Making Heads Or Tails Of The Latest Seahawks Media Blitz

General Manager John Schneider has been in the news a lot lately, doing interviews and whatnot. Over the years, it’s hard not to have your ears perk up whenever this happens. It’s obviously not a super-busy time in the football year; once the hullabaloo around the draft is over, things are pretty dead until ramping back up again in August. So, what’s with all the chatter?

The sports media landscape is a lot different nowadays. Players and teams are much more savvy with what they let get out into the world (for the most part). If there’s a news item about a player, it’s generally some bit of information that’s been leaked to a trusted reporter – who is always loathe to reveal his “sources” because he wants to maintain that connect for future stories – for a very specific reason. Depending on the tenor of the story, you can tell if it was the player’s camp or a team camp that leaked it. This is usually done in conjunction with negotiations – the team doesn’t want to pay as much, the player wants to squeeze every last dollar out of his value – so little items are thrown out into the world. It’s the cosmic ballet that is professional sports and … it’s really just a distraction, but ultimately not very important.

It’s all about image. No one wants to be the bad guy in this song and dance. It’s all just business; nothing personal!

You can’t help but start to take notice, though, when instead of leaking messages as an anonymous source, the team sends a prominent representative out into the world to show their hand. Teams don’t have to do any more media appearances than is otherwise necessary to drum up interest in fans and sell season tickets. So, that’s why you tend to see the coach and/or GM in the good times: during/immediately after the draft, and upon signing a quality free agent. These are advertisements – infomercials, if you will – for the Seattle Seahawks Football Club: Catch The Excitement! As draft hysteria has drifted back out to sea, however, we’re still seeing John Schneider pop up to talk about the Seahawks’ offseason plan. With good reason, of course.

There are two universal truths we’ve been harping on since the 2019 season ended: the Seahawks’ pass rush stinks, and Jadeveon Clowney is a free agent. After making a number of moves – signing Bruce Irvin and Benson Mayowa, re-signing Jarran Reed, drafting Darrell Taylor and Alton Robinson – the consensus is: the Seahawks’ pass rush still stinks. Again, I can’t stress this enough: it stunk as bad as could possibly be in 2019 and that was WITH Clowney, one of the most effective defensive linemen in the league (when healthy). As it turns out, that health factor is a lot bigger than we anticipated, as Clowney remains unsigned well into the month of May, with no end in sight.

What has caught a lot of eyes is the fact that the Seahawks – according to Over The Cap – have a little over $16 million in salary cap space at the moment. Of course, it should be noted that this figure doesn’t factor in the rookie salaries we’ll have to pay for our draft picks. Then, you have to set aside some money for minimum-salary guys the team brings in when our regulars get hurt and have to go on Injured Reserve. Also, the Seahawks put a lot of incentives into their deals with players that don’t necessarily show up in cap totals until those players hit those incentives. All these hidden figures ultimately detract from that $16 million. Smart fans know this, but most fans aren’t as into the weeds on these things; so they see a player like Clowney – easily the best-available free agent still on the market – and they see their Seahawks with a need at the very position he fills, and they’re wondering, “What gives?”

I mean, if nothing else, you have to figure that’s what Clowney’s agent is saying in negotiations with the Seahawks!

Beat writers and bloggers can bring up these hidden salary cap expenses until they’re blue in the face, but most fans are only going to sit up and take notice when the team tells them something directly. Enter: John Schneider.

There’s been a definite theme in his recent interviews that Schneider has been trying to get across: the importance of in-season moves.

The Seahawks are no stranger to making roster moves all throughout the year. Why, in 2019 alone, we made a deal for Quandre Diggs in the middle of the season that vastly improved our secondary; on top of taking a flier on Josh Gordon, who had at least one big catch in every game he appeared in. Then, with our rash of running back injuries late in the year, we famously brought back Marshawn Lynch to score us a few TDs in December and January! If I wanted to put in the work, I’m sure I could go back and list a bunch of other in-season moves the Seahawks have made through the years, but just trust me when I tell you that this isn’t a new concept for this organization.

And yet, this is the first time I ever remember the team harping on this fact in interviews. It’s obviously for a reason!

The way I see it, this has everything to do with Clowney, and it can be only one of two things. Either the team truly has moved on from Clowney, and the Seahawks are trying to get fans on board with this decision; or the team actually IS willing to bring Clowney back, but they’re going to remain firm in their lowball offer to him, and he either needs to get on board with it or find employment elsewhere.

This has to be hard for fans AND Clowney to reconcile, because as has been noted repeatedly, the Seahawks have a number of moves they can make to free up some extra money. They can cut certain veterans to free up salary cap space; but, this weakens our depth and probably robs Peter to pay Paul. Sure, our defensive line will be stronger with Clowney, but if that means cutting Bradley McDougald, that likely weakens our secondary and could be a wash in the grand scheme of 2020 things. They can also convert base salaries for guys like Russell Wilson or Bobby Wagner – guys you know aren’t going anywhere – into signing bonuses, to further spread out those figures across the remaining lives of their respective contracts; but, that kicks the can down the road and puts your team’s financial flexibility in jeopardy in a few years. Under normal circumstances, you could argue that’s a no-brainer – especially with Russell Wilson, who isn’t going ANYWHERE, hopefully ever – but with this whole COVID-19 pandemic (and the likelihood of games being played without money from ticket sales/concessions coming in for part or all of 2020), the effects on future salary caps could be dire. The NFL salary cap has gone up by around 10% or so every season since the last CBA went into effect in 2010, but there’s a very legitimate chance that it stays flat or even goes DOWN in the next year or two. Considering Wilson – as is – takes up a considerable percentage of the team’s cap number, boosting that by converting his base into bonus just seems like flirting with disaster.

The thing is, I do believe the Seahawks are being truthful when they talk about the importance of in-season moves. There are always guys being waived, or otherwise floated in trade offers, and it’s nice to have that flexibility to bring on talented players (or at least prevent those talented players from going to your playoff rivals). I also believe that the Seahawks can’t put all their eggs in the Clowney basket. However small it may feel, there’s a non-zero chance that the Seahawks’ pass rush actually manages to IMPROVE (somehow) without him here. It’s going to take a big leap of faith; guys who have never performed at this level are going to have to step up and take some of the load off of mediocre-looking veterans. It’s not IMPOSSIBLE … but, you know, I’ll believe it when I see it, I guess.

The bottom line is: probably don’t count on Clowney being back. Nevertheless, I’d love to see the Seahawks bring SOMEONE in, that’s an actual name who we can count on to give this pass rush a little more zazz.

Potential Players The Seahawks Could Trade For Draft Picks

Today’s the day! Day One of the NFL Draft! And I CANNOT stress this enough: don’t expect the Seahawks to make a pick tonight.

I really put this off until the last minute, so this post pretty much has a shelf-life of 12-36 hours, I’m guessing. I meant to talk about this earlier in the week, but what can I say? I just forgot; issa pandemic!

I keep saying that the Seahawks are bound to make some trades to acquire more draft picks, because they’ve never drafted fewer than eight times in any Pete Carroll/John Schneider draft, and the odds are pretty good that the Seahawks move down from 27th in the first round and get more mid-round picks that way.

But, you never know; there’s an outside chance the Seahawks trade an actual player already on the roster! So, let’s see who’s vulnerable.

Right away, I’m looking at Ethan Pocic. He’s in the final year of his rookie contract, he’s been trained across pretty much the entire offensive line, but for many reasons he’s been unable to secure a starting gig in spite of being a second round draft pick. Those reasons, of course, are: injuries & ineffectiveness (a lethal combo in – I’m gonna say it – pretty much every profession on Earth). Have the Seahawks lost faith in Pocic? Well, given how many street free agents we’ve signed this offseason, the odds are pretty high. Could we flip him for a 6th or 7th rounder? It only takes one team!

I don’t think this is a move anyone in his right mind would advocate for, but once the Seahawks traded for Quinton Dunbar, Tre Flowers’ future appeared to be in serious question with this team. He’s heading into his third year in the NFL, with two full seasons’ worth of starting experience. I’m not saying the Seahawks SHOULD trade Flowers, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s on the block, at the right price. Honestly, I don’t think I’d take anything less than a third rounder for him; he does still have two years left on his rookie deal, after all. That has to be worth SOMETHING! Especially if you believe – like I kind of do – that he’s bound to make a leap in effectiveness in 2020. If it were up to me, I’d rather hang onto him and try him out on the inside (or start Dunbar on the outside in base defense and then move him inside in Nickel situations), but I think you at least have to listen to offers.

