The Seahawks Beat The Browns, Just Like I Knew They Would

See, the key to any good Reverse Jinx is to never call out the fact that you’re performing a Reverse Jinx. It’s like a birthday cake wish, if you say it aloud, it won’t come true!

I’m with all of you, I thought the Seahawks had no business losing to the Browns yesterday. But, as we saw with the 20-6 start to that game, it was certainly on the table. I had to go so far in my Reverse Jinx as to triple-down on it, making bets with family and friends totalling a whopping $45! I lost cold, hard cash just so the Seahawks would win this one! I’m the Jesus Christ of football fans!

Let’s dig into it, because I feel like I’ll have a lot to say. First up, the defense.

I’m very conflicted. Sometimes, they can look SO TERRIBLE. They give up an avalanche of yards and touchdowns and you think it’s never going to relent. They might put the team in some significant holes, but they almost always adjust and figure out a way to at least slow it down to a dull roar. You try to wrap your head around ’em, try to figure out who this defense is REALLY, but they won’t ever let you solve the riddle.

With those first three Browns drives (I’ll lump the opening kickoff return in with the defense in this case), we’re talking about 102 return yards and 184 yards of offense; it’s like the Seahawks weren’t even there! The D-Line wasn’t able to get any pressure, the run defense was abysmal, and receivers were wide open all day.

Then, the game just got goofy. A blocked punt, a couple tipped passes turning into interceptions, and a methodical Seahawks offense almost bringing us all the way back to even by halftime. By the way, I don’t love the handoff to Prosise for the 2-point play (I guess it would’ve been too obvious if they’d put Carson back in the game, since he was off the field for the entire 2-minute offense). When you’ve got Russell Wilson as your quarterback, put the fucking ball in his hands and let him go to work! Spread everyone out, and let him throw it to whoever or scramble around and run it in if that presents itself!

The wackiness continued throughout the second half, as the Seahawks finally got the lead, then fumbled it away, then stopped the Browns improbably on 4th & Goal at the 1 (after a hilarious challenge by their head coach that cockblocked a would-be touchdown). The Seahawks proceeded to have one of the worst 3-play sequences of all time from their own 1-yard line, only to punt the ball 23 yards away (which Pete Carroll apparently wanted him to take a safety on; did he decide this at the last second? Why wasn’t this instructed to the team in the huddle?), which led to the Browns re-taking the lead two plays later.

With 9 minutes left in the game, down by 3 points, nothing would’ve surprised me. The Seahawks could’ve turned the ball over, could’ve been set back by penalties, could’ve driven the ball into Browns territory only to settle for a field goal, or could’ve done what they did and taken back the lead. For what it’s worth, I was convinced that had we settled for the tie, we would’ve lost this game in regulation. But, on the very next drive, the Browns turned it over for the fourth time, and thankfully the Seahawks were able to capitalize by running out the clock.

Russell Wilson continues to look like the MVP of the league, with 295 yards passing, and 3 total touchdowns (against zero turnovers). Chris Carson continues to look like one of the five best running backs in all of football, with 124 yards and a touchdown (while just straight up murdering people late in games). Tyler Lockett continues to look like one of the ten best wide receivers in the league, but also shout out to Jaron Brown for his 2 TDs, and D.K. Metcalf for some clutch catches throughout.

It was a nice effort out of the offensive line in this one. I had Myles Garrett getting 3 sacks, and he fell one shy (though I think one was called back on penalty?). But, otherwise with Fant starting for Brown, and Jones in for Fluker, I thought they held up pretty well. Mike Iupati had his best game as a Seahawk, which came at the perfect time.

Huge bummer in losing Will Dissly. It fucking sucks when someone is so special and keeps getting knocked out for the season due to fluke injuries. The Seahawks were smart to call up Jacob Hollister from the practice squad before the game, and we’re relatively lucky that Ed Dickson should be returning soon from his injury.

Also returning this week will be Jarran Reed. Here’s hoping he doesn’t immediately pull a hamstring or something in practice in his enthusiasm to return from suspension. It’s not a moment too soon, as this D-Line could use another infusion of talent. They still really haven’t gelled, particularly as a pass rushing unit, so hopefully a stud in the middle will make all the difference (considering how much Baltimore likes to run the ball, we’ll need his presence there as well to help slow things down). Nick Chubb is the real deal (making that Penny draft selection all the harder to swallow, especially when you factor in how injury-prone Penny has been in his brief NFL career; that was supposedly the reason why the Seahawks were down on Chubb); and he made the Seahawks look like idiots in this one. I would expect we’ll see a lot of Mark Ingram next week (though, I’m getting ahead of myself a little bit).

0 sacks and 0 quarterback hits for the defense (though Mayfield did take some big hits as a runner, leaving this game hobbled for a brief spell). I thought a lot of the turnovers were pretty lucky on our part – being in the right place at the right time – so kind of a mixed bag all around.

Not a lot to praise on the special teams. A missed extra point, a long return, and a muffed punt pretty much dominated the story for this unit. Flush it and move on to next week.

The Seahawks are 5-1 and with the 49ers at 5-0, that showdown in a few weeks looms LARGE. The fact that it’s on Monday Night will make things doubly exciting.

The Seahawks Won One Helluva Game Over The Rams

That was IN-credible! I mean, where do you begin?

I don’t want to make this a total recap post, but that’s exactly what I’m gonna do let’s start with losing the toss, getting the ball first, then fumbling on that first possession. Just … not the way you want to start against the Rams, or ANY good team. Yet, somehow, after two drives of 23 total yards, the Seahawks were only down 6-0. What could be better than holding the Rams to field goals?

Well, forcing them to go scoreless the rest of the first half, until a 2-minute drive finally broke the string.

Before we get to that, we can’t talk about that game without talking about that throw to Lockett in the back corner of the endzone. Everyone on the planet thought Wilson – scrambling for his life, like he would do most of the evening – was throwing that ball out of bounds. But, he does this from time to time: he puts the ball in a spot where either our guy is going to make a highlight-reel catch, or it’s going to fall harmlessly out of bounds. It’s his way of taking a chance without REALLY taking any chances. If it connects, then great! He looks like a wizard and he makes his receiver look superhuman. If it doesn’t, then whatever, he was just throwing the ball away and the receiver still almost made an amazing play. From running to his left, throwing on the run – on a rope – to the dive, the extension, and getting both feet down clearly for the replay video to see, it was the best throw & catch of the season by far, all due respect to whatever Mahomes is doing in Kansas City.

The next touchdown was pretty special in its own right. The Seahawks did a good job of working the ball down to the Rams’ 40-yard line on a 2nd & 7. It was the perfect time to take a deep shot: you knew it, I knew it, the crowd knew it, even the Rams knew it. Play action, D.K. Metcalf gets beyond both defenders on his side, 40 yards in the air, wide open touchdown. Outstanding.

After that Jaron Brown fumble, I never would’ve believed the Seahawks would’ve been up 14-6 at one point in this game, with a chance to extend it. But, there you have it.

The Rams finally started to get their offensive mojo back on the drive after that Metcalf touchdown, but it was a remarkable play to strip Gurley of the ball deep in Seahawks’ territory. At that point, I was wondering if the Seahawks might put the game away in the first half and coast to a lopsided victory!

Indeed, we used a lot of rushes and chunk plays through the air to get into Rams’ territory, where we had 3rd & 1 at the 30-yard line at the 2-minute warning. The play was stuffed, but it was also a play I didn’t really love. The O-Line’s banged up and not totally recovered from the previous game, it was a long stretch play to the right side, giving the Rams a lot of time to fill the gaps. I would’ve loved to have seen a zone-read there, maybe one of those things where you go from the huddle, run up really fast and quick-snap it before they have a chance to really dig in on the other side of the line of scrimmage. But, whatever, it was still 4th & 1, and while I understand why we went for the field goal, I definitely feel like that was the time to go for it and REALLY put them away. Convert there, you get to run the clock down as far as you want, and you either get a better field goal opportunity (with no time left for the Rams to do anything), or you score a touchdown to go up 21-6 at half. Pete likes to get hormonal from time to time, but it’s never the times you WANT him to be hormonal; usually he does it and compounds the bad times we’re already experiencing, it’s rarely at a time to stomp on another team’s throat to really put them away.

