The 6th Most Important Seahawks Player After Russell Wilson: Jarran Reed

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He’s our unquestioned best defensive tackle on the roster. He’s just realizing his potential as an all-purpose force in the middle, both stopping the run and rushing the passer. Indeed, he’s almost certainly the best interior pass rush threat we have on this team. He’s coming off of a 10.5-sack season. His name is Jarran Reed.

In his career to date, Reed has exceeded my expectations. Taken in the second round out of Alabama in 2016, I seem to remember him being touted as one of the (if not THE) best nose tackles in that draft. There were rumblings of potential to be mined in the realm of pass rush, but really if he’d just turned into a run-stuffer that we could plug into the middle of our line from Day 1, that was probably the extent of my expectations. Maybe he averages 1.0 sacks per year, but nothing crazy; he’s just there to take up blockers and create openings for our more athletic ends around him.

And, through his first two seasons, he more or less met expectations. He played in 15 games each year, generating 1.5 sacks apiece. I would argue that any lagging in our run defense was more due to the players around him not quite being as good as they’d been before he got here (and, of course, injuries eating into our depth).

Then, in 2018, Reed exploded with the aforementioned 10.5 sacks. Coming from a nose tackle, that’s something that’ll make you sit up and take notice! He played in all 16 games, and generated at least 0.5 sacks in 8 of them (he had 2 sacks each in 3 games).

You could argue that’s a little flukey, and I guess we’ll see. I understand the reasoning (and I certainly understand why people would have reservations about extending him now, when he’s at the height of his value): he wasn’t the same player he was his first two years in the league. So, who is the real Jarran Reed?

My fear is that Reed comes back with another 10+ sack season which will make him impossible to extend. At that point, we’ll only have the Franchise Tag to threaten him with, and as we saw from Frank Clark, that’s not the deterrent it once was. Players are smarter today (for the most part; I’ve got my eyes on you, Malik McDowell), they understand the risk in playing this game, and their windows being ridiculously short. As long as you don’t live your life in fear (and put money into a sweet insurance policy), playing up to and through the Tag can reap you insane financial rewards.

Of course, my fear is the same fear most bad GMs have. It’s why they throw tons of cash on middle-of-the-road players at the height of their value, chasing the dragon that can’t possibly be caught. 2018 might be the very best year of Reed’s career (like 2004 was for Adrian Beltre … right before the Mariners signed him to a huge contract and never saw him come close to approaching those offensive numbers ever again in Seattle). But, on the flipside, we all lauded the Seahawks’ front office for extending Tyler Lockett when they did. When he had more injury concerns at the time and never really played near the top of the market at his position. Who’s to say Reed couldn’t even IMPROVE on what he did in 2018? If he did, extending him now would be real next-level GM’ing.

I’m like most of you, I just want Reed to be around for the next few years under a reasonable contract. I’m not looking to low-ball him, but I also don’t really want the Seahawks to be suckers. If the team is willing to buy out the final year of his rookie deal, they should get somewhat of a discount. Also, if we do let him play out his contract, and let’s say there’s some regression that comes with it (I’m in the camp that doubts he’s a double-digit-per-year sack guy, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t valuable); even if he finishes 2019 with somewhere around 5-6 sacks, that’s still pretty good for an interior lineman (I mean, shit, we still talk about Clinton McDonald’s 5.5 sacks in 2013 like he was fucking Reggie White in his prime). And he’s ALWAYS going to have that 10.5-sack season to fall back on in negotiations (this time, with the entire league, barring a Franchise Tag). Some team, if it isn’t the Seahawks, will look at those 10.5 sacks and see the potential for a repeat.

