Not Winners & Losers Of The Seahawks’ Game Against The Packers

The Seahawks temporarily saved their season with a 27-24 victory over the Packers.  The win brought us back to .500 at 5-5, while the Pack fell to 4-5-1, with their playoff chances taking a significant hit.  The Seahawks were down 14-3 early, but rallied in the second quarter and put the game away in the final frame with some rock-solid defense and just enough big plays on offense.

What I’m Geeked Out About After Ten Games

I haven’t gotten to say this a lot this year, but what a game by the defense!  The Packers were up 21-17 at halftime, but only scored 3 points the rest of the way.  Just fantastic!  I was convinced we’d never see anything even remotely resembling a pass rush, but here we ended up with 5 sacks on the day, generally making Aaron Rodgers’ life miserable.  Frank Clark, of course, led the way with 2 sacks.  He’s already got 10 on the year, tying his previous career high from 2016, with 6 more games to go.  That man is going to make a TON of money this offseason.  Maybe even more importantly, Jacob Martin and Rasheem Green both had their first career sacks as the young guys work their way into the rotation.  And, while he was held sackless, Bobby Wagner led the way with 9 tackles and was a dominant force all game.

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

Russell Wilson overcame a slow start to go 21/31 for 225 and 2 TDs against 0 INTs.  For the season, he’s hitting 66.2% of his passes for 2,192 yards, 23 TDs and only 5 INTs, which is good for a 110.2 rating.  That’s Top 5 Elite Quarterback shit!

Chris Carson also overcame a slow start – fumbling on the first play of the game – to run for 83 yards on 17 carries with a TD.  The rest of the rotation was similarly on top of their games; Penny had 46 yards on 8 carries, as he’s looking more and more like the guy we wasted spent a first round pick on; and Davis chipped in with 26 yards on 4 carries, mostly on our clock-killing 4:20 drive to close out the game.  All told, the team managed 173 more yards on the ground in this one, with a 4.9 average.  Not giving Aaron Rodgers the ball back with the game on the line?  Absolutely the reason we won the game.

A tip of the hat to the big 3 receivers, as Baldwin got his first TD of the year (along with 52 yards on 7 catches), Moore had four big catches for 57 yards, and Lockett led the way with 71 yards on 5 catches.  To top it all off, Ed Dickson had his 2nd TD of the season, and the game-winner as it turns out.

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

The big problem area in this one ended up being the secondary.  Too many deep balls down field, which the elimination of is supposed to be this team’s specialty.  And no one was immune.  Shaq Griffin bit hard on one, Tre Flowers was routinely challenged, Bradley McDougald gave up a long TD, and even Justin Coleman got in on the action of getting beat.  Not to be outdone, Austin Calitro got the start for K.J. Wright and I really thought that was going to cost us the game, as the Packers got the better of him seemingly the entire first half.  Now, obviously, Aaron Rodgers is going to make a lot of secondaries around the league look pretty foolish on the regular, but it’s particularly alarming to see the young guys continue to repeat the same mistakes.

The good news is, we got through this one without a bevy of new injuries.  Now, with 10 days to prepare for a HUGE showdown in Carolina, let’s hope the team is able to take advantage of this scheduling gift.

I’m Perfectly Okay With The Seahawks Not Trading For Anyone

There was a lot of news around the NFL yesterday, as some pretty prominent names switched teams.  The Rams got more pass rush help (as if they needed more) in Dante Fowler.  Demaryius Thomas will now disappoint for the Texans instead of the Broncos.  Golden Tate looks to contend for another Super Bowl, this time with the Eagles.  The Packers are apparently sold on their secondary being good-enough, as they gave away a still-productive Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to the Redskins.

And, I’m sure there are others I’m forgetting, but I don’t care all that much because it doesn’t involve the Seahawks.  All the Seahawks did yesterday was waive Brandon Marshall, who wasn’t really playing a whole lot as it is (and when he did play, he was dropping balls left and right).

I pointed out yesterday (on Twitter) that I didn’t really want the Seahawks to trade for anyone, and someone responded that the Seahawks need Bruce Irvin.  I can see why someone would say that.  Obviously, the Seahawks are well aware of his abilities.  The Raiders are in full-on tank mode, shipping off veterans as they collect high draft picks.  And, what have we been talking about all year as the Seahawks’ most pressing need?  Pass rush!  So, yeah, Bruce Irvin makes a lot of sense.