Bradley McDougald is another interesting candidate for this thought experiment. He’s in the final year of his contract and will cost approximately $4 million to any team that takes him on. Quandre Diggs looks like a stud, and Marquise Blair wasn’t drafted last year to play backup his entire career. Now, of course, the problem with trading McDougald is your depth at safety takes a SERIOUS hit. What if Blair isn’t ready? What if Blair is injury-prone? What if – *shudder* – we have to start Lano Hill as a result of this (someone I’m sure we’d all LOVE to see traded away, except he sucks so hard he has zero value)? This is another one I wouldn’t advocate for, but again, if the price is right (I’d say a fourth rounder or higher), you’ve gotta consider it.

I’m gonna put this one among the LEAST likely moves – for a variety of reasons – but Chris Carson is in the final year of his rookie deal. He’s an absolute STAR, but he’s had to overcome a lot of injuries in his own short career (and, frankly, I don’t even know if he’s healthy NOW). Nevertheless, if the Seahawks look to be major players in drafting a running back (or two), then they might want to clear the deck of any entrenched starters (particularly if they select a running back in the first couple days of the draft). Trading Carson is, of course, unlikely because running backs are a dime a dozen, as well as those injury issues I talked about. MAYBE we’d look at getting a 6th or 7th rounder in return, but that hardly seems worth it when you consider how dominant Carson can be when he’s on his game. I’d rather just let him play out his deal and let him walk.

Finally, because I could be here all day, I wonder about Jacob Hollister’s future. As has been noted before, the Seahawks have A LOT of tight ends on one-year deals, so you have to figure they’re looking to draft someone for the future. My hunch is, if they select someone early enough, they might flip Hollister for a mid-to-late round draft pick. OR, they could flip him for a pick in the 2021 draft (maybe make it conditional up to a fourth rounder, if he has a great season). I’m choosing Hollister for this exercise because Greg Olsen obviously figures heavily into our 2020 plans, Dissly is too good to give up on just yet (plus his value is low after a second consecutive injury-shortened season), and Luke Willson is really only valuable to the Seahawks at this point (we picked him up off the street partway through 2019 for a reason).

The Seahawks Traded For Quinton Dunbar (Isn’t That Enough For You?!)

The Seahawks had a BIG need to improve their cornerback play. I don’t know if this will do the trick or not, but it’s a nice step in the right direction.

We traded a 5th rounder to the Redskins, which sounds like a steal according to reports. 2020 will be his sixth season in the league, which will see him making just over $3 million (the final year of his current deal). He’s 6’2 and coming off of the best season of his career (he was one of the higher-rated cornerbacks, depending on where you look).

But, of course, there’s a catch. With the type of production he had last year (4 picks and 8 passes defended in 11 games), he’s already demanded a trade or a raise from the Redskins, so presumably he won’t be happy playing for just under $3.5 million from ANY team. Also, not for nothing, but his last two seasons – really his only seasons as a starting cornerback – ended prematurely with leg/hamstring injuries. When you factor in the relatively small sample size, combined with what I’m expecting to be a pretty high demand for a contract extension, you can see why this might blow up in our faces.

Does he show up to play? Does he hold out into the regular season? Any pre-season holdouts will significantly hamper his value, as he’ll need that time to learn our system. Or, do we sign him to an early extension right away? That could be great! But, what if he doesn’t fit our system? What if injuries creep into play? And, what if recent Pro Bowler Shaquill Griffin – who, himself, is heading into his first opportunity to nab an early extension (he’s set to earn just over $2 million in 2020, the final year of his rookie deal) – ends up disgruntled that the Seahawks opted to reward a newcomer (arguably a less-accomplished newcomer, compared to Griffin, who has started all three years) before him?

There are just SO MANY WAYS this can go haywire!

Look, in a bubble, obviously it’s a great deal. Just like we did with Quandre Diggs in the middle of the 2019 season, we were able to flip a fifth round pick for a quality starter in our secondary. But, there are so many other things that can happen (and we still have to either sign Clowney or another elite defensive end to help round out our front seven), that it all feels a little daunting. I’m not saying I regret it happening; but I’m saying there’s still a lot to be done in just this situation alone to make being excited about the 2020 Seahawks defense more palatable.

In that aforementioned bubble, of course, is the fact that Dunbar probably takes over immediately for Tre Flowers. Dunbar also has experience playing the slot, if it comes to that. I’ll be honest, I don’t HATE Flowers, but I think he got thrown to the wolves a little bit as a rookie (converting from safety to corner for the first time in his career), and unfortunately I don’t think he quite made as much progress as we’d hoped for in Year 2. He had a particularly brutal run in the playoffs that had a lot of people calling for his head. I think those wishes have been granted, to an extent. But, I also don’t think we’ve seen the last of him. Shaquill Griffin had an up & down rookie season, then struggled mightily in his second year (flipping from the right side to the left side of the defense, with Richard Sherman leaving), but he made a big leap last year, his third season. Well, it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest if Tre Flowers did the same thing.

The only question I want to worry about with the Seahawks is who plays the right side, and who plays nickel? I’d like happy players, under reasonable contracts, to take all other concerns off my plate. Because, if we can get THERE (and, of course, if we can continue to improve our pass rush), then I’ll be willing to let my excitement level bubble over.

Will Stefon Diggs Be In The Seahawks’ Future?

I’m usually loathe to even READ blog posts talking about possible free agent or trade targets for my favorite teams, because they seem like the definition of a waste of time, so you can imagine my disdain when it comes to writing something on my very own blog. But, God dammit if it isn’t a big ol’ dead season for Seattle sports, and I’ve got this nasty hunch that the Seahawks will be a Two-Diggs team in the near future.

Have the Seahawks learned nothing when it comes to acquiring ex-Vikings wide receivers? Sure, Nate Burleson was fine, but he was the obvious short end of the spite stick when it came to losing Steve Hutchinson; but Percy Harvin was a God damn disaster, and this possible move sure as hell feels a lot like that one.

Three draft picks (including a 1st and a 3rd) along with a boatload of money (ultimately costing us the opportunity to extend Golden Tate; whether he would’ve wanted to stay here is another matter entirely, though) for a guy who ran a kickoff back for a touchdown in a Super Bowl we won by 35 points. Not exactly tremendous bang for the ol’ buck.

The cool thing about trading for a receiver who already got his big-money extension is that (in this case) after the 2020 season, you can get out from under the rest of his deal with little-to-no dead money. The Vikings take the accelerated salary cap hit as soon as they move him. That’s a good and bad thing, because obviously when you’re talking about a player like Diggs – who’s arguably a Top 10 or 15 talent at the position – the draft pick compensation in return is likely to be as substantial as what we gave up for Harvin.

I mean, unless Diggs can be a big, loud problem for the Vikings, who might be enticed to make a desperation move in the name of locker room chemistry. But, then again, is that the type of personality we’d want to bring into our environment?

And, that’s ultimately the deal with the devil you make. Diggs has repeatedly complained – both in the media and to the coaches & players on the Vikings – about not getting the ball enough. So, we’re talking about bringing that guy onto the team that throws it among the fewest times in the league? On a team that already has Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf? With a quarterback who likes to spread the ball around with the best of ’em?

Furthermore, we’re talking about a team with holes a-plenty on defense. We’re likely to make a hard push to keep Clowney, and on top of that we’ll need these resources to bolster our defensive line in other ways. From 2020-2023, Diggs is earning between $10.9 million and $11.4 million per year, plus roster/workout bonuses, plus possible incentives. That’s a significant chunk of change for a team already paying beaucoup bucks to the likes of Wilson, Wagner, and Brown. Also, not for nothing, but I was kinda hoping the Seahawks – if they’re going to trade away draft capital for superstar veterans – they’d use those resources for a prominent pass rusher.

But, hey, I get it. Russell Wilson has his heart set on a productive third receiver. Anyone who saw Malik Turner drop that perfect pass in the Green Bay game has all the argument you ever needed to bring in someone like Diggs. Can you imagine this offense with that trio of receivers, plus Chris Carson at running back?

Again, though, what’s the point if he’s going to average 4-6 catches a game? Couldn’t we put that money to better use?

