Friday, August 29, 2014

Seahawks 31 Raiders 41

Well, the Seahawks finished their exhibition schedule with a .500 record-- but that's certainly no cause for alarm.

Losing last night to one of the worst franchises of the past decade might seem potentially concerning, but given the circumstances, the Seahawks are more or less right where they want to be. It's not indicative of a lack of effort or 'playing down' to opponents.  I think it can be attributed to the coaching staff giving more playing time to players on the roster bubble than guys we know we can count on.

Offensively, my eyes were on Terrelle Pryor last night.  I'm very curious to see how his situation will play out.  Seattle will have to cut down to 53 players on Saturday and I cannot remember the last time they kept 3 quarterbacks on the roster.

Knowing that Seattle will most likely only keep a pair of quarterbacks, that boils down the question to who will back up Russell Wilson?  BJ Daniels should have no problem getting through waivers and onto the practice squad, but the same cannot be said for Tarvaris Jackson or Pryor.  Should we cut either of those two, they will definitely get scooped up by another team.

So do we go with Pryor or Jackson as Wilson's backup?  My head says Jackson while my heart says Pryor.  I feel like Jackson would win more games than Pryor as a starter.  Not many more, but even one more could spell the difference between making or missing the playoffs.

Jackson is more accurate of a passer, a better leader and more comfortable in the pocket.  Pryor is a much better athlete, can run for yards (with the size to take some hits) and has the benefit of youth on his side.  I want Jackson for this season, but I want Pryor for next year-- and cutting him doesn't guarantee his availability for next season.

If Jackson is cut, it will be sad to see him go, but he got a ring with us and is plenty capable of continuing his career as a spot-starting backup  or a stop-gap for developing a rookie on another roster.  If we cut Pryor, it will be disappointing having given up a pick to acquire him and without trying to fit him in at another position.

Look at us-- we're speculating, hemming and hawing over backup quarterbacks.  I think its safe to say that we're ready to begin the title!  Let the (regular season) games begin!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Seahawks 34 Bears 6

The Bears had made such terrific additions to their roster this offseason that I was prepared to pick Chicago as the NFC North Champions this season. After the thorough shellacking the Seahawks handed them, you might think that my prediction was perhaps foolish or at the very least, premature, but I stand by that decision.

It's not that the Bears are bad-- its that the Seahawks are that good.

Russell Wilson is looking like a legitimate MVP candidate.  He was 15 for 20 with 202 yards through the air and a pair of passing TDs.  He added another rushing touchdown as did Marshawn Lynch in his limited action. The offense doesn't so much look 'improved' as it does polished. Golden Tate's absence was entirely unnoticed with Jermaine Kearse looking ready to take the next step along side a healthy Percy Harvin and Doug Baldwin.

The defense lost a lot more than the offensive side of the ball in the offseason-- but you wouldn't know it from watching this game.  Jeremy Lane and Byron Maxwell are official, card-carrying members of the L.O.B. by now and Tharold Simon just needs more opportunities before he joins them.

Earl Thomas might be the best fit for return duties.  He had a spectacular punt return that should have been taken to the house, if not for a particularly athletic Bears punter making a last minute save. Rookie Cassius Marsh continued to impress.  Marsh along with O'Brien Schofield and Heath Farwell recorded sacks.  

I was left with only one question in the aftermath of this game:  will the Seahawks keep 3 quarterbacks on their roster? Terrelle Pryor has looked promising, although inaccurate at times.  He has tremendous athletic ability and is young enough to expect continued growth under Darrell Bevell's tutelage.  Let's not forget-- we gave up a draft pick for him.  A seventh round draft pick, but a pick nonetheless.

Still, Tarvaris Jackson probably gives you the best chance to win between the two.  We'd like to believe that we know what we have in Jackson and we seem to like what he offers as a back up.  His coaches like him, his teammates like him and the fans like him-- so long as he remains the back up.

Ideally, you'd want to keep both on the roster, but that would mean taking depth away from another position. I don't think that would be a wise move.  Do you try to trade one of them?  I would've preferred that we tried to convert Pryor to another position in hopes of getting more out of his size and ability but the front office obviously sees something in him as a quarterback and we've learned to trust their judgment. 

UPDATE: The Seahawks made mandatory cuts to reduce their roster to 75 players: OT Wade Smith, CB Terrell Thomas, OT Cory Brandon, RB Demitrius Bronson, S Mike Dobson, DE Jackson Jeffcoat, WR Kevin Smith, CB Thomas Wolfe were the casualties.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Seahawks 41 Chargers 14

After an uncharacteristic preseason loss to the Denver Broncos last week, the Seattle Seahawks seem to have been on the receiving end of a chewing out from Coach Carroll wherein I can only imagine the phrase "Always Compete" was reiterated ad nauseum. 