Bottom line is he’ll get his money. The Franchise Tag value for a defensive tackle in 2019 is a little over $15 million. That’ll almost certainly go up in 2020, maybe the $16-17 million range. So, even if, as I said, he gets 5-6 sacks, he’s probably going to be worth Tagging, which means it’s only a matter of time before he’s getting a contract at or very close to the top of the market (obviously not Aaron Donald money, but in that next tier down). So, just get it done now. Because I ultimately don’t see the Seahawks being in a position to draft anyone who’s any better (and whoever that replacement might be figures to be considerably worse).

As for the 2019 season, Reed is obviously important for the pass rush factor. We have no idea where it’s going to be coming from, but of anyone currently on the roster, he’s the safest bet. We don’t know about the rookie from this year, or the rookies from last year, or the free agents we brought in; but we know what we’ve got in Reed. Probably. 5-6 sacks would be fine. 10 or more would be better. The better he does, the better this line will look, and the better this defense will perform as a whole. If he truly busts out as one of the best D-Tackles in the game, this team could be really special. If he regresses (as he probably will), then obviously there’s a trickle-down effect that hurts everyone else and the team as a whole.

Projecting The Seahawks Rookies Sight Unseen, Based Simply On What Information Has Passively Reached My Brain

So far, we’ve had Rookie OTAs and Voluntary OTAs. I think. I can’t be sure. I’m only like half paying attention right now.

I have never been to a single Seahawks practice in my life, so of course I have no firsthand knowledge of what’s been going on at these OTAs. I rely on the beat writers I follow on Twitter, the occasional article I read on a Saturday morning when I get the newspaper, and whatever makes it through when I’m listening to Brock & Salk in the morning. As such, I’m as ill-informed to have an opinion on the new Seahawks rookies as can be. But, this is the Internet, so I’m actually OVER-qualified to have an opinion on these rookies!

Most of this, honestly, is going to harken back to rookies of yore. Because, here’s the deal: by and large, rookies don’t make huge impacts on the game of football. There are precious few every year, and they generally come from the very top of the first round. Oh, you’ll find starters on most every team, but that’s usually based on circumstance: you want to get the promising rookies in there as soon as possible to start gaining valuable experience, in hopes that by Year 2 they’re ready to take a big leap.

Take a look at the 2018 Seahawks draft class; we were all pretty stoked on those guys, right? How many of them REALLY made an impact? Sure, Michael Dickson was a Pro Bowler, but he’s a once-in-a-generation talent at the punter position. Beyond him, Tre Flowers was a semi-capable starting cornerback for most of the season, Will Dissly looked good for about a week before he was lost for the season due to injury, Shaquem Griffin mostly played on special teams after a disasterous start in Week 1, Martin was a decent rotational player on the defensive line, and our top two picks – Penny & Green – were largely disappointments respective to where they were selected in the draft.

Take a look at the 2017 Seahawks draft class. Shaquill Griffin was a semi-capable starting cornerback for most of the season, Chris Carson was solid when he was healthy, but Ethan Pocic was a disaster, Malik McDowell never played a down, and the rest of the guys were – at best – Special Teamers (or, they were role players, or they were injured).

Who was the last Seahawks rookie to come right out of the gate as a star (not just on Special Teams)? I would argue we’re talking Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner in 2012 (you can make a case for Lockett, but he was a Pro Bowler as a returner, and was really just a 3rd receiver on offense his rookie season). Everyone else, you’re talking about adequate starters, role players, the aforementioned Special Teamers, or busts as rookies.

So, it’s pretty stupid to expect ANY of these rookies this year to step into significant roles. While there are openings that figure to at least give guys opportunities for more playing time than they’d otherwise see, it takes a REALLY special kind of player to come in Year 1 and be a star. Russell Wilsons and Bobby Wagners don’t just grow on trees!

I’ll just go down the list from the first round on, giving my thoughts on what I expect from them in 2019. Remember, this isn’t my opinion of their entire careers, just what they’ll bring to the table this season.

L.J. Collier – I think he’ll get plenty of snaps, but I can’t envision much more than a role player, even as thin as the D-Line is. Ideally, he’d pass up Frank Clark’s rookie season of 3 sacks, but that’s only because I expect him to get a lot more playing time. Nevertheless, I can’t imagine double-digit sacks right out of the gate.

