Seahawks/Raiders Preseason Game 4 Takeaways

For starters, no, I don’t really give a shit about Jeremy Lane sitting for the national anthem.  And for the record, I don’t even get why we sing the national anthem before every game anyway; save it for the fucking Olympics.

From a football perspective, the greatest takeaway is that no important Seahawks got hurt.  No one who figures to make the 53-man roster, anyway.  Seems like a small thing, but the last thing you want to see is a key player get hurt in the most meaningless of the meaningless pre-season games.

This one was a real barker, too.  I mean, seriously, woof!  2-0 at halftime, 5-3 after three quarters; we were so bored, my dad and I spent more time playing Yahtzee than watching the actual game.  The Raiders’ D-Line is no joke, and I’m not even sure all of their starters were ever in there!  The Seahawks really couldn’t do a damn thing for most of the first three quarters, thanks to their sheer dominance.

Then, the game turned on a dime, and became the most fun fourth quarter of a pre-season game that I can remember.  The Raiders extended their lead to 8-3 to kick things off.  A few minutes later – after getting the ball back – we pressured them into a pick-six to take the lead 9-8.  After stuffing them again, we got the ball back and drove – mostly on the back of Troymaine Pope’s slashing running style – to extend our lead to 16-8.  The Raiders drove down for a score of their own, but botched the 2-point conversion, to make it 16-14.  After we recovered the on-side kick, Pope busted out another long run to get us down near the goalline.  From there, Alex Collins officially sealed the deal with a goalline plunge to make it 23-14.

And yet, if that wasn’t enough, the Raiders ran back the kickoff to make it 23-21.  Thankfully, they didn’t try to on-side kick it again, and the game mercifully came to a close.  Still, pretty fun quarter when both teams had a combined eight points going in.

Getting back, I thought Pope was amazing, not just on Thursday, but this entire pre-season.  I know he’s in a battle with Alex Collins, and I know Alex Collins has certain physical attributes that Pope doesn’t, but it would just be a shame to see Pope go.  I just know he’s going to go off and be another Justin Forsett type, if he ever gets a serious opportunity to start.

After Pope, I didn’t really see many positives out of the offense.  I was REALLY disappointed that Tanner McEvoy wasn’t able to play, because I feel like this was EXACTLY the type of game he would’ve shined in.  None of the receivers really stood out – with no one catching more than 2 balls all game – but that was hardly their fault.  Our offensive line was manhandled from the get-go (with Jahri Evans and J’Marcus Webb looking particularly overwhelmed on the right side), and Trevone Boykin was not up to the task of dealing with it all that well.

I don’t think Boykin cost himself the job or anything; I think he’s still young, cheap, and has lots of team control.  I think keeping him on the 53-man roster – as opposed to the practice squad, while bringing in a veteran to backup Wilson – would be much more important to his development.  Plus, I still contend that if Wilson gets injured, the team will simply sign Tarvaris Jackson and keep Boykin as the #2 until Wilson’s healthy again.

That having been said, the kid is raw, but I thought he dealt with things okay.  You want a kid to know what it’s like to struggle like that, so next time he knows how to deal with it better.  Russell Wilson didn’t come out of the womb an All Pro (in spite of his robot-like qualities); I think Boykin will be okay.  Give him time to throw, give him lanes to run, he’ll be okay.  Also, think of it this way:  if he ever has to come in for Wilson, he’ll get the luxury of our starting O-Line, which is starting to come together pretty good.

I will say this though:  Boykin better take better advantage of his opportunities to run in the future.  He left A LOT of yards on the table by handing the ball off instead of tucking and running.

On defense, the guy who stood out the most was Keenan Lambert, who was just all over the place making plays.  I thought Brock Coyle had a great game too, showing why the team likes him so much as Bobby Wagner’s backup.  I thought KPL looked good, and I thought Marcus Burley continued his dominant pre-season with another great game.  If he doesn’t make the team, I just don’t know anymore, because he’s easily the 3rd or 4th best corner going right now.

I thought Tharold Simon looked pretty bad.  He was often caught not looking for the ball, and when he wasn’t penalized for it, it looked like he SHOULD’VE been.  I still haven’t seen anything out of Tye Smith.  And none of the young guys along the D-Line really stood out all that much, except for Ryan Robinson, obviously, who caught that pick-six, but I don’t expect him to make the team.  I seem to remember Eric Pinkins making a great play at some point!  Don’t know if it’s enough to save his job, but it was something, I’m sure of that.

