Hope You’re Ready For The Seahawks To Be Obliterated

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seattle Seahawks 2018 Preview Part 2: The Bad Stuff

Yesterday, we took a look at the bright side of this season.  If everything breaks right, what COULD happen, including a possible division title and beyond.  Today, we’re going hard negative.

If you played this season 100 times, probably 90 of them will be about the same:  the Seahawks will finish somewhere between 7-9 and 9-7.  The ceiling, while remote, is a division-winning playoff team (likely requiring the Rams to fall apart completely).  The floor, while also remote, is an 0-16 team pushing for that #1 draft pick in 2019.  How does that happen?  Well, if Russell Wilson has a season-ending injury in the first game of the year, then I’m sorry, but it’s Tank City.  While I don’t expect him to get injured, I’m not completely ruling it out.  Make no mistake, this year – as well as the foreseeable future – it’s going to be all about Mr. Wilson.  We go where he takes us.

A couple teams come to mind as comparable to the Seahawks.  For the purposes of this argument, throw out the New England Patriots.  Our coaching staff isn’t on par and Russell Wilson isn’t Tom Brady.  Not yet, anyway.  No, for this exercise, I’m thinking about the Green Bay Packers and the New Orleans Saints.

See, most years (in the Aaron Rodgers regime), the Packers boil down to an elite QB, some nice skill guys on offense, and a bunch of trash on defense.  Ditto the Saints under Drew Brees.  You could argue the Saints’ defense has been much more maligned, but I’ve seen more than my fair share of terrible Packers defenses.  And yet, the Packers are always seen as a potential division winner, solely because they have Aaron Rodgers at the helm; yet, the Saints more often than not are seen as a .500-ish ballclub, only being held afloat by the will of Brees.

So, where do these Seahawks fall?  One could make the argument that right now, Russell Wilson is as good as Aaron Rodgers.  He’s certainly just as important to the success of this team as A-Rod is to his.  Yet, me and most everyone else feels this team more closely resembles those mediocre Saints teams we’ve seen for much of the last decade.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t see a whole helluva lot of difference between Brees, Rodgers, and Wilson, so what gives?

Well, for starters, I think this defense is a lot closer to the bottom of the NFL than it is to the top.  I see a defense without a pass rush.  I see a defense that can’t force any turnovers out of its secondary.  I see a defense that’s just sort of okay at stopping the run.  And, I see a defense that’s tissue paper-thin.  If we start losing too many starters, there will be a tipping point, and we’ll be talking about the 32nd ranked unit in the NFL before too long.

So much has to go right just for this defense to be middle-of-the-road!  If we just talk about health, we’re already talking about a team with an injured K.J. Wright who’s missing at least Week 1, if not more.  Also, not for nothing, but when he was out there this pre-season, Wright wasn’t looking like his usual self; has he started the downside of his career?  There’s Dion Jordan, who’s supposed to be one of our main pass rushing ends; he missed the entire pre-season, has a lot of degenerative issues, and probably shouldn’t be counted on to finish more than 6-8 games this year (forget starts; anyone can start a game and go out after one series; I want to know how many games this guy can FINISH).  Even if Jordan is healthy, do we know if he’s actually good?  Sure, he looks the part, but looks don’t pressure opposing QBs.  Our other main rush end is Frank Clark; are we sure HE’S good?  He’s looked pretty good so far in his career, like a guy about to earn a big contract extension.  But, is he WORTH that kind of money?  Or, is he just going to get that money regardless of whether or not he takes another step in his development?  My main question with Clark is:  does he even WANT to be great?

It seems to me like this entire defense is being held together by Bobby Wagner and duct tape.  While he’s one of the best middle linebackers in the league, he can’t do literally everything.  It might be different if we had one more year of Earl Thomas in his prime, but that ain’t happening.  We’ve seen countless times how this team looks without Earl and Kam in the defensive backfield; now we start an entire era of football without those guys!  It’s not going to be pretty!

I’m curious to see the impact of potentially having Earl Thomas back for one more year.  He’s certainly a game-changer for this secondary, as the significant improvement of ET over TT could be a 2-3 game improvement in overall wins.  But, will his heart be in it?  Will the team still find a way to trade him midway through the season?  And, maybe most importantly, will he be able to stay healthy?  Without a training camp or a pre-season, how many times have we seen guys return from holdouts only to immediately twist an ankle or tweak a hammy or something?  I’ll believe he’s The Real Earl Thomas when I see it.

We’re all hanging our hats on Pete Carroll being a defensive-minded football coach whose specialty is the secondary, while we clap our hands and blindly say into the shadows, “We’ll be fine.”  But, will we?  Why?  Because Shaquill Griffin looked better than expected as a rookie?  How many career interceptions does he have?  One.  He has one.  Sure, he’s a fine cover corner, but he can’t cover literally everyone, and he’s not what anyone would call a “lockdown” corner, so he’s going to give up a good number of catches and yards.  He feels a lot closer to Marcus Trufant than Richard Sherman, and that’s a problem, because he’s supposed to be far and away the best corner on this team, which means the drop-off is significant.  Justin Coleman, almost certainly, is the actual best cornerback on this roster, and he’ll do well in his role covering slot receivers, but those guys don’t play every single down.  We have some schlub playing opposite Griffin who will almost certainly be the bane of our existence as early as the very first game of the season.

I think the defense is going to be very, very bad.  What’s worse, I’m afraid we won’t see the type of improvement over the course of this season to give us any hope for the future.  The L.O.B. is dead.  And it’s never coming back.

As I wrote about yesterday, the season hinges on the offense, and the offense hinges on Russell Wilson, so getting back to my point at the top, can he single-handedly carry this beached whale of a team into the playoffs?

I’m gonna guess probably not.  I do think he’s closer to Drew Brees than Aaron Rodgers (as I think this defense is closer to the very worst Saints defenses than it is to the Packers).  I also think the challenges presented within our division, within our conference, and with the schedule we’ve been saddled with, all conspire against us doing a damn thing in 2018.

