Pre-Pre-Season Preview: Seahawks Running Game

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

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

  • Passing Game (QB / WR / TE / RB)
  • Running Game (RB / QB)
  • Blocking Game (OL / TE)
  • Special Teams (K / P / Coverage Units / Return Game)
  • Pass Rush (DE / LB)
  • Run Defense (DT / DE / LB)
  • Pass Defense (DB / LB)

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

Running Backs

As I got into yesterday, I’m pretty stoked on the running backs we’ve got in camp.  And, as I got into yesterday, I don’t think any of them are on the level of Marshawn Lynch in his heyday, but I do think as a collective, this is the best group we’ve had in a very long time.  Maybe ever!

I keep waffling on Rashaad Penny.  I want to like him.  I DESPERATELY want him to be great.  I think with his speed and overall talents, he has the potential to be great.  But, there are plenty of running backs with good speed and skills, but it takes a special, intangible something that separates the good backs from the elites.  And, we won’t know if he has THAT until we see him in action.

I think it’s safe to say Penny is the player I’m most looking forward to seeing in the pre-season (and that’s saying something, now that we’ve got both Griffin brothers on defense).  Everything hinges on returning the running game to dominance.  This team had no running game whatsoever in 2017 and failed to make the playoffs as a result.  If we continue to sputter, it’s going to be a LONG 2018.

The good thing is, if nothing else, I think Penny has a high floor.  Also, with Chris Carson as his running mate, we shouldn’t see any sort of drop-off in ability or production.  Of course, if BOTH of those guys get injured, I don’t know what to tell you.  At that point, I’d have to legitimately believe in the realness of curses and start investing in crucifixes or something.

Behind them, from strictly a rushing perspective (i.e. not pass-catching), we have Mike Davis, then C.J. Prosise, then J.D. McKissic.  Davis is just a guy, a competent all-around running back who is never going to wow you and is never going to be a bona fide starter in this league.  He’s nice insurance to have, if indeed the injury bug keeps on biting this team, but he’s not essential to keep on the 53-man roster.  With everyone being healthy, even if you did roster him into the regular season, I can’t imagine he’d be active very often, if at all.  He also strikes me as a guy you’d be able to pick up off the waiver wire in the event of an emergency.  I mean, what teams out there are clamoring for the services of Mike Davis?

The real #3 running back battle falls to Prosise vs. McKissic, as I talked about yesterday, and it boils down to whether or not Prosise can stay healthy.  If healthy, I think the team looks to keep Prosise, because all things being even, I think he’s the better all-around running back over McKissic.  I think both are valuable pass-catching backs, but I think Prosise has the edge in the running game.  Of course, durability is the key, and for that reason alone I believe McKissic will make the team; but if you’re counting on McKissic to be your every-down back, something has gone seriously wrong.

So, I’m just going to cross my fingers and hope our top two guys stay healthy.  I’d really like to see how an honest running back battle shakes out, as I feel like both Penny and Carson could push each other to remarkable heights.

As for the fullback position, I have no opinion.  Outside of the blocking game, can you get a yard on 4th & 1 with a dive up the middle?  That’s all I care about.  Hell, I don’t think the Seahawks even HAD a true fullback last year, so it can’t be that important.

I give this position an A-.

Quarterbacks

Can’t talk about the running game without talking about Russell Wilson.  He led the team last year with 586 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns.  Outside of 2016 – where he was injured from game 1 – his season low in rushing has been 489 yards, which when you pair it with a competent attack from the running backs, makes for a nice chunk of change.

However, when you have what we had last year, defenses only had to focus on shutting down the passing game and containing Wilson in the pocket.  It speaks to his greatness that he was still able to run for 586 when the Seahawks had literally no other threats on the team, when the O-Line was as wretched as it was, and when every defense focused solely on keeping him contained rather than attacking him like normal pocket passers.

When you compare him to other duel-threat quarterbacks who are actually quality passers, Wilson is probably in the Top 2 with Cam Newton.  From purely a rushing perspective, you’d give the nod to Newton, but I’d still rather have Wilson if for no other reason than he doesn’t take all the savage hits that Newton endures.  At some point, it’s going to catch up to Cam, and he’s going to hit the IR sooner or later.  Wilson does an excellent job of getting what he needs to get and then getting out of harm’s way.  Give me that all day.

A+ for Wilson!

Of course, it feels incomplete talking about the running game (OR the passing game, for that matter) without talking about the offensive line.  I’ll get into that tomorrow.  The first two posts in this series are strictly a reflection of the talent among the skill position groups.  With an A+ offensive line, I think the Seahawks would have one of the most potent offenses in all of football.  As you’ll read about next time, I absolutely do not think the Seahawks have an A+ offensive line.

But, I also don’t think it’ll be as bad as everyone expects.

Pre-Pre-Season Preview: Seahawks Passing Game

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

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

  • Passing Game (QB / WR / TE / RB)
  • Running Game (RB / QB)
  • Blocking Game (OL / TE)
  • Special Teams (K / P / Coverage Units / Return Game)
  • Pass Rush (DE / LB)
  • Run Defense (DT / DE / LB)
  • Pass Defense (DB / LB)

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

Quarterbacks

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

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

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

So, that’s nothing new in my mind.

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

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

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

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

Wide Receivers

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

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

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

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

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

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

My grade is a solid B.

Tight Ends

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

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

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

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

My grade is a C-.

Running Backs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Seahawks Fired Tom Cable & Darrell Bevell

Yesterday was a big ol’ important day in Seahawks Land, as news came down in the wee hours that Darrell Bevell was fired.  Then, for like half a day, there was all sorts of speculation about who might be his replacement.  Steve Sarkisian’s name was bandied about – which would be a good job for him, but not a good fit for the Seahawks – as well as Tom Cable just taking over all offensive coordinating duties (he was already the run game coordinator, as you’ll recall), which probably would’ve caused a revolt among the fans.  As it turns out, we never had to worry about that, because Tom Cable was let go yesterday as well.  There are rumors of others – like Kris Richard – also getting the boot, but until I get some firm reporting on that, I’ll save that topic for another day.

It was just time.  I know these are good men, and good coaches, and by and large they did a much better job than most fans want to give them credit for, but it’s time.  Time for a new set of eyes.  Time for a new voice.  Time for an injection of new ideas.

The problem, from my perspective, is it’s impossible to know Cable and Bevell’s exact roles with this team, and how Pete Carroll as the head coach fits into everything.  There are so many differing opinions on this thing, but from the sound of it, Bevell was the play-caller, but Cable still out-ranked him (I guess due to the Assistant Head Coach label).  And, as we know, Pete out-ranks everyone and can always muscle his way into the situation by saying, “Call a run here.”

Like, we know in Super Bowl XLIX, that Bevell WANTED to run the ball on that fateful play, but Pete chimed in and told him to throw it.  Which makes sense; that’s totally up to the head coach to decide.  He’s gotta think five moves ahead in that situation:  what down it is, yards to go, how much time is on the clock, how many time outs we had remaining, the odds of the Patriots going right back down the field and scoring before regulation ended.

But, Bevell still called THAT play.  He could’ve called a fade in the corner to Chris Matthews – who had been dominating that game, and likely would’ve had 1 on 1 coverage.  He could’ve called a swing pass to Beastmode.  He could’ve rolled Wilson out to either side and told him to throw it out of the endzone if nothing was there.  But, Bevell called a slant off a pick play that was destined to fail based on the personnel on the field (for both teams).

Right or wrong, that’s Bevell’s legacy.  He helped lead us to the Seahawks’ first-ever Super Bowl title, but he’s always going to be remembered for calling that play.

And, really, drawing that play in the first place!  I mean, that close to the endzone, why are you trying to design a slant in the middle of the field?  Even though a fade route fails more often than not, at least it doesn’t turn into a fucking disaster!  It’s just incomplete.  Okay.  Live to fight another down.

There’s also any number of times where this offense will be doing something well:  maybe it’s running the ball, maybe it’s going up-tempo.  And, for whatever reason, instead of sticking with what works, we opt to switch it up, and it immediately ends in a punt.

