How Good Could The Seahawks Be (Quarterback Aside)?

Don’t get it twisted that I’m sitting here talking myself into the Seahawks making some noise in 2022; they’re not going to contend for shit! But, as an exercise to see my vision through – drafting a franchise quarterback in 2023, setting that player up for success now by building up the team around him a year ahead of time – I think it’s fair to wonder. Now that the draft is behind us, and we can start to piece a roster together, how good is this team at every position other than quarterback?

Let’s start at offensive line, since that was a big emphasis for the Seahawks in this draft. O-Line, as we all know, is vitally important to a team’s chances for success. Especially when you’re talking about breaking in a rookie QB. So, have we done enough?

Obviously, that depends on how these draft picks pan out. But, if they’re as good as a lot of people think they can be, this is going to bode very well for our future. As it stands now, going left to right, we’ve got Charles Cross, Damien Lewis, Austin Blythe, Gabe Jackson, and Abe Lucas. Lewis has two years under his belt, and has performed pretty well when healthy. Blythe comes in with extensive experience in winning programs (including as a former Ram, who this offensive coaching staff knows well), and Jackson is still an in-his-prime starting guard in this league. Either he sticks around, or the Seahawks look to improve at that spot in the draft next year; I’m fine with both scenarios. I think the O-Line has the potential to be very good, creating a nice, soft landing spot for a rookie QB in 2023.

Next, let’s look at weapons. Tyler Lockett is here for the long haul. The team has given every indication that D.K. Metcalf will see a second contract. Freddie Swain has proven to be a competent 3rd/4th/5th receiver. Dee Eskridge and our two rookies this year could be nice gadget players if they stay healthy. That’s a solid group.

Noah Fant is a good tight end, with the potential to be great. He’s right there on the fringe of being a top 10 guy. Will Dissly is the consummate blocking tight end, but he has soft hands and can play down the field. Colby Parkinson hasn’t shown much yet, but his frame should play well around the goalline. I would like to see what he can do when given an opportunity. I think the tight end room is also solid.

Then, we’ve got Kenneth Walker as our potential starting running back. He gets 2022 to play behind Rashaad Penny, giving us a 1-2 punch that could be pretty formidable in the short term. If Walker proves he deserves a shot at being the bellcow, I think he’ll run away with the job in 2023 and beyond. Figure the Seahawks will go back to the running back well in the draft next year, likely selecting a lower-round player to be his backup. There’s a lot that’s up in the air about the running back room right now, but it has the potential to be elite if Walker is The Guy.

As far as weapons go, you could do a helluva lot worse! I think with a year’s experience, that’s about as ideal of a landing spot as any rookie quarterback could find himself in 2023.

But, the real question is: how good could the defense be?

This doesn’t work if the defense isn’t ready to grow into a dominant unit over the next two years. That’ll be what I’m most obsessed about heading into the 2022 regular season. I need to see existing players take huge leaps forward, I need to see rookies develop relatively quickly. I need impact! I need this to be a group that harkens back to the 2011/2012 seasons, when they were clearly ascending.

Let’s go back to front, because I have more confidence in what we’ve done with the secondary.

Between Tre Brown and the two rookies, we need two of those three guys to pan out. My hope is that Brown returns from injury and parlays his brief excellence as a rookie into better things going forward. I’d also bank on Coby Bryant having enough of a chip on his shoulder – and enough skills as a corner – to wrench a job away from Sidney Jones. I’m also not against Jones simply being elite and earning a big money extension, because he’s still pretty young. There are obviously a ton of question marks in this group, but the ceiling is through the roof, and I’m willing to bank on this coaching staff getting the most out of these guys (in ways they thoroughly failed at with Tre Flowers & Co.).

Like it or not, Jamal Adams isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Definitely not before the 2022 season is through. So, he has at least this year to try to prove his worth to this defense. There’s certainly reason for optimism that – from a talent perspective – the coaching staff will find a way to maximize his game. But, can he stay healthy? If this is the third straight year where his season is drastically cut short, then I don’t see how you can keep him in 2023 or beyond. Quandre Diggs, on the other hand, should be a quality contributor for a while, and the younger players behind them (Ugo Amadi, Marquise Blair, Ryan Neal) are quality depth pieces we can roll with in a good defense. I think we’re well set up at Safety, even if the value isn’t there (with our two starters making an insanely high percentage of the salary cap).

Inside linebacker is pretty interesting. I think we’re all pretty happy with Jordyn Brooks and his production on the field. I was of the opinion that it was time to move on from Bobby Wagner, so it’s kind of a no-brainer for Brooks to slide into that spot. But, with the defense expected to be more of a 3-4 look, did we do enough? Are we really going with Cody Barton as the other inside linebacker? Sure, he looked … fine, in limited action towards the end of the season. From a value perspective, he was giving us 80% of Bobby Wagner for a fraction of the price. But, does he really wow you going forward? Is he someone this team would look to re-sign after this season?

I guess we’ll see! Seems to me, there’s no reason NOT to have an open competition at the other inside linebacker spot. Which makes it all the more shocking that the Seahawks didn’t make this position a priority in the draft. The good news is, if everything goes to shit here, they can easily draft one next year and plug him into the starting lineup immediately. Inside linebackers are a dime a dozen.

At outside linebacker/pass rusher, I think it’s fair to doubt the Seahawks completely. I’ll believe it when I see it, for lack of a better phrase. Uchenna Nwosu was the big free agent splash, and he signed a 2-year deal. His season high in sacks is 5.0, which he got last year. He’s a 4-year pro from the Chargers who is more like a veteran prospect than an actual veteran producer. Maybe he wasn’t in the right system? Maybe they didn’t utilize him properly? Maybe he just needed more time to develop? I guess his pressure rate might be better than it looks on the stat sheet, but I’m going to need to see him with my eyes before I can make a proper opinion. Is he a diamond in the rough? Or, is he another Rasheem Green?

Darrell Taylor is our prize. He missed out on his rookie season due to a lingering college injury, but as a second year pro he really stood out. 6.5 sacks in his first healthy season is pretty impressive; THAT’S something to build on. That’s the kind of talent you can see making strides during his rookie contract, unlike Nwosu, who never really put it together with his original team.

Then, there’s guys like Alton Robinson and Boye Mafe. Robinson had 4.0 sacks as a rookie, then regressed to the one sack last year. He might just be rotational filler, and it’s fair to question if he even makes the team. Mafe is a rookie, and unless you’re one of the top two or three in the draft, I never have confidence that lower-rated pass rushers will make an immediate impact. If he gets a few sacks, that’s good. If he gets 6+, that’s a little more encouraging. But, I wouldn’t expect anything like double-digits. He just doesn’t have the skills; it’s a whole new ballgame when you make the leap to the NFL. Mostly, I just hope he stays healthy – especially through training camp and the pre-season – so he can learn on the job as much as possible.

Beyond that, we have to talk about the 3-4 interior linemen. Some of them are considered defensive ends, but they’re “ends” in the way Red Bryant was an end. Shelby Harris came over in the Russell Wilson trade and figures to be a leader on this team. He’s already in his 30’s though, so presumably he’ll need to play well in 2022 to stick around going forward. Quinton Jefferson was signed as veteran depth to compete with L.J. Collier; you figure only one of those guys will make it. Then, there are the tackles, Poona Ford, Bryan Mone, and Al Woods. I like the tackles a lot! Harris is probably the best of the bigger ends we have. This looks like another spot that will need to be addressed after this season. But, as far as run stuffing is concerned, I think these guys are on the better side of average.

The defense is, by no means, a finished product. Far from it. But, you don’t really even have to squint to see where the potential lies. Pass rush is a concern and it always will be. But, I’ll say this about that: if everything else looks good, and if we manage to hit on the rookie quarterback next year, then we can attempt to do what we did in 2013 and sign a couple of quality free agent pass rushers, using all the free money we have laying around by not paying a quarterback at the top of the market. Free agency in 2023 and 2024 could be VERY interesting for the Seahawks, in ways it really hasn’t been since that Super Bowl-winning season.

TL;DR: there’s reason for optimism, but obviously a lot of holes to fill, and a lot of question marks currently on the roster to boot.

Pre-Pre-Season Preview: Seahawks Run Defense

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’ Run Defense.

Defensive Tackles

Strong group here, in my estimation, in spite of the fact that Malik McDowell is a non-entity.  Got a couple young, up-and-comers with Jarran Reed and Naz Jones; got a couple of stout veterans with Tom Johson and Shamar Stephen.  Got a guy who knows the system in Quinton Jefferson, who’s a 3rd year guy and is at a point where it’s sort of now or never for him to really break out.  And, we’ve got a very intriguing guy in Poona Ford, an undrafted rookie who was nevertheless considered one of the better run-stuffing nose tackles in the draft (too bad it’s just a position that’s becoming increasingly devalued in today’s NFL).

Out of all these guys, I think Naz Jones has the potential to be the most complete DT we’ve had in a long time.  He just needs to stay healthy.  I think Reed is already a guy you can depend upon to be a nice run-clogging force in the middle, so nothing to worry about there.  Tom Johnson might be here more for his interior pass rush, but he’s been around forever and isn’t going to be a slouch in the run game.

I thought the Seahawks took a little bit of a step back last year in run defense for a variety of reasons, but injuries along the interior certainly seemed to play the biggest role.  Beefing up the depth the way we have is a surefire way to snap right back on track.  I give this group a solid A-.

Defensive Ends

As I talked about yesterday, there’s just not a lot here.  Losing Michael Bennett – your best all-around defensive lineman – is certainly going to hamper things.  Now, he’s getting up there in age, so at some point this was bound to happen.  We’re just going to have to weather this storm until we can upgrade this position in 2019.

I like Frank Clark’s run defense, but I don’t know if I love it.  I think he’ll be fine, but again, we’ve never seen him as this team’s top dog, so will he rise to the challenge or will he fade?  My hunch is he’s looking for a massive contract, so he better not sleep on this part of his game.  That having been said, the best way to get paid as a defensive end in the NFL is to rack up those sacks, so who knows?

I like Dion Jordan, but again, will he be healthy?  Beyond him, I don’t know what to tell you.  As I mentioned yesterday, it would probably behoove this team to run some of the defensive tackles out there in the 5-Tech spot like when Red Bryant was here.  It might hamper the pass rush, but as I talked about before, I don’t think there’s gonna be much there regardless.

I give this group a B-.

Linebackers

I know, with the Seahawks it’s really a team effort, and there will be secondary input with run defense, but with the loss of Kam, Richard and Earl for however long Earl is gone, that unit has gone from an A to an F.

