me to pronounce his name … W-ill?).

That puts us at an even 25 for the offense, which is about what you should expect.  Save a wide receiver spot by having Graham (who is already a quasi-receiver), and hope at least one of those young running backs makes it onto the practice squad.

DE (4)

Michael Bennett
Cliff Avril
Frank Clark
Cassius Marsh

This part is tough sledding, because 3/4 of these guys play multiple spots (Bennett as end & tackle; Clark as end, tackle, and linebacker; Marsh as end & linebacker), but I’m going to put them here and call them “primary pass rushers”, and if you don’t like it, tough titty.

DT (4)

Jarran Reed
Ahtyba Rubin
Quinton Jefferson
Tony McDaniel

Reed and Rubin are both locks, barring injury.  Jefferson sure looks like a guy who can fit into our rotation right away.  Which leaves newly-signed McDaniel, who looks as good as ever, providing that veteran leadership.  If I’m off-base anywhere in this list, the number one spot is probably leaving off Jordan Hill.  As you’ll see, I ended up keeping 6 linebackers, which is probably a mistake.  But, I haven’t seen anything from Hill this pre-season, or at any point last year for that matter, that would justify he HAS to be a guy this team keeps.  I think Jefferson takes over his role, and he’s left either stashed on the IR-to-return list, or he’s just cut and replaced.

LB (6)

Bobby Wagner
K.J. Wright
Mike Morgan
Kevin Pierre-Lewis
Brock Coyle
Eric Pinkins

Again, if I’m off-base, it’s here.  Pinkins feels like a stretch.  I think it’s going to take a monster final couple of games for him to win a spot, but I also think he has it in him.  He provides value on special teams and as a backup to Mike Morgan.  It just feels like it’s time to give him a shot and see what he can do in certain situations.

CB (6)

Richard Sherman
Jeremy Lane
DeShawn Shead
Tharold Simon
Marcus Burley
Tye Smith

If there’s anyone I’m not sold on, it’s Tye Smith.  Now, maybe we haven’t seen his name called much in the pre-season because he’s being quietly effective in pass coverage.  All I know is, he hasn’t stood out like you’d expect a young member of the L.O.B. to do.  Who HAS stood out is Marcus Burley.  He looked as good as I’ve ever seen him last week!  I know, I might be making too much out of a 2nd pre-season game, but he’s been with us a long time, he knows the system, and he’s probably the second-best nickel corner on the team (if we just keep Sherm on the outside and don’t have him following around the other team’s best receiver).

S (5)

Earl Thomas
Kam Chancellor
Kelcie McCray
Brandon Browner
Tyvis Powell

Is 11 DBs too many?  Feels like it’s too many.  Feels like I’m short 1 DE and 1 DT.  Anyway, Kam, Earl, and McCray are all locks.  I’m hopeful Browner makes the team, but could easily see the Seahawks walking away if it comes to a numbers game (injuries at other positions might dictate we need to keep extra resources elsewhere).  Powell has been the hotshot of camp and pre-season so far; I think the team figures out a way to keep him.  Since both he and Browner can play CB, maybe the team skimps there?  Or, maybe it comes down to Browner vs. Powell, at which point I bet the team goes younger and cheaper.  We’ll see.

That puts us at 25 defenders.  Again, I’m not married to this, but it’s just my feeling for today.  Obviously, a lot is going to change.  Up to and including:

Special Teams (3)

Steven Hauschka
Jon Ryan
Clint Gresham

You’re damn right!  I think Nolan Frese’s days are numbered!  I think the flaws in his young career become too many to overcome in these last couple pre-season games, when the pressure is increased.  I think the Seahawks figure out a way to find the money to pay a pro like Gresh, and I think we move on from this nightmare once and for all.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Seattle Seahawks 2016 Draft Spectacular!

I watched all of the first round, while in my apartment, reading from Twitter, and sending out the occasional text.  I had the draft on in the background for rounds two & three as I visited with my dad and brother, occasionally muting the commercials so I could listen to the local coverage on KJR AM, until I ultimately lost interest as we started drinking and playing Yahtzee.  I missed most of the last four rounds entirely, as I was helping friends move some stuff, then ate lunch at The Eleven Eleven in Tacoma, before catching the tail end of the draft.  It was a fun-filled weekend of sun and laughs that I shall cherish for always.

The Seattle Seahawks picked up some new guys in the process.  These are those guys:

  • First Round (31st overall) – Germain Ifedi, RT
  • Second Round (49th overall) – Jarran Reed, DT
  • Third Round (90th overall) – C.J. Prosise, RB
  • Third Round (94th overall) – Nick Vannett, TE
  • Third Round (97th overall) – Rees Odhiambo, G
  • Fifth Round (147th overall) – Quinton Jefferson, DT
  • Fifth Round (171st overall) – Alex Collins, RB
  • Sixth Round (215th overall) – Joey Hunt, C
  • Seventh Round (243rd overall) – Kenny Lawler, WR
  • Seventh Round (247th overall) – Zac Brooks, RB

Some potentially interesting undrafted guys include:

  • Steve Longa, LB
  • Tre Madden, RB
  • Trevone Boykin, QB
  • Tyvis Powell, S
  • Vernon Adams, QB (tryout basis)

I dunno, there could be other interesting guys, but that’s what I’ve gleaned from Twitter and various websites.  Anyone who I didn’t list is either an oversight, or is merely camp fodder.

Among the guys I like to produce for the Seahawks right away include Ifedi (who I talked about last week as a guy who should most certainly win a spot somewhere on the offensive line), Reed (who projects to be Brandon Mebane’s replacement), Prosise (who looks to have the inside track for that 3rd down running back job), and Vannett (who looks to be pushing Cooper Helfet out of Seattle, barring injury somewhere else).  Since we’re looking at those four players as having the best chance to make the team better, let’s talk about them first (as I just mentioned, you can read about Ifedi in the link above).

Jarran Reed was noted to be the best run-stuffing tackle in the draft.  One of 25 players invited to sit in at the draft live, he was the 25th of those man taken as he slid into the middle of the second round.  The Seahawks talked about him as being among the guys they considered in the first round at pick #31, so it’s certainly awesome to see the Seahawks technically got two first round-graded players.  When you think about why a player this good might have slipped into the second round, I think you can look no further than how the NFL has devalued the running game.  Running backs aren’t being given the huge contracts they once were, they’re not being taken as high as they once were (even though the Cowboys went rogue and took one with the 4th overall pick), and more and more often you’re seeing rookies step right in and produce, for pennies on the dollar.  A byproduct of this line of thinking is that stopping the run has also become devalued.  Most offenses don’t feature the run like we do.  As such, most teams don’t feel the need to put a large amount of resources into stopping the run, when there are bigger fish to fry in the secondary and in the pass rush.  The Seahawks, by their nature, feature an elite secondary and a pretty great pass rush.  Other teams know that and might think they could run on us as a result, but that’s why – unlike most teams – the Seahawks don’t neglect stopping the run.  They coach it, and they put resources into it.  Up until this year, they’ve had Brandon Mebane under contract and filling that void.  With Mebane off to sunny San Diego, the Seahawks had another void to fill, and Reed figures to be it.  That’s no knock to Sealver Siliga – he’ll definitely be great to have around as depth, and as a veteran presence, not to mention any goalline packages against jumbo offensive sets – but he’s on a 1-year deal.  Reed is our nose tackle of the future, and we got him at a second round discount.

I know it’s not sexy, I know he probably won’t make any Pro Bowls (because, again, the elite run stuffers never get the attention they deserve; it’s all about sacks at the defensive tackle position that make them stand out), but Reed is a starter, plain and simple.  The Seahawks just drafted a quality 4-year starter who should help us maintain our dominance in stopping the run defensively.

You want to know what IS sexy?  Running backs!  Running backs are sexy as hell!  C.J. Prosise is a DB that was converted to a linebacker for a short period that was converted to a wide receiver that was THEN converted to a running back.  The kid’s got hands, he can run the entire route tree, but he’s also big enough (6′, 220 lbs), that he could theoretically run up inside and one day possibly be an every-down back for this team.  I don’t know if I want to project all of that upon him right now, but I LOVE his third down potential for this team.  I love thinking about the 1-back shotgun sets we like to run (zone read, play action, and so on), and I love thinking about the no-back/5-wides shotgun sets we like to run.  Normally, I HATE it when we go empty backfield, because I have these visions of Russell Wilson being chased around by bad men out to harm him.  And, while Marshawn Lynch had pretty good hands for a running back, he was never someone I was 100% confident in (but, maybe that’s more on me than a reflection of his abilities), but either way, he’s gone now, and there’s a void to fill there too.  When you look at someone like Thomas Rawls, you see a guy who really struggled in the pass-catching part of the game, which is pretty huge.  Wilson’s not a guy who likes to check the ball down to the running back often, but when he does it’s either because he has no other choice and he’s about to be flattened, or it’s because he sees potential for the running back to get a lot of yards, with a ton of green field around him.  So, losing those modest and potentially huge gains because the running back has stone hands is something that may ultimately hurt Rawls in the long run, and lead to an opening for Prosise to take over the job on an every-down basis.

Right now, the only thing standing in Prosise’s way is his ability to hold up in pass protection.  Regardless of how talented, or athletic, or fast you are; you could have game-breaking ability and be seen as The Next Fill-in-the-Blank-Superstar, but if you can’t pick up the blitz, you’re not even going to SNIFF the field.  Don’t believe me?  Ask Christine Michael how his professional career has gone so far, after being a highly-coveted second round pick and potential Marshawn Lynch replacement.  If Prosise has that in him, or at least the want-to to learn how to do it, then he’s light years ahead already.