The Rams are flat out better than the Seahawks, end of story.  You can question their long-term viability.  You can look at all the superstars they acquired the past couple seasons and think an implosion is on the horizon.  Indeed, even if the chemistry is top notch, they won’t be able to pay everyone forever, so EVENTUALLY things will break apart.  But, not in 2018.  In 2018, they’re going to be one of the 2 or 3 best teams in the entire NFL (hell, maybe THE best team).  Barring a multitude of injuries to the Rams, there’s no way we beat them in either game we play against them.

The 49ers are at least as good as the Seahawks, with a MUCH higher upside in the near future.  The 49ers could be a playoff team as early as THIS year, if Jimmy G continues to shred defenses like he did last year.  I have my doubts; I’m not nearly as high on them as some people – who have them as their dark horse darlings – but they’ll still be tough.  I can’t guarantee 2 wins against them; I can’t even guarantee 1!

Then, there’s the Cards.  They seem like they’ll be pretty bad.  But, that’s no guarantee that they’ll necessarily be bad against the Seahawks!  Sam Bradford is usually pretty careful with the ball; as long as he’s healthy, that’s a viable offense that should have zero trouble moving the ball against our defense.  And, they have just enough veterans on the defensive side of the ball to get stops and make our lives miserable.  The Seahawks probably SHOULD beat the Cardinals twice, but would it shock you to see us slip in either of these games?  Shit, at our very best, we still managed to lose to Jeff Fisher’s Rams more times than I care to count!

We catch the Broncos on the road; they have savvy vets all over the place.  We catch the Bears on a potential upswing (their defense looks like it could give us fits in week 2).  We play the Cowboys with their awesome rushing attack.  We have to go all the way to London for some stupid reason; who knows how that Raiders game turns out?  We go to Detroit who has an offense that should shred us no problem.  We host the Chargers, whose quarterback ALWAYS shreds even the very best versions of our defense.  We host the Packers on a short week, they’re expected to compete for a Super Bowl.  We go to Carolina, that feels like a demoralizing loss waiting to happen.  We host the Vikings on Monday night; they’re also expected to compete for a Super Bowl.  And, we host the Chiefs, who are always good and solidly coached under Andy Reid.

I’ve spent the entirety of this pre-season being pretty impressed by our starting units on both sides of the ball.  I think both our offense and defense have looked better than I anticipated (while our depth is non-existent).  My thought process all along has been that maybe the Seahawks can hang around, but once injuries mount, we’ll be toast.  But, the more I look at the schedule, at the crop of QBs we have to go up against, and everything else, I can present an easy argument on why the Seahawks might lose each and every one of those games!  Yet, the only argument in our favor is Russell Wilson.  Russell Is Magic, but he’s not THAT much magic!

I’m still of the belief that the O-Line will be much better than people think, but they’re still not going to be perfect.  They’re probably not even going to rank in the top 10!  When compared to past Seahawks O-Lines under Tom Cable, they’ll look like world-beaters, but that’s not saying much.  The point is, they should open up some holes to run through, and they should give Russell Wilson plenty of time to throw.

But, do we trust Wilson to always do the right thing?

I believe the Seahawks will be behind in a lot of games.  That’s going to put more of the burden on Wilson to pull our asses out of the fire.  He’s pretty great, but he still makes a good number of mistakes, trying to prolong plays, keep drives alive.  He’s always looking down field for the big play, and as a result misses a lot of positive plays around the line of scrimmage.  He takes too many sacks, and he puts a lot of balls in harm’s way.  I mean, we saw the Seahawks behind in a lot of games back when the defense was good; why was that?  A lot of times because Wilson turned the ball over or otherwise couldn’t get the fucking offense moving in the first quarter.  How much of that was on the O-Line vs. on Wilson himself?

Well, I guess we’ll find out this year.  Because the O-Line WILL be better.  And, when it is, if we still find Wilson making similar mistakes, then we have to admit that he’s not the be-all, end-all.  He’s good enough to take even the worst teams to an 8-8 record, but he’s not good enough to single-handedly get us into the playoffs.  He’s like almost every other quarterback in the league (particularly every other quarterback who doesn’t spend his entire career in the AFC Least); he needs help.  And the Seahawks don’t have enough help around him to get this team to where it wants to go.

The Seahawks won’t make the playoffs this year.  I know I predicted the Seahawks to go 9-7 in my season picks, but if I were you I’d bet the family farm on under 9 wins.  I’d even be inclined to take under 8 wins.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s Talk About Competitions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pre-Pre-Season Preview: Seahawks Pass 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’ Pass Defense.

Cornerbacks

Ahh yes, the great unknown.  There are certain groups I’m really excited to see this pre-season:  the running backs, the wide receivers, the offensive line (weirdly enough), and of course the rookie punter; having a lot of new pieces to work with is something to look forward to.  But, as for the cornerbacks, ironically enough I’m just nervous.

Last year, I thought we were pretty solid at cornerback up until Richard Sherman was out for the season (and his Seahawks career, as it turns out).  If I was grading this group before the season, I probably would’ve been in the B+ or A- range.  Obviously, with Sherm, one side is taken care of.  But, we had a lot of questions about the other side, as well as the nickel spot.

This year, Sherm is gone, which is obviously a HUGE blow.  But, Shaquill Griffin looked really good for a rookie, holding his own opposite our Hall of Famer.  Now, Griffin crosses over, inheriting Sherm’s side of the field, but in spite of his promising first year, there are still more questions.  First and foremost:  can he take that next step?  Can he go from a prospect with a lot of potential to a Pro Bowler?  It’s asking too much for him to be Sherm 2.0, but can he approach that sort of greatness?  He had just the 1 INT last year, and he WILL be tested in year two; so can we make other teams pay?  Passes defended are great, but with this defense’s lack of a pass rush, we’re going to need as many turnovers as we can get.  Taking advantage of the league’s overconfidence in throwing on Griffin is our best bet.

