The Seahawks Had An Unexciting Draft This Year

It’s interesting to go through the years – dating back to 2010, because I’m less into the idea of going back to the wild west days and trying to decipher a through-line – and see where things went right and where they went wrong. Obviously, the 2010-2012 drafts were epic and life-changing. But, there’s a real argument to be made that every single draft since then has been a failure.

Just scroll through this. Let’s leave 2022-2024 out of it, because there’s just not enough information to make a sound judgment in such a short period of time. But, 2013-2021? I think Seahawks fans with rose-colored glasses will say there have been peaks and valleys in our draft classes in this span. 2013 was pretty miserable and I don’t think anyone can really defend it at this point. But, if you want to think positively, you can say they’ve consistently found role players, contributors, and even starters.

In 2014, they got an offensive line starter in Justin Britt; in 2015, there was Frank Clark and Tyler Lockett. In 2016, there’s Germain Ifedi and Jarran Reed; in 2017, there’s Ethan Pocic and Shaquill Griffin. In 2018, you’re looking at Michael Dickson and Will Dissly; in 2019 there’s D.K. Metcalf. You could say 2020 was the start of a rebound by this organization, with guys like Jordyn Brooks, Darrell Taylor, and Damien Lewis rounding things out; but, also, almost this entire class is on other teams, and the three picks in 2021 produced absolutely no one.

Not a lot of second contracts in Seattle among this bunch. Lockett, Metcalf, and Dickson are the three greatest Seahawks draft picks since 2013. Everyone else were just role players, or able bodies who ate up an offensive line spot. But, no one has really flashed. No one has stood out. It’s all been pretty middling talent, which has led to middling results for this team.

I’m willing to believe in the 2022 and 2023 classes, because I think there’s a lot of meat on the bone. Charles Cross can still be great. Boye Mafe really took a big step in year two. Kenneth Walker is a fuckin’ stud. Abe Lucas, when healthy, can be a beast. Coby Bryant and Tariq Woolen can be ball hawks in the right scheme. Devon Witherspoon clearly has All Pro type talent. Jaxon Smith-Njigba could be amazing if he’s unleashed in the right offense. Derick Hall has the body type to do great things, Zach Charbonnet flashed true elite greatness as a rookie, Anthony Bradford could be a mauler at guard, Cam Young and Mike Morris could be big bodies in a solid D-Line rotation, and Olu Oluwatimi figures to be in a battle for this year’s starting center job as a fifth round pick in his second season. That’s a lot of potential greatness just waiting to be unleashed by the right coaching staff.

But, then again, we’ve already seen the writing on the wall that many of these guys could be busts. Should it really take a left tackle in Charles Cross 3+ years to develop into a star? Shouldn’t that guy enter the league ready to take it by storm? You’ve got two second-round running backs in there, a devalued position that’s frequently getting itself injured. Speaking of injuries, Lucas appears to have a chronic knee issue, and it can only be a matter of time before Witherspoon – with the way he attacks players with reckless abandon – plays himself out of the league a la Jamal Adams. If Kam Chancellor had to retire early due to medicals, what makes you think some tiny dude like Witherspoon is going to last very long into a second contract? JSN sure looked pedestrian for his rookie season as the #1 receiver drafted; Mafe and Hall could both be one-trick ponies unable to set an edge or play at all against the run. There’s whispers about Woolen’s toughness and ability to stay healthy; I could go on and on picking these draft classes apart.

The thing is, I really want to believe in John Schneider. I want to believe it was Pete Carroll putting his foot down and leading to the worst personnel decisions of the last decade. But, I dunno. The last three draft classes – including this one that took place over the weekend – have had decidedly different feels compared to the ones that came before. It’s really felt like a Best Player Available festival, which is a strategy I hold near and dear to my heart. But, if we proceed to spend the next 3-5 years finishing at or around .500, without any real charge towards Super Bowl contention, then I think it will be pretty obvious that this front office doesn’t know what the hell it’s doing any more than any other front office, and 2010-2012 will be seen as flukes more than anything else.

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That’s a lot of preamble – and a negative one at that – to get to what I actually thought was a pretty smart draft by the Seahawks. If there’s ever going to be a draft that seriously turns things around for this franchise, it’s going to be one that features a lot of bulk along the line of scrimmage, and absolutely nothing with any of the skill positions.

What have we been complaining about for years? Even during the Super Bowl years, what were we after? Elite defensive tackles who can rush the passer and be a force in the middle against the run. From 2013-2019, we drafted 12 guys who were either DT’s or plus-sized DE’s who we wanted to slide inside on passing downs; those were all some of our greatest busts. Malik McDowell, L.J. Collier, Rasheem Green, Naz Jones, Jesse Williams, Demarcus Christmas; the list goes on and on. Jarran Reed was the only guy worth a damn in that bunch, and even he wasn’t worth it – in the minds of this front office – to spend on that second contract he received. Defensive tackle has been a fucking wasteland for this franchise, and if it wasn’t for Michael Bennett sliding inside during the glory years, we’d be talking about spanning multiple decades of futility.

So, yeah, I’m pretty excited about Byron Murphy. I’m also justifiably reserved in my excitement, because while it’s great to say we got the best all-around defensive lineman in this class, you also can’t deny that we got him with the 16th pick. The NFL deemed 15 other guys better than him. I know a lot of those teams had more pressing needs – mostly on the offensive side of the ball, what with the first 14 picks going that way – but if there was a true juggernaut, no-doubter of a defensive behemoth ready to plug-and-play as a future All Pro and maybe even Hall of Famer, there’s no way that player would’ve fallen to 16. You think Will Anderson – had he left for the NFL this year – would’ve been there for us? Or Aidan Hutchinson, or Chase Young, or Nick Bosa, or Quinnen Williams? I don’t think so.

I think the odds are a lot better that Byron Murphy was the best of a very weak defensive line class, than he’s a future game-wrecker in the mold of Aaron Donald or Geno Atkins. He’ll probably be good, but I’m not holding my breath waiting around for him to be great. As long as he’s not a fucking turd like just about every other defensive tackle we’ve drafted in the last decade, I’ll be happy.

One of the big problems with this draft is how it laid out for the Seahawks. This was a top-heavy draft, with an extremely thin bunch of players in Day 3. If ever there was a draft to select your next punter, kicker, or even long-snapper, this was the one. And, unfortunately for us – when all was said and done – only two of our eight picks were in the first three rounds, where the odds were best we’d actually find useful players. Even though we traded down once – at the top of the fourth round, to get an extra sixth, I think – we didn’t have any sort of capital to make the kinds of moves necessary to give us back the second rounder we lost in the Leonard Williams deal. Had we traded out of 16, we likely would’ve missed out on the last remaining true impact players. Would that have been worth a pick in the mid-20’s and mid-50’s? Probably not.

So, instead, we stuck at 16, took the best player available, and had a LOOOOOONG wait until pick 81 in the third round.

Where we took Christian Haynes, a quality guard who figures to start right away, and might even convert to center, to give us more beef at that spot than we’ve had since Max Unger. I don’t know how good a lineman is from UConn, but draftniks seem to like him, so that’s good enough for me.

I hear the inside linebacker we got from UTEP in the fourth round, Tyrice Knight, is more of a project than a guy we can plug and play. I’m assuming we missed out on the linebacker we actually wanted, and settled for this guy because that was a particular need (one of the few instances where we probably went away from our BPA strategy). I don’t expect Knight to be much of anything.

I also don’t expect much out of our other fourth rounder, A.J. Barner, tight end out of Michigan, but for very different reasons. I actually like the pick, because it sounds like he’s one of the better blocking tight ends in this class, and that was certainly a position of need. If we can get tougher at that position, I’m all for it, because it’s almost like drafting another lineman. He’s probably NOT the stone-hands catcher we’re all imagining, but he’s also not going to drastically improve this offense with his receiving. But, if he opens up holes in the running game, and gives our quarterback a little extra time to make a throw, he’s exactly the kind of tight end I want on my roster.

With our last four picks, we took two cornerbacks from Auburn, and two more offensive line projects. It certainly seems strange to invest so heavily in cornerback depth, when there’s no realistic way we can keep all these guys on our roster (Witherspoon, Woolen, Brown, Jackson, the two rookies, Artie Burns, Coby Bryant (unless we’re still turning him into a safety)), but maybe we’re looking to wheel and deal during training camp. Or, maybe some hard cuts are a-comin’. Either way, until further notice, guys like Nehemiah Pritchett and D.J. James are just camp fodder, and probably practice squad-bound, unless they really stand out as special teamers.

