Seahawks Death Week: Were The 2023 Seahawks Better Than They Were In 2022?

Both teams finished the regular season 9-8. The 2022 Seahawks actually made the playoffs, while the 2023 Seahawks did not. The 2023 Seahawks clearly had higher expectations coming into the year, whereas the 2022 Seahawks were expected to be among the worst five teams in the NFL. But, just because the current iteration underperformed, while the previous one overachieved, doesn’t necessarily mean the 2022 Seahawks were the better team. And, since we don’t live in a magical world where we can have these two squads duke it out on the football field, we have to look at the numbers and see where they compare.

I will readily admit that I’m coming into this exercise HOPING that the 2023 team is actually better, and thanks to a game or two not going our way at the end, we ultimately failed to achieve our goals. Because, if that’s the case, then maybe an argument can be made that this is actually a team on the rise, and this year can be seen as an aberration. However, if the 2023 Seahawks are objectively worse, then this is a team going in the wrong direction. Then, we have to start questioning how good these last two draft classes actually were. Then, we’re left to wonder how long it’s actually going to be before things turn around.

I’ll start with the defense. Heading into the season, what was the biggest problem area, the biggest area of need, the part of the team we all knew needed improvement? The defense. In 2022, we gave up 361.7 yards per game (26th in football); in 2023, we gave up 371.4 yards per game (30th in football).

You know what sucks? Every team that was worse than us in 2022 improved. Detroit went from 32 to 19, Minnesota went from 31 to 16, Houston went from 30 to 14, Chicago went from 29 to 12, Las Vegas went from 28 to 13, Atlanta went from 27 to 11! This isn’t, like, small baby steps of improvement. These are LEAPS AND BOUNDS! And it’s not like we’re talking about teams that all made the playoffs; they were all varying levels of mediocre-to-bad in 2023. Yet they all also saw significant improvements on defense, in one season’s time.

If we keep going back, in 2021, the Seahawks were 28th in yards per game, in 2020 we were 22nd (but still gave up over 380 per game), in 2019 we were 26th. In 2018, we were 16th; that’s the last time we were even kind of okay. Before that, we were obviously very good. But, starting with 2019, that’s five years of being one of the worst defenses in all of football. Of being a defense that absolutely CANNOT compete for a championship. With a head coach that prides himself on being defensively-minded. We’ve been stuck in the shit for half a decade now; meanwhile, all these shitty defenses from 2022 are kicking ass in 2023.

Where did we struggle the most in 2022? Rush defense (150.2 yards per game, 30th in football). How did we fare in 2023? When we got rid of a lot of dead weight and put the majority of our resources into shoring up this part of the game? 138.4 yards per game, 31st in football. So, we improved our number of yards allowed per game, but still ended up worse compared to the rest of the NFL.

The two teams worse than us in 2022? Houston (32) and Chicago (31), who finished 2023 6th (!) and 1st (!!!) in rush yards per game allowed. IN ONE YEAR, they went from the worst to the best!

I mean, this isn’t fucking rocket science! We’re talking about Houston, who had a total coaching regime change, and Chicago, whose head coach in 2022 was just finishing his first year and was already on the hot seat. The Seahawks, meanwhile, are among the most stable franchises in the sport, yet again, we’ve struggled on defense for half a fucking decade. Un-fucking-believable.

To round it out, the 2022 Seahawks gave up 211.5 passing yards (13th); the 2023 Seahawks gave up 233.0 (21st). The 2022 Seahawks gave up 23.6 points per game (25th); the 2023 Seahawks gave up 23.6 points per game 25th). We literally gave up one more point than a year ago. The pass defense – particularly the secondary – was supposed to be our biggest strength (even discounting Jamal Adams as “likely to be injured” heading into the season); yet it was kind of mediocre, in spite of the fact that we got more Jamal Adams than I ever thought possible.

Just a little more housekeeping, for context. The 2022 Seahawks were +2 in turnover differential; the 2023 Seahawks were also +2 in turnover differential. We actually turned it over less in 2023, but also generated fewer turnovers, which is how we get to that number. That’s interesting to me, because if you would’ve told me prior to 2023 that the Seahawks’ offense would have 6 fewer turnovers – knowing what I knew about the perceived improvement of talent on defense – I would say that’s HUGE, and might’ve translated to 2-3 more victories. Instead, that perceived talent improvement never really materialized.

For a little more context, the 2022 Seahawks had 45 sacks (tied for 7th); the 2023 Seahawks had 47 sacks (tied for 11th). Another interesting stat is the 2022 Seahawks gave up 62.7% completions (10th), whereas the 2023 Seahawks gave up 66.7% completions (26th). So, in spite of being slightly better at generating sacks, it looks like we were actually softer all around, and probably not generating as much pressure on the whole. Or, you know, maybe we just faced significantly better quarterback play in 2023 than in 2022; you can’t rule that out either. Maybe both are true!

What do my eyes tell me about this defense? It’s tricky, because I believe we were actually significantly more talented in personnel in 2023 than we were in 2022. I think Jarran Reed had a fabulous season. I think Leonard Williams is the best all-around defensive lineman we’ve had since Michael Bennett (very different players/body types, but similarly dominant in everything that they do). I think Dre’Mont Jones is as talented as advertised, but likely wasn’t utilized properly. I think Boye Mafe took a HUGE step forward. I think Devon Witherspoon is deserving of every single accolade that comes his way. I think Jordyn Brooks is an animal, and it’s tremendous how well (and how quickly) he came back from such a significant injury. I thought Tre Brown, Mike Jackson, and Julian Love all shined at times. I thought Riq Woolen was injured for most of this year and that likely explains his step-back (I still think he’s great in coverage, but when he’s hurt, he’s going to be a liability in the run game).

That being said, I think we were another wide-body short on the interior, to significantly plug the run. I think Bobby Wagner likely helped in that regard, but probably not as much as everyone thinks. Wagner obviously had his struggles in pass defense (to the point where he probably should’ve been taken off the field on every 3rd & medium-to-long), but we also had no one behind him to fill in (linebacker depth was non-existent yet again); I also don’t think Wagner was the fix-all in the run game everyone’s making him out to be. How many times did he too get swallowed up, or jump the wrong gap? He’s old! He was old two years ago!

I also thought Quandre Diggs looked a little old. I thought Jamal Adams – aside from a few plays near the LOS here and there – looked legitimately bad. Maybe he was hurt all year, but still, he looks toast. And, I think the outside linebacker play was atrocious outside of Boye Mafe and Uchenna Nwosu (who got knocked out 6 games in), and I’m not even sure Mafe is any good at setting an edge. What I know for sure is that Darrell Taylor and Derick Hall are 100% NOT good in that regard, and it’s a huge hole for us.

A lot of these were problems in 2022, though. We couldn’t set an edge then either. Our linebacker room was unquestionably worse with Cody Barton getting significant reps. Adams was still hurt, Diggs was still getting up there, and we were obviously missing out on beef in the interior line.

So, how do you explain this across-the-board drop-off in defensive production?

The coaching staff. Clint Hurtt and Co.

He’s not a defensive coordinator. We learned that in his first season in 2022, and it’s been nothing but cemented into my brain in 2023, when he was gifted better talent, and his unit produced worse results. He needs to go.

***

Now, let’s go to the offense. Spoiler alert: it also looks like it’s worse in 2023 than it was in 2022.

2022 total yards = 351.5 (13th); 2023 total yards = 322.9 (21st). 2022 passing yards = 231.4 (12th); 2023 passing yards = 230.0 (14th). 2022 rushing yards = 120.1 (18th); 2023 rushing yards = 92.9 (28th).

So, passing yards remained stagnant, in spite of total stability at the QB spot, and arguably an improved wide receiver room with first rounder Jaxon Smith-Njigba replacing Marquise Goodwin. And we’re talking about a DRASTICALLY worse rushing attack, in spite of the fact that Kenneth Walker played in the same number of games (all as the lead back), while we added the robust talent of Charbonnet (taking the smattering of 2022 carries given to DeeJay Dallas, Travis Homer, and Rashaad Penny the few times he was healthy).