Other questions include:  will the switching of sides work against Griffin’s development?  I wouldn’t think so, and the team doesn’t seem too concerned about it, but you never know.  Also, will we run into a worst case scenario situation of a Sophomore Slump?  If this team is ever going to get back to its former glories while we’re still in Russell Wilson’s prime, we’re going to need stars blossoming around him.  Griffin has the potential to be a star; a regression would be utter disaster.

Until I see different, I can only expect this to be a downgrade from Sherm to Griffin.  I think it’s appropriate to move on and get younger, but all the same Griffin is no guarantee.  As such, that also points to a downgrade opposite of Griffin, where Byron Maxwell figures to get first crack at the job.  We got him back on a 1-year prove-it deal, which again is a move I agree with, but he’s clearly lost a step since the last time he was with the Seahawks (before his big money deal with Philly).  Don’t get me wrong, I think Maxwell is fine, but he’s likely not going to be as good as Griffin was last year, and he’s certainly not a long-term solution.

One area where the Seahawks really hit it big was getting Justin Coleman to be the nickel guy.  He was terrific last year and I would expect more of the same this year!

Beyond the core three, we’re bound to see a lot of competition for the final spots.  Dontae Johnson is a 5th year guy out of San Francisco who I’d expect is nothing more than insurance, in the event our younger guys don’t pan out.  Akeem King is in his 3rd year and seems like more of a project who’s getting a final shot to make the NFL.  Neiko Thorpe is back, but the team has always had him pegged as a Special Teams ace.  It feels like Thorpe will actually have to show something on the defensive side of the ball, or else risk getting the ax for salary cap purposes (as we look a lot better up and down our Special Teams roster).  DeAndre Elliott is an interesting name, in his third year with the Seahawks.  He’s been bitten by the injury bug, but he knows the system and has showed a lot of promise in past pre-seasons.  If anyone is going to beat out Byron Maxwell, I think Elliott has a real shot.  Then, we’ve got Mike Tyson, who gets another crack at trying to make the team.  Seems like the biggest longshot.

Then, there’s rookie Tre Flowers, selected in the 5th round.  He’s listed as a safety, but all signs point to him getting a crack at one of the outside corner spots.  He’s got the size, but it’s probably premature to expect him to make an impact right out of the gate.

All in all, this is the toughest position for me to grade.  I think there’s real potential for this group to get up to an A-, but there’s also a very real possibility they fall to a C-.  The scheme and the coaching staff alone probably prevents this group from being total F’s, but it’s tough because we’ve been so spoiled since 2011.  We’ve had A’s in there just about every year, written in pen, before putting in even the slightest amount of thought.  So, my grade is a B-, with the hope that I’m REALLY underestimating these guys.

Safeties

No Kam Chancellor, out injured, never to play again.  No Earl Thomas, holding out on the final year of his deal, not likely to return to the Seahawks ever again (unless we hard-line teams trying to trade for him, in which case I’d expect to see him in Week 11, with his heart certainly not in it).

So, yeah, HUGE downgrade from a season ago!

Bradley McDougald was signed before last year as insurance against injuries, and it turned out to be one of the more insightful moves the team has made in free agency.  He was brought back, and figures to start at Earl’s spot.  I don’t remember a lot about his play last year, but from what I’ve been told he was fine.  I don’t remember any glaring weaknesses, but I also don’t sit there and pour through the game tape with a fine-tooth comb.  He feels like a Replacement Level player, or maybe a little better.  Just an average starting safety; he won’t wow you, but he also won’t look bad very often.

And it gets more dicey from there.

I guess Delano Hill gets his shot – in his second year – to take over for Kam.  I don’t remember him playing at all last year, outside of special teams I guess.  So, really, anything goes here.  He was never going to play significantly as a rookie regardless, because there were 3 guys ahead of him on the depth chart, so maybe he’s secretly great and we just have no idea!  I mean, Kam came out of nowhere in his second year – taking over for Lawyer Milloy – and he was an absolute revelation; maybe we’re in for something similar again this year!

Something tells me to not hold my breath.

Beyond that, Maurice Alexander appears to be our veteran insurance, in his fifth season after playing for the Rams.  He’s just a guy, but he’s almost guaranteed to make the team based on his experience level alone.  Tedric Thompson is obviously someone we all know – taken in the same draft as Hill, in the 4th round – but everything I’ve read has been disappointing.  He definitely doesn’t look like he’s going to be Earl 2.0.  Beyond that:  a whole lotta nothin’.

I’m grading this a D+ and crossing my fingers.  McDougald isn’t a long-term solution, Hill might be okay, but nobody is going to be the next Earl.  That’ll have a ripple effect on the cornerbacks and everyone else in pass defense.

Linebackers

I’ll wrap it up here with another love-fest for the linebackers.  K.J. Wright leads the show here, and he’s remarkable in pass defense.  Bobby Wagner isn’t far behind him, as he’s also excellent in everything he does.  Shaquem Griffin could be a nice little weapon for us, as he’s got speed for days.  I give this group an A.

Overall, while I expect the organization to coach these guys up to respectability, the pass defense isn’t going to be the strength it once was.  With the lack of pass rush, as I talked about before, I would expect a lot of long drives and a lot of third downs converted.

To counter-balance that, my hope is we can generate a lot of turnovers.  I do expect run defense to be our strength on this side of the ball, which leads me to hope that teams try to throw more.  In that scenario, if the Seahawks are going to contend for the playoffs, they’re going to need turnovers.  Lots of interceptions, and lots of luck with recovering fumbles.  Those are IMPOSSIBLE to predict, of course, so to go into a season expecting this would be insane.

