Seahawks Death Week: We’ve Got Holes To Fill On Offense

Yesterday, we got into it with what the Seahawks should do on defense. In case you couldn’t tell, these last two posts were supposed to be one, but as usual I got a little wordy, so here we are. Maybe someday I’ll do a Kill Bill-style re-imagining and smash these two posts into one big one. Probably not, but you never know.

Here are the offensive free agents-to-be, in some particular order:

Offense

  • Germain Ifedi (RT)
  • Joey Hunt (C)
  • Mike Iupati (G)
  • George Fant (T/TE)
  • Jacob Hollister (TE)
  • Luke Willson (TE)
  • David Moore (WR)
  • Jaron Brown (WR)
  • Geno Smith (QB)
  • C.J. Prosise (RB)

That’s a lotta O-Line. Today’s edition is going to be a little different than yesterday’s, as I’m gonna talk about one of our potential cuts right at the top.

The Seahawks have a HUGE decision to make at the center spot. Not a lot of people are talking about it right now, but soon it’s going to be everywhere. Justin Britt – who has been a reliable starter for the last few years – will be heading into the final year of his deal. He’s set to count approximately $11.4 million against the salary cap. He’s also coming off of an ACL injury that ended his season and required surgery.

Joey Hunt – a 6th rounder from 2016 – filled in and did pretty well. He’s obviously undersized, and usually once a game he’d get knocked back on his ass in embarrassing fashion, but other than that I thought he was fine. Also, given his own salary, there was great value there, as I don’t feel like we dropped off much at all compared to Britt. Obviously, starting so many games this season, Hunt is set for a raise, but I have to imagine it’s still less than what Britt is currently earning, meaning this is an opportunity for the team to save some money in the long term. If we cut Britt, he only counts about $2.9 million against the cap, which is about $8.5 million in savings for 2020.

I think the Seahawks should cut Britt, extend Hunt (maybe in the $4-5 million per year range), and draft another center to study under him. Now, Hunt is a restricted free agent, meaning we can slap a 1st round tender (a little over $4.5 million), a 2nd round tender (a little over $3 million), or an original round tender (a little over $2 million) to keep him for another season. That’s also an option. An original round tender seems like a waste, as I could easily see another team willing to sign him long term and give us a 6th rounder. Even a 2nd round tender feels like cheaping out; I’d look to slap a 1st round tender on him and play chicken with the rest of the league; I can’t imagine anyone giving up a 1st round pick for Hunt, and if so, then god bless ’em. And, who knows, if the guy we draft ends up being a stud, then maybe we let Hunt walk after 2020 and go with the draft pick going forward.

Either way, I’d like to have seen Justin Britt make his last start in a Seahawks uniform in 2019.

The next big decision revolves around Ifedi. We all know Ifedi. He’s a 4-year starter who was absolutely the whipping boy of an entire fanbase for his first two years in the league. He took a big step forward in 2018, and continued that work on into 2019. Now, of course, he’s not perfect. He gets penalized a lot, he gives up a good amount of pressure, but you can’t deny he’s made progress. Plus, he’s durable, and most importantly: the NFL simply has a shortage of reliable offensive linemen, so the demand for him on the open market is sure to be high. The Seahawks were already unwilling to give him a 5th-year option (which was a little over $10 million), so you can take that one of two ways: either they were taking a wait-and-see approach, or they just don’t think he’s worth that money on a short-term basis.

The Seahawks COULD use some of the savings by letting Britt go to extend Ifedi. Extending him another 4 years or so would allow the team to spread the signing bonus around, which would help us in the short term (likely resulting in a cap hit less than $10 million in the first year, allowing us to wait for the league-wide salary cap figures to continue to grow, as they have every year since the current CBA was put into place).

Or, the Seahawks could let Ifedi walk, but that comes with great risk, as I don’t believe they have his replacement on our roster just yet. Which brings us to George Fant. He obviously is looking to get a starting job somewhere, and I can’t imagine he’d be willing to stay here unless there are built-in assurances that he’s set to replace Duane Brown when he retires. But, that would still likely require a significant financial investment in a guy who figures to be a hot commodity around the league. Fant has lots of experience, including starting experience at the all-important left tackle position. The way around that quandry is to give Fant the right tackle job right away, then slide him over to the left side when Brown’s contract expires, and hopefully have developed the right tackle of the future in the interim.

The other option is to let Fant and Ifedi walk, and select a right tackle HIGH in this year’s draft. But, that comes with it pretty much the same thing we dealt with in Ifedi’s first two seasons here: lots and lots of growing pains.

If I had to make a decision now, I’d lean towards keeping one of either Ifedi or Fant. Preferably Fant – if the salaries are similar – but if he’s going to break the bank somewhere for a super high deal, then settle for Ifedi and try to develop your next left tackle of the future. I REALLY don’t want to lose them both, but I’d understand if the money is too prohibitive.

As for Iupati, I think we could retain him on the cheap if we needed to. That would allow us to continue bringing Jamarco Jones along slowly, and allowing him to be our backup guard on both sides of the center.

***

Let’s talk about tight ends and receivers now.

Will Dissly should be back for the start of 2020, but he’s pretty much all we got. I would LOVE for the Seahawks to extend Hollister, though he’s a restricted free agent, so I think we could get away with a 2nd round tender on him (it would be pointless to put an original round tender on him, as he went undrafted, and I feel like he’s built up enough value in his time here to be worth more than nothing). If someone signs Hollister and is willing to give us a 2nd round pick, then GREAT! More ammo for the upcoming draft.

As for Luke Willson, I think it’s worth it to bring him back on a minimum deal. I also think the team should invest in another blocking tight end in the mid-to-late rounds of the draft, as we obviously need the depth with Dissly’s injury issues.

I think we should let Jaron Brown walk. He was an okay veteran, but he’s not worth the money. I could see us slapping an original round tender on David Moore, as a little over $2 million isn’t going to break the bank, and quite frankly I’d welcome the 7th rounder if another team signed him.

With Lockett and Metcalf, our top two receiver spots are locked up. The Seahawks obviously kept John Ursua on the roster all year (and traded back into the seventh round of the 2019 draft) for a reason. He was a healthy scratch for all but a small handful of games, but this team sees potential in him as a #3 receiver. I think that starts to take hold in 2020. If he puts in the work this offseason, I could see him making a huge impact in training camp and pre-season, and then sliding right into a regular role on this team.

If David Moore comes back, that’s your top 4 receiver spots right there, leaving us maybe one more for a veteran-minimum guy, or another young gun out on the scrap heap. The Seahawks are fine at receiver; I don’t see a huge need to spend a lot of money here.

***

As for the rest, it’s time to let C.J. Prosise go away and spread his wings. He’s officially spent significant time every season of his NFL career injured. With Carson, Penny, and Homer all returning, there’s no point in bringing Prosise back. Draft another running back if you have to. Or, hell, bring back Turbin or Lynch! Just not Prosise; I can’t take it anymore.

And, yeah, if you want, bring Geno Smith back. I have no problem with that. He should be cheap and hopefully never play, so it’s no skin off my nose. Or, draft a quarterback in the later rounds; who cares?

***

Other than Britt, the only possible cut I see on the offense is Ed Dickson, which should go without saying. He’s played in 10 games (including playoffs) in his two full years here in Seattle. He’s set to count nearly $4 million against the cap; we’d save approximately $3 million by cutting him. It’s a no-brainer.

As for possible early extensions, the only real candidate is Chris Carson, but I would caution strongly against it. 2020 is the final year of his deal and he’s earning less than $1 million. He’s also proven to be injury prone, as well as fumble prone, so I would not pour a ton of money into him. If he’s looking for money in the $5-10 million range, let him seek it elsewhere. If he holds out of training camp and the pre-season in 2020, let him. DRAFT ANOTHER RUNNING BACK. A big one, in the Carson/Lynch mold. Don’t tie your future to Carson, it won’t end well!

***

All in all, I like what the Seahawks have going on offense. I don’t think they really need to shake it up all that much in the skill position area. Little tweaks here and there, plus some depth through the draft should be fine.

The Seahawks have around $68.5 million in cap space, minus around $10 million or so for incidentals (dead money, practice squad, draft picks, IR, incentives, etc.). I feel like most of that needs to go towards the defensive line, with a good chunk set aside for our offensive line (to either keep what we’ve got together, or find quality replacements in free agency). The worst thing we can do is put a bunch of money into bringing in new receivers and running backs; let Russell Wilson carry that burden. Worry more about the lines.

I know I can sound like I’m down on the Seahawks, but it’s not like we’re the Browns or Lions or Dolphins. We’re not a team in total peril. But, we still need to make a lot of moves and hit on those moves if we want to be a legitimate championship contender, and not a wild card team just happy to be playing on the road in the Divisional Round. The only thing more frustrating than that is being 8-8 every year, and quite frankly I don’t think we’re too far off from that either.

Wasting Russell Wilson’s prime should be a crime punishable by death. Let’s hope we get this thing figured out, because it’s not like the NFC West is getting any easier.

Seahawks Death Week: Where the 2019 Season Went Right!

Yesterday, we wallowed in our misfortunes. But, as always, we have to keep things in perspective. This was a Seahawks team that won 11 games and made it to the second round of the playoffs. I’m by no means pleased with the end result, I’m not satisfied just making it into the Final 8. I’m never “just happy to be there” and wishing everyone all the best in their future endeavors. Those fans – rational, sensible, not taking all of this meaningless drivel so seriously – are the absolute worst. My first thought after a final Seahawks loss isn’t, “Well, that was fun while it lasted.” It’s usually, “Fuck this shit, fuck everyone, I’m going to my bedroom and watching something else, alone.”

But, eventually I get there. Eventually I calm down and start appreciating the season for what it was. Usually, it’s about a day (or however long it takes me to write up this post), and then I’m done and I move on to next year. Dwelling on success or failure is bad enough, but dwelling on mediocrity? No thank you.

So, let’s talk about all the cool shit we saw this year, and then let’s never think about it again.

Gotta start with Russell Wilson. I know, quarterbacks are the most important players in all of sportsdom, but he was really something special. He was a different kind of special in 2017 – when he led the team in passing AND rushing yards – but I would argue he was the best we’ve ever seen him in 2019. Even better than the last seven games of the regular season in 2015!

