Archive for December, 2017

Tremaine Edmunds is a first round talent

Tuesday, December 19th, 2017

Yesterday I sat down to watch Tremaine Edmunds for the first time. He’s a terrific prospect, one of the best I’ve watched so far.

He is destined for the first round. Possibly top-15.

Sometimes you just put on the video and a player ‘wows’ you. I’d previously focused on Tim Settle when watching Virginia Tech — but Edmunds is just as impressive.

He can play inside and outside linebacker — plus he has the length and size (6-5, 236lbs) to play some LEO. He attacks the LOS making numerous plays in the backfield (32.5 TFL’s and 10 sacks in 2016 & 2017). His pursuit is unreal, with ideal closing speed.

Look at how he handles this coverage, allowing the play to develop before the read/react to make the stop:

Now look at his play recognition, patience and finish in coverage:

His ability to read plays, stay clean, knife through traffic and make the play is almost as good as his closing burst:

Can he run to the sideline to make a play? Yes:

Here’s the evidence he can play at the LOS and act as a LEO on passing downs:

It’s very hard to identify holes in his game. He plays coverage well, he’s mobile, he has the size and the ability to play any linebacker position. His run defense is one of his best assets — he’s so tough and physical but he’s no slouch in coverage.

Is he a great athlete? According to Tony Pauline he’s expected to run in the 4.5’s and push 40-inches in the vertical. That’ll do.

To me he’s the type of player that could come in and offer genuine star talent to the defense. He’d compliment Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright. He can fill in inside if needs be. He can offer some third down pass rush. It’d be a move towards further making the front seven the heart of the defense, as they appear to be transitioning from the LOB being the soul.

If the Seahawks want to play great defense and do it Pete’s way — they need better young players coming in. Guys they can count on to launch a new run.

Edmunds looks capable of doing that.

With the Seahawks sadly drifting towards missing the playoffs, this is the type of player who could appear on their radar. That wouldn’t have been possible during the post-season runs.

That’s the positive slant.

Edmunds isn’t just talented on the field after. He seems likeable in interviews and will likely impress teams if he declares.

Star quality.

I also wanted to put this up today. It’s some audio on the draft class overall. Have a listen — there’s some useful information on how the NFL scouts are viewing the class. I’d also be interested in your feedback. I don’t plan on future podcasts just being me talking on and on (we will have guests!) but I wanted to get this out there. If this is too long, too much of one voice or difficult to follow, I’d like to know what you think…

Report: Seahawks ready to re-tool roster

Monday, December 18th, 2017

Mike Silver from the NFL Network had some interesting things to say after yesterday’s crushing defeat to the Rams.

Is a major roster makeover on the cards?

It’s something the front office has refrained from referring to as a rebuild, instead preferring the word transition. Yet given the Seahawks’ salary-cap situation (the team is currently pressed up against the spending limit) and the wear and tear on so many of their defensive stalwarts, big changes could indeed be coming, including a death blow to the Legion of Boom.

Most of the expected turnover is on the defensive side of the ball, with one notable exception: Former Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham, acquired in a trade before the 2015 season, will be a free agent this March and would likely be re-signed only if he takes a significant cut from his current $10 million annual salary.

Of the four Pro Bowl defenders who missed Sunday’s game, only outside linebacker K.J. Wright is likely to return in 2018. Safety Kam Chancellor’s season-ending neck injury, suffered last month, could be career-threatening; if he does try to keep playing, it likely wouldn’t be in Seattle. Chancellor, who signed a three-year, $36-million contract extension in August, could save the Seahawks significant cap dollars if he decides to retire, rather than force his likely release.

Fellow Legion of Boom stalwart Sherman, who tore his Achilles tendon in November, will be 30 next spring and is due to make $11 million (with a $13.2-million salary-cap number). The Seahawks shopped him in trades a year ago and are expected to move forward without him in 2018.

Avril, who turns 32 in April, suffered a season-ending neck and spinal injury in early October which may end his career; either way, his time in Seattle is probably done. Improbable as it sounds, it’s possible the Seahawks would also move on from another accomplished defensive end: 32-year-old Michael Bennett, a versatile player who signed a three-year, $31.5-million contract extension last Dec. 30.

The piece is semi-speculative. It’s suggested Bennett could move on rather than asserted he will. Avril’s Seahawks career is described as ‘probably done’ not simply ‘done’.

Yet Silver writes with greater certainty about the future of Chancellor (“if he does try to keep playing, it likely wouldn’t be in Seattle”) and Sherman (“expected to move forward without him in 2018”). The first sentence above refers directly to the language Seattle is using to refer to future changes (‘transition’ not rebuild).

With the season playing out the way it has, change feels inevitable. The extent of the change is yet to be determined.

Trading or cutting Bennett, for example, wouldn’t create much 2018 relief. The benefit in 2019 and 2020 would be substantial however. His 2018 cap hit is $8.237m with $5.212m in dead money. The question to ask is — are the Seahawks better off moving Bennett for the sake of a minimal cap boost and to accelerate change? Even in a year where he turns 33, it’ll be very difficult to find a player as talented as Bennett for $8m or less.

Chancellor is a similar case. If he does choose to play on with his future lying elsewhere, as suggested by Silver, his $9.8m cap hit is offset by $7.5m in dead money.

Sherman provides the biggest boost but is arguably the toughest of the three to replace. Even as he approaches 30, he’s played at a high level. His game has never been about extreme speed and Sherman stands to age better than other cornerbacks as a consequence. He may prefer a media career — but Sherman could easily play into his 30’s and possibly even move to safety one day. He’s good enough.

Cutting or trading Sherman saves $11m in 2018.

The Seahawks will have approximately $25-30m to spend without any of these moves if Avril indeed does depart or retire and they cut Jeremy Lane. Moving on from Sherman, Bennett and Chancellor in 2018 could create around another $16m.

That might sound appealing to some. However, consider that they might also need to replace the likes of Jimmy Graham, Paul Richardson, Sheldon Richardson, Bradley McDougald, Luke Willson and several others. The Seahawks carried a lot of players on one year contracts this season. They wouldn’t just need to replace the big names. They’d need to fill out the roster too.

That won’t be easy in a year where they won’t have a lot of draft stock. They’re not due a bevvy of comp picks in 2018 and they’ve already traded away their second and third rounders. They’ll likely consider trading down in round one to accumulate further stock (they’re currently slated to pick at #19) but they also need to hit on some draft picks and might benefit from picking a bit earlier.