I’m all for bringing in more talented targets on offense, but I’d rather not break the bank – both in salary cap and draft picks – just to take some disgruntled crybaby off of another team’s hands. We’ve got bigger fish to fry.

And, by writing this post and putting it out into the world, I hope I’ve sufficiently jinxed any legitimate talk of this coming to fruition.

Seahawks Death Week: We’ve Got Holes To Fill On Defense

So, unless things have gone horribly wrong, by now I’ve written about the last Seahawks game of the season, I’ve written about the things that have gone right, and the things that have gone wrong. Now, it’s time to get to work on that all-important roster building.

To start, here are a list of free agents, in some particular order:

Defense

  • Jadeveon Clowney (DE)
  • Jarran Reed (DT)
  • Mychal Kendricks (LB)
  • Ziggy Ansah (DE)
  • Quinton Jefferson (DL)
  • Al Woods (DT)
  • Akeem King (DB)
  • Neiko Thorpe (DB)
  • Branden Jackson (DL)

That’s a lot of our regular defensive line rotation, including starters in Clowney and Reed, as well as significant 2019 role players like Ansah, Woods, Q-Jeff, and Jackson.

Obviously, Clowney is the big name here. He will be 27 years old in 2020, and he’ll be looking for his first real BIG payday. We’re talking $20+ million per season on average, one of the five highest paid defensive people in the league. With his injury and impending surgery, you have to wonder if that’ll scare teams off a little bit. Not a lot; I think he’ll still see a huge payday, but I wonder if extra protections for the team will be built in.

Is he worth it? That’s the ultimate question. This is a guy who had 3 sacks all regular season. Is that a $20+ million a year guy? I’ll tell you this much, SOMEONE will pay him that much, because he’s obviously more than a straight-up sacks guy. He’s elite against the run, and he has one of the highest pressure rates. Also, even though we’re talking about a second contract – and you rarely see the value over the duration of the deal – defensive linemen tend to age pretty well. It’s not inconceivable that he’d live up to the money over the next four years. But, this core injury isn’t the only thing that’s ever happened to him. Coming out of college and through his first couple years, he missed quite a bit of time. On the one hand, fresher legs; on the other hand, there’s a risk of re-injury.

I’m not going to sit here and say the Seahawks HAVE to pay him whatever he wants; I’m sure they’ll make the decision they want to make. If that means we back up the Brinks truck, so be it, I’ll be fine with it. If we let some other team over-pay for an injury risk, I can easily talk myself into that as well.

But, the bottom line is: the Seahawks need to do SOMETHING. I don’t know what the free agent landscape looks like for pass rushers in 2020, but the cupboard is bare here in Seattle. It’s as bare as it gets, and when you consider how horrible we were in 2019 (WITH Clowney), trying to imagine an even WORSE pass rush makes me sick to my stomach.

This brings us to Jarran Reed, who looked like he was on pace for a huge payday as well. 10.5 sacks in 2018, as an interior lineman, is a remarkable achievement. So, we know he has that in him anyway (at least, when the conditions are right). But, then he was suspended for 6 games in 2019, and when he came back he wasn’t quite his old self. He fell all the way down to 2.0 sacks, and with the prior suspension, he now holds the risk of an even bigger punishment if he gets in trouble a second time. So, his value fell pretty far.

I don’t know what he’s looking for, but if we could bring him back on a team-friendly 3-4 year deal, I wouldn’t hate it. I also wouldn’t mind a 1-year prove-it deal, though obviously that’s not as good for our salary cap (unless it’s an insanely low figure with lots of incentives he’s not expected to reach based on his 2019 production). But, it would be asinine to get in a bidding war for his services, considering what he was able to bring to this team in his 10 games plus the playoffs. Ultimately, Reed made next-to-zero impact for this team, when we REALLY needed him to step up and take on more of the pass rushing load.

Ziggy Ansah needs to go. That’s all I need to say about him; he’s finished in this league.

Al Woods is a fine player, and I would assume we could bring him back cheaply if we wanted. He’s also Just A Guy, so whatever.

Q-Jeff is a nice player, and it’s unfortunate he got injured in our game in Green Bay. I would expect maybe a moderate raise, but he obviously doesn’t bring a ton to the table from a pass rushing perspective. So, breaking the bank isn’t necessary here.

Next up is Mychal Kendricks, who ended 2019 on IR. He was fine, but again I don’t really know what he brought to the table. It feels like Cody Barton (or pretty much anyone else) could do what he did and we’d be fine.

Finally, King and Thorpe are also just regular dudes. Thorpe obviously has value on special teams, but he’ll be 30 years old and in his 8th season in the league. I feel like we’ve successfully replaced what he brought to this team and maybe can move on with younger guys. King won’t be contending for a starting job anywhere, but maybe he’ll want more of a chance to at least compete for a spot. It feels like he’s hit his ceiling in our defense, and he might want a change of scenery.

***

As for the guys who are already under contract, I don’t see a lot of dead weight that we NEED to get rid of for salary cap purposes.

K.J. Wright will be 31 years old and on the final year of his deal. He’s set to count about $10 million against the salary cap, with only $2.5 million in dead money, for $7.5 million in savings. That’s not nothing, especially when we might be paying a lot for Clowney, plus another pass rusher or two.

If we move on from Wright, it probably means he didn’t want to take a pay cut. He was second in tackles on the team with 132 (not significantly fewer than league leader Bobby Wagner’s 159), he played in every game, and he played a high percentage of this team’s overall snaps. If you cut him, it means you believe Cody Barton is ready to start this year (or you draft someone who you can’t afford to sit because he’s too talented). But, also if you cut him then you have to fill two linebacker spots (one, presumably, with Barton, and the other TBD).

Ultimately, I don’t think the Seahawks will release Wright, based on shared history and what he’s meant to the success of this defense since 2011. But, you can’t totally dismiss it given his high salary figure, and the need to improve across the entire D-Line.

The other possible decision the Seahawks need to make is whether they want to give Shaquill Griffin a long-term extension. Do they believe he’s the guy to build around in that secondary? He’s set to earn less than $1 million in 2020, so there would be a considerable discount to be had to make it worth our while in the long term. Think about what we did by extending Tyler Lockett a year early; he’s on a VERY team-friendly deal now, and it’s paying significant dividends.

I thought Griffin really took a big leap forward in his development in 2019. I don’t know where he ranks among all cornerbacks, but I feel like he’s right there in the 2nd or 3rd tier. He’s not a lockdown guy; he’s not among the best of the very best. But, he’s a solid starter, he doesn’t give up a ton of catches or yards, and more often than not teams go away from his side (it helps that Tre Flowers is the guy opposite him, and he gives up practically everything). If there’s a reasonable figure the team can get to with Griffin, I think I’d like to see them do a Lockett-type deal. Something that gives the young player a nice raise, while showing him he’s part of the long term plan and affords the team some future flexibility in their cap from 2020-2022.

***

Big picture for 2020, the defensive line is in shambles, and the secondary needs a huge infusion of talent.

As things stand today, L.J. Collier and Rasheem Green would be your starting defensive ends. Collier was a healthy scratch most of the season (including both playoff games) and Green was our leading sacker with a whopping 4.

Collier can be considered nothing but a huge disappointment. You expect your first round picks – even your late first rounders – to contribute in some way, if not be a starter from day one. Obviously, the starting jobs were taken on this team, but he brought NOTHING to this team as a rookie. That doesn’t mean he’s a bust, necessarily – he’s still got three more years to prove that he’s worth a 5th year option – but he better work his fucking ass off in the offseason and come into camp like a man possessed.

As for Green, as I’ve written about before, he took a moderate step forward. But, as I point out all the time, unless you’re uber-talented, it’s hard for young defensive linemen to make big impacts; it usually takes a few years to grow into your body, bulk up, and learn the nuances of how to play in this league. For so many players who go on to be drafted in the first couple days, the college game is simple. The offensive linemen stink, the schemes are dumbed down, and you can just go out there and kick ass. In the NFL, you need to smarten up quite a bit, or you’ll be left behind.

Along the interior, we’ve got Poona Ford and some scrubs. This team needs to improve its pass rush, but also get better at defending the run. Ultimately, the Seahawks need a whole makeover at D-Line, so there’s work to be done.