I’ll bring both Bevell and Cable in as a combo package here, because I think they’re both crippled by their blind spots.  I don’t think either one of them were good enough to fully grasp the type of players they had on this team.  Instead of crafting an offensive scheme that plays into the talents of their players, they seemed to try to shoe-horn our guys into their scheme.  Hence all the mistakes.  The holding penalties, the pre-snap penalties, the missed blocks.

Carolina likes to run the ball!  Carolina has an athletic quarterback who likes to run around and make plays!  And yet, Carolina is always one of the least penalized teams in the league.  We talk about how Wilson’s running around leads to more holding penalites for the O-Line, because they never know where he’s gonna be.  Well, who is that on?  I’d argue that’s on a coaching staff that didn’t really know what it was doing.

I’ll also say this:  having Beastmode in his prime solves a lot of your offense’s ills.  God damn, my opinion of that man only goes up and up and up with every passing year this team sputters with retreads and nobodies.

I also think there’s the constant push/pull with a guy like Bevell, who wants to do a good job for Pete, but also wants to showcase his talents to other teams who need a head coach.  While just about every coordinator is in a similar boat, I don’t think the Seahawks present you with a good opportunity for that.  The best offensive coordinators traditionally feature elite passing attacks.  As you know, the Seahawks shifted pretty hard towards a passing offense in the last couple years, and that’s just not how this team was constructed to succeed.  I think Russell Wilson CAN make all the throws and run an effective spread offense and all of that, but I don’t think he’s best suited to do that and also have this team win lots of games and win championships.  You need to be balanced for that, and the imbalance this team had in recent years – due to play-calling, and due to the offensive line’s incompetence – ultimately was the cause for both of these men to be fired.

I’ll be interested to see who they bring in, as it sounds like Sark is staying in Atlanta.  I hope it’s a good one.

A Christmas Miracle: Seahawks Beat Cowboys

I really tore one on this weekend, and as such wasn’t able to roll my ass out of bed until about 1pm on Sunday, and spent the duration of the Seahawks game with a massive hangover.  So, I very well might have hallucinated into existence a Seahawks victory over the Cowboys, and if I did, please don’t wake me up!

With Christmas in between, and me missing a lot of the third quarter as I did my Christmas shopping as I always do – at the last minute, at my local Safeway, buying gift cards for everyone on my list – I don’t remember much about what happened.  There was a sweet punch-out of the football from Byron Maxwell to Dez Bryant that resulted in our first touchdown and a 7-6 lead late in the second quarter.  There was a Justin Coleman pick-six that I missed, giving the Seahawks a 14-9 lead early in the third quarter.  And there was one good offensive drive by the Seahawks with a nifty Doug Baldwin TD at its conclusion to make the score 21-12.  From there, a couple late field goal misses by the Cowboys sealed the deal.

Here are the take-aways from this one:  the Seahawks’ offense was garbage.  Still no change in the running game, obviously, because that’s going to be something that needs its fixing in the offseason with new personnel.  And, one of the poorer Russell Wilson games, who only threw for 93 yards.  The best thing you can say about this one was that he avoided turnovers, but no praise whatsoever should be reserved for this offensive group.

Defensively, however, it was a sight for sore eyes.  Ezekiel Elliott – who had that bet with Eric Dickerson that he’d run for 200 yards in his first game back from suspension – was solid, but still held to 97 yards.  Dak Prescott continued his second-half slide as he threw a couple picks, but one of them was off of a deflection, as he received zero help from his so-called #1 receiver Dez Bryant, who finished with 3 catches, but had a number of others go off of his hands (and one of those receptions did end up as the aforementioned fumble forced by Maxwell).  I don’t know if there was any one reason for the defensive turnaround – though, it surely helped having a healthy K.J. Wright and a healthier Bobby Wagner – so much as this was a total team effort.  It also helped that the Dallas passing attack is broken, so we were able to expend our energy in trying to stop the run.  Better tackling was important too.

The miracle part of this thing didn’t just come with the Seahawks winning in Dallas, though I’ll be the first to admit I wrote a post last week predicting a Seahawks loss.  Really, I think the bigger surprise was waking up on Sunday afternoon and discovering that the Bengals beat the Lions!  With that out of the way, and with the Falcons losing to the Saints, there’s now a clear path for the Seahawks to make the playoffs.

First, they have to beat the Cardinals this Sunday.  That sounds easy enough, but we’re gonna need to see more from the offense than we have in recent weeks.  Then, the only other thing we need is for Carolina to go into Atlanta and beat the Falcons.  I like the Panthers a lot, and think they’re the better team this season, but there are a couple things going against us.  One, the Falcons aren’t terrible.  With their season in the balance, it wouldn’t shock me to see the Falcons go out there and lay the smack down.  And two, if the Saints beat the Bucs, the Saints win the division, meaning the Panthers would have nothing to play for.  As both games start at the same time, we’re at least assured that the Panthers will play all their starters.  However, if the Saints run up a huge lead, it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest to see the Panthers resting their stars at the end of the game.  Just in time for the Falcons to sneak away with a late victory?

You could argue it behooves the Panthers to knock the Falcons out of the playoffs, and I’ll buy that to a point, but if they’re stuck as a 5-seed and the Falcons a 6-seed, they wouldn’t meet until a hypothetical NFC Championship Game matchup, which is unlikely in its own right.  And besides, if you did want to see a potential 5-seed home game in the NFCCG, that means you NEED the 6-seed to get there too, and who is more likely to win two road games it the playoffs, the Falcons or the broken and old Seahawks?

Make no mistake, there’s the Team No One Wants To Play every year in the playoffs; well, the Seahawks are the Team No One Would Mind Playing.  Which leads me to the next issue:  should we root for the Seahawks to make the playoffs at all?

It’s an age-old argument.  The Seahawks almost certainly have no shot – as a 6-seed – to run the table through the NFC and get to the Super Bowl.  They’re too beat up, and this offense – including Russell Wilson – has been too terrible over the last month to give any indication that we can win even ONE playoff game, let alone 3-4.  Ergo, just by making the playoffs, you’re sticking yourself with a worse draft pick.  And, every playoff game you win, the further down the draft board you fall.

The counter-argument to that is:  anything can happen on any given Sunday.  Just make the playoffs and hope to get hot; hell, it’s how Joe Flacco won a title!  Plus, if the 2010 Seahawks had missed out on the playoffs as we hoped heading into that post-season, we never would’ve had the Beastquake run.  Does that mean anything on its own?  Of course not, but it’s a fond memory, and it set the table for the Never Say Die ethos of those championship teams a few years later.

Even though it runs against all rational thought, I’ll still root for the Seahawks to make it.  I just want to see at least one more week of meaningful football for my favorite professional team.

Why I’m Dreading This Seahawks/Jaguars Game

There’s a lot riding on this game.  Frankly, there’s a lot riding on ALL of the remaining games on the schedule, thanks to a couple of bumbling home losses to the Redskins and Falcons.  The Seahawks are a game back of the Rams, and if they want to hold out any hope of winning the division – or even a remote hope of getting a top 2 seed, which is highly unlikely, but still – they almost certainly need to run the table.  Winning out at home is a must, and is very do-able (so long as the Seahawks don’t lose any more key starters to injury), and that road game against the Cowboys doesn’t look nearly as imposing as it did before the season.  But, here, this week, against the Jags, is where I’m most afraid.

I don’t need to tell you that the Jags have the best defense in the league.  Their secondary is second to none, and their D-Line is as ferocious as any in football.  They lead the league in fewest total yards allowed, passing yards allowed, and total points allowed.  By a pretty considerable margin, I might add!  They lead the league in sacks, are tied for second in interceptions, are tied for fourth in forced fumbles, and tied for first in fumble recoveries, as well as lead the league in turnovers returned for touchdowns.

In other words, they lead all of football in just about every important defensive statistic.  Where they’re middle-of-the-road is in rush defense, which just so happens to be the area of the Seahawks offense where they struggle the most.  Yay.

