The Seahawks Made The Most Of A Disaster Of A Football Weekend

My Sunday hangover was both literal and figurative.  It was hard to really get up for this game after what happened in the Husky game on Saturday.  There’s no “making up for” a loss to the Ducks (I’ll have more on this tomorrow).  So, I sat there, and I watched the whole dominating Seahawks affair, but at no point was I enjoying myself.  The wound was still too fresh.  Indeed, we’re going on 48 hours after the fact and I still can’t bring myself to dwell on it too much.

The Seahawks beat the hapless Raiders 27-3, and everything is blue in this world.

What I’m Geeked Out Still Numb About After Six Games

The obvious answer is to talk about the offensive line and the running game for the third consecutive week, but I’m gonna zag on this one.  The defense REALLY opened up some eyes here.  Last week’s overall performance against the Rams was pretty inspired, but the defense still gave up 33 points.  Without Earl Thomas, there’s more questions than answers with this secondary, and I wondered – heading into this one – if we’d continue to get scorched in the passing game.

But, this was as dominating a defensive performance as it gets, from soup to nuts!  Derek Carr averaged a measly 4.6 yards per attempt, as he looked to be consistently checking down to his running backs, or whoever was within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage.  I know we all love clowning on the Raiders under Jon Gruden, but their passing game – and really, their offense in general – has been pretty solid after their week 1 loss to the Rams.  Beastmode looks as strong as ever, and while he’s not getting the MOST out of Carr, he’s certainly getting more out of him than Jack Del Rio did in the last couple seasons.  But, in this one, the Seahawks had the gameplan to put their offense to sleep.

And hey!  What’s that I see?  Could it be?  A pass rush?!?!

You know it!  6 sacks!  2.5 from Frank Clark, who was a boss all day.  Jarran Reed had 1, as did Branden Jackson and Shamar Stephen (Quinton Jefferson had the 0.5, but also had 2 more tackles for loss on the day).  Now, I should point out that Tom Cable is the Raiders’ offensive line coach, so obviously theirs is one of the most inept units in the league (probably).  But, with this Seahawks pass rush unit, you’ll take what you can get.

The crown jewel of the whole thing was holding Beastmode himself to 45 yards on 13 carries.  And, as usual, most of those yards were after contact, as he just wills himself to fall forward on these go-nowhere rushes.  That guy is a living legend.

Other Things That Caught My Eye (In A Good Way) (But What Does It Matter Anyway?)

Let’s get back to the running game.  All in, we had 37 carries for 155 yards.  Carson led the way with 59, Penny got into the mix with 43, and Davis did his part with 21.  It’s good to see all those guys participate, as I still believe they’re all going to be vital in making the most out of this season.

Russell Wilson had another fantastic game.  He ran for 20 of those yards, looking to run more than he has in any other game this season.  He did most of his damage through the air though, going 17/23 for 222, with 3 TDs and 1 ill-advised INT into triple coverage.  It was sterling nonetheless.

Doug Baldwin got going, with 6 for 91.  David Moore continued to impress, with 2 for 47 and a TD.  Lockett caught another TD, as did Jaron Brown.  This is a formidable WR unit, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

Also, how about a nice word for the coaching staff?  They found an identity for this team and they’re sticking with it!  It’s working, after all, so it seems obvious, but how many times did we used to complain about Darrell Bevell out-thinking himself?  All too frequently going away from what was working in hopes of trying to outsmart the other team.  Sometimes, it’s better to just batter the other team into submission, thereby opening things up later in the game to do whatever you want.

I mean, the Seahawks REALLY looked like the more prepared team, from the opening gun.  We had a 14-play, 82 yard TD drive to start the game (the first time in 2 years since we scored a touchdown on our opening drive?) that took up half of the whole first quarter!  Then, as a proper bookend, after the Raiders kicked a meaningless field goal to pull the game to its final score, the Seahawks got the ball back with 8:25 left to go, and ran out ALL of the clock in 13 plays!  We were 9/13 on the day on 3rd down; we had 19 overall first downs.  Just a great, great day all around.

Let’s Talk About Competitions The Black Void Of Nothingness Because The Huskies Lost

Obviously, when you talk about holding a good passing game to next-to-nothing, you’re getting quality play out of your secondary.  I don’t have access to the All-22 tape, but I have to believe we saw a much better game out of Tedric Thompson as he continues to step up in Earl’s absence.  With nothing deep down field looking even enticing enough to ATTEMPT, I think that’s a great sign.

