Thoughts on the Seahawks eyeing Antonio Brown

October 21st, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

I was in the process of writing an article about Antonio Brown when the tweet above was posted. So here we go…

Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Sammy Watkins, Mecole Hardman, Le’Veon Bell and Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

The Kansas City Chiefs have taken every opportunity to surround Patrick Mahomes with weapons. High picks, massive salaries and bold moves.

As far as Any Reid and the Chiefs are concerned, their star cannot have enough weapons.

The Seahawks themselves have a decent arsenal for Russell Wilson but to their credit — they seem to share Kansas City’s mindset.

You can never do too much.

D.K. Metcalf has joined Tyler Lockett to create a really dynamic double-act at receiver. They’ve spent money and picks at the tight end position and are well stacked with Greg Olsen, Will Dissly, Jacob Hollister, Luke Willson, Colby Parkinson and Stephen Sullivan.

They used a first round pick on Rashaad Penny to join the ultra-dynamic and physical Chris Carson in the backfield. They spent money on Carlos Hyde and used picks on Travis Homer and Deejay Dallas.

They paid to retain David Moore, added Phillip Dorsett and Freddie Swain is showing early promise as a rookie.

Clearly, however, they feel they need more. They’ve been waiting on news on Josh Gordon for a long time. Strangely the NFL has allowed both David Irving and Randy Gregory to return but they are yet to clear Gordon. A decision is long overdue.

We’re nearly seven weeks into the season. How much longer can the Seahawks wait?

We all know the defense is a big problem in Seattle. However, there are not many obvious solutions. We can all sit here and discuss possible trades for anyone from Ryan Kerrigan to J.J. Watt to Whitney Mercilus or whoever else. If teams aren’t willing to do business, or are asking for too much in return, what can you do?

This doesn’t completely excuse the Seahawks of course. They should’ve done a better job fixing their defensive line in the off-season when they had money and picks to spend. They failed to sufficiently address their self-confessed priority and it’s their cross to bear.

Pumping your offense with even more weapons won’t necessarily solve your problems. However, if this a season where you need to be the aggressor and apply scoreboard pressure to win games — you can make a strong case for taking advantage of any opportunity to further bolster Russell Wilson’s playmaking options.

Antonio Brown has many issues and if you don’t want to see him anywhere near the Seahawks, I sympathise with that point of view. Certainly I wouldn’t want the team to be blasé about signing him. If this truly is on the cards, I’d like to assume significant work has gone into this prospective signing.

Private checks on his prior legal issues, information to counter serious accusations, a fact-finding mission to see if he is remorseful and/or a changed man.

Pete Carroll has never been afraid of a reclamation project. This would arguably be his most high-profile one to date. Maybe even his most controversial.

If the Seahawks have put in the hours — and as I noted earlier, I’m going to assume they have — they have to be really sure about this one.

Even then I think they need to handle this in a particular way.

Russell Wilson has seemingly gone to bat for Brown. They worked out together and Wilson was happy for that to be public knowledge. Various reports have said Seattle’s quarterback has pushed for the receiver to be signed.

They appear to be quite close:

If Wilson wants Brown — then here is what I think the Seahawks should do. They should put the responsibility of keeping him in check on Wilson. You want him? You want to campaign for him to be here? It’s up to you to make this work.

Any nonsense and he’s out the door immediately — and you’ll need to be the one to tell him so.

I would make that abundantly clear to both players. Does Brown want to let down the man who appears determined to salvage his career? Does Wilson truly believe this is going to work?

One thing is for sure — if Wilson’s agent is not so subtly going to tell Mike Florio that some form of ultimatum was made about the offensive approach this year, he can have very little comeback if the Seahawks make this move and it flops.

Maybe, just maybe, this is the Seahawks calling the bluff. You want superstars? You want this guy? You want us to listen to you, meet your needs and bring in the guys you want? Fine — but you need to make it work.

Strictly from a football perspective, you can make a compelling case for the signing. Brown, now aged 32, might not be the same player who was once considered the best receiver in football. However, as a third wheel to Metcalf and Lockett — the Seahawks would have an assortment of weapons few can match.

How does a team game plan to stop that trio? On top of the tight ends, the running game and the possibility of Chris Carson catching passes out of the backfield?

The Seahawks are already ranked #1 in the NFL on offense per DVOA. Yet it still feels like they have room to be even better.

Think of it this way. We talked a lot about receivers prior to the 2020 draft — Jalen Reagor, Brandon Aiyuk, Chase Claypool and others. There was room for another top target on this offense. That still remains the case — whether it’s Josh Gordon or Antonio Brown.

If the Seahawks have exhausted all options on defense and simply don’t see a viable trade to make to improve their flailing pass rush — the only thing they can do is keep adding in other ways.

Like Gordon, I can’t imagine Brown is going to be an expensive project. He needs a shot on the right team with the right quarterback. As with Snacks Harrison — he probably needs this culture and this coach and this franchise as much as the team needs the player. So the cost might not even rule out a defensive trade down the line.

I also wonder if the Seahawks were happy for this report to appear today. Gauging reaction is important for a move that has consequences and the best way to gauge a reaction is to have Adam Schefter break a story.

For more on this, Robbie and I recorded a podcast:

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Why the Seahawks have to be active in the trade market

October 20th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

The trade deadline is nearing and it’s time for some action

If there was ever a time to be aggressive, surely this it?

The Seahawks are 5-0, Russell Wilson is playing the best football of his life and the only thing standing in their way is a troublesome defense.

In previous years they have been active. A year ago they traded for Jadeveon Clowney right before the season started and then added Quandre Diggs before the deadline. In 2017 they were extremely aggressive in trading for both Sheldon Richardson and Duane Brown to plug holes.

Never in the 10 years of Pete Carroll’s reign have they gone quietly into the night. Never have they left a glaring weakness exposed and festering.

Earlier this year they traded a kings ransom for Jamal Adams but clearly it wasn’t enough. A safety, however good, cannot mask the lack of talent on the defensive line.

The Seahawks have the fifth worst sack percentage in the league (3.6%). Somehow they’ve managed to get even worse compared to last year (4.5%). They are ranked 26th in defensive DVOA after six weeks — compared to #1 on offense and #4 on special teams.

#1, #4 and #26 — it’s as clear as day what is preventing this franchise from looking like the NFL’s clear team to beat.

You could point to their lack of 2021 and 2022 draft picks and only $4m in cap space and argue they don’t have the resources to make a move.

Nonsense. Look at the Rams. Anyone with a pulse has been extended in recent weeks. They’ve kept doing deals to acquire talent. The Saints were trying all sorts to bring in Clowney before the season started despite their lack of funds. Both New Orleans and Baltimore were even looking at ways to trade picks for cap space.

Meanwhile the Seahawks are carrying fringe players with chunky cap hits.

If you want to make things happen, you can make things happen.

Furthermore, as we’ve been discussing for weeks, this is a unique year with never before seen circumstances. According to Over the Cap, twelve teams are already over the cap for 2021. Six of them need to raise over $20m just to be back in the black.

This surely has to present an opportunity?