The team that took the field in Denver last week seemed a little rusty, if not completely unconcerned for the game's outcome all together.  

This week, however, looked a helluva lot more like the team that dominated teams heading into the playoffs. Russell Wilson looked remarkable, completing 11 of 13 passes while rushing for 31 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Collectively, the Seahawks rushed for an impressive 243 yards including a 44 yard sprint to the endzone by 3rd string quarterback, Terrelle Pryor.  

The defense continues to exhibit tremendous depth despite having some key personnel losses.  The Seahawks sacked the Chargers 5 times throughout the night. There was a little rust on display, but ultimately the defense looks ready to defend their title. 

Steven Hauschka was solid yet again-- he might be the most underrated/under-appreciated player on this roster.

The main area of concern  for me in the wake of this game is the question of who exactly will be the Seahawks return man this season.  The coverage units look outstanding, Hauschka and Ryan are Pro Bowl-level talents but who will be the return stud?  Please don't tell me it's Bryan Walters.  Having Earl Thomas back there makes me a bit nervous, too-- but for safety purposes as opposed to production concerns.  I think Percy Harvin is the best bet.  Sure, he's an injury liability, but we paid him big money to be an explosive playmaker.  We've got the receiver depth to overcome a potential injury scenario so I say let him loose!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Seahawks 16 @ Broncos 21

The Seahawks preseason opener was pretty underwhelming. The 45-minute lightning delay may have had a hand in that.  Maybe it was the fact that the Seahawks lost-- or all of the above.

I think the best answer for why I wasn't all that interested in this game is simple:  I'm ready to see these guys defend their title.

Typically, I'm one of those people that fervently defends the preseason as an integral part of the NFL season. For the fans, I think of it like getting into a hot tub.  You gotta ease yourself into it to truly appreciate it.  You wouldn't cannonball into a hot tub, would you?

For coaches and GM's, it helps to prepare you for the long season ahead. Depth charts are established in games that don't count against your quest for the Super Bowl. Playbooks are hammered out and mettle is tested.

But this year, it's different.

We're World Champions.  What few personnel losses we suffered this offsesason were immediately addressed in the draft or filled by guys already on the roster.  We know what we have and we know what we're capable of achieving.

I will try my best to offer insight and analysis throughout the preseason-- but I'm ready to see this dynasty unfold.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Let's ease up on the 'Next Man Up' Kool Aid a bit

Preseason has yet to commence and there's still very little football news of note but one particular story is drawing plenty of chatter amongst Seahawks fans.

Marshawn Lynch is holding out of training camp in hopes of restructuring his contract.  Lynch, who has two years remaining on his current contract, is looking for some sort of new deal.

We don't know what exactly Lynch's demands are, but I don't think anyone is suggesting we give him a Shaun Alexander-type deal. It would appear Lynch simply wants more money and not necessarily more years on his contract. Quite frankly, he's earned a bonus.

The overwhelming majority of fans see this as a selfish move on Lynch's part, citing that by holding out of training camp, he's not a team player. Even Pete Carroll suggested that Lynch should 'honor his contract'.

Did we 'honor' Sidney Rice's contract last season?

Did we 'honor' Shaun Alexander's contract? 

Was Walter Jones not a 'team player' for all of his hold outs?

Carroll and Schneider have been nothing short of brilliant in their design and implementation of the roster since their arrival with few exceptions. We have every reason to trust them to keep this roster full of potential talent, but lets not get too drunk off of the Super Bowl and Carroll's buzz phrases that we lose sight of the fact that Marshawn Lynch is a one of a kind player.  Without Lynch's incredible, unique talent and remarkable durability, I can't imagine we'd have made it to the Super Bowl without him.

Keep in mind-- we've lost two starters from our Super Bowl offensive line.  We've also lost one of our biggest playmakers in Golden Tate.  We've seen a small sample of Robert Turbin and almost nothing from Christine Michael.  To assume that the 'next man up' will effortlessly take over Lynch's workload and production is dangerously foolish. If we suffer any sort of injuries on offense, be it linemen or receivers, that's going to create tremendous pressure for Russell Wilson.

We need Marshawn Lynch for this season if we hope to defend our world title. In reality, he'll likely get cut in the final year of his deal anyway-- will the same fans who think he's not being a team player voice their concern for the team not honoring his contract?

