The Seahawks Cut Diggs, Adams, Dissly

While these are some obvious moves the Seahawks needed to make to free up some much-needed cash ahead of the 2024 offseason, go ahead and disregard a lot of the financial numbers I referenced in this post.

The good news for the Seahawks when it comes to the NFL raising the salary cap to a record $255.4 million is that it helped us greatly when it comes to our financial woes. The last however many years, the Seahawks have been right up against the cap limit every single year. Not much – if any – carry-over from one season to the next. That’s the price you pay when you’re doing everything you possibly can to cling to contention, without any resets.

The bad news for the Seahawks when it comes to the NFL raising the salary cap to a record $255.4 million is that it helps everyone else by the same amount. And, pretty much everyone else was already in a better salary cap situation, so that’s neat.

The three moves combined apparently save a little over $25 million. As for the dead money? Don’t even go there! One cool element of this is that we’re NOT making Jamal Adams a post-June 1st cut, which means we eat all the dead money now, but then in 2025 and beyond, we’re no longer obligated.

I like that. We’ve got a new coaching staff, we’ve got a front office with a new lease on life now that Pete Carroll is no longer where the buck stops. Let’s try to give the Seahawks some semblance of a fresh start. For all intents and purposes, should the Seahawks look to clean house in 2025, there isn’t a TON of dead money to have to endure. Dead money on Geno, Tyler, and even D.K. is all pretty reasonable. There wouldn’t be a lot left for Dre’Mont Jones, and you could even get out from under Nwosu if you really wanted to. Beyond those guys (and, presumably, any duds we sign in this offseason to multi-year deals), there isn’t a lot of fat on this roster going forward.

The toughest hit in this group is Quandre Diggs. He’s been nothing but a pro’s pro since joining the Seahawks. Indeed, either we got him at his very best, or we were able to make the best use of his talents. He spent 4.5 years with Detroit and 4.5 years with Seattle. All three of his Pro Bowls happened when he was here, and 18 of his 24 career interceptions came here.

There’s a lot of lamenting how much money the Seahawks have had tied up in the safety position in recent years. But, people also forget how TRULY awful we were at that position from 2018 (when Earl Thomas went down after 4 games) until Diggs joined the team halfway through 2019. Don’t forget, we also lost Kam Chancellor halfway through 2017, and had to suffer the likes of Tedric Thompson, Lano Hill, and Marquise Blair for that whole stretch. The point being: lack of quality safety play can really set your defense back.

That being said, you just can’t afford to have Safety as your most expensive position on the team. That’s no way to build a great roster. The impact you get from even the best of the best isn’t enough to counterbalance the negatives you’re getting from a nothing defensive line.

The easiest and most obvious cut to swallow was Jamal Adams. It’s going down as one of the worst trades in Seahawks history, and maybe even one of the worst trades in NFL history! We gave them a first and third rounder in 2021 (which they used to trade up in the first round that year, only to draft a journeyman guard/tackle who’s hit the IR twice out of three years), a first rounder in 2022 (which they used to take Garrett Wilson at 10th overall), and Bradley McDougald (who was pretty much cooked by the time we got rid of him). In return, we got a fourth round pick in 2021 (which we used to take Coby Bryant) and one great season (in 2020) where Adams had 9.5 sacks in 12 games. He would go on to have 0 more sacks in a combined 22 more games across the next three seasons, somehow catching 2 INTs (while dropping countless others), and making little-to-no impact whatsoever amidst an injury-plagued career. And, to top it all off, he was both delusional and an ass on the Internet, with one foot out the door pretty much since the moment he got here.

I would put Will Dissly somewhere in the middle. I definitely don’t dislike Dissly; honestly, he’s always been a joy to watch, dating back to his days as a Washington Husky. Every time he catches a ball, or contributes in any way, I light up like a Christmas tree! But also, like, what are we doing paying a – primarily blocking – tight end that much money? He averages a hair over 2 touchdowns, 21 receptions, and 236 yards per season; you’re giving THAT guy an average salary of $8 million per year? Again, what are we doing?

I wouldn’t be against paying him the minimum to come back. But, I’m guessing if we wanted to do that – and he wanted to accept that – he’d be here on a modified deal. As it stands, I’m assuming he can earn more elsewhere, and if so, God bless him.

All in all, kind of a weird day, but not totally shocking. The first of many, many moves to come in a pretty exciting offseason for the Seahawks.

What’s More Important For The Seahawks: Scheme Or Talent?

You know what’s always been hard for me to wrap my head around? The Seahawks under Pete Carroll – for multiple years in a row – had the best defense in the NFL. They drafted well, they developed well, they hit on some free agents, and they had a scheme that put it all together, worked to everyone’s strengths, and was a menace for opposing offenses to play against.

Then, for many years after that – still under Pete Carroll – the Seahawks were among the worst defensive teams in the NFL. Same coach, ostensibly the same scheme, yet for whatever reason nothing was working, no matter how many resources we poured into that side of the ball.

Well, the simple argument there is that TALENT is more important. When this team had multiple All Pros and future Hall of Famers, they were amazing; when they lost all those guys, the Seahawks were crummy.

But, I keep coming back to this post, and the point I made about every team that was worse than us defensively in 2022 were LEAPS AND BOUNDS better than us in 2023. We’re looking at the Lions, Vikings, Texans, Bears, Raiders, and Falcons. Other than the Texans drafting Will Anderson, there really wasn’t much help for any of those teams. I know the Bears made some trade deadline deals, but I don’t know if there was a ton of influx among those teams. Certainly not a ton of big names! I’m willing to wager there was a lot of talent-holdover from 2022 to 2023; yet some significant improvements were made!

That has to be scheme, right? Yes, the L.O.B. had a unique scheme – Cover 3 – that not a lot of other teams were utilizing the way we were. But, eventually, teams started to hone in on routes to defeat Cover 3. Sure, the talent declined, but also the scheme got stale, and the combination of that really did us in.

It never felt like the Seahawks took that next step – made that next adjustment – to fight back against what offenses were doing against them. They had their mantras: don’t get beat deep, focus on stopping the run. But, that just left a wide swath of the middle of the field wide open, and our softer coverages were incredibly beatable.

There’s talent on this defense. Devon Witherspoon, Riq Woolen, and Tre Brown are all good to great. Jordyn Brooks continually shows you why he was deemed a first round talent. Nwosu, Mafe, Leonard Williams, Jarran Reed, Dre’Mont Jones, Julian Love; there are and were DUDES on this side of the ball. In spite of their age, there’s a lot guys like Quandre Diggs and Bobby Wagner can bring to the table; on the flipside, I’d like to think there’s more we could be getting out of Darrell Taylor and Derick Hall. We don’t have that one huge defensive line pass rush monster, but then again, do the Falcons or Vikings? Are the guys on the Raiders or Bears THAT much better than our guys?

Or, did those teams and respective coaches scheme their guys up to play better than their overall talent might otherwise indicate?

I watch a good amount of football, not just Seahawks games. Yet I never really see other teams play quite like we do. Every fucking week, it’s like we get bled dry on defense. Teams picking us apart, getting easy completions, rarely seeing any sort of consistent pressure. Oh sure, the Seahawks will pick it up against inept offenses. But, if you’re even remotely competent, you’re going to have a pretty easy time moving up and down the field and scoring points.

Carolina, with Andy Dalton, should not be able to generate 378 yards and 27 points, I’m sorry! The Steelers, on their second offensive coordinator and their third quarterback, should not be able to come into your house and get 468 yards and 30 points! This isn’t getting routed by the Ravens, or the Cowboys not punting once. These are TERRIBLE offenses moving the football at will, on the road, in one of the loudest environments in the NFL.

Which is why I was so excited to hear that Mike Macdonald is planning on calling the defense, at least at first. I have zero doubt whatsoever that we could bring back exactly the same D as 2023 and see vastly superior results, just with the change in scheme.