Marquise Blair – While I wouldn’t necessarily call the safety position “stacked”, there are plenty of returning starters that will make things difficult for Blair to break through. From what I’ve been hearing, though, there’s a lot of chatter about his potential. If he stays healthy, he certainly has one of the best chances to really stand out as a rookie, but I would expect his career to start off slow, and pick up steam towards the end of the season. More than anything, I see Special Teamer in his immediate future.

D.K. Metcalf – Of all the rookies, I feel like fans are highest on his breakout potential. And why wouldn’t you? He’s probably the most physically gifted athlete on this team, and there’s a new opening with Doug Baldwin’s early retirement. I’d say I’m a little more reserved about his chances of truly breaking out, and not just because the offense is stifling to the passing game. To be a star in this offense as a receiver, I’d say he’d have to eclipse 65 receptions and/or 10 touchdowns (in his case, the 10 touchdowns is probably more likely). That’s certainly within reach, but I can’t help but see him falling just short of both of those marks. I’d be thrilled with something around 45 catches and 5 TDs, which isn’t bad in the slightest, but also not really amazing.

Cody Barton – Based on all the OTA hype so far, Barton appears to have the highest ceiling of all the rookies (at least when it comes to their rookie season results). Too bad for him that the Seahawks are beyond stacked at linebacker. When you hear about how he’s so good that the team will look to find ways to get him on the field, I think that’s a good sign. The positive for his own growth is that the linebacker room is also among the oldest on the team, so the odds of these guys getting injured at some point feels pretty high. I would expect Barton to be the best of the rookies in 2019, with him ultimately taking K.J. Wright’s spot for good starting in 2020.

Gary Jennings – I’m pretty sure he’s been injured throughout OTAs. Honestly, I sort of expect that to continue. He’ll be so hyped up in Training Camp to make an impact, that he’ll probably re-injure himself and spend 2019 on the IR.

Phil Haynes – I heard good things early, but I think he too has been injured a little bit (I could be wrong). Regardless, I’m expecting nothing out of him as a rookie. I think he’ll stick with the team and probably be a healthy scratch most weeks.

Ugo Amadi – I’ve heard exactly nothing about Amadi so far in OTAs. My guess is he makes the team, plays on Special Teams, and doesn’t really do much on defense. Seems like a longshot that he steps right into a nickel cornerback role from Day 1.

Ben Burr-Kirven – There’s been a lot of positive chatter, and there’s been word that he’s nicked up. He’s obviously not seeing time on defense, as you figure he’s also behind Barton – as well as the returning vets – on the depth chart. When he’s not injured, I bet he’ll flash occasionally on Special Teams, but I don’t have super high hopes that he’ll be healthy.

Travis Homer – At best, he’s a #3 running back, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he lands behind C.J. Prosise (who manages to stay healthy through Training Camp for the first time ever, only to get injured once the season starts and Homer is on someone else’s 53-man roster).

Demarcus Christmas – He strikes me as a Practice Squad player.

John Ursua – My hunch is that he’s NOT the next Doug Baldwin, and that he probably gets cut at the end of Training Camp. Meaning we’ll have traded away a pick from 2020 for absolutely nothing.

The Most Indefensibly Bad Seahawks Draft Pick Of The John Schneider Era

In the wake of the 2019 NFL Draft, the world at large has run through just about everything you can talk about, so we ultimately turn to manufactured arguments. On the Brock & Salk show recently, they were talking about (I don’t remember specifically) the worst Seahawks draft picks of the Schneider/Carroll era. It might have actually been the worst first player selected in each draft, but my mind immediately went to one player.