I saw Jacob Martin get a lot of play at defensive end, and he looked pretty disruptive.  Another great sign out of a young player we’re going to need to step up if we want to find a consistent pass rush in the second half of this season.

Finally, I’ll just say that I’m glad Tre Flowers was just cramping up, because for a while there I was worried we had another season-ending knee injury on our hands.

Other Things That Caught My Eye (In A Bad Way) (Because Fuck My Life)

Hard to complain, honestly, when we’re talking about a 27-3 demolition.  We continue to get absolutely nothing out of C.J. Prosise and Dion Jordan, who were both inactive.  Also, I guess Naz Jones mysteriously lost the will to play competitive football?  What happened to THAT guy?  He was supposed to be one of our up-and-comers!

Looking ahead, we have a BYE week, before our our 5th road game out of 7 (though, to be fair, London was more of a home-style crowd than we had any right to expect, which is nice).

Is It Possible The Seahawks Are Actually Good This Year?

Seeing is usually believing, because just believing can be deceiving (my name is M.C. Renob and I’m here to say …).

I don’t want to be sucked into this thing, is my point.  For starters, the Seahawks have already lost two games (Broncos & Bears) that they probably should’ve won.  At the VERY least, the Seahawks should’ve gone 1-1 in those games (history will prove that this year’s Broncos team is fucking trash), but because we played them on the road, we biffed it.  Now, at 2-3, we’re playing considerably better than we were a month ago, but we’re severely behind the 8-ball, and we’re going to be without our best defensive player in Earl Thomas.

Winning the division is out, which is a bummer to consider just 6 weeks into the season, but the Rams are the Rams and we’re not.  Nevertheless, last week’s game proved we can at least HANG with the Rams (albeit at home), and that game next month down in L.A. will be even more informative (because all NFC roads appear to be going through there in the playoffs).

I’ve been on the 8-8 train all along, and I’m not quite ready to jump onto the bandwagon just yet, but after last week’s hard-fought defeat, I have to ask:  could the Seahawks ACTUALLY be good?

This is the team we all expected heading into the season:  smashmouth, run-first on offense; quality against the run on defense, better than expected in the secondary, with a highly suspect pass rush.  The fact that it took us 2 weeks (and 2 losses) to figure it out is pretty frustrating, but that’s neither here nor there.  The point is, the blueprint is being followed, and the last three weeks the Seahawks have looked much better.  What does that mean going forward?

Well, for starters, this game in London is a Must Win.  The Raiders are bad, and you have to beat them if you expect to make the playoffs.

Fortunately, their defense is pretty crappy, so we should have no trouble running on them.  We should furthermore have no trouble throwing on them, as they traded away their one and only pass rushing asset in the offseason.  So, if we struggle on 3rd downs, or otherwise can’t move the ball against them, then that’s a REAL problem and I just don’t want to get into that right now.

The question becomes:  can our defense stop that Raiders offensive attack?  I don’t see why not.  For starters, they have Tom Cable running their O-Line, so even our weak-ass pass rush should be able to do SOMETHING, right?  Beastmode is legit, so he’ll get his, and I tend to like Derek Carr more than most (as long as I’m not counting on him for fantasy purposes) and think he’ll have no problem carving up our defense.  The problem for the Raiders, as I see it, is all the mistakes.  Carr throws too many interceptions – and really boneheaded ones to boot – to be a dependable quarterback in this league.  The Raiders, quite frankly, should look a lot more like the Seahawks on offense, except Russell Wilson knows how to take care of the football, and Derek Carr is reckless.

The Raiders will keep it close – and probably even win – if Carr plays a clean game.  The Seahawks likely will need a 2-turnover edge in the ol’ +/- to really put this one away like they should.  If the Seahawks move the ball well on offense, convert in the red zone (and don’t leave it up to our hit-or-miss kicker), and get a couple picks early, I think this could be a laugher by halftime (with Carr maybe getting some garbage points late in the game).

Not for nothing, but I think Seahawks fans are going to travel MUCH harder for this one, and their presence will be noticed on the broadcast.

The rest of this blog post gets thrown out the window if the Seahawks lose on Sunday, so let’s just assume we take care of business.