I’ll say this, apropos of nothing:  the Seahawks picked the worst possible week to have their most significant victory of the season.  Coming off a game where they thoroughly destroyed the best team in football, you just know the Seahawks will have spent this week sniffing their own farts and reading their own press clippings, to the detriment of the on-field product this Sunday.  Sure, the Jacksonville defense will have something to say about it, but when the Seahawks’ offense comes out flat and we’re all mashing our respective Twitter keyboards in frustration, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The problem is, a loss like the one I’m predicting this Sunday is often seen as a “wake-up call” for a good team.  Better to get that unexpected defeat out of the way now, before the playoffs, when that type of performance will end your season.  But, here’s the thing:  the Seahawks don’t NEED any more wake-up calls!  They’ve had 4 already this year!  The next wake-up call will send us hurtling to a Wild Card spot, and the wake-up call after that will keep us out of the playoffs entirely.  WE’RE AWAKE!  And, if you don’t see this Jaguars team for what it is – a real, legitimate threat to your 2017 season – then you might as well go the fuck back to bed.

To spin it another way, though, it’s not like all hope is lost.  The Seahawks CAN win this game, but they have to tread lightly.  The Rams and Cardinals both put 27 on them; the Titans earlier this season put up 37.  The Jags’ defense isn’t infallible.  But, I don’t think we can afford a slow start and a big 2-score early deficit.

Thankfully, the Jacksonville offense is absolutely nothing to write home about.  Led by Blake “The Bort” Bortles, we’re talking about a 4-year pro who is just the worst, most bustiest bust who is somehow still starting for an NFL team and not a car dealership’s sales team.  They’ve effectively chopped his balls off this season, which is absolutely the correct call, in making this a run-first, run-second, and run-third offense.  The beneficiary of that move is rookie Leonard Fournette, who started his career absolutely on fire, in looking like Ezekiel Elliott 2.0 through six weeks.  But, then an ankle injury and a suspension set him back.  Over his last four games, he’s averaged only 2.94 yards per carry, with just the 1 rushing touchdown (after 6 in the first 6 weeks).  He’s coming into a game against the Seahawks, who are 7th in the league in rush defense.  So, it’s appropriate to believe we should be able to hold their ground game in check.

And, if we can do that, we should have no trouble whatsoever in holding The Bort in check, L.O.B. or no L.O.B.

So, ultimately, the question is:  can the offense go out there and do its job?

That doesn’t necessarily mean we need Mike Davis to rip off 100+ yards, or Russell Wilson to go out there and continue his MVP pace.  I’m not asking for the moon and the stars here!  How about:

  • Can Russell Wilson avoid turnovers?
  • Can the O-Line avoid free rushers at the quarterback?
  • Can our receivers and running backs hold onto the football?
  • Can we all limit our penalties?

The way to lose this game is to cough up the ball and put our defense on its heels with short fields.  I don’t expect the Jags to score a bunch of touchdowns or have a bunch of lengthy, ball-control drives.  But, they might have one or two.  So, I wouldn’t expect to hold them to single-digits (if we do, our odds of winning this game goes up tenfold).  But, if we give them those short fields, I don’t think it’s out of the question for the Jags to score 20+ points, in which case it’s going to be VERY difficult for the Seahawks to win this game.

I don’t expect the Seahawks to look very good on third down.  Likewise, I don’t expect to see a lot of big plays out of our offense.  It’s not hopeless, but it’s going to mean taking advantage of our limited opportunities.  Touchdowns instead of field goals.  Hitting long field goals instead of punting, or worse.

If the Seahawks are going to win this one, it’s going to have to be in that 20-17 range, and it’s likely going to require a last-minute drive for go-ahead points.  There is a universe where I can imagine that happening.

But, there are also plenty of other universes out there, where I see the Seahawks losing 15-9, or 16-6, or 10-9, or 11-8, or 23-12.  In those games, I see Russell Wilson getting sacked 6 times and suffering a safety.  I see a couple fumbles and a pick.  I see the Jags moving the ball at will early in the game and the defense needing to adjust on the fly.  I see Fournette – against all rational thought – having a monster game and making the likes of Earl Thomas and Bobby Wagner look foolish on his cutbacks.  And, I see that Jags defense dancing on our grave.

Look, I want to be there with you guys.  I want to BELIEVE!  I want to cast off the shackles of this Haterade I’ve been drinking and sail the Good Ship 12 into the Harbor of Positivity, but as a Seattle sports fan, I’ve been beaten to a pulp over the years.  Granted, a lot of that was from the Mariners, who continually get my hopes up, only to pull the rug out from under me, but the Seahawks of the last couple seasons have played their part.

I will say this, if you allow me to put on the rose-colored glasses:

The offensive line is as good as it’s been since 2013/2014.  That’s not hyperbole.  With Duane Brown healthy and getting healthier by the week, we’ve already seen the dividends being paid.  With Luke Joeckel healthy and getting healthier by the week, the left side of that line is terrific!  With Ethan Pocic taking over for the revolving door of Mark Glowinski/Oday Aboushi, the right guard spot is no longer a total bust.  And, as he continues to get more comfortable at the right tackle spot, I no longer find myself cursing the name Germain Ifedi on a play-by-play basis.

In short:  the offensive line IS good.  I’ll say it!  Come at me, brothers and sisters!

It’s going to take a while before they get the credit they’re due, but I’m charging through as conductor of this bandwagon, and there’s plenty of room if you want to come along for the ride!

I’ll also say this:  the depth on this team is what we thought it was.  Heading into the year, after bemoaning our fate vis-a-vis the O-Line, the depth on this team was all I could talk about.  When our 2016 season was so thoroughly derailed by the loss of Earl Thomas, and the thinning of our D-Line, 2017 is going a long way towards subsiding those concerns.

A year ago, the thought of losing Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, AND Cliff Avril would’ve brought about a rash of suicides among the 12’s.  Yet, aside from some tough times against the Falcons, we’ve largely looked okay.  Getting Byron Maxwell back, and watching him play his ass off like he never left, could prove to be the luckiest move of the year.  Having Shaq Griffin grow into a bona fide starter, signing Bradley McDougald as Kam-insurance, Jeremy Lane failing his physical with the Texans, snatching Justin Coleman from the cornerback-starved Patriots (at the time, anyway; they’ve since improved their secondary play as guys got healthier), all of these events – along with the impending return of DeShawn Shead (fingers crossed!) – has helped this secondary not miss much of a beat, and could be critical going forward, as we look to face the likes of the Rams, Vikings, Saints, and Eagles in the playoffs.

Then, there’s the depth along the D-Line.  Sheldon Richardson coming over via trade, Frank Clark taking that next step, Naz Jones coming alive as a rookie, Jarran Reed becoming an every-down monster in the middle, the Dion Jordan flier actually turning into a useful rotation piece, the return of Quinton Jefferson, the production we’ve gotten out of the likes of Branden Jackson and Marcus Smith, on top of the fact that Michael Bennett is an ageless wonder who still thrives on playing just about every single defensive snap against all rational thought.  We’re not only super deep in this all-important area of the football field, but we’re also improving as the season goes along and these guys learn one another’s strengths and tendencies.

Finally, I’ll say this:  Russell Wilson has arrived.  Yes, he’s been great since he came into the league in 2012.  Yes, we would never have reached the heights we reached in 2013 & 2014 without him, and he’s carried this team on his back (particularly late in 2015 when Lynch and Graham were lost with injury).  But, he’s putting it all together now, in 2017, with the running game being what it is and this team NEEDING him to be The Man.  It’s what the all-time greats do, they pick their games up when their teams need them.  This is the difference between Pro Bowl quarterback, All Pro quarterback, and Hall of Fame quarterback.  Russell Wilson is playing like a Hall of Famer in his prime.  All he needs now to make that Hall of Fame a reality is time.  Continue playing like he’s playing for the next 5-8 years, and slowly fade into his 40s, and he’ll be a lock for the golden jacket.

If anybody can lead this team across the country, against a young, hungry defense, and come away victorious, it’s Russell Wilson.  In Russ We Trust.  Time to go out and take care of business.

Seahawks Barely Get By Deshaun Watson & The Texans

This was a game you’ll love if you’re a fan of numbers.  Specifically offensive numbers, as we had oodles.  Russell Wilson:  452 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT, 30 rushing yards.  Deshaun Watson:  402 yards, 4 TDs, 3 INTs, 67 rushing yards.  DeAndre Hopkins:  11 catches, 224 yards, 1 TD.  Will Fuller:  5 catches, 125 yards, 2 TDs.  Tyler Lockett:  6 catches, 121 yards.  Paul Richardson:  6 catches, 105 yards, 2 TDs.  Jimmy Graham:  4 catches, 39 yards, 2 TDs.  Hell, even Lamar Miller had 54 rushing yards, 19 receiving yards, and 2 combined TDs.  Offense.  For.  Days.

