Pre-Pre-Season Preview: Seahawks Run Defense

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

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

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

Defensive Tackles

Strong group here, in my estimation, in spite of the fact that Malik McDowell is a non-entity.  Got a couple young, up-and-comers with Jarran Reed and Naz Jones; got a couple of stout veterans with Tom Johson and Shamar Stephen.  Got a guy who knows the system in Quinton Jefferson, who’s a 3rd year guy and is at a point where it’s sort of now or never for him to really break out.  And, we’ve got a very intriguing guy in Poona Ford, an undrafted rookie who was nevertheless considered one of the better run-stuffing nose tackles in the draft (too bad it’s just a position that’s becoming increasingly devalued in today’s NFL).

Out of all these guys, I think Naz Jones has the potential to be the most complete DT we’ve had in a long time.  He just needs to stay healthy.  I think Reed is already a guy you can depend upon to be a nice run-clogging force in the middle, so nothing to worry about there.  Tom Johnson might be here more for his interior pass rush, but he’s been around forever and isn’t going to be a slouch in the run game.

I thought the Seahawks took a little bit of a step back last year in run defense for a variety of reasons, but injuries along the interior certainly seemed to play the biggest role.  Beefing up the depth the way we have is a surefire way to snap right back on track.  I give this group a solid A-.

Defensive Ends

As I talked about yesterday, there’s just not a lot here.  Losing Michael Bennett – your best all-around defensive lineman – is certainly going to hamper things.  Now, he’s getting up there in age, so at some point this was bound to happen.  We’re just going to have to weather this storm until we can upgrade this position in 2019.

I like Frank Clark’s run defense, but I don’t know if I love it.  I think he’ll be fine, but again, we’ve never seen him as this team’s top dog, so will he rise to the challenge or will he fade?  My hunch is he’s looking for a massive contract, so he better not sleep on this part of his game.  That having been said, the best way to get paid as a defensive end in the NFL is to rack up those sacks, so who knows?

I like Dion Jordan, but again, will he be healthy?  Beyond him, I don’t know what to tell you.  As I mentioned yesterday, it would probably behoove this team to run some of the defensive tackles out there in the 5-Tech spot like when Red Bryant was here.  It might hamper the pass rush, but as I talked about before, I don’t think there’s gonna be much there regardless.

I give this group a B-.

Linebackers

I know, with the Seahawks it’s really a team effort, and there will be secondary input with run defense, but with the loss of Kam, Richard and Earl for however long Earl is gone, that unit has gone from an A to an F.

What’s going to save the run defense is continued master-class effort out of guys like Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright.  If those guys don’t lose a step, we should be just fine.  But, even though they’re great, they still need the guys ahead of them to do their jobs.  That means the DTs have to stay healthy, and the DEs have to stay assignment-sound.  It won’t be for lack of effort, or lack of want-to out of the linebacker room, I’ll tell you that!

At the SAM, the athleticism of Barkevious Mingo should keep him solidly in the mix.  And, Shaquem Griffin could be a huge boost as well in various sub-packages.

This group gets an A+.

Overall, I like the run defense on this team.  I don’t think there’ll be nearly as many lapses like there were last year.  If 2017 was a B, I think we move up to an A- in 2018.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seahawks Traded Down, Drafted Rasheem Green

It was a quiet Day 2 for the Seattle Seahawks, who in spite of that still managed to make a lot of noise about how their season is going to go.

First and foremost, the Seahawks didn’t trade Earl Thomas like we all thought would happen.  So, barring some really unforeseen circumstance, it looks like Thomas will play out his deal and probably walk after the season’s over.  I guess there was never the right package of picks to make it work, and I’m okay with that.  I mean, what if all we could get was a 4th rounder; would you still trade him?  I wouldn’t.  A 3rd rounder?  Maybe if it was at the very top of the 3rd round, but I would’ve still probably felt awfully shitty about it.  I think it was a 2nd rounder or bust, and once Dallas picked at 50, it really felt like a bullet was dodged, for better or for worse.

Another more positive move featured the Seahawks bringing back Byron Maxwell on a 1-year deal, for around $3 million (with incentives).  I don’t know if the incentives part of it brings it UP to $3 million, or if it’s $3 million PLUS incentives.  Either way, not too big a price for a guy we know fits well within our system.  He’s no Richard Sherman, but he’s an okay stopgap (assuming the Seahawks find a diamond in the rough on Day 3).

