Are The Seahawks Progressing Faster Than Usual This Season?

The Seahawks under Pete Carroll have a certain reputation, that I don’t think is actually warranted anymore. They’re a team that starts slow, but then comes together and improves as the season goes along, until they slam into a home stretch that puts them over the top by playoff time. The biggest lament of this scenario is the fact that the Seahawks usually dick around too much early in the season – losing too many games – and are unable to qualify for a divisional title or a top seed in the conference. We might be playing the best ball by the end of the regular season, but we’re going to be playing that ball on the road, and it makes a big difference in the playoffs.

Anyway, that’s the reputation, but again, if you go back season-by-season, I don’t know if it’s really true anymore. It probably hasn’t been true since 2018. But, just go with me on this.

If we focus exclusively on the defense – and, spoiler alert, that’s what the title of this post is referring to – then I think you very much CAN make that argument, across a long span of time. Probably dating back to 2016. As the L.O.B. aged out and went their separate ways, the Seahawks have failed in trying to replenish this team with defensive stars. It’s been nothing but middling players, with an occasional splash trade for an overpriced veteran who isn’t able to do enough to bring this unit back to its former glories.

So, what happens? Well, we start each and every season looking like the worst defense in all of football. We look like that, because we ARE that. Doesn’t matter if it’s Kris Richard, Ken Norton Jr., or Clint Hurtt; this side of the ball is going to massively struggle early, Pete Carroll is going to assert his will to get things more in line, and it’s eventually going to look somewhat better. But, that never lasts, because there’s a major talent shortage, and you can only hold the dike together with scotch tape and bungee cords for so long before it bursts.

Why does this year look different? How did we – in one offseason – go from looking like one of the worst defenses in football, to potentially looking like one of the best? Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying we’re the 49ers or the Jets or something. But a difference from being Bottom 10 to Top 10 is certainly massive.

Well, let’s start with the guys we brought in. Dre’Mont Jones, Bobby Wagner, Jarran Reed, Devon Witherspoon, Julian Love, Mario Edwards, Derick Hall, Devin Bush, and Cameron Young are the major culprits. Then, there’s the return of Jamal Adams, Tre Brown, and Jordyn Brooks from injury. And maybe the biggest catalyst is the improvement of Boye Mafe from year one to year two.

Now, let’s look at who’s NOT here. Cody Barton, Ryan Neal, Shelby Harris, Al Woods, Poona Ford, Quinton Jefferson, Bruce Irvin, L.J. Collier, and Bryan Mone (still on the roster, but injured). There’s a lot of addition by subtraction going on here. Neal is probably the best player in this group, but the combo of Love and Adams certainly more than makes up for his loss. Barton is one of the worst linebackers in football. Poona has hardly even played. Collier is who we thought he was. The rest of them are role players at best. And maybe the biggest catalyst here is the fact that Mike Jackson’s role has been severely diminished with Brown and Woolen healthy. Rather than being this team’s 2nd corner, he’s now the 4th or even 5th option, which is probably where he belongs (and as far as 4th or 5th corners goes, he’s pretty good at that).

So, it definitely looks like the Seahawks pulled all the right strings in this past offseason.

Witherspoon is obviously getting the lion’s share of attention, for good reason. He’s wonderful! We’ve never seen someone quite like him, and he’s quickly proving why he was deemed to be the #5 overall pick, and the best DB in the draft. I would say, however, that the biggest surprise has been Jarran Reed. The NFL more or less left him for dead after he left the Seahawks the first time, since he hasn’t done a whole lot with the Chiefs or Packers. He’s back and he might be better than ever!

The combo of Reed and Jones is better than any interior option we’ve had since the L.O.B. days. Jones got off to a bit of a slow start, but he’s beginning to assert himself, and it’s really paying dividends. You can see it in the VAST improvement of our run defense, but they also have 5 sacks between them after 5 games.

Having Wagner and Brooks together again has also been a breath of fresh air. I am in awe over Brooks’ ability to return so quickly from ACL surgery. Not just to play since week 1, but to play at a high level. You also want to lump in Witherspoon and a healthy Adams into this mix, because they’re wreaking havoc near the line of scrimmage.

We talk about depth a lot with the Seahawks’ defense. They don’t seem to have – on paper – the kind of front-line stars that teams like the 49ers, Jets, and Eagles have. Those teams, as we’ve seen, also have lots of depth, but I think that’s easy to come by when you have so many superstars. Put anyone with a pulse around Nick Bosa, Fletcher Cox, and Quinnen Williams, and you’re bound to look good. But, the Seahawks – 1 through 25 – look pretty rock solid, and it’s making all the difference.

Nwosu is still playing like he did last year. Mafe, again, has taken a clear step forward in his progression (tied for the team lead in sacks with Reed). Hall and Darrell Taylor are still valuable rotational pieces in the pass rush. Even Edwards and Young have plugged holes and made some noise.

Thus far, the secondary – the unit we all expected to be among the best in the game – has been the biggest disappointment. But, I would argue they’ve also been the most banged up. Adams, as per usual, has only played in a game and a quarter. Woolen was injured before the season and came late to the party. Ditto Witherspoon. Brown has been in and out. Now, we’re down Coby Bryant with a toe injury (currently on IR). We’ve had to use Love more than we would’ve liked, and probably in areas where he’s not best utilized. Jackson, in spite of a promising 2022, and a highly-regarded training camp, has not looked good. Diggs has had everything on his plate, and hasn’t been able to just let it rip the way he does best (as a turnover machine). With our stars returning, though, everyone else can settle into the roles that best maximize their talents, and you get what we’ve seen the last two games: the Seahawks shutting down opposing passing games (including the vaunted Bengals) the way we all expected heading into the season.

We can’t claim the Seahawks are up there with the true elites, simply because when injuries start to crop up again, we won’t have enough behind them to keep us in that upper echelon. But, if we can avoid truly devastating injuries, and somehow cobble together the rest of this season with Adams involved ON the field, I think there’s real potential here.

The offense won’t always be as bad as they were against the Bengals. I wouldn’t even say they were truly bad, just inept in the red zone. They should keep us in most every game the rest of the way. But, that’s a two-way street. I firmly believe this defense can also keep us in every game the rest of the way. Then, it comes down to execution, and a little luck.

We’re not in an insurmountable hole, even though a 3-2 record – after losing a very winnable game – is far from ideal. Having the defense seemingly figured out only a month into the season is a big boost for this team, though! Now, I could be dead wrong, and this unit will revert back to giving up tons of yards and points this very next game. But, I don’t think I’m off here. And that will mean big things for this team the rest of the way.

We have 12 games left. 6 at home, 6 on the road. If we break it up, three of our next four are at home (Arizona, Cleveland, at Baltimore, Washington). Two of those games should be wins, if we expect to be a playoff team. With the other two, I would say both are winnable, and you’d like to come away from this stretch at least 3-1. That makes us 6-3 as we head into the gauntlet of the schedule.

At the Rams (didn’t have this one pegged as part of the gauntlet heading into the season), 49ers on Thanksgiving night, at Dallas also on Thursday, at 49ers, home for the Eagles. I would like to believe we can compete with L.A., but I dunno. If we manage to win that one, it’ll likely have to be a shootout. Dallas seems like a game we might be able to steal. The Eagles don’t look quite as dominant as they did last year. That leaves us with two against our direct rivals, the 49ers. If we can split those two, and win 2 of 3 against the rest, that puts us at 9-5 heading into the stretch run. Seems far more likely we’re 8-6, and still clinging to wild card hopes, but we’ll see.