In the secondary, Griffin and Flowers figure to return as starters. One can only hope Flowers takes a similar leap in his development between Year 2 & 3 as Griffin did this past season. Diggs and McDougald figure to be your starters at safety, though I would hope Marquise Blair gets a legitimate opportunity to compete and start. It would also be helpful if Ugo Amadi works on his craft quite a bit this offseason to be this team’s nickel corner.

I would LOVE it if we drafted yet another safety, and cut Lano Hill and Tedric Thompson, those wastes of fucking (roster) space. I’d also love it if we maybe made a low-level trade for another nickel corner, if Amadi doesn’t work out. See if we can find the next Justin Coleman.

More than anything, I guess we just need the secondary to improve on their own, because I can’t envision the Seahawks making wholesale changes or putting too many resources into this area, when there are other more-pressing concerns.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at all the holes on offense, where I’m concerned a lot of our free salary cap space will end up going.

Seahawks Death Week: Where the 2019 Season Went Right!

Yesterday, we wallowed in our misfortunes. But, as always, we have to keep things in perspective. This was a Seahawks team that won 11 games and made it to the second round of the playoffs. I’m by no means pleased with the end result, I’m not satisfied just making it into the Final 8. I’m never “just happy to be there” and wishing everyone all the best in their future endeavors. Those fans – rational, sensible, not taking all of this meaningless drivel so seriously – are the absolute worst. My first thought after a final Seahawks loss isn’t, “Well, that was fun while it lasted.” It’s usually, “Fuck this shit, fuck everyone, I’m going to my bedroom and watching something else, alone.”

But, eventually I get there. Eventually I calm down and start appreciating the season for what it was. Usually, it’s about a day (or however long it takes me to write up this post), and then I’m done and I move on to next year. Dwelling on success or failure is bad enough, but dwelling on mediocrity? No thank you.

So, let’s talk about all the cool shit we saw this year, and then let’s never think about it again.

Gotta start with Russell Wilson. I know, quarterbacks are the most important players in all of sportsdom, but he was really something special. He was a different kind of special in 2017 – when he led the team in passing AND rushing yards – but I would argue he was the best we’ve ever seen him in 2019. Even better than the last seven games of the regular season in 2015!

If Lamar Jackson didn’t do what he did, we’d be talking about Russell Wilson as the MVP of the NFL. And, if you actually gave the award to the person who most embodied the phrase “Most Valuable Player”, I think Wilson would not only win it hands down, but he’d be on his third or fourth award at this point. But, the NFL gives it to the guy with the best stats, or the flashiest set of highlights, or the guy who the media gloms onto obsessively for three months; so, clearly Lamar. But, it’s an easy argument to make that Wilson means more to this Seahawks team and their 11 wins than Lamar did to that Ravens team and their 13. Give the Ravens a replacement-level quarterback, and I think they still probably win 9 or 10 games; put a replacement-level quarterback on the Seahawks and I think we’re EASILY playing for a Top 10 draft pick, and maybe even Top 5!

But, even the numbers alone for Wilson are impressive; maybe not compared to Lamar, but still. 4,110 yards on 66.1% completions (8.0 yards average per attempt), 31 touchdowns, only 5 interceptions, and a passer rating of 106.3. And, not for nothing, but Wilson was also tied for the league lead for most sacks at 48. Only three quarterbacks in the Top 10 Most Sacked made the playoffs; the other two were Deshaun Watson and Josh Allen. The rest of the guys in that area are, predictably, on terrible football teams who didn’t win very many games.

And, if you tack on rushing numbers, Wilson came within 29 yards of being the #2 rusher on this team, with 342 yards and another 3 TDs on the ground. Just an outstanding all-around season, and clearly deserving of the Second Team All Pro honor he received.

***

Wilson was so good, he gets his own section. Let’s get to the rest of the offense, because even though he’s great, he can’t do it all.

Chris Carson had a wonderful season. 1,230 yards, 4.4 average, and 7 TDs (plus 37 catches for 266 yards and 2 TDs). He did ultimately get knocked out for the season in his 15th game, but those are numbers I’ll take from my starting running back every damn year. What’s less great, obviously, are the 7 fumbles (4 lost), but we’re focusing on the bright side today.

I thought the rest of the running back room did pretty well too. Rashaad Penny didn’t have many opportunities, but he clearly took a step forward this year compared to his rookie season. It’s unfortunate his season-ending injury sounds so severe that it might cost him some games in 2020, because he really looked like a guy this team could rely on. And even Travis Homer made a decent showing in Week 17 and the two playoff games. He’s not a true #1, but as a 3rd down/2-minute back, I thought he did great!

There were a lot of questions about the Seahawks’ receivers heading into 2019. Doug Baldwin retired, the team drafted three guys, and Tyler Lockett was the unquestioned #1 option. My biggest concern was that last one: how would Lockett respond? Well, how do you like 82 receptions for 1,057 yards and 8 touchdowns? In THIS offense?! That’s elite! But, maybe even more importantly was the emergence and growth of D.K. Metcalf, who finished the season with 58 catches for 900 yards and 7 TDs. The two of them each hit triple digits in targets, which really bodes well for the future of the position. Metcalf saved his best for second-to-last in that Wild Card game, so we know he has it in him in the big moments; it’ll be fun to see him continue to grow and start to dominate in the years to come.

And, even though they were largely banged up, I was really impressed with what we got from our tight ends. Dissly is a stud who just can’t stay on the field. We were able to bring Luke Willson back and he was able to do Luke Willson things. But, the biggest find was Jacob Hollister, who became the de facto #3 receiver on this team. He had 41 catches for 349 yards and 3 touchdowns over 11 games, which doesn’t sound like much, but he was always getting open and was a nice security blanket/outlet for Wilson when plays broke down or we needed to convert a first down.

Finally, for the offense, I know the O-Line wasn’t the best, but I feel they deserve some credit for not being as bad as they were from 2015-2017. I was particularly impressed with Joey Hunt stepping in for an injured Justin Britt. I was REMARKABLY impressed with Duane Brown continuing to be ageless (and returning from a knee surgery to start that Green Bay game). I don’t think I ever fully appreciated Mike Iupati for what he brought to this team’s run game until we hit the playoffs and he was out. And, I thought Ifedi continued to make progress while playing presumably all the snaps this season (or at least a very high percentage). Fluker was a little hit or miss, but he was able to play most of the season, which I’ll take as a win.

***

I’m obviously less high on the defense than I am the offense. Offensively, we were top 10 in yards and points; I can’t ask for much more than that. I thought the playcalling was – for the most part – superb, and I thought our execution was spot on (until the first half of that Green Bay game).

Defensively, on the other hand, we were in the bottom 10 and bottom 11 in yards and points, which just can’t happen. Nevertheless, there were a few bright spots.

How much further would we have sunk without Jadeveon Clowney? I know the sack numbers aren’t there, but his pressure rate was among the highest in the league. When he was in the game, he was a difference maker throughout. He needs help around him, but he’s an elite foundational piece to any defense.

I think you’ve got to give some credit to the linebackers. They were steady. Wagner and Wright played in all 16 games plus the playoffs. Their age may be showing at times, their instincts might be a little diminished compared to their peaks, but they were really holding this defense together with duct tape and twine, considering our faulty secondary and even faultier pass rush.

I was happy to see Shaquill Griffin take the next step towards being a reliable cornerback. I still don’t think he’s a true #1, lockdown guy, and I don’t think he ever will be; but as a #2 he’s solid.

The defense took a considerable leap in effectiveness when Quandre Diggs came to town. Paired with Bradley McDougald, this defense looked downright respectable (again, until the Green Bay game).

***

Finally, I’ll talk about the Special Teams.

Jason Myers is a scary individual, but in reality he only missed 5 field goals in the regular season. The 4 missed extra points are pretty annoying, but all in all we didn’t lose any games because our kicker fucked us. So, I’ll take the slight win and hope he improves in 2020. For what it’s worth, I know he was a Pro Bowler in 2019, but kickers are wonky. Like relievers in baseball, they go from good to bad to good again with no rhyme or reason. I have no reason to believe that Myers can’t turn it around. He’s got the leg, he’s young enough, he’s had success in the past; hopefully, he’ll be fine.

Michael Dickson – coming off of a rookie All Pro/Pro Bowl season – had a really tough start to his 2019. But, after a few games, he settled down and finished pretty strong. No notes.

I thought the coverage units took a big step forward in 2019, after being a legitimate problem in 2018. So, looks like those young guys we brought in made a difference!