And even if it doesn’t, sometimes you’ve just got to be the aggressor.

You also never know who’ll be available. Who saw the Lions trading Quandre Diggs a year ago?

Look at it this way. There are two options:

1. Sit tight with what you have and ‘hope for the best’ that the defense — which has really struggled so far — will improve

2. Make at least one trade to inject some talent into the unit in order to proactively initiate change and improvement

If they just hope for the best and it costs them in the NFC West race and/or the playoffs, this will just end up being another wasted opportunity. Another season of prime Russell Wilson to consign into an ever growing sequence of years of underachievement.

A baffling off-season where they somehow squandered $50m and then used three high draft picks on two players who have so far offered precious little is irreversible. It’ll be a lot more tolerable if they make an inspired move now.

If they’re active before the deadline and still fail — nobody can accuse them of complacency. It’s better to try and fail than not try at all. Hoping this defense suddenly becomes a non-liability is akin to expecting it to not be cold and rainy in Seattle at this time of year.

Sometimes you have to be creative. Sometimes you have to roll the dice. The Sheldon Richardson deal was regrettable yet the Duane Brown trade is one of the best in the Carroll/Schneider era.

I appreciate they might well be trying and so far the opportunities simply haven’t come to fruition. That argument will carry more weight if this ends up being a quiet year ahead of the deadline. If other teams make moves and the Seahawks fail to do so — it’ll be difficult to justify. While there’s time remaining, a call to arms seems fair. We can reflect on what did or didn’t happen at the end of the month.

Ultimately though the Seahawks can’t afford to let this chance slip by. They’re one of three unbeaten teams remaining in the NFL despite the defensive performance which, if you’re prepared to be honest, almost cost them their record. They have a 1.5-game lead in the division. They’re about to face the toughest stretch of their schedule.

This might be their best chance to get back to the Super Bowl since the 2014 season. The start they’ve had, going 5-0, and the performance of the offense so far is the platform they need. The defense threatens to undermine everything.

It’s time to prioritise improvement over future picks, winning in 2020 rather than long-term planning and making the most of this golden opportunity.

Russell Wilson might say he wants to play until he’s 45 — but we don’t know how long this form he’s showing will realistically last. Five more years? More? Less?

There has to be a bit of trade magic out there. There has to be an opportunity with so many teams facing a bleak financial future with the cap lowering in 2021. There needs to be a way to take a step forward — to turn a struggling 26th ranked defense into a league-average unit?

The Seahawks always say they’re in every deal. They turn over every stone. It’s time to reinforce that commitment.

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Monday notes: Trades, Seahawks and around the NFL

October 19th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

The latest trade deadline rumblings

Yesterday Jason La Canfora noted that the Houston Texans’ owners are being encouraged to have a fire-sale of sorts. It’s understandable. They’re 1-5, don’t have a first or second round pick next year and they’re set to be $15m over the 2021 cap as things stand.

Deshaun Watson is a quality selling point to a new coach and GM but not having any money or picks to improve an ageing and stale roster is not.

“General managers and personnel execs have pointed to pass rusher Whitney Mercilus, linebacker Zach Cunningham, corner Bradley Roby, tight end Darren Fells and receivers Brandin Cooks and/or Will Fuller as potential trade targets.”

Of the group, Whitney Mercilus is the one that stands out as a possible Seahawks target. He only signed a new contract in December last year but he’s 30-years-old and might be able to bring in some decent compensation. He has three sacks this season.

Mercilus might be in the awkward range of being too expensive for anyone to bite but too valuable for the Texans to let go on the cheap. They’d also have to spread out a significant dead cap hit in the future.

Nevertheless, he has the quickness Seattle badly needs off the edge and the proven track record of getting after the quarterback.

We’re approaching the crunch time for trade talks. The Seahawks are in a weaker position than usual because their draft stock is depleted following the Jamal Adams trade. Yet it feels like they have to do something to bolster their edge rush. Russell Wilson is playing the football of his life and they’ve started 5-0. If ever there was a time to be aggressive and chase a Championship, this is it.

Perspective on 5-0?

Here are Seattle’s opponents so far:

Atlanta — 1-5

New England — 2-3

Dallas — 2-3

Miami — 3-3

Minnesota — 1-5

You can only beat the teams you face — but aside from the Falcons victory, none of these wins were particularly convincing. I think there is something to be said about a ‘good’ win.

The Seahawks often have at least one. Last year it was the Niners on the road. They beat the Chiefs in 2018. The less said about 2017 the better but in 2016 they went to New England and knocked off the Patriots.

The first real opportunity the Seahawks have to get a ‘good’ win will be Bills and Rams. That’s when we’ll find out a lot about this team.

We know by now the defense needs work. Clearly 5-0 is also a good start, regardless of the opponents faced. Yet the key to the season always has been (and always will be) Seattle’s ability to take a step forward. That means winning the NFC West and having a meaningful playoff run for the first time since the 2014 season.

Who are the best teams in the league?

For me you’ve got two types of ‘good’ team. The Steelers, Buccaneers and Titans seem balanced. Tennessee’s defense hasn’t looked great at times but they still have some quality pieces and can cause opponents (see: Buffalo) a lot of trouble.

Then you’ve got the quarterback dominated teams — Kansas City with Mahomes, Seattle with Wilson and Green Bay with Rodgers.

It’s difficult to place the Ravens at the moment with Lamar Jackson’s form and the defensive play fluctuating. You could say the same for the Rams. Both teams look great at times and flawed the next.

Somehow on the outskirts you’ve got a team heavily weighted to the defense in Chicago. They are 5-1 but face a gauntlet of games after their bye week.

This is a weird year and a weird football season so far. I’m not sure whether strengths or weaknesses will define these teams when the playoffs begin.

I still think it’s a good year to be one of the few who can actually play defense. The Steelers might not be trendy these days — but they’ll be a tough out.

Why the Jets should keep Adam Gase (for now)

I’ve become fascinated by the Jets and the bizarre way they are operating. I’ve been watching their press conferences and listening to some podcasts.

The general consensus is the fans want Adam Gase out as soon as possible. But why?

There’s nothing for the Jets to gain by firing their coach now. They are a lost cause. A basket case team. They need a total top-to-bottom rebuild.

The best case scenario is to earn the #1 overall pick in order to select Trevor Lawrence in the next draft. That would be a major selling point to prospective coaches.

Take Joe Brady for example. Having taken LSU’s offense to new heights last year he’s now leading a top-10 offense in Carolina despite losing Christian McCaffrey to injury and having a somewhat cobbled-together roster.

At the moment the Jets are a disjointed mess. Launch a rebuild with the best quarterback to come out of college football in a decade and it might be a tempting proposal for one of the hottest young coaches in the sport.

Getting rid of Gase now simply gives the Jets a better opportunity to improve, win pointless games and work their way out of the top spot in the draft. The time to get rid of him is when #1 is secure, the season is officially over and you can launch a rebuild.

In the meantime they should be having a fire-sale.