Okay, so point to the offensive line. Obviously, there were lots of injuries across the board causing this unit to suffer. Except, we took 46 sacks in 2022, vs. a combined 37 in 2023. Team passing, okay, you can attribute some of that to Drew Lock playing in 4 games (starting 2). But, Geno’s per-game numbers year over year obviously declined (fewer yards per game, lower completion percentage, fewer yards per attempt, lower passer rating).

Also, if your O-Line is so banged up, wouldn’t you WANT to run the ball more? In 2022, we attempted 425 carries; in 2023, it was 382. In 2022, we attempted 573 passes; in 2023, we attempted 575. Geno attempted a little over 33 and a half passes per game; but Drew Lock attempted 32 per game in his two starts, so it’s not like we really took it easy on him. Yet, neither quarterback benefitted from extended competence out of the rushing attack. As a team, we averaged 4.8 yards per carry (4.9 yards per carry if you take out two massive losses by our punter) in 2022; we could only muster 4.1 yards per carry in 2023.

So, what’s THAT all about? We thought we really had something with our new O-Line coach in 2022. But, while improving on our sack numbers (in basically the same number of drop-backs), we took a massive nosedive in our running numbers. I guess we have to HOPE that it’s just injuries and things are bound to positively regress in 2024. But, there’s also a number of personnel decisions we have to make – along the interior, particularly – that has been one of our greatest weaknesses since time immemorial.

All told, our 2022 Seahawks scored 23.9 points per game (9th); our 2023 Seahawks scored 21.4 points per game (17th). An already-bad defense somehow managed to get worse, and a decently-good offense became painfully mediocre. In spite of the fact that the offense had a ton of carry-over, improved in both the running back and wide receiver rooms, and had a quarterback who couldn’t have been more motivated to better his career-best numbers from the previous season.

Does that also come down to coaching? Because, to me, that comes down to coaching.

***

Here’s my ultimate ruling on the question at the top:

I think, personnel-wise, the 2023 Seahawks were better than the 2022 Seahawks. However, I think the play on the field was worse. The numbers bear that out, even if their records were the same. We were -38 in point differential in 2023, meaning we probably overachieved. The NFL record 7 go-ahead TD passes by Geno Smith in the 4th quarter or OT sort of proves that point. We had a +6 point differential in 2022, which seems appropriate for a 9-8 team. So, while things were disappointing for Geno Smith, and some of the other veterans in 2023, I don’t think they were so much worse that it cost us. Ultimately, I put it on our coaching staff – our coordinators specifically, though Pete Carroll certainly doesn’t get a pass from me at this point – as the reason why the 2023 Seahawks were worse.

I believe, with more competent leadership, the 2023 Seahawks should’ve won more games and reached the playoffs.

That doesn’t mean I believe this team was good enough to win the NFC West. They clearly had a ceiling that was much lower than the 49ers. But, I do believe we should’ve beaten the Rams at least once, if not twice. Win one and we’re in the playoffs. Win both, we’re 11-6 and playing in Tampa in the first round of the playoffs (while the Rams would’ve been 8-9 and on the outside looking in, where they belonged).

So, in that sense, it’s pretty clear why Pete Carroll needed to go. We can’t really tell at this time if it was a matter of the messaging not getting through, or too much meddling by Pete in the personnel decisions to keep around these guys who are getting up there (saying nothing of giving up a second round draft pick for half of a season of Leonard Williams). But, I believe we didn’t have the proper staff in place to get the best out of these players. A more run-focused offensive scheme (becoming almost exclusively either a run or play-action team), with more attention paid to stopping the run and generating pressure by being blitz-heavy on defense, likely would’ve enhanced our win/loss record.

What we couldn’t do were the same things we’ve done the last 5+ years. What we couldn’t do was declare a shift towards a 3-4 defense, only to pretty much play a random hodgepodge of the exact defensive fronts we’ve used all along. What we couldn’t do was give up huge defensive cushions underneath – hoping to take away the deep ball – only to give up the deep ball anyway, and everything else opposing offenses wanted to do. Change it up! Drastically, if necessary! But, do SOMETHING.

This team did nothing, and mediocrity was our end result. Let’s hope that doesn’t continue on into 2024.

L.J. Collier Was The Worst Seahawks First Round Pick In The John Schneider Era

L.J. Coller was taken with the 29th overall pick in 2019 by the Seattle Seahawks. He just recently signed with the Arizona Cardinals for a 1-year deal, probably worth the minimum. Thus ends the Seahawks tenure of the very worst first round draft pick John Schneider ever made.

To be fair, it’s not like there’s been a TON of first round draft picks. There’s been FIVE years in that span (2010-2022) where we didn’t make a selection until the second round! It almost happened a sixth time in 2019, I’m sure, but I gather we couldn’t find a trade partner willing to give us what we wanted to trade into the first round (not a good quarterback class AT ALL, really hampered us).

But, that being said, there have also been a number of first round duds taken by the Seahawks in that time. James Carpenter was disappointing (and entirely miscast as a right tackle), Germain Ifedi was a frequent whipping boy (and ALSO entirely miscast as a right tackle), Rashaad Penny was a reach and oft-injured, and no one’s ever happy when their team takes an off-ball linebacker that high (Jordyn Brooks has been good, but not quite elite, and now quite injured).

L.J. Collier, however, out-sucks them all and it’s not even close.

The circumstances weren’t great at the time for the Seahawks. In 2019, we were still clinging to the delusion that we were a championship contender. We were trying to recover from YEARS of mismanagement along the defensive line – starting right around the point where we took Malik McDowell in the second round in 2017 – and this was really the nadir. Frank Clark was coming up for a new contract. We franchise tagged him, then traded him to the Chiefs for a bounty of picks. It was our only viable move, really, since we didn’t even have the money to cover the tag, let alone enough money or draft capital to replenish all the spots that needed filling.

It was just unfortunate, in retrospect, that we couldn’t find a trade partner with a pick higher than the 29th. But, there was nothing doing, and by the time the draft got to the 29th spot, there wasn’t a quality defensive end left.

The consensus was down on Collier from the start. He was a reach. He had no marketable skills on the football field. If you squinted (and REALLY lied to yourself), you saw a guy who could play inside and outside – a la Michael Bennett – but in reality this guy wasn’t anything CLOSE to Michael Bennett.

45 games in 4 years for the Seahawks. 16 starts, all in 2020. His career got off to a bad start with an injury in training camp as a rookie; that set him back considerably. Or, maybe it didn’t. Maybe he was just fucking terrible, and a track record of perfect health wouldn’t have made any difference. I know this, injuries didn’t keep him off the field 2020-2022. You know what did? His incompetence at the game of football. He was frequently a healthy scratch on gamedays. On a line – mind you – that wasn’t very good as it was! We’ve never STOPPED trying to recover from the years of mismanagement along the defensive line! And he couldn’t even crack THAT rotation in many weeks!

3.0 career sacks, all in 2020. 40 career tackles – less than one per game. So, no pass rush ability, and not really anything special when it came to stopping the run. He didn’t do a fucking thing in his time here.

It’s adorable that Collier’s agent is throwing shade at the Seahawks and their scheme. I mean, I know the Seahawks have been far from perfect (especially defensively), but Pete Carroll has a track record. Other players HAVE stepped up and produced in this system. If Collier goes to the Cardinals and becomes a force to be reckoned with, I’ll eat my fucking hat.

Good. Fucking. Riddance.

Now, let’s go out and find a proper defensive end in this year’s draft to take his place.

The Seahawks Signed Dre’Mont Jones & Jarran Reed

We have exciting news! I can’t remember the last time the Seahawks were involved with a major signing on the first day of free agency. Not for an outside player anyway. The Seahawks are an organization that likes to draft and develop, they’re an organization that likes to take care of their own guys. Other than that – and the occasional big splash trade – we usually buy low and test the waters on an older veteran, or a lesser name coming off his rookie contract.