Steven A. Taylor’s Long Snapper Corner

You thought this wouldn’t be important, huh???  (for the record, “you” is just my natural insecurities coming out, so don’t take it personal)  Well, Nolan Frese has just been cut in favor of Tyler Ott.  I didn’t notice any bad snaps on Thursday – making it arguably his first clean game of the pre-season – but reports indicate he’s been dealing with a shoulder injury, and I wonder if he was gutting it out more than he was letting on.  Okay, I have no idea what’s going on, but it sounds like the Seahawks may be working guys out?  Either way, no Gresham this year, as I guess he’s moving back to Texas or some damn thing.  I think it’s a mistake, but we’ll see when I’m proven right and a botched snap costs us a game.

Another Pointless Mid-Pre-Season Seahawks Roster Prediction

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

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

Without further ado, feel free to pick it apart:

QB (2)

Russell Wilson
Trevone Boykin

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

RB (5)

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

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

TE (4)

Jimmy Graham
Luke Willson
Nick Vannett
Brandon Williams

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

WR (5)

Doug Baldwin
Jermaine Kearse
Tyler Lockett
Paul Richardson
Kenny Lawler

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

OL (9)

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

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

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

DE (4)

Michael Bennett
Cliff Avril
Frank Clark
Cassius Marsh

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

DT (4)

Jarran Reed
Ahtyba Rubin
Quinton Jefferson
Tony McDaniel

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

LB (6)

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

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

CB (6)

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

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

S (5)

Earl Thomas
Kam Chancellor
Kelcie McCray
Brandon Browner
Tyvis Powell

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

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

Special Teams (3)

Steven Hauschka
Jon Ryan
Clint Gresham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking Forward To A Robust Seahawks Secondary

Dare I say, after a year wandering in the wilderness of mediocrity, the Legion of Boom will be back with a vengeance in 2016?

Look, nothing is ever going to compare to that 2013 defense.  From top to bottom, it’s a Once In A Generation feat of youth, talent, depth, and achievement.  You can have all the youth, talent, and depth that you want, but if they don’t go out there and produce, then you’ve just got a lot of potential that failed to make good.  That 2013 defense MADE good, and then some.

If we just focus on the secondary of that team, a lot of the usual suspects show up:  Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman.  We had Brandon Browner still in his prime, before the emergence of Byron Maxwell at season’s end.  We had Walter Thurmond as our primary nickel corner, with Jeremy Lane so far down the depth chart you could barely see him outside of special teams.  Chris Maragos was a backup safety and special teams standout.  Jeron Johnson also filled out our depth, with DeShawn Shead but a lowly rookie.  When you talk about murderer’s rows, the 2013 version of the L.O.B. is the epitome.  It’s never been as good, and might not ever be again.

Losing Thurmond, Browner, and Maragos deprived us of that good, good depth in 2014, but with Maxwell as a full time starter, the talent was still there, and there really wasn’t much of a dropoff at all in achievement.  The 2014 defense still led this team to the Super Bowl, and still led the league in most important categories.

In 2015, there was a significant set-back in achievement, as Maxwell got a max deal with the Eagles, Jeron Johnson found a home in Washington D.C., and the likes of Cary Williams came in to start opposite Richard Sherman (with the likes of Dion Bailey, Steven Terrell, and Kelcie McCray trying to hold the fort).  Ultimately, Williams was replaced by Shead, and then Lane upon his return from significant injury, and the defense somewhat stabilized for the stretch run.  It ultimately wasn’t enough to get us back to a third straight Super Bowl, but one could argue the team was sufficiently set back at the start of the season, when Lane was out, Williams was a big part of the plan, and Kam’s holdout cost us at least one if not two games in the first two weeks of the regular season.  Win those games, and a couple others along the way (where secondary breakdowns led to comeback victories for Seahawks opponents), and maybe the Seahawks play host in those NFC playoff games instead of road warriors who would be cut down by the eventual NFC champs.

I don’t remember what I deemed to be the primary reason for this team’s shortcomings in 2015, but the more I think about it, the more I think that this team is nothing without its dominant secondary.  And, the more I look at this roster as it’s currently constructed, the more I like what we have on paper going into 2016.