Silver also discusses the future of Jimmy Graham (“would likely be re-signed only if he takes a significant cut from his current $10 million annual salary”) and wonders about the future of Pete Carroll:

“…it’s at least plausible that Seattle could remain competitive as the roster is retooled.

However, it will be a significant challenge, and it begs a legitimate question: Will Carroll, 66 and blessed with a bulging bank account, be motivated to preside over such an ambitious home-improvement project?”

It’s a question that is unavoidable, unfortunately, after Sunday’s game. It’s highly possible the Rams shellacking was an ugly one-off. A perfect storm for Los Angeles — an injury-hit Seahawks roster capitulating early and failing to recover. Yet it was a performance and result so foreign to the Carroll Seahawks, you can’t help but wonder what it means for the future. This era hasn’t just been about winning. It’s the way Seattle has competed.

None of the qualities Carroll brought to this team were present on Sunday and they couldn’t be further from his preferred style of play in 2017 (run the ball on offense, aggressive and opportunistic defense, control the ball, dominate turnover battle).

Did we just witness the end of an era? Or was it just final confirmation that a re-tooling of personnel is required?

If Carroll did move on, it’s difficult to imagine who would come in. A year ago someone like Kyle Shanahan would’ve been a strong candidate. A young, offensive minded coach who could build around a more Russell Wilson-centric team. Shanahan’s offense helped Matt Ryan become league MVP and Atlanta put up big numbers in 2016 on the way to the Super Bowl. Now he has a proper quarterback, Shanahan is 3-0 in his last three games at San Francisco.

This year the options appear much more limited. There’s no hot-shot coordinator that stands out unless you want to run through the usual suspects like Josh McDaniels (an ill-fit you’d imagine given he’d probably want to bring in his own GM). There isn’t another big name college coach with a history of culture building and a NFL background.

Carroll retiring, when it comes, would be such a significant move and the timing would be everything. You’d want to transition to a coach who you believe can win Championships and create the next winning culture of this team. You don’t want to settle on the best available option in a year where the alternatives don’t appear to be that attractive.

So basically, be careful what you wish for.

(See: Jim Mora, 2009)

It sums up where we’re at with the Seahawks currently that we’re even having this conversation. There’s so much uncertainty. Players that became synonymous with Seattle sports, soon potentially moving on. A great coach, possibly nearing the end.

Maybe a few tweaks, a good draft and they’ll be back at it in 2018?

Or perhaps they win in Dallas and get people dreaming again?

Who knows what happens next?

Above all else, remember one thing. This Tweet sums it up:

A quick final note for now. Thanks to your contributions via Patreon I have been able to purchase a subscription to Bob McGinn’s draft coverage. For those of you who’ve followed the blog for a while, you’ll be aware of McGinn’s sources providing a detailed inside look at how scouts view the class. McGinn published his first 2018 draft piece over the weekend. Considering it’s behind a paywall, I won’t be copying and pasting quotes on here (too much respect for the source). I will be sharing some of the info though, possibly via audio (podcast) or a written piece. Stay tuned. Hopefully this will help take your mind off the game yesterday.

And if you want to contribute via Patreon, here’s the link via the tab below…

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Instant reaction: Seahawks embarrassed by Rams

Sunday, December 17th, 2017

What have we just witnessed?

The most important game of the season with the playoffs on the line.

Final score: Seahawks 7-42 Rams

Merry Christmas.

Todd Gurley running in a 57-yard touchdown with seconds left in the first half, on 3rd and 20, shockingly wasn’t the tipping point.

That came long before the Rams climbed to a 34-0 half time lead.

Bad special teams, Russell Wilson’s -23 yard backwards pass, yet another horrendous start, turnovers, no resistance on defense.

The Seahawks embarrassed in their own backyard.

42-7. In Seattle. At Century Link.

Before we continue, let’s qualify one thing. The injuries, while not an excuse, are a cause. Bobby Wagner was on the field but nowhere near 100%. No Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, K.J. Wright, Cliff Avril. And the rest.

The Seahawks are decimated, clinging to a post-season opportunity thanks to Russell Wilson and a relatively easy schedule.

Now that’s out of the way — let’s get real. Because there’s losing and there’s being embarrassed in your own stadium. A meek surrender of the NFC West, of the season.

Where was the famous grit? The legendary fight and spirit this team has so often showed? Where was the pride, allowing the Rams to come to Seattle and deliver a shellacking?

Why were the Seahawks seemingly so ill-prepared for the biggest game of the year?

Why are they so incapable of getting out of their own way?

What happens now?

Playoffs? Even if the Seahawks win their next two games, which feels like a major stretch, it might not be enough.

The Seahawks gambled on aggressive trades in an attempt to make this a Championship season. Now it feels like their worst since 2009. At least in 2010 and 2011 it was the beginning of the rebuild — with a few memorable moments building towards Seattle’s first Super Bowl win. Young stars were emerging. Momentum growing.

Now it’s starting to feel like the reverse is happening.

If they don’t make the playoffs, which feels likely, they’ll face an off-season with so many question marks. They’ve already spent their second and third round picks in 2018 and their second rounder in 2019.

The scope to overhaul the team in the draft is severely limited as a consequence.

They don’t have the cap room to make major changes in free agency. Several key players may or may not retire. Even if they return, can you rely on ageing players to stay healthy?

What does the future hold for the Seahawks? Good luck answering that one. Nothing it seems should be off the table for discussion after this.

At the very least, big questions have to be asked about how this season has played out and the direction the team is heading.

To think we spent the last few weeks looking at running backs, believing Seattle’s biggest problem is a non-existent running game.

Things are a bit more serious than that, it seems.

This is one game and things can change quickly in seven days. The Seahawks are fortunate they have two weeks to try and make up for this.

Yet it’s the way this played out that’ll have so many people asking previously unthinkable questions this week. The Seahawks don’t lose like this. Not at home. Not in the Pete Carroll era.

At least until today.

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USC’s Ronald Jones is interesting, different

Saturday, December 16th, 2017

As we run through the running back class, here’s a reminder of the players we’ve looked at so far:

Damien Harris (Alabama)
Kerryon Johnson (Auburn)
Nick Chubb (Georgia)
Derrius Guice (LSU)

Here’s a post with further notes on Harris and Johnson

USC’s Ronald Jones II isn’t like the four names above. This was the first time I’d had a chance to properly study him and it’s impossible not to be extremely impressed. I wouldn’t argue with anyone who believed he was the second best eligible running back (behind Saquon Barkley).