What’s going to save the run defense is continued master-class effort out of guys like Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright.  If those guys don’t lose a step, we should be just fine.  But, even though they’re great, they still need the guys ahead of them to do their jobs.  That means the DTs have to stay healthy, and the DEs have to stay assignment-sound.  It won’t be for lack of effort, or lack of want-to out of the linebacker room, I’ll tell you that!

At the SAM, the athleticism of Barkevious Mingo should keep him solidly in the mix.  And, Shaquem Griffin could be a huge boost as well in various sub-packages.

This group gets an A+.

Overall, I like the run defense on this team.  I don’t think there’ll be nearly as many lapses like there were last year.  If 2017 was a B, I think we move up to an A- in 2018.

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.

My Top 25 All Time Favorite Seattle Seahawks

With Beastmode’s retirement this week, I thought I’d take stock and reflect upon where he lands among my all time favorite Seattle Seahawks.  While he’s my favorite over the last quarter century, he comes up just short of my all time fave.

I should probably point out that my knowledge of the Seahawks prior to the 1990s is pretty limited (I was born in 1981).  As such, you won’t find many of the old-timers.  Indeed, only 5 of my 25 played prior to 1990, and none of those five are named Dave Krieg, Jim Zorn, or Curt Warner.  Zorn was a guy I never saw play, Warner was always hurt when I started watching football, and the years I watched Dave Krieg were those loser years where he heavily contributed to his standing as one of the most fumble-prone quarterbacks in NFL history.  If I never again see Dave Krieg raise his arm back to pass, only to watch in horror as the ball gets flung backwards thanks to his criminally under-sized hands, it’ll be too soon.

Among the actual Honorable Mentions are the following:

Ricky Watters – a guy who reminds me a lot of Beastmode, but unfortunately didn’t play with us quite long enough to merit breaking through; Chris Warren – very underrated back, who unfortunately was saddled by a lot of mediocre Seahawks teams; Eugene Robinson – solid safety for some solid defenses; Michael Sinclair – second on Seattle’s all-time sacks list; Cliff Avril – who could potentially climb into the Top 25 one day, if he continues to produce the way he has; Red Bryant – mostly a fan favorite type, who I was happy to see find a role in the early Pete Carroll years; Robbie Tobeck – helped solidify the greatest offensive line in team history during the Holmgren years; Steve Hutchinson – who gets a bad rap even though it was Tim Ruskell who dicked him over first; Rocky Bernard – an underrated interior defensive lineman who this team would kill to have right now; Sam Adams – someone who blossomed after he left the Seahawks (and someone who I randomly have a signed jersey from); Bobby Engram – who was Doug Baldwin before Doug Baldwin; Chad Brown – who gets overlooked a little bit because he came from the Steelers, but still played quality football for his Seahawks tenure; Rufus Porter – a speed rusher off the edge and another fan favorite type; Zach Miller – who I’ll always respect for his toughness even though he got injured a lot; and Joe Nash – who would be my #26 if this list went that long, because he was an awesome nose tackle for this team who played here FOREVER.

Anyway, without further ado, My Top 25 All Time Favorite Seattle Seahawks:

1.  Steve Largent – He was this team’s first Hall of Famer, and when he retired, he had most – if not all – of the wide receiver records before they were broken.  When I started getting into football in the late 80s, there was every reason to be a fan of some other team in some other city, as those Seahawks teams were okay, but nothing special.  The 49ers had Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, the Raiders (who were a particular favorite among my elementary school classmates) had Bo Jackson (’nuff said), the Redskins, Oilers, Dolphins, and Bengals were all loaded with talent.  I don’t totally remember my thinking on this one, but I’m certainly convinced now that I would never have become a Seahawks fan if it weren’t for Steve Largent.  I mean, yeah, they’re the local team, so it’s easy to say I’d just stick with that as the reason, but throughout the 1990s, I used to mock this team relentlessly, and would frequently bet my family members that the Seahawks would lose (and won quite a bit of cash in the process, for a kid in the 1990s anyway).  But, I could always hang my hat that at one point, Steve Largent played for the Seahawks and was the best player at his position.  Also, didn’t hurt that I got to meet him at an autograph signing at the Tacoma Mall.  It was many hours of waiting in line, but it was worth it.

2.  Marshawn Lynch – Unlike many of the guys on this list, who were either career Seahawks, or played many more years here, Lynch became a favorite of mine in a little over 5 and a half seasons.  His bruising style of play, all the highlight runs, and his abilities as a receiver and blocker make him not only the most complete running back in franchise history, but one of the very best overall players we’ve ever seen in a Seahawks uniform, including the other Hall of Famers coming up next on this list.

3.  Cortez Kennedy – It’s hard to pick one over the other when it comes to Tez and Big Walt; both are consummate bad asses.  While you could make the argument that Walter Jones was the best player at his position in NFL history (which I do), I don’t think I’d necessarily put Cortez Kennedy as the best defensive tackle in NFL history (though, to be fair, I haven’t tried ranking them all, so who knows?).  What I will say is that what won me over in Tez’s favor is his Defensive Player of the Year Award in 1992.  First of all, it’s hard as fuck for a DT to win that award (there have only been two other players since 1992 at that position to win that award – Dana Stubblefield & Warren Sapp).  Secondly, no player at any position has ever won the award while playing on a shittier team (the Seahawks were 2-14 that year).  But, such is the fierce brutality that was Cortez Kennedy (who ranks 4th all time in franchise history for sacks); he finished that season with 14 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and a whopping 92 tackles.  Let me repeat:  92 tackles!!!  There are linebackers who don’t get that many tackles, and here we are, looking at a DT who got 92 tackles.  Just insane!  To compare, Stubblefield in 1997 had 15 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and only 48 tackles; Sapp in 1999 had 12.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and only 27 tackles (that wasn’t even Sapp’s best season, but regardless, he never surpassed 50 tackles in a season, so that point is moot).  Tez frequently battled double- and triple-teams throughout his career, and was still a God damn hurricane to deal with in the middle.  It’s just too bad he couldn’t be rewarded with more playoff appearances.

4.  Walter Jones – If you went pound for pound, you’re probably talking about the very best player the Seahawks have ever had.  With Bad-Assery being a theme, they don’t get much more bad-ass than this guy.  He was repeatedly franchise tagged, repeatedly held out in training camp and in the pre-season, then showed up right before the regular season started not only in tremendous shape, but ready to start from Game 1.  Then, when you tack on his training regimen of him pulling Cadillacs to get ready for the season, and I think I need to go lie down for a while because I just got winded writing that statement.

5.  Matt Hasselbeck – This is probably where things start to get a little more fluid.  In five years, I would anticipate someone like Russell Wilson will have surpassed someone like Matt Hasselbeck.  Indeed, many fans might disagree with me, but I gotta admit I’m still a pretty big Hasselbeck fan.  He led this team to its first Super Bowl appearance, which is always going to be huge, even if the result isn’t what we wanted.  Where his talent may be lacking compared to a guy like Wilson, his personality and charm in the media more than makes up for it.  It’s always WAY more entertaining to hear a Hasselbeck interview than a Wilson interview.  I know, that means little compared to on-field accomplishments, and as I mentioned above, Wilson will probably pass him in a few short years.  But, for now, I hold Hasselbeck in higher esteem.

6.  Richard Sherman – This future Hall of Famer has nowhere to go but up on this list.  Pretty unlikely leader in the clubhouse of Legion of Boom participants, but Sherm has been the most consistently elite through the 2015 season.

7.  Shaun Alexander – He gets a bad rap for not being Marshawn Lynch, but I think a lot of fans forget just how great he really was.  If he didn’t start breaking down towards the end, he was well on his way towards getting into the Hall of Fame.  As it stands, he was one of the best two or three running backs in the NFL for a good five-year period.  He should be a shoo-in for the Ring of Honor, if the Seahawks ever get around to putting more people in there.

8.  Brandon Mebane – Love this dude.  He won’t be a Hall of Famer, he won’t have his number retired, he might not even make the Ring of Honor when it’s all said and done.  But, he was one of the better Tim Ruskell draft picks.  As a third rounder, he got on the field right away and has been a staple for this defensive line ever since.  Nine years in, he looks as good as ever, and I hope the team retains him so he can retire as a Seahawk.

9.  Kenny Easley – He’s the only player on this list who I don’t really remember watching play live.  So, I’m really basing his ranking on highlights and on testimonials from players around the league who talk about this guy with some of the highest reverence I’ve ever seen.  If his career wasn’t shortened by kidney disease, he’d be in the Hall of Fame right now.  Compared to Ronnie Lott, he’s the only other Seahawk to win the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award, in 1984, when he had 10 interceptions (2 returned for touchdown).  As it stands, he’s a Ring of Honor guy, and the best safety in franchise history (eventually to be surpassed by the next guy on this list).

10.  Earl Thomas – He’s our Ed Reed.  Our Troy Polamalu.  Our All Pro Machine striving to be the best this game has ever seen.  The only thing that could cut him short on his quest is if he succumbs to injuries.  His dedication to the game and being the best puts him in my Top 10.

11.  Russell Wilson – Seems criminally low, I know.  I don’t think it’ll be too much longer before he’s in my Top 10.  Maybe even one more season.  The way he’s playing right now, and with Lynch’s retirement, this will be HIS offense.  If he manages to carry this team to unknown levels of awesomeness, I think he’s destined to skyrocket up my list.

12.  Jacob Green – He was an absolute monster throughout the 80s, racking up the most sacks in franchise history with 97.5 (and that doesn’t even include his first two seasons, when the NFL didn’t record sacks as an official stat).  Certainly one of the more underrated defensive ends of the 80s.

13.  Joey Galloway – Probably another controversial pick – especially this high in the rankings – but I don’t care.  He only really played 4 seasons for the Seahawks before holding out for 8 games in his fifth year before forcing Holmgren’s hand, but those four years were outstanding!  He was an elite return man from the get-go, and a big play machine on offense as well.  If we only could have paired him with a competent quarterback (he was saddled with Rick Mirer, John Friesz, and Jon Kitna before we were able to get Warren Moon in here for a couple of injury-plagued years towards the end of his career) he might have been even better, for as crazy as that sounds.  Still, even the way he left things wasn’t so bad, as we ended up getting two first round draft picks (one of which we used to nab Shaun Alexander, with the other being traded for multiple picks so we could get Koren Robinson, Heath Evans, and some backup offensive lineman I’ve never heard of).