The final three games are at Tennessee, home for Pittsburgh, and at Arizona. You’d like to think, by that point, those teams will have nothing to play for. Regardless, all are incredibly flawed. Still, when have we ever managed to be perfect in the final month against incredibly flawed teams? Seems like we always bungle one of these types of games. 3-0 would put us at 11-6 or 12-5, with a puncher’s chance at the division (but, almost certainly falling short, because the 49ers seem destined to make the Super Bowl). If we go 2-1 (which is my official prediction), that still puts us at 10-7 or 11-6, which is almost assuredly a wild card spot.

I will say that – other than Washington and Arizona – there’s a lot of high-end defenses on this slate. So, of course, now that we’re feeling good about our defense, it’ll be the offense that we have to worry about (the one thing we were all feeling pretty great about heading into the season). Isn’t it always the way? We just can’t have nice things.

Have The Seahawks Done Enough To Overtake The 49ers?

That’s the question we’re asking ourselves all offseason. It’s really the only relevant question to the 2023 season from a Seahawks perspective.

The 49ers were 13-4 last year, and very clearly the second-best team in the NFC. They were the #2 seed in the playoffs, they met Philly in the NFC Championship Game (the #1 seed, naturally), and they got pounded into submission.

The 49ers had one of the best and deepest rosters in the NFL, on both sides of the ball. They’re well-coached, and they have a quality offensive system that allows them to plug & play literally any quarterback (including Brock Purdy, a rookie last year who was taken with the literal final pick in the NFL Draft), and they’re STACKED where it counts. They have one of the best running backs (when healthy) in Christian McCaffrey. They have one of the best wide receivers (when healthy) in Deebo Samuel. They have one of the best tight ends (when healthy) in George Kittle. They have one of the best defensive linemen (when healthy) in Nick Bosa. They have one of the best middle linebackers (who’s always healthy) in Fred Warner. Now, the fact that almost all of these guys have had major injuries recently – yet were all healthy in 2022 – tells me the 49ers were exceedingly lucky last year. One has to wonder if that’s going to carry over; perhaps that’s a feather in our cap.

Where the 49ers are most in flux is at quarterback. Jimmy G is gone. Brock Purdy got injured at season’s end and is no sure thing to return by the start of this regular season. Trey Lance got hurt early on and was lost for most of 2022; he’ll be back, but now there are questions about his viability as a starter going forward. And their big hedge in all this is Sam Darnold, I guess?

Here’s the deal: talking about injuries, or pontificating on who the quarterback is going to be, leaves a lot of variables in play. I’m not interested in “What Ifs” when it comes to the 49ers. I think Brock Purdy will come back and play again; I believe he’ll be in the majority of the games this season. I also believe – as noted up top – they can roll with anyone (including Sam Darnold) and be fine on offense. They have enough talent at the skill spots to move the chains, and they have a deep enough defense to not need a lot of points to win games. Now, they didn’t have much of an opportunity to fill things out in the draft – and eventually the chickens will come home to roost for this franchise – but I’m going into 2023 believing the 49ers will be pretty much as good as they were in 2022. Without even looking at their schedule, I’ll pencil them in for 11-13 wins right now.

I want to focus on the Seahawks more than the 49ers, for obvious reasons. I follow the Seahawks more closely. This is a Seattle-centric blog. And the onus is on the Seahawks to have done enough to bridge the gap.

The 2022 Seahawks were also in the playoffs, as a wild card team, with a 9-8 record. For our hard work, we were rewarded by playing the 49ers in the first round. We got obliterated. Indeed, we lost three games to the 49ers last year, and none of them were particularly close. We couldn’t move the ball! That’s the long and the short of it; we couldn’t move the ball until we were already getting killed, and by that point it didn’t matter. None of the games were competitive, and that’s hard to do when both teams are playoff teams, who are in the same division. We know the 49ers! There were no surprises. They just beat our fucking asses, mano a mano.

This post isn’t just about beating the 49ers this year. It’s about overtaking them for the NFC West title. Any team on any given Sunday and all that; we could fuck around and luck into a win. But, I’m more interested in going toe-to-toe with the 49ers over the long haul. So, what have the Seahawks done?

  • We signed Jason Myers to an extension. He’s great every other year, so I’m a little worried about what 2023 has in store. That being said, the 49ers just drafted a kicker, so I’d be more concerned if I were them.
  • We signed Geno Smith to an extension. Obviously, this is much bigger news than a kicker. His contract is pretty well tied up with his performance; if he does even a fraction of a percent better than he did last year, he’ll get PAID. If he fails to live up to what he did last year, he’ll still get paid, but considerably less.
  • We signed Dre’Mont Jones and Jarran Reed to plug the middle of our defensive line. They both feature vast improvements in pass rush ability, with moderate improvements in run stuffing.
  • We filled out our offensive line with trusted veterans (on short-term deals) and exciting rookies (on long-term deals). Gabe Jackson is no more, but Phil Haynes returns (and figures to get first crack at one of the guard spots opposite Damien Lewis). Evan Brown was brought in to compete at center; he replaces Austin Blythe (who was a detriment for us last year) and figures to be much more competent. We also drafted a couple of thrilling prospects in Anthony Bradford (humongous guard taken in the 4th round) and Olu Oluwatimi (a savvy 5th round pick who many project to become our starting center as early as game 1).
  • We signed Devin Bush and Julian Love at inside linebacker and safety, respectively. Bush is a potential reclamation project who – at the very least – should be a slight improvement over Cody Barton. Love is much more interesting, as he figures to be a major hedge against the inevitable Jamal Adams injury. Love essentially cost us Ryan Neal, but it still feels like a solid upgrade at the position.
  • We brought back Bobby Wagner, which was vitally important, considering how mediocre we were at linebacker last year (again, see: Cody Barton), as well as factoring in the Jordyn Brooks injury (who figures to start this year on the PUP list, and might not be back to normal again until 2024). This improves our run defense, our communication on defense, and gives us another brilliant mind on this side of the ball to ensure players are in the right spots and doing what they’re supposed to be doing.
  • Then, we went out and drafted the best cornerback and wide receiver in the class. We also brought in a couple of very promising running backs (to replace Penny and Homer), a few defensive linemen to fill out our depth, and even another safety who is getting all kinds of kudos (Jerrick Reed won’t be a starter – or even much of a defensive participant – in year one, but he figures to cut his teeth on Special Teams, and could eventually develop into a Quandre Diggs replacement down the road). It appears to be the second consecutive elite draft class by the Seahawks – with a major emphasis on Best Player Available – and as we all know, there’s no better way to quickly turn around your franchise than to draft the way we did from 2010-2012.

And that’s the rub, isn’t it? The previous iteration of a championship-level Seahawks squad took three drafts to reach. So far, this one has only had (MAYBE) the two. Granted, finding even ONE elite draft class is a stretch, for any organization. But, if we want to keep up with the Joneses, we gotta be on the ball. I will say – in comparison to the L.O.B. squad – that we are starting from a MUCH better spot compared to what the Seahawks were from 2009 to 2010 (when Pete Carroll and John Schneider took over). So, an optimist might say that we only NEED the two elite draft classes.