But, it was pretty slim pickin’s as far as defense is concerned.  Earl Thomas came back with a pick-six after giving up a long opening-drive touchdown bomb.  Richard Sherman had a couple interceptions after being challenged with impunity all game.  Jadeveon Clowney was a beast, both in pass rush and particularly in the run game.  The Seahawks had 5 sacks and 9 tackles for loss, including big games for Bennett, Clark, Wright, and Wagner.  Even Dwight Freeney got in on the action with half a sack.

All of those things were great, but you don’t come out of a 41-38 game and heap praise on the defense.  And, I gotta tell ya, while it was a refreshing change of pace to see the Seahawks go out there and sling the ball up and down the field, I think I still prefer it when our defense is the best group on the field.  There’s something about both teams scoring on 13 possessions out of 26 (not counting end-of-half kneeldowns) that’s a little overwhelming.

What I did like was the fact that no team was ever up by more than 7 points.  That’s pretty rare, considering how much scoring took place.  I mean, the Over damn near hit before halftime!  When there’s a game like this, it usually involves the Seahawks looking like crap for the first half, then scrambling to come back by multiple scores to win by some miracle at the end.  This one was just a slugfest; two insane offenses throwing haymakers back and forth.

In a game like this, you can take it one of two ways:  you can breathe a sigh of relief and live with your heads in the clouds over how the offense moved the ball.  Just throw out the books and appreciate this one for what it was:  probably the most exciting game (from start to finish) in the NFL this season (perhaps narrowly edging that Chiefs/Raiders Thursday Night game a couple weeks back, but I don’t want to succumb to recency bias).  Or, if you’re like me, maybe you can’t help but see some of the warts.

I’m willing to more or less overlook the L.O.B.’s lack of dominance in this one, because let’s face it:  they’ve pulled this offense’s ass out of the fire on PLENTY of occasions.  Every once in a while, they deserve to have a bad game and somehow the team still finds a way to win.

I thought, for the most part, the run defense looked pretty good, aside from some key breakdowns in contain when it comes to Deshaun Watson.  I mean, where was the spy?  Isn’t this game tailor-made for Bobby Wagner to have eyes on Watson all game?  What you absolutely can’t have happen is the line getting sucked over to one side, with 20 yards of open field for Watson to punish us.

More than anything, you can say the Seahawks’ defense – while mediocre as a whole – made just enough big plays when it mattered most.  The aforementioned Earl Thomas interception returned for a touchdown.  The Sherman interception that led directly to a field goal that gave the Seahawks their first lead of the game at 27-24.  The sacks and D-Line pressure that led to the Texans’ five punts on the day.  And, the biggest play of the day that no one is talking about:

With just under 3 minutes to go in the game, and the Texans up 38-34, the Seahawks were driving.  Russell Wilson just scrambled for 21 yards that had me literally exclaim, “Wow, how did he do that?!”  He stepped up in the pocket and ran through a nexus of three Texans who all converged on a single spot, and instead of getting his block knocked off, he somehow caused all three of them to hit one another as he scampered to the 20 yard line.  At that point, it was without question that the Seahawks would re-take the lead, and the only question that would remain would be:  did we leave the Texans too much time on the clock?  Except, instead, Wilson treated everyone to his single worst throw of the game, an out-route that was easily picked off, as if he had intended to throw it to the defender.

(which, I mean, let’s not rule this out.  You know as well as I do that Russell Wilson is a wizard.  He just is.  He’s magic, and we’re all fortunate to be graced with his presence.  So, hear me out on this:  what if he could see into the future, realize we were in the process of scoring too quickly, and had we done so, Deshaun Watson would be the one everyone is lauding for his last-minute game-winning efforts?  I submit this as my argument that he MEANT to throw that interception, knowing we’d get the ball back, and ultimately score with too little time left on the clock for the Texans to do anything about it)

But, I digress.  Getting back to the biggest play of the day that no one is talking about:

The Texans took over with just under three minutes left in the game.  They ran the ball for 4 yards on first down, the Seahawks opted to save their time out.  They ran the ball for 8 yards on second down, and we hit the two-minute warning with a fresh set of downs.  After the break, the Texans ran again for 1 yard, time out.  THEN, we get to the play of the game:  second down, hand off to Miller again, this time for 5 yards.  But, if you look at it, the Texans had that thing blocked to go for double-digit yards or more.  Things just opened up like you wouldn’t believe, and if it weren’t for Michael Bennett diving in there and slapping at his foot to get him to fall down, the Texans would’ve ended the game right there.  Go back and look at it!  If you can find it, that is, because like I said, hardly anyone is talking about it, and yet the only reason the Seahawks had a chance at the end is because Michael Bennett saved the day.

Now, I’ll also say I agree with the majority of America today:  Bill O’Brien should’ve put the ball in Watson’s hands on at least the third down play.  I can see it both ways:  with the run, you take away Seattle’s final time out, and as I just discussed, there’s a decent chance of converting a 3rd & 4 with the way things were going as recently as that very drive.  But, on the other hand, Watson was a juggernaut yesterday.  You could’ve run with him, you could’ve had him drop back and pass, you could’ve done a run-pass option, you could’ve done one of those fucking plays where he fakes it to three other guys before hitting a fourth option (that our defense somehow could NOT figure out, at any point in this game).  Instead, in hindsight, it feels pretty weak to just run it back up the middle again for the fifth straight play.  The Seahawks stopped it for a 2-yard gain and the rest was history.

I suppose more of my consternation with this game comes from the fact that the Seahawks’ run game was abysmal.  I mean, just the worst I’ve ever seen, and I’ve lived through full seasons of Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett!

Part of this absolutely has to do with Chris Carson going down with injury, because God fucking dammit would he come in handy right about now!  Why do all of our best running backs have to be fucking injured all the God damn time?  Him and Prosise this year, Rawls and Prosise last year, Rawls the year before.  I mean, shit!

Part of this has to do with Eddie Lacy, because he’s effectively useless.  I’d been willing to give him time to grow with this offense up until this game, because he’s a volume rusher, and gets better the more you feed him (ironically enough).  But, 6 carries for 0 yards?  No.  No thank you.  Go home, eat your China food, and waste some other team’s time.  You’ll never for ONE SECOND get me to believe the guys on the active roster are better than Mike Davis, who is LANGUISHING on the practice squad right now.

Which gets me to my next gripe:  Darrell Bevell.  Not Darrell Bevell the play-caller, mind you.  I know that’s what everyone gets on him about, but again, I thought he called a pretty great game, all things considered.  He gave the running game everything he had, but it clearly wasn’t working and he gave it up for the most part in the second half.  What I’ve got a problem with is Darrell Bevell the offensive coordinator.  And, by that I mean, the way he designs his offense, and how he uses the players he’s got.

It took him FUCKING FOREVER before he put Jimmy Graham out wide near the goalline this season.  Why is that?  Because he doesn’t want to tip off his play-calling.  It’s why he lines Graham up inside on run plays, when Graham is the worst blocking tight end in the universe.  You can’t just have Graham out there on passing plays, because then defenses will expect that.  SO FUCKING WHAT?  Here’s a newsflash, you fucking moron:  what you’re doing now – by “out-thinking” the defense – ISN’T FUCKING WORKING!  Rushing plays with Graham on the field get blown up CONSTANTLY!

Same goes for Thomas Rawls, out there on third downs.  Why would you do this when you’ve got a talent like J.D. McKissic?  Oh, because if McKissic is out there, the defense will know you’re passing?  WHO CARES?  It beats throwing to a fucking stone-hands, who drops carefully-lobbed balls in the endzone!

I come from the school that says, “Put my best 11 guys up against your best 11 guys and let the chips fall where they may.”  Because, more often than not during the Pete Carroll/John Schneider Era, the Seahawks have had the most talent in the NFL.  That’s just a fact.  And, you know what?  It used to be enough for this team.  The Seahawks used to be a team (albeit, with Beastmode in the backfield, which obviously has to account for a lot) that would run the ball when the opposing team had 8-9 guys in the box, and we’d STILL get a productive gain on the play!  Because our 11 guys were better than their 11 guys, and we’d make them pay for their inferiority.