What have we heard so often from players who left Seattle for other teams? Especially the defensive linemen: the Seahawks don’t let you do anything. They’re more worried about plugging gaps than they are about getting up field and making plays on the quarterback. They’re so concerned about giving up anything over the top that they play hyper-conservative and welcome teams taking the underneath stuff. The only problem with that is when they DO take that underneath stuff. It makes converting on third down easier, it makes avoiding third downs entirely easier, and inevitably your team is going to make some mistakes causing you to give up a deep ball or two anyway.

And what have we heard about Mike Macdonald? That he’s cerebral. That he studies tape more than anyone. That he’s the most prepared guy on the team, who’s going to find your weakness and exploit it. He’s going to make the offense’s job miserable. And that, in turn, is going to lead to more sacks, more turnovers, and doing it all with less blitzing.

Sure sounds like the scheme can be awfully important! I mean, I’d love more than anything to have that nice cross-section of both; who doesn’t want more talent on their roster? But, I’m not prepared to put it all on the feet of the talent.

Granted, if you’re the 49ers right now, you’ve got quite the bounty on that side of the ball. But, we don’t even need to be the best of the best. I would settle for just being better than we’ve been. Let’s start there, and see where Macdonald and company can take us.

Seahawks Death Week: Obvious Cap Casualties

If you want to see who the obvious salary cap casualties are, look no further than the top 12 salaries on this team. I’ll save the top guy (Geno Smith) for the end to help build some suspense, so let’s get crackin’ with number two.

I was more than a little surprised to see Tyler Lockett as a popular topic of conversation at the end of the season, when reporters mentioned that might’ve been his last game in a Seahawks uniform. On the one hand, it definitely makes sense: he was our #2 receiver last year, but he’s counting almost $28 million against the cap this year (what with his various contract restructures over the years). Still, with a dead cap hit coming in at almost $20 million, it’s not like you’re saving a ton. I know he’s probably not incentivized to do such a thing, but I guess I kinda thought maybe he’d re-work his deal over the final two years and retire as a lifelong Seahawk.

Ultimately, I think the smart move is to cut Lockett, let him join a contender for next year (if he wants to keep playing), or just let him walk away if he’s ready to retire. Even though his abilities are still there, he’s kind of lost a step, and is clearly not a good value for his cost. Saving even $8 million – in spite of the massive dead cap number – is almost certainly worthwhile.

I should point out that I don’t have the bandwidth to get into pre- and post-June cut possibilities with how much we can save in 2024 over 2025; let the smarter nerds get into those weeds.

Number 3 on the list is Jamal Adams; he has to go. He’s similar to Lockett in that there’s both a humongous cap hit (nearly $27 million) and dead cap number (nearly $21 million), but it’s night and day as far as personalities and production on the field. Adams is a waste of a roster space, he’s starting to feel like a cancer to this team, and quite frankly he’s just getting on the fanbase’s nerves at this point. There’s no way he’s going to salvage his career here, and at this point it’s kinder to all involved to let him leave.

Number 4 is D.K. Metcalf and he’s not going anywhere. A) because he’s probably the most talented player on this roster, and B) because his cap hit and dead cap number are nearly the same ($24.5 million vs. $23 million). The bottom line is: he’s giving you $24.5 million worth of production as this team’s #1 receiver, and that’s what matters most.

Number 5 is Quandre Diggs, and his departure feels like a foregone conclusion. He’s got a cap hit over $21 million, with a dead cap number of just over $10 million. Number 6 is an interesting case, because I never would’ve thought Dre’Mont Jones would be a One & Done guy for us, but his contract is structured with an out if we want it. He counts just over $18 million this year, but his dead cap hit is just over $13 million. It’s not a lot, but it’s also not nothing. For what it’s worth, I think Jones will be back.

So, halfway through this exercise, if we get rid of Lockett, Adams, and Diggs, we shore up around $25 million. I should point out that – if we kept every single player under contract in 2024 – we would be right up against the salary cap threshold (technically around $4,000 over the limit). $25 million is a decent chunk of change for three guys who aren’t in our long-term future plans. But, there’s more where that came from.

#7 is Will Dissly, heading into the last year of a crazy deal he signed. His cap hit is $10 million, his dead cap number is around $3 million; no brainer, he gone. #8 is Julian Love (cap hit $8 million, dead cap around $2.5). I don’t think the team will cut Adams, Diggs, AND Love in the same offseason. With Love coming off of a Pro Bowl berth, it would make all the sense in the world to hang onto him, and maybe even extend him at the right price (he’ll only be 26 years old this year). #9 is Uchenna Nwosu, who we JUST extended, and is absolutely cost-prohibitive to cut at this time. And #10 is Devon Witherspoon, who is up there with D.K. Metcalf as one of the best players on this team and isn’t going anywhere.

But, #11 is Jarran Reed, and #12 is Bryan Mone (remember him?). If I’m being honest, it would be idiotic to cut Reed after the season he had. He’s an absolute bargain at nearly $6 million for the final year of his deal. Mone, on the other hand, is making almost the same amount of money, and only costs us half a mil in dead space.

So, with Dissly and Mone, we’re looking at $37 million freed up from five guys who should easily be replaced. After the top 12 guys, the drop-off is pretty significant as far as salary goes.

The key, though, is NOT to just give all of that money back to guys who are outgoing free agents. Leonard Williams is an obvious big-money guy who won’t be cheap. Even at this stage of his career, Bobby Wagner won’t settle for nothing. Drew Lock feels like a waste of $4 million as a backup. Phil Haynes is DEFINITELY a waste of $4 million for someone who can never stay healthy. Devin Bush was overpaid at $3.5 million in 2023. Noah Fant will probably want a significant raise from the just over $3 million he was making this past season. Jordyn Brooks will ABSOLUTELY want a huge raise. Then, there’s guys like Evan Brown, Darrell Taylor, Damien Lewis, Mario Edwards, Colby Parkinson, and DeeJay Dallas. Of the lot of them, I’d probably only want to hang onto Parkinson (mostly because it feels unlikely we’re going to go out and replace the ENTIRE tight end room in one offseason), because he’s got good size and could still figure to be a cheap option as this team’s #1 or #2 TE. I should point out that Taylor is an RFA, so we can hang onto him for a reasonable cost if we still want him. But, everyone else can go.

There’s probably no way we can afford to keep both Wagner AND Brooks; depending on the cost, I’d go with the younger option and stick him in the middle linebacker spot. But, I’m also not super invested in that either. I could let them both walk and feel just fine, if I’m being honest.

This brings us back to Geno Smith. He’s just over $31 million against the cap, with only a $17.4 million dead money hit. That’s almost an additional $14 million – to go along with $37 million freed up above – to give us potentially $51 million in money to spend. Of course, in this scenario, we’d have no quarterbacks, no tight ends, and only one safety with any sort of quality experience. I find it hard to believe that this ALL will happen – that these obvious cuts will indeed be made – but it’s also not difficult to talk yourself into it. What’s stopping us from bringing back Drew Lock on a cheap deal, letting Geno go, and drafting a quarterback in the first round to compete right away? If we get from Lock around 90% of what we got from Geno, at like an eighth of the cost, why don’t we just do THAT, and hope we hit on a rookie that develops for 2025?

I’ll be interested to see how many of these guys end up actually being cut. We won’t have to wait for long for some of them, as they have their salaries guaranteed shortly after the Super Bowl in February (if we don’t cut them first).

Seahawks Death Week: Were The 2023 Seahawks Better Than They Were In 2022?

Both teams finished the regular season 9-8. The 2022 Seahawks actually made the playoffs, while the 2023 Seahawks did not. The 2023 Seahawks clearly had higher expectations coming into the year, whereas the 2022 Seahawks were expected to be among the worst five teams in the NFL. But, just because the current iteration underperformed, while the previous one overachieved, doesn’t necessarily mean the 2022 Seahawks were the better team. And, since we don’t live in a magical world where we can have these two squads duke it out on the football field, we have to look at the numbers and see where they compare.