If Lamar Jackson didn’t do what he did, we’d be talking about Russell Wilson as the MVP of the NFL. And, if you actually gave the award to the person who most embodied the phrase “Most Valuable Player”, I think Wilson would not only win it hands down, but he’d be on his third or fourth award at this point. But, the NFL gives it to the guy with the best stats, or the flashiest set of highlights, or the guy who the media gloms onto obsessively for three months; so, clearly Lamar. But, it’s an easy argument to make that Wilson means more to this Seahawks team and their 11 wins than Lamar did to that Ravens team and their 13. Give the Ravens a replacement-level quarterback, and I think they still probably win 9 or 10 games; put a replacement-level quarterback on the Seahawks and I think we’re EASILY playing for a Top 10 draft pick, and maybe even Top 5!

But, even the numbers alone for Wilson are impressive; maybe not compared to Lamar, but still. 4,110 yards on 66.1% completions (8.0 yards average per attempt), 31 touchdowns, only 5 interceptions, and a passer rating of 106.3. And, not for nothing, but Wilson was also tied for the league lead for most sacks at 48. Only three quarterbacks in the Top 10 Most Sacked made the playoffs; the other two were Deshaun Watson and Josh Allen. The rest of the guys in that area are, predictably, on terrible football teams who didn’t win very many games.

And, if you tack on rushing numbers, Wilson came within 29 yards of being the #2 rusher on this team, with 342 yards and another 3 TDs on the ground. Just an outstanding all-around season, and clearly deserving of the Second Team All Pro honor he received.

***

Wilson was so good, he gets his own section. Let’s get to the rest of the offense, because even though he’s great, he can’t do it all.

Chris Carson had a wonderful season. 1,230 yards, 4.4 average, and 7 TDs (plus 37 catches for 266 yards and 2 TDs). He did ultimately get knocked out for the season in his 15th game, but those are numbers I’ll take from my starting running back every damn year. What’s less great, obviously, are the 7 fumbles (4 lost), but we’re focusing on the bright side today.

I thought the rest of the running back room did pretty well too. Rashaad Penny didn’t have many opportunities, but he clearly took a step forward this year compared to his rookie season. It’s unfortunate his season-ending injury sounds so severe that it might cost him some games in 2020, because he really looked like a guy this team could rely on. And even Travis Homer made a decent showing in Week 17 and the two playoff games. He’s not a true #1, but as a 3rd down/2-minute back, I thought he did great!

There were a lot of questions about the Seahawks’ receivers heading into 2019. Doug Baldwin retired, the team drafted three guys, and Tyler Lockett was the unquestioned #1 option. My biggest concern was that last one: how would Lockett respond? Well, how do you like 82 receptions for 1,057 yards and 8 touchdowns? In THIS offense?! That’s elite! But, maybe even more importantly was the emergence and growth of D.K. Metcalf, who finished the season with 58 catches for 900 yards and 7 TDs. The two of them each hit triple digits in targets, which really bodes well for the future of the position. Metcalf saved his best for second-to-last in that Wild Card game, so we know he has it in him in the big moments; it’ll be fun to see him continue to grow and start to dominate in the years to come.

And, even though they were largely banged up, I was really impressed with what we got from our tight ends. Dissly is a stud who just can’t stay on the field. We were able to bring Luke Willson back and he was able to do Luke Willson things. But, the biggest find was Jacob Hollister, who became the de facto #3 receiver on this team. He had 41 catches for 349 yards and 3 touchdowns over 11 games, which doesn’t sound like much, but he was always getting open and was a nice security blanket/outlet for Wilson when plays broke down or we needed to convert a first down.

Finally, for the offense, I know the O-Line wasn’t the best, but I feel they deserve some credit for not being as bad as they were from 2015-2017. I was particularly impressed with Joey Hunt stepping in for an injured Justin Britt. I was REMARKABLY impressed with Duane Brown continuing to be ageless (and returning from a knee surgery to start that Green Bay game). I don’t think I ever fully appreciated Mike Iupati for what he brought to this team’s run game until we hit the playoffs and he was out. And, I thought Ifedi continued to make progress while playing presumably all the snaps this season (or at least a very high percentage). Fluker was a little hit or miss, but he was able to play most of the season, which I’ll take as a win.

***

I’m obviously less high on the defense than I am the offense. Offensively, we were top 10 in yards and points; I can’t ask for much more than that. I thought the playcalling was – for the most part – superb, and I thought our execution was spot on (until the first half of that Green Bay game).

Defensively, on the other hand, we were in the bottom 10 and bottom 11 in yards and points, which just can’t happen. Nevertheless, there were a few bright spots.

How much further would we have sunk without Jadeveon Clowney? I know the sack numbers aren’t there, but his pressure rate was among the highest in the league. When he was in the game, he was a difference maker throughout. He needs help around him, but he’s an elite foundational piece to any defense.

I think you’ve got to give some credit to the linebackers. They were steady. Wagner and Wright played in all 16 games plus the playoffs. Their age may be showing at times, their instincts might be a little diminished compared to their peaks, but they were really holding this defense together with duct tape and twine, considering our faulty secondary and even faultier pass rush.

I was happy to see Shaquill Griffin take the next step towards being a reliable cornerback. I still don’t think he’s a true #1, lockdown guy, and I don’t think he ever will be; but as a #2 he’s solid.

The defense took a considerable leap in effectiveness when Quandre Diggs came to town. Paired with Bradley McDougald, this defense looked downright respectable (again, until the Green Bay game).

***

Finally, I’ll talk about the Special Teams.

Jason Myers is a scary individual, but in reality he only missed 5 field goals in the regular season. The 4 missed extra points are pretty annoying, but all in all we didn’t lose any games because our kicker fucked us. So, I’ll take the slight win and hope he improves in 2020. For what it’s worth, I know he was a Pro Bowler in 2019, but kickers are wonky. Like relievers in baseball, they go from good to bad to good again with no rhyme or reason. I have no reason to believe that Myers can’t turn it around. He’s got the leg, he’s young enough, he’s had success in the past; hopefully, he’ll be fine.

Michael Dickson – coming off of a rookie All Pro/Pro Bowl season – had a really tough start to his 2019. But, after a few games, he settled down and finished pretty strong. No notes.

I thought the coverage units took a big step forward in 2019, after being a legitimate problem in 2018. So, looks like those young guys we brought in made a difference!

The 2019 Seahawks Have Yet To Play A Really Great, Complete Game Of Football This Season

This is a weird Seahawks team that’s currently heading into the Divisional Round of the playoffs. This is going to be a Memory Lane post about the Seahawks, so let’s take a little trip.

The 2018 Seahawks were a very pleasant surprise, considering a lot of people thought this team would be starting a massive decline phase after our Championship Window closed, but we won 10 games and were a 5-seed in the NFC. That team was a lot like this year’s version, except I would argue we’re MAYBE a little better this year. That being said, they still had a dominant 27-3 win over Oakland in London as probably their most complete win of the season.

The 2016 season was the last time we made it this far in the playoffs; that was the aforementioned closing of the Championship Window for this team under Pete Carroll. After a somewhat rocky start, we had really significant victories over Carolina (40-7) and later the Rams (24-3) down the stretch to propel us into the second round of the playoffs.

We had plenty of lopsided victories throughout our major run from 2012-2015. Sometimes they come early; usually we get one or two late. But, this team almost always finds a way to put a complete, 60-minute game together in all three phases.

Yet, here we are, heading to Green Bay this Sunday, and 2019 is severely and bafflingly lacking.

It’s not for lack of cupcake opponents, either! The Bengals won 2 games; they have the number one pick in 2020; they played us to the bitter end on our own field and only lost by a single point. The Panthers and Cardinals both won only 5 games; we won in Carolina by less than a touchdown, and we actually GAVE Arizona one of their victories (again, on our home field) by two touchdowns. Cleveland, Tampa, and Atlanta were all on our schedule, and all were 1-score victories for the Seahawks.

The closest we get to a real DOMINATING performance by the Seahawks is either our victory in Carolina (where we were up 30-10 in the fourth quarter before a rash of injuries allowed them to pull it close in the final minutes – with an opportunity to win had we punted back to them on our final drive) or our 27-10 victory down in Arizona in Week 4, which was the only game we won all season that was more than a 1-score game (we LOST three games by more than a single score, and it’s pretty easy to find games where we were simply out-classed).

I won’t downplay that victory over Arizona – it was the only reason why we ended up with a positive point-differential this season, after all – as I wrote the next day, the game was never seriously in doubt. But, there was something less-than-satisfying about the 17-point victory. As unsatisfying as it can be to win by 3 scores, anyway.

For starters, we were up against a rookie quarterback making just the fourth start of his career. #1 overall pick or not, that’s a game you should win. Primarily, though, that Cardinals defense was truly atrocious, and as I wrote about in my post-game blog post, we left points on the field.

It was 20-10 in the fourth quarter when we got the ball back, and that’s with the Cardinals missing two make-able field goals in the first half. It took an 8-minute clock-killing touchdown drive to give the game its final score; had we mucked it up there, who knows where the game ends up?

That’s a far cry from the 58-0 shellacking we gave the Cards back in 2012 (followed by a 50-17 drubbing in Buffalo, followed by a 42-13 dismantling of the eventual Super Bowl participating 49ers … ahh those were the days).

The most points we scored in 2019 was 40 against the Bucs, and we needed every one of them as that was an overtime thriller that required us to come back from 14 points down late in the second quarter.

The fewest points we’ve given up this year was 9, both against a broken and beaten-up Eagles team; and we could only muster 17 on offense each time to get the W’s.

Part of me has obviously belabored the same point: this is TOTALLY unsustainable. We can’t continue to win close game after close game. And, when you figure our opponents only get better from here, the odds of us putting together a complete, 60-minute game in all three phases feels like slim-to-none.

What’s most galling is that these Seahawks CLEARLY have the potential to have gotten this done. At full strength, on paper, these Seahawks are one of the best 8 teams in the league, and that’s proven out with this playoff run. The problem is, the Seahawks have rarely been at full strength, especially when you factor in the “on paper” aspect.

On paper, Jarran Reed was coming off of a 10-sack season; he missed the first six weeks to suspension, took a while to get going, and ultimately never lived up to that lofty ideal. On paper, Ziggy Ansah was supposed to – ideally – give us at least 75% of what Frank Clark did last year; he started the season injured and turned out to be totally finished for his NFL career. On paper AND on the field, Jadeveon Clowney has produced like a guy deserving of $20+ million a season, but he’s dealt with injury issues of his own (that currently still plague him to at least a moderate degree) and missed some games here and there. Injuries to Diggs and Griffin in the secondary killed any chances we had of winning the NFC West and a first round BYE. Our tight end room has been reduced to rubble at times. I’m still convinced everyone on our O-Line has been playing through injuries, and now those chickens are coming home to roost with our older veterans – Brown and Iupati – starting to wear down and miss game time. David Moore missed time early in the season; Malik Turner and Jaron Brown have missed time late; and Josh Gordon was a whirlwind affair that blew up in our faces spectacularly.