There are very few pieces to build around long term. Mekhi Becton and the 2020 draft class deserve time. You could make a case to keep hold of Marcus Maye. Everyone else should be on the chopping block.

Accumulate even more picks to go with the haul you got from Seattle for Jamal Adams. The prospect of a reset, Trevor Lawrence and a ton of draft stock would be an attractive proposition for your next coach — who has to surely be a young, progressive, offensive mastermind to reassure Lawrence that he isn’t better off sticking at Clemson for another year.

They should also see what the market is like for Sam Darnold. There are plenty of teams who could use a long term solution at quarterback — Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Tampa Bay, New Orleans and maybe even San Francisco. See if there’s a good pick to be had now and if not, revisit the situation in the off-season.

Starting him, however, only lowers his stock if the Jets continue to struggle. He’s already picked up one injury. Darnold is also capable of winning games — unlike soon-to-be 36-year-old Joe Flacco.

Either way, firing Gase has little benefit now. The time to do it is down the line, when that top pick is in the bag. Lawrence is everything the New York market needs. He’s talented, looks the part, is incredibly marketable and he’s a born winner.

The Jets need some of his magic and charisma.

You can always get after the Packers

Green Bay looked like a paper tiger throughout last year and I’m not sure much has changed in 2020.

They’re a very difficult team to beat when they get a lead. Aaron Rodgers is incredibly efficient and still has the ability to make the impossible seem possible. Their running game can be difficult to stop when playing with a scoreboard advantage. Green Bay’s pass rushers also come into play.

When you get after them though, they curl up into a little ball and beg you to stop.

Yesterday’s game against Tampa Bay was so reminiscent of their meetings against the 49ers last season. When things started to go wrong they couldn’t put the brakes on. The game snowballed and quickly got away from them. The Packers become flustered. You can strong-arm them when it gets like that.

They end up looking pretty soft.

The problem for the Seahawks in the playoffs last year is the running game had collapsed due to the injuries. The Packers gave it no respect in the first half, flooded coverage and made life difficult for Russell Wilson in the passing game. They got the lead and by the time Wilson had figured out a solution, the damage was more or less done. The lead was too big.

It could’ve been a very different game with Chris Carson on the field at his best.

The Packers will win about 12 or 13 games again this season and could be a potential opponent for the Seahawks in the post-season once more. The Seahawks, if they want it to end better this time, need to be the ones applying the scoreboard pressure.

The Buccaneers also showed how to blitz properly yesterday. It shouldn’t be a surprise, Todd Bowles is a blitzing master. Two linebackers attacking the same gap? Instant pressure? Sacks?

By the end of the game Aaron Rodgers had his arms aloft, looking to the sideline asking for any kind of answer to the onslaught.

The Seahawks could learn a thing or two from Tampa Bay. Blitzing doesn’t just have to be Jamal Adams as an extra rusher off the edge. Or in the case of the Minnesota game, Ryan Neal.

The Niners did something Seattle hasn’t been able to

The all-NFC West encounter was fascinating for a number of reasons. It was an example, once again, that San Francisco has one of the best coaching staffs in the NFL. It was also a further example of a stalling Sean McVay offense — after a similarly difficult day against the lowly New York Giants recently.

Shanahan’s game-plan was a masterclass. Tricky runs that made the best use of misdirection. Good gains on the ground to take the pressure off Jimmy Garoppolo. Quick throws, highlighting George Kittle’s miraculous second-level ability. Well designed plays expertly executed to emphasise yards after the catch.

Have you ever seen Aaron Donald be such a non-factor before?

For a Niners team to look like hot trash one week against Miami and then handle the Rams like this was a tour de force of coaching.

Defensively they were opportunistic, flew sideline-to-sideline to stop all of the outside zone stuff and they made Jared Goff look completely ordinary despite never sacking him.

In Seattle’s last five games against the Rams they’ve given up 42, 33, 36, 29 and 28 points.

Here’s the total offensive yardage conceded in each game:

2017 (H) — 352
2018 (A) — 468
2018 (H) — 456
2019 (H) — 477
2019 (A) — 455

The Seahawks need to beat the Rams at least once in the regular season. They need to come up with a plan, just like the Niners did, to restrict and limit them.

I’m not sure they’ll ever be able to manage Aaron Donald in the way San Francisco did. Shanahan designs the quick pass so well. Garoppolo, to his credit, is very good at the quick drop, set and throw. It makes life easier when you have very quick receivers and Kittle as a safety valve. The Seahawks have always been a longer developing, shot-taking offense because that’s Russell Wilson’s style. With his height it’s unrealistic to expect anything else. The longer you ask a center or guard to contain Donald, the more likely he will get sacked.

They need to do something though to put in a better performance this time. The Rams can turn it on in a flash. Their mediocre days are extremely ‘meh’ as we saw yesterday but Seattle has a knack of making them look like world beaters.

That has to change this time. The two games against LA should be treated as an opportunity to make a statement that this year is different. I fear that will only happen with defensive improvements (personnel improvements).

Zach Wilson’s stock continues to rise

I’ve written about the BYU quarterback a couple of times (including on Saturday) and it was good to see those views validated by the great Tony Pauline today:

“If there’s a faster-rising prospect in the nation than Zach Wilson, I’m not aware of him. The BYU signal caller has been brilliant during the first half of the season and turned in another dominant performance during BYU’s victory over Houston.”

“Wilson checks all the boxes you want in a quarterback at the next level — smart, tough, athletic plus the arm strength necessary to make all the throws. Scouts who grade underclassmen stamped him as a fifth-round prospect before the season began, but Wilson has improved anywhere from three to four rounds over the first half of 2020.”

Keep an eye on Wilson. He deserves the extra attention he’s getting.

If you missed our bye-week podcast over the weekend check it out below…

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The Seahawks bye week podcast & Zach Wilson is a star

October 17th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

It’s the bye week, there’s no Seahawks football — so here’s a podcast for you to kill some time. We talk about the NFC West, the trade deadline and much more…

I also wanted to talk about a quarterback who is seriously underrated.

I’ve watched BYU twice this season and on each occasion, Zach Wilson has really stood out. His poise, accuracy and athletic ability really shine through.

He’s just so composed in the pocket. He steps away from pressure with excellent footwork, sets and throws with surgical precision. His deep throws are always catchable and in the right spot.

Everything is just so natural. His drop and footwork to set, aim and fire a strike to all areas of the field. He anticipates routes to throw with timing and confidence.

His first touchdown against Houston set the tone for the rest of the night. Excellent drop. Perfect read to notice the 1v1 to the sideline then he just uncorked a wonderful strike. The coverage from the defensive back is good — he’s right in the hip-pocket of the receiver. Yet the throw is just so on the money, with the right level of velocity, to beat the corner’s despairing attempt at a breakup leading to a huge play.

In the modern NFL you need to be athletic. His second big play of the game was a 32-yard scramble where he reads the coverage, senses the opportunity to run and darts into the second level. He then jukes a linebacker out of his cleats and sets off sprinting for a big gain (before smartly sliding to avoid contact).

His third big play was a flea-flicker that gave his receiver a chance to box-out and go up and get the football.