But, does he?  I honestly haven’t paid him much mind since he went to the Raiders.  What I know from his Seahawks days is that he was drafted to be our LEO defensive end.  He got 8 sacks as a rookie, which is still the most sacks he’s gotten in a season.  By 2015 – his last year in Seattle – Irvin was converted to a SAM linebacker.  Like I said, I don’t know what he’s been up to in Oakland, but if he’s still a SAM, I’ve got news for you:  so is Barkevious Mingo.  Mychal Kendricks can also play that position, and he’s set to return to the Seahawks from his suspension later this season, in week 14.

Okay, so maybe we could’ve just played Irvin at defensive end.  I suppose that’s possible.  He’s still pretty under-sized at 250 pounds, so that hurts us in run defense.  Also, he has yet to really develop into a dominant pass rusher.  As I mentioned, his season high in sacks is still 8.  He’s had 18 total sacks in the last 2.5 seasons with the Raiders, which honestly isn’t all that impressive.  He has 3 sacks in 7 games this year, and I think he’s dealing with nagging injury issues.  Regardless, he’s not exactly filling up the stat sheet with his production.

We know Frank Clark is better than Irvin.  I would argue Dion Jordan is better than Irvin when he’s healthy.  I also like the upside of both Jacob Martin and Rasheem Green and would prefer to see both of those guys gain experience through the second half of this season over someone like Irvin, who has a clear and defined ceiling (which, again, isn’t all that impressive).

Finally, there’s the matter of his contract.  He’s set to earn whatever $8 million is pro-rated over the rest of the season.  He’d be owed $9.25 million for 2019 if we opted to keep him, which isn’t a ton of money, but is probably money we can use to acquire better players in the offseason.  We could cut him after this year without a cap hit, at which point we’d be trading for a half-year rental.  How much would you be willing to give up for something like that?  For me, it wouldn’t be anything over a 6th round pick.  Is that something the Raiders would accept?  I highly doubt it.  See, they too can cut him after this year with no cap hit.  Odds are, if we wanted to bring Irvin back next year, we could sign him in the offseason for a lot less than $9 million, based on his NFL production across 7 seasons.

I’d rather the Seahawks just hang onto our draft picks, all things considered.

Most of all, I’m still a believer that the Seahawks aren’t a championship contender in 2018.  Now, given the way they’ve played the last few weeks, the Seahawks are certainly a lot better than I expected – and a lot closer to being a championship contender than I ever thought possible – but we’re still at least a year or two away from truly contending.  So, save that money to make big splashes in free agency next year, and save those draft picks to continue filling in the rest of the roster with young, hungry talent.  We’re not a Bruce Irvin (or, really, anyone else who would’ve been legitimately available in trade) away from making it back to the Super Bowl this year, so better not to panic and stay the course.

Things are still looking good!  The future looks bright!  Let’s just enjoy the ride as it’s been constructed.

To Seahawks Or Not To Seahawks, That Is The Question

Since Russell Wilson came into the league, the Seahawks are 4-2 coming out of the BYE week.  Does that mean anything?  No it does not.

The two post-BYE losses happened in 2012 and 2015, exactly 3 years apart.  It’s been 3 years since our last post-BYE defeat, ergo we’re due for another one in 2018.  Does that mean anything?  No it does not.

The Seahawks are as healthy as they’re ever going to be the rest of the year; now that DOES mean something.  K.J. Wright is practicing again, Ed Dickson is ready to come off the PUP list, Rasheem Green is out there mixing it up.  Doug Baldwin had an extra week to rest his knees.  Our offensive linemen had an extra week to rest their everything.  Russell Wilson’s hammy (or whatever) is another week fresher.  And, everyone else who’s dealing with nagging whathaveyou’s, I’m sure, has enjoyed the break.  Hell, even C.J. Prosise is probably … nah, let’s not go THAT far.

I don’t know if there’s necessarily ever a “perfect” time for a team to hit its BYE week, but this one was as good as it’s gonna get for this particular team in this particular year.  Now, we hit the road to play the Detroit Lions, in an early 10am start after they beat up on the Dolphins in Miami the week prior.

By all accounts, I think the Seahawks are the better of the two teams.  At worst, these two teams are dead even, which is what Vegas appears to think.  The Lions are favored by 3 points, which is generally the figure granted to a team playing at home.  That’s not the ONLY reason why I think the Lions will win on Sunday, but it’s up there.