But we must remember this is a business, but also that for fans, the only thing that matters is winning.  If the team wins a Super Bowl, who gives a shit if the team's payroll is $10 million or $10 billion?  I can assure you that there will be no loyalty rebate check in your mailbox next season.  So what do you care if the Seahawks give a little extra money to its best offensive player?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Pay the man-- he's earned it!

There was a lot of speculation as to whether or not Marshawn Lynch would show up for mandatory mini camp because of a contract dispute. 

Some even believed that Lynch might simply retire.  All of that was put to rest when Lynch reported to camp today.

Beastmode was at camp, but the issue at hand is still unresolved.  Lynch has outperformed the four-year, $31 million contract he signed in March of 2012 and would like to see merit increase that reflects his production of a top tier running back.

Lynch could easily be considered the single most integral piece in the Seahawks return to prominence under Pete Carroll. Before there was the Legion of Boom was in full force, it was Lynch who brought swagger back to the Pacific Northwest. It is hard to imagine the Seahawks Super Bowl run without him.
Seattle is prepared, as well they should be, for life after Beastmode. Still, Marshawn should have at least two more seasons of elite potential in the tank and I, for one, would like to see those years feature Lynch in a Seahawks uniform.

When Lynch does end his career with Seattle, he will be regarded as the greatest running back in Seahawks history. Whether or not the numbers reflect that is irrelevant-- Lynch's film will forever do the talking. Even if he's not statistically the best, there has never been a Seahawks running back that was more entertaining, week to week.

The hype on Christine Michael is growing louder every day but the fact is, we don't really know how he'll do as a feature back in a full NFL season. There is no reason at all for Seattle to turn its back on Lynch now. 

You could argue that it would be unwise for the team to set a president where anyone unhappy with their contract can hold out and their demands will be met-- but this is not the case here. Besides, there have been a number of players in the the past few seasons who have been asked to restructure their contracts to allow the team to retain the personnel they want while staying under the cap.

I look at it similarly to the raise that Brandon Browner got at the beginning of last season.  Seattle never intended to give Browner a long-term deal but his performance absolutely warranted a bump in pay.  Same goes for Lynch-- fatten up his pay checks for the remainder of his contract and plan to go forward with Michael when he's done.

Who knows, he might even resign for cheap when his contract is up and play more of a 3rd down role.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Debunking the Madden Curse

Richard Sherman's life has been pretty sweet in 2014.  He made the play that cemented the Seahawks Super Bowl berth, he helped bring Seattle it's first world championship, he became the highest-paid cornerback in the league and he scored an endorsement deal with Campbell's that will feature his mother.  The cherry on the top of that spectacular offseason was winning the fan vote for the new Madden game.

Or is it?

For those of you that aren't privy to video game culture, Madden Football is a big deal. Having debuted in 1988, the Madden franchise began releasing new versions annually since 1990 and has since sold over 99 million games. With the NFL's rabid-and-growing popularity and the video game franchise's obvious popularity-- wouldn't any fan base be delighted to have a member of their team grace the cover of this game?

You'd think so, but fans are split down the middle.  The reason is unbelievably stupid.

Many believe that there is such a thing as the 'Madden Curse' that plagues the cover athlete in the following season.  There's some interesting coincidences that have perpetuated this silly concept-- enough to prevent fans from voting for their hometown player to be the cover star.

John Madden, the legendary head coach for whom the game is named after, graced the cover of the game annually until 1999, when they began instead using marquee players for the cover photo. 49ers running back, Garrison Hearst, was the first player to be featured on the cover of the game. Subsequently, Hearst broke his ankle so badly that he missed the next two seasons and never returned to Superstar form.

Barry Sanders was selected for the cover the following year, but abruptly announced his retirement.  Electronic Arts, the makers of the game, had already shipped copies with Sanders on the cover.  Later versions of the game featured Packers running back, Dorsey Levens, who injured his knee midway through a season wherein Green Bay missed the playoffs after appearing in the previous two Super Bowls.

Since the curse is predicated on injury, you have to completely dismiss Sanders' retirement as having anything to do with him being on the game's cover.  Levens may have faded into obscurity after his cover, but the guy only had one 1,000 yard season before the one that landed him on the cover.  Its more likely that he was a product of the Packers system than he was victim of some goofy curse.

Eddie George was featured on 2001's cover.  His Titans were narrowly defeated in the Super Bowl the season before.  He had his best statistical season after being on Madden, rushing for over 1,500 yards.  The loose connection between George and the curse is drawn from him bobbling a short pass in the playoffs that was intercepted and returned for a touchdown, eliminating the Titans from contention.