In fairness to Houston they came roaring back and built a 26-14 lead with only three minutes remaining in the third quarter. How would Wilson respond? Did he have it in him to lead a comeback?

Of course he did. They won the game 43-26. He put on 29 points in just over a quarter.

He extended plays by scrambling to avoid pressure, keeping his eyes downfield and dissecting the coverage. He’s not operating in a wide-open passing offense — he had to throw into good coverage numerous times and he never came close to forcing anything or risking a turnover.

Wilson threw with touch when necessary and also knew when a throw needed a bit more mustard.

They retook the lead with a clever shovel pass in the redzone — well hidden by the quarterback and executed to perfection.

Late in the game pressure from Houston forced him to back-pedal off balance, re-set and deliver a strike with force off his back-foot. He nailed it. He wasn’t flustered, his technique was fantastic. He’s a natural.

Like many of the modern day quarterbacks he throws from different angles. His final touchdown pass to end the game was perhaps my favourite. An absolute dagger. The commentators are talking about whether they run a QB screen to kill clock on third down and kick a field goal. Nope. He drops back and throws an absolute dime to the back right corner of the endzone for a touchdown.

His final stat line was 25/35 for 400 yards passing, four touchdowns, zero turnovers and an extra 40 yards running (he had more, for some reason college football still subtracts rushing yards when quarterbacks are sacked and he was sacked twice). For the year he has 18 total touchdowns and just one pick.

Wilson’s a junior so it’s unclear whether he’ll turn pro in 2021 or play out his time at BYU. However — he is an exciting prospect with a lot of talent. It’s about time people started talking about him. He has special qualities.

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Why the Seahawks should try and sign David Irving

October 16th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

He retired in 2019 but David Irving is back and available as a free agent

David Irving retired abruptly in March 2019 after he was suspended indefinitely for violating the league’s policy on substance abuse. He’d already served two earlier suspensions. He became an activist for cannabis and opened a cannabis business with a focus on CBD-related products. He also co-founded his own cannabis advocacy magazine called Cannabis Passport with John Scannell.

Here is what he said about his retirement in an interview earlier this year:

“I know the perception people have of me is that I’m some sort of gangsta, homeless pothead… But I gave up football for a bigger cause. I want to change the bias toward marijuana. I want to educate America that it’s not a drug, it’s medicine. The real reason I’m not in the NFL is that I’d rather be out here saving lives.”

“I’ve been smoking since I was in middle school. Always had a 3.0 GPA. Never had any trouble with the law. We just need to stop already with the lies and misconceptions… Marijuana is easing the pain of cancer patients. It’s adding years to dogs’ lives. It could help the NFL with its CTE problem, too. The stereotypes are nonsense. It’s just like prohibition, only 100 years later.”

Irving estimates he suffered 25 concussions playing football.

The new CBA has relaxed rules on marijuana use. It has reduced the testing period from four months to the two weeks at the start of training camp. A new threshold for a positive test has been put in place, raising the allowed amount of THC from 35 nanograms to 150.

If a player tests positive during the two week stretch of training camp, his test is reviewed by a board of medical professionals that have been appointed by both the players and league. The board then decides if the player needs treatment — rather than a suspension being immediately issued.

This is a massive change and undoubtedly one of the reasons why Irving feels comfortable returning to the game. He has been reinstated into the league today and is available to sign with any team as a free agent.

It’s also necessary to point out that he was investigated over an alleged domestic violence incident but the case was closed in March 2018.

So should the Seahawks consider signing him?

It’s no secret that the defensive line has struggled so far. The pass rush is weak, the Vikings ran all over Seattle last week. They need to find ways to add talent and this is the kind of opportunity they simply have to take.

If you’re willing to pluck Jonathan Bullard off Arizona’s practise squad, put Snacks Harrison on a crash diet and drag Damontre Moore off his couch the week before the season starts — you have to make a serious push to see if Irving can offer something.

No contracts are guaranteed at this point so if it doesn’t work out — nothing is lost. Bring him in, see if he can help. What have you got to lose?

This is what he brings to the table — 6-7, 275lbs of size. A wingspan stretching nearly 88 inches. Arms that are 36 inches long. He ran a 4.84 forty at his pro-day with an excellent 1.69 10-yard split. His vertical jump was 38 inches and he ran a 10-8 broad. His short shuttle was a superb 4.52 and his three-cone a 7.27.

Speed, size, length, agility and explosive power.

No wonder he managed 12 sacks in 25 games for the Cowboys.

You can play him off the edge and kick him inside. While the Seahawks already are well stacked in that area — they don’t have anyone quite like Irving.

Aldon Smith was given a chance by Dallas this season and he’s flashed even if he’s not at his unstoppable best from a few years ago. If Irving can come in and inject some talent and help increase Seattle’s sack percentage from a measly 3.6% to something closer to the 7-8% mark — that’ll be a huge boost for the defense.

Furthermore he’s only 27 years old. If it works out, he might even be someone who can be part of the roster beyond this year.

He’s unlikely to be expensive. If you’re prepared to wait on Josh Gordon (who still hasn’t been reinstated), why wouldn’t you take the opportunity to see if Irving can fill your biggest need?

Pete Carroll loves a reclamation project. Heck — they seemingly even toyed with the idea of signing Antonio Brown on multiple occasions over the last year or so.

Really, what have they got to lose with David Irving?

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Seahawkers UK podcast & Barnwell’s trade scenarios

October 15th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

Firstly, I was invited onto the Seahawkers UK podcast this week. We had a good, long discussion about the Minnesota game and the season so far. Please check it out and have a listen below:

ESPN published an article today by Bill Barnwell running through 13 different trade scenarios before the deadline later this month.

I thought it was interesting for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the Seahawks are included in one of Barnwell’s proposals. Secondly, it gives us an idea of who might be available.

It’s pretty clear the Seahawks could use someone to rush off the edge, provide some wins 1v1 and try to increase their ugly 3.6% sack rate.

Barnwell mentions something we’ve been talking about for a few weeks. Many teams face massive cap problems in 2021. We could see some big names cut or dealt this year as a consequence. However, it’s still difficult to project who might be available. Especially with the teams in the biggest trouble — New Orleans and Philadelphia — both seeing a reasonable pathway to the playoffs.

The two defensive ends listed are Takk McKinley (who Barnwell has going to Seattle) and Ryan Kerrigan (who goes to the 49ers).

Let’s start with Seattle’s deal:

Seattle Seahawks get: C Alex Mack, DE Takkarist McKinley (from Falcons)
Atlanta Falcons get: C B.J. Finney, 2021 sixth-round pick (from Seahawks), 2021 seventh-round pick (from Ravens)
Baltimore Ravens get: TE Jacob Hollister

Always good to mix a three-team trade into the picture. The 0-5 Falcons are out of the playoff picture, and while they’re not going to rebuild, I don’t think either Mack or McKinley figure into their future. Mack is 34 and in the final year of a five-year, $45 million deal, while McKinley is in the last year of his rookie deal after having his fifth-year option declined. The cap-strapped Falcons will likely be moving on from both Mack and McKinley after the season, giving them some motivation to make a move now.