As you could’ve seen coming a mile away, we missed the field goal, and the Rams went right down the field to bring the game to 14-13 at half. Just too easy, and a harbinger of bad things to come in the third quarter.

By winning the toss, the Rams got the ball after halftime, and what do you know? They went right down and scored ANOTHER touchdown, to go up 20-14. From there, you knew the shootout was on, and if we didn’t get an All Pro punt out of Dickson to pin them back at the 1-yard line (and if Goff wasn’t a mediocre quarterback who missed a potential 98-yard touchdown pass to Robert Woods), the Rams would’ve definitely scored more points in this one. As it stood, they scored on 4/5 drives starting with that one just before halftime.

Fortunately, after the Rams punted from their 2-yard line, the Seahawks drove down to re-take the lead at 21-20. That couldn’t stop the Rams from going right back the other way to make it 26-21 (failing on the 2-point conversion, in a game they’d go on to lose by 1 point).

Both teams traded field goals before the Seahawks went on another one of their long, clock-chewing drives. With over 9 minutes left in the game, the Seahawks took it 75 yards for a touchdown, leaving just over 2 minutes left to play. The failed 2-point conversion attempt on our end was just a fantastic play by the defender (on first glance, it looked like Metcalf should’ve had it, but no).

At 30-29, no one felt safe. The problem with missing the 2-pointer there is that we couldn’t quite eat up ALL of the clock, but we also very well could’ve shot ourselves in the foot. MAYBE, if we got lucky, and they drove down too quickly to kick the field goal, we could get one more crack at it.

Then, the Tedric Thompson interception happened. It was a spectacular play by him, tipping the ball with one hand on the turf, keeping it airborn long enough to corral it, then having the smarts to get back up and start running it back. Of course, this was a Rams game, and that means the refs made the WRONG call once again. For the second time in, what, four weeks? Saying nothing of the NFC Championship Game last year, but come on! They blew a fumble dead against the Saints that would’ve given them 7 points; who’s to say what the Seahawks could’ve done with a proper run-back of that INT? Who’s to say, at the very least, what we could’ve done with the extra yards?!

Do all the NFL referees own equity in the Los Angeles Rams or something? This is kind of becoming suspicious at this point. I mean, why are they getting ALL the calls?

Anyway, that INT was a blessing and a curse. It happened just before the 2-minute warning, and the Rams still had 2 time outs. The Seahawks ran the ball twice – which was the right thing to do – and got 8 yards out of the deal. The 3rd & 2 play, however, was probably dumber than not going for it on 4th down in the first half. An option play? When was the last time that ever worked in a big moment in the NFL? I like having the ball in Wilson’s hands, and I like there BEING options for a play, but there really should’ve been a passing element to that one. RPO baby! When he’s rolling out, fine, have Lockett there behind him as a possible pitch man. But, also run one of the tight ends out there in a route – maybe fake a block at first to throw them off the scent, or fall down or something – but when he was out in the open, he knew he wasn’t going to convert, and he pitched it: right there, we should’ve had someone leaking out for him to throw it to down field. It was ALMOST the perfect play, but it turned into a near disaster.

Luckily, I guess, we stayed in bounds and forced them to use their final time out. It’s always a different ballgame in a 2-minute drill when you don’t have any time outs left.

Nevertheless, it’s never ideal to give the Rams the ball with 98 seconds left, down a single point. Even if it is on their own 7-yard line.

True to form, the Rams marched right down the field. I liked the aggressiveness the defense showed; I didn’t see too many 3-man fronts. But, I wish they’d gone to the well more with blitzes straight up the middle, as opposed to those corner blitzes that take so long to develop. You really don’t have a lot of time against a Rams offense; by the time the corner blitz comes home, he’s already released the ball.

I honestly thought we were going to lose on that field goal. My worst nightmare would’ve been Pete Carroll calling time out right before Zuerlein’s miss, only to give him a second chance where he nails it. He was sort of kicking to that upright a lot; there was a field goal earlier in the game that just squeaked in on that side. Any way you slice it, that’s a kick he makes probably 95 times out of 100, so I feel VERY fortunate right now.

Kudos to Wilson and Carson, who I’m going up against in my fantasy league. 268 yards (on 17/23) with 4 TDs for Wilson; 118 rushing yards on 27 carries (plus a 5-yard receiving TD) for Carson. They crushed me, but more importantly they crushed the Rams (had they done all that and the Seahawks still lost, I’d be inconsolable right now).

Kudos to Dissly and Lockett, who combined for 132 yards on 8 receptions with a touchdown. Kudos to Al Woods for stuffing Goff at the goalline to prevent that 2-point conversion (also, what were they doing running a QB draw?). Kudos to Tedric again on that fantastic INT after having a rough season so far. Kudos to Clowney and/or Wagner for forcing that Gurley fumble. And Kudos to Poona Ford for that early tackle for loss that easily could’ve saved us 4 points by not allowing the Rams to convert and challenge for a TD on that field goal drive.

There’s a lot to like about this win, and it sets things up remarkably well the rest of the way. I’ve said all along that the Seahawks need to go 4-1 in their first five games, and run it back for the next five. Well, here we are, 4-1, with 10 days until we go to Cleveland (who will be coming off of a Monday Night game). From there, it’s a very reasonable slate until our Week 11 BYE. Let’s enjoy the weekend, everyone!

Somehow, The Seahawks Won In Pittsburgh!

I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. It’s all so confusing. You know how, like, on a sitcom where a nervous, fumbling guy asks someone out on a date, and he’s so convinced ahead of time that she’ll say no that he doesn’t even listen for her response? He quickly sputters through his spiel, “Will you go out with me?” and before she even gets two words out, he follows up with, “You know what, nevermind, I don’t know what I was thinking, I was just kidding, let’s pretend none of this ever happened,” and he starts walking away as she tells him, “Yes, I’ll go out with you,” but he’s still so far in denial he doesn’t hear it – to the comedic delight of the studio audience – and this misunderstanding goes on far too long, much like the lede to this particular blog post?

See, that’s where I’m at right now. My brain was so ready for the Seahawks to be 1-1 that it hasn’t dawned on me yet that we’re 2-0 and heading back home to face a Brees-less Saints team that’s living on the west coast for a week.

How did we get here? More importantly, when did it dawn on me that the Seahawks might actually prevail in that game?

It started off as most Seahawks games tend to do: with lots of punts. On both sides! There were some very fine punts on both sides. Throughout the entire first quarter. Then, at the end there, Chris Carson fumbled which set up a touchdown for the Steelers, and the game started to make sense again. Seattle, on the road, struggling to get anything going on offense, unable to overcome their own mistakes. I’ve seen it dozens of times.

Even when the Seahawks tied it up on the very next drive, I had my doubts. A long, 12-play drive, with multiple 3rd/4th down conversions, and no big plays? That’s not sustainable. That’s not Seahawks football. Say what you will about how we love to run the ball, but our scoring drives tend to be pretty quick, with at least one chunk play for huge yards.

Then, on the final drive before halftime, Ben Roethlisberger did something to his throwing elbow. When it became clear he wouldn’t return, I’ll admit that gave me some confidence in our chances. But, we were still down by 3 points on the road, and you never know how a backup quarterback is going to respond.