In reviewing the respective schedules, it looks like the Lions have better-looking victories (Patriots, Packers, at Dolphins); while the Seahawks beat a mediocre Cowboys team at home, a bad Cardinals team on the road, and a God awful Raiders team in London.  I guess we can all hang our hats on a close home defeat to the Rams, but that’s not really much comfort to me.

You can look at these two teams and see a clear advantage for both offenses.  The Seahawks want to ground and pound; the Lions’ defense has been among the worst in the league in defending the run.  They did just trade for Damon Harrison, who is a tremendous big body in the middle that should shore up that weakness, but can one guy really make that much of a difference?  I guess we’ll see.  I still like our O-Line an awful lot, and as long as those guys stay healthy, we should be able to open up some holes for Carson & Co.

The Lions’ offense, meanwhile, has traditionally been a more professional version of the Air Raid.  Matthew Stafford just airing it out left and right, winning and losing on his powerful right arm.  But, this year, with the introduction of rookie phenom Kerryon Johnson, they’re MUCH more balanced.  I feel like Matt Patricia’s influence as their new head coach has a lot to say about how the offense is run this year.  He’s seen what it takes to win, and for as good as Brady has been in his career, the Patriots have always had balance (especially late in the season, when the weather turns bad).  The Seahawks’ defense is better than we all had any right to expect, but it’s been susceptible to the run game at times.  Compound that with a lack of a pass rush, and the quick-strike ability of them to still kill you through the air, I think if anything this game is going to be high scoring.  The over/under is 49.5, so officially put me in for the OVER.

What needs to happen for the Seahawks to prevail is we’re going to have to avoid allowing too many big plays.  That’s sort of our specialty, so I wouldn’t expect it to be a problem, but if anyone will be able to fit the football into some tight windows down field, it’s Stafford.  He’s that good and that reckless.  Ideally, the Seahawks will take advantage of those times where he tries to bite off more than he can chew, and hopefully we’ll see a couple take-aways.

More than anything, the Seahawks are going to need to be efficient passing the ball.  The way I see this game going might be a little different than everyone else.  We’ve seen the Seahawks – over their last 4 games – really dominate with the run and see excellent results.  But, I don’t think it’s going to be that easy this time around.  I think there will be SOME rushing, but we won’t overwhelm them.  Where we can make some hay is through the air.  The Lions are pretty stingy with their passing yards allowed, but they’re among the worst in the league as far as passer rating is concerned.  That’s where the Seahawks can shine.  Stick with the rushing gameplan, by all means, but know when to strike through the air.  There will be opportunities to hit the Lions with deep balls, and we’re going to have to connect on them to make this thing happen.

All of that being said, do I see a Seahawks victory on Sunday?  I honestly don’t.  It’s more of a gut feeling than anything else.

We have these weird, flukey games every season in the early going.  Last year, in week 3, we lost a shootout to the Titans of all teams.  The year before that, we had that wonky loss down in New Orleans.  In 2015, we had that overtime defeat to the Bengals where we blew a late lead.  In 2014, it was a week 2 loss in 100+ degree heat in San Diego.  And, who can forget the shootout loss in Indy in 2013 to Andrew Luck?  Don’t get me started on our 2012 loss to the very same Lions in Detroit.  The score was 28-24, and I see something awfully similar happening this time around.

What do all of those losses have in common?  They were all against pretty good-to-great quarterbacks, they were all on the road in the first half of their respective seasons, and they were all games where our offense ostensibly did enough to win the game, but the defense just didn’t have what it took to put those teams away.  Sometimes, the Seahawks take control early and gag it away late; sometimes the other team goes up big and we mount a furious comeback that falls just short.  I could see either one of those things happening on Sunday.

What I can’t see is a Seahawks victory.  I hope I’m wrong.  Because the Seahawks REALLY need this one if we want to contend for a playoff spot.

Is It Possible The Seahawks Are Actually Good This Year?

Seeing is usually believing, because just believing can be deceiving (my name is M.C. Renob and I’m here to say …).

I don’t want to be sucked into this thing, is my point.  For starters, the Seahawks have already lost two games (Broncos & Bears) that they probably should’ve won.  At the VERY least, the Seahawks should’ve gone 1-1 in those games (history will prove that this year’s Broncos team is fucking trash), but because we played them on the road, we biffed it.  Now, at 2-3, we’re playing considerably better than we were a month ago, but we’re severely behind the 8-ball, and we’re going to be without our best defensive player in Earl Thomas.