The point is, there hasn’t been a single game this season where we’ve been anywhere near full strength; there’s always been at least one or two or a half dozen guys out with injury or suspension or playing through some stuff. But, of course, you can say that about every team. And yet, look through the playoffs at the remaining teams and you’re bound to find at least one or two super-dominating performances.

Look no further than the supposedly-mediocre Packers and you’ll find their schedule littered with double-digit victories.

So, while that part of me feels like we missed our chance to put it all together, there’s a teeny, tiny part of me that kinda sorta feels like we might be due. I know that’s dumb, and prior results have no bearing on future performance. But, this is an 11-win Seahawks team playing in the Divisional Round of the playoffs; SURELY we can do better than a 17-point victory over a God-awful Cardinals team in the first month of the season as our Signature Victory.

Most likely not. But, I’d still like to think so. For what it’s worth – barring any setbacks in practice this week (or any more failed drug tests, etc.) – we should be as healthy as can be heading into this Sunday. There apparently weren’t any setbacks with our most important defenders; Clowney, Diggs, and Wagner all made it through okay. Ansah’s season is probably over, but he also wasn’t giving us anything anyway. Duane Brown is a big question mark – and he’s sorely missed – but Mike Iupati is trending in the right direction, which is huge for our running game and our interior pass protection. His presence should make George Fant’s life easier on the edge. Hollister and Willson are a great duo at tight end, and it looks like at least Jaron Brown will be back this week for a little more help outside (particularly in run blocking at the receiver position). And, sure, the running back room is still in shambles, but Lynch continues to look better each and every week, and figures to have enough game prep under his belt to make more of an impact than the 28% of snaps he played against the Eagles. I know the Packers also sport a stout run defense, but with Lynch more involved, we should certainly see better rush numbers in this one.

Look, if it’s ever going to happen – if we’re ever going to have that bonzer, soul-crushing performance – it would have to be this week. I’m beyond ready to expect this will just never happen for the Seahawks this season, but you never know.

These Seahawks Are Hard To Watch

You can call them exciting – the 2019 Seahawks as a whole – but as you can see from last night’s 26-21 defeat, when you have to rely on winning nothing but close games, so much of the outcome is predicated on luck. Jacob Hollister was mere inches away from scoring the game-winning touchdown. The refs – both in the stadium and those watching from New York – totally botched what should’ve been a pass interference penalty in the endzone. The Seahawks were so discombobulated – and so out of time outs – that they were unable to properly get a play called with the ball at the one yard line, resulting in a delay of game. To even get to that point, the Seahawks had to prevent the 49ers from converting a 3rd & 17 and came within one yard of even botching THAT modest task!

When every single little thing has to go your way for you to win a football game, it’s easy to see why – over the long haul – these 1-score games tend to even out over time. The fact of the matter is: the Seahawks peaked with that Monday Night victory over the Vikings. We’ve gone on to lose three out of our last four games. I would argue we were really only competitive in 4 quarters out of those 4 total games, and 3 of those quarters took place in Carolina, before everyone got injured and everything went to shit for this team.

Heading into the game last night, it was firmly decided that the Seahawks would have to play on Wild Card weekend. Had we won, we would’ve been the 3-seed and hosted the Vikings. I know I’m probably in the minority here, but that’s the game I’d rather have, 100%. Going on the road for three straight games – even for a great team, even in a flawed conference – is as hard as it gets in professional sports. But, the Seahawks are NOT a great team. And the NFC isn’t very flawed at the top. The 49ers are elite, the Saints are right up there, and say what you want about the Packers, but they’re – at the very least – hosting a game in January after their BYE week. With Aaron Rodgers at the helm, that’s never an easy task (also, not for nothing, but the 2019 Packers have to be the most under-the-radar playoff BYE team in the last decade, which is exactly the position I was hoping the Seahawks would be in).

But, that’s what you get for losing at home to the Cardinals the week before. You lose any right to a first round BYE. The Seahawks don’t deserve it; they probably never did.

A lot of the frustrations we’ve seen in recent weeks boil down to injuries. You just can’t overcome so many high-profile injuries and hope to compete at the same level as the 49ers or Saints. Duane Brown is a huge loss. Carson, Penny, and Prosise are all huge losses. Quandre Diggs might be the biggest loss of them all. Our entire linebacker corps seems to be banged up and a step slow. Clowney seems to be a shell of the guy who wreaked havoc in the first 49ers game. Ansah never really got going; he was a good idea that never panned out. Al Woods obviously hampers our depth. Tyler Lockett is going through some stuff. Losing Gordon and Malik Turner (and then Jaron Brown) severely weakens our passing game. The drop-off from losing Dissly, Willson, and Ed Dickson (not to mention needing to start Fant on the O-Line, losing his specialness at the tackle-eligible position) has just completely transformed what potential this offense once had. Shaquill Griffin isn’t 100%. I could go on and on, I’m sure.

It’s just gotten to the point where I’m waiting for the season to finally die. Everyone seems to be happier to play the Eagles on the road, but not me. Sure, they’re just as banged up, but are they really that much worse? Given our +7 point differential (vs. their +31), and considering how they came back from the dead to win their last four games and win the NFC East when no one thought they had a chance in Hell, are we really taking that much stock in 2 extra close wins by the Seahawks? Especially when we barely beat them in Philly the last time we played them?

Even if we do get a bunch of our key guys back and somehow prevail, what does that get us? Almost certainly a date in Santa Clara against a rested, healthy, and more importantly BETTER THAN US 49ers team. That’s why this trip to Philly is a death sentence. I don’t care that we went 7-1 on the road this year; that’s an anomaly. That means nothing in the playoffs when you lose and you’re done.

We needed the 49ers to be the 5-seed. We needed them to go on the road. We needed them to almost certainly beat the Eagles and then take out one of the top two seeds, to get one of those teams out of our hair. Hosting the Vikings – who are going nowhere fast – is the obvious better option and it’s asinine that more Seahawks fans don’t realize this.

I would say we’d be better off losing on Sunday, but I don’t know if I could handle the sheer embarrassment of losing to a team as bad as Philly, knowing what I just wrote about how bad the Seahawks have been of late. There’s a way to squint and see the Seahawks get some guys back, gut out a close victory over the Eagles, then go back into Santa Clara to beat the 49ers again. We know them well enough. We’ve beaten them before (we ALMOST beat them twice), we can beat them again. From there, it’s a date with either the Saints or Packers in the NFC Championship Game. At that point, it’s a total toss-up.

As it is every year, the hardest game to win is in the Divisional Round, against superior teams coming off of BYE weeks. Usually – I’d say around 75% of the time – the home teams win in that round, and they win pretty soundly most of the time. Having to go on the road, against the best team in the NFC – who also gave Baltimore everything they could handle – is just not the position you want to be in.

And, that’s why this sucks. Because we’re going to spend the rest of this week – and all of next week, assuming we get over this hurdle – trying to squint our way to an appearance in the Super Bowl, when quite frankly it ain’t gonna happen. We’d almost be better off not making the playoffs at all than being a fucking Wild Card team. This isn’t hockey. This isn’t baseball. This is the NFL, where the Haves beat the Have Nots 9 out of 10 times.

And these Seahawks just don’t have the kind of magic to be one of those 1 out of 10 teams.

It’s Literally Impossible To (Not) Get It Up For This Week’s Seahawks Game

Look, man, we’ve been talking about this Week 17 matchup since the 49ers improbably became the last undefeated team of 2019 and the Seahawks – in defiance of all that is holy – started the season by winning an unsustainable number of close games. We’ve CERTAINLY been talking about the Week 17 game since the Seahawks went into Santa Clara and knocked off the 49ers, giving them their first loss of the season and putting us ever-so-briefly in the driver’s seat for the NFC West. And, that fervor has only intensified as the Seahawks have scrambled into the inside track for the NFC’s #1 seed, while the 49ers have (somewhat) come down to Earth.

In between that MONUMENTAL showdown and today is a home game against the Arizona Cardinals, a 4-9-1 team in rebuild mode, working in a rookie phenom at quarterback, just trying to make it through the season without any further injuries while maybe playing a little spoiler along the way. This game could not mean any less.

And yet, if you believe the Seahawks have a chance to compete for the Super Bowl, it still obviously means a great deal.

As I outlined earlier in the week, if the Seahawks, Saints, and Packers all win out, the Seahawks get the #1 seed by virtue of a 3-way tiebreaker. The iffiest team in that group is probably the Packers, who have to go to Minnesota this week, while the Vikings still harbor delusions of winning the NFC North. The strongest team in that group is probably the Saints, who go on the road twice, but face a couple of very beatable teams in the Titans and Panthers. Stuck in the middle (with you) are the Seahawks, where it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where they go 2-0, 1-1, or even 0-2 the next two weeks. Hell, throw any number of ties into that list of possible outcomes and I wouldn’t be VERY shocked!

The Seahawks NEED this game! But, how do you blame them not looking ahead to the game that REALLY matters? The game that decides hosting at least one – if not two – playoff games, vs. being a 5-seed and going on the road throughout the post-season. I mean, THAT’S your season right there. I know the Seahawks are 7-1 on the road this year, and that will DEFINITELY be the main talking point heading into the playoffs when the Seahawks have to go to Dallas before probably facing the 49ers in a rubber-match down in Santa Clara again; but do you really want to roll those dice? The playoffs are already stressful enough; wouldn’t you feel at least a little more at ease with a first round BYE followed by back-to-back home games?

Winning this game is vital. And, frankly, the Seahawks SHOULD win this game easily. The Cards – before beating the up-and-down Browns last week – were on a 6-game losing streak where they only sometimes looked competitive.

But, the Seahawks are banged up, especially on defense. Quandre Diggs – the guy who is certainly the most important mid-season addition anyone in the NFL has made this year – won’t play, leaving us with one of the scrubs we were trying our damnedest to forget about (at least Tedric Thompson is out for the year, so the lure of starting him won’t doom our season). On top of that, Shaquill Griffin has a hamstring and could probably use another week to rest; even if he plays, he’ll be at less than 100%, and could risk re-aggravating it. Then, there’s Bobby Wagner – the heart & soul of the defense – who is apparently going to play with a sprained ankle; the chances of him either sucking or making the injury worse far outweigh him actually playing to his usual abilities. On top of all that, whither Clowney and Ansah? If our pass coverage is this weakened, we better figure out some sort of pass rush!