Again, we have the usual suspects:  Earl, Kam, Sherm.  Presumably, the Seahawks will figure out a way to keep Kam happy and motivated, so until I hear otherwise, let’s just accept that as a given.  The re-signing of Jeremy Lane solidifies what was a significant weakness for this team last year.  Paired with him, we have the return of Shead, both of whom are interchangeable in that they can play outside or inside.  And, back from injury, and in a contract year, we have Tharold Simon.  I know what you’re saying, how can we count on the guy?  He’s been injured every year of his professional career!  Granted, but the kid still has talent.  And, more importantly, we’re not counting on him to be a starter.  If he comes in and wows us in the pre-season, then great!  I’m sure that will translate into getting him some more playing time, allowing us to push Lane into the nickel corner spot when the opposing offense dictates.  A healthy Simon makes this secondary quite formidable; but even without him, it’s still really good.

More importantly, the depth we’ve been missing since 2013 has returned!  Those three I mentioned – Lane, Simon, and Shead – could all be starters for a bunch of teams in the league, at least as far as talent is concerned.  For the Seahawks, one will be a starter and the other two will be regular contributors.  Beyond THAT, we’re looking at the return of Marcus Burley, who’s a solid nickel corner.  We’ve also got some holdovers like Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Mohammed Seisay, George Farmer, and Douglas McNeil who all provide the prototypical size you look for in a cornerback in a Pete Carroll defense (each of them range from 6’1 to 6’3).  And, that’s not even factoring in Tye Smith, a rookie from last year who was kept on the 53-man roster all along, for fear of someone snatching him from our practice squad.  Obviously, if the team was willing to keep him on the 53-man, he must have the type of skills to make a huge impact for this team going forward.  He looks like a prototypical nickel corner, but if you recall, he played a lot on the outside in the pre-season last year.  He could be someone special, if given the chance.

And all of those guys are just corners!  Don’t forget the safety position, where we have two of the best in Earl and Kam as our starters.  Behind them, Kelcie McCray looked a lot better as the season went on and he got more comfortable in our scheme.  Remember, we traded for him near the end of the pre-season, so now he will have had a full year and a full offseason to get acclimated to what we’re doing.  Match him up with Steven Terrell – who now has two full years in our system backing up Earl – and there’s a lot to like about what we’ve got heading into this season.

A lot of these guys will be special teamers, some of these guys won’t even make the roster, but I’m pretty secure in my opinion that this will be the best secondary as a unit we will have had since the 2013 season.  If we can manage to get the pass rush up to snuff, to help these guys out a little more, we could be looking at a year of huge turnover numbers out of these guys.  And, let us not forget, we’ve still got the NFL draft coming up at the end of April.  Who knows if some stud will fall to us, or if we pluck another diamond from the later rounds?  I could be writing an even more glowing post about the secondary the closer we get to the regular season!

Seahawks Death Week: A Wishlist For 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second wish:  bring Sweezy back on a friendly deal.

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

Third wish:  superstar free agent left guard.

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ninth wish:  bring back Kearse on a smallish deal.

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seahawks Death Week: Looking At The Free Agents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our restricted free agents include:

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

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

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

The Seattle At Carolina Preview

When you take them one game at a time, it doesn’t feel so ominous.  In a vacuum, these Seahawks are fully capable of winning a game in Minnesota.  In a vacuum, these Seahawks are fully capable of winning a game in Carolina.  And, in a vacuum, these Seahawks are fully capable of winning a game in Arizona OR a game in Green Bay.  But, jeez, when you line them all up in a row, knowing you have to do all this in back-to-back-to-back weeks, it starts to feel REALLY daunting.  Even though it’s just a series of three coin flips, one week apart, it’s just knowing that you have to win all three that sort of drives me batty.

Last week, it felt like a foregone conclusion that the Seahawks would advance.  Of course, the game ended up being a lot closer (and a lot closer to DISASTER) than I anticipated, but the better team did win and move on.  This week, as I’ve said repeatedly, feels like the Super Bowl.  I still think the Seahawks are the better football team, but they’ve got SO MUCH going against them.  At this point, fair or unfair, right or wrong, it’s going to depend on which Seahawks team shows up.  Will it be the team that struggled to find consistency in the first half of the season (and in recent games against the Rams & Vikings)?  Or, will it be the team running like a top, who has taken care of business against some pretty good opponents?

As a Seahawks fan in recent years, we’ve come to expect certain things.  We expect our defense to clamp down like a bear trap.  We expect varying levels of success out of our offense, with steady improvement as the game goes along.  This year has flipped the script a little bit.  The defense – while still tops in points allowed – isn’t quite what it has been in recent years.  It shows flashes, and sometimes pulls off entire games where it looks as dominant as ever.  But, other times, the game starts to get away from them.  Breakdowns happen.  Where once it was the Seahawks making their furious comebacks late in games, now it’s the other teams taking it to us.