Before we get to that, I should back up and mention that every team has bad draft picks under their belts. I’m not picking on the Seahawks because I think they’re bad drafters; on the contrary, I think this crew is very GOOD at drafting. Yes, they often find themselves “reaching” in the eyes of the experts, and they go out of their way to trade down (and even out of the first round) to acquire extra picks later on. But, I believe this front office more than any other (except maybe the Patriots) finds the best value in later rounds to round out its roster with quality players.

Beyond that, the Seahawks do an excellent job of blending Best Player Available with Team Needs. You’re not going to see this team draft a quarterback in the top half of the draft because that would be a waste; if you ever do see that, you’d know that player is probably someone who fell further than they should and bank on him being destined for greatness. Those players experts cite as a “reach” are more often than not guys the coaches are able to build up into effective starters. There’s a method to the Seahawks’ madness that keeps this train a rollin’.

If you had to narrow down the absolute WORST pick this group has made, I think you have to start with guys who’ve never played a single down in the NFL. There have been a handful (certainly more than I remembered before I started writing this post), with the worst of the bunch being the guys who cost us the highest draft capital:

  • Mark LeGree (2011, 5th round)
  • Jared Smith (2013, 7th round)
  • Jesse Williams (2013, 5th round)
  • Jimmy Staten (2014, 5th round)
  • Garrett Scott (2014, 6th round)
  • Terry Poole (2015, 4th round)
  • Zac Brooks (2016, 7th round)
  • Kenny Lawler (2016, 7th round)
  • Justin Senior (2017, 7th round)
  • Malik McDowell (2017, 2nd round)

It’s not fair to go beyond the 2017 draft, although Alex McGough spent all of 2018 on the Practice Squad before jumping ship to the Jags, where you have to believe he’ll at least get a shot at some serious playing time as a backup (that Brett Hundley deal continuing to pay whatever the opposite of dividends are). Of that ignominious group I listed above, I completely understand the urge to say, “Malik McDowell is the worst Seahawks draft pick of all time,” and call this post a day.

There is a GREAT argument behind that sentiment. He was a 2nd round pick, and the first pick of our 2017 draft (after trading out of the first round). He was brought in with the thought process that he’d play right away in a rotation that featured Michael Bennett, Frank Clark, Cliff Avril, and Jarran Reed, among others. You could play McDowell on the outside on base downs, and bring him inside on passing downs, while allowing him to learn behind some all-time greats. Then, presumably, when the season was up, the team could move on from the likes of Avril and Bennett, and McDowell would’ve had a full year’s worth of experience under his belt to move into one of the starting roles.

We all know what happened instead: McDowell got injured before Training Camp even started, Avril was out of fooball a month into the season, Bennett was still in peak form (though just starting his slide; he’d be traded after the season), and we had to make that awful trade for Sheldon Richardson (who had very little impact on the field, and cost us yet ANOTHER second round pick, this time in the 2018 draft). So, not only did McDowell not produce for us, but he actively crippled this franchise for the next three years (we’re still being hurt by this deal, as we’ve had to spend high picks in the last two drafts – and probably another one next year – to fill the pass rushing void).

But, that’s not the premise of this post. Yes, the selection of McDowell was atrocious, but it is wholly defensible.

The argument against that has to do with him being a knucklehead who crashed on an ATV and broke his skull, but I mean, come on. Who could reasonably predict that? The knock against him heading into the 2017 draft was that he wasn’t necessarily the hardest worker in college. He took downs/games off. The talent was there, when he wanted it to be, and that’s why a high first round talent fell into the second round. If you want to be mad at anything, be mad at the fact that the team traded out of the first round in the first place; that’s the REAL crime here. But, there’s a lot we don’t know. Maybe the defensive lineman we liked was already taken, so it made sense to trade down and get more picks. You also have to factor in the players we were able to draft because of those trades, of which there are a number of contributors (including Tedric Thompson, Delano Hill, and Chris Carson).

