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:
- Passing Game (QB / WR / TE / RB)
- Running Game (RB / QB)
- Blocking Game (OL / TE)
- Special Teams (K / P / Coverage Units / Return Game)
- Pass Rush (DE / LB)
- Run Defense (DT / DE / LB)
- Pass Defense (DB / LB)
Without further ado, let’s talk about the Seahawks’ Special Teams.
Sebastian Janikowski vs. Jason Myers. The sure-footed veteran on a 1-year prove-it deal following an injury-riddled 2017 vs. a booming-legged youngster who’s bounced around the league, but has yet to put it all together.
Any way you slice it, the Seahawks are MUCH improved over the fucking disaster that was Blair Walsh. Though, I guess we have to wonder: are we better off than we would’ve been had we re-signed Steven Hauschka?
I still stand behind the decision to move on from Hauschka, even though he killed it for Buffalo (including a perfect 29/29 on his PATs after missing a whopping 6 with the Seahawks in 2016). With kickers, so much of it is a mental game, which is why Walsh is out of the league now. He missed that playoff field goal with the Vikings (against the Seahawks) and never recovered. Hauschka essentially lost his job in Seattle because of a bunch of missed extra points and field goals (including that infuriating 6-6 tie in Arizona in 2016). Who’s to say he didn’t need a fresh start, across the country and in the opposite conference, a lot closer to his hometown than Seattle? Kickers can be volatile – much like bullpen arms in baseball – by being hot one year and a disaster the next, with no rhyme or reason for either; but he was looking for a pricey, long-term extension and given his performance in 2016, I don’t think it was the smartest play to keep him.
There is, however, something to be said for investing in your kicker, though, and not just dumpster diving for scraps. So many games hinge on a field goal here, or an extra point there, that if you end up with a dud like Walsh, it can mean the difference between going 9-7 and missing out on the playoffs, or going 11-5 (or even 12-4) and maybe winning the division.
As for this battle, I don’t see the Seahawks making a rash decision here. I think they want to solve their kicking riddle for the long term, not just patch things over temporarily only to have to fix things all over again in a year’s time. As such, I think Myers is going to be given every opportunity to win this job, and I think it’s the appropriate move. I mostly think that because I don’t believe this is a playoff team (I certainly don’t believe it’s a championship team, not with all the loaded NFC teams this year), and I also don’t think that Janikowski has a lot left in the tank.
But, I do think it’s a true position battle. Janikowski has the edge because he can be relied upon. Also, he has some cachet as a former first round draft pick and future hall of famer. You don’t throw him away if Myers has a bad pre-season because you have a hunch that he could be the kicker of the future. All things being equal, I think Myers wins the job. Short of that, Janikowski is your man and you look to solve this riddle next year.
As I said before, this is all a vast improvement over 2017, as at worst you have a guy in Janikowski who will at the very least make the ones he’s supposed to make. For that reason alone, I give this grade a B+.
Feels weird having a punter battle, but here we are.
This feels like less of a battle and more like a lamb going to slaughter, though. Michael Dickson was widely considered to be the best punter in the draft this year and we traded up in the fifth round to grab him. Jon Ryan is heading into his 13th season, is coming off of a down year, and is making considerably more money. Dickson would have to totally fall on his face to lose this job.
From what I’ve seen in videos and read about online, Dickson looks like the real fucking deal! Look, I love Jon Ryan and what he’s done for this team; he’s the MVP for crying out loud! But, Dickson could be one of the best punters in the game, and right out of the gate!
It sounds idiotic to be excited about seeing a punter in the pre-season, but I have to admit, among all the newcomers we brought in this off-season, he’s near the top of my list. I mean, the first time he’s able to down a punt inside the five yard line, I guarantee I’m going to scream and yell and jump out of my seat, giving high fives to all the confused people around me in that moment. I can’t wait.
This one is pretty hard to project, because it involves so many of the players at the back-end of the roster. And because I don’t really know any of the stats or sabermetrics dealing with kickoff and punt coverage units.
I do know this: the Seahawks have some horses on this roster. The athleticism in our special teams units should be as good as they’ve been since 2013 or 2014. Obviously, the name that sticks out the most is Shaquem Griffin. We’re all sitting here wondering how he’s going to fit into the defense (will they play him at SAM, at WILL, at LEO, or possibly move him to safety?), but one thing we know for certain is he’s destined to be one of our most important special teamers. How do we know that? Because his twin brother – as a rookie – became our starting cornerback last year out of the gate. Shaquem is just as fast, is slightly bigger & stronger, and all he’s missing is one of his hands (which could theoretically be a strength when it comes to shedding blockers to make tackles). I mean, just imagine if BOTH of the Griffin brothers are playing special teams!
The Seahawks may be lacking in the superstars they once had, but I would argue our depth is stronger than it’s been in three or four years. With that being the case, competition to make this roster is going to be as tough as it’s been in a long time, and that obviously means guys are going to have to be rockstars on special teams to get on the roster for week 1.
That trickle-down effect should mean great coverage, on top of the fact that Dickson is elite at getting hangtime (while still getting great distance) on his punts, and whoever wins the kicking battle is sure to boom a good percentage of kickoffs into the endzone.
As we’re deeper than ever in our coverage units, so are we deeper than ever in our return game. Tyler Lockett is obviously the returning starter. He’s coming off a full year being healthy – after being injured late in 2016 – and was really looking good by season’s end. That’s a great sign as we head into 2018, as presumably he’s as strong as ever. Likewise, going into a contract year, he’s going to be hungry to earn a big extension. I expect great things.
And, if we opt to go in another direction – particularly on kickoffs, where rule changes could prove it beneficial to have multiple returners standing back there – Rashaad Penny was a top-notch returner in college. That’s on top of having a number of receivers who could be up to the task, depending on who wins one of those final roster spots.
Not only do we have depth, but we have ELITE depth. It wouldn’t shock me in the slightest to see a lot of long returns (and touchdown returns) contribute to some important wins.
There are lots of question marks on both sides of the football for the Seahawks, but Special Teams will be the without-a-doubt #1 strength of this team in 2018, mark my words. A’s across the board!