I will readily admit that I’m coming into this exercise HOPING that the 2023 team is actually better, and thanks to a game or two not going our way at the end, we ultimately failed to achieve our goals. Because, if that’s the case, then maybe an argument can be made that this is actually a team on the rise, and this year can be seen as an aberration. However, if the 2023 Seahawks are objectively worse, then this is a team going in the wrong direction. Then, we have to start questioning how good these last two draft classes actually were. Then, we’re left to wonder how long it’s actually going to be before things turn around.

I’ll start with the defense. Heading into the season, what was the biggest problem area, the biggest area of need, the part of the team we all knew needed improvement? The defense. In 2022, we gave up 361.7 yards per game (26th in football); in 2023, we gave up 371.4 yards per game (30th in football).

You know what sucks? Every team that was worse than us in 2022 improved. Detroit went from 32 to 19, Minnesota went from 31 to 16, Houston went from 30 to 14, Chicago went from 29 to 12, Las Vegas went from 28 to 13, Atlanta went from 27 to 11! This isn’t, like, small baby steps of improvement. These are LEAPS AND BOUNDS! And it’s not like we’re talking about teams that all made the playoffs; they were all varying levels of mediocre-to-bad in 2023. Yet they all also saw significant improvements on defense, in one season’s time.

If we keep going back, in 2021, the Seahawks were 28th in yards per game, in 2020 we were 22nd (but still gave up over 380 per game), in 2019 we were 26th. In 2018, we were 16th; that’s the last time we were even kind of okay. Before that, we were obviously very good. But, starting with 2019, that’s five years of being one of the worst defenses in all of football. Of being a defense that absolutely CANNOT compete for a championship. With a head coach that prides himself on being defensively-minded. We’ve been stuck in the shit for half a decade now; meanwhile, all these shitty defenses from 2022 are kicking ass in 2023.

Where did we struggle the most in 2022? Rush defense (150.2 yards per game, 30th in football). How did we fare in 2023? When we got rid of a lot of dead weight and put the majority of our resources into shoring up this part of the game? 138.4 yards per game, 31st in football. So, we improved our number of yards allowed per game, but still ended up worse compared to the rest of the NFL.

The two teams worse than us in 2022? Houston (32) and Chicago (31), who finished 2023 6th (!) and 1st (!!!) in rush yards per game allowed. IN ONE YEAR, they went from the worst to the best!

I mean, this isn’t fucking rocket science! We’re talking about Houston, who had a total coaching regime change, and Chicago, whose head coach in 2022 was just finishing his first year and was already on the hot seat. The Seahawks, meanwhile, are among the most stable franchises in the sport, yet again, we’ve struggled on defense for half a fucking decade. Un-fucking-believable.

To round it out, the 2022 Seahawks gave up 211.5 passing yards (13th); the 2023 Seahawks gave up 233.0 (21st). The 2022 Seahawks gave up 23.6 points per game (25th); the 2023 Seahawks gave up 23.6 points per game 25th). We literally gave up one more point than a year ago. The pass defense – particularly the secondary – was supposed to be our biggest strength (even discounting Jamal Adams as “likely to be injured” heading into the season); yet it was kind of mediocre, in spite of the fact that we got more Jamal Adams than I ever thought possible.

Just a little more housekeeping, for context. The 2022 Seahawks were +2 in turnover differential; the 2023 Seahawks were also +2 in turnover differential. We actually turned it over less in 2023, but also generated fewer turnovers, which is how we get to that number. That’s interesting to me, because if you would’ve told me prior to 2023 that the Seahawks’ offense would have 6 fewer turnovers – knowing what I knew about the perceived improvement of talent on defense – I would say that’s HUGE, and might’ve translated to 2-3 more victories. Instead, that perceived talent improvement never really materialized.

For a little more context, the 2022 Seahawks had 45 sacks (tied for 7th); the 2023 Seahawks had 47 sacks (tied for 11th). Another interesting stat is the 2022 Seahawks gave up 62.7% completions (10th), whereas the 2023 Seahawks gave up 66.7% completions (26th). So, in spite of being slightly better at generating sacks, it looks like we were actually softer all around, and probably not generating as much pressure on the whole. Or, you know, maybe we just faced significantly better quarterback play in 2023 than in 2022; you can’t rule that out either. Maybe both are true!

What do my eyes tell me about this defense? It’s tricky, because I believe we were actually significantly more talented in personnel in 2023 than we were in 2022. I think Jarran Reed had a fabulous season. I think Leonard Williams is the best all-around defensive lineman we’ve had since Michael Bennett (very different players/body types, but similarly dominant in everything that they do). I think Dre’Mont Jones is as talented as advertised, but likely wasn’t utilized properly. I think Boye Mafe took a HUGE step forward. I think Devon Witherspoon is deserving of every single accolade that comes his way. I think Jordyn Brooks is an animal, and it’s tremendous how well (and how quickly) he came back from such a significant injury. I thought Tre Brown, Mike Jackson, and Julian Love all shined at times. I thought Riq Woolen was injured for most of this year and that likely explains his step-back (I still think he’s great in coverage, but when he’s hurt, he’s going to be a liability in the run game).

That being said, I think we were another wide-body short on the interior, to significantly plug the run. I think Bobby Wagner likely helped in that regard, but probably not as much as everyone thinks. Wagner obviously had his struggles in pass defense (to the point where he probably should’ve been taken off the field on every 3rd & medium-to-long), but we also had no one behind him to fill in (linebacker depth was non-existent yet again); I also don’t think Wagner was the fix-all in the run game everyone’s making him out to be. How many times did he too get swallowed up, or jump the wrong gap? He’s old! He was old two years ago!

I also thought Quandre Diggs looked a little old. I thought Jamal Adams – aside from a few plays near the LOS here and there – looked legitimately bad. Maybe he was hurt all year, but still, he looks toast. And, I think the outside linebacker play was atrocious outside of Boye Mafe and Uchenna Nwosu (who got knocked out 6 games in), and I’m not even sure Mafe is any good at setting an edge. What I know for sure is that Darrell Taylor and Derick Hall are 100% NOT good in that regard, and it’s a huge hole for us.

A lot of these were problems in 2022, though. We couldn’t set an edge then either. Our linebacker room was unquestionably worse with Cody Barton getting significant reps. Adams was still hurt, Diggs was still getting up there, and we were obviously missing out on beef in the interior line.

So, how do you explain this across-the-board drop-off in defensive production?

The coaching staff. Clint Hurtt and Co.

He’s not a defensive coordinator. We learned that in his first season in 2022, and it’s been nothing but cemented into my brain in 2023, when he was gifted better talent, and his unit produced worse results. He needs to go.

***

Now, let’s go to the offense. Spoiler alert: it also looks like it’s worse in 2023 than it was in 2022.

2022 total yards = 351.5 (13th); 2023 total yards = 322.9 (21st). 2022 passing yards = 231.4 (12th); 2023 passing yards = 230.0 (14th). 2022 rushing yards = 120.1 (18th); 2023 rushing yards = 92.9 (28th).

So, passing yards remained stagnant, in spite of total stability at the QB spot, and arguably an improved wide receiver room with first rounder Jaxon Smith-Njigba replacing Marquise Goodwin. And we’re talking about a DRASTICALLY worse rushing attack, in spite of the fact that Kenneth Walker played in the same number of games (all as the lead back), while we added the robust talent of Charbonnet (taking the smattering of 2022 carries given to DeeJay Dallas, Travis Homer, and Rashaad Penny the few times he was healthy).

Okay, so point to the offensive line. Obviously, there were lots of injuries across the board causing this unit to suffer. Except, we took 46 sacks in 2022, vs. a combined 37 in 2023. Team passing, okay, you can attribute some of that to Drew Lock playing in 4 games (starting 2). But, Geno’s per-game numbers year over year obviously declined (fewer yards per game, lower completion percentage, fewer yards per attempt, lower passer rating).

Also, if your O-Line is so banged up, wouldn’t you WANT to run the ball more? In 2022, we attempted 425 carries; in 2023, it was 382. In 2022, we attempted 573 passes; in 2023, we attempted 575. Geno attempted a little over 33 and a half passes per game; but Drew Lock attempted 32 per game in his two starts, so it’s not like we really took it easy on him. Yet, neither quarterback benefitted from extended competence out of the rushing attack. As a team, we averaged 4.8 yards per carry (4.9 yards per carry if you take out two massive losses by our punter) in 2022; we could only muster 4.1 yards per carry in 2023.