I don’t know how you get more frustrating than that first Carolina game this year.  Let’s take a look back, blow by blow.

  • We traded punts on the first three drives of the game
  • On Carolina’s second possession, deep in their own territory, Cam Newton threw a pick to Earl Thomas at the Carolina 33 yard line.  The Seahawks ran four plays & had to settle for a field goal
  • On the next possession, Carolina ate up the rest of the first quarter, marching 80 yards with an equal mix of run & pass, for a TD
  • On the next possession, Seattle marched right back to score a TD, re-taking the lead 10-7, which is how the half ended after trading more punts
  • Carolina got the ball to start the 2nd half, went 3 & Out
  • On the next possession, Seattle scored a TD on two explosive pass plays to make it a 2-score game
  • Again, deep in their territory, Cam Newton threw a pick, returned to the Carolina 33 yard line.  The Seahawks went 3 & Out and settled for a long field goal to go up 20-7
  • On the next possession, Carolina marched 80 yards AGAIN, with an equal mix of run & pass, for a TD
  • The teams traded punts, then the Seahawks drove for a FG to again make it a 2-score game, 23-14
  • The teams again traded punts, then the Panthers engineered their third 80-yard TD drive, mostly on the arm of Cam Newton, to make it a 1-score game
  • On the next possession, the Seahawks went 4 & Out – marred by penalties & sacks, while only managing to take off less than 90 seconds of game clock
  • In a little under 2 minutes, the Panthers completed their comeback with their FOURTH 80-yard TD drive of the day, with Greg Olsen catching the go-ahead score on a broken coverage in the secondary

It was a good sign to see the team move the ball relatively effectively, as well as the defense forcing Cam Newton into two interceptions on the day.  But, the offense was a miserable 4/14 on third down (29% conversion), 1/3 in the red zone, and failed to convert either of those turnovers into touchdowns.  On top of that, I’m sorry, but that was a mind-boggling performance by the defense.  On Carolina’s four 80-yard TD drives, they ran 42 of their 72 overall plays, while taking up 18:23 of their 32:12 time of possession.  And, as I said, for the most part it was a healthy mix of run & pass, running for 135 yards and throwing for another 248 in total on the day.  We’re talking about a defense who – all year – only gave up 6.6 yards per pass attempt; Cam Newton managed 7.5.  And a defense who – all year – only gave up 3.6 yards per carry; Carolina managed 4.1.

Now, obviously, the Seahawks were missing some dawgs.  Bobby Wagner, Jordan Hill, Jeremy Lane, Marcus Burley, all sat out with injury.  And, of course, the notorious Cary Williams (who has been, without fail, the biggest fucking scapegoat I’ve EVER seen) still held his starting job at that time, and was getting picked on throughout.  Nevertheless, if I’m a member of the Seahawks defense, going into Carolina this weekend, I’m out for blood.  Our Week 6 performance was absolutely unacceptable.

For all the factors going against the Seahawks this weekend, there’s one positive in all this:  the revenge factor.  Coming into the 2015 season, the Seahawks had made Carolina our bitches time and time again.  Close, hard fought games, sure.  But, we always found a way to pull it out, and I’m sure that had to have driven them CRAZY.  It all came to a head in last year’s playoffs, where the Panthers came in and played pretty well for a team with a losing record.  But, we owned that fourth quarter, and pulled away when it mattered.  So, when they came back to Seattle in Week 6 with an undefeated record, against a somewhat reeling Seahawks team still trying to find its footing, they were not only prepared for the onslaught of the fans and the hugeness of the game, but they powered through and made us look silly in the fourth quarter, when that’s OUR time.  That’s when WE make YOU look silly!

So, now, here we are.  Underdogs in a playoff game for the first time since probably 2012.  Going into Big, Bad Carolina, the 15-1 juggernaut who couldn’t have had an easier path to the #1 seed.  The last taste we have in our mouths being that Week 6 embarrassment.  You’re telling me we don’t have a reason to be up for this game, outside of the obvious (this being the playoffs, win or go home, and all that)?  I think the Seahawks want to show Carolina – and the rest of the world – who the REAL top dawgs are.  We may have stumbled at times this year, but we’re STILL the champs.  And January is when we come to play our best!

