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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not Winners & Losers Of The Seahawks’ Game At Denver

We’re running it back for the regular season!  No winners or losers here!  Just some shit about this game off the top of my head!

The Seahawks went into Denver yesterday, took a short-lived 7-0 lead, lost it through most of the rest of the game, then took a short-lived 24-20 lead in the fourth quarter, before losing 27-24.  We had so many chances in the end to come back to either tie or win it, but the offense stumbled and that was that.  The Seahawks are 0-1 after one game, and absolutely ARE who we thought they were.

What I’m Geeked Out About After One Game

This is the part where I talk about the small handful of things I really loved about the game we just watched.  And, while it’s already starting to get old to a lot of people, how can you not be absolutely raving about Michael Dickson?!

6 punts for a 59-yard average, and I believe Hawkblogger said a 57.5 yard net?  That is IN-sane.  I mean, honestly, I know it sucks when the Seahawks’ offense sucks, but I love to watch that guy walk away (after watching him boom a football 70 yards through the air) or something.

I’m also pretty geeked out about Uncle Will’s 105 yards on 3 catches with a TD.  Because how could you NOT be?  That dude is a villain!  BLAP BLAP BLAP BLAP BLAP!

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

I think we’re all in agreement that Rashaad Penny is a first round bust and a wasted draft pick at this point, right?  We’re all in agreement?  Oh, we’re not?  Well, at least we can all agree that, at this time, Chris Carson is the unquestioned best running back on this team, and absolutely should NOT be on an even timeshare with Penny, and not just because it will cripple my fantasy team if he isn’t the bellcow I expected him to be!

Carson is explosive, he’s good in between the tackles, he’s good in the open field, he runs through guys, he jumps OVER guys, he catches the ball pretty well.  He does everything you want out of an All Pro running back, so just lean on him!

I’ll also say that Tyler Lockett and Brandon Marshall both caught my eye (in a good way) with their TDs, particularly that sweet long bomb to Lockett for 51 yards.

Also, it was around this time a week ago where we could’ve made the argument that the Seahawks had the very worst safety situation in all of football.  Then, Earl Thomas returned, and balance was restored to The Force or some shit.  One pick by E.T., TWO picks by Bradley McDougald, as these three turnovers really kept the Seahawks in the game when things looked like Denver might run away with it.  I still believe the Seahawks should’ve traded Thomas for whatever they could get, but damn is it nice to see him out there again!

Let’s Talk About Competitions

This section feels more appropriate for the pre-season, but on this team I feel like competition is going to be ongoing.

For instance, yes Shaquem Griffin got the start in place of K.J. Wright, but don’t Wally Pipp the veteran just yet, because Griffin regularly saw his ass pulled from the game for various miscues.  Missed tackles, poor angles, lack of contain … all HUGE no-no’s in Pete Carroll’s book.  Austin Calitro saw playing time in his place and looked marginally better, but I’m going out on a limb and saying I can’t wait for K.J. to come back.  I have enough concerns about this defense as it is, I don’t want to have to think about the play of the linebackers!

Also, Tre Flowers got the start opposite Shaquill Griffin, as what’s his name got put on IR this week.  Flowers played almost all defensive snaps and honestly didn’t look great.  But, then again, no one in the cornerback room should be applauding themselves, because Case Keenum was able to complete 25/39 for 329, an 8.4 yard average.  I mean, if Keenum is going to do that to us, what’s going to happen when we get to the Rams, the Lions, the Packers, the Vikings, and so on and so forth?  Those QBs are going to eat us alive!  Can Akeem King really be THAT bad?  I think we need to really ramp up this cornerback competition and see what we’ve got there, because I just don’t know if Flowers is going to have what it takes to hack it long term.  Feels like too much too soon for him right now.

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

I hope this doesn’t get lost in the shuffle of everyone’s discontent about this team (I know the fans won’t be able to let it go), but Sebastian Janikowski had two chances at a field goal near the end of the first half and missed them both (one five yards closer than the other).  On a day when the Broncos’ kicker made both of his 50+ yarders, when you figure it was a sunny day in the Mile High City, SeaBass really shouldn’t have an issue.  That’s a missed 3 points in a 3-point loss, so, you know, do the math.

I still can’t say enough how unimpressed I was with Penny.  I see none of the things in him that I do in Carson.  No burst, no power, he runs out of bounds instead of through guys.  Hell, even in the red zone, it didn’t feel like he had that killer instinct to get into the endzone that Shaun Alexander had (his most popular comp).  I know he’s working his way back from an injury (which saw him balloon up in weight even though it was just a broken finger!), but it also looks like he doesn’t totally know what he’s doing yet.  Maybe he should be strictly this team’s #2 or even #3 back for a while, until he gets his bearings.