Finally, the Seahawks and all of us fans had to wait FOREVER for the Seahawks to pick.  We finally got to the 12th pick in the 3rd round, and WHAT DO YOU KNOW, the Seahawks traded back again!  Only three spots, to the 15th in the round, and acquired an extra 7th rounder in the process.  So, now our draft board looks like this:

  • 1st Round – Rashaad Penny, RB
  • 3rd Round – Rasheem Green, DL
  • 4th Round – 20th pick
  • 5th Round – 4th pick
  • 5th Round – 9th pick
  • 5th Round – 19th pick
  • 5th Round – 31st pick
  • 6th Round – 12th pick
  • 7th Round – 2nd pick
  • 7th Round – 8th pick

Rasheem Green.  Out of USC.  He’s apparently a 2nd round talent who fell into the 3rd round because of a medical concern.  That concern relates to an old high school injury, which the Seahawks’ medical team took a look at twice and deemed worth the risk.  A knee maybe?  I dunno.  Anyway, he’s supposed to be really good.  I guess he thought he was going to be a first rounder – hence why he left the Trojans as a Junior – but he wasn’t, and now he’s set to have a HUGE chip on his shoulder.  I think we all can appreciate that.

Michael Bennett comps like the day is long.  Similar body sizes, similar games on the field.  He plays outside, he plays inside.  He’s not super good against the run right now, and the Seahawks are aware of that, so I wouldn’t expect him to be an every-down player right out of the box.  Likely in super obvious passing situations, you’ll see him in the Nascar Package (likely in that Malik McDowell role he would’ve played if he wasn’t a moron) on the interior, but for the most part I’d bet you’ll see him on the outside.  Also, he’s only 20 years old right now, so best not to throw him totally into the fire playing ALL those Michael Bennett snaps.

I like it!  No character concerns obviously play a big role in that.  But, there’s also no concerns about him dogging it in games.  He was the best player on USC’s line, and as a result had a lot of attention on him from opposing offenses.  The fact that he was still as productive as he was speaks volumes.  My hope is that he comes in, finds a spark, and continues to grow over his first four years.  He could legitimately be one of the greats in this league.

Or, he could be Lawrence Jackson.  Yeah, don’t think his name didn’t bust through my mind when I saw where he came from (I see what I did there).

Seahawks Traded Down, Drafted Rashaad Penny

The Seahawks were set to draft at #18, but the worst kept secret in the history of secrets told us that they were looking to trade down, by any means necessary.  See, we frittered away our 2nd & 3rd rounders last year in hopes of “winning now” and failed miserably, so now we either pay the piper, or don’t pick at all between 18 and 120.  So, KIND of a no-brainer, although there were some really enticing players still hanging around that 18 spot.

The Green Bay Packers originally had the 14th pick, then swapped with the Saints down to the 27th pick.  Apparently, the Pack really wanted this cornerback at 18, so they made a move back up.  The Seahawks received #27, the 12th pick in the 3rd round (#76) and the 12th pick in the 6th round (#186) (and no, I’m not doing a “12” thing here, but it is a little weird that the Seahawks got the #12 picks in both of those rounds).  The Packers received #18 and the 30th pick in the 7th round (#248) (or, 9 picks from the bottom of the draft, so the worse of our two 7th rounders).

Now, for those keeping track at home, here are the updated Seahawks’ picks:

  • 1st Round – Rashaad Penny, RB
  • 3rd Round – 12th pick
  • 4th Round – 20th pick
  • 5th Round – 4th pick
  • 5th Round – 9th pick
  • 5th Round – 19th pick
  • 5th Round – 31st pick
  • 6th Round – 12th pick
  • 7th Round – 8th pick

Figure the Seahawks will probably still trade Earl Thomas, probably for a 2nd rounder.  Or, failing that, maybe they package some of these remaining picks (with an outside chance of trading future picks) to get into the 2nd round.  One way or another, don’t expect those to be THE final picks when it’s all said and done.

Anyway, Rashaad Penny.  He played running back at San Diego State.  He was seen by and large as a lower pick (maybe the 2nd or 3rd rounds); he CERTAINLY wasn’t seen by most experts as the second-best running back in the entire draft.  But, here we are.