It turns out, Mason Rudolph acquitted himself pretty well. He looked poised, he made good decisions, and if it weren’t for Donte Moncrief letting another ball go through his hands (this time for a crucial Seahawks interception), we might be having a very different discussion today.

The short field led to the Seahawks taking a 14-10 lead, which was cut to 14-13, which was subsequently extended to 21-13. The offenses really came alive in this portion of the game, as teams traded touchdowns like football cards. The Steelers came right back to pull it within 21-19 (thanks to a botched 2-point attempt). Then, the drive of the game.

The Seahawks had already made a futile attempt at challenging a PI call in the first half, costing us a time out which would’ve come in handy on our final drive of the half, when we were trying to inch closer for a field goal attempt. Then, in the second half, nursing that 2-point lead, the Seahawks started shooting themselves in the foot. There was a first down false start, then a first down holding penalty to make it 1st & 25. After a predictable run play, it was 2nd & 20 when Wilson took a deep shot into double coverage for Tyler Lockett. There was marginal contact, but more than anything it just looked like a couple of guys going for the ball. When Pete Carroll threw the challenge flag, I thought it was the dumbest thing ever.

But, the refs determined it actually WAS defensive pass interference! Instead of 3rd & 20, it was first down 38 yards closer to paydirt! From there, we were a few plays away from a touchdown to the future Offensive Rookie of the Year, D.K. Metcalf!

At that point, victory felt all but certain. Then, a botched handoff to Carson left the door wide open for the Steelers to pull the game back to within 2 points with a little over five minutes left in the game. Thanks to some semi-aggressive play-calling (based on expectations, not necessarily compared to the rest of the football world), the Seahawks were able to convert multiple first downs – including a 4th & 1 conversion to seal it – and run out all the clock.

The stars of the game are plentiful! Russell Wilson had 300 yards on 29/35 passing. Tyler Lockett reeled in 10 catches for 79 yards (plus that PI flag he drew). D.K. Metcalf had his first NFL touchdown. Rashaad Penny busted out a 37-yard touchdown. Will Dissly caught 2 TDs! Carson had a rough day, but still plowed through for that final 4th down conversion. And, of course, who can forget Donte Moncrief? The Steelers sure did, as I don’t think he played another snap for them after he let us get that INT.

Defensively, the Seahawks were FAR better than I expected. I was expecting 475 yards passing out of Roethlisberger, so to fall 400 yards short was something to behold. Even if he stayed healthy, it didn’t look like he had many answers for whatever we were doing. The Steelers’ rushing stats were pretty skewed by a 23-yard run; otherwise we did a good job of holding them in check. I wouldn’t say everything is all better, but it was a solid effort on the road. There was definitely improved play from the secondary that I think made all the difference.

This is still a tough Seahawks team to figure out, but I feel like I say that all the time, ever since the Super Bowl seasons anyway. This is a REALLY encouraging start though, and lines up pretty perfectly to what I was hoping for heading into the season. Go 4-1 in the first five games, go 4-1 in the next five games, and rock & roll down the stretch and let’s win a division! Well, with a 2-0 start, and with the Saints coming in without Brees next week, it’s all setting up for something special. Gotta take care of business, though.

I Can’t Envision A Seahawks Victory In Pittsburgh

Usually, whenever I feel this strongly about an impending Seahawks defeat, one of two things usually happens in the game: either I’m right and the Seahawks lose, or I’m wrong and the Seahawks win. THIS IS THE HARD-HITTING ANALYSIS YOU COME HERE FOR!!!

Sure, every once in a while there’s a tie sprinkled in there, but you get the idea. One of three things.

This early in the season, we really don’t have a lot of knowledge about what the Seahawks are and what they’re going to be. All we REALLY have to go on is the one game, last week, where Andy Dalton of all people came into Seattle and threw for a billion yards. On the flipside, last week the Steelers went into New England and only scored 3 points. But, they’ve still got Ben Roethlisberger (inarguably better than Dalton), they’ve still got JuJu Smith-Schuster (inarguably better than any receiver on the Bengals), and they’ve still got James Conner (who helped the Steelers not miss a beat with Le’Veon Bell leaving town). That’s an offense, again, you have to believe is far and away superior to the Bengals. Plus, they’ll have the added advantage of being at home, so our defense won’t have the noise factor on their side.

If we gave up 418 yards to Dalton last week, with all the noise and everything else, what’s the ceiling for Roethlisberger? I can’t stress this enough, that noise is critical to what we do in our pass rush; without it, I don’t think we’ll touch him. Which is terrible news, because aside from our improved run defense, that’s the only thing we’ve got going for us. Our secondary hasn’t improved at all in the last week (unless you think signing a veteran nickel defender off the scrap heap will suddenly turn this sinking ship around), and you could argue it’s actually gotten worse if Lano Hill starts (I wouldn’t make that argument, because I’d take literally anyone over Tedric Thompson, but if you want to make that argument, I won’t stop you).

I will say this, for the Seahawks: I think our offense will look better. It would pretty much have to, though. It’s hard to look a whole lot worse, so long as you wipe 2017 from your memory. I do NOT think the Seahawks will get blown out, because they rarely do. Then again, I’m also not totally leaving that option off the table. If the Steelers jump out to a big early lead by 14 or 21 points in the first half, we could definitely see more sacks and turnovers in the second half than we’d like. I believe the Steelers have a MUCH better defense than last week would indicate. They’ve got great players at every level.

They’re also not a team we see very often. The Seahawks have lost on the road to an AFC team almost every single year since Pete Carroll has gotten here. Generally, the games are more high scoring than you’d like, and the Seahawks even look semi-competent at times. But, the defense ends up letting us down in these games, and I have no reason to believe that won’t happen again this week.

Look, I hope I’m wrong! But, it’s gonna take 30+ points to go into Pittsburgh and win this thing, and I just don’t think we’re there yet. That’s fine! It’s not the end of the world! Road AFC games are the least important games on our schedule; it’s MUCH more important to come back home next week and take out the Saints. We were always going to lose one of these two games, and I’m officially on record as hoping we lose this week and win the next.

And not just because I have a bunch of Steelers on my various fantasy teams.

2019 Seattle Seahawks Preview Extravaganza!

I feel like the best way to do this is to compare this year’s roster to last year’s roster, see how they match up, and use that as your basis when looking at this year’s schedule. Obviously, pitfalls abound in this strategy – teams on paper rarely translate to results on the field; similarly teams who look good or bad prior to the regular season rarely all live up to expectations – but what else is there to do on a Friday before the first Sunday of the year?

We can start with quarterback, because why not? At this point, Russell Wilson has proven himself to be one of the truly elite players at his position. If I’m building a real-life NFL team from scratch, there aren’t many players I’d choose ahead of him. Now, a lot goes into how you can predict his level of play: how does the O-line block, how does the running game help take some of the pressure off his shoulders, how do the receivers fare at getting open and making plays down field? In a vacuum, Russell Wilson should be no worse than he was in 2018, with maybe even still a little more room for growth.

I thought the Offensive Line was pretty great in 2018. Not perfect, but certainly better than we’d seen in quite some time. That unit is largely intact, with one injury-plagued veteran (Iupati) taking over for another (Sweezy). Duane Brown is still a stud and a leader, Justin Britt is fine, D.J. Fluker is still a beast, and Germain Ifedi took a HUGE step forward last year. In 2019, his final season under his rookie deal, Ifedi should be even better, as he looks for a big payday going into 2020. Ethan Pocic is a real wildcard here, as he could see significant playing time with injuries along the interior (indeed, he looks like he’ll be starting in Week 1 for Iupati). I was on his ass a lot last year, but word out of pre-season is that he’s really grown in his second season under Solari. If he ends up winning a starting job by season’s end, he could be a boost over what Sweezy was in 2018, saying nothing of whatever Iupati has left in the tank in 2019.