As for the O-Line projects, we got a widebody from Utah named Sataoa Laumea, and some no-name guy from Findlay who goes by Michael Jerrell. Laumea, by all accounts, is the more interesting of the two, as he could conceivably have a shot at contending for a starting spot. Jerrell might as well already be on the practice squad, but I’m not going to hold that against him.

We took three offensive linemen in this draft, that’s not lost on me. I think that’s a huge development for this team. Not that they’ve neglected the O-Line, necessarily. They’re always taking bites at the apple. But, they’ve also failed so miserably for so long, while getting by with middling production from guys on rookie deals. It’s nice to see they haven’t given up. There’s a way to build this unit up from the draft; other teams do it all the time. You need your foundational guys like Charles Cross to pan out, but you also need your mid-rounders like Lucas and Haynes and Bradford and Laumea to develop in a hurry and take the world by storm. I want to be the team that’s the envy of fans across the league. I want them to look at the Seahawks and think, “How do they keep finding these diamonds in the rough later in the draft?!” It’s nice to do it at cornerback and wide receiver, but when you can do it on the O-Line, you’ve really got something.

Half of this draft went to the line of scrimmage; when you throw in a primarily blocking tight end, and an inside linebacker who’s going to have to attack that LOS on the regular, that’s 3/4 of your draft going to the most important non-quarterback spots on the team. If we’re ever going to turn this thing around, it’s either going to be by finding another transcendent quarterback, or by killing it everywhere else. Since we’re bound and determined to ignore QB in the draft every fucking year, then we’ve gotta start putting in work on Plan B. Devoting the bulk of your draft to the LOS, while signing Leonard Williams to a long-term extension, and bringing back George Fant to be offensive tackle depth, is a great start to that process.

Now, let’s check back in three years and see if this class – and any of the others that came before it – are worth a damn.

No One’s Really Talking About The Seahawks’ Offensive Line

The consensus biggest cause for concern when it comes to the Seahawks is the rush defense. For good reason. We were terrible at stopping the run last year. It cost us at least three very winnable games last year (vs. Tampa in Germany, vs. Vegas in an overtime shootout, and mystifyingly at home against a mediocre Panthers team). You also can’t help but wonder how we lost to the likes of the Falcons and Saints, but the rush defense deficiencies really presented itself as the season wore on, and the Bucs exposed us as a team entirely ill-equipped to prevent yards on the ground.

Rush defense is also the biggest cause for concern because I think a lot of fans question whether the Seahawks did enough to address this area of need. That remains to be seen, but I feel like it’ll be better than we expect, even if it’s far from ideal.

A lowkey potential problem lies in the offensive line though, and I don’t think anyone is giving it the attention it deserves.

I think, for the most part, people were happy with the Seahawks’ offense in general last year. We got to be pleasantly surprised; that’s always fun. Geno Smith rose from the ashes to become a competent starting quarterback in this league. The top receivers both had 1,000-yard seasons. The running backs – led by Kenneth Walker – were electric and impactful. And, the play-calling was better than we’ve seen in ages.

But, there were still a number of games where the offense really struggled. Not just against the 49ers, though those three games definitely stand out (including our first round exit in the playoffs). And I think Geno largely gets a pass even though his numbers declined as the season wore on.

The O-Line gets a pass too, though I would argue a lot of his challenges were a direct result of protection problems.

If you had to critique Geno’s performance as a whole in 2022, what would you say were his biggest areas in need of improvement? Third downs, and late game production. Even though he eventually did lead us to a few come-from-behind victories, or otherwise winning us games late, it seems like in most of our losses we had opportunities to snatch a victory, but fell short.

Shockingly, I don’t have the numbers, but what I saw indicated a team that was really lacking in protection on third downs in obvious passing situations. How many times did we see Geno take a back-breaking sack on third and long? Some of that might be on him, holding the ball too long, or not finding the open man (if there was a man open), but a good chunk of that was a total failure by the line to give him any time whatsoever. I never felt confident that we’d convert a third & long, in any situation, but especially late in games. They just crumbled under the increased pressure, and as a result too many drives ended in a whimper.

Now, obviously, the Seahawks have certain advantages with their O-Line that many teams don’t get to enjoy. On the whole, the line is fine. To me, it’s middle-of-the-road. It’s not like some of those offensive lines during the lesser Russell Wilson years. Sure, both were relatively inexpensive, but this one is actually seeing results, whereas those older ones were legitimate liabilities (and deserved to be considered among this team’s chief problem areas). We’re getting by with bookend tackles on rookie contracts. Our guards are home-grown. And the center carousel keeps turning, but at least this year we have a viable rookie to push the retread free agent we signed in the offseason. To get middle-of-the-road production from a unit so underpaid is a blessing! It allows us to field a competent offense while bolstering other areas of the team into real strengths.

But, now we’re talking about a team that wants to play with the big dogs. We’re talking about a team coming off of a surprising playoff run, that’s looking to take the next step into potentially winning the division and contending for the conference title. I don’t know if any reasonable fan or pundit would rank the Seahawks as highly as the Eagles or 49ers, but A LOT of them are picking the Seahawks as either a dark horse or a frisky contender (largely based on the perceived weakness of the NFC, but still).

I am of the belief that the Seahawks can’t simply replicate their 2022 offense and all of a sudden win 2-3 more games. I think most of us are of the opinion that the 2023 defense will be improved over their 2022 counterparts. But, we’re going to need the offense to take a similar step forward if we really want to compete with the likes of the 49ers. Since the skill guys are largely the same, that means we’re going to need a boost from the O-Line, and that’s what has me worried here today.

There’s a lot of talk about a sophomore slump vs. a sophomore boost (or whatever, I don’t remember the exact phrasing Pete Carroll used) when it comes to the likes of Charles Cross and Abe Lucas. Again, we’re thrilled they were rookies last year and played a full season, but they WILL need to step it up if we’re going to be better. I don’t 100% buy into those PFF grades, as I’ve heard they’re inherently flawed, but I’m still not encouraged by their regular low grades in both pass and run blocking. The PFF grades aren’t good for nothing, and I’d like to see them start to show out for the nerds.

I don’t get the sense that Damien Lewis is a problem, necessarily, but I also don’t know that he’s a huge benefit either. He’s never mentioned among the top guards in football. It’s nice that he’s a gamer, and he’s on a rookie deal as a third rounder who’s started since his first year. But, he kinda feels like Just A Guy. On the other side, there’s no question that Phil Haynes outplayed Gabe Jackson last year in a time-share situation; with Jackson gone, you’d think that’s an upgrade. But, there’s a reason why Haynes has largely been a fringe player in this league. He was a fourth round rookie and a backup in 2019 (after being injured for most of that season), on the IR in 2020, waived and on our practice squad for most of 2021, until finally last year he got an opportunity. Any team could’ve had him, and chose to let him remain a Seahawk. He’s on a cheap 1-year deal this year, because again, no one else wanted him. And now you figure he’s going to be pushed by Anthony Bradford, another fourth round rookie. Was Haynes as good as he was last year because he only played about half the time? Can he sustain for a full season as the starter at right guard?

Then, there’s the center. Evan Brown, in a long line of journeymen centers we’ve brought over here in the wake of the mistake that was trading Max Unger for Jimmy Graham way back in the day. He’s a guy who played guard and center for the Lions last year, and to his credit was much better as a center. That being said, you’re talking about a guy making less than $3 million on a 1-year deal. A guy, like Haynes, who it appears nobody else wanted. Someone who – like the rest of our interior line – is a JAG who may be better than some of the previous centers we’ve employed here, but that’s not saying much.

And then there’s our depth. Ye gods!

I’ve been killing these backups all month for the pisspoor performances we’ve seen from them in the first two preseason games. Again, for good reason! They’ve stunk! The running game can’t get going, the quarterback can’t get into a rhythm, and for whatever reason (maybe because we’ve won both games) people have just ignored this unit entirely! Sure, they’re backups, but they’re also going up against backups, and I can’t help but be alarmed by how inept our guys have been.