2002 saw Dante Culpepper on the cover.  Culpepper emerged in a stacked Vikings team anchored by two future Hall of Fame receivers in Cris Carter and Randy Moss.  Following his cover appearance, Culpepper suffered injuries in both knees that would eventually end his career.  He was big and strong-armed, but never a great quarterback.

Marshall Faulk appeared on the cover in '03-- after 9 seasons in the NFL. The claim here is that Faulk never had another 1,000 season after his cover and underwent reconstructive knee surgery.  The average career of an NFL running back is 2.57 years.  Can you really justify the curse when he had already outplayed the average running back's career by more than three times?  I think you're grasping at straws if you do.

After a breakout season, Michael Vick was featured on Madden 2004's cover. Vick, a slight-framed, run-first quarterback, broke his leg the following season and only played in 5 games. Vick set the table for guys like Wilson, Kaepernick, Newton and RG3. His injury, however, showed that it's a great weapon when you have a mobile quarterback, but you must use that weapon sparingly as injuries can be devastating. Call it a curse all you want, but a slender quarterback that loves to run is just asking to have his leg broken.

Ray Lewis became the first defensive player featured on the cover in '05.  Lewis tore his hamstring in week 6 of the following season and landed on injured reserve.  He went on to have a Hall of Fame career.

When Donovan McNabb made the cover in 2006, he was already a seasoned veteran.  He obtained a sports hernia injury that troubled him throughout the following season.  The Eagles line was horrible at protecting McNabb, but it's more exciting to assume a curse was to blame, I guess.

2007 was when the first Seahawks player, Shaun Alexander, made the cover.  Following a record setting MVP season, Alexander broke his foot 3 weeks into the following season and missed six games. He also received a $62 million contract before the Madden cover and the Seahawks lost the outstanding left guard, Steve Hutchinson.  Alexander was also 30 in 2007-- the age of decline for running backs.

Vince Young got the cover in 2008 after being named Rookie of the Year. Young was a phenomenal athlete and a world-class knucklehead.  Young was benched in the first game for violating team rules, had a couple lousy games and then hurt his quadriceps. Young, another mobile QB plagued by injuries, was outplayed by veteran Kerry Collins.  Young had several opportunities to turn his career around but always found a way to screw things up.

Brett Favre got the 2009 cover after announcing his retirement.  He then was reinstated and traded to the Jets.  Farve, in his 18th NFL season, played well for the Jets until he tore his biceps tendon in his right shoulder.  Favre returned the following season to have a career year with the Vikings.

2010 featured two players for the first time-- Larry Fitzgerald and Troy Polamalu. Both players suffered minor injuries during the season, as almost all players do, but both made the Pro Bowl following their joint cover appearance.

2011 is where things really get flimsy for the curse. Drew Brees made the cover after winning the Super Bowl.  Brees didn't sustain any serious injuries, but their team got banged up towards the end of the season and barely secured a Wild Card berth.  Seahawks fans will recall the Saints early exit from the playoffs this year, as that's when the Saints experienced the 'Beastquake'.  Being a defending Super Bowl champ that loses in the first round to a 7-9 team is embarrassing-- but a far cry from fitting the Madden Curse.

I'm just going to skip over Peyton Hillis all together.  He had a single great season with Cleveland and found his way onto the Madden cover by way of fan vote-- possibly because of curse-paranoid fans from other teams.  Hillis has since struggled to catch on and contribute to a team in any significant way.

In 2013, the curse was officially broken. Calvin Johnson not only stayed healthy (beside playing with some broken fingers, but who doesn't) but he also broke or tied 9 NFL records the following season.  That's right, even the most straw-grasping of conspiracy theorists couldn't find a way to tie the curse on Megatron.

Madden's 25th anniversary occurred in 2014 and Barry Sanders made his post-playing days return to the cover.  Sure, Sanders may have avoided injury by retiring years ago, but you can't use that as an excuse if you're not willing to accept that players get injured all the time throughout the course of any given season.

What do we take from all of this? The NFL is a violent, physically demanding sport and curses are best left to fairy tales.  If you're good enough to stand out among some of the greatest athletes in the world and you're fortunate enough to be selected to have your likeness featured on the cover of the greatest video game franchise ever-- I want you to go for it.

I'll be proud to see my Seahawks' own Richard Sherman on the cover of the game I've loyally played for more than a quarter of a century. Perhaps nothing sums it up better than what Shaun Alexander once said regarding the curse:

“Do you want to be hurt and on the cover, or just hurt?”