What do I like? Let’s start there.

I’m absolutely enamored with the non-quarterback skill guys on offense. D.K., Tyler, and JSN are all incredible; here’s hoping JSN gets healthy and stays there (it’s disconcerting that he’s still dealing with an injury he suffered in college). Kenneth Walker returns (along with DeeJay Dallas, I guess), and gets paired with a couple of rookies who look tremendous. The tight ends are fine Seahawks tight ends.

I like the potential of this offensive line. Our two hotshot tackles had a full (healthy) year to experience everything the NFL had to offer; the hope is they take a big step forward in year two. The interior should be solid, if not improved over the dead weight we jettisoned this offseason. Any amount of extra time we can give Geno Smith is only going to help him when it comes to finding all his weapons.

Speaking of, I don’t hate the Geno signing, but I especially love how incentivized it is. He’s hungry, he proved he’s at least a capable starter in this league, now we’ll see if – with all this talent around him – he can take his game to another level.

And, how do you not like the secondary? Tariq Woolen as a rookie showed he’s capable of being a top cover guy. Coby Bryant as a rookie showed he’s capable of being a quality nickel guy. We still have Quandre Diggs playing at a high level (as another veteran leader to keep guys in line). We still have Jamal Adams (who is dynamic when he’s on the field). We still have promising depth in Tre Brown and Mike Jackson. Then, you add the consensus best cornerback in this draft class, to go opposite Woolen. That makes the whole room CONSIDERABLY better. Then, you add one of the top free agent safety acquisitions in Love. Then, you add another rookie safety to the mix who looks like a valuable depth piece. The secondary is fucking LOADED. It might eventually be better than it ever was, and that’s saying something.

What don’t I like?

I’m going to single out the linebackers here, but specifically I’m talking about the inside linebackers. We were already one of the worst units last year; we might be worse this year. Bobby Wagner gets a lot of credit for what he did with the Rams last year, especially with everything crumbling around him thanks to injuries and the team losing. But, how good was he really? I think a lot of Seahawks fans saw what he did in those two games against Seattle – where he was hyper-motivated to rub it in our faces – but are ignoring the rest. And are ignoring how he’s looked the last few seasons, when he’s been in unquestionable decline compared to his prime. Eventually, it’s going to come crashing down for Bobby; maybe that’s 2023. But, for the sake of argument, let’s pretend we get his exact 2022 production; is that better than what a healthy Jordyn Brooks gave us? I dunno. There’s also a lot of doubt about Bush, and some second thoughts about Cody Barton (especially with Barton getting a multi-year deal with the erstwhile Washington Football Team). If Bobby’s worse than Brooks, and Bush is worse than Barton, YE GODS! That’s a nightmare scenario.

Then, there’s just the blanket Defensive Line, but it’s really broken down into Pass Rush and Run Defense.

I thought the pass rush last year was good, not great. It took a while before the team understood how to properly utilize Darrell Taylor (he’s not an every-down outside linebacker/defensive end; he’s more strictly a guy you want to save for obvious pass rushing situations). Uchenna Nwosu was our best performer all year. Boye Mafe was just okay as a rookie, but I’m not expecting much from him ever. Derick Hall gets the honor of being this year’s Boye Mafe – and he’s getting rave reviews so far in OTAs – but I’m not expecting anything here either. Mario Edwards was just signed as a low-priced veteran defensive end, but he’s never done much in pass rush in his career.

What should we expect from our pass rush? At best, probably what we saw last year. Dre’Mont Jones is a wild card here; if he can consistently blow things up in the middle, that’s going to make everyone’s jobs on the outside a lot easier. But, I wouldn’t hold my breath. At worst, the pass rush takes a step back, and this is still our #1 priority next offseason (just like it was this offseason).

I thought – as does literally everyone – the run defense last year was total and complete shit. We lopped off a lot of dead weight: gone are Al Woods, Poona Ford, Shelby Harris, Quinton Jefferson, and L.J. Collier, among others. And we brought in Jones, Reed, Edwards, and rookies Cameron Young and Mike Morris. We retained Bryan Mone, but he’s injured and it’s not clear when he’s going to be ready to play again. We could’ve had Jalen Carter, so that’ll forever be a major What If. We also could’ve held onto Al Woods for not much more money than what his dead cap figure amounts to, but we’re up against the salary cap and already had to convert some Tyler Lockett money into signing bonus proration, just to sign our rookies.

Could the run defense be worse this year? It was so bad last year, I find that hard to believe, but I guess I have to admit it’s possible. I’m hoping that continuity among the coaching staff will lead to a better understanding of the scheme by the players, as well as a better understanding by the personnel people as to who needs to be on this roster, to fit in with that scheme. Is there a run-plugging diamond in the rough, either among the rookies or the back-of-the-roster holdovers from last year? Poona Ford and Bryan Mone both came from out of nowhere to be major contributors for this team, so anything’s possible.

All told, where does that put us compared to last year?

If we get modest improvements out of the run defense and pass rush, we should see tremendous value from our secondary and enough explosiveness from our offense to be improved over last year. I could see the Seahawks winning anywhere from 9-12 games, as long as we don’t suffer too many major injuries. I’ve got the 49ers at 11-13 wins, so what I’ll say is I think the Seahawks have given themselves a chance. I think we’ve done enough to compete on their level. That doesn’t mean I’m expecting us to blow them out ever; I think we can eke out one victory in the regular season, and be within a game of them by season’s end.

Gun to my head, if I have to make a definitive prediction, I would say the Seahawks finish a game back. Or, maybe tied in record, but losing to them via tiebreakers. Bottom line, I’m still predicting the 49ers win the NFC West; but I do think we’ll have a better wild card spot than we did a year ago, and hopefully that means we won’t have to play them in the first round again.

So, no, I don’t think the Seahawks have done enough to overtake the 49ers in 2023. But, at this rate, 2024 is ON THE TABLE.

Minor Seahawks-Related News While I Was Losing My Shirt In Reno, Part 1

Every year, for the first weekend of March Madness, my friends and I congregate in Reno to gamble on basketball and drink all the alcohol our special bracelets will allow. It’s a great time to be alive.

But, it’s a pain in the ass when it comes to sports blogging, because it also generally coincides with the start of NFL free agency. A lot of shit goes down during these four days, and I don’t have the time or the willingness to drop everything and shoot off a blog post as they happen.

Instead, other than the really big stories, I compile them all here in a post-trip post. Here’s all the bullshit that didn’t deserve its own headline.

Gabe Jackson Released

This actually happened way before I left for Reno, but it was so unimportant that … I can’t even properly finish this sentence; farts? We save $6.5 million, which is considerable what with the nearly $5 million in dead money we’re eating. He was going to cost us a pretty penny if he remained on the roster, and that’s too much to spend for someone who was a rotational guy at guard with Phil Haynes (who was previously re-signed on a one-year deal). I’m not so sure Haynes’ $4 million contract means he’s a lock to start for us; we could (and probably should) draft a guard of the future. But, he’s probably going to start for us – at least at first – and it’s better that way. Haynes has proven capable; Gabe Jackson has proven to be over the hill and expensive.