You could replace Stone Forsythe with a statue and get comparable results; he’s terrible. Granted, he’s a sixth round pick in our nadir draft of 2021 (where we only had three picks), but I can’t even say he’s a decent backup. He’s a liability! And if either of our tackles goes down, we’re super fucked!

I really liked Jake Curhan as an undrafted rookie; I thought he showed real potential and was going to be a steal for us. But, he’s had some injury issues, and we’ve tried to cross-train him at guard as well as right tackle, and I don’t know if that’s as successful as the team thinks it is. He’s looked a little rough out there, though I don’t think he’s as dire as Forsythe.

I will say that I am encouraged by the rookies Olu Oluwatimi and Anthony Bradford. But, Olu has been dealing with a nagging elbow injury that held him out of the most recent preseason game, and figures to be his undoing in this center battle (until he’s fully healthy again). All things being equal, I’d rather have Olu over Evan Brown, but not an injured Olu. As for Bradford, it’s pretty clear he’s behind Haynes. Seems like he’s more of a project, though a very promising one from what I’ve seen from him in the two preseason games. He might not be a finished product, but I can’t wait to see what that ultimately looks like, because I feel like – if he can stay healthy – he might be a monster.

Beyond that, your guess is as good as mine as far as backups go. I think the Seahawks usually only keep 9 on the 53-man roster, so that might be it.

In the early going of this season, it’s going to hinge on the improvement (or lack thereof) of Cross and Lucas. If they’re better, that’s an immediate boost. I think, with the interior, those guys are who they are, and we’re unlikely to see ANY improvement this season.

BUT, if Olu and/or Bradford ultimately work to steal jobs, we could be looking at a situation where this unit is playing better by season’s end than it is at the beginning. That doesn’t give me a lot of hope for winning the division, because a slow start is sure to torpedo us in that area; but, if we can go on a nice little run to close out the season, then who knows?

We’ll see though. For the most part, I think the Seahawks’ defense will be fine. It won’t be close to top 10, but it shouldn’t be bottom 10 either. No, this season is going to come down to the offensive line. If they can take a step foward, we’re looking at a top 5 offense.

But, if they tread water, we could be in for another .500-ish finish.

The Most Wrong I’ve Been About A Seahawks Player

Obviously, I have to shout out Field Gulls for inspiring this post. I mean, basically I’m just stealing their idea and answering it in my own forum. But, I linked to them, so what more do you want from me?! A cut of the profits! Good luck! This site is hemorrhaging money hand over fist!

It’s hard for me to feel satisfied with picking a player who I had zero expectations about, who went on to greatness. Like, I’m not – and have never been – a draftnik. So, I didn’t see Richard Sherman coming, for instance. Or Doug Baldwin. Or Kam Chancellor. I’m pretty sure I had equally as low expectations for a lot of those guys drafted in the later rounds, so the fact that I was so “wrong” about them doesn’t really say a whole lot. I mean, who saw Tom Brady, 6th Round quarterback turning into the Greatest Of All Time? That specific element, I’m throwing away.

The flipside, however, probably has my answer: someone drafted high, whose career totally took a shit.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of highly-drafted busts in Seahawks history. But, by and large, these were players we could’ve seen coming. Lawrence Jackson, Lamar King, L.J. Collier, Germain Ifedi, whathaveyou. Even Koren Robinson had his off-field issues that dogged him into his NFL playing days.

I would say the answer for me is Aaron Curry. Unfortunately, that was in my pre-blogging days, so I don’t have a record of my thoughts at the time, but I do remember very distinctly thinking he was a sure thing linebacker for this team. What I didn’t realize was his lack of pass rushing ability. Why a team would draft an off-ball linebacker – and not even a middle linebacker at that – with the 4th overall pick, is beyond me. But, that’s how great of a prospect he was at the time. He was the consensus “safest pick of the draft”. Plug & play. No worries here!

And then we just got nothing in return. Two and a half years of dud-ery, then somehow we traded him to the Raiders for a couple low-end draft picks.

If I had to give an honorable mention, I’d say I was pretty high on the Percy Harvin trade. That just felt like another one where there was no way to screw it up. Harvin was a superstar talent. We were in a position where the team was already built up considerably, so we had the excess salary cap room and draft capital to spend. It felt like the rich getting richer; instead, it was the beginning of the end.

What absolutely doesn’t belong is the Jimmy Graham deal. I didn’t like that one nearly as much as the Harvin deal. Mostly because we lost Max Unger, but also because Graham wasn’t a blocker whatsoever, and we’ve never thrown it enough to make him a viable weapon.

I probably should’ve been more wary of the Jamal Adams deal, but he seemed like another no-brainer sort of talent. No way I saw his injury issues coming. And no way I saw us falling as flat as we did in 2021.

And for good measure, I was pretty high on both Sheldon Richardson and Jadeveon Clowney when they were brought in. Seemed pretty low-risk/high-reward. Get a couple of motivated pass rushers on one-year deals, and either we sign them to an extension, or we let them walk and get a big, fat compensatory pick. Except, surprise! They were both already on the downside of their careers, they did nothing much in Seattle, and they never got those big money deals with other teams. In other words, they walked for nothing, and we were no better for having had them.

I should probably have pointed out by now that the ACTUAL answer to this question is unquestionably Geno Smith. If you told me before 2021 that Geno Smith would eventually replace Russell Wilson, and go on to have a better season than him – at ANY point in their respective careers – I would’ve thought you were a fucking psychopath drug addict. Even if you told me – this time last year – that Geno Smith would not only win the starting quarterback job, but would go on to play at a Pro Bowl level, and earn a potential big-money extension in 2023 and beyond (even with the incentives at work), I would’ve thought you were nuts. There’s no world where I would’ve envisioned a successful Geno Smith.

Now, granted, what has he done? Led a team to a 9-8 record and a first round exit in the playoffs. There are LOTS of quarterbacks who could’ve done that. Hell, Matt Schaub and Andy Dalton made entire careers out of that kind of “success”. But, my opinion of Geno Smith was so low prior to last season, that I legitimately believed Drew Lock was destined to be our starter last year. That’s a thing I not only believed, but was convinced about!

I legitimately don’t know who would be #2 on the list of players I had absolutely zero faith in whatsoever, who went on to greatness. Jarred Kelenic is somewhere in the ballpark, but he’s still young enough that his 2023 improvement isn’t a total shock. I mean, with Geno, it’s not just a matter of having no belief in him, but his presence was met with utter contempt! I couldn’t stand the thought of him taking snaps on this team. I only begrudgingly accepted him as Russell Wilson’s backup because Russ never took any plays off.

And therein lies the rub. Usually, I develop contempt for players only after they’ve sucked for my team. I don’t often have contempt for a player that then subsequently joins my team. And, by and large, any player who has stunk, comes to Seattle and continues to stink. This type of turnaround in my opinion doesn’t happen easily with me. Which is why Geno is such a rare case.

If we’re taking Geno off the table as too obvious, I’m sticking with Aaron Curry as my pick. Honorable mention for someone who isn’t a player at all: Pete Carroll.

As soon as the Seahawks introduced Pete Carroll as their head coach and really the head honcho alongside John Schneider (in other words, not under the GM like most coaches, and having final say over personnel), I thought this was a panic move of desperation by an organization that gave up on Mike Holmgren too early, and clearly reserved the franchise for the wrong coach in Jim Mora Jr. There’s no way in a million years that I expected Pete Carroll to be worth a damn in the NFL. Not after the way he flamed out in the 90’s. Not after the bevy of college coaches who have made the jump and failed miserably (perhaps no one more miserably than Nick Saban, who went on to supersonic success after going to Alabama from the Dolphins).

You could argue – if we included coaches – I was most wrong about Pete Carroll as the Seahawks’ head coach. What’s funny is that a lot of fans were right there with me at the time, and a lot of fans continue to doubt his abilities to this day. I don’t know how smart that is.

At this point, the 2023 Seahawks might have the biggest collection of Nobody Believed In Us personnel of any team in the NFL. Nobody believes in this defense. Nobody believes in the coaching staff (ehh, some might believe in Shane Waldron, but certainly no one believes in Hurtt or Carroll). People stopped believing in John Schneider for a while there. Geno Smith obviously overcame a mountain of haters. Lockett and Metcalf were overlooked by a lot of teams in their respective drafts. Even JSN fell to 20, when he might be a Top 10 talent. If the power of nobody believing in you was something that translated into the win/loss column, I’d say the Seahawks are Super Bowl contenders on that alone!