Regardless, the reasoning behind taking McDowell was sound. And, for that reason, I have a hard time placing too much blame on a front office that was struck by some of the worst luck you can imagine. If he wasn’t an idiot, we might be talking about an integral part of this year’s defense right now. We were able to turn Frank Clark around after a suspect college career, it’s not crazy to imagine we could’ve turned McDowell around if we’d actually gotten him into the program.

If you wanted to go away from these types of players who made zero positive impact on the club, you could talk about guys who the Seahawks DID play, and who were actively terrible (arguably providing a net-negative value by virture of their performances on the field). This would include guys like:

  • James Carpenter (2011, 1st round)
  • John Moffitt (2011, 3rd round)
  • Mark Glowinski (2015, 4th round)
  • Germain Ifedi (2016, 1st round)
  • Rees Odhiambo (2016, 3rd round)
  • Ethan Pocic (2017, 2nd round)

Some of these aren’t totally fair. Carpenter was a first round reach, no doubt about it, and it took this team a couple years before they finally figured out where his best fit was on the line. But, once he got past some injury issues and settled in, he’s made a nice career for himself (his last year in Seattle was pretty good, but mostly he’s been a workhorse elsewhere). Glowinski also was a dud in Seattle, though he’s been pretty solid in Indy (and just earned a nice little raise this offseason). Moffitt was an outright bust, in every sense of the word, and a total misfire of a 3rd rounder. Odhiambo has been pretty awful (though, again, I’d argue he’s been thrust into roles he’s not suited for, like left tackle – before we brought in Duane Brown – thanks to injuries and poor planning). Ifedi has been this fanbase’s whipping boy from day one, though his 2018 season was a huge step in the right direction (I would bet some other team pays him a pretty penny once he leaves after the 2019 season); and Pocic has been my own personal whipping boy nearly every time he’s seen the field in his short professional career.

I don’t think these guys really qualify as the most indefensibly bad pick of this era, so much as it simply being indefensible that this team left Tom Cable in charge for as long as they did, when he was better at molding crappy players into eventual quality starters for OTHER teams. A guy like Cable is fine if you have all the time in the world to develop diamonds in the rough; but this team was going cheap on its O-Line (to pay stars at other positions) and needed guys to step in RIGHT AWAY; in that sense, you get what you pay for. The defense behind picking these guys is simple: there’s always a need for offensive linemen, and the Seahawks took more swings at this than anyone else in football. The sad fact is that we simply swung and MISSED more than anyone else, which is why this team fell apart after its Super Bowl run.

All of this is preamble for what I’m going to tell you is, without a doubt, the worst and most indefensible draft pick of the John Schneider era:

  • Christine Michael

We were coming off of an all-time great run of drafts, not just for the Seahawks, but for any team in NFL history. You can’t rehash this enough, and I’m more than happy to go over it with you:

  • Russell Okung – 2010
  • Earl Thomas – 2010
  • Golden Tate – 2010
  • Walter Thurmond – 2010
  • Kam Chancellor – 2010
  • James Carpenter – 2011
  • K.J. Wright – 2011
  • Richard Sherman – 2011
  • Byron Maxwell – 2011
  • Malcolm Smith – 2011
  • Doug Baldwin – 2011 (undrafted)
  • Brandon Browner – 2011 (undrafted)
  • Ricardo Lockette – 2011 (undrafted)
  • Bruce Irvin – 2012
  • Bobby Wagner – 2012
  • Russell Wilson – 2012
  • Robert Turbin – 2012
  • Jaye Howard – 2012
  • Jeremy Lane – 2012
  • J.R. Sweezy – 2012
  • Jermaine Kearse – 2012 (undrafted)

That’s just clinically insane. So many All Pros and Pro Bowlers and starters and role players just in that group alone, who contributed to this team’s championship run in 2013. You could easily say this group was playing with house money.

So much of it, in fact, that we traded the farm (including our 2013 first rounder) to acquire Percy Harvin.