There’s something to consider before we look at why he’s an exciting prospect. He’s listed at 6-0 and 200lbs. That would be a move away from Seattle’s preferred physical profile.

Here are the running backs they’ve drafted since 2012:

Robert Turbin — 5-10, 222lbs
Spencer Ware — 5-10, 228lbs
Christine Michael — 5-10, 220lbs
C.J. Prosise — 6-0, 220lbs
Alex Collins — 5-10, 217lbs
Chris Carson — 6-0, 218lbs

This doesn’t exclude Jones from being an option for the Seahawks but it is something to consider. Taking him would be a departure from their recent drafting style.

You might argue that this preferred physical profile hasn’t brought about good results recently. Let’s not forget though that Seattle’s ‘preferred profile’ also includes Marshawn Lynch, Alex Collins is currently having a great time in Baltimore, Chris Carson looked really good before his injury, Spencer Ware has had success in Kansas City and none of Christine Michael’s issues were due to physical build or athleticism.

The Seahawks met with Jamaal Charles in the off-season. According to Ian Rapaport both parties had ‘strong mutual interest’. This suggests the Seahawks might be flexible in their approach to RB’s for the right player.

Jones is eerily similar to Charles. They have almost identical bodies. They’re 6-0 and 200lbs. Their running styles are very similar. USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin even made the comparison:

“He reminded me of Jamaal Charles of the Kansas City Chiefs. That type of skill set. Just a guy who runs and it’s easy for him. It doesn’t look like he’s working hard and he’s running by everyone.”

Jones himself has admitted he looks up to Charles.

Pro-comparisons are often lazy and serve only to create false expectations. With Jones, the comparison feels reasonable. And that’s why I wouldn’t rule out interest from the Seahawks even if he is a different body type. Who wouldn’t want someone like Charles?

We’ll see how accurate the comparison is by the combine. They look similar on tape but Charles ran an excellent 4.38 at the combine. I haven’t been able to find any workout information from the Nike combines but Jones reportedly clocked a 4.41 during recruiting. That’s the kind of time he needs. In terms of explosive qualities, Charles managed a 30.5 inch vertical and a 10-2 broad. He also had a 4.22 short shuttle. Those are the types of marks Jones needs to hit.

Let’s look at what he’s about.

Often a player with great speed isn’t a tough runner up the middle. That’s not the case here. Jones has tough runs dragging tacklers for extra yardage while keeping his legs moving. He might prove to be a little slower at the combine than Charles but he might be a more explosive tester.

For example, look at this:

That’s a 200lbs running back pushing the pile there, getting the absolute maximum out of that run. That’s not a weak defensive line he’s facing either. It’s Stanford.

He’s also capable of breaking tackles and fighting for extra yardage in the open field:

The defender he throws off there is a linebacker playing up at the LOS. He turned a relatively routine first down conversion into a big 25-yard gain. Pure physicality, explosive power. Exciting.

Toughness and physicality isn’t just about running through tackles either. Damien Harris at Alabama is a highly competitive pass blocker. There’s some evidence that Jones is equally willing to put a hit on a pass rusher and protect the quarterback:

The next clip is my favourite play though:

Pause the video after a single second and look at the screenshot. Jones is staring at a wall of bodies and the run appears destined to be stuffed. He somehow squirts through the scrum and with one cut takes out three defenders who overcommit to the left side. It’s such a sharp, sudden, nasty cut. Once he reaches the second level it’s over. He sprints away, untouched, for a huge touchdown.

It’s the perfect example of his ability to get skinny and find a running lane, show some physicality to fight through the initial pile and then explode thanks to one perfectly executed cut.

Clearly he isn’t ‘just’ a sprinter. He is extremely smooth and sudden as a runner though. He makes it look so effortless:

He bounces this run to the outside, sprints in-between a couple of defenders and takes it in for a big touchdown. Jones barely breaks stride, he just glides. This is why the Jamaal Charles comparisons carry some weight. Can’t you just imagine peak Jamaal making a play like that?

Here’s another example. This video reminds me a little bit of one of Adoree’ Jackson’s returns for USC. There’s virtually no room by the right sideline and somehow he cuts his way into space and finds a lane. It’s an incredible play that demands so much body control, speed and acceleration. The balance he shows to set up the blocks and max out such a tiny portion of space to make this long touchdown is incredible:

How do you not get excited looking at a play like that?

Here’s another one:

It’s like he’s on ski’s — slaloming through traffic while remaining perfectly balanced and in control. When he sees the opportunity to get upfield he turns on the jets and just accelerates away from the defense. His ability to cut away from trouble and then go from 0-60 in a flash is highly impressive.

He’s not going to punish a team with up-the-middle running, wearing down an opponent and forcing them into fourth quarter submission. That’s not what you draft him to be. He’ll infuriate opponents in a different way — his ability to turn relatively mundane plays into huge gains. He’s able to find the edge and suddenly explode to a big gain. He sets up downfield blocks like a returner and he’s a really difficult out when he gets to the second level despite being only 200lbs.

If he declares for the draft, Jones is going to be in the conversation to be the second running back drafted. He’s a major talent, with an attitude and personality that just fits the position. He appears tough, both in the way he carries himself and the way he performs on the field.

There’s an X-factor about his game that is exciting.

For the year he had 1486 yards at 6.1 YPC. He had 19 total touchdowns.

It’ll be hard to separate the likes of Jones, Damien Harris and Kerryon Johnson if they all turn pro. They’re all very different runners with appealing traits.

Consider this as well. If Jones’ best comparison is Jamaal Charles — well Charles lasted until round three. Kerryon Johnson’s patience in the backfield is reminiscent of Le’Veon Bell (although there’s a big difference in size). Bell was a round two pick. How many Alabama running backs have lasted into round two over the years? Derrick Henry, T.J. Yeldon, Eddie Lacy. Kenyon Drake was a third rounder.

This looks a great year to consider spending a high pick on a running back. The Seahawks might have the luxury of being able to trade down before making it happen.

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A few more thoughts on Derrius Guice

Thursday, December 14th, 2017

This week Todd McShay published his first mock draft with the Seahawks selecting LSU running back Derrius Guice. We addressed the pick here.