At 3-3, the Seahawks will head home and enjoy their BYE week.  We’ll use that extra week to try to figure out a way to slow down the Detroit offense.  Like with most of these games, the Seahawks and the Lions are pretty equal (I’d argue maybe the Lions are a little bit better on paper); with the game being in Detroit, I’d expect the Lions to be favored by a minimum of 3.5 points, all the way up to maybe 5 or 5.5 (assuming the Lions get to 3-3 heading into this showdown).  That’s probably a game the Seahawks need to win to be a wild card team (as it’s an NFC opponent, and one that figures to also be in the wild card hunt), and it’s not totally unreasonable that the Seahawks would pull it off.  Honestly, the Lions feel pretty similar to the Raiders, except Oakland has a better run game.

Then, the Seahawks catch the Chargers at home before going on the road to play the Rams.  I never like the Seahawks’ chances when playing the Chargers – because I think their offense is the most adept at picking us apart – but getting them in Seattle is a big help (as evidenced by our performance against the Rams).  To make the wild card, the Seahawks probably HAVE to win that one, because I can’t see us beating the Rams.

That would get us to 5-4 heading into another tough stretch.  We host the Packers on Thursday night.  They don’t look nearly as good as they’ve looked in recent seasons, and that’s yet another game we have to win.  Playing the Panthers on the road is never ideal, but that’s also not an elite team, and I think we actually match up with them pretty well.  Even if we go 1-1 against these two teams, things open up from there.

We close out with 4/5 at home.  In that stretch, we play a pretty hapless 49ers team twice, and the Cardinals once.  We HAVE to win those three.  That gets us to 9 wins.  We also get the Vikings at home, and they don’t look anywhere CLOSE to how good they were in 2017, so that should be another win.  That’s 10.  Finally, in week 16, we host the Chiefs (our season closes at home against the aforementioned Cards).  You never know how the season is gonna go, but the Chiefs could very well have their division clinched, and maybe even home field throughout the playoffs.  I mean, the AFC looks pretty soft, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they’re 12-2 at that point and just sort of going through the motions.  Are they going to go all out in a road game in nasty-weather Seattle?  Or, are they going to ease off the throttle and save it for a home game in week 17 against the Raiders?

I’m just saying, there’s a path to getting to 10-11 wins, and it doesn’t involve the Seahawks playing out of their minds.  It does, however, require this team to improve as the season goes on (as well as not losing too many more significant stars).

The Seahawks are already getting better-than-expected production out of Tre Flowers, Bradley McDougald, their entire running back room, and their offensive line.  They’re getting predictably good production from their quarterback, middle linebacker, Frank Clark, Tyler Lockett, Shquill Griffin, and their interior run-stuffing tackles.  They’ll hopefully get K.J. Wright and Doug Baldwin back to some semblance of full strength.

What we need to see is a guy or two step up from a pass rush standpoint.  We need Frank Clark to go from good to GREAT.  We need Dion Jordan to do literally anything.  We need Rasheem Green to get back on the field and give us something comparable to what Tre Flowers is doing for our secondary.  Or, we just need one of those other D-Linemen to come from out of nowhere and really surprise us, even if it’s unsustainable for the long term.

We also need someone to step into that Earl Thomas role and give us just 75% of what he was.  That means Tedric Thompson, improving his tackling, improving his angles in coverage, and making opportune plays (picks, tipped passes, forced fumbles).  There’s no magical fix coming; it has to come from within.

This season can be like the 2011 Seahawks or the 2012 Seahawks.  Recall the 2011 team went 7-9 and was still a year-plus away from really contending.  Whereas the 2012 team APPEARED to be a year-plus away, but got steadily better until it was steamrolling opponents by season’s end, and came within 30 seconds of getting to the NFC Championship Game.

How will this year go?  Well, a lot of it has to do with what happens the next two games.  It all starts in London on Sunday.  Can’t shit the bed there, or this season will REALLY go south in a hurry.

Seattle Seahawks 2018 Preview Part 1: The Good Stuff

There’s a pretty wide range of possible outcomes for the Seattle Seahawks in 2018, maybe more than we all think.

Tomorrow, I’ll talk about all the ways this season might be sunk, but for now let’s look on the bright side.  I’m on record as believing this is around a .500 football team; on more than one occasion I’ve pegged them as being anywhere from 7-9 to 9-7.  On the high end, that’s a wild card team; while the floor is being on the outside looking in with a disappointing mid-round draft pick.

