Pre-Pre-Season Preview: Seahawks Blocking Game

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

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

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

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

Offensive Line

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tight Ends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

My Big Fat Seahawks Preview 2017

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

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

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

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

TL;DR:  WE’RE BACK, BABY!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things to watch this season on offense will be:

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

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

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

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

On defense, watch for:

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

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

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

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

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

The Seattle Seahawks, Super Bowl LII Champions!

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

The 2017 Seahawks Have A Roster

So, last Thursday happened, and everyone rejoiced because the Seahawks got through their final pre-season game mostly unscathed.  Then, Friday happened, and shit started hitting the fan all over the place!

Five trades were made, countless players were shockingly waived, and when the dust settled, it appears the Seahawks are better in the short term and the long term than they were at this time last Thursday.

Let’s run down the trades in brief:

  • Trade with Jets:  Jermaine Kearse & a 2018 Second Round Pick for Sheldon Richardson and a swap of 2018 Seventh Round Picks
  • Trade with Patriots:  a 2018 Seventh Round Pick for Justin Coleman
  • Trade with Patriots:  Cassius Marsh for a 2018 Fifth Round Pick and that Seventh Round Pick we gave them for Coleman
  • Trade with Vikings:  Tramaine Brock for a 2018 Seventh Round Pick
  • Trade with Chiefs:  a 2018 Conditional Seventh Round Pick for Isaiah Battle

Now, let’s discuss these trades in reverse order:

Isaiah Battle is an offensive tackle who has never actually played in an NFL game.  From something I saw on Twitter, if you think back to the third pre-season game, Battle was getting abused on the reg by our defensive linemen.  He’s got the size you want, but at three years into his professional career, you have to wonder if he has the talent.  It looks like the Seahawks could get that draft pick back if they just waive him, but the question remains:  how long of a look do we get at Battle before making that happen?

On Friday, as the Jermaine Kearse rumors were swirling, there were a similar number of Jeremy Lane rumors swirling.  Where there’s smoke, there’s fire this time of year, and usually when it leaks out that a team is shopping someone, that means if they find no takers, they’re just going to cut that player later.  So, as we all prepared to say goodbye to Lane, it turns out Tramaine Brock was getting the ax (and just when I learned how to spell his name without looking it up!).  I guess Brock became expendable when Coleman was brought in.  Coleman is more of a prototypical nickel corner, while Brock has played more on the outside in his career.  With Shaq Griffin more of an outside guy (who will force Lane inside in nickel situations), and with Griffin proving to be competent with lots of upside, Brock was redundant.  It’s too bad, but at least the Seahawks got something for him.

I’m going to lump the two deals with the Pats together.  It essentially boils down to a swap of players (Cassius Marsh for Justin Coleman) with the Seahawks getting an additional fifth round pick as a cherry on top.  Marsh was going to be a free agent after this season.  Coleman will be a restricted free agent in 2018, meaning if the Seahawks like him, odds are they’ll be able to keep him.  Coleman figures to be our dime corner, and probably adds something to special teams.  Marsh, honestly, is what he is.  Every year, we go into the Seahawks’ pre-season hoping that THIS will be the year that Marsh finally makes the big leap forward in his productivity as a rush end, but every year it’s just baby steps (if it’s any steps at all).  He’s better at defending the run than he is getting to the quarterback, and he’s better on special teams than he is at defense.  While that’s nice, it’s not really game-changing, and if you can get a fifth round pick for that, you absolutely do it!  Marsh might end up being a late bloomer, and I wish him all the best (when he’s not playing against the Seahawks), but he won’t be doing his blooming here.

Finally, the big news of the weekend – indeed, of the season so far – is the trade for Sheldon Richardson.  We gave the Jets Jermaine Kearse (I guess they’re desperate for wide receiver help) and a second round pick in compensation.  It’s sad to see Kearse go, and I’ll always think of him fondly for all his huge catches through the years, but if you have a chance to bring in Sheldon Richardson, and you need to clear up some cap space to do it, I’m more than happy to part with Kearse now.

Richardson is a monster.  He can play DT or DE, he can rush the passer from the inside and out, he can stop the run from the inside and out.  He fits seamlessly on this D-Line and could very well prove to be a game-changer for this defense as a whole.  He takes the Seahawks from Contender to Favorite in the NFC.  He makes this defense SO MUCH BETTER it’s insane!  I mean, we’re talking 2013/2014 levels of Seahawks defense.  Shit just got real.

***

There were some interesting, tough cuts made over the weekend as well.  In no particular order, here’s a list of some of the big ones:

  • Ahtyba Rubin
  • Trevone Boykin
  • Kasen Williams
  • Mike Morgan
  • Marcel Reece
  • Pierre Desir
  • Alex Collins
  • Mike Davis
  • Joey Hunt
  • Quinton Jefferson
  • Kenny Lawler
  • David Moore
  • Will Pericak
  • Garrison Smith
  • Tyrone Swoopes
  • Mike Tyson
  • Cyril Grayson

Rubin is obviously a tough one to see go, but he became expendable with Richardson in the fold.  Boykin being let go means that Austin Davis won the backup QB job, which makes sense.  I don’t see why Boykin couldn’t land on the Practice Squad; I can’t imagine another team wanting him.  Morgan and Reece are a couple of vets we could have at any time, I imagine.  The writing was on the wall for Collins and Davis, considering the depth at running back.

But, I’m really just dancing around the obvious here.  The Seahawks didn’t keep Kasen Williams and I’m pretty pissed about it.  If he didn’t win a job on this roster with all that he did this pre-season, then what the fuck more did he have to do?  He made just about every single catch you could’ve asked of him, he balled out on special teams, and with Kearse gone, wouldn’t you want someone intimately familiar with our system to be our fourth receiver?  You know, in case guys like Lockett or P-Rich get injured again like they always do?

And you know who snapped Kasen up?  The Cleveland Browns!  Who just so happen to be at the very tip top of the waiver priority list.  If the player you just gave up goes to the very first team that could claim him, you probably done fucked up.

To a lesser extent, I’m also pissed that the Seahawks let Pierre Desir go, because he was far and away one of the top two cornerbacks on this team this pre-season.  This one is more of a numbers game than anything.  Sherm isn’t going anywhere.  Griffin isn’t going anywhere.  With Brock gone, Lane isn’t going anywhere.  And the Seahawks just traded for Justin Coleman.  This one came down to Desir and Neiko Thorpe, and Thorpe JUST signed a 2-year deal this past offseason.  Thorpe isn’t anywhere NEAR the cornerback that Desir is, but he’s a fundamental member of the Special Teams, and it’s clear the Seahawks have made Special Teams a top priority this season.  So, that’s that I guess.

***

Without further ado, let’s get into the guys we decided to keep.