So, what’s THAT all about? We thought we really had something with our new O-Line coach in 2022. But, while improving on our sack numbers (in basically the same number of drop-backs), we took a massive nosedive in our running numbers. I guess we have to HOPE that it’s just injuries and things are bound to positively regress in 2024. But, there’s also a number of personnel decisions we have to make – along the interior, particularly – that has been one of our greatest weaknesses since time immemorial.

All told, our 2022 Seahawks scored 23.9 points per game (9th); our 2023 Seahawks scored 21.4 points per game (17th). An already-bad defense somehow managed to get worse, and a decently-good offense became painfully mediocre. In spite of the fact that the offense had a ton of carry-over, improved in both the running back and wide receiver rooms, and had a quarterback who couldn’t have been more motivated to better his career-best numbers from the previous season.

Does that also come down to coaching? Because, to me, that comes down to coaching.

***

Here’s my ultimate ruling on the question at the top:

I think, personnel-wise, the 2023 Seahawks were better than the 2022 Seahawks. However, I think the play on the field was worse. The numbers bear that out, even if their records were the same. We were -38 in point differential in 2023, meaning we probably overachieved. The NFL record 7 go-ahead TD passes by Geno Smith in the 4th quarter or OT sort of proves that point. We had a +6 point differential in 2022, which seems appropriate for a 9-8 team. So, while things were disappointing for Geno Smith, and some of the other veterans in 2023, I don’t think they were so much worse that it cost us. Ultimately, I put it on our coaching staff – our coordinators specifically, though Pete Carroll certainly doesn’t get a pass from me at this point – as the reason why the 2023 Seahawks were worse.

I believe, with more competent leadership, the 2023 Seahawks should’ve won more games and reached the playoffs.

That doesn’t mean I believe this team was good enough to win the NFC West. They clearly had a ceiling that was much lower than the 49ers. But, I do believe we should’ve beaten the Rams at least once, if not twice. Win one and we’re in the playoffs. Win both, we’re 11-6 and playing in Tampa in the first round of the playoffs (while the Rams would’ve been 8-9 and on the outside looking in, where they belonged).

So, in that sense, it’s pretty clear why Pete Carroll needed to go. We can’t really tell at this time if it was a matter of the messaging not getting through, or too much meddling by Pete in the personnel decisions to keep around these guys who are getting up there (saying nothing of giving up a second round draft pick for half of a season of Leonard Williams). But, I believe we didn’t have the proper staff in place to get the best out of these players. A more run-focused offensive scheme (becoming almost exclusively either a run or play-action team), with more attention paid to stopping the run and generating pressure by being blitz-heavy on defense, likely would’ve enhanced our win/loss record.

What we couldn’t do were the same things we’ve done the last 5+ years. What we couldn’t do was declare a shift towards a 3-4 defense, only to pretty much play a random hodgepodge of the exact defensive fronts we’ve used all along. What we couldn’t do was give up huge defensive cushions underneath – hoping to take away the deep ball – only to give up the deep ball anyway, and everything else opposing offenses wanted to do. Change it up! Drastically, if necessary! But, do SOMETHING.

This team did nothing, and mediocrity was our end result. Let’s hope that doesn’t continue on into 2024.

The Seahawks Aren’t Great At Any One Thing

The Seahawks get a lot of credit for being competitive. If I understand the phrase right, it’s a double-edged sword. When things are going well, people point to the coaching staff and say, “Boy Pete Carroll does a great job of adapting and getting the most out of his players!” But, when things go poorly, people point to the coaching staff and say, “Boy Pete Carroll is over the hill and washed up and doesn’t understand what the game of football is morphing into!”

There was a time this year where the Seahawks were winners of 5 out of 6 games, and the one we lost (to the Bengals) you could argue we gave away. But, even still, they were the Bengals, Joe Burrow was still alive, and you can understand why even a good team would lose that game on the road. The offense felt vibrant, the defense appeared to be improving, and we all let ourselves believe that these Seahawks could compete with those 49ers for this NFC West and maybe even above and beyond.

Then, we got massacred by the Ravens. That kicked off a lull where we lost 4 out of 5 games, with the lone victory being a 3-point variety against one of the worst, most dysfunctional teams in football (the Commanders), at home no less. We won the next two games to regain control over our own playoff destiny, only to lose to the Steelers last week, to once again need a Week 18 victory plus some help.

The Seahawks are 8-8. You can’t really give this team a lot of credit for being competitive, because if we’re honest with ourselves, this team is only competitive against very flawed-to-bad teams.

There are lots of teams hovering around .500, though. Lots of flawed teams who are in contention for the playoffs. There have been plenty of flawed teams throughout the years who have made the playoffs, gotten hot, and managed to do some damage (even winning a Super Bowl here and there). It’s not always the VERY BEST teams who win it all. Sometimes, you just need to pose the right matchup problems against the right teams, to get the result you want.

The Cleveland Browns are 11-5 and locked into the playoffs. You wouldn’t consider them a front-runner; they’re on, what, their fourth quarterback? Joe Flacco off the scrap heap re-joined the league and has set the world on fire. Has Joe Flacco suddenly gotten amazing again? No way! But, he’s in the right situation, with the right team, that has some elite components (defense, running game, O-Line) that allows them to make up for any mistakes Flacco might generate.

The Dolphins are also 11-5 and locked into the playoffs. Their defense kinda stinks, but they’re so dynamic on offense that you could see them winning any game if things break right. The Chiefs are 10-6 and their receivers are hot garbage. The Eagles are 11-5 and their defense has regressed HARD. The Rams are 9-7, but they’re still well-coached and explosive enough (and veteran enough) on offense to beat anybody.

Which brings me to the Seahawks. They’re a consummate 7-seed type of team. But, unlike the Packers, Steelers, or either of the South divisions, the Seahawks don’t have any one thing they do extremely well. They just have a lot of things they’re okay at, with some VERY glaring weaknesses that hold them back.

It’s honestly pretty miserable watching the Seahawks closely. I wonder if these other fringe teams have the same type of disgruntled fans. There’s nothing you can hang your hat on, where you can say, “If THIS happens, we can pull it out.” Even in the post-L.O.B. era of Seahawks football with prime Russell Wilson at the helm, we could look at the team and say, “Well, if Russell Wilson plays out of his mind, maybe we can win three playoff games and get to the Super Bowl.” Of course, that never happened, and we now understand why it was foolish to think that way. But, at least there was a chance. Russell Wilson used to be magic, and sometimes he was all we needed to will ourselves to victories.

You can’t say that about Geno Smith. Russell Wilson could get by with a rancid offensive line. Geno Smith is like this delicate flower that needs a climate-controlled environment to flourish. I’m not talking about weather here; it’s sort of a terrible analogy. But, like, Geno needs very good O-Line play. He needs the defense to keep us in it. He can’t carry us on his back and will us to victory. Oh sure, if everything is just right, he can lead us to a late come-from-behind victory every now and then. But, you better not allow any pass rushers to get in his face! He’s not making those comebacks against the likes of the 49ers, Cowboys, or Steelers!

What’s the best thing Seattle has going for it? The easy answer is the wide receiver room, but that’s so dependant on your quarterback’s play, that I think I have to push them down a tier. I think the actual best thing Seattle has going for it is the running back room. The one-two punch of Kenneth Walker and Zach Charbonnet is as good as it gets. Walker makes something out of nothing in a way I haven’t seen since Barry Sanders. I’m not saying he’s as good as Barry Sanders, but I’m saying the moves you see him put on people on the football field week-in and week-out are as electric and jaw-dropping as I’ve seen out of anyone since Sanders retired. Charbonnet, on the other hand, is just a solid and dynamic straight-ahead runner. Every time I see him play well, I wonder if he’s the future #1 on this team, but then Walker comes back and flashes those amazing cut-back moves, and I’m swayed in his direction. Either way, those two combined – with their tremendous blocking and pass-catching abilities – puts us at a level few teams are at in the NFL.