Also, where was Prosise?  If you’re only going to start 3 running backs, and he’s your third, then why wasn’t he out there on third downs or at the ends of halves?  Isn’t that his specialty?

And, I’m sorry, but Naz Jones was a healthy scratch?  This team had ONE sack against the Broncos, and very little pressure on top of it.  That was our #1 concern heading into this season, and it absolutely looks like it’s a valid one.  Frank Clark got his, which is fine, but for the most part Keenum had all day to throw.  Seems like Naz Jones could’ve helped, since he seems to be one of the better interior pressure generators.  I wonder if this is a punishment thing for something we’ll never hear about?  I dunno; I just want to see Jones out there next week, and every week going forward, barring injury.

Most people are killing Germain Ifedi, and I’ll second that notion, but you’re just BEGGING for trouble when you leave him one-on-one with Von Miller.  There should’ve been a tight end on that side of the line every single fucking play, to at least chip if not outright double-team that monster.  That’s on the coaches more than anything.

I’ll close on Russell Wilson, who really wasn’t good.  That end-of-game interception was pretty meaningless, but the other one wasn’t.  Neither were all the sacks he took, as he spun backwards and ended up losing 56 total yards of field position.  That’s UNACCEPTABLE!  On a day where we saw very little of his magic, he can’t get away with that type of shit.  He’s not as fast as he used to be, he’s not getting away from these young studs, who keep getting quicker and quicker with each passing year, while Russell Wilson just gets older and older.

Seattle Seahawks 2018 Preview Part 1: The Good Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Way-Too-Late Seahawks 53-Man Roster Prediction

What is this, a day before the final pre-season game?  Yeah, let’s go out there on that limb and predict the 53-man roster for the Seahawks.

Quarterbacks

  • Russell Wilson
  • Alex McGough
  • Brett Hundley

Obviously we all know the starter here.  My gut tells me that the actual backup QB will be Austin Davis, but I’m gonna go with what my eyes have seen.  They’ve seen a guy in Davis who has done absolutely nothing through three pre-season games, while they’ve seen a guy in McGough who has steadily improved every time he’s gone out there.  Now, it hasn’t translated into wins, but that’s neither here nor there.  I think you can waive Davis and he’ll just be sitting out there collecting dust.  With McGough, you can PROBABLY get him onto your practice squad, but that also risks him to other teams’ practice squads as well (particularly if they have less certain QB situations).  I’d rather go with the guy who can be a viable long-term solution to the backup QB spot (with potential to be trade bait if/when we get to his 4th season).

I guess forget all that, because the Seahawks just traded for Hundley.  SOMEONE GOT CAUGHT PRE-WRITING A 53-MAN ROSTER PREDICTION POST!

Running Backs

  • Chris Carson
  • Rashaad Penny
  • C.J. Prosise
  • Mike Davis
  • Tre Madden

I just can’t see the team holding onto someone like McKissic who could be out for up to a month.  They could IR him, but that seems like a waste.  I honestly think they just cut him and try to re-sign him when he’s healthy, or at least on the way.  But, with concerns about Penny and Prosise, I find it hard to believe they’re keeping McKissic over Davis, and I find it hard to believe they’re keeping a 6th RB when they have plenty of guys on this team who can return kicks in a pinch (should Lockett go down).  McKissic isn’t someone you HAVE to have, especially considering he’s pretty undersized too and as such will come with his own injury concerns going forward.

Wide Receivers

  • Doug Baldwin
  • Tyler Lockett
  • Jaron Brown
  • Brandon Marshall
  • David Moore
  • Marcus Johnson

I don’t think Darboh is a guy you have to keep either.  Honestly, I don’t see why you couldn’t sneak him onto the practice squad; what has he ever done in his 1+ years that makes him attractive to other teams?  No loss, in my book, if he does go somewhere else; David Moore will be a better pro, so it’s all good.  I like Johnson’s potential on special teams and as a deep threat should Lockett get injured.  I like Marshall to be that red zone, Jimmy Graham-type target (I also like Marshall to be more effective between the 20’s; I just like Marshall a lot).

Tight Ends

  • Nick Vannett
  • Will Dissly
  • Tyrone Swoopes

I think Ed Dickson stays on the PUP.  Part of me wonders if he’ll get cut entirely, but that seems far less likely given his contract.  But, that injury appears to be legit enough to hold him out for 6 more weeks.  Also, I have a feeling the team would much rather go after some other team’s cut tight end, so if Dickson does remain on the PUP, Swoopes is no guarantee.