Offensively, the hammer fell a little earlier than we expected with Josh Gordon. He wasn’t a HUGE part of our offense, but you could point to pretty much every game where he made at least one big play. A third down conversion here; one of the best diving, fingertip catches of the season there. The drop-off is Jaron Brown or Malik Turner or David Moore; enough said. Getting Luke Willson back this week is a fairly big deal, but come on.

Look, I’m having a hard-enough time believing that all of this is REALLY for real. Gun to my head: I don’t think we beat the 49ers next week. I think we’re definitely going on the road for the playoffs, and I wouldn’t be shocked if the Cowboys or Eagles found a way to take us out in the Wild Card round. I keep coming back to the point differential (+26, equal to the Rams, who just murdered us btw), but also just the eye test. We’re BARELY beating these teams. The 49ers and Saints CLEARLY look like the class of the NFC and we’re these pretenders who have the best quarterback and that’s about it. Sometimes, teams like the Seahawks can come from nowhere and delight the world, but most of the time water finds its level.

The Seahawks are hanging on by a THREAD with all of these injuries. The depth just isn’t there at the most important posititons. If you asked me before the Carolina game where we could LEAST afford to downgrade, I would’ve said the safety position. Not far behind that: middle linebacker (I say this, of course knowing that quarterback is the most important position, so let’s just take that for granted and move the fuck on with our lives). Downgrading at probably both spots, with all the questions around our defensive line, brings our odds down to zero that we’re actually going to make an impact this post-season.

I hope I’m wrong! But, at this point I want to continue with the illusion as long as possible. Just having these conversations, and dreaming about scenarios where the Seahawks could shock the world and earn a first round BYE is truly giving me joy this holiday season. Beating the Cardinals – by any means necessary, even if it’s the ugliest game we’ve ever seen – will at least afford us the opportunity to keep this wild ride going another week.

Losing, on the other hand, will only serve to bring REALITY crashing down on top of our heads. This close to Christmas? Let’s not be a Grinch this Sunday, Seahawks. Grow that heart three sizes and let’s enjoy some roast beast!

Seahawks Won A Stunning, Classic Monday Night Game In Santa Clara

This game was NUTS! This game was so intense and fun and nerve-wracking and painful and deliriously wonderful that I’ve done nothing but watch clips and read articles since it ended (with a little sleep and a little breakfast mixed in). I want to do nothing more than go back and re-live every single minute, so that’s what I’m gonna do here. Let’s re-live the shit out of it!

49ers’ 1st Drive – Every time the Seahawks had them nailed down, the 49ers were bailed out by the refs. Shaq Griffin looked like he had a pick to really turn the tides early, but a ticky-tack defensive holding penalty eliminated it. Then, on the very next third down, it looked like we had them stopped short and ready to punt, except for another lame PI call to give them another first down. We eventually held them to a field goal with their rookie kicker (signed off of the scrap heap this week to replace an injured Robbie Gould) who was making his first start for the 49ers, but the tone was set for an iffy game (to say the least) from the refs.

49ers’ 2nd Drive – After a quick Seahawks’ 3 & Out, the 49ers gashed their way down the field for a touchdown and a 10-0 lead. Now, I know the Seahawks almost always start out slow like this, but at this point I was pretty concerned there was going to be TOO much to overcome. The subsequent Seahawks 3 & Out did little to allay my concerns.

49ers’ 5th Drive – The teams traded a few punts back and forth and we finally settled into something of a routine, which was smashed apart with a perfectly-timed pass rush to knock the ball out of Jimmy G’s hands for a fumble-return touchdown by Clowney. Clowney’s been the team’s obvious defensive MVP this year, but he took his game to another level in this one. I think he ended up with 10 pressures, 5 QB hits, 1 sack, and the touchdown on this drive to pull the game to 10-7. This was a definite “sigh of relief” moment where it finally felt like things could turn around.

Seahawks’ 5th Drive – We held the 49ers to a 3 & Out to take it to the 2-minute warning, and the table was set. Apparently, the 49ers had never given up a score in the final two minutes of a half (or maybe just a first half?), but there the Seahawks were, driving after a 20-yard punt return from Lockett (who ended up leaving the game injured in overtime, with a possible serious injury). It was all going according to plan, until it wasn’t: we were moving the proper direction, we were running the clock out, and there was D.K. Metcalf with a quick out that he somehow managed to take all the way to the 1-yard line, pulling multiple defenders with him. Except, the one guy re-established himself in bounds, ripped the ball from Metcalf’s hands, and recovered the ball at the 2-yard line to preserve the 49ers’ streak of good fortune inside of two minutes. The Seahawks should’ve been up 14-10 at halftime, but the 3-point deficit was preserved.

Seahawks’ 6th Drive – One thing I’ve grudgingly accepted is that these Seahawks – for whatever reason – start games slowly, pretty much on both sides of the ball these days. But, what really irks me is starting slow in the second halves of games, especially when we win the coin toss and defer to get the ball out of halftime. It almost shifted in this one, as the Seahawks looked to establish the run, with Carson moving the chains after three straight runs, followed by a D.K. reception to take us near midfield. Then, Penny entered the game for what I have to assume was the first and last time. He had 2 carries on the day, both on this drive: the first went for 2 yards, the second went for no gain and a fumble. He didn’t see the field again after that.

49ers’ 9th Drive – The Seahawks forced the 49ers to turn the ball over on downs following the Penny fumble, then ended up kicking it back 5 plays later. The game turned in a big way here on this drive, with a wild pass eluding the grasp of a Niners receiver for Quandre Diggs’ first interception in a Seahawks uniform. He got the start at free safety, with Bradley McDougald playing his preferred strong safety spot, and the Seahawks were immediately rewarded with his veteran presence. He had a couple other bigtime hits (one to prevent a bobbled catch for a big gain) and looks like he’ll fit in beautifully in this defense.

Seahawks’ 8th Drive – First play – from the San Francisco 16-yard line after the Diggs return – was a Carson run for 4 yards that turned into a fumble (thankfully recoverd by Hunt) for negative one yards. At that point, I mean, how do you not just put this game entirely on Russell Wilson’s shoulders? Before the game, all the ESPN analysts were calling the Seahawks a one-man show, which – have you met Chris Carson and Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf? But, Carson never really busted out, Lockett was held to 26 yards on only 3 receptions, and Metcalf had a tough one in catching only 6 out of 10 targets, with a few 50/50 balls batted away (and, of course, the fumble before halftime). So, after a Wilson scramble to the 3-yard line, he fudged around in the pocket until Hollister willed his way open in the back of the endzone for the go-ahead touchdown. 14-10.

Seahawks’ 9th Drive – The defense made their presence felt in Jimmy G’s face immediately following the touchdown, with Q-Jeff swallowing him up for a sack. The refs called him on what initially appeared to be a bogus lowering-the-head penalty until you saw the replay from the other angle. I still don’t love the rule – what are you supposed to do when the offensive guy lowers HIS head first? – but it is what it is (now, if only the refs would’ve called the same thing when the 49ers defender lowered HIS head on a Wilson run-and-slide later in the game). Anyway, in the first of many BALL DON’T LIE moments, the Seahawks got their sack 3 plays later, which forced a fumble to be recovered by the good guys. Once again deep in enemy territory, it took the Seahawks 4 plays to take a commanding 21-10 lead.

Seahawks’ 10th Drive – I’m still fucking irritated about this drive. This should’ve been the back-breaking, suck-out-their-souls drive to put the game away. The Seahawks forced a punt on the 49ers’ previous drive and at the top of the 4th quarter, looked to embark upon one of those 8-minute, game-killing drives where we ram it down the other team’s throats. And it started out promising enough! Three consecutive runs left us with 2nd & 7 and only 12 minutes left in the game. I know Seahawks fans around the world lament our run-heavy approach, but in this instance I don’t know why we didn’t keep pounding the rock. Instead, Wilson dropped back and was immediately overwhelmed by 97 guys (approx.) in his face. He lost control of the ball, it landed in Ifedi’s open arms (open because he was conveniently blocking NO ONE), who did his best Seahawks Running Back impression by holding it like a loaf of bread, only for the ball to be punched out for a 49ers’ defensive touchdown. They hit the 2-point conversion thanks to very weak coverage by Tre Flowers (who, along with Jamar Taylor, had games they’d largely love to forget, save the end score), and there we were, 21-18.

Seahawks’ 12th Drive – As soon as that disaster sequence hit, I knew this game had completely shifted. And, look, I know momentum isn’t a real thing that you can quantify or whatever, but tell that to a fighter who’d been dominating only to take a surprise pop to the chops. It sets you back! It knocks you on your heels. And sometimes it takes a while to recover. When the Seahawks got the ball back for their 11th drive, they went 3 & Out; at that point, it was only a question of whether the 49ers would re-take the lead or just tie it up. They drove down, stalled just outside of the redzone, and their rookie kicker split the uprights right down the middle. With a little over 6 minutes left in the quarter, I’ll be honest, I knew the Seahawks COULD drive it back for a go-ahead score, but they also could’ve just-as-easily coughed it up and gagged this one away. Thankfully, we converted a couple third downs to take this game down under 2 minutes. So, to set the stage: 3rd & 1, 1:55 left in the quarter, the 49ers just used their first time out of the half. Carson ran for 9 yards on the previous two plays, so I understand the impulse to continue to hand him the rock, but you knew we were gonna run it, I knew we were gonna run it, and as such the 49ers sure as SHIT knew we were gonna run it! I desperately wanted the Seahawks to put this in Wilson’s hands, and was severely disappointed when we didn’t do it. Now, I get it, if you can’t pick up 3rd & 1, then how much of a damn are you worth? But, at the same time, HE’S THE MVP MAN! Let the chef cook! There was still a chance the Seahawks might go for it on 4th & 1 – we even lined up in a half-hearted attempt to get them to jump offsides – but we kicked it instead. Now, in the longterm, I’m sure that move will work gangbusters for Jason Myers’ confidence, but you know as well as I do that the LAST thing anyone wanted was to put the game on his leg, especially after his performance against the Bucs last week. To his credit, he nailed it.

49ers’ 13th Drive – All I can really remember about this drive are the multiple dropped game-sealing interceptions (at least one by K.J. and Bobby each), and the Ansah offsides penalty that I’m pretty sure saw him benched for the rest of the game. Jimmy G was sloppy as all get-out in this game – he probably should’ve had 4 or 5 picks in total – but they somehow found themselves in field goal range with a chance to send it to overtime. The rookie kicker made the kick of his life and there we were, headed to overtime.