Shelby Harris Released

We saved another $9 million by making this move (though, we still had to eat a little over $3 million on dead money). Figure a lot of that will be going to Dre’Mont Jones, in our big splash on the first day of free agency. Harris was a quality interior player that we got back in the Russell Wilson deal, but he’s getting up there in age and you can’t afford to pay that kind of money to a guy who’s just okay. There’s no denying that the Seahawks were absolutely atrocious on the front seven in 2022, and especially in the interior defensive line. Harris was fine, but he clearly wasn’t making up for how deficient this team was, and it was imperative to make a big move at this position, considering our dire need.

Cody Barton Signed With The Washington Commanders

One of the other biggest needs is interior linebacker, where we really need a couple guys to fill the void until Jordyn Brooks is able to return from injury. One of my biggest worries, as a result, was the Seahawks shrugging their shoulders and re-signing Barton because he’s “familiar with the system” and “is better than everyone insists based on our 2022 results”. I don’t know who I’m quoting there, but in my head that’s word for word what some know-it-all has to say about Cody Barton. Has there ever been a good football player named Cody? I don’t think so! Prove me wrong. Anyway, Washington saved me from a lot of unnecessary worry by signing him on Day One, so he’s their problem now. Enjoy ankle tackles and a complete dearth of impact plays!

Quinton Jefferson Released

This came after the Dre’Mont Jones signing, which saves us around $5 million. He’s always been a quality rotation body – who can slide inside and outside – but nothing really special. That being said, he was one of the few players who flashed any semblance of competence along the line in 2022, so it was nice having him back while it lasted. I don’t know if this is a move we made to help pay for Jones’ new deal, or if it will lead to another move, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Rashaad Penny Signed With The Philadelphia Eagles

You know, the more you think about it, the more you realize Rashaad Penny is the most Eaglesy running back on the market. Mix him in that backfield with three other guys and watch them all tantalize – fantasywise – but ultimately let you down when you actually have to start one of them on your team. Penny leaving the Seahawks seemed like a foregone conclusion after returning on a 1-year deal, only to get hurt early in the season. It was time for a fresh start, and it’s time for the Seahawks to look elsewhere to back up Kenneth Walker.

Travis Homer Signed With The Chicago Bears

It’s a 2-year, $4.5 million deal, which granted isn’t a lot of money, but also Travis Homer isn’t worth spending money on. He’s just a guy, and that’s all he’s been. He also hasn’t been remotely durable since his rookie season. I’m happy to move on and hope the Seahawks look to draft a running back to fill out the ranks.

The Seahawks Signed Dre’Mont Jones & Jarran Reed

We have exciting news! I can’t remember the last time the Seahawks were involved with a major signing on the first day of free agency. Not for an outside player anyway. The Seahawks are an organization that likes to draft and develop, they’re an organization that likes to take care of their own guys. Other than that – and the occasional big splash trade – we usually buy low and test the waters on an older veteran, or a lesser name coming off his rookie contract.

It’s a smart way to do things, but it can also be infuriating. What happens to those teams who “win” free agency? They’re often coming from a real dark point; that’s why they have so much money to spend in the first place. And, you’re not getting the proper value out of guys on bigtime second or third contracts, compared to those on rookie deals especially, but also compared to past-their-prime veterans who might have a little something left in the tank. So, you don’t often see a lot of future success from those teams who “win” free agency. Once in a while, a team will get everything right, but that’s pretty rare. More often than not, if you’re not just as inept (remember that Philly “Dream Team” they compiled some years back), then you’re mortgaging the future like the Rams did. Which is great, they won a Super Bowl. But, now they’re set to be one of the worst teams in football, and that’s gotta be tough to swallow as a fan.

Conversely, as you can see, it’s not like the Seahawks’ way has paid dividends either. All too often, we’ve eschewed one impact signing in an attempt to scattershot a lot of minimum deals. Instead of signing one impact offensive linemen, we’d sign three mediocre duds. Instead of going for one impact pass rusher, we’d overpay defensive tackles (Poona, Mone) who can’t get to the quarterback, and then sign whoever else was left on the scrap heap (Quinton Jefferson, Al Woods).

Everyone likes to point to Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril as the last time the Seahawks got it right in free agency. That was EONS ago! The last outside free agent who actually made a positive impact was Uchenna Nwosu; before him, there was nobody.

Seemingly every year, we head into free agency with a decent amount of money to spend, and seemingly every year, we walk away shaking our heads at the moves the Seahawks have done.

Well, not this time! This time, we signed Dre’Mont Jones away from the Denver Broncos, for 3 years and $51 million. He gets a $20 million signing bonus, which puts his 2023 cap hit at around $10 million. Assuming he plays well, his 2024 cap hit is under $20 million. And if he’s a jackpot, we’ll probably extend him before 2025 comes into play.

6’3, 281 pound defensive tackle who has 22 sacks in his 4-year career, 18.5 over the last three seasons (no less than 5.5 per year). But, it’s obviously not just sacks that makes him one of the most sought-after defensive linemen in this free agency class. He can play all over the line, and he’s a menace against both the run and the pass. He’s basically everything we’ve been looking for since Clinton McDonald left, on the low end. On the high end, the sky’s the limit. I dunno, maybe Aaron Donald is the limit; he’s probably not Aaron Donald.

Nevertheless, he’s the best defensive tackle we’ve had in ages. Sam Adams maybe? Rocky Bernard? It goes back a ways. (I don’t count Michael Bennett here, though maybe I should; I always saw him as a defensive end who slid inside on passing downs to give us an extra outside rusher).

Not only is Dre’Mont one of the best and most impactful free agents, but he also fills a VERY huge need on this particular team. Shelby Harris and Quinton Jefferson were both released as cap casualties. Poona Ford is probably moving on (after not really fitting into the new 3-4 scheme), and Bryan Mone might be out with injury all year. So, as much as we all like Al Woods, there’s a lot of work left to do.

And just when I thought we might settle for some guy making the minimum, we bounced right back the next day and brought back Jarran Reed on a 2-year, $10.8 million deal. This isn’t just any old man off the streets. This is someone who has been remarkably healthy and available (other than a stint when he was suspended). He had a stretch with the Seahawks where there was real pass rush ability and potential (surpassing 10 sacks one year), but by and large he’ll give you a little bit of that, while also presenting a stout front in run defense.

What makes all of this truly thrilling is seeing what will come from the #5 overall pick. If Jalen Carter falls to us? And we get to play him, Reed, and Jones side by side by side? With Nwosu on one end and Darrell Taylor or Boye Mafe on the other? Or, we end up with Will Anderson as an end with those guys? We could really have something here!

Seahawks Death Week 2022: What Moves Should Be Made

I got into what I want the Seahawks to do at quarterback yesterday, so we’ll get into the rest of the roster here.

If you look at the Seahawks’ salary cap for 2023, you’re going to find some REAL annoying shit at the top. Two safeties – Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs – sitting #1 and #2 with our biggest cap hits, both over $18 million. It’s fucking asinine! You might be able to talk me into one safety at that kind of figure, if he’s far-and-away the best in the game. But, one guy can’t stay on the field, and the other clearly lost a step in 2022 (and even at his best he wasn’t the best).

The next two players on the list – Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf – are more appropriately ranked. They’re your best wide receivers (a premium position) and they play among the best receivers in the game. Even though they’re taking up a significant portion of the salary cap, they’re still good value.

Then, you’ve got Uchenna Nwosu at around $13 million; that’s a good number for what he gave us in 2022. Figure he’ll pretty easily replicate those numbers if he stays healthy.