Nick Vannett is a guy I find REALLY interesting.  Depth at the tight end position has been seriously lacking since Pete Carroll and John Schneider took over.  Usually, we have one good one, and then a huge drop-off.  Zach Miller was the guy initially, and he was great when he was healthy.  He helped out tremendously when this offensive line was in its infancy, as an extra blocker to try to reduce some of the pressure on the quarterback.  He also did just enough in the passing game to keep defenses honest, as his soft hands made up for his inability to really run away from defenders down the seam.  The Seahawks went and drafted Luke Willson in 2013, but he was always more of a project.  The speed was there, and his height made him a nice little weapon in the passing game, but he’s never been known for his blocking ability.  Make no mistake, he’s made great strides in that area, as he’s been a hard worker for the Seahawks.  But, he is and always will be more known for his offense.  Plus, let’s be honest, he’s really more of a nice #2 option, which is why the Seahawks went out and got Jimmy Graham.  But, again, you’re talking about more of a wide receiver than a tight end.  No matter what he says, no matter how hard he tries, he’s never going to be a good blocker.  It doesn’t mean he doesn’t have value, but there are going to be times where he’s in there, and the Seahawks run the ball, and they don’t get anything out of it because Graham messed up on his assignment.  That’s just the way it’s going to be.

Now, though, we’ve got this Vannett guy, who right away comes with visions of Zach Miller.  Not in that he’s just a “blocking tight end”, but that he’s an “all-around tight end”.  Something this team has been lacking since Miller’s injuries finally forced him out of the league.  And, not for nothing, but Vannett’s confidence in interviews makes me think he’s got just the type of personality that’s going to thrive on a team of alpha dogs.  He’s 6’6, so there’s the height you look for; it doesn’t sound like he has great speed, so he’s not going to be a guy who burns it up the seams either.  But, by some accounts, he has some of the best pass-catching hands in the draft, which leads me to believe this guy is going to be super reliable and a secret weapon.  I mean, think about it, on a team with the wide receivers we’ve got, with Jimmy Graham, and with Luke Willson both as more like tall wide receivers than tight ends, someone like Nick Vannett isn’t going to attract the team’s best defender.  He’s going to get some slow linebacker or maybe even a defensive end on him, which means you should just throw to an area and be able to hit Vannett for a nice gain.  He’ll never be this team’s number 1 option or anything, but with other guys potentially covered, I like the potential this guy has to be a nice outlet for Wilson.  Plus, he should figure to be a quality option in the red zone too (assuming the team uses him properly, which is always a questionmark).

***

That brings us to the project half of the draft.  Guys who are interesting, but whose spots on this team are by no means guaranteed.

Let’s keep going down the line with Rees Odhiambo, a guy whose name I’m going to need to look up to remember how to spell for the first couple years at least.  He was a starting left tackle in college, but his frame suggests he’s going to be a guard in the NFL.  Which, when you think about it, most guards in the NFL are converted tackles anyway, who were only playing on the outside in college because that’s where teams put their best linemen.  With the shorter arms, and less athletic ability, you get bumped inside.  Odhiambo does have good size, though (6’4, 314 lbs), which suggests he may one day compete for the left guard spot (where Cable likes his bigger guards, compared to on the right side, where he likes them lighter and more athletic).  Considering Odhiambo was taken at the end of the third round (probably projected as more of a fourth or early fifth rounder, except the Seahawks had traded away their fourth rounder to move up in the second round), you figure he’s going to need a year to develop.  Depending on his skill-level right now, that either means the team stashes him on the practice squad (if he’s more raw in his skills) or is forced to carry him on the 53-man roster, and make him inactive every week (if he projects to be a future starter; see:  Mark Glowinski last year).

When you figure the Seahawks needed to upgrade along the offensive line, and needed to boost the level of competition among our reserves (with Alvin Bailey moving on), grabbing Ifedi and now Odhiambo gives us a couple of up-and-coming young players who may one day share jobs on the same O-Line.  Odhiambo, with his experience as a left tackle, should be more technically sound in the pass protection game, but we’ll see how he does in camp before we pass any judgment (good or bad) his way.

Let me go ahead and skip over a few guys, as I keep with the offensive line theme.  In the sixth round, the Seahawks took Joey Hunt, a center out of TCU.  As you may know, I (along with most everyone else) really wanted to see Ryan Kelly fall to the Seahawks.  Instead, the Colts took him with the 18th pick, to pair him with Andrew Luck for the next decade; can’t say I blame them.  Seeing a center go that high is beyond rare; you’ve got to be a special, once-in-a-generation type of talent (which is pretty sad, since he’s the Andrew Luck of centers, and he only went as high as 18th in the draft).  With three picks in the third round, you figured the Seahawks would grab one of the better ones there, but there was a little mini-run on centers earlier in the third round, so the position never really felt appropriate for the Seahawks to pick until the sixth.

Hunt was a guy in college who was an elite pass protector, which is something this team desperately needs in the middle.  If, indeed, we’re going with the types of guards Tom Cable likes to employ, they’re more maulers than they are protectors.  The Seattle Seahawks like to run the ball a lot, often to the detriment of the passing game, when it comes to the offensive line.  If we could manage to sneak just ONE elite pass protector in there, in a guy like Hunt, I think it would help out a great deal.  Now, he’s a bit under-sized, at anywhere from 295-299 lbs, which means there’s a chance he could get bullied in the running game.  But, when you look at centers, oftentimes they’re there to help double team with one of the guards.  As such, I don’t know if you expect a lot of 1 on 1 blocking out of your center.  What you NEED is a guy who is smart, who can call out the protections and assignments, and keep everything and everyone around him running smoothly (with the occasional burst up field to knock out linebackers at the second level).  I think Hunt can very much be that guy.  He may need some seasoning.  He may need a year to bulk up a little bit, to ensure he’s ready for the rigors of playing 16 games plus playoffs.  Which is why we have Patrick Lewis on board for one more year.  Let Lewis run the show in 2016, with an eye towards Hunt in 2017 and beyond.  Could be a GREAT value pick for the Seahawks if it pans out the way I’ve decided it should.

On the other side of the ball, the Seahawks took a second defensive tackle, this one with more of an eye towards rushing the passer.  Quinton Jefferson, whom the Seahawks traded up in the fifth round to get (giving up a 4th rounder in the 2017 draft in the process, but we should be getting a compensatory pick there, so it’s not all bad).  With Jordan Hill going into the final year of his rookie deal, you may be looking at his replacement right here.  Probably unreasonable to expect much out of him as a rookie, you nevertheless like the potential for him to slide into that rotation in pass rushing downs.  There’s going to be a significant numbers game going on with the D-Line this year, though, so we’ll see if he makes the cut.  Considering the Seahawks did trade up to get him, you think they’ll do everything they can to ensure he sticks with the team through the year.

Towards the end of the draft, the Seahawks picked up Kenny Lawler, a 6’2 wide receiver out of Cal, to throw onto the pile.  That gives us 12 officially on the roster, with, I’m sure, another few coming via tryouts and whatnot.  This is a stacked position, with Baldwin, Kearse, Lockett, and Richardson all figuring to be locks to make the team.  Then, you’ve got experienced guys in Kevin Smith and Kasen Williams back in the fold, and other guys from our ghost roster who are familiar with the system and our training camps.  By all accounts, Lawler has great hands, and is superb in the endzone, but he’s a seventh round pick for a reason.  He’s probably not all that fast, and in the NFL, he’s going to have to make his mark by winning the 50/50 balls.  Not dropping anything in sight is a great way to get your name remembered, but making highlight reel catches in practice will get you on the team in some capacity.  If he doesn’t have that in him, he might be practice squad fodder, or among the legion in our ghost roster, at the ready when the team needs someone off the streets.

I saved the other running backs for last, because I find it so fascinating that the team went with the Ball So Hard route at this position.  With Marshawn Lynch retired, the team has a serious void, and is apparently not fucking around.  Thomas Rawls returns, and has the inside track on the starting position, but he’s also returning from a serious injury, and the team doesn’t want to be left holding its collective dick if he has a relapse, or is otherwise not ready for the regular season.  Christine Michael is back on a 1-year deal, but that’s by no means guaranteed.  You figure he’s going to need to REALLY explode in camp if he’s going to stick around.  I think, more than anything, the team has put him on notice with the three draft picks it’s used, not to mention the undrafted guy from USC who’s coming in.

Alex Collins, the fifth rounder, looks to be a bigger, bruising type of back.  He shouldn’t be a threat to Prosise for the third down job whatsoever, but could theoretically knock Michael out of the game.  Zac Brooks, on the other hand, is a smaller guy, who should come in to compete for the scat-back type of role.  Given the resources the team has devoted to the position, I think it’s safe to say they didn’t draft all of these guys with the intention of keeping each and every one of them.  With Rawls pretty much guaranteed a spot, I suppose you could theoretically keep four non-fullback type running backs (if, indeed, the team cuts Michael as we head into the regular season), but I don’t know if I believe that’s a given.  I think it’s entirely possible that Michael beats out one of these two late round backs to be that third or fourth back (with Rawls the projected starter, and Prosise the projected #2).  Whoever proves to be more essential to special teams (either Collins or Brooks) could make that the tie-breaker in who wins a spot on the 53-man roster.  In that sense, I wonder if Alex Collins is the next Spencer Ware (i.e. squeezed out in a numbers game, doing it for the Kansas City Chiefs in a couple years).

All in all, this is a draft I really like for the Seahawks.  Could be the best one we’ve seen since 2012.  I see lots of starting and reserve potential for most of these guys.  I could also see some of these guys getting cut and immediately snapped up by other teams around the league.  Who knows?  In five years, I might be writing about how this is another one of those drafts where most of the guys got paid big money in their second contracts.  I can see the compensatory picks from here!