Quarterback

Russell Wilson
Austin Davis

In this one, it came down to what do you want more:  someone who has real, significant NFL experience?  Or someone who can do the best Russell Wilson impression (minus all the accuracy, decision-making, and smarts)?  Considering, again, I think Boykin can be had for the Practice Squad, I’m perfectly fine with this (either way, this team stinks the minute Wilson goes down with injury).

Running Back

Eddie Lacy
Thomas Rawls
C.J. Prosise
Chris Carson
Tre Madden (FB)

Again, no shockers here.  Madden over Reece is a mini-shocker (just the tips), but when you think about it, when was the last time the Seahawks kept an aging veteran fullback on the roster heading into week 1?  You bring those guys in AFTER week 1 and make sure their contracts aren’t fully guaranteed!

Wide Receiver

Doug Baldwin
Tyler Lockett
Paul Richardson
Tanner McEvoy
Amara Darboh

While I don’t believe McEvoy is QUITE as athletic as Kasen Williams, he’s pretty fucking athletic.  He’s tall and can make a lot of the catches Kasen can make.  He’s also, if we’re being honest, probably better on Special Teams.  As for Darboh, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that the team wanted to keep their third round draft pick, even though we’ve seen this team move on from relatively highly-drafted wide receivers before.  It sounds like the Seahawks really like Darboh.

Running Back/Wide Receiver/Kickoff & Punt Returner

J.D. McKissic

I think the reason why I’m not more blinded by rage at the loss of Kasen Williams is that it facilitated the team keeping McKissic.  He’s technically listed as a running back (having switched to Shaun Alexander’s old number, which I don’t know how I feel about just yet), but he does everything.  Most importantly, he spares Lockett from returning kicks, which is huge considering the injury from which he’s returning.  McKissic isn’t elite at any one spot, but I think he could be highly productive, even in a reserve role.  A+ for this move!

Tight End

Jimmy Graham
Luke Willson
Nick Vannett

Again, no surprises here.

Offensive Line

Rees Odhiambo
Luke Joeckel
Justin Britt
Mark Glowinski
Germain Ifedi
Oday Aboushi
Ethan Pocic
Jordan Roos
Matt Tobin
Isaiah Battle

The starters are set, Aboushi sticks around as veteran depth inside, Pocic is our Jack of All Trades, Roos is our rookie project, and Tobin and Battle are tackle insurance.  I can’t imagine we stay with 10 offensive linemen for very long, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see one or both of those final two guys get the ax at some point.

Defensive Line

Cliff Avril
Michael Bennett
Sheldon Richardson
Jarran Reed
Frank Clark
Nazair Jones
Marcus Smith
David Bass

Along the lines of there being too many O-Linemen, there’s probably one fewer D-Lineman than we’d like.  Reed and Jones are the only natural DTs, but obviously Richardson is going to start there as well and play most every down, so that mitigates things.  It’s cool to see Bass make the team, as he really balled out this pre-season as well.  And, you have to like the versatility Smith brings.

Linebacker

Bobby Wagner
K.J. Wright
Michael Wilhoite
Terence Garvin
D.J. Alexander
Dewey McDonald

Obviously, the top two are our studs and will be on the field every down.  The next two are our depth pieces/SAM ‘backers.  The final two are special teams studs and will hopefully never see meaningful snaps on defense.

Cornerback

Richard Sherman
Jeremy Lane
Shaq Griffin
Justin Coleman
Neiko Thorpe

I talked about these guys up top.  Nice group all around, though I still probably would’ve kept Desir.

Safety

Earl Thomas
Kam Chancellor
Bradley McDougald
Tedric Thompson
Delano Hill

Not much to say here.  McDougald mitigates some of the loss I feel for Desir, as he figures to play quite a bit on defense in 3-safety sets, covering tight ends.  Desir was more of a third outside corner/injury depth; McDougald should actually play and play considerably.  Thompson and Hill, the two rookies, were never going anywhere.

Special Teams

Blair Walsh
Jon Ryan
Tyler Ott

Bingo, bango, bongo.

The Seahawks Won A Meaningless Pre-Season Game, Lost Fant For The Year

The Vikings were no match in a solid 20-13 victory for the Seahawks.  Our starters are clearly better than their starters, and just as importantly, our backups are better than their backups.  There won’t be cause for concern about the Vikings this season, in case you were worried.

But, shit, none of that matters.  Not in lieu of George Fant busting his ACL and needing surgery that will wipe away his whole year.

I could sit here and tell you that Russell Wilson looked great (13/18, 206 yards, 2 TDs in a half of play), I could tell you that Kasen Williams picked up where he left off last week (2 catches, 28 yards, a TD, a superb Special Teams tackle, and almost a second miraculous TD catch), I could tell you the run game looked vastly improved (against improved competition to boot), that Doug Baldwin is already in mid-season form (4 catches for 69 yards, making defenders look SILLY just for THINKING about covering him), that our backup running backs are also great pass-catchers, and that we had a Nick Vannett sighting (1 catch for 32 yards).

On the defensive side of the ball, we were a lot better.  We eventually settled down against the run after the Vikings’ first drive.  We held them in check on third downs.  Shaq Griffin was picked on quite a bit, but it looked like he has some good stuff to build on.  I liked what we got out of Naz Jones and some of our backup D-Linemen (that’ll be a tough cut-down for sure).  Blair Walsh hit a couple of 50-yard field goals and was perfect on his extra points.  And, overall, I thought Special Teams coverage units were solid.  They’ve been better, but not by much.

SO MANY positives coming out of that game, but I can’t help but think of George Fant.

I’ve said it all along:  Fant was the key to this O-Line coming together.  Not Britt, not Joeckel, not Ifedi.  The dropoff from Fant to #2 at that left tackle spot is ENORMOUS, and quite frankly we didn’t even know how good Fant was going to be this year.  By all accounts, he still could’ve been terrible when the calendar flips to September, but what we’ve got in his wake might just be leaps and bounds worse.

There are a couple options, as far as I can tell.  Keep Joeckel where he is at left guard and start someone else (likely Rees Odhiambo) at tackle; or move Joeckel back out to tackle and open up the competition for left guard.  Beyond Odhiambo, I don’t even know who the Seahawks HAVE who can play the left tackle position!  Glowinski, Aboushi and Roos all look to be exclusive to the guard spot, and Ifedi is strictly a right-side player.  Plus, it sounds like while Pocic can play every spot on the line, his very worst spot by a large margin is left tackle.

Well, he might have to suck it up and start working on it, because from what I saw the rest of the game on Friday was pretty miserable.

The Seahawks opted to keep Joeckel at guard and play Odhiambo extensively at tackle, and it wasn’t pretty.  He was beaten like a fucking red-headed stepchild!  Indeed, he might be worse right now than Fant was LAST year!  Just miserable to watch, all around.

So, yeah, I don’t know what the Seahawks should do.  I mean, it’s not like Ifedi was all that much improved in pass pro either, so once again we’re talking about Russell Wilson getting killed off the edge.  And, if Pocic has to try to learn the left tackle position, that pretty much locks us into Ifedi being the starter on the right side.