You could also argue that the 2013 NFL Draft was one of the worst of all time. Bust after bust after bust among this group; teams even in the top third of the FIRST round couldn’t count on drafting anyone worth a damn; so why am I all up in arms about a second rounder?

Because, motherfucker!

We as Seahawks fans are used to saying, “HUH?” whenever we see who this team ends up picking. In the early going – particularly in 2012 – we were made to look the fool at this way of thinking, as those guys ended up being some of the best players we’ve ever seen. We have that reaction because the guys the Seahawks take aren’t the guys the national pundits spend all offseason talking about. We don’t KNOW those guys; we know other guys who we think are better, but they might not necessarily be good fits for this team. But, at the very least, we could always rationalize WHY the Seahawks took the guys they’ve taken. There are always clear needs, and the Seahawks tend to focus in on those needs just like the rest of us.

As I mentioned before, the 2013 Seahawks were playing with house money. This was a team – in 2012, particularly in the last month of the regular season, on into the postseason – that was already a Super Bowl contender, as is. A bad start in Atlanta in the Divisional Round prevented us from what could’ve been back-to-back-to-back NFC Championship Games and even possibly back-to-back-to-back Super Bowl appearances. No team in December 2012 was playing as well as the Seattle Seahawks – including the eventual NFL Champion 49ers, who we clobbered in that closing stretch – so that 2013 NFL Draft was wide open to do what this team has never been able to do: really go after the Best Player Available.

Think about it, that team had NO HOLES. We were stacked from top to bottom, and as deep as any team in the league has ever been. We CUT guys who would go on to Pro Bowls for other teams, simply because there wasn’t room for them on our 53-man roster!

And yet, as we all know, no team is without holes. We could’ve filled in around the margins; maybe gone after Travis Kelce (taken with the very next pick; can you imagine? Never having to endure the Jimmy Graham debacle?), or the Honey Badger, or Keenan Allen, or any number of third rounders in that draft who are still kicking around the league. Instead, we picked Christine Michael.

And, for the first – and really only time that I can remember – Seahawks fans all said, “HUH?” not because we didn’t know the guy, but because we didn’t know WHY in the FUCK the Seahawks – with inarguably the best running back in all of football – drafted a third running back.

Remember, this team had Robert Turbin from the 2012 draft. While he never developed into a superstar, he was more than fine as a backup. A nice change of pace, someone who took care of the ball and could spell our starter, someone with good hands out in space and fit our zone blocking scheme to a T. Maybe in a different universe, Turbin could’ve been a 1,000-yard back somewhere! When he left Seattle, he succumbed to injuries that kept him from really breaking out, but you never know.

What we DO know is that Marshawn Lynch was Beastmode, and 2012/2013 was right smack dab in the middle of his PRIME! I mean, this seriously made no sense. It was as if the team was trying to push out the best player on its offense for no good God damned reason!

And maybe that was the plan. All I know was that there wasn’t any serious inkling of Lynch retiring, or otherwise leaving the organization at that time. In an ideal universe, maybe Michael sits as the third stringer his rookie year, then takes over in Year Two. But, obviously, we know how things really shook out. Lynch had two of this three best seasons in 2013 & 2014; he was FAR from done! So far, in fact, that the team signed him to an extension in 2015 (which, of course, immediately preceeded him getting injured, then retiring, then being traded to the Raiders for a nice Oakland swan song).

Meanwhile, Michael was terrible, both on and off the field. He didn’t work on his craft, he didn’t have that will to be great; I guess the best thing you can say is that he didn’t get into trouble off the field. But, even in college people questioned his work ethic, hence (again) why a first round talent fell to the bottom of the second round.

Christine Michael was the total antithesis of what the Seahawks sought out in their players under Pete Carroll and John Schneider. And yet, here we were, blowing our first pick on this guy, where there was absolutely no need whatsoever.

There’s no defending the Christine Michael pick, which makes it the most indefensibly bad pick of the John Schneider era.

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.