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.

How Did The Seahawks Rookies Do In 2019?

Teams who do it the right way tend to acquire their best pieces through the draft, and fill in where they have to through trades and free agency. The trades and signings can be flashy and exciting, but we’ve been burned by those enough times to be wary. If the hopes of a fanbase could be dished out in a pie chart, I’d argue the bigger slice of our hope lies in the team’s draft picks. Sure, it’d be nice if that free agent signing panned out, but more often than not the Seahawks are picking guys from the fringes, so the names are less sexy and the chances of them really blowing us away are reduced. We NEED these draft picks to turn into something useful, because we know that’s the way the Seahawks roll.

The trouble with draft picks is pretty obvious. They’re young. They’re inexperienced. They’re often overwhelmed by the size and speed and talent disparity between the pros and college. And, the main pitfall – when it comes to the fans – is projecting newly made draft picks into significant roles. High profile home runs tend to skew our thinking. Bobby Wagner and Russell Wilson came in right away and played HUGE roles in turning this franchise around! Ergo, every rookie picked in the first three rounds should start right away and light the league on fire! And, particularly with the Seahawks, and their success rate with guys picked on the final day of the draft, we see some names and hear some stories from mini camp, and we automatically start penciling guys in for Pro Bowls and All Pros before they’ve played a real down in anger.

I don’t have a great read on how Seahawks fans feel about the 2019 class. On the one hand, you could paint a very rosy picture based on D.K. Metcalf alone. He was selected at the very end of the second round, he came in and started right away, and he was a hit! 900 yards on 58 receptions, with 7 touchdowns. Hell, he was the second-most targeted receiver on this team with 100 (Lockett had more targets, but only by 10)! There were obviously some tough games for Metcalf this year, but the good FAR outweighs the bad, and his arrow is pointed straight up going forward. The sky is the limit for this kid; he’s been the young, big receiver we’ve been looking for since Pete Carroll got here in 2010.

So, that’s fantastic, right? Particularly in a season where we had to learn to live without Doug Baldwin. But, what about the rest of the class?

I don’t know about you, but the first thing I think of when I think of a rookie draft class is the first round pick. For this one, that’s L.J. Collier, and he’s brought absolutely nothing to the table. He’s officially listed as having played in 11 games this year, but even that number feels high. He hasn’t had any significant injuries during the regular season (that I can recall, anyway), but he did have an ankle injury in the pre-season that cost him a considerable amount of practice time. Which effectively cost him his entire rookie year, because when he hasn’t been a healthy scratch on gameday, he’s been so buried on the depth chart that he hasn’t made any impact whatsoever. 3 tackles. That’s his 2019 stat sheet.

I won’t call Collier a disaster, because quite frankly we don’t know what he is yet. He wasn’t particularly lauded for his pass rushing ability out of college – noted more for his run defense – but it’s discouraging that he still wasn’t able to do anything with even the few opportunities he was given. That’s not a good sign for things to come! Also, this Seahawks defense has really struggled against the run – especially towards the end of the season, when you might have expected someone like Collier to make a jump in his development – so the fact that he’s not helping in this area is ALSO not a good sign for things to come.

The one caveat I’ll pull out here is that Pete Carroll and Co. tend to have a blind spot when it comes to some of the younger guys. Remember in 2018, when the team was slow to realize that Chris Carson should be the bellcow back for this team? And it took some time to make the shift in their scheme? I would argue that Carroll is like most coaches, he’s going to go with the known quantity all things being equal. Yes, “Always Compete” and all that, but sometimes you can’t see what’s right in front of you if you’re not expecting anything to be there.

Even that, though, falls somewhat on the player. Collier obviously isn’t flashing. He’s not making any huge impact plays in practice, so he’s not as involved in games, and it’s a continuous cycle of disappointment. These same points could be made for the rest of the guys I’m going to write about below.

Let’s move on to Marquise Blair, the second round safety picked ahead of Metcalf. He might go down as one of the more frustrating aspects of the 2019 season. The fact that he hasn’t played more – he was originally behind Tedric Thompson, and of late has been bafflingly sat in favor of Lano Hill – is particularly galling. It’s not even an argument that Blair has the brighter future and higher upside than either of those two draft busts from 2017, but I would also argue that he’s better than them RIGHT NOW. Or, at the very least, he couldn’t be any worse, while actually having the capability to make real impactful plays on the field (rather than giving up huge chunks of yardage to opposing receivers). I know the best two safeties on this roster are McDougald and Diggs, but Blair should be #3 on that list and it’s ridiculous the longer he’s not.