So, out of the top five highest paid players currently under contract for 2023, I’m happy with three of them. Not a great percentage.

They say the NFL’s middle class is dead, but I think the Seahawks are trying to remedy that in a big way. We have six guys making between $5 million and just over $12 million. This is a significant chunk of change for players who you could probably replace for minimum salaries and get production that’s just as good. Shelby Harris tops that list at just over $12 million. He was a bright spot on a very bad defensive line. But, I don’t know if he’s giving you $12 million worth of production.

Gabe Jackson is set to count just over $11 million, but he could be cut for $6.5 million in savings. That might be the way to go, considering how he is on the downside of his career. Then, you’ve got Dissly and Fant, who count for a combined $16 million against the cap. Yikes. But, we’re already committed to them, so there’s not much we can do there. Then, there’s Quinton Jefferson and Al Woods making a combined $12 million … I dunno.

It all boils down to there being around $34 million in cap space next year (and I don’t know if that counts the new contract for our kicker). Which would be entirely used up if Geno Smith returns on the franchise tag. How did we get here? We got rid of Russell Wilson, we shed a lot of dead weight, we played a lot of rookies and cheap guys … and yet we have practically nothing to work with because we’re going to have to pay Geno’s ass the bulk of it.

There are SO MANY problems with this team! I can’t even begin to comprehend how much of the defensive line needs to be replaced. The off-ball linebackers are trash, and we likely can’t even count on Jordyn Brooks to be healthy with his significant knee injury/surgery (not that I’m crazy-enamored with Brooks anyway, considering the lack of impact plays he makes in the backfield). That’s really two entire position groups that need significant revamping, but of course no money to work with (while we’re sickeningly over-paying for our two starting safeties).

I’m already on record as saying the Seahawks should cheap-out on quarterback and use every available dollar to fix the defense and the interior of the offensive line. So, asked and answered, that’s what I want the Seahawks to do in 2023.

But, since we live in the real world – where Geno Smith will most definitely be back on a 3-4 year deal – I have to come to grips with what we have to offer.

Maybe there’s ONE mid-tier free agent defensive starter we can bring in. Then, there will be the requisite dumpster diving, with all our trust falling on the draft.

My hunch is: the Seahawks will ignore the quarterback position entirely in the draft. So, high-end pass rusher at the top, maybe a trade-back or two, then pick up the following:

  • Guard/Center – somewhere in the low first, upper second round, who can step in right away and start for the next four years. Ideally, this will be the first competent center we’ve had since Max Unger
  • Safety – because we’re going to need someone to step in to start in 2024, when we likely cut both Adams and Diggs
  • Wide Receiver – we need a quality #3 receiver who isn’t Dee Eskridge, so I wouldn’t mind this guy being a second or third rounder with upside as a possession receiver
  • Defensive Tackle – a real big, burly dude to clog up the middle in this 3-4 defense
  • Inside Linebacker – probably a couple of ’em – one on day 2, one in the early part of day 3 – with good speed and play-making ability
  • Another Guard/Center – to further bolster our depth
  • The Next Brock Purdy In The 7th Round – a guy can dream, right?

Honestly, as long as we don’t bring back Cody Barton, I don’t care what else the Seahawks do with their offseason.

Seahawks Death Week 2022: Looking On The Bright Side

I tend to come on here and do a lot of bitching. It’s my outlet. That way, I don’t have to bombard loved ones with my rantings on draft order, mediocre quarterbacks, atrocious defenses, and the like.

But, today, I’m not going to do that. Today I’m taking off my pissy-pants and looking on the brighter side of Seahawks life.

As an astute commenter recently noted, it’s important to remember where our expectations were heading into the season. Mine were at an all-time low (or close to it) for the Seahawks. I estimated anywhere from 3-4 wins, with the Broncos being division winners. So, still getting that top 5 pick (from those Broncos), while having a better-than-anticipated Seahawks roster full of promising prospects getting lots of valuable experience, is a pretty big win! You could argue this is the best-possible (reasonable) season we could’ve gotten. Obviously, the ACTUAL best-possible season would’ve been Denver having the worst record in the NFL, with the Seahawks winning the Super Bowl. But, we’re bound by the laws of reality, which is still pretty damn good.

I couldn’t be happier with our 2022 draft class.

Kenneth Walker finished 12th in the league in rushing yards, with 1,050. And that’s with two full missed games, and not really taking over lead rushing duties until week five. He averaged 70 yards per game, which was 9th in the NFL, as well as 4.6 yards per carry, which was 9th as well (minimum 200 attempts). Maybe more importantly, he was the best rookie running back in this class, given his ability and durability. We’ll see how long he’s able to hold that title, but regardless that’s a VERY strong start to a career.

I thought Charles Cross and Abe Lucas acquitted themselves quite well as bookend offensive tackles. It’s not easy to find ONE of those positions in the draft, let alone two in the SAME draft. You never want to unfurl the Mission Accomplished banner after one quality season, but I think it’s reasonable to suspect we’re set at those spots for the next few years at least. Were they perfect? Of course not. But, the mistakes appeared to be minimal (for rookies), and the upside looks like it’s substantial.

On the defensive side of the ball, one of the few bright spots was cornerback Tariq Woolen, who finished with 6 interceptions in his first year. He also made the Pro Bowl, which is awesome! When you consider he was expected to be a rough project at corner, the fact that he started every game and played at such a high level is, frankly, phenomenal. It’s too early to start bandying around LOB comparisons, but if anyone deserves to be lumped into that group, it looks like it might be Woolen.

Guys like slot corner Coby Bryant and edge rusher/linebacker Boye Mafe have flashed at times, but have also looked a little rough. I’ll be cautiously optimistic with them, but that’s more than you could say for a lot of Seahawks draft picks over the last few years.

Other bright spots include our top two receivers. D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett both surpassed 1,000 yards receiving, which seemed impossible before the season (1,048 for D.K., 1,033 for Tyler). They combined for 15 of our 30 receiving touchdowns; you can’t really ask for much more than that. We only had one other instance of two receivers catching over 1,000 yards in the same season under Russell Wilson’s leadership, and that was 2020 (with the same guys).

Speaking of the passing game, even though I have my reservations going forward, you can’t deny the numbers Geno Smith put up. He set the Seahawks’ single season passing yards record with 4,282. Granted, he needed 17 games to do it (when all others had, at most, 16 games to play in), but a record is a record. He ranked 4th in yards per game, 7th in passer rating, 1st in completion percentage, 7th in touchdowns, and 1st in both attempts and completions among all Seahawks single-season passers. That’s quite a feat after coming off of Russell Wilson, who wanted nothing more than to be the franchise leader in attempts (he’s actually only 3rd on the list with his 2020 season, behind Matt Hasselbeck’s 2007). By most tangible measures, you could argue Geno Smith had the best season of any Seahawks quarterback ever. Which is why there will be a strong push to bring him back on a multi-year extension.

I would also say we got strong seasons from all three of our tight ends, Noah Fant, Will Dissly, and Colby Parkinson. Nothing too flashy, but they were fine outlets when our other receivers were covered.

Defensively, Uchenna Nwosu was our brightest shining star. He finished with 9.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 12 tackles for loss, and was our best and most consistent source of pressure. He’s one of the rare outside defensive free agents who’s come here and succeeded right away in the last decade.

