Pre-Pre-Season Preview: Seahawks Passing 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:

  • 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’ passing game.

Quarterbacks

It’s easy to write in Russell Wilson’s name here and call it a day.  A+.  Next position group.  I mean, we’re talking about a guy firmly in the prime of his career.  This will be his 7th season in the NFL, he’s worked his way up the quarterback rankings – I think most would put him in the Top 5, and if you don’t, I think you’re idiotic – and if you had to rank all the guys currently on the Seahawks, he’s not only the most important player, but he’s also the BEST player.

And sure, there isn’t a whole lot backing him up.  This isn’t a Philadelphia Eagles situation; if we lose Wilson, we don’t have a Nick Foles there backing him up with steady leadership and ability.  We have Austin Davis and a rookie; neither excites me to any degree.  Maybe the rookie develops into a competent backup one day, maybe not; but as a 7th round draft pick, I feel it’s pretty safe to say he’s a non-factor in 2018.

But, that’s pretty much been the case since Wilson was drafted.  Sure, MAYBE in 2013 – if Wilson had been injured – Tarvaris Jackson could’ve guided the team into the playoffs.  And MAYBE the rest of the squad would’ve been so great, it wouldn’t have mattered who was under center.  I don’t believe that; I don’t think the Seahawks had a chance in hell of GETTING to the Super Bowl that year, let alone winning it without Russell Wilson.  But, you believe what you want to believe.  I’ll believe that the Seahawks have never had anyone worth a damn backing up Wilson, and that any of our seasons since 2012 would’ve been absolutely destroyed if he’d suffered any sort of significant injury.

So, that’s nothing new in my mind.

That having been said, I can’t give Wilson a free pass either.  I know a lot of people will overlook at lot of his faults because the O-Line has been the worst in all of football, but to me that’s a 2-way street.  Yes, of course, there are too many instances of times where Wilson has no time to function; but, there are also a good number of boneheaded decisions on Wilson’s part, trying to do too much, ignoring the obvious check-down that would’ve gone for a significant gain.  Also, the team was constructed around his talents; they felt they could skimp on the O-Line because of Wilson’s running ability.  Considering all the money that was being paid elsewhere (as well as all the money going to Wilson himself), the team couldn’t pay everyone.  Where everyone is at fault, I believe, is OVER-estimating Russell Wilson’s abilities.  We saw him pull our asses out of the fire with magical play after magical play so many times, we thought he could walk on water.  When, in reality, Wilson is like most any other quarterback in the sense that he needs to be protected just like everyone else.

He’s human, despite what all the memes will tell you.

Now, he’s still a great human.  Elite even!  But, human nevertheless.  He’s a net gain, all things considered, but he’s also going to dig his share of holes that he then has to try and lift this team out of.  A lot of times, he’ll be successful.  But, not EVERY time.

So, to me, until I see a little more on-field maturity in his decision-making, it’s not an A+, but more like just a regular ol’ A, or even an A-.  He’s still in the 90th-percentile, and in that sense the Seahawks are one of the very, very lucky ones.

Wide Receivers

It’s almost refreshing to see the overwhelming majority of the public bash on the Seahawks’ receivers.  Feels like 2012 again!

I don’t have nearly the problem with the Seahawks’ receivers as everyone else seems to.  ESPN, for instance, ranked the Seahawks among the bottom quarter of the league in offensive weapons, but I don’t think it’s so dire.

For starters, we still have Doug Baldwin.  He’s going to command the lion’s share of the targets in the passing game, and he’s one of the 5 or 10 best (and most talented, dependable, dynamic, and fun-to-watch) receivers in the league.  Now, if we assume this is going to be a return to form for the Seahawks’ offense – with a run-first mentality – then we have to assume targets will once again be tough to come by.  In that sense, do the Seahawks really NEED three or four top-line wide receivers?

I argue: no.  We have one top-line guy in Baldwin, and another very good receiver in Tyler Lockett.  I think that’s enough.  Beyond that, I think the team will figure it out.

I think what goes in this team’s favor is that we don’t have this beast we have to constantly feed, like we did with Jimmy Graham (or previously with Percy Harvin).  We can simply focus on the best man available.  Instead of constantly dialing into one guy – particularly in the red zone – Wilson can just throw to whoever’s open.  IMAGINE THAT!  He can take advantage of natural mis-matches.  Guys we haven’t even considered could step up and be unlikely heroes, like in the good ol’ days of Seahawks football!

I think we’re also underestimating Doug’s abilities in the red zone, which are elite, and were heavily over-shadowed over all the hand-wringing it took to get Jimmy Graham his touches.  If the over/under is 8.5 TDs for Doug, I’m betting heavy on the over.  After that, you’re going to see a ton of guys catching anywhere from 2-4 TDs, we just can’t see exactly who just yet.

My grade is a solid B.

Tight Ends

Of course, something had to suffer with the loss of Jimmy Graham, and that’s in the pass-catching ability of our tight ends (I’ll discuss our VAST improvement in run blocking tight ends when I discuss the running game in a separate post).

Not only did we lose Graham’s production – not to mention the THREAT of his production, in how defenses schemed us – but we also lost Luke Willson, both of whom I would argue – strictly from a passing game perspective (taking all of their blocking ability out of it) – are better than what’s remaining on the Seahawks.

I guess you start with Ed Dickson, who I think will be good for – at best – a 2 catches per game average.  But, again, I would argue that’s all you need.  When our offense was really humming, we had Zach Miller at the helm.  He was great, but he was far from a focal point in the passing game.  Nevertheless, if you stuck a slow linebacker on him, he was liable to get by him for one or two big gains a game.  THAT’S what I want out of my tight ends in the passing game:  just one or two surprise plays that will move the chains.  Anything beyond that – up to and including any touchdowns – is gravy.

It gets even leaner from there, as Will Dissly was drafted primarily to be another blocking tight end for this team.  While I do believe in his ability long term, and think he will one day develop into a Zach Miller-ish catching tight end, I don’t think he’ll ever be a dominant offensive force.  And, again, I think that’s okay.  I think that’s just what this team needs to be productive.

My grade is a C-.

Running Backs

The real wild card in all of this is how our backs take to the passing game.  Under Russell Wilson, this has never really been an offense that took advantage of its running backs in the passing game.  There are occasional dump-offs, but really nothing to write home about.

However, as I’ll write about next time when I write about the running game, I couldn’t be any higher on this group of running backs.  It’s easy to say this is the best group we’ve had since Marshawn Lynch was in town, but I think these guys can REALLY start to approach – as a collective – the Beastmode’s greatness.

Considering what was always the drop-off from Lynch to whoever was next in line, this is the best 1-2 punch the Seahawks have had at running back maybe ever.  No one owns the #1 job just yet, but you figure with Rashaad Penny’s first round draft status, he has to be 1-A heading into Training Camp.  But, with how Chris Carson looked last year, and particularly how he looked in the mini camps, it’s really anyone’s race.  If they develop and take to the new offense the way I believe they can, we’re talking about two guys who could start on any number of teams in this league.  As it is, we’re talking about two guys who will get every opportunity to win increased snaps.

That doesn’t even get into the depth of this unit.  While I believe Carson and Penny have the chops to be great pass catchers (particularly Penny, with his speed, and his abilities in the return game), behind them we have whoever emerges in the C.J. Prosise vs. J.D. McKissic battle.  One of them will make this team; Prosise if he stays perfectly healthy, or McKissic as a fall-back whenever Prosise rolls an ankle or bruises a toe.  Either one would be a perfectly fine complement to our two starters, and will likely be a featured back on 3rd downs and in 2-minute situations.  They both have wide receiver backgrounds, so not utilizing them would be a huge error.  At that point, it’s up to Wilson to take advantage.

My grade is a B (with room to advance to an A if the offense makes good use of them).

The name of the game is spreading the ball around.  It’s what Russell Wilson does best.  If the Seahawks are going to have a successful passing game this year, it’s going to be with a lot of different heroes stepping up game-in and game-out.  Doug will get his, but sometimes he won’t, and sometimes it’ll be a guy from out of nowhere.

My overall grade:  B (again, with room to advance to an A if players gel and buy into the new system).

The Mariners Have Played Some Baseball Games Since I Last Wrote About Them

Sorry folks, I’ve been busy on another (secret) writing project that has absolutely nothing to do with Seattle sports.  And, while it’s been a refreshing change of pace (that I still don’t know what I’m going to do with yet), it’s taken a lot of my attention away from this blog.  But, you know, considering the malaise that is the Seattle Mariners, with the impending bummer of a season from the Seahawks (that many fans are still fighting against tooth and nail, as if the only problem last year was a poor kicking game and shaky offensive line – and as if those problems have been dramatically improved in the subsequent months since that team unceremoniously finished 9-7 and out of the playoffs for the first time since Tarvaris Jackson was running the show), it’s not like I’ve been all that inspired to bloviate on the local sporting landscape.