Cody Barton was a third round pick. As a linebacker, he was brought into a situation where the Seahawks were arguably strongest on paper. Three quality veterans sat ahead of him, and we always knew it was going to be a challenge to get him on the field. It’s not a bad consolation prize to sit, learn from the best, and get your feet wet on special teams. Considering the age at the position, we all had him pegged as someone to compete for a starting job in 2020. And, with the talk out of camp being nothing but glowing praise for this kid, I think we all expected to get someone really special in Barton. Every time I turned around in August, I was reading about Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright talking about how smart and instinctual Barton is; they made it sound like if he were on any other team, he’d be starting immediately.

In recent weeks, as some of our starters have worn down, we’ve seen Barton in there on defense. And … ehh, he’s been all right, I guess. I dunno, I haven’t seen any quality plays out of him yet. To be fair, he’s effectively had to be the understudy for all three linebacker spots – as opposed to specializing at his best spot, which is probably weak-side – so I could see how that might stunt one’s growth. But, again, not a great sign. Also, not for nothing, but I remember in 2018 hearing nothing but good things out of the mouths of Wright and Wagner when it came to Tedric Thompson in training camp, and look at how he turned out. Either these guys will say they love everyone, or they have no concept of who is actually going to pan out.

Fourth round receiver Gary Jennings was one of three receivers we drafted in 2019; he was a healthy scratch for a number of weeks, until we signed Josh Gordon and had to waive one of them. Jennings was the odd man out. We were hoping to sneak him onto the practice squad, but the Dolphins swooped in and claimed him. It doesn’t look like he ever made it into a game, and ended up getting placed on IR.

Fourth round guard Phil Haynes hasn’t played either, to my knowledge. He’s had injury issues to get over, and now looks to be a backup at an oft-injured O-Line spot. So, he gets an incomplete, but to be fair, no one was expecting him to play a lot as a rookie lineman.

Fourth round DB Ugo Amadi is another guy where it’s frustrating how little he’s played, especially when you consider how lights out he’s been on special teams. And ESPECIALLY when you consider how poor our pass defense has been at times this year. To be honest, I still don’t have a good handle on whether he’s a safety or a nickel corner or both. He was SUPPOSED to be converted to a nickel corner from safety, and that just so happened to be an area of need for this team heading into the season. But, instead we opted to play an unsustainably high percentage of plays in base defense, with Kendricks over anyone else. And, when we HAVE played nickel, we’ve opted for duds like Jamar Taylor over Amadi. Again, I don’t know what that says about Amadi’s skill vs. the coaching staff’s blind spot, but it’s not encouraging.

Ben Burr-Kirven was pegged coming in as a special teamer, so in that sense he’s lived up to his billing. When we already drafted a similar linebacker in the third round, you had to figure Barton always had a leg-up to be the next guy on the field in base defense, so there’s nothing surprising or really noteworthy here. Also, not for nothing, but Demarcus Christmas was always pegged as a longshot project as a sixth round defensive tackle. He’s been hurt most of the year and ended up on IR, so we’ll see if he has anything in the tank for 2020.

Travis Homer was another sixth round pick, and someone I had kind of hoped we’d see more of. But, the Seahawks had room on their roster to house C.J. Prosise (who, to his credit, stayed relatively healthy for MOST of the season, before going out in that Arizona game), and when you’re talking about a team like the Seahawks (where offensive possessions are at a premium), you’re not going to find many opportunities to get a fourth-string running back any snaps.

However, as the top three guys all went down, Week 17 ended up being the Travis Homer Show! Against the 49ers, he had 10 carries for 62 yards and another 5 receptions for 30 yards. He’s also been – as expected – another standout on special teams. I don’t think he’ll ever be a bellcow type back for this team, but as a #2, and a 3rd down/2-minute back, he would seem to fit right in. Honestly, behind Metcalf, Homer has been the second-best 2019 draft pick so far and it’s not particularly close. I can legitimately envision a role for Homer going forward; I don’t know if I can say that about anyone else besides Metcalf.