Offensive Line

  • Duane Brown
  • Ethan Pocic
  • Justin Britt
  • D.J. Fluker
  • Germain Ifedi
  • George Fant
  • Jordan Roos
  • Isaiah Battle
  • Rees Odhiambo

I think Jamarco Jones goes on IR.  I think Sweezy gets cut because he just can’t get healthy and stay on the field.  I think the team would be fine with Pocic at center if Britt goes down (so there’s no point in keeping Hunt).  And, ultimately I think Ifedi keeps his job as the team’s right tackle to start the season, but it’s no guarantee he starts all 16 games even if he stays healthy.

Defensive Line

  • Frank Clark
  • Rasheem Green
  • Branden Jackson
  • Jacob Martin
  • Quinton Jefferson
  • Tom Johnson
  • Jarran Reed
  • Naz Jones
  • Shamar Stephen
  • Poona Ford

For the record, I think it’s a longshot that this team actually keeps Poona Ford, but I like him and I want to see him make this team.  I also think it would speak volumes about this team wanting to actually stop the run like they always say they want to.  And, I think there could be a surprise cut from these 10; someone who has looked really good this pre-season, but maybe for whatever reason the coaches think is expendable (Quinton Jefferson or Shamar Stephen come to mind).  I also think Dion Jordan starts the year on PUP.

Linebackers

  • Bobby Wagner
  • K.J. Wright
  • Barkevious Mingo
  • Shaquem Griffin
  • Erik Walden

I’m probably least confident in my prediction of this group, all things considered.  Especially if K.J. Wright’s knee issue is worse than they’re letting on, it might force them to keep an extra linebacker, which would surely take away from the DL group.  D.J. Alexander is obviously a name to watch, as he’s a huge special teams guy.  And, I’d say Austin Calitro has earned an opportunity to be a backup to Bobby.  If any of my picks is NOT likely to make the team, I’d look at Walden (though I think as strictly a pass rusher, the team probably NEEDS him the most, and should look to shift him to that LEO end spot that Chris Clemons and Cliff Avril played).

Cornerbacks

  • Shaquill Griffin
  • Justin Coleman
  • Tre Flowers
  • Dontae Johnson
  • Neiko Thorpe
  • Byron Maxwell

I am less certain by the day that Byron Maxwell actually makes this team.  Now, that having been said, if you’re okay with anyone missing the entire pre-season and coming in to start day 1, I’d probably be most okay with that person being Maxy, but nevertheless it’s not a good sign.  That having been said, I don’t think anyone on this roster has set himself apart to steal that job from the trusty veteran (Akeem King might be closest, but he’s no sure thing).  I guess a lot of it depends on whether or not the Seahawks keep 5 safeties or only 4.

Safeties

  • Bradley McDougald
  • Tedric Thompson
  • Delano Hill
  • Maurice Alexander

Obviously, Kam goes on IR here, and Earl maintains his holdout well into the regular season.  I just don’t see a whole lot of reason to keep a fifth safety unless he’s a huge special teams guy, and I think you’ve already got Neiko to play that role.  If there is a fifth guy, I guess it’s Mike Tyson, but I don’t see this team bending over backwards to keep him on the roster.  He’s always struck me as just a guy.  He’s certainly not someone you’d have to keep over someone like Maxwell.

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

The Seahawks had the rare Saturday night pre-season game over the weekend, a 24-14 loss to the Chargers down in Los Angeles.  We saw our starters through the entire first half, watching many a promising drive end in futility, with a late comeback attempt for naught.  The only injury was to D.J. Fluker’s finger, which is a good sign.  Without further ado, let’s get into it.

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

Russell Wilson and Chris Carson look absolutely phenomenal.  Unfortunately, due to mistakes around them, we haven’t seen the fruits of their labor translating into a ton of touchdowns, but words can’t express how excited I’ll be when we finally get to see full games out of these guys.  This offense has the potential to really be something, and a lot of that production is going to fall to these two guys.

I think the receiving corps is in good shape.  We haven’t even seen Doug Baldwin yet, and as long as his injury isn’t worse than expected, we’ll get him back for the regular season (you know, when the games actually matter).  Tyler Lockett was given this game off, but he looks fast and ready to break out this year.  The real question marks come when you look beyond our top two guys, and it’s there that I’m really happy.  Jaron Brown had a couple of really nice catches for 74 yards, and David Moore had a couple of his own, for 71 yards.  With Brandon Marshall drawing the attention he draws (and as a weapon in the red zone), I think these five guys should all make the opening day roster, and I think they should all prove to be pretty productive (Moore in particular, as his role could expand even further after this season, if Lockett signs elsewhere).

Also, how do you not freak the fuck out about Rasheem Green?  One week after he netted 1.5 sacks and a tackle for loss against the Colts, he came back with 1.5 sacks and 2 tackles for loss against the Chargers!  Requisite grain of salt and all that, this is a guy who without question can play in this league and be productive for this team right out of the gate.  Never a better sight for these sore eyes have I seen in quite some time.