Given the crop of quarterbacks we’re scheduled to face this year, I think we can see Shaquill Griffin take the next step, we can see Justin Coleman to continue to be great in the middle, we can have our linebackers do their thing, we can get competent play out of our other cornerback spot, and we can get competent play out of our safeties and I STILL think teams will have little trouble moving the ball against this pass defense.  It’s impossible to cover guys for 8, 9, 10 seconds per play.

We saw the defense as a whole take a little bit of a step back in 2017, as guys got injured and whatnot.  I think most fans are expecting maybe even a little more of a step back – maybe towards the middle of the pack, in the NFL rankings – but I’m here to tell you that I think our pass defense is going to be in the bottom third, or even bottom quarter, of the entire league.  It’s going to be gross.  We’re going to give up A LOT of points, and it’s only going to be those games where the offense is really humming that we’re going to win.  Don’t look for those low-scoring, grind-it-out games where the defense keeps us in it until the offense can get going in the 4th quarter, because we won’t be winning games like that this year!

The plus side about the defense as a whole is there’s more chance for variance.  If I’m right, then we’ll be terrible.  But, if I’m wrong, there’s a chance we could be great.  Maybe not in the top 3, but top third of the league isn’t out of the question.  If we can be as good as we were last year, as far as giving up yards and points, this team has a chance to win 9-10 games.  Failing that, chock 2018 up as a Transition Year.

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 Blocking Game

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’ blocking game.

Offensive Line

Here we are.  So much of what the Seahawks want to do hinges on this.  Every year since Russell Wilson has proven himself to be a superstar quarterback in this league, I’ve been waiting for this offense to really bust out and start carrying the team; and every year, those hopes are dashed by an offensive line that couldn’t stop a pack of infants from wreaking havoc in our backfield.

And it’s not like the Seahawks haven’t tried!  We hired Tom Cable, we used many multiple draft picks, in a variety of rounds from the first through the seventh.  But, nothing worked, and indeed it got progressively worse over time, until last year when we has the worst running game in football.  How Russell Wilson hasn’t been killed in a live NFL game is beyond me, because he’s taken a BEATING!

I wish I could walk those comments back and say, “Oh, it wasn’t as bad as we remember,” but actually I think it was worse.  I mean, you’d expect a unit that was as healthy as our O-Line was last year to at least show SOME signs of improvement as the season went along, but I saw no evidence of that.  Did you?

Who’s at fault?  Well, how much time have you got?  Obviously, Tom Cable had to go.  I wouldn’t say his tenure was an utter failure – he did help take us to 2 Super Bowls, so it wasn’t ALWAYS this bad – but I’d say the last three years (2015-2017) were as bad as it gets.  Instead of taking advantage of Russell Wilson’s absolute prime, he had to run for his life on almost every play, while battling constant nagging injuries for one of those seasons!

The front office certainly shares some of the blame, be it Pete Carroll, John Schneider, the scouts, all of ’em.  Letting Tom Cable have so much power and direction over personnel, for starters.  The collective, for just having the worst insight/intuition/whathaveyou when it comes to picking which players we ended up drafting and signing to free agent deals.  The front office also for losing its way – to quote Richard Sherman – by trading away Max Unger for Jimmy Graham.  One of the better blocking centers in the league for one of the worst blocking tight ends in the history of football.

Now, certainly there were factors outside of their control, in that so many other players on this team turned into All Pros and Pro Bowlers, and as we talk about all the time, you can’t pay everyone.  But, the front office still made a choice in who they decided to pay; and ultimately they decided to make this offensive line the most under-funded in the entire league.  It backfired, and they’ve since corrected for that, but now we’re years from our last Super Bowl and, I’m afraid, many more years away from our next one.

I mean, if they’d just signed ONE high-priced left tackle, instead of paying the likes of Percy Harvin or Jimmy Graham, just think of how different things might be.  We might truly be talking about a Seahawks Dynasty, instead of a Seahawks What-If.

But, the past is the past and we can’t do anything about it now.  Let’s take a look at who we’ve got.

Well, I’ll say this:  the left side of the line looks VERY promising.  There are still a tremendous amount of caveats and question marks even about these three guys, but it’s not hard to envision a scenario where Duane Brown (at left tackle), Ethan Pocic (at left guard) and Justin Britt (at center) truly anchor this offensive line and make it a halfway competent one.  That having been said, Brown is going to be 33 in August and is heading into his 11th season; that’s a lot of mileage.  He’s also coming off of a year where he held out for half the games, then suffered an ankle injury.  He appears to be healthy now, but how long will that last?  And, even when he was (supposedly) healthy last year, he didn’t look great.  Maybe he needed time to get used to Russell Wilson’s style of play and scrambling and all that … or maybe he’s in his 30’s and is on the downside of his career.  How many more years does he have left, realistically?  2?  3 at the MOST?

This thing falls apart in a hurry if Duane Brown isn’t The Man.  I like Pocic as much as the next guy, but it’s still his second year in the league.  He’s also on his second offensive line coach in as many seasons (well, third in as many seasons, I suppose, if you include his college coach), so what is that going to do to stunt his growth?  And, as for Britt, again I like him, but he also pulled his share of boners last year, following his contract extension and the anointing of him as the leader of this unit.  Maybe that was because he had to compensate for the dunderheads around him – and I really do hope that’s the case – but don’t forget who’s at fault for George Fant getting hurt in the first place.  He took a blind dive into a guy and ended up landing on his own teammate’s knee; Britt isn’t exactly the sharpest tool in the shed.

I want to believe in this left side of the line – I HAVE to believe in them, for my own sanity – because the right side scares the everloving shit out of me.