It’s a smart way to do things, but it can also be infuriating. What happens to those teams who “win” free agency? They’re often coming from a real dark point; that’s why they have so much money to spend in the first place. And, you’re not getting the proper value out of guys on bigtime second or third contracts, compared to those on rookie deals especially, but also compared to past-their-prime veterans who might have a little something left in the tank. So, you don’t often see a lot of future success from those teams who “win” free agency. Once in a while, a team will get everything right, but that’s pretty rare. More often than not, if you’re not just as inept (remember that Philly “Dream Team” they compiled some years back), then you’re mortgaging the future like the Rams did. Which is great, they won a Super Bowl. But, now they’re set to be one of the worst teams in football, and that’s gotta be tough to swallow as a fan.

Conversely, as you can see, it’s not like the Seahawks’ way has paid dividends either. All too often, we’ve eschewed one impact signing in an attempt to scattershot a lot of minimum deals. Instead of signing one impact offensive linemen, we’d sign three mediocre duds. Instead of going for one impact pass rusher, we’d overpay defensive tackles (Poona, Mone) who can’t get to the quarterback, and then sign whoever else was left on the scrap heap (Quinton Jefferson, Al Woods).

Everyone likes to point to Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril as the last time the Seahawks got it right in free agency. That was EONS ago! The last outside free agent who actually made a positive impact was Uchenna Nwosu; before him, there was nobody.

Seemingly every year, we head into free agency with a decent amount of money to spend, and seemingly every year, we walk away shaking our heads at the moves the Seahawks have done.

Well, not this time! This time, we signed Dre’Mont Jones away from the Denver Broncos, for 3 years and $51 million. He gets a $20 million signing bonus, which puts his 2023 cap hit at around $10 million. Assuming he plays well, his 2024 cap hit is under $20 million. And if he’s a jackpot, we’ll probably extend him before 2025 comes into play.

6’3, 281 pound defensive tackle who has 22 sacks in his 4-year career, 18.5 over the last three seasons (no less than 5.5 per year). But, it’s obviously not just sacks that makes him one of the most sought-after defensive linemen in this free agency class. He can play all over the line, and he’s a menace against both the run and the pass. He’s basically everything we’ve been looking for since Clinton McDonald left, on the low end. On the high end, the sky’s the limit. I dunno, maybe Aaron Donald is the limit; he’s probably not Aaron Donald.

Nevertheless, he’s the best defensive tackle we’ve had in ages. Sam Adams maybe? Rocky Bernard? It goes back a ways. (I don’t count Michael Bennett here, though maybe I should; I always saw him as a defensive end who slid inside on passing downs to give us an extra outside rusher).

Not only is Dre’Mont one of the best and most impactful free agents, but he also fills a VERY huge need on this particular team. Shelby Harris and Quinton Jefferson were both released as cap casualties. Poona Ford is probably moving on (after not really fitting into the new 3-4 scheme), and Bryan Mone might be out with injury all year. So, as much as we all like Al Woods, there’s a lot of work left to do.

And just when I thought we might settle for some guy making the minimum, we bounced right back the next day and brought back Jarran Reed on a 2-year, $10.8 million deal. This isn’t just any old man off the streets. This is someone who has been remarkably healthy and available (other than a stint when he was suspended). He had a stretch with the Seahawks where there was real pass rush ability and potential (surpassing 10 sacks one year), but by and large he’ll give you a little bit of that, while also presenting a stout front in run defense.

What makes all of this truly thrilling is seeing what will come from the #5 overall pick. If Jalen Carter falls to us? And we get to play him, Reed, and Jones side by side by side? With Nwosu on one end and Darrell Taylor or Boye Mafe on the other? Or, we end up with Will Anderson as an end with those guys? We could really have something here!

My Favorite Seattle-Based Athletes, Part 1

Ahh yes, we’re in one of those dead periods of the sports calendar (unless your team happens to be in the Super Bowl, or you’re super-jazzed by what they’re doing with the Pro Bowl nowadays); it’s a struggle to find things to write about. So, to kill some time, I thought I’d write about my favorite Seattle athletes, both college and pros.

These aren’t necessarily people who were born and/or raised in the Seattle area (although, they could be). These are people who played their respective sports – either in college or as professionals – in Seattle. We’re talking Seahawks, Mariners, Supersonics, and Huskies. For this exercise, I went through each team and picked my favorite five guys. I’ll write a little bit about each, then we’ll narrow it down to a top ten overall, then we’ll see if we’re able to rank those. I don’t expect this to be easy.

I should point out – for frame of reference – that I didn’t really start getting into sports until 1987 or 1988, with the 90’s being my heyday. I got into the Seahawks first, then the Sonics in the early 90’s, then the Mariners in 1995, and it wasn’t until I started going to UW in the fall of 1999 when I truly became a Husky fan. This isn’t a ranking of the All Time Best Seattle Athletes. These are just MY favorites. If they’re not your favorites, I don’t care. Go start your own blog; they’re not too hard to make.

Mariners

  • Felix Hernandez
  • Randy Johnson
  • Ken Griffey Jr.
  • Ichiro
  • Alex Rodriguez

Spoiler alert: Felix and Randy are making my Top 10, so I’ll write more about them later. It feels corny as hell to have Griffey in my top five favorite Mariners, but I don’t know how you leave him off. He balled out in the outfield, making insane catches and throws, and he was one of the best home run hitters of all time. You couldn’t take your eyes off of him when he was doing whatever it was he was doing, even if it was just chuckling with teammates in the dugout. I would say over time, the bloom came off the rose with Ichiro, but those first few years, he was a force of nature. You couldn’t believe what you were seeing out of this magnetic little guy, with his cannon of an arm, and his ability to beat out seemingly-routine grounders. Eventually, he became a slap-hitting singles guy who never dove for balls and whose arm stopped being challenged by baserunners. But, for a while there, he was all we had. A common theme going forward is going to be how tough I had it trying to pick a fifth favorite. Edgar was just boringly amazing. Buhner was certainly a terrific personality. And there were plenty of quietly-excellent guys around the turn of the century. But, A-Rod was a guy who could do it all, at least as long as he wore a Mariners uniform. Power, speed, defense (at the most premium defensive spot on the team), great eye, great average. We somehow brought in a guy who could legitimately push Griffey as the best player on the team. Say what you will about his exit from Seattle, but even then, it was fun to root against him on other teams.

Seahawks

  • Marshawn Lynch
  • Kam Chancellor
  • Steve Largent
  • Russell Wilson
  • Richard Sherman

Spoiler alert: Lynch, Kam, and Largent are all making my Top 10. The Seahawks were tough in a different way, because I could’ve gone 20 deep in this preliminary list; it was difficult to limit it to just five. Cortez Kennedy, Shaun Alexander, Matt Hasselbeck, Joey Galloway, Earl Thomas, Michael Bennett, Ricky Watters, Brian Blades, Bobby Wagner, Michael Sinclair, Jacob Green, Lofa Tatupu, Walter Jones, Doug Baldwin. You could go on and on and on. But, in spite of recent schadenfreude, Russell Wilson was still a super fun quarterback to watch and root for on a weekly basis. In his prime, he would regularly pull our asses out of the fire late in games, and even late in plays as he’d avoid the pass rush in order to make some insane throw down field. Sherm ended up landing my fifth spot simply because of his personality. You could always tell what kind of shit he was talking even if he wasn’t mic’ed up on the field. If teams had the misfortune of trying to challenge him, they’d often find that plan thwarted real quick. Even later in his career – after quarterbacks by and large stopped throwing his way – it was always comforting knowing half the field was closed for business.