Similarly, the Running Game was pretty great in 2018. I don’t know how much room for improvement you can expect here, when you’re talking about one of the league’s best. Carson, when healthy, is a Top 10 running back, maybe even as high as Top 5 or 6. C.J. Prosise, when healthy, is as dynamic as anyone. I don’t hold out a lot of hope that he CAN stay healthy, but there might be a game or two when he really goes off. I think everything rests on Rashaad Penny, as he was pretty underwhelming as a rookie, and looked even more underwhelming (somehow) in the pre-season this year. If he takes a step back, it could get dicey if injuries mount. If he takes a step forward, then we’re talking about one of the most talented running back rooms in the league.

The Wide Receivers look to be the biggest concern on the team, but I would argue that’s a little overblown. The one thing I’ll agree with everyone else about is: who will be that security blanket on 3rd down? That’s been Doug Baldwin since Russell Wilson came into the league. Even though Tyler Lockett may play in the slot more, I don’t know if his role is going to be drastically different from what it’s been. He’s a great player and fits this offense perfectly. I think this team is going to have to develop their security blanket, but in the early going, I think it’s going to be a different player every week. Don’t sleep on Jaron Brown. Don’t forget how much this quarterback and this offensive coordinator likes incorporating tight ends and running backs into the passing game. Eventually, I think John Ursua will be the next Doug Baldwin and I have no problem saying that before he’s played a single regular season game; but in the early going, it’s going to be Security Blanket By Committee. And, I know Russell Wilson is good enough to make that work.

In total, if I’m being honest, I think the offense will be remarkably similar to what it was in 2018, and I’m okay with that. I think that offense is good enough to win a championship, if everything breaks right. It also might be a year or two away from playing at a championship level, but with a Top 5 QB, you can never rule it out.

Where I honestly have more hope is in the defense. Not enough was made of just how much of a shitshow that side of the ball was in 2018. Earl Thomas went down in week 4! K.J. Wright hardly played at all. Mychal Kendricks was suspended for a huge chunk of the season, then I think he got injured towards the end. Even with Frank Clark and Jarran Reed tearing it up, the D-Line was a disaster that didn’t get nearly enough pressure on the quarterback, and was the worst against the run I’ve seen in the Pete Carroll era. That aspect alone – run defense – was always what I’ve been hanging my hat on, when it comes to this team drastically improving itself from year to year. If you shore that up, and return to playing at a Top 5 level against the run, it’ll make up for A LOT of ills everywhere else.

The other big concern, obviously, is the pass rush. But, I’m here to declare that concern is largely unnecessary now that we’ve traded for Clowney. I think – playing exclusively along the line, with a lot less dropping back into coverage – we’re talking about a guy who can fill that Frank Clark role to a T. I’m looking at 15 sacks as a target that I think he can easily reach. Ziggy Ansah I’d be a little more cautious with, but with both of these guys you’re talking about highly-motivated individuals looking to get PAID in 2020; it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest if we’re talking double-digit sacks for both! With Poona Ford’s emergence as a bona fide starter, and with Jarran Reed returning after a 6-game suspension, we’re talking about a front four that will rival the best. My worry, of course, is getting to see them all together, because what are the odds one of those guys gets hurt before Reed comes back, and we’re waiting until the last month of the season to get the gang all back together (I’ve seen it a million times)?

I also love what I’ve been seeing from the linebackers – the heart and soul of this defense – when it comes to blitzing and otherwise picking up the slack. Kendricks has looked like a man possessed when he’s gone after quarterbacks in the pre-season! Bobby Wagner, we all know, is highly capable whenever he blitzes up the middle. The Seahawks will find ways to get home more than they did in 2018. Combine that with a drastically-improved run defense, and there’s a lot to like about this side of the ball.

The one major downside is the secondary. It’s also the facet of the game Pete Carroll is best able to coach up. I’ll be blunt here, they haven’t looked great in what little I’ve seen from them in the pre-season. But, we also have yet to see the full complement of defensive linemen & linebackers in front of them (on the flipside, we really haven’t seen that much of opposing starting quarterbacks and whatnot, but that’s neither here nor there). I’m not high on this unit whatsoever, and I’m barely clinging for dear life to the fact that Carroll is a Secondary Whisperer. I keep hearing about how well Tedric Thompson plays in practice (mostly from coaches/players, less so from media), but you never see it in games. I think moving Shaquill Griffin to the opposite side of the field was a huge mistake, and eventually he’ll be supplanted by Tre Flowers. I also think it’s highly likely that those guys are as good as they’ll ever be, and there really isn’t any improvement or development to look forward to. That’s sort of a worst-case scenario for this group, but it feels likelier to come to fruition than it did at the tail end of last season.

Now, to be fair, they weren’t horrible to my eye in 2018 (take my eye with a grain of salt, of course); they were just sort of okay. When compared to the L.O.B., as the commercial goes, “Just okay is not okay.” But, compared to the entirety of the NFL, they were middle of the road or maybe a little worse. If they’re the same thing in 2019, with improved pass rush and improved run defense, that might be good enough! The pass rush alone might make their lives a whole lot easier, as errant/tipped throws fall into welcoming arms.

Taken as a whole, in short, I think the offense will be about the same, and I think the defense will be a lot better. Last year, the Seahawks finished 10-6 and made the Wild Card game. This year, I think that should account for a couple more wins, and here’s where things get mighty interesting.

Yesterday, I was writing about how I thought it was only a matter of the Seahawks getting off to a hot start, as we’ll eventually run into our torrid finish. If we divide the season into thirds (so to speak), in the first five weeks, we’ve got games against Cincinnati and Arizona that should be cake walks. There’s a road game against Pittsburgh and a home game against the Saints where we should go 1-1 (ideally losing to the Steelers, as AFC losses mean less). That just leaves Week 5, a Thursday Night game at home vs. the Rams that could mean the whole season. Lose that game, and the Rams – once again – will be in the driver’s seat. Win it, and we should be 4-1 in the first third of the season, with at least a share of the division lead (and a tiebreaker advantage to boot).

In the next five games, we’ve got home games against the Ravens and Bucs that we should win, as well as a road game against the 49ers that should go our way. That leaves road games against Atlanta and Cleveland where again I would hope we’d split, to finish 4-1 in this stretch. If that falls into place, that puts us at 8-2 heading into our BYE week.

By the time we come back, it’s already the last week in November and we’ve got our stretch run (where, again, the Seahawks traditionally play their best ball). At this point, throw your pre-season projections out the window. The Eagles, Vikings, Rams, and Panthers all look like potential world-beaters (to some), but who knows where they’ll be at that point? At Philly seems like a legitimately insurmountable task, but it’s also a Sunday Night game, and you know how we play in those. The Vikings are at home. I’m of firm belief that Cam Newton will be lost for the season by the time we go to Carolina (but, even if he’s there, I don’t think they’ll be all that amazing). And, as we saw in 2018, we were one or two plays away from beating the Rams twice, so I can’t just mark that game down as a loss just because it’s in L.A.

Even with those tough matchups, we still close the season with a couple home games against the Cardinals and 49ers. If we can go 4-2 in those final 6 games, that gives us a 12-4 record and we might be playing home games well into January.

The point is, I think 12 wins takes the NFC West. Especially if two of those wins are against the Rams.

As I noted yesterday, I think the Seahawks get a 2-seed behind the Eagles. Contrary to what I wrote yesterday, I could easily see a 5-seeded Rams team going into Philly and shocking the world, thus forcing a potential NFC Championship Game back in Seattle. And you know what happens when Seattle hosts an NFC Championship Game …

Look, it’s idiotic to predict a Seahawks Super Bowl appearance this year. I get that. I’m not saying that’s what’s going to happen. BUT, I think everything is on the table. I think 12 wins is on the table. I think a division title is on the table. I think a first round BYE is on the table. I think home field advantage throughout the playoffs is on the table. I think the MVP is on the table for Russell Wilson. I think Executive of the Year should already be locked in for John Schneider. I think Coach of the Year is on the table for Pete Carroll. And yes, I think a Super Bowl appearance is on the table.