But, nowadays?  The Seahawks have lost their sack.  They’re trying to get cute, which leads to throws to Rawls, runs towards Graham’s side, long bombs to McEvoy, and fullbacks streaking free up the middle for 66-yard gains.  Which, obviously, when it works – like the throw to Madden, and the 53-yard bomb to McEvoy – you look like a genius.  But, more often than not, those plays haven’t been working this season, and you just look like an asshole who’s trying to get a head coaching job somewhere else.  Which, GREAT, DO IT, GET OUT OF HERE!  But, of course, the NFL sees right through that, so we’ll be stuck with Bevell here for as long as Pete Carroll remains head coach.  It’s our burden, but one I’m willing to live with.  Still doesn’t mean I’m not going to bitch about it.

Thankfully, the receivers were there to pick up the slack.  Doug Baldwin was mostly quiet, which is shocking.  But, we had 100-yard games from Lockett and Richardson, who both had a bevy of long bombs they went up and snagged.  P-Rich in particular looks like the Golden Tate we’ve been lacking since we let him walk to Detroit.  See, the Seahawks don’t necessarily need a guy who’s 6’5; we just need a guy like Richardson who’s 6’0, but can jump like a freak of nature.  Thankfully, he’s been able to stay healthy, because he sure looks like a stud this season.

Let’s finish with some quick hitters.

The Seahawks took over their final drive on their own 20 yard line, and Russell Wilson immediately uncorked a dagger.  Honestly, I don’t know how Ifedi got away without a holding flag, and I’ll admit, I half-expected another flag on P-Rich for offensive-PI (replays showed that to be a clean catch, but I’ve seen flags for less contact than that).

I hope Earl Thomas’ hamstring injury isn’t too serious.  At the same time, I was relieved that Steven Terrell wasn’t back there to get torched in the game’s closing moments.

I thought the Special Teams got short shrift for having a pretty great game.  The Texans didn’t get much of anything on their returns, Jon Ryan made some clutch punts off of some poor snaps, and Blair Walsh was a silent assassin.  He made his two field goals (both pretty short range), and all 5 of his extra points, which ended up being huge, particularly the last two that gave us 3-point leads, as a Houston field goal in response would’ve only tied the game instead of given them the lead.  The NFL’s objective with the longer extra points was to make them more exciting, and while I hate them with a passion and wish like Hell that they’d move them back to the 2-yard line, I have to admit they’re maddeningly interesting, particularly in games like this.

Finally, I’d like to shout out the offensive line.  Not so much for the running game, in which their blocking was predictably awful; but in pass protection, they were okay!

I know, the narrative now and forever is that the pass-protection was, is, and always will be dreadful.  But, I mean, if it was really THE WORST as everyone (particularly the national media) claims it to be, could Wilson have thrown for a franchise-record 452 yards?  Obviously, while it wasn’t the best, and a stick figure quarterback like Jay Cutler or Eli Manning would be lunch meat behind this kind of line, it was Good Enough.  Hawkblogger’s Sunday night tweets go into it in a lot of detail, so check out his Twitter.  Essentially, the Seahawks were middle-of-the-road, from a leaguewide perspective, when it comes to pass protection, and God bless ’em, that’s all Russell Wilson needs!  Hell, that’s all any of us have been clamoring for since Wilson busted out onto the scene!  We don’t need a Top 5 unit to put up a ton of points, just give us a Top 15-20 unit and watch us go to work!  And, yesterday, the O-Line (again, from strictly a pass-protection perspective), played like just that.  They gave Wilson time to throw, and when they didn’t, they at least opened up lanes for him to scramble around until he could find someone down field.  That’s our game!

What’s frustrating is when there’s a guy in his face on the third step of his 3-step drop.  I’m sure the Texans’ defensive numbers will show a lot of good pressures on Wilson, but those are the types of pressures we can all live with.  And, in the end, it all added up to Wilson’s best day as a pro.

Of course, we’ll never REALLY know how much of that was due to his wizardry, but that’s the beauty of magic:  it’s more fun when you DON’T know the magician’s secrets.

I Don’t Think The Seahawks Should Trade For An Offensive Lineman This Week

The deadline is, what, Halloween?  A quick Google search determines that to be accurate.  Anyway, in recent weeks, there’s been a lot of rumors and conjecture flying around the Seahawks.  The Seahawks brought Branden Albert in for a looksee; he’s an offensive tackle who played in Kansas City and most recently Miami, who retired or something and then unretired I guess?  Forgive me if I don’t care about the life story of Branden Albert.  I think we all took a look at him – a 2-time Pro Bowler, as recently as 2015 – and we took a look at Rees Odhiambo, and we thought, “All right, he could help.”

Then, there was speculation that the Seahawks only brought him in as a way to drive down the price of Duane Brown.  He’s one of the best left tackles in the league for the last decade.  He’s on a contract that pays him over $9 million per year this year and in 2018.  He’s 32 year old, he doesn’t have a lot of time left in the league, and as such he wanted a restructured contract for more money.  So, he held out for the first six games of the Texans’ season, which I guess is the most he can hold out while still accruing a season under his contract?  I dunno, again, I don’t need to know his life story.  All I know is, there was talk of the Texans trading him to the Seahawks, which would’ve cost a high draft pick or multiple draft picks, depending on who you ask.  It would have subsequently cost the Seahawks a lot of money in a restructured deal (a la the Percy Harvin trade we all know and love).  In the end, Duane Brown returned to the Texans this week, probably just in time to start against … you guessed it, the Seahawks.

Right after all of that died down, the Seahawks went and brought in Dwight Freeney to be a backup defensive end, what with Cliff Avril hitting the IR and everything.  We don’t yet know what that contract is going to cost, but either it’s for a very minimal amount that the Seahawks can afford, or it’s for a costlier amount that the Seahawks can’t afford, and will need to make a subsequent roster move to fit him in under our cap.

This also, not for nothing, coincided with the return of Jeremy Lane from a groin injury that’s kept him out of commission the last few weeks.  We learned of his return thanks to a set of Tweets where he announced he’d been demoted, presumably because Shaq Griffin is not just the future of that position for this team, but also good enough to be the present as well.  With Justin Coleman looking pretty solid in the slot, that doesn’t leave a lot of room for Jeremy Lane, outside of the Dime package, which we really don’t get to run all that often.

People have been talking about trading Jeremy Lane since the offseason.  I guess he didn’t have the greatest year last year, though I still contend people are making that out to be WAY worse than it actually was.  He was no Cary Williams!  He made some plays and I thought played all-around solid.  He probably shouldn’t be your team’s #2 – particularly opposite Richard Sherman, meaning he’ll get all the balls thrown in his direction – but he’s a fine slot corner and one I’d happily roll out there against any opponent (when he’s healthy).  Nevertheless, at this point, he sort of feels like a luxury.  Do we really need that fourth piece of cheesecake?  DeShawn Shead is coming back in a matter of weeks, we appear to have really hit upon this Shaq Griffin kid, and Coleman is certainly competent (if not a diamond in the rough).  You can only employ so many cornerbacks on a roster, and unless we run into a situation where we get hit by a ton of injuries, I think we’re all good there this season.

And, let’s not forget, that regardless of how this season went, it was pretty unrealistic that the Seahawks were ever going to keep Jeremy Lane around in 2018.  I think the minute he signed his contract, it was silently understood that he’d be gone after the 2017 season.

So, here we are.  Lane’s salary is guaranteed, so cutting him generates zero cap relief.  The only way we can save some money is by trading him.  Also, not for nothing, but the Seahawks traded away a number of draft picks for next year.  We no longer have a 2nd rounder, thanks to Sheldon Richardson.  We swapped our 6th for a 5th with the Raiders in the Beastmode deal.  We traded away one fifth rounder to the Eagles for Matt Tobin, and got one fifth rounder back from the Patriots for Cassius Marsh.  We swapped 7th rounders with the Jets in that Richardson deal, and we swapped 7th rounders with the Patriots (sending one away for Coleman, getting one back – maybe the same one? – in the Marsh deal).  On top of, I guess, having no 2nd rounder & no 6th rounder, I’m almost positive that the Seahawks won’t qualify for any compensatory picks, which has been their bread and butter the last few years.  Swapping Lane for an extra 3rd or 4th could be quite advantageous for next year and beyond (particularly when Jeremy Lane himself was a 6th round pick originally).