In case you were wondering, I know nothing about the guy.  I know nothing about most anyone in the draft.  After Saquon Barkley, all the other running backs might as well be named Not Saquon Barkley, because I’m out.  That having been said, Penny definitely looks good.  Whether that’s First Round Good or not is another question.  A lot of people think he could’ve been had much later in the draft.  Well, welcome to the fucking Seattle Seahawks draft, where in the early rounds they ALWAYS pick someone who most people believe could be had later in the draft!  Don’t act like you’re surprised.  Also, for what it’s worth, Pete Carroll and John Schneider said someone called them immediately after selecting Penny, asking if they’d be interested in a trade.  So, either Penny is better than most people think, or a bunch of NFL teams were ready to make a huge mistake by taking him really high.  I tend to believe the former.

The dude led the nation in rushing last year.  He led the nation in broken tackles.  He was #2 in explosives among running backs.  He had the most yards per carry after contact (which will be EXTREMELY important, considering this offensive line).  He’s fast, he runs hard, he doesn’t shy away from contact; but he’s also elusive and can make you miss.  He catches the ball well.  He returns kicks and is able to return punts.  HE DOES IT ALL!  Well, except for pass protection, which he’s apparently pretty poor at.  But, if I’m being honest, if that’s the ONE thing he isn’t so great at, I’m okay with it.  Blocking is something that can be learned.  Speed and elusiveness is something you’re born with.  He’s also durable; hasn’t missed a game.  And, he only had 1 year where he was the bellcow in college, so there’s not a lot of wear & tear on his legs.

I mean, what more can you ask for?

Twitter is dumb, stay-at-home draftniks are dumb, everything in the world is dumb.  You don’t know how good Rashaad Penny is going to be.  You may think you know, but you won’t know until he gets out there on that field.  It says a lot that in a very stacked running back class (a class so stacked, it forced Myles Gaskin to come back to Washington for his senior season) many teams thought Penny was the second best back to be had.

I’m excited!  This is EXACTLY what I wanted:  a stud running back in the first round.  It was time to stop picking running backs off the scrap heap and hoping they’ll bust out.  Yes, I understand that you can get good running backs up and down the draft, and taking one in the first round – when you have so many other needs on this roster – could be seen as a misuse of resources.  But, sometimes you have to make a statement.  Sometimes you have to put your foot down and take a guy you know you’ll be able to depend on.  I have no doubt that his health and his good character were maybe two of the most important factors in selecting Penny so high.  After the Malik McDowell FUCKING FIASCO, the Seahawks could ill afford to totally flush their top pick of the draft again.

Penny, AT WORST, is still a starting-calibre running back for the next 4 years.  With his power, his breakaway speed, his big play ability, the sky is the limit.  I’m choosing to be positive on this one, because I want to have a Seahawks running back on my fantasy football team again, and I think FINALLY we’ve found one who’s worthy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seahawks Death Week: What Could’ve Been

Now is the part of Seahawks Death Week where I sit in quiet, somber reflection of what might’ve been.

In an ideal world, George Fant would’ve played 16 games and looked spectacular!  It would’ve spared us half a season of Rees Odhiambo’s flailing, and kept him rotating at guard where he belonged.

In an ideal world, Chris Carson would’ve been in the Rookie of the Year conversation.  Sure, he probably would’ve had a relatively slow start, but over time we would’ve seen some huge games out of the kid.

With Carson pushing 1,000 yards and any number of touchdowns, it might’ve spared the defense – especially later in the season – allowing the offense to win more Time of Possession battles.

In an ideal world, Sheldon Richardson would’ve been the game-changer we all expected him to be.  What we got out of him was okay, I suppose, but I was really thinking he’d be this force of nature a la Cortez Kennedy in his prime.  What I got instead was 1 sack and not NEARLY enough big plays in the backfield.

Of course, in an ideal world, we never would’ve needed to trade for Sheldon Richardson in the first place, because Malik McDowell would’ve come into Training Camp healthy, he would’ve been a model citizen, and he would’ve been the force of nature up the middle that we all hoped he’d be!

In an ideal world, sure, maybe some of our defensive players would’ve been banged up from time to time, but not to the extent that guys like Avril, Sherman, Kam, and Bobby were!  Those guys, for a full season, would have absolutely prevented our December swoon.  There’s no fucking way guys like Fournette and Gurley would’ve gone off the way they did had Kam and Bobby been near 100%; and there’s no fucking way guys like the Bort or Drew Stanton would’ve thrown on us the way they did with Sherm locking down his side.  And, you better believe we would’ve owned that tie-breaker over the Falcons!