Darrell Taylor picked up his game significantly late in the year, also finishing with 9.5 sacks. Quinton Jefferson and Bruce Irvin had nice reunions with the team, finishing with a combined 9 sacks. Quandre Diggs also came on a bit late in the season, finishing with 4 interceptions. And Ryan Neal was a sneaky defensive MVP, playing at a high level as our third safety thrust into a starting role early in the season. Also, kudos go to Shelby Harris for his veteran presence along the much-maligned defensive line. And, why not, Mike Jackson had some okay moments in his first year as a starting cornerback (4th year in the league).

There’s a universe where these guys I’ve just referenced are the foundation of the next great Seahawks team. No one is satisfied with a 9-8 record and semi-backing into the playoffs as a 7-seed. But I don’t think there’s any question that a 9-8 team is a lot closer to being at a championship level than a 4 or 5-win team with fundamental problems at multiple important areas. Especially when that 9-8 team has a couple of high selections in the first two rounds of the 2023 draft.

The key will be that draft, though. You can’t just do what we did in 2022 and expect a significant turnaround. It takes multiple consecutive years of nailing drafts and free agent classes to get things right.

But, I will say this: while I have my doubts about the defensive coordinator, I think this coaching staff and front office deserve a ton of credit for keeping this team together and blowing out everyone’s expectations. The organization got it right with Russell Wilson, even if we were a year or two too late in getting rid of him.

You can obviously understand why that trade happened the way it did, when it did. It’s not easy moving on from a franchise quarterback who’s been the best we’ve ever had, while leading us to back-to-back Super Bowls. I think we did the best we could under the circumstances, with Wilson having a no-trade clause and Denver being our only real option.

I would argue given our level of talent and lack of depth (particularly on the defensive side of the ball), it’s a miracle we won as many games as we did! It was also a miracle we stayed as healthy as we did, at our most important positions. I think I read on Twitter that Geno Smith was the only quarterback to take all of his team’s snaps (not counting crazy wildcat plays and whatnot). When you factor in an O-line breaking in two rookies at tackle, and having their issues along the interior, as well as the fact that Geno was tied for the third-most sacks taken, I don’t know how that’s even possible!

So, if you want, feel free to be optimistic about the future. I don’t blame you! I’m naturally skeptical about my Seattle teams, so I’ll be over here pouting in my little corner of the Internet. But, I’ll tell you this much: I’m extremely excited for all the moves the Seahawks end up making this upcoming offseason. I know I won’t agree with all of them, but there should be enough positives to rope me into a Glass Half Full assessment heading into this September. I can’t wait to be wildly disappointed at the conclusion of next season!

Who Do The Seahawks Have On Defense That’s Worth A Damn?

There’s nothing worse in football than a shitty defense. Put me in the minority of football fans: I want a defense that far-and-away outclasses the offense. I’d rather root for a team like the 49ers than I would a team like the Chiefs. Great defenses don’t take weeks off. Great defenses can make great offenses look inept; rarely do you see it go the other way. Rarely do you see a great defense – that isn’t totally decimated by injuries, thereby rendering it not-so-great – get totally obliterated. That’s what I’m looking for in a championship-level football team. That’s what I’m counting on when it comes to the playoffs. Great defense, and a quarterback who can get the job done in a pinch.

It feels like it’s been forever since the Seahawks have had a great defense. You could argue we haven’t had one since 2014 or 2015, which in NFL terms IS forever. The Seahawks haven’t just been mediocre, though. They’ve been downright BAD. What’s worse, they’ve often been bad masquerading as mediocre, which has led to this endless fucking cycle of never really going all-in to improve.

Year after year where we start out as the absolute worst defense in football. Then, through smoke and mirrors (and usually a reduction in the quality of offensive opponents), as the season goes along, they improve JUST enough to fool us into believing they’re not as bad as we thought. An inept coaching staff gets to keep their jobs (for a while), inept players get to stick around (for a while), and it starts all over again.

It’s been a long time since we’ve been THIS bad though. The run defense has been bad in spurts over the last half-decade, but never this consistently atrocious. There’s always been SOMETHING to stem the tide, and maybe that something was Bobby Wagner. Maybe we took him for granted for too long, and now we’re reaping what we sow.

There’s been a chicken or egg thing with this defense this year. Is it a scheme/coaching problem? Or is it a lack of talent among the players problem?

I’m inclined to think the scheme is sound – because we’ve seen the Vic Fangio scheme work all over the league – but the key difference is that usually they have Vic Fangio running it. I’ve had a problem with Clint Hurtt since it was announced he was taking over as defensive coordinator. Here’s a guy who’s done nothing in his coaching career, who led a mediocre-at-best defensive line unit under the previous shitty regime, and you just have to wonder what this guy did to deserve a promotion, as someone who’s never coached at this level before.

That being said, I don’t think there’s any question there’s a lack of talent on this team. Tariq Woolen appears to be the only player worth a damn. Uchenna Nwosu looks good week-in and week-out, but that can be deceiving. Is he just a standout among clods? Or is he actually a talented pass rusher/outside linebacker? I think it’s worth questioning since the Chargers let him go in free agency, and the Seahawks were only willing to sign him to a 2-year deal.

After that? Fuck this defense. As has been belabored, Jordyn Brooks makes a lot of tackles, but rarely are they of any impact. What big plays has he generated to put teams behind the sticks? Quandre Diggs appears to have lost a step, and if he’s going to keep dropping interceptions, then what good is he? We’re all well aware of Jamal Adams’ broken-down body; can’t count on him going forward. Darrell Taylor has had a nightmare season, given where we expected him to be in his development. Even Poona Ford and Bryan Mone have appeared to take steps back in their production, and all those guys are paid to do is stop the run! That’s literally their only fucking job!

The third and fourth best players on this defense are Al Woods and Shelby Harris, two aging vets you could get on the scrap heap in any given offseason.

It really makes you wonder how far away we are from building that elite defense we’ve missed so much. Are we just a few impact players away? Or is a total teardown and rebuild required? I don’t think we’re going to see the latter – at least as long as Pete Carroll and John Schneider are here – so that means we have to hope we’re just a draft away from turning things around.

Heading into next year, we’ve got the aforementioned Woolen and Nwosu. We hope the likes of Coby Bryant and/or Tre Brown can make an impact. Beyond that, man, I dunno. It seems more and more like we’re going to need that first Broncos pick to be an impact defensive lineman. I’m wondering if we’re going to need to use the vast majority of our draft picks to go towards the defense!

It’s extremely discouraging. I don’t like calling this a “lost season” because that makes it sound like a failure, when really it’s not THAT bad. But, any season where you’re not seriously contending for a championship – or at least building towards that – is indeed a lost season. You like to at least hang your hat on some players you can point to and say, “These are the building blocks of a potential championship team.” There are guys up and down that offense where you can say that. But, on defense, the cupboard is fucking BARE.

Fans are impatient. I get that. The Seahawks are 7-7 with three weeks to go. We’d need to win out AND we’d need help if we want to make the playoffs as one of the last two wild card teams. To win out, that means we’d need to somehow defeat the Chiefs this weekend, then turn around and beat the Jets and Rams at home. As a team that couldn’t even beat the Panthers, Raiders, or Bucs, that feels implausible. As such, I just want to get this Seahawks season over with as soon as possible, with as many defeats as possible, to better our draft picks for next year. I want to fast forward to the 2023 draft, I want us to select the best possible players, and I want the next regular season to get going with our bounty of improved talent! It feels insane to say that while there are still relevant regular season games left to play in 2022, but that’s where I’m at.