Seahawks’ 14th Drive – Geno Smith won the coin toss. Either he said “tails” and the ref heard “heads”, or his accent made his call SOUND like tails, but either way it felt like a gift, as for the second week in a row, the Seahawks won the overtime coin toss. And, for the second week in a row, it looked like the Seahawks would drive down for a game-winning touchdown without allowing the other team to touch the ball. The Seahawks are conservative in many infuriating ways under Pete Carroll, but I love how aggressive we are in these situations, where it really makes zero sense to settle for three. In the end, this drive almost killed me. For starters, on 2nd & 10 at our own 46 yard line, Russell Wilson was nearly swallowed up once again, except he kept his legs churning and busted free for a significant gainer … only for the refs to call him “in the grasp” of the defender for a 6-yard sack. I mean, I was irate. Irate isn’t even a strong enough emotion! I hadn’t spoken a word since that 49ers’ fumble return for a touchdown, but I was cursing up a storm after that play! Vindication came in the conversion of 3rd & 16 to Malik Turner, who had a GREAT game and helped us overcome the loss of Lockett. Unfortunately, as we closed inside the redzone, Wilson lofted a ball short to Hollister on a wheel route that was picked off and returned to midfield (Lowkey Play of the Game #1 – Duane Brown hustling his ass down field to knock him out of bounds, as they had a convoy ready to take him into the endzone).

49ers’ 14th Drive – At this point, I closed out all the windows on my laptop. I was THIS close to rage-quitting on the game entirely and going to bed. I stuck it out only to see the 49ers get into field goal range. On 4th & 1 at the Seahawks’ 29-yard line, the 49ers lined up for the game-winner. I’m usually not one for icing the kicker; I generally think it’s stupid and pointless and a waste of time (also, it seems like the kicker – if he gets a chance to get a practice shot off before the play is whistled dead – always misses his first try before hitting the second). BUT, if icing the kicker was EVER going to work out, this was the situation: rookie kicker, his first start for a new team, Monday Night Football, a perfect season on the line, against Russell Wilson and the division-rival Seahawks. We weren’t able to ice him before overtime because we didn’t have any time outs, but this time we did, and I’m GLAD we made him think about it a couple minutes longer. He shanked it about as badly as you can shank a ball, and the Seahawks had new life!

Seahawks’ 16th Drive – Then, the Seahawks went 3 & Out, followed by the 49ers ALSO going 3 & Out. Those two drives combined took up less than 2 minutes of game clock, leaving Seattle with 1:25 to get down in range. This time, yeah, you kinda have to settle for the field goal, and either he makes it and totally redeems himself, or he doesn’t and we settle for the fallout of a tie and all the kicker jokes from a national audience. That doesn’t mean Wilson didn’t have another trick up his sleeve, eluding the pass rush on 3rd & 3 (avoiding yet another consecutive 3 & Out) to scramble for 18 yards. From there, it was 8 yards to D.K. and another 7 on the legs of Carson to get it to the 24-yard line. You can’t do much better than that with no time left. Jason Myers made us sweat – as it was about a foot or two away from sailing wide right – but he did it, and we were all able to rejoice!

There were so many wild swings in this game; it was truly almost too much to endure. I had about 15 heart attacks in total, but in the end the Seahawks are 8-2 and have positioned themselves perfectly to make a legitimate run at the NFC West and a Top 2 seed in the conference.

I can’t say enough about the defense. I won’t say I was wrong about what they WERE leading up to this game, but I was absolutely DEAD WRONG about what they’re capable of going forward, starting with last night. Clowney is a force to be reckoned with. He deserves Frank Clark money and THEN some. The biggest stars shine the brightest on the biggest stages, and Clowney proved he’s one of the NFL’s best defensive linemen, period.

But, there were others. Shaquill Griffin had the Lowkey Play of the Game # 2 on that final 49ers 3 & Out, when he recovered deep down field on 3rd down to swat the ball away. That thing – if caught by Deebo Samuel (who dominated, with 8 receptions for 112 yards) – was destined to go for a touchdown, and Griffin just BARELY got hands on it to keep the game alive.

Jarran Reed was all over the place with 1.5 sacks and the forced fumble. Poona Ford was in the backfield all night. Al Woods cleaned up a would-be Clowney sack. Wagner and Wright were warriors. We had competent safety play from BOTH safety positions for the first time all year. Just when I expected this defense to crumble late in the game – exhausted and bruised and worn down – they found ways to keep this team in it and make Jimmy G’s life a living hell. He’s going to have nightmares about this game for weeks!

Meanwhile, after our most difficult game of the season, the Seahawks get a BYE week at the perfect time. Hopefully Lockett will be okay. Hopefully Willson won’t miss any time. Hopefully Ed Dickson will be back. Hopefully everyone else is able to rest and recover and enjoy the time off before a HUGE stretch run that will ultimately see this team competing for a Super Bowl!

Shit’s getting real now. This is gonna be fun.

A Flip Of A Coin Decided The Seahawks Vs. Bucs Game

I mean, let’s be real here. The Seahawks’ defense wasn’t going to stop anything the Bucs threw at them. If they’d won the overtime coin flip, they would’ve marched right down the field and scored a touchdown, and we’d all be bitching and moaning about how Russell Wilson never got a chance to touch the ball in overtime. There’d be the side that just wants to watch good QBs get a chance to be clutch in the extra period, and there’d be the other side that would (correctly) argue that a defense should be able to keep the other team out of the endzone for a chance to deserve a possession in this scenario.

Funny how I haven’t heard too many arguments from the national media lamenting the fact that Jameis Winston never got a chance to touch the ball in overtime. Because that guy’s trash, but much like Matt Schaub the week before, we made him look like a flippin’ genius!

Winston threw for 335 yards and 2 TDs and it could’ve been even better, had that receiver not run himself out of bounds in the back of the endzone in the second half. I don’t know how he managed to do that, but it was a gift to the Seahawks and I’ll cherish it always. To be fair, Winston did have a Dave Krieg Special with his fumble (where he went to throw it, but the ball squirted backwards out of his hand), and should’ve had a pick in the endzone in the first half, but it weirdly bounced into a different receiver’s outstretched arms for a touchdown. I was waiting all day for a truly terrible decision, but it never came. Winston played well. But, he also didn’t really need to work all that hard, because his receivers were open all day.

Mike Evans should have games like this every week; I don’t understand why he isn’t the most dominant player in the NFL. I was on him (for fantasy purposes) since his rookie season; he’s truly great. In this one, he caught 12 balls for 180 yards and a touchdown. We just couldn’t cover him. Even the one time Shaquill Griffin made a seemingly great play on a ball towards his side, Evans just snatched it away and ran down field like Griffin wasn’t even there! Evans is a total stud who deserves a better quarterback like nobody’s business.

Yet, you could argue (especially since the Seahawks ended up winning) that Evans was outplayed by Tyler Lockett, who caught 13 for 152 and 2 TDs. This game went almost exactly as I predicted, with both passing attacks just FEASTING on some trash secondaries. Over 51.5 points was the easiest bet on the board all day, and I hope Vegas took a beating over that one. I don’t know who was in charge there, but that dude should be fired.

***

Anyway, for as happy as I was about Lockett, I think this was a really important turning point for D.K. Metcalf. His numbers weren’t as eye-popping (6 for 123 and a TD is nothing to sneeze at, though), but this is more of a Smell Test game for him, and he passed with flying colors. For starters, that crosser he took 53 yards to the house was a thing of beauty; it was – dare I say it – Julio Jones-esque!

But, even better was his catch in overtime. 3rd & 6 from the Tampa 35 yard line. We were clearly NOT in field goal range (more on that in a bit) and everything about this screamed 4-Down Territory. I don’t think you throw a deep back-shoulder fade like this without knowing that you’re DEFINITELY going for it on fourth down. We might never know the answer, but it didn’t matter, because Metcalf made a phenomenal play on the ball and managed to land in bounds to pretty much seal the victory. This came on the same day where he got pushed out of bounds without getting his second foot down to kill a drive and you couldn’t help thinking that was a rookie mistake in a rookie season chock full of rookie mistakes.

This was easily Metcalf’s best game as a pro, and it couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. For starters, it came in the same week the Seahawks claimed Josh Gordon, who from a talent perspective feels like an older version of Metcalf (I’ll do a full write-up on the Gordon deal later this week). But, while Metcalf has always been featured pretty heavily as this team’s #2 receiver, it’s been very spotty. Heading into this one, he’d only caught 23 of his 45 targets, and you had to wonder if the pre-draft haters were at least a little on the nose with him. Granted, a lot of the balls thrown to him are 50/50 balls with a guy all over him, but he’s 6’4, 229 pounds, that’s what he’s here for is to catch the majority of those deep 1-on-1 passes. Well, I’ll be interested to see how the rest of his season shakes out from here, because that catch in overtime was the biggest of his career to date. Regardless, the more times he comes up big in big moments, the better it should prove to be for his career in Seattle. I thought there was a better-than-decent chance that D.K. Metcalf could turn into a superstar when the Seahawks drafted him (his size, his raw talent, the fact that he dropped so far in the draft and the resultant chip on his shoulder, and the nature of this offense being one very suited for his skillset), and given his season to date (29 catches, 525 yards, 5 touchdowns) I think we’re well on our way. Paired with Lockett, we could be talking about two of the very best receivers in all of football in a couple years.

***

All those words and we haven’t talked about the other breakout player from this one: Jacob Hollister! What an absolutely fascinating career he’s had to date. He was originally a quarterback in high school, and was Oregon’s 5A player of the year. He was set to go to college in Nevada, but ended up transferring both schools and his position to tight end.

He went undrafted, but signed on with the Patriots as a rookie in 2017 and played the full season as the team’s third tight end. Feels like the perfect situation, right? He was injured for much of 2018 and had to be placed on IR. But, you had to figure, with Gronk retiring after last season, this would’ve been his time to move up the depth chart.

Instead, the Patriots traded him to the Seahawks for a 2020 7th round pick, which at this point looks like the steal of the century. Bill Belichick doesn’t get fleeced like this! He’s the one doing the fleecing!