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

Quinton Jefferson looks like the real deal (and just in the knick of time, too).  He might never be a Pro Bowler, but just being a viable member of a D-Line rotation is all I’m looking for.

Naz Jones, however, may indeed one day be a Pro Bowler!  He needs to stay healthy first, and if he does, watch out NFL!  He could be one of the surprises of this season.

C.J. Prosise wasn’t especially effective, but he played most of the second half of this game and didn’t have to leave due to injury.  That’s something!  Now, we don’t know how his body responded – I’m still holding my breath, in case you couldn’t tell – but all signs point to him being okay.  Let’s keep this going!

Finally, while still raw-looking, Alex McGough looked better.  He had a nifty little touchdown drive late in the game, with a nice touch pass to the back of the endzone.  Still more checkdowns than you’d like to see in a game if it actually mattered, but as far as a rookie backup quarterback is concerned, as long as he’s avoiding mistakes, he’s okay in my book.

Let’s Talk About Competitions

It’s time for the punter competition to end.  John Schneider needs to take Old Yeller Jon Ryan out back behind the barn and put him out of his misery.  It’s been a good run, MVP, but it’s time to go in another direction.  Michael Dickson is the future, and by God, might indeed be the next Seahawks jersey I end up buying!

The kicker competition is still alive and well, and honestly probably too close to call.  They both made some pretty short-range kicks, and no one attempted a PAT due to the score being what it was.  It’s unfortunate that the #2 and #3 offenses are so fucking inept, as it’s seemingly impossible for these guys to get us into scoring position at all!  Heading to Minnesota this week, obviously, isn’t a great opportunity to allow the offense to bust out, as that’s one of the deeper teams in the league.

Finally, as I alluded to, a pretty mixed bag when it comes to the QB2 spot.  Austin Davis had two drives and went nowhere.  He sucks.  That having been said, I don’t know if I’m willing to throw this competition away just yet and hand the keys to McGough.  Obviously, the team is pretty confident that they know what they’ve got in Davis, so they’re giving the bulk of the free time to McGough to gauge his development.  As he is a 7th rounder, you know the team isn’t expecting a lot from him, hence the rumors about the Seahawks offering a 2nd rounder to acquire Indy’s backup.  That’s obviously a terrible idea – as why would you give up something so valuable just for a guy who ideally will never see the field in the regular season? – especially when you consider we don’t even have another 2nd round pick until 2020!  I think that rumor ended up being false, but nevertheless I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Seahawks in the market for a new backup as teams start cutting guys later this month.

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

This section could also be called, “God Damn It Germain Ifedi”.

What the fuck is wrong with this guy?  Seriously!?  I mean, it’s pretty plain to see that we’re not going to get even a minimal amount of improvement out of him compared to a season ago, which is just a disaster.  Hell, at this point I can’t even promise he won’t get WORSE!  His play, in EVERY facet of the game (but in particular his pass protection), is just the fucking worst.  Now, obviously, the other four starting linemen look pretty okay, so if Russell Wilson just has to avoid one free rusher per play (as opposed to the usual 4 or 5 we’d let run wild in prior seasons) we should still be able to move the ball.  But, this nevertheless puts our most important player in a precarious spot, and the odds of Wilson suffering an injury because of Ifedi’s ineptitude increases tenfold.  We may look back on the right tackle injuries in that Indy game as a serious turning point in our season, on par with the George Fant injury a year ago.

Obviously, you have to hate that Will Dissly penalty, and you just hope it’s something he’ll correct going forward.  This team can’t afford mental errors, as it’s less able to overcome them than in years past when we had more star players.

Ditto the Chris Carson fumble at the goalline.  We need touchdowns, not field goals; and we need points, not turnovers.

Predictably, Philip Rivers carved us up early in the game.  I thought the defense did a better job of settling down after that first drive, but the run defense was as sorry as I’ve ever seen it.  There’s a slight chance this team’s pass rush will be better than I expected, but there’s a very good chance this team’s run defense will be much worse.  What worries me is if the pass rush is indeed terrible, and so is the run defense.  Could be a LONG season for that side of the ball.

I’m also going to bemoan the lack of turnovers the Seahawks generated, because I still think this team will need them to thrive.  The secondary in particular looked far from impressive.  Just a lot for this defense to work on, and not a lot of time left to do it.

Pre-Pre-Season Preview: Seahawks Run Defense

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’ Run Defense.