Knowing What We Know Now: Who Should The Seahawks Draft?

In the days following the end of the Seahawks’ season, a lot of bloggers like myself took to their keyboards to concoct plans for what the Seahawks should do this offseason.  I was no different, and I think it’s fun to go back and look at how things in real life differed from my Seahawks Vision Board (for the TL;DR crowd:  scroll to the very bottom for my concise list).

Part of what made my list so impractical is that I really didn’t have a handle on how much cap room the Seahawks really had.  Nor could I have seen how much money some guys – like Irvin and Sweezy – would end up commanding on the open market.  But, let’s quickly go one by one down the list to see how my vision differs from reality:

  1. The Seahawks did, in fact, let Okung go and move Gilliam to LT – CHECK!
  2. Couldn’t bring back Sweezy, cost too much (probably for the best anyway)
  3. Instead of “stud free agent guard”, the Seahawks went for a so-so guard and opted to move him to right tackle (Webb)
  4. (draft stud left guard in 1st round – draft hasn’t happened yet, but might be unlikely to see a stud fall to 26th overall)
  5. Seahawks brought back Lewis at center – CHECK! – and may indeed draft one as well
  6. Seahawks seem set at leaving Britt at left guard, and have already named Webb the starting right tackle, so this prediction looks like a bust
  7. Lynch retired, Rawls looks good to be the team’s #1, team re-signed Michael to be the #2, and still could draft a third down back late – ALMOST CHECK!
  8. Have yet to extend Baldwin, but still have time to do so
  9. Re-signed Kearse to 3-year, $13.5 million – CHECK!
  10. Kept Rubin, let Mebane go, replaced Mebane with cheap FA option (Siliga), and still could draft another – ALMOST CHECK!
  11. Seahawks didn’t re-sign Irvin (too expensive), looking to spread savings elsewhere – EITHER WAY I COULDN’T LOSE THIS CHECK!
  12. Re-signed Lane to 4-year, $23 million – CHECK!  (even better because I projected more money in my prediction)

So, I’m well on my way to getting 7 of these things right, with potential to get to 9 by the time the draft passes and we get closer to Training Camp.

Anyway, we’ve got a good idea of what most of the roster looks like right now.  In all likelihood, the Seahawks already have at least 39 of 53 players on their roster right now, and possibly as many as 49 of 53, depending on how the pre-season shakes out.  Let me run a quick list of my thoughts on the roster right now.  Guys listed I feel are locks, guys in parentheses () are potential roster guys, and if he’s not on the list, he’s a longshot in my eyes:

  • Russell Wilson – QB
  • Thomas Rawls – RB
  • Christine Michael – RB
  • Doug Baldwin – WR
  • Jermaine Kearse – WR
  • Tyler Lockett – WR
  • Paul Richardson – WR
  • (Kevin Smith – WR)
  • (Kasen Williams – WR)
  • Jimmy Graham – TE
  • Luke Willson – TE
  • (Cooper Helfet – TE)
  • Garry Gilliam – LT
  • Justin Britt – LG
  • Patrick Lewis – C
  • Mark Glowinski – RG
  • J’Marcus Webb – RT
  • (Kristjan Sokoli – C)
  • (Drew Nowak – C)
  • (Terry Poole – T)
  • (Bradley Sowell – T)

I ranked these guys in order (by position), so I think it’s more likely Kevin Smith makes it over Kasen Williams, but neither is a sure thing.  I think Helfet is here for insurance, but it wouldn’t shock me for the team to draft another tight end, or sign a guy off the free agent scrap heap who’s a quality blocker.  I think the team likely keeps one of Sokoli/Nowak and one of Poole/Sowell, depending on who looks best in the pre-season.  Anyway, that’s the offense.  I think we have a minimum of 16 offensive players already under contract, with the potential (though unlikely) of up to 21 players.  The Seahawks will need around 24-25 offensive players by the time the regular season starts.

  • Cliff Avril – DE
  • Michael Bennett – DE
  • Frank Clark – DE
  • Cassius Marsh – DE
  • (Chris Clemons – DE)
  • Ahtyba Rubin – DT
  • Sealver Siliga – DT
  • Jordan Hill – DT
  • (A.J. Francis – DT)
  • Bobby Wagner – LB
  • K.J. Wright – LB
  • Mike Morgan – LB
  • Brock Coyle – LB
  • Kevin Pierre-Lewis – LB
  • (Eric Pinkins – LB)
  • Richard Sherman – CB
  • Jeremy Lane – CB
  • DeShawn Shead – CB
  • Tharold Simon – CB
  • (Tye Smith – CB)
  • (Marcus Burley – CB)
  • Earl Thomas – S
  • Kam Chancellor – S
  • Kelcie McCray – S
  • Steven Terrell – S

As we learned recently, there’s relatively little guaranteed money in the Clemons signing, which means he’s going to have to earn his spot in the pre-season.  As the team is likely to draft a defensive end relatively high, it could be a tough roster spot to win.  I think the team likes Francis a lot, so his spot largely comes down to how high another defensive tackle is drafted, and how well that player performs.  Pinkins has always been a bubble guy, but he’s stuck around for the most part.  Smith and Burley might have a lot to prove, as I feel like the team will be in the market for another tall, outside corner, meaning there might not be many nickel corner spots to go around.  I have it as at least 20 defensive players already on the roster, with potential for up to 25.  Considering the max is probably 25-26 defensive players, I wouldn’t bank on me having all 25 predicted right now.

  • Steven Hauschka – K
  • Jon Ryan – P
  • (Drew Ferris – LS)

I don’t know where the Seahawks are going with their long snapper position, and I don’t want to know.  Just make it a guy who won’t fuck up, ever.

That exercise more or less gives us an idea of what the Seahawks need heading into the draft.  A backup quarterback, probably two more running backs and a fullback, maybe a wide receiver and/or a tight end.  Maybe 2-3 offensive linemen (particularly a Center of the Future who can sit and watch and bulk up in his first year).  You always like to create competition among the pass rush – so probably one of each as far as end and tackle are concerned.  Probably not a linebacker, unless you find an undrafted guy or a late-round guy you like a lot.  Maybe a corner and maybe a safety to add to the depth there.

At the moment, the Seahawks have 9 draft picks.  It wouldn’t shock me to see the Seahawks move down once or twice, build up to 11 or 12 draft picks if they can.  But, assuming we’ve just got the 9, let’s take a look at where they are:

  • First round – 26th
  • Second round – 56th
  • Third round – 91st
  • Third round – 97th
  • Fourth round – 124th
  • Fifth round – 171st
  • Sixth round – 215th
  • Seventh round – 225th
  • Seventh round – 247th

The great thing about this draft is how strong it is along both the offensive and defensive lines.  So, that Center of the Future I’m talking about?  You can probably find him in the third or fourth round.  And, unless a real dominant pass-rushing force of a defensive tackle falls to you at 26, you can probably get an all-around good guy/run stuffer in the third or fourth round.  So, while you could argue those are the two biggest needs (C and DT), you probably don’t need to draft either of those in the first two rounds, unless you find someone really special.

Among the other highly-pressing needs this team has, we’re talking about the guard/tackle position on the offensive line, and a pass-rushing end on the defensive side.  While you like to find starters for your team in the first two rounds, the Seahawks have so few holes on their roster that it seems pretty improbable they’re going to draft either of these positions and find guys who will start right away.  Gilliam seems pretty entrenched as the team’s left tackle (and looks pretty studly, from the videos I’ve seen of his workout routines), and Britt is probably locked in at guard, considering he’s been a starter since day 1, he has experience, and he’ll be going into the second straight year as this team’s left guard (that consistency – not jerking him around from spot to spot – will hopefully help him to improve his overall technique).  Likewise, when you’re talking about the team’s defensive ends, Avril and Bennett are the guys.  Clark has a leg up over everyone, and Marsh has experience to probably fend off any defensive end we pick at either of the first two draft spots.

Nightmares of Lawrence Jackson notwithstanding, you hope to at least find a rotation guy at 26, if you go the defensive end route.

Since we’re talking about the Seahawks – a team that had Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin securely under contract, then went out and drafted Christine Michael in the 2nd round anyway – you have to talk about the possibility of John Schneider and Pete Carroll going rogue in the first two rounds.  Ultimately, I think the Seahawks draft Best Player Available with their first pick, if not their first two picks (though, it’s hard to see them not taking a pass rusher with either one).  So, if a quality cornerback or tight end falls to them late in the first round – even though those are two positions I believe the Seahawks are particularly strong in, and therefore should be among the last positions the team targets in the draft – it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest.  Even running back has to be on the table here.  I like Rawls as much as the next guy, and while I think they could go so far as to ignore the running back position altogether in the draft (and pick up someone like Arian Foster after the draft, to be in the RB rotation), it wouldn’t shock me if they saw Beastmode 2.0 fall to them at 26 and take him.  For as important as the running game is to Pete Carroll, don’t rule it out.

If I had my druthers, I’d have the Seahawks pick two of the following three spots in the first two rounds:  offensive guard/offensive tackle and defensive end.

In the third & fourth rounds, where the Seahawks have three picks, I’d like to see a center, a defensive tackle, and either a quality cornerback, or a third down running back.

In the fifth and sixth rounds, I’d like to see whatever they don’t get in that last pairing (either a cornerback or third down running back) and an outside linebacker to push Mike Morgan as we replace Bruce Irvin.

In the seventh round, I think the Seahawks pick up another offensive lineman (whatever they don’t draft – guard or tackle – in the first two rounds), and either another running back, a fullback, or a project at either cornerback, safety, or tight end.