The Seahawks, on the other hand, are candidates for the top spot in the NFC after starting 5-0. Ethan Pocic has impressed at center after an inconsistent start to his career, but Mack would give the Seahawks a top-tier pivot as they try to win a Super Bowl. Pocic would move back into a utility lineman role, and the Seahawks would move on from Finney, who didn’t impress in camp after signing as a free agent and hasn’t played an offensive snap so far this season. Finney would be a low-cost option for the Falcons at center in 2020.

Seattle badly needs bodies along the defensive line; McKinley has struggled with a groin injury this season, but he racked up a sack and six knockdowns of Russell Wilson during the opening-week loss to these very Seahawks. We’re not likely to see a star edge rusher come available at the trade deadline, so the Seahawks will probably look to add multiple players up front and try to win with depth.

For the Seahawks, moving on from Hollister is more about cap space than anything else, given that the 2019 contributor has played just 48 offensive snaps this season and has a cap hold of $3.3 million. The Ravens have disappointed a bit on offense this season, and while trading away Hayden Hurst probably wasn’t the difference between what we’ve seen in 2020 and what we saw in 2019, they are down to two tight ends in Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle. Hollister would fill the Hurst role from a year ago and give Baltimore some insurance if Andrews gets banged up in an expanded role. Baltimore would need to free up some short-term cap space to get the deal done.

Obviously a three-way trade is pretty unlikely in the NFL but the purpose of Barnwell’s piece isn’t to predict the future it’s to propose some interesting talking points. There is a thought process that makes sense within this deal.

For starters, the Seahawks would be best to write-off the B.J. Finney signing. It hasn’t worked and he’s been a fairly expensive flop. He’s not even getting snaps at backup guard. It seems fairly inevitable he’ll be cut at the end of the season anyway to save $3.5m so they might as well make that $4.5m and eat his salary for 2020.

However, that only works if your depth is bolstered at center. Alex Mack has been a blog favourite ever since the 2009 draft. He’s still one of the top centers in the league. The problem is he’s still due about $6m in salary for this season. It’d also be harsh on Ethan Pocic to shove him out of the line-up given the way he’s played so far. I suppose the question is — how much is it worth to have Mack/Pocic as your center depth instead of Pocic/Finney? At the moment things are fine but a Pocic injury could cause problems.

Jacob Hollister has been a big talking point for many months. The Seahawks clearly value him and gave him a second round tender worth $3.25m for this season. I’m not sure anyone would’ve pushed to sign him on the original round tender which would’ve saved Seattle $1.1m but they seemingly didn’t want to take that chance.

Aside from scoring a touchdown and a two-point conversion against Dallas — he’s been anonymous. The Seahawks haven’t done a particularly good job getting their tight ends involved which is a big surprise given the massive outlay on the position.

The Seahawks are over a quarter of the season in now and 48 snaps for his sizeable salary is just not making best use of your cap. Clearly Seattle is cautious of being caught out at the position (as they were last season) and maybe Hollister will show his worth in future weeks?

Although it’s a creative idea from Barnwell, the most likely aspect of the deal might simply be McKinley to the Seahawks.

The Falcons insist they won’t blow things up and will let a new GM decide who stays and goes. However, they face a $37.5m black hole for the cap next year and need to make savings. Any cost cutting done now will help.

Atlanta’s new regime deserves the chance to decide on the future of Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Grady Jarrett. Other players who are set to be free agents anyway — such as McKinley and Keanu Neal — could be traded for draft compensation they otherwise might not get.

And let’s be right here — they don’t need to worry too much about weakening the team. They’re 0-5 and fired their coach and GM. The best thing for the Falcons right now is to gain a top-five draft pick in order to make it a really attractive proposition for the new front office.

Barnwell makes a good point — if the Seahawks can’t acquire a top edge rusher, they might have to collect players and roll with it. They started the 2020 season without even a proper rotation. Adding McKinley to go with Jonathan Bullard and presumably Snacks Harrison means greater depth.

McKinley fits a lot of what Seattle likes at the position. He has nearly 35-inch arms and he ran a 1.60 10-yard split. His 40-yard dash was an excellent 4.59. He’s quick and explosive — something they badly lack.

He never put it together in Atlanta. He had 13 sacks in his first two years but only has 4.5 since. Can he come to Seattle and replace the production they were banking on from Bruce Irvin? Perhaps.

A three-team trade might be unrealistic but a straight trade for a day-three pick could be reasonable for a rental. The cost in terms of cap hit is minimal.

I’d also be pushing for the Seahawks to pursue Keanu Neal too — one of my favourite players to cover in the draft over the last 12 years. However, the Falcons wouldn’t save any money from trading him on his fifth year option. Quandre Diggs has not played well so far but I can’t imagine the Seahawks moving on from him. He simply has to play better — although I’m not sure all the shifting between blitzing/not blitzing has done much for players like Diggs.

The other defensive end Barnwell suggests could be moved is Ryan Kerrigan, who he has going to San Francisco in exchange for Dante Pettis. Given that Pettis has practically no value currently, this would be another deal the Seahawks could and should pursue.

After registering two sacks in week one, Kerrigan has been very quiet since. However, he has a proven ability to get after the quarterback and rush the edge. That is what the Seahawks need right now — and he’s much more proven than McKinley. You know what you’re going to get. He’d also be a lot more expensive and the Seahawks would need to create some space to bring him in. Perhaps they could send a couple of players Washington’s way?

There seems to be some growing momentum around the trade deadline this year. In previous seasons there’s been an increase in activity. We’re seeing big trades completed mid-season. We’ve seen surprise trades. With such an uncertain economic future for the NFL in 2021, things could get pretty interesting in the next 7-10 days.

The Seahawks, surely, have to be active. They’ve never gone quietly into the night. The cost of the Jamal Adams trade has hampered their ability to make further deals but now isn’t the time to be conservative. Not at 5-0 with a big opportunity to finally launch a serious Super Bowl run.

They created the need to be aggressive with a confusing off-season where they failed to address the D-line properly. As a consequence the defense is struggling. The deadline is coming and it’ll be the last possible opportunity to make an upgrade.

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Reviewing the advanced stats & grades post-Minnesota

October 14th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

Ethan Pocic continues to excel in pass pro

PFF grades vs Minnesota

***Edit — information removed***

Advanced stats review via Pro Football Reference

Seattle’s turnover percentage (the percentage of drives that result in a turnover) is 17.9%, sixth best in the league. They are tied second in the league for takeaways with Baltimore (10) and two behind leaders Cleveland (12).

The Seahawks still lead the league in passing yards conceded (2356). The Atlanta Falcons are second (2230).

After three weeks the Seahawks were blitzing 36% of the time. That lowered to 30% last week and is now at 29.6%

Their pressure percentage increased from 20.5% to 21.4% after the Minnesota game. They recorded three knockdowns against the Vikings and their knockdown percentage dropped slightly to 9.6% from 10% last week.