Of course, that’s not really a thing, and I don’t actually think the Seahawks are Super Bowl contenders. But, I’m more than happy to be proven wrong!

Seahawks Death Week 2022: What Moves Should Be Made

I got into what I want the Seahawks to do at quarterback yesterday, so we’ll get into the rest of the roster here.

If you look at the Seahawks’ salary cap for 2023, you’re going to find some REAL annoying shit at the top. Two safeties – Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs – sitting #1 and #2 with our biggest cap hits, both over $18 million. It’s fucking asinine! You might be able to talk me into one safety at that kind of figure, if he’s far-and-away the best in the game. But, one guy can’t stay on the field, and the other clearly lost a step in 2022 (and even at his best he wasn’t the best).

The next two players on the list – Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf – are more appropriately ranked. They’re your best wide receivers (a premium position) and they play among the best receivers in the game. Even though they’re taking up a significant portion of the salary cap, they’re still good value.

Then, you’ve got Uchenna Nwosu at around $13 million; that’s a good number for what he gave us in 2022. Figure he’ll pretty easily replicate those numbers if he stays healthy.

So, out of the top five highest paid players currently under contract for 2023, I’m happy with three of them. Not a great percentage.

They say the NFL’s middle class is dead, but I think the Seahawks are trying to remedy that in a big way. We have six guys making between $5 million and just over $12 million. This is a significant chunk of change for players who you could probably replace for minimum salaries and get production that’s just as good. Shelby Harris tops that list at just over $12 million. He was a bright spot on a very bad defensive line. But, I don’t know if he’s giving you $12 million worth of production.

Gabe Jackson is set to count just over $11 million, but he could be cut for $6.5 million in savings. That might be the way to go, considering how he is on the downside of his career. Then, you’ve got Dissly and Fant, who count for a combined $16 million against the cap. Yikes. But, we’re already committed to them, so there’s not much we can do there. Then, there’s Quinton Jefferson and Al Woods making a combined $12 million … I dunno.

It all boils down to there being around $34 million in cap space next year (and I don’t know if that counts the new contract for our kicker). Which would be entirely used up if Geno Smith returns on the franchise tag. How did we get here? We got rid of Russell Wilson, we shed a lot of dead weight, we played a lot of rookies and cheap guys … and yet we have practically nothing to work with because we’re going to have to pay Geno’s ass the bulk of it.

There are SO MANY problems with this team! I can’t even begin to comprehend how much of the defensive line needs to be replaced. The off-ball linebackers are trash, and we likely can’t even count on Jordyn Brooks to be healthy with his significant knee injury/surgery (not that I’m crazy-enamored with Brooks anyway, considering the lack of impact plays he makes in the backfield). That’s really two entire position groups that need significant revamping, but of course no money to work with (while we’re sickeningly over-paying for our two starting safeties).

I’m already on record as saying the Seahawks should cheap-out on quarterback and use every available dollar to fix the defense and the interior of the offensive line. So, asked and answered, that’s what I want the Seahawks to do in 2023.

But, since we live in the real world – where Geno Smith will most definitely be back on a 3-4 year deal – I have to come to grips with what we have to offer.

Maybe there’s ONE mid-tier free agent defensive starter we can bring in. Then, there will be the requisite dumpster diving, with all our trust falling on the draft.

My hunch is: the Seahawks will ignore the quarterback position entirely in the draft. So, high-end pass rusher at the top, maybe a trade-back or two, then pick up the following:

  • Guard/Center – somewhere in the low first, upper second round, who can step in right away and start for the next four years. Ideally, this will be the first competent center we’ve had since Max Unger
  • Safety – because we’re going to need someone to step in to start in 2024, when we likely cut both Adams and Diggs
  • Wide Receiver – we need a quality #3 receiver who isn’t Dee Eskridge, so I wouldn’t mind this guy being a second or third rounder with upside as a possession receiver
  • Defensive Tackle – a real big, burly dude to clog up the middle in this 3-4 defense
  • Inside Linebacker – probably a couple of ’em – one on day 2, one in the early part of day 3 – with good speed and play-making ability
  • Another Guard/Center – to further bolster our depth
  • The Next Brock Purdy In The 7th Round – a guy can dream, right?

Honestly, as long as we don’t bring back Cody Barton, I don’t care what else the Seahawks do with their offseason.

Leaving The Seahawks For Dead

I know the Seahawks aren’t officially eliminated from playoff contention yet, but it’s only a matter of time. The writing has been on the wall since the second week of the season, but when you melt down like the Seahawks melted down yesterday, there’s no coming back. Even if the Seahawks did manage to run the table, what would be the point? To stick it to the Jets? Haven’t they suffered enough?

The Arizona Cardinals went into this game with no DeAndre Hopkins; we knew that well ahead of time. They also went into this game with no Kyler Murray; we heard about this either the night before or the morning of. Colt McCoy got the start, and much like last year – when he came into Seattle as a member of the New York Football Giants and somehow emerged victorious – he once again decimated our season. If you’ll recall, at season’s end we were one game out of the top spot in the NFC; had we beaten the Giants, we would’ve been in a vastly superior position over merely hosting in the wild card round and losing at home to the Rams.

This year, Colt McCoy & Co. dropped us to 3-7. It’s like when Travis Coates shot a rabid Old Yeller out behind the barn, but if Old Yeller was a dick to everyone the entire movie. No one is mourning the death of this Seahawks season; this team hasn’t been fun to watch for years, and this is the LEAST-fun version of all of these mediocre Seahawks teams.

You know whose schtick gets really old and tired when he’s not pulling games out of his ass and carrying the team on his back? Russell Wilson. I’m ready for him to go somewhere else. It’s clear he doesn’t give a shit and doesn’t want to be here.

All the old, dead weight needs to be dropped as well. That means getting rid of Chris Carson, Alex Collins, and Rashaad Penny. Carson is already out for the year with an upcoming neck surgery, and has probably played his final down of football (because the last thing anyone wants to do is take a chance on permanently injuring their neck, especially when they play a position that gets hit as often as running back does). Trash-aad Penny had an opening run of 18 yards, immediately got injured, had a run of 1 yard in the second half, and never returned. He had the highest health grade of all running backs the year he was drafted.

Duane Brown sure looks like he’s done! I’m glad we didn’t bother to extend him. Gabe Jackson sure looks like a waste of money! I saw him fuck up on two critical plays where he couldn’t handle a simple defensive stunt; that’s all I need to see. The center position has been a continuous wasteland ever since we traded away Max Unger. And, the worst player I saw yesterday was Brandon Shell, who got repeatedly abused by Chandler Jones.

It’s hard to get too mad at the defense, as I thought they did their jobs for the most part. But, they couldn’t do anything when it mattered most (7 minutes left in the game, the Seahawks just scored to pull it to within 3 points; Arizona promptly drove 67 yards for a TD, taking 4:45 off the clock) and there are any number of guys who are overpaid and not performing to market rates.

I can’t wait to have most of these veterans out of my life, but there’s one thing I haven’t mentioned yet.

If we’re talking about doing a full tear-down and rebuild, you can’t ignore the coaching staff and front office. Since I referenced schtick getting old, I might as well talk about Pete Carroll here. Conventional wisdom indicates when you find a franchise quarterback, you do whatever it takes to make him happy and keep him for as long as his prime will last. Between that, and Carroll’s advanced age, it was fair to wonder if he wanted to endure another rebuild. But, at this point, I don’t think he has a choice. And in fact, I think the choice will be made for him as soon as the final game ends and Russell Wilson hands the team his updated list of teams he’ll accept a trade to. So, the next question to ask is: does Pete Carroll want to return? And, if so, will the team decide to keep him?

I’ll save the conversation around whether the team SHOULD bring him back or not for another time. Seeing how this team devolved over the last half decade, I think it’s fair for a lot of Seahawks fans to want a change from the top on down. But, Pete Carroll helped engineer the greatest rebuild in team history a decade ago; part of me is curious to see if he can do it again. Or, rather, what he would do this time around (because it’s unfair to expect him to helm a rebuild as epic as the last one).