Defensive Tackles

Strong group here, in my estimation, in spite of the fact that Malik McDowell is a non-entity.  Got a couple young, up-and-comers with Jarran Reed and Naz Jones; got a couple of stout veterans with Tom Johson and Shamar Stephen.  Got a guy who knows the system in Quinton Jefferson, who’s a 3rd year guy and is at a point where it’s sort of now or never for him to really break out.  And, we’ve got a very intriguing guy in Poona Ford, an undrafted rookie who was nevertheless considered one of the better run-stuffing nose tackles in the draft (too bad it’s just a position that’s becoming increasingly devalued in today’s NFL).

Out of all these guys, I think Naz Jones has the potential to be the most complete DT we’ve had in a long time.  He just needs to stay healthy.  I think Reed is already a guy you can depend upon to be a nice run-clogging force in the middle, so nothing to worry about there.  Tom Johnson might be here more for his interior pass rush, but he’s been around forever and isn’t going to be a slouch in the run game.

I thought the Seahawks took a little bit of a step back last year in run defense for a variety of reasons, but injuries along the interior certainly seemed to play the biggest role.  Beefing up the depth the way we have is a surefire way to snap right back on track.  I give this group a solid A-.

Defensive Ends

As I talked about yesterday, there’s just not a lot here.  Losing Michael Bennett – your best all-around defensive lineman – is certainly going to hamper things.  Now, he’s getting up there in age, so at some point this was bound to happen.  We’re just going to have to weather this storm until we can upgrade this position in 2019.

I like Frank Clark’s run defense, but I don’t know if I love it.  I think he’ll be fine, but again, we’ve never seen him as this team’s top dog, so will he rise to the challenge or will he fade?  My hunch is he’s looking for a massive contract, so he better not sleep on this part of his game.  That having been said, the best way to get paid as a defensive end in the NFL is to rack up those sacks, so who knows?

I like Dion Jordan, but again, will he be healthy?  Beyond him, I don’t know what to tell you.  As I mentioned yesterday, it would probably behoove this team to run some of the defensive tackles out there in the 5-Tech spot like when Red Bryant was here.  It might hamper the pass rush, but as I talked about before, I don’t think there’s gonna be much there regardless.

I give this group a B-.

Linebackers

I know, with the Seahawks it’s really a team effort, and there will be secondary input with run defense, but with the loss of Kam, Richard and Earl for however long Earl is gone, that unit has gone from an A to an F.

What’s going to save the run defense is continued master-class effort out of guys like Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright.  If those guys don’t lose a step, we should be just fine.  But, even though they’re great, they still need the guys ahead of them to do their jobs.  That means the DTs have to stay healthy, and the DEs have to stay assignment-sound.  It won’t be for lack of effort, or lack of want-to out of the linebacker room, I’ll tell you that!

At the SAM, the athleticism of Barkevious Mingo should keep him solidly in the mix.  And, Shaquem Griffin could be a huge boost as well in various sub-packages.

This group gets an A+.

Overall, I like the run defense on this team.  I don’t think there’ll be nearly as many lapses like there were last year.  If 2017 was a B, I think we move up to an A- in 2018.

Pre-Pre-Season Preview: Seahawks Pass Rush

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’ Pass Rush.

Defensive Ends

This is where things start looking a little dicey.  I can’t say that I’m totally in love with the crop of DE’s we’ve got heading into camp.  Obviously, for starters, we’re down our two best defensive ends from a year ago in Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril.  Instead, our top guy appears to be Frank Clark, who has been a fine complementary player, but has never really blown up into a Pro Bowl-type dude and I honestly don’t know if he ever will.  I mean, he’s got talent, but if he can’t break out when other teams are focused on the more-accomplished pass rushers we had, why should I expect him to break out now that he’s the number one guy?

I think getting around 10 sacks is pretty much his deal, and that’s fine, but it’s a long way away from those high-impact, 20-sack-type guys you always hear about.  And, unfortunately for the Seahawks, the drop-off is pretty steep from there.

Dion Jordan was a wonderful story from a year ago, as a guy coming back from injury and a lot of boneheadedness that saw him out of football entirely for a spell.  As a fourth or fifth pass rusher last year – in VERY limited duty – Jordan had 4 sacks and a good number of pressures.  The thought was, in a contract year, maybe we could give him a bigger role and hope the former #3 overall pick would grow into it.  But, he was out injured for all of OTAs and apparently had some sort of clean-up surgery on his knee.  Frankly, I don’t know if he can be counted upon for more than half a season (and even that might be pushing it).  Regardless, with his injury concerns, he’s not a long term solution.

After those guys, I mean … who do you got?  Rookie 3rd rounder Rasheem Green is a prospect, but I would be SHOCKED if he made any sort of an impact in his first year.  The lack of depth on this roster makes Marcus Smith a virtual lock to make the team.  This will be Smith’s 4th year in an NFL career whose season high in sacks is 2.5.  Also, Branden Jackson is a person who exists.