I hate this.  I hate everything about this.  At least we have two more weeks to figure it out.

Taking A Pre-2017 Look At The Seahawks’ 2018 Free Agents

There’s a great post over at Hawkblogger this week, taking a look at some of the decisions the Seahawks have to make looking beyond the 2017 season.  As it stands, this year is pretty much set.  The 2017 Seahawks might go dumpster diving at the tail end of the pre-season to pick up some bargains among other teams’ cuts, but for the most part what you see is what you get.

However, the 2018 Seahawks could look VERY different.  Well, okay, maybe putting the “very” all in caps is a bit of hyperbole, but there are some big pieces that could be playing elsewhere next year.  Big pieces to this team’s success dating back to 2012.  Guys we’ll always remember fondly for taking this team to such dramatic heights.

Obviously, part of this conversation – as noted in the Hawkblogger article – has to do with guys who will be cut after this year; guys just not getting the job done anymore, relative to the size of their contract.  Jermaine Kearse and Jeremy Lane generally top this list, but there’s just SO MUCH that can change in a year.  People getting injured, people becoming disgruntled, people getting unloaded for other players and/or draft picks to try to fill a position of need.  I’m not going to get into that today, as I believe there’s enough to talk about among just the impending free agents for next year.

The biggest names are as follows:

  • Kam Chancellor
  • Jimmy Graham
  • Justin Britt
  • DeShawn Shead
  • Eddie Lacy
  • Paul Richardson
  • Luke Willson
  • Cassius Marsh
  • Kevin Pierre-Louis
  • Luke Joeckel
  • Bradley McDougald

I’m going to work my way backwards here.  Let’s start off with McDougald and Joeckel.  They were brought in this season, along with a flurry of other guys on 1-year deals (Aboushi, Wilhoite, Garvin, Arthur Brown, Blair Walsh, Austin Davis, maybe a couple/few others), and honestly we don’t know anything about these guys.  They were given 1-year deals for a reason; they need to prove that they deserve multi-year contracts.  A few of them might not even play for the Seahawks this year!  Others might be relegated to backup status.  And a few just might break out and have great seasons.  We’ll just have to let the year play out and revisit them next off-season.

KPL and Cassius Marsh have spent the majority of their professional careers as backups and Special Teamers.  Neither of these guys even have their jobs secure for THIS year, so it’s weird to talk about their futures.  I do think Marsh will make the team this year, but I’m not breaking the bank to bring him back in 2018.  Unless he gets blown away by another team – either with more money or an opportunity for more playing time – I think maybe Marsh goes year-to-year with the Seahawks, until either he has a breakout season, or it starts to cost too much money to keep bringing him back year-to-year.  As for KPL, I think the writing is on the wall.  The Seahawks went out and brought in A LOT of linebackers on 1-year deals to come in and compete for his very roster spot, because by and large he’s been something of a disappointment.  I think he’s been pretty good on Special Teams, but probably not an elite-level player at that spot.  Unless he’s coming into Training Camp having taken a HUGE leap, I think he’s one of the final roster cuts as the team gets to 53 players ahead of opening weekend.

Luke Willson and Paul Richardson are a couple of interesting players.  Both were Seahawks draft picks with unique offensive abilities.  Both have, I guess, underwhelmed in their tenure here?  That’s probably not fair on Willson’s part; I think he’s been a fine player (coming from a terrible 2013 draft class) and I think he’s done what’s been expected of him.  He’s been healthy for the most part, he’s in an offense that doesn’t throw a ton compared to others around the NFL, and he really hasn’t had that many opportunities to be the TE1 on this team.  Sometimes guys ahead of him have gotten injured and thrust him into that role, but no one is going to put him up there with the great tight ends around the NFL.  The last couple years, he’s been firmly behind Jimmy Graham (i.e. the team was so concerned about the position, they went out of their way to make a blockbuster trade to bring in a true TE1).  As a TE2, I think Willson is fine.  He’s had his moments, he seems to be a good all-around player, and he hasn’t really cost this team a whole lot.  He’s making $1.8 million this year, on a 1-year free agent deal, because he couldn’t find anything better anywhere else in the league; that should say something about his value.  I’ll be really interested in where the Seahawks go with the tight end position going forward.  I think a lot has to do with what they do with Graham.  If Graham gets an extension, I think that’s it for Willson.  If they let Graham go in free agency, and Willson has an okay year, maybe you see the Seahawks bring him back on a 2-3 year deal at a very modest salary (just because I think it would be crippling to lose both of your top 2 TEs in the same year).  Some of it will have to do with Nick Vannett, a draft pick from 2016; is HE going to take a step up?  If he proves to be a capable and competent TE2, then the need to re-sign Willson goes way down (unless, again, Graham goes bye bye).

As for P-Rich, he’s the true underwhelming player of the two, from an underwhelming 2014 draft.  Of course, most of that has to do with all the injuries he’s sustained, but we really saw a whole new side of him down the stretch last year and in the playoffs, once Tyler Lockett went down.  The question we have to ask is:  who is the real Paul Richardson?  Is it the injury-prone string bean?  Or, is it the athletic freak who’s jumping all over the place making crazy catches through defenders?  Because, you know what?  The Seahawks could REALLY use the latter.  Indeed, the Seahawks have been looking for the latter pretty much since Pete Carroll got here.  Richardson isn’t that tall receiver we always talk about, but when he’s doing what he was doing in the playoffs, he PLAYS like a tall receiver.  If you pair THAT guy with the all-around greatness of a Doug Baldwin, and the speedy Lockett, we’re talking about one of the best wide receiver rooms in the league.  For a lot of these guys coming up, I’m going to be talking about whether or not the Seahawks should do an extension ASAP, do an extension at some point during the season, or wait until the season’s over and try to re-sign them; with P-Rich, it’s still early, but I think if he comes out of the gates on fire, you look to do an extension mid-season.  Get him locked up before the rest of the league has a chance to get its hooks in him.  I know the injury risk is there, and I’m sure any extension would reflect that in its guarantees/incentives, but if he looks as good in the first couple months of the season as he did in the playoffs, I think you LOCK THAT DOWN.

Eddie Lacy is another guy the Seahawks brought in on a 1-year prove-it deal, but he’s different than those depth guys.  He’s actually shown he belongs in this league.  I think he’ll come in here in the shape they want him to be in, and I think he’ll really flourish in this system.  That having been said, I’m really waffling on what the Seahawks should do with him.  I do think they need to wait it out a little bit before thinking about extending him.  Part of that has to do with the running back market itself; I don’t want the Seahawks to necessarily bid against themselves.  Part of it also has to do with how Rawls and Prosise look.  If those two stay healthy, and consistently blow teams away, is there really a need to keep Lacy beyond 2017?  Ultimately, I think you have to hold off until the next off-season and do a big picture assessment.  If Rawls and Prosise are hampered with nagging injuries again, and Lacy has a good year, then by all means wrap him up.  But, definitely wait and see.