The downside of keeping Carroll is we’re almost certainly going to keep the coaching staff around him. That means Ken Norton wouldn’t be going anywhere, even though he’s inept at his job. And, that means Shane Waldron getting another crack at it. A blind chimp should be able to take the talent we have with Russell Wilson at quarterback and average more than 19 points on offense. I think our initial suspicions were correct when we saw the Seahawks hire someone who had – time and time again – been passed over for promotions, by both his own team and the other teams who were looking to poach from the Rams.

Then, there’s John Schneider. He’s a guy who hasn’t had a quality draft since 2012. He’s a guy who has bungled a high percentage of high-profile trades. He’s punted on most first rounds of the draft, and when he hasn’t, he’s still failed spectacularly. I don’t know how you defend the guy anymore. Other teams win a lot, get saddled with lower draft picks, and still manage to find quality players to incorporate into their systems. Other teams don’t go through these endless periods where their fucking offensive line can’t block for shit.

I don’t know. Normally, when things get this bad, I take solace in looking forward to what changes can be made to improve things, but as I’ve mentioned nonstop, there’s nothing to look forward to with this team. The Jets own our first round pick (at this point, it’s the fifth overall pick … sigh). For some reason, we got back the Jets’ fourth rounder, but we traded away our sixth rounder to the Jags for Sidney Jones. We’ve managed to save a little bit of money, but who knows if there’s some panic deal to be made in free agency in the coming weeks. Nevertheless, that money appears to be earmarked to go towards future dead money (with all of the monkeying around with contracts this year, combined with the dead money from shedding this team of its underperforming veterans), but regardless it’s not like this team has problems free agency can solve.

This team needs to bottom out, and that’s what’s so miserable about being in this position: we’re 3-7, we have the fifth-worst record in the entire NFL, and we haven’t even reached rock bottom yet! It’s not like we’re going to magically improve with Russell Wilson gone next year and this team immersed in a full rebuild. Indeed, we’re probably going to contend for the worst overall record in that scenario, so we have another full year of this to look forward to, at least!

This feels like the early 90’s all over again. Buckle up, because it’s going to be a turbulent bandwagon for the foreseeable future.

This Is Exactly The Kind Of Game The Seahawks Might Boner

I’m usually a little more doom & gloom than I care to be on these pre-game Seahawks posts, always looking on the dark side, trying to find all the ways we can blow it, and this one is no different. But, let me be clear right from the top: the Seahawks SHOULD beat the Saints this weekend. I’m picking them in my weekly picks, and I fully expect the Seahawks to be 3-0 when we reconvene on Monday to talk about it.

The Seahawks have had a pretty charmed life so far in the 2019 season. That Bengals game easily could’ve gone sideways, when we were all expecting a double-digit victory. Without question, the Seahawks looked better against the Steelers, but you can’t deny we got lucky with that Roethlisberger injury. The way they started to move the ball in the second half, combined with our two lost fumbles, it might’ve looked mighty different in the second half if he was fully healthy and playing the full 60.

Ramp that good fortune up to 12 this week, with the loss of Drew Brees as the Saints come to town, and it’s easy to see why we’re all in agreement one way or another about the Seahawks prevailing. The deck is so STACKED in our favor it’s incredible:

  • No Drew Brees
  • Teddy Bridgewater is (likely) starting
  • The Saints have had to stay on the west coast all week after losing to the Rams last week
  • Teddy Bridgewater is mediocre
  • Ziggy Ansah is (likely) returning from injury
  • Poona Ford is (hopefully) returning from injury
  • Tedric Thompson is not returning from injury
  • Teddy Bridgewater

I mean, let’s just start here: our front seven might be a Jarran Reed away from full strength, at the absolute best possible time. So far, the Seahawks are 2-0 against two AFC teams, which counts not at all to the most important tie-breakers for the Seahawks: divisional record and conference record. The Saints are our first crack at this and they’re ripe for the plucking. They’re also a major competitor to our playoff standing this year; they could very likely be in line for a wild card spot, or if they recover and we somehow get over the hump against the Rams, we could be vying for a possible playoff BYE. Beyond our divisional games, this is one of the most important matchups of the entire season (alongside the Eagles, Vikings, and maybe Falcons) and it could be THE most important.

Must. Win. This. Game.

Now, of course, I have my fun at Bridgewater’s expense, because he is truly mediocre, and probably overpaid. I don’t see a ton of difference between what he can do and what Geno Smith can do; give Geno a top 5 offensive line, a dynamic offensive-minded head coach, and a bunch of weapons around him, and I bet he too can throw for 220 yards and a touchdown every game. The difference is, of course, the cost to sign either player. Bridgewater was (somehow) a Pro Bowler in 2015, when he threw for all of 3,231 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions (with a whopping 192 yards rushing and 3 TDs on the ground); I’m assuming every other quarterback in the NFL died that year? Anyway, he could’ve conceivably competed for a starting job somewhere else, but opted to be an overpaid backup for the Saints, and now here we are. Their head coach is trying to play games about which quarterback will be starting, but Bridgewater has a cap hit over $7 million, so I have to believe he’ll get the lion’s share of the opportunity.

All of that being said, MUCH worse quarterbacks have beaten this Seahawks team, even in Seattle, so we really can’t take this team too lightly. This won’t be a walk-over; it won’t be a rout. They’re still a good football team, of that much there is no doubt. With Thomas and Kamara and a stout defensive line … the Saints are fully equipped to be a land mine!

Sorry, I’ll stop with the poetry.

This is a team a lot like the Colts, who also lost their All Pro passer. There’s still a good team around Bridgewater; the Saints’ foundation is strong. They have one of the best O-Lines in the game, even without Max Unger in the middle. They have one of the two best running backs in the entire league, who can beat you every way imaginable. They have one of the best 5 or 10 wide receivers in the game. They have a top notch cornerback in Marshon Lattimore, who is fully capable of shutting down Tyler Lockett or D.K. Metcalf, depending on where they choose to play him (I’d try to make the rookie beat me if I were them, so I’d expect a quiet day out of Lockett in this one). They may not have a bunch of huge names along the D-Line, but they still get pressure with the best of ’em, and largely without the need to blitz.

This game shouldn’t look too much like the Steelers game. I would expect the Seahawks to continue running the ball well, but I’d also expect Russell Wilson to hold onto the ball more closely to career norms, as opposed to the quick-throws he did against the Steelers.

Really, all the Saints need to do is not turn the ball over, feed Kamara every which way from Tuesday, and they should be in a close one in the fourth quarter. I expect both teams to be pretty shaky on 3rd downs, so honestly I think this one will come down to turnovers; the winner of that will win this game. If both teams are equal, I still see it as a coin flip game, probably coming down to who has the ball last.

I don’t expect Chris Carson to fumble, in case you were wondering. I think he’ll actually come out with a pretty monster game this week to silence all the critics of his first couple games. I wonder, however, if we won’t see some tipped passes or drops from our receivers falling into the opposition’s hands. Coverage should be tight all day, which means Wilson will have to hit throws into some small windows.

I actually have some high hopes about our defensive line finally coming together, though, and I think this group will be the key to everything. Can’t let Kamara blow us up between the tackles; if he’s going to beat us, at least let it be on the outside, in the passing game. Of course, I’m going up against him in fantasy football, so expect 3 TDs and 150 yards from scrimmage. But, if we can somehow bottle him up and force the quarterback to beat us with his arm, I’m fully prepared for a Dink & Dunk explosion. With the way Bridgewater likes to hold onto the ball forever, we should finally run into a game where the Seahawks net 4-6 sacks and generally make his life miserable.

The over/under is 44.5, and I’m taking the under. The line is Seahawks -4 and I’m also taking the under. This feels something like a 16-13 game.

The Seahawks Haven’t Changed One Bit

When it’s all said and done, when Pete Carroll and John Schneider move on and Russell Wilson is retired or clinging to life with another franchise, it’ll be interesting to look back on this era of Seahawks football. We’re heading into the tenth season with the same regime – the eighth with Wilson at quarterback – and already it feels like forever in NFL terms.

So long, in fact, that it feels like there have been multiple phases within this one overarching Seahawks Cinematic Universe under Carroll & Schneider.