And, if I have to be specific, let’s make it so:

  • First round – Offensive Guard
  • Second round – Defensive End
  • Third round – Center
  • Third round – Defensive Tackle
  • Fourth round – Running Back
  • Fifth round – Cornerback
  • Sixth round – Outside Linebacker
  • Seventh round – Offensive Tackle
  • Seventh round – Fullback

Seahawks Re-Sign Jeremy Lane, Jermaine Kearse, and Jon Ryan

I want to say the coolest news of them all dropped on Friday, after all the signings I just mentioned in the title of this post.  That’s when we found out the Seahawks received 3 extra draft picks in this year’s draft:  a third rounder, a fifth rounder, and a sixth rounder.  These compensatory picks are my favorite things in the world, because they reward smart teams (who are smart because they build through the draft) for other teams’ stupidity (who are stupid because they build through free agency).  Last year, the Seahawks let Byron Maxwell explore free agency, and the Philadelphia Eagles made one of the more mind-boggling signings in recent memory (made all the worse on their part by Maxwell having his worst season ever as a starter).  Similarly, the Seahawks let James Carpenter go to the Jets, and Malcolm Smith to the Raiders.  We got the third round pick for losing Maxwell, the fifth rounder for Carpenter, and the sixth rounder for Smith; these are determined by the size of the contract.  All told, this brings the Seahawks up to 9 total draft picks:  a first, a second, 2 thirds, a fourth, a fifth, a sixth, and 2 sevenths; four of those draft picks are in the Top 100.  Here’s to hoping we don’t trade them away for any suck-ass veterans.

I was under something of a time crunch last week, so I couldn’t really comment on everything as it was happening.  Last week, of course, was the start of Free Agency, and news was flying around like crazy.  I’ve already written about the Seahawks re-signing Rubin and losing Irvin, Sweezy, and Mebane.  Now, we’re on to happier posts:  the Seahawks retaining bigtime contributors.

You’ll notice that the first week of free agency has seen the Seahawks only sign guys who were on the team last year, and no guys from outside the organization.  That’s by design.  For starters, every time you sign a guy from outside the organization, it nullifies all the players from your team that others have signed away (when it comes to those compensatory draft picks I was writing about up top).  Right now, we’re looking at something like a 4th rounder for Irvin, maybe a 5th rounder for Sweezy, and maybe a 6th rounder for Mebane.  If we were to sign a guy from outside the organization for big money, it would take away that draft pick we’re getting for Irvin.  If we sign a guy to a medium deal, it likely cancels out Sweezy’s draft pick, and so on.

The other reasons why the Seahawks haven’t signed anyone from outside of the organization include the fact that we really don’t have a lot of extra money to throw around like the Raiders, Giants, and Jaguars.  Also, it’s just not a smart model for NFL success.  Like I said before, you build your foundation with the draft, and you supplement that team through free agency.  But, once you start over-paying for your building blocks on the free market, that’s how you get into cap hell.  Free agents tend to be older, and more prone to breaking down or declining in their skillsets; draft picks have nowhere to go but up!

But, finally, probably the biggest reason why the Seahawks haven’t signed anyone from outside the organization yet is simply because we need to re-sign our own guys, who tend to be better than anything else that’s on the market (and if not better, then at least they know our system better).

Jeremy Lane, for me, is probably the most important signing the Seahawks will make in this offseason.  He came in at 4 years, $23 million, which is FANTASTIC.  The first two years are beyond reasonable for a guy with his skillset, who can play outside in our base defense, and who can shift inside when we go nickel.  If he proves to be as indispensable as I think he’ll be, then the last two years are still at a reasonable cost to the team (especially when you consider the salary cap overall should still be going up at that point).  But, if he plays poorly or is injury prone, we can cut him after two years with relatively little damage.

You may recall that Lane was one of my 12 priorities for this offseason (scroll to the very bottom for the TL;DR version of that post).  I thought 4 years, $30 million was reasonable, so this deal is even better in my book.

In looking at the rest of my wishlist, it really hasn’t gone down the way I had it, but that’s not the worst thing in the world.  Sweezy is gone, but Okung is still in play.  Considering Okung is the better lineman, if we can get him back at a reasonable cost, I’d be for it.  If he leaves, I wouldn’t be depressed.  We haven’t signed any of the stud left guards out there, but there’s still a chance to draft one.  We re-signed Rubin and let Mebane go, instead of the other way around; but it does look like we’re both going to sign a cheap DT and draft one high.  Given Irvin’s contract, we couldn’t have brought him back on a reasonable deal, so we’re using the savings in other areas.

And, if you look at #9 on my list, one of those areas just might be re-signing Jermaine Kearse.  I predicted 3 years, $13 million, which was based on the extension we gave Baldwin before.  Kearse ended up getting 3 years, $13.5 million, which I guess accounts for inflation (for what it’s worth, I still think the Seahawks are going to work on extending Baldwin this year, if he’ll go for it).

I love the Kearse deal for all the reasons I wrote about here.  He solidifies our WR corps as a whole, meaning we don’t necessarily have to count on Kevin Smith and/or Kasen Williams to make a huge leap in production; or count on Richardson and/or Lockette (if he makes it back) to stay healthy.  He knows the system, he works well with Russell Wilson, he’s a reliable pass-catcher, route runner, and blocker on the edge.  He’s got big play ability, obviously.  And, this means we’re less likely to trade away draft picks for receivers on other teams.  I like any move that will save this front office from itself, and while John Schneider and Company have a lot of great strengths, one of their weaknesses is certainly how they value low-end first round draft picks (and how they give away multiple draft picks for other teams’ star receivers).  Likewise, this buys us at least a year when it comes to drafting a receiver in the upper rounds.  This draft is heavy along the O-Line and D-Line.  It’s not so great at receiver.  So, what say we fill up on beef in 2016, and maybe look at the 2017 draft for a top-notch receiver, huh?

A wide receiver unit that goes Baldwin, Kearse, Lockett, and Richardson inspires a LOT more confidence in me than one that goes Baldwin, Lockett, Richardson, and Smith.  For that price?  $13.5 million, with the option to cut him after two years for relatively little dead money?  That, my friends, is what I am talking about.

Finally, the MVP is back!  I don’t think I want to live in a world where Jon Ryan isn’t our punter.  He signed a 4-year, $10 million deal that gives him a $2.4 million signing bonus and only 2016’s base salary is guaranteed ($1 million).  We could cut him after this year and have less than $2 million in dead money (very unlikely, if you ask me), and his cap hits don’t go over $3 million until the third year of the deal (at which point, it’s probably the going rate for MVP-quality punters anyway).

What Does A Future Without Jermaine Kearse Look Like?

Word around town is that Jermaine Kearse doesn’t expect to be back in a Seahawks uniform in 2016.  You can take that one of three ways:  either this is a negotiating tactic, letting the world know he’s not giving any discounts and is most certainly looking for the most money; or he’s got it on good authority the Seahawks will lowball him or perhaps not offer him a deal at all; or he’s got it on good authority that another team is going to blow him out of the water with the type of deal he knows unequivocally the Seahawks won’t want to or be able to match.  I don’t think you make a statement like that by just reading tea leaves and guessing the Seahawks won’t be interested.  It’s my opinion the Seahawks would very much like to have him back, but at a price that won’t break the bank.  As such, you gotta figure somewhere out there Kearse is going to find a team to break that bank.

Let’s face it, the salary cap is rising and all over the league you’re seeing teams with dozens of millions of dollars to spend.  Jermaine Kearse is nobody’s elite, #1 receiver, but he’s a perfect complement, a good route runner, a physical blocker, and a guy who can make big catches in traffic (as we’ve seen time and time again).  I wish him the best in his endeavors and truly hope he’s able to maximize both his bank account and his opportunities on a team that likes to throw the ball a lot more than the Seahawks.

It’s no secret that as a University of Washington alumnus and Seahawks fan, I’m a pretty big Kearse fan, so in that sense, this is tough news to take.  I know there are more Husky receivers where he came from, and plenty of undrafted underdogs to root to glory, but I like Kearse for more than where he came from, and how hard he fought to get there.  Kearse fits this offense like a glove.  Over his 4-year career – especially the last three years of it – he’s come in here, done his job, and helped this offense achieve great things.  With him most likely leaving, there’s a big hole to fill; bigger, I think, than most fans realize.

Jermaine Kearse doesn’t get the credit he deserves.  I get the sense that most fans feel we can just plug anyone into his spot and not skip a beat; I’m not so sure that’s necessarily the case.

Yes, ideally, someone like Kevin Smith will take a big leap forward in his development this year and come in, ready to compete for the third receiver spot behind Baldwin and Lockett.  But, I dunno.  I hear about all the amazing catches Smith makes in practice – apparently he’s known for making at least one spectacular play per day – but I’ve yet to see him really make an impact in a game.  Obviously, when he’s the 4th or 5th receiver, there aren’t a ton of opportunities for someone in that position.  Maybe my fears will subside this fall, but I think it’s fair to question whether he’s ready for an increased role.

I guess, if you want to look at the obvious option, we still have Paul Richardson.  A guy who was a high draft pick, with a lot of speed and a lot of talent, who made a pretty solid impact as a rookie in 2014, getting better as that season went along.  But, then he got injured, and it essentially cost him all of the 2015 season (save one game, where he had one catch for 40 yards).  Word on the street is that he’s fully healthy and will be able to participate in all offseason programs, so at least we’ve got that going for us.  Nevertheless, you can’t help but be concerned about his injury risk.

If you just focus on the upside, there’s a lot to like about a 3-headed monster of Baldwin, Lockett, and Richardson.  Lots of good speed, good hands, and good route running there.  As we maybe transition to somewhat of a quicker-passing offense, those are three guys who can get open in a hurry (they would have KILLED IT back in Holmgren & Hasselbeck’s heyday).