14.  Doug Baldwin – Another player whose ranking could go way up on my list if we manage to keep him on the team beyond his current contract.  He’s proven to be a clutch possession receiver, as well as a guy capable of making bigger plays downfield, and as of 2015, a touchdown monster.  To think an undrafted receiver who has started since his rookie year could still be getting better in his fifth season is pretty amazing.  I want to see the Wilson to Baldwin connection continue for at least the next half decade, if not longer.

15.  Golden Tate – Maybe another controversial pick, but I like who I like, and I like me some Golden Tate.  I kind of dismissed him when he left for Detroit, as we still had Percy Harvin, after all.  But, when Harvin proved to be a huge chump, I’ve longed for Tate’s big play ability ever since.  His loss is now mitigated by the drafting of Tyler Lockett, but there’s still a lot to like about a guy like Tate who was another outsize personality on a team full of ’em.  A guy who got under the skin of opposing defenders (like the fucking Rams, for instance).  And a guy who played bigger than his size.  Not extending him, in favor of bringing in Harvin, is a move this team continues to regret.

16.  Brian Blades – The wide receiver parade marches on, with Blades, who played significant minutes for a rookie under Chuck Knox, and who eventually went on to replace a legend in Steve Largent as this team’s #1.  He was never super flashy, and only made one Pro Bowl in his career, but he’s this team’s second-leading career pass catcher.  He has the team’s second-most receiving yards, and is fifth in touchdowns.

17.  K.J. Wright – He cracks this in large part due to recency bias.  He’s been here for five years, has played all three linebacker spots, has only missed a small handful of games, and should be in the Top 10 in franchise history in tackles by this time next year.  I love his smarts, his professionalism, his toughness, and the fact that on a defense full of superstars, he just quietly goes about his business of being consistently great.  He’s never been to a Pro Bowl, and probably never will, but when it’s all said and done, he’ll go down as one of the best linebackers in Seahawks history.

18.  Marcus Trufant – He was rarely flashy, but he was a first round pick and a starter from day 1.  He made a Pro Bowl in 2007 when he had 7 picks, and it doesn’t hurt that he was a local kid who made good.  And, not for nothing, but we went to the same high school and played on the same Freshman football team (he was the superstar, I was the third string right tackle who never ACTUALLY got to share a field with him on gameday, because I was terrible).

19.  Michael Bennett – In three short years, Bennett is already #10 on Seattle’s all time sacks list.  Of course, he’s so much more than sacks, but that’s still pretty impressive.  With his ability to play both inside and outside, against the run and against the pass, he’s probably the most talented defensive lineman in franchise history (just behind Tez, that is).  If we can keep him happy and playing through the end of this contract – or onto another if he keeps producing – he could easily shoot up this list as well.

20.  Kam Chancellor – He took a bit of a hit this year with his holdout.  I don’t mind a guy who holds out of training camp and/or the pre-season, but I tend to draw the line when a guy starts missing regular season games (and starts costing us those games with his absence).  Truth be told, his 2015 was far from ideal; but, that doesn’t wash away the previous four years of amazingness.  If we can make him happy again and keep him around a few more years, he’ll return to his rightful place among the Top 15 or Top 10 on this list.  For now, it’s sort of Wait & See mode, for fans and the franchise alike.

21.  Lofa Tatupu – His career was relatively brief, but man did he shine bright!  In only six years (one of them severely injury-marred), he made three Pro Bowls, one first team All Pro, and cracked the top 10 in tackles in Seahawks history.  THIS is the best draft pick of Ruskell’s tenure, and a big reason why this team made the Super Bowl during the 2005 season.

22.  Darrell Jackson – Fourth in franchise history in receptions, second in touchdown receptions, and the number 1 receiver for most of Matt Hasselbeck’s time here.  His reputation was somewhat tainted by drops early in his career, but I feel he more than made up for it from 2003 through 2006.  Another guy who never made a Pro Bowl, and will probably never make the Ring of Honor, but he’s a big part of those Holmgren teams that brought the Seahawks to a level of respectability we’d never seen to that point.

23.  John L. Williams – Listed as a fullback, but he was really a do-it-all type of back.  He had hands like a receiver (3rd all time in receptions, 6th all time in receiving yards in Seahawks history), had quicks like a running back (fifth all time in rushing yards in Seahawks history, 9th in rushing touchdowns), and the size of a bruising fullback (5’11, 231 lbs), he could really do it all.  In an era that pre-dates these types of specialty backs who are equally as good at catching as rushing (LaDainian Tomlinson, Marshall Faulk, etc.), John L. Williams was truly a trailblazer.  He’s securely third place in franchise history in total yards from scrimmage (behind bellcow back Shaun Alexander with 10,940 total yards, and Hall of Fame receiver Steve Largent, who had a total of 13,172 yards), ahead of other, more notable, running backs like Curt Warner, Marshawn Lynch, and Chris Warren.  John L. played largely a reserve role, as a third or fourth option for this offense for most of his tenure here, but he played that role splendidly.

24.  Bobby Wagner – He’s been great since his rookie year, I only expect further greatness going forward.  He’s another who could easily skyrocket up this list, the longer he remains the quarterback of the greatest defense we’ve ever seen.

25.  Jermaine Kearse – What can I say?  He’s another local kid, another undrafted free agent, who worked his way through the practice squad into being this team’s #2 receiver.  Doesn’t hurt that he’s a Husky.  Also doesn’t hurt that he’s made some of the biggest catches in franchise history, including the 4th down touchdown against the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game, and the game-winning touchdown against the Packers the very next year in the NFCCG (not to mention the super-human TD catch in Super Bowl XLVIII, and the beyond-human bobbling/diving catch in Super Bowl XLIX).  He might have played his last down in a Seahawks uniform, and if so, I’ll be sad.  But, I’ll also be happy for a guy who started at the bottom and worked his way into a contract that was too big for the Seahawks to match.

Which Seahawks Team Had The More Difficult Path To The Super Bowl?

Yesterday, I did a little comparison of the rosters between last year and this year.  Obviously, it wasn’t comprehensive – as it’s JUST a look at the Super Bowl rosters and not taking into account all the injured players who helped get us to those points – but I think we can all agree that the 2013 Seahawks were the clear Best Team In Franchise History.  But, either way, we’re talking about two VERY good teams.  It takes a buttload of talent to make it to the Super Bowl; and it takes a special kind of buttload to make it to back-to-back Super Bowls.

My take on these two teams is this:  the 2013 Seahawks were more special, because it was our first championship.  You never forget the first time.  Those players will be fixtures in my sports fandom until the day I die.  But, what these 2014 Seahawks are doing is more DIFFICULT, and not just because of what we saw against Green Bay last Sunday.

I look at it like this:  go ahead and check the standings and how they compare between 2013 and 2014.  Now, check the Seahawks’ schedule between 2013 and 2014.  If you count the games where we faced legitimate opponents, you’ll see it’s pretty clear.  The 2013 Seahawks had to square off against 7 legit opponents.  Two vs. SF and AZ, then games against Carolina, Indy, and New Orleans.  The rest of the AFC South was a joke, the Rams were mediocre as usual, the rest of the NFC South was terrible, and the Giants and Vikings were God awful.  Now, granted, those 7 games were against real tough teams – including the 49ers who were the clear Second Best Team In Football – but I don’t think last year’s run really compares.  We kicked off our season with back-to-back great teams (and 3 in our first 5 games), but there was a huge lull in the middle where we played 1 good team in six weeks.  THEN we had a bye week before catching the Saints at home!  By the time we got through that powderpuff stretch, we were 11-1 and on cruise control the last four weeks as we finished up going 2-2, losing both of our difficult matchups in the process while still locking down the #1 overall seed.

In those 7 big games, we ended the regular season 4-3.  We more than made up for it with the gauntlet we had to take down in the playoffs, as I would argue the Saints were the 3rd-best team in the NFC and probably the 5th-best team in the NFL.  Then, we had to squeak by the 49ers again, before we slayed the best offensive team in NFL history.  So, when you include playoffs, the Seahawks had 10 really hard teams (but, then again, when you’re in the playoffs, just about every game is hard).

In 2014, the Seahawks not only had to contend with a more difficult schedule, but they had all the other distractions away from the game.  Just being a Super Bowl champion, for one.  Having that target on your back.  Getting everyone’s best game because they want so desperately to beat the best.  Then, you’re talking about losing a sizable chunk of your depth because you just can’t afford to pay everyone.  Starters like Tate, Giacomini, Browner, Clemons, and Bryant.  Role players like Thurmond, McDonald, and Maragos.  Key contributors from last year, playing for other teams.  THEN, you’ve got guys getting paid in the offseason.  It’s great for fans to see their favorite players locked up and happy, but you never know how that’s going to affect locker room chemistry.  And, quite frankly, you never know how the players who’re getting paid will respond.  Will they still have that desire?  Will they still wake up at the crack of dawn every day and put in the work to maintain their level of excellence?

We know a little bit about how Marshawn Lynch felt about it, because he threatened to hold out and retire and all this stuff before getting a bump in pay.  Still didn’t stop all the early-season chatter from the media that he was disgruntled and still thinking about retiring.  Or that the team was fed up and ready to cut him loose after the year ended.  Oh, and we can’t forget the whole Percy Harvin situation.  What a shitshow THAT was.

Hashtag Russell Wilson Isn’t Black Enough.

All of this stuff, plus the usual smattering of injuries every team has to deal with.  3/5 of our offensive line missing significant time, Kam and Bobby and Maxie all missing time.  Zach Miller and Brandon Mebane being lost for the year, along with a bunch of our young role players like Cassius Marsh and Jordan Hill and – most recently – Paul Richardson.

And, in the middle of all of that, if you look at the schedule, we faced 10 legitimate opponents (11 if you want to count Carolina, but I’m inclined to throw that entire division in the toilet where it belongs).  We kicked off the season with three tremendous teams in Green Bay, San Diego, and Denver, before being saddled with the week 4 bye.  You can say what you want about the Chargers, but they finished the season with a winning record and that was a game on the road.  Plus, they were a much better team early in the year compared to their late-season swoon.  I’m counting ’em.