The Seahawks caught a bit of a break in the DeShawn Shead situation.  On the one hand, yeah, it sucks balls that he’s hurt, and that he was hurt so late into last season; but on the other hand we WILL see him again in 2017.  He’ll get substantial action towards the back-half of the season, which will determine his fate.  Also, by that time, we should have a pretty decent idea of what we have in the new guys.  If one or more of the rookies really steps up and gets better as the season goes on, then there’s less of a need to go all out in re-signing Shead.  Also, if Shead fails in his rehab, or gets re-injured, then obviously his future is going to be determined by prove-it and/or incentive-laden deals.  But, if Shead comes back, plays like the Shead of old, and the rookies have more growing pains to go through than expected, then I fully expect the Seahawks to put in a good effort in bringing him back.  But, this would be another situation where I’d have the Seahawks hold off until next off-season.

As for Justin Britt, I’m surprisingly on the fence.  Going into this, I have to point out that the Jags just gave their center the highest contract ever for a center, at 5 years and $51.7 million, with $24 million guaranteed.  Is Britt worthy of that?  I’m not sure; his 2017 season will have a lot to say about that.  But, at the very least, that’s the market price now.  It’s the high-end of the market, but it’s out there, and it’s what Britt’s agent is going to aspire to.  I like Britt.  I like Britt as this team’s center, and I’d like to have Britt around for the rest of Russell Wilson’s career.  I like setting up a QB/Center duo and keeping them together for as long as possible; I think it’s very important to an offense’s success.  I also like the fact that they’re comparing his work ethic and leadership abilities to Max Unger.  I WANT that!  But, do I want to pay him upwards of $50 million?  When you take a look at that Hawkblogger article at the top, it shows you the percentage of what the Seahawks pay per position, and it’s clear that the team is robbing the O-Line to pay the secondary (and the defense as a whole).  While we can expect a bump in the NFL’s salary cap, will it be enough to offset Britt’s new deal?  Will that also allow us to extend other guys they want to or need to extend?  After all, we do need to start thinking about Frank Clark, and third contracts for guys like Russell Wilson, Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Bobby Wagner, and so on.

There’s also the issue of Ethan Pocic that I find utterly fascinating.  To date, he really hasn’t been talked up as a guy in the driver’s seat for a job on this offensive line, even though it was God awful last year, and even though he was a 2nd round pick this year.  In years past, as we’ve seen with guys like Britt and Ifedi, those higher draft picks have been slotted into starting jobs immediately upon entering the league.  So, what gives with Pocic?  I mean, I think the Seahawks have done an okay job in bolstering the depth along the O-Line, but it’s by no means vastly improved!  You’re telling me from a strict talent point of view, Pocic isn’t immediately better than some of these crappy veterans?  Which gets me to wondering if maybe this team isn’t grooming him to be Britt’s replacement.  After all, he was a center primarily in college, and that appears to be his best position.  Do we give him a year to learn behind Britt, then hand him the keys in 2018?  Thereby saving this team money and allowing them to fill in other spots?

I guess we’ll see.  In a vacuum, I’d say Britt has earned an extension and he’s earned it yesterday.  But, taking everything else into consideration, where does center rank on this team’s priorities list?  I’d wager not as high.  In an ideal world, Britt is here for the duration, but I don’t know if that’s how the Seahawks want to operate.

Moving on, we’ve got the case for Jimmy Graham.  I’ve been in love with his contract ever since we got him, because essentially nothing was guaranteed.  We could’ve cut him at any point without any dead cap; and from day 1 I’ve been clamoring for the team to let it play out just as they have.  So, it would make zero sense for them to extend him now.  If they were going to do that, they should’ve done it before the free agency period, so they could’ve used the extra cap space to get someone better than Luke Joeckel to be this team’s left guard.  Now, they COULD do the extension mid-season, but I think that would be a mistake.  He made it through all the games last year intact, but I have to believe the injury from 2015 is weighing heavily on their minds.  Quite frankly, I don’t like the way he’s taken some of the hits he was taking last year; he tends to get blown the fuck up in the middle of the field, and I think it’s only a matter of time before he sustains another serious injury.  Also, let’s face it, he’ll be 31 in November; how many more great years does he have left?  He’s obviously going to be looking for another bigtime contract, because he’s one of the most talented and athletic tight ends in the game today, but do we really want to risk it on an aging player?

For what it’s worth, even if he does get injured, as long as it’s not another devastating knee injury, I think he’ll have a nice second act to his career.  I could very much see him being a Tony Gonzalez type, a veteran presence who knows how to get open and work the open zones of a defense.  But, I think his years of being an elite, Top 3 tight end in this league are numbered (and I think that number is one you can count on one hand).  For me, I think you let him walk.  I think you thank him for his services, but you do NOT pay him whatever the market price will be for him in 2018 and beyond, and I think you go in another direction for your big red zone presence.  Because, let’s face it, with all of 8 TDs combined in his two seasons here, it’s pretty fucking obvious the Seahawks STILL haven’t figured out how to get him the ball in the endzone.  So, why chase good money after bad?  Keep tight end the fringe offensive weapon it’s supposed to be, and look to Luke Willson, or some other young guy, to get those 30-40 catches per season.  Frankly, I’d rather have another Zach Miller type anyway, with the way this team struggles in pass protection.

Which brings us to Kam Chancellor.  I’ve been on the Extend Kam train for a while now, and I still think we can get a deal done – a la with Marshawn Lynch’s final contract in Seattle – where he gets the money he deserves, while the Seahawks get the cap security they want.  After all, let’s face it, the Seahawks don’t want to go throwing around a ton of guarantees for a guy who hasn’t had a fully healthy season since 2013!  If that’s what he’s expecting, or if he’s still got a sour taste in his mouth from his holdout, then maybe he just wants to get out of Seattle and finish out his career elsewhere, which would be a shame.  For a guy who’s been as critical, as inspirational, as fun to watch, I’d really hate for this relationship to end poorly.  And, for the record, I do think he has some good years left in him.  I’d LOVE to see him retire as a Seahawk and one day go into our Ring of Honor, and who knows?  Maybe he’s already done enough to get in there.  But, he’s a unique talent, and I’d hate to see him come back in another team’s uniform and start murdering our guys.

All in all, a lot of intrigue for this 2017 season.  Not just because of this being another year in the closing Championship Window for these Seattle Seahawks, but in how this team transitions from one Championship Window to (hopefully) the next.  Who will be the biggest stars and key components of the 2018 season and beyond?  Will guys like Clark, Prosise, McDowell, and Griffin be the next studs who deserve huge, bank-breaking second contracts?  And, who among those studs we have now will deserve even huger, bank-breakinger third contracts?  2017 will go a long way in parsing that out; it should be fun to watch.