For Real This Time: We’ve Come To The End Of The Road For The 2019 Seahawks

Every year, after the Seahawks’ season ends – meaning they either get knocked out of the playoffs, they fail to make those playoffs, or that one time they won it all and the NFL season came to its conclusion – I run a week’s worth of posts under the banner “Seahawks Death Week”. Sort of an In Memoriam, as it really does have a funereal feel whenever the NFL season comes to a close. Without the NBA in my life – and still a year away from the NHL – what do I have to look forward to for the next 9 months? Baseball? The Mariners?! Stick a gun in my mouth right now …

Anyway, ever the trooper, I’ve already gotten a jumpstart on Seahawks Death Week, outlining the set of posts that will drop in the coming days. There’s the traditional final game recap, an always-unsatisfying “What Went Right” piece (to try to bring a little hope into the following season), a raging “What Went Wrong” screed, and my favorite exercise: What The Seahawks Should Do Next (because the NFL season never really ends, when you can obsess about the draft and free agency).

In case you couldn’t tell, I believe this is where the Seahawks’ season ends. I’ve said that all along, as soon as we blew it against the Cardinals and 49ers at the end of the season, and we officially got saddled with the Wild Card. Indeed, I’ve harped on this for years: it’s not enough just to get INTO the playoffs, you’ve got to get one of those top two seeds or you’re just deluding yourself.

As I wrote about yesterday, it’s very difficult to win on the road in the Divisional Round of the playoffs; the Seahawks are 0 for their last 8 in this situation. It’s not just a Seattle problem; in the previous 10 seasons (because I really didn’t want to go back further and work on this forever), only 10 teams who played on Wild Card weekend advanced beyond the Divisional Round. And, of those 10, only 4 were actual Wild Card teams who had to go on the road for the duration of the playoffs. The last time an actual Wild Card team advanced to its respective conference championship game was – oddly enough – the 49ers from 2013, when we beat them with The Tip. Not for nothing, but the last time a Wild Card team won it all was Green Bay back in the 2010 season (as a 6-seed, no less).

So, in the last 40 Divisional Round games, 4 teams went on the road in the Wild Card round, won, and then went on the road again and won the very next week. How can you not love those odds?!

Part of me tried to talk myself into believing this week, simply for the fact that we haven’t seen the Packers yet this year (or, more importantly, they haven’t seen us). We last played them on a Thursday Night game in 2018, when they sucked and eventually fired their head coach. I never totally understood that team; sure their defense was so-so, but that’s always been their weakness. But, the fact that their offense struggled so much – with Aaron Rodgers at the helm – really spoke volumes towards why they needed to make a change. Anyway, I tend to like our chances more when a team hasn’t had to face us in the regular season. I don’t have a ton of evidence to back this up, but here are four recent examples to try to bolster my flawed theory:

  • 2018 – Beat Dallas in the regular season; lost in the Wild Card round
  • 2016 – Beat Atlanta in the regular season; lost in the Divisional Round
  • 2015 – Lost to Carolina in the regular season & Divisional Round
  • 2010 – Beat Chicago in the regular season; lost in the Divisional Round

It’s more of a feeling or a generality than a hard and true fact, but it just seems like most teams – when they get a crack at taking on a good team a second (or, if you’re in the same division, third) time, it’s not like it was before. I don’t know if that Eagles game last week would’ve ended remarkably different had Wentz not gone out, but it’s not difficult to fathom the Seahawks ultimately losing (surely Wentz would’ve been better in the red zone in the fourth quarter than McCown, you have to give me that).

***

Anyway, let’s get back to this week’s opponent. This year, the Packers have been much more balanced. I don’t know if I ever feel great about playing Green Bay; with Rodgers, you know they always have a chance, regardless of the talent level around him (this HAS to be what opposing fan bases think about the Seahawks and Russell Wilson). I especially don’t feel great about playing Green Bay when they’ve got a quality running game and a better-than-you-think defense. In the NFL, you’re never without flaws, but this is a Packers team that lacks a real GLARING weakness.

On the flipside, you could also argue that the Packers also aren’t particularly elite at any one aspect either. Honestly, for how balanced they’ve been on offense, I would’ve expected them to be running up the score on some of these crappy teams they’ve played. Instead, they’ve done just enough, and sometimes have played down to the level of their competition (sound familiar?).

Their two real embarrassing losses both came on the road, at the Chargers and 49ers. The loss in L.A. feels wrong in retrospect; I don’t really have a great reason for that happening (other than me believing they’d cover the spread, since I’m apparently the world’s worst football gambler).

They’re actually kind of middle-of-the-road in a lot of key areas. They’re not especially dominant at getting sacks or preventing sacks. That having been said, I don’t figure we’ll be able to get Rodgers on his ass all that much in this one, and with our O-Line as banged up as it is, I fully expect Russell Wilson to be running for his life like last week. They’re also weirdly not great at converting third downs, which I wouldn’t have expected. My hunch is that maybe they went overly conservative in the regular season, with their easy schedule and whatnot. If you’re almost always in it and/or leading, you don’t need to take as many chances on converting third downs.

The keys, as usual, will be those third downs, as well as turnovers and big plays. I wouldn’t expect too many interceptions in this one, as both quarterbacks have had fantastic seasons not giving the ball away; but you just can’t predict fumbles (when they’re going to happen, or whether or not you’re going to lose out on them). Bad fumble luck will make an already-difficult situation pretty much impossible.

I never know what to expect from this Seahawks defense when it comes to giving up big plays. It seems like we can’t help but give up a few – especially between the 20’s – but obviously the emergence of Quandre Diggs has helped curtail that a little. The thing about not playing Green Bay earlier this season kind of gets thrown out the window when you consider how many times Aaron Rodgers has gone up against our defense in the Pete Carroll era; they’re practically a divisional opponent and one of our biggest rivals at this point!

I feel like our biggest liability in this one will be third downs. Rodgers is more than happy to dink and dunk it around our linebackers, picking up good chunks of yardage. This is, of course, a byproduct of our lack of pass rush, which I think will return with a vengeance this week after a season-high 7 sacks last week in Philly (this point is nailed home by the fact that the Packers’ O-Line is fully healthy for the first time in a while). Rodgers knows how to beat this team at this point; there’s nothing we can throw at him that will be a surprise.

***

Offensively, for the Seahawks, if we’re able to move the ball, we should be in it at least. Thankfully, the Packers don’t figure to be nearly as talented at stopping the run as the Eagles. We should get a good, honest look at what the Seahawks have in Homer and Lynch; are they okay? Or are we fucked because one is a Day Three Rookie and the other is over the hill?

Containing Green Bay’s pressure will be important, as they have a couple of outside linebackers with 13.5 and 12 sacks respectively (Za’Darius & Preston Smith). The only real interior threat looks to be nose tackle Kenny Clark, who returned to practice this week after battling an injury. Of all the quality defenders they have, the thought of Clark clogging up the middle probably scares me the most. If we’ve got two maniacs coming from the edges, I want to be able to take comfort in Russell Wilson maybe escaping through the middle. It sounds like with Clark, that window just closed.

The games where we struggle the most are when opposing defenses are able to overly-pressure Russell Wilson with a 4 or 5-man front. Granted, he sees a lot of pressure on a regular basis, but when we look REALLY bad on offense – the recent Cardinals & Rams games come immediately to mind – there’s usually at least one man wreaking total havoc on our protection on an every-down basis. The key will be – if we’re unable to keep a clean pocket – allowing Wilson outlets to escape, scramble around, and either get yards with his legs or throw on the run for gains down field. Even though Cox last week was one of those Aaron Donald-type monsters, Wilson was still able to get around him and keep the chains moving. It’s those games where the pocket gets quickly squeezed, where Wilson does his thing where he dances around, ducks down, and meekly succumbs to the chaos around him, that this offense truly suffers. If the Packers are in his face all day, this will be a hard game to watch.

As long as our targets stay healthy, I don’t think passing will be too much of a chore. The Packers are better at pass defense than rush defense, but that’s never really been an issue for us so long as Wilson can avoid sacks. I don’t know if we can count on a repeat performance out of D.K. Metcalf, but I also wouldn’t expect him to revert back to his dropping and fumbling tendencies either. If anything, I would expect a concerted effort by Green Bay’s defense to put their best cornerback on him, thereby hopefully freeing up Lockett to do damage down field. We’re fucked if they’re able to totally lock down Metcalf with one-on-ones, while they double-team Lockett on the other side. At that point, it’ll be asking a lot to generate explosives and keep the chains moving on a consistent basis.