Once you get past that point, there was an 8-game stretch that I’d pegged at the beginning of the season as the stretch where we’d need to make our hay.  I didn’t see ANY of those teams being able to give us much of a game.  As it turned out, the Cowboys were pretty great, the Chiefs were better than expected, and the Cardinals were 9-1 and three games ahead of us when we got to play them.  I’m also counting the Chiefs as one of the legit teams as they ALSO finished the regular season with a winning record and that game was ALSO on the road.  As it turned out, the most difficult part of the schedule – the last six weeks – turned out to be much easier than expected.  But, I’m still counting Arizona and Philly as legit, because Arizona’s defense never quit this year, and Philly’s offense was still pretty solid even with Mark Sanchez.  It’s debatable as to whether or not I should include the 49ers in this list, but I’m going to do it anyway.  Granted, 8-8 is a pretty mediocre record, but we’re still talking about a roster that was comprised of most of the same parts that took that team to the NFC Championship Game last year and to the Super Bowl the year before, with the same coaching staff as well.  When you lump in how they’re our most bitter rival and prioritize beating us over any other team, I’m saying that’s a legit matchup.

So, to recap, two against Arizona and Frisco, with solo games against GB, Den, SD, KC, Phi, & Dal.  With a possible 11th if you want to count Carolina, but I’ll leave that up to you.  And, in doing so, we went 7-3 (8-3 with the Panthers).

Of course, with the level of competition, you have to take into account the level of turmoil.  Things were spiraling out of control as this team started out 3-3, playing four very good teams in that stretch, and losing a heartbreaker to a sub-par Rams team (who nevertheless managed to beat some pretty impressive teams this year on their way to a 6-10 record).  As I said before, we were 6-4 when we played 9-1 Arizona.  We pretty much needed to win out and get help.  And we got that help by Arizona losing their top two quarterbacks; otherwise this season may have played out VERY differently.  To elevate our game at the last possible moment, win six in a row to finish with the #1 seed yet again … I don’t know what else you can say.  Just a remarkable job.

Then, with the playoffs, we’re talking about rematches against the Panthers and Packers.  I don’t hold the Panthers in very high esteem, but I think the Pack ended up being the second-best team in the NFC this year (and probably third-best in the NFL).  Of course, the Packers are always going to be some variation of good as long as Aaron Rodgers is playing.  But, for once, they remained pretty healthy on both sides of the ball, and when that happens, the Packers are as formidable as any team.  I don’t think this year’s Packers team was necessarily better than last year’s 49ers team, but they’re pretty close, and they sure as shit gave us a helluva game.

To cap off the season, we get to face the #1 team in the AFC, the New England Patriots.  For the last 9 weeks, you could argue that the Seahawks and Patriots have been the top two teams in the league, so this is just as exciting as getting to play Denver was last year.  To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best, and the Seahawks don’t get any respite in that regard.

I dunno, maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe I’m looking at it all through biased eyes because this year’s team is still fresh in my mind.  But, I can’t see how you don’t find this year’s team much more impressive than last year’s, even if the level of talent isn’t quite as elite.

Your Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl XLIX Roster

I did this last year, albeit in a different format.  It’s nothing fancy, no real analysis or anything, but it’s just something I’d like to look at (and later, look back on and reflect).

Last year, it was more a reflection of how we crafted our Super Bowl roster (mostly via draft & undrafted free agents).  This year, I thought I’d take a gander at who’s on the team now as it compares to last year’s Super Bowl roster.  As with last year’s post, I’m not including guys who are on IR, or who were on the team earlier in the year and were released or traded.  I’m specifically looking at the guys on the 53-man roster RIGHT NOW.

I reserve the right to come back and adjust this if the Seahawks make any minor moves between now and February 1st.

Let’s start with the offense:

2014 2015
Quarterback 1 Russell Wilson Russell Wilson
Quarterback 2 Tarvaris Jackson Tarvaris Jackson
Quarterback 3 B.J. Daniels
Running Back 1 Marshawn Lynch Marshawn Lynch
Running Back 2 Robert Turbin Robert Turbin
Running Back 3 Christine Michael * Christine Michael
Fullback 1 Michael Robinson Will Tukuafu
Fullback 2 Derrick Coleman
Wide Receiver 1 Golden Tate Doug Baldwin
Wide Receiver 2 Percy Harvin Jermaine Kearse
Wide Receiver 3 Doug Baldwin Ricardo Lockette
Wide Receiver 4 Jermaine Kearse Bryan Walters
Wide Receiver 5 Ricardo Lockette Chris Matthews
Wide Receiver 6 Bryan Walters * Kevin Norwood
Tight End 1 Zach Miller Luke Willson
Tight End 2 Luke Willson Tony Moeaki
Tight End 3 Kellen Davis * Cooper Helfet
Left Tackle Russell Okung Russell Okung
Left Guard James Carpenter James Carpenter
Center Max Unger Max Unger
Right Guard J.R. Sweezy J.R. Sweezy
Right Tackle Breno Giacomini Justin Britt
Guard/Tackle Alvin Bailey Alvin Bailey
Tackle Michael Bowie * Garry Gilliam
Center Lemuel Jeanpierre Lemuel Jeanpierre
Offensive Line Paul McQuistan Patrick Lewis
Offensive Line Caylin Hauptmann * Keavon Milton

* denotes Inactive for Super Bowl

As you can see, from a roster standpoint, we’re carrying the third quarterback for some reason (even though he was inactive for the NFC Championship Game, and will most likely be inactive again for the Super Bowl), whereas last year we carried the extra fullback.  Obviously, Robinson is retired and Coleman is injured, so that’s what happened there.

What stands out the most is the drop-off in quality in the wide receiver department.  The 2015 Seahawks are essentially chopped off at the knees at this position, with Golden Tate and Percy Harvin playing elsewhere.  Baldwin, Kearse, Lockette, and Walters each move up two spots respectively, severely weakening our passing game.  Rookie Norwood was active for the NFCCG, but I would expect him to be inactive if Helfet is healthy.

Speaking of tight ends, another big blow is the loss of Miller.  I like Willson a lot and think he’s taken a big step forward this year (in spite of some infamous drops), but it’s pretty clear we’re hurting.  Moeaki is a fine stand-in, but he’s no Zach Miller.  I’ll be looking forward to all three tight ends as being active – again – if Helfet is healthy.  I think this can be a real mismatch in our favor against the Patriots.

The offensive line is largely the same as last year.  Britt sat out against the Packers with an injury, but I have to figure he’ll be back with the two weeks off to recover.  I think Britt is more-or-less a wash compared to Giacomini (MAYBE a slight downgrade, but in the long run will be a big improvement).  Our depth is pretty solid as well, as four of our reserves have played significant minutes this year.  I’ve still never heard of this Milton guy, so expect him to be inactive.

Now, let’s go with the defense:

2014 2015
Defensive End 1 Chris Clemons Michael Bennett
Defensive End 2 Red Bryant Cliff Avril
Defensive End 3 Michael Bennett O’Brien Schofield
Defensive End 4 Cliff Avril Demarcus Dobbs
Defensive End 5 O’Brien Schofield David King
Defensive End 6 Benson Mayowa *
Defensive Tackle 1 Brandon Mebane Kevin Williams
Defensive Tackle 2 Tony McDaniel Tony McDaniel
Defensive Tackle 3 Clinton McDonald Landon Cohen
Defensive Tackle 4 Jordan Hill *
Outside Linebacker K.J. Wright K.J. Wright
Middle Linebacker Bobby Wagner Bobby Wagner
Outside Linebacker Bruce Irvin Bruce Irvin
Linebacker 4 Malcolm Smith Malcolm Smith
Linebacker 5 Mike Morgan Mike Morgan
Linebacker 6 Heath Farwell Brock Coyle
Cornerback 1 Richard Sherman Richard Sherman
Cornerback 2 Byron Maxwell Byron Maxwell
Cornerback 3 Walter Thurmond Jeremy Lane
Cornerback 4 Jeremy Lane DeShawn Shead
Cornerback 5 DeShawn Shead Tharold Simon
Cornerback 6 Marcus Burley
Free Safety 1 Earl Thomas Earl Thomas
Free Safety 2 Chris Maragos Steven Terrell
Strong Safety 1 Kam Chancellor Kam Chancellor
Strong Safety 2 Jeron Johnson
Long Snapper Clint Gresham Clint Gresham
Punter Jon Ryan Jon Ryan
Kicker Steven Hauschka Steven Hauschka

* denotes Inactive for Super Bowl

As you can see, we’re carrying two fewer linemen and two more defensive backs.  Injuries have hurt us bigtime in the defensive line department, but depth has been an issue all year with our DBs, as it seems like we’re dealing with nagging injuries on a weekly basis in our secondary.

Along the line, we’re hurting bad.  Clemons and Bryant are obviously gone, so Bennett and Avril moved up into their places.  From a quality of play standpoint, this is an improvement.  But, from a depth standpoint, it’s not pretty.  Jordan Hill was a positive contributor this year until he got hurt.  Kevin Williams has been a godsend with Mebane going down.  McDaniel is as steady as they come.  And, Cohen is a widebody who played some key snaps against the Packers in our goalline package.  It’s our pass rush that I’m most concerned about, with Schofield essentially replacing Clemons from last year, which is indeed a step down.  Bruce Irvin will be key in this regard, as he’s looking a lot better when he rushes the passer.

Our linebackers are largely intact, as our top 5 are all holdovers from last year.  Coyle replaces Farwell, and from my naked eye, I haven’t seen a huge downturn in our special teams coverage.

Our secondary is still our strongest unit.  The only real change is Simon for Thurmond.  Thurmond was more versatile, but Simon is cheaper, under team control for longer, and is better on the outside.

I would argue we’re actually stronger in the secondary this year compared to last year.  Linebacking, offensive line, running backs, quarterbacks, and specialists (kicker/punter/long snapper) are all a wash.  We’re a bit worse in our tight ends and at fullback.  And, we’re A LOT worse along the defensive line and in our wide receiver group.  I may come back to this when the season is over, to compare & contrast 2013’s overall roster to 2014’s, but suffice it to say, we’re not as good of a team as we were last year.  That was to be expected, so it’s not like I’m telling you anything that’s untrue or shocking.  How much worse, I guess, depends on how the Super Bowl turns out.

Either way, as the years go on, we’re REALLY going to marvel at how good that 2013 team was.  To run out a squad with that amount of talent and depth is about as awe-inspiring as it gets.

For the Super Bowl, unless injuries are a factor, here’s my prediction for the seven inactives:

  1. B.J. Daniels – QB
  2. Christine Michael – RB
  3. Kevin Norwood – WR
  4. Keavon Milton – OL
  5. Patrick Lewis – C
  6. David King – DE
  7. Marcus Burley – CB

It was a struggle down there at the bottom.  In theory, you’d want to keep King active to give yourself another pass rusher, but really, how many can you have on the field at once?  I think Cohen gives you more value, especially if the Patriots make a concerted effort to run the ball with Blount.  I thought about keeping Burley active as well – what with Sherman and Thomas playing through injury, you may want more depth in the secondary – but he seems to be the low man on the totem pole right now.