Winning the division is out, which is a bummer to consider just 6 weeks into the season, but the Rams are the Rams and we’re not.  Nevertheless, last week’s game proved we can at least HANG with the Rams (albeit at home), and that game next month down in L.A. will be even more informative (because all NFC roads appear to be going through there in the playoffs).

I’ve been on the 8-8 train all along, and I’m not quite ready to jump onto the bandwagon just yet, but after last week’s hard-fought defeat, I have to ask:  could the Seahawks ACTUALLY be good?

This is the team we all expected heading into the season:  smashmouth, run-first on offense; quality against the run on defense, better than expected in the secondary, with a highly suspect pass rush.  The fact that it took us 2 weeks (and 2 losses) to figure it out is pretty frustrating, but that’s neither here nor there.  The point is, the blueprint is being followed, and the last three weeks the Seahawks have looked much better.  What does that mean going forward?

Well, for starters, this game in London is a Must Win.  The Raiders are bad, and you have to beat them if you expect to make the playoffs.

Fortunately, their defense is pretty crappy, so we should have no trouble running on them.  We should furthermore have no trouble throwing on them, as they traded away their one and only pass rushing asset in the offseason.  So, if we struggle on 3rd downs, or otherwise can’t move the ball against them, then that’s a REAL problem and I just don’t want to get into that right now.

The question becomes:  can our defense stop that Raiders offensive attack?  I don’t see why not.  For starters, they have Tom Cable running their O-Line, so even our weak-ass pass rush should be able to do SOMETHING, right?  Beastmode is legit, so he’ll get his, and I tend to like Derek Carr more than most (as long as I’m not counting on him for fantasy purposes) and think he’ll have no problem carving up our defense.  The problem for the Raiders, as I see it, is all the mistakes.  Carr throws too many interceptions – and really boneheaded ones to boot – to be a dependable quarterback in this league.  The Raiders, quite frankly, should look a lot more like the Seahawks on offense, except Russell Wilson knows how to take care of the football, and Derek Carr is reckless.

The Raiders will keep it close – and probably even win – if Carr plays a clean game.  The Seahawks likely will need a 2-turnover edge in the ol’ +/- to really put this one away like they should.  If the Seahawks move the ball well on offense, convert in the red zone (and don’t leave it up to our hit-or-miss kicker), and get a couple picks early, I think this could be a laugher by halftime (with Carr maybe getting some garbage points late in the game).

Not for nothing, but I think Seahawks fans are going to travel MUCH harder for this one, and their presence will be noticed on the broadcast.

The rest of this blog post gets thrown out the window if the Seahawks lose on Sunday, so let’s just assume we take care of business.

At 3-3, the Seahawks will head home and enjoy their BYE week.  We’ll use that extra week to try to figure out a way to slow down the Detroit offense.  Like with most of these games, the Seahawks and the Lions are pretty equal (I’d argue maybe the Lions are a little bit better on paper); with the game being in Detroit, I’d expect the Lions to be favored by a minimum of 3.5 points, all the way up to maybe 5 or 5.5 (assuming the Lions get to 3-3 heading into this showdown).  That’s probably a game the Seahawks need to win to be a wild card team (as it’s an NFC opponent, and one that figures to also be in the wild card hunt), and it’s not totally unreasonable that the Seahawks would pull it off.  Honestly, the Lions feel pretty similar to the Raiders, except Oakland has a better run game.

Then, the Seahawks catch the Chargers at home before going on the road to play the Rams.  I never like the Seahawks’ chances when playing the Chargers – because I think their offense is the most adept at picking us apart – but getting them in Seattle is a big help (as evidenced by our performance against the Rams).  To make the wild card, the Seahawks probably HAVE to win that one, because I can’t see us beating the Rams.

That would get us to 5-4 heading into another tough stretch.  We host the Packers on Thursday night.  They don’t look nearly as good as they’ve looked in recent seasons, and that’s yet another game we have to win.  Playing the Panthers on the road is never ideal, but that’s also not an elite team, and I think we actually match up with them pretty well.  Even if we go 1-1 against these two teams, things open up from there.