***

Defensively for the Seahawks, we HAVE to stay healthy to stay in it. The drop-off from our studs – Diggs, Wagner (especially with Kendricks on IR) and Clowney – would be too much to overcome against this offense. Also, Davante Adams is a beast, and if he’s going up against Tre Flowers all day, I’d expect a lot of flags on our dude. I also heard Adams has been making some hay in the slot, which is scary. There’s been talk about Shaquill Griffin following him around the field. I don’t normally like taking our guys out of their comfort zones, but in this case it might be warranted, especially if the Packers get off to a hot start.

And, since I don’t expect a whole lot out of our pass rush, we’ve got to figure out a way to keep Aaron Jones from taking over. He’s a great running back who had been criminally underused in Green Bay until this season, and his emergence has really paid dividends for this offense as a whole. They may not blow teams out like they used to, but with a Top 5 QB like Rodgers, and a Top 5 or Top 10 running back like Jones, that’s the type of combo all teams dream of.

***

My ultimate prediction in this one consists of the Packers not really punting a whole lot (if at all), scoring more touchdowns than field goals, and generally making life miserable for the Seahawks to keep it close. I would anticipate being down by double-digits in the first half, scrambling like crazy to close the gap in the second half, but ultimately falling well short, probably by two scores. Green Bay -4 honestly feels like the easiest money of the weekend (I like the Chiefs over the Texans a little more, but 9.5 points are a lot to cover for any team).

I just can’t help but envision the Seahawks dropping like flies. I see guys leaving with concussions, ankle strains, you name it. And, lacking the depth to pick up the slack, on top of being on the road, in Lambeau, and all the rest, I think it’ll just be too much.

While I think GB -4 is a mortal lock, I could also easily see us up late, needing to prevent the Packers from scoring on a last-second field goal or something. Anything and everything is on the table; there are countless ways for the Seahawks to blow it, leaving us all – on Monday morning – bemoaning the fact that once again we let a viable opportunity slip through our fingers.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: even if we won in the Wild Card round (which we did), we were never making it to the NFC Championship Game. It’s too hard, too much of the deck is stacked against us, and as I’ve said countless times, the Seahawks just aren’t good enough. If you took an honest assessment of this team, you’d agree that on eye test alone (if nothing else), these Seahawks aren’t championship-calibre. I’ve come to terms with that since I saw we were destined to play in the Wild Card round. Soon enough, everyone else will come to terms with it too.

The 2019 Seahawks Have Yet To Play A Really Great, Complete Game Of Football This Season

This is a weird Seahawks team that’s currently heading into the Divisional Round of the playoffs. This is going to be a Memory Lane post about the Seahawks, so let’s take a little trip.

The 2018 Seahawks were a very pleasant surprise, considering a lot of people thought this team would be starting a massive decline phase after our Championship Window closed, but we won 10 games and were a 5-seed in the NFC. That team was a lot like this year’s version, except I would argue we’re MAYBE a little better this year. That being said, they still had a dominant 27-3 win over Oakland in London as probably their most complete win of the season.

The 2016 season was the last time we made it this far in the playoffs; that was the aforementioned closing of the Championship Window for this team under Pete Carroll. After a somewhat rocky start, we had really significant victories over Carolina (40-7) and later the Rams (24-3) down the stretch to propel us into the second round of the playoffs.

We had plenty of lopsided victories throughout our major run from 2012-2015. Sometimes they come early; usually we get one or two late. But, this team almost always finds a way to put a complete, 60-minute game together in all three phases.

Yet, here we are, heading to Green Bay this Sunday, and 2019 is severely and bafflingly lacking.

It’s not for lack of cupcake opponents, either! The Bengals won 2 games; they have the number one pick in 2020; they played us to the bitter end on our own field and only lost by a single point. The Panthers and Cardinals both won only 5 games; we won in Carolina by less than a touchdown, and we actually GAVE Arizona one of their victories (again, on our home field) by two touchdowns. Cleveland, Tampa, and Atlanta were all on our schedule, and all were 1-score victories for the Seahawks.

The closest we get to a real DOMINATING performance by the Seahawks is either our victory in Carolina (where we were up 30-10 in the fourth quarter before a rash of injuries allowed them to pull it close in the final minutes – with an opportunity to win had we punted back to them on our final drive) or our 27-10 victory down in Arizona in Week 4, which was the only game we won all season that was more than a 1-score game (we LOST three games by more than a single score, and it’s pretty easy to find games where we were simply out-classed).

I won’t downplay that victory over Arizona – it was the only reason why we ended up with a positive point-differential this season, after all – as I wrote the next day, the game was never seriously in doubt. But, there was something less-than-satisfying about the 17-point victory. As unsatisfying as it can be to win by 3 scores, anyway.

For starters, we were up against a rookie quarterback making just the fourth start of his career. #1 overall pick or not, that’s a game you should win. Primarily, though, that Cardinals defense was truly atrocious, and as I wrote about in my post-game blog post, we left points on the field.

It was 20-10 in the fourth quarter when we got the ball back, and that’s with the Cardinals missing two make-able field goals in the first half. It took an 8-minute clock-killing touchdown drive to give the game its final score; had we mucked it up there, who knows where the game ends up?

That’s a far cry from the 58-0 shellacking we gave the Cards back in 2012 (followed by a 50-17 drubbing in Buffalo, followed by a 42-13 dismantling of the eventual Super Bowl participating 49ers … ahh those were the days).

The most points we scored in 2019 was 40 against the Bucs, and we needed every one of them as that was an overtime thriller that required us to come back from 14 points down late in the second quarter.

The fewest points we’ve given up this year was 9, both against a broken and beaten-up Eagles team; and we could only muster 17 on offense each time to get the W’s.

Part of me has obviously belabored the same point: this is TOTALLY unsustainable. We can’t continue to win close game after close game. And, when you figure our opponents only get better from here, the odds of us putting together a complete, 60-minute game in all three phases feels like slim-to-none.

What’s most galling is that these Seahawks CLEARLY have the potential to have gotten this done. At full strength, on paper, these Seahawks are one of the best 8 teams in the league, and that’s proven out with this playoff run. The problem is, the Seahawks have rarely been at full strength, especially when you factor in the “on paper” aspect.

On paper, Jarran Reed was coming off of a 10-sack season; he missed the first six weeks to suspension, took a while to get going, and ultimately never lived up to that lofty ideal. On paper, Ziggy Ansah was supposed to – ideally – give us at least 75% of what Frank Clark did last year; he started the season injured and turned out to be totally finished for his NFL career. On paper AND on the field, Jadeveon Clowney has produced like a guy deserving of $20+ million a season, but he’s dealt with injury issues of his own (that currently still plague him to at least a moderate degree) and missed some games here and there. Injuries to Diggs and Griffin in the secondary killed any chances we had of winning the NFC West and a first round BYE. Our tight end room has been reduced to rubble at times. I’m still convinced everyone on our O-Line has been playing through injuries, and now those chickens are coming home to roost with our older veterans – Brown and Iupati – starting to wear down and miss game time. David Moore missed time early in the season; Malik Turner and Jaron Brown have missed time late; and Josh Gordon was a whirlwind affair that blew up in our faces spectacularly.

The point is, there hasn’t been a single game this season where we’ve been anywhere near full strength; there’s always been at least one or two or a half dozen guys out with injury or suspension or playing through some stuff. But, of course, you can say that about every team. And yet, look through the playoffs at the remaining teams and you’re bound to find at least one or two super-dominating performances.

Look no further than the supposedly-mediocre Packers and you’ll find their schedule littered with double-digit victories.

So, while that part of me feels like we missed our chance to put it all together, there’s a teeny, tiny part of me that kinda sorta feels like we might be due. I know that’s dumb, and prior results have no bearing on future performance. But, this is an 11-win Seahawks team playing in the Divisional Round of the playoffs; SURELY we can do better than a 17-point victory over a God-awful Cardinals team in the first month of the season as our Signature Victory.