Obviously, this changes as the injury reports start coming out.  Guys to watch out for here are obviously Britt and Helfet, as well as Terrell and Johnson in the secondary.  But, for now, my official guess at the inactives is what I’ve listed above.

Why The Seahawks Will Return To The Super Bowl

Right around this time last year – though, admittedly, a couple weeks later – I was writing a lot about the impending Super Bowl matchup between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks.  Sometimes, I do this thing where I’ll write one article on how the Seahawks could theoretically lose, and another article on why they’ll win.  Usually, I do this because I’ve run out of other things to write about, but sometimes there’s a good reason to argue both sides.  But, last year, I really struggled with it.  How might the Broncos have beaten us in the Super Bowl?  Well, on any given Sunday and all that …

Yeah, pretty much anything can happen at any time.  A player can take a wrong step and tear his ACL.  A perfectly-thrown pass can bobble out of the hands of a receiver and into the hands of a defender.  Fumble luck is INCREDIBLY random and sometimes infuriating.  A couple of special teamers can take bad angles and before you know it, the other team is running back a freebie touchdown.  I could go on and on.  There are millions of reasons why the Packers might beat the Seahawks this Sunday, just as there were millions of possibilities in that Broncos/Seahawks Super Bowl.

But, just looking at it rationally, it was pretty hard to believe that the Seahawks were going to lose last year.  Just like it’s pretty hard to believe they’ll lose on Sunday.

How, exactly, are this year’s Packers different than last year’s Broncos?  Both teams play/played with MVP quarterbacks.  With Aaron Rodgers’ calf strain, he’s about as mobile now as Manning was last year.  Neither defense was all that impressive.  And, I would argue that Denver’s offense last year was MUCH better than Green Bay’s this year.  The only thing left to look at is how the Seahawks are different this year compared to last.

On the surface, not much.  We’re missing a Golden Tate on offense, and you can’t argue that we’ve really found a replacement.  Jermaine Kearse has stepped up, so it’s not a HUGE drop-off, but our third and fourth receivers as a result are a step back.  So, there’s that.

We’re missing Zach Miller, but I’d say Luke Willson and company have stepped up adequately.  Our offensive line is about the same.  Running game is the same.  And quarterback is the same.

Defensively, we’ve lost Mebane and Jordan Hill along the interior.  Hill was turning into a nice little Clinton McDonald replacement, so that hurts.  On the outside, we no longer have Chris Clemons or Red Bryant, but we haven’t had those guys for the full year and our defense has still held up like gangbusters.  You’re still looking at the top defense in the league and it’s not really even close when the stars are healthy.

So, you tell me.  How are the Packers supposed to come in here and beat us?  I repeat:  “in here”, as in “in Seattle”.  The Super Bowl was on a neutral field!  So, not only were the Broncos a more formidable opponent, but they didn’t even have to play us in the most dominant home field advantage in all of football!

I just don’t see it.  I don’t think it’s possible to be more at ease going into a conference championship game.  I’m trying to get my worry on about this game, but it all comes back to fluke shit.

One thing I could look at is to review all of our defeats this year.  How did other teams beat the Seahawks?  Seems impossible, right?  But, it happened.  Four times, in fact!  Four different teams beat the Seahawks in 2014!  So, what can we learn?

Week 2, at San Diego

I would argue we were at our healthiest in this game among the four defeats, so this game really stings.  What happened here?  Well, the Chargers dominated time of possession by dinking and dunking us to the True Death.  They had two drives that lasted less than 4 minutes.  One came off of a turnover that they converted into a touchdown; the other was a punt after six plays.  In the second half.  We didn’t force the Chargers into a punt until the second half of the game!  The Chargers went 10/17 on third down and Philip Rivers was about as perfect as can be.  He was perfect because there was only one pass that was completed beyond 20 yards.  Patience, timing, and 100+ degree weather really did us in.  Our offense was moving the ball well, but almost too well, as all three of our scoring drives were touchdowns that took less than three minutes of clock.

Week 6, vs. Dallas

Admittedly, this was the only game I didn’t watch this year, as I was travelling.  But, from what I’ve read and seen, the Cowboys were able to run the ball at will and made just enough plays through the air to keep us honest and win the fourth quarter.  A particularly back-breaking completion to Terrance Williams converted a third & long late in the game, allowing them to secure victory.  In this game, the Seahawks were pretty banged up.  Also, this was the game where Percy Harvin reportedly refused to re-enter the game late.  The team was kind of a shitshow at this point in the season, and the Cowboys were an underrated power.  Sort of a perfect storm if you will.  It’s almost too bad we don’t get to play them again, as they may still believe they’re better than us (silly mortals).

Week 7, at St. Louis

The Seahawks had just traded Harvin a couple days before.  The Rams pulled off a road-runner punt return for a TD as well as a fake punt late in the game to seal it.  I’m calling bullshit on this one.  I highly doubt Green Bay will devote their week to a bunch of asinine trick plays to beat us (though, I guess if they’re smart, they probably should, as we seem to fall for it every time).

Week 11, at Kansas City

The defeat where we were at our MOST banged up.  Brandon Mebane had just gone down.  We were on our final week without Bobby Wagner.  And, the Chiefs straight up bullied us with their running game.  Still a hard one to swallow, considering how badly they finished the regular season.

What to take away?  Well, for starters, as I alluded to before, throw out that Rams game.  If the Packers are going to win, they’re going to have to achieve some combination of the other three games:  i.e. develop a running game and stick to it, while at the same time having Aaron Rodgers maintain a level of patience where he sticks to the easy, short throws and doesn’t challenge us deep.  Likewise, they’re going to have to keep him protected.  Yeah, it’s always important to keep your quarterback from getting hit, but it’s especially important in this scenario, as Rodgers is already gimpy and he IS their team.  Without him, they might lose by 40.

Somehow, I just don’t see it.  Eddie Lacy might have some success, but I doubt he’ll have the type of success where he’s gashing us consistently.  Also, let’s face it, there is blood in the water.  Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, and Bruce Irvin must be absolutely licking their chops at the prospects of chasing down an immobile Aaron Rodgers.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see more blitzing out of this defense than we’ve seen at any other time in the last three years.

One key will be whether or not Byron Maxwell is healthy.  I need to see him back and starting on the other side of the field.  Particularly, I need to see him put a stranglehold on Randall Cobb.  Either that, or lock down Jordy Nelson and allow Kam Chancellor the opportunity to put Cobb on his ass a la Wes Welker last year.

On the flipside, I don’t see the Packers stopping our offense.  Once again – like in the run-up to last year’s Super Bowl – people are ignoring the other matchup of our offense vs. their defense.  Yes, the marquee reads “Aaron Rodgers vs. The Legion Of Boom”, but the undercard of “Wilson & Lynch vs. Whatever The Hell The Packers Call Their Defense” is really what’s going to determine things.  If we can get out to a strong start, we’ll take away any hopes they had of running the football.  At that point, it’ll be time to tee off on Rodgers.

I expect the Seahawks to have a MUCH better rushing attack this week compared to last.  The Panthers are stout up front; the Packers … not so much.  I’d expect a 100-yard day out of Lynch at a minimum.  And if they try to stack the box and take him away, well guess what:  Big Game Russell Wilson is back there, ready to take over.  The Seahawks shouldn’t have any trouble moving the ball and scoring on this team.  Oh, and all this talk about Clay Matthews moving from outside to inside linebacker?  Great!  Leave the edges to an inferior defender so Russell Wilson can abuse them with his legs!

I’m sorry, but I’m totally at ease in this game.  The only way we lose is if we screw ourselves with an abundance of turnovers.  Or, if our defense isn’t able to capitalize on turnover opportunities.  It also wouldn’t shock me in the least to see Rodgers go down and have to leave the game at some point prior to the 4th quarter.  Mark it down.  I’m usually wrong, but I don’t see how I can be wrong here.

Come Monday, we’ll all be giddy with anticipation for a repeat Super Bowl appearance.

And, just to get it on the record now, I HOPE we get to play the Patriots.  I’m sorry, but the Colts scare the bejesus out of me.  Their defense is better than they get credit for (especially with Vontae Davis healthy as one of the top cornerbacks int he league).  Luck is obviously the more mobile quarterback, and he’s got tons of weapons to throw to.  Neither team really has much of a rushing attack to worry about, but I just feel like we could get to Brady more often, and we can neutralize Gronk (who is really the only guy to worry about on their team).  Gronk, meet Kam, and get your clock cleaned in the process.

So, yes, go Patriots.  Go Seahawks.  Let’s ring up another championship, boys!

Percy Harvin: Reviewing A Human Failure

This whole Percy Harvin situation deserves more than just a single off-the-cuff missive in the hours following pure Internet anarchy.  With a game post-Harvin under our belts, I feel like it has finally started to sink in.  Still with a lot of fresh and twisted feelings boiling over, of course.

In cases like these, I always wonder what I felt at the time we first acquired someone like Percy Harvin.  Luckily for all of us, I have a blog!  A blog where I get to write down my feelings about things.  Things like:  the Seahawks trading a 1st, 3rd, and 7th round pick for Percy Harvin.  In that first of three posts about the coming of Percy Harvin, I mostly stated my concern over his health.  Seeing as he missed just about all of his first year with the team, I’d say those reservations were pretty well-founded.

Then, I started getting really excited about how great the Seahawks would be with him in the lineup.  Certainly a Glass Half Full outlook, while at the same time acknowledging how he was a head case and a diva back in Minnesota.  Finally, I wrapped up my 3-day Harvin binge with a comparison to the Deion Branch trade with New England way back when.  Ultimately, the Deion Branch trade was bad, but knowing now what I didn’t know then, is the Harvin trade worse?

The bottom line is:  when you make a deal for someone like Percy Harvin, you can’t help – as a fan – to gloss over all the negatives and play the “What If” game.  You always think YOUR team is going to succeed where others failed.  The Seahawks had the added benefit of being really, really good, and it’s ALWAYS more fun to be on a winning team than a losing one.  Finally, when you consider Pete Carroll as a head coach, you think of someone who is pretty easy to work for (compared to some bitter hard-ass like Jim Harbaugh, for instance).

Even if you were a total Negative Nellie at the time the Seahawks brought him in, you had to admit that we would’ve AT LEAST had a couple years of quality Harvin output before things went south.