What’s more likely? The Seahawks win the NFC West, or the Seahawks fail to make the playoffs entirely? Well, the smart money is on the latter. But, this is the time of year for perpetual hope, and so I’m choosing to be in the Glass Half Full camp. I know I’m setting myself up for heartbreak later on, but I’m willing to take that chance.

Predicting The 2019 NFL Season

It’s that time again! My favorite sports blog post of the year! I’ll never top the year where I predicted the Ravens beating the 49ers in the Super Bowl, followed up by the very next season predicting the Seahawks over the Broncos, but I’ll be damned if I don’t try every year.

Check out all my predictions from past seasons:

As you can see last year, I had the Jags over the Rams in the Super Bowl, which was Half Right and Half Laughably Stupid. I only had 2/6 NFC playoff teams correct (though I had Eagles as division champs, not a wild card). I had 4/6 AFC playoff teams correct (though only one division champ – New England). Without further ado, here we go 2019!

NFC East

  • Philadelphia
  • Dallas
  • Washington
  • New York

Give me a first class ticket to the Philly Hype Train, because I’m ALL ABOARD! I also have a hard time believing the Cowboys won’t make the playoffs (barring a thousand injuries), so count me in for 2/6 playoff teams coming from the East. I like Washington to be around 7 wins, and I like the Giants to be among the worst teams in all of football.

NFC North

  • Minnesota
  • Chicago
  • Green Bay
  • Detroit

I have a tough time reading this division, but for some reason the Vikings really strike me as a tough team on the cusp. I also think the Bears are due for some regression. The fact of the matter is, I believe the Bears are probably a 10-win team, but I think they’ll get axed out by another 10-win team with a better conference record. As for the Packers, you can never rule them out with A-Rod at the helm, but they feel like they’re in a mediocre, 8-8 spiral right now until they improve the defense. There will be growing pains nevertheless, with a new coaching staff at the helm. Honestly, it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest if the Packers finish 4th in the division; the Lions could be a little underrated (but probably not).

NFC South

  • New Orleans
  • Atlanta
  • Tampa Bay
  • Carolina

We call this one: Playing It Safe. I agree the Saints are probably the shakiest one of the bunch, with Drew Brees as old as he is, and as ineffective as he is on the road in open-air stadia. But, they were the deserving team to make the Super Bowl last year, and I believe they would’ve beaten the Patriots. That fire is only going to make them tougher to beat this year, even with the target on their backs. Atlanta feels like a 9-win team on the outside looking in. The Bucs could be one of the surprise teams of the NFC if Jameis Winston figures out a way to put it all together under Bruce Arians. I think the Panthers are destined to lose Cam Newton to injury at some point and will win about 4 games.

NFC West

  • Seattle
  • Los Angeles
  • San Francisco
  • Arizona

Boom! Bombshell! Here’s the deal – and we’ll get into this more during my official Seahawks preview – but I think the Seahawks are more poised than they’ve been in YEARS to start off strong. Last year, the Seahawks were 3-3 at the BYE, and eventually fell to 4-5 before finishing on a 6-1 run. By and large, in this run under Pete Carroll, that’s been in line with tradition: starting off okay, finishing on a tear. I think it’s well within the realm of possibility for the Seahawks to start 4-1 with a home win on Thursday night over the Rams to take a brief edge in the divisional battle. If that comes to fruition, we could be looking at something special, as over the subsequent five weeks, the Seahawks should also go 4-1 to be 8-2 heading into the BYE week. From there, we close out the season – again, traditionally the time we play the best – with a few potential NFC contenders and a few of the dregs in the last three weeks. I mean, if things break right, 13-3 or 12-4 is on the table. I fully anticipate the Rams to be right around that level as well, but with a tiebreaker based on head-to-head, the Seahawks could take the nod and potentially secure a BYE. I think the 49ers are a year away from double-digit wins, and I think the Cardinals are just happy to be here.

AFC East

  • New England
  • Buffalo
  • New York
  • Miami

The only question here is who will be better, the Bills or the Jets; I’m banking on Buffalo, who I think could be in line for a wild card spot. What’s for certain is the Patriots winning the division (and probably a playoff BYE) and the Dolphins being in the running for the #1 draft pick.

AFC North

  • Pittsburgh
  • Cleveland
  • Baltimore
  • Cincinnati

For some reason, I love the Steelers this year. I’ve been going after them like they’re the antidote in my fantasy drafts. I think with a locker room free from head cases, they’re poised to take a step forward on offense. And, I think their defense is criminally underrated. I like Cleveland to keep pace, and ultimately come down with one of the wild cards, because they’ll be fun and talented on both sides of the ball. I’m not buying the Ravens at all; I think they’re a 7-win team, mostly because their defense is strong. The rest of the league will figure out Lamar Jackson, though, and he won’t be able to throw his way to victories. The Bengals will be bottom feeders.

AFC South

  • Houston
  • Indianapolis
  • Jacksonville
  • Tennessee

This could be the most mediocre division in football, with the highest floor but the lowest ceiling. I’m projecting between 7-9 wins for all four of these teams; and it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest if the Colts actually come away victorious. With Luck, I would’ve had them on top, but without Luck this is still a solid team through and through. I’m giving the nod to the Texans because I think they’re pretty dynamic in the passing game.

AFC West

  • Kansas City
  • Los Angeles
  • Denver
  • Oakland

Will the Chiefs regress in Mahomes’ second full season starting? Absolutely. Nevertheless, he’s so good that even his regression will still make them among the best teams in all of football. I like the Chiefs to repeat as division champs and crack the top overall seed. I still like the Chargers, but I’m not quite as high on them as their 12-win campaign proved them to be in 2018. They’ll be a wild card and like it. I think Denver will be okay, and I think the Raiders are still a mess, though they should be more fun offensively.

NFC Playoffs

  1. Philadelphia
  2. Seattle
  3. New Orleans
  4. Minnesota
  5. Los Angeles
  6. Dallas

AFC Playoffs

  1. Kansas City
  2. New England
  3. Pittsburgh
  4. Houston
  5. Cleveland
  6. Los Angeles

Wild Card Round

  • New Orleans over Dallas
  • Los Angeles over Minnesota
  • Pittsburgh over Los Angeles
  • Cleveland over Houston

Divisional Round

  • Seattle over New Orleans
  • Philadelphia over Los Angeles
  • New England over Pittsburgh
  • Kansas City over Cleveland

Championship Round

  • Philadelphia over Seattle
  • Kansas City over New England

Super Bowl

  • Kansas City over Philadelphia

My backup guess is a Super Bowl of the Rams vs. Chiefs, with the Rams prevailing, but I’ll never hang my hat on another team in the NFC West outside of Seattle winning it all.

SEARCH: Seahawks OTAs 53-Man Roster Projections 2019

For as mediocre as I’ve been decrying the Seahawks’ defensive line heading into this season, there’s actually a pretty interesting battle going on. While this team lacks star power – particularly in the pass rush – there’s tremendous depth across the entirety of the front seven. You could argue – aside from Bobby Wagner and Jarran Reed – that it’s ALL depth, but that’s neither here nor there.

The rest of the roster shakes out pretty easily, but I cannot stress this enough: doing a 53-man roster projection in the middle of June is as worthless as it gets. I can’t even describe how wrong I’m going to be by the time Week 1 rolls around; there will be countless injuries and a number of players who make the team that aren’t even on the roster right now!