***

Can I just step back for a second and say how much fun I think this all is?  On the one hand, yeah, it’s the playoffs and it’s nerve wracking as all get-out.  The further you advance, the more intense it becomes.  And LOSING in the playoffs?  I don’t know what’s worse.  For a good week or two or three or fifty (as is the case when you lose a Super Bowl like the Seahawks did last year), I just couldn’t feel any lower as a fan.  Depressed and angry and jealous and confused and depressed some more.  There are SO MANY drawbacks to being a sports fan, I sometimes wonder why it’s all worth it.

But, then we get to a week like this.  Seahawks at Panthers.  THIS is what being a fan is all about.  Remember how jacked up we all got when the Seahawks would face the Jim Harbaugh 49ers?  This feels just like that.  Maybe Ron Rivera isn’t as loathesome as The Douchebag (I actually respect the hell out of the guy, if I’m being honest); but I’m starting to come around on hating Cam Newton.  I don’t know if anyone can be as revolting as Colin Kaepernick kissing his own bicep after a touchdown, but Cam Newton and all his dabbing is a REAL close second in my book.  If I’m being perfectly honest, I do think a lot of the hate, in general, from non-Carolina fans throughout the country, is at least somewhat racially motivated.  I mean, when Tom Brady runs around like a maniac during his touchdown celebrations, mostly people just talk about how he’s a competitor and a fiery guy; but when Cam Newton does his thing, he’s a preening cunt.  I’m not going to be that guy who’s out here calling everyone a racist, but I think subliminally, there’s a little something to it.

All I know is, if he was my team’s franchise quarterback (and I knew nothing of what it’s like to have Russell Wilson), I’m sure I’d love Cam Newton to death.  But, he’s not on my team, and he plays on one of my team’s biggest rivals, so I’m starting to hate him just a little bit more.  It’s only healthy.

What’s fun about the Seahawks/Panthers matchup is that it IS a rivalry now.  We’ve played them at least once every year since Russell Wilson came into the league.  Five times overall.  The Seahawks won the first four matchups (including last season in the Divisional Round), and through that point, while the games were all close and highly competitive, it was a little bit like the Big Brother holding the little brother at arm’s length while he stands there flailing his fists wildly to no avail.  Our defense was the embodiment of “Stop Hitting Yourself!” when it came to forcing Cam Newton into untimely mistakes (untimely for the Panthers, anyway).  Then, the Panthers came into Seattle in Week 6 and totally pantsed us, and NOW it’s a true rivalry.  They stole our mojo, in the home of the 12’s, and rode that mojo to the best record in all of football.  Now, it’s on, and it couldn’t be more exciting.

***

If you’re a football fan, and you don’t necessarily have a hog in this race, I don’t see how you can look at the four games this weekend and NOT be looking forward to the Seahawks/Panthers matchup the most.  Kansas City/New England?  There’s a slim chance that game is competitive, but my money is on the team with the better quarterback.  I think the odds of that game being a blowout are VASTLY greater than of the game being interesting in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter.  Green Bay/Arizona?  No way.  The Cards are going to CRUSH them into dust!  That might be the most boring game of the weekend.  Pittsburgh/Denver is the only game that might even approach the quality of our game, but there are a lot of reasons to think that might be an ugly affair.  Can Ben Roethlisberger throw the ball more than 10 yards in the air?  Does Peyton Manning have any juice left?  We could be looking at a matchup of the noodliest arms in the history of the league!  With Denver’s defense on a mission, if Ben doesn’t have it, I could see this being a rout in the Broncos’ favor.

Seattle/Carolina, that’s what’s up.

We’re talking about two teams who are as healthy as they could possibly be at this point in the season (not counting players on IR, of course; and assuming Marshawn Lynch is able to give it a go).  We’re talking about the MVP of the league (Cam) against the hottest quarterback in the league the last half of the season (Wilson, 25 TDs, 2 INTs in the last 8 games, including last week).  We’re talking about the #1 scoring offense (Carolina) against the #1 scoring defense (Seattle).  The #2 rush offense (Carolina) against the #1 rush defense (Seattle).  A rematch of last year’s remarkable Divisional playoff game, only this time played in the other team’s stadium.

And, when you flip it around, it’s still pretty damn close.  Seattle was the #4 scoring offense; Carolina was the #6 scoring defense.  Seattle was the #3 rushing offense; Carolina was the #4 rushing defense.  Seattle’s got big play-makers on both sides of the ball (Wilson, Lynch, Baldwin, Bennett, Avril, Wagner, LOB); Carolina’s got big play-makers on both sides of the ball (Newton, Stewart, Olsen, Kuechly, Davis, Short, Norman).  Our strengths are their strengths; this should prove to be a massively entertaining ordeal.