If you would’ve given me just one unicorn season – a season with almost zero injuries; those seasons you always see from teams who make the Super Bowl – this Seahawks team could’ve contended.  This Seahawks team could’ve even run the table in the second half!  With wins over the Eagles, Falcons, and a sweep of the Rams, people would be talking about the Seahawks right now as NFC frontrunners!

Of course, that’s just a pipe dream.  To believe that injuries alone torpedoed our season neglects all the other problems we had.  The offensive line woes outside of the left tackle position.  The quarterback’s late-season regression.  The fact that this team was mostly healthy for games against the Redskins and Titans and STILL managed to look bad in those games.

That’s all true, but if I’m slicing up the pie, and each slice is a Reason Why The Seahawks Missed The Playoffs, the biggest slice by far is injuries to key guys.  And, quite frankly, if I’m slicing up a different pie, and each slice is a Reason Why The Seahawks Are Fucked In The Immediate Future, it’s injuries again.  Because injuries forced us into trading multiple high-value draft picks to bring in guys like Richardson and Duane Brown.  Because some injuries are so severe, guys like Avril, Kam, and McDowell might not play another snap of football in their careers!  Because other injuries – to guys like Sherman, Bennett, Fant, and Joeckel – might force the team to move on from them.

It just sucks, because we really WERE all in on this year.  At the beginning of the season, there were two big needs for this team (aside from, of course, the need to stay healthy):  interior pass rush, and offensive line help.  We had high hopes for the young guys (McDowell and Fant), and we had skyrocketing hopes for the veterans (Richardson and Brown).  It really felt like, particularly with the Richardson trade, that the rich was getting richer, and that this defense was going to be a hornet’s nest.  But, it never really came together, and ultimately got worse and worse as injuries started to mount.

At that point, I have to wonder if the bigger problem isn’t Darrell Bevell or Tom Cable, but Kris Richard.  I agree that he’s had his moments, particularly with the Eagles game, but he’s had WAY more bad performances in his career, and nothing is really all that encouraging for him going forward.  It’s hard to know if some of that is Pete Carroll putting the restraints on him, forcing Richard to adhere closely to his scheme (when maybe this team would’ve been better served with a lot more blitzing and maybe a different type of coverage scheme).  But, I find it hard to believe that even with all the injuries, this defense would’ve fallen as hard as it did with a better defensive coordinator at the helm.  And that doesn’t even get into all the sideline arguments we’ve seen since Richard took over; it doesn’t really feel like he’s got control of that unit.  Weird, a mediocre player in his day evolved into a mediocre coordinator now.  And I guarantee you the only reason he’s seeing head coaching interviews is because of the Rooney Rule, and the fact that there aren’t enough qualified African American candidates out there that haven’t already been interviewed a million times.  Because, really, who is SERIOUSLY considering Kris Richard to be their head coach right now?  That’s total lunacy!  He’s done NOTHING but be the caretaker of a #1 defense that has gotten worse every year under his watch.

Sheep!  Get off the Bevell & Cable nonsense!  Remember, we’ve actually WON a Super Bowl with these guys!  You know who we HAVEN’T won with?  Richard.  He needs to go.  Now.

Oh, what could’ve been.  In an ideal world, we would’ve snagged Gus Bradley back after he got fired from the Jags.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seahawks Death Week: No Post-Season For The First Time Since 2011

I don’t know if there’s any point in rehashing this one too in depth, so let’s blow through it really quick:  the Seahawks lost at home to the Arizona Cardinals.  Led by Drew Stanton and his slightly torn ACL (that still left him spry enough to repeatedly run away from Michael Bennett in the open field), the Cards racked up 259 yards en route to a 26-24 victory.  Of course, the most mind-boggling thing was their 20-7 halftime lead, but at this point should it even be all that mind-boggling anymore?  We suck early in games, period.  That only made the inevitable second half comeback all the more painful in the end, as Blair Walsh sailed yet another field goal wide of its target in the closing seconds of the game.

Of course, by that point, it was known that the Panthers – behind garbage-ass Cam Newton’s 3 interceptions – lost to the Falcons, blowing their opportunity to win their division in the process (because, against all odds, the Bucs actually managed to beat the Saints).  So, it didn’t really matter what Blair Walsh did, and missing that kick actually made things better for the Seahawks, not just in dropping our draft pick from 20 to 18, but ensuring that there’s no fucking way this front office loses its collective minds and opts to re-sign that good-for-nothing piece of shit kicker.  21 of 29, for the worst season percentage of his career.  3 of those misses were under 40 yards (not counting the extra point he also missed), and 0 of those makes were 50 yards or more.  Ostensibly, we brought Walsh in here to be a cheaper alternative to Steven Hauschka, but we also brought him in here because of his big leg.  Once it was determined that he couldn’t be trusted, he finished the season with just 1 attempt over 50 yards, so obviously that was a huge embarrassing failure of a signing.