But, can this team be even better than 9-7?  Can the Seahawks actually compete for a division title and maybe even make some noise in the playoffs?

Well, there’s a lot of “if’s” involved in that scenario.  I think the Seahawks would have to get extremely lucky and have a tremendous record in 1-score games (kind of like how the Mariners have a tremendous record in 1-run games).  Stuff that’s unsustainable long-term, but can certainly run in a team’s favor over the course of an anomalous season.

Included in that, the defense is going to have to be much better than expected.  That’s going to involve our best guys staying healthy all year (Wagner, Shaquill Griffin, Frank Clark), that’s going to involve some other guys stepping into more prominent roles and really breaking out compared to their career stats (guys like Dion Jordan, Naz Jones, Bradley McDougald, and Jarran Reed), and it’s going to require a lot of luck.  Fumble luck, the defense holding teams to a high percentage of field goals over TDs compared to the rest of the league, and maybe even some good fortune on third downs compared to what we’ve seen so far this pre-season.  A lot of that is hard to predict.  I can sit here and look at past numbers and project that this defense as it’s currently constructed (without the help of Earl Thomas for most of the regular season) is going to be pretty mediocre.  But, all the variables I’ve talked about go a long way towards projecting actual wins and losses.  If the Seahawks are good against the teams they’re supposed to beat, and win more of those 50/50 matchups than they lose, I could certainly see this as a wild card team (if I squint really hard, maybe even a division winner … if the team somehow finds a way to beat the Rams at least once).

Just know that a lot has to break right for this team to be taken seriously.  Wild Card teams take care of business against teams inferior to them (the Bears, the Cardinals, the Cowboys at home, the Raiders in London) and they have to do pretty well against other potential Wild Card teams (the Broncos, the 49ers, the Lions, the Panthers, the Chiefs).  Divisional champs not only have to do well in those games (which comprises 11 of our 16 games), but they have to win about half of the games against other potential division champs (the Rams, the Packers, the Vikings, the Chargers).  The good thing about this time of year is that we really don’t know how difficult this schedule is going to be.  Some of the teams projected to be elite will fall on their faces, either due to injuries or because they’re over-rated.  Likewise, some of the potential bad teams will be a lot better than projected, due to luck or being under-rated.  You’d like the Seahawks to be perfect against the bad teams (5-0), really good against the Wild Card teams (4-2), and win around half of the games against the good teams (2-3 or 3-2).  That’s the mark of a division champ.  Thankfully, it looks like the early part of the schedule is pretty reasonable, so even though the Seahawks start with a lot of road games, if they come out on fire, it could set things up nicely down the line.

So, let’s talk about what’s right about this team; it starts with the offense.

Make no mistake, the offense MUST carry the load.  Fortunately, I think that’s well within our grasp.

If the offensive line stays healthy, I’m just gonna say it:  we will be GOOD.  I think the left side of the line will be rock solid, I think Fluker is a great addition to the team, and I think Ifedi will make great strides towards not being the very worst in all of football.  The bar for him to clear appears to be Breno Giacomini.  I think a lot of Seahawks fans remember him fondly, as he was the right tackle of the last really good O-Line on this team.  Well, if you REALLY think about it, he wasn’t super amazing.  He was just okay.  He made a lot of boneheaded plays – including a lot of personal foul penalties – that would set this team back.  But, since the team liked to run Marshawn Lynch behind him an awful lot – and we had success doing it – Giacomini sort of gets a pass.  Well, I believe Ifedi can be as good or better than Giacomini.  If he is, and the rest of the line holds, we could be looking at the best offense of the Russell Wilson era.

Speaking of, Wilson had one of the more prolific fantasy football seasons last year, as he basically WAS the offense for the Seahawks.  Now that we have a competent O-Line, and a running game that should carry its share of the load, there might be cause for concern that Wilson’s fantasy numbers will taper off.  I’m here to tell you:  rest assured, he’ll be fine.  If the defense is as shaky as I expect it to be, then I anticipate the Seahawks will be behind in its share of games and will therefore need a lot of second half scoring to come back.  On top of which, with a unified play-calling situation, I fully expect that we won’t get off to so many slow starts.  Ergo, I think the Seahawks will be scoring early AND often, and Russell Wilson’s numbers will surge accordingly.

I think Chris Carson is a 1,000-yard back, with conservatively 8 rushing TDs, though I could easily see him get into the double-digits.  It shouldn’t take people long to realize they were asleep at the switch in ignoring this guy in fantasy drafts, and if he’s somehow out on waivers in your league, I’d snap him up in a hurry.