The great equalizer in all this, oddly enough, will be Seattle’s offensive line.  In that Week 6 game, Russell Wilson was sacked 4 times, but harassed all day.  The Panthers had 7 QB hits and another 6 tackles for loss.  Russell Okung also had a pretty costly holding penalty that negated a big run by Lynch, helping lead to that drive stalling.  Over the majority of the second half of the season, as Russell Wilson’s performance has improved, so has the offensive line’s.  Everyone returned for last week’s game, and no new injuries cropped up.  On top of that, Luke Willson is returning, who should provide a boost over the other tight ends on the roster when it comes to blocking.

If the Seahawks’ offensive line plays to the best of its abilities, the Seahawks shouldn’t have any trouble improving upon their third down conversion rate, moving the football, and scoring touchdowns over field goals (when compared to our Week 6 contest).  When the Seahawks are clicking, as they’ve been known to do from time to time, there’s no team in the game that can stop them.

But, when the Seahawks make mistakes.  When they let the pressure overwhelm them, when they allow lots of hurries and sacks, when they get penalized at inopportune times, then the game gets all mucked up, and before you know it, there we are at the end of the game sweating out another nailbiter.

As far as weather is concerned, we’re looking at the low-to-mid 40s come kickoff.  Says there’s a 20% chance of rain, but overall looks pretty reasonable.  Nothing too much to be concerned with there.

The thing I can’t help but shake is the comparison to the 2012 playoffs.  That was our first year with Russell Wilson, but we still blew it in the first half, and ultimately blew it at the game’s end.  Getting over THIS hump feels like the more difficult challenge than the hump that would await (likely in Arizona); just like getting over the hump in Atlanta in 2012 proved to be more difficult than it would have been to beat the 49ers that year.  Losing in the Divisional Round is pretty bad in its own right, because it leaves you with so many more What If’s.  Mainly:  what if we’d won and gotten a chance to play in the NFC Championship Game?

We can’t lose this one.  And, I don’t THINK we will, but I’m not nearly as confident as I was last week.  What everyone is banking on is that the Seahawks are battle tested.  7 of our 16 regular season games were against playoff teams; we were 3-4 in those games.  The Panthers, by contrast, only faced off against 4 playoff teams in their 16 regular season games; they went 4-0 in those games.  Obviously, the most impressive win was against Seattle IN Seattle.  Two of those games were against Houston and Washington (both at home), who were two of the shakiest divisional winners of all time.  The other was also at home, against a struggling and injury-plagued Packers team.  Their schedule, to be quite honest, deserves all the ridicule it gets.  But, to be fair, they did get the job done, and beat the teams they were supposed to beat.

And, as we all know, anything can happen in a 1-game sample.

So close, and yet still so far away.  This is the week where the Seahawks can prove whether they truly earned the title of Team Nobody Wants To Play in this year’s playoffs, or if they’ll just be another in a long line of cautionary tales, about the struggles that good teams can face when they don’t get one of the top two seeds and home field advantage.

I’ve got Seahawks 33, Panthers 27, but like I said before, I’m not confident at all.

Finding The Silver Lining In The Latest Seahawks Blowout Victory

I’m as excited as anybody that the Seahawks won again, and that Russell Wilson is playing the best football of his life – and the best football in the entire NFL – these last few weeks, and even that the Seahawks are officially in the 5-seed and control their own destiny going forward, as far as at least making it into the post-season is concerned.  It sure does at least feel like this team is peaking at the right time.  But, I dunno.  I can’t help this feeling of melancholy at what this game against the Ravens took from us.

And before you start, it’s not JUST because I had Thomas Rawls in both of my fantasy leagues, and his loss greatly impacted my ability to reach or stay in the playoffs (but, I’ll admit, that’s part of it).  Not having him around for the rest of the season is a blow only mitigated by the fact that these next two games are against the most inept of opponents, so we probably shouldn’t NEED a quality running back to win those games.  But, I don’t have to tell you that this team is paper thin at most every single position group.  We expect Marshawn Lynch to come back in time for the post-season at least, but what happens if he doesn’t?  Or, if he comes back, but then injures something else?

Furthermore, this game outlined how fragile all of this really is.  We lost DeShawn Shead for a while with an ankle injury, only to be forced back into action once we lost Marcus Burley to his own ankle injury.  Then, we had Kam Chancellor’s bruised tailbone; he MIGHT be back for the game against Cleveland, but I’m thinking we should probably just give him the week off to rest.  Then, probably most frighteningly of all, Michael Bennett had to sit out a few plays for what’s being described as a jammed toe.

