Monday, October 31, 2016

Stymied by NFL's 28th Ranked Defense -- Seahawks 20 @ Saints 25

It's a Halloween Monday and I'm terrified that Seattle is not going to make a move ahead of Tuesday's trade deadline.

This team might be 4-2-1 and in first place in the NFC West-- but behind that record is a frightening situation.

I can't imagine that there is another offensive line in the NFL that could possibly be worse than Seattle's. Behind that offensive line is a banged up quarterback and an appalling excuse for a run game. The lone offensive highlight from the Seahawks came when a former QB/Safety-turned-receiver-turned-quarterback threw a bomb to a receiver-turned-running-back for 43 yards.

This team is hanging on by a thread.  I get that you can't play with fear of injury, be you a player, coach or fan-- but that doesn't mean you shouldn't prepare for worst while hoping for the best.

The Seahawks apparent strategy doesn't appear sustainable to me. Asking your defense to carry the team is a tall order.  Especially when your bye week came about as early as it possibly could have and you're coming off your 4th consecutive season with a post-season appearance.  You're asking for injuries or, at best, a defensive unit that is completely burned out by the time the playoffs roll around.

We should expect more from our defense purely based on the payroll-- and they've delivered to that point.  The offense has to meet them half way.  Or at least a quarter of the way.  They haven't even shown that.

The Seahawks have a rough schedule ahead including match ups with the Patriots, Packers, Panthers
and each of the division opponents who seem to be hip to our play style. If Seattle doesn't make significant changes to their game plan-- I don't see this team finishing any better than  8-7-1. 

With the rest of the NFC West floundering, that may still be good enough to win the division, but that would likely have Seattle hobbling into the playoffs with a beat up offense and a worn out defense.

Quite frankly, anything less than a Super Bowl appearance this season will be a tremendous disappointment.

Is it time to panic? Absolutely not. There's still ample time for the Seahawks to make adjustments and finish the season strong. But that has to start by making a trade to acquire offensive line help.

Maybe that's not Joe Thomas (though, I hope it is).  Maybe its not even Joe Staley. Bring in any veteran lineman that has played in the NFL. There has got to be someone better than Bradley Sowell and George Fant that is available.

We are so thin across the offensive front, God forbid something happen to one of the other linemen. We still have 9 regular season games to get through and a minimum of 3 playoff games to win the Super Bowl.

With Rawls status up in the air and Christine Michael being the model of inconsistency that he is, it might not be a bad idea to seek out help for the backfield, as well.  Even snagging someone off of another team's practice squad would go a long ways in showing that this staff is taking preventative measures to stay competitive.

Sure enough, not long after I praised Darrell Bevell did he fall into his old ways.  My good friend Adam refers to it as Bevell having to be "the smartest guy in the room".   The whole 'They're-expecting-Lynch-to-get-it-so-lets-pass' mentality was on full display for the final play of Sunday's game.

Right now, Seattle is treating Tom Cable the same way they're treating their entire defense.  They've basically provided him with a ton of manure and asked him to polish it into Super Bowl rings for the entire team.

Joe Thomas might be 31 with only a handful of seasons left in him, but if Seattle is serious about developing guys like Fant, Ifedi, Glowinski and Gilliam-- they would benefit greatly from an All-Pro veteran presence for a few years.

They have to at least be serious about having Wilson at QB beyond this season. If they don't trade for some help, his days could be numbered.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

What is this, Soccer?! -- Seahawks 6 @ Cardinals 6 F/OT

For the first time in franchise history, the Seahawks ended a regulation game with a tied score. If you're a fan of smash-mouth, defensive football-- or, perhaps, soccer --this was a treat for you!

Unfortunately, while the Seahawks defense might have put on the single greatest performance in the history of the game, the offense could not have been more of a polar opposite.

At 4-1-1, The Seahawks find themselves in a good spot.  They're leading their division, trending in the right direction and in position to fight for the #1 NFC seed. That being said, Seattle needs to face some facts and take some preventative measures to make sure they don't sabotage their championship window.

Russell Wilson is hurt.  All the positive talk in the world isn't going change that.  He can still play and his passing ability doesn't seem affected, but he's a mere shadow of his former scrambling, play-extending-self. The film doesn't lie. The stats don't lie.

This offensive line is just that-- offensive. Last night was film study for what happens when a team spends all of its money on a QB and Defense while leaving nothing else for the remainder of the offense. The face of this franchise has now been injured at least twice because of this neglect and to assume that this situation is going to get any better this season without making any roster moves is dangerously foolish. 

We can't effectively run the ball.  With mobility all but completely erased from Wilson's repertoire and the sorry state of the offensive line group-- it shouldn't be any surprise to find Seattle ranked 28th in run offense. Heading into the 8th week of the NFL season, I can say with confidence that the Seahawks have whiffed big time on their Post-Marshawn plan.