Beyond that, there’s Kasen Williams, who’s probably more raw than Kevin Smith; and there’s Ricardo Lockette, who’s technically a free agent (but I doubt he’s going anywhere), and who’s someone you have to wonder if he’ll even be able to lace ’em up again.  His road to recovery might not be anywhere near complete by the time the season starts anyway, and you know how I feel about wide receivers who start on the PUP list and try to play later in the season (see:  Richardson, Paul … they tend to get re-injured a lot, okay?).

Taken as a whole, there are two receivers you can depend on, one receiver you have to worry about, two receivers who might not be ready to make the jump, and a guy coming off of one of the scariest injuries I’ve seen on a football field in a long time.  Therefore, I don’t think I’m speaking out of school here when I say the Seahawks might be wise to invest in this position a little bit (this would be especially prudent when you look at Jimmy Graham’s injury and the fact that he might not be ready to do any football activities whatsoever until the regular season starts, if not later).

What does that mean?  Well, it sure as shit doesn’t mean trading away our #1 pick for another veteran from another team, I’ll tell you that!  I also don’t mean that I necessarily want the Seahawks to USE that #1 pick on drafting a receiver, though I suppose I’d be okay with it if someone uber-talented happened to fall all the way to the mid-20s in the first round.  If I had my druthers, all positions being equal in the realm of “best player available”, I’d want the Seahawks to use their top pick on either an offensive or defensive lineman (preferably a guard or a defensive tackle).  But, I wouldn’t be opposed to the Seahawks using that 2nd or 3rd round pick to go after another receiver.

I’m pretty sure the Seahawks will look at receiver SOMEWHERE in the draft, anyway.  The question remains:  can we strike gold twice in a row?  Tyler Lockett came out of the third round of the draft last year ready to play right away; that’s pretty rare.  Hell, you’ll run into a lot of first round receivers who aren’t ready to play in year one!  For every Julio Jones, it seems like there’s twice as many Nelson Agholors or Kevin Whites.  Now, factor in where the Seahawks are picking (near the end of most rounds) and the odds of finding another diamond in the rough are pretty slim.

So, in short, you have to really wonder about the strength of this position in the short term.  2016.  If there’s a rookie who isn’t ready, or doesn’t start producing until near the end of the season, that leaves us pretty much with the guys I listed above.  Baldwin and Lockett as your top two, Richardson and probably Smith as your next two, and then who knows who fills out the final spot or two?

Obviously, we’ll know more once Training Camp and the pre-season rolls around.  Things might start looking better once we see these guys in action and start reading reports from bloggers and beat writers and whatnot.  Maybe someone I don’t even know about will pop and force his way onto the team.  As a fan, I feel less secure with the position without a glue guy like Kearse.  But, it’s also a little exciting (in a scary way) to see what’s going to happen.  You never know, with more opportunities, maybe we’ll find a guy or two who will show us something we never expected!  And MAYBE we’ll even be better for it!

Seahawks Death Week: A Wishlist For 2016

OK, so I’m not Joe Salary Cap Guy over here, so a lot of this stuff is going to be pretty general, based off of numbers I’m pulling from Over The Cap.  Anecdotally, the 2016 salary cap figures to be closer to $154 million, so that’s the number I’m going to play with when discussing the Seahawks.

Per Over The Cap, including all Dead Money, the Seahawks have $123 million already on the books for 2016, leaving around $31 million to play with.  This is a pretty decent amount of money, but as we looked into yesterday, there are a lot of contracts coming off the books, and a lot of decisions to make regarding our own free agents.  If we just take, for example, a few core starters who are free agents:  Okung, Sweezy, Kearse, Mebane, Irvin, Rubin, and Lane, you could see that $31 million disappear pretty damn quick.

Okung was already a high salary guy to begin with, earning around $8 million a year; in spite of his injury concerns, he’s proven to be a pretty talented left tackle in a league DESPERATE for left tackles.  He’s also got a pretty good amount of leverage against the Seahawks because he’s easily the best offensive lineman on this roster, and with the Seahawks drafting in the mid-20s, it’s not likely there will be a left tackle in the draft who’s as capable, who would fall to them.  So, the Seahawks would either need to meet his demands, or probably risk losing him to another team.  Believe you me, there ARE teams out there who will drive up the bidding for a guy like Okung.  There are LOTS of teams in the NFL with offensive line issues, and a short supply of proven left tackles.  So, if you were thinking the Seahawks would force Okung into less money because of all his maladies, think again.

At this point, I’d let Okung walk, and I’ll tell you why.  I think Garry Gilliam is a more natural left tackle than he is a right tackle.  He may not be Walter Jones either, but at this point, with the way we run our offense, and ESPECIALLY with the way other teams try to defend Russell Wilson, I think our primary objective for 2016 needs to be boosting our talent level at the interior spots of the line.  Call it the Aaron Donald Conundrum.  When Russell Wilson struggles most is when he’s got interior linemen pushing the pocket straight back into him (or, of course, when guys just flat out run past Justin Britt without him even touching them).  I would MUCH rather have three beasts at the guard & center positions, while sacrificing a little bit at our tackle spots, than the other way around.  Why?  Because more and more, teams are looking to keep Wilson in the pocket.  So, their outside rushers aren’t doing much more than trying to contain Wilson and prevent him from spinning outside the pocket and making plays with his legs out in space.  If they’re going to just give us a pocket to play with, then why not take advantage of that by making damn sure our interior linemen don’t continually fuck it up by allowing pressure straight up the middle every God damn other play?!  He’s not Peyton Manning.  This isn’t the movie The Blind Side.  The left tackle is kind of overrated in this type of offense, with this type of mobile quarterback.  And, as we’ve talked about a lot these last couple months, as Wilson improves as a pocket passer, he’s going to be running less as a result.

So, my first wish:  let Okung walk, spend the money we’re saving on interior linemen.

Next on the list of core starting free agents:  J.R. Sweezy.  He’s a 4-year starter and has held up pretty well for the most part.  No injury concerns here.  He’s generally better than he gets credit for, but he’s also not without his faults.  He was a net asset for this team because he was a 7th round pick, so he was earning next to nothing.  Only in 2015 did he FINALLY get over the million dollar hump in salary, at $1.5 million, so obviously he’s due for a pretty significant raise (respective to what he’d been earning, of course).  Again, I’m not Joe Salary Cap Guy, so I don’t necessarily have a good idea of what a guy like him would be worth on the open market, and I’m really grasping at straws when I throw out numbers.  I’d say YES to bringing him back, with the caveat that it’s under a reasonable deal.  What’s reasonable?  Again, I have no idea.  $4-$5 million per year?  That feels right, but what do I know?  I’ll say this:  it would probably be foolish to blow up the entire offensive line; I don’t think you can find 4 other guys to come in here and dominate for you, without spending your entire cap space and/or trading away a bunch of draft picks.  For the right price, Sweezy is worth keeping around.  He knows the system, so if nothing else, he’d be an asset if the team moves on from Okung and moves Gilliam to the other side.

Second wish:  bring Sweezy back on a friendly deal.

Let’s stick with the O-Line theme, since it’s the biggest issue facing this team in 2016.  We need a new left guard, full stop.  Justin Britt isn’t the man for the job.  In an ideal world, the second coming of Steve Hutchinson will be out there as an unrestricted free agent for us to poach away from some unsuspecting team, but I don’t know who all the other free agents are.  Obviously, you like building through the draft, but that doesn’t happen until the last week of April, and probably all the good free agents will be gone by then.  Nevertheless, I’m prepared to spend whatever it takes:  $8 million per year or more, if there’s an absolute superstar out there, to really lock down this spot.

Third wish:  superstar free agent left guard.

Fourth wish:  failing that, draft a superstar-in-waiting with our first round draft pick.

At center, I’m content to go with Patrick Lewis for another year.  I can’t imagine his stock is all that high, and even so, he’s a restricted free agent, so odds are we’ll at least get him back on a 1-year deal.  As I mentioned in a prior post this week, let’s bring Lewis back, make him our starter from Day 1 (assuming, of course, that he comes into camp healthy and in shape), but at the same time, draft the center of the future in one of the first four rounds (I hear this is a great draft class for centers, so we could be in good shape waiting a few rounds if need be).

Fifth wish:  bring back Lewis on a 1-year deal, draft our center of the future & have him learn under Lewis.

At right tackle, if we’re moving Gilliam over to left, then I suppose I could be okay with moving Justin Britt back over to right, and having him compete with whoever.  Low-end draft pick, guys on the practice squad, whatever.  Again, I’m not too picky on who our tackles are, as long as we shore up the interior.

Sixth wish:  Britt or whoever at right tackle; no need to work too hard to replace this spot.

***

With the O-Line set, let’s look at the rest of the offense.  The biggest story, from a national perspective, is obviously:  will Marshawn Lynch be back?  I’m sure I’ll have more to say on this subject, as it’ll be a sad day when he’s finally out of here, but for now the question isn’t “will Marshawn Lynch be back”, but rather “WHEN will Marshawn Lynch be GONE?”

His release pushes $5 million into our Dead Money column, but as he was going to count $11.5 million against our cap, that’s a net savings of $6.5 million (if the Seahawks cut him after June 1st, which for the record, I doubt they’d do, we’d be able to spread that $5 million in dead money over the 2016 and 2017 seasons, meaning we’d have an extra $2.5 million – or $9 million total – to play around with for 2016 … something to keep in mind with him or any potential cuts).  Let’s just say, we decide to pay homage to all the great service he’s done for us while in a Seahawks uniform, and we cut him sooner rather than later, to give him the biggest opportunity to maximize his contract with another team; that still gives us the $6.5 million I mentioned, pushing our over all cap room up to around $37.5 million or so.  That’s not nothing.