Beyond the draft capital part of it, I think a lot of people are looking at the salary cap relief as a means to bring in another offensive lineman, most likely via trade.  But, I dunno.

For starters, you want someone who is familiar with the zone blocking scheme, otherwise it’s going to take longer to acclimate this hypothetical newcomer into our system; so that limits your trade base.  And then what?  You throw away all the work you’ve put into propping up Odhiambo this year?  Who is coming off of his best game as a pro, I might add?  Granted, it’s the Giants, and they’re dealing with a ton of injuries.  But, again, I dunno.

I think we’re all beyond pleased with how well Ethan Pocic looked against the Giants, injuries or no injuries.  With him, you could very well be talking about your Left Guard of the Future.  If he comes back this week, blows Glowinski out of the water, and holds down that spot for the rest of the year, then great!  You’ve now solidified 4/5 of your offensive line, with Britt at center, with Ifedi looking MUCH better than expected at right tackle, and with Aboushi looking like a competent veteran at right guard.  That leaves the aforementioned Odhiambo, with the wrinkle that is Luke Joeckel whenever he returns from his cleanup surgery.  What are we looking at?  Mid to late November?  Where does that place him if we give his job to Pocic?

I would argue, that puts him in competition for the left tackle spot.  I know we all like him as a guard, and that appears to be the spot where he’s the best fit, but he was obviously originally drafted to be a left tackle, and still has a ton of experience there.  “Ton” being a relative term, but you know what I mean.

So, if we trade for a starting left tackle, where does that slot everyone else (barring injury, of course)?  It just doesn’t make a ton of sense right now.

If “continuity” is supposedly the most important factor in a successful offensive line, then how does bringing someone in during the middle of the season help you?

Now, maybe I’ll be singing a different tune after this Texans game on Sunday.  Granted, they’re dealing with some injuries of their own, but they still have a pretty stout pass rush.  And maybe Rees Odhiambo follows up his very best game as a pro by getting tossed around like a ragdoll.  But, if he is improving, and he’s able to hold his own against the likes of Jadeveon Clowney and Co., then I think the last thing you want to do is trade for an offensive lineman.

Of course, if you recommend trading Jimmy Graham for a competent tight end who isn’t the softest, powderpuffiest wide receiver in the league?  Let’s just say I’m listening.

My Big Fat Seahawks Preview 2017

It’s insane at work right now, so I’m looking for little pockets of time to write this out and get it done on time before the weekend.  If it feels disjointed, just blame the scapegoat du jour.

I’ve already written a couple of preview-ish things on the 2017 Seahawks.  Back in April, when the schedule came out, I took a preliminary stab at predicting the outcomes.  Now that we’re just days away from the start of the season, I’ll update that with the power of new information!  Then, back in July, I took a look at the roster as we were barrelling toward Training Camp.  I don’t know how much my opinion has changed – from either of those two earlier posts – so if I harp on the same points, forgive me, but I just don’t have the time to re-read all of my blatherings.

I will say this:  whereas before I was cautiously optimistic – believing if everything broke right, it wasn’t hard to imagine this team back in the Super Bowl – now I’m a rock-hard, veiny, throbbing erection of populist Seahawks swaggeration!  I haven’t felt this confident about my team since the start of 2013!  Except, to be honest, I’ll have to walk that back a bit and say I haven’t felt this confident about my team since the start of 2014.  I mean, look, that 2013 team was CRAZY deep and CRAZY talented, up and down the roster.  On top of that, the 2013 team actually had a competent offensive line, whereas this year’s team is still very much in doubt (in spite of recent improved pre-season play, which I’ll get to in a bit).  Frankly, I was still pretty stoked on the Seahawks heading into 2014, and indeed pegged them for a repeat championship, which they had in their grasp one yard from fruition, but it wasn’t as solid a feeling as 2013.

This year is the same, in my mind.  The talent is there, no question.  In fact, in some areas, the talent is vastly improved (at least on paper).  And, the depth is in some ways back to where it was in 2013.  But, the last few years of creeping failure is clouding my enthusiasm JUST enough to have this nagging creature of doubt in the corner of my mind-grapes.  I’m doing my damnedest to give that guy the finger though, because I want to be ALL IN on the ground floor with this Seahawks team.

TL;DR:  WE’RE BACK, BABY!!!

Let’s just take this position by position, to show you how strong this team is, and to show the world how foolish it is to doubt us.

Quarterback – Top 5 in the entire league, fully healthy, in great running shape (the better to compensate for a questionable-to-say-the-least offensive line).

Running Backs – A deep stable of runners of all stars and stripes!  Lacy, the power back.  Prosise, the speed/pass-catching back.  Rawls, the good mix of both.  McKissic, the Prosise insurance.  Carson, the overall back & everyone else insurance.  If you can’t have Marshawn Lynch in his prime, then the next best thing is to stockpile 5 guys who add up to 1 Beastmode.

Wide Receivers – A Top 10 guy in Baldwin.  A burner in Lockett.  Another burner with outstanding ball skills in P-Rich.  A tall red zone threat in McEvoy.  And a rookie project in Darboh.  Not as deep without Kearse in the fold, but if you throw in McKissic and Prosise, you’ve got a lot of versatility in the passing game.

Tight Ends – A Top 3 guy in Graham.  Another tall receiving threat in Willson.  And a young blocking tight end with a good pedigree in Vannett.

Defensive Line – Off-the-charts talent all over the place.  Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril are proven studs.  Sheldon Richardson is the pass-rushing interior force we’ve been looking for since Cortez Kennedy retired.  Frank Clark is an up-and-coming dominant force who should look to take a giant step into the spotlight this season.  Jones and Reed are young interior talents with a lot to prove.  Smith and Bass are young ends with a lot to prove.  This could go down as the best D-Line we’ve ever had in Seattle, and yes even better than that 2013 unit that laid waste to the entire league.

Linebackers – More off-the-charts talent in guys like Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright; guys who can cover all over the place, who are dominant against the run, and who can rush the passer on occasion.  Depth here is vastly improved over the last couple seasons, with proven vets in Wilhoite & Garvin.  Injuries should not be as much of an issue as they would’ve been in years past.

Secondary – The L.O.B. is still here and still as good as ever.  Earl, Kam, and Sherm comprise the best threesome of any secondary in the NFL.  Jeremy Lane is a solid all-around corner, with emphasis on nickel.  Shaq Griffin is the only question mark, but he’s got a good pedigree and should get plenty of safety help in the early going.

Special Teams – Blair Walsh looks like he’s starting to get back on track, but will have to prove it when the games matter.  Either way, he shouldn’t be as bad as Hauschka was last year, particularly on extra points.  Jon Ryan is still going to keep opposing offenses pinned back inside their 20 more often than not, and overall control the return game with his quality punts.  The return game is bolstered with McKissic as insurance for Lockett, should the team opt to bring him back slowly, or otherwise take some of the duties off his plate.  And, coverage units look a lot better with Neiko Thorpe, D.J. Alexander, and our rookie secondary guys.

The only real area of uncertainty is, obviously, the offensive line.  Everywhere else, the Seahawks have elite, top-shelf talent and depth.  So, let’s dig into this.

An argument can easily be made that past seasons’ O-Line groups were made to look better than they actually were because Marshawn Lynch was so money, and I’m hard pressed to go against that line of thinking.  Can any of the runners we have now live up to that and make this group of guys look better than they are?  I think, maybe, in small doses, Lacy can be that type of runner who limits negative rushes and falls forward for impressive gains.  I also think, in between injuries, Rawls can certainly be a Baby Beastmode with his style, but the question with him is how long will those healthy stints last?  Prosise has the speed to get around the edge and through holes before they close, but he’ll have to prove he can stay healthy too.

Indeed, even in the pass-protection portion of the O-Line game, the major concern is health:  can they keep Russell Wilson from getting injured?  Obviously, Wilson can help out his own cause by getting the ball out quickly and eluding pressure before it’s right on top of him; but they’re going to have to drastically reduce the amount of free runners at the quarterback if this thing is going to work.