Taking A Pre-Training Camp Look At The 2017 Seahawks Roster

Going into the 2013 season, I was as high on the Seahawks as I’ve ever been.  Indeed, there have been a number of years where I’ve predicted a Seahawks championship, but I’ve never been as certain as I was before that fateful season.

This year, on the other hand, I dunno.  You’ve got a lot of the same players, which should inspire confidence that – at the very least – this Seahawks team will give us another playoff appearance and probably another division title.  But, there are also question marks up and down the roster, where there weren’t any going into 2013.  Even the positions of strength are causes for concern, as we’ve discovered in the last few years that injuries can hit anywhere, at anytime, for any reason.

Let’s just start at the Safety position, for instance.  The Seahawks feature two of the very best in the game of football today in Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor.  No sweat, right?  On a scale from 1-10, you write in a 10 for Most Confident and you call it a day!  Except, Earl is coming off of a horrendous injury and might not have his usual impact (particularly early in the season).  Is it appropriate to expect Earl to be as dominant as he’s always been?  Or will the injury – and subsequent rehab eating into his regular workout routine – mean we get just 75% of Earl or less?  And, quite frankly, there’s an honest concern that both of these guys will get re-injured at some point.  Both are another year older, and Kam has proven to be pretty injury prone over the last few seasons.  When they’re healthy, they’re the best in the game; but all I’m going to be doing whenever they’re on the field is worrying about their next injury.

And, honestly, this is the same issue we can run out there for a lot of position groups.  Cornerback?  Check.  Wide receiver?  Check.  Running backs?  Bigtime check.  So, as it was last year, the issue is going to come down to depth.  Because while the Seahawks have one of the most talented rosters in the league, they’ve also been the most snakebitten of late.

On paper, it’s really a tremendous group.  If you could sit here and promise me 100% health out of all of our starters, I’d tell you that I have the utmost confidence in this team making a deep run in the playoffs, up to and including a Super Bowl victory.  Very briefly, let’s scan the starters:

Russell Wilson, in spite of last season’s quasi-regression, is still a Top 10 quarterback in this league, and probably closer to Top 5 than a lot of people are willing to admit.  When he’s healthy, he’s as dangerous as they come.  At running back, we may not have Beastmode, but a healthy Thomas Rawls has proven to be wildly effective.  Eddie Lacy is a nice, big back who will get the tough yards and wear down defenses late.  And C.J. Prosise is as unique a talent at the running back position as there is in the league.  At wide receiver, Doug Baldwin is as good as they get.  Lockett is a speedster with great hands.  P-Rich really came on strong in the playoffs last season and has a lot of talent at making the difficult catches.  And Kearse is a fine #3 or #4 possession receiver with good blocking abilities.  Tight end might be our strongest position on offense, with the combo of Graham and Willson making life difficult for opposing defenses.  I won’t go crazy about the O-Line, but there are a lot of returning pieces who should improve by virtue of ending the 2016 season healthy, bulking up, and having that experience in their back pockets.  You have to like a lot about the D-Line, that killed it in run blocking, and has a lot of great pass rushers.  Avril & Bennett obviously anchor that line and are great in all facets of the game.  Rubin and Reed are solid run stuffers.  Frank Clark is coming on like gangbusters.  Malik McDowell has all the talent in the world at pass rushing from the tackle spot.  You can mix and match those guys in all sorts of different formations and should come off in a good spot.  At linebacker, we return Bobby Wagner – the team’s MVP of a season ago – and K.J. Wright, two of the league’s best.  When we’re not in nickel, you’re looking at any number of talented free agent signees to play that SAM spot and play it well.  At corner, we return Sherm and Lane; Sherm is still his wonderful self, and Lane is still good enough.  Shead will hopefully be back at some point to add to this team’s depth, and in the meantime a number of rookies will vie for that nickel corner spot (or the opposite outside spot, thus pushing Lane inside), including 3rd rounder Shaquill Griffin.  Tack on the aforementioned safeties, and I’m telling you, that’s a starting roster that can hang with the best of ’em, including the vaunted New England Patriots.

I don’t think anyone is questioning that, necessarily, but from a national perspective it’s a lot like that famous Eminem chorus:  motherfuckers act like they forgot about Dre.

The NFL is very much a What Have You Done For Me Lately league, particularly with the fickle media.  If you scan around at some of the Power Rankings, NFL.com has the Seahawks ranked 10th (behind the likes of the Bucs, Chiefs, and Giants).  I mean, what do those teams have that the Seahawks don’t?  Last I checked, Tampa has a very young QB who has yet to prove he’s a winner at this level, the Chiefs are staring down the barrel of a quarterback controversy after trading up to pick one in the first round, and the Giants still employ Eli Manning.  ESPN.com has the Seahawks up at 6th, which feels a little more reasonable, but still behind the likes of the Steelers and Falcons.  The Steelers have a lot of fantasy football talent on the offensive side of the ball, but they’ve yet to really prove they’re ready to make the leap and challenge for the AFC Championship; and I think the Falcons are in for a rude awakening when they kick off this season with the COLLOSAL downgrade at offensive coordinator (Sark, stepping in for Kyle Shanahan).  Peter King, in all his infinite wisdom, has the Seahawks at 9th, behind the Chiefs again, as well as the Titans (in his Top 5!).

If you want my opinion, I think the Top 5 should look something like this:

  1. New England
  2. Green Bay
  3. Oakland
  4. Seattle
  5. Dallas

New England was the best team last season, and it looks like they’ve only gotten better with their offseason moves.  Green Bay is as good as they get as long as they have Aaron Rodgers (similarly to the Seahawks, they just need to stay healthy to reach their potential).  I’m in love with everything that Oakland has done this offseason (aside from abandoning their city and moving to Vegas); they remind me a lot of the 2013 Seahawks with how young and talented they are (though, maybe tilt it in the offense’s favor as opposed to the Seahawks’ defense in 2013).  And, you could go either way with Dallas/Seattle in the 4th/5th spot, with Seattle having the edge by virtue of Dallas crumbling in big game after big game.  Let them prove they belong to a higher ranking rather than just handing it to them with their so-so defense and injury-prone receiving corps.

But, as always, it comes down to depth.  Will the Seahawks need it and do they have enough of it?  And, can their remaining healthy starters do enough to compensate for where they’re lacking?

Let’s take quarterback out of the equation because without Russell Wilson, this team doesn’t work.  Trevone Boykin is cool and everything – and I fully expect him to win the backup job again – but he’s not even close.

Can the three-headed hydra of Lacy, Rawls, and Prosise make it through 16 regular season games plus the playoffs?  As much as I want to gnash my teeth about this position group, I think the Seahawks are okay here.  Yeah, Rawls will probably have some nagging injuries that cause him to miss a few games.  Yeah, Prosise will be banged up.  Heck, Lacy might even roll an ankle or something.  But, what are the odds that all three of them go down at once?  Even still, I thought Alex Collins looked okay in spurts in his regular season duty and should be able to fill in okay as an emergency backup.  Beyond that, I mean, I’m not going to sit here and predict another running back apocalypse like last year, so let’s move on.