Supersonics

  • Shawn Kemp
  • Gary Payton
  • Detlef Schrempf
  • Sam Perkins
  • Nate McMillan

Spoiler alert: Kemp and Payton are in my Top 10. You’ll notice the top four listed here were the top four in minutes played in that amazing 1995/1996 season (and that all five were on that team in major roles). The fifth guy came down to Mac-10, Ray Allen, Dale Ellis, Hersey Hawkins, and Rashard Lewis, but I’ll always have a soft spot for Mr. Sonic. For a lot of reasons, but I’ll never forget how banged up he was in those Finals against the Bulls. Yet, he came back and played a critical role in our winning games four and five. I’ll always believe that a healthy Nate would’ve propelled us to the upset to end all upsets against those juggernaut Bulls. Detlef was a consummate pro and a perfect complement to Gary and Shawn’s theatrics. And Big Smooth – for that nickname alone – very nearly made my Top 10. Just a stud of a big man who drained threes like nobody’s business (at a time in league history where that was an extreme rarity, unlike today where it’s the norm).

Husky Basketball

  • Isaiah Thomas
  • Jon Brockman
  • Nate Robinson
  • Brandon Roy
  • Matisse Thybulle

Spoiler alert: only IT makes my Top 10 from here. If I had to pick a second, I’d go with Brockman, who was a great all-around forward under Romar. He got better every year in a complementary role, and as a senior really picked up and led this team in ways we wouldn’t have expected from him as a freshman. Nate Rob was super flashy and fun to watch. Roy probably had the best game of all of them, but was one of those boringly-excellent players (who, unfortunately, could never stay healthy as a pro). And Thybulle really got unlocked under Mike Hopkins, in probably the only good thing he’s done as a coach of the Huskies. Honorable mention goes to Terrell Brown, for being super fun to watch game-in and game-out last year.

Husky Football

  • Marques Tuiasosopo
  • Reggie Williams
  • John Ross
  • Budda Baker
  • Michael Penix

Spoiler alert: Tui and Reggie both made my Top 10. If there was a Top 11, John Ross would be in it. Nothing more fun than my friends and I screaming JOHN ROSS at the tops of our lungs whenever he corralled a 40+ yard bomb for a touchdown. My love for Budda Baker started when he flipped from the Ducks to the Huskies. Then, he proceeded to ball out for us for three of the best teams we’ve ever had, before becoming one of the pros I most wanted the Seahawks to draft. We let him go to the Cardinals and part of me has never forgiven them for it. Consider this the kiss of death for Penix’s 2023 season, as I’ve surely jinxed him. But, he might be the best and most pro-ready quarterback I’ve ever seen in a Husky uniform. As someone who stepped in right away this past season and led us to double-digit wins – including a bowl victory over the Longhorns – it’s a remarkable feat, even if he is a transfer. Penix obviously gets extra credit for choosing to return for a second season – when he easily could’ve gone pro and been at least a Day 2 draft pick, if not a sneaky first rounder – and of course for all the Big Penix Energy jokes my friends and I get to rattle off. If he parlays this into a conference title in 2023, I wouldn’t be shocked if he’s able to sneak into my Top 10 by this time next year.

Tomorrow: my top 10.

I’m Sick & Tired Of The Seahawks Having A Mediocre Defensive Line

I never know what to make of seasons like this one. The Seahawks finished with 45 sacks in 2022, which puts them in the top quarter of the league. Indeed, we finished with one more sack than the San Francisco 49ers, who is the epitome of a defensive front seven that I desperately want for the Seahawks!

I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but this year had a very Feast Or Famine sort of feel to the Seahawks’ success on defense. It seems like we feasted on the dregs of society, but then we went totally in the tank in games we lost. Early on in the year, our failure was attributed to the scheme change, so we tweaked things where linemen could single-gap their opponents and be more aggressive in getting up field. That seemed to be the solution, until it wasn’t, and we once again couldn’t get to the quarterback.

As we all know, pass rush isn’t just Sacks. There’s a lot to it. When I look at the Seahawks, I don’t see a top quarter pass rush in the NFL, in spite of their sack totals. Not that sacks aren’t important, but you need to be generating consistent pressure on a regular basis if you want what the 49ers have.

And that comes down to talent. The fact of the matter is: the Seahawks haven’t had a difference-maker along the defensive line since Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. Which gets back to my biggest pet peeve: always comparing the new guys we bring in to Bennett & Avril. But, that’s going to continue to happen, because we keep drafting guys in later rounds, expecting them to magically transform into Pro Bowlers.

It’s my greatest frustration as a Seahawks fan. After that perfect storm of amazing moves from 2010-2012, we were on top of the world. But, from 2015 onward, all we did was make the playoffs, lose in the playoffs, and draft in the mid-20’s. You know what you can’t find in the mid-20’s? Or, at least, you know what the Seahawks have NEVER been able to find in the mid-20’s? A difference-maker along the defensive line.

There’s L.J. Collier. There’s Lawrence Jackson back in the day. There’s Lamar King going back a little further. And then there’s all those guys we’ve taken in the 2nd-6th rounds, who’ve been kind of speedy and undersized, who we hoped would develop into edge rushers and/or strong-side linebackers. Boye Mafe and Tyreke Smith last year, Darrell Taylor and Alton Robinson in 2020, Rasheem Green and Jacob Martin in 2018. We keep waiting for these guys to really pop, but there’s no consistency from game-to-game.

Sure, Darrell Taylor improved from 6.5 sacks in 2021 to 9.5 sacks in 2022, but where was he for the entire first half of this year? Where’s that consistency? Every time we point to a modicum of success these guys have as a possible jumping-off point for greater success, they come back the next year and underwhelm our increased expectations.

I just want a fucking stud, man. I want a fucking animal on the defensive line that cannot be stopped. I want an Aaron Donald, I want a Myles Garrett, I want a fucking Bosa! I’m tired of trying to cutesy-poo scheme our way to an improved pass rush; I just want a game-wrecker back there, mucking things up and opening up opportunities for everyone else.

Football isn’t as fun to watch if your team sucks on defense. And the way to get good on defense is to bolster that defensive line with legitimate stars, not undersized prospects we hope might one day blossom into some damn thing. Not slow and plodding ‘tweeners who get eaten up by even subpar offensive linemen. But, you can’t get there without drafting in the top 3-5. You can’t get there when you’re overpaying at nonsense positions like off-ball linebackers and safeties.

That’s why I’m going to be harping on the need for the Seahawks to use this 5th overall pick on a defensive lineman. Don’t trade it! Don’t use it for any other fucking position. Lineman. Figure it out. And stop paying for all these damn safeties and linebackers, so the next time a Frank Clark type is ready to hit free agency, you can hang onto your own, rather than going dumpster diving for other team’s bullshit like Jadeveon Clowney and Sheldon Richardson.

The Seahawks Weren’t Totally Uninteresting In A Pre-Season Loss In Pittsburgh

I had scheduled myself to write about the Mariners today and the Seahawks tomorrow, but we’re flip-flopping after an underwhelming series loss to the Rangers of all teams.

I didn’t watch the Seahawks game live, because I have better things to do than watch quasi-meaningless pre-season games. But, you know what I don’t have better things to do than? Watching quasi-meaningless pre-season games the next day on DVR when I already know the outcome of the game!

I’ll just get this out of the way early so we can all move on: I’m not crazy about pre-season announcing booths in general, but the addition of an otherwise quite charming Michael Robinson brought the homerism to a new level. I didn’t bother to write down any specific criticisms, but at points I was wondering if we were watching the same players. Like, he’d praise their attributes that they clearly don’t exhibit! To counter-balance that, I thought the addition of Michael Bennett was delightful, and I particularly enjoyed his interviews on the field. He’s a wild card in the best possible way (even though it’s clear he’s been instructed to also juice up the homerism). Curt Menefee, as always, is a pro’s pro and we’re lucky to have him doing our games. He has no reason to! We’re not interesting from a national perspective without Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner anymore!