  • 2010-2012 – Building A Champion
  • 2013-2016 – Championship Contenders
  • 2017-Present – The Great Re-Build

But, in reality, we’re talking about one long, sustained period of greatness. Sure, in 2010 we were coming off of one of the worst years in franchise history, and that team (as well as 2011) only won 7 games. But, it was good enough for a division title and a playoff victory. Indeed, in the last nine years, the Seahawks have made the playoffs seven times and won the division three times (to go along with the two Super Bowl appearances and the one title). It’s actually pretty remarkable how quickly Schneider and Carroll were able to turn things around. The 2010 team was far from great, but it was leaps and bounds better than 2009; and while we failed to make the playoffs in 2011, I would argue that team was even better.

As this is a time of year, generally, where we focus on the draft that was, it’s interesting to take a look back at that as well. The 2010 draft was a real anomaly for this team. We had two high first round draft picks and actually used them on PLAYERS, as opposed to trading down and racking up a bunch of bites at the apple. While the year-to-year strategies have evolved, the overall vision for the team has never wavered: Build Through The Draft.

What’s the best way to build a championship contender? That’s the question we keep asking ourselves, to be answered in wordy, meandering thinkpieces such as this one you’re reading right now. There are lots of different answers, but they all harken back to the same thing: the draft. You gotta get lucky in the draft and hit upon a bunch of stars at a variety of positions (almost always including quarterback). Having a cheap, cost-controlled core, supplemented with a smattering of talented, expensive veterans, is generally the way to go.

You could argue that the Seahawks got away from that ethos a little bit from 2013-2016, with a number of questionable trades and free agent signings that we don’t need to rehash again here. But, I would argue that the ethos never changed, but our luck in the draft ultimately failed us.

You could also argue that the Seahawks have changed in what they prioritize. In the last couple years, as Bevell and Cable were fired after not being able to properly utilize the talent they were given (Bevell, in his use of Percy Harvin and Jimmy Graham) and not being able to formulate a competent offensive line on the cheap (Cable, with his struggles from 2015-2017), there’s been a clear shift in where the money has been spent. This is the NFL, so what do I always say? There’s only so much money to go around, and you can’t pay everyone. That was ultimately Seattle’s downfall following the 2014 season. But, what probably doesn’t get said enough about the NFL is that you have to constantly strive to get younger. This team was stacked with world-beaters from 2012-2014 and we looked like an unstoppable juggernaut; less than a decade later, maybe three guys remain? With the snap of a finger, this team got old, this team got injured, and this team desperately needed an infusion of young blood.

But, the strategy all along, starting in 2010, was to save money where you felt you were strongest, from a coaching and scouting perspective. In Tom Cable’s tenure here, that meant going cheap on the O-Line (relatively speaking). Sure, Max Unger got himself a second contract, and Russell Okung was making high first round draft pick money (pre-CBA, where the money was good and inflated), but around them the Seahawks filled in with young guys and castoffs from other teams. Converted defensive tackles, converted tight ends, and the like. As those talented (and expensive) linemen started to move on, the Seahawks tried doubling down on that strategy by going even younger, even cheaper, even more castoffy. Culminating in a 2017 team where the leading rusher was the quarterback and the team had only one touchdown by a designated running back. That followed a 2016 season where Wilson played injured throughout because that same O-Line couldn’t protect him for shit.

Of course, we justified that form of team building by pointing to all the other areas making money at the top of the market. Quarterback, cornerback, safety, linebacker, defensive line, even running back for a spell while Lynch was still here. Something had to give. We trusted Cable, and it turned out to be a mistake.

In learning from that mistake, Cable is gone, and now the Seahawks are paying significant money on the O-Line again. Duane Brown, for an aging veteran, is making a pretty penny. Justin Britt was among the top centers in the game from a salary perspective when he signed his second deal. Ifedi is a first rounder entering the final year of his rookie deal and looks like a contender for a big contract (elsewhere, most likely). Fluker got a nice bump in pay after a 2018 prove-it performance. And, more draft picks have been utilized on this group than any other during Schneider’s time here.

But, things haven’t necessarily gotten much better from a salary cap perspective. Russell Wilson is the top of the quarterback market. Bobby Wagner is looking to reclaim the top middle linebacker spot. There’s a smattering of highly paid guys here and there, except for one group that ranks among the cheapest in the league: the secondary.

This jives with the team’s M.O. all along. Instead of banking on a supposed guru of an O-Line coach, the team is relying on their ability to draft and coach up cornerbacks and safeties. I would argue the gambit is just as risky. Especially in a year where, as I noted yesterday, the pass rush isn’t really up to snuff.

Back when the team was cheaping out on the O-Line, I could defend the logic because our quarterback was one of the better runners in the league, and proved that his elusiveness was an asset as he’s one of the better passers outside the pocket. But, over time, Wilson has shown to be an even more lethal pocket passer, and so creating an actual POCKET became more important. Having him play through a number of injuries in 2016 was the final nail in the coffin, and when the line still struggled in 2017, something drastic needed to be done.

Now, with Wilson entering his 30’s, priorities change. It makes zero sense to cheap out on the O-Line because he’s only going to get slower and easier to tackle as he gets older. But, even if he was his younger, spry self, my thinking on this topic has evolved once again.

The three areas where I would argue you not only SHOULD go with younger, cheaper options, but it would be criminally negligent for you to spend significant dollars, are linebacker, running back, and tight end. Which is why I’m loathe to make Bobby Wagner the highest paid inside linebacker in football (the counter to my reservations is that he’s Bobby Fucking Wagner and he literally IS the best inside linebacker in football, and the drop-off from him to a younger guy would decimate this defense). After those three spots, I would argue the next place a team should go cheap is the secondary.

I know that’s sacrilege, what with the Legion of Boom’s popularity around these parts, but it’s true. And it makes sense, if you think about it, more than it does the O-Line. With the way the college game is going, fewer and fewer offensive linemen are coming straight to the league and being productive starters right away. Those guys need to be coached up (as you’ve seen from the litany of ex-Seahawks who’ve gotten paid elsewhere, from Carpenter to Sweezy to Glowinski to soon-to-be Ifedi). With apologies to the L.O.B., however, with the secondary you need better athletes and a quality scheme. Offensive linemen tend to age like a fine wine; cornerbacks and safeties tend to start losing a step as they approach their Age 30 seasons. By the time they get to their second and third contracts, they’re already not really worth it. Unless they’re bona fide Hall of Famers like Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman. But, those guys don’t grow on trees.

My point is, I’d rather have a reliable offensive line and a huge question mark in the secondary, than the other way around. Now, ideally, you’d find a way to mask your team’s weakness (by, for instance, getting after the opposing team’s quarterback on a regular basis), but if there’ one area on the Seahawks I’d put my money on it improving dramatically from year to year, it would be with the secondary. Because of that track record with drafting and coaching guys up.

The secondary is young, it’s hungry, and maybe most importantly, it’s healthy. Flowers and Griffin look like solid starters. McDougald has already proven himself capable at either safety spot. Thompson and Hill are in their third years (second seasons as regular players on defense) and the team brought in a couple more defensive backs in this last draft to battle for jobs. It’s not out of the question for this weakness to actually be a strength when it’s all said and done.

Of course, even top notch secondaries can get burned by a lack of a pass rush.

The Seahawks Need More Stars

Brock and Salk had an interesting conversation recently about the Seahawks and how close they are to contending for another Super Bowl. My takeaway (I tend to agree with Salk here) is that the Seahawks are short on stars. There are a lot of good players on this team, but not necessarily a lot of GREAT players. So, I decided to quickly do a comparison between the 2018/2019 Seahawks against the 2013 Super Bowl Champs.

Offensive (and Special Teams) Stars

Now

  • Russell Wilson – QB
  • Chris Carson – RB
  • Doug Baldwin – WR
  • Tyler Lockett – WR
  • Duane Brown – LT
  • Michael Dickson – P

Then

  • Russell Wilson – QB
  • Marshawn Lynch – RB
  • Golden Tate – WR
  • Doug Baldwin – WR
  • Russell Okung – LT
  • Max Unger – C
  • Jon Ryan – P

Right there, you’d have to say pretty comparable. Beastmode is better than Carson, the receivers are pretty close to the same, and 2018 Russell is better than 2013 Russell. Where we start to see some breakaway is on the other side of the ball.