Finally, we have John Ursua. The seventh round wide receiver out of Hawaii where we actually traded a 2020 draft pick to get back into the 2019 draft and get him. He was never going anywhere; when we had that receiver crunch (at one point, rostering 8 of our 53 players at the position, which is insane), I knew it would be Ursua over Jennings. You can’t give up that much and let the guy go to another team. Anyway, he’s been a healthy scratch for 15/16 games. Due to attrition, he finally made it into a game against the 49ers, catching his only target for 11 yards. It’s kind of a shame he hasn’t gotten more play than he has, especially when we’ve seen plenty of targets go to David Moore, Jaron Brown, and Malik Turner; but Ursua doesn’t play special teams, so it’s honestly surprising he made it onto this roster in the first place.

That would lead me to believe we have someone potentially special in Ursua. Here’s to hoping he gets more of a shot in 2020.

When you lay it all out like that, the 2019 Draft Class feels like a bust … when you ONLY count the 2019 season. There’s obviously limitless potential in the future for any number of these guys, and we’ll all be pegging our hopes and dreams on significant leaps in development in Years 2, 3, & 4. But, as far as the impact they’ve had AS rookies, it’s been D.K. Metcalf and that’s about it.

Which is why, in recent seasons, I’ve drastically reduced my expectations for incoming rookies, and I’d suggest everyone else do the same. It’s just too hard to make that jump in a vacuum. Then, add into it where the Seahawks usually draft (toward the ends of rounds, because we usually make the playoffs), and the fact that we’re always in contention for playoff spots (meaning we don’t have a lot of opportunities to showcase our rookies, because we don’t have very many holes on our roster), and it’s a tough situation to break into. The fact of the matter is – regardless of team – most rookies won’t out-play healthy veterans. The bad teams tend to play a higher percentage of rookies right away because they’re looking to rebuild, and they don’t have any expectations to make the playoffs right away. The Seahawks aren’t one of those bad teams, which is a very good thing.

The final question I have to ask myself is: where do I see this class going in 2020-2022?

It’ll certainly be known as the D.K. Metcalf class, but will anyone else step up? I have no real expectations for Collier. They tried to put a Michael Bennett comp on him coming out of college, but that sounds as far-fetched as it gets. Even Frank Clark is too high a bar to place on him. Could he be the next Quinton Jefferson? Maybe, but even that might be too good; and remember, Q-Jeff was selected in the fifth round, not the first. Lawrence Jackson is probably the floor here, and it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest if Collier is Lo-Jack 2.0.

I’m still pretty high on Blair; I’d like to see him get a legitimate shot to start in 2020. I’m less high (but still fairly high) on Barton; I’d like to see what he looks like when we stick him at just one linebacker spot and let him work on his craft there. I think Homer can be a very solid #2 running back for this team (what that means for Penny and Carson, I have no idea, but both are coming off significant injuries, so the opportunity should be there regardless). And, I still like Ursua as a dark-horse #3 receiver in the near future; here’s hoping he hits it off with Russell Wilson in the offseason.

Beyond those guys, I have no real expectations. Ugo Amadi should fight for a nickel cornerback spot. The rest feel like depth pieces.

Thankfully, your fate isn’t determined by your rookie season alone. A lot can change in the next three years. It’ll be fun to see who steps up. Sometimes it takes three full years of fighting before you bust through in your final season on the rookie deal! Those scenarios aren’t ideal, of course, as you’re really only getting one season of cheap production before you either have to pay them a lot of money or watch them walk to another franchise. But, it’s better than nothing I guess.

These Seahawks Are Hard To Watch

You can call them exciting – the 2019 Seahawks as a whole – but as you can see from last night’s 26-21 defeat, when you have to rely on winning nothing but close games, so much of the outcome is predicated on luck. Jacob Hollister was mere inches away from scoring the game-winning touchdown. The refs – both in the stadium and those watching from New York – totally botched what should’ve been a pass interference penalty in the endzone. The Seahawks were so discombobulated – and so out of time outs – that they were unable to properly get a play called with the ball at the one yard line, resulting in a delay of game. To even get to that point, the Seahawks had to prevent the 49ers from converting a 3rd & 17 and came within one yard of even botching THAT modest task!