The game result is – as has been mentioned everywhere – not important. The Seahawks got down 14-0 through the first quarter, we managed to execute a 2-minute drive heading into halftime to cut the deficit to 17-10, then we tied it on our first possession after halftime. We swapped touchdowns and 2-point conversions after that, to make it 25-25 late in the game. Then, a critical stop by the Seahawks defense was rewarded with a devastating sack/fumble, and the Steelers scored a TD with just 3 seconds left in the game to give the game its final score, 32-25.

Pre-Season Quarterback Report

As has been the case pretty much all off-season, Geno Smith worked with the starters and Drew Lock worked with the backups. In this particular game, Geno worked the entire first half and Drew worked the entire second half.

And, as expected, neither one really stood out, at least to my eye. They’re both crappy-to-mediocre backup quarterbacks in this league. And yet, I came to a definite conclusion while watching this game, as Geno Smith tottered his way to a sack in an imploding pocket (even though he had plenty of time to throw it away): if I have to watch a full season where Geno Smith is my team’s starting quarterback, I’m going to blow my fucking brains out.

Mind you, I don’t expect that to be the end result of my life, so let’s just say I’ll be taking every opportunity to casually skip even regular season Seahawks games this year.

I don’t want this to sound like I’m gung-ho over Drew Lock, because I’m very much not. But, man, we fucking know what Geno Smith has to offer. He was shitty with the Jets (and other teams) and he’s shitty now. Age and sitting behind Russell Wilson has not magically made him better. There’s no savvy to his game. He looks way too long to his first read, for one thing. That makes him frequently late in throwing to that first read if he decides it’s open. Otherwise, it makes him late to his secondary reads, so it’s like he holds on Read 1, and then a few seconds later decides to check it down to his final read. This is especially aggravating when it’s 3rd & long and the check-down gets tackled well before the first down line to gain.

That’s why you can see his stats from Saturday – 10/15, 101 yards, no turnovers – and think that’s not so bad. Last year, in three games, he completed over 68% of his passes largely in this fashion (looking pretty spry against probably the league’s worst defense in Jacksonville), which again leads one to think he’s not so bad. Think again. Think long and hard about the Geno Smith you’ve watched over the last decade.

I just can’t with him. All things being equal – and they do look pretty equal – give me the unfamiliar. Drew Lock, to his credit, did some good things in this one. He doubled the number of touchdown drives that Geno gave us, he completed one more pass for one more yard in the same number of attempts. But, he also took double the number of sacks, including the game-sealing fumble at the end (where he was supposed to recognize the blitzer off the edge and adjust the play/protection accordingly).

You look for moments where a quarterback can show you what he’s got. That was Drew Lock’s moment. The game was tied, there was just over a minute left and we got it on Pittsburgh’s side of the 50 yard line. All we needed was 20-25 yards for an easy game-winning field goal. That’s a moment where you MUST orchestrate a game-winning drive for your team. Granted, it was the pre-season, so it was backups against backups. But, that makes it all the more important if you’re Drew Lock and you’re trying to be a starter in this league. Starters don’t fuck that up. Starters see that blitzer and make mincemeat out of the Steelers on that play. This is going to be Lock’s fourth year in the league; if you can’t see a pretty obvious blitz off the edge by now, then I just don’t think it’s ever going to click for you.

And yet, I still would prefer to see Lock as our starting quarterback this season. Partly because he’s Not Geno Smith, but also because I think he sucks just a little bit more. I think he’s going to be a little more reckless with the football, where Geno might be a little more careful. I think he’ll cost us maybe an extra game or two, where Geno might do just enough to game manage his way to victory. It’s the difference between going 8-9 and 6-11, but that’s a pretty big leap in the NFL draft standings, and that’s all that matters right now.

Because, clearly, neither of these guys deserve to be around and playing in meaningful football games in 2023.

Other Pre-Season Tidbits

I was quite impressed with the offensive line throughout this one. If there’s one positive takeaway, it’s that the depth up front is likely to be our biggest strength.

By extension, I thought the running backs looked great as well! Granted, Rashaad Penny was out with injury (of course), but that just meant more Kenneth Walker. He didn’t break anything, but he looked solid in general. More eye-opening was what we saw from DeeJay Dallas and even Travis Homer, who both got busy running AND pass catching. Great day from that room!

I was pretty appalled by our run defense, especially when you saw a good chunk of our starting interior linemen out there for much of the game. Even in the first half, the Steelers were ripping us to shreds.

Cody Barton is Just A Guy. I don’t know where anyone got the opinion that he’s going to be a good player for this team, but he’s not. He’s just a warm body. His deficiencies might be covered up a little more when Jordyn Brooks is out there being a beast. But, when Barton is the main guy, you can see just how slow he is, how bad his instincts are, and how he gets run over on the reg. If ankle tackles where the runner still falls forward for 2-3 extra yards are your jam, then sign up for more Cody Barton. But, as for me, I prefer an inside linebacker with some juice.

Bit of a mixed bag from our receivers. I thought the rookies Bo Melton and Dareke Young looked solid. No D.K. or Lockett in this one, nor any Swain or Dee Eskridge (naturally). We did get our first look at Noah Fant, who will definitely have a big role in this passing game. That being said, Fant isn’t going to be much of a blocker, especially out in space, so we’ll have to adjust our expectations accordingly. Also, he needs to work on his footwork, because he had a great opportunity along the sidelines, but couldn’t get his second foot down in bounds.

I was pleased to see Darrell Taylor and Alton Robinson make big impacts in the pass rush. And I was thrilled with the two sacks from Boye Mafe! He might be raw, but his speed is NFL-ready, no doubt about it. Shelby Harris looks like a quality addition to the interior, and I think it was Myles Adams who stood out quite a bit in the second half (I believe he was wearing #95 in this one, but I could be mistaken). I don’t know how many DTs we can carry, but I’m rooting for Adams.

I’m going to withhold too much judgment on the secondary for now, because we were looking at a lot of inexperienced guys out there on the boundary. I will say that Justin Coleman looks bad and old and slow; he probably shouldn’t make this team. Promisingly enough, Tariq Woolen got the start on one side and was hit or miss. I say “promisingly” because he was always expected to be more of a project, so the fact that the team trusts him enough to start him right out of the gate is encouraging for his overall talent level. I’ll need to see better ball skills, and turning his head when the ball is in the air, but otherwise there are things to build upon, as well as things to point to and praise. On the other side, we saw a lot of Coby Bryant. I don’t know where he’s ultimately going to end up (if it’s outside or as a nickel guy), but sort of the same deal: some good things to point to, some things for him to work on. You wouldn’t expect either guy to be finished products right out of college, but I like that they both have the trust of these coaches this early in their careers.

That being said, if Sidney Jones and/or Artie Burns continue to be injured throughout this season, we could be looking at significant growing pains from our secondary. Granted, neither of our starting safeties – Quandre Diggs & Jamal Adams – played in this one. Here’s hoping they can paper over where we’re limited on the outside.

Finally, I’ll just say the kicking game looked shaky as hell! Jason Myers doinked one in off the upright and did not look sharp; he was also knocking some kickoffs short, but that may have been by design to test our coverage units (who graded out pretty poorly, in my layman’s opinion). Michael Dickson punted a bunch into the endzone, which is entirely unlike him. I’d say the old line about how it’s pre-season for everyone, including punters, but what else does he do with his time in training camp? He punts! Where’s that magic leg we’ve seen for four years?! That magic leg we’re paying Top-Of-The-Punter-Market prices!

The Seahawks Signed Some More Guys & Lost Some More Guys

It’s time for my usual roundup of what the Seahawks did while I was in Reno. I’m still groggy as hell, but thankfully I was smart enough to take the day off of work. Anyway, I ran through a bunch of the minor comings and goings last week, so let’s get into the ones that happened while I was gone (I hope I don’t miss any).