Behind Carson, as I’ve said before, I think this is the deepest running back room we’ve seen in Seattle in quite some time.  Mike Davis is a man.  Rashaad Penny will be available as a change of pace.  Prosise will be around whenever he’s not nicked up.  And, McKissic should be back after Week 8 to provide a nice boost.

Moreover, this team is BUILT to feature the run.  The tight end room is strong, with Vannett and Dissly getting the bulk of the snaps, though Darrell Daniels is a good third guy to have until Ed Dickson comes off the PUP.

As teams gear up to stop our run game again, that should open things up in play-action, which is Wilson’s specialty.  It’s so huge, for both the deep AND intermittent passing range.  We’ve got Lockett and Jaron Brown who are solid deep threats (as well as Baldwin and maybe even David Moore on occasion).  While Baldwin’s knee injury is concerning, the fact that he’s giving it a go and feels he can manage it is encouraging.  I would expect him to miss quite a bit of practice time, but he’s got a good rapport with Wilson and is one of the best receivers in football, so if anyone can succeed with this thing, it’s a super tough guy like Baldwin.  And, on top of Baldwin and Lockett, we’ve got Brandon Marshall in the red zone who should make some noise.

If you asked me to craft the perfect receiving situation for the Seahawks, this is it.  No-nonsense football players; not a diva in the group.  The closest thing would be Marshall, but he’s on a veteran 1-year prove-it deal and is really in no position to be disrupting things in the slightest.  He’s also – much like our Offensive Coordinator – playing with the best quarterback he’s ever had, so he should have plenty of opportunities to make plays.  The fact that he’s produced everywhere he’s been (while healthy) gives me great encouragement.  And, even if he gets hurt, we have enough behind him to pick up the slack.

The only concern I have about this group is probably execution on 3rd down.  There will be plenty of down-field chunk plays to get into scoring position, but you’re still talking about a team that plays loose and sloppy with the penalties.  That’s not going away under Pete Carroll; it’s just not.  So, we’re going to see this offense “behind schedule” more than the national average, which means doing well on 3rd down is a high priority.  If this team fails in that regard – or if it really hasn’t gotten over its early-game struggles we all bemoaned under Bevell – then we could see this team fall behind in a lot of games, and not have enough in the tank to overcome those deficits.

Bottom line:  the offense needs to be Top 5 for this team to be really good.  And it has to start in Game 1; we can’t sustain any more growing pains with this side of the ball, because the defense won’t be there to pick up the slack.

The most fun part of this team could be its Special Teams.  It wouldn’t shock me in the slightest to see this unit decide 2-3 games this year.  That’s including, obviously, our All Pro punter shifting field position.  That’s figuring we’ll be in a lot of close games, which means a field goal here and there could make all the difference (not to mention those all-important extra-long extra points).  And, who knows?  Maybe our returners play a bigger role in affecting these games, either with TDs scored or with long returns that put our offense in prime real estate.  I think there’s a lot to like about all facets of the Special Teams, but also a lot of opportunities for luck to play a heavy role.  A field goal kicker making an insane percentage of kicks; our blockers on these returns not getting called for holds or blocks in the back every fucking time.  It’s all going to play a huge role in how many games this team wins this year.

While it’s ultimately hard to see this team seriously contending for a Super Bowl (as I’ll get into tomorrow), this should nevertheless be a fun team to watch.  We should see plenty of offense and plenty of young guys stepping into prominent roles on defense.  If it all breaks right, we could be talking about one of the true sleepers in the league this year:  a team that no one is expecting anything from, who comes out of nowhere to take the league by storm.  While not probable, it IS possible, and that’s all you can ask for this time of year.

Nobody Wants To Hear About My Fantasy Team: The All-Important Draft

See the first post in this series for what I’m talking about here.

Well, we did it.  I drafted my team and, if I do say so myself, I think I did a pretty good job!  Of course, I always say so myself, because why wouldn’t I?  I brought in these players, I must like them to some extent!  Because they’ve yet to disappoint me.

It’s all downhill from here.

As I talked about last time, my 3 keepers are Wentz, Fournette, and Elliott.  Since I had my RBs set, I didn’t have to focus on them too much in the early going.  So, after the first three rounds took care of the keepers, I went to work bolstering my WR unit.