The wide receiver group looks a lot different if Lockett has trouble and isn’t able to make it back.  I think that pushes Kearse back into the #2 role, which is less than ideal.  Also, while P-Rich was great in the playoffs, he’s yet to do that over the long haul.  Granted, he hasn’t really been given the opportunity, so here’s to hoping he makes the most of it this year.  Beyond those guys, Darboh is a rookie and I fully expect him to be a last resort type.  That leaves Tanner McEvoy and/or Kenny Lawler; both have their strengths, but gametime experience really isn’t one of them.  Continuing with tight end, the starters may be the most talented of any group on offense, but the reserves are the biggest question marks.  Nick Vannett was a draft pick in 2016, but never really played.  Beyond that, we have guys I’ve never heard of before, one of whom will surely win a job in the pre-season.

The one place the Seahawks tried their damnedest to improve depth – in their own Seahawky way, i.e. on the cheap – was along the O-Line.  Fant, Glowinski, Britt, and Ifedi all return, though with some projected shuffling of spots.  Britt is the leader and best of the bunch; Ifedi returns to his more natural right tackle spot (until he proves he can’t handle it and is moved back to guard); Fant is the key to the whole thing, as he needs to prove he’s capable of holding his own at left tackle, so we can slot our main competition into the guard positions (Joeckel vs. Odhiambo on the left; Aboushi vs. Glowinski vs. Pocic on the right).  Let the best men for the job go to town and hope for the best, I suppose.  What I would say is that the Seahawks are probably in a better position for success with this unit than they were at this time a year ago.  We know Britt is a bona fide starter in this league at center.  Fant, Glow, and Ifedi all have a year of starting experience.  Odhiambo has a little bit of experience, but he’s also being put into a better position to succeed by getting his shot on the left side of the line (as opposed to the right, where he struggled in limited action last year).  And Joeckel and Aboushi are a couple of serviceable veterans who by no means allow us to say, “Problem Solved!”, but they provide better depth than we had a year ago.  And, Pocic appears to be a talented, highly rated rookie, who could step in in a pinch, but will probably be better served in sitting and watching for a year to bulk up and learn the system.  If he’s as good as people say he can be, he could be filling in for any number of guys who win a job out of Training Camp.

The Seahawks are strongest along the D-Line, but you still wonder about their ability to get pressure up the middle.  With the emergence of Frank Clark, I think we’ll still see a lot of Michael Bennett sliding inside, but we had that for the most part last season and still didn’t wreak enough havoc to make much of a dent.  As such, it’s really do or die with Malik McDowell, as if he doesn’t make an impression as a rookie, you’re hoping for Quinton Jefferson to do something in his second season in the league, or one of the bigger guys – Reed, or Nazair Jones perhaps – to step up and do something they’ve yet to prove they’re capable of doing.  Also, not for nothing, but with the loss of Tony McDaniel, did the Seahawks sacrifice their run defense for the sake of interior pass rush?  That might not be the worst thing in the world if we only fall from Best In The NFL to something like 7th-best in the NFL.  But, if we take a deep hit, because of injuries or ineffectiveness, other teams’ abilities to run the ball at will could hinder our ability to put in the ol’ NASCAR package and really do damage to opposing quarterbacks.

I absolutely don’t want to think about what life would be like without the likes of Wagner or Wright, but it won’t be pretty.  As things stand, it’s a huge unknown what these new additions will bring to the table.  I hear good things about Wilhoite and Brown, but that’s just chatter; it means nothing until I can see them in games and see how they mesh with the scheme.

I also absolutely don’t want to think about what life would be like without our studs in the L.O.B.  Bradley McDougald, Neiko Thorpe, and a whole bunch of rookies and young guys.  Without Shead in the mix, it’s hard to say we’re all that improved depthwise, so here’s to hoping they can just hold their own until he’s good and ready (and here’s to hoping the pass rush is as advertised, as they could REALLY help ease this transition period in the L.O.B.).

I really want to like these guys.  I really want to be confident about this season.  I want to believe that we’re better than we were in 2015 and 2016, that we won’t have those fatal flaws that prevented us from getting past the Divisional Round in the playoffs.  Ultimately, it’s going to come down to getting the job done in the regular season, getting that playoff BYE week, and playing clutch football when it matters most.  To get to that spot, it’s going to come down to a lot of injury luck and certain guys stepping up in a big way over the production (or lack thereof) that we got last year.

Projecting Where The New Seahawks Fit

I think it’s always helpful to remind ourselves that the Seahawks are a good football team.  They’ve won at least 10 games every year for the last five seasons, and have won at least one playoff game each year to boot.  Only the New England Patriots have been more successful in this stretch by those parameters.  When they grab the #1 seed, they go to the Super bowl; when they don’t, they lose in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.  But, I think panic is starting to set in as this team’s championship window starts to close.  No Super Bowl in the last two seasons?  BLOW IT UP!

While there have been flaws in this team that have done the Seahawks in the last two years, they can also be corrected.  The offensive line has always been a matter of concern for this team, even as far back as 2012 and 2013; the only difference is those teams had so-so O-Lines, while the last two years, the O-Line has been one of the very worst in the league.  Also, I think it’s safe to say while opposing teams haven’t “figured out” the Seahawks’ defense, they’ve definitely made some inroads into not being thoroughly dominated on a regular basis.  Injuries – and a lack of proper depth – torpedoed our season last year, particularly following the loss of Earl Thomas.  But, when this team is healthy, this defense is still near the top in all of football, simply based on talent alone.

What those great Seahawks teams had, that these recent Just Okay Seahawks teams have lacked is what I pointed out in that previous paragraph:  league average O-Line play, and proper depth in the defense.  With the moves the Seahawks made this offseason, the hope is that they’ve done enough to right those wrongs, without creating holes elsewhere.

So, let’s start with the offensive line, because that’s ONCE AGAIN going to be the topic du jour not only from the national pundits when referencing the Seahawks, but very much from the local guys as well.  Last year, the primary configuration of the line looked like this:

  • Fant – Glowinski – Britt – Ifedi – Gilliam

Right off the bat, we know Gilliam is gone, having signed with the 49ers.  On the way in, we’ve got Luke Joeckel, Oday Aboushi, Ethan Pocic, and Justin Senior (along with various holdovers from last year, and undrafted free agents).  We know Britt is safe, for at least this year, if not for many years to come.  But, the other four spots are very much up for grabs at this point, ostensibly with the best man winning the job.