I mean, how could you look at this guy and not think, “The Sky Is The Limit”?  Great run game, great run-first scheme, young quarterback on the rise, and solid players around him who should benefit from his mere presence.  PLUS, we just signed him to that huge deal; how could he not be happy for at least a couple years?  Especially when one of those years he had to have felt pretty low about himself, considering he missed almost all of it with injury.  It’s hard to second-guess your contract status when you’re injured for 100% of it; you can’t rightly think you’re worth MORE money without being a psychopath.

So, if you’re one to believe in “honeymoon phases”, and you hear about all the anger issues with Harvin not only this year, but LAST year as well, then you have to admit that there’s something seriously wrong with Percy Harvin, mentally.  Quite frankly, he’s not fit to associate with a team of any kind.

Which ultimately is what burns my ass the most.  What a fucking piece of shit!  What a worthless cuntbag of a prick!  Just because he’s fast, he thinks he can dictate terms to the people who employ him.  He thinks he can tell the coaches how to be used and when he’ll go into the game.  If you don’t cater every single fucking thing to this cocksucker, he’s either going to pout or he’s going to clock you in the face.

Make no mistake:  Percy Harvin isn’t worth the money he commands.  If you have to put up with all of his nonsense, he’s not even worth having on your team for free!  He’s not worth the roster spot, let alone the millions he thinks he deserves … and for what?  For being fast?  There are lots of fast guys in the league who don’t poison locker rooms.  Who won’t piss and moan like a fucking infant because they’re not getting the ball enough.

And, let’s face it, it’s not like he’s even that good.  If a guy is going to get injured – or fake injuries – as much as Harvin has in his career, who would you rather have:  Harvin, or an “average” receiver who suits up and plays like a man every week?  Harvin’s not a man; he’s a little child with no moral compass who doesn’t get along with others and doesn’t know how to share.  I don’t know who raised Percy Harvin, but they unquestionably failed as parents, if this is the man he has become as an “adult”.

In the end, I was no more prophetic than I was in this post, comparing Percy Harvin to a Jaguar automobile.  Yes, like a Jag, you spend way too much to get one, because you’re just so excited to be getting your dream car.  And, like any Jag owner knows, you’re selling that bitch for pennies on the dollar just to be rid of the regular maintenance involved in owning one long term.

Here’s the thing, though:  I was willing to put up with the injury concerns.  What I won’t tolerate is what we’ve learned about since the trade last Friday:  how he doesn’t get along with others and how he holds the team hostage by not going into football games.  How he essentially took himself out of that Cowboys game for God knows what reason.  That just sends me into a tailspin of rage.  Only topped by the thought of What Could’ve Been.

There are two paths you can choose to engage.  The first What Could’ve Been scenario is:  Percy Harvin comes to the Seahawks for an exorbitant price and flourishes.  It’s easy to see why the Seahawks were enticed by him, just as Seahawks fans came to believe we were getting the final ingredient to a long and fruitful reign of dominance.  If Harvin would have been willing to play ball and accept his role within the offense, it all could have been really special.  Instead, the coaches felt like they had to build everything around him, which is pretty much what you DON’T want to do.  No wide receiver is that good.  Especially no wide receiver who’s a total head-case.

The other What Could’ve Been scenario is:  What if the Seahawks never traded for him to begin with?

Well, I’ll tell you this much:  we’d still be World Champs.  That will never be taken away from us.  On top of that, there’s a good chance we could’ve kept Golden Tate as our #1 receiver.  I’m not gonna lie to you, it’s KILLING me seeing him do so well in Detroit.  He’s ours!  We found him, we cultivated his talents, and we thrived under his antics (both on and off the field).  When the Seahawks lost Golden Tate, they lost a lot of heart and a lot of the fun that comes with rooting on this team.  Beastmode is fun to root for too – and he certainly represents the identity we’ve tried to establish since he came here – but he’s a different sort of head case.  Like most head cases, when things are going well, Lynch is great to have around.  But, when the chips are down, can we count on him to continue to be the player we need him to be?  Let’s see how the rest of this 2014 season goes before I answer that.

Russell Wilson is fun to root for, but he’s more machine than man.  Doug Baldwin is great to have on the team, but he’s always so serious.  Golden Tate is just pure joy.  I hate to say it, but we’re all going to look back at losing Tate as the reason this team failed to repeat as champions.  And that has a direct correlation with the signing of Harvin to that massive contract extension.

Likewise, him signing here – and us running into that balloon payment in 2014 – resulted in our losing Chris Clemons, Red Bryant, Walter Thurmond, Clinton McDonald, and maybe a couple other guys.  Granted, you can’t hold on to everyone forever, but just knowing that we were a championship ballclub without Harvin REALLY makes this whole fiasco a kick in the crotch.  To have some of those guys – even if it’s just through this year – would have been SO MUCH better.  Especially when you look at the younger replacements we’ve brought in over the last two drafts and see how they’re not doing a fucking thing to help us maintain that championship level.

All of this falls on the shoulders of the Harvin trade and signing.  Yes, it IS easily the biggest mistake of the Pete Carroll/John Schneider collaboration.  There haven’t been a huge amount of these types of boners (the Charlie Whitehurst ordeal comes immediately to mind), but you can see a running theme:  desperation.  The smartest and best franchises never reveal a sense of desperation.  I’m sure, over the years, there have been guys the New England Patriots REALLY REALLY wanted, but they didn’t succumb to their impulses by offering the moon and the stars to get them.  Well-run organizations are on the opposite end:  they wait for great players to fall into their laps, taking advantage of desperate teams willing to unload.

Come to think of it, it’s kind of shocking that they weren’t a trade partner for the Seahawks.  This seems like JUST the type of deal a team like New England would make:  relatively low cost and no risk, as he can be cut after this season with no cap ramifications.

No doubt about it, the Vikings fleeced us like we haven’t been fleeced since the last time they fleeced us in the Steve Hutchinson deal.  I hope their search for a franchise quarterback lasts another hundred years, because Fuck The Vikings.  That trade is a fucking SAVAGING knowing what we know now.  Not only did they get three draft picks, but they got rid of a fucking irredeemable asshole.  The Seahawks got 8 mostly nondescript games of no- or low-impact on Harvin’s part, followed by a 6th round draft pick that can be bounced up to a 4th rounder if he’s on the Jets in 2015 (which, at this point, doesn’t seem TOO likely).  Unless Harvin returns to form and doesn’t drive everyone crazy in the process, while giving the Jets either a few good years of production, or a nice return in trade this off-season, I’m not willing to say we were also fleeced by the Jets, but there’s certainly that chance.  The most important thing here is:  the cancer is gone.  Now, the question remains:  is it too late to save the patient?

No one is going to come out and say that the Seahawks are better off now, without Harvin in the lineup.  But, that’s because most people can’t differentiate Harvin’s Potential from Harvin’s Reality.  Since what’s reported is only his on-field impact (and what’s discarded is how he’s a bad teammate … that is, until AFTER he’s been traded, and then all the horror stories come flooding out), all anyone can think about is the best case scenario of a healthy Harvin added to a young and talented offensive group.

But, the reality is twofold:  Harvin wasn’t bringing enough to the table to be worth the cost, and the Seahawks weren’t using him properly to facilitate him being worth the cost.  I mean, if you’re not even going to ATTEMPT to throw him the ball downfield, how do you expect him to thrive?  Or, for that matter, the offense as a whole?  Yeah, he’s better with the ball in space, near the line of scrimmage, where he can make guys miss and break long gains.  But, if teams are expecting that and only that, Percy Harvin is actually pretty easy to game plan for.  Just zone up in the middle of the field and gang tackle when he has the ball.  See, I just did it, give me a million dollars to be your defensive coordinator.

So, if you accept the reality of our situation, then yes, the Seahawks are better now than they were two weeks ago.  Did it show in that Rams game?  Sort of, as the game went on, the Seahawks’ offense really started to click.  We’ll know more as the season goes along, but I’ll tell you this much:  if we didn’t waste all that fucking time trying to build the offense around Harvin, we’d be much further ahead now than we are.

In the end, there was really no winning with that Percy Harvin deal.  He simply cost us too much in draft picks and in cap space.  The only way he would’ve been worth it is if he played all of 2013 and was a direct contributor to our world championship.  Since we largely did it without him, that really spelled doom for Harvin.

You want to know why so many Seahawks fans have turned on him so quickly and so harshly?  Because Percy Harvin did absolutely nothing to endear himself to the fans.  When you lose a year to injury, then come back in year two and do nothing for us, you’re going to be loathed for that alone.  Then, to top it all off with the stories of him fighting with teammates, and the realization that some of our favorite ex-Seahawks are out there thriving for other teams, there might not be a more hated individual in all 12th Man-ville.

Big money free agents are always at a disadvantage, because they’re always paid a premium for past accomplishments they almost never live up to.  They’re also at a disadvantage because fans automatically gravitate towards players their team drafted and nurtured.  Percy Harvin was a hired gun who meant nothing to us until he started wearing our jersey.  To win our admiration, he would have needed to contribute to our culture of winning.  Instead, he decided to create a culture of animosity and distrust.  Now, he’s gone, and in his wake we have a .500 football team with a lot of injuries and a lot of over-paid stars already not living up to their contracts.  Best case scenario is Addition By Subtraction.

Worst case scenario is:  this is just the first swirling of toilet water in a season being flushed down the drain.  Lord help us …

Seattle Sports Hell 2014 NFL Power Rankings – Week 3

What’s this?  Another reminder to vote for me in the Western Washington Sports Blog competition?  This is absolutely too much!

Sometimes when I’m bored, I’ll plan out my posts for the next couple weeks.  I try to get one post per day, Monday thru Friday, and I like a little routine in my life.  Lately, with football season starting, it’s been:

  • Monday – Seahawks recap
  • Tuesday – Huskies recap
  • Wednesday – Mariners recap
  • Thursday – NFL Power Rankings
  • Friday – Seahawks preview

It’s a good system.  Covers all my bases and sets myself up to not have to think too hard about what’s going on.  But, when we get into BYE weeks, there are gaps to fill.  And, with these power rankings, I always like to have an intro topic to talk about.  Maybe something that’s not worthy of its own post, but still something I find interesting.

Anyway, for today, in my little “note to self” in the section where I have my idea for this post’s intro, I wrote:

Is Anything Wrong With The Seahawks’ Defense?

And then below it, I wrote:

Probably not.

This is what I have to work with for today.  If this doesn’t interest you, I encourage you to skip ahead to the rankings.  Spoiler Alert:  I still like the Seahawks a lot.