In a lot of ways, injuries are a matter of luck, and the Seahawks were pretty fucking unlucky last year.  Not 2017 Mariners unlucky, but not too far off either.  What are the odds that Wilson will spend the entire season hobbled again?  In a vacuum, I’d have to say not very good; but with this line I think you have to consider it a coin flip at best.  Luck is one thing, but there are things a team can do to limit the amount of bad luck that comes your way.  Getting improved O-Line play is one of them.

For what it’s worth, I do think this line will be better than last year’s, and I think it’ll be better right from the start.  This is key, as there are a lot of important games early in the season, and we can’t afford to slog through 10 weeks of growing pains before we go on our annual year-end hot streak.

I think Odhiambo, with a year under his belt, will be better than Brad Sowell and 2016 George Fant.  Since Fant, last year, was about as bad as you can get, I’d say that’s a huge upgrade (and Odhiambo doesn’t even have to be GOOD to achieve this level of improvement!).  Now, obviously losing 2017 Fant to injury is about as devastating as it can get, because he really did look like he was going to take a huge step forward in his development, but I’ll take baby steps at this point over what we had last year.

Luke Joeckel looks like a solid upgrade over Glowinski at left guard.  Paired with Britt at center, I think that side of the line will be just fine.

Glowinski slides over to right guard, which appears to be his better side.  He’s been playing somewhat evenly with free agent Oday Aboushi, so it’s good to know at least the right guard spot should be adequate (and probably a step above 2016 Ifedi).

My biggest concern is 2017 Ifedi, having moved back to right tackle (where he played in college and was projected to play in the NFL).  I’ve seen this movie before, but usually it’s a right tackle who gets moved to one of the guard spots, and not the other way around.  The consensus being:  tackle is a harder position to play than guard (which is a harder position to play than center … hi Justin Britt!).  So, the rationale ends up as:  if Ifedi was pretty terrible at right guard last year, what hope is there for him as a right tackle?  Indeed, I don’t have a good answer for you there.  Again, I suppose I’ll bring up the experience angle.  The leap from rookie to second year player, particularly along the O-Line, is pretty pronounced.  You gotta figure he’s at the very least more comfortable in his assignments.  And, at his size, you’ve gotta give him the power advantage over what should be smaller defensive end/linebacker types going up against him (whereas when he was a guard, he was going up against mammoth D-tackles).  His limitations are obviously in the speed game, where his footwork comes into play.  I have very few concerns about Ifedi the run blocker, but I have a SHITLOAD of concerns about him in pass protection, as I think some of the better pass rushers can rope-a-dope the shit out of him.  We’ll see I guess.

Overall, as I said, I have hopes that instead of being the 32nd-rated offensive line, the Seahawks can jump up to the 25th-best.  Even that modest increase could prove to take this offense to as-yet-unseen heights of efficiency and scoring prowess.

Things to watch this season on offense will be:

  • 3rd down efficiency
  • Red zone efficiency
  • Yards per rush

In 2016, it seemed like the Seahawks were more prone to mistakes (penalties, missed blocking assignments) on third down, which is just a ball-buster.  No one is expecting the Seahawks to cut out the penalties entirely (indeed, some of their very best teams were among the most penalized in the league), but they’ve got to do a better job of not holding on long rushing plays, not getting called for offensive PI on pick plays, and not setting themselves back with third & long nonsense.

For the red zone, it’s simple:  find a way to get Jimmy Graham the ball.  Full stop.  He was the man in New Orleans and he had 9 or more TDs in all but one season there.  That needs to happen again, here, this season (and I’m not just saying that because he’s on one of my fantasy teams, but I’m also not NOT just saying that either, I think).

And, look for the Seahawks to get back to their rushing roots.  Beastmode may be gone, but the running backs we have now are more than capable of picking up that slack.  I’d also like to see a moderate return to the zone read, with Wilson pulling the ball back on occasion to keep defenses honest.  Also, not for nothing, but I’d like to see Wilson do this EARLY in games, to put that in other teams’ minds from the get-go.

On defense, watch for:

  • Turnovers
  • Late-game heroics
  • Quarterback pressure, hurries, hits, sacks

To get back to where we were in 2013, we’re going to have to force turnovers.  That goes hand-in-hand with pressuring the quarterback into bad decisions, as well as knocking the ball from his hand for fumbles.  That also goes hand-in-hand with the late game heroics, as we need to prevent those breakdowns we’ve seen in 2015 & 2016, and instead force turnovers to slam the door on those close games.  It’s a team game, and nowhere is that more apparent than the symbiotic relationship that is an NFL defense.

As for this year’s record, I’ll go through the schedule again, briefly.

  • Week 1 – I like the Seahawks to go into Green Bay and shock the world.  It’ll be our official announcement to the rest of the league that the Seahawks are here, they’re for real, and they’re going to stomp all over the lot of you!
  • Week 2 – A comfortable home victory against the young, rebuilding 49ers team.  Maybe not as dominant as we’d like, as they do have some young and talented pieces (particularly on defense), but a win is a win.
  • Week 3 – The Seahawks under Pete Carroll always seem to lose one road game to an AFC opponent that we’re all pretty unfamiliar with (except for last year, randomly, although we almost blew one at home against the Dolphins in week 1).  I think the Titans are really good and I could see the combination of their dominant rushing attack, and efficient passing game (particularly in the red zone) to just nip us for our first loss of the season
  • Week 4 – I like the Seahawks to get back on track at home, in primetime, against a weak Indy team.  With or without Luck, I like the Seahawks to roll.
  • Week 5 – No more losing to the Rams!  Jeff Fisher is dead, and with him so is the Rams’ proclivity of beating us for no good God damned reason.
  • Week 6 – BYE
  • Week 7 – I’m not particularly afraid of the Giants’ running game.  While they’ve got some good receivers, I think we can hold them in check and put enough pressure on Eli into forcing some mistakes.  Their defense is legit, but I like the Seahawks to do just enough in this one and win a close game by 3 in overtime.
  • Week 8 – The Texans come to town and will be sent packing.  I could see this one as a battle of defenses, with the Seahawks pulling away late.  Something in the realm of 16-3 or 16-6.
  • Week 9 – The Redskins come to town and they feel like just the sort of team who should be held in check by us.  Force Kirk Cousins into the worst game of his season, eliminate all threat of a rushing attack, and really take it to their porous defense.
  • Week 10 – Thursday Night in Arizona.  By this time, I wonder if Carson Palmer will even be playing.  Either way, he showed his age in 2016, and I can’t imagine he’ll be in for a fountain of youth situation this year.  No Calais Campbell, no monster in the middle to defend.  I think this is another game where the 12’s will make themselves heard on the road, and the Seahawks take the game comfortably in the fourth quarter.
  • Week 11 – Monday Night in Seattle against the Falcons.  I know the Seahawks took them out in the regular season last year, and I know we’ll be coming off of a Thursday game (and thus have all this extra time to prepare), but I can’t help but be concerned about this one.  I think it’ll be exciting and I think it’ll be close, but I could also see the Falcons just having our number and being able to score in bunches.  Rare home Monday Night loss for the Seahawks here.
  • Week 12 – At San Francisco, again, I think they should be relative push-overs.
  • Week 13 – Home night game against Philly.  I don’t see enough out of their offense to hold a candle to our defense.  Another comfortable, boring win at home at night.
  • Week 14 – I could see the Seahawks getting off to a sloppy start on the road, in a 10am start, in Jacksonville.  But, by the second quarter, the tide should turn and the Seahawks should take this one running away.
  • Week 15 – I SAID NO MORE LOSING TO THE RAMS!!!
  • Week 16 – Here we go!  Christmas Eve in Dallas!  In what could very well be a matchup that decides the NFC’s #1 seed!  I can’t imagine the odds of the Seahawks sweeping the NFC East are very good, but I dunno.  I just got a feeling that the Seahawks are going to sweep this road slate of impossible NFC teams (Packers, Giants, Cowboys).  This one could be another barnburner, with a late turnover keying the Seahawks to victory.
  • Week 17 – At 13-2 headed into the final week, I think the Seahawks rest a lot of guys after a quarter or two and drop the season finale, with the #1 seed all wrapped up.