But, you can’t blame the fact that the Seahawks missed out on the playoffs on a terrible kicker like Blair Walsh (though, you can certainly trace at least a couple of these close losses to his missed field goals).  There’s plenty of blame to go around for why the Seahawks finished 9-7 and outside of the playoffs.  We’ll get into more of that as Seahawks Death Week goes on.

Before we get to that, a few notes on this final game of the season:

Tyler Lockett looked amazing, particularly on his kickoff return for a TD.  He’s slowly but surely returning to form after his devastating injury; I would expect great things from him in 2018.

I hope the Seahawks can bring Byron Maxwell back on the cheap.  He’d be a nice depth piece to have behind Sherm and Griffin.  I would also hope DeShawn Shead can return, but I think that’s less likely.  He’s probably looking for more of a starting role, and if he shows out in workouts, could very well command a salary this team has no business matching.  Besides, Justin Coleman appears to have that slot corner position on lockdown, so there isn’t a lot of room for more DBs (assuming, of course, that the team goes out in the draft and picks up another one).

I would absolutely love it for Dion Jordan to stay on.  I’ll get to where he should play in the coming days (hint:  so long, Michael Bennett), but I thought he was clearly the best defensive lineman on the field for the Seahawks in the last couple weeks, and it would’ve been nice to see him at least get more than 50% of the defensive snaps.

I’m less high on Sheldon Richardson returning, but I’d consider it for a couple reasons:  I don’t want the Seahawks to waste their time on high-priced free agents from other teams (mostly because I want some good compensatory draft picks for 2019).  While he would certainly figure in that equation if he walked away, I just don’t know who you could bring in to fill that spot, unless you’re sure Malik McDowell can come back from whatever stole his rookie season from him.  I have my doubts there.  Obviously, though, if Richardson is looking for Ndamukong Suh-type money, then let him walk.  But, if he can be had at the right price, with an out after 2-3 years, I say jump on it!

Okay, so I’m jumping on some of my future posts, so I’ll wrap it up with this:  I think the Seahawks need a lot of work in their receiver corps.  Baldwin is a stud, Lockett is criminally under-utilized, but as for the rest … yeesh.

Exactly How Fucked Are The Seahawks?

The Seahawks sit at 6-3, with a game tonight against the 5-4 Atlanta Falcons.  If the Seahawks win, they’ll take over first place in the NFC West (thanks to the head-to-head tiebreaker from Week 5); if the Seahawks lose, they’ll be overtaken from the playoffs and fall into the mediocre pack with the likes of the very same Falcons, Lions, Packers, Cowboys, and Redskins.  So, yeah, tonight’s game is pretty huge.

But, it’s not just about one game, the season hangs in the balance.  The Seahawks, once again, are decimated by injuries.  Kam Chancellor now joins the likes of:

  • Richard Sherman
  • Cliff Avril
  • George Fant
  • Rees Odhiambo
  • Chris Carson
  • C.J. Prosise
  • DeShawn Shead
  • Tre Madden
  • DeAndre Elliott
  • Malik McDowell

And that’s not even counting guys like Luke Joeckel, Duane Brown, Jarran Reed, Eddie Lacy, Earl Thomas (guys who have missed considerable time due to injury) and all the guys currently playing through pain because that’s just what football players do.

It’s absolutely unfathomable that the Seahawks should have to go through this two years in a row.  Sure, everyone has injuries here and there, but few teams are suffering the volume of injuries – and to elite superstars – at the rate the Seahawks are.  For a run of football that’s been pretty astounding, just how historically good could this Seahawks team (under Pete Carroll) have been if they’d stayed relatively healthy.  It’s one thing when you lose a guy for a game or two; but we’re falling HARD, and for the rest of the year!

How is this defense going to look without Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor?  I would venture to guess:  not too good.  Also, not for nothing, but facing the passing attack of the Altanta Falcons couldn’t have come at a worse time.  Sure, it’ll be nice having Earl Thomas back in the fold, but now we get to see what a defense looks like with E.T. and a bunch of nobodies.  If he can somehow hold this thing together, he truly will be this team’s MVP.