It’s impossible to project the exact battles until we get into OTAs and Training Camp and our trusty beat writers give us the scoop.  For now, we know Fant will battle for left tackle.  I’m pretty sure Glowinski will battle exclusively for the left guard spot, though I suppose it’s possible he could flip over to right guard (but, for the purposes of this post, I’m going to keep him on the left side).  Fighting with them will be Luke Joeckel, who has $7 million guaranteed on a 1-year $8 million deal; he will be considered for both the LT and LG spots.  Also being considered at LT and LG is Rees Odhiambo, 3rd round pick in 2016.  Four guys for two spots; I’ll put the early favorites as Joeckel and Glowinski, but absolutely nothing will shock me with the way this team operates.

On the right side, 2nd rounder Ethan Pocic will get a hard look, along with 2016 first rounder Germain Ifedi.  Ifedi was the RG last year, but was a RT in college, and word around the team is that they’re going to put him back outside.  That would seem to jibe with the selection of Pocic, who has extensive experience at center, and projects more as an interior lineman.  Aboushi is a guard who will also be in the mix on the right side, as well as 6th rounder Justin Senior, though he feels more like a project the team would want to redshirt.

So, how does that strike you?  The best two left-side guys, Britt, Pocic and Ifedi?  Will that formation ultimately be better than what we got in 2016?  I would assume yes, but that’s not saying much.  ANYONE will be a better left tackle than 2016 Fant, up to and including 2017 Fant.  I didn’t see Gilliam as the line’s biggest issue last year, but obviously he can be improved upon as well.  Will moving Ifedi back to his natural spot at right tackle help things click for him?  I’ve yet to see Pocic play, but I have to believe he’ll be better than any of the guards we had going for us last year.  And, I know the team really likes Odhiambo, so I hope he’s been working his ass off to win that job on the left side.

It’s going to be critically important for the line to at least be functional, because once again this team failed to address backup quarterback.  I don’t blame them, as I mentioned earlier, this team has a lot of holes and a lot of depth to replenish, and the worst thing you can do is reach for a quarterback you don’t necessarily want, but that just means the onus is on this team to protect its most important asset:  Russell Wilson.  I’m through trying to parse out blame on sacks, by the way.  Sure, Wilson might run himself into some pressure, but as long as the O-Line keeps letting guys get uninterrupted runs at our quarterback, I’m placing the blame squarely on them to fix that issue.

As for Wilson’s weapons, the only real major addition is Eddie Lacy at running back.  Between him, Rawls, and Prosise, the hope is that at least one of them will be healthy each and every game.  I like what they all bring to the table, aside from the fact that they seem to be on the trainer’s table more than the field (table).  Table.  I’m also not buying the seventh rounder we drafted, unless it comes to a point where there are a barrage of injuries at the position, at which point he’ll probably still be blocked by 2-3 guys.

At tight end, the Seahawks were conspicuously absent in the draft.  Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson are both on the final years of their deals, with Nick Vannett on the second year of his rookie deal.  I can’t imagine the team is ready for Vannett to jump to the #1 tight end spot in 2018, which would lead me to believe that they’re looking to extend one of Graham or Willson.  It might not be the worst idea to let the season play out before making your decision on this, as I can’t imagine the market for either will be out of our range heading into 2018.  If one of them has a serious injury this year, then your decision has effectively been made and you can extend the other guy.  Considering there really isn’t much left on the free agent market (and the Seahawks were able to save some pennies by trading out of the first round), it doesn’t make a ton of sense to extend Graham now just to lower his cap hit.  The time to do that would’ve been BEFORE free agency started, when there was still an opportunity to get a great player with the money saved.

At receiver, Baldwin and Kearse are back, Tyler Lockett is coming back from an injury, Paul Richardson is going into the final year of his deal, and the Seahawks drafted Amara Darboh in the third round.  On top of that, we’ve got Kenny Lawler (7th round draft pick in 2016), Tanner McEvoy (our 5th receiver for most of last year), and Kasen Williams (among others) fighting to make the final roster.  Last year, the team mostly just kept 5 receivers, opting to go with an extra tight end, but I think this year the Seahawks will look to keep 6 receivers.  They’ll obviously want to keep Darboh around (who can justify his roster spot by owning a special teams role), leaving Lawler, McEvoy, and Williams fighting it out for the final spot.  Lawler should still be able to pass onto the Practice Squad for another season, but I think it’s do or die for Williams at this point.  Considering this is Kearse’s last year, I’ll be really interested in what the team decides to do come training camp.  Also, let’s not forget, Paul Richardson really came on in the playoffs last season; he could be in for a HUGE breakout year (which, not for nothing, has been long overdue).

My hunch is, the Seahawks let Kearse go AFTER this season, they reward Richardson with a Kearse-like 3-year deal (because, while he could be in for a “HUGE breakout year”, that’s all relative to the fact that these are the run-first Seahawks, and Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham are still going to command the lion’s share of the targets), and in 2018 the Seahawks go in with a receiving corps of Baldwin, Lockett, Richardson, Darboh, and a couple of TBDs, but that’s over a year away and neither here nor there.

With the bulk of the offensive weapons returning from last year, all that matters is getting even marginal improvement out of the O-Line, and I think you can expect better things over last year.

Which brings us to the defense.

My #1 priority coming into this offseason was seeing the Seahawks bring in top notch talent in their secondary.  While they didn’t necessarily overlook the position, they obviously had their priorities set elsewhere.

For starters, they signed a grip of backup linebackers in free agency, to bolster the strong-side linebacker spot, as well as our depth and special teams.  They also took a flier on Dion Jordan to see if he has anything left in the tank after busting out in Miami.  More than anything, though, they made D-Line their #1 priority in the draft, which will be a big key heading into the season.

Malik McDowell is an interior lineman adept at causing pressure up the middle.  Aside from Michael Bennett – who more often than not finds himself in the defensive end spot – we really haven’t had anyone to bring the pressure up the middle since Clinton McDonald, and even then we’re talking about a part-time player.  McDowell’s ceiling is MUCH higher than McDonald’s, and if everyone manages to stay relatively healthy, he could be the key to making the lives of opposing quarterbacks miserable.

Just picture a line that looks like this:

  • Avril, McDowell, Bennett, Clark

Or, you know, some variation of that order.  Those are some rabid dogs!  That’s a 4-man defensive line that can get home, allowing the other 7 guys on defense to help out in coverage.  That’s a line that will not only generate a bunch of sacks and hits, but also a TON of hurries, that will hopefully lead to some bad decisions from those QBs.

The Seahawks have always been pretty solid in their sack numbers since bringing in Avril and Bennett, but the defense as a whole hasn’t been able to generate a lot of turnovers since 2013, when they were getting the most pressure with their 4-man front.  If McDowell hits, we could be talking about the best 4-man line we’ve seen since our championship season.

Which will hopefully make the lives of our secondary a lot easier and more fulfilling.  Shaquill Griffin looks like he can start right away, which is good, because odds are we’ll need him to.  Between him, Lane, and Sherman, I like our cornerbacks.  I’ll like them a lot more whenever Shead gets off the PUP list.  And, I’ll like them even more still if some of these other guys manage to surprise us!