The Seahawks brought back Mile Solari to coach up the offensive line.  He hasn’t had a successful O-Line in more years than I can count, so right away we’re dealing with a huge red flag.  Now, maybe there were other circumstances outside of his control, and it wasn’t necessarily all his fault that his lines have been terrible.  Maybe, if he had more control over things, he would’ve gotten his type of guys and had more success.  I certainly hope so, because it sounds like the Seahawks really took him to heart when he recommended signing D.J. Fluker to be this team’s right guard.

For starters, I think a lot of fans were clamoring for Germain Ifedi to move inside to guard.  I wasn’t one of them – I think if we’re ever going to see our faith in Ifedi pay off, it’s going to have to be at one single position, and not by jerking him around from guard to tackle and back again – but I can certainly understand the thought process.  Ifedi looks like a giant lunkhead over there at right tackle, and it might be easier to hide some of his flaws if you moved him inside and had Britt helping him out on double-teams and whatnot.  But, I’m of the opinion that if Ifedi is the bust we all fear he is, then he’s going to be a HUGE GAPING LIABILITY wherever you put him.  Sort of like Britt was, when we moved him from tackle to guard to finally center; unfortunately, you can only have one center on an offensive line, and Britt weaselled his way into the league first.

Getting back to Fluker for a minute, here’s a guy who was another former first rounder, as well as a guy who’s been considered a giant bust since entering the league.  He’s also a guy who was injured for most of 2017, and who thus far through OTA’s and mini-camps, hasn’t seen any action that I can recall hearing about (again, due to injury).  Even in an ideal world where Fluker was 100% healthy this off-season, he still was never going to be a guarantee.  I like him because he’s cheap, and hungry, and huge, and is supposedly a quality run blocker if nothing else; but that still doesn’t mean he’s destined to be worth a damn in 2018!

I want to believe in these guys, 1-5, but I just can’t get it up for this right side.  At this point, I’m done hoping Ifedi will be anything; I’m resigned to him being a bust and if I’m pleasantly surprised, then so be it.  As for Fluker, I don’t think he has more than 5 games in him before some body part gives out.  I’m mentally preparing myself for a revolving door on this side, with guys like Rees Odhiambo or Jordan Roos seeing some action at right guard, and with guys like George Fant or Isaiah Battle seeing some action at right tackle.

That having all been said, I think there’s an offensive line here we can use.  It’s far from perfect, and it’s far from ideal, but 3/5 of a competent offensive line is better than the 0/5 we’ve had the last three years.

As I said before, it all hinges on Duane Brown.  If he can return to even 80% of his former Pro Bowl self, we’ve got a shot.  Hopefully he’ll get better acquainted with Wilson’s scrambling style, as well as stay healthy the full year.  If he can do that, and help guide a beefed-up Pocic through any more growing pains he’s got left, then I don’t think Britt has to worry about helping out on that side, and can put his talents towards helping out his right guard, whoever that ends up being.  At which point, I’m not even asking for a huge step forward out of our right tackle; just don’t get any WORSE and I’ll be ecstatic!

With how BIG this unit is, if we still have trouble running the ball, then I’m gonna go jump off a bridge.  Also, it sounds like maybe there’ll be something of a scheme change, away from the strict zone blocking scheme we had under Cable?  I think that could help an oaf like Ifedi, where he doesn’t have to use his brain as much.  Maybe he can put those remaining brain cells into keeping track of the snap count, and not illegally hitting guys after the whistle and whatnot.

It’s the pass protection that’s my bigger concern, as it always is.  Pocic is a great unknown at this point in his career (one would hope his pedigree, work ethic, and increased mass will help him going forward), but everyone to his right has their moments of utter, mind-blowing ineptitude when it comes to letting guys just get free runs at the quarterback.  So, again, I turn to Duane Brown; he NEEDS to be our rock.  If we just have that one guy doing his job, we’ve got a chance.  Where it always breaks down is when both ends get to charge at Wilson and he has nowhere to go; but, if Brown is solid, then at least Wilson will be able to escape to the left side and try to make something happen.

I hate having to rely so much on one guy, but that’s the hand we’ve been dealt.  If Duane Brown doesn’t earn his next contract with superb play, we’re fucked.  There’s no other way around it.

As such, my grade is a C-.  There’s room to take it as high as a B, and obviously as low as an F, but as a baseline, C- is still better than anything we’ve gotten in the previous three seasons, which I find really encouraging.

Tight Ends

Can’t talk about the blocking game without mentioning the VAST improvement we’ve established among our tight ends!

Swapping out Jimmy Graham and bringing in Ed Dickson is like an NBA team trading me for LeBron James; I’m so giddy I can’t even stand it!

I want you to close your eyes.  I want you to picture the Seahawks lining up on offense, with 3 wide receivers, a running back, and Jimmy Graham.  I want you to picture Jimmy Graham motioning out wide to the right, then turning around and motioning back towards the offensive line.  I want you to picture just as Graham gets to the right tackle, we snap the ball, and Russell Wilson turns to hand it off to the running back, with the intention to go off-tackle.  There’s a linebacker coming around the edge; he’s Graham’s responsibility.  All Graham has to do is execute a wham block – blocking him down into the mass of bodies along the offensive and defensive lines – and if he does that, we have a considerable gain with the running back bouncing it around.  Can you picture it?  Can you picture Jimmy Graham standing fully upright, sort of half-heartedly (quarter-heartedly?) pushing on the linebacker with his forearms right before said linebacker blows up the play for a 3-yard loss?  Is your blood now sufficiently boiling?  Do you want to go out and murder 50 people?

I never thought I could hate someone more than I hated Percy Harvin, but I hate Jimmy Graham with the intensity of A FUCKING GOOGOLPLEX OF SUNS!  I mean, at least Harvin has a mental condition to explain why he’s a worthless pile of shit; Jimmy Graham is just a soft asshole whose only skill is catching 1-yard touchdown passes against undersized cornerbacks (and even THEN he drops the ball half the time!).