It would be nice if the defensive line could step its game up and make more of an impact, but that doesn’t seem too realistic.  Opponents are conditioned to get the ball out quick as it is; there’s no reason for that to change now.  If anything, they’re going to continue to get the ball out quick and guys are going to be MORE open than they’ve been.

Also, get ready for teams to pick on Jeremy Lane constantly.  That should be fun.  If you thought the fanbase was sick and tired of that guy before, just wait until he’s stuck trying to guard Julio Jones and giving up chunk plays left and right.

You’re not going to recognize this Seahawks team, that’s for sure.  On a consistent basis, going forward, this is going to be a team that gets gashed defensively way more than we’ve seen in the last half decade.  I don’t think they’ll start giving up 30+ every game; but I do think 24-28 is on the table against all but the very worst offenses.

So, what does that mean?  It means the Seahawks’ offense is going to have to carry the load.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve written this, but ever since Russell Wilson entered the league, we as Seahawks fans have been waiting for the time where the switch flipped and it was the offense doing most of the work, while the defense just sort of coasts.  Well, the time has come, because I don’t think this defense is capable of carrying this team anymore.  And that’s frightening, because as we’ve seen all too often from this offense:  it generally sucks.

Oh, it has padded its stats against the likes of the non-Jaguars AFC South, but this offense is truly mediocre on a good day and downright shitty on the rest.  The running game stinks, which is an indictment of both the O-Line and the running backs on this roster.  It takes Russell Wilson anywhere from 1-3 quarters before he finally starts playing well, which is an indictment on him, the O-Line, and his ball-dropping receivers (not you, Doug Baldwin).  This whole unit – again, save Doug (please) – is riddled with sloppy, lazy play that constantly shoots this team in the foot.  For every 1 game this offense does its job and compensates for a lacking defense (Houston), there are at least 3 games where this offense failed and this team lost as a result (Green Bay, Tennessee, Washington).  We had no business losing ANY of those games, but we did, because this offense fucking sucks.

So, that’s what we’ve got to look forward to.  Tonight, and the rest of the season.  An offense that does its fucking job about 25% of the time, and a defense severely limited by injuries, with no help on the horizon, and so aged that it’s sure to only get more injury-riddled as the weeks go on.

Exactly how fucked are the Seattle Seahawks?  Very.  Very fucking fucked.

Seahawks Destroyed The Chargers’ Backups

Ahh, the first pre-season game of the year!  Is there anything like it?

If all pre-season games were exactly like this one, I’m sure I’d be sickened, but see, that’s how they get you.  The first one, you’re so starving for football, you’ll sit through anything.  So, yank the starters after one series and go to town with all the backups.  Then, little by little, increase the playing time of the starters to get you to stick around for the next two weeks.  Then, by the fourth week, you’re hooked, and from then on, they’ve got you by the balls!

I dunno.  I do actually like the pre-season.  I like getting to watch all the young guys play, particularly when the games don’t matter.  If I had to watch all these backups out there in the regular season, I’d probably shit myself, but in the sterile environment that is the pre-season, it’s fine.

I’ll just rattle off a bunch of random thoughts in a row, before I’m too swayed by the opinions of others.

I didn’t like anything about the first team defense’s lone drive, but I also know that the Chargers’ offense is the absolute WORST for the Seahawks’ defense to play.  Philip Rivers is more than happy to dink and dunk his way down the field, and some of their receivers (and particularly their pass-catching tight ends) are more than happy to gobble up all those short passes.  They’re big and physical and they can play and play well against this type of defense that encourages underneath throws.  And, when the Seahawks start to make adjustments to take this away (assuming this were a regular season game, for a moment), that’s when Rivers can strike against you deep down field.  It’s the perfect storm, and I’m glad we don’t have to play the Chargers twice a year every year, because I know for a FACT that they would be what the Rams have been against us, only with an offensive bent vs. the Rams’ defensive prowess.

That having been said, I think I was more disappointed by the first unit’s run defense.  I know that sounds stupid – because the Chargers’ longest rush on that first drive was for 5 yards – but here’s my rationale:  you know, with Rivers in there, the Chargers like to throw quick, short passes.  Because that’s what he’s good at, and in this situation, you KNOW they don’t want him holding the ball all that long, in a meaningless first pre-season game.  As such, I would’ve liked to have seen this team be stouter against the run on that drive.  Four out of seven rushes went for 4 yards or more, and one of those shorter runs was to convert a 3rd & 1.  So, really, five out of seven rushes were successful for the Chargers.  Instead of pinning them into multiple 3rd & Longs, more often than not the Chargers had easy conversions to make.  Granted the 3rd & 9 play went for 15 yards, but I just think if you could’ve gotten them behind the chains, you could’ve at least forced a field goal, if not a punt.