Defensive Stars

Now

  • Frank Clark – DE
  • Jarran Reed – DT
  • Bobby Wagner – LB
  • (K.J. Wright – LB)

Then

  • Cliff Avril – DE
  • Michael Bennett – DT
  • Bobby Wagner – LB
  • K.J. Wright – LB
  • Earl Thomas – FS
  • Kam Chancellor – SS
  • Richard Sherman – CB

I’d say the Seahawks have a good start here, but I’d also say the combo of Bennett & Avril were better than the combo of Clark & Reed. Now, there’s obviously still room for both of the younger guys to grow, so in theory they could be even more dominant than they were in 2018, but as it stands right now that’s where we’re at. 2018 Bobby is better than 2013 Bobby, and while 2018 K.J. is better than 2013 K.J., the 2018 version was also injury prone, and is far from a lock to be re-signed to this team in 2019.

Then, there’s the secondary. The 2013 Seahawks not only had 3 superstars in the secondary, they had 3 ALL TIMERS. The 2018/2019 Seahawks don’t have anything CLOSE, and that’s ultimately their biggest hole to overcome (I won’t say “fill”, because I think we’re pretty much stuck with the guys we’ve got, which means we have to compensate in other ways defensively and as a team as a whole).

So, digging down further, let’s list the players who are just good starters/role players.

Now

  • Mike Davis – RB
  • Rashaad Penny – RB
  • All our Tight Ends
  • Justin Britt – C
  • Both starting Guards
  • Poona Ford – DT
  • Mychal Kendricks – LB
  • Justin Coleman – CB
  • Tre Flowers – CB
  • Shaq Griffin – CB
  • Bradley McDougald – SS

Then

  • All our Tight Ends
  • Sidney Rice – WR
  • Steven Hauschka – K
  • Chris Clemons – DE
  • Tony McDaniel – DT
  • Clinton McDonald – DT
  • Brandon Mebane – DT
  • Bruce Irvin – LB
  • Byron Maxwell – CB
  • Walter Thurmond – CB
  • Jeremy Lane – CB

I think our running back room now is stronger than it was then (but it didn’t matter in 2013 when Beastmode was all you needed). I think our offensive line as a whole is better now than it was then, even though the 2013 version was more top-heavy (Sweezy in 2018 is MUCH better than Sweezy in 2013, for instance; Fluker is better than Carpenter; and I would argue Ifedi is on par with Giacomini). I think both tight end rooms are a wash. But, as you can see, while the Seahawks of today have a so-so secondary, the BACKUPS in 2013 were on par with what we have now (and, I would argue, probably a little better). And, the other big difference is up front. Look at all the beef we had on the D-Line in 2013 compared to today! It’s no contest!

Also, not for nothing, but a few of those guys I listed might not be back in 2019, which is yet more work for the Seahawks to do this offseason.

As you can see, the talent disparity is pretty big. I wouldn’t say it’s insurmountable, but you have to wonder where we’re going to pick up the slack. With 4 draft picks and a bunch of our own stars we need to extend, it’s not like we have unlimited resources.

The good news is, the Seahawks of 2019 don’t need to beat the Seahawks of 2013. I would argue the 2013 Seahawks were one of the most talented teams of all time (especially on defense); we won’t see anyone like that in the NFL in 2019. We just have to get past the Rams and the rest of the NFC, then let the chips fall where they may.

It would HELP if we could develop a couple of those good starters into superstars, but this draft and free agency period will be pretty big. No whiffing, lest we middle our way to another Wild Card finish.

Pre-Pre-Season Preview: Seahawks Blocking 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’ blocking game.

Offensive Line

Here we are.  So much of what the Seahawks want to do hinges on this.  Every year since Russell Wilson has proven himself to be a superstar quarterback in this league, I’ve been waiting for this offense to really bust out and start carrying the team; and every year, those hopes are dashed by an offensive line that couldn’t stop a pack of infants from wreaking havoc in our backfield.

And it’s not like the Seahawks haven’t tried!  We hired Tom Cable, we used many multiple draft picks, in a variety of rounds from the first through the seventh.  But, nothing worked, and indeed it got progressively worse over time, until last year when we has the worst running game in football.  How Russell Wilson hasn’t been killed in a live NFL game is beyond me, because he’s taken a BEATING!

I wish I could walk those comments back and say, “Oh, it wasn’t as bad as we remember,” but actually I think it was worse.  I mean, you’d expect a unit that was as healthy as our O-Line was last year to at least show SOME signs of improvement as the season went along, but I saw no evidence of that.  Did you?

Who’s at fault?  Well, how much time have you got?  Obviously, Tom Cable had to go.  I wouldn’t say his tenure was an utter failure – he did help take us to 2 Super Bowls, so it wasn’t ALWAYS this bad – but I’d say the last three years (2015-2017) were as bad as it gets.  Instead of taking advantage of Russell Wilson’s absolute prime, he had to run for his life on almost every play, while battling constant nagging injuries for one of those seasons!

The front office certainly shares some of the blame, be it Pete Carroll, John Schneider, the scouts, all of ’em.  Letting Tom Cable have so much power and direction over personnel, for starters.  The collective, for just having the worst insight/intuition/whathaveyou when it comes to picking which players we ended up drafting and signing to free agent deals.  The front office also for losing its way – to quote Richard Sherman – by trading away Max Unger for Jimmy Graham.  One of the better blocking centers in the league for one of the worst blocking tight ends in the history of football.

Now, certainly there were factors outside of their control, in that so many other players on this team turned into All Pros and Pro Bowlers, and as we talk about all the time, you can’t pay everyone.  But, the front office still made a choice in who they decided to pay; and ultimately they decided to make this offensive line the most under-funded in the entire league.  It backfired, and they’ve since corrected for that, but now we’re years from our last Super Bowl and, I’m afraid, many more years away from our next one.

I mean, if they’d just signed ONE high-priced left tackle, instead of paying the likes of Percy Harvin or Jimmy Graham, just think of how different things might be.  We might truly be talking about a Seahawks Dynasty, instead of a Seahawks What-If.

But, the past is the past and we can’t do anything about it now.  Let’s take a look at who we’ve got.

Well, I’ll say this:  the left side of the line looks VERY promising.  There are still a tremendous amount of caveats and question marks even about these three guys, but it’s not hard to envision a scenario where Duane Brown (at left tackle), Ethan Pocic (at left guard) and Justin Britt (at center) truly anchor this offensive line and make it a halfway competent one.  That having been said, Brown is going to be 33 in August and is heading into his 11th season; that’s a lot of mileage.  He’s also coming off of a year where he held out for half the games, then suffered an ankle injury.  He appears to be healthy now, but how long will that last?  And, even when he was (supposedly) healthy last year, he didn’t look great.  Maybe he needed time to get used to Russell Wilson’s style of play and scrambling and all that … or maybe he’s in his 30’s and is on the downside of his career.  How many more years does he have left, realistically?  2?  3 at the MOST?

This thing falls apart in a hurry if Duane Brown isn’t The Man.  I like Pocic as much as the next guy, but it’s still his second year in the league.  He’s also on his second offensive line coach in as many seasons (well, third in as many seasons, I suppose, if you include his college coach), so what is that going to do to stunt his growth?  And, as for Britt, again I like him, but he also pulled his share of boners last year, following his contract extension and the anointing of him as the leader of this unit.  Maybe that was because he had to compensate for the dunderheads around him – and I really do hope that’s the case – but don’t forget who’s at fault for George Fant getting hurt in the first place.  He took a blind dive into a guy and ended up landing on his own teammate’s knee; Britt isn’t exactly the sharpest tool in the shed.

I want to believe in this left side of the line – I HAVE to believe in them, for my own sanity – because the right side scares the everloving shit out of me.

The Seahawks brought back Mile Solari to coach up the offensive line.  He hasn’t had a successful O-Line in more years than I can count, so right away we’re dealing with a huge red flag.  Now, maybe there were other circumstances outside of his control, and it wasn’t necessarily all his fault that his lines have been terrible.  Maybe, if he had more control over things, he would’ve gotten his type of guys and had more success.  I certainly hope so, because it sounds like the Seahawks really took him to heart when he recommended signing D.J. Fluker to be this team’s right guard.

For starters, I think a lot of fans were clamoring for Germain Ifedi to move inside to guard.  I wasn’t one of them – I think if we’re ever going to see our faith in Ifedi pay off, it’s going to have to be at one single position, and not by jerking him around from guard to tackle and back again – but I can certainly understand the thought process.  Ifedi looks like a giant lunkhead over there at right tackle, and it might be easier to hide some of his flaws if you moved him inside and had Britt helping him out on double-teams and whatnot.  But, I’m of the opinion that if Ifedi is the bust we all fear he is, then he’s going to be a HUGE GAPING LIABILITY wherever you put him.  Sort of like Britt was, when we moved him from tackle to guard to finally center; unfortunately, you can only have one center on an offensive line, and Britt weaselled his way into the league first.