Yet, Seahawks fans had to wonder heading into this season, as Hollister found himself on the Practice Squad, behind the likes of Will Dissly, Nick Vannett, George Fant, Luke Willson, and eventually Ed Dickson when he returns from IR. I’m honestly – first – surprised that Hollister even qualified for the Practice Squad (I don’t totally understand the rules there, and quite frankly I don’t WANT to understand). Secondly, I’m surprised he wasn’t picked up by another team (you would’ve figured many teams – but particularly Miami or Detroit, who have head coaches familiar with him – would’ve been more than willing to bring in a former Patriots tight end, with their pedigree at finding talent at the position). Maybe he was about to be claimed, because the Seahawks promoted him just ahead of the Cleveland game, which was fortuitous with Dissly getting injured on that very day.

The Seahawks have been undermanned at tight end ever since, as we’ve waited for Ed Dickson to return to game shape (he should be back in the next week or two), with only two true tight ends on the roster in Willson and Hollister (with Fant as the proverbial blocking tight end, who has actually had to fill in more at the regular offensive line spots with injuries to Duane Brown in recent weeks). Willson is a known commodity, but Hollister has been a fascinating player to watch develop over the last few weeks. He didn’t do a whole lot in his first couple of games against Baltimore and Atlanta (combining for 5 receptions and 38 yards), but he exploded in this one with 4 catches, 37 yards, and 2 touchdowns (including the game-winner in overtime). You had to feel great for him as he was hoisted on the shoulders of his teammates during the celebration.

I guess the knock on him is his blocking? I dunno. Anyone’s better than Jimmy Graham, I suppose, so maybe that’s why it hasn’t bugged me too much. Anyway, with Hollister, Willson, and Dickson when he returns, tight end should be a cool position of strength for this team at just the right time. I’m glad the Seahawks didn’t panic and make a deal at the deadline for an O.J. Howard or something, because we wouldn’t have had this great moment.

***

It feels criminal I’ve gone this long without talking about our MVP. Russell Wilson threw for 378 yards (8.8 yards per attempt) and 5 touchdowns against 0 interceptions. That brings his season numbers through 9 games to 2,505 yards, 22 passing touchdowns, and only 1 interception. It’s now just a two-man race between Wilson and Lamar Jackson for the MVP Award, and I think it’ll be neck-and-neck between the two the rest of the way, assuming both teams keep winning and looking impressive on offense.

Wilson generally had all day to throw, which deserves some kudos for the O-Line. They also did their best in the run game (against the best run defense in football) in helping us go 22 for 145 on the ground (including Carson’s 105 yards, much of which came on his manly-man 59 yard run).

You take the good with the bad though, and Carson had two more fumbles in this game (one of which luckily went out of bounds on that 59 yard scamper). He’ll be in the final year of his rookie deal in 2020, and there’s already rumblings that he might hold out or otherwise demand an extension. But, with all of his fumbling issues (on top of his prior injury history), I just don’t see how you can trust him with a big-money contract. Maybe if he plays out his deal, has another big year, and finds a way to fix his fumbling problem, you could consider it. But, right now, I think he’s costing himself millions of dollars every time he puts the ball on the turf, and a smart team would just let him walk and continue to plow resources into the position through the draft.

***

I’ve said all I can say about the offense, so let’s talk about the defense.

That’s 34 points and 418 total yards. The Bucs were 7/15 on 3rd/4th downs. The Seahawks got a couple sacks, which was a couple more than they usually get, and the Bucs only averaged 3.8 yards per carry (“only”). But, I just don’t know. There really isn’t a way to fix this. Our pass rush just gets locked up on every damn passing play. We try to counter by doing stunts, but that just leaves gaping holes for the quarterback to run through for huge gains. We blitz, it gets picked up; we rush four, huge pocket for the QB; we rush three, the other team has all fucking day to throw the ball.

The Bucs were always well-suited to make this one a game though. Elite passing offense, a head coach in Bruce Arians who knows our team very well and has had a lot of success with his Cardinals coming into Seattle and prevailing. And that defensive line – even without Gerald McCoy – is a fucking monster. I always believed in Vita Vea since his days at the University of Washington, but boy is he a load! Husky defensive tackles don’t always pan out in the NFL, but he looks like the best of the bunch so far!

As I said before, I just don’t know, though, when it comes to the Seahawks’ defense. K.J. Wright looks seriously slow and old. The Seahawks need to start working Cody Barton into the scheme more. And, while Bobby Wagner finally got his second sack of the season, he also had one of the dumbest roughing the passer penalties I’ve ever seen. He always likes to get an unnecessary shove in there well after the ball leaves a QB’s hand, and it’s always dumb on his part (regardless of how weak the shove might’ve been; it’s 2019, figure it the fuck out already, the refs are going to protect the quarterback). That one was on third down, which turned a would-be field goal attempt into an eventual touchdown, which was at least a 4-point swing, if not a 7-pointer (had he missed the field goal, which was a distinct possibility).

***

Oh yeah, can’t leave this post without saying something about Jason Myers.

He’s awful.

Unfortunately, I don’t know what you do about it. At least a third of the NFL has issues at the kicker position. It seems like more than ever teams are shuttling kickers in and out every week. But, not every team made the big investment this past offseason like the Seahawks did. Jason Myers is here to stay, at least through his year if not through next year as well. And, again, unless there’s some college kicker who deserves to be selected in the draft, there really isn’t a lot the Seahawks can do. Stephen Hauschka isn’t walking through that door.

Jason Myers just has to get better. He needs to flush this game as soon as humanly possible and get to work on improving his accuracy. The Seahawks are too conservative at the ends of halves to not have a kicker who’s able to make a 40-yarder.

I knew as soon as the Seahawks got into Tampa territory at the end of regulation that they needed to AT LEAST move the ball another 10 yards. Why settle for a 40-yarder when you have the best quarterback in the game going up against one of the worst secondaries in the game? We still had a time out left! Chuck it down inside the red zone and let’s make this automatic! Especially on a day where Myers had struggled so savagely.

Luckily, again, the Seahawks won that overtime coin flip. Because if we hadn’t, this post would’ve been MUCH different.

The Seahawks Beat The Cardinals In A Classic Get-Right Game

Really at no point during the game yesterday was I worried about the outcome. It didn’t even look like the Seahawks had to try all that hard to take care of business; it was the definition of Workmanlike.

Of course, I tried my best to conjure up some things to be concerned about heading into this game, and it was like they all read it down at Seahawks Headquarters and decided to respond with their game play.

For starters, I don’t remember us doing any dumb shit; that’s always a plus! Probably the dumbest thing I saw was David Johnson going off for 8 receptions and 99 yards, but if that’s the worst thing this defense did all day, then that’s certainly something you’ll live with 100 times out of 100. I’d still like to see some of the tackling get cleaned up, but we’re really picking nits at this point.

Next up, the running game was a legitimate concern, and not just because of Carson’s fumbling. He managed to make it through this one unscathed, and led a pretty generous attack with 104 yards on 22 carries (he also caught 4 for 41 for a nice overall day). The O-Line looked better than it has all year, which was nice.

Wide receiver depth is still a work in progress, but Wilson was smart about it in this one. He took advantage of our talent at tight end, with Dissly and newly-re-acquired Willson combining for 83 yards and a touchdown on 9 catches. That was always going to be a strength for us in this one, as the Cardinals had been handing out career games to opposing tight ends like lollipops at a doctor’s office. Also, the criminally-underutilized Jaron Brown made his presence felt in a relatively significant way (3 for 50); until we start getting more consistency out of guys like Moore and Metcalf, I feel like Brown needs to be more involved.

And, finally, there’s the front seven we all know and love! Wagner and Wright were all over the field making plays. Kendricks had 2 sacks and was a general thorn in Arizona’s side all day. Ansah had his first sack in a Seahawks uniform. Rasheem Green had an awesome play to sack Murray for a big loss when it was just the two of them in open field and he didn’t get juked out of his shoes. Collier and Poona and Woods and Q-Jeff all made their presences felt.

But, you can’t talk about this game without talking about the play of the day: Clowney’s one-handed interception-turned-touchdown. Just a tremendous athletic play! It got us out to a 10-0 lead and really set things up for us to step on their throats the rest of the game.

It wasn’t quite the offensive explosion I’ve been waiting for, but I also feel like we left points out on the field, and if we really needed to, we easily could’ve done whatever we wanted. This was a quintessential Get In & Get Out game for us. Lots of time-consuming drives, build up a comfortable cushion, and try to make it through without any more injuries. This was punctuated by our 15-play, 75-yard (technically 80, after a first down penalty pushed us back before it even started) touchdown drive that took over 8 minutes off the clock. The Cards had just pulled the game to 20-10; at that point in the game, the Seahawks had gotten the ball three times in the second half and punted on all three. Another one of those would’ve made this game VERY interesting when it had no need to be. That’s when the Seahawks just leaned on ’em and all that punishment we’d been hitting them with all day finally killed their wills to live. Carson was great all day, but he was particularly brutal on this drive, running over, around, and through the Cardinals’ defenders like they weren’t even there. It’s just a shame he didn’t get to enjoy the reward of scoring the touchdown.

When I say the Seahawks could’ve done whatever they wanted, I mean they had 21 first downs, 340 yards, and converted 4/10 third downs. They took relatively few chances, so no fourth down tries, and not really many (if any) deep balls thrown. I mean, if it weren’t for the Clowney touchdown, there wouldn’t be anything memorable about this game whatsoever. I thought Kyler Murray had a few good plays, but he’s young and has a pretty mediocre offensive line, so it’s gonna be hard at first. I do think that as he gets used to the NFL, he’ll turn into someone special, but he’s not there yet.

Before I go, I’d be remiss if I didn’t shout out Shaquill Griffin. He has REALLY stepped up his game this year. It didn’t look super promising in the pre-season, but he’s taken it up a few notches! He had a great recovery after getting turned around to force an incompletion, and he had one of the most athletic plays I’ve ever seen in leaping around Larry Fitzgerald to bat a ball down without making any illegal contact (or really ANY contact to the body); it’s just too bad the play didn’t count as someone else on the defense was called for a penalty. We haven’t seen the turnovers yet, but we’ve certainly witnessed opposing offenses stay away from his side, and that’s as Richard Shermanesque as you can get! Way to go!

Pre-Pre-Season Preview: Seahawks Blocking Game

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

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

Without further ado, let’s talk about the Seahawks’ blocking game.

Offensive Line

Here we are.  So much of what the Seahawks want to do hinges on this.  Every year since Russell Wilson has proven himself to be a superstar quarterback in this league, I’ve been waiting for this offense to really bust out and start carrying the team; and every year, those hopes are dashed by an offensive line that couldn’t stop a pack of infants from wreaking havoc in our backfield.