We fell in love with Thomas Rawls before our divorce with Lynch was even final.  Rawls was younger and had shown us 8 games of excitement and promise. 

We had forgotten everything that Lynch had meant to this city, this team and Russell Wilson's development so quickly it was sickening.

And, what would you know...

7 games and a bye week into this season and we've seen just 25 yards on 19 carries from Rawls. Christine Michael has been this team's feature back and we didn't even want him on the roster.

At least the Seahawks tried to find some help for their backfield in the draft.  Unfortunately, they failed miserably.  3rd Round selection, CJ Prosise, has been a tremendous disappointment.  Injuries have kept him off the field for most of this season, but even when he's had opportunities, he hasn't produced.  We've been told since day one that Prosise was to have a special role with this team, so it doesn't seem as though he was ever considered to be an every-down back, but Alex Collins and Zac Brooks, who were taken in the fifth and seventh rounds respectively, were supposed to come in and push Rawls and Michael for reps.

Collectively, the three running backs Seattle took in the draft have provided 15 rushing yards so far this season. 

You could argue that Wilson's injuries threw an unexpected wrench in the Seahawks run game plan this season, but that argument is a feeble one.  Yeah, his scrambling ability and uncanny prowess for sensing pressure and knowing exactly when to get down made you feel safe putting your cap money behind your defense.  He's young and in peak physical health-- he can handle it.  Hell, it has worked thus far, so why should the Seahawks brass NOT have assumed it wouldn't work again this year?

Your championship window is open and you just paid your QB big-time money.  Why risk fate?

On top of all that mess, this team may have lost their starting blindside tackle, Bradley Sowell, for at least a few weeks.  His apparent replacement appears to be undrafted rookie George Fant-- who has only played in 15 football games in his entire life. The converted basketball player is an intriguing project, but is this really the right person at this time to protect your injured franchise quarterback's blind side?!

What would happen if George Fant's inexperience leads to a devastating injury to Russell Wilson?

What if Russell sustains a season-ending injury this weekend because we neglected to address our offensive woes? Travone Boykin would come in, an undrafted rookie quarterback, with Christine Michael as his feature back and the worst offensive line in the NFL.  With that formula, I think we'd be lucky to see the Seahawks finish 5-10-1 this season.

The good thing about that scenario is that we'd likely be picking in the top 10 of the draft, where we'd be in a great place to draft our left tackle of the future.  However, we'd probably see a few of the championship-caliber players we've amassed find new homes, just as we have every offseason. The window would get a little bit tighter, though remaining open, but the idea of a dynasty would quickly fade away.

We've been in a very fortunate position these past few years under Coach Carroll. I've been largely blown away by what this leadership group has done in their brief tenure, but I can't help but catch a whiff of arrogance from the way the offense has been managed here that just rubs me the wrong way.  I would get no satisfaction from saying "I told you so" should anything happen to our quarterback, so my hope is that Seattle mortgages the future by trading a draft pick for a competent left tackle ahead of next Tuesday's trade deadline.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

First Place in Spite of Everything - Seahawks 26 Falcons 24

The Seahawks came out well-rested from their bye with a win over one of the hottest team's in the NFL. This game had all the makings of a blowout if you were able to erase the 3rd quarter from your memory.

In spite of the 3rd quarter meltdown, the Seahawks were solid.  This game was the ultimate testament to their incredible depth.  Kam Chancellor and Frank Clark, two crucial members of the defense, were inactive for this game.  Luke Willson and Michael Bennett, another two integral pieces, left the game with knee injuries.  Christine Michael was even held out for a portion of the game with concussion concerns, but ultimately returned to finish out the game.

Nevertheless, this team fought on to overcome a Falcons team that they might very well see again in the playoffs.

Before I go any further, I have to apologize and give credit where its due. I have (justifiably) been outspokenly critical of offensive coordinator, Darrell Bevell.   The past few seasons it has been as if he has no idea what the strengths and weaknesses of this roster are.

Because of his track record, I came into this season legitimately horrified at the prospect of how he was going to handle the absence of Marshawn Lynch.  Through these first 5 games, I couldn't be more please with what we've seen from Bevell's game planning and play calling.

The last season with Lynch was reminiscent of the last year the Seattle Mariners had Ichiro.  A superstar exiting the twilight of their career who had been, pardon the pun, a linchpin for your franchise for many seasons.  Both players were shadows of their former selves, unable to produce at the level we were all used to, but still deserving of the utmost respect.

We saw both organizations try to make it work, but Father Time is undefeated.  The lack of familiar production polarized the fan bases.  Eventually, both teams had to come to the inevitable conclusion that it was time to part ways and reinvent themselves.

For the Seahawks, this meant turning the keys to the franchise over to their quarterback.  Russell Wilson has earned it.

Sunday's victory over Atlanta was Wilson's 20th 4th quarter come-from-behind victory.  It was also his 50th career win-- making him the fastest player in league history to hit that milestone. Oh, and did I mention that he's playing on a sprained knee and ankle?