But, it was one drive.  It’s not the end of the world.

I liked what I saw out of the offense, particularly the wide receivers.  Paul Richardson picked right up where he left off, by snagging a beautiful diving catch for 25 yards to get the team into field goal range.  Unfortunately, Paul Richardson picked up right where he left off, by getting immediately injured and being forced to sit out anywhere from 1-4 weeks.  Not a great start for a guy entering his first contract season.

Obviously, I was blown away by Kasen Williams, and believe you me, I was not expecting to be.  4 catches, 119 yards, and each one more impressive than the last!  Well, maybe not the one where it looked like he landed out of bounds, but the refs blew the call so all the better!  I couldn’t be happier, for a lot of reasons.  First and foremost, Paul Richardson.  I mean, if we gotta worry about him being healthy – yet again – then there are issues.  I think Doug Baldwin will be fine, but obviously he was out with a strained foot.  I think Tyler Lockett is a valid question mark; I think he’ll play eventually, but will he be back to his usual self at any point this year?  Will he come back only to get immediately re-injured?  And, if THAT’S the case, we’re back to this unit being Baldwin and Kearse and dot-dot-dot.

I know everyone is just convinced that Amara Darboh is going to make this team, because of his draft position or whatever, but why?  Why is everyone so sure he can have his roster spot written down in pen?  I mean, for starters, he was injured yesterday!  Gotta play in the pre-season if you’re going to make the team, right?  I know there are other factors at play, like team control and all that, but in Kasen Williams you’ve got a guy who’s mature, who knows the system, who’s FINALLY healthy and capable to show his full potential.

If we have to worry about Lockett and P-Rich, it’s nice knowing Kasen is there, because I sure as shit trust him over guys like Darboh, David Moore, Kenny Lawler, and the rest.

That having been said, I did like the upside on guys like Moore and Lawler.  Moore had that nice crossing route that he was able to turn up for a big gain.  He showed good size and speed.  Lawler could’ve made an even bigger impact if he’d reeled in that second TD, but as it stands I like what he brings to the table.  I’ll also be curious to see what Cyril Grayson can do; he had that TD in the corner of the endzone that was overturned on replay because he could only get one foot down.  Great athleticism for a guy who’s pretty raw.

Also, before I move on, I want to see Kasen Williams keep it up.  This game got his name back into the mix when everyone had written him off, but now he’s got to parlay that into an actual 53-man roster spot.  That means not immediately disappearing into the ether after one great game.  You double down on that and you FORCE this team to keep you.  And, if they don’t, you go sign with the Rams and you shove it down our throats for the next five years.  God Awgs!

As for the rest of the offense, I wasn’t thrilled with the running game.  The Seahawks won this game 48-17, and this team couldn’t run for more than 133 yards?  It’s not like the team was avoiding the run; there were 36 carries, for a 3.7 yard per carry average.  It wasn’t great.

Mike Davis was the mop-up runner, leading the team with 33 yards.  Rookie phenom Chris Carson bulled through the line for two goalline TDs.  Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls got some work in, but didn’t do much.  Alex Collins did even less.  Honestly, the best runners by a million miles were the three quarterbacks.  Russell Wilson had a scramble that he ALMOST broke for a first down.  Austin Davis had a huge scramble when the middle of the field totally opened up for him.  And Trevone Boykin was an absolute baller.

Gotta devote more time to the #2 QB, because he earned it.  Boykin’s first drive was absolute garbage; he had a fumble on his first drop back, that he was able to recover, then he looked indecisive on the third down incompletion.  It led me to think, “Here we go again.”  I was fully expecting this to be a LONG day of Boykin holding the ball too long, running around in circles, and not getting anything done until the 2-minute drill at the end of the first half.  When, in reality, Boykin looked GREAT after that drive!  He started to get the ball out on time, he ran when he should have, but he also made some quality throws.  Kasen, obviously, bailed him out quite a bit, but there were some other good decisions mixed in there as well (it’s always a good decision to throw a jump ball to Kasen when he’s being guarded one on one, FYI).  All in all, 12 for 15, 189 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT (on an ill-advised deep ball on his final drive, into double coverage, very badly underthrown due to pressure coming up the middle).