And it’s not like the Seahawks haven’t tried!  We hired Tom Cable, we used many multiple draft picks, in a variety of rounds from the first through the seventh.  But, nothing worked, and indeed it got progressively worse over time, until last year when we has the worst running game in football.  How Russell Wilson hasn’t been killed in a live NFL game is beyond me, because he’s taken a BEATING!

I wish I could walk those comments back and say, “Oh, it wasn’t as bad as we remember,” but actually I think it was worse.  I mean, you’d expect a unit that was as healthy as our O-Line was last year to at least show SOME signs of improvement as the season went along, but I saw no evidence of that.  Did you?

Who’s at fault?  Well, how much time have you got?  Obviously, Tom Cable had to go.  I wouldn’t say his tenure was an utter failure – he did help take us to 2 Super Bowls, so it wasn’t ALWAYS this bad – but I’d say the last three years (2015-2017) were as bad as it gets.  Instead of taking advantage of Russell Wilson’s absolute prime, he had to run for his life on almost every play, while battling constant nagging injuries for one of those seasons!

The front office certainly shares some of the blame, be it Pete Carroll, John Schneider, the scouts, all of ’em.  Letting Tom Cable have so much power and direction over personnel, for starters.  The collective, for just having the worst insight/intuition/whathaveyou when it comes to picking which players we ended up drafting and signing to free agent deals.  The front office also for losing its way – to quote Richard Sherman – by trading away Max Unger for Jimmy Graham.  One of the better blocking centers in the league for one of the worst blocking tight ends in the history of football.

Now, certainly there were factors outside of their control, in that so many other players on this team turned into All Pros and Pro Bowlers, and as we talk about all the time, you can’t pay everyone.  But, the front office still made a choice in who they decided to pay; and ultimately they decided to make this offensive line the most under-funded in the entire league.  It backfired, and they’ve since corrected for that, but now we’re years from our last Super Bowl and, I’m afraid, many more years away from our next one.

I mean, if they’d just signed ONE high-priced left tackle, instead of paying the likes of Percy Harvin or Jimmy Graham, just think of how different things might be.  We might truly be talking about a Seahawks Dynasty, instead of a Seahawks What-If.

But, the past is the past and we can’t do anything about it now.  Let’s take a look at who we’ve got.

Well, I’ll say this:  the left side of the line looks VERY promising.  There are still a tremendous amount of caveats and question marks even about these three guys, but it’s not hard to envision a scenario where Duane Brown (at left tackle), Ethan Pocic (at left guard) and Justin Britt (at center) truly anchor this offensive line and make it a halfway competent one.  That having been said, Brown is going to be 33 in August and is heading into his 11th season; that’s a lot of mileage.  He’s also coming off of a year where he held out for half the games, then suffered an ankle injury.  He appears to be healthy now, but how long will that last?  And, even when he was (supposedly) healthy last year, he didn’t look great.  Maybe he needed time to get used to Russell Wilson’s style of play and scrambling and all that … or maybe he’s in his 30’s and is on the downside of his career.  How many more years does he have left, realistically?  2?  3 at the MOST?

This thing falls apart in a hurry if Duane Brown isn’t The Man.  I like Pocic as much as the next guy, but it’s still his second year in the league.  He’s also on his second offensive line coach in as many seasons (well, third in as many seasons, I suppose, if you include his college coach), so what is that going to do to stunt his growth?  And, as for Britt, again I like him, but he also pulled his share of boners last year, following his contract extension and the anointing of him as the leader of this unit.  Maybe that was because he had to compensate for the dunderheads around him – and I really do hope that’s the case – but don’t forget who’s at fault for George Fant getting hurt in the first place.  He took a blind dive into a guy and ended up landing on his own teammate’s knee; Britt isn’t exactly the sharpest tool in the shed.

I want to believe in this left side of the line – I HAVE to believe in them, for my own sanity – because the right side scares the everloving shit out of me.

The Seahawks brought back Mile Solari to coach up the offensive line.  He hasn’t had a successful O-Line in more years than I can count, so right away we’re dealing with a huge red flag.  Now, maybe there were other circumstances outside of his control, and it wasn’t necessarily all his fault that his lines have been terrible.  Maybe, if he had more control over things, he would’ve gotten his type of guys and had more success.  I certainly hope so, because it sounds like the Seahawks really took him to heart when he recommended signing D.J. Fluker to be this team’s right guard.

For starters, I think a lot of fans were clamoring for Germain Ifedi to move inside to guard.  I wasn’t one of them – I think if we’re ever going to see our faith in Ifedi pay off, it’s going to have to be at one single position, and not by jerking him around from guard to tackle and back again – but I can certainly understand the thought process.  Ifedi looks like a giant lunkhead over there at right tackle, and it might be easier to hide some of his flaws if you moved him inside and had Britt helping him out on double-teams and whatnot.  But, I’m of the opinion that if Ifedi is the bust we all fear he is, then he’s going to be a HUGE GAPING LIABILITY wherever you put him.  Sort of like Britt was, when we moved him from tackle to guard to finally center; unfortunately, you can only have one center on an offensive line, and Britt weaselled his way into the league first.

Getting back to Fluker for a minute, here’s a guy who was another former first rounder, as well as a guy who’s been considered a giant bust since entering the league.  He’s also a guy who was injured for most of 2017, and who thus far through OTA’s and mini-camps, hasn’t seen any action that I can recall hearing about (again, due to injury).  Even in an ideal world where Fluker was 100% healthy this off-season, he still was never going to be a guarantee.  I like him because he’s cheap, and hungry, and huge, and is supposedly a quality run blocker if nothing else; but that still doesn’t mean he’s destined to be worth a damn in 2018!

I want to believe in these guys, 1-5, but I just can’t get it up for this right side.  At this point, I’m done hoping Ifedi will be anything; I’m resigned to him being a bust and if I’m pleasantly surprised, then so be it.  As for Fluker, I don’t think he has more than 5 games in him before some body part gives out.  I’m mentally preparing myself for a revolving door on this side, with guys like Rees Odhiambo or Jordan Roos seeing some action at right guard, and with guys like George Fant or Isaiah Battle seeing some action at right tackle.

That having all been said, I think there’s an offensive line here we can use.  It’s far from perfect, and it’s far from ideal, but 3/5 of a competent offensive line is better than the 0/5 we’ve had the last three years.

As I said before, it all hinges on Duane Brown.  If he can return to even 80% of his former Pro Bowl self, we’ve got a shot.  Hopefully he’ll get better acquainted with Wilson’s scrambling style, as well as stay healthy the full year.  If he can do that, and help guide a beefed-up Pocic through any more growing pains he’s got left, then I don’t think Britt has to worry about helping out on that side, and can put his talents towards helping out his right guard, whoever that ends up being.  At which point, I’m not even asking for a huge step forward out of our right tackle; just don’t get any WORSE and I’ll be ecstatic!

With how BIG this unit is, if we still have trouble running the ball, then I’m gonna go jump off a bridge.  Also, it sounds like maybe there’ll be something of a scheme change, away from the strict zone blocking scheme we had under Cable?  I think that could help an oaf like Ifedi, where he doesn’t have to use his brain as much.  Maybe he can put those remaining brain cells into keeping track of the snap count, and not illegally hitting guys after the whistle and whatnot.

It’s the pass protection that’s my bigger concern, as it always is.  Pocic is a great unknown at this point in his career (one would hope his pedigree, work ethic, and increased mass will help him going forward), but everyone to his right has their moments of utter, mind-blowing ineptitude when it comes to letting guys just get free runs at the quarterback.  So, again, I turn to Duane Brown; he NEEDS to be our rock.  If we just have that one guy doing his job, we’ve got a chance.  Where it always breaks down is when both ends get to charge at Wilson and he has nowhere to go; but, if Brown is solid, then at least Wilson will be able to escape to the left side and try to make something happen.

I hate having to rely so much on one guy, but that’s the hand we’ve been dealt.  If Duane Brown doesn’t earn his next contract with superb play, we’re fucked.  There’s no other way around it.

As such, my grade is a C-.  There’s room to take it as high as a B, and obviously as low as an F, but as a baseline, C- is still better than anything we’ve gotten in the previous three seasons, which I find really encouraging.

Tight Ends

Can’t talk about the blocking game without mentioning the VAST improvement we’ve established among our tight ends!

Swapping out Jimmy Graham and bringing in Ed Dickson is like an NBA team trading me for LeBron James; I’m so giddy I can’t even stand it!

I want you to close your eyes.  I want you to picture the Seahawks lining up on offense, with 3 wide receivers, a running back, and Jimmy Graham.  I want you to picture Jimmy Graham motioning out wide to the right, then turning around and motioning back towards the offensive line.  I want you to picture just as Graham gets to the right tackle, we snap the ball, and Russell Wilson turns to hand it off to the running back, with the intention to go off-tackle.  There’s a linebacker coming around the edge; he’s Graham’s responsibility.  All Graham has to do is execute a wham block – blocking him down into the mass of bodies along the offensive and defensive lines – and if he does that, we have a considerable gain with the running back bouncing it around.  Can you picture it?  Can you picture Jimmy Graham standing fully upright, sort of half-heartedly (quarter-heartedly?) pushing on the linebacker with his forearms right before said linebacker blows up the play for a 3-yard loss?  Is your blood now sufficiently boiling?  Do you want to go out and murder 50 people?

I never thought I could hate someone more than I hated Percy Harvin, but I hate Jimmy Graham with the intensity of A FUCKING GOOGOLPLEX OF SUNS!  I mean, at least Harvin has a mental condition to explain why he’s a worthless pile of shit; Jimmy Graham is just a soft asshole whose only skill is catching 1-yard touchdown passes against undersized cornerbacks (and even THEN he drops the ball half the time!).

So, yeah, I love the Ed Dickson signing.  Is it sexy?  HELL NO!  But, I’m tired of going after sexy offensive weapons; where has it gotten us?  Give me the guy willing to hunt for his meal.  Give me the guy who will scrap and claw and fight for that inch.

Shit, give me a guy who can help out this poor excuse for an offensive line!

The Seahawks did it in spades.  Not only did they let Graham go, but they let Luke Willson go as well.  I like Willson, but he’s just a guy.  Sure, he was a fighter, but you wouldn’t say blocking was his specialty.  You know whose specialty that is?  Will Dissly, 4th round draft pick out of the University of Washington.  “Best blocking tight end in the draft” is what I’m told.  Good enough for me.  He could catch 0 balls this year and he’ll still be worth his weight in gold if he can live up to that moniker for this team.