Most likely not. But, I’d still like to think so. For what it’s worth – barring any setbacks in practice this week (or any more failed drug tests, etc.) – we should be as healthy as can be heading into this Sunday. There apparently weren’t any setbacks with our most important defenders; Clowney, Diggs, and Wagner all made it through okay. Ansah’s season is probably over, but he also wasn’t giving us anything anyway. Duane Brown is a big question mark – and he’s sorely missed – but Mike Iupati is trending in the right direction, which is huge for our running game and our interior pass protection. His presence should make George Fant’s life easier on the edge. Hollister and Willson are a great duo at tight end, and it looks like at least Jaron Brown will be back this week for a little more help outside (particularly in run blocking at the receiver position). And, sure, the running back room is still in shambles, but Lynch continues to look better each and every week, and figures to have enough game prep under his belt to make more of an impact than the 28% of snaps he played against the Eagles. I know the Packers also sport a stout run defense, but with Lynch more involved, we should certainly see better rush numbers in this one.

Look, if it’s ever going to happen – if we’re ever going to have that bonzer, soul-crushing performance – it would have to be this week. I’m beyond ready to expect this will just never happen for the Seahawks this season, but you never know.

I’m No Good At Titles & The Seahawks Won Their Wildcard Matchup Against The Eagles

I had this weekend ALL wrong!

I’ll tell you this much: I legitimately thought the Saints were one of the top two teams in the NFC and that they were going to KILL the Vikings. For what it’s worth, if that was Vikings at Seahawks, I still think Seattle prevails, but the outcome has me thinking twice a little bit. Maybe the Saints are Playoff Cursed?

No matter, because the Seahawks went into Philly and came out on top, just like we all knew they would, right guys?! We’re all on the right side of history in this argument!

I will say this much: I’m VERY happy that the Vikings did win, because I would MUCH rather they be cannon-fodder for the 49ers next week over us. I think the 49ers win that game by three scores EASILY; they’re super healthy across the board, well-rested, and have a team flying halfway across the country on a short week with a quarterback who is 1 for a million in big games (happy for Cousins and all that, but one win doesn’t automatically wipe out his entire broken reputation).

Anyway, let’s tarry no further and talk about this Eagles game. In a lot of ways, it went according to expectations; but a few key spots were totally unpredictable.

Let’s start here; I feel like I need to get an “I Told You So” out of the way to boost my confidence: the Seahawks’ rushing attack was truly abysmal. If you take away Wilson’s scrambling (which he could have in most every game if he really wanted), the Seahawks’ running backs (Homer primarily, Lynch secondarily, and Turbin never) ran 17 times for 19 yards and a touchdown. Homer had one 12-yard rush; his other 10 carries went for a combined 0 yards. Lynch had that one MAMMOTH 5-yard TD rush, but even Beastmode could only muster 2 additional yards on his subsequent 5 carries.

Fletcher Cox easily made the biggest impact for the Eagles and it’s not even close; he was the second-most important player in this game behind Jadeveon Clowney (who we’ll get to later). It obviously hurt the Seahawks to be out Duane Brown (replaced by George Fant), Mike Iupati (replaced by Jamarco Jones), and Justin Britt (replaced by Joey Hunt), but even D.J. Fluker was getting pushed around (or, at best, stonewalled) by Cox and his wrecking crew on that front four. I’ve always known Cox was great, but MAN was he impressive in this one; he was a man possessed, and he didn’t seem to take a single play off. As a Seahawks blogger, I don’t tend to write a lot about opposing players, but I have to tip my cap to him; he almost single-handedly ruined the Seahawks’ season.

The Seahawks scored 17 points, so obviously the offense didn’t do a whole helluva lot, but there were three key aspects to the Seahawks’ success:

  1. The Seahawks didn’t turn the ball over
  2. The Seahawks were 8/15 on third down
  3. Russell Fucking Wilson

There were actually no turnovers in this game, period (which was odd, considering the start, where both offenses put the ball on the turf only to recover their own fumbles), so even one bad throw or mis-handled snap could’ve really swung the entire season. I hate to say it (especially considering Homer almost bonered it in the first possession), but NOT having Chris Carson might’ve made all the difference! Look, I love the guy as much as anyone, but he CLEARLY never fixed his fumbling problem (he had three in his first three games of the season, was clean for a while, then had a 3-game stretch where he lost the ball 4 times – but the opposing team only recovered 1 of them, which is pretty fortunate).

The success on third down was doubly-great because we were in 3rd & Long so many times! Some of that was luck/poor tackling on the Eagles’ part, but most of that was Russell Wilson flat out making plays. So, let’s get to him.

325 yards on 18/30 (for a 10.8 average) with a TD and a 108.3 passer rating. Add on 45 rushing yards on 9 scrambles, and we’re talking about the guy who was once the frontrunner for the MVP this season. He wasn’t perfect; there was an overthrow here and there, but he was as close to it as you can get.

It really sunk in as you watched some of these quarterbacks this weekend (and ESPECIALLY throughout the season): if it’s 3rd & 18 or whatever, and the Seahawks have Josh Allen or Ryan Tannehill or maybe 85% of the mediocre-to-crappy quarterbacks in this league, they’re either running a draw play or a screen pass to the running back, getting anywhere from 5-10 yards, and punting. Now, say what you will about the play calling (it was growing more and more alarming every time the Seahawks ran the ball after a penalty on 2nd & 20, I’ll admit it), but we’re not afraid to put the ball in Wilson’s hands when we’re behind the sticks, our backs are against the wall, and we need an incredible play. He’s the reason why you pay a quarterback $30+ million per season. He’ll get the job done when 90-95% of the rest of the league will fail in those same situations.

It was a low-key special performance by Wilson that will largely be forgotten to the sands of time, especially when you factor in this was D.K. Metcalf’s Coming Out Party.

I’ve been extremely high on Metcalf ever since we drafted him. Most talent evaluators (including the other 31 teams in the league) focused on the negatives in his repertoire, but I’ve known all along that his skillset fits this team and this quarterback perfectly. As has been discussed, his rookie season was largely a success, but there have been plenty of ups & downs. This was the first time he really put everything together and showed a glimpse of what he could become: a flat-out superstar in the NFL. 7 catches on 9 targets, 160 yards and a touchdown. The TD was incredible – a 53-yard catch, stumble, get-back-up, and barrel into the endzone – but his game-sealing 36-yard reception on 3rd & 10, with the Eagles holding only 1 time out on the wrong side of the 2-minute warning, was the reason you brought him in here in the first place. One-on-one coverage, no safeties deep, you absolutely need to convert that to win the game, otherwise you punt it away for the chance to tie, and he high-pointed the ball and came down with the W. Simply outstanding.

I was probably least-sure about the Seahawks’ defense in this one, but this was a classic performance by these guys.

Clowney was a total difference-maker; we haven’t seen him play this well since the 49ers game in Week 10. He filled up the stat sheet with 5 tackles, a sack, 2 tackles for loss, and one very memorable quarterback hit.

You can’t talk about this game without talking about Carson Wentz getting injured in the first quarter, leaving the game with a head injury, being replaced by a 40 year old Josh McCown who came out of retirement to be this team’s backup. We’ll never know if the Eagles would’ve won with Wentz in there for the full game, but I have to imagine at the very least that he would’ve found a way to at least get them in the endzone one time. As it stands, McCown was okay, but he was clearly over his skis; he threw for 174 yards on 18/24 passing and most importantly 0 turnovers. But, he also suffered 6 of the 7 sacks the Seahawks got in this one (after we had the second-fewest in the league in the regular season) and was clearly a little gimpy, having to run for his life most of the day.

The Seahawks’ pass rush really showed up on a day the team desperately needed it. It wasn’t any one man, either, as 6 different guys combined for the 7 total. Of course, that was a byproduct of the Eagles also suffering a number of injuries on their O-Line, but clearly the Seahawks were better able to cope (as Wilson only had the one).

Seattle has Wilson and that’s a definite leg up over the rest of the NFC, but we’ll only go as far as this defense can take us, and that means having all of our key guys healthy and playing at the top of their games. Clowney sure showed up. Bobby Wagner showed why he’s yet again an All Pro this season. And, Quandre Diggs – first game back since his high ankle sprain – showed why he’s so important to this defense. The longest reception by an Eagles player went for 32 yards to Ertz, but there was nothing over the top, and obviously they never saw the endzone. We’ll never know for sure how many of the sacks were due to tight coverage, but it’s definitely a non-zero number. Diggs allows McDougald to play more closely to the line of scrimmage, to help out in defending the run as well as covering those two great tight ends.