So, why don’t we feature it more? Why aren’t we scheming to highlight the run, rather than using it to complement a passing attack that’s … fine? Your guess is as good as mine. Seems to me, once again, we have the wrong offensive coordinator. He was brought in to try to appease a disgruntled Russell Wilson, we traded Wilson a year later, and now we’ve been trying to make it work. Sometimes, Waldron looks like one of the best OCs in football. But, too often – especially this season – he gets too one-track minded. He goes away from the run – mind-bogglingly – even though we’re in more games than we’re way behind. And less and less do we see guys schemed open. We were supposed to get the system that the Rams use to tremendous success. Lots of crossers, lots of different plays out of similar-looking personnel groupings. But, either Geno isn’t seeing them, or we’ve gone away from them. Regardless, this offense looks as dysfunctional as it was under Schotty and in the final years of Bevell.

Getting back to the receivers, I’ll tell you what this team doesn’t have; it doesn’t have Doug Baldwin, or a Doug Baldwin type. It doesn’t have that guy who can get open under any circumstance. It doesn’t have that guy you can go to on 3rd & Long, when you absolutely need a conversion to move the chains. Tyler Lockett sort of used to be that guy, but not really, and definitely not anymore. I don’t know what Lockett is nowadays, if I’m being honest. Either he’s trending towards being washed up, or we’re just not utilizing him like we should. More often than not, we’re going to D.K. when we need a big catch to move the chains. Don’t get me wrong, D.K. has been GREAT this year. But, he still has massive drops at the worst times, and you never know when he’s going to be that powderkeg that’s one bad taunt away from exploding.

The good news is: maybe Jaxon Smith-Njigba will be the next true heir apparent to Doug Baldwin. But, he’s still a rookie, he’s still developing that relationship with Geno, and while he’s much more productive now than he was at the beginning of the season, he’s not quite there yet. Hopefully in the next year or two, but that doesn’t help us out THIS season, now does it?

As far as the defense goes, write it off. There’s nothing elite about any of these position groups. Jamal Adams was shut down, having never fully recovered from his knee injury. He was getting beaten on the reg, and was less and less productive out in space near the line of scrimmage the more he played. Clearly, his body is broken, and it’s going to really suck if we’re stuck with him for another year.

As for the rest of the secondary, that was sort of our big hope, but it hasn’t come to fruition. I think the depth is there, but the top-end talent has been lacking. Which is interesting, because two of our three Pro Bowlers came from this group (Devon Witherspoon and Julian Love). Witherspoon looks as good as advertised, but he started the year banged up, and he’s ending the year banged up. When he’s been healthy out there, he’s been a game-changer. But, I’m starting to have serious doubts that we’re ever going to get a full season out of him. And I’m certainly dubious about getting a respectable second contract out of him. As for Love, he’s definitely come on late, but early this season he was a huge liability! The bar to climb over for Pro Bowl contention seems to be getting lower and lower nowadays.

You can’t deny Riq Woolen’s sophomore season has been anything but disappointing. Seems like he too is injured, but I don’t remember him ever being all that active in tackling near the line of scrimmage. That wasn’t a problem last year when he was making plays and generating turnovers; but this year, when he’s not doing that, he’s not really doing anything for you, is he? The rest of the guys – Diggs, Brown, Jackson, Burns, etc. – have all flashed some level of greatness, but have also totally disappeared for long stretches. As a result, this defense is getting increasingly shredded as the season goes along.

The linebackers have been okay against the run, but Bobby Wagner has been one of the biggest weaknesses in the passing game in the entire NFL (he’s a Pro Bowler based on reputation only). Without Jordyn Brooks, the linebacker room is totally decimated (as we saw last week against the Steelers). It’s tough when you’re as thin as you are, and you’re forced to play Wagner at or near 100% of the snaps every week. Now we have to pay Brooks whatever the market rate is for a top-end interior linebacker? What are we doing with our money here?!

I think the interior of the defensive line has been the most productive unit on this team, especially with the addition of Leonard Williams. Between him, Jarran Reed, and Dre’Mont Jones, we’re as solid as you can get. But, when Nwosu went down, the edge has been kind of a wasteland. Frank Clark has hardly played, and I think has since been cut (or is on the verge of being cut). Darrell Taylor can’t set an edge to save his life. Boye Mafe has slowed down considerably the second half of this season. Derick Hall is also struggling to play his position properly (but he’s a rookie, so he gets a pass). So, when you talk defensive line as a whole, I think you have to give them a net-negative. They get sacks at a decent clip, but I would say overall pressure numbers are sub-par, and the run defense has actually gotten worse as the season has gone along.

Defensive coordinator might be our biggest weakness, so we’ll see where that goes this offseason.

That leaves the O-Line, which is middling at best. But, Abe Lucas has been banged up all year, and we’ve had a revolving door at most of our positions from week to week. So much so that we’ve had to emphasize getting the ball out incredibly quickly if we even WANT to have a passing game. Seems like that would be the time to try to pound the rock, but again, we’re not, because of Reasons.

All told, that adds up to a team – as I said in the title – that isn’t great at any one thing. They’re okay at some things, terrible at others, and that’s what adds up to an 8-8 record heading into the final week of the season. Which is why I’ve been saying – for however many weeks now – that I do NOT want these Seahawks in the playoffs. What good does it do to get in there and get your doors blown off in the first round? We did that last year; did it do anything to make the 2023 Seahawks even remotely better? Or, did it just give us worse draft positioning, while allowing us to delude ourselves into thinking we were closer to Super Bowl contention than we actually were?

The Seahawks only make significant changes when they fail to make the playoffs. Whenever we make the playoffs, we bring our coaching staff back, keep the majority of the veterans we’re able to keep, and try to fill in around the fringes with what little resources we have left over. We’ve never really committed to a true rebuild since the 2010 season, and it’s starting to feel like all those Mariners teams from 2004-2018. Close, but no cigar.

What’s this team going to do as a 7-seed? Probably go to Dallas and lose by double digits. We already couldn’t stop them once – the week after Thanksgiving – what makes you think we can stop them now, when our talent is actually more depleted thanks to injury? We tried our best to keep up offensively – putting up 35 in a losing effort – but literally everything had to go right for that to happen, and I’m not buying that we can do that a second time.

And even IF we somehow, miraculously, beat the Cowboys in Dallas (because, at their heart, they love to choke in the playoffs), what is our reward? Playing the 1-seed 49ers after a week off (and after playing no one of consequence in Week 18). Just the worst case scenario of all scenarios; we haven’t come CLOSE to beating them for the last two years now.

So, no, I don’t want to see us in the playoffs. I don’t even want to see us winning this week! I want us 8-9. I want that LOSERS label to be firmly stamped all over this team. Pete Carroll and John Schneider aren’t going anywhere. But, maybe with a losing record, they’ll stumble into the correct coaching and personnel moves to turn this thing around before we’re all old and gray.

Do The Seahawks Seem Like A Playoff Team?

The Seahawks are 6-3 right now. They’re tied for the division lead with the 49ers (who own the tiebreaker edge based on divisional record) and are technically the best of the wild card bunch (with the tiebreaker edge over Dallas based on conference record). That’s a fifth seed, for those keeping track at home. If that were to hold until the end of the regular season, we would almost certainly be facing the winner of the NFC South in the wild card round, who will almost certainly have a worse regular season record.

But, I dunno. When I think of playoff teams, I think of teams that can legitimately win it all. I know that’s not the case (that’s never the case), but to me, there are capital P Playoff Teams, and there are teams that just so happen to make the playoffs. Someone’s gotta be fodder for the legitimate Playoff Teams, until we get to the point where there are only legitimate Playoff Teams left standing.

The Seahawks made the playoffs last year, but they weren’t a Playoff Team. They also started 6-3, and were actually in the lead for the NFC West before the 49ers got their act together and went on a huge run to close the regular season at 13-4. The Seahawks finished 9-8 and were the aforementioned fodder for those very 49ers in the opening round of the playoffs.