Since the last time I wrote about the Mariners, we kicked off a 7-game homestand with a weekend series against the A’s.  The A’s aren’t very good.  You could say the same thing about the Mariners (both teams have underwhelming pitching staffs and get by on their offense), but the A’s also haven’t had the misfortune of playing the Astros yet (more on that in a minute) and they still have a worse record than the M’s, so take that for what it is.  The Mariners had 2 great offensive days and took the first two games of the series; then dropped the Sunday finale as Sean Manaea out-duelled King Felix to the tune of a 2-1 heartbreaker.  No matter, the good guys still won the series, but that lack of offense would be a harbinger of things to come.

Following that set, the Mariners hosted the Astros for 4 games, and things got off to a dynamic start with James Paxton flashing his ace stuff through six innings.  He out-pitched Dallas Keuchel of all people (who seemingly always owns the M’s), who went the distance but surrendered 2 runs in a game that finished 2-1.  Paxton gave up a leadoff homer to George Springer to kick off the game (because of course), but cruised the rest of the way, and the usual bullpen suspects kept the Astros off the board through the final three innings.  It was an impressive game any way you slice it, and you might forgive Mariners fans for being a little excited (or a little cocky) heading into the other three games of the series.

But … did you guys see who was starting those other three games?  The Astros had Lance McCullers Jr., Gerrit Cole, and Charlie Morton all lined up.  The Mariners?  Ariel Miranda, Mike Leake (who, yeah, okay, he’s been pretty good so far in his Mariners career), and Marco Gonzales.  I’m sorry, but it’s no contest.  The Mariners won the one game they did because their ace showed up and the bullpen didn’t blow it, but they were SO CLOSE to getting swept, and quite frankly I’m shocked they weren’t.

As I tweeted before the series, the Mariners just aren’t in the Astros’ league.  They’re not in the Astros’ universe for Christ’s sake!  I don’t even think they’re playing the same sport!  We play them 15 more times this year, and barring about a million Astros injuries (particularly to their pitching staff), I wouldn’t even expect the Mariners to play at a .250 pace.  Winning 25% of the games we play against the Astros would be a miracle, and if you offered it to me right now, I’d gladly take it and avoid the actual drubbing we’ll inevitably have to sit through.  The only saving grace for me was that these games were played on Monday through Thursday, either too late for me to stay up and watch, or during the hours I was at work, so I didn’t have to watch or listen to a minute of that nonsense.

The Mariners have since hit the road for 10 games, starting with a weekend series in Texas.  Friday’s game was super fun.  King Felix looked like his old self through the first two times around the order.  But, with one out in the sixth, the Rangers started to knock him around until he was knocked out of the game entirely.  Scrabble came in and shit the bed, so Felix ended up giving up 2 runs.  Down 2-1 at this point, things looked a little bleak, but the bats finally came alive.  Mitch Haniger hit a bomb in the 8th to tie it, and the rest of the team nearly batted around in the 9th, scoring 4 runs on a number of clutch hits.  The bullpen was lights out after Scrabble left the game in disgrace, and we won 6-2.

That was followed by last night’s barnburner.  James Paxton was pretty terrible throughout, leaving after 4 innings, giving up 5 runs, with the M’s losing 5-3.  It was 6-4 in the top of the 7th when the Mariners’ bats came alive once again, putting up a 5-spot, including a 2-run double by Segura, and homers by Cano and Haniger.  With Juan Nicasio unavailable, and with Scrabble once again faltering in his 1/3 inning of work, Edwin Diaz – having just pitched the night before in a non-save situation – had to come in for the 4-out save.  He got out of the 8th unscathed, but the 9th was a real adventure.  A walk and a single had runners on the corners before the first out of the inning (on a strikeout).  From there, Diaz really lost command of his stuff, as both fastball and slider were running off the plate to the right.  A groundout scored the runner from third, and back-to-back walks loaded the bases with 2 outs and 0 mound visits remaining.  Fortunately, Diaz was able to muster just enough (either command or blind stinking luck) to generate a harmless fly ball to left to close it out for his league-leading 8th save of the year.  9-7 final.

There’s a day game today before the Mariners go to Chicago to play the White Sox.  Then, it’s off to Cleveland to close out our season series with the Indians (in the first month of the season no less!).

Just to kind of put a bow on things, I’ll say this:  The Mariners are 11-8 and in third place in the A.L. West.  The Astros have reclaimed their rightful spot atop the division, with the Angels (falling just a little since their torrid start) a half game back.  Again, barring significant injury woes, this is where I’d expect these teams to finish the season.

The Mariners AREN’T terrible, so don’t get me wrong on that.  This team, with this amazing offense, should beat up on a lot of mediocre teams around the game of baseball.  They should also compete with some of the better teams, or the teams at their Wild Card-ish level.  But, against the truly ELITE teams?  The Astros?  The Red Sox?  Maybe the Angels?  I would expect the Mariners to continue to struggle.

Best (realistic) case scenario for the Mariners is that they get dominated by the Astros and Red Sox (and any other team that really distances themselves from the middle of the pack), while they play around .500 ball against the Angels.  Worst case scenario involves the Mariners getting bombarded by the Astros AND Angels, because that’s a combined 38 games in their schedule.  If they can play the Angels tough half the time, though, they should be in line to steal that second Wild Card spot (again, assuming the worst doesn’t happen again like last year).  But, they’ll have no shot if they’ve got two huge whales in their own division making them the Little Brother getting blasted with noogies all the live long day.

Should The Seahawks Stop Punting On Backup Quarterback Already?

There was some Tweet saying that John Schneider was at Texas Tech’s Pro Day, ostensibly to look at their quarterback who’s coming out in this year’s draft (but, I would think, more likely to look at other players).  With the Seahawks, there’s been a lot of non-stories being spread around (more per capita than the average team, if I have anything to say about it), between Beastmode forcing a trade to the Raiders, and the Seahawks supposedly soliciting offers to trade away Richard Sherman; it’s all a bunch of media-created nonsense to generate clicks, pageviews, and hours of sports radio content.

YOU PEOPLE ARE SHAMELESS HUMPS!

Anyway, now there’s that Tweet, and it makes it sound like the Seahawks are in the market for selecting a quarterback high in the draft, with the intended effect of Seahawks fans speculating on Russell Wilson’s future with the team.

Obviously, the Seahawks aren’t getting rid of Russell Wilson, so let’s just put that to bed right now.  It’s probably like I said above, there’s probably some low-rated draft prospect on Texas Tech the Seahawks are getting a closer look at, nothing more.

But, the more I thought about it, the more I started to wonder:  SHOULD the Seahawks look to fill their backup quarterback role with someone other than an undrafted rookie who recently was involved in a drunken driving collision and an arrest?  Even if Trevone Boykin was a model citizen, does it make sense to run him out there again as our #2?

2016 should’ve opened up PLENTY of eyes in that Seahawks organization with all that went down.  Specifically, the quality of the offensive line, and the byproduct of Russell Wilson being hobbled for more than half the season.  Hey, fancy that, the kid’s actually human!  (sort of)  Russell Wilson has ankles rolled up on and knees bending the wrong way just like the rest of us!  (that made more sense in my head)  I’m not saying he’s going to be the next Ben Roethlisberger, who’s injured every year without fail, but I will say a couple things:

  1. After 4 full seasons where Wilson never missed even a practice rep, he had something of a year from hell and we got to see what this offense looks like with him at 50% or worse; so just imagine what it would look like with him totally sidelined.
  2. When you start sustaining injuries like that to your knees and ankles, you don’t see your foot speed increase over time.  You tend to get a lot slower as you age; that shit adds up!  At some point, Wilson’s legs will be as worthless as Peyton Manning’s, and at that time, will he still be as effective a leader of this offense?

Before 2016, we didn’t have to worry about this shit, because we had Tarvaris Jackson and we all agreed that he was the kind of quality backup this team needed in the event where Wilson might go down.  But, he was always coming back on 1-year deals (when the rest of the league turned its collective backs to him), and the Seahawks really needed something more permanent in its backup.  Someone who could grow with Wilson, build value in the pre-season, and maybe generate draft picks in trade should he turn into a Jimmy Garoppolo-type.  More than anything, we need someone comfortable in our system and someone with actual NFL talent, for when disaster does strike (and believe you me, it will strike, eventually).