Uchenna Nwosu: 2 years, $20 million

This might be the most important signing the Seahawks make this offseason. We’ll see. Pass rush is, was, and always will be the most pressing need for the Seahawks and it’s frankly ridiculous that we have to keep having this fucking conversation every God damn year because they haven’t figured their shit out after the heyday that was Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. Every fucking guy we bring in is compared to those two guys, because we’ve been 100% inept at replacing them. It’s getting old!

Nwosu is young, but also raw and full of potential. Which means he hasn’t done much yet in his four season in the NFL (with the Chargers), but he could be a late bloomer who peaks in the right defense with the right group of guys around him. He’s more of an edge player – who might also play some strong-side linebacker – but in what’s looking more and more like a 3-4 defense we’re installing, I would expect him to be one of our primary pass rush specialists.

Benson Mayowa, Kerry Hyder, & Carlos Dunlap: Released

That’s made all the more clear by these three moves that happened pretty close to one another. I’m surprised, and also I’m not. Mayowa did next-to-nothing last year, but he’s also earning next-to-nothing, so it seemed like he’d be a good candidate for training camp competition. Ditto Hyder. But, maybe we’re just looking to get younger across the board. That would seem to jibe with Dunlap’s release. He was set to earn a chunk of change, but he also seemingly earned it by the way he finished his 2021 season. I think his first half production was too damning though, as he did absolutely nothing for us in the early going.

I’m good with these moves. I like to go with veterans at the defensive end spot, but you can only keep them around as long as they’re consistently producing. These guys seem to be pretty close to out of the league.

Austin Blythe: 1 year, $4 million

Looks like probably our new starting center. He played with the Chiefs last year, but prior to that was with the Rams, so he seems to know our system (with both our O.C. and O-Line coach hailing from their organization). I’m kinda ready to move on from Ethan Pocic, so this is fine. Plus, he has extensive experience practicing against Aaron Donald, so that’s gotta be a plus, right?

Quinton Jefferson: 2 years, $9.5 million

This isn’t super thrilling, but it’s a further indication that we’re moving to more of a 3-4 defense. You want three bigger interior linemen, with a couple of off-ball pass rushers on either end. And, among those bigger interior linemen, ideally one or two of them would be somewhat effective at getting to the quarterback. That’s Jefferson to a T. He’s ranged from 3.0-4.5 sacks per season the last four years. And he plays the run well. I’m fine with it. It’s not flashy, but with Al Woods, Poona Ford, and Bryan Mone, I think we’ve really got something interesting at this group.

Kyle Fuller: 1 year, TBD

I don’t see any contract info on him, but considering the Seahawks non-tendered him, that means it must be pretty damn cheap. This is filler for the center and guard spots, nothing more.

Rashaad Penny: 1 year, $5.75 million

In maybe the biggest news of the long weekend, the Seahawks opted to keep Penny on a prove-it deal. This is fantastic. In my opinion, he hasn’t earned a multi-year extension. Not with his injury history. Not based on a hot final 5-6 games.

It’s those games that make this so tantalizing, though. Without Wilson, with a new O-Line coach, with another offseason from our offensive coordinator to install his scheme, we could be looking at a monster at running back, for a bargain of a price. And, if he flames out or gets injured, then it didn’t set us back financially.

Gerald Everett: Signed With The Chargers

Finally, the Chargers picked up a pretty good tight end to throw into their very good offense. We’ve got Dissly, Fant, and Parkinson, so we didn’t need to sign Everett. Not at $6+ million per year. He was solid, but also suffered from drops and fumbles, and was also kind of a head case with stupid penalites. I don’t think I’m gonna miss him.

The 2021 Seattle Seahawks Regular Season Preview Extraordinaire!

If you feel like reading about my position-by-position breakdowns, click HERE and go through all the links at the top. And, in case you missed it, I talked briefly about my predictions for how the 2021 NFL season is going to go as a whole HERE. There’s a pretty significant spoiler in there about my feelings on the Seahawks, which I’m going to get to directly.

I think the 2021 Seattle Seahawks are going to be disappointing. That’s not a very unique hill to die on. If you’re a playoff contender, only one team’s season WON’T be disappointing. But, I guess that’s my point: the 2021 Seattle Seahawks aren’t going to win the Super Bowl. For a team with Russell Wilson as its quarterback, for a team that has been to two Super Bowls in the last decade – and been to the playoffs in all but one year dating back to 2012 – not winning the Super Bowl is always going to be disappointing. Seasons change and we’re all getting fucking older, and it’s reasonable to wonder if we’re all going to die without the Seahawks ever winning a Super Bowl again.

In skimming last year’s preview post, I think my feelings about the team are similar, but for slightly different reasons. I was probably a little higher on the offense than I am this season, and for the first half that was validated by what we saw on the field. Then, the level of our defensive competition improved, and we were unable to adjust to what they were doing to us. On the flipside, there were lots of worries about the defense heading into the season – also validated by what we saw on the field – but that tightened up in the second half (as the level of offensive competition declined, and we were able to adjust to what teams were doing to us). Ultimately, we were looking at a fatally flawed team in 2020, and we’re still looking at a fatally flawed team in 2021.

There’s a lot to like about the offense once again. The talent is on par with the most talented offensive teams in the NFL. We have a Top 5 quarterback, we have arguably the best wide receiver duo, we have a stable of quality running backs and tight ends (when healthy), and our offensive line is good enough (especially with Duane Brown back in the fold). I only have one concern about the offense, but it’s a big one: Shane Waldron.

He’s never called plays before. He’s never been in charge of setting up an offense or scheming against an opposing defense. I don’t know what it was, exactly, he did with the Rams, but he wasn’t The Guy. The buck didn’t stop with Shane Waldron. We ASSUME – since he worked under offensive genius Sean McVay – that we’re going to get “The Rams’ offense” with our Seahawks talent executing it. And, we ASSUME – because the Rams’ offense has always been so great for them since McVay was brought over there – that it’s going to translate seamlessly to our team. But, we don’t know if it’s going to work out at all!

There’s a chance the offense is more efficient, and we’re able to connect on the short passing game, which in turn will open up the deep passing game again, which in turn will also open up our rushing attack. But, I would argue there’s an equally-good chance (if not a better chance) that the offense is even less efficient than it was before, and we’re reduced to an embarrassing shambles with a guy who doesn’t know how to call plays or adjust in-game to what defenses are throwing at us.

Frankly, I’m leaning towards the offense being a frustrating mess more often than not. What’s more likely? Some first-time offensive coordinator – who no one’s ever heard of outside of hardcore football circles – comes in and takes the play-calling world by storm? Or, like the 8th coordinator poached from the Rams under Sean McVay goes to another team and sucks like all the rest?

Why is no one talking about this? Why isn’t this a bigger story? Everyone’s just taking for granted that the Seahawks are going to look exactly like the Rams offensively; it makes no sense. We’ve got a quarterback who can’t shit until he holds out for the long bomb – taking umpteen sacks in the process by holding the ball too long; we’ve got a head coach who wants to run the ball more than anyone else in the league; and we’ve got an offensive line that still has to face the front sevens of the rest of the NFC West six times a year (plus playoffs), on top of many other difficult D-Lines around the league. This is a recipe for utter disaster!

Honestly, I really question whether or not Brian Schottenheimer was the main problem last year. You’re telling me he doesn’t have a short or intermediate passing game in his playbook? You’re telling me HE was the reason this team never called screen passes or crossing patterns? Or, is it because the quarterback always wants to throw the home run ball, and he can’t see over all the linemen in his way to hit his receivers 10 yards downfield? Come on, let’s think about this rationally here.

I expect this offense to struggle mightily through the first month or two, until this team goes back to calling the same plays it’s called over the last decade. At which point we MIGHT see marginal improvement, but by that time we’ll have already lost too many games to get the top seed in the NFC, and it’ll be iffy at best if we can even compete for the divisional title.

While we’re on the topic, let’s get to probably the biggest reason why the 2021 Seahawks will be disappointing: the NFC West.