So, IS there anything wrong with the Seahawks’ defense?  Again, probably not.  It’s early in the season, so a lot of this is more “gut feeling” than anything tangible.  Also, if you’re in the Excuse-Making game, it’s easy to argue that the Seahawks have faced three of the better offenses – and in particular three of the better quarterbacks – in all of football.  Totally valid.

When I take a step back and look at this team objectively, I see a lot of the same faces we had last year, when the Seahawks were the best in football.  The L.O.B., the linebackers, and many of our stars on the D-Line are all back and all still in the primes of their careers.  Some may be dealing with injuries – either concealed or not – but either way you wouldn’t expect a huge drop-off.  And, I’m not saying there IS a huge drop-off.  But, something feels wonky.  That’s all I’ve got.

The run defense is off-the-charts good and way better than I thought it’d be, considering the loss of Red Bryant and Chris Clemons.  We’re giving up less than 3 yards per carry, and less than 73 yards per game.  That’s GREAT!  So, you won’t hear me speak ill of the rush defense one iota.

The pass defense is a little more unsettling, as we’re giving up 249 yards per game (up from 172 last year), but again, consider the opponents.  When we get to start factoring in the likes of Eli Manning, Cam Newton, and whoever the Rams, Cardinals, and Raiders end up throwing at us, that 249 figure is sure to go down.

AND, not for nothing, but it’s not like the 2013 defense was perfect!  Indy managed 34 points.  A winless Tampa Bay team ran up a huge first half lead before we started our comeback.  And, shit, even the Cardinals – after Palmer had thrown four interceptions – managed a late-game, game-winning touchdown in CenturyLink to delay our winning of the division by a week.

So, really, what am I getting at?  Nothing, I suppose.  Once we put a little more distance between us and that San Diego contest, my nerves should calm down.  And maybe the next time, when a good team is driving down for a game-tying (or game-winning) score, we can nip that in the bud instead of letting them send the game into overtime (or, heavens forbid, another loss).

One interesting trend I’d like to watch going forward is the number of defensive snaps played by each guy on that side of the ball.  The usual suspects are in the 90% range of percentage of plays played (the entire starting four in the L.O.B., Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright at 87.5%), and the next man on the list is Michael Bennett at 76.4% of the defensive snaps.  I want to say that’s up a good 20-or-so percent compared to last year, when most everyone was in the 50-60% range along the defensive line.  We all sort of expected that when Bennett signed the contract extension (and guys like Bryant and Clemons were let go, freeing up more snaps for our new starters), but it’ll be interesting to see how he holds up as the season goes on (especially considering the BYE week is happening now, followed by 13 straight weeks of football).

Avril’s snaps are up as well, to 67.6%.  Everyone else is down in that 40-50% range that we like to see.  So, for all this talk about teams using the hurry-up offense to keep us from rotating guys in and out, we can rest assured that it’s all mostly just talk.

In the end, it’s going to come down to injuries.  If the defense can stay healthy, it will still be great.  If we start losing guys left and right, then we’re probably in trouble (but, you can say that about anyone).  Having Kam Chancellor playing through ankle issues is a little distressing.  As I said before, I’d rather he get the surgery done now if it means he’d be able to return later this season.  I’d rather have him 100% for a playoff run than have him 75% now and deteriorating by the week.  This thing isn’t going to magically get BETTER on its own without rest or surgery.  Since he’s having neither the rest of the way, don’t be shocked if at some point down the line we end up losing our starting strong safety for the season.  Either due to this issue, or some other issue related to this one because he’s compensating.  Me no like.

***

  1. Seattle Seahawks (2-1) – That’s what we call a “sigh of relief”.  Now we get a week off to rest our injured player (singular) before another road game against another tough offense.  Watch out for the Redskins, that’s all I’m saying!  I’m just kidding, I’m not saying anything; and their defense is beyond a joke.
  2. Denver Broncos (2-1) – I can’t say that I’m QUITE as convinced as ever that it’ll be a Broncos/Seahawks repeat in the next Super Bowl, but I’m fairly certain the AFC will feature either the Broncos or the Bengals.  Big matchup between those two teams in Cincinnati in week 16.
  3. Cincinnati Bengals (3-0) – So, that’s kinda weird:  the best three teams in football all have BYEs in week 4.
  4. Philadelphia Eagles (3-0) – They’re not much on defense, but with the talent and scheme they’ve got on the other side of the ball, I’m not even sure they NEED to field a defense to win the NFC East.
  5. Arizona Cardinals (3-0) – They’re not much on offense, but with the talent and scheme they’ve got on the other side of the ball, I’m not even sure they NEED to field an offense to win the NFC East (wait …).
  6. New Orleans Saints (1-2) – To inspire the least bit of confidence in my opinion of this team, they COULD have put up a better effort against a hapless Vikings team.  That’s all I’m saying.
  7. Detroit Lions (2-1) – I’m not gonna lie to you, but I’m gaining more and more confidence in their ability to win the NFC North with every passing week.  Or, at the very least, have a better record than the fucking Packers.
  8. San Diego Chargers (2-1) – The only loss is by 1 point on the road to a very good Cardinals team.  For the record, on Thursday, October 23rd, they play the Broncos for the first time.  I will be watching that game.
  9. Atlanta Falcons (2-1) – I got perverse joy out of that Thursday night dismantling of the Bucs.  Mostly because Matt Ryan is my quarterback in fantasy and before the season started I was THIS close to trading him straight up for Jamaal Charles (it’s a keeper league).
  10. Indianapolis Colts (1-2) – They lost two games by one score apiece to two very good teams (Eagles & Broncos).  Their schedule the rest of the way looks about as reasonable as a schedule can be.  If Luck stays healthy, even with their suspect defense, I could see them finishing 13-3.  Mark it down now.
  11. New England Patriots (2-1) – Anyone else less than impressed by the Patriots right now?  A pretty bad loss down in Miami in week 1, and now a pretty ugly win at home against the Raiders.  THIS is supposed to be the team that contends with the Broncos for the Super Bowl?
  12. San Francisco 49ers (1-2) – AH-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH.  *Takes a deep breath* … HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
  13. Chicago Bears (2-1) – Big test this week against the Packers.
  14. Green Bay Packers (1-2) – Stunk up the joint in Seattle.  Let the Jets get out to a big lead before mounting a comeback.  Stunk up the joint again in Detroit.  We always wonder about the Packers’ defense, but what’s going on with the offense?
  15. Carolina Panthers (2-1) – I couldn’t possibly fathom what happened in that game against the Steelers, but I’m grateful (my fantasy team was going up against a guy with the Panthers’ defense).  This is going to be a tough team to peg all year, I can already tell.
  16. Baltimore Ravens (2-1) – The Ravens play 5 of their 6 divisional games by week 9.  Their schedule the rest of the way looks less-than-ideal; they might not win more than 1 more road game going forward.
  17. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1) – Their defense looks pretty good when the opposing offense has no skill position players!
  18. Dallas Cowboys (2-1) – A lot of people (myself included) jumped off the Cowboys bandwagon pretty hard after week 1.  Not that the bandwagon was filled with a bunch of people thinking this was a playoff team; but this also isn’t a team that’s going to be held to 4 wins or less.  As long as that offense has its stars, they’ll be able to out-score some of the crummier teams out there.
  19. Washington Redskins (1-2) – KILL ME, I like this team about a million times more with Cousins at quarterback.  RGIII might go down as a Top 5 most disappointing NFL player of all time (not counting the wife beaters, child abusers, dog killers, human killers, and so on).
  20. Kansas City Chiefs (1-2) – Don’t get too excited, it’s only the Miami Dolphins that they beat.
  21. New York Jets (1-2) – Even in defeat, this team is showing me more fight and vigor than these teams below them in the rankings.
  22. Buffalo Bills (2-1) – Stop trying to talk yourself into the Bills.  It’s not going to happen.
  23. Miami Dolphins (1-2) – Well, after a strong opener against the Patriots, they’ve followed that up with two clunkers.  Suffice it to say, the new offense isn’t clicking like they’d envisioned.
  24. Cleveland Browns (1-2) – They’re bad, but they’re not the worst.  I hope they keep themselves close in all their games so Johnny Football rots on the fucking bench for the rest of his life.
  25. Tennessee Titans (1-2) – Jake Locker has the best job security in the NFL, and it’s not even as a result of him being all that talented!  When your only alternative is Charlie Whitehurst, you’d stick with Matt Cassel himself to avoid having to watch Clipboard Jesus boner his way through a football game.
  26. St. Louis Rams (1-2) – A little birdie told me that the Rams, as a team, only have one sack on the season.  That’s … less than ideal.
  27. New York Giants (1-2) – The Giants are like the Cowboys except without the talented stars on offense.  Which might be the biggest insult I’ve ever written about anyone.
  28. Houston Texans (2-1) – I’ll never understand how Ryan Fitzpatrick Who Went To Harvard ever gets a starting job in the NFL.  It would seem to me that Ryan Fitzpatrick Who Went To Harvard would be better suited as a career backup, and playing absolutely anyone other than Ryan Fitzpatrick Who Went To Harvard would be the better option.  But, you know, that’s just me.
  29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-3) – Hey who knew giving a career backup a starting job following a crazy-insane stretch of just a few good games would blow up in a team’s face?  I certainly didn’t, because I think I picked the Bucs to be a playoff team.  But, I’m an idiot, so that’s to be expected.  One of these years, the Bucs WILL make it back to the playoffs; just not this year.
  30. Minnesota Vikings (1-2) – This offense is the WORST!  Norv Turner needs to be given the Old Yeller treatment.  How hard is it to simply have Cordarrelle Patterson run a crossing pattern each and every pass play?  It’s pretty obvious that the quarterbacks they have aren’t ready for the down-field passing scheme Norv is famous for, so it’s time to change the scheme to fit the personnel.  NORV!
  31. Oakland Raiders (0-3) – I got nothing.  At least the Raiders have three straight home games (with a BYE week thrown in) to really rest up and enjoy the end of the Bay Area summer.
  32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-3) – Blake Bortles is your starting quarterback for the rest of the season!  Hope he doesn’t get killed by your offensive line!

Seattle Sports Hell 2014 NFL Power Rankings – Week 2

I’m still firmly in the camp of the Seahawks being the best team in football until some other team (or teams) jump out and prove themselves superior … but I can’t help having these nagging worries.  Doesn’t it feel like something’s a little off about this year’s team?  I read all these quotes and they’re as encouraging as always:

  • About how our stars are working harder than ever before
  • About how guys are in the best shapes of their lives
  • About how everyone is still hungry and that winning a Super Bowl has only made them hungrier

But, I dunno.  This is more of a gut feeling than anything, but it just feels like we’re going through the motions.  Like, everyone’s on auto-pilot until they decide to turn it on and ramp it up.  Which, in most cases, our auto-pilot is better than most other teams’ 100% effort, but it’s still cause for concern.