Beyond that, it’ll be a fight between Nick Vannett and Tyrone Swoopes, the 3rd round pick from 2016 vs. the undrafted rookie from 2017.  Vannett has largely been considered a disappointment, and you can see why.  You pick a guy in the 3rd round, you expect more than 15 total receptions and 1 touchdown in his first 2 years.  Beyond that, I really don’t remember him making any sort of special teams contributions, so what is he good for?

Well, I’d argue he was buried behind two very established veterans in Graham and Willson, and how often do you really see a team’s third tight end?  It’s now or never for this kid, and you’d have to say his chances are never going to be better.  I have to believe – heading into the pre-season – Vannett is probably the most gifted offensive, pass-catching weapon at tight end on this team.  If he can’t stand out over a guy in Ed Dickson (who you know what you’ve got) and a rookie in Dissly not known as much of a pass-catching threat in college, then we’ve probably reached the end of the road with Vannett.  From a blocking perspective, he doesn’t even need to be that great to make an impact, so long as he’s a catching machine.  But, regardless, he HAS to be better than Graham, so we’re talking about a considerable improvement any way you slice it.

As for Swoopes, he more or less rode the Practice Squad all of 2017.  He’s seen as more of a project, but with great potential as a pass-catcher, so again there’s probably only room for either him or Vannett.  Unless he shows tremendous skills – and tremendous improvement over what was probably a pretty raw rookie campaign – then he’s going to need to be a force when it comes to blocking.  I have no idea, but my hunch is that’s probably the biggest part of his game that’s lacking.  We’ll see.

Regardless, when it comes to just blocking, I’m giving our tight ends an A+.  I couldn’t be happier!

The question now is:  when you factor in the combo of the O-Line and our Tight Ends, will we have the blocking to be successful?  Assuming we scheme it up right, and take advantage of all of them, I think we do.  Darrell Bevell liked to spend all his free time trying to out-think opposing defenses (hence why you always saw Graham on the field in obvious rushing situations, to try to “fool” defenses into thinking we’d throw to him; only problem with that is it never made up for the liability he was in actually trying to throw a block).  It sounds like Brian Schottenheimer is more old school in that regard.  I’d expect a lot of ground & pound.  In which case, it’s our best guys against your best guys, and may the best team win.  With the group of guys we’ve got, I think that suits us to a T.  I could easily see our blocking unit end up with a grade of a B-, which is all we need with our skill position guys doing their things.

I really do believe there’s potential for greatness out of this offense.  Of course, there’s also potential for utter ruin, but that’s what makes this season so exciting!

Pre-Pre-Season Preview: Seahawks Passing Game

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

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

Without further ado, let’s talk about the Seahawks’ passing game.

Quarterbacks

It’s easy to write in Russell Wilson’s name here and call it a day.  A+.  Next position group.  I mean, we’re talking about a guy firmly in the prime of his career.  This will be his 7th season in the NFL, he’s worked his way up the quarterback rankings – I think most would put him in the Top 5, and if you don’t, I think you’re idiotic – and if you had to rank all the guys currently on the Seahawks, he’s not only the most important player, but he’s also the BEST player.

And sure, there isn’t a whole lot backing him up.  This isn’t a Philadelphia Eagles situation; if we lose Wilson, we don’t have a Nick Foles there backing him up with steady leadership and ability.  We have Austin Davis and a rookie; neither excites me to any degree.  Maybe the rookie develops into a competent backup one day, maybe not; but as a 7th round draft pick, I feel it’s pretty safe to say he’s a non-factor in 2018.

But, that’s pretty much been the case since Wilson was drafted.  Sure, MAYBE in 2013 – if Wilson had been injured – Tarvaris Jackson could’ve guided the team into the playoffs.  And MAYBE the rest of the squad would’ve been so great, it wouldn’t have mattered who was under center.  I don’t believe that; I don’t think the Seahawks had a chance in hell of GETTING to the Super Bowl that year, let alone winning it without Russell Wilson.  But, you believe what you want to believe.  I’ll believe that the Seahawks have never had anyone worth a damn backing up Wilson, and that any of our seasons since 2012 would’ve been absolutely destroyed if he’d suffered any sort of significant injury.

So, that’s nothing new in my mind.

That having been said, I can’t give Wilson a free pass either.  I know a lot of people will overlook at lot of his faults because the O-Line has been the worst in all of football, but to me that’s a 2-way street.  Yes, of course, there are too many instances of times where Wilson has no time to function; but, there are also a good number of boneheaded decisions on Wilson’s part, trying to do too much, ignoring the obvious check-down that would’ve gone for a significant gain.  Also, the team was constructed around his talents; they felt they could skimp on the O-Line because of Wilson’s running ability.  Considering all the money that was being paid elsewhere (as well as all the money going to Wilson himself), the team couldn’t pay everyone.  Where everyone is at fault, I believe, is OVER-estimating Russell Wilson’s abilities.  We saw him pull our asses out of the fire with magical play after magical play so many times, we thought he could walk on water.  When, in reality, Wilson is like most any other quarterback in the sense that he needs to be protected just like everyone else.

He’s human, despite what all the memes will tell you.

Now, he’s still a great human.  Elite even!  But, human nevertheless.  He’s a net gain, all things considered, but he’s also going to dig his share of holes that he then has to try and lift this team out of.  A lot of times, he’ll be successful.  But, not EVERY time.

So, to me, until I see a little more on-field maturity in his decision-making, it’s not an A+, but more like just a regular ol’ A, or even an A-.  He’s still in the 90th-percentile, and in that sense the Seahawks are one of the very, very lucky ones.

Wide Receivers

It’s almost refreshing to see the overwhelming majority of the public bash on the Seahawks’ receivers.  Feels like 2012 again!

I don’t have nearly the problem with the Seahawks’ receivers as everyone else seems to.  ESPN, for instance, ranked the Seahawks among the bottom quarter of the league in offensive weapons, but I don’t think it’s so dire.

For starters, we still have Doug Baldwin.  He’s going to command the lion’s share of the targets in the passing game, and he’s one of the 5 or 10 best (and most talented, dependable, dynamic, and fun-to-watch) receivers in the league.  Now, if we assume this is going to be a return to form for the Seahawks’ offense – with a run-first mentality – then we have to assume targets will once again be tough to come by.  In that sense, do the Seahawks really NEED three or four top-line wide receivers?

I argue: no.  We have one top-line guy in Baldwin, and another very good receiver in Tyler Lockett.  I think that’s enough.  Beyond that, I think the team will figure it out.

I think what goes in this team’s favor is that we don’t have this beast we have to constantly feed, like we did with Jimmy Graham (or previously with Percy Harvin).  We can simply focus on the best man available.  Instead of constantly dialing into one guy – particularly in the red zone – Wilson can just throw to whoever’s open.  IMAGINE THAT!  He can take advantage of natural mis-matches.  Guys we haven’t even considered could step up and be unlikely heroes, like in the good ol’ days of Seahawks football!

I think we’re also underestimating Doug’s abilities in the red zone, which are elite, and were heavily over-shadowed over all the hand-wringing it took to get Jimmy Graham his touches.  If the over/under is 8.5 TDs for Doug, I’m betting heavy on the over.  After that, you’re going to see a ton of guys catching anywhere from 2-4 TDs, we just can’t see exactly who just yet.

My grade is a solid B.

Tight Ends

Of course, something had to suffer with the loss of Jimmy Graham, and that’s in the pass-catching ability of our tight ends (I’ll discuss our VAST improvement in run blocking tight ends when I discuss the running game in a separate post).

Not only did we lose Graham’s production – not to mention the THREAT of his production, in how defenses schemed us – but we also lost Luke Willson, both of whom I would argue – strictly from a passing game perspective (taking all of their blocking ability out of it) – are better than what’s remaining on the Seahawks.

I guess you start with Ed Dickson, who I think will be good for – at best – a 2 catches per game average.  But, again, I would argue that’s all you need.  When our offense was really humming, we had Zach Miller at the helm.  He was great, but he was far from a focal point in the passing game.  Nevertheless, if you stuck a slow linebacker on him, he was liable to get by him for one or two big gains a game.  THAT’S what I want out of my tight ends in the passing game:  just one or two surprise plays that will move the chains.  Anything beyond that – up to and including any touchdowns – is gravy.

It gets even leaner from there, as Will Dissly was drafted primarily to be another blocking tight end for this team.  While I do believe in his ability long term, and think he will one day develop into a Zach Miller-ish catching tight end, I don’t think he’ll ever be a dominant offensive force.  And, again, I think that’s okay.  I think that’s just what this team needs to be productive.

My grade is a C-.

Running Backs

The real wild card in all of this is how our backs take to the passing game.  Under Russell Wilson, this has never really been an offense that took advantage of its running backs in the passing game.  There are occasional dump-offs, but really nothing to write home about.

However, as I’ll write about next time when I write about the running game, I couldn’t be any higher on this group of running backs.  It’s easy to say this is the best group we’ve had since Marshawn Lynch was in town, but I think these guys can REALLY start to approach – as a collective – the Beastmode’s greatness.

Considering what was always the drop-off from Lynch to whoever was next in line, this is the best 1-2 punch the Seahawks have had at running back maybe ever.  No one owns the #1 job just yet, but you figure with Rashaad Penny’s first round draft status, he has to be 1-A heading into Training Camp.  But, with how Chris Carson looked last year, and particularly how he looked in the mini camps, it’s really anyone’s race.  If they develop and take to the new offense the way I believe they can, we’re talking about two guys who could start on any number of teams in this league.  As it is, we’re talking about two guys who will get every opportunity to win increased snaps.

That doesn’t even get into the depth of this unit.  While I believe Carson and Penny have the chops to be great pass catchers (particularly Penny, with his speed, and his abilities in the return game), behind them we have whoever emerges in the C.J. Prosise vs. J.D. McKissic battle.  One of them will make this team; Prosise if he stays perfectly healthy, or McKissic as a fall-back whenever Prosise rolls an ankle or bruises a toe.  Either one would be a perfectly fine complement to our two starters, and will likely be a featured back on 3rd downs and in 2-minute situations.  They both have wide receiver backgrounds, so not utilizing them would be a huge error.  At that point, it’s up to Wilson to take advantage.

My grade is a B (with room to advance to an A if the offense makes good use of them).

The name of the game is spreading the ball around.  It’s what Russell Wilson does best.  If the Seahawks are going to have a successful passing game this year, it’s going to be with a lot of different heroes stepping up game-in and game-out.  Doug will get his, but sometimes he won’t, and sometimes it’ll be a guy from out of nowhere.

My overall grade:  B (again, with room to advance to an A if players gel and buy into the new system).