While we’re talking about potential roster cuts, I’d just like to put my two cents in that I believe Lynch will be the only major casualty.  Of our big money contracts in 2016 (besides Lynch), we’re looking at Wilson, Sherm, Earl, Graham, Bennett, Avril, Wright, Kam, Bobby, and Doug.  In other words, our core guys.  If you really wanted to grasp at straws, you could look at Graham and Kam.  Graham is coming off of an injury, and poses no Dead Money issues if we let him go, so he’d save us a cool $9 million.  But, I just don’t see it.  We only had slightly more than half a season with him, he seemed to be getting more and more comfortable with the offense as the season progressed, and assuming he makes a full recovery, he’s still one of the best weapons we have and one of the top tight ends in the league.  The only way I see us dropping Graham is if there’s another free agent receiver out there we want to try to overpay for, but I kinda doubt that’s going to happen.

As for Kam, the only way I see us cutting him is if we don’t want to deal with the potential headache of him holding out again, and/or he demands too much money in re-working his deal.  For what it’s worth, I think the team will try to do a little something to juice his deal (maybe a million or two), but I could just as easily see the team dropping the hammer.  Letting Kam go would free up $4.1 million, which is nice, but if it were up to me, I’d rather have Bam Bam back and happy again.

So, getting back to Lynch, with him gone we’re looking at $37.5 million in free money, some of which would ideally go towards re-signing Sweezy and bringing in a stud free agent left guard (among many other moves).

That leaves us with Thomas Rawls and his penny contract starting for us at running back.  I wouldn’t mind the Seahawks using one of their later-round picks on a 3rd down, shifty scat-back in the Darren Sproles mold to pair with him.  As for our #2 running back, I think it’d be awfully cool to bring Christine Michael back and let him get those old Robert Turbin carries (or, shit, if Turbin’s a free agent, maybe we look into bringing him back on a low-end deal, although I think that’s highly unlikely).

Seventh wish:  cut Lynch (frowny face), make Rawls the starter, draft the next Sproles, re-sign Michael to be the #2.

At receiver, we’ve got Doug Baldwin going into the last year of his deal.  I would be SUPER stoked if the Seahawks took this opportunity to lock him up to a long-term deal.  His last deal was 3 years, $13 million, which I felt was great, but obviously he’s due a raise.  Co-leading the league in touchdown receptions will automatically raise your stock (weird!).  If I had to guess, I’d put him in the range of $6+ million per year, but under $8 million, or the Eric Decker range ($7.25 million per year).  MAYBE you talk Baldwin into a bit of a discount, as he’s still got a year left under his current deal (set to earn $4 million in base salary), but I’d venture a guess that he gets Decker money regardless.

Eighth wish:  extend Doug Baldwin for another 4-5 years.

Beyond that, we’re in good shape with cheap deals on Paul Richardson, Tyler Lockett, Kevin Smith, and Kasen Williams.  The only other decision is:  do we re-sign Jermaine Kearse?  Oddly enough, a good comp for him is that time we re-signed Doug Baldwin.  Would you pay 3 years, $13 million for more Kearse?  I think I would.

Ninth wish:  bring back Kearse on a smallish deal.

No need to do anything fancy with the tight ends.  Keep Graham, Willson, and whoever as our third guy.

***

Now, let’s look at the defense.  Recall, the major defensive free agents are Mebane, Rubin, Irvin, and Lane.  Mebane has made a healthy $4-$5.5 million per year over the last few years.  While his 2014 was cut short by injury, he played in every game in 2015, and showed no signs of slowing down (albeit to my semi-untrained eye).  He’s 31 years old, so odds are we’re not talking about a long term deal.  I’d be okay with something in the range of 2 years and $10 million, with maybe a $5 million base salary in 2016 and a $2 million signing bonus (something like that, where his cap hit reduces as we go forward, in hopes of keeping him until he decides to retire).  Rubin, meanwhile, is coming off of a year that saw him count less than $3 million against our cap, so he’ll be due a raise.  How big remains to be seen.  All the talk that I’ve heard is that we can’t afford to bring them both back, so if I can only have one, I choose Bane.

Tenth wish:  re-sign Mebane, let Rubin go, replace Rubin with another cheap free agent, draft another run-stuffing defensive tackle in the early or middle rounds.

Next up is Bruce Irvin, and I honestly have no idea.  He accounted for a little over $9 million total over the four years of his contract as a first round draft pick in the new CBA era.  Given his production, he’s due a big, fat raise too.  I couldn’t even begin to tell you what a guy like him earns on the open market.  He’s not Von Miller (yet), so you’d be hard pressed to see him get top-of-the-line money.  Nevertheless, pass rusher is a premium position in this league, and he’s accounted for 22 sacks over 4 years.  But, he had 8 sacks in his rookie year, when he was exclusively a pass-rushing defensive end.  Obviously, his skill set limits him in run defense, which limits his overall value, but it’s only natural to look at those 8 sacks in somewhat limited duty as a rookie, and start to drool at the potential of him as an every-down pass rusher.  I’m generally in favor of keeping Irvin, as I’ve said repeatedly, I think his best days as a pass rusher are still in front of him, but I’m not in favor of keeping him at any price.  Not when we’re paying Bobby Wagner among the top middle linebackers in the game, while at the same time paying K.J. Wright a good chunk of change too (he’ll be accounting for over $6 million in cap space going forward for the next three seasons).

Eleventh wish:  re-sign Irvin, at a somewhat cost-effective price.  Otherwise, replace him with someone like Mike Morgan, or a draft pick.

Then, there’s Jeremy Lane.  So, let’s take this opportunity to talk about the secondary in general.  We’ve got most of it locked down in Sherm, Earl, and Kam.  Obviously, if the team parts with Kam (who didn’t do himself or the team any favors with his semi-down year in 2015; I can’t imagine his trade value has gone up all that much, if the team felt that to be an option), we need to replace him.  Is that Kelcie McCray?  Probably, but I’d also look to draft at that position just in case.  As for Lane, I think he’ll be looking for starter’s money.  And, to be quite honest, I think he’s earned it.  That injury in the Super Bowl was the flukiest thing I’ve ever heard of.  I mean, how do you do so much damage to so many body parts all on the same play?  The fact that he recovered, returned in 2015, and played as well as he did, shows that he’s capable and ready to be an everyday player.  Hopefully, what the Seahawks have figured out – in the wake of the Cary Williams debacle – is that we CAN’T just bring in any guy from the street and expect him to play like the Legion of Boom.  Speaking of the devil, Williams signed a 3-year, $18 million deal to come to Seattle, with $7 million guaranteed ($3.5 million as a signing bonus, $3.5 million in base salary in 2015).  Of our current dead money, he’s the primary reason for what we’re dealing with in 2016.  Would 3 years and $18 million be enough to retain Jeremy Lane?  Probably not.  But, he’s also not going to command 4 years and $56 million like what Richard Sherman got; he’s obviously somewhere in the middle.  What about 4 years and $30 million?  Is Jeremy Lane worth $7.5 million per year?

I’m KINDA leaning towards Yes on this one.  Let’s look at it this way:  we don’t want another Cary Williams situation, so pretty much eliminate any big name (or semi-big name) on the free agent market.  But, if Lane walks, we’re tangling with another pretty big hole in our secondary for the second straight year.  We can assume DeShawn Shead returns, and would be the likely starter opposite Sherman, but then you gotta take a look at who’s behind Shead.  Tharold Simon is an interesting name.  He’s going into the final season of his rookie deal.  Obviously, you like that, because you know he’s going to be super motivated.  But, he’s proven in his first three years in the league, that he absolutely cannot stay healthy, at all.  IDEALLY, if the team opts to let Lane walk, you’d start Shead, but then bump Shead inside to the slot receiver and have Simon play outside when we’re in our nickel defense.  In this world, you have to feel pretty confident in Simon’s ability – when healthy – to give us the type of production we’ve come to expect out of the Legion of Boom.

When you go from there to look at our backups, you’re talking about guys like Burley, Terrell, and Seisay, who are all restricted free agents, and who all will most likely be back (at least through training camp and the pre-season).  But, none of them are all that impressive, and none of them project to be starters.  Then, there’s our rookie from 2015, Tye Smith, who the Seahawks managed to stash on the 53-man roster for the full year (because we didn’t want to risk losing him by putting him on the practice squad), but who essentially red shirted as a professional.  So, obviously, the team likes him A LOT.  I mean, to not even put him on the IR feels like a pretty rare thing for a championship-calibre team like the Seahawks, with as many issues as we had with injuries this season (at times, just BARELY filling out our 46-man gameday roster with healthy guys).  Tye Smith figures to be a slot corner (with his size, at 6’0), but if he’s as talented as I think he MIGHT be, the sky could be the limit for him.  It’s still unrealistic to see him starting in Game 1 of the 2016 season.  But, if he pans out, that mitigates the damage of letting Jeremy Lane go.  It also helps us going forward, if we happen to lose Shead and/or Simon going into the 2017 season.

BUT, if the Seahawks can find it in their budget to re-sign Lane (even at the seemingly excessive deal of $30 million over 4 years), just imagine what that does for us, depth-wise.  We’d have the greatest collection of secondary depth since the 2013 season, for starters.  Sherm, Lane, and Shead are all starting-quality players.  Simon is too, when healthy, and if Tye pans out, you’re talking about five guys we can throw out there at any given point (giving us plenty of wiggle room for when Simon inevitably has to sit out).