Trevone Boykin is almost certainly not that guy.  At no point would I have ever felt comfortable with him leading this team last year, and I highly doubt he’s going to make some magical jump between Year 1 and Year 2.  He’s a third stringer at best, and should probably be nothing more than camp fodder before he gives up the ghost and signs with the CFL.  And I’m NOT saying that just because he got arrested recently (though, that certainly doesn’t help).  It’s like what Joe Thomas was saying about Colin Kaepernick:  NFL teams don’t want any sort of distraction coming from their backup quarterbacks (and, make no mistake, Kaepernick IS a backup quarterback).

Speaking of, there’s been a lot of chatter among Seahawks fans saying they desperately want the team to sign Kaep to be Wilson’s backup.  I dunno.  I guess I understand the argument – Wilson is a mobile quarterback; Kaepernick’s mobility is as good as it gets – but they’re really two VERY different players.  As the Seahawks start transitioning towards a precision-passing attack – mostly to compensate for a crappy O-Line, but also to help enhance Wilson’s pocket-passing game – Kaepernick has terrible timing, and a big ol’ wind-up in his throws.  Granted, he throws really fucking hard, but so does Jay Cutler, and I don’t see people clamoring for the Seahawks to sign him!  Maybe, if Wilson got hurt and Kaepernick went in, as long as the Seahawks shifted the offense back to one of a heavy rushing load, with lots and lots of zone read, I’d be okay with it.

Like I said, I dunno.  I’ve been so conditioned to hate the 49ers for so long, it’s hard to flip that script and start liking or wanting a guy like Kaepernick on my team.  There’s also the legitimate concern that he’s been VERY terrible for a while now, but is it a chicken/egg thing?  Like, yeah, he’s been terrible, but so has the entire 49ers organization from the top down.  Is he terrible because everyone around him is terrible?  I mean, it’s really a helluva regression from where he was, at one point considered one of the league’s very best young quarterbacks.  It can’t ALL be due to the league just figuring him out and Jim Harbaugh leaving, can it?

I’ll just say this and let it be done:  I’m ready to move on from Trevone Boykin.  I’m ready for a semi-competent backup, because I truly fear for Russell Wilson’s safety behind this O-Line.  If that means Kaepernick, or that Texas Tech quarterback, or someone else I haven’t mentioned today, I’m all for it.

What’s Wrong With The Seahawks?

You know what?  Fuck the Rams, there I said it.  This isn’t about them.  Fuck that game, fuck everything.  I’m talking about the Seahawks here (it’s not ALL ABOUT YOU, RAMS!!!).

This is the point in the season where everyone freaks the fuck out and asks, “What’s wrong with the Seahawks?”  Truth be told, this moment hit us a week earlier last year, as we had the misfortune of playing the Rams in Week 1 (why the SHIT can’t we have our first game against the fucking Rams in Week 11?  Why’s it always gotta be EARLY in the season?), but once again, here we are.  And once again, we’re asking the same question.

Of course, everyone also has an answer to this question, because EVERYONE’S GOTTA BE A BLOGGER NOW!  Or, at the very least, everyone’s gotta be a Twitter cunt who spends all day every day bombarding the beat writers with their insanity.

What’s wrong with the Seahawks?  A shitload!

And, unsurprisingly, I’m going to start with the offensive line.  Most fans would point to them and call them Public Enemy Numbers 1-5.  Most in the national media keep harping over how little we spend on our line, either via draft capital or free agency dollars.  Some of the savvier local bloggers like to defend the O-Line as much as possible, pointing to things like Russell Wilson holding the ball too long, or how they haven’t been “that bad” compared to the level of competition we’ve played through the first two weeks.

I’ll say this:  the offensive line IS a problem, and it’s probably the biggest problem.  It’s the reason why the Seahawks can’t effectively move the football against anyone with a Top 10 defense.  You can deflect blame all you want, but turning Russell Wilson into a pocket passer who gets the ball out in 2 seconds or less isn’t going to make a difference.  This isn’t the New England offense, and he isn’t Tom Brady.  He’s a guy who needs time for plays to develop, so he can make plays downfield.  If we’re going to try to be this quick-strike offense (and make no mistake, it’s 100% because the O-Line is terrible and can’t hold a block for more than 0.5 seconds), you know what that’s going to lead to?  10 guys in the box, press coverage on the outside, and a complete and utter inability to formulate a running game.

The Seahawks don’t dink & dunk.  The Seahawks play smashmouth football, with regularly executed deep strikes through the air.  I’d rather have Russell Wilson hitting 60% of his passes, with a high average per attempt than have him hit 70% of his passes with a low average per attempt.  On the spectrum of short passers, he’s more closely resembling Sam Bradford than he is Philip Rivers, and that’s NOT what we’ve come to expect out of this offense!

Now, obviously, this problem O-Line would be mitigated if our quarterback could run, but again, whose fault is that?  Oh, that’s right, the sieve of an O-Line that’s letting guys get free runs at our most valuable offensive weapon.  Just because this unit can nut up once every 20 pass attempts and actually block for a reasonable amount of time doesn’t give them a pass for all the times they let guys run free and clean at our quarterback!

At the very least, you could hang your hat on this team having a viable running game.  Even against the very best defenses, we’d ALWAYS be able to get yards on the ground to help matters along.  But, we haven’t been able to do a damn thing on the ground this year!  Thomas Rawls is a fantastic running back, and he’s getting hit in the backfield more in these first two games than he did ALL of last year!  It doesn’t seem to affect Christine Michael as much, but I’ve noticed he doesn’t always stick with what the play calls for.  He’s a guy who’s always naturally going to want to bounce things outside, to get into open space and see if he can make some moves for some home run-type plays; but he’s been doing that WAY more than usual, and it’s been out of necessity.  Rawls is great, but he doesn’t have Michael’s quicks or his cutting ability, but that’s neither here nor there because he didn’t have those things LAST year either, when he was averaging 5.6 yards per carry!

Of course, Wilson’s injury doesn’t help matters any in the running game either.  A hobbled Wilson means defenses don’t have to worry about him tucking and running, which means they can focus all their energies on the back he inevitably hands the ball off to.  You’d think that would lead to more traditional handoffs, where Wilson takes the ball from under center – so at the VERY least we can make better use of play-action in the passing game, to try to open things up that way – but NOPE!

Because ultimately, this falls squarely on Darrell Bevell’s shoulders.  He spent the better part of these first two games running an offense with a healthy Russell Wilson in mind, when he should’ve been adjusting for the fact that Wilson can’t run.  At this point, you have to dig deeper into the playbook.  Recall that Tarvaris Jackson was once this team’s starter, and try to remember what plays HE used to run.  Because, let’s face it, Tarvar was never a running quarterback, and right now, neither is Russell Wilson.

Oh, and the best part?  They STILL haven’t figured out how to get the ball to Jimmy Graham in the redzone!  Oh, what a joy it’ll be, when people can’t fall back on the Seahawks “bringing him along slowly” routine and we return to the weekly lament about how Graham gets no redzone targets because Darrell Bevell is a mental midget and Russell Wilson is a literal one.

And don’t think the defense is getting off any easier in this thing.  You want a medal for holding the Dolphins to 10 points and the Rams to 9?  Bravo, you did your fucking job against two inept quarterbacks.  You look to be well on your way to another league championship in fewest points given up, but you’ll also forgive me if I don’t line you up to suck each of your dicks.

Hey guys, where’s the fucking turnovers?  Are you shitting me?  You can’t get teams led by Ryan Tannehill and Case Fucking Keenum to turn the ball over to you?  When – SPOILER ALERT – Keenum threw 2 picks against the 49ers last week, and Tannehill did the same against the Pats this week (on top of a couple of fumbles the Pats were able to force)!  I mean, shit guys, how about a short fucking field for once!  How about making it so the offense doesn’t have to fucking go 90 yards for a touchdown every God damn drive!  How about, when our offense flips the field position, and we’re able to down the ball inside the 10 yard line, you NUT THE FUCK UP and force a 3 & Out to give us BACK our good field position???

You have to understand, Michael Bennett and all the rest, that you haven’t done shit yet.  The defense has been good, but not great.  Not dominant.  Not elite.  An elite defense would’ve held the Rams to 3 points, or 0 points, not 9.  An elite defense would see that their offense is in trouble, that their best skill position players (from Baldwin, to Lockett, to Graham, to Rawls, to Prosise) are banged up, and their all-world quarterback is a shell of his former self as he tries to play through a high ankle sprain, and that elite defense would step the fuck up and shut out an offense like the Rams.  Like the Dolphins.  Like the 49ers next week.