I’m telling you, that’s it for DE’s on this roster.  There are many more DT’s from which to choose – and I imagine we’re going to have to play a number of them on the end of our line (maybe as a 5-Tech, a la Red Bryant back in the day) – but none of these guys appear to be worth a damn from a pass rush perspective.  We could see nominal improvement out of Jarran Reed, and I wouldn’t be shocked if Naz Jones is among the leaders on this roster in sacks, but it’s all pretty unpleasant to think about.

For what it’s worth, I think there’s a lot to like about our run defense, but I’ll get into that more tomorrow.  For our pass-rushing DE’s, I give this team a D.

Linebackers

There’s good talent here from a pass rush perspective, but I don’t believe the Seahawks utilize their linebackers nearly enough, which downgrades this group accordingly.  I’d actually like to see them blitz more, but we’re talking about a conservative coaching staff who wants to eliminate the run game and the big plays through the air.

Bobby Wagner is a guy who can do it all.  He’s either #1 or #2 among middle linebackers in the entire NFL, and when he does rush the passer he generally wreaks a lot of havoc.  That said, he averages less than 3 sacks a year, which leads me to believe we’re not sending him after the QB enough.  I’d like to see that number increase, but obviously the organization feels differently, so what can you do?  For what it’s worth, I’d like to see K.J. Wright blitz more as well, but he’s even more important to our pass defense, so I’m more understanding of him not being as involved.  But, when you’ve got a guy like Wright out there in pass coverage, I feel like that should allow Wagner more opportunities than he gets to head into the backfield.

Barkevious Mingo is a former top 10 draft pick who’s been a huge bust in his first five years, so I don’t see why that should change now.  He’s slated to be this team’s SAM linebacker and will probably get the lion’s share of the opportunities from this group to rush the passer (particularly in obvious passing situations, with our famed NASCAR package).  His season high in sacks is 5 (he had 2 seasons with a whopping 0 sacks), so really, how much can you expect?

I’d hope we’ll see an unknown phenom spring from out of nowhere to supplant Mingo at that spot, and maybe Shaquem Griffin will be the man.  But, he’s another rookie, and I think the team probably sees him more as a WILL linebacker in the K.J. Wright mold.  Nevertheless, I’d think he’ll get a few opportunities to rush the passer in pre-season, so let’s hope he makes the most of them.

My grade for his group is a D+; it would be higher if the team actually blitzed more, but I just don’t see that happening.

In fact, with all the changes to our secondary (combined with the likely holding out of Earl Thomas), it wouldn’t shock me to see even less blitzing out of our linebackers than we saw before, with the defense sending even more guys out into coverage to help compensate for the losses of the original L.O.B. members.  If that’s the case, and we’re left with a 4-man rush trying to get the job done, I see this as being a flat out F.

That doesn’t totally derail our season – as I do see a lot of potential out of our run and pass defense – but if there’s one reason above all else as to why the Seahawks are destined to be an 8-8 team, the lack of pass rush will be at the top of the list.  Look at all the offenses we’ll have to face:  Denver, Dallas, both L.A. teams, Oakland, Detroit, Green Bay, Carolina, San Fran, Minnesota, Kansas City; hell, even Chicago and Arizona could be formidable if given all day to throw!

We can see all the improvement we want out of our run defense and pass defense, but without a pass rush, we’re destined to see A LOT of drives extended on third down.  At which point, it won’t matter, because we’ll be crushed in time of possession and the defense as a whole will be exhausted by the fourth quarters of these games.

I tend to be wrong on this blog more than I’m right, and I’ve never hoped to be as wrong as I am about this part of the Seahawks.  But, if I am right, it’s going to be a LONG season.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have I Overreacted To All The Coaching Change On The Seahawks?

If you haven’t seen it yet, go ahead and take a gander at what I wrote yesterday.  A lot of doom and gloom and whatnot.  Anyway, I got a GREAT comment from someone named Justin that I thought I’d respond to.  I’m not here to be a Hot Taek factory, and I really hate it when recency bias creeps into my arguments and gets me to overreact to something that’s not really that big of a deal, so I thought I’d take a step back and consider Justin’s argument.

I do stand behind the crux of my argument yesterday, in that it’s never a great sign when a head coach makes wholesale coordinator changes, and you could argue that the Seahawks fired three coordinators, considering Tom Cable’s influence over the offense.  We’re in a period of transition with the Seahawks, there’s no doubt about it.  Some of the stars of those championship teams are aging out, or injuring themselves out, and will need to be replaced.  While it’s not impossible for this team to hit rock bottom in 2018, it’s just as possible that they find the right pieces to fill in and get this team back to the playoffs.  We could be looking at one 9-7 blip on the radar, and nothing would make me happier.