I picked 8th, in every round.  I won’t list out every single pick, but I’ll at least show you the first round, to give you an idea of the players we had available:

  1. Le’Veon Bell
  2. Saquon Barkley
  3. Melvin Gordon
  4. Cam Newton
  5. Keenan Allen
  6. Davante Adams
  7. Matthew Stafford

So, those were the guys taken right before me.  Both of the top QBs that were left out there, the top 3 RBs, and my two favorite WRs.  I was bound and determined to get a receiver; the available ones were:  A.J. Green, Mike Evans, Gronk (technically a TE, but still), T.Y. Hilton, and Tyreek Hill.  I went with Hill.  I like Mahomes a lot, I like that offense, I think Hill is a stud in the prime of his career who will be the focal point of that passing game (as opposed to the tight end-centric offense run under Alex Smith), and I just believe he has the highest upside to really blow out some games.

I should point out that all of those other receivers I listed off were taken by the time I drafted again.  I still wanted to go WR – to knock that position out of the way – even though I desperately needed a second QB (and, one might argue, a FIRST QB, since who knows when Wentz will be ready).  Adam Thielen was sitting there and he felt like an obvious pick, so I took him (the other WRs were Amari Cooper, Jarvis Landry, Larry Fitzgerald, and Doug Baldwin; I think I made clearly the best choice).

By my next pick, all of those receivers were gone, as well as the next two best tight ends (Kelce and Ertz), so I went into the QB well.  No more QBs were taken after Cam & Stafford, so I had my pick of the shit-filled kitty litter.  I went with Derek Carr, upside over recent success.  I think he’ll be a transformed player under Jon Gruden and even if the Raiders are a terrible team, I think they’ll be behind in a lot of games and throwing the ball a ton.  Plus, they don’t really have a defined #1 RB (a respectable committee led by Beastmode), so I think this could be great for me.  The other QBs available were Ben Roethlisberger, Alex Smith, Blake “The Bort” Bortles, Dak Prescott, and Case Keenum.  Ben is obviously better, but I can’t trust him to play a full season.  I might regret not taking Alex Smith though.

When it came back to me, in Round 7, Demaryius Thomas was still sitting there at the top of the Yahoo rankings.  I needed a flex guy, and honestly the value I was getting for Denver’s #1 receiver was too good to pass up.  I might’ve gotten the steal of the draft, or he might be the bust that everyone is expecting.  We’ll see, I’ll take my chances.  By taking him, though, I missed out on Chris Carson, his teammate Emmanuel Sanders, Jacksonville’s defense, the Rams’ defense, Allen Robinson, and Corey Davis, among others.

In Round 8, I took the best tight end available (who was also among the best overall players available), Greg Olsen.  My plan going into the draft was to wait until one of the last three rounds to take a tight end (as well as a defense and a kicker), but Olsen is elite, and the drop-off in tight ends was significant (plus, like I said, he was one of the top players remaining).  I missed out on Marquise Goodwin, Mark Ingram, and Minnesota’s defense, among others.

Next, I started filling my bench, with Robert Woods leading the way.  At this point, I still haven’t grabbed a third RB, and that might be my undoing if I have injuries to my top two guys.  A run on RBs went right after I took Woods, with guys like Lynch, Peyton Barber, Rex Burkhead, Chris Thompson, Dion Lewis, and Carlos Hyde all going off the board.

In Round 10, I went back to QB, because it’s always smart to have a competent third (in case of injuries, BYEs, or if Derek Carr really does suck), so I bought low on Andy Dalton.  In Round 10 of a 2-QB league, I think I got really good value on this one too.  Plus, I think everyone is severely underrating him this year, and I like him to bounce back in a big way.  I passed on Jameis Winson, because I can’t have his 3-game suspension hanging over my head if I don’t know Wentz’s status those weeks and I didn’t want to have to roster 4 QBs.  I also passed on guys like Mitch Trubisky, Mayfield & Darnold, Ryan Tannehill, and Eli Manning, which I’m okay with.

Next up, Adrian Peterson was still there, so I grabbed him.  I don’t know if that’s going to work out for me, but he’s a #1 RB in the 11th round, so beggars can’t be choosers.  The other RBs available were all backups or in time-shares (Latavius Murray, Sony Michel, James Conner, Nick Chubb, Kerryon Johnson, and Marlon Mack, among others).  If worse comes to worse and I need an RB off waivers, I’m sure I can find someone, so I’m not too worried about it.  If best comes to best, then in AP I have a 1,000-yard rusher on a good offense.  (I will say that I’m disappointed that Will Fuller V was taken 2 picks after this; I think he’s a stud).