Seattle’s sack percentage rose after the Vikings game from 2.9% to 3.6% — although for the season that is still the fifth worst record in the NFL. Considering they are still blitzing at a rate of around 30% for the season, sack percentage is the area they must improve for the rest of the season. A reminder that in 2018 their sack percentage was 7.3% (11th best) despite blitzing only 18.4% of the time (fifth lowest). Pete Carroll’s scheme simply functions better when they have one or two people capable of creating pressure up front when rushing with four. Without wanting to beat a dead horse, acquiring someone who can provide that off the edge to help the team get off the field without needing to bring the house, is probably the route to a significant improvement.

In terms of expected points contributed by passing defense, the Seahawks are at -58.35, fifth worst overall. Atlanta is dead last with a whopping -96.85, by far the worst record in the NFL.

The Seahawks have seen a bit of an increase in missed tackles. They were second only to New England for fewest missed tackles after four games. Now they’ve jumped to the 17th best record with 37.

Seattle increased their TFL’s for the season to 24 — 11th most in the NFL.

Shaquill Griffin continues to lead the NFL in times targeted (45), passes completed (31) and yards given up (412). His completion percentage against is 68.9%. He’s given up four touchdowns, second most in the league. He’s allowed a passer rating of 108.7.

This is not the statistical profile you want in a contract year.

Meanwhile, here’s a review of the Minnesota game from Chris Simms where he touches on some of the defensive issues (and Seattle’s need to dip into the trade market) plus a lot more in an interesting breakdown:

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Draft notes: Put Vanderbilt’s Dayo Odeyingbo on the watchlist

October 13th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

Vanderbilt’s Dayo Odeyingbo is one to watch

It’s encouraging that the players who’ve stood out so far in this modified college football season are mostly defensive linemen.

I’m just not sure how many are going to last deep into the second round.

Patrick Jones (EDGE, Pittsburgh) and Alim McNeill (DT, NC State) have the potential to shoot into the top-50 given time. Later on I’ll discuss Georgia’s rising star Azeez Ojulari. Vanderbilt’s Dayo Odeyingbo is heading the same way. He’s a good combine away from solidly being a first round pick.

He was impressive at the weekend against South Carolina, even in a heavy defeat, with two sacks, 1.5 TFL’s and three quarterback hurries.

His first sack came early in the game when he lined up inside on 3rd and 10. His primary opponent is the right guard but he makes sure to shove the tackle out of the way first, then drove the guard into the pocket and disengaged with a brutal spin move to reach the quarterback.

Technique, physicality, athleticism — it was all on show.

The second sack was a little more fortunate. He attacked the left tackle, who engaged him as he attempted to rush the edge. Then as Odeyingbo countered inside, the tackle was off balance and facing the wrong way. He couldn’t turn back and the quarterback was hammered. Kudos to Odeyingbo for the counter but it was poor technique from the left tackle. He’s got to do a better job squaring up.

A former four-star recruit, his athletic ability leaps off the screen. He’s listed at 6-6, 276lbs and he cuts an imposing figure off the edge or when he moves inside. Yet despite the huge size, he still flashes genuine speed-rush potential.

Against Tennessee last year he had a snap where he attacks the left tackle from a speed rush position and just dips around the attempted block with supreme balance and agility. It looked a lot like Darrell Taylor at his best. The left tackle had no answer.

With his size and length they line him up inside a lot. Even against LSU’s uber-talented O-line from last year, he ploughs his way through blockers and just won’t be denied. He shows off brute force, keeps his legs moving and simply powers his way into the backfield. There’s nothing subtle here. He’s simply bigger, stronger and longer than the players trying to block him and when he gains separation he has the athletic qualities to finish.

Look at his pursuit against Joe Burrow to force one of the few interceptions Burrow had last year:

Look how easily Odeyingbo works in space despite his size. He’s not a stiff power-end. He can handle an option off the edge, read-and-react and pursue.

It’s incredible given his frame:

He’s long limbed but with a big, powerful upper body. He’s so agile and quick that he can engage and control blockers while working to stretch out runs and set the edge.

I’ve seen him throw off blockers with disdain, win from the interior with get-off, explode off the edge with a speed rush and bully tackles in the running game.

For me he’s everything you want in a defensive end. He can play any scheme, any situation. For all the hype you see from national pundits about a lot of other college prospects — for me you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone more impressive at defensive end than Odeyingbo. He warrants serious consideration as one of the top college prospects.

Along with Pittsburgh’s Jones (who dominated again against Boston College at the weekend with three sacks) and McNeill at NC State these are three names to monitor closely for the rest of the year.

Other notes

— I listed Liam Eichenberg (T, Notre Dame) in my summer watchlist but keep an eye on left guard Aaron Banks too. The pair were fantastic against Florida State on Saturday. Banks is 6-5 and 330lbs and incredibly powerful. They rotate between guard and tackle — a compliment to Banks’ athletic qualities. Against FSU there were a couple of occasions where he slammed defenders to the ground when lined up at left guard. He’s Seattle’s type of LG — basically, he’s massive. As we’re looking for names who might be available on day two — he is one to keep an eye on. The success of Damien Lewis can be repeated and Banks is one to watch.

— I watched Georgia against Auburn and Tennessee and Azeez Ojulari was the player who stood out the most. He’s really unrefined as a pass rusher and looks light. He’s modestly sized and he needs to develop a repertoire of moves to punctuate his athleticism. However — he does flash some big moments and shows off outstanding potential. He ran a 4.32 short shuttle and SPARQ and jumped a 40 inch vertical so he has an outstanding profile worthy of the early rounds. Against Auburn he rounded the arc nicely and was held on a fourth and 10, yet still created enough pressure to force an interception. He also attacked the B gap from the right side to plough his way into the backfield for a sack using pure power. Against Tennessee he beautifully attacked the right edge showing supreme balance and lean, then straightened to hammer the quarterback and force a sack/fumble which he recovered himself.

— It’s going to be interesting to see where Najee Harris (RB, Alabama) eventually lands in terms of stock. He’s listed at 6-2 and 230lbs which is taller than ideal for the position. He also carries his weight in quite a compact frame. Yet he’s such a playmaker who runs with toughness, physicality and he finishes. Against Ole Miss he flashed breakaway speed, the ability to run through tackles and he beautifully complemented Alabama’s passing game. He scored five touchdowns, ran for 206 yards on 23 carries and had three catches for 42 yards. It’s worth noting that neither defense played well in the game. Harris was charged with a joke of a fumble on the goal line on a play that should’ve been blown dead. He only ran a 4.66 at SPARQ and jumped a 32-inch vertical. His short shuttle was a 4.16. He might not have the profile to go early, even if he has the name recognition, but he will provide value if he lasts into day two.

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Further thoughts and analysis after the Vikings win

October 12th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

Yesterday’s article was about enjoying the win. Now it’s time for a more considered review of what we saw last night (while also looking ahead).

I have some draft notes written to share later in the week and we’ll do another podcast too, so stay tuned.