I wanted to offer a few more thoughts on Guice today.

There’s no doubting he’s a tough, physical runner. He’s well sized at a listed 5-11 and 212lbs and that’s more or less in Seattle’s ballpark for profile.

There are two really good qualities about his game. Firstly, he’s tough to bring down. He’ll collide into defenders, bounce away from the initial contact and get extra yardage. He’s not an easy get if he can find a crease to the second level:

This quality helps in the red zone too. He’s really tough:

So while he’s not necessarily a big, physical tone-setter — defenders are going to need to bring it to get him on the turf.

His second best quality is he’s quite adept at hitting the line with authority. He’s not going to be the fastest tester at the combine — but he generally gets up to speed quickly and he’s assertive in his decision making. He scampers rather than sprints but it enables him to chew up ground:

He’s not lightning quick but those short strides enable him to cover a lot of yards. He doesn’t run away from many defenders and there are plenty of examples where he gets caught from behind. Yet that initial burst and decisiveness at the line make up for a lack of pure speed.

So here’s what I think he is — a tough as nails running back who won’t quit and has enough initial quickness to take advantage of good blocking. He will effectively take what is available more often than not and leave everything on the field.

It’s also worth noting, however, that he is quite limited physically.

Speed isn’t everything for a running back. Explosive traits can make up for a lack of pure straight-line speed. Unfortunately for Guice he seems to be lacking in both areas. His game is going to be more about tough physical running than it is about great athleticism. There’s a danger, however, that at the next level he’ll struggle to stand out against a higher level of athletic competition.

Let’s compare Guice to some of his peers.

Here’s his workout from the SPARQ combine:

Height: 5’11”
Weight: 216
40: 4.61
Short Shuttle: 4.66
Vertical Leap: 30.4″
Power Throw: 35.0″
SPARQ: 83.37

This is a particularly pedestrian workout compared to some of the other running backs in this class. For example, here’s how Damien Harris performed:

Height: 5-10
Weight: 210lbs
40-yard: 4.48
Short shuttle: 4.00
Vertical: 38 inches
SPARQ: 126.93

Again, workouts aren’t everything. Guice’s mentality and physicality will cover some of the physical flaws. Yet Harris is quicker and more explosive per his testing results and you do see evidence of that on tape (for more on Harris check out this piece from a few weeks ago).

Harris is also just as tough and physical as Guice, he’s just as difficult to bring down:

But he also does this:

And of course this:

Now let’s look at Oregon’s Royce Freeman:

Height: 6-0
Weight: 227lbs
40-yard: 4.58
Short shuttle: 4.07
Vertical: 33.6 inches
SPARQ: 121.17

Freeman was 10lbs heavier than Guice at the SPARQ combine but ran a slightly quicker forty time. He was far superior to Guice in the short shuttle and he had a more explosive vertical jump.

A lot of people enjoyed comparing the brilliant Leonard Fournette with Guice last year, after Guice successfully spelled the now Jacksonville Jaguar. Fournette at his SPARQ combine didn’t do all of the tests (and therefore didn’t receive an overall score) but it’s worth noting how much quicker he was in the short shuttle (4.3 vs 4.66) despite being exactly 10lbs heavier. At the NFL combine Fournette ran a 4.51 — 0.10 seconds quicker than Guice’s SPARQ test.

Dalvin Cook managed a 110.64 SPARQ score at his workout. It wasn’t a brilliant performance given his size (5-11, 196lbs) but it’s still considerably higher than Guice’s 83.37.

I’ll say it again because I want this message to be clear. SPARQ isn’t everything. Explosive testing isn’t everything. However, the Seahawks have a pretty consistent track record in drafting explosive testers at running back (the history of which is detailed in my Damien Harris piece).

I can imagine the Seahawks appreciating and liking Guice’s running style and his vibrant personality. Yet one of the objective’s of this blog is to try and discuss trends and use the information we have to judge how likely a player is to end up a Seahawk. We won’t get everything right. It seems, however, that Guice will likely need a better workout at the NFL combine if he’s going to be a first round pick by Seattle.

It’s a competitive group of running backs. Little things like a great physical profile and durability will end up being a difference maker in the final rankings.

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Breaking down Todd McShay’s first mock draft

Wednesday, December 13th, 2017

According to this article Todd McShay has the most interesting mock draft on the internet. There’s some British guy at #2.

McShay’s mock is behind a paywall but here’s a link to a Tweet that reveals the whole thing. Hey, I didn’t tweet it.

McShay picks Derrius Guice (RB, LSU) for the Seahawks:

Seattle has seemingly had a revolving door at RB and needs some stability at the position to take pressure off Russell Wilson. Guice definitely isn’t Leonard Fournette, but he has great quickness and the ability to break tackles. He dealt with some nagging injuries but has been a workhorse for LSU down the stretch, averaging 22 carries and 132 yards per game in his past six. Offensive line is also an option here for the Seahawks.

Having picked a running back for Seattle in round one of my own mock (Alabama’s Damien Harris) I think McShay focused on a likely target position. With only one pick currently in the first three rounds, the Seahawks need to address a key need. They need a runner they can trust and feature. This is potentially a good year for running backs, so taking a couple seems like a good idea.

I’m less convinced by McShay’s alternative option — the offensive line. In the last year and a half the Seahawks have spent a first round pick on Germain Ifedi, a second round pick on Ethan Pocic and they traded second and third round picks to Houston for Duane Brown. On top of that they paid Justin Britt a handsome new salary.

Eventually they have to look at other areas of the team. The blocking has vastly improved since Brown’s arrival and steady progress is being made.

There is one intriguing O-line option in McShay’s mock. Ohio State’s Billy Price is still on the board. I have him down as a top-20 pick personally but if he was available at this stage you might have to consider taking him based on pure value. Price looks like a home run option for the next level.

Watch this for an insight into why:

Assuming he’s gone, they probably need to look elsewhere.

Back to the pick of Guice. I think there’s a chance his stock will drift a bit when draft season arrives. He’s a big name but might settle into a solid second or third round range. There are some question marks about how well he’ll test at the combine, he’s had some nagging injuries too. He’s a talent but hasn’t had the kind of 2017 season expected after his great relief work for the injured Leonard Fournette last year.