In Round 12, Jordan Reed was still there, so I grabbed him.  Yep, the guy who was going to wait and take whatever TE was left over in the final rounds … ended up drafting TWO of them.  But, when healthy, Reed is a Top 3 TE.  And now he has Alex Smith throwing to him, the ultimate in TE-friendly QBs.  Plus, Greg Olsen is getting up there, so it’s nice to have some TE insurance.

In the lucky 13th round, I grabbed Kenny Stills.  All the podcasts I was listening to in the week leading up to the draft cited this guy as a potential break-out player.  Tannehill apparently loves him, he’s a target monster, and with Landry out of the picture, he should be the team’s #1.  I am CRUSHING this draft with all the value I’m getting!

In the final two rounds, I finally had to go grab a defense and a kicker.  I drafted Baltimore’s defense in the 14th, and ‘Frisco’s Robbie Gould in the 15th.  Whatever.

Yahoo’s stupid grading system put me in the middle of the pack with a B grade.  It hated my Derek Carr pick (about 6 rounds too early according to ADP?), but it loves my Thielen pick, as well as my RB keepers.  My team is the 2nd oldest in the league, which might be troubling; then again, my tendency is to draft a lot of young guys and where has it gotten me?  Nowhere near the championship trophy, that’s for damn sure.

So, we’ll see how it goes.  My schedule is one of the toughest in the league, so that’s fucking great.  Then again, why should I trust Yahoo’s grading?

Not Winners & Losers Of The Seahawks’ Third Pre-Season Game 2018

On Friday, the Seahawks played their all-important third pre-season game.  The official tune-up to the regular season, where the starters play into the third quarter, and we all set this up to be a preview of what the games will look like when they start to count (while keeping in mind that it’s still the pre-season, and as such things aren’t going 100 miles per hour like they will be in two weeks).  The Seahawks had a fancy matchup in Minnesota against one of the elites of the NFC, so this test was particularly enticing.  The starters left the game with a 13-6 lead, however 4th quarter shenanigans resulted in the Vikings winning 21-20 as the backup defense couldn’t stop a come-from-behind touchdown/2-point conversion in the closing minutes.

What I’m Geeked Out About After Three Meaningless Pre-Season Games

So, go ahead and put me in the train conductor’s seat of the Chris Carson Bandwagon Express, because I am FULL SPEED AHEAD on this guy!  You have no idea how high I am on this kid; I think he’s absolutely going to kill it (if he stays healthy).  I’m 2 for 2 in fantasy leagues drafting this kid; in one league, he was a steal because outside of Seattle (this was a random standard league I joined for practice) no one is expecting him to be anything, so if you’re in a league full of non-Seahawks fans, you can sit on him and get him for a song.  In my other league, though, I took him with the first pick in the fifth round which … is maybe three rounds too early?  Maybe five rounds?  I dunno.  All I know is he was a REACH, and I was suckered into taking him that early because my brother was in the room and kept telling me he was going to be his next pick.

Here’s the thing though (I should really be saving this for my fantasy column later this week, but whatever), by the time you get to the 5th round of any fantasy draft, all the elite running backs are gone.  So, you’re sifting through promising rookies, running back committees, injury concerns, and handcuffs.  Here’s the bottom line:  of all the running backs who were taken after I went after Carson – in order through the end of the 6th round, they were Jordan Howard, Jerick McKinnon, LeSean McCoy, Joe Mixon, Alex Collins, Derrick Henry, Jay Ajayi, and Lamar Miller – I believe Carson will be better from a fantasy perspective than ALL of those guys.  He’s earned the starting job out of the pre-season – thanks in part to Penny’s finger injury, but mostly due to his utter dominance – and I think he’ll run away with it in the regular season.

It’s my firm belief that Chris Carson will be the Beastmode replacement we’ve all been waiting for, and I’m willing to risk my fantasy football happiness on it.

Also, this needs to be in the geeked out category, because OH MY GOD MICHAEL DICKSON IS MY NEW FAVORITE HUMAN!!!  Just, watch all his punts again, over and over, on a loop, forever in my dreams.