I can’t watch this defense anymore. It’s infuriating. The offense has been a heartwarming story thus far, but it’s not good enough to overcome the other side of the ball being so helpless. It’s time to seriously overhaul the whole fucking unit, from top to bottom, by any means necessary. All these half measures aren’t going to cut it anymore.

Seahawks 53-Man Roster Projection Ready Set Go!

It’s a little early for this, I’ll admit. But, this Friday I’m leaving on a trip and won’t be back until Labor Day, which doesn’t leave me a lot of time until the start of the regular season (plus, will be after the final cut-down day anyway, rendering this whole exercise moo. A cow’s opinion). Really, when you think about it, this isn’t early at all. It’s probably late, if I’m being honest! What am I even talking about?!

I don’t have a lot invested in this team, so I imagine my latest 53-man roster projection is going to be more wrong than normal (when I never really gave a damn anyway). Did I include too many linebackers and not enough offensive linemen? Probably. Anyway, here we go.

Quarterbacks

  • Geno Smith
  • Drew Lock

It’s our worst nightmare, come to fruition. If I had to guess, I’d say Geno gets the nod to start the regular season, but I can’t imagine that will last long (if it happens at all). I still contend the team wants Lock to be the guy, but his fucking up at every turn is holding him back.

Running Backs

  • Rashaad Penny
  • Kenneth Walker
  • Travis Homer
  • DeeJay Dallas
  • Nick Bellore

Pretty easy one here. I don’t dare lump Bellore in with the rest of the linebackers, but sure, he’s that too, I guess (in addition to a fullback the team almost never uses). When Walker’s healthy, this figures to be a 2-man backfield, but Homer will still likely see his fair share of reps in the 2-minute offense. And, injuries will likely dictate all of these guys appear at one time or another.

Wide Receivers

  • D.K. Metcalf
  • Tyler Lockett
  • Freddie Swain
  • Dee Eskridge
  • Penny Hart
  • Dareke Young

I really don’t believe Eskridge has done a damn thing to earn a spot on this roster, other than being our top draft pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Feels too soon to give up on a 2nd round pick, but then again, he’s CONSTANTLY FUCKING INJURED. I don’t get it. Hart is a hedge against that, plus he’s a special teams whiz. And I feel like if you keep Eskridge, you have to keep a sixth receiver just in case. It seems like Young has the higher upside, whereas Bo Melton is probably likelier to pass through to the practice squad.

Tight Ends

  • Noah Fant
  • Will Dissly
  • Colby Parkinson

Easy peasy lemon squeezy. No notes.

Offensive Line

  • Charles Cross
  • Damien Lewis
  • Austin Blythe
  • Gabe Jackson
  • Abe Lucas
  • Phil Haynes
  • Jake Curhan
  • Kyle Fuller
  • Stone Forsythe

Odds are we’ll see a 10th lineman here, but you could conceivably get away with just the 9. It all depends on how bad the Lewis injury is and how long he’ll miss time. But, Curhan can play guard or tackle. Fuller can play center or guard. Forsythe is your traditional tackle backup. There’s enough cross-polination among the backups here to cover your ass in a pinch. That assumes, of course, that Lucas is your starting right tackle, which is the rumor I’m hearing.

Defensive Linemen

  • Shelby Harris
  • Poona Ford
  • Bryan Mone
  • Al Woods
  • Quinton Jefferson
  • L.J. Collier
  • Myles Adams

These are the beefy dudes who should spend little-to-no time dropping back into coverage. That figure could be drastically high; I’m really taking a stab in the dark here. But, I’ve also ranked them in order of likelihood to make the team, so could be a tough break for one or both of Collier & Adams (but, I’ve heard good things about Collier in practice, and I’ve seen good things from Adams in the two games so far).

Pass Rushers/Strong-Side Linebackers

  • Darrell Taylor
  • Boye Mafe
  • Uchenna Nwosu
  • Alton Robinson
  • Tyreke Smith

Again, I’m ranking these by order of likelihood to make the team. But, I think the top four are as close to locks as possible. Smith makes my roster because he’s a draft pick, but I couldn’t tell you if he’s done a damn thing so far in the pre-season.

Linebackers

  • Jordyn Brooks
  • Cody Barton
  • Tanner Muse
  • Vi Jones

I’ll be honest, Muse and Jones are here because they’re names I recognize. I think one or both might be valuable special teamers, maybe? I also think this team could be sifting through cast-offs from other teams, since the position outside of Brooks has been so underwhelming.

Safeties

  • Jamal Adams
  • Quandre Diggs
  • Ryan Neal
  • Marquise Blair

I haven’t seen or heard about Neal, but I’m assuming based on his production for this team of late, he’ll get a crack to be a backup again. Blair, on the other hand, has done nothing but disappoint in the pre-season. I wouldn’t be shocked if Blair gets chopped and we go with someone else on our roster or pick up another team’s reject(s).

Cornerbacks

  • Tariq Woolen
  • Coby Bryant
  • Sidney Jones
  • Artie Burns
  • Justin Coleman

I don’t think Coleman deserves to be on this team, but I think he’s going to make it anyway. Odds are it’s Jones and Burns to start – with Bryant being the team’s top nickel guy – but I won’t be surprised to see Woolen out there (especially if Burns or Jones can’t get healthy). I’m also banking on Tre Brown starting out on PUP, or otherwise not joining the roster until later on in the season.

Special Teams

  • Tyler Ott (LS)
  • Michael Dickson (P)
  • Jason Myers (K)

Seems crazy that Myers gets to keep his job based on what we’ve seen, but what are you going to do? He’s going to continue to be aggravating, but he’s going to be far from the most aggravating thing we see on a weekly basis from this team.

The Seahawks Weren’t Totally Uninteresting In A Pre-Season Loss In Pittsburgh

I had scheduled myself to write about the Mariners today and the Seahawks tomorrow, but we’re flip-flopping after an underwhelming series loss to the Rangers of all teams.

I didn’t watch the Seahawks game live, because I have better things to do than watch quasi-meaningless pre-season games. But, you know what I don’t have better things to do than? Watching quasi-meaningless pre-season games the next day on DVR when I already know the outcome of the game!

I’ll just get this out of the way early so we can all move on: I’m not crazy about pre-season announcing booths in general, but the addition of an otherwise quite charming Michael Robinson brought the homerism to a new level. I didn’t bother to write down any specific criticisms, but at points I was wondering if we were watching the same players. Like, he’d praise their attributes that they clearly don’t exhibit! To counter-balance that, I thought the addition of Michael Bennett was delightful, and I particularly enjoyed his interviews on the field. He’s a wild card in the best possible way (even though it’s clear he’s been instructed to also juice up the homerism). Curt Menefee, as always, is a pro’s pro and we’re lucky to have him doing our games. He has no reason to! We’re not interesting from a national perspective without Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner anymore!

The game result is – as has been mentioned everywhere – not important. The Seahawks got down 14-0 through the first quarter, we managed to execute a 2-minute drive heading into halftime to cut the deficit to 17-10, then we tied it on our first possession after halftime. We swapped touchdowns and 2-point conversions after that, to make it 25-25 late in the game. Then, a critical stop by the Seahawks defense was rewarded with a devastating sack/fumble, and the Steelers scored a TD with just 3 seconds left in the game to give the game its final score, 32-25.