They’re all better. I’m just going to say that right off the bat. The 49ers are healthy again; they figure to have enough talent to contend for a playoff spot (and maybe even the division). The Cardinals were 8-8 last year and their quarterback was playing injured for most of the second half of the season. The Rams won 10 games, beat the Seahawks in Seattle in the first round of the playoffs, and VASTLY upgraded at quarterback with Stafford over Goff. I fully expect the Rams – still stacked at virtually every single position group – to not only win the NFC West, but have the best record in the entire conference. This isn’t just reverse-jinx posturing; I’m staking my fantasy football life on it (going all in on Stafford and the Rams’ defense, earlier than probably most any other non-Rams fan in existence).

It’s almost an impossible ask to expect the Seahawks to win this division in back-to-back seasons! Especially since you can’t really point to any one thing the Seahawks do as definitely exceptional. The Rams have a great offense and the best defensive player alive. The 49ers have a great offensive scheme (if maybe lacking in talent at the quarterback position) and a stacked front seven on defense. The Cardinals have one of the best mobile quarterbacks in the league, who almost always keeps them in ballgames with a chance to win it at the end.

The Seahawks have … a less-mobile Russell Wilson, in a new offense. They have maybe the best receiver in the game in D.K. Metcalf … who was largely neutralized in the second half of last season thanks to countless double teams and defenses (or just Jalen Ramsey) blanketing his side of the field. The only certainty is that the Seahawks have the best Safety Who Gets Sacks in football. Okay. Who was the last team that featured a sacking safety that won the Super Bowl? Go ahead, I’ll wait.

At the same time, though, I can’t say it’s all Doom & Gloom either. Because, as I said up top, this team IS talented, pretty much throughout. There’s enough talent on offense that I fully expect – in 2-minute situations, when Wilson is calling the plays in hurry-up – points will be scored. My argument is: it’s not going to be as seamless as everyone is expecting; it’s going to be a struggle sometimes. The Seahawks aren’t going to lead the league in points; they’re not even going to be in the Top 5. Talent alone will probably keep us in the Top 10, but I don’t think that’s going to be good enough to push us over the hump into the upper stratosphere.

Sure, there’s also talent on defense. I think the starting linebacker unit is solid, the defensive line should be at least on par with what we saw in the second half of 2020, and I have zero issues with the safeties. But, the cornerbacks are an obvious weakness, and there’s still the Ken Norton in the room. He’s a terrible defensive coordinator! He might’ve been okay when there were Hall of Famers throughout this side of the ball, but literally anyone could’ve coordinated those defenses and had a top DVOA unit. This is a group with a lot of young guys in prominent roles, a lot of fringe-starters getting full-time snaps, who desperately need to be coached up, and Ken Norton is completely incapable of doing that outside of the linebacker room. He should be a linebackers coach; that’s where his ceiling is from a coaching perspective. But, he’s in charge of the entire defense, and that’s where this team gets fucked.

The defense hasn’t been the same since Dan Quinn left for Atlanta. I’d feel a lot better about things if we’d brought him back this year, instead of letting Dallas take him in.

So, you know, expect a lot of frustrating defensive series. Expect teams to continue to dink and dunk on us at will, at times, in every single game. Expect a good amount of chunk plays to go against us because our cornerbacks are crappy and our safeties can’t be everywhere at once. Then, expect us to adjust and slow teams down for a while in the second or third quarters of games, before they finally figure out how to move it again midway through the fourth quarter.

In short, expect the Seahawks defense you’ve come to know and loathe since Dan Quinn left. Along with it, expect the usual Cardiac Seahawks games where they’re maddeningly close until the bitter end, with the final possession deciding the game’s outcome. You like one-score games? I hope so, because the Seahawks enjoy nothing more than playing the same fucking Greatest Hits for us every single week.

I haven’t done this in a while, so let’s go game-by-game and see if we can predict wins and losses. This is fun for about 30 seconds, right?

  • @ Indy – Win
  • Tenn – Win
  • @ Minn – Win
  • @ Frisco – Loss
  • Rams – Loss
  • @ Pitt – Loss
  • Saints – Win
  • Jags – Win
  • BYE
  • @ Pack – Loss
  • Zona – Loss
  • @ Wash – Win
  • Frisco – Win
  • @ Hou – Win
  • @ Rams – Loss
  • Bears – Win
  • Lions – Win
  • @ Zona – Win

I have us at 11-6 in this scenario. It might not shake out EXACTLY in this fashion, but I think 5-3 heading into the BYE is probably reasonable. I think 2-4 against the division is probably the difference-maker between us or the 49ers getting the higher wild card seed (I think we probably end up with the same record, but they figure out a way to sweep the Cards and get one over on the Rams).

I’d love nothing more than to be wrong. There’s a small part of me that wants to believe the Seahawks have been on this upward trajectory since 2017 (the last time we missed the playoffs). We were 9-7 that year, and have improved by one win every season since, with us finally winning the division again in 2020. The next step in that progression is to not only win the division, but take the top seed in the NFC again. And, with that – ideally – a spot in the Super Bowl.

But, usually, teams who do that are able to get that one final piece to the puzzle in the lead-up to that season. In 2013, for instance, we went out and got Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. The Bucs last year got Tom Brady and loaded up on veterans on defense. When was the last team you saw that was THIS flawed that somehow managed to improve? Almost always – when a team is this flawed – there’s negative regression the other way.

Frankly, the Seahawks have been flawed every season since 2017; things can’t keep improving forever.

This feels like a total meltdown waiting to happen. We were already teetering on the brink this offseason with Russell Wilson complaining in the media. I’m half-expecting everything to totally fall apart, with the final nail being a Wilson trade out of here. And knowing our Seattle luck with trading superstars, he will hamstring us with the list of teams we’re allowed to trade him to, resulting in our getting a terrible package of picks and players in return.

Officially, I’m predicting the Seahawks will be 11-6 and the 6th seed in the NFC. But, secretly I wouldn’t be shocked to see us fall to 8-9, miss out on the playoffs, and have all hell break loose.

Earlier this week I called out the Ravens as the team having a Season From Hell. But, don’t be surprised if it’s us. Again, I hope I’m wrong, but I feel it in my gut: the future looks grim.

Seahawks Position Breakdown 2021: Defensive Line

Well, I waited as long as I could possibly wait before getting to the defensive line. I even rearranged my whole posting schedule for the last month to give the team time to make any more moves they were going to make to the D-Line before the regular season started (this post was supposed to happen almost two weeks ago!). I guess we’re keeping Geno Atkins on ice until we get past the first game?

I mean, it makes sense. The defensive line has largely been set since earlier this offseason, when we waived Jarran Reed and re-signed Carlos Dunlap. It’s actually one of the great strengths of this team, at least on paper! Meanwhile, the Seahawks continue to tinker with the cornerback spot until – who is Bless Austin, you ask? I have no idea – we’re all left wondering what the hell is going on. Oh well, better luck for my posting schedule next year!

I’m a big fan of what the Seahawks have going at defensive line. I was really happy with the group in the second half of last year, and that starts with Carlos Dunlap. Oh sure, he’s going into his 12th season, but he’s just a solid, steady dude who gets regular pressure on the quarterback and is able to convert enough of that pressure into sacks.

Dunlap leads a pretty impressive DE group that gets production all the way down to the last man. Benson Mayowa returns; he has 13 sacks over the last two years. As a part-time pass-rush specialist, he’s nails.

Alton Robinson and Darrell Taylor are sort of hybrid DEs and SAM linebackers who we’re all excited about. I’m loathe to expect too much of a jump from year one to year two (especially with someone like Taylor, who didn’t even play last year), but we saw Robinson’s baseline last year and 4.0 sacks as a rookie is nothing to sneeze at. If he runs it back, fine. If he does slightly better, great!

The newcomer is Kerry Hyder, who has racked up two seasons of 8+ sacks in his 5-year career. I don’t know his full story, but by all accounts he’s a hard worker and is someone who will fit into our scheme really well.