We close out with 4/5 at home.  In that stretch, we play a pretty hapless 49ers team twice, and the Cardinals once.  We HAVE to win those three.  That gets us to 9 wins.  We also get the Vikings at home, and they don’t look anywhere CLOSE to how good they were in 2017, so that should be another win.  That’s 10.  Finally, in week 16, we host the Chiefs (our season closes at home against the aforementioned Cards).  You never know how the season is gonna go, but the Chiefs could very well have their division clinched, and maybe even home field throughout the playoffs.  I mean, the AFC looks pretty soft, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they’re 12-2 at that point and just sort of going through the motions.  Are they going to go all out in a road game in nasty-weather Seattle?  Or, are they going to ease off the throttle and save it for a home game in week 17 against the Raiders?

I’m just saying, there’s a path to getting to 10-11 wins, and it doesn’t involve the Seahawks playing out of their minds.  It does, however, require this team to improve as the season goes on (as well as not losing too many more significant stars).

The Seahawks are already getting better-than-expected production out of Tre Flowers, Bradley McDougald, their entire running back room, and their offensive line.  They’re getting predictably good production from their quarterback, middle linebacker, Frank Clark, Tyler Lockett, Shquill Griffin, and their interior run-stuffing tackles.  They’ll hopefully get K.J. Wright and Doug Baldwin back to some semblance of full strength.

What we need to see is a guy or two step up from a pass rush standpoint.  We need Frank Clark to go from good to GREAT.  We need Dion Jordan to do literally anything.  We need Rasheem Green to get back on the field and give us something comparable to what Tre Flowers is doing for our secondary.  Or, we just need one of those other D-Linemen to come from out of nowhere and really surprise us, even if it’s unsustainable for the long term.

We also need someone to step into that Earl Thomas role and give us just 75% of what he was.  That means Tedric Thompson, improving his tackling, improving his angles in coverage, and making opportune plays (picks, tipped passes, forced fumbles).  There’s no magical fix coming; it has to come from within.

This season can be like the 2011 Seahawks or the 2012 Seahawks.  Recall the 2011 team went 7-9 and was still a year-plus away from really contending.  Whereas the 2012 team APPEARED to be a year-plus away, but got steadily better until it was steamrolling opponents by season’s end, and came within 30 seconds of getting to the NFC Championship Game.

How will this year go?  Well, a lot of it has to do with what happens the next two games.  It all starts in London on Sunday.  Can’t shit the bed there, or this season will REALLY go south in a hurry.

Hope You’re Ready For The Seahawks To Be Obliterated

I don’t know what you do with this game.  The Rams are so far and away the better of the two teams that it hardly feels like anything to get worked up about.  Stick me on a court and pit me against LeBron James … and I’m supposed to be upset when he beats me 5,000,000 to 0?

I’m sorry, but I got nothin’.  Last December, the Rams came to town and won 42-7, and it wasn’t even THAT close!  I know there were a number of injured players – particularly on defense – that hampered the Seahawks’ chances … but guess what?  Earl’s gone, K.J. is still down, Mychal Kendricks is suspended, Avril’s retired, Kam’s retired, Bennett’s gone, Sherm’s gone, Dion Jordan is whatever, Rasheem Green’s got an ankle of some sort.  This defense is a shell of its former self, and while they’ve done the lord’s work in over-achieving thus far in 2018, the Seahawks haven’t seen a team even REMOTELY close to what the Rams are, particularly on offense.

The Broncos are garbage, as we all expected.  The Cardinals are trash.  The Cowboys are a mess.  And don’t be fooled by what the Bears did to the Bucs, because that Bucs defense is one of the worst in all of football.

This is the Los Angeles Fucking Rams!  Even when they had Jeff Fisher they were kicking our asses, and now they have a living and breathing genius at the helm!  They’re 4-0 and they’ve scored over 30 points in every game.  Say what you want about the teams they played (Raiders, Cardinals, Chargers, and Vikings all look pretty suspect on defense), but the Rams weren’t pussyfooting around.  They reached out, grabbed those teams by the throat, and went to fucking TOWN!  No easing off the accelerator, no going up big and coasting in the second halves.  They just keep coming and coming and coming, until the final whistle blows.

But, you know, crazy things happen.  The Bills went into Minnesota and destroyed them.  They’ve since come to look pretty mediocre against the Packers, so was that a fluke?  Are the Vikings way overrated?  Hard to say.  I still think the Bills are good for less than 6 wins this year, and I’d be hard-pressed to peg them as winners of more than 2 or 3.  The point is, they don’t play games on paper.  Games aren’t decided by one yutz’s blog post.  So, let’s get to work; let’s try to solve this impossible riddle of how to beat the Rams.