But, based on the players we have today, here are my thoughts:

Quarterbacks

  • Russell Wilson
  • Geno Smith

This feels like the easiest of the non-Special Teams specialist spots to predict. Paxton Lynch just isn’t an NFL quarterback, period. The only reason he’s here is because he’s tall and a former first round pick. Not that Geno Smith is any great shakes, but at least he’s started; he’s taken the more traditional route to being a career backup.

Running Backs

  • Chris Carson
  • Rashaad Penny
  • Travis Homer
  • C.J. Prosise
  • J.D. McKissic

Already, I don’t feel great about my prediction. If you’d asked me coming out of 2018, I would’ve GUARANTEED that this team takes one of either Prosise or McKissic, but not both. But, I’m just not super sold on the back-end of this group. If Prosise continues to ball out like he’s been doing during these OTAs, I don’t think there’s any way this team can just cut him for nothing. The guys I left off the roster are guys I feel like will be available on the scrap heap if the need arises. The only monkey wrench is the fullback, Nick Bellore. We all know the team likes to run a lot, and having a competent fullback is always a Pete Carroll desire. If he makes the team, probably cross off one of Prosise or McKissic.

Tight Ends

  • Ed Dickson
  • Nick Vannett
  • Will Dissly
  • Jacob Hollister

I don’t have a real strong belief that the team is going to keep four tight ends PLUS George Fant, but I don’t know where the cut comes from! Dickson was our best tight end when he was healthy in 2018, and is our most veteran all-around player at the position. But, at the same time, there is money to be saved by cutting him. Vannett has continued to improve year to year and had sort of a mini-breakout last year (particularly in the endzone). But, at the same time, he’s on the last year of his rookie deal, and I don’t know if he brings anything to the table that’s super special. Dissly looks like a stud, so if he’s healthy by the time the regular season starts, he’s a lock. I think the other lock is Hollister, and not just because we traded for him; clearly based on our history, we have no quibbles with cutting guys we’ve traded for. He sounds like a super stud on special teams and a guy we’d like to hang onto for a while.

Wide Receivers

  • Tyler Lockett
  • D.K. Metcalf
  • David Moore
  • Jaron Brown
  • Keenan Reynolds

Lockett, Metcalf, and Moore are all locks, assuming they stay healthy. I think Brown is about as close to a lock as possible, considering there isn’t a ton of veteran presence in this room. Finally, I think we only hang onto 5 receivers due to the need to have a 4th tight end. With that in mind, the fifth receiver spot is going to be a HUGE battle. I know there’s a prevailing thought that the Seahawks just HAVE to keep all of their rookie drafted receivers, but unless they prove to be special – and healthy – the Seahawks have no problem cutting them and stashing them on the practice squad. For starters, I don’t expect both Jennings and Ursua to be healthy throughout Training Camp; if they are, then we’re having a different discussion. But, in reality, I think the final receiver spot is going to go to one of those two guys or Keenan Reynolds, and I’m giving Reynolds the advantage based on his being in the system for a full year, and actually seeing some playing time last year. With his experience, and his Baldwin-esque build and skillset, I think he’s perfect to slide right into that dependable slot receiver role.

Offensive Line

  • Duane Brown
  • Mike Iupati
  • Justin Britt
  • D.J. Fluker
  • Germain Ifedi
  • Ethan Pocic
  • Jordan Simmons
  • George Fant
  • Jamarco Jones

I’m pretty secure in this prediction. The only way it changes is if there are injuries. Look for Joey Hunt or Phil Haynes to maybe sneak in there if there are any surprises to the core nine I’ve listed above.

Punter/Kicker/Long Snapper

  • Michael Dickson
  • Jason Myers
  • Tyler Ott

Enough said.

Secondary

  • Shaquill Griffin
  • Tre Flowers
  • Akeem King
  • Neiko Thorpe
  • Jeremy Boykins
  • Tedric Thompson
  • Bradley McDougald
  • Ugo Amadi
  • Marquise Blair
  • Delano Hill

I’m not super sold on Boykins. Amadi is also not totally a lock, but Boykins is really just a stab in the dark. I think, if it comes down to a young guy and a veteran, this team keeps the young guy. Boykins was here last year, so he has a leg up, but whatever. This post isn’t really about the secondary.

Defensive Line

  • Ziggy Ansah
  • L.J. Collier
  • Rasheem Green
  • Jacob Martin
  • Jarran Reed
  • Poona Ford
  • Al Woods
  • Quinton Jefferson

Linebackers

  • Bobby Wagner
  • K.J. Wright
  • Cody Barton
  • Ben Burr-Kirven
  • Mychal Kendricks

Linebacker/Ends

  • Shaquem Griffin
  • Barkevious Mingo

You kinda gotta lump all these guys together, because there’s a lot of crossover. I’m pretty secure in my prediction of the 8 linemen and 5 linebackers I’ve listed above. But, just as there will be an interesting battle among the final wide receivers, I think there’s going to be a tremendous battle among the SAM linebackers/defensive ends we’ve got on this roster. I mean, just look at the list of guys I’ve left off of this team:

  • Branden Jackson
  • Cassius Marsh
  • Demarcus Christmas
  • Naz Jones
  • Austin Calitro
  • Jamie Meder

For what it’s worth, I think Christmas is a guy we can stash on the Practice Squad. Jackson is a guy who has hung around for a few years that I know the team likes, but he isn’t really elite at anything. Naz Jones was a healthy scratch for a lot of weeks last year and it appears his time has run out with the Seahawks if he doesn’t seriously flash in Training Camp. Meder is a veteran, but hasn’t really done anything in his career.

The two hardest cuts for me were Marsh and Calitro. Marsh is such an ace at Special Teams, that it wouldn’t surprise me if the team finds a way to keep him. But, he’s essentially a journeyman at this point, so he probably only makes the team if there are injuries at defensive end. He feels like Ansah insurance, which brings me zero comfort. Calitro, on the other hand, was a rookie last year who I thought played pretty well in an injury-ravaged unit. It’s hard for me to see him go, but he’s not really playing the same position as Griffin or Mingo. He’s more of a backup to Wagner/Wright, which they went out and drafted in BBK and Cody Barton. If the team liked Calitro so much, would they have used two moderately high draft picks on guys who can easily replace him? At this point, Barton sounds like he’s a stud, and the guy putting the final nail in Calitro’s coffin.

All of that having been said, I don’t think Griffin or Mingo are locks by any stretch of the imagination. While both are being used in pass rush situations, neither have really excelled at the professional level at that job. Nevertheless, both seem like pretty key guys to our Special Teams, which is why I have them making the 53-man roster. If it comes down to Special Teams or Pass Rush, and the team feels it needs more help with the latter, then don’t be surprised if Marsh takes the spot of Mingo (I can’t imagine the team keeps both Marsh AND Mingo in lieu of waiving Griffin, because why wouldn’t you keep the cost-controlled guy with upside?).

I’m telling you, I’m utterly fascinated with how this whole portion of the team is going to shake out. I’ll be out of town for the entirety of the Pre-Season, which is kind of a bummer, but it’ll still be interesting to follow from afar.

The Seahawks Haven’t Changed One Bit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Most Indefensibly Bad Seahawks Draft Pick Of The John Schneider Era

In the wake of the 2019 NFL Draft, the world at large has run through just about everything you can talk about, so we ultimately turn to manufactured arguments. On the Brock & Salk show recently, they were talking about (I don’t remember specifically) the worst Seahawks draft picks of the Schneider/Carroll era. It might have actually been the worst first player selected in each draft, but my mind immediately went to one player.

Before we get to that, I should back up and mention that every team has bad draft picks under their belts. I’m not picking on the Seahawks because I think they’re bad drafters; on the contrary, I think this crew is very GOOD at drafting. Yes, they often find themselves “reaching” in the eyes of the experts, and they go out of their way to trade down (and even out of the first round) to acquire extra picks later on. But, I believe this front office more than any other (except maybe the Patriots) finds the best value in later rounds to round out its roster with quality players.