Neiko Thorpe is a name to watch.  He has a year in our system and just re-signed.  He’s obviously here for his special teams prowess, but he’ll definitely be given a shot to compete for a spot on the defense from Day 1.  Then, we have the other three draft picks, who were all safeties coming out of college, but who all will get a look at corner as well.  I mean, let’s face it, no one in this draft was ever going to take the place of Kam and Earl.

In watching some of the highlights of these guys – Delano Hill, Tedric Thompson, and Mike Tyson – they all look the part.  If I had to guess, I’d say Thompson projects as the best of the three in coverage.  Hill very much looks the part of a downhill strong safety a la Kam Chancellor.  Tyson also looks pretty solid in coverage, but is probably behind Thompson and Griffin.  They all look like great tacklers and they all look like HUGE upgrades over our secondary depth in 2016.

This is what I was banking on.  I was hoping we’d go to the secondary early and often in the draft (as opposed to the third round and later), but when you’re right, you’re right:  everyone was saying how this draft was super deep in the secondary, and that very much looks like the case.  I think Hill will ultimately be a better long-term option behind Kam than Kelcie McCray ever was, and I think dropoff from Earl to Thompson is a lot smaller than the dropoff from Earl to Steven Terrell.  Bottom line:  assuming these rookies don’t get injured or hit a wall, I think our secondary depth is leaps and bounds improved over last year.  Particularly with the promise that our pass rush will be able to generate extra QB pressure.

So, will the 2017 Seahawks be better than the 2016 Seahawks?  We’ll have to see these guys prove it in Training Camp, while ultimately staying a lot healthier than they did last year.  In the early going, I’m leaning towards yes, the Seahawks will be better.  At which point, we have to ask:  are the 2017 Seahawks good enough to get back to contending for the #1 seed?  I mean, I don’t see why not.  They can’t be any unluckier than they were last year, with respect to injuries.  It looks like the rest of the NFC West (aside from maybe Arizona) will be rebuilding.  But, it’s really now or never with this group.  Our core guys are all getting into their late 20’s.  Which means they’re as good as they’re ever going to get, in all likelihood.  The odds of these guys getting injured only increases.  And, with some, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a drop-off in production due to the natural aging process.

We very well may look back at the 2017 season as the last year where we had everyone in the primes of their careers.  It might all be downhill after this year, for all we know.  So, the team needs to see this and use it to increase their sense of urgency.  Pete Carroll and John Schneider have done their part:  they’ve kept the core intact (not panicking, not blowing it up, not trading Richard Sherman for pennies on the dollar and creating extra holes where you didn’t need to have them before), while filling in admirably along the edges of the roster, hopefully bolstering its depth.  At this point, it’s on the players to do their jobs, and the coaches to get everyone ready to take advantage of this unique opportunity.

I can’t wait for the off-season to start ramping up.  It’s going to be fun hearing about how the new players are fitting in.

Seahawks Re-Signed DeShawn Shead, Luke Willson, & Neiko Thorpe

Some old news to catch up on:  the Seahawks re-signed some guys!  All on 1-year deals, all for pretty low amounts.

Let’s go down the line.  I like the Shead signing an awful lot.  There’s really no downside here.  You bring him back on a 1-year deal, low cost, and if he comes back at midseason or for the stretch run and fills in at cornerback, it could be a boon for the defense.  At the very least, you figure there could be injuries and to get not only a healthy body that late into the season, but one who’s familiar with the system and has had good success in the system is just a no-brainer.  But, then you also take into account the high likelihood that the Seahawks are going to go hard in the draft for DBs, and you just don’t know how they’re going to end up.  Yeah, this draft is rated pretty highly for secondary players, but you don’t know how good they are until you get them on the field.  So, if they come in and struggle, it’s nice to know Shead is there and should be available for you at some point in the regular season.

And, if he comes back and plays really well, then you can look to maybe extend him long-term.  Hell, after this season, there isn’t any more guaranteed money on Jeremy Lane’s deal – and only a small amount of dead money – so if you’d rather have Shead than Lane, that’s possible going into 2018.

Really, we’re talking about a security blanket when we’re talking about having Shead in the fold for 2017.  Aside from him, we only have Sherman and Lane as guys with experience starting in the league.  When you figure we’re going into next season with just those two guys, maybe a couple of rookies, and a bunch of holdovers who don’t have much in the way of experience playing on defense, it’s a scary proposition.  But, knowing Shead is there, just biding his time until he gets healthy around November or December, I think we’ll be okay until we can get him in the fold.  And, if the rookies turn out to be great, then all the better; we have extra depth.

Speaking of the holdovers, Neiko Thorpe is back!  He’s an excellent special teams player, so if for no other reason, it’s nice to have him back doing that.  He’s also a backup cornerback who will get thrown into the mix in Training Camp to see who starts opposite Sherm this year.  He’s fairly tall, he’s got the right size, he’s a 4-year vet with 1 year in the Seahawks’ system.  Now, essentially, it’s on him to keep working on his craft and win the job in camp.  I have very little frame of reference on his defensive game, but I don’t remember being wildly impressed with him when Shead went down in the Atlanta game.  But, we’ll see.  The guys who tend to win starting jobs with the Seahawks’ secondary and actually play well are the guys we draft, not the guys we trade for or sign off the streets.  Best case scenario is probably a Kelcie McCray; I think if he gives you that type of production, it’s good enough for now.  You still hope that one of the rookies we bring in this year ends up being the guy to take over.

Finally, we’ve got Luke Willson back as our #2 tight end.  He tested the free agency waters and apparently didn’t care for what he saw, so he’s back on a 1-year deal.  It was probably the wrong time for a tight end of his calibre to become a free agent, what with all the great tight ends coming out of the draft.  But, at the same time, I’m a little shocked – with all the money other NFL teams are throwing around willy nilly – that he couldn’t get anything more than what he got with the Seahawks.  $1.8 million plus incentives?  I mean, it’s BARELY a raise over what he got last year!

Don’t get me wrong, I love the deal for the Seahawks.  He knows the system, he’s a quality backup, he blocks well, catches well, runs well.  As an offensive weapon, he’s going to beat most linebackers who try to cover him.  In that sense, again, how did he not command more money on the open market?  The only thing I can think of is that we simply haven’t utilized him all that much, and he’s taking the hit accordingly.

I’m interested to see how the tight end position looks for the Seahawks in a year from now.  Nick Vannett is obviously someone the Seahawks will want to involve more in 2017.  He’s also the only tight end on the roster after this year, as both Willson and Graham are currently slated to be free agents.  Could that mean the Seahawks are looking to draft one of the tight ends in this deep class and pair him with Vannett going forward?

I guess we’ll find out.  In the meantime, these are three moves I’m pretty happy about.