I just wonder why it looks so BLAH out there.  Is it Super Bowl Hangover?  Is it because we know we’re so very good, we can’t see anyone else as a threat?  Like that smart kid in school who acts out because he’s not challenged?  Or, have we lost our heart?

Golden Tate, Red Bryant, and Chris Clemons all play for other teams.  They were all either released, or it was made very clear to them that we didn’t want them back or need them back.  Those three guys were also three of the biggest personalities on the team.  Tate had a swagger about him that was the perfect complement to Beastmode’s tenacious desire.  He could dish out the shit-talking and he could back it up.  When the offense or special teams needed a big play, Tate’s sheer force of will would make it happen, no matter what it required.

Red Bryant was the leader on defense.  Not the signal-caller – that job belongs to Wagner – but he was the emotional leader for sure.  I can’t count the number of times I’d see him make a big play and then stomp around like a rabid elephant, barking at everyone around him that they were NOT going to run it in his direction!  Everyone looked up to him and voted him defensive captain.  It can’t be easy to lose that, because there’s a void bigger than his 330-pound frame left in his place.

And, by all accounts, Chris Clemons was the resident hard ass.  He’s all business, and he’s in the business of tearing some new assholes out of opposing quarterbacks.  When you look at these three guys, the word that comes to mind is:  intensity.  They had it, and we’ve lost it.  Sure, Earl Thomas brings the fire.  But, even he seems a bit scaled back this year.  I see it a little more in Bobby Wagner, which is nice, but it would be better to see it out of more guys.  I don’t care what anyone says, we need emotional leaders to step up.  When you tack on the loss of Michael Robinson, Sidney Rice, and so on, this could be a major problem for this team going forward.

The main take-away after two games is:  opposing offenses are going to be in no-huddle mode as much as possible, to prevent us from substituting on defense.  Part of me says, “BRING IT ON, BITCH!”  But, part of me also knows that subbing guys in and out regularly is what kept this team fresh, especially along the defensive line.

Now, obviously, not all teams are going to be able to do this, but the good ones will.  We were successful against Green Bay, but we were a trainwreck against San Diego.  Maybe it WAS just the weather and other circumstances that prevented us from playing our best last week, or maybe that’s just how it’s going to go:  the best teams are going to go no-huddle, and sometimes we’ll win, and sometimes we’ll lose.  The bad thing about that is:  if we want the #1 seed again, we can’t afford to lose too many games.  Three is about the limit.  We’ve already lost one, with Denver coming to town in a few days.  If we start the season 1-2, it’s going to require a ton of effort and a lot of luck to get back to 13-3.

I’m not in “Sky Is Falling” mode just yet.  I won’t even be in “Sky Is Falling” mode if we lose to the Broncos this weekend.  I know that our schedule has an 8-game creamy center of easiness that should have us red hot by the time we play the 49ers and Eagles in late November/early December.  I also know that it’s not how you start, but how you finish.  No one ever won a Super Bowl in September.  I’d MUCH rather we play our best football in December and January instead of right now.

But, while slow starts aren’t necessarily fatal, they can hurt an awful lot.  For my own peace of mind, I’d be delighted to see the Seahawks stick to taking care of business against these pass-first offenses like they’re supposed to.

***

  1. Seattle Seahawks (1-1) – Until further notice, this year will resemble 2013 in a lot of ways:  it’s the Seahawks & Broncos in some order at the top, and then everyone else.  No loss to an old AFC West foe – that we will never face again this year – will change that.
  2. Denver Broncos (2-0) – The proof will be in the pudding this weekend as the Broncos travel to Seattle.  They’re 2-0 at home with a couple comfortable 1-score victories.  Let’s see if they can take their show on the road in their toughest matchup of the year.
  3. Cincinnati Bengals (2-0) – This is as complete a team as it gets, with their feisty defense.  Losing A.J. Green isn’t ideal, so it’ll be interesting to see how they manage until his return.
  4. New Orleans Saints (0-2) – The defense scares me, but it also hasn’t had a chance to get a home game under its belt.  My feeling is that it can’t get much worse, and the offense will start clicking.  Bank on the Saints being one of those rare 0-2 teams to win a division.
  5. New England Patriots (1-1) – Start on the road in 3 of their first 4 and 4 of their first 6 games of the season.  That’s rough.  They’re still good (though, it’s possible Miami is better than we thought).
  6. San Francisco 49ers (1-1) – Hahahaha, I can’t believe I gave up on that Bears game and they ended up coming back to win!  What a gift!  49ers still look pretty strong, considering their injuries.  But, if their offense doesn’t take the next step, this team will be doomed.
  7. San Diego Chargers (1-1) – Well, they blew a late lead on the road against what appears to be a better-than-expected Cardinals team.  Then, they gave the Seahawks the business.  This team’s legit.
  8. Philadelphia Eagles (2-0) – Yes, they’re undefeated, and yes, their offense is explosive.  But, it should probably be concerning that they keep starting games so shabbily.
  9. Green Bay Packers (1-1) – Is it possible the Packers are WORSE than expected?  Well, I didn’t expect them to win their division, so maybe they’re just “as expected” in my book.
  10. Arizona Cardinals (2-0) – If they can continue to play teams tough, even without Carson Palmer, that doesn’t make me feel good.  Their immediate future is a little rocky with games against the 49ers, Broncos, and Eagles coming up in the next few weeks; I don’t think they stay a Top 10 team for long.
  11. Carolina Panthers (2-0) – I must say, this is a pleasant surprise if you don’t hate the Panthers.  I still have my doubts that they’ll be able to continue winning over the long haul, but they’re clearly not the bottom-feeders I thought originally.
  12. Indianapolis Colts (0-2) – You look at Andrew Luck – if you’re an objective football viewer and not necessarily a fan of either the Colts or the Seahawks – and you think:  yeah, I’d rather have him over Russell Wilson.  I guess he passes the eyeball test or whatever.  But, he’s streaky!  He goes through long periods of sucking before turning it on.  Yes, he’s able to generate breathtaking comebacks in those games where they start so poorly, but you have to ask yourself:  is he part of the problem?  Or, conversely, if you swapped quarterbacks, and Luck got to enjoy all the talent around him that the Seahawks have to offer (along with a coaching staff that preaches ball control and plays a different style of offense than the Colts), would he be better than he is right now, on the Colts?  Would Wilson be remarkably worse if he played in Indy and had a crap defense with no running game and a pass-first mentality?  These are the questions.  I don’t necessarily have the answers, though.
  13. Baltimore Ravens (1-1) – I’m still in wait-and-see mode with this team.  They strike me as a team right around .500, but who knows?
  14. Chicago Bears (1-1) – So, they lay an egg at home against the Bills, then they lay another egg on the road in San Francisco before getting hot in the 4th quarter to steal one.  Again, I appreciate the sentiment, but I’m still not buying the Bears as a legitimate playoff team.
  15. Detroit Lions (1-1) – Well, they’ve beat up on a terrible Giants team, then got throttled by a sneaky good Panthers team.  Probably not the start they envisioned, but then again I don’t think the rest of the teams in that division are all that great either.
  16. Atlanta Falcons (1-1) – You put a good defense in front of Matt Ryan and he’s going to struggle.  The good news is, they don’t play what I would consider another “good” defense for another nine weeks.  And, by then, who knows where the Panthers will be?
  17. Miami Dolphins (1-1) – No, I don’t think Buffalo is all that good.  I think the Dolphins kicked one they should’ve won.  Their schedule going forward is pretty cheesy, so they SHOULD still be able to parlay that into a good record.  But, watch out for games like we saw last weekend, because they’ll show up again.
  18. Dallas Cowboys (1-1) – That’s a bad team right there.  But, they’re in a bad division and their offense is kinda okay.  If they manage to stick with the run game, their offense could even be GREAT.  Or, at least good enough to keep them in enough ballgames to be interesting.
  19. Kansas City Chiefs (0-2) – They’re screwed.  They’re even more screwed if Jamaal Charles goes down.
  20. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1) – Probably not as bad as that Thursday performance, but still not very good.  Their defensive line is shot, their secondary is less-than-ideal, and their cap situation is a joke.  You’re going to hear the words “Blow Up” when it comes to the Steelers more than a few times this year.  These are the lean times.
  21. Buffalo Bills (2-0) – Well, if any city deserves a pleasant surprise, it’s Buffalo.  I wouldn’t expect it to last though.
  22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-2) – Lost two home games and two conference games (one in the division).  THAT’S what we call a bad start.  Every year, I get sucked into the Bucs and every year they come out of the gate in a fucking coma.  Now, they play three straight on the road, starting with tonight in Atlanta (followed by Pittsburgh and New Orleans).  Can you say 0-5?
  23. Tennessee Titans (1-1) – They won a game 26-10 and lost a game 26-10.  Those are weird scores to have in a football game, let alone in back-to-back games.  That’s all I have to say about the Titans.
  24. New York Jets (1-1) – I’m even more interested in what the Jets have to offer after almost sticking it to the Packers.  They’re not a good team, don’t get me wrong; but can they be decent?
  25. Cleveland Browns (1-1) – I know the Browns can be decent!  Do they weirdly have the Saints’ number, or is it just me?
  26. Washington Redskins (1-1) – I’m definitely more afraid of the Redskins with Cousins than I am with RGIII.  A lot of unhappy fantasy owners this week.
  27. St. Louis Rams (1-1) – You still have to write off the Rams, right?  Yeah, I think so.  I think so …
  28. Houston Texans (2-0) – Yes, they’re undefeated, but they’ve only played the dregs of the league.  Washington and Oakland?  No thank you.
  29. New York Giants (0-2) – This team is amazingly bad and in need of a total overhaul from top to bottom.  They remind me a lot of the 2008/2009 Seahawks.
  30. Minnesota Vikings (1-1) – I don’t know how much you can learn about a team that’s faced one of the worst teams (with a ton of injuries) and one of the best teams.  One thing is for certain:  Matt Cassel needs to be out of football.
  31. Oakland Raiders (0-2) – Derek Carr isn’t quite the world-beater I thought he was going to be.  Then again, they’ve faced two pretty solid defenses with the Texans and Jets.  Doesn’t get much easier with the Patriots and Dolphins coming up.
  32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2) – In a freak occurrence, they took a 17-0 lead against the Eagles.  They have since been outscored 75-10.  Worst team in football, you’ve returned to me!