So, I’m going to make my twelfth (!) wish:  re-sign Jeremy Lane for a deal that’s considerably more than Cary Williams’, but considerably less than what Byron Maxwell got from the fuckin’ Eagles.

The cool thing about this Seahawks team is that it feels more set than ever, so there’s no need to do a lot of crazy things in free agency or trades.  Our biggest need is offensive line, so a high-priced free agent at guard should be our top priority.  Beyond that, it’s a matter of paying our own guys who deserve to return (Lane, Mebane, Kearse, Sweezy, maybe Irvin), letting the guys go who probably don’t deserve huge salaries (Okung, Lynch, Rubin, maybe Irvin), and locking down Baldwin a year early to make him a Seahawk for life.  Again, to reiterate my wishlist:

  1. Let Okung go, move Gilliam to left tackle
  2. Bring back Sweezy
  3. Sign a stud free agent left guard
  4. Or, draft a stud left guard with the first round pick (or, shit, why not both?)
  5. Bring back Lewis, while also drafting a center of the future in the middle rounds
  6. Move Britt back to right tackle, make him compete with other cheap guys
  7. Cut Lynch, make Rawls the starter, bring back Michael for #2, draft a quick, pass-catching 3rd down back
  8. Extend Doug Baldwin on a 4-5 year deal
  9. Re-sign Kearse to a 3-year, $13 million deal
  10. Re-sign Mebane, let Rubin go, replace him with another cheap DT, draft a DT in the early-to-middle rounds
  11. Re-sign Irvin for a reasonable amount, or don’t and spread his savings elsewhere
  12. Re-sign Lane, 4 years, $30 million-ish range

I don’t know if all of this is possible, under salary cap structures in place, so feel free to pick it apart all you want.  While you’re at it, pick apart all my other hare-brained ideas, what do I care?

Seahawks Death Week: Looking At The Free Agents

Started talking about this a bit yesterday, but here’s the full dive.

First, we’ll start with the unrestricted free agents.  These are the guys who are free to sign with whatever team they want, with no draft pick penalties.  On offense, we have, in no particular order:

  • Russell Okung – left tackle
  • Jermaine Kearse – wide receiver
  • J.R. Sweezy – right guard
  • Tarvaris Jackson – quarterback
  • Will Tukuafu – fullback
  • Ricardo Lockette – wide receiver
  • Fred Jackson – running back
  • Lemuel Jeanpierre – center
  • Anthony McCoy – tight end
  • Chase Coffman – tight end
  • Bryce Brown – running back

I could take or leave the last five guys on that list.  I feel like Jackson was a 1-year deal, but we’ll probably look to get younger at our 3rd down back spot on the roster.  I like Jeanpierre as depth, so it probably wouldn’t hurt to have him come into camp, but I could easily see the team looking to move on.  McCoy and Coffman are probably both camp fodder, desperately trying to make it as a 3rd tight end, but probably won’t make it here unless we have a bunch of injuries.  Brown might be a good guy to have around, if the team looks to move on from Lynch, but I think we can do better.

As far as Lockette is concerned, he’ll need to fully recover from his injury.  If that works out, I wouldn’t mind having him back as a low-end receiver/special teams guy.  I like Tukuafu a lot; if he’ll come back for the right price, I wouldn’t mind having him around.  And, it probably wouldn’t hurt to have Tarvaris Jackson around for another year, but at some point, I think the team might want to look to the draft for a backup quarterback.

There’s really just three primary unrestricted free agents on offense this year:  Okung, Sweezy, and Kearse.  I could see the team bringing all three back, I could see the team moving on from all three, or any combination in between.  Okung looks to be the priciest of the three, since he was originally a draft pick under the old CBA, and he’s a noted Pro Bowl left tackle (and also, not for nothing, our best offensive lineman by a thousand miles).  Given his injury history, and the fact that he’s nobody’s Walter Jones clone, I’m less inclined to do whatever it takes to bring him back.  If he opts to return under something of a team-friendly deal (i.e. not a ton of dead money lurking, if we decide it’s time to move on), I’d be cool with his coming back.  But, considering he’s acting as his own agent, I feel like he’s going to use these negotiations to make a point, and try to get the best possible deal he can.  Don’t be shocked if that comes from another team.

I had high hopes for a higher ceiling out of Sweezy, but I think what we’ve seen is what we’re going to get.  He flashes a lot of toughness and agility, but he also flashes complete ineptitude at letting our quarterback get killed.  Again, I’d be okay with the team bringing him back on a team-friendly deal; but, I’d also be okay with the team punting on this whole issue of converting defensive linemen into guards and rebuilding the interior of the line through the draft (of high picks) and/or free agency.  It might be difficult to replace 3-4 spots on the line, so if Sweezy is able to return on a moderate deal, maybe we can devote resources elsewhere (like shoring up the left guard position and selling Britt down the river).

Kearse, as I’ve said before, I’d like to have back.  While he’s not a #1 receiver, he does all the little things you like out of someone who plays the position.  He blocks well, he has good hands, he has a decent catch radius.  He plays his role on this team perfectly.  The pragmatist in me would say that we have a guy like that in Kevin Smith, who’s cheaper and under team control already, so in that sense, I wouldn’t be totally devastated if Kearse moves on.  But, as a pure fan, I’d be disappointed to see him go.

In other offensive free agent news, the following players are restricted free agents and will almost assuredly be back with the team, so long as the team wants them to be back:

  • Cooper Helfet – tight end
  • Derrick Coleman – fullback
  • Patrick Lewis – center
  • Alvin Bailey – guard/tackle
  • Christine Michael – running back

My guess is, Helfet and Coleman will be back for sure, and most likely under a very minor deal.  I like the idea of drafting a center relatively high this year and letting him learn behind Patrick Lewis on a 1-year deal, then having him take over in 2017.  Bailey is a quality backup and should be worth keeping around for his versatility alone.  Michael is an interesting case; he would’ve been under team control had we not waived him earlier in the season.  I imagine the team will tender him a pretty low offer too and we’ll see what happens.  If Lynch goes, this is probably his best opportunity to compete for a job with Thomas Rawls.

On defense, here are the unrestricted free agents, again in no particular order:

  • Brandon Mebane – defensive tackle
  • Bruce Irvin – outside linebacker
  • Ahtyba Rubin – defensive tackle
  • Mike Morgan – outside linebacker
  • Jeremy Lane – cornerback
  • Demarcus Dobbs – defensive tackle/end

From what I’m reading, it sounds like the team likely wouldn’t be able to bring back both Mebane and Rubin, so we’d have to choose.  The fan side of me wants Mebane back, and to retire as a Seahawk.  Rubin is slightly younger, and had a really breakout year for us.  I’d honestly like to have both back, but again, you can’t pay everyone.  My gut tells me Mebane stays and Rubin goes, but what do I know?

I’m less inclined to believe Irvin will be back.  I’d pay more heed to his words during last year’s offseason, where he was talking about practically being out the door.  Maybe Atlanta brings him in, with Dan Quinn?  Maybe Oakland, with Ken Norton as their defensive coordinator?  Maybe some other team with deep pockets who could use an athletic pass rusher?  I’d put the chances on Irvin being a Seahawk next season at less than 30%.

In which case, as I noted yesterday, Morgan is an interesting option to replace him, as he figures to be cheaper, and HAS to know the system.  The thing is, I’m not totally sure if he plays the same position, or if he’s more of a weakside linebacker.  I seem to remember him spelling Irvin this year, but whatever.

Jeremy Lane should be our highest priority, but again, if some team over-values Seahawks cornerbacks, I could see him taking a lot of money to play elsewhere.

As for Dobbs … we like Dobbs.  More training camp depth!

Our restricted free agents include:

  • DeShawn Shead – cornerback
  • Steven Terrell – cornerback/safety
  • Marcus Burley – cornerback
  • Nick Moody – linebacker
  • Jesse Williams – defensive tackle
  • Mohammed Seisay – cornerback
  • Eric Pinkins – linebacker
  • A.J. Francis – defensive tackle

Shead will definitely be back.  Terrell, Burley, and Seisay will all most likely be back, in the hunt for a couple of those backup cornerback spots on the roster.  I don’t see why the team would let Moody and Pinkins go, or for that matter, Francis (whoever that is).  I keep thinking every year is the last chance for Jesse Williams, but I would think 2016 is the for real, very VERY last chance.  Given his injury history, consider him the longest of long shots.

So, yeah, that’s sort of an overview of all the Seahawks who could potentially be gone (I’m not going to get into the guys under contract for next year who might be cap casualties).  Tomorrow, I’ll dig into what I think the plan should be for the Seahawks, as we wrap up Death Week for another year.

Biggest Concern This Week: The Receivers

Doug Baldwin is good.  Really, really good.  He’s not what you would consider an elite #1 a la Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins, or A.J. Green, but nobody asked him to be.  That’s not his game.  He’s not going to run a bunch of vertical routes, leap over defenders, and make crazy catches in traffic.  He’s also not a burner, a la T.Y. Hilton, Brandin Cooks, or John Brown; he’s not going to blaze past defenders for a bunch of 40-yard bombs.  He works out of the slot, but he’s MORE than your traditional slot guy, a la Wes Welker, Percy Harvin, or Randall Cobb.  He can do it all, he can line up anywhere, and his best attributes are his hands, his smarts, and his route running.  With those three things, Doug Baldwin is just as capable and effective as any of the guys I’ve listed in this paragraph.  He doesn’t need freakish size or speed.  The best comp, in all honesty, is probably Antonio Brown, who I feel is the best wide receiver in the game of football today (although, to be fair, Brown does have superior speed to get to those deep balls).  In a more pass-friendly offense, Doug Baldwin would be a top 5 or at the very least a top 10 receiver in this league.