For starters, you have to like the fact the game’s in Seattle.  The Rams have played 3/4 games at home so far and their only road game was in Oakland, which … come on.  The Seahawks are 2-2 now, on a 2-game winning streak, and this season is pretty much on the line this Sunday.  Lose, and the Seahawks are who we thought they were; win, and the sky just might be the limit.  The way I’m leaning, I’ve got it 99:1 that the Seahawks lose, but in that rare 1% chance, we could be talking about something great.

But, home field advantage never won a game by itself.  The 12’s can be as loud as they want, but it’s still going to require the Seahawks to go out there and do the job.  From that angle, I see two possibilities.

The first involves the Seahawks doing exactly what they’ve done the last two weeks.  Lots of running the ball on first & second downs, getting into 3rd & short situations, slowing the game down, limiting turnovers, hopefully limiting opportunities for the other team to have the ball, and grinding out an ugly, close, low-scoring game.  If I had to guess what the game plan is for this week, it’s going to look exactly like that.

And I think that if you asked around the league, most people would agree that’s how you do it.  How do you beat Peyton Manning?  Keep him off the field.  How do you beat Tom Brady?  Keep him off the field.  And that’s worked at times; probably less than a 50% success rate, but better than nothing.  But, has it worked for teams with defenses this deficient?

The problem with that scheme is, we can slow things down all we want, but the Rams are still BETTER than us.  They’ll most likely be able to get off the field on third downs, get the ball back to their offense, and race down the field for many multiple scores, all with incredible ease.  If we try to slow it down and muck it up, we’re going to lose and lose big, I have no doubt about it.

The other possibility is a shootout, which I still feel is our only hope.  It won’t happen right off the bat, but after a quarter of play, when the Seahawks are down 14-0, obviously the script is going to have to be thrown out the window.  They’re going to have to take the training wheels off of Russell Wilson, and they’re going to have to let him run the show.  Up tempo, lots of throwing, one or two magical escape acts sprinkled in, and maybe you can find a way to keep up with their offense in a 38-35 type game (a la the game against the Steelers in 2015).  Those games are so rare and precious that it’s stupid to want to expect it, but if the Seahawks are going to win this game, that’s going to have to be how we do it.

There’s no way in hell that the Seahawks will be the first team to keep the Rams under 30 points this season.  We have no pass rush, full stop.  But, that’s neither here nor there, because the Rams are too quick anyway.  They get the ball out fast, before we’d even have a CHANCE to move the pocket.  They have the best running back in the league, who is a threat running and receiving.  K.J. Wright was always the key in guarding someone like Gurley, and you saw last year what happened when we were without our best pass-defending linebacker.  What’s going to happen this time?  Are we going to shadow him with Bobby Wagner?  Are we going to bring Bradley McDougald down closer to the line?  What does that do to our pass defense when Tedric Thompson is our guy roaming the middle?

Speaking of which, the Rams have three REALLY good receivers on top of their all-world running back.  Brandin Cooks is a stud and a deep threat.  Robert Woods is savagely underrated.  And Cooper Kupp is a top notch slot receiver.  Our corners are, I think, better than expected heading into the season, but they’re not going to completely shut those guys down.  And there’s a significant talent gap from Earl to the next man up, which is going to further open things up in the middle of the field.

Honestly, this game is going to be hard to watch.  If you need some sort of alcohol or marijuana enhancement to make it through this one, I won’t blame you one bit.

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

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

Quarterbacks

  • Russell Wilson
  • Alex McGough
  • Brett Hundley

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

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

Running Backs

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

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

Wide Receivers

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

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

Tight Ends

  • Nick Vannett
  • Will Dissly
  • Tyrone Swoopes

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

Offensive Line

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

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

Defensive Line

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

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

Linebackers

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

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

Cornerbacks

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

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

Safeties

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s Talk About Competitions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Winners & Losers posts are fucking played out, so fuck it, I’m doing something different (that’s really sort of the same, but whatever).