This was like the Niners game in week 17 last season

It’s funny how eerily similar the two games were. The final score in the Vikings game was 27-26 with the Seahawks scoring a late touchdown on fourth and goal to win. Against the Niners, the final score would’ve also been 27-26 had Jacob Hollister not come up a few inches short.

It was also true that Seattle were majorly second best for the vast majority of that de facto NFC West Championship game and only some late magic from Russell Wilson gave them a chance, after the defense — which had struggled — finally got a much needed stop.

Similarly, the Seahawks were outplayed for much of Sunday’s game yet the defense got a stop at a vital moment and enabled Wilson to perform.

Thankfully this time the Seahawks had a happier ending.

Have they reigned back the tempo?

One of the striking things about Seattle’s offense in weeks 1-3 was the way they got after opponents with quick tempo. They’d throw in a two-minute drill early in games. Teams weren’t being allowed to substitute, there were blown coverages and the sheer pace of Seattle’s offense caused problems.

In the last two games it feels different.

I wondered on the podcast last night whether it was tied to the defense. They’ve played a much more conservative style — a major departure from the blitz-heavy approach in the first three games.

Are the two linked? Are they concerned about leaving the defense on the field for long drives and then going too quickly on offense, potentially gassing the unit if things don’t work?

I’m not sure it made much difference last night seeing as many of Seattle’s drives were over in no time at all — tempo or no tempo. There did seem to be a noticeable lack of quickness though. It never felt like they had the Vikings on their heels. That might be just because they were getting whipped in the trenches.

Thoughts on Mike Zimmer going for it

It’s a fascinating discussion. The Vikings basically needed half a yard to end the game, having run for 201 yards already. Yet by going for it on fourth down instead of kicking the field goal for an eight point lead, Minnesota introduced the only possibility for a potential MVP candidate to win the game in regulation (and he did).

I’m not a fan of ‘win probability’ and the reputation it seems to be earning in the NFL.

Immediately after the failed fourth down conversion, NBC highlighted the numbers that possibly figured into Minnesota’s thinking. Sure enough — the analytics weighed favourably for going for it based on ‘win probability’.

Yet how do you truly measure this? For example — the Seahawks had a good idea, based on Minnesota’s approach so far, that they were going to try and run for a first down. How much does that impact the Vikings’ ability to convert?

And is trying to get half a yard on a run play when the opponent is expecting a run really that much more beneficial than having the comfort of an eight point lead and your opponent needing a 75-yard drive for a touchdown in less than two minutes, plus a two-point conversion, simply to take the game to overtime?

I’m sure, however, a compelling case could make to counter this. After all — get half a yard and the ball never returns to Russell Wilson. The game is over. You’ve been able to exert your authority throughout and the run game dominated. And if you don’t make it — the opponent still has to drive 94-yards to win the game.

It’s a fascinating debate on situational football.

What can they do on defense?

Last week I suggested a more conservative defensive scheme suited the Seahawks and they should proceed with less blitzing. I was wrong to frame it in such basic terms.

Blitzing 36% of the time (as they did in weeks 1-3) isn’t necessarily the answer but neither is the alternative as we witnessed on Sunday night.

The blitzing led to them giving up 430.7 passing yards per game, conceding the most explosive plays in the NFL and it was an ill-fit for a team that has traditionally rushed with four to allow the second and third level defenders to stick to their jobs.

Yesterday showed what can happen when they don’t bring a lot of heat. Long, sustained drives, an inability to get off the field, ceding control to the opponent. 31 first downs, 449 total yards and a time of possession advantage of 39:28 versus 20:32. They were badly outplayed and the lack of ‘explosive plays’ didn’t really have any more or less impact.

They desperately had to make Ryan Neal the designated pass rusher (aka the Jamal Adams role) with Neal blitzing to try and make up for a lack of pressure.

The Seahawks aren’t equipped to suddenly pivot to being a Gregg Williams defense but they don’t have the pieces to rush with four and sit in coverage like they used to.

Short of getting better players, it’s hard to know what the solution is.

It’s certainly not just bringing in Dan Quinn — who was fired because his Atlanta defense is as bad as Seattle’s if not worse.

Is this sustainable?

Pete Carroll has avoided serious questions about roster construction because his team keeps winning. Had they lost to Minnesota, especially given the Vikings’ dominance in the trenches, those questions surely would’ve been asked?

Instead that challenge is likely to be parked again in favour of a more generous line of questioning. Yet the issue as to whether this is sustainable warrants raising and it also deserves a proper answer.

So far the defense has clung on by its fingertips and — despite all the flaws — they’ve somehow found a way to still deliver huge, decisive stops and big turnovers.

Ultimately going 5-0 isn’t the target. It’s to win the NFC West and then be in a better position to win playoff games. A handsome, unbeaten start will offer a warm glow going into the bye week — but it won’t offer much comfort if they play like this again in January or face the same fate they have over the last five years — not winning the NFC West and exiting the playoffs in the first two rounds.

Many fans won’t want to worry about the defense given the team is unbeaten. That’s absolutely fine, as I’ve always said. Those fans should also offer the same courtesy to those who do want to talk about what is clearly a struggling unit.

According to Michael David Smith, Seattle’s defense is set to make history…

Seattle’s defense has allowed 2,356 yards this season. That’s not just the most in the NFL this year, it’s a record pace: At their current pace of allowing 471 yards a game, the Seahawks would allow 7,539 yards in a 16-game season. That’s by far the worst ever.

Only one team in NFL history has allowed 7,000 yards in a season: The 2012 Saints, who allowed 7,042 yards.

Even at 5-0, you can’t just dismiss this. You can choose to focus on the wins and roll with the tide of positivity. This shouldn’t be ignored or undermined though. The Seahawks have done an awful job constructing their defense since 2018 with the 2020 off-season simply being the pièce de résistance. That warrants some push back.

It was hard to watch the Vikings kick Seattle’s arse in the trenches on both sides of the ball, dominate to the extent they did and think this is a Super Bowl team.

Had the Seahawks not pulled off a miraculous win to be enjoyed and savoured throughout the bye — the mood would be very different today. Seattle would be 4-1 and not 5-0 — not a massive difference. Yet the stark reality of where this team is would be clear for all to see. It was men against boys at times last night.

We’re in the exact same spot as a year ago. The Seahawks will win games because the quarterback is so exceptional and so is the culture and spirit within this team. The next reality check, though, will always be round the corner. Last year it was New Orleans, Baltimore, LA and Arizona. This year it starts with Minnesota — even if the result, thankfully, ended differently.

The construction of the roster still needs to be asked about

Carroll isn’t afraid to tackle the subject of his defense. His best answers in the last couple of weeks have been on challenges regarding the unit. The question of sustainability warrants asking — as does the first serious question on how his stated desire to ‘fix the pass rush’ led to them spending over $50m in free agency, using a first, second and third round pick on two defenders with their top-two selections and trading two more firsts, a third and a player for Jamal Adams. All while they’re paying the likes of Bobby Wagner $18m. Yet the defense is so problematic.

How did the plan and the investment lead to this? Especially when the clear priority was to upgrade this year when instead they’ve actually regressed.