13-3 is my official prediction.  The Seahawks cruise through the playoffs into the Super Bowl where they await the darlings of the NFL:  the Oakland Raiders.  Everything about that game gets my loins all a-tizzy.  Also, the idea of sticking it to the Raiders brings me tremendous joy.

The Seattle Seahawks, Super Bowl LII Champions!

Okay, that’s all for now.  Let’s get this season in gear!

Predicting The 2017 NFL Season

It’s that time again!  Check out some predictions from past seasons:

Since I don’t do a good-enough job of noting this ahead of time, let’s take a brief look back at my 2016 predictions and see where I went wrong.

In the NFC, I had the NFC seeded in the following order (top 4 teams are division winners):

  1. Seattle
  2. Green Bay
  3. Washington
  4. Carolina
  5. Arizona
  6. New York

In reality, they were seeded as follows:

  1. Dallas
  2. Atlanta
  3. Seattle
  4. Green Bay
  5. New York
  6. Detroit

So, I had two division winners correct, and three playoff teams out of six.  Not bad.  My best call was nailing the Giants for a Wild Card berth; my worst call was predicting the Falcons would finish fourth in the NFC South (not far behind:  predicting the Cowboys would finish third in the East).

In the AFC, I was considerably better, nailing the division winners (although, not quite in the correct order) and 5/6 playoff teams:

  1. New England
  2. Kansas City
  3. Houston
  4. Pittsburgh
  5. Oakland
  6. Buffalo

I wanted so desperately for the Bills to make it back to the playoffs, I was blinded by how terrible they are as a franchise!  In reality, the playoffs looked like this:

  1. New England
  2. Kansas City
  3. Pittsburgh
  4. Houston
  5. Oakland
  6. Miami

Best call here was nailing the top two seeds in order, and the top 5 (just flip-flopping the Texans and Steelers).  Worst call:  Dolphins finishing fourth in the East (behind the Jets???  Come on, man!), followed by the Jags finishing second in the South (I was drinking the Bort Kool Aid, for sure).

I ended up with a Seattle over Kansas City Super Bowl, because I’m a homer.  I also had a Seattle over Indianapolis Super Bowl the year before, and a Seattle over Denver rematch in 2014.  I will give myself some credit for correctly predicting the Seattle over Denver Super Bowl in 2013, as well as (I shit you not) a Baltimore over San Francisco Super Bowl in 2012.

So, it’s time to get back on the horse!  Without further ado, here are my divisional predictions:

NFC East

New York
Dallas
Washington
Philadelphia

There’s got to be some regression with the Cowboys.  Not a lot, but I think just enough.  Of course, I’m saying that knowing full well I’ve staked my fantasy football future on the arm of Dak Prescott, but I’ve got some real issues with that defense, and I just don’t think their offense can be as perfect as they were last year (particularly the running game, since I’m rolling with Ezekiel Elliott in two different leagues.  I like Washington, but I don’t care for their defense, and I question whether their passing game can be as potent as it’s been.  Obviously, I expect Kirk Cousins to play well, but he’s got a lot of new pieces around him.  The Eagles strike me as a few more years away.  The Giants just feel like the most complete team on both sides of the ball, so I’m rolling with them.

NFC North

Green Bay
Minnesota
Detroit
Chicago

Is there really any point in picking against the Packers?  They’re like the Patriots of the NFC; they’re always good, and they’re always surrounded by crappy division-mates.  I think the Vikings and Lions could go either way; I think they’re both about .500 teams.  I like the Vikings’ defense just a little bit more than I like Detroit’s offense.  I also think a second season with Sam Bradford should help them move the ball a little more.  I think the Bears will be a mess and, more importantly, I think that’s the best thing for them, as they’ll need to surround their new rookie QB with a lot of talent going forward.

NFC South

Carolina
Tampa Bay
Atlanta
New Orleans

I almost picked the Bucs, but I dunno.  I just don’t see it.  I think they’re a year away still; they strike me as fairly immature.  Honestly, I don’t feel strongly about ANY of these teams, but having Carolina bounce back is the least-ridiculous thing I can imagine right now.  I do still think the Bucs will make a Wild Card spot though, I’m just not so sure they’ll have enough to overtake the Panthers.  I think the Falcons will be about a .500 team as they remain hungover from that devastating Super Bowl loss.  And, I just don’t think the Saints are very good, and they probably need to think about blowing that situation up at some point.

NFC West

Seattle
Arizona
San Francisco
Los Angeles

The last couple years, I’ve been seduced by blind homerism when it comes to the Seahawks.  Nevertheless, they’ve still managed to win at least 10 games and make the playoffs both years.  So, I’m not TOTALLY crazy.  This year, however, I believe to be the year we get back our #1 seed and our home field advantage throughout the playoffs.  I still like Arizona to kick up a little fuss, but they’re about a .500 team too.  I think the 49ers will be better than people expect, though they’re probably still a 6-7 win team.  I think the Rams will be much WORSE than people expect, and I’m pretty sure people are already expecting them to be pretty bad.

Here’s a prediction for free:  I think the Seahawks will go 2-0 against the Rams; WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT???

AFC East

New England
Miami
Buffalo
New York

Tank-a-palooza is in full effect with the Jets, as I fully expect them to win no more than 1-2 games.  I like Buffalo only a little bit more, to be honest, as they’ve gotten rid of a lot of talent, and still don’t seem too keen on Tyrod Taylor being the guy going forward (I hope they let him loose at some point, so he can go to a team that deserves him).  I still like Miami to come up second in the division with Jay Cutler at the helm, but I still only see them as around a .500 team.  New England should run away with this thing with 13-14 wins.

AFC North

Pittsburgh
Cincinnati
Baltimore
Cleveland

This could be an interesting little division.  I think the Ravens are a year or two away from returning to the playoffs.  I like a lot of the moves Cleveland is making (though, surely, they’ll face growing pains with their rookie QB).  I like a lot of the moves the Bengals have made this past offseason as well, though I think they’ll fall JUST short of the playoffs (likely on a tiebreaker).  I think the Steelers take this one with 11 wins.

AFC South

Tennessee
Houston
Indianapolis
Jacksonville

I think now, FINALLY, the Titans will have their year.  I also think they have the highest variance of any of the teams in this conference.  They could go 13-3, or 9-7, or anywhere in between, and I wouldn’t be shocked.  I went ahead and pencilled them in at 10-6, tied with the Texans, and both teams cracking the playoffs.  I think both the Colts and Jags will be terrible, netting between 2-4 wins each.

AFC West

Kansas City
Oakland
Denver
San Diego

I really wanted to put Oakland here, and this might be my biggest regret, as I’ve kind of been hyping them all off-season.  But, the Chiefs are just more of a complete team.  I think their defense is certainly better than the Raiders’, which could be their ultimate downfall.  I still like the Raiders to make the playoffs, but they might be a year away from grabbing one of the top two seeds.

NFC Playoffs

  1. Seattle
  2. Green Bay
  3. New York
  4. Carolina
  5. Tampa Bay
  6. Dallas

AFC Playoffs

  1. New England
  2. Kansas City
  3. Pittsburgh
  4. Tennessee
  5. Oakland
  6. Houston

I’d absolutely love to see a playoffs with these teams involved.  Let’s look at the playoff predictions:

Wild Card Round

Dallas over New York
Carolina over Tampa Bay
Pittsburgh over Houston
Oakland over Tennessee

Divisional Round

Seattle over Dallas
Carolina over Green Bay
New England over Pittsburgh
Oakland over Kansas City

Championship Round

Seattle over Carolina
Oakland over New England

Super Bowl

Seattle over Oakland

OH SNAP!  Are you ready for this???  The Seahawks can only win Super Bowls against their old AFC West foes!  The storylines are pretty amazing, though, starting with Beastmode vs. his old team.  Michael Crabtree vs. Richard Sherman.  Ken Norton Jr. & Bruce Irvin vs. their old team.  Then, there was all that crap from Derek Carr about running it on the 1 yard line.  And, of course, there’s the 1983 season and how the Raiders prevented the Seahawks from making their first Super Bowl during that miracle playoff run.

You’re going to see a lot of people predicting the Seahawks vs. Patriots Part II, including Peter King in his MMQB column; but how many people will predict the Seahawks/Raiders?  Maybe just me.

Is it because I’m stupid?  Probably.  But, wouldn’t that be fun?