Last night, the Seahawks played in their first pre-season game of the year and lost to the Colts 19-17.  The game was efficiently played through the first half, we saw a ton of different guys get out there and mix it up, and then the second half was a slog of mistakes, penalties, and absolute tom-fuckery that ended with a 3rd & 1 play just before the 2-minute warning.  The Seahawks used their final time out in an attempt to get the ball back for a come-from-behind opportunity.  The Colts ran the ball up the middle, Delano Hill (I believe) had a chance to stuff the running back for no gain, but he ultimately missed the tackle, leading to an Indy first down and a victory formation coming out of the 2-minute break.  So, let’s get to the premise of this post.

What I’m Geeked Out About After One Meaningless Pre-Season Game

Okay, so first of all, caveats galore:  it’s pre-season, it’s the first game of the pre-season, it’s against an Indy defense that probably isn’t all that good and probably wasn’t playing all their best players and probably wasn’t running anything but a vanilla scheme.

That having been said, I’m pretty fucking geeked out about the Seahawks’ #1 offense.  All of it!  Russell Wilson was on point!  The running game looked strong!  The offensive line gave Wilson all day to throw and opened up huge holes!  Receivers and tight ends got open!  The offense was crisp and efficient and was even able to overcome a penalty or two!  It culminated in a touchdown pass to Nick Vannett and the major players were done for the night.

Why am I so geeked out about all this, with all those caveats I mentioned?  Because this is what’s SUPPOSED to happen.  This is how your #1 offense is SUPPOSED to look against the dregs of the league in the first pre-season game of the year.  And yet, all too often in years past, under Darrell Bevell & Co., it’s been a fucking SLOG!  Much like in regular season games, this offense tended to take a while to get going even in the pre-season.  So, it was FUCKING refreshing to finally see these guys come out right away and ram it down the other team’s throat.

As always:  Fuck You Very Much Darrell Bevell & Tom Cable.

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

Even though Vannett had a drop (that, on replay, might’ve been a tad thrown behind him, but still, something you should catch), I liked what he brought to the table.  Any sort of production we get from the tight ends should be gravy (so long as they’re doing their jobs blocking), but if he can be a real weapon offensively, that’d be HUGE for our passing game.

There was a nice catch by Stringfellow and a couple good catches by Moore for the back-end of the receiving corps.  All in all, I thought our targets looked good.

Rasheem Green is probably the talk of the day defensively.  This pass rush looks as pathetic as I’ve ever seen it, and I’m sure he did most of his damage against backups, but nevertheless even THIS was more than I was expecting out of Green as a rookie.  I kinda expected him to look lost and overwhelmed even in the pre-season, so to see him really stand out as the best pass rusher on this team last night is an encouraging sign for his first season in the league.

Also promising:  Shaquem Griffin.  He didn’t make every single play, but boy was he all over the place!  He led the game with 9 tackles and had a tackle for loss mixed in as well.

I thought Akeem King really showed out in getting some extended playing time.  He had a nice pass breakup, showed some really good coverage overall, and even though he had that helmet penalty on special teams, I really don’t think it was totally his fault!  You could see on replay, he tried moving his head out of the way and leading with his shoulder, but the offensive guy lowered HIS head and yet it’s the defensive guy’s fault.  I think that’s a collosal load of bullshit and something the NFL really needs to adjust.  I’m with you 100% when it comes to getting rid of helmet-to-helmet hits and avoiding hitting guys in the head overall, but when it’s the offensive guy putting himself in harm’s way, I mean, how is the defender supposed to avoid it?  We’re teaching all these defensive guys to see the play and keep his head up and all of that; why aren’t we teaching the offensive guys the same thing?  I feel like a high percentage of these hits are the fault of the offense, and no one’s doing a damn thing about it.

Let’s Talk About Competitions

You know I love me a good punter competition!  Of course, the main downside is that you’ve got to see the incumbent half the time (to keep up appearances, I suppose) and give him the first opportunity (because he is the veteran and whatnot).  The other big downside is that you kind of have to root for your offense to totally suck, which obviously makes for boring football to watch.

I thought, you know, Jon Ryan was fine.  I wish him well and I hope another team snaps him up and he punts in this league for many more years to come.  But, I’m ready to just hand the keys over to Michael Dickson right now, because he was phenomenal!  He’s got that ball BOOMING and it doesn’t even look like he’s trying all that hard!  I feel like he could punt it the entire length of the football field, and at some point, when we’re backed way up in our own endzone, I want to see him unleash a furious hellscape of a punt that makes us all simultaneously cream in our pants.