My fandom has been put on cruise control for a couple of reasons:  first, because the Seahawks have finally figured out their personnel and clipped off the dead weight (*cough* Cary *cough* Williams *cough*); and second, because the schedule is pretty light in the ol’ loafers, starting with this Ravens game and running through the end of the season (depending on how hard the Cards and Seahawks want to win a meaningless Week 17 game).  Wins against the Browns and Rams should be considered automatic, meaning the only thing I’m rooting for is NO ONE GETTING INJURED!  This is the time of year where these types of injuries hit hardest.  Players are worn out from playing almost a full season, the weather’s getting colder, making the ground harder (and those joints achier), and there isn’t a lot of time left for guys to get healthy in time to have an impact on the season (not that Rawls would’ve had a shot at returning, even if this injury happened in Week 1).  Furthermore, the pile of viable free agents is dwindling.  Teams all across the league are overflowing with IR’d players, and filling their rosters accordingly with the also-rans who were cut from teams at the end of the pre-season.  Now, we’re looking at the VERY bottom of the barrel for free agent running backs to get us through the next few weeks.

So, yeah, you guys try to chin up.  The Russell Wilson to Doug Baldwin combination is looking more potent than Steve Young to Jerry Rice!  Our offensive line looks better than ever!  Richard Sherman somehow managed to keep all of his hair intact after getting yanked down by it after yesterday’s interception!

I’ll be over here, worriedly biting my fingernails, dreading the injury waiting for us in next week’s game.

The Seahawks Are Coming Together, As We All Predicted

Whenever a team starts slowly – particularly a football team, for the purposes of this thing I’m writing here – the hope is always that, over time, they’ll figure their shit out and start to gel.  The reasons ultimately boil down to either Getting Guys Back From Injury, or Young Players Making The Big Leap.  Aside from getting Jeremy Lane back, the Seahawks appear to be firmly in the second camp.

I know there were some fairly impressive victories in the first half of the season – the Bears and 49ers games come immediately to mind – but nothing was as all-encompassingly dominant as what we saw yesterday in Minnesota.  The offense has taken a HUGE step forward, as Russell Wilson has been the best quarterback in football over the last three weeks.  The defense rebounded quite well after giving up almost everything to the Steelers.  The only blemish on yesterday’s game was the kickoff return for a touchdown – their only score of the day – and with the way our offense was moving the ball at will, you could say they had a lot of practice at running back kicks.

I know there were a lot of injured Vikings that didn’t play for the majority of the game, so obviously they weren’t at full strength.  But, I’ll counter that with A) Who IS at full strength at this point in the season?; and B) They could’ve had everyone on their roster at their disposal and I still don’t think we would’ve lost to them.  I’ve seen this Seahawks team struggle against MUCH worse this year; but yesterday, we took it to them and repeatedly stomped on their throats until they were dead.

Now, obviously, I can’t say I saw this sort of turnaround coming.  I don’t think a lot of us expected the Seahawks to turn things around so brilliantly.  But, here we are, at 7-5, with three REALLY easy games ahead of us, and an inside track at the 5-seed in the playoffs.  The offense is humming along like we haven’t seen since 2012, but that’s not even accurate, because we’ve NEVER seen THIS offense do what it’s doing.  We’ve never seen Russell Wilson this confident and this accurate in the pocket.  He still hasn’t lost his ability to make people miss and scramble around and whatnot, but he’s added another weapon to his arsenal:  the quick pass.  This is really what we’ve been waiting for all along, since we figured out Wilson was to be our franchise quarterback.

What’s always been the way to defend Russell Wilson?  Keep him in the pocket and use his deficiencies against him.  There are a couple of universal truths about our quarterback since he entered the league:  his offensive line struggles in pass protection, and if he gets to the edge he’s already beaten you.  So, you prevent him from getting to that edge, and you use his primary weakness against him by collapsing the pocket and taking away his throwing lanes.  Usually, Wilson will oblige you on this by holding the ball too long, trying to make the big play all the time.  Since he entered the league, he’s been the slowest quarterback to get the ball out of his hands, and when you combine that with a faulty (at times) offensive line, you get a guy who’s been sacked more than most (all?).