And that defensive coordinator needs to realize his defense is giving up too many big plays.  Dan Quinn and Gus Bradley knew how to scheme well and prevent those big plays.  This has only become a problem since Kris Richard took over.  Maybe the job is too much for him.  Well, management better fucking figure that shit out and put someone in there who’s up to the task.  Because, we can’t be fucking away these seasons when everyone is in their prime, just to coddle a fucking defensive coordinator who isn’t ready for the fucking job.

Beat the 49ers you sacks of shit!  Or, don’t be surprised when you see more 12s dumping all over you.

Seahawks/Raiders Preseason Game 4 Takeaways

For starters, no, I don’t really give a shit about Jeremy Lane sitting for the national anthem.  And for the record, I don’t even get why we sing the national anthem before every game anyway; save it for the fucking Olympics.

From a football perspective, the greatest takeaway is that no important Seahawks got hurt.  No one who figures to make the 53-man roster, anyway.  Seems like a small thing, but the last thing you want to see is a key player get hurt in the most meaningless of the meaningless pre-season games.

This one was a real barker, too.  I mean, seriously, woof!  2-0 at halftime, 5-3 after three quarters; we were so bored, my dad and I spent more time playing Yahtzee than watching the actual game.  The Raiders’ D-Line is no joke, and I’m not even sure all of their starters were ever in there!  The Seahawks really couldn’t do a damn thing for most of the first three quarters, thanks to their sheer dominance.

Then, the game turned on a dime, and became the most fun fourth quarter of a pre-season game that I can remember.  The Raiders extended their lead to 8-3 to kick things off.  A few minutes later – after getting the ball back – we pressured them into a pick-six to take the lead 9-8.  After stuffing them again, we got the ball back and drove – mostly on the back of Troymaine Pope’s slashing running style – to extend our lead to 16-8.  The Raiders drove down for a score of their own, but botched the 2-point conversion, to make it 16-14.  After we recovered the on-side kick, Pope busted out another long run to get us down near the goalline.  From there, Alex Collins officially sealed the deal with a goalline plunge to make it 23-14.

And yet, if that wasn’t enough, the Raiders ran back the kickoff to make it 23-21.  Thankfully, they didn’t try to on-side kick it again, and the game mercifully came to a close.  Still, pretty fun quarter when both teams had a combined eight points going in.

Getting back, I thought Pope was amazing, not just on Thursday, but this entire pre-season.  I know he’s in a battle with Alex Collins, and I know Alex Collins has certain physical attributes that Pope doesn’t, but it would just be a shame to see Pope go.  I just know he’s going to go off and be another Justin Forsett type, if he ever gets a serious opportunity to start.

After Pope, I didn’t really see many positives out of the offense.  I was REALLY disappointed that Tanner McEvoy wasn’t able to play, because I feel like this was EXACTLY the type of game he would’ve shined in.  None of the receivers really stood out – with no one catching more than 2 balls all game – but that was hardly their fault.  Our offensive line was manhandled from the get-go (with Jahri Evans and J’Marcus Webb looking particularly overwhelmed on the right side), and Trevone Boykin was not up to the task of dealing with it all that well.

I don’t think Boykin cost himself the job or anything; I think he’s still young, cheap, and has lots of team control.  I think keeping him on the 53-man roster – as opposed to the practice squad, while bringing in a veteran to backup Wilson – would be much more important to his development.  Plus, I still contend that if Wilson gets injured, the team will simply sign Tarvaris Jackson and keep Boykin as the #2 until Wilson’s healthy again.

That having been said, the kid is raw, but I thought he dealt with things okay.  You want a kid to know what it’s like to struggle like that, so next time he knows how to deal with it better.  Russell Wilson didn’t come out of the womb an All Pro (in spite of his robot-like qualities); I think Boykin will be okay.  Give him time to throw, give him lanes to run, he’ll be okay.  Also, think of it this way:  if he ever has to come in for Wilson, he’ll get the luxury of our starting O-Line, which is starting to come together pretty good.

I will say this though:  Boykin better take better advantage of his opportunities to run in the future.  He left A LOT of yards on the table by handing the ball off instead of tucking and running.

On defense, the guy who stood out the most was Keenan Lambert, who was just all over the place making plays.  I thought Brock Coyle had a great game too, showing why the team likes him so much as Bobby Wagner’s backup.  I thought KPL looked good, and I thought Marcus Burley continued his dominant pre-season with another great game.  If he doesn’t make the team, I just don’t know anymore, because he’s easily the 3rd or 4th best corner going right now.

I thought Tharold Simon looked pretty bad.  He was often caught not looking for the ball, and when he wasn’t penalized for it, it looked like he SHOULD’VE been.  I still haven’t seen anything out of Tye Smith.  And none of the young guys along the D-Line really stood out all that much, except for Ryan Robinson, obviously, who caught that pick-six, but I don’t expect him to make the team.  I seem to remember Eric Pinkins making a great play at some point!  Don’t know if it’s enough to save his job, but it was something, I’m sure of that.

Steven A. Taylor’s Long Snapper Corner

You thought this wouldn’t be important, huh???  (for the record, “you” is just my natural insecurities coming out, so don’t take it personal)  Well, Nolan Frese has just been cut in favor of Tyler Ott.  I didn’t notice any bad snaps on Thursday – making it arguably his first clean game of the pre-season – but reports indicate he’s been dealing with a shoulder injury, and I wonder if he was gutting it out more than he was letting on.  Okay, I have no idea what’s going on, but it sounds like the Seahawks may be working guys out?  Either way, no Gresham this year, as I guess he’s moving back to Texas or some damn thing.  I think it’s a mistake, but we’ll see when I’m proven right and a botched snap costs us a game.

Another Pointless Mid-Pre-Season Seahawks Roster Prediction

I’m not immune!  I rail against these things (particularly the regularity with which they’re produced) and laugh at people who take them too seriously.  That having been said, it’s Monday.  We’ve seen two pre-season games so far, and I don’t know any more than anyone else covering this team.  But, that also means I really don’t know that much less than anyone else, particularly when it comes to predicting the season-opening 53-man roster.

These things are, like, 85% duh, with another 13% educated guesses, and 2% batshit insanity so you can look back in a couple weeks and say, “See, I was crazy, but I was right!”  Or, with a laugh, go, “Hoo boy, what was I thinking, right folks?”  Sad!  Fun!  Sad!

Without further ado, feel free to pick it apart:

QB (2)

Russell Wilson
Trevone Boykin

Put this in the ol’ Duh category.  I think the ship has sailed on Tarvaris Jackson.  I mean, if we cut Clint Gresham to save a few sheckles at long snapper, there’s no reason to expect this team to shell out a million bucks just to have Tarvar calling the coin toss for us in overtime games.  They’ve given Boykin every opportunity to win the job, and so far he hasn’t really disappointed.  You don’t want him starting for you anytime this year (or next, or ever, really), and he doesn’t look like he could win you any games if you needed him in an emergency basis.  But, he’s the kind of guy who could grow into the role, learn behind Wilson, and build value over the next 3-4 years.  Plus, if Wilson ever was severely injured, guess what?  Nobody’s signing Tarvaris Jackson anytime soon, so you could very well see him back with the club if it came to that!  Win-win, everyone!

RB (5)

Thomas Rawls
Christine Michael
C.J. Prosise
Alex Collins
Will Tukuafu

I am … not confident at all in this grouping.  Prosise has yet to do much of anything since we drafted him; I keep getting an IR vibe off of him.  Collins has looked pretty bad in the first pre-season games, but I’m hard pressed to judge the kid based off of running with the reserve O-Linemen.  Tukuafu was just re-signed, so that seems like a no-brainer.  He knows the system and they obviously like what he brings to the table.  On my cut list, that ices out Brooks & Pope.  It’s a numbers game at this point, and I think one of these guys makes it on the practice squad.  With a VERY outside chance of Pope weaseling his way onto the roster outright, if he keeps looking amazing, and the team doesn’t want to risk losing him to another team.

TE (4)

Jimmy Graham
Luke Willson
Nick Vannett
Brandon Williams

Pretty easy, this one.  I guess you could consider me buying into all the Brandon Williams hype, as the best blocking tight end on the team.  His spot gets cemented even further the longer Graham sits out of practice.  And, this ankle sprain from Vannett is another nail in the coffin … of Williams’ continued good fortune!  Were the top three guys fully healthy, I could easily see the team only keeping three tight ends, but with each guy bringing something different to the table, I like going with the four.  For now.