So, yeah, I love the Ed Dickson signing.  Is it sexy?  HELL NO!  But, I’m tired of going after sexy offensive weapons; where has it gotten us?  Give me the guy willing to hunt for his meal.  Give me the guy who will scrap and claw and fight for that inch.

Shit, give me a guy who can help out this poor excuse for an offensive line!

The Seahawks did it in spades.  Not only did they let Graham go, but they let Luke Willson go as well.  I like Willson, but he’s just a guy.  Sure, he was a fighter, but you wouldn’t say blocking was his specialty.  You know whose specialty that is?  Will Dissly, 4th round draft pick out of the University of Washington.  “Best blocking tight end in the draft” is what I’m told.  Good enough for me.  He could catch 0 balls this year and he’ll still be worth his weight in gold if he can live up to that moniker for this team.

Beyond that, it’ll be a fight between Nick Vannett and Tyrone Swoopes, the 3rd round pick from 2016 vs. the undrafted rookie from 2017.  Vannett has largely been considered a disappointment, and you can see why.  You pick a guy in the 3rd round, you expect more than 15 total receptions and 1 touchdown in his first 2 years.  Beyond that, I really don’t remember him making any sort of special teams contributions, so what is he good for?

Well, I’d argue he was buried behind two very established veterans in Graham and Willson, and how often do you really see a team’s third tight end?  It’s now or never for this kid, and you’d have to say his chances are never going to be better.  I have to believe – heading into the pre-season – Vannett is probably the most gifted offensive, pass-catching weapon at tight end on this team.  If he can’t stand out over a guy in Ed Dickson (who you know what you’ve got) and a rookie in Dissly not known as much of a pass-catching threat in college, then we’ve probably reached the end of the road with Vannett.  From a blocking perspective, he doesn’t even need to be that great to make an impact, so long as he’s a catching machine.  But, regardless, he HAS to be better than Graham, so we’re talking about a considerable improvement any way you slice it.

As for Swoopes, he more or less rode the Practice Squad all of 2017.  He’s seen as more of a project, but with great potential as a pass-catcher, so again there’s probably only room for either him or Vannett.  Unless he shows tremendous skills – and tremendous improvement over what was probably a pretty raw rookie campaign – then he’s going to need to be a force when it comes to blocking.  I have no idea, but my hunch is that’s probably the biggest part of his game that’s lacking.  We’ll see.

Regardless, when it comes to just blocking, I’m giving our tight ends an A+.  I couldn’t be happier!

The question now is:  when you factor in the combo of the O-Line and our Tight Ends, will we have the blocking to be successful?  Assuming we scheme it up right, and take advantage of all of them, I think we do.  Darrell Bevell liked to spend all his free time trying to out-think opposing defenses (hence why you always saw Graham on the field in obvious rushing situations, to try to “fool” defenses into thinking we’d throw to him; only problem with that is it never made up for the liability he was in actually trying to throw a block).  It sounds like Brian Schottenheimer is more old school in that regard.  I’d expect a lot of ground & pound.  In which case, it’s our best guys against your best guys, and may the best team win.  With the group of guys we’ve got, I think that suits us to a T.  I could easily see our blocking unit end up with a grade of a B-, which is all we need with our skill position guys doing their things.

I really do believe there’s potential for greatness out of this offense.  Of course, there’s also potential for utter ruin, but that’s what makes this season so exciting!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seahawks Traded Up, Drafted A Punter (and 6 other guys, including Shaquem Griffin)

Saturday was a tremendously fun day for yours truly.  Woke up with the house to myself, had a Red Lobster lunch with my mom, went bowling in the afternoon, drank some beers, played some poker, drank some more beers, played some late-night spades, ate some Cloverleaf pizza.  All in all, couldn’t ask for a better time.

Also, the Seahawks had their best and most productive day of the NFL Draft.  After picking up a running back, and a defensive lineman, they made the bulk of their selections on Day 3, and looked to fill a number of holes on this roster.

  • 4th Round – Will Dissly, TE
  • 5th Round – Shaquem Griffin, LB
  • 5th Round – Tre Flowers, CB
  • 5th Round – Michael Dickson, P
  • 5th Round – Jamarco Jones, OT
  • 6th Round – Jake Martin, LB/DE
  • 7th Round – Alex McGough, QB

I’m obviously a big fan of Will Dissly.  Many pegged him as the best blocking tight end in the draft, so he’s a natural fit for what the Seahawks are trying to accomplish.  I also think he’ll develop into a better pass catcher than people give him credit for.  But, as it is, no one is going to take him seriously as a downfield threat, so that could open him up for some better matchups.  Regardless, I don’t think the tight end spot needs to be this great offensive weapon; simply blocking the guys he’s supposed to block will make Will Dissly a million times better than Jimmy Graham ever was.

The obvious Story of the Draft was Shaquem Griffin and where he’d end up.  The fact that he ended up on the Seahawks – re-joining his twin brother – is icing on the cake.  He’s fast, he can rush the passer, he’s a playmaker.  Those are the first three things I think about when I think about Shaquem Griffin.  Obviously, having just the one hand probably kept him off of a lot of draft boards, though the token reason for his falling into the fifth round had to do with him being undersized to play linebacker.  Nevertheless, when you’re as talented as Griffin, teams will find a way to utilize you on the field.  If nothing else, he should be a dynamic special teams player.  You can play him to rush the passer, you can convert him to a box safety, you can keep him at linebacker to cover just about any running back in the league.  I like his versatility and determination; I think he’ll be a great Seahawk.

The Tre Flowers pick certainly got buried in all the hullabaloo over Griffin.  Flowers is tall, with super long arms.  He played safety in college, but it sounds like the Seahawks are looking to convert him to cornerback.  Maybe as a sideline defender a la Richard Sherman?  I don’t know if very many people are talking about this guy as an option, but I’ll be curious to hear what he brings in Training Camp.  Hopefully a huge chip on his shoulder.