I like a lot of what Justin has to say.  I agree that Russell Wilson is in the Top 5 for me among quarterbacks in this league.  And we all know he has another level to his game; we’ve seen it during the second half of 2015.  He obviously can’t do it alone, though, and is going to need some help from his O-Line and running game.  But, that’s obvious to anyone.  Even Tom Brady looks pretty fucking mediocre in those rare instances where the Patriots have a struggling O-Line; the difference is they seem to know how to push the right buttons and right the ship before too long.

I also agree that we probably have a Top 15/Top 10 defense as it is.  That part of it is never going to get TOO bad, because Pete Carroll is too good of a defensive mind.  My biggest concern is that the injury bug tends to be random, and the Seahawks were pretty well battered in 2016, then followed that up by arguably being MORE battered in 2017.  That, to me, shows signs of age.  And, considering the core on this defense is so deep and has been together for so long, that’s A LOT of holes that need filling, not to mention a lot of depth that needs replenishing around that core.

It’s too early to know what that’s going to look like.  We don’t know, for instance, if Avril or Kam will make miraculous recoveries and try to play again.  Forgetting the cap situation for a moment, assuming we get those guys back, they’re still one awkward hit away from being done for good.  Then, there’s Michael Bennett, who ALWAYS seems to be slowed by one nagging thing or another.  A foot, a quad, a pec, an ankle.  I still say he’s someone who needs to be on the field way less than he is to remain effective.  There’s more snaps you have to replace.  Earl Thomas made a nice recovery in 2017, as I assume Richard Sherman will in 2018, but again:  guys getting older.  Guys more susceptible to these debilitating injuries.  And, I haven’t mentioned guys like Bobby Wagner or K.J. Wright, because they’re almost always pretty healthy.  But, before he went down, Sherm had never missed a game, and I don’t know if Earl missed much time either.  It just takes one hit, or one bad step and then a bunch of others that eventually wear you down until whatever’s ailing you just SNAPS.

So, let’s take a step back and look on the bright side:  who do we have on defense that we like?  That we can count on in major roles going forward?

Frank Clark, obviously, heads that list for me, and feels like a guy this team should prioritize with a big extension.  Dion Jordan is another guy I’ll be happy to see return, and in a meatier role than he had in 2017.  Should he prove to be effective, he’s a guy I wouldn’t mind seeing around semi-long term.  Naz Jones really flashed as a rookie.  He looks like a guy who could play every down and be an effective interior rusher (I just hope he’s not another of these injury-prone guys, what with him missing the last few weeks of the regular season).  Jarran Reed is another impressive interior lineman who feels more like a Brandon Mebane type (which is NOT a bad thing) and is someone I hope to have around for a long time.  So, that’s four guys, not counting Bennett (who I still think will probably be back in 2018).  I don’t expect Sheldon Richardson back, and who the fuck knows about Malik McDowell, but either way, the D-Line could use some work.  And some better injury luck.

Love me some Wagz and Wright; they’re both squarely in their primes.  But, would it kill this team to draft a couple of talented, athletic backups who might one day take their places?  Or, competently fill in for when those guys get nicked up?  I mean, we’re always one Wagner injury away from the biggest fucking drop-off on the entire team outside of quarterback!

In the secondary, I – along with most everyone – liked what I saw from Shaq Griffin.  He still has room to improve, and I hope he makes that leap.  With Earl and Sherm back in the fold in 2018, and Coleman being a solid slot guy, there’s even more to like.  But, how do you replace someone like Kam?  And, who’s gonna be your third outside corner?  Are ANY of the other rookies we drafted in the secondary in 2017 going to pan out besides Griffin?  I think it’s a BAD sign that guys like Delano Hill and Tedric Thompson hardly ever played last year.  I hope they look good behind the scenes, because I have a feeling we’re going to need at least one of them to pan out in the near future.

So yeah, there’s talent defensively.  There’s plenty of talent to be a Top 15 defense as it stands right now.  And, of course, the team will make moves this offseason to bolster that side of the ball.  A Pete Carroll team would NEVER neglect the defense.  But, is this team good enough to overcome just a Top 15 or a Top 10 defense?  Or, does it need a Top 2 defense to really do something?

And, I guess that’s my whole point in all of this.  With all its faults, the 2017 Seahawks were still SO CLOSE to making the playoffs.  And it would’ve been fun, and we would’ve had a rabid ramp-up to that game against the Rams (or whoever would’ve been the 3-seed in this alternate universe).  And who knows?  Maybe we shock the world just like we’ve done so many times in the Wild Card round of the playoffs!