WR (5)

Doug Baldwin
Jermaine Kearse
Tyler Lockett
Paul Richardson
Kenny Lawler

Here’s where I’m going to stick one of my batshit insane picks.  Receivers 1-4 are obvious no-brainers.  But, I get a sense everyone is jumping off of the Lawler bandwagon.  I see what you all see:  a VERY skinny kid who looks like he’s about to snap into a million pieces with the next stiff breeze that crosses his path.  But, he’s looked pretty resilient so far in the first couple games.  He definitely looks like one of those receivers who’s ahead of the game, compared to where he’s at in his career (rookie 7th rounder).  If he plays smart, avoids excessive contact, and stays healthy, I think he has as good a shot as anyone of making that 5th WR spot.  I also think that if he’s released, he won’t make it onto the practice squad; I bet some other team snaps him up in a heartbeat.  Kevin Smith is doing himself no favors by being injured all this time.  Kasen Williams has been out with injury for a while too (and already has experience being passed through to the practice squad).  4th quarter hero Tanner McEvoy is someone you’d think would be in the mix, but I don’t think he’s all that refined in his route running.  I do think teams are looking at him, but I also think he’s a year or two away from making any sort of impact at the NFL level.

OL (9)

Bradley Sowell
Mark Glowinski
Justin Britt
Germain Ifedi
Garry Gilliam
J’Marcus Webb
Joey Hunt
Rees Odhiambo
Will Pericak

The surprises here land in who gets left out.  No Patrick Lewis:  I think the team feels he’ll be available if/when they need him; and I think Hunt has the higher upside (with being more likely to be picked up by another team, and thus not on our practice squad).  Also, no Jahri Evans:  I think he came a little too late to the party, and I think the team likes the guards it has.  That having been said, not all the veterans are set for dispatch.  I think Sowell and Webb both stick, as this team is pretty thin at Tackle and needs all the quality depth it can get (I also think the younger tackles just aren’t ready yet, and have a higher likelihood of making the practice squad since they suck so bad).  I think Odhiambo will prove he’s able to play multiple spots on the line, as a rookie, which gives him HUGE value.  And, I think Pericak is one of those developmental guys the team keeps on the 53-man roster all year, but never plays.  Seems like there’s always one – too valuable to sneak onto the practice squad, but not quite ready to even be a 2nd stringer just yet – and this year, my money is on Pericak (just don’t ask me to pronounce his name … W-ill?).

That puts us at an even 25 for the offense, which is about what you should expect.  Save a wide receiver spot by having Graham (who is already a quasi-receiver), and hope at least one of those young running backs makes it onto the practice squad.

DE (4)

Michael Bennett
Cliff Avril
Frank Clark
Cassius Marsh

This part is tough sledding, because 3/4 of these guys play multiple spots (Bennett as end & tackle; Clark as end, tackle, and linebacker; Marsh as end & linebacker), but I’m going to put them here and call them “primary pass rushers”, and if you don’t like it, tough titty.

DT (4)

Jarran Reed
Ahtyba Rubin
Quinton Jefferson
Tony McDaniel

Reed and Rubin are both locks, barring injury.  Jefferson sure looks like a guy who can fit into our rotation right away.  Which leaves newly-signed McDaniel, who looks as good as ever, providing that veteran leadership.  If I’m off-base anywhere in this list, the number one spot is probably leaving off Jordan Hill.  As you’ll see, I ended up keeping 6 linebackers, which is probably a mistake.  But, I haven’t seen anything from Hill this pre-season, or at any point last year for that matter, that would justify he HAS to be a guy this team keeps.  I think Jefferson takes over his role, and he’s left either stashed on the IR-to-return list, or he’s just cut and replaced.

LB (6)

Bobby Wagner
K.J. Wright
Mike Morgan
Kevin Pierre-Lewis
Brock Coyle
Eric Pinkins

Again, if I’m off-base, it’s here.  Pinkins feels like a stretch.  I think it’s going to take a monster final couple of games for him to win a spot, but I also think he has it in him.  He provides value on special teams and as a backup to Mike Morgan.  It just feels like it’s time to give him a shot and see what he can do in certain situations.

CB (6)

Richard Sherman
Jeremy Lane
DeShawn Shead
Tharold Simon
Marcus Burley
Tye Smith

If there’s anyone I’m not sold on, it’s Tye Smith.  Now, maybe we haven’t seen his name called much in the pre-season because he’s being quietly effective in pass coverage.  All I know is, he hasn’t stood out like you’d expect a young member of the L.O.B. to do.  Who HAS stood out is Marcus Burley.  He looked as good as I’ve ever seen him last week!  I know, I might be making too much out of a 2nd pre-season game, but he’s been with us a long time, he knows the system, and he’s probably the second-best nickel corner on the team (if we just keep Sherm on the outside and don’t have him following around the other team’s best receiver).

S (5)

Earl Thomas
Kam Chancellor
Kelcie McCray
Brandon Browner
Tyvis Powell

Is 11 DBs too many?  Feels like it’s too many.  Feels like I’m short 1 DE and 1 DT.  Anyway, Kam, Earl, and McCray are all locks.  I’m hopeful Browner makes the team, but could easily see the Seahawks walking away if it comes to a numbers game (injuries at other positions might dictate we need to keep extra resources elsewhere).  Powell has been the hotshot of camp and pre-season so far; I think the team figures out a way to keep him.  Since both he and Browner can play CB, maybe the team skimps there?  Or, maybe it comes down to Browner vs. Powell, at which point I bet the team goes younger and cheaper.  We’ll see.

That puts us at 25 defenders.  Again, I’m not married to this, but it’s just my feeling for today.  Obviously, a lot is going to change.  Up to and including:

Special Teams (3)

Steven Hauschka
Jon Ryan
Clint Gresham

You’re damn right!  I think Nolan Frese’s days are numbered!  I think the flaws in his young career become too many to overcome in these last couple pre-season games, when the pressure is increased.  I think the Seahawks figure out a way to find the money to pay a pro like Gresh, and I think we move on from this nightmare once and for all.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

A List Of The Seahawks’ Pre-Season Storylines

Making us all wait until Saturday before we get to watch the first Seahawks pre-season game seems a little masochistic by the NFL, but what are you gonna do?  Tomorrow, FINALLY, the pre-season starts.  All we’ve had so far are beat writer accounts of practice and sports radio interviews of coaches and athletes.  But, now we get to see the team in action.  It might be pretend action, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn a whole lot about what these 2016 Seahawks are going to look like.

From this point forward, there will be a lot more writing on the Seahawks on this site, so get ready!  I’ve jotted down a list of the major storylines, with a little blurb on each one, that I could very well expand upon in longer posts sometime in the next month or so.  Without further ado, and in no particular order:

The Offensive Line

Yeah, you better believe I’m going to be focusing on the O-Line more than any other unit when the Seahawks take the field this pre-season.  I read good things about various guys so far in Training Camp, but is that relative to last year’s abomination?  We’ll find out.

Improved Secondary

I think it’s funny to hear these national writers talk about the Vikings, or some other team, having the league’s best and deepest secondary, TOTALLY sleeping on the Seahawks.  Motherfuckers act like they forgot about Dre the L.O.B.  Earl is still Earl, Sherm is still Sherm, Kam is still the most destructive force in the strong safety game today.  Beyond that, you want to talk about depth?  I’m looking at Lane, Shead, and Simon all playing at high levels when healthy.  I’m looking at a 2nd year pro in Tye Smith with a chip on his shoulder who had a healthy rookie year where all he had to do was learn the system.  I’m looking at safety Kelcie McCray who could be starting on a lot of teams right now.  I’m looking at a special role for Brandon Browner, matching up exclusively with other teams’ big receivers and tight ends.  Then, there’s Tyvis Powell, an undrafted rookie, who’s making a big impression these first couple weeks.  They’re sleeping on the L.O.B. now, but the league will be quick to learn who the real O.G.’s are.

The Defensive Line

I keep reading reports about how this is – or could be – the greatest pass rush we’ve had since 2013, but I’ve got my doubts.  We lost Bruce Irvin and replaced him with Frank Clark; is that a good move or not?  Last year, we had BOTH guys, so how does losing Irvin help us, exactly?  And, aside from Bennett, where are we getting our interior pass rush?  Is there someone I’m not familiar with who will step up as a 4th pass rush option from the defensive end position?  Believe you me, that’s going to be a huge part of my pre-season focus.

New Look Running Game

Obviously, the scheme will be the same, but the players are new.  Will Thomas Rawls return to last year’s record-breaking form?  Will the resurgence of Christine Michael translate into increased opportunities?  Will ANY of the rookies be able to stay healthy?

Passing Game Stability

I love the fact that the Seahawks brought Jermaine Kearse back, and that for the most part, our entire receiving corps is back for another run.  They may not be household names across the league (although, I don’t know how you can ignore Doug Baldwin’s contributions to our success any longer), but these guys continue to get the job done.  As they continue to mesh with Russell Wilson, in conjunction with the question marks surrounding the running game, I do think we’ll see an increase in this team’s passing numbers.