When every single little thing has to go your way for you to win a football game, it’s easy to see why – over the long haul – these 1-score games tend to even out over time. The fact of the matter is: the Seahawks peaked with that Monday Night victory over the Vikings. We’ve gone on to lose three out of our last four games. I would argue we were really only competitive in 4 quarters out of those 4 total games, and 3 of those quarters took place in Carolina, before everyone got injured and everything went to shit for this team.

Heading into the game last night, it was firmly decided that the Seahawks would have to play on Wild Card weekend. Had we won, we would’ve been the 3-seed and hosted the Vikings. I know I’m probably in the minority here, but that’s the game I’d rather have, 100%. Going on the road for three straight games – even for a great team, even in a flawed conference – is as hard as it gets in professional sports. But, the Seahawks are NOT a great team. And the NFC isn’t very flawed at the top. The 49ers are elite, the Saints are right up there, and say what you want about the Packers, but they’re – at the very least – hosting a game in January after their BYE week. With Aaron Rodgers at the helm, that’s never an easy task (also, not for nothing, but the 2019 Packers have to be the most under-the-radar playoff BYE team in the last decade, which is exactly the position I was hoping the Seahawks would be in).

But, that’s what you get for losing at home to the Cardinals the week before. You lose any right to a first round BYE. The Seahawks don’t deserve it; they probably never did.

A lot of the frustrations we’ve seen in recent weeks boil down to injuries. You just can’t overcome so many high-profile injuries and hope to compete at the same level as the 49ers or Saints. Duane Brown is a huge loss. Carson, Penny, and Prosise are all huge losses. Quandre Diggs might be the biggest loss of them all. Our entire linebacker corps seems to be banged up and a step slow. Clowney seems to be a shell of the guy who wreaked havoc in the first 49ers game. Ansah never really got going; he was a good idea that never panned out. Al Woods obviously hampers our depth. Tyler Lockett is going through some stuff. Losing Gordon and Malik Turner (and then Jaron Brown) severely weakens our passing game. The drop-off from losing Dissly, Willson, and Ed Dickson (not to mention needing to start Fant on the O-Line, losing his specialness at the tackle-eligible position) has just completely transformed what potential this offense once had. Shaquill Griffin isn’t 100%. I could go on and on, I’m sure.

It’s just gotten to the point where I’m waiting for the season to finally die. Everyone seems to be happier to play the Eagles on the road, but not me. Sure, they’re just as banged up, but are they really that much worse? Given our +7 point differential (vs. their +31), and considering how they came back from the dead to win their last four games and win the NFC East when no one thought they had a chance in Hell, are we really taking that much stock in 2 extra close wins by the Seahawks? Especially when we barely beat them in Philly the last time we played them?

Even if we do get a bunch of our key guys back and somehow prevail, what does that get us? Almost certainly a date in Santa Clara against a rested, healthy, and more importantly BETTER THAN US 49ers team. That’s why this trip to Philly is a death sentence. I don’t care that we went 7-1 on the road this year; that’s an anomaly. That means nothing in the playoffs when you lose and you’re done.

We needed the 49ers to be the 5-seed. We needed them to go on the road. We needed them to almost certainly beat the Eagles and then take out one of the top two seeds, to get one of those teams out of our hair. Hosting the Vikings – who are going nowhere fast – is the obvious better option and it’s asinine that more Seahawks fans don’t realize this.

I would say we’d be better off losing on Sunday, but I don’t know if I could handle the sheer embarrassment of losing to a team as bad as Philly, knowing what I just wrote about how bad the Seahawks have been of late. There’s a way to squint and see the Seahawks get some guys back, gut out a close victory over the Eagles, then go back into Santa Clara to beat the 49ers again. We know them well enough. We’ve beaten them before (we ALMOST beat them twice), we can beat them again. From there, it’s a date with either the Saints or Packers in the NFC Championship Game. At that point, it’s a total toss-up.

As it is every year, the hardest game to win is in the Divisional Round, against superior teams coming off of BYE weeks. Usually – I’d say around 75% of the time – the home teams win in that round, and they win pretty soundly most of the time. Having to go on the road, against the best team in the NFC – who also gave Baltimore everything they could handle – is just not the position you want to be in.

And, that’s why this sucks. Because we’re going to spend the rest of this week – and all of next week, assuming we get over this hurdle – trying to squint our way to an appearance in the Super Bowl, when quite frankly it ain’t gonna happen. We’d almost be better off not making the playoffs at all than being a fucking Wild Card team. This isn’t hockey. This isn’t baseball. This is the NFL, where the Haves beat the Have Nots 9 out of 10 times.

