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.
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.
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.
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-.
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).