Then, there are the low men on the totem pole, Rasheem Green and L.J. Collier. Granted, both have been varying degrees of disappointing, but even they bring SOMETHING to the table. I know we all expected more out of Green, who left college early; we kept hearing about how he needed to grow into his body or whatever. Well, it’s been three years and he has a total of 7.0 sacks to show for it. Heading into the last year of his rookie deal, it’s really a make-or-break season for him. He did play pretty exceptionally during the pre-season; I honestly don’t remember him ever showing out like that before. So, maybe things are starting to click; or maybe he’s finally grown into that body. I guess we’ll see.

It was interesting to hear how many people on Twitter were speculating about the Seahawks possibly trading away or cutting L.J. Collier during and after the final roster cut-downs. I mean, I can see why they said those things; he didn’t have a particularly great pre-season. You never hear stories about him in practice or training camp. His rookie year was largely a bust and his 2020 season was improved, but no one’s writing home to mom about 3.0 sacks. I don’t have a lot of positive things to say, other than he’s another guy to throw onto the pile. He did show flashes of making an impact at times last year, and ideally I think that’s all you need. Collier isn’t a starter for this team. He’s in the rotation. He can slide inside to play defensive tackle (as well as Green and Hyder, for that matter), and ultimately I think the team likes him. I also think his value is so low that you’d essentially be throwing him away for nothing. He was a first round pick and he’s probably currently worth a 6th round pick in return. For an able body you can plug and play, that’s not a trade I’m looking to make, especially when there’s at least SOME upside, if you squint your eyes and focus real hard.

My favorite guys on the team are always the defensive tackles, and I think the Seahawks have some good ones!

Poona Ford is our anchor here, with Jarran Reed being waived and signing with the Chiefs. That’s a scary proposition for some Seahawks fans, considering Reed has a semi-proven track record of making an impact in the pass-rush game from the interior; Poona has 2.5 career sacks across three season. But, the Seahawks gave him a raise this offseason for a reason: I think they see great things ahead for this erstwhile undrafted free agent. I do too! He’s got remarkable quickness that I think will translate to running into some more sacks and tackles for loss now that he’s the main guy in the middle.

Al Woods is just a huge plug in the middle of that line. He’s another aging veteran, going into his 11th season, but it doesn’t look like he’s lost anything. As long as he’s healthy, he should provide the run-stuffing we need, at a great value, I might add.

Finally, Bryan Mone rounds out the trio. He’s another undrafted free agent who is providing a lot of value and depth in the middle. He’s heading into his third year and is just an all-around pro already.

So, I can see why Geno Atkins is a target for this team, I just don’t know who you cut to pick him up. All of these guys will contribute, and at Geno’s age it’s fair to wonder what he has left in the tank.

As I’ve noted before, there’s a lot of excitement from the fanbase surrounding the pass rush on this team. This does appear to be as deep as we were in 2013. But, I think you have to take that with the caveat that there isn’t quite the top-tier talent in this group that there was in our Super Bowl-winning year. No one is holding a candle to Michael Bennett or Cliff Avril in their heydays.

I guess I’m happy with this unit, but I’m also a little anxious too. There’s a lot riding on these guys, especially with how poor the cornerback group looks. When you look at the defense as a whole, we’re counting on a lot of production from a lot of unproven guys. So, at least in the early going, it would be nice to see a big impact from the likes of Dunlap, Mayowa, Hyder, and the other studs on this defense.

I’m giving the defensive line a solid B+, with an opportunity to get into the A range if they manage to generate sacks into the 40’s this year. I’m less worried about the run defense, but obviously that needs to be a point of focus, because if teams are in a lot of 3rd & Shorts, they’re definitely going to convert a high percentage of them thanks to this weak secondary.

Seahawks Position Breakdown 2021: Linebackers

You hear a good amount of comparisons to the 2012-2014 Seahawks defenses around these parts. When things are looking bad, people lament the good old days. When we get a new member of the secondary, people instinctively compare them to the Hall of Famers of that era. And, when the defense as a whole looks good, people like to say, “This is the best Seahawks defense since 2013!” In fact, people are saying that about the depth along the defensive line – particularly from a pass rush standpoint – right this very season!

You know what those 2012-2014 Seahawks had that we might also have again in 2021? Some elite-level linebackers that are criminally overlooked.

What did we talk about in 2013? We talked first about the L.O.B. Of course. Two of the best safeties in the game, probably the best cornerback alive at the time, and whoever else was on the other side keeping up his end of the bargain. Next, we talked about the NASCAR pass rush, led by the likes of Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, but continuing on down to the last DL on the roster, as everyone contributed! But, who was overlooked? The dynamic duo of Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright, in their second and third seasons, respectively.

Well, Bobby Wagner is still here, and he’s no young pup anymore, but he’s still playing at a high level. Maybe not the same level he was in his prime, but the dropoff hasn’t been too severe. Unfortunately, there’s no room at the inn for K.J. Wright, as he just signed with the Raiders. In his place, we have first round draft pick Jordyn Brooks, who looked good as a rookie, got a lot of playing time towards the end of the season, and appears to have taken the next step in – this – his second season.

Jordyn Brooks is exciting! He’s fast and instinctive and looks like the real deal. He might be the best linebacker in his draft class (who isn’t exclusively a pass rusher). I’m thrilled the Seahawks gave him the starting job – even though it sucks to see K.J. Wright go, because he was still playing at a high level and it’s criminal he was unemployed for as long as he was – and I can’t wait to see what he does.

Then, there’s Darrell Taylor, getting a shot to be this team’s SAM linebacker. I don’t know if he’s the best man for the job right now (again, when K.J. Wright was still just sitting there for the entire offseason, having exceeded expectations at SAM last year), but he very well could develop into a force for this defense. At the very least, it’s easy to see from the pre-season games alone why the Seahawks have been so high on him. His build and athleticism appear to be off the charts; when he gets his first sack in a Seahawks uniform, the Pacific Northwest might explode.

There’s no doubt about it, though, the linebacker depth took a hit. Losing BBK costs us not only a valuable special teams ace, but also a cheap veteran who’s been in the system since his rookie year and could’ve very capably filled in for injuries, should they have come up (which they always do).

Cody Barton, however, has ascended into a fringe-level starter who we have the luxury of being our backup at every linebacker spot. He, as with BBK, has been in the system since his rookie season, and he’s always been a step or two ahead of BBK the entire way. This pre-season, he looked like he was playing a different game than the rest of the backups around him, making plays all over the field. This bodes well if we have ONE injury in our starting linebacker corps. But, if we have TWO or more injuries, I don’t know if I trust anyone behind him at this point.

Nick Bellore is our hybrid fullback/linebacker, and he looked okay. But, I don’t think you want him starting an extended number of games for you. If he has to go in for a few plays here and there, he’d probably be fine. But, I think his lack of athleticism would get exposed the more teams can game-plan against him. If BBK were still here, I wouldn’t mind Bellore as a sixth guy. But, as the fifth guy? That’s a little scary.

I’ve also heard reports of Alton Robinson getting some snaps at SAM linebacker. Both he and Taylor seem better suited to strictly being the defensive end, but you can only have so many DE’s on the field at one time, and SAM is a way to fudge that a little bit. Sometimes SAM linebackers rush the passer, but usually more often they have to go out in patterns and cover running backs or maybe even tight ends. Nothing I’ve seen leads me to believe Robinson or Taylor are going to be as good as Bruce Irvin was in the role. But, we’ll see! Both are young and athletic enough, maybe they can grow into the position!

If healthy, I think the linebackers are an A-, with the potential to elevate to an A grade if Taylor really explodes onto the scene. This group probably falls to a B- or so if there are any injuries to Wagner or Brooks. Further injuries, obviously, plummet the grade even deeper. Mostly, my feeling on the linebackers is that I don’t have to worry about them too much. Packaged with the defensive line (which I’ll write about next week), I think this front seven will be among the greatest in the NFL. That’s all I can really ask for.