As the process plays out I’d expect the likes of Damien Harris and Auburn’s Kerryon Johnson to jump above Guice in the national conversation. I think there’s a chance Guice settles into a tier with Royce Freeman.

In terms of the other options available, McShay notably has Courtland Sutton going at #27 to Jacksonville. Sutton hasn’t had the kind of year he or SMU were hoping for when he chose not to declare a year ago. He has, however, got a significant amount of talent.

He’s a little bit different to the receivers currently on Seattle’s roster. He’s listed at 6-4 and 215lbs and has the ability to make incredible grabs:

For a bigger receiver he’s also very good running after the catch. He’s an all-rounder, working in the short and long range passing game and providing a nice catching radius. There’s a lot to like.

Here’s some clips from one of his better 2017 performances:

If the Seahawks are transitioning to a more Russell Wilson-centric offense, Sutton would provide a dynamic bigger target. That could be important if Jimmy Graham leaves.

Something to consider.

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The pro’s and con’s of re-signing each future free agent

Tuesday, December 12th, 2017

This is good news for the Seahawks. They were projected to have around $8-9m in cap space in 2018 before this update. If the cap goes up by as much as $10m and they create room elsewhere (they’d gain an extra $12.5m if they cut Jeremy Lane and Cliff Avril retires) then they could have over $30m available.

We’ve talked a lot recently about some of they key future free agents on the roster. Here are some of the pro’s and con’s for re-signing each:

Jimmy Graham

The argument for…

For years the Seahawks were not a good redzone team, even when they had peak Marshawn Lynch. In 2017 they’ve been pretty automatic, thanks largely to the chemistry between Russell Wilson and Jimmy Graham.

Having finally worked it out with Graham to the tune of nine touchdowns (so far), it’d be quite something to move on and lose what has finally clicked. Redzone touchdowns are not to be sniffed at, especially with Seattle giving up more points defensively these days. They can’t keep things tight and win in the fourth quarter with defense and the run like they used to. Seven instead of three is important.

It’s also not as simple as just giving Graham’s targets to somebody else. There’s a reason the likes of Luke Willson, Zach Miller and Anthony McCoy didn’t rack up TD’s in previous seasons. Graham is a special player when it comes to operating in the end zone, with a unique frame and catching radius. It won’t be easy to simply move his scoring streak to somebody else.

As Graham has become so effective in the redzone it’s become increasingly difficult for teams to avoid focusing on him. That in turn can lead to opportunities for other receivers. For the first time in a long time the redzone doesn’t feel like a problem for Seattle — an incredible feat given how inept they’ve been rushing the ball.

Graham is also very close to Russell Wilson. If this is increasingly Wilson’s team, it would be interesting if they allowed his BFF and favourite redzone target to walk away.

The argument against…

Graham looks less effective these days when Seattle isn’t in the redzone. Although he’s been prolific as a touchdown scorer, between the 20’s he hasn’t been much of a factor. For the year he only has 473 yards — just over 36 per game. His career per-catch average is 12.3 yards. In 2017 he’s managing just 9.1.

Is he still the great athlete we once knew? He’ll turn 32 during the 2018 season. It has to be expected that he’s going to lose some speed. While he’s still clearly a difference maker in certain situations, he might never be pushing 1000 yards again. How much you want to commit to a 31-year-old tight end is a conversation they’ll likely have. Although Graham does seem to have a bit of a timeless quality in terms of his ability to box-out and make plays in the redzone.

There have been games where Graham has looked strikingly poor, such as the recent loss in Jacksonville. He had a bad drop on Seattle’s final, crucial drive. He received criticism from Pete Carroll for Wilson’s second interception. His body language was poor and without the redzone opportunities he was a non-factor.

Graham is very good at the things he does well. Arguably he hasn’t done enough to improve in other areas and fit into what this team wants from a star TE. Pete Carroll talked frequently in the past about how he could become the complete tight end. Now, he’s kind of just Jimmy Graham doing Jimmy Graham things. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but is it enough to consider paying out a big new contract?

Bradley McDougald

The argument for…

After a quiet start to the season McDougald has excelled since replacing Kam Chancellor at strong safety. He’s a different player to Kam but what he lacks in big hits and run defense he perhaps makes up for in quickness and the ability to cover ground.

It’ll be impossible for anyone to replace Kam’s stature, leadership and tone-setting presence. Yet McDougald’s play hasn’t made Chancellor’s absence a big factor in Seattle’s 8-5 record. Compare the way he’s performing to the relief safety’s a year ago when Chancellor and Earl Thomas both missed time. McDougald looks like a legit starter.

With Chancellor set to make a decision on whether he continues playing in 2017, retaining McDougald would buy him and the team some time. They did draft Delano Hill this year, spending a valuable third round pick to bring him in. Yet McDougald has played well enough to wonder whether they should automatically turn it over to the younger, cheaper player. In 2018 if Richard Sherman returns as expected and they get healthy — the Seahawks will not suffer a significant drop off at safety if McDougald is the full-time starter.

He’s not the biggest name set for free agency but he might be one of the most valuable to keep around, especially if Chancellor does retire. Replacing Kam once looked like a daunting task. They might’ve found the man for the job.

The argument against…

Cost could be an issue. The Seahawks admitted they were a bit surprised when they found McDougald was available in free agency. They weren’t necessarily looking to add a veteran safety but quickly signed him to a $2m contract. After a successful stint in Seattle and with McDougald at a good age (27) he might not be as cheap or be willing to sign another short term deal.

With cap space limited it comes down to priorities. Having drafted Hill in round three and with at least the possibility of Chancellor returning, this might not work out. Personally I think McDougald could and should be a priority, if not the priority. He’s at a good age and represents an opportunity to replace a key, ageing star with another high quality replacement. His attitude and playing style seems to fit the team.

Yet if they decide other players need to be the priority instead, they might not be able to make this work. And you have to believe other teams have noticed how well McDougald is playing this year.

Luke Joeckel

The argument for…

Seattle’s offensive line, after a rough season and a half, is finally taking shape. It’s still a work in progress but the recent improvement is obvious and substantial. Duane Brown has provided a major positive influence at left tackle and the five current starters look like a unit that could competently start for some time.

Brown, Justin Britt and Germain Ifedi appear relatively locked in. Yes, that includes Ifedi. Breno Giacomini had an issue with penalties too but once he addressed that he was a worthy starter. This is Ifedi’s first season at right tackle in the NFL and he has, overall, performed well enough to expect continued progression. Hopefully we’ll see similar progress from Ethan Pocic in time.