You could make an argument that the Seahawks were a Playoff Team in 2020, finishing 12-4, winning the NFC West, but Playoff Teams don’t lose in the first round to a Rams team playing two backup quarterbacks (starting with John Wolford before he got hurt and was replaced by the benched Jared Goff, who obviously would go on to better things with the Lions, but was still a mess at the time).

In reality, the Seahawks haven’t been a Playoff Team since 2015, when they got buzzsawed by the eventual Super Bowl runner ups in Carolina.

Playoff Teams have real strengths that stand out against elite competition. Playoff Teams don’t just feast on the mediocre and the bottom-dwellers. Playoff Teams find ways to win against the best of the best.

Before this past weekend, I would’ve told you our only quality victory was at Detroit in week two. The longer this season goes, the more impressive that’s going to look; the Lions feel like a Playoff Team. With Cleveland advancing to 6-3 after beating the Ravens, I think that victory gets elevated a little bit (even though we beat their backup QB); at least the Browns have an amazing defense, and we were still able to move the ball and put up some points on them.

We can’t write this Seahawks team off yet, without seeing how they do in the games going forward. There are going to be plenty of opportunities for us to show up against the best of the best: two against the 49ers, the Eagles, the Cowboys, all in a row. Right now, I would say we’re 2-2 against quality opponents, with a hard-fought loss at Cincy, and a drubbing at Baltimore. If we finish that gauntlet stretch going 2-2, splitting with the 49ers and splitting with the NFC East teams, that gives us a 4-4 record in such games, and puts us in good shape the rest of the way. I might buy us as a team that can make some noise in the post-season.

That being said, A) going 2-2 in that stretch is a HUGE “if”. It wouldn’t shock me in the slightest if we went 0-4 against those teams. All of them have amazing defenses, and if Geno doesn’t show up, they could be significantly ugly losses like we had against the Ravens. And B) even if we go 2-2, that doesn’t automatically guarantee we’re going to take care of business against the four other teams who aren’t very good. The Rams are always a nightmare, Pittsburgh has a terrific defense, Arizona has played hard all year and are getting healthy at the right time, and Tennessee is extremely well-coached. Going 2-2 during the gauntlet does us no good if we also go 2-2 against the dregs, finishing 10-7 and probably in a lesser wild card spot that has us facing one of the top dogs again.

I keep coming back to the concept that the Seahawks don’t really do anything great. They’re okay in a lot of areas, and they’ve feasted on most of the teams they should’ve beaten, but that only gets you so far.

The rushing attack is fine; I like both of our backs and think they bring some diverse and impactful things to this offense. But, they also feel underutilized; we tend to steer away from the running game for long stretches. And by the time we get back to it, it feels like teams have adjusted to what we were doing.

Our passing game is okay, but Geno has been hyper mistake-prone, it seems like guys are having trouble getting open (or we’re having trouble scheming them open), and we’re not really winning a lot of 50/50 balls. This team turtles up in the biggest spots (on third down, and in the red zone), and when we’re going bad, everything snowballs for entire quarters, halves, or even games. Playoff Teams don’t do that!

No one can say the run defense isn’t improved, but you don’t win championships on stout run defense. I would say the pass rush is better than expected, but we also lost our best pass rusher for the year in Nwosu, and had to trade significant draft capital just to bring in Leonard Williams to try to shore things up. When have these trades ever worked for us? Williams seemed to make an impact last week at times, but one guy isn’t going to automatically take this team to a top level.

I still haven’t figured out if this secondary is the team’s strength or not. It feels like it should be. It was certainly projected to be heading into the season. But, guys were injured early and they got off to a pretty horrid start. They’ve picked it up significantly with Devon Witherspoon, Riq Woolen, and Jamal Adams back in the fold. But, what happened the last two weeks? Baltimore was able to do whatever they wanted against us, and Washington definitely found large swaths of green grass in the intermediate zones of the defense, with their running backs and tight ends dominating. Is that on the secondary? I would say somewhat. Where were our safeties? How atrocious was the tackling? It’s not the L.O.B. and comparisons to such are lazy and pointless. But, if you want to be a true Playoff Team, you need a unit like the L.O.B. to give you some real validity.

Good, not great, seems to be the mark of this Seahawks team. This is the time of the year where pundits like to point out all the flaws in every team, to give people like Seahawks fans hope that maybe we’re in that calibre as the Eagles, 49ers, etc. The Eagles are 8-1, and yet you’d think they’re the Saints or something. They had a mistake-prone game against the Jets’ elite defense on the road, and still only lost by one possession. No, they haven’t been running up the score like they did last year, but I would also argue that none of their victories have felt in jeopardy. The 49ers famously had that 3-game losing streak to dip below the Seahawks for a week, but then what happened? They had their BYE, they got guys healthy, and they absolutely stomped the Jags into smithereens. They might conceivably not lose again the rest of the way; they did something VERY similar last year! As for the Lions, they’re 7-2 and the biggest knock against them seems to be the fact that they’re the Lions. Sure, they got roughed up by the Ravens like we did, and they lost to us, so they might be at a similar level to the Seahawks. Their schedule is so easy, they might not be discovered as frauds until the playoffs, but there’s a lot to like about the way that team is set up. Their offense is no joke, both running and throwing, and they’ve got some quality players up front on defense that can make lives miserable.

The Seahawks feel like a second-tier team, on par with the Lions and Cowboys. Of those three, I think I have the least amount of faith in the Seahawks. That’s a tough thing to feel about a team that’s highly likely to be involved in the post-season in some capacity. We’ll probably make the playoffs, sure, but I don’t think we’ll win a game once we get there. In that sense, what’s the point? It’s like we weren’t even there at all!

The hope, then, has to be that 2023 is a jumping-off point. A la 2011 or 2012. But, by the end of 2012, we were one of the best teams in the league, who got beaten by a bad first half of football in the divisional round. I don’t see that kind of finish happening fo this squad. There’s a ceiling with Geno Smith that there wasn’t with a rookie Russell Wilson. And that, as we all suspect – as much as we hate to admit it, because we all generally like Geno – is going to be our ultimate downfall, and the reason why not only this team isn’t a Playoff Team, but it won’t be a legitimate contender until we find his eventual replacement.

Frank Clark Returns As The Seahawks Take On The Browns

There’s no discounting the loss of Uchenna Nwosu for this Seahawks defense. He was unquestionably our best defensive player last year, he earned a relatively big-money contract extension this past offseason, and even though the numbers aren’t eye-popping this season, the eye-test and the ancillary numbers point to Nwosu being our best outside linebacker/pass rusher. While it’s wonderful that Boye Mafe has taken the next step to be a super-productive second banana, after the loss of Nwosu, the drop-off is pretty considerable.

You may be saying to me, “Don’t forget about Darrell Taylor!” But I think it’s clear at this point that he’s pretty one-dimensional. There are a lot of reasons why the Seahawks have so drastically improved in their run defense – Bobby Wagner, Jarran Reed, Dre’Mont Jones, Devon Witherspoon, no more Cody Barton – but I think a big key is the reduced role Taylor plays on rushing downs. He’s a solid-to-good pass rusher in obvious passing situations, but other than that, I don’t really trust him as an all-around outside linebacker. That doesn’t mean Taylor doesn’t have value, or isn’t important to this team’s success. But, I take a less-is-more approach with him.

And, as for Derick Hall, I think there’s a lot of promise there, but he reminds me a bit of Boye Mafe as a rookie last year. Maybe a bigger, beefier version, but someone who probably is a year or two away, if he’s going to hit at all.

Seahawks fans have been focused on the impending trade deadline on October 31st for good reason. While the defense has been extraordinary – especially compared to expectations – you can always use a little more. With the way we like to rotate guys in and out, you can never have enough weapons at your disposal. Then, when you factor in the inevitable injuries that will crop up – starting with Nwosu last week – it’s all the more imperative to keep reloading on that side of the ball, not just with bodies, but competent ones.