Wilson is elite.  Even better-- Bevell gets it.

Furthermore, we're finally getting to see what the Seahawks had in mind when they traded their Pro Bowl Center, Max Unger and a 1st Round pick to acquire Jimmy Graham from the Saints.  These two have been the centerpiece for this team through the first 5 games and it doesn't appear that anyone has an answer for them.

The offensive line is improving with every game, too.  Getting a healthy Germain Ifedi in at right guard has made the progress even more noticeable.  Still, something seems missing from the run game.

Christine Michael has been serviceable.  No one expected him to be the team's feature back this season.  Even after he started the opening game, it was understood that Thomas Rawls was the guy as soon as he was healthy.  Well, just as I had initially feared, Rawls is having a difficult time staying healthy.

Additionally, Michael isn't getting much help in the backfield.  Wilson's injury issues are preventing him from being the solid contributor to the run game.  Lacking the threat of a mobile quarterback that can take off and burn you, teams are able to focus more on shutting the run down.  CJ Prosise hasn't played but a handful of snaps all year as he battles a wrist injury and Alex Collins can best be described as 'just a guy' through the first quarter of the season.

After a surprising start last week, CJ Spiller came plummeting back to reality.  He was a non-factor in Sunday's game against Atlanta and he had at least a pair of crucial dropped passes.

One thing I was really excited to see regarding the run game was when the Seahawks were at the goal line trying to tie up the game late in the 4th quarter.  

The offense lined up in a goal line formation with two tight ends and three tackles.  From left to right the Sehawks had Graham, Sowell, Glowinski, Britt, Ifedi, Webb, Gilliam and Willson.  That's a big spread, but that's not even the part I liked most!

Lined up at fullback was Joey Hunt-- the rookie Center Seattle selected in the 6th round of this year's draft.

When Seattle selected Hunt, there was concern for him being undersized for the Center position at 6' but everyone was raving about his work ethic and football IQ. Given that Seattle doesn't have a fullback on the roster, I thought this was a brilliant move and hope that we will see more of it in the future.

Defensively, this team continues to prove themselves as the best in the league. The Falcons came into the CLink with the most passing yards and the best running back tandem in the NFL.  The Seahawks tenacious defense held that tandem to a measly 50 yards on the ground.

Earl Thomas had his best game of the season, including a clutch interception that lead to the winning field goal.  Kelcie McCray filled in nicely for Kam Chancellor, though Kam's absence created some communication issues in the secondary.  Kevin Pierre-Louis played well in place of Mike Morgan, who is out for the remainder of the season.

Seattle was able to overcome a series of adverse situations to seal the win and stay on top of the NFC West.  The Rams might be coming back down to earth, but the Cardinals appear to be heating up and they will face the Seahawks for Sunday Night Football next week.  The Cards will have a short week coming off Monday night's win, but they will have home field advantage.

Ultimately, I'm not worried about the competition.  This team has what it takes to go all the way this year.  They have unprecedented depth all across their league-leading defense and they have an elite quarterback at the helm.  No other team in the league can say that.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Back to Seahawks Football-- Seahawks 27 @ Jets 17

That Russell Wilson kid sure is special...

With one leg possibly broken and the other supported by a sprained knee, all #3 did was throw for over 300 yards and a trio of touchdown passes. If there was any kernel of truth to the media's collective opinion that Wilson cannot throw from the pocket-- that has to be thrown out the window after his performance on Sunday.

If you still don't think Russell Wilson is elite by now, it's painfully evident that you do not understand the game of football.

The Seahawks came out of Sunday's road victory in East Rutherford with a 3-1 record and the bye week to look forward to. The final score was not indicative of Seattle's dominant defensive performance.

One of of the Jets two touchdowns came off of a questionable fumble that could have been ruled an incomplete pass. Jets rookie wide out Charone Peake seemed to be the only person on the field that noticed that the whistle hadn't blown as he scooped the ball up and made the hustle touchdown.

Wilson now has 25 games with multiple TD passes and no INTs, most by a player in NFL history in his first 5 seasons to begin a career.  That's not just good-- that's elite.

This is the new Seahawks Football.  The 'Post-Marshawn' version of Seahawks Football.

Use the short pass game to get the ground attack going. Soften them up with a physical run game and take shots down field with the aerial assault. Top it all off with outstanding, elite defensive play.

3-1 is a great spot to be in through the first quarter of the NFL season.  Seattle will take advantage of the week five bye to get healthy ahead of their match up with their former defensive coordinator, Dan Quinn and his red-hot Atlanta Falcons.

Rookies CJ Prosise and Nick Vannett should be healthy for the game against the Falcons. Tyler Lockett and Jarran Reed figure to be a full go by then as well. This team is getting healthy while building chemistry and finding ways to win.