Getting back to Fluker for a minute, here’s a guy who was another former first rounder, as well as a guy who’s been considered a giant bust since entering the league.  He’s also a guy who was injured for most of 2017, and who thus far through OTA’s and mini-camps, hasn’t seen any action that I can recall hearing about (again, due to injury).  Even in an ideal world where Fluker was 100% healthy this off-season, he still was never going to be a guarantee.  I like him because he’s cheap, and hungry, and huge, and is supposedly a quality run blocker if nothing else; but that still doesn’t mean he’s destined to be worth a damn in 2018!

I want to believe in these guys, 1-5, but I just can’t get it up for this right side.  At this point, I’m done hoping Ifedi will be anything; I’m resigned to him being a bust and if I’m pleasantly surprised, then so be it.  As for Fluker, I don’t think he has more than 5 games in him before some body part gives out.  I’m mentally preparing myself for a revolving door on this side, with guys like Rees Odhiambo or Jordan Roos seeing some action at right guard, and with guys like George Fant or Isaiah Battle seeing some action at right tackle.

That having all been said, I think there’s an offensive line here we can use.  It’s far from perfect, and it’s far from ideal, but 3/5 of a competent offensive line is better than the 0/5 we’ve had the last three years.

As I said before, it all hinges on Duane Brown.  If he can return to even 80% of his former Pro Bowl self, we’ve got a shot.  Hopefully he’ll get better acquainted with Wilson’s scrambling style, as well as stay healthy the full year.  If he can do that, and help guide a beefed-up Pocic through any more growing pains he’s got left, then I don’t think Britt has to worry about helping out on that side, and can put his talents towards helping out his right guard, whoever that ends up being.  At which point, I’m not even asking for a huge step forward out of our right tackle; just don’t get any WORSE and I’ll be ecstatic!

With how BIG this unit is, if we still have trouble running the ball, then I’m gonna go jump off a bridge.  Also, it sounds like maybe there’ll be something of a scheme change, away from the strict zone blocking scheme we had under Cable?  I think that could help an oaf like Ifedi, where he doesn’t have to use his brain as much.  Maybe he can put those remaining brain cells into keeping track of the snap count, and not illegally hitting guys after the whistle and whatnot.

It’s the pass protection that’s my bigger concern, as it always is.  Pocic is a great unknown at this point in his career (one would hope his pedigree, work ethic, and increased mass will help him going forward), but everyone to his right has their moments of utter, mind-blowing ineptitude when it comes to letting guys just get free runs at the quarterback.  So, again, I turn to Duane Brown; he NEEDS to be our rock.  If we just have that one guy doing his job, we’ve got a chance.  Where it always breaks down is when both ends get to charge at Wilson and he has nowhere to go; but, if Brown is solid, then at least Wilson will be able to escape to the left side and try to make something happen.

I hate having to rely so much on one guy, but that’s the hand we’ve been dealt.  If Duane Brown doesn’t earn his next contract with superb play, we’re fucked.  There’s no other way around it.

As such, my grade is a C-.  There’s room to take it as high as a B, and obviously as low as an F, but as a baseline, C- is still better than anything we’ve gotten in the previous three seasons, which I find really encouraging.

Tight Ends

Can’t talk about the blocking game without mentioning the VAST improvement we’ve established among our tight ends!

Swapping out Jimmy Graham and bringing in Ed Dickson is like an NBA team trading me for LeBron James; I’m so giddy I can’t even stand it!

I want you to close your eyes.  I want you to picture the Seahawks lining up on offense, with 3 wide receivers, a running back, and Jimmy Graham.  I want you to picture Jimmy Graham motioning out wide to the right, then turning around and motioning back towards the offensive line.  I want you to picture just as Graham gets to the right tackle, we snap the ball, and Russell Wilson turns to hand it off to the running back, with the intention to go off-tackle.  There’s a linebacker coming around the edge; he’s Graham’s responsibility.  All Graham has to do is execute a wham block – blocking him down into the mass of bodies along the offensive and defensive lines – and if he does that, we have a considerable gain with the running back bouncing it around.  Can you picture it?  Can you picture Jimmy Graham standing fully upright, sort of half-heartedly (quarter-heartedly?) pushing on the linebacker with his forearms right before said linebacker blows up the play for a 3-yard loss?  Is your blood now sufficiently boiling?  Do you want to go out and murder 50 people?

I never thought I could hate someone more than I hated Percy Harvin, but I hate Jimmy Graham with the intensity of A FUCKING GOOGOLPLEX OF SUNS!  I mean, at least Harvin has a mental condition to explain why he’s a worthless pile of shit; Jimmy Graham is just a soft asshole whose only skill is catching 1-yard touchdown passes against undersized cornerbacks (and even THEN he drops the ball half the time!).

So, yeah, I love the Ed Dickson signing.  Is it sexy?  HELL NO!  But, I’m tired of going after sexy offensive weapons; where has it gotten us?  Give me the guy willing to hunt for his meal.  Give me the guy who will scrap and claw and fight for that inch.

Shit, give me a guy who can help out this poor excuse for an offensive line!

The Seahawks did it in spades.  Not only did they let Graham go, but they let Luke Willson go as well.  I like Willson, but he’s just a guy.  Sure, he was a fighter, but you wouldn’t say blocking was his specialty.  You know whose specialty that is?  Will Dissly, 4th round draft pick out of the University of Washington.  “Best blocking tight end in the draft” is what I’m told.  Good enough for me.  He could catch 0 balls this year and he’ll still be worth his weight in gold if he can live up to that moniker for this team.

Beyond that, it’ll be a fight between Nick Vannett and Tyrone Swoopes, the 3rd round pick from 2016 vs. the undrafted rookie from 2017.  Vannett has largely been considered a disappointment, and you can see why.  You pick a guy in the 3rd round, you expect more than 15 total receptions and 1 touchdown in his first 2 years.  Beyond that, I really don’t remember him making any sort of special teams contributions, so what is he good for?

Well, I’d argue he was buried behind two very established veterans in Graham and Willson, and how often do you really see a team’s third tight end?  It’s now or never for this kid, and you’d have to say his chances are never going to be better.  I have to believe – heading into the pre-season – Vannett is probably the most gifted offensive, pass-catching weapon at tight end on this team.  If he can’t stand out over a guy in Ed Dickson (who you know what you’ve got) and a rookie in Dissly not known as much of a pass-catching threat in college, then we’ve probably reached the end of the road with Vannett.  From a blocking perspective, he doesn’t even need to be that great to make an impact, so long as he’s a catching machine.  But, regardless, he HAS to be better than Graham, so we’re talking about a considerable improvement any way you slice it.

As for Swoopes, he more or less rode the Practice Squad all of 2017.  He’s seen as more of a project, but with great potential as a pass-catcher, so again there’s probably only room for either him or Vannett.  Unless he shows tremendous skills – and tremendous improvement over what was probably a pretty raw rookie campaign – then he’s going to need to be a force when it comes to blocking.  I have no idea, but my hunch is that’s probably the biggest part of his game that’s lacking.  We’ll see.

Regardless, when it comes to just blocking, I’m giving our tight ends an A+.  I couldn’t be happier!

The question now is:  when you factor in the combo of the O-Line and our Tight Ends, will we have the blocking to be successful?  Assuming we scheme it up right, and take advantage of all of them, I think we do.  Darrell Bevell liked to spend all his free time trying to out-think opposing defenses (hence why you always saw Graham on the field in obvious rushing situations, to try to “fool” defenses into thinking we’d throw to him; only problem with that is it never made up for the liability he was in actually trying to throw a block).  It sounds like Brian Schottenheimer is more old school in that regard.  I’d expect a lot of ground & pound.  In which case, it’s our best guys against your best guys, and may the best team win.  With the group of guys we’ve got, I think that suits us to a T.  I could easily see our blocking unit end up with a grade of a B-, which is all we need with our skill position guys doing their things.

I really do believe there’s potential for greatness out of this offense.  Of course, there’s also potential for utter ruin, but that’s what makes this season so exciting!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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