The Seahawks then proceeded to trade one of their seventh round picks to move up in the fifth round to take Michael Dickson, consensus Best Punter In The Draft.  Looks like Jon Ryan’s days are numbered, which is probably for the best.  If you can save money at the punter position, while locking it down for many years to come, I think you have to do it.  If Dickson falters, though, people might be laughing at this decision for years to come.  You can’t keep two punters and you can’t waste a fifth rounder on one you need to cut right away, so this guy HAS to be good from the start!

Jamarco Jones is an interesting left tackle out of Ohio State who was apparently good on the field, but really sucked at the Combine.  He may or may not have been injured, but either way, I don’t give a fuck about Combine numbers.  I give a fuck about how he looks when he’s on the field.  If this is a guy we can groom to be the heir apparent to Duane Brown, then no one will ever remember what he did at the Combine.

I don’t know a whole lot about Jake Martin.  He could be a speed rush option, in the vein of Cliff Avril.  Or, he could be a strongside linebacker, in the vein of Bruce Irvin.  He’ll have to make his way on special teams, so if that doesn’t work out for him, I can’t imagine he’ll hack it.

Alex McGough is a seventh round quarterback.  Someone on TV or radio pronounced his name as Magoo, which is fun.  I won’t hold my breath on this guy, though.

All in all, a lot of interesting pieces.  Here’s hoping the team can develop them into starters in this league.

Seahawks Traded Down, Drafted Rasheem Green

It was a quiet Day 2 for the Seattle Seahawks, who in spite of that still managed to make a lot of noise about how their season is going to go.

First and foremost, the Seahawks didn’t trade Earl Thomas like we all thought would happen.  So, barring some really unforeseen circumstance, it looks like Thomas will play out his deal and probably walk after the season’s over.  I guess there was never the right package of picks to make it work, and I’m okay with that.  I mean, what if all we could get was a 4th rounder; would you still trade him?  I wouldn’t.  A 3rd rounder?  Maybe if it was at the very top of the 3rd round, but I would’ve still probably felt awfully shitty about it.  I think it was a 2nd rounder or bust, and once Dallas picked at 50, it really felt like a bullet was dodged, for better or for worse.

Another more positive move featured the Seahawks bringing back Byron Maxwell on a 1-year deal, for around $3 million (with incentives).  I don’t know if the incentives part of it brings it UP to $3 million, or if it’s $3 million PLUS incentives.  Either way, not too big a price for a guy we know fits well within our system.  He’s no Richard Sherman, but he’s an okay stopgap (assuming the Seahawks find a diamond in the rough on Day 3).

Finally, the Seahawks and all of us fans had to wait FOREVER for the Seahawks to pick.  We finally got to the 12th pick in the 3rd round, and WHAT DO YOU KNOW, the Seahawks traded back again!  Only three spots, to the 15th in the round, and acquired an extra 7th rounder in the process.  So, now our draft board looks like this:

  • 1st Round – Rashaad Penny, RB
  • 3rd Round – Rasheem Green, DL
  • 4th Round – 20th pick
  • 5th Round – 4th pick
  • 5th Round – 9th pick
  • 5th Round – 19th pick
  • 5th Round – 31st pick
  • 6th Round – 12th pick
  • 7th Round – 2nd pick
  • 7th Round – 8th pick

Rasheem Green.  Out of USC.  He’s apparently a 2nd round talent who fell into the 3rd round because of a medical concern.  That concern relates to an old high school injury, which the Seahawks’ medical team took a look at twice and deemed worth the risk.  A knee maybe?  I dunno.  Anyway, he’s supposed to be really good.  I guess he thought he was going to be a first rounder – hence why he left the Trojans as a Junior – but he wasn’t, and now he’s set to have a HUGE chip on his shoulder.  I think we all can appreciate that.

Michael Bennett comps like the day is long.  Similar body sizes, similar games on the field.  He plays outside, he plays inside.  He’s not super good against the run right now, and the Seahawks are aware of that, so I wouldn’t expect him to be an every-down player right out of the box.  Likely in super obvious passing situations, you’ll see him in the Nascar Package (likely in that Malik McDowell role he would’ve played if he wasn’t a moron) on the interior, but for the most part I’d bet you’ll see him on the outside.  Also, he’s only 20 years old right now, so best not to throw him totally into the fire playing ALL those Michael Bennett snaps.

I like it!  No character concerns obviously play a big role in that.  But, there’s also no concerns about him dogging it in games.  He was the best player on USC’s line, and as a result had a lot of attention on him from opposing offenses.  The fact that he was still as productive as he was speaks volumes.  My hope is that he comes in, finds a spark, and continues to grow over his first four years.  He could legitimately be one of the greats in this league.

Or, he could be Lawrence Jackson.  Yeah, don’t think his name didn’t bust through my mind when I saw where he came from (I see what I did there).

The Seahawks’ 2018 Schedule Is Here (And I Don’t Care)

Now is usually the time I express my pleasure/get all up in arms over the newly released Seahawks schedule.  But, I’m on record as expecting an 8-8 season, so who gives a damn if a formerly west-coast game against the Raiders has been placed in London for no good God damn reason?  To wit:

  • @ Denver
  • @ Chicago (Mon)
  • Dallas
  • @ Arizona
  • L.A. Rams
  • @ Oakland (London) (10am) (Sort Of)
  • BYE
  • @ Detroit (10am)
  • L.A. Chargers
  • @ L.A. Rams
  • Green Bay (Thurs)
  • @ Carolina (10am)
  • San Francisco (SNF)
  • Minnesota (Mon)
  • @ San Francisco
  • Kansas City (SNF)
  • Arizona

So, one thing I actually kinda like is having 5 of the first 7 games (with a BYE week squeezed in) on the road; meaning obviously that 6 of the last 9 games are at home (including all the second half primetime games).  The entire month of December, we only have to travel as far as San Francisco!  4 of those 5 games are in Seattle!