Other Things That Caught My Eye (In A Good Way)

The offensive line was absolutely spectacular.  This week, George Fant moved from left to right to start pushing Germain Ifedi, and Ifedi responded with – I want to say – his greatest game as a professional.  I don’t know who is going to come away with the starting job in week 1, but the line as a whole will be a lot better just having Fant competing for that spot.  He’s easily the 6th best lineman on this team – if not the 5th – so it’s much more important getting him work on the right side, rather than exclusively backing up Duane Brown.

Brandon Marshall had his best game as a Seahawk, catching all 3 balls thrown his way, including a nifty 20-yard pass where he boxed the defender out and went up high to snag it.  He easily looks like the best veteran re-tread we’ve brought in here, and should be the first one to actually make the team.

David Moore keeps looking better and better every time I see him.  He caught a 36-yard TD pass from McGough in the second half on 3rd down, and he brought a punt back to the house (that was called back for the world’s most bogus holding penalty you’ve ever seen).

The defense was still a little shaky, but the run defense returned to form, holding the Vikings to 58 yards on 24 carries.  That’s going to be huge for this team.

Let’s Talk About Competitions

It’s far too early to call the Ifedi vs. Fant matchup, but I saw Fant get a shot with the #1 offense starting with the third drive of the game, so it’s legit.  Honestly, I think they both looked pretty good – and I was really focused on Fant when he went in there – so it very well might come down to this week’s practices and this game coming up on Thursday against the Raiders.  All Ifedi has to do is hold his own and I think he has the edge.  But, if he slips up and reverts back to his crappy ways, Fant could easily slide in there and steal the job.

Boy, do I need to not see Austin Davis as this team’s backup QB.  I think we will, just because what team is going to stuff McGough on its 53-man roster as a 7th rounder who’s looked okay, but is still a real project?  The Seahawks should have no trouble whatsoever sneaking McGough onto the Practice Squad.  That having been said, Davis is a disaster.  He was 2/3 for -1 yard on his 2 drives (both 3 & Outs).  Considering he was 1/3 for 6 yards against the Chargers on his 2 drives in that game, and a mighty 4/5 for 51 yards and a mind-boggling interception in the endzone against the Colts (across, again, 2 drives), and you have to ask:  what has Davis done to earn a job?  He hasn’t even looked COMPETENT, let alone good!  I’d rather roll the dice with a playmaker in McGough at this point.  He could struggle, sure, but his upside is off the charts compared to Davis.  Plus, if we’re risking our season’s chances on anyone outside of Russell Wilson, then the season is already a lost cause as it is, so might as well give the youngster some experience.

Other Things That Caught My Eye (In A Bad Way)

I thought Russell Wilson just looked sort of okay.  He had all day to throw, but somehow was only 11/21 for 118 yards.  I suppose some of that is on Minnesota’s defense, as they have one of the best in all of football.  I nevertheless have to believe that if we had Wilson finish this game, we would’ve won it.

The talk of this game has to be what the Vikings did on 3rd & 4th down, as they converted 13 of 22 combined.  I’ve been harping on that endlessly as the main key to this Seahawks’ season, and it’s not going away any time soon.  The Seahawks tend to get much better pressure on 1st & 2nd downs, with key blitzes getting to the quarterback; then, on 3rd down, we go super vanilla, the QB has all day to throw, and he picks us apart.  Time and time again!  It’s like we rely on the QB making a mistake, vs. actually forcing him INTO one.  What I’m trying to say is, maybe we should start blitzing more on 3rd down and getting the fuck off the field!

That having been said, we were a lot better after the first quarter, when they had the ball for all but a couple minutes.  But, that brings us to our other main problem on defense:  not forcing turnovers.

No picks.  One fumble that bounced Minnesota’s way.  That’s a week after the Chargers played a clean game.  We have 1 fumble recovery (against the Colts) in three games.  If that holds through the regular season (1 turnover every 3 games), we’re in trouble.

Finally, zero sacks on Kirk Cousins.  Like I said before, some blitzes got home, but nothing that did any damage.  Part of stopping teams on drives is getting to the QB when you’re using just a 4-man rush, and the Seahawks couldn’t hack it.

This week, the most meaningless of all pre-season games (except for those guys a the back-end of the roster).  We won’t have Tanner McEvoy to kick around anymore, as he was rightfully cut for being no good, so the WR picture gets a little more clear.

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:

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:

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.