And these Seahawks just don’t have the kind of magic to be one of those 1 out of 10 teams.

The Once-Mighty Seahawks Are Going Out With A Whimper In 2019

Sunday’s loss to the Cardinals was one of the most poorly-coached affairs I’ve seen since Pete Carroll came to Seattle.

Things were looking pretty good one drive in; the Seahawks marched 89 yards in 9 plays for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead. Then, it immediately fell to shit. On the very next play, Kenyan Drake rumbled 80 yards down the right sideline to tie it up. The Seahawks drove it right back down to the Arizona 33 yard line when, on 4th & 1, Pete Carroll opted to NOT go for the first down. He, instead, sent out the field goal unit, but something happened and instead of kicking an insane 50+ yard field goal (with a terrible kicker, who just BARELY made his extra point on our touchdown earlier in the game), we took a 5-yard delay of game penalty before punting.

The fact that the punt was downed at the 1-yard line isn’t the issue. The issue is this Fraidy-Cat mentality by Pete Carroll costing us points. Another in a long line of bullshit moves. WHAT HAPPENED TO BIG BALLS PETE??? I could use a few more “hormonal” decisions and a lot less of these snivelling duds.

I can’t get into all the terrible decisions because I bailed on this game just after halftime. Here are the results of the first 10 possessions for the Seahawks:

  1. Touchdown
  2. Punt
  3. Punt
  4. Punt
  5. Punt
  6. Punt
  7. End of Half
  8. Fumble
  9. Punt
  10. Punt

Won’t win too many games doing that! Before the Seahawks could manage to score again, it was 20-7. The Seahawks then blocked a field goal and returned it to the Arizona 16 yard line, but could do nothing with the gift they received, having to settle for three. We forced a punt and once again drove into Arizona territory, but once again the drive stalled and we had to settle for a field goal. At 20-13, if we could just get one MORE stop, we might’ve had something going, but Brett Hundley – in for an injured Kyler Murray – was able to manufacture a game-clinching touchdown drive to put it out of reach. With just over 4 minutes left, the Seahawks got the ball back, but turned it over on downs on our own half of the field.

The game didn’t mean a whole lot, but it also kind of did. The Saints beat the Titans, the 49ers beat the Rams, and the Packers beat the Vikings. That puts the 49ers & Packers in the top two seeds at the moment, with the Seahawks all the way down to fifth.

Here are the new scenarios:

  • If we beat the 49ers, we would need both the Saints to lose to the Panthers (not gonna happen) and the Packers to lose to the Lions (not gonna happen) to reclaim the #1 seed.
  • If we beat the 49ers, the Saints lose, and the Packers win, that keeps us down to the 3-seed, hosting the Vikings in the Wild Card Round.
  • If we beat the 49ers, the Packers lose, and the Saints win, then we would jump up to the 2-seed.
  • And, of course, if we lose, nothing matters because we’ll be the 5-seed, going on the road to play either the Eagles or Cowboys.

So, yeah, that loss meant quite a bit, thanks to the Vikings blowing it last night.

Honestly, I know we’re all stoked about Marshawn Lynch and (to a lesser extent) Robert Turbin coming back for the stretch run, but neither guy has played a single snap this year! How much can you reasonably expect from either of them? Lynch has been working out for, what, two weeks? That’s going to get him back into game shape?

That’s not getting into the fact that Duane Brown is out, our offensive line is pretty banged up across the board, Quandre Diggs probably won’t be back, Shaquill Griffin is still a huge maybe. Clowney should be in there, but how much of an effect can he have with his injury issues? Everyone seems to be breaking down or getting busted for taking illegal (and/or performance-enhancing) drugs at the absolute worst possible time.

The 49ers, on the other hand, are getting as healthy as they’ve been in a month, they have an extra day to prepare since they played last Saturday, and as we’ve clearly seen, “home field advantage” isn’t a thing that exists in Seattle anymore.

The 49ers are just plain better than the Seahawks, and that’s all there is to it. The 49ers will win this game. The Seahawks will be going on the road in the playoffs and if things keep trending the way they’ve been going, we’ll almost certainly lose again in the first round.

What a shit-end to a once-promising season. Merry Fucking Christmas.