As for the kickers, way too early to tell.  I want this battle to go to the bitter end.  Janikowski made both of his extra points; Myers made his 43-yard field goal.

Finally, I’m just going to bypass all the more interesting competitions (I thought all the RBs looked good, except of course for C.J. Prosise who – SUR-PRISE SUR-PRISE SUR-PRISE – missed the game with an injury) and talk about the backup QBs.  Austin Davis is almost certainly going to win that #2 job, and he moved the ball pretty well on his first drive of the game, but GOD DAMN did that interception in the endzone leave a bitter taste in my mouth.  I was thrilled to see him on the sidelines coming out of halftime.

As for Alex McGough, he was definitely Captain Checkdown, but what do you expect from a 7th round QB playing in his first NFL game?  I thought the backup offensive line did him no favors.  He showed good mobility, but all too often I found myself SCREAMING at him, “THROW IT AWAY!”  He ultimately took two too many sacks when he had clear opportunities to throw it out of bounds and live to fight another day, and that’s ultimately on him.

He also had that one scramble play that went for a HUGE gain to Stringfellow (who was erroneously flagged for offensive PI – which, I guess you have to say it was pre-season for the refs too, because they looked pretty bad on occasion), which goes to show you this kid has moxie and a lot of potential to be maybe a Doug Flutie type of player.  I still think Davis has the clear lead, but I’m not TOTALLY going to write off Mr. McGough.

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

I was disappointed in something I thought would be a strength for this team:  its depth.  Coming out of the draft, I thought – even though our top-flight talent wasn’t what it was in this team’s prime – we at least had much better guys on this roster from players 54-90.  But, that proved to be wishful thinking on my part.

Obviously, a number of starters were out injured (notably Frank Clark, Dion Jordan, Byron Maxwell, and Doug Baldwin), but I pegged this as a team that would dominate the 4th quarters of pre-season games (i.e. our third stringers are better than your third stringers), and that just wasn’t the case last night.

I thought the pass defense was a little lacking, for good reason.  Tre Flowers was the starter opposite Shaquill Griffin, and he had predictable rookie mistakes.  He showed some promise, but he was also getting picked on pretty regularly.  The good thing is, he’ll likely have ample opportunities to grow through some of these pains the next three weeks.

I saw a ball get completed in front of Shaquill Griffin that I can guarantee you Richard Sherman (if healthy) would’ve broken up.  Look, right or wrong, I’m going to be comparing every play that goes his way to Sherm in his prime; I’m sorry, that’s just what happens when you replace a legend.  What’s His Name had to replace Dan Marino when he retired, and look at where he is now!  (forgotten).  Other than that one catch, I thought Griffin looked fine, but it’s something I’m going to monitor very closely.

I thought our linebackers looked pretty terrible in that first quarter, as you saw the Colts throwing to WIDE OPEN running backs on the regular.  K.J. Wright got beat, Bobby Wagner got beat; guys looked like they were out of position; and quite frankly guys looked like they were ill-prepared for a quarterback coming off of a year-plus out of football for a shoulder injury.  I mean, what did you expect?  Andrew Luck to sling the ball 50 yards down field?  OF COURSE he was going to throw quick, short passes!  We should’ve been on top of that.

I also didn’t love what I saw out of Austin Calitro, backing up Bobby Wagner, but you know, he’s an undrafted rookie playing behind an All Pro, so I won’t get my panties all in a wad.  He has a long way to go; I just pray to the high heavens that Wagner never gets injured.

As I predicted, this team kind of got pushed around on 3rd/4th downs early in the game.  The Colts were ultimately held to field goals most of the time, but nevertheless they were able to put up some pretty sustained drives throughout (especially their starters).  Need to find a way to get off the field.

The backup O-Line looked as miserable as I remember from the last three years.  While the starters looked GREAT, the backups leave a lot to be desired.  It also doesn’t help that our two backup right tackles – Jamarco Jones and Isaiah Battle – left the game with some serious-looking injuries.  One to the knee, one looking to be a high ankle sprain.  These were the two guys pushing Germain Ifedi for that starting right tackle spot, so this is probably the worst news of the night.  Ifedi might be better than he was last year, but I still don’t like the idea of him winning the job by default.

Pre-Pre-Season Preview: Seahawks Pass Rush

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

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

Without further ado, let’s talk about the Seahawks’ Pass Rush.

Defensive Ends

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

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

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

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

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

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

Linebackers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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