Backup Quarterback

For at LEAST the next two weeks, as the backups tend to play more than the starter in those games, this will be a constant point of focus, in the games and in the media between games.  Trevone Boykin vs. Jake Heaps vs. some possible third option not currently on the roster vs. Tarvaris Jackson perhaps?  Boykin appears to be more mobile, more Russell Wilson-esque; Heaps appears to be the better pocket passer and more accurate.  We know what Tarvar can do, so he could probably roll in here the day before the regular season starts and get his job back if he wants it.  But, I’ll tell ya, if the backups shit the bed against the Chiefs tomorrow, don’t be surprised if you see a flurry of tryouts by Monday.

Long Snapper

Scoff all you want!  You won’t be scoffing the moment one of these new long snappers sails a football over Jon Ryan’s head, or costs us a game-winning field goal attempt!  Don’t say I didn’t warn you chickenfuckers, because I’m going to have a little blurb about the long snappers after every pre-season game this year!  “Steven A. Taylor’s Long Snapper Corner” I’ll call it, and it’s going to be all anyone ever talks about!

Michael Bennett’s Contract

Things have sort of quieted down in this arena, which is nice, because no one really wants to hear about it anyway.  But, you know it’s going to come up again.  If Bennett continues to kill it, you’re going to hear (from him, and media types alike) that he deserves bigtime money.  But, the fear is:  what if he goes the other way?  What if the production dips?  Surely, they’ll look to point out that he’s not content with the money he’s making.  Now, a lot of that is likely a bunch of bullshit; but if there’s any element of truth to it, and he does slack off because he’s not making the money he thinks he’s earned, then we could be in for a long, frustrating season.  He is key in so many ways to this team’s defensive success.

Bobby Wagner Bounce Back Year

It’s not in the numbers he put up last year, so much as the eyeball test.  I just want to see more of an impact, in the obvious, fan sense.  Big run stuffs, big sacks, big interceptions, big forced fumbles.  Let’s get Bobby Wagner back on the map and in the same arena as Luke Kuechly.

Brandon Browner’s Return

This guy was a Pro Bowler for us.  This guy’s tenacity and strength and attitude was a HUGE reason why this secondary was so good back in the day.  I want to see if he’s as bad as he was in New Orleans, or if he was just used improperly.  I want to see if he’s still got something in the tank to be an enforcer this team needs.  I want to see him knock some tight ends on their asses!  Remember all those games we blew late last year?  Cincy, Carolina, Green Bay, St. Louis?  All of them had big days out of their tight ends.  Here’s to hoping Browner can put a stop to that shit once and for all.

Russell Wilson’s Eliteness

There’s nothing fans love more than to tout their quarterbacks as the best.  New England fans have had a stranglehold on this type of douche-baggery for far too long.  Wilson showed he can be an elite pocket passer for much of the second half of last season.  Let’s see him pick it up where he left off (especially since we’re breaking in this all-new offensive line).  Let’s see him make Pete Prisco look more and more like the know-nothing jackass that he is.

Tyler Lockett’s Impending Breakout

He was excellent as a rookie.  So, what can this kid do now?  He made it through the whole year healthy, has had a full offseason to absorb the playbook and work with Wilson away from the practice setting.  He’s going to be on the field more than any other receiver except for Baldwin; he’s going to get PLENTY of chances to make some big plays.  I, for one, can’t wait to see him unlock his full potential.

Frank Clark’s Expanded Role

He was pretty solid as a rookie.  He didn’t have to play a lot, but he showed flashes.  I’m curious to see how he’ll do as more of a primary pass rusher (really, as this team’s third option behind Bennett and Avril).  I don’t generally have a ton of confidence in young pass rushers, so I hope he’s able to take a HUGE step forward.  Otherwise, as I mentioned up top, this team’s pass rush could be in real trouble.

The SAM Linebacker

Or, Replacing Bruce Irvin in Base Defense.  So far, it’s been a 3-man race between Mike Morgan, Cassius Marsh, and Eric Pinkins.  Morgan has the experience, knows the system, and feels like the sensible choice.  Marsh dropped weight to get to this point, has always been good against the run, and seems athletic enough.  Even if he doesn’t win the starting job, you don’t have to worry about him, because he’s one of this team’s best Special Teamers.  Pinkins has been coming on strong of late, from what I’ve read.  He appears to have the highest upside of the three, from a playmaking perspective.  He’ll need to play mistake-free, assignment-correct football (or pretty close to it) in the pre-season games to win the job.  I hope he does; this team could always use another young, cheap playmaking force.

Jimmy Graham & Thomas Rawls

Their returns from graphic injuries will continue to be stories until they’re not.  Until they get back on the field, in a game setting, and knock it around with the pros.  Rawls came off the PUP list first, and could be practicing with the team as early as next week.  Graham just came off the PUP list a day or two ago, has the more-serious of the two devastating injuries, and will need to be brought along more slowly.  As such, and given his star status, his every movement will continue to be news for the next month straight.  I eagerly await his return, but I’d be just as happy to see him held back as long as possible, to avoid re-injury, and ESPECIALLY to avoid injuring other body parts in compensation for protecting the knee.

Ranking The Seahawks By How Much I’d Freak The Fudge Out If They Got Significantly Injured

There’s never really a GOOD time to get news about a player being injured.  No matter who it is, no matter when it happens, it’s cutting into your team’s depth, and that’s always going to be bad.  I suppose if I HAD to pick a “good” time, it would be sometime before the season starts.  With the hopes that they’ll either recover in time for the games that count, or that they can be put on IR-Designated To Return, with the idea that they’ll show up for a good second half of the season stretch run.

But, even then, I can’t help but simmer at a low boil right now, in constant fear of the first major injury to befall my favorite team.

So far, it’s just been a couple of reserves with Achilles injuries, as far as MAJOR injuries are concerned.  I guess you could lump Rawls and Graham in there, but those guys were hurt last year, and they’re reportedly on the mend and set to come back for the regular season.  But, there really aren’t any significant NEW injuries to speak of (knock on all the wood you’ve got), so my low boil remains.

As there have been the usual reports of a lot of minor strains and such, with the start of Training Camp – pretty normal, as guys get back into football playing shape – I started thinking about the unthinkable.  So, let’s dig in!  I love nothing more than to be wildly inappropriate, so let’s put it all on the table.  Let’s talk about the guys the Seahawks can ill afford to lose.  The illest, as it were.

  1. Russell Wilson – It’s so obvious it’s hardly even worth mentioning.  Russell Wilson makes this offense go.  Without Russell Wilson, we’re toast; you might as well call us the Denver Broncos.  That’s on an ordinary year.  But THIS year, where Tarvaris Jackson remains unsigned, and we’re looking at a couple of undrafted rookies as potential #2’s, it’s even more obvious.  This list is “Russell Wilson” in the first 550 spots, and then we get to someone different.
  2. Doug Baldwin – Threw you a curveball!  I bet you thought I was going to say any number of elite defenders!  But, this isn’t a list of “Best Seahawks”, this is a list of Most Important Seahawks To Keep Healthy.  Or, in other words, it’s a ranking of where I feel this team is strongest and weakest.  And I’ll tell you right now, I like our depth along the D-Line, and I LOVE our depth in the secondary.  But, the drop-off from Doug Baldwin to Jermaine Kearse, or Doug Baldwin to Tyler Lockett, is pretty significant.  I still like Kearse to make the tough catches, and I still like Lockett to make the big plays, but Baldwin does it all.  He’s a security blanket on third down, he’s a big-play machine in the open field, and most importantly of all, he scores them TDs.  With the running game to be a big fat question mark until either Rawls returns from injury, or someone else proves himself fit to carry the load, this team is going to need to rely on the passing game.  And Baldwin is the biggest non-QB component of that passing game, hands down.
  3. Michael Bennett – I like the D-Line, but I don’t love it.  A lot of what makes this unit passable is the fact that Michael Bennett is so versatile.  We need him wreaking havoc on the outside, containing the run game; but we need him even more on the inside, slashing through the line and making the opposing quarterback’s life a living hell.  He allows you to play less versatile guys on the outside in obvious passing downs, which gives this team three viable pass rushing options to get the job done.  Without Bennett, the Seahawks have absolutely zero interior push (unless they blitz up the middle, which they rarely do), so losing him would completely change the defense.
  4. Cliff Avril – This more or less speaks to the lack of depth we have in our pass rush.  I’ve narrowed it down to three guys:  Bennett, Avril, and Frank Clark.  The drop-off, from a defensive end standpoint, is pretty stark.  Cassius Marsh?  He’s never proven to be anything more than a solid special teams guy, and someone surprisingly good against the run.  But, Marsh has never really been a pass rush specialist.  With Bruce Irvin now on the Raiders, and Chris Clemons having retired, this team REALLY needs someone to shock the world in the pre-season.
  5. Earl Thomas – I tried to fend it off as long as I could.  Kelcie McCray appears to be the backup, though, and I thought he looked pretty good last year!  Nevertheless, there’s only one Earl Thomas, and after making it through last year, able to prepare for this season from a standpoint of health, I would expect him to be a scud missile this season.  He allows this defense to get away with so much, because he can cover so much ground.  Combined with Sherm, and a solid triad of Lane, Shead, and Simon on the other side/in the nickel, it allows Kam and/or Browner to play closer to the box and be the enforcer this defense thrives off of.
  6. Bobby Wagner – Because no one wants to see Brock Coyle in there.
  7. Richard Sherman – Because while I like the depth of our secondary as it stands now, we all know it’s only a matter of time before Tharold Simon is lost for the year, and at THAT point, we’d be proper fucked.
  8. Frank Clark – Because I really want to see this nickel defense at full strength, to see how well we do in replacing Bruce Irvin.
  9. Thomas Rawls – Because I don’t know if I trust Christine Michael, and I don’t want to go into this season with nothing but rookies at running back.
  10. Germain Ifedi – Because I hate losing highly-rated draft picks in their rookie seasons.  I want him to get all the experience he can, then go into the offseason completely healthy, so instead of rehabbing, he can focus on getting stronger and working on technique (in hopes of being our starting right tackle of the future).