It’s funny that some people automatically dismissed the Frank Clark option. Maybe they had a good reason; I guess we’ll find out. His numbers with Kansas City for those four seasons certainly weren’t explosive. It’s hard to say he justified the contract he was given; when you sign someone to a deal worth over $20 million per season, you expect more than an ordinary defensive end. He averaged just under 6 sacks per (regular) season, though he added 10.5 sacks in 12 post-season games with the Chiefs. Certainly, whenever I watched the Chiefs (which, yeah, a lot of those games were probably in the playoffs), it seemed like they were getting their money’s worth. But, they clearly felt he was expendable when they cut him this past offseason.

And, also clearly, he didn’t mesh with what the Broncos were trying to do. He signed with them for 2023, at a little under $5.5 million, and got cut after playing in only 2 games. They even went so far as to make him a healthy scratch and put him on the trade block – in addition to reworking his deal to lower the cap hit – but found no takers. Then, he just sat there as a free agent for a couple/few weeks, until the Seahawks came calling.

Now, of course, there are a lot of caveats to all of this. For starters, the Chiefs are – as most teams – up against the salary cap. They have a lot of stars who they’re paying truckloads of money, and they just can’t afford to keep everyone. Maybe they felt he was slipping; maybe they would’ve welcomed him back at the veteran minimum. Clark chose to get what he could with the Broncos; that’s fine. Once the Chiefs gave a little cookie to Chris Jones after his holdout, I’m sure they’re even further pressed against the cap, making in-season moves quite difficult. That could explain why Clark didn’t go back to KC (or, again, maybe they think he’s cooked). But, I don’t know if I’m ready to write Clark off simply because the Broncos cut him. That team is in shambles for a second straight season; it sure looks like they’re getting ready to clean house this upcoming offseason. If they’re indeed looking to covertly tank, getting rid of Clark is an easy way to ensure you’re not getting unwanted production on that side of the ball. Or, you know, maybe that makes two teams who believe Clark isn’t the player he once was.

Then, there’s the obvious argument that Clark and Nwosu really don’t play the same position. Clark is 6’3, 272 pounds; Nwosu is 6’2, 251 pounds. Clark is much closer in body type to Mario Edwards than he is to Nwosu or Mafe. Not for nothing, Clark is much closer in age (30) to Edwards (29) than he is to Nwosu (26) or Mafe (24). I love Clark as an edge-setter and a run defender, I still like him as a pass rush threat, but I don’t know if I love the idea of Clark trying to defend a skill position player in space. Maybe that, ultimately, is the reason why a certain segment of the Seahawks-following public dismissed the notion of a Clark return.

But, he’s here now. And I think this could be a perfect fit. What I’m not necessarily buying is that he knows the system. He was last here in 2018; that was Norton’s first season as DC. Maybe defense is defense; maybe this whole 3-4/4-3 thing is muddier than I think it is. But, I wouldn’t say the defense is exactly the same.

What I will say is that as part of a rotation, this could be the marriage we need. Keep Clark in there for rushing downs, then slide Taylor in there for obvious passing downs. Make that a platoon of sorts. Mafe can take over for Nwosu’s percentage of snaps, and we can use Hall to spell him. Also, I love the idea of a front four consisting of Clark, Reed, Jones, and Mafe if we’re in a jam and need to create pressure with a 4-man front. Throw Taylor into that mix on a blitz? *Chef’s Kiss*.

I would say I’m a little more on the positive end of the spectrum on this move. Very low risk, we didn’t give up a draft pick to get him, he’s getting the veteran pro-rated minimum, he’s at least familiar with the coaching staff and the city. He’s still young enough to where – if he plays well – he can keep getting boatloads of money thrown his way. Quality defensive linemen who can rush the passer can play well into their 30’s, so it’s not like he’s a running back or a receiver or something. It’s a high value position, an area of need, and we have an immediate opening. The downside is: maybe he’s finished, he’s nothing more than a body, and he’ll be out of the league in a year or two. That’s what we have to find out. But, he’s not blocking anyone, he shouldn’t command an inordinate percentage of snaps (unless we have more injuries), and if it doesn’t work out, that’s fine, Nwosu will be back in 2024 anyway.

That brings us to the Cleveland Browns this Sunday. I found it extremely intriguing that Pete Carroll was already talking about him playing this weekend, even though he hadn’t shown up yet. That tells me Clark must be in pretty good shape. I can’t wait to watch this game and see what he has in the tank.

I also can’t wait to watch this game because we’re FINALLY bringing back the throwback jerseys! It’s so stupid that it’s taken this long to get here, but it’ll be so great to see them on the field again. Never has it felt more like me rooting for clothing than it will on Sunday.

This game also features the return of D.K. Metcalf, who had some interesting things to say at his weekly press conference (namely that he wasn’t allowed to talk about injuries). More and more, it’s looking like last week was a suspension, hidden behind the cloud of his nagging pain complaints. Regardless, we’ll need him; I just hope he’s got his head in the game, and this isn’t the beginning of an irreparable rift with the team.

I am NOT super confident about this one. The Browns’ defense is one of the true elites in the league this year. Considering we’re coming off back-to-back sub-par outings by our offense, the last thing I wanted to see is Myles Garrett making mincemeat of our O-Line. Injuries are still killing us up front – with Bradford looking to be out, possibly being replaced by Jason Peters, who is more of a tackle than a guard – and we’d be crazy if we don’t chip him with a tight end or a running back on every play.

Then, it came out that Kenneth Walker hasn’t practiced for the last two days. He took on the full load of running back production last weekend – with Charbonnet out – and it looks like he’s paying the price. Charbonnet is on track to return this week, but it might be in time to make his first NFL start. I’ve adjusted my fantasy team accordingly, to pick him up as a replacement, just in case.

On the flipside, Deshaun Watson is out this week. He tried to come back last week, was ineffective, and it was clear that he wasn’t ready. So, P.J. Walker gets the start in his place. The Browns are also banged up at running back, and aside from Amari Cooper (who looks diminished in his old age) and Njoku, I don’t know who their pass catchers are.

This game is just screaming Low Scoring Grudgematch. I think it’s going to be extremely close throughout, and if either team goes up by two scores in the second half, I think it’s over. I worry about the Seahawks here, because while I think this is a game we should win – even if it’s in an ugly fashion like last week’s 20-10 victory over the Cards – I could also see our offense completely bottoming out. If it’s 10-0 late in the third quarter, I don’t believe we have the horses to come back against that ferocious pass rush.

What sucks is that we’re two weeks away from a potential Get Right game for our offense. That means we have to figure out some way to put points on the board against elite defenses, because the Browns aren’t the first, and they won’t be the last.

I think this will be, like, a 16-12 Seahawks victory. Ugly as all get-out, but as long as we can hold the Browns to field goals, we should be in good shape.

The Seahawks Didn’t Look Amazing Taking Care Of Business Against The Cardinals

After that Husky near-debacle on Saturday, I’m not going to complain about a 20-10 victory at home over a 1-win Arizona team. But, just know that there’s nothing to glean from this one. It’s a win, that’s it. On to next week.

I will give it up to the defense, though. They still look mean! We held them to 249 yards on 63 plays. The Cards were 5/15 on third down and 0/3 on fourth down. Josh Dobbs – a bad passing quarterback – only threw for 146 yards and 4.4 yards per attempt. We sacked him 4 times, hit him 8 times; we got 6 tackles for loss, and we defended 8 passes. That’s all while the Seahawks’ offense didn’t do much of anything, limited to four scores, while turning the ball over three times.

D.K. Metcalf didn’t go in this one, as he’s dealing with numerous injuries. I pretty quickly dismissed his absence as nothing more than that – we’ve been hearing about him playing through some stuff seemingly all season – until Pete Carroll came out after the game and, unprompted, started deflecting rumors that D.K. was unhappy and that’s the reason for him not playing. Now, I’m trying to figure out what THAT means. Is Pete trying to get out in front of something by anticipating what fan reaction might be? Because, I mean, maybe I’m not looking in the right places, but I didn’t really see that theory floated anywhere. Or, is D.K. actually not happy and quietly seeking a trade after one too many complaints about his proclivity for penalties sent him over the brink? Was he actually held out by the team, in hopes that we can get a deal worked out this week?