As far as 10am games go, only three isn’t too bad.  I was pretty shocked to see a whopping 5 primetime games (2 Monday, 2 Sunday, 1 Thursday), considering we weren’t all that world-beating last year.  Someone made the point on Twitter and I wholeheartedly agree:  that’s the power of an elite, Top 5 quarterback.  I still think at least one of those Sunday Night games will be flexed out; if I had to bet the family farm on one prediction this season, that would be it.

One thing I noticed is that the more difficult games look to be at home, which is always a plus.  We play the NFC North, and the best two teams (presumably) are Green Bay and Minnesota, so getting them both in Seattle is pretty fortunate.  Not that the Bears or Lions will be pushovers, but you get my drift.  I particularly like seeing Green Bay having to come all the way out here for a Thursday game; FUCK YOU PACKERS!  Then, we play the AFC West and get the Chiefs and Chargers here, while we play the Raiders over in London (so no one will really have an advantage, although I bet there are more Raiders fans living in London than Seahawks fans) and we catch the Broncos in the first week of the season.  Will Case Keenum be up to snuff right out of the gate, with a new team and a new system?  Then, among the second place teams from last year, we get Dallas here and go on the road to play Carolina, which again I think is the more favorable draw.  I think Dallas will be good again, with full seasons out of Elliott and Dak (and the Dez situation is addition by subtraction), whereas who knows with Carolina?  That late into the season?  Are they going to be totally healthy?

It’s always a huge folly to try to predict the games this early, but it’s 4/20, SO LIGHT ‘EM UP BRO!

@ Denver – Safe money is on this one being a loss.  Going to the Mile High City, playing against a good defense (not at its peak, but still with plenty of talent) that will probably be as healthy as it gets, I think Keenum can do just enough to squeak one by us.  Maybe this one ends with a late Seahawks drive falling short with a pick in the endzone.  Denver 24, Seattle 17.

@ Chicago – I do think the Bears will be much improved, particularly with another year for Vic Fangio to ramp up that defense.  I just don’t know if Trubisky has what it takes.  This one should be a good barometer of the Seahawks’ season, though.  If we’re truly an 8-8 type team, we win this game.  If we’re doomed to bottom out entirely in 2018, then notch this one in the loss column.  I think there’s enough talent in Seattle to steal one, but it won’t be easy.  Seattle 19, Chicago 17.

Dallas – Loss.  No doubt about it.  The Cowboys’ running game will stomp us into hamburger, their quick-strike passing attack will befuddle us, and if our offense can’t keep up in a shootout, this one could be a laugher.  Dallas 33, Seattle 21.

@ Arizona – Sam Bradford?  Please.  The Seahawks go down to their winter home and take another shockingly easy W.  Seattle 27, Arizona 13.

L.A. Rams – Loss.  No doubt about it.  Did you ever think the Seahawks would start out their home schedule 0-2?  Don’t say I didn’t warn you when it happens.  This one PROBABLY won’t be as embarrassing as last year’s loss to the Rams … but it also might be.  Los Angeles 38, Seattle 18.

@ Oakland – I got this as a win.  I don’t know if the Raiders are very good, and I don’t know if Jon Gruden is very good.  I do think this game will be fun, and potentially high scoring.  Seattle 34, Oakland 27.

BYE – So, through six weeks, I have the Seahawks with a 3-3 record, having shockingly gone 3-1 on the road.  Let’s see if that holds up.

@ Detroit – This one has loss written all over it.  Every year, the Seahawks play at least one road game where they come out looking great, but gag it up in the end.  I think the Lions have offense for days and they’ll easily exploit our depleted secondary.  Detroit 38, Seattle 31.

L.A. Chargers – Don’t love this matchup.  I never love a matchup with this Seahawks defense against Philip Rivers, because he fucking carves us up every fucking time.  Los Angeles 35, Seattle 20.

@ L.A. Rams – One more loss to throw on the pile; things are looking BLEAK here folks!  I think the defense will show up a little better this time, but there’s still no doing anything against that Rams squad.  Los Angeles 24, Seattle 6.

Green Bay – Fuck you Packers, we’re winning this one!  With no time to prepare, and no time to fret over this 3-game losing streak, everyone will have written off the Seahawks by this point (if they haven’t already, like I have), and they’ll come out like a ball of lightning.  Seattle 36, Green Bay 28.

@ Carolina – Fuck you Panthers, we’re winning this one too!  One of those old school grudge matches.  Seattle 17, Carolina 13.

San Francisco – Fuck you 49ers, we’re also winning this one!  You don’t think the fans in this one are going to be fucking insane?  With all day to drink and stew over the return of Richard Sherman?  With the Seahawks and 49ers likely to be pretty close to one another in record (and probably fighting over the same Wild Card spot)?  I see a touchdown being scored on Sherm and I see the Seahawks running away with this one.  Seattle 26, San Francisco 10.

Minnesota – Here’s where the winning streak comes to an end.  Too much defense with these Vikings.  I think we hold our own against Cousins and their offense, but it won’t be enough.  Minnesota 13, Seattle 3.

@ San Francisco – We’re dropping this one too.  The 49ers are probably better than the Seahawks right now, and this will put them over the top.  San Francisco 19, Seattle 16.

Kansas City – I like this one to be a win.  First year starter at quarterback, who knows if he’ll hold up let alone be any good?  I think the Seahawks impose their will on the ground and grind out a close one.  Seattle 24, Kansas City 23.

Arizona – Who will be Arizona’s starting quarterback by week 17?  Not Sam Bradford, that’s for damn sure!  The Cards will be falling apart by this point and the Seahawks will cruise.  Seattle 30, Arizona 10.

Any way you slice it, that’s 8-8.  They’ll be a streaky team, they’ll deflate us, then get our hopes up, then break our hearts again.  Wake me when it’s 2019.