That’s all I got.  I could probably drag this out some more, but the whole 12 thing is played out.

The 2012 Seahawks’ Draft Class Is Very Wealthy

I’ll never EVER get tired of mocking this Bleacher Report post that gave the Seahawks an F grade for their 2012 draft class.  Let’s overlook, for a moment, the fact that grading a draft class the day of, or the next day, or even in the first year, is pretty ridiculous.  You don’t know how good or bad players are going to be!  All you know is what the Mel Kipers of the world have been blathering on about, and they don’t know anything either!  Grading a draft class based on pre-draft projections and predictions is pretty silly.

But, there are some real juicy pull-quotes from that Bleacher Report link.  They called Bruce Irvin, “one of the worst picks in the first round I can ever remember,” before going on to say that the Seahawks, “didn’t draft any positions of need or draft for the future.”  Let’s run down those draft picks really quick:

  • Bruce Irvin, DE/OLB, 1st round, 15th overall
  • Bobby Wagner, MLB, 2nd round, 47th overall
  • Russell Wilson, QB, 3rd round, 75th overall
  • Robert Turbin, RB, 4th round, 106th overall
  • Jaye Howard, DT, 4th round, 114th overall
  • Korey Toomer, LB, 5th round, 154th overall
  • Jeremy Lane, CB, 6th round, 172nd overall
  • Winston Guy, S, 6th round, 181st overall
  • J.R. Sweezy, RG, 7th round, 225th overall
  • Gregg Scruggs, DE, 7th round, 232nd overall
  • Jermaine Kearse, WR, undrafted free agent
  • DeShawn Shead, CB/S, undrafted free agent

I tacked on those key undrafted guys to bolster my argument, but also because they’re still significant players in the NFL.  But, let’s look at this for a moment.  I’m sure I’m not the first to rail into Bleacher Report on this very topic, but they mentioned the Seahawks didn’t draft any positions of need.  Didn’t they?  Let’s look at the 2011 Seahawks for a bit.

Regarding pass rush – which they addressed in the first round with Bruce Irvin – the 2011 Seahawks were in the bottom third of the league, with 33 sacks.  They were essentially Chris Clemons and that’s it.  Looks like a position of need to me.

Regarding the middle linebacker spot – which they addressed in the second round with Bobby Wagner – the 2011 Seahawks were rolling with the aging and injury-prone David Hawthorne.  Lofa Tatupu was gone, K.J. Wright might have gotten a look there, but he’s better suited as an outside linebacker.  And, let’s not forget Aaron Curry on the other side; no help there!  I’d say middle linebacker was a HUGE area of need!

Then, there’s quarterback.  I’ll forgive Bleacher Report if they didn’t believe that the short, running quarterback could hold up in the NFL.  But, to say that quarterback wasn’t an area of need for this team – this team that was trotting out Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst the year before – is insanity.  And, don’t give me Matt “2 starts in the NFL” Flynn, because he was never going to be a sure thing.  In their analysis, Bleacher Report went on to say that Wilson, “doesn’t fit their offense at all,” and was “by far the worst move of the draft.”  Even in the infancy of Wilson’s professional career, while I might understand some doubt, I can’t even remotely understand how drafting him in the third round would be one of the two worst moves in the entire draft (with Irvin being the other one).  By all accounts at the time, if Wilson were only 2 inches taller, he would’ve been a first round, maybe even Top 10 draft pick.  He had all the tools, all the intangibles, everything going for him but those two inches.  The WORST pick?  Seems like hyperbole got the better of Bleacher Report here.  But, either way, what’s that about “fitting the offense”?  What offense?  You mean the one that likes to run the ball a lot?  You mean the one where Tarvaris Jackson was under pressure on a near-constant basis?  Seems to me a running quarterback – behind that suspect offensive line – was EXACTLY the right fit for our offense.

Anyway, I could go on and on.  But, I didn’t really intend on this being a Kill Bleacher Report post.  They’ve been killed enough, by a plethora of other writers out there.  What I want to look at is just how great this class really was.

For starters, all of the guys listed above – each and every person drafted, plus those two undrafted cats – are still in the league four years later.  That’s pretty big, when you think about it.  How many busts have we seen get drafted and are out of the league a few months later?

Now, obviously, not all of these guys are still with the Seahawks.  But, that just goes to show you how strong this class really was:  we couldn’t afford to keep them all!  Hell, at the moment we only have 5 out of 12 of those guys, and Shead’s on the last year of his deal!  Nevertheless, everyone but Shead has seen a second deal, and Shead is all but guaranteed to join the party after the 2016 season, given his versatility.

On top of that, five of those guys have pretty wealthy second deals that they’ve recently signed, with another couple more making some serious money too.  Below, I’ve re-listed all those guys, with how much money they earned on their rookie deals, as well as their general current contract terms next to it.

  • Irvin – $9 million earned / 4 years, $37 million, $19 million guaranteed
  • Wagner – $3.3 million earned / 4 years, $43 million, $22 million guaranteed
  • Wilson – $2.2 million earned / 4 years, $87.6 million, $61.5 million guaranteed
  • Turbin – $2.5 million earned / 1 year, $760K in 2016
  • Howard – $2.5 million earned / 2 years, $10 million, $8.3 million guaranteed
  • Toomer – $1 million earned / 1 year, $600K in 2016
  • Lane – $2.3 million earned / 4 years, $23 million, $11 million guaranteed
  • Guy – $1.8 million earned / 2 years, $1.42 million
  • Sweezy – $3.4 million earned / 5 years, $32.5 million, $14.5 million guaranteed
  • Scruggs – $1.6 million earned / 2 years, $1.3 million
  • Kearse – $3.8 million earned / 3 years, $13.5 million, $6.3 million guaranteed
  • Shead – $2.2 million earned / 1 year, $760K in 2016

All told, that’s $35.6 million earned, with another potential $251.4 million in their current contracts (with Shead’s second deal to come next year) and $142.6 million in guaranteed money.  If you ask me, that’s a pretty nasty draft class.  2012 is the type of draft you only dream about.  It not only sets you up to win now, but to win for many years down the line.  We’re talking about 7 starters, 5 more reserve/rotation guys, with an All Pro and a Pro Bowler in the mix.  Outstanding!

What The Seahawks Should Do At Backup Quarterback

Recent news indicates that Tarvaris Jackson is likely to test the free agent waters this year, in hopes of getting into a situation that either pays him more money and/or gives him a chance to compete for a starting job/puts him behind a quarterback who might be a little more injury-prone than Russell Wilson.  Your guess is as good as mine as to what Tarvar has been doing in recent offseasons.  This story makes it sound like he’s been settling for being Seattle’s backup because it’s comfortable and familiar.  My guess is that Seattle has indeed been giving him the best possible deal, as I can’t imagine the market is too hard-up for a guy who’s proven he’s a backup in this league and nothing more.

Granted, he’s one of the better backups across the league, but a backup he remains.