Beyond that, the Seahawks do an excellent job of blending Best Player Available with Team Needs. You’re not going to see this team draft a quarterback in the top half of the draft because that would be a waste; if you ever do see that, you’d know that player is probably someone who fell further than they should and bank on him being destined for greatness. Those players experts cite as a “reach” are more often than not guys the coaches are able to build up into effective starters. There’s a method to the Seahawks’ madness that keeps this train a rollin’.

If you had to narrow down the absolute WORST pick this group has made, I think you have to start with guys who’ve never played a single down in the NFL. There have been a handful (certainly more than I remembered before I started writing this post), with the worst of the bunch being the guys who cost us the highest draft capital:

  • Mark LeGree (2011, 5th round)
  • Jared Smith (2013, 7th round)
  • Jesse Williams (2013, 5th round)
  • Jimmy Staten (2014, 5th round)
  • Garrett Scott (2014, 6th round)
  • Terry Poole (2015, 4th round)
  • Zac Brooks (2016, 7th round)
  • Kenny Lawler (2016, 7th round)
  • Justin Senior (2017, 7th round)
  • Malik McDowell (2017, 2nd round)

It’s not fair to go beyond the 2017 draft, although Alex McGough spent all of 2018 on the Practice Squad before jumping ship to the Jags, where you have to believe he’ll at least get a shot at some serious playing time as a backup (that Brett Hundley deal continuing to pay whatever the opposite of dividends are). Of that ignominious group I listed above, I completely understand the urge to say, “Malik McDowell is the worst Seahawks draft pick of all time,” and call this post a day.

There is a GREAT argument behind that sentiment. He was a 2nd round pick, and the first pick of our 2017 draft (after trading out of the first round). He was brought in with the thought process that he’d play right away in a rotation that featured Michael Bennett, Frank Clark, Cliff Avril, and Jarran Reed, among others. You could play McDowell on the outside on base downs, and bring him inside on passing downs, while allowing him to learn behind some all-time greats. Then, presumably, when the season was up, the team could move on from the likes of Avril and Bennett, and McDowell would’ve had a full year’s worth of experience under his belt to move into one of the starting roles.

We all know what happened instead: McDowell got injured before Training Camp even started, Avril was out of fooball a month into the season, Bennett was still in peak form (though just starting his slide; he’d be traded after the season), and we had to make that awful trade for Sheldon Richardson (who had very little impact on the field, and cost us yet ANOTHER second round pick, this time in the 2018 draft). So, not only did McDowell not produce for us, but he actively crippled this franchise for the next three years (we’re still being hurt by this deal, as we’ve had to spend high picks in the last two drafts – and probably another one next year – to fill the pass rushing void).

But, that’s not the premise of this post. Yes, the selection of McDowell was atrocious, but it is wholly defensible.

The argument against that has to do with him being a knucklehead who crashed on an ATV and broke his skull, but I mean, come on. Who could reasonably predict that? The knock against him heading into the 2017 draft was that he wasn’t necessarily the hardest worker in college. He took downs/games off. The talent was there, when he wanted it to be, and that’s why a high first round talent fell into the second round. If you want to be mad at anything, be mad at the fact that the team traded out of the first round in the first place; that’s the REAL crime here. But, there’s a lot we don’t know. Maybe the defensive lineman we liked was already taken, so it made sense to trade down and get more picks. You also have to factor in the players we were able to draft because of those trades, of which there are a number of contributors (including Tedric Thompson, Delano Hill, and Chris Carson).

Regardless, the reasoning behind taking McDowell was sound. And, for that reason, I have a hard time placing too much blame on a front office that was struck by some of the worst luck you can imagine. If he wasn’t an idiot, we might be talking about an integral part of this year’s defense right now. We were able to turn Frank Clark around after a suspect college career, it’s not crazy to imagine we could’ve turned McDowell around if we’d actually gotten him into the program.

If you wanted to go away from these types of players who made zero positive impact on the club, you could talk about guys who the Seahawks DID play, and who were actively terrible (arguably providing a net-negative value by virture of their performances on the field). This would include guys like:

  • James Carpenter (2011, 1st round)
  • John Moffitt (2011, 3rd round)
  • Mark Glowinski (2015, 4th round)
  • Germain Ifedi (2016, 1st round)
  • Rees Odhiambo (2016, 3rd round)
  • Ethan Pocic (2017, 2nd round)

Some of these aren’t totally fair. Carpenter was a first round reach, no doubt about it, and it took this team a couple years before they finally figured out where his best fit was on the line. But, once he got past some injury issues and settled in, he’s made a nice career for himself (his last year in Seattle was pretty good, but mostly he’s been a workhorse elsewhere). Glowinski also was a dud in Seattle, though he’s been pretty solid in Indy (and just earned a nice little raise this offseason). Moffitt was an outright bust, in every sense of the word, and a total misfire of a 3rd rounder. Odhiambo has been pretty awful (though, again, I’d argue he’s been thrust into roles he’s not suited for, like left tackle – before we brought in Duane Brown – thanks to injuries and poor planning). Ifedi has been this fanbase’s whipping boy from day one, though his 2018 season was a huge step in the right direction (I would bet some other team pays him a pretty penny once he leaves after the 2019 season); and Pocic has been my own personal whipping boy nearly every time he’s seen the field in his short professional career.

I don’t think these guys really qualify as the most indefensibly bad pick of this era, so much as it simply being indefensible that this team left Tom Cable in charge for as long as they did, when he was better at molding crappy players into eventual quality starters for OTHER teams. A guy like Cable is fine if you have all the time in the world to develop diamonds in the rough; but this team was going cheap on its O-Line (to pay stars at other positions) and needed guys to step in RIGHT AWAY; in that sense, you get what you pay for. The defense behind picking these guys is simple: there’s always a need for offensive linemen, and the Seahawks took more swings at this than anyone else in football. The sad fact is that we simply swung and MISSED more than anyone else, which is why this team fell apart after its Super Bowl run.

All of this is preamble for what I’m going to tell you is, without a doubt, the worst and most indefensible draft pick of the John Schneider era:

  • Christine Michael

We were coming off of an all-time great run of drafts, not just for the Seahawks, but for any team in NFL history. You can’t rehash this enough, and I’m more than happy to go over it with you:

  • Russell Okung – 2010
  • Earl Thomas – 2010
  • Golden Tate – 2010
  • Walter Thurmond – 2010
  • Kam Chancellor – 2010
  • James Carpenter – 2011
  • K.J. Wright – 2011
  • Richard Sherman – 2011
  • Byron Maxwell – 2011
  • Malcolm Smith – 2011
  • Doug Baldwin – 2011 (undrafted)
  • Brandon Browner – 2011 (undrafted)
  • Ricardo Lockette – 2011 (undrafted)
  • Bruce Irvin – 2012
  • Bobby Wagner – 2012
  • Russell Wilson – 2012
  • Robert Turbin – 2012
  • Jaye Howard – 2012
  • Jeremy Lane – 2012
  • J.R. Sweezy – 2012
  • Jermaine Kearse – 2012 (undrafted)

That’s just clinically insane. So many All Pros and Pro Bowlers and starters and role players just in that group alone, who contributed to this team’s championship run in 2013. You could easily say this group was playing with house money.

So much of it, in fact, that we traded the farm (including our 2013 first rounder) to acquire Percy Harvin.

You could also argue that the 2013 NFL Draft was one of the worst of all time. Bust after bust after bust among this group; teams even in the top third of the FIRST round couldn’t count on drafting anyone worth a damn; so why am I all up in arms about a second rounder?