Regardless, I think the team needed this. They needed a week off from the D.K. discourse, but more importantly, they needed to see what Jaxon Smith-Njigba can do as the team’s #2 receiver. Without the need to feed D.K., could he step up and show why he was deemed to be the first receiver taken off the board?

Well, he caught 4 for 63 and his first NFL touchdown, so that’s something. I wouldn’t call that a breakout game or anything, but we’re headed on the right track. In conjunction with Jake Bobo’s 4 for 61 and a TD, it was a good day to be a rookie receiver on the Seahawks! I’ll say this, I’m incredibly intrigued by the future of this position for us. Sure seems like we’re in good hands (!) for the foreseeable future!

We also got a very workhorse-like day out of Kenneth Walker, who was without Charbonnet in this one. He had to carry the rock 26 times for 105 yards; unfortunately, he wasn’t rewarded with a TD.

I couldn’t help but notice we weren’t super great the one time we got down inside the 10 yard line, having to settle for a field goal. I guess I was just happy we actually took the points, but it’s disturbing that we had two shots from the one yard line and were stuffed both times.

This was something of a coming-out party for Darrell Taylor, as he got his first 1.5 sacks of the season in this one. That’s big, because we lost Uchenna Nwosu for an undetermined amount of time. Boye Mafe also added another sack to his team-leading total, and Jordyn Brooks was all over the place making plays (9 tackles, 2 for loss, with a pass breakup and half a sack). And let’s not forget Devon Witherspoon with a number of bone-crunching tackles (sounds like he could’ve had a bigger day if not for penalties overturning his huge plays).

All in all, it was good to see the Seahawks bounce back. I feel like this would’ve been another loss a year or two ago, mostly because the defense wasn’t nearly as effective as it is now. These are the games you have to have, and sometimes you need the defense to cover the offense like this. I’m starting to believe – more and more – that this is a unit that can propel us to bigger things.

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.

The Seahawks Had A Dominant Defensive Performance Against An Inept Offensive Giants Team

In retrospect, BOY are the Giants bad! I was not prepared for that level of ineptitude. I keep coming back to how they JUST gave Danny Dimes a huge contract extension (he’s going to have a $47 million cap hit in 2024!); what a disaster!

The Seahawks now head into the BYE week with a 3-1 record, firmly in second place in the NFC West, and among the wild card contenders one month in. It’s probably the best we could’ve hoped for heading into the season, so all things considered, I’m pretty happy with where this team is at.

While I readily acknowledge that it’s less impressive knowing Saquon Barkley was out for this game, I think it’s undeniable that the Seahawks’ run defense is vastly improved over last year. Daniel Jones scrambled for 66 yards on 10 carries, but everyone else only managed 46 yards on 19. Not that I want to allow opposing quarterbacks to run all over us, but few of those were actually designed runs, so in a sense they feel like flukier yards.

This game will forever stand out as the one where the Seahawks defense got 11 sacks. 2 from Wagner, 2 from Brooks, 2 from Devon Witherspoon (who also had a 97-yard pick six, to go along with 7 tackles), 2 from Nwosu, and 1 apiece from Mafe, Myles Adams, and Mario Edwards (who forced a fumble on his that was recovered by Brooks). Now THAT’S how you win a game 24-3!

It was, truly, an awesome defensive performance. But, at the same time, the Giants might have the worst offensive line in the league. They’ve got the aforementioned mediocre Danny Dimes. They’ve still not yet improved their wide receiver room. And they were without Barkley. There were pieces here and there on defense that stood out – Kayvon Thibodeaux had 2 sacks and looked like the monster we all expected coming out of college – but by and large the Giants don’t look like a good football team, at all. Don’t forget the Cardinals blew a 21-point second half lead to them, otherwise the Giants would be 0-4!

This might’ve been, all things considered, our easiest opponent (yes, even easier than the Panthers). And yet, good lord, did we suffer a massive amount of injuries in this one!

By the end, our O-Line looked like this: Forsythe, Brown, Oluwatimi, Bradford, Curhan. We lost both guards in this one (Lewis and Haynes) and had to do some shuffling. We also lost Geno Smith for part of the second quarter, after he was rolled-up on out of bounds unnecessarily. Jarran Reed missed the tail end of the game. There has to be some other guys I’m missing …

Oh yeah, Jamal Adams. The Hype Train was in all of its full-throated glory this week as The Return Of Jamal Adams was in effect.

I don’t know whether to make a joke or throw my laptop across the room. It is, indeed, comical how insufferably injury-prone he’s become since donning a Seahawks uniform. Are we, like, his kryptonite? Is someone secretly poisoning him with very low doses over a long period of time? Did he have all his bones replaced with wafer and his muscles replaced with nougat?

It’s particularly exasperating because you can CLEARLY see the impact of a healthy Jamal Adams. He was in there for, what, a drive or two? Yet, he was flying all over the place and had a couple crunching tackles. Unfortunately, his second tackle was made with his head, and he left with an obvious concussion (in spite of him berating the health professional who confirmed his disability).

But, you know, we were all prepared for this, right? Not to expect too much out of Adams. Whatever we get from him is a bonus and all that. That’s why we signed Julian Love, who – not surprisingly – had his best game in a Seahawks uniform, going up against his old team.

Forget Adams, what I was most excited to see in this game was the combo of Witherspoon and Woolen out there. I think you have to like what you saw in this one (again, the caveat being our level of opponent). The longest reception by a receiver was 12 yards. We held their best offensive weapon – Darren Waller – to 3 catches for 21 yards. I’m not ready to plant my flag on this being LOB 2.0, but the pass defense was the best it’s been this season, and I think having these two guys healthy has a lot to do with it. You get to slot the secondary behind them where they deserve to be, and you see these amazing results (including a late pick by Quandre Diggs, who should be able to make more plays as a roaming free safety).

The Seahawks offense gets somewhat of an Incomplete grade on this one. Geno Smith, I thought, looked fine, though he was definitely hampered in the second half with what I presume was a downturn related to his ankle injury. He’ll be fine. Drew Lock got some play in this one and did okay, hitting Fant for what turned out to be a 51-yard gain that led to Kenneth Walker’s TD. Walker finished with a respectable 79 yards on 17 carries; Charbonnet also looked solid as his backup, hitting open holes and gashing them for 31 yards on only 5 carries.

The offensive line depth really showed up in this one. Granted, we did a lot to help them out with our protection schemes, but this offense is talented enough to afford us this luxury of playing multiple tight ends. We can withstand keeping extra blockers for those extreme blitzing defenses, thanks to how elite our receivers are. Shoutout to Walker for his protection as well; he looked fantastic picking up blitzers up the middle.

This game was unquestionably sloppy throughout, with lots of penalties on both teams, but a win is a win. On the road, against an NFC opponent, on Monday night: I’ll take it.

Shoutout to Michael Dickson for some fantastic punts to flip field position. A reverse shoutout to Myers for missing a long field goal pretty miserably.

Now, we get our BYE week. People have been saying – given our injury issues thus far – it might be at the exact right time. I would say, with the punishment we suffered in this one, it’s even more important. Then, we go right back out on the road to play an underachieving Bengals team in a couple weeks. Either we’re catching them at the exact right time, or they’re going to be furiously trying to save their season.

My biggest takeaway through four weeks is how good our rookie class looks once again. Witherspoon, obviously, has DROY potential. Bradford has looked just fine at right guard. Oluwatimi got some playing time at center. Jerrick Reed, if nothing else, looks like an elite special teamer. Cameron Young had a couple impactful tackles up the middle. Hall and Charbonnet look like excellent role players thus far at important positions. Really, the only guy who has yet to stand out has been JSN, and I don’t think anyone is worried about the top overall receiver eventually finding his footing. I will say that maybe we can try sending him on routes that AREN’T just around the line of scrimmage.