Still, if you’re Tarvar, you’re looking around at some of these teams in 2015 – struggles in Dallas, Philly, St. Louis, Frisco, Cleveland, Baltimore, and Houston – and you’ve got to be thinking that you’re better than the backups for those teams who were forced into action (Dallas and Baltimore, particularly) and in other cases, better than who they’re running out as starters (Cleveland, Houston, St. Louis and the rest).  So, yeah, it makes sense – if you want to give it a go as a real live NFL quarterback (and not just a seat-warmer on the bench) – to put yourself out there as a veteran alternative for some of these teams who don’t land their Quarterback of the Future in the NFL Draft or free agency.  At the very least, he’d be likelier to see the field playing behind someone a little less durable than Russell Wilson (boy, am I putting the whammy on our boy with this sentiment).

So, what we’re talking about is, for the first time in years, looking for a non-Tarvar backup.

All else being equal, I’d like to have Tarvar back again.  That’s going to mean many multiple teams pass him over for other alternatives, leaving him with a pretty bruised ego, but so be it.  If, however, for the sake of argument we’re talking about a Tarvar-less future, then there are two obvious routes you can take:  bring in a veteran, or draft/sign a rookie.

Seattle’s in a wonderful position in this regard, because we have Russell Wilson.  He’s a solid, franchise quarterback, still in the early-prime of his career.  We don’t necessarily NEED to bring in another starting candidate to push him.  Which means, obviously, backup quarterback is a position that you can save some money on (which is important, considering how much money Wilson is taking in).  Therefore, you won’t see the Seahawks using a high draft pick, and you won’t see them blowing out the bank on free agents like Cousins, Fitzpatrick, Osweiler, or Bradford (who will all be looking for opportunities to start somewhere anyway).

That puts us in the range of a low-round draft pick (maybe 5th or lower), an undrafted rookie, or one of the other veteran options out there on the market.

In looking at those veteran options … woof!  What a bunch of dogs!  When you think of a backup quarterback in our kind of situation (i.e. someone who is a clear backup and has no chance to be this team’s starter when all players are healthy), your BEST CASE scenario is a guy who will fill in for a few weeks and somehow manage to keep the team in/around .500.  A guy like Seneca Wallace back in the day is a perfect example of this.  We were lucky to have drafted him to play behind Hasselbeck, so he was cheap for many years.  If we can somehow do that again, that’s probably the most realistic ideal situation.  Looking at veteran options, someone like … Matt Hasselbeck last year with Indy.  He was able to fill in for a few games and led them to some quality wins!  Then, as the season dragged on, as Luck was unable to return and the games piled up, Hasselbeck was less and less effective.  Old guys getting hit a lot tend to break down, shocking I know.

This post by Field Gulls has a nice little list of free agent quarterbacks.  If you remove Tarvar (for the sake of argument), and you remove the four starting candidates (Bradford, Cousins, Fitzpatrick, and Osweiler), you’re left with the crap of the crap (obviously, it’s still really early in the offseason, and a lot of cuts/trades are out there to be made; this post won’t include guys likely to be released/already under contract).  Among guys with significant starting experience, you’re talking about:

  • Cassel
  • Clausen
  • Gradkowski
  • RGIII
  • Hasselbeck
  • Henne
  • Lindley
  • McCown
  • McCoy
  • Moore
  • Schaub
  • Stanton
  • Vick
  • Weeden
  • Whitehurst
  • Yates

Cassel is old and grossly over-valued.  I have zero confidence in his abilities to guide a team to a .500 record in the absence of this team’s starter (see:  his stint in Dallas last year).  Clausen is horrible; Gradkowski hasn’t had significant starting experience in half a decade; Lindley & Stanton are who we think they are; Vick is as done as done can be; the best thing Whitehurst has ever done is somehow trick Jewel into going out with him (aside from tricking multiple teams into giving him multiple millions of dollars, including the Seahawks, and now this is making me even more upset); and Yates apparently only has value to the Houston Texans, so that’s a stay-away in my book.

Of the guys I didn’t list in that paragraph, Hasselbeck is obviously the most interesting.  Who knows if he’s even in the market to continue his career after the thrashing he took in Luck’s absence last year?  Odds are, since Wilson does a better job of avoiding contact, he probably doesn’t suffer the same lacerated spleen or whatever the hell it was that Luck had.  Then again, if you’re Hasselbeck, would you ever expect a tough hoss like Luck to get injured in the first place?

RGIII might be another someone looking to compete for a starting job.  In fact, I’m almost sure of it, so I don’t know why I kept him here.  Obviously, I worry about injuries with him.  I also worry about his mindset.  By all accounts, he was a quality teammate last year and didn’t cause any trouble in the lockerroom.  But, for a guy drafted as high as he was, who still has a lot of the skills that made him so highly sought after (minus the legs, obviously), he’d make an ideal backup candidate.  BUT, maybe not for the Seahawks.  I just have my doubts as to his willingness to come in and be the clear #2.

If I’m being honest, I don’t totally hate the idea of Chad Henne as this team’s backup.  When he first got a crack to be a team’s starter, it was in Miami in 2009 & 2010.  Those weren’t great teams, but they were sort of middle-of-the-road, .500-ish teams, and he led them to .500-ish records accordingly.  His career started to go down the shitter when he went to Jacksonville, playing on some truly horrendous teams.  On the right team (i.e. on THIS team, the Seahawks), I think Henne could be a .500-ish quarterback again.  He’s going to complete upwards of 57-60% of his passes, and if you instruct him to refrain from taking too many chances, you might be able to coax his interception percentage down to reasonable levels.  He is getting on in age, though, so he’s probably not all that mobile, which obviously is going to be an issue for most of these veterans we’re looking at.

Luke McCown had 1 start in 2015, and played brilliantly in a losing effort.  Against Carolina, he completed 31 of 38 passes for 310 yards and a pick.  Before that, he hasn’t started a game since 2011, so I don’t know what you’d expect here.  That one start for New Orleans really skews his career numbers, but he could be an interesting buy-low candidate with some semblance of upside as a backup.

Colt McCoy might honestly be the best of the bunch.  Drafted by Cleveland, I tend to discount whatever anyone does in Cleveland, as they’ve been a trainwreck ever since the NFL let them back into the league (and for many years before they went to Baltimore to boot).  In 2014, McCoy had a string of games with the Redskins that showed everyone why he was thought of so highly coming out of college, as well as why he’s now exclusively a backup.  He had two and a half really good games (including an impressive Monday night victory over the eventual division champion Cowboys), and a couple of real stinkers (albeit, I believe that last game he was injured and had to leave the game early).  He’s definitely not going to blow anyone away or win any shootouts, but I think he could manage a game effectively well.  What more can you ask for?

Matt Moore has been backing up Tannehill these last few years, and honestly I don’t know how he can stand it.  Moore, in his starting efforts early in his career, was the epitome of a .500 quarterback.  Hovering around 59% completions, with slightly more touchdowns than interceptions.  He strikes me as another semi-ideal candidate.  Like Henne, he’s getting on in years, so I don’t know how mobile he is, and he hasn’t started a game since 2011, so that’s tough.  Maybe he’s like another Whitehurst, who loves being a backup and living in a tropical climate!  If that’s the case, I wonder if Seattle is the right spot for him.

Matt Schaub scares me.  A lot like Vick, I think he’s done.  A lot like Cassel, I think he’s over-valued.  He strikes me as a guy who, personality-wise, wouldn’t fit in on a team with this many alpha dogs.

Brandon Weeden is probably the last interesting name on the list.  He’s young enough to where you don’t totally worry about his durability (even though, let’s be honest, he’s like a tree back there in the pocket).  And, in spite of his Cleveland roots, I think it’s probably set in by this point that he’s going to be a career backup.  Last year was interesting for him, as he was the next man up after Romo went down for Dallas.  He proved to be underwhelming at best, leading to the Cowboys to over-pay for Matt Cassel (who managed to play even worse).  Weeden landed in Houston, where he ran circles around Cassel in his two appearances (though, he ended up relinquishing the job to Brian Hoyer for the playoffs, so make of that what you will).

So, in conclusion, I’ll rank my favorite options for the Seahawks’ backup quarterback:

  1. Talk Tarvaris Jackson into returning for another year
  2. Colt McCoy
  3. Matt Hasselbeck
  4. Rookie QB (either low round pick, undrafted free agent, or guy already on a futures contract)
  5. Brandon Weeden
  6. Henne/Moore (tie)
  7. Luke McCown
  8. Fuck it, give the job to Jon Ryan (also, make sure to re-sign Jon Ryan)
  9. No one/all Wildcat all the time
  10. Schaub
  11. Cassel
  12. Fan (open tryouts every week for a local Seahawks fan)