Yannick Ngakoue got his fifth sack of the season last night having cost the Vikings a second round pick plus a conditional pick. He took a significant pay-cut to join Minnesota.

How did the Seahawks completely miss out on finding value like that to fix their greatest need? Why didn’t they make sure, given the huge resources they had at their disposal, that they landed someone like Calais Campbell to anchor their D-line (and before anyone repeats the fake news that he hand-picked the Ravens — he’s already said that wasn’t the case).

How have they gone from having Frank Clark and Jadeveon Clowney, losing both, and are now left relying on Benson Mayowa as their premier pass rusher?

This still needs to be asked. A proper answer still needs to be heard — now more than ever with the defense toiling as it is.

And perhaps more importantly — what can they do to fix things other than hope that Snacks Harrison has a Peloton bike at home?

The run defense is proven to be a mirage

In searching for positives, the media and fans latched onto Seattle’s ability to defend the run. Yet it was always a massive red herring.

Opponents simply weren’t running against the Seahawks. They didn’t need to. They could throw for over 400 yards. Seattle, in fairness, also did a good job exerting scoreboard pressure in the first three weeks to further guide teams towards a pass-centric plan.

The numbers, therefore, ended up looking better than they actually were. In reality, teams were only giving their running backs about 10-15 carries a game. Nobody threatened Seattle with a sustained running attack until last night.

Miami running backs only carried the ball 15 times in week four. Myles Gaskin managed 40 yards on his ten carries. In the first three weeks, teams only attempted to run against the Seahawks 67 times. This included a combined 18 runs by Matt Ryan, Cam Newton and Dak Prescott — most of which were clear short yardage situations or scrambles.

Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott ran only 14 times against the Seahawks. Three of those runs came on one drive on first and goal (one from the five-yard line and two from the one-yard line, leading to a touchdown). A further carry came on fourth and 1 (converted) and another carry came on 2nd and 1.

The difference on Sunday couldn’t be any clearer.

The Vikings ran for 201 yards despite losing Dalvin Cook for half the game. Both Cook and #2 running back Alexander Mattison combined for 37 carries between them. Minnesota averaged 4.9 YPC.

It was the first game where the run defense was seriously tested and it offered no resistance.

Essentially the Seahawks are in a bind with this defense. Teams are going to get their 400-500 yards. How they go about it will depend on personal preference and whether or not the Seahawks are able to get ahead in games.

I sense the front office knew the run defense was a mirage already. Why else do you bring in Snacks Harrison?

On the plus side…

K.J. Wright is playing superbly. At this rate, it can’t be his final year in Seattle.

Damontre Moore played his tail off yesterday and deserves a lot of credit.

Benson Mayowa is doing his best in a difficult situation. He should’ve never been placed in the position of needing to be Seattle’s premier pass rusher. He’s a very good complementary, rotational defensive end. Even so — he made some big plays in the last two games.

Nobody can question the spirit of the defensive unit. They are giving everything to the cause. They are simply short of blue chip, impact players.

Some thoughts on the trade market

We’ve spent a lot of time discussing the problem several teams are facing in 2021. With the NFL economy in flux due to Covid-19, the cap is likely to fall into the $176m range.

According to OTC, that would put 12 teams over the cap for 2021 as things stand.

Some of the teams will be able to manage this with a few choice cuts prior to the new league year starting. For example, the Bills are $4.7m over the 2021 cap. That’s manageable.

Other teams are in serious bother. The Saints are an estimated $82m over the cap, the Eagles are $73m over and the Falcons are $37m over.

The Saints and Eagles will feel they’re still in the playoff hunt so it’s not clear how they plan to address this. They can’t wait until the new league year begins because most or all of the dead money that exists would come off the books in 2021 — thus limiting their ability to reduce their spending.

The best thing to do would be to trade or cut players this year, eat dead money in 2020 and take big contracts that are due in 2021 off the books.

Yet if the Saints or Eagles do that — how can they seriously sell to their fans that they are trying to win in 2020? For the Saints this is especially vital, given it’s Drew Brees’ final season before retirement.

The Falcons are in a very different situation. They have fired their coach and their GM. They are 0-5. It would make sense to clear some money for next year — if for no other reason but to make the job more appealing to prospective GM and Head Coaching candidates.

Forcing a new regime to work with a group of players who are failing won’t be appealing. Neither will inheriting a $37m black hole in the cap for 2021.

They need a rebuild.

I’m not a cap expert but Over the Cap has a system whereby you can calculate savings based on players being traded ‘post June 1st’. This would allow them to spread the dead money out, making small but necessary savings over time.

I’m not sure they have much choice. The only other answer is running through a whole host of restructures, kicking their cap problems down the road.

They can’t deal Matt Ryan — his contract provides minimal savings and will cost an absolute fortune. They possibly can look at trying to make savings down the road for Grady Jarrett and Dante Fowler. They might have to look at trading Julio Jones.

It might even be a buyers market given their situation.

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Instant reaction: Seahawks pull off a miracle

October 11th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

There will come a time when it isn’t like this. It may even be more relaxing, especially when you’ve stayed up until 4:30am to watch a game.

Yet for now, let’s take it. Embrace it. Enjoy it — if possible.

This crazy decade of extreme highs and heartbreaking lows. Just when you think you’ve seen it all — something else happens.

The Seahawks got their arses kicked tonight. The Vikings marched into Seattle and beat them up.

They set a new record for drives with 10 or more plays. They had 31 first downs, 449 total yards, a time of possession advantage of 39:28 versus 20:32. They ran the ball for 201 yards despite only having Dalvin Cook for a half.

The Seahawks were blown away in the trenches on both sides of the ball. They basically had one minute and 46 seconds of the game at the start of the second half and the rest, until the final drive, belonged to Minnesota.

Seattle didn’t convert a single third down (0-7). Russell Wilson played like he often does in the rain. The Seahawks started slow, in the season where they’ve started fast.

They were out-coached, lacked energy in the first half and looked like they were searching for an umbrella rather than a ball-carrier.

Yet somehow Wilson summoned something to drag Seattle into the winners enclosure. A hopeful heave downfield, completed on fourth down to D.K. Metcalf. He scrambled to avoid pressure. He rediscovered Tyler Lockett. Another throw to Metcalf in the end zone for the go-ahead score with the game on the line, moments after one slipped through his grasp.

A win.

A MVP statement.

On an off-night, with everything going wrong, Wilson delivered in Prime Time.

That, along with the mad one minute and 46 seconds at the start of the third quarter, was unbelievably enough to go to 5-0.

This is the ideal time for the bye week because let’s not kid ourselves, this is a team with massive flaws that need to be fixed because they might not be so fortunate down the line.

For tonight though — let’s enjoy Metcalf’s two touchdowns, K.J. Wright’s interception, the fourth down stop delivered by Cody Barton (of all people) and Bobby Wagner at the end that ended up being so critical and the turnovers of Kirk Cousins.

The defense is terrible but somehow they keep making big plays in big moments.

We can worry if it’s sustainable or not tomorrow.

This was one for the collection. Another ending you couldn’t even begin to imagine.

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