Pre-Season Quarterback Report

As has been the case pretty much all off-season, Geno Smith worked with the starters and Drew Lock worked with the backups. In this particular game, Geno worked the entire first half and Drew worked the entire second half.

And, as expected, neither one really stood out, at least to my eye. They’re both crappy-to-mediocre backup quarterbacks in this league. And yet, I came to a definite conclusion while watching this game, as Geno Smith tottered his way to a sack in an imploding pocket (even though he had plenty of time to throw it away): if I have to watch a full season where Geno Smith is my team’s starting quarterback, I’m going to blow my fucking brains out.

Mind you, I don’t expect that to be the end result of my life, so let’s just say I’ll be taking every opportunity to casually skip even regular season Seahawks games this year.

I don’t want this to sound like I’m gung-ho over Drew Lock, because I’m very much not. But, man, we fucking know what Geno Smith has to offer. He was shitty with the Jets (and other teams) and he’s shitty now. Age and sitting behind Russell Wilson has not magically made him better. There’s no savvy to his game. He looks way too long to his first read, for one thing. That makes him frequently late in throwing to that first read if he decides it’s open. Otherwise, it makes him late to his secondary reads, so it’s like he holds on Read 1, and then a few seconds later decides to check it down to his final read. This is especially aggravating when it’s 3rd & long and the check-down gets tackled well before the first down line to gain.

That’s why you can see his stats from Saturday – 10/15, 101 yards, no turnovers – and think that’s not so bad. Last year, in three games, he completed over 68% of his passes largely in this fashion (looking pretty spry against probably the league’s worst defense in Jacksonville), which again leads one to think he’s not so bad. Think again. Think long and hard about the Geno Smith you’ve watched over the last decade.

I just can’t with him. All things being equal – and they do look pretty equal – give me the unfamiliar. Drew Lock, to his credit, did some good things in this one. He doubled the number of touchdown drives that Geno gave us, he completed one more pass for one more yard in the same number of attempts. But, he also took double the number of sacks, including the game-sealing fumble at the end (where he was supposed to recognize the blitzer off the edge and adjust the play/protection accordingly).

You look for moments where a quarterback can show you what he’s got. That was Drew Lock’s moment. The game was tied, there was just over a minute left and we got it on Pittsburgh’s side of the 50 yard line. All we needed was 20-25 yards for an easy game-winning field goal. That’s a moment where you MUST orchestrate a game-winning drive for your team. Granted, it was the pre-season, so it was backups against backups. But, that makes it all the more important if you’re Drew Lock and you’re trying to be a starter in this league. Starters don’t fuck that up. Starters see that blitzer and make mincemeat out of the Steelers on that play. This is going to be Lock’s fourth year in the league; if you can’t see a pretty obvious blitz off the edge by now, then I just don’t think it’s ever going to click for you.

And yet, I still would prefer to see Lock as our starting quarterback this season. Partly because he’s Not Geno Smith, but also because I think he sucks just a little bit more. I think he’s going to be a little more reckless with the football, where Geno might be a little more careful. I think he’ll cost us maybe an extra game or two, where Geno might do just enough to game manage his way to victory. It’s the difference between going 8-9 and 6-11, but that’s a pretty big leap in the NFL draft standings, and that’s all that matters right now.

Because, clearly, neither of these guys deserve to be around and playing in meaningful football games in 2023.

Other Pre-Season Tidbits

I was quite impressed with the offensive line throughout this one. If there’s one positive takeaway, it’s that the depth up front is likely to be our biggest strength.

By extension, I thought the running backs looked great as well! Granted, Rashaad Penny was out with injury (of course), but that just meant more Kenneth Walker. He didn’t break anything, but he looked solid in general. More eye-opening was what we saw from DeeJay Dallas and even Travis Homer, who both got busy running AND pass catching. Great day from that room!

I was pretty appalled by our run defense, especially when you saw a good chunk of our starting interior linemen out there for much of the game. Even in the first half, the Steelers were ripping us to shreds.

Cody Barton is Just A Guy. I don’t know where anyone got the opinion that he’s going to be a good player for this team, but he’s not. He’s just a warm body. His deficiencies might be covered up a little more when Jordyn Brooks is out there being a beast. But, when Barton is the main guy, you can see just how slow he is, how bad his instincts are, and how he gets run over on the reg. If ankle tackles where the runner still falls forward for 2-3 extra yards are your jam, then sign up for more Cody Barton. But, as for me, I prefer an inside linebacker with some juice.

Bit of a mixed bag from our receivers. I thought the rookies Bo Melton and Dareke Young looked solid. No D.K. or Lockett in this one, nor any Swain or Dee Eskridge (naturally). We did get our first look at Noah Fant, who will definitely have a big role in this passing game. That being said, Fant isn’t going to be much of a blocker, especially out in space, so we’ll have to adjust our expectations accordingly. Also, he needs to work on his footwork, because he had a great opportunity along the sidelines, but couldn’t get his second foot down in bounds.

I was pleased to see Darrell Taylor and Alton Robinson make big impacts in the pass rush. And I was thrilled with the two sacks from Boye Mafe! He might be raw, but his speed is NFL-ready, no doubt about it. Shelby Harris looks like a quality addition to the interior, and I think it was Myles Adams who stood out quite a bit in the second half (I believe he was wearing #95 in this one, but I could be mistaken). I don’t know how many DTs we can carry, but I’m rooting for Adams.

I’m going to withhold too much judgment on the secondary for now, because we were looking at a lot of inexperienced guys out there on the boundary. I will say that Justin Coleman looks bad and old and slow; he probably shouldn’t make this team. Promisingly enough, Tariq Woolen got the start on one side and was hit or miss. I say “promisingly” because he was always expected to be more of a project, so the fact that the team trusts him enough to start him right out of the gate is encouraging for his overall talent level. I’ll need to see better ball skills, and turning his head when the ball is in the air, but otherwise there are things to build upon, as well as things to point to and praise. On the other side, we saw a lot of Coby Bryant. I don’t know where he’s ultimately going to end up (if it’s outside or as a nickel guy), but sort of the same deal: some good things to point to, some things for him to work on. You wouldn’t expect either guy to be finished products right out of college, but I like that they both have the trust of these coaches this early in their careers.

That being said, if Sidney Jones and/or Artie Burns continue to be injured throughout this season, we could be looking at significant growing pains from our secondary. Granted, neither of our starting safeties – Quandre Diggs & Jamal Adams – played in this one. Here’s hoping they can paper over where we’re limited on the outside.

Finally, I’ll just say the kicking game looked shaky as hell! Jason Myers doinked one in off the upright and did not look sharp; he was also knocking some kickoffs short, but that may have been by design to test our coverage units (who graded out pretty poorly, in my layman’s opinion). Michael Dickson punted a bunch into the endzone, which is entirely unlike him. I’d say the old line about how it’s pre-season for everyone, including punters, but what else does he do with his time in training camp? He punts! Where’s that magic leg we’ve seen for four years?! That magic leg we’re paying Top-Of-The-Punter-Market prices!

How Good Could The Seahawks Be (Quarterback Aside)?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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