If Joeckel walks they have to fill the left guard spot again and go through more change. The alternatives in free agency are dreadful and with limited draft stock, they might have to look at the options already on the roster. Going back to Mark Glowinski, moving George Fant to guard or going with Jordan Roos or Rees Odhiambo are options. None are former #2 overall picks though and Joeckel, when healthy, has been competent. Not flawless, but competent.

Consistency is a big thing for an offensive line. Chemistry, turning five guys into one machine. There’s been too much churn for too long with this O-line. Now that they have five guys they can grow and build with, it might be time to roll with it.

The argument against…

The health of Joeckel’s knee is a question mark. He’s already had significant injuries in his career and he missed a number of games this season to have a minor repair. We have no idea about his medical situation. The team might actually be quite optimistic about the knee. It’s an issue that’s out there though and makes you wonder how the Seahawks might approach this one.

They clearly like Joeckel. At one point in the summer they were talking him up as one of the better guards in the NFL. Within minutes of free agency opening, Seattle’s first move was to sign Joeckel. Now they’ve had a year to work with him, check on his health, see how he fits. Yet if they’re concerned about his durability they almost have to continue to think short term again or move on.

The growing cost of offensive linemen also needs to be considered here. There’s been a recent explosion in O-line contracts with even middling players getting huge deals. Joeckel’s 2017 contract is described as expensive by some but it’s actually pretty good value all things considered.

If he has a market in the off-season he could receive some lucrative offers. That could make it hard for the Seahawks to compete with limited cap room.

They’re also paying significantly for two players on their O-line already. Duane Brown’s cap hit in 2018 is $9.75m. Justin Britt’s new average salary is $9m per year. This could be a factor — but they were willing to pay Brown, Joeckel and Britt this year so there’s nothing to suggest that’d be a road block.

Sheldon Richardson

The argument for…

They’ve already spent their 2018 second round pick on Richardson. If he walks and gets a huge contract, they’ll potentially get a comp pick in 2019. That’s a long way in the future though and depends on the deal he gets and Seattle not making any big free agent acquisitions themselves.

It would be quite the thing for the Seahawks to move on from Richardson and essentially get nothing more than one season out of their 2018 second rounder. When you consider they might not get anything out of their first pick from 2017 (Malik McDowell) they’d have wasted two high picks in the space of a year. That would be tolerable if the Seahawks were serious contenders to win the Super Bowl this season. Imagine if they don’t make the playoffs though, a stark possibility unfortunately, having been so wasteful with high draft picks?

It wouldn’t be a good look. And while saving face isn’t a good enough reason alone to give someone a massive new contract — they surely had to have a long term plan for Richardson? Unless they just believed he would help them win a title this year, thus limiting the negative reaction if he was to walk after one year?

On the field he hasn’t had the kind of impact many were hoping for, at least in terms of sacks. The minimum expectation was probably 5-6 sacks, similar to the production Clinton McDonald and Jordan Hill produced in 2013 and 2014. Instead Richardson has just one sack, albeit with a number of near misses.

That said, personally I think Richardson has been a good acquisition. He fits the personality of the defense, has provided an aggressive and physical presence for the interior and he’s a quality defender against the run. We know he can be more of a pass rush threat and this might just be ‘one of those years’ for him in terms of stats.

The simple fact is there aren’t many great interior defensive linemen in the league. Richardson isn’t Aaron Donald but he’s a cut above most of the other options out there. The Seahawks will either need a top-15 pick in the future or about $15-18m to spend in free agency if they want to find a player of this quality down the road. If anything, his lack of production in 2017 could lead to a discounted extension.

The argument against…

Teams are throwing money at the trenches. Offensive and defensive linemen are getting two or three times more than they were earning just a few years ago. Richardson could get a contract offer in the region of $13-16m a year. Lesser players have received big offers.

Malik Jackson for example is earning $14.25m a year in Jacksonville. Bad teams looking to make a big jump could look at the Jags’ and their big spending on the D-line and try to emulate their approach. It won’t be a big shock if Richardson gets an offer similar to Jackson’s. If that happens, Seattle will struggle to match and likely has to settle for a third round comp pick in 2019.

If they want to keep him at a big cost, it limits their ability to do much else. Unless Richardson is willing to take a discount or just doesn’t get the big offer because of a lack of 2017 production and some character concerns, they won’t have much money to retain the other names in this piece.

And consider this. If his average salary is more than $14m a year, he’d be the second highest paid player on the team behind only Russell Wilson. Are you comfortable with Sheldon Richardson being the second highest paid player on the roster? Currently the top five are Wilson, Sherman, Chancellor, Baldwin and Wagner (followed by Bennett and Thomas). That all makes perfect sense. Richardson at #2 ahead of some of those names? Not so much.

Paul Richardson

The argument for…

When Richardson has been healthy he’s looked really good. That goes back to his rookie season in 2014, the way he finished strongly in 2016 and this 2017 season where he’s scored six touchdowns and compiled 664 yards. After Doug Baldwin, he’s become the next most vital receiver — making explosive plays downfield and contributing in the short game too.

Richardson is capable of the spectacular. And for a team that loves exciting, dynamic, highlight reel plays from the skill positions — Richardson ticks that box.

He also looks like he’s really just getting started. It’s not unusual for a receiver to play his best football 3-4 years into a career. Golden Tate is a good example of that. Look at how Robert Woods has come on playing for the Rams. It’d be a shame to go this far with Richardson only to watch him go elsewhere and deliver on the major potential he’s started to show.

It’s also increasingly the Russell Wilson show in Seattle. They’ve started to invest more cap space into the offensive line. They kind of have a duty to keep Wilson’s receivers intact too. Especially the ones who are stepping up to make plays consistently.

The argument against…

They drafted Amara Darboh in round three a year ago and could potentially make a big saving by allowing Richardson to leave, putting their faith in a prospect they clearly liked a lot. It’d be a big risk to rely on a second year receiver but the Seahawks can’t pay everyone.

In many ways this is similar to the Bradley McDougald situation. The Seahawks began planning ahead with their 2017 draft. Darboh was a good hedge considering Jermaine Kearse and Richardson might be close to the end. Delano Hill could come in as a potential heir apparent to Kam Chancellor. Some of these younger draft picks are going to need an opportunity eventually.