But, I’m not interested in just making the playoffs.  I don’t think there’s a way in Hell that the Seahawks of 2017 – with all the injuries and everything else they had to deal with by season’s end – were in a position to make a serious championship run.  Odds are, if it’s Rams in the Wild Card round, then Eagles in the Divisional round, then Vikings in the Championship game … I mean, look at those defenses!  Those are far and away the three best defenses in the NFC this year (with the Saints probably coming in 4th).  You’re telling me this team, with this O-Line, and this lack of a running game, could’ve made it through all three?  I think the chance of that is 0.00%.

Maybe I’m being greedy.  As a long-suffering Seahawks fan through the years, maybe I SHOULD just be happy with a playoff appearance.  But, after 2013, all of that changed.  With Russell Wilson in the fold, I want to see MULTIPLE championships!  At least one more, ideally two more.  Anything beyond that would be beyond my wildest dreams, but you get the idea.  Great, amazing, franchise-altering quarterbacks don’t come around everyday unless you’re the Green Bay Packers, apparently.  To squander someone like Russell would be a travesty.  Beyond that, I can’t bear to imagine a world where his final play in a Super Bowl is that fucking interception at the goalline.  He NEEDS to be redeemed!

And no, this team probably WON’T collapse in the near future, not as long as Wilson is healthy.  He’s in his prime, and we’ve seen PLENTY of mediocre teams with elite quarterbacks who carry them to consistent 7-9/8-8/9-7 seasons.  Aside from 2015/2016, that’s pretty much the M.O. of the San Diego Chargers under Philip Rivers!  Not to mention a lot of those post-Super Bowl Saints teams.  And a lot of those Lions teams under Matthew Stafford.  On and on and on.  But, to be honest, those types of teams are my worst nightmare.  Not to say I envy the Browns or something, but I would RATHER bottom out for a year or two, bring in a bunch of highly-drafted college players, and turn things around.  The Seahawks will probably never get to be that bad, though, so I think it’s a very real concern that we have a bunch of 8-8 type seasons in the years ahead.

How do we avoid that?  Well, ideally, we need to figure out what the Saints did in their draft room last year, because God Damn!  Justin points out that we should have faith in the combo of Pete and John.  I have the utmost respect for those guys, and I agree they’re the best head coach and GM in franchise history (and maybe in the history of all of Seattle sports).  But, I also think it’s valid to wonder if they’re not coasting on the achievements of their drafts and free agent acquisitions from 2010-2012.  I mean, that’s one of the best turnaround jobs in all of professional sports, what they were able to do in that 3-year span.  And, for the most part, I like that they take chances and they swing for the fences on guys with rare and unique talents.

But, the mounting mistakes from 2013 onward is pretty glaring.  Bringing in Harvin, which led to losing out on Tate.  That whole fucking 2013 draft which has only netted you a backup tight end in Luke Willson (and no, they don’t get credit for Spencer Ware, because he was let go and has done all of his damage with the Chiefs).  Then, there’s the Jimmy Graham deal, and the whole fucking 2014 draft.  Paul Richardson has given us exactly 1 fully healthy season before turning into an expensive free agent.  Justin Britt gave us a couple of mediocre seasons as right tackle and left guard before finding his place at center.  Cassius Marsh and some of the guys below him were non-factors on defense and mostly just good special teamers.  Then again with the 2015 draft.  Clark and Lockett were hits, but Glowinski was a bust, and everyone else is gone.  Now, take a look at the 2016 draft:  the best player is arguably Alex fucking Collins, yet ANOTHER late-round running back this team threw away!  Ifedi has been miserable, Reed has been a run-stuffing defensive tackle, Vannett looks like nothing more than a 3rd or 2nd tight end at best, Prosise is a living, breathing ankle sprain, and the rest of those guys are backups, training camp fodder, or out of the game entirely.  That brings us to the 2017 draft, where it looks like maybe they got their mojo back with guys like Griffin, Jones, Carson, and hopefully Pocic, but also features your top selection in McDowell who might never play a single down in the league.  Then, when you compound it with some of the other deals, giving Joeckel so much money, giving Lacy ANY money, consistently trading away high draft picks for veterans.  My confidence with this line of decision-making hasn’t totally plummeted, but I’ll say this:  2018 is going to go a LONG way toward either restoring my faith, or leading me to construct a noose and hang myself.

I mean, shit, what happened to their prowess in picking guys on the third day of the draft???

In short, because this one ballooned WAY out of control, yesterday’s post is probably a bit of an overreaction, with an asterisk of We’ll See.  This thing has been trending downward for three years, so we just have to hope that the new blood is able to come in and turn things around.  If they can’t, or if injuries continue to kill us, or if guys don’t develop into stars for whatever reason, or if the front office keeps kicking the can down the road with some of these contracts and draft pick trades, then I’ve been on record for a while now saying this could be another Seattle Mariners situation:  a lot of high-priced veterans getting this team to at or around .500, but ultimately treading water for a bunch of years in a row.

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.