In Seattle, Doug Baldwin is a #1 who’s not really a #1.  And, this week, he may be looking at his greatest test since the Super Bowl against New England.

The Panthers are down to one healthy starting cornerback.  He just so happens to be Josh Norman, who is on the final year of his deal while at the same time playing the best football of his career.  He’s a legit Top 5 shutdown corner in the league, and he’s looking at a significant payday once his season ends.  Much like Richard Sherman, Norman generally plays on the outside.  While he CAN follow receivers into the slot, he usually doesn’t.  This is the rationale for why Seahawks fans should be comfortable with the receiving matchups this week; because other than Norman, Carolina is forced into playing a couple guys they “picked up off the streets”.

On the flipside, the Seahawks have been reduced to the following because of injuries:  Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Tyler Lockett, Kevin Smith, and Kasen Williams.  I might be in the minority here, but I just don’t see why Carolina would choose to play status quo defense when they’ve got a shutdown corner and the Seahawks have one of the hottest receivers in the league.  We’ve seen Richard Sherman follow a receiver all around the field from time to time this year; I’m sure Josh Norman has done the same thing.  If I’m coaching for Carolina, this is the week I’m taking full advantage of all that Josh Norman has to offer.  And, while Doug Baldwin will get SOME catches, I highly doubt he’ll have this huge, impactful game (if, indeed, my theory is correct).

So, where does that leave us?  Well, for starters, I’m not expecting much at all out of our running game this week.  Carolina’s front seven is as good as it gets and should have no problem keeping us in check.  This game is going to hinge on the arm of Russell Wilson, which means it’s going to hinge on the other receivers getting open for him.

I like Jermaine Kearse as much as the next guy.  He runs pretty clean routes in his own right, and for the most part I trust him to catch whatever he gets his hands on.  But, his frequency of making big plays has diminished considerably this year; he’s essentially become a possession receiver in 2015.  Maybe he’s just saving it all up for another chance to be the hero in the NFC Championship Game, but this week would be a really good opportunity for him to break out.

The one person I forgot about when I started this post is Tyler Lockett.  He has, by all measures, had a wildly successful rookie season.  He’s an All Pro returner, and has cemented himself as this team’s third receiver.  He’s had a few big games (three combined touchdowns in the two games against the 49ers, 7 catches for 90 yards in the first Minnesota game, 6 catches for 104 yards and 2 TDs in the Baltimore game), but for the most part has had the kind of season you’d expect from a quality rookie receiver trying to break through on a championship-calibre team (averaging approximately 3 catches for 41.5 yards per game and a TD every third game or so).  We’ve seen Lockett’s over-the-top speed beat some defenders for big plays this year, but where his game is lacking a little bit is his ability to high point a ball and win those deep catches in traffic.  Obviously, it’s not the easiest thing in the world to do, but how many times have we seen Russell Wilson launch a 50/50 jump ball to Lockett, with that ball ultimately falling incomplete?  That’s where you miss a guy like Golden Tate; that’s where you’d ultimately like to draft a guy like DeAndre Hopkins to do that for you.

If the Seahawks are going to be successful against the Panthers this week, Tyler Lockett is going to have to really bust out.  There’s no reason why he shouldn’t get open on the reg against the likes of Cortland Finnegan (who I actually suspect will try to manhandle Kearse throughout the game) or Robert McClain.  I honestly sort of expected him to have more of an impact in the Vikings game last week, but the cold rendered that moot.  THIS WEEK, however, should be the week where he breaks his foot off in their asses.

I suspect, unless injuries arise, we won’t see much out of Kevin Smith or Kasen Williams this week outside of special teams.  I nevertheless maintain my belief that we will see at least ONE huge play out of Kevin Smith that nobody will see coming.  Maybe it’s a deep ball in traffic, maybe it’s a short catch and a lot of YAC.  Something!  Just watch.  As for Williams, I feel the Seahawks are missing a great opportunity there.  Williams DOES have a great ability to high point balls and come down with difficult catches in traffic.  If we’re smart, the Seahawks will include a few sub-packages with Williams, like we did with Chris Matthews in the Super Bowl last year.

This week is also the perfect week to get Luke Willson back.  I can’t even begin to tell you how tired I am of Cooper Helfet being our #1 tight end.  Not that I don’t like Helfet.  I think as a #2 or a #3, Helfet is quite effective.  But, his game is diminished the more he’s forced into the limelight.  I would assume Carolina’s defense is pretty stout against tight ends, what with their monster linebackers, but at least Willson presents a respectable challenge and will have to keep them honest.

I may be off base in this part of the game being my biggest concern – after all, Carolina’s secondary right now is much more palatable than it is at full strength – but it’s going to be imperative that our guys find ways to get open and get open quickly.  Their pass rush is insane, so being on time and staying on schedule is the best way we have of winning this game.

The Seahawks Finally Beat A Good Team

Not for nothing, but that game was EXACTLY what the doctor ordered.

Let’s face it, the defense won’t be dominant forever.  Depending on the opponent, the defense might not even be all that good.  It’s a hard truth akin to finding out there isn’t actually a Santa Claus, and one we’re all going to have to come to realize in our own time.  Some of you might be holding out hope, arguing that those are just the Legion of Boom’s HELPERS you’re seeing at every shopping mall.  But, in a quiet moment of reflection, ask yourself this:  do you feel confident that the Seahawks can hold down the best offenses in football, the way we had for the most part from 2012-2014?

I don’t know if I do.  Which means:  we’re going to need to lean on our offense now more than ever before to win us ballgames.

There are various monkeys the Seahawks got off their backs with this win over the Steelers.  For starters, the 2015 Seahawks finally beat a team with a winning record.  Indeed, should they keep some semblance of health, the Steelers should even be a playoff team.  So, that’s encouraging.  We took the best shot against one of the best passing games in all of football, and we dished it back out to them.  Even more encouraging is that this wasn’t some miracle comeback like we’ve been prone to witness.  The Steelers didn’t jump out to a 20-point lead for us to overcome; this was nip & tuck the whole way through, neither team going ahead by more than one score until the very end, when the Seahawks scored on that 80-yard touchdown to Baldwin to go up 9 points with two minutes to go.  After the Steelers broke the 0-0 tie with a field goal, there were SEVEN lead changes the rest of the way!  No huge lulls by the offense (except maybe for the bulk of the third quarter), and probably most importantly, no turnovers by the offense.

The other major monkey, of course, was that the Seahawks finally beat a team when that team scored over 25 points or some absurd number.  It’s not like the Seahawks NEVER score in the 30s under Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson, but it’s just that usually the other team is held in check.  We’ve never won a shootout with those principles in place, breaking I believe (off of memory) a 12-game losing streak.  Dating back to the beginning of the 2014 season (when we finally had Percy Harvin healthy, and we were expecting this team every week to look like they did in the Super Bowl against Denver), Seahawks fans have been wondering when the offense would finally surpass the defense.  It might be safe to say that moment happened yesterday, against a Steelers defense that isn’t necessarily amazing, but has had its share of success in carrying that team to a potential Wild Card berth with Roethlisberger missing much of the season.

Then again, that’s probably just me overreacting to recency bias in a 1-game sample.

If you take a closer look at that game, ugly as it was from a defensive perspective, there’s actually some promising elements to take away.  For starters, Richard Sherman had himself a day!  He finally nabbed his first interception (after a season’s worth of dropped picks) on a day where he shadowed the best receiver in the league, holding Antonio Brown to 51 yards on 6 receptions.  Obviously, the elephant in the room is Markus Wheaton’s 9 catches for 201 yards and a touchdown, which points to an obvious lack of depth in our secondary.  But, it also points to Ben Roethlisberger being the best deep ball passer in the entire league, not to mention the Steelers are absolutely fucking loaded at the wide receiver position.  When a guy like Wheaton is your third receiver, I’d say you’re pretty loaded.  For what it’s worth, though, I thought DeShawn Shead looked pretty good in his first real extended look as the team’s corner opposite Sherman.  He found himself playing catch-up a lot to the speedy Martavis Bryant, but he recovered well enough more often than not to hold him to 5 catches for 69 yards.

On a quick side note, can you imagine what this game would’ve become had Cary Williams not been benched entirely and kept inactive?  I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him in a Seahawks uniform, considering Burley can’t keep himself healthy, but his days as a starter here HAVE to be over.

It’s honestly weird to praise a unit that helped give up the most passing yards in franchise history (Roethlisberger threw for 456 yards, with Landry throwing for another 34 yards once Big Ben went out with a concussion), but we were going to struggle against this passing attack regardless; even at our peak back in 2013, we still would’ve given up yards in bunches.  But, there’s reason for optimism, if for no other reason than we won’t see a passing attack NEARLY this good again until the final week of the season (when the Cardinals may or may not be resting starters, as they will likely have locked themselves into the 2-seed at that point).

Getting back to the offense, it was good to see Wilson getting the ball out on time, in the rhythm of the offense.  Also, when your offense scores six TDs and is perfect in the red zone, I think you HAVE to be obligated to praise the offensive coordinator.  I give Darrell Bevell a ton of shit – and rightfully so – but I also have to give him credit when it’s due.  He’s still as inept as the day is long when it comes to calling plays for 2-point conversions (seriously, a fade to Kevin Smith?), but in the end it didn’t totally screw us over, so I think I’ll let it slide (as if he cares what I think).

Finally, big ups to Baldwin, Kearse, and Graham for catching damn near everything in sight.  It’s tough losing Graham for the season, but I tend to side with the people that believe this will free the OC and quarterback in their decisionmaking, as they won’t necessarily have to cater to anyone’s ego when calling plays and dishing out passes.  Mix in a little good ol’ fashioned Ewing Theory, and we might be poised for a timely and important streak of wins!