Receiver contracts are also quite big at the moment. Alshon Jeffery just signed a deal worth $13m a year in Philadelphia. Jeffery has 732 yards and eight touchdowns in 2017 — so his numbers are quite similar to Richardson’s. Robert Woods was offered a $6.8m a year deal by the Rams despite a fairly underwhelming spell in Buffalo.

That $6-7m range might be the floor Richardson is looking at unless teams are put off by his injury history. In isolation that’s not an unreasonable sum of money for a good #2 receiver. Yet the Seahawks have multiple big decisions to make and are already paying a high number of players large salaries. Eventually they have to start making some tough decisions.

If you missed it earlier, I was invited onto a Field Gulls podcast to talk draft yesterday. Check it out by clicking here.

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Draft podcast with Field Gulls

Tuesday, December 12th, 2017

I was invited to appear on another Field Gulls podcast this week specifically to talk about the draft and my mock draft last week. There’s a bit of Seahawks talk at the end too. Check it out below.

What are the Seahawks and where are they going?

Monday, December 11th, 2017

We’ve learnt too much about Pete Carroll’s Seahawks to give up with games to play. However underwhelming this season has been so far, it’d be unwise to tune out before the last pass, run or kick of Seattle’s season.

After all, this is a year where Case Keenum’s Minnesota Vikings might get the #1 seed. Jared Goff might be the NFC’s representative at quarterback in the Super Bowl. Keenum or Goff could be facing off against Nick Foles in the NFC Championship.

It’s not just possible it’s actually very realistic.

If you want a cause for optimism, there it is. The Seahawks had one of three quarterbacks being talked about as a MVP candidate last week. Tom Brady’s in the AFC, Carson Wentz has an ACL injury and that leaves Russell Wilson in the NFC.

If he’s in form, the Seahawks can beat anyone in the conference.

This is important to note before going into a critique of where the Seahawks are. The season isn’t a write-off. Not yet. It might be in a week, or two weeks. But not yet.

Now having acknowledged that it’s time to look at this with some honesty.

I don’t know when you started to have serious doubts about this season but for me it was during the Tennessee Titans game. Something didn’t feel right. The Seahawks, three games in, were starting games ice-cold on offense. They were giving up unusual plays on defense. They couldn’t run the ball at all.

It was easy to square it away as just a typical stodgy Seahawks start to the season. Something we’ve come to experience over the years, 2013 aside.

Yet as the weeks went on these issues were never truly rectified. Instead of finding solutions, the Seahawks changed tact and became aggressive. A big trade was made to get a left tackle, the offense shifted to Russell Wilson in a way it hadn’t previously.

An off-season spent talking about lost runs, getting the running game going again, becoming what they once were. Now they were changing their shoes mid-marathon. Pass-centric, Wilson-centric.

And then the injuries started. And continued. And thoughts turned to the future and whether players would ever return.

It unravelled, re-set, unravelled and now they’re facing the prospect of potentially needing to win all three remaining games to make the playoffs.

Has it ever truly felt like a Super Bowl year? Last season didn’t after Wilson’s injury and then Earl Thomas’ broken leg. There was still hope, sure. But when things finally concluded miserably in Atlanta it felt inevitable.

Unfortunately, it feels like that is the destiny for this team now. We know they’re capable of beating anyone. Philadelphia toiled to get 10 points in Seattle last week. They put 43 on the Rams yesterday. Yet we’ve also seen too many games like the one in Jacksonville. Mistakes, penalties, a bad offensive start, more injuries.

It should be noted it’s unusual for an 8-5 team to be faced with potentially needing to win out just to get a wildcard berth. In the AFC currently, the 7-6 Baltimore Ravens look like a fairly decent bet to make it. If not, the LA Chargers (who started 0-4) could make it in as either a wildcard or the AFC West Champs.

The NFC is unusually strong considering the lack of reliance on quarterbacks. Ten wins got Seattle comfortably into the playoffs in 2015 and 2016. Ten wins might not be enough this year.

We’ve spent two years talking about identity and the Seahawks still seem to be seeking to reclaim theirs.

In 2013 and 2014 there was no hiding what Seattle was, what they did well, who they could count on. Now it’s a lot more blurry.

And it’s hard to work out where they’ll go when this slightly stressful, difficult season eventually ends (assuming it isn’t the Super Bowl).

Do they go all-in on becoming Russell Wilson’s Seahawks? Does that mean more investment in the O-line, keeping Jimmy Graham (Russell’s BFF) and Paul Richardson? Does it mean difficult decisions on defense to bankroll making the offense the strength and the passing game more of the identity?

Do they use their first round pick on a weapon — a running back, a receiver?

Do they persevere with the long-established Pete Carroll plan and just seek for better fortune next year (with injuries, with running backs)?

Were the aggressive and bold trades for Sheldon Richardson and Duane Brown indicative of a team that feels this had to be the year for this group? Are they facing a major turnover of talent in the off-season? Is it now time to go through the kind of change Pittsburgh went through a few years ago, moving away from an ageing formerly great defense to put more focus on Big Ben and the offense?

For a team that so often has refused to stand still and just ‘hope for the best’ — is minimal cap room and just one pick in the first three rounds of the draft enough to initiate the kind of recharge needed for 2018? Especially if they can’t afford to keep Graham, the Richardson’s and Joeckel? Do they need to make some tough decisions to recoup cap and picks and maybe mix things up?

Or do they let this group have one more crack at it?

It feels like there are more question marks with every passing season. Last year was a big off-season. That was acknowledged with the moves they made and the risks they took to try and get back to the top.

This upcoming off-season could be even bigger.

Maybe it’s time to trim some of the fat? The Seahawks have a loaded, big name roster. Do they need to be selective now, hand-picking the guys who can be the core for another 3-4 years and try to get younger everywhere else? Is it now about the likes of Wilson, Wagner and Earl rather than the great big long lists of star names?

After all, look at the Patriots. Consistently there every year. They may well win another Championship this year. They have Belichick and Brady and the rest is a near constant churn. Do the Seahawks need a bit more of that? Is keeping things fresh, the message on point — is that more important than retaining a big, established roster?

Are they a bit too long in the tooth, too established and world weary? Is there enough brash fearlessness about this group? Isn’t that what made this team great in the first place? The cocky attitude, the swagger, the ambition, the drive.