But, if Wilson’s able to shift his game to where he gets the ball out on time more often than not, then how do defenses adjust?  I reckon, they’d adjust by taking more chances on the edges, thereby re-opening those old running lanes, resulting in a Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t scenario that could ultimately make Russell Wilson the most dangerous quarterback in the league.

What we’re witnessing, my friends, is an elite quarterback who is adjusting to all the defensive adjustments other teams have made on him, and thriving accordingly.

This obviously opens up a whole new world to an offense that looks to be transitioning away from Marshawn Lynch.  Not that we have to go completely cold turkey, as we’ve got Beastmode Jr. in Thomas Rawls.  He continues to look like the real deal in his rookie season, taking over the load for a would-be Hall of Famer.  To lose one of the best running backs in the league and not miss a step?  Yeah, I’d say this is a team no one wants to face in the playoffs.

Ultimately, if the season ends up going well, I think we have to give a lot of credit to a couple of really under-the-radar moves the team made, when it appeared that things were going down the toilet:  replacing Cary Williams with DeShawn Shead, and replacing Drew Nowak with Patrick Lewis.  The Cary Williams thing probably should’ve looked a lot more obvious as the weeks went on, but I think a lot of his struggles were camouflaged by, quite honestly, the rest of the defense suffering its share of breakdowns.  But, when you consider the defensive unit as a whole, and that if even one guy isn’t pulling his share of the weight could spell disaster, then it’s pretty easy to see who that one guy was.  The thing is, I don’t think the team would’ve been able to make that change in the first place if Jeremy Lane doesn’t come back from his Super Bowl massacre.  We needed Shead as a primary slot defender (especially with Burley constantly getting injured), so if Lane hadn’t come back, I think we’d still be watching Williams start opposite Richard Sherman, and our defense would be suffering for it.  More than anything, I think we didn’t realize Williams was doing as much damage as he was because of our over-confidence in the L.O.B.  Let’s face it, when you play the style of defense we like to play, where your outside corners are often on an island, you can’t just compensate for one player’s shortcomings when he’s supposed to be one of those guys on the island.  This should also speak to how fragile our current dominance is:  if anyone in the secondary goes down with injury, the whole fucking thing could unravel.  So, save some of those thoughts and prayers for the L.O.B.

As for Patrick Lewis, I think that was a no-brainer.  Honestly, I can’t remember the state of mind this team was in when it decided to go with Drew Nowak at center over the other guys we had in camp.  Was Lewis a little banged up maybe?  It’s hard to see how Nowak would’ve just beaten him straight up.  Maybe Nowak has more club control?  Either way, I’m sure Tom Cable saw something in him.  Something that might blossom.  With Britt moving to guard and Gilliam to right tackle, maybe he thought this was the right time to break in a new center as well, so they could all grow and gel together.  Either way, it was a mistake, and more importantly, the Seahawks recognized it and formally announced it as a mistake.  This front office does a lot of things right, from drafting to development to working contracts and leaving us with cap flexibility.  But, I think the most important thing – and the most underrated thing – is their ability to pivot away from mistakes when it’s obvious that it wasn’t working.  With Cary Williams, it was a good chunk of change, as well as a good chunk of games; with Nowak, it was just the games (as well as a little bit of Cable’s credibility).  BUT, the team made the necessary corrections, and we’re all the better for it.

Now, it’s just a matter of taking care of business.  We go to Baltimore next week, whose only positive attribute is its quality coaching; then we host the Browns and Rams.  All of those teams are playing their worst football right now, so they should all be easily beaten.  That takes us to Week 17 – where we should have 10 wins and probably the 5th seed locked up.

I know all along I’ve talked about the Cardinals having the 2-seed locked up by Week 17, but who’s to say we won’t have that 5-seed locked up as well?  Right now, we’re 7-5, and a game behind the Vikings (who we just beat, and therefore have the tiebreaker edge against).  The Vikings play at Arizona this Thursday, where they should most certainly lose.  When we beat Baltimore, that’ll put us in the 5-seed with the same record as the Vikings.  Assuming we continue to win and get to 10 wins going into Week 17, who’s to say the Vikings don’t lose another one between now and then?  They host the Bears and Giants in back to back weeks; those teams aren’t great, but they’re certainly capable.  Our other concern, of course, would be the Packers.  They host Dallas next week, then go to Oakland; both games they should probably win.  Then, they go to Arizona before hosting the Vikings in the final week.  So, in conclusion, I regret travelling down this line of thinking, as there are WAY too many variables to count right now.

The end.

The Seahawks Finally Beat A Good Team

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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