I want to shout out Cody Barton, as he was a guy I highlighted as a major concern before the game. For as much as this team plays base defense – and indeed, he was in there for 75% of the Seahawks’ snaps – he showed why this team loved him throughout the pre-season. He had a sack, 1.5 tackles for loss, and two passes defended in this one as well as an additional QB hit. I saw him do nothing but make play after play, as he finally had a full week to practice at one spot, and this team coached him up to their fullest abilities. If he continues to show out like he did in this one, there’s no doubt he’ll be starting for this defense in 2020.

As I said before, this was a classic defensive performance: bend, don’t break, lots of aggressive penalties, but ultimately keeping the inferior offense out of the endzone and keeping them at 0 for 2 on fourth down (both deep in Seattle territory, on back-to-back possessions in the fourth quarter). This is a similar (but obviously not the exact same, due to injuries) defense that let Brett Hundley march down the field on them in that fakakta Cardinals game, so it was nice to see them stand up when it mattered most.

It all sets us up for the best-possible scenario for the Seahawks, given the circumstances. We avoid the 49ers in the Divisional Round, which I’ve argued all along is of utmost importance. Now, Green Bay is obviously no slouch – and certainly the talking points around Seahawksland will be their terribly-easy schedule this season – but with Aarons Rodgers & Jones, Davante Adams, and a better-than-you’d-think defense, that team is balanced and experienced and, most importantly, at home.

I’m still pretty convinced that the Seahawks will lose in this one, but I’m more willing to give us a chance to score the upset than I would be if we’re going to Santa Clara. Make no mistake, I obviously believe the Seahawks COULD beat the 49ers (we obviously did it once on their home field, and should’ve beaten them twice this season), but it would be too difficult in this particular round of the playoffs: the 49ers are at full strength, with a week off, while we just played a brutal game against a very physical team all the way across the country. If we were to shock the world and upend the Packers, I’d give us a 50/50 shot at beating the 49ers in the Championship Game.

But, to get there, we have to beat a different very good, healthy, well-rested team at home. It’s never easy to win in Green Bay, and it’s especially not easy to beat them there in January. Knocking Aaron Rodgers out of the game almost certainly won’t be on the table, so here’s to hoping there’s a little Russell Wilson Magic left in the tank (we hopefully didn’t need to use it all up in that Eagles game).

We’ve Come To The End Of The Road For The 2019 Seahawks

I just don’t know how you trust this team, you know? The Seahawks have been flying by the seat of their pants on a crazy-unsustainable amount of luck, and yet they still managed to disappoint somehow. The Seahawks should be the 3-seed; they should’ve beaten the 49ers last week. They failed to do so, and that’s ultimately going to be their downfall.

As predicted, everyone is trying to spin this off as a good thing: going to Philadelphia vs. playing at home against the Vikings. Sure, the Eagles are the inferior of the two opponents, but the Vikings are trash, Kirk Cousins is this generation’s Tony Romo (the guy who never won the big one, but whose stats are always going to have him in the conversation among Top 10 QBs in any given season), and I’ll take a home game over a road game any day of the week. Don’t give me this crap about the Seahawks being 7-1 on the road! They’re also 10-2 in one-score games, and as in all things, it’ll even out in the end.

I said this before and I’ll say it again, the most important thing about winning the NFC West wasn’t necessarily hosting a game in Wild Card weekend, but it was pushing the 49ers down to the 5-seed, as they would’ve been highly likely to prevail in the Divisional Round, thereby giving us a chance to possibly host the NFC Championship Game. Or, failing that, then the 49ers could’ve lost in the Divisional Round, and that’s probably the best team in the NFC out of your hair entirely!

Instead, not only do we have to go on the road for the entirety of the playoffs, but our very next game is almost certainly going to be against those very same 49ers, who will be healthy and rested and everything I’ve already talked about ad nauseam.

That’s actually the best-case scenario for this season. The worst-case scenario is losing this weekend to those Eagles, and I’m here to tell you it’s not only on the table, but it’s piping hot and ready to be served.

I mean, sure, we can point to their 9-7 record and laugh and laugh, but as this Ringer article succinctly points out, these terrible division winners tend to win more playoff games than they lose (including our very own Seahawks, on two separate occasions this century!). Yes, the Eagles are banged up, but their guys are starting to come back, and since this is the playoffs, anyone who’s able to walk will be playing this week. Carson Wentz isn’t on the same plain as Mahomes or Wilson or Lamar Jackson, but he’s gutty. He’s a winner. He’ll come through in the clutch more often than not.

These Eagles, under Doug Pederson, also have a terrific playoff record, particularly as underdogs with their backs against the wall. They’re the epitome of the Nobody Believed In Us team.

So, let’s break it down.

Defensively, the Seahawks gave up the 7th most yards; the Eagles gave up the 10th fewest. The Eagles are particularly great against the run, giving up the third fewest rushing yards per game at 90.1. It’s translated to the Eagles giving up 22.1 points per game vs. Seattle’s 24.9.

The Eagles also give up the fourth-fewest third down conversions at 34.2%; the Seahawks are in the middle of the pack at 38.4%. The Seahawks’ defense generated the second-fewest sacks in the NFL at 28 (tied with the Falcons and Lions, only 5 more than the bottom-feeding Dolphins); the Eagles are in the middle of the pack with 43.

With the game being in their home stadium, with their crazy fans going wild, give the defensive edge to the Eagles by a wide margin.

Offensively, the Seahawks were 8th in yards, the Eagles 14th. The Eagles were marginally better in passing yards, but they also threw it almost 100 more times than the Seahawks. The Seahawks really shined rushing the ball, 4th in the NFL; but the Eagles weren’t too bad either, at 11th. Considering their defensive strength is stopping the run, while our defensive strength is absolutely nothing, I don’t know if you can even give the Seahawks the edge in the running game.

You could MAYBE give the Seahawks the edge in the passing game, but the Eagles’ secondary is starting to get healthy. And, while both teams have significant injuries at their skill positions, the Eagles still have two great tight ends, which just so happens to be one of the Seahawks’ weakest spots to defend in the passing game. If anything, I’d give a SLIGHT edge to the Seahawks (because Russell Wilson), but if anything I’m leaning towards even.

I’d say the kicking game is remarkably closer than I expected, with a slight edge to the Seahawks in the punting game.

So, with all of these matchups going away from the Seahawks, why should I expect us to win this game? Because we have 2 more wins? You mean those two games where somewhat reliable kickers missed game-winning field goals at the end? We’re banking all of this confidence on two flukey kicks?

You know what happens if the Seahawks lose those two games (to the Rams and 49ers) like we probably should have? We’re currently sitting at home watching the Rams play in our spot! So, don’t tell me the Seahawks are definitely way better than the Eagles, because we’re not.

That doesn’t mean I think it’s going to be a blowout. Like most Seahawks games, this will be within one score by the end. And, in that case, there’s a CHANCE the Seahawks could prevail, if things break right, and if we can squeeze a little more luck out of this season.

Realistically, though, we need Jadeveon Clowney to play (he has yet to practice this week) and play well. We need Quandre Diggs to return from an ankle sprain and play well. We need Shaquill Griffin to play considerably better than he did last week. We need someone to step up for Mychal Kendricks. Ideally, Ziggy Ansah will finally step up and reveal himself.

And that’s all just to keep us in it! If one or more things break down in that previous paragraph, it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest to see the Seahawks lose by a couple scores.

Offensively, we have to try to find a running game against a stout rushing defense. We need to get this offense to do literally ANYTHING in the first half, so we’re not in a huge hole by halftime. That means playcalling needs to improve, our scheme coming into this game needs to be top notch, and our offensive line needs to figure out a way to give Russell Wilson a few seconds to throw the fucking ball!

I don’t have high hopes at all for this game. I’ll watch. I’ll gut it out to the bitter end. But, I’m not excited. If anything, even if the Seahawks win, it’s just delaying the inevitable. If we don’t lose this week, we’ll DEFINITELY lose next week, so what’s the point? I’d almost rather pick a few spots higher in the 2020 draft, all things considered.

The 49ers are better, the Saints are better, the Packers are probably better, and this weekend I believe the Eagles will show they’re better. On their own field, anyway. Reverse it and I think the Seahawks get the job done, but that’s not our lot in life, because we blew the division once again.

Not a gread headspace to go into the NFL playoffs.