Have the Seahawks become the team opponents love to prove themselves against, rather than the side looking to do the proving?

Is it even possible to get back to that now?

There are a lot of questions that are hard to answer. You can probably think of even more.

It’s been a long time since we’ve had this lack of clarity about the direction of the team and what comes next. Rather than being able to focus on a draft need, a tweak, an improvement here or there — this off-season feels bigger, more significant.

Hopefully there’s still life in the 2017 season and the seeming inevitability that this will end in a somewhat similar fashion to the previous two years will prove to be inaccurate.

Meanwhile in draft news, Florida’s Taven Bryan officially declared for the draft today:

For more on Bryan here’s a post I wrote from early October.

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Instant reaction: Seahawks rely on Eagles after Jags loss

Sunday, December 10th, 2017

Let’s just cut to the chase before getting into what happened in the game. The Eagles might’ve saved Seattle’s season. Despite losing quarterback Carson Wentz to a suspected bad knee injury, Philadelphia came from behind to beat the Rams 43-35 in the fourth quarter. Nick Foles, against his old team, did enough.

Had the Rams won that game the Seahawks’ playoff hopes would be hanging by a thread. They would’ve needed at least one of these scenarios to come off:

— Seattle to win all three remaining games and hope LA also loses to one of San Francisco or Tennessee in the last two weeks.

— Win at least one more game than Atlanta to claim a wildcard playoff place. The Falcons play the Buccs (A), Saints (A) and Panthers (H).

— Hope to win at least one more game than the Panthers and earn the tiebreaker. Carolina plays the Packers (H), Buccs (H) and Falcons (A).

This doesn’t even factor in a late possible surge by Dallas or Green Bay, who can both finish 10-6. They both won today too.

The Seahawks were so close to a calamitous week 14. So, so close.

Now, at least next weeks game is for first place in the NFC West. Thanks to the Eagles.

Onto today.

This was a preposterous game. In typical Seahawks fashion, they found a way to make it competitive when they really had no right to. This was not a good performance, littered with big mistakes from every facet of the team.

Russell Wilson threw three picks and the offense had a scoreless first half (more on that in a moment). The defense gave up a 75-yard touchdown immediately after pulling to 10-10, failed to pressure Blake Bortles and couldn’t restrict Jacksonville’s run game at crucial moments.

Special teams had a big turnover but also gave up a huge kick return to set up a Leonard Fournette touchdown and Blair Walsh missed another straight-forward field goal.

Yet despite all of this, the Seahawks turned a 27-10 deficit into an improbable six point game with possession of the football. They had their shot. Their chance to go ahead and escape, somehow, with a solitary win that would’ve carried the power of two.

No sooner had fans started to believe the impossible was going to happen — Jimmy Graham dropped a pass, Doug Baldwin unwittingly stepped out of bounds instead of getting the first down, Russell Wilson was sacked and fourth down fell incomplete.

For today at least, it was a fitting finale.

In many ways it was similar to the Titans road contest. A tight first quarter with the Seahawks struggling for offense, eventually falling behind before a dramatic comeback attempt fell short.

A week after achieving their first ‘clean’ performance of the season, they reverted to type today.

Seattle’s first six offensive drives were riddled with mistakes:

Drive one — Seattle moved the ball effectively until Russell Wilson overthrew an open Nick Vannett. The drive stalled soon after.

Drive two — Germain Ifedi was flagged for ‘taunting an official’, turning a 2nd and 8 into a 2nd and 23. Two runs and a punt followed.

Drive three — A big screen pass to Mike Davis was called back for an ineligible man downfield, eliminating a 35-yard gain. It moved the Seahawks back to their own 16-yard line instead of having first down at Jacksonville’s 45.

Drive four — Seattle resorted to chasing the big play to get some momentum, something that was worked for and against them this season (worked vs Houston, not vs Washington). A deep throw to Paul Richardson wasn’t close. Wilson’s second deep shot to Doug Baldwin lacked conviction, the receiver tripped up and it was an easy interception for Jalen Ramsey. It was a duck.

Drive five — after a heavy dose of Mike Davis got Seattle moving, the two-minute warning suddenly led to a strangely subdued, less up-tempo offense that seemed to focus on draining clock more than really attacking the Jaguars. They settled for a 38-yard field goal. Blair Walsh, unforgivably, missed.

Drive six — after taking an intentional grounding penalty, Wilson threw an ill-advised pass to Jimmy Graham that was picked off. Graham was then flagged for a personal foul for shoving A.J. Buoye out of bounds. Moments later Jacksonville scored a touchdown to lead 10-0.

It was another perfect illustration of how dependant Seattle is on Russell Wilson. As he struggled early, so did the team. When he launched the late comeback, suddenly anything seemed possible.

As good as he is it might be too much to ask of him to play with the efficiency and quality he did last week on a consistent basis. He needs help — and the Seahawks are just too banged up and without a proper running game to handle their significantly smaller margin for error.

This wasn’t completely on Wilson though. Far from it. When they finally got things moving (a field goal, special teams turnover and quickfire touchdown to tie it at 10-10) they astonishingly found themselves down 24-10 just moments later.

Now it was the turn of the defense and special teams to make mistakes. A huge blown coverage, a big kick return. 14 quick points. Momentum lost in a flash.

At 10-10 there was an opportunity to establish control. It wasn’t taken — just as it wasn’t with the scoreless first half.

Adding to the frustration of the day were injuries to Bobby Wagner (hamstring) and K.J. Wright. Simply put, this team can’t afford to lose anyone else.

This is the type of year where anything can happen. Case Keenum could win a Super Bowl. The Eagles, at 11-2, might’ve lost their quarterback for the rest of the season. A Head Coach who is younger than I am might win a Championship during his rookie year in charge.

For that reason, there’s still cause for fans to retain some modicum of hope. This is a crazy, weird, slightly off-putting NFL season. On their day, Seattle is capable of beating anyone, anywhere.

The problem is, there’s just been too many days like this to really believe they’re proper contenders. Would you be surprised if the Seahawks made a big statement next week against the Rams, only to toil against the suddenly resurgent Cowboys (who’ll be welcoming back Zeke Elliott) on Christmas Eve?

The 2017 season appears set to be defined as the year the Seahawks couldn’t get out of their own way. There’s still time to change that — but it’s getting late and the last bus is coming down the road.

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