Because, motherfucker!

We as Seahawks fans are used to saying, “HUH?” whenever we see who this team ends up picking. In the early going – particularly in 2012 – we were made to look the fool at this way of thinking, as those guys ended up being some of the best players we’ve ever seen. We have that reaction because the guys the Seahawks take aren’t the guys the national pundits spend all offseason talking about. We don’t KNOW those guys; we know other guys who we think are better, but they might not necessarily be good fits for this team. But, at the very least, we could always rationalize WHY the Seahawks took the guys they’ve taken. There are always clear needs, and the Seahawks tend to focus in on those needs just like the rest of us.

As I mentioned before, the 2013 Seahawks were playing with house money. This was a team – in 2012, particularly in the last month of the regular season, on into the postseason – that was already a Super Bowl contender, as is. A bad start in Atlanta in the Divisional Round prevented us from what could’ve been back-to-back-to-back NFC Championship Games and even possibly back-to-back-to-back Super Bowl appearances. No team in December 2012 was playing as well as the Seattle Seahawks – including the eventual NFL Champion 49ers, who we clobbered in that closing stretch – so that 2013 NFL Draft was wide open to do what this team has never been able to do: really go after the Best Player Available.

Think about it, that team had NO HOLES. We were stacked from top to bottom, and as deep as any team in the league has ever been. We CUT guys who would go on to Pro Bowls for other teams, simply because there wasn’t room for them on our 53-man roster!

And yet, as we all know, no team is without holes. We could’ve filled in around the margins; maybe gone after Travis Kelce (taken with the very next pick; can you imagine? Never having to endure the Jimmy Graham debacle?), or the Honey Badger, or Keenan Allen, or any number of third rounders in that draft who are still kicking around the league. Instead, we picked Christine Michael.

And, for the first – and really only time that I can remember – Seahawks fans all said, “HUH?” not because we didn’t know the guy, but because we didn’t know WHY in the FUCK the Seahawks – with inarguably the best running back in all of football – drafted a third running back.

Remember, this team had Robert Turbin from the 2012 draft. While he never developed into a superstar, he was more than fine as a backup. A nice change of pace, someone who took care of the ball and could spell our starter, someone with good hands out in space and fit our zone blocking scheme to a T. Maybe in a different universe, Turbin could’ve been a 1,000-yard back somewhere! When he left Seattle, he succumbed to injuries that kept him from really breaking out, but you never know.

What we DO know is that Marshawn Lynch was Beastmode, and 2012/2013 was right smack dab in the middle of his PRIME! I mean, this seriously made no sense. It was as if the team was trying to push out the best player on its offense for no good God damned reason!

And maybe that was the plan. All I know was that there wasn’t any serious inkling of Lynch retiring, or otherwise leaving the organization at that time. In an ideal universe, maybe Michael sits as the third stringer his rookie year, then takes over in Year Two. But, obviously, we know how things really shook out. Lynch had two of this three best seasons in 2013 & 2014; he was FAR from done! So far, in fact, that the team signed him to an extension in 2015 (which, of course, immediately preceeded him getting injured, then retiring, then being traded to the Raiders for a nice Oakland swan song).

Meanwhile, Michael was terrible, both on and off the field. He didn’t work on his craft, he didn’t have that will to be great; I guess the best thing you can say is that he didn’t get into trouble off the field. But, even in college people questioned his work ethic, hence (again) why a first round talent fell to the bottom of the second round.

Christine Michael was the total antithesis of what the Seahawks sought out in their players under Pete Carroll and John Schneider. And yet, here we were, blowing our first pick on this guy, where there was absolutely no need whatsoever.

There’s no defending the Christine Michael pick, which makes it the most indefensibly bad pick of the John Schneider era.

The Seahawks Signed A Kicker, Earl Thomas Signed With Baltimore, And Other Stuff Happened

I didn’t really intend on writing a new Seahawks Free Agency Tracker post every single day this week, but shit happens (specifically in the NFL, and specifically not in the other major sports).

Remember when the Seahawks had a 2018 kicking competition between Jason Myers and Sebastian Janikowski? Remember when both players were about the same through the first however many weeks of the pre-season, and I argued that the Seahawks should keep the younger, cheaper guy over the fucking 40 year old, if all things were equal? Remember how the Seahawks opted to keep the fucking 40 year old while Myers signed on with the Jets and made the AFC’s Pro Bowl team?

Well, Janikowski’s gone – felled by an injury in his final game – and Myers is back, only this time on a 4-year deal worth upwards of $4 million per year. Considering Myers was destined to be a free agent either way, and since we weren’t one mediocre kicker away from winning a Super Bowl, I guess you could say the decision Pete Carroll made last year isn’t the WORST move he’s ever made. But, we could’ve saved a lot of time and agita if we’d just done the right thing the first time.

What sucks, obviously, is the cost. No more going cheap on the placekicker, which I suppose is a smart thing to do, but is Myers worth the investment? His three seasons with Jacksonville revealed a booming leg with plenty of flaws. While his lone season with the Jets is promising – 33/36, including 6/7 from 50+ – was it a fluke? Kickers, like relievers in baseball, tend to be pretty volatile from year to year. On top of that, it’s not like we have a good handle on how he’d perform in the thick marine air of Seattle. At least, you’d think, he faced his fair share of elements kicking in New York, but we’ll see how good he is on the west coast.

Ultimately, this looks like an upgrade over 2018, which is really all I’m asking for out of this offseason. Improve at as many spots as possible, and let’s get this Wild Card team into a playoff BYE week situation!

***

In other news, Earl Thomas signed a 4-year, $55 million deal with the Baltimore Ravens. Obviously, this is good for him – as he gets considerably more than I would’ve given him, and more than the Seahawks were willing to fork over – and probably good for the Ravens. I’m just not a believer in the passing ability of Lamar Jackson, and don’t think they’re a viable Super Bowl contender with him being mostly a running back; but at least their defense is jacked. Maybe they can pull off a Trent Dilfer 2.0 thing, if indeed their D is dominant enough.

Pierre Desir found a home in Indianapolis recently, and this off-season they rewarded him with a 3-year extension. Pretty good for a guy who’s built in the Seahawks Cornerback mold, and a guy we discovered first. Look at the league getting fat off our sloppy seconds!

Mychal Kendricks looks like he’s coming back on a $4 million deal; that’s exciting! It’s, of course, contingent on him being able to play football and not wallowing in prison, so fingers crossed. If it works out, it’ll be a serious boost to our linebacker room.

A room that got a little fuller with the re-signing of K.J. Wright. This just came down the pike this morning. I have to believe it’s a low-guarantee deal with lots of incentives based on number of games played. In total, I can’t imagine the max value is all that high, but I guess we’ll see. I would think given his age, his recent injury history, and the market for outside non-pass-rusher linebackers, that there weren’t a TON of teams lining up for the Pro Bowler, regardless of how good he is in coverage.

I read that George Fant was given a 2nd round tender, which makes literally all the sense in the world. I read a blog somewhere that opined he wouldn’t be tendered at all, or if he was, it would be an original round (i.e. the lowest one, with no draft pick compensation, since he was undrafted), but that was asinine. If anything, I wondered if we’d place a 1st rounder on him, but this feels more appropriate. It’s win-win for the Seahawks. Either he stays, and our O-line depth gets a boost, or some team blows him away with a deal and gives us a 2nd round draft pick in compensation. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what the Seahawks were angling for all along with this move. With three starting-calibre offensive tackles on the roster, you’d think we’d opt for the draft capital.

Finally, a little OOOOOLLLLLDDDDD Seahawks news: Brandon Mebane re-upped with the Chargers for two more years. As the oldest-drafted Seahawk (2007), he’s 34 years old and still going strong. Good for him! I’m glad to see some of these old timers still holding it down. Old.