He very well may have solidified his spot on this roster, even though Austin Davis didn’t look bad.  7 for 9 for 108 yards is nothing to sneeze at.  Of course, it was against third stringers, and if you thought San Diego’s the Chargers’ second unit was bad, their third unit was THE WORST.  We’ll know if the Seahawks are serious about its backup quarterback competition if they play Davis with the second stringers and hold Boykin for the third stringers next week.

The question on everyone’s minds was, of course, the offensive line.  Did they look better than they have in the last two pre-seasons?  Yes.  But, I wasn’t really watching them all that closely.  I’m trying to get a sense of the whole game, so I don’t want to sit there and try to focus on just the lines.  But, you could tell the quarterbacks had a lot more time to throw; they weren’t being immediately bombarded with defenders in their faces, which is a huge improvement over 2015 and 2016.

It’s hard to get a sense of the best individual players, but I’m sure we’ll learn that as we read the deep dives this week on the various Seahawks blogs and Twitter and whatnot.  Fant looked better, Joeckel looked solid, Britt was Britt.  It seemed like Glowinski and Aboushi were battling pretty good on the right side.  And, it looked like Ifedi will certainly have some growing pains, but is also vastly improved over his rookie year.

As for the backups, I can’t even begin.  Pocic got a ton of playing time and looks solid.  I think we’ll be calling for him to be a starter on this team before too long.  Jordan Roos got a lot of playing time as well and could be a nice little project for this team long term.  I wasn’t blown away by Odhiambo, but I was encouraged to see him play both left guard and left tackle.  I hope the deep divers have some positive reviews for these guys, because overall I came away encouraged.

I will say that I’d like to see these guys improve on the run blocking side of things.  Seems like every big run was called back due to a clipping penalty, which is beyond frustrating.

On the defensive side of the ball, I’ll just say that I’m glad no one of import got hurt.  The starters made it through their series unscathed, on to Minnesota.

That’s really it!  I mean, we know what this defense is going to look like; there aren’t a lot of spots up for grabs.

I thought Shaq Griffin looked solid.  It’s very encouraging to see our rookie play as well as he did, particularly when you factor in how important this rookie class is going to be to our depth for the next few years, and when you factor in Malik McDowell’s idiocy.  We need SOMEONE to pop, and who better than a guy who could be starting opposite Richard Sherman a month from now?  I’ll be glad to see him get more play with the #1 defense in the coming weeks.

I thought Naz Jones looked solid.  Again, I wasn’t there close-watching the lines, but he had that tipped ball, and he looked like he got some pressure up the middle at times.  Without McDowell, that interior pressure is going to need to come fromm somewhere.  I would’ve liked to have seen more from Jarran Reed – because I’ve heard he’s been awesome in Training Camp so far – but the pre-season is young.

Obviously, I thought Michael Wilhoite and Terence Garvin looked outstanding.  Wilhoite with the hit on the intended receiver to pop the ball up in the air; Garvin with the INT returned for a TD.  But, these guys got a lot of play and really showed up.  It’s nice having backup linebackers who aren’t just Special Teamers.  Brock Coyle is an okay story, but he was never a guy I was comfortable counting on in a base defense.

Cassius Marsh had a great tackle for loss.  Some of the deeper D-Linemen had some nice pressure numbers.  Tedric Thompson was the single-high safety who gave up the 74-yard touchdown from Kellen Clemens of all people, and honestly Thompson looked slow.  Maybe that’s being a rookie and he’ll improve when the mental aspect of the game catches up to him, but it was discouraging when you consider the Seahawks are a team that wants to eliminate the deep ball above almost everything else.

In the Speical Teams, J.D. McKissic got a lot of the return duties – both kickoffs and on punts – and looked okay.  He didn’t break anything, but he looked natural and like he COULD have broken something if he’d just gotten a key block.  I, for one, hope he makes the team as a sixth receiver, and as a guy who could fill in for C.J. Prosise if and when he gets injured.  I mean, a guy who can play receiver (most likely a slot guy), a guy who can run the ball, AND a guy who can handle all return duties if we want to save Lockett from that sort of exposure, is a guy I want on this team!

Finally, Blair Walsh made all his kicks.  2 field goals, 6 extra points.  Keep it up, kid!

Overall, I came away pretty impressed.  I know this is the pre-season and blah blah blah, but this team looked talented, looked deep, looked fired up, and honestly looked like the team from 2013.  We’ll see what we’re thinking this